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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 3/17/2017

Guests: Simon Marks, Jason Johnson, Annie Karni, Jeff Mason, Jon Meacham, Susan Glasser, Terry McAuliffe, Julianne Smith

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 17, 2017 Guest: Simon Marks, Jason Johnson, Annie Karni, Jeff Mason, Jon Meacham, Susan Glasser, Terry McAuliffe, Julianne Smith CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Trumped up.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington on St. Patrick`s day.

He said what wasn`t true.  He told a big fib, and for two weeks, he tried to cover it up.  This is the sad, embarrassing fact of the president.

It started with an early morning tweet from Mar-a-Lago that his predecessor had wiretapped his home.  The president and his interpreters then doubled down.  Defying all evidence to the contrary, they insisted Donald Trump was right.  They cited blogs, overseas news accounts and conspiracy theories.  And yesterday, press secretary Sean Spicer quoted one of those nonsensical conspiracies.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  On Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement.  Quote, "Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command.  He didn`t use the NSA.  He didn`t use the CIA.  He didn`t use the FBI, and didn`t use the Department of Justice.  He used GCHQ.  What is that?  It`s the initials for the British intelligence spying agency that -- so simply by having two people saying to then  (sic) president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump`s conversations, conversations involving President-elect Trump, he`s able to get it, and there`s no American fingerprints on this."


MATTHEWS:  Well, not surprisingly, our allies in Britain didn`t like being used as alibis.  In an unusual move, the intelligence agency Spicer cited, the GCHQ, put out a statement today debunking the whole story.  It said, quote, "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct wiretapping against the then president-elect are nonsense.  They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."

Well, the prime minister`s office went even further.  Quote, "We`ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored.  We`ve received notices these allegations won`t be repeated."

Well, some British media reported the White House apologized.  Spicer said not so.  He told reporters today, "I don`t think we regret anything.  We literally listed a litany of media reports that are in the public domain."

Well, today in a joint press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump was asked about his wiretapping claims twice by German reporters.  The questions heading in were, Would he stick to his phony tweet that President Obama wiretapped him, which has since been rejected by Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, and would he apologize for his spokesman`s claim that British intelligence spied on Trump Tower.

Well, the answer was no to both questions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

We said nothing.  All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.  I didn`t make an opinion on it.  That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox, and so you shouldn`t be talking to me.  You should be talking to Fox.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, but Fox News wouldn`t cover for him.  Fox news anchor Shepard Smith responded to President Trump`s attempt to pass blame.  Let`s watch him.


SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS:  Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano`s commentary.  Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way, full stop.


MATTHEWS:  Well, good for Shepard.

Anyway, Ken Dilanian is an NBC News investigative reporter, Simon Marks is chief correspondent for Feature Story News, and Joy Reid, of course, is my friend, the host of "AM JOY" on MSNBC.

Joy, I want to ask you about this (INAUDIBLE) look at this incisively, as you can.  Why would the president say something that wasn`t true in a tweet two weeks ago, and when he could have backed out of it and said, you know, I heard something, I probably shouldn`t have jumped on it, I did, instead doubled down, tripled down again today, and standing next to Angela Merkel, a serious government leader, a serious person -- stood next to her and wouldn`t answer the question the first time it came from a German reporter.  The second time he came on, he blamed it all on some -- well, somebody we never heard of, this guy Napolitano, this conspiracy guy.

Does -- he just seems to be stuck in quicksand, and he`s -- the more he squirms, the more he sinks.  Your thoughts.

JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY":  Yes, and the more he sinks, the more he decides to drag his own team down into the muck with him.  He`s forcing Sean Spicer to get up and shred his own credibility repeating what are essentially conspiracy theories.

And by the way, blaming it on Fox News is probably being too nice to the president and what he`s doing because  what he did was he blamed a commentator on Fox News, not even their reporters.


REID:  He`s essentially saying that he was watching television and he saw Andrew Napolitano, who`s a contributor over there -- who, by the way, is also an 9/11 truther and a favorite of Alex Jones...


MATTHEWS:  Thank you!

REID:  ... and essentially said when he hears a conspiracy theory out of a commentator on Fox, he believes it rather than picking up the phone and calling all of the agencies in intelligence who report to him.

He could call the NSA director.  He could call the CIA director.  These people report to him.  So what he`s saying is that sight unseen, without even doing any basic investigation by calling his subordinates who work for him in the intelligence community, he buys the conspiracy theory out of a commentator on Fox, but it`s the commentator`s fault that he repeated it in a series of tweets.

This is -- this is insane.  It really cannot be...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, we agree.

REID:  ... that this is what the president of the United States does.

MATTHEWS:  We`re on the same page on this one.

And by the way, I`m green with envy for your sweater today.  Green.  And by the way, I love...

REID:  I am a Reid, so that`s close enough to being Irish.



MATTHEWS:  That`s a good name.  It`s a good name.  I appreciate the good spirit of it, and it is well received by all of us.

Anyway, thank you, Ken.  You`re the expert on this.  Let`s go through it.  The House Intelligence Republican leader, the Senate Intelligence Republican leader, the Democratic ranking members on both of them, the speaker of the House, all kinds of information coming in from the agencies now tonight everywhere.

There is no bugging.  There was no wiretapping.  It didn`t happen.  There was no British wiretapping on his behalf.  There was no U.S. government wiretapping.  It didn`t happen, according to Comey, as well.  There is no source except Trump.

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS IG AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  And there`s one more bit of news tonight, Chris.  You know, the Justice Department presented some documents today to the Intelligence Committees pursuant to a request, Hey, is there any evidence?  Give us all the documents reeled to surveillance at Trump Tower.  And a congressional source tells me that an initial reading of that shows, again, no evidence to support...

MATTHEWS:  OK, explain...


MATTHEWS:  Jump out of your ken, your expertise, and explain why the president won`t accept truth.  Why does he continue to sell something that`s -- I think Joe Biden -- I was with him this morning for St. Patrick`s Day -- would say malarkey.  It is malarkey.

DILANIAN:  It may be because he believes that at the bottom of this, there is some evidence of some surveillance of Trump associates in Russia...

MATTHEWS:  By what?


MATTHEWS:  But that`s not what he`s charging.

DILANIAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  He isn`t saying, My Trump Tower was picked up on because they were surveilling the Russians because of all the activity the Russians have been involved in and our intelligence agencies, all 17 -- we all know that.

But what we don`t know and there`s no evidence of -- President Obama wiretapped him in Trump -- Is that true?  Why would he keep saying something that isn`t true?  Or is he going to broaden his claim to, Well, that includes any intelligence gathered on behalf of the -- from the Russians that might have picked up something from me.  By the way, that might even -- how do you know that`s even true?

DILANIAN:  That would be a felony, just as President Obama ordering a wiretap of President -- or candidate Trump.  For President Obama to ask the British to surveil a U.S. person would be a crime.  So I guess they should order a Justice Department investigation.

MATTHEWS:  Or order anybody but our normal -- but to go through FISA and go through the FBI would be a crime.

DILANIAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You can`t have another, you know, group of plumbers like Nixon had.

DILANIAN:  And you know, this is a very close intelligence-sharing relationship, and this could do real damage.  I mean, the British are not happy with these allegations.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me get to the diplomacy aspect there, Simon.  There was talk in Britain today that there was an apology, but there`s no confirmation from this crowd.  Trump won`t say apologize.  Spicer won`t say apologize.  So somebody heard something whispered over the phone today that sounded sort of like an apology.

SIMON MARKS, FEATURE STORY NEWS:  So we know there was...

MATTHEWS:  It didn`t happen.

MARKS:  We know there was a phone call between Sean Spicer and an angry British ambassador, at which the British government then intimated some kind of regret or...

MATTHEWS:  Well, they said they wouldn`t do it again.

MARKS:  ... communicated and they said they wouldn`t repeat these allegations again.  But look...

MATTHEWS:  You don`t have to repeat an allegation again.  You do it and people believe it!

MARKS:  This has been deeply alarming to people in London because of what it says about what`s actually happening in this city.  Donald Trump is playing here from a classic authoritarian playbook.  He brooks no dissent.  I took slight issue with what Joy said at the beginning of the program about, you know, Sean Spicer being forced to go into the briefing room.

Sean Spicer goes into that briefing room voluntarily every day, allows his own credibility to be shredded every single day, defiles the office of the White House press secretary because he won`t go into the Oval Office, close the door quietly and say, Mr. President, I just can`t go out there and defend this anymore.

MATTHEWS:  And quit.

MARKS:  If you`re going to make me do it, I have to hand you my resignation.  So the Brits and Angela Merkel and the others look at this and say, How can we build any kind of relationship of trust when this kind...

MATTHEWS:  OK, we`re having...

MARKS:  ... of lunacy is taking place.

MATTHEWS:  ... a philosophical discussion, Joy.  I know exactly what you mean.  In other words, the price of truth in this case is walking.

REID:  That`s right.

MATTHEWS:  That`s what Simon`s saying, and you`re saying, I think, as well.


REID:  I 100 percent agree with that.  There is a Baghdad Bob quality to what Sean Spicer is doing every day because, essentially, he has two choices.  He can repeat the insane conspiracy theories that Donald Trump is admitting that he gets from a 9/11 truther who sometimes appears as a commentator on Fox.

He can -- he can go out and put his own name, and as Simon just said, the credibility of the White House press office behind that idea, this crazy conspiracy theory from the comments section, or can leave because Donald Trump clearly, in classic authoritarian style, wants everyone associated with him, everyone who works for him to parrot and repeat the madness rather than disabuse him of it.

And there`s no one in that government that we`ve been able to see so far who has the strength, who has the courage to either try to walk him back from these insane beliefs, these conspiracy theories, or to quit.  And so we are stuck now in this feedback loop, where the credible press has to sit in that room and listen to Sean Spicer essentially quote the comments sections of blogs, of fever swamp blogs, essentially, because that`s...

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

REID:  ... who believes this stuff, and Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  And not only that, Joy, but he added the encomium that this guy`s is a brilliant attorney, that this is some sort of  Oracle of Delphi that`s giving him all this information.

DILANIAN:  And look, Chris...

REID:  He thinks 9/11 was an inside job.  That is his -- he`s on the record with Alex Jones on his radio show saying a previous president also committed a massive war crime, essentially...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

REID:  ... and did 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  W. was down in Washington with the plunger.  Yes, anyway...

DILANIAN:  Here`s why this is so damaging.  There may come a time when President Trump has to tell the world he`s -- he`s launching military action against North Korea.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he has to give evidence.  You remember -- remember when Kennedy had to give evidence about the Cubans, the missiles in Cuba, and the whole world had to believe this because we only had just the pictures.  And he calls up De Gaulle, who could be difficult, the president of France, the war hero, of course, and De Gaulle says, Of course, I believe you.  Would that happen today?

DILANIAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Of course I believe you.

DILANIAN:  There`s real doubts about whether it would happen.  I mean, he`s already a wartime president.  We`re -- he`s -- we`re conducting raids in Yemen.  We`re dropping bombs in Iraq and Syria.  The world has to believe what the president of the United States...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Even Republicans are having shudders.  I think Joy is right.  It`s not just the people working for him, the flacks.  Republicans really have a problem with this guy.

A growing chorus of Republicans and conservatives are calling on the president to simply back down.  U.S. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma told reporters today, "Frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think the -- well, President Obama is owed an apology in that regard."  How`s that for forthright thinking?

And the conservative "Wall Street Journal" -- I couldn`t believe the editorial this morning.  Right in the middle of the editorial page was this editorial.  "As for Mr. Trump`s accusation, White House spokesman Sean Spicer says he stands by it.  Mr. Trump would be wiser to say he fired the tweet in anger and walk it back.  An apology can be good for the soul and a presidency."

MARKS:  No, absolutely.  Look, this is a week in which his own ambassador to the United Nations appearing on the "TODAY" program yesterday, a woman who has been very outspoken in her new role, Nikki Haley, criticizing the Russians relentlessly.  When pressed by Matt Lauer as to whether when she says those things, she is reflecting the president`s thinking, says, Oh, I don`t know.  I don`t know about that.  So what`s a foreign government...

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean?


MATTHEWS:  ... Nikki Haley did that.

MARKS:  What is an international government supposed to deduce from that, that when the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations speaks, she does not necessarily reflect the thinking of the man who sent her there.  If you are...


MATTHEWS:  Who does she represent, then?

MARKS:  If you`re a foreign government, you look at that and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who does she represent?

MARKS:  Her own personal viewpoint, I should think.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I got a lot more faith in Nikki Haley than some of the other people around this town.

Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian, Simon Mars, and of course, Joy Reid.  Happy weekend.  It`s great.  You made the show so far.

REID:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up -- secretary of state -- (INAUDIBLE) "so far" when you (INAUDIBLE), obviously.

Rex Tillerson says diplomacy with North Korea has failed.  Well, what`s that mean?  The secretary of state`s job is talking.  The top diplomat is supposed to do that.  He`s not supposed to give up.  He`s supposed to be doing the diplomacy, and anyway for this country, and that`s ahead.

Plus, the health care fight.  The president says he`s 100 percent behind the Republicans` "Obama care" replacement plan, the one that will hurt many of the people who voted for him and voted him into office,  But many in his party still say the plan doesn`t go far enough.

And with German chancellor Angela Merkel meeting the president at the White House today, and we thought it was a good time to play back some of the nastier things candidate Trump said about Merkel.  You`ll hear that here tonight.

Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch."

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS:  Today, of course, is St. Patrick`s Day, and at the White House yesterday, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny used the annual St. Patrick`s Day celebration to lecture President Trump about immigration.  Let`s watch.


ENDA KENNY, IRISH PRIME MINISTER:  It`s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy.  He, too, of course, was an immigrant.  And though he is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe, he`s also a symbol of, indeed the patron of, immigrants.

And four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.  We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America.  We came and we became Americans.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump ally Nigel Farage, the British populist behind Brexit, demanded that the prime minister apologize to Trump for those remarks.

We`ll be right back.



REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Japan just yesterday saying that diplomacy toward North Korea had failed.  You heard the word there.

It comes as North Korea continues to step up its ballistic missile tests in the region after detonating, by the way, two nuclear warheads last year.

The secretary`s rhetoric this week signals a scary break from the policy that`s been advanced in the region for decades.  As "The Washington Post" reports today, that shift is, quote, "bringing the United States and its Asian allies closer to a military response than at any point in more than a decade."

It also comes after, quote, "Japan`s defense chief told parliament this month that he would not rule out first strike capability."  Now, that`s scary.

To address the threat North Korea poses in the region, the United States this month deployed a missile defense system to South Korea, and that move irritated China, which sees any military buildup near its border as a threat to its security.  Now amid these regional tensions, Secretary Tillerson says that all options are on the table.

Here`s Tillerson in South Korea today.


TILLERSON:  All the options are on the table.  Certainly, we do not want to -- for things to get to a military conflict.  We`re quite clear in that.  If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Biden and a senior fellow at the Center for the National -- for New National Security.  And Susan Glasser is chief international affairs columnist at Politico.

This is a deep question for all of us, because I think, when any of us read the papers now, Julie and Susan, we worry about North Korea, because the guy running the country seems like a child of limited emotional control.  He has nuclear weapons.  He has a fiery ability to kill people around him.  He just knocked off his half-brother, an assassination. 

It doesn`t seem like it would take much to shake this guy into just pushing the button. 

JULIANNE SMITH, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY:  No, I think he could be provoked very easily.  He`s already moving in that direction based on what he`s been testing.

Just in recent days, we saw the tests of four ballistic missiles on Monday.  We have seen testing last year.  I think it`s very easy to provoke him.  And I think the danger here is, we have an administration that doesn`t have a foreign policy. 

We have had no major foreign policy address by this president outlining any sort of strategy on Asia.  Similarly, the secretary of state also has failed to give any address on foreign policy since he assumed office.

So, what are we supposed to assume the strategy actually is for all of this instability across the region? 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, your thoughts?

SUSAN GLASSER, POLITICO:  Well, that`s what makes it so amazing that Secretary Tillerson has gone to Asia on this first trip.

Rather than reassuring allies, we have significantly ratcheted up the rhetoric, made the chances of a military confrontation more realistic.  At the same time, we have declared the old policy failed, without saying what the new policy is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the scary thing is, I was watching something on Roosevelt on an old tape the other day, and I was realizing that, when the Japanese came to us, right before Pearl Harbor, in fact, that same day, they said, our negotiations have broken down.  That`s all they said. 

Now, if you`re on the other side of this war, and you put out this war situation, and you`re some sane person who works with Kim Jong-un, if there is one, some sane old military type, if there is such a person, he sees the United States announcing that, well, negotiations have failed.  They have failed after all these years.  We have had to go another route. 

You would be thinking you`re telling the boss, hey, look, this is scary, because we don`t know what the U.S. -- there could be a first strike.  There could be something.  And, all of a sudden, he gets jittery.  And that`s what I get scared about, when countries issue ultimatums.

They put sanctions on other countries, like we did to the Japanese back in `41.  And they just blow out.  They just go crazy.  You know, Yamamoto has got the fleet over here.  The planes attack us. 

You push a guy into the corner.  And this guy is a little nutty to begin with.  And I`m even afraid about calling him that, because he might hear it. 

It`s not -- it`s that tricky.  And this guy Tillerson is over there with no staff, no reporters covering him really, and no mission apparently from the White House, right? 

SMITH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s what you said.

SMITH:  No, that`s absolutely right.

But what -- if I were working in the White House, I would suggest that the president use the threat of unpredictability, right?  So no one knows what Trump`s plan is.  And use that to get them to the negotiating table, but they have, in essence, removed that as an option. 


SMITH:  There will be no negotiation. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we go to the Chinese, look, when the dear leader two generations ago attacked South Korea, the head of North Korea, he did it after getting the nod from the Soviet Union, who was their father then?

SMITH:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Who could give him the un-nod today?  Who could tell Kim Jong-un don`t even think of blowing up a nuclear weapon, don`t even think of it?  Who would do that?

GLASSER:  Well, look, the Chinese are obviously the major players there. 

MATTHEWS:  Would they threaten to kill him if he does? 

GLASSER:  Who knows?

MATTHEWS:  What would work with him?

GLASSER:  You know, I don`t -- I think the problem is that it`s not clear that anything would work.

And, in fact, actually, "The New York Times" had a very interesting nugget buried in its story today which pointed out that the intelligence assessment that the Obama administration left behind for the new Trump administration...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GLASSER:  ... specifically said Kim Jong-un will not trade away his nuclear program for any concessions. 

MATTHEWS:  But what would stop him from using it?  That`s what I`m worried about. 

GLASSER:  Well, look, you have Tillerson going to Beijing tomorrow.  His statement today seemed to be, to the extent there was a strategy behind it, it seemed aimed at the Chinese, as much as it was at the North Koreans, especially because, by the way, there was a rollout of sorts.

The rollout seemed to be Tillerson`s speech, followed by Donald Trump tweets.  So now we truly are in the age of almost the parody...


MATTHEWS:  Yes, but, you know, you put these two guys together. 

Well, let`s do it.  Let`s just game this war.  If this guy drops a bomb in the middle of the Pacific, just as a test to scare the world -- and it would scare me and everybody else -- or he actually uses it against an adversary like the South, what`s Trump going to do?  You know Trump.  It`s cowboy time. 

SMITH:  Well, Trump campaigned on the whole idea of not having a weak United States engaged in the world.  And so he wants to show that he`s the strong man, that he`s going to have a more aggressive posture.

MATTHEWS:  How do you do that before the other guy pushes the trigger?  Because it doesn`t do much good afterward. 

SMITH:  No, it doesn`t help him after the fact. 

You push him.  You do exactly this.  Right?  You do exactly this.

MATTHEWS:  Will deterrents work with Kim Jong-un?  If we have a sane president, would it work?  Would anything work?

GLASSER:  Well, look, you could argue we have deterred them up until now, not -- maybe it`s successful, maybe it`s not.

But that so far has deterred them.  But he`s continued to develop his missile program.  And now his capacity is much greater. 

What I`m struck by is the fact that this was the crisis that every major national security expert predicted could be the first crisis of the Trump thing.  And we seem to be walking right into it. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we all saw it.  Anybody who reads the paper, on the front page -- you don`t have to dig in the middle of the newspaper.  It`s been front page.  And I get -- I know it`s -- you can sort of see the clock ticking on these things.

Anyway, Julie Smith, thank you.  It`s great to have you on, even if it`s a terrible topic.  Susan Glasser, thank you. 

Up next:  Trump all in on the Republican health care replacement plan, even if his own supporters get hurt by it.  Wait until you hear him in this interview actually -- with Tucker Carlson actually admit that his people, those who voted for him, are the ones who are going to get hit.  And he just seems to move on to the next topic.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

NBC News has learned that the House of Representatives expect to vote on the Republican health care plan to repeal and replace Obamacare next Thursday, which also happens to be the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. 

The Republican bill still faces opposition from conservative members and some opposition from moderates as well.  But President Trump reiterated his support for the plan and also declared Obamacare dead. 


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want everyone to know I`m 100 percent behind it.  I want everybody to know that the press has not been speaking properly about how great this is going to be. 

They have not been giving it a fair press.  I also want people to know that Obamacare is dead.  It`s a dead health care plan.  It`s not even a health care plan, frankly.  And I watched the architect of the plan yesterday.  I watched the old clip where he said the American people are stupid to have voted for it. 

I watched Bill Clinton saying, this is the craziest thing I have ever seen. 

And only because everyone knows it`s on its last dying feet, the fake news is trying to say good things about it.  OK?  Fake media.  And there is no good news about Obamacare.  Obamacare`s dead. 


MATTHEWS:  Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer says the plan will lead to a backlash from voters.  He says they can throw this back on the Democrats by sending a new bill load up with conservative goodies to the Senate, where it would require 60 votes to pass.

Krauthammer writes: "Let the Democrats filibuster it to death and take the blame when repeal and replace fails, and Obamacare carries on, and then collapses under its own weight."

That`s Krauthammer talking.

Joining me right now is Virginia Governor Democrat Terry McAuliffe. 

Governor, thank you for joining us. 

This issue looks to me like, I think -- what do you think?  Do you think the Republicans are really trying to pass a bill, or are they trying to fail and then blame it all on the Democrats?  Can`t tell. 

GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA:  Well, either way, it`s not a good choice.  First of all, I could tell just you, in Virginia, Chris, I just got a report back.

Between 2020 and 2026, it will cost our state $1.8 billion in additional costs.  And we don`t have the money to do that, so I have to make very tough choices.  The next governor is going to have to deal with the issue.  Do you knock these old folks off?  Do you get rid of pregnant women?  The children who are impoverished, do you throw them off the program?

So, the cost is -- it just doesn`t add up.  And this idea is, oh, just let it fail and the Democrats can take the heat for it, are you kidding me?  You`re elected to government to help people, to help people`s lives. 

When I act as governor every day, it`s not a Democrat or Republican.  I`m doing what`s in the best interest of Virginia.  And the idea that these folks are saying, oh, let it collapse and we will blame the Democrats is sick. 

People need health care in this country, and we ought to be helping.  I don`t care if you`re a Democrat or Republican.  How about doing the right thing?  So, this whole debate -- listen, the health care, this thing, it`s going to collapse.  They don`t have the votes.

In Virginia, three of my seven Republican members have already publicly come out for it.  This thing can`t pass in its present form.  It`s an excellent program that needs reform. 

I leaned in, in this program -- 400,000 people signed up through the exchange.  As governor, I did television ads.  I went out and campaigned.  We brought a lot into this program.  That`s what you need to do. 

We need to work with the system to make it better.  But there are 10, over -- almost 20 million people today who have health care because of what this bill did. 

MATTHEWS:  I talked to a doctor the other day.  I won`t give his name.  But he told me two things that back up you just said, Governor.

One is that Trump made a point of killing a lot of the TV ads that usually air, the government usually pays for them, to get people to sign up.  So they`re discouraging people -- healthy, young people from joining it. 

MCAULIFFE:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  He said one of the odd, you know, unexpected consequences of giving people coverage on their parents` plan if they`re still in their 20s is, it`s preventing young people, who are young and healthy and don`t really need a lot of benefits, because they`re lucky.  They`re young and healthy.  They`re not signing up.

So, the idea of this thing -- and also Trump put out words saying:  I`m not going to enforce the requirement, the individual mandate. 

MCAULIFFE:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, we`re losing this sense of shared risk, of shared health care, because the healthier, younger people are not participating, because Trump wants to kill the plan.  And that`s one way to do it. 

Are you hearing that?

MCAULIFFE:  And guess who gets hurt at the end of the day, Chris?  All these people who voted for Donald Trump for president.

You can go to parts of Virginia in South Side and Southwest, our rural parts of Virginia.  You go to Giles County, Virginia, today, overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump.  Guess what?  Under this plan, they`re going to see the subsidies cut in Giles County for health care by 46 percent. 

These folks can`t afford that.  So, he`s hurting the exact people who came out and voted for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Down from $7,600 to down to $4,000.  Big cut. 

MCAULIFFE:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  In Giles County. 

MCAULIFFE:  That`s it.


MATTHEWS:  I know my numbers, Governor.  Thank you. 

MCAULIFFE:  Yes.  That`s it.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, in an interview on FOX News, the president did not disagree that the Republican plan would hurt the very people who elected him. 

Let`s catch him here. 


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  A Bloomberg analysis showed that counties that voted for you, middle-class and working-class counties, would do far less well under this bill than the counties that voted for Hillary. 

TRUMP:  Yes.  Oh, I know. 

CARLSON:  The more affluent counties.

TRUMP:  I know.


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, "I know, I know"?


MATTHEWS:  Governor, he`s admitting the worst thing he can say.

MCAULIFFE:  Well, first of all, I...



MCAULIFFE:  I am very impressed that I named one of my small counties in Virginia, and you knew the vote.  So, let me tell you, I`m very impressed that you were able to do that.

But the point is, these people -- and let`s move on from health care.  Look what he announced in his budget.  LIHEAP, this is helping pay heating costs for elderly individuals.


MCAULIFFE:  He`s talking about getting rid of funding for ARC, which is the APPALACHIAN REGIONAL COMMISSION, which funds these rural areas that have lost jobs due to coal and textile and furniture.

This is how they create new jobs.  He`s taking that funding away from them.  He announced he`s taking the funding away from the Chesapeake Bay.  I also happen to serve as chairman of the executive council for the bay, all the six governors and the District of Columbia. 

That is $130 billion of economic activity when we get this thing all clean and healthy, the people who fish it, who live on it, and who visit it.  He is killing and hurting these people who voted for him. 

I think the reality of governing has now hit the rhetoric of campaigning.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCAULIFFE:  It`s hard to govern.  And he is hurting those people. 

He has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Virginia economy, from health care, to the federal hiring freeze, to all the issues that he has talked about, immigration.  He is hurting the Virginia economy. 

He ran on jobs, and he`s doing nothing but hurting my ability to create jobs as governor.  I got unemployment down to 4 percent.  It was 5.4 when I took over.  This Republican president is hurting my ability to grow the Virginia economy.  And it`s wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, some smart people in politics think we need a governor to run for president against Trump if he runs for reelection, someone who knows the rural areas and has a sense of what we`re doing and has some passion on the issues, like somebody I know. 

Thank you, Terry McAuliffe. 

MCAULIFFE:  I agree with you.

MATTHEWS:  I know you are going to run.  You don`t have to tell me. 

MCAULIFFE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Governor McAuliffe of Virginia.

MCAULIFFE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  You could see the tension today between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  There was no love there.  Maybe that`s because of all the mean things Trump has said about her in the past. 

We are going to show what he -- she`s got them in her mind.  She didn`t like this guy today. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Well, sometimes, it feels like it`s Trump`s world and we`re just living in it.  Today, Trump world collided with the real world as President Trump hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.  The meeting which was at times awkward comes after candidate Trump repeatedly criticized the chancellor during the campaign.

  Let`s watch. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Germany is a behemoth, an economic behemoth.  It`s being destroyed by what Merkel has done there.  What she has done to Germany -- I have friends from Germany.  They`re leaving Germany. 

Look at what`s happening with Germany.  The crime wave over there -- Merkel is not going to be elected. 

The German people are going to riot.  The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman.  I don`t know what the hell she`s thinking. 

You look at the election results from Merkel, they were so bad. 

What she is doing is insane by the way. 

I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the joint press conference between the two was a stark contrast in leadership and left you wondering who was the adult in the room -- not wondering for long. 

I`m now joined by our roundtable, Jason Johnson, politics editor at, Annie Karni is White House reporter for "Politico", and Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for "Reuters". 

Because I think you have a thought here.  I want to ask you: why does he hate Merkel?  What is this about?  She`s the best leader in the world right now?  The public likes her and she is functional. 

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO:  I think there`s a lot going on here.  I think he sees her as a bit of a threat.  First of all, Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, hates the E.U., see Trump`s election and Brexit as part of a movement that is in opposition to what Merkel stands for. 

I have a personal theory that something about this powerful woman who is intimidating to people in the room with her might bring up memories of Hillary Clinton and the election. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my gosh.  Memories because he was doing this all through the campaign, you know, so he may have been doing it at the time he was trashing Hillary trashing -- seemed like Hillary. 

KARNI:  One thing also that struck me about the press conference today is I think it got overshadowed by him doubling down on this saying that Obama tapped his phones, and she looked totally baffled when he said Obama`s done --

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS:  Bewildered like I can`t believe you just said -- 

MATTHEWS:  Why is this guy squirming into more trouble when he could get out of this thing? 

MASON:  And why did you bring me into that?  She had a very good relationship with Obama -- despite the tension that she had sometimes over that. 

MATTHEWS:  Which just to see how important it is to the world how we behave, both German reporters, both very serious people, the man and woman brought this up. 

JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM:  Look, it`s embarrassing.  It`s embarrassing and, you know, you basically have Germany and England, those are two of our greatest allies in Europe and it`s like, look you`ve attacked me a year and a half while you were candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I forgot.  He attacked her and he attacked Theresa May`s group. 

JOHNSON:  Exactly, he attacked Theresa May.  And then saying oh, yeah, the British are the lapdogs of Obama that were sent to wiretap my office.  I mean, it`s the whole thing --

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said lap dogs.  It`s pretty much. 

KARNI:  I have -- I have a strange theory about it -- 

MATTHEWS:  Explain. 

KARNI:  -- which is that I think it`s a conspiracy terry.  I think he may believe it but this is ground where he feels comfortable on because he`s controlling the conversation.  It`s a total distraction from everything else his administration is trying to do.  If he`s not talking about that he might be into international issues that he doesn`t feel as comfortable talking about. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let`s take a look at this awkward moment in the Oval Office when President Trump ignores Chancellor Merkel`s request for a handshake. 


TRUMP:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR:  Do you want to have a handshake? 

TRUMP:  Thank you. 



MATTHEWS:  They weren`t asking him to kiss.  The handshake.  Even to people like Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin would shake hands. 

JOHNSON:  Even a bunch of kids, you know, after a bad NCAA loss, like you shake hands.  It`s what you`re supposed to do.  It`s an adult thing to do and it sends a sign to every other country on the face of the planet, this is probably not a guy you`ll be able to work with. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s got to -- 

MASON:  Let`s just be clear.  They did shake hands when she first arrived at the White House and they did shake hands at the end of the press conference. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s take a look at this.  Two of the tougher questions as I said came from foreign media.  One from the German reporters asking President Trump if he has any regrets about his tweeting. 


REPORTER:  Are there from time to time tweets that you regret --

TRUMP:  Very seldom. 

REPORTER:  Very seldom.  So you never would have wished --

TRUMP:  Probably wouldn`t be here right now but very seldom.  We have a tremendous group of people that listen and I can get around the media when the media doesn`t tell the truth.  So, I like that. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you think? 

KARNI:  I love that question because I love asking Donald Trump if he regrets anything because I think the answer is -- I don`t think he knows how to answer it.  But I think it also speaks to the -- how the outside world is viewing what`s going on here. 

MASON:  I think Germany and countries all over the world are watching not only the tweeting but the media --

MATTHEWS:  How about the behavior today?  He sits down in the cabinet room with Angela Merkel, probably the top leader in Europe and sits next to his daughter, Ivanka, just puts her next to her and then he puts Jared across the table like it`s the Romanoffs, like this is a real family, with all the family elements all in there discussing the world situation like we`ve elected a monarchy.  It is bizarre. 

And they must -- she must go back home and say, what kind of a government do they have over there?  Like the family and the in-laws and daughter all part of the government. 

JOHNSON:  Well, it`s a testament to what she thought it would be like to talk to him.  She brought the CEOs from BMW and Siemens with her because they would have a better chance of communicating with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they`re successful too. 

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us and up next, these three people will tell me something I don`t know.  


MATTHEWS:  We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable. 

Jason, tell me something I don`t know. 

JOHNSON:  Call it the Trump effect.  The American Association of College Registrars say there is a 40 percent decrease in foreign student applications to come get their education in the United States.  Biggest drops are coming out of India, China and Middle East.  It`s costing us money. 

MATTHEWS:  But they aren`t on the list. 

JOHNSON:  They`re getting ready for it and don`t want to get caught mere. 


KARNI:  I think Wednesday night`s, Trump`s rally in Nashville was the first time all three networks didn`t carry the full thing live.  CNN and MSNBC only cut to it very late in the game.  It might be the end of free Trump television. 

MATTHEWS:  I think a lot of progressives will be cheering what you just said. 

MASON:  We`re talking earlier about that meeting today in the cabinet room with the business leaders.  I think the White House was not prepared for Chancellor Merkel to use her mother tongue when she started speaking in German they had to quickly bring over a translator for President Trump to listen in. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I thought that`s all weird.  Very awkward. 

Anyway, Jason Johnson, Annie Karni and Jeff Mason, thank you all.  It`s been great having you.  

We`ll be right back after this.



MICK MULVANEY, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT & BUDGET:  We can`t spend money on programs just because they sound good and great.  Meals on Wheels sounds great.  We`re not going to spend it on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we made to people. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was OBM Director Mick Mulvaney defending the administration`s drastic cuts in programs like Meals on Wheels. 

In Charles Peters` new book "We Do Our Part: Toward a Fair and More Equal America", the author argues it`s time to stop being disillusioned with government and start doing something to make government better. 

Joining me right now is Jon Meacham who wrote the foreword for that book and is out explaining the book to the public because Charlie Peters can`t make the trip. 

But thank you so much.  Charlie Peters is a great man.  But let`s get to the thought behind this whole book, Jon. 


MATTHEWS:  The Great Society, before that, the New Deal, the belief that we could do things.  But particularly, I`ve always been told that Southerners, people who live in rural parts of the country who are culturally conservative do like programs like Social Security, Medicare and they especially like programs like Meals on Wheels.  Programs like that are not just for big-city liberals. 

MEACHAM:  Not at all.  The South, Appalachia where Charlie grew up in West Virginia, I live in Tennessee, we wouldn`t be possible without the New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the CCC, the great programs that really lifted us out of the Depression in the `30s, that helped Franklin Roosevelt save capitalism from the capitalists in many ways -- 


MEACHAM:  -- and led to a period of generosity that helped create a period of national greatness.  Think about it, the 1930s as government got bigger because it had to take place of where the market was failing because markets fail in the same way government can fail, all institutions are fallible.  To reflexively say markets are always right the as crazy as saying government is always right. 

But without the spirit of generosity in the `30s, you wouldn`t have had the successes of the `40s, the greatness of the `50s, the civil rights advances of the `60s.  Government has been a critical element of that. 

Intelligent, careful public sector action is something Charlie has long championed.  Not just government for the sake of government but understanding that human institutions are always flawed, always open to getting better and we need to focus on making things better. 

MATTHEWS:  You don`t have to sell me because if it wasn`t for the government, I would haven`t gone the college the way I did, certainly not to a great college like Holy Cross because student loans, the government loans and the National Defense Education Act back in the early `60s is what allowed a lot of us to go to college, good colleges. 

I just wonder, what do you think is going to happen with Trump?  Because he`s out there with his new budget.  He`s cutting across the board in so many areas, not just foreign aid, which isn`t that much but he`s cutting a lot of these kinds -- what`s going to cut politically?  You know the politics of this.  What`s going to -- when are the Trump people going to say that`s not what we elected, what we fought for? 

MEACHAM:  Well, people are always against government until it affects them, right?


MEACHAM:  And so, whether it`s Meals on Wheels, or college loans, in the old days, the G.I. bill, defense contracts, which helped build the prosperity of the `40s and `50s, making us the greatest power the world has ever known, including Britain, including Rome, government played a critical role in that. 

And I do think that once people feel in their personal lives a kind of meanness, a kind of coldness in terms of the communal reaction.  Because if government is one part of the broad symphony of life it`s an important part and what Charlie is arguing in this book, the old motto from the New Deal, "we do our part", is that we have to be generous spirited toward one another, not just because it`s the right thing to do, but because it also makes us stronger. 

And I think that, you know, without that spirit, and Charlie argues that without that spirit, the country is going to become ever more selfish, and I think in the age of Trump, we`ve reached a kind of -- if you can use these two terms, we`ve reached a new high and lows in terms of our generous spiritedness toward one another.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m a big fan, Jon, as you know, of Charlie Peters.  This guy really was and is great, as a writer and as a thinker.  And I`m so glad you`re bringing this book to us.

Jon Meacham, thank you.  The name of the book is "We Do Our Part" by Charles Peterson.  It`s a great book about a modern American history.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch.  You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS:  Trump Watch, Friday, March 17th, 2017. 

Alec Baldwin has a competitor.  We saw him today in the White House East Room.  We saw Donald Trump doing a better job of playing Trump at his most ridiculous than the actor himself can.  Anything "Saturday Night Live" can do, Trump proved this afternoon he can do worse. 

Perhaps it`s because Trump trapped himself, trapped himself into a story so provably untrue that it was just a matter of time that he either apologized -- which he won`t do -- or let the world see him caught in an untruth even his clique of allies won`t defend. 

I looked forward to today`s press conference to see how he might escape the dishonesty of his own words.  Trump didn`t disappoint.  When a clear-spoken focused German reporter asked him to defend what he said about Obama tapping his phones at Trump Tower, Trump made no sound whatever.  He simply didn`t answer her. 

When the second German reporter asked about his cover-up, his claim that President Obama had gotten British intelligence to plant that wiretap with him, Trump said his White House was only quoting somebody he`d heard on FOX. 

What we have here is not a failure to communicate, however, but the clearest possible communication by an American president that he`s willing to make up a story about his predecessor, then make up a story about another country all for the purpose of getting himself out of a corner he didn`t like being stuck in. 

Why?  Why would the world in all its seriousness and complexity, with North Korea in the hands of a murderous child, with countries that have come to count on us learning now they can`t, does this president choose to live in a world of Mar-a-Lago tweets, golf, and the company of a family he traipses around with him like the Romanoffs. 

Mr. Trump, we need a president, that means you.  Why don`t you quit the comedy, live in the White House and accept the duties, the focus and the seriousness your country needs. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.