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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/17/17 Civil War in the Republican party.

Guests: Sam Stein, Erroll Southers, Brandy Daniels, Claudio Lavanga, Yamiche Alcindor; Peter Emerson, Geoff Bennett

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 17, 2017

Guest: Sam Stein, Erroll Southers, Brandy Daniels, Claudio Lavanga, Yamiche Alcindor; Peter Emerson, Geoff Bennett

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The monuments man.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

There was terror in Barcelona today, but tonight`s focus here is on the recent act of terror here in the United States in the killing and injuring that took place in Charlottesville.

Before that, a brief update on the horror over in Spain. A van plowed through a busy tourist street in the heart of the city. Officials say at least 13 people were killed, at least 100 injured, and they stay the casualty count could rise in the coming hours. Police say they`ve arrested two suspects but still don`t have the driver of that van. We`ll get you the latest as it comes in.

But first, President Donald Trump says they`re coming the take away our national monuments to both George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. Stung by the reaction to his handling of Charlottesville, the president is now attempting to draw the battle line away from his defense of those who marched with neo-Nazis, as did he on Tuesday.

He wants to plant (ph) it on defending our country`s heritage. He wants to make it about whether we keep the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the rest of it. Quote, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statutes and monuments. You can`t change history, but you can learn it from. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. Who`s next is Washington, Jefferson? So foolish."

Well, the tweet came just hours after strategist Steve Bannon revealed how the White House hopes to capitalize on the reaction to Charlottesville. In an interview with "The American Prospect," Bannon said, quote, "The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got `em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats." That`s Steve Bannon.

Anyway, however, there`s some evidence tonight that some -- repeat, some -- in the president`s own party might have a hard time backing that Bannon approach. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee made clear today that the White House needs to change.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he`s -- understands what has made this nation great and what it is today. And he`s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that. And without the things that I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.

I will say we`re at a point where there needs to be radical changes take place at the White House itself. It has to happen.


MATTHEWS: How do you have that without an election?

Anyway, I`m joined right now by Ashley Parker, White House reporter with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political reporter -- or analyst. Sam Stein`s politics editor with the DailyBeast, Paul Butler`s former federal prosecutor, and again, an MSNBC legal analyst, and Erroll Southers is the director of, quote, "Homegrown Violent Extremism Studies" at USC out in California. Gentlemen, thank you, and thank you, Ashley.

Let me go to Paul Butler on this whole question. Let`s talk about what Trump`s up to, apparently, saying that the Lincoln -- rather, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are in danger. This isn`t about me marching or hanging around with people who march with Nazis. I got a new angle on this baby.

What do you think of this attempt to squirm out of his historic reputation problem, I think.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so Chris, this is about deflecting and pivoting from his coziness with white supremacists to this academic debate about different ways to remember history.

But here`s the thing. President Trump is not an intellectual thought leader. This week, he sounded like a bigot who just doesn`t get that the white supremacist side lost the Civil War and we now live in a country that should not honor terrorists who use violence and rape to keep black people down.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he allowed himself to be identified with the cause of the Civil War to support the continuation and extension of slavery into the territories? Do you think he got that bad off?

BUTLER: You know, I think that he`s just being more open and transparent about his close connection with white racism than some other Republicans, like Reagan and Nixon, whose whole "Southern strategy" used code words like "welfare queen" and "urban crime" to talk about black people. Again, Trump`s friendliness with white supremacists is more open, it`s more transparent, and in a sense, it`s more frightening, it`s more threatening to our nation.

MATTHEWS: Well, Reagan did some good things, but one of the bad things he did, he talked about, as he -- look, you can`t disguise what he said. He knew what he said, not just "welfare queens," he talked -- his phrase -- the "young buck" who would come into the supermarket and buy liquor with food stamps. That was one of his babies, too.

Let me go to Ashley Parker. Where`s the president now, do you think, in terms of his repositioning, because I think that`s what`s going on, where he wants to fight? Where is he comfortable and enjoying the fight and where doesn`t he want to fight?

ASHLEY PARKER, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: So this is a fight the president wants to have. This is one of the reasons Steve Bannon was heartened after the Tuesday press conference in Trump Tower.

The thing is, the president is saying what he truly believes and what he thinks also appeals to his base, which is that this is an issue about political correctness and there can be too much of a slide into political correctness.

The problem there, of course, is that even while some of his advisers concede this is potentially a debate the president and the White House can win, they say it`s the wrong moment. You can`t have a debate over political correctness when half of the nation, more than half, is still furious and emotional and livid with you for seeming to equate white supremacists with counterprotesters.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Sam on this. It seems to me that he is going to lose almost any fight here unless he really makes it, absurdly, about whether we have George Washington on our dollar bill anymore, which is what it seems like he`s headed toward.

SAM STEIN, DAILYBEAST: You don`t think this is just Donald Trump, son of the South, coming...


MATTHEWS: I don`t know. He`s a New Yorker...

STEIN: Obviously.


MATTHEWS: ... Hollywood for years always glorified the old -- the old South, I mean, "Gone With the Wind" and the whole rest of it.

STEIN: I think -- first of all, Paul`s right. There`s a weird element here where you`re supposed to be more discreet about your dog-whistling, and he`s not. So I think that works against him. But I was struck by the Bannon quote, which is, "You can do this if you have an economic nationalism component to it." That`s the one-two punch. And right now, they`re not doing the one-punch very well and they`re not doing the two- punch at all.

There`s no infrastructure package. Health care was...

MATTHEWS: There`s no restore our manufacturing base piece, either...


STEIN: The economy is growing, but it`s growing roughly at the same levels as it was under Obama. You need to have that second punch. And so what`s ended up happening is Trump is just smothered in crises of his own making. He`s -- he -- you know, he can`t get out of his rhetorical traps that he set for himself. And so yes, he`s trying turn it towards a monuments issue, but I don`t think it`s going to be a successful one.

MATTHEWS: Professor Southers, let me ask you about this whole question of -- what do you hear when you hear Trump defend -- basically, defend those who march with Nazis, as well as with KKK people, as well as defending the monuments to the people who really caused the Civil War?

ERROLL SOUTHERS, USC: Well, Chris, as your previous guest mentioned, this is not just a dog whistle anymore. This is a foghorn to his base. He`s actually defending what has become the greatest threat to our nation`s homeland and national security, which is the right wing.

You`ve seen the statistics, over twice as many attacks in the last decade put out by the right wing. We knew this past weekend, we`d have trouble in Charlottesville. And they see this as an incredible movement in terms of their ability to move on, be emboldened, recruit, radicalize and engage.

And now they`re out in force. They`re not wearing hoods or sheets anymore. They don`t feel they need to hide. And they have a champion in the White House.

STEIN: I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t paint the entire right wing as the threat here. I think we need to be more specific about it. We`re talking about white nationalist right-wing extremists. Let`s not pain too (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Professor?

SOUTHERS: Well, what I would say is we all know that what we saw on Saturday were neo-Nazis, militia conservatives, we saw neo-Confederates, we saw several factions of the Klan.

These are groups that usually are fragmented. They usually have a lot of internal strife. They don`t usually coalesce to one location for one cause, and they did that. And with all due respect, we`re not going to paint the right wing in that way, but we are going to paint the extremists that were there, and these are the people that are being emboldened by his activities.

We`ve seen attacks over the last several weeks and months that have gone ignored and not been reported, and they know what`s going on and they have a champion in what was said again for the third iteration of his explanation about what was going on...

MATTHEWS: Do you think those pictures that we`re showing, Professor, the pictures we just showed -- while you couldn`t see, we`re showing people fighting with each other hands -- it`s fist to fist. It`s not exactly gun to gun, but it`s pretty rough. We`re looking at -- is that a recruitment poster for the alt-right?

SOUTHERS: Absolutely. What they wanted to have on Saturday was they wanted to be attacked by the counterprotesters. We`ve seen this in activities in other protests. We had one in Los Angeles in 2010, where the alt-right was attacked by the protesters. The following day on their Web site, they had a notice saying, We were there peacefully protesting when we were attacked.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, things went tragically and deadly awry, and they were unable to respond to that. So what they`re trying to do now is to lay low. The word is out. They didn`t expect on someone to get killed, especially someone on the other side, and they have to regroup and restrategize of how they`re going to go forward.

MATTHEWS: Ashley, at the White House, can you tell whether they`re prepared for what we`re looking here -- if Professor Southers is right, if this is a dynamic, this isn`t just a one-weekend issue, that it`s going to in Boston tomorrow and Boston`s going to have a lot of people who don`t like these people, obviously -- we know that culturally, and some who will, perhaps, but it will be heated.

We know Boston is a hot city when it comes to political activity. It is very intense politically. And I`m just wondering, how does the White House protect itself in what could be a dynamic where this gets worse and worse every weekend?

PARKER: I think that`s a great question. I think the White House is worried because they do realize on issues like this, the president at his core believes that there are two sides. And as you`ve seen, he`s going to come out and say that.

He was very quick today to condemn the terrorist attack in Barcelona, whereas with the violence in Charlottesville, it took him over 48 hours to do that first condemnation before he walked it back.

In that sense, they`re slightly heartened when he moves the debate over to the monuments and issues of culture and that very loaded word "heritage," than on these fights breaking out. But when they break out, the president is going to be expected to weigh in. So far, it has not gone well, and this is something the White House needs to figure out how to get under control.

MATTHEWS: Paul Butler, if that does emerge -- and it seems to me, if the professor is right, Professor Southers is right, and it seems to me that all you need is 1 per percent, or 1 percent of 1 percent of people watching something on television, and get activated and radicalized by -- say, Wait a minute, I want to punch those lefties, too. I don`t know. I imagine what people were saying in barrooms around this country. I want to get in this tussle.

By the way, fights do attract people. We know that. You see a fight, a lot of people want to jump in.

What do you think will happen politically if that becomes the case in the rest of the summer?

BUTLER: So I hope it will become even too much for the Republicans. But we have to understand that mainstream Republicans have always appealed to white resentment. No Democrat since Lyndon Johnson has gotten a majority of the vote. So these Republicans who are OK with the more subtle signs, the attacks on African-American, on civil rights, and the lack of concern about police brutality and people of color, the attacks on immigration -- again, what Trump is, is the chickens coming home to roost. But there`s always been stirring up of resentment by Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s listen to what Senator Corker said when asked about the Confederate statue in television`s capital in Nashville.


CORKER: We want to keep our history. We don`t want to wash away our history. But let`s put it in a museum, OK? And let`s have the type of people at public buildings where we go to discuss aspirational things -- let`s have aspirational figures.


MATTHEWS: What are we going to do, Sam, about -- I was walking through the Capitol the other day, a couple weeks ago, and I saw Robert E. Lee there. Now, he`s down in the crypt. He`s not...

STEIN: He used to be (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, but each state gets to submit two figures of history. They can be missionaries in Hawaii, people like -- all kinds of people. But they chose to keep that as the number two. I guess their number one, whoever it is, is upstairs in Statuary Hall.


MATTHEWS: But what happens -- because that`s really a decision by the state`s delegation, I understand.

STEIN: Yes. It`s left to...

MATTHEWS: In fact, Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey...

STEIN: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... says we`re going to get rid of them all. I don`t think that`s doable, actually.

STEIN: I think -- what I`m guessing is Senator Booker`s legislation will take the power to choose who`s Statuary Hall away from the states.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think that`s going to happen.

STEIN: I don`t think it will happen. I actually do think you will see progress on this front, but it`s all going to happen locally. It`s going to be municipalities, cities, states, mayors, governors saying, We want to get rid of this plaque.

MATTHEWS: Well, how`s that going to square with the Republican philosophy these days of local control? They always say states` rights. They say local decision making. Here`s Charlottesville. They didn`t like the decision. Let`s get rid of Robert E. Lee on horseback, and they came in and said, Well, no, we -- you can`t make that decision.

STEIN: Correct, but you see in the aftermath of these bloody instances see more action in this direction. So...

MATTHEWS: Locally.

STEIN: Locally.

MATTHEWS: Did you see what happened in Baltimore?


STEIN: ... Charleston, you saw the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse...

MATTHEWS: That was Nikki Haley (INAUDIBLE)

STEIN: And even now, you see movements in Brooklyn, of all places, but also Arizona, other states, Durham, for instance, Baltimore, where they are trying to make process on this front.


MATTHEWS: Who`s trying to get in? Go ahead.

BUTLER: Chris, can we just acknowledge how absurd this whole conversation is? In the halls of state in Germany, they don`t have debates about whether they need to have honor and monuments to the Nazis. They get them out there. And that`s what they need to do with Robert Lee. They need to take that statue out of the Capitol on a dump truck and take it to the nearest incinerator because he was a terrorist who wanted to keep my people slaves.

SOUTHERS: And Chris, to Paul`s point...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

SOUTHERS: ... I`d like to add that, as Paul just mentioned, there are no statues in Germany of Hitler. As a matter of fact, Hitler`s home in Austria was torn down because they didn`t want him memorialized in any way. So this is not a matter of heritage. It`s not a matter of culture.

Would we like to see Jewish students in America going to Hitler High School or walking past a statue that represents that? I don`t think so. So we need to do the right thing. There`s only one right way to do this. This is not hard.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s listen to this, a different point of view here. The lead attorney on President Trump`s legal defense team, this guy named John Dowd, is distributing pro-Confederacy talking points. "The New York Times" reported that Dowd forwarded an e-mail written by a conspiracy theorist to conservative journalists which purported (ph) to contain, quote, "Information that validates President Trump on Charlottesville."

The e-mail states that, quote, "You cannot be against Robert E. Lee or General Lee and be for General Washington. There literally is no difference between the two men." It also said that Black Lives Matter, a group that formed to protest the use of force by police against African- Americans, is being directed by terrorists.

Ashley, how do -- how`s the president deal with John Dowd and other embarrassing associates?

PARKER: Well, the problem here is that the president`s lawyers in theory are supposed to be the people who protect the president from himself. Instead, what you have is one of his lawyers sort of behaving like your kooky uncle who always forwards along those, you know, controversial spam e-mails. I don`t know that the president is going to directly address this, but it`s just sort of another problematic example of the chaos and the people he`s choosing to surround himself at the top.

MATTHEWS: So if you`re Hope Hicks, you got to come in and see the president every hour and say, Guess what, boss? More trouble.

Anyway, thank you, Ashley Parker, Sam Stein, Paul Butler, (INAUDIBLE) Thank you, Professor Erroll Southers of USC.

Coming up, what really happened on the ground in Charlottesville? We`re going to talk to a counterprotester who was there who says that, based on what she saw first hand, President Trump`s claim that both sides were responsible for the violence is just not true. She says even the extreme left, the Antifa, counterprotesters, likely saved lives, including people she was with. And that`s ahead.

Plus, terror in Barcelona. What we`re learning right now about the attacker who police say drove a van -- well, we saw it -- into a crowd of people on a busy tourist street. We`re going to have the latest from the scene tonight.

And the HARDBALL roundtable on the growing divide within the Republican Party at the president`s comments about Charlottesville drives more members of his party, at least some of them, off the Trump train.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, now a third White House council has been scrapped amid fall-out from the president`s response to the violence down in Charlottesville. Bloomberg first reported the news that President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned advisory council on infrastructure. The council, which was still being formed, would have advised Trump on his plan to spend as much as $1 trillion upgrading roads, bridges and other public works. Would have. The dominoes keep falling.

We`ll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I will say it right now.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump has argued, as you just saw, that both sides are to blame for the violence in Charlottesville last weekend. But, according to counterprotester Brandy Daniels, that`s not what she was, and she was there.

Daniels was in Charlottesville as a part of group of faith leaders who linked arms to block the white supremacists from entering Emancipation Park.

Brandy Daniels joins us now from Charlottesville. She holds a doctorate, by the way, in theology from Vanderbilt and is now in postdoctoral studies at the University of Virginia.

Thank you, Brandy, for joining us.

We`re going to do something unusual on the program now. I`m going to let you talk. And I want you to just tell, because you were there. And take as much time as you have. Just tell us what it was like to be there. We have seen all the pictures, but you were part of that picture. Tell us the reality.


Yes, I had just moved to Charlottesville. And I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Luce Project on Religion and Its Publics at UVA. And given that the work I do is how religion engages with the publics, and given my commitments to justice and dismantling -- participating in dismantling the evils and sin and structures of white supremacy, I felt it really important to be there.

And so I linked up with a group, Congregate Charlottesville, led by two local faith leaders who do awesome work, Brittany Caine-Conley and Seth Wispelwey. And a number of folks were in from out of town, Cornel West and many others, Traci Blackmon.

And we walked up to the scene. We silently vigiled in a group of about like 40, 50 or more of us faith leaders in our clergy garb. And first we held vigil right on the line of the park. Standing between us were the militia and then, on the other side of them, a handful -- a handful -- more than a handful, a lot of Nazis and alt-righters and white supremacists.

And we were there to witness that that is not what we stand for and to put our bodies, many of us white, on the line to kind of stand there for -- to counter the evils of white supremacy and to stand for the bodies that are marginalized, so they don`t -- they`re not the ones with their bodies on the line.

And we were there for a while. And then a group of us moved up to the steps of Emancipation Park. As we were there on the steps, we were all linking arms. And a group of white supremacist Nazis came through with their batons and their shields.

And our aim was kind of to prevent them from entering the park. And we stood them, arms linked, and they shoved their way through violently. They pushed a woman down, pushed their way through.

And it was scary, to say the least. But we strengthened our resolve. And we told ourselves, when they come by again, we`re not going to let them get through.

Some anarchists and Antifa types in -- came up to us and asked what they could do to help. Our group had different tactics in some ways than the Antifa, but they -- the same goal. And we have seen the narratives in the media by President Trump that said that it was the same, the violence on both sides. And I -- that`s not what I saw.

I saw us standing there in silent protest, and I saw them defending us, because that group of Nazis came back around. And, as they did, there were a lot more of them. And it was hands down -- Cornel West, in his interview on Democracy Now, said the Antifa and the anarchists saved our lives.

And talking to Dahlia Lithwick and Slate, I said I don`t think -- that didn`t feel like hyperbole to me. That felt very real.

There was probably a group of 100, and the anarchists kind of intervened in that moment and put their bodies between ours. And it was only when the white supremacists kind of started getting violent that they defended themselves and they defended us, giving us the space to -- to retreat at that point, because it wasn`t safe.

MATTHEWS: Were you afraid for your life, Brandy?

DANIELS: I was, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, now we know more than we knew before you came on.

Thank you so much, Brandy Daniels, for a firsthand account. And good -- God bless you. Take care of yourself.

DANIELS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- good for your -- I`m glad to see you`re studying theology.

Anyway, up next, a live report from Barcelona, what we`re learning about the attack that killed 13 people over there and the latest as police hunt for the driver. A lot of questions, not many answers yet.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. .

Well, sadly, it`s another tragic evening in Europe, with terrorists targeting Spain`s second largest city, Barcelona.

It was late in the afternoon when a white van plowed through crowds of people in the city`s famous tourist destination Las Ramblas, a tree-lined pedestrian mall popular with tourists and locals alike.

Well, the Spanish interior minister now says 13 people have -- were killed, and at least 100 were injured in what officials are calling a terrorist attack.

Eyewitnesses said that the van deliberately targeted pedestrians, zigzagging down the street before it came to a stop. At least two suspects are currently in custody over there. But the driver of the van himself or herself remains at large.

President Trump offered a decidedly muted response to the attack, tweeting: "The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help."

Well, for the latest on the scene, I`m joined by NBC reporter Claudio Lavanga.

Claudio, thank you for -- what do we know now about who did this and why? CLAUDIO LAVANGA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, we didn`t know the name of the suspect that was driving the white van yet, or at least the police is not confirming it yet.

What we know is that the driver of that white van that you mentioned is still on the run. Now, the police arrested two people in connection to the terror attack today, but neither of them is the driver of the van that slammed into the crowd that was just walking by on the pedestrian avenue Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas is perhaps the most famous or popular among tourists pedestrian avenue in Barcelona, if not in the whole of Europe, packed with people, especially at this time of year. This is August. It`s very warm here. It`s the peak of the tourist season.

You can even see it here. Set the scene where I am. Behind me is the Plaza de Cataluna, one of the biggest squares here in Barcelona. And right there is where the Ramblas starts.

It is all in lockdown because the police, of course, are still looking for that one suspect. Now, another develop into the investigation, Chris, is that the police now are looking into whether there is a connection between the attack of today and an explosion that took place in a town about two- and-a-half-hours south from Barcelona last night.

Initially, it was supposed -- they believed it was a gas leak, but now they think that that may be -- they may have been an accident, that that explosion was caused by perhaps explosive material that could have been used by the same terrorist that carried the attack today to carry out a much bigger plan, a much bigger plot that involved explosives and possibly bombs -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Could have been worse.

Thank you, NBC`s Claudio Lavanga in Barcelona.

Well, terrorism is not new to Spain. In 2004, 10 bombs ripped through four commuter trains in Madrid, of course, killing 192 people. We all remember that one. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for that attack, blaming Spain`s alliance with the United States during the war in Iraq.

And that led to the surprise victory of a socialist government which opposed the war. Anyway, scenes of carnage and devastation have become all too familiar, as terrorists are increasingly turning to vehicles as their mode of attack, as their weapon.

The most deadly incidents of that happened last summer in Nice, France, where the drive of a tractor-trailer targeted Bastille Day revelers, killing 86 people.

Well, joining me right now is Juan Zarate, senior national security analyst for MSNBC.

Juan, thank you.


MATTHEWS: What does this look like? What is the footprint here? What do you see?

ZARATE: Well, unfortunately, it is a consistent methodology, the demonstration effect of these vehicular attacks, low-tech, high-impact.

MATTHEWS: No cost.

ZARATE: No cost. Allows any individual to attack. This follows the playbook that ISIS and al Qaeda have called for. Use whatever means possible, to include vehicles, to attack in the heart of these Western capitals.

And, unfortunately, what we saw in Nice, London, Berlin has now come to Barcelona.

MATTHEWS: You know, the sad reality, as we like to say, those of us who see ourselves as victims of terrorism, that it doesn`t work.

But, of course, when the Madrid attacks occurred, that government fell.

ZARATE: That`s absolutely...

MATTHEWS: The people that supported us -- I wasn`t a war supporter, but those who supported the United States in that war in Iraq were defeated.

ZARATE: Yes. No, that`s right.

And I think what the terrorists are learning is that these low-impact attacks -- they don`t have to fly planes into major government buildings or high-rises. These smaller-scale attacks, with great emotional and human toll, can actually have strategic impact on the politics of a country.

We have got the Catalonia independence vote coming up in October.


ZARATE: This may impact some of...


MATTHEWS: Well, we now go from the profound to the tragic to the absurd.

President Trump followed up his more diplomat tweet on the Barcelona attack with this one: "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more radical Islamic terror for 35 years."

The president is recycling a largely debunked story which he made popular in the campaign about General John Pershing dipping bullets in pig`s blood to execute Islamic terrorists in the Philippines.

Let`s watch him in action, the president.


TRUMP: Early in the century, last century, General Pershing, did you ever hear? A rough guy. A rough guy.

And they had a terrorism problem. He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig`s blood, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened.

And for 25 years, there wasn`t a problem.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? You`re an expert. Was that the genius that we just heard?

ZARATE: Well, unfortunately...

MATTHEWS: And I was being sarcastic.

ZARATE: ... it has been debunked. Right?

MATTHEWS: It didn`t happen.


It is unfortunate he mentions it now. I think the messages we need now are solidarity, work with the Spanish.


MATTHEWS: In other words, you don`t want to tell Islamic people who have a religion and have a concern about dietary rules, to make fun of their dietary rules, to make fun of their religion, so that you`re going to what, make them be on our side?

ZARATE: Well, that`s part of it.

You also -- we have a counterterrorism approach, counterterrorism approach that doesn`t rely on those kinds of means.


ZARATE: And I think this sends...

MATTHEWS: You mean it`s based on intelligence?

ZARATE: Well, no, I mean whether or not we adhere to the laws of war.

And this is a signal that we don`t. And we certainly do. And we have to work certainly with the Europeans, who are very sensitive about that. And so I`m not sure it is the right moment for that kind of a message. And, certainly, it`s a debunked theory, so it`s probably not something you want to hear from the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: I hope not.

Anyway, Juan Zarate, thank you for your expertise and your calm.

ZARATE: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Another Republican senator comes out against Trump`s comments on Charlottesville, saying his moral authority has been compromised. That`s understated.

The Republicans are being very careful here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.



SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday starting the comments that were strong.

What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There`s no question about that. We should all call that on the carpet.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott joining Bob Corker today in a chorus of vocal Republican criticism of President Trump.

It comes at a time when the president seems almost gleeful in taking on his detractors. We all saw that yesterday, this week -- actually two days ago. He was thrilled.

After South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham blasted Trump yesterday for creating what Lindsey called a moral equivalency between the Charlottesville white supremacists and those protesting against them, Trump responded this morning -- quote -- "Publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalence between the KKK, neo- Nazis, and white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can`t forget this election trouncing."

Anyway, "The people of South Carolina will remember."

Actually, Lindsey gets elected down there very comfortably. Here`s how Graham responded. Quote, because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation, as our president, please fix this. History is watching us all.

Lindsey is looking very good these days.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Yamiche Alcindor with me, he`s national reporter for "The New York Times", Peter Emerson is a "Huffington Post" contributor, and Geoff Bennett is White House reporter for NPR.

All of you, we`re -- I`ve been talking about on the show tonight, besides the horror in what`s going on and we`re trying to figure what happened exactly in Barcelona. Is this presidential pivot we`re watching?

He`s been besmirching his already tattered reputation by being identified now with neo-Nazis. He can`t do much worse than that. So, he seems to be trying to get out of that by saying the real fight isn`t whether I associate people in there as fine people, which he said the other day, marching with the swastikas and the Hitler salutes, but the real issue here is whether we keep the monuments to Washington and Jefferson.

Now, I think he is hoping to find somebody on the hard left to say, yes, we should take them down, too. It hasn`t happened yet.

What do you think of his strategy? Because it seems to be what`s Steve Bannon is describing.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think his strategy is one that shows you that strategy at this point, obviously not working. He is obviously trying on get past the story and kind of go to another chapter, where we now have a national discussion about slavery and whether or not we should talk about our past presidents, when In fact, Donald Trump is really doubling down on this issue because he`s angry, because he knows that he was off message. He knows that he couldn`t keep the message. So, he had that great teleprompter speech where he said that, you know, this is terrible, racism is evil. And then he turns around and says, actually, you know what, they`re actually kind of the same people.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he did that? Why do you think he backtracked?

ALCINDOR: I think he backtracked because it`s what he really believes. He really believes that there are some people out there, nice people, as he says, that would go to a rally that`s described as a white supremacist rally. He really -- he`s doing this because he`s someone who`s starting his political career with the birther movement, right? He`s doing this because he`s never apologized for saying that the Central Park Five --

MATTHEWS: You`re saying he`s as bad as he looks.

ALCINDOR: He`s bad as he looks.

MATTHEWS: OK, I think that`s what you said. Thank you.


PETER EMERSON, CONTRIBUTOR, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, I think Trump`s strategy is working because he only has one strategy. He`s got to keep his base together and he is losing some of it. But he has now coalesced, as you pointed out, that press conference on Tuesday. He was the happiest man on the planet.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he looked happy.

EMERSON: And his supporters --

MATTHEWS: She said it`s him.

EMERSON: Yes, that`s the real Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: But politically, Geoff, let me go to you, Geoff. This doesn`t seem to be working with some Republicans, although my sense is, this a follow up questions, all three. I`ll start with you, Geoff.


MATTHEWS: Is this going to cause people to jump from the ship or not? Is this just a bump in the road, to mix metaphors?


MATTHEWS: Is it just a bump on the road and they`re going to stick with him?

BENNETT: It`s just a bump in the road. The CEOs who broke with President Trump this past week are by no stretch of the imagination, they are leading indicator for where Republicans --

MATTHEWS: Why did -- why did they jump ship? Because they had boards of directors?

BENNETT: That`s exactly right. And the thing about President Trump is that the rules of political gravity have not and apparently do not apply to him. And all the Republicans on Capitol Hill know that. All those many senators who have their own base of supporters, people aligned with Trump, they are really hesitant to get out in front of this president.

MATTHEWS: I`m hearing the Republicans near the suburbs where I grew up, they think he`s goofy, but they`re sticking with him.

EMERSON: They are. They`re not afraid of him anymore. But they still need goodies from the federal government. And I am --

MATTHEWS: What do you mean? What does the federal government dispense?

EMERSON: Yes, of course, they do. You`ve been on the Hill. So have I. They need -- governors and senators and congressmen --

MATTHEWS: I think they`re afraid of their people.

ALCINDOR: Well, I think the other thing is that I tweeted out as soon as this press conference was over, that this feels like the "Access Hollywood" tape issue.


ALCINDOR: It went on and on and on. You had Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio saying this is terrible. But at the end of the day, just today, Paul Ryan sent out and email talking about tax reform. Republicans are going to work with him as soon as this blows over. And they`re hoping that it blows over because Republicans are thinking in four years, we have --


MATTHEWS: John Kasich who has no reason, maybe your reason, patronage and stuff, John Kasich, he had a great deal on the "Today" show the other day, and he was very tough on Trump until Matt Laurie said, well, you`re going to break with him? And he said, no, no, I`m not going to break with him.

EMERSON: That`s right. And Mike Pence is playing a big and important behind the scenes game on infrastructure.

MATTHEWS: Infrastructure.

EMERSON: He is the one leading the infrastructure even though he wasn`t at the press conference. He is the one who`s assuring that the senators and congressmen and governors are going to get what they need for their states from the federal government.

MATTHEWS: They`re also playing on deck circle baseball. What do you think?

BENNETT: I think Republicans will by and large paper over whatever sort of moral and political chasm the president has created with his comments about Charlottesville.

MATTHEWS: What`s it going to take?

BENNETT: That`s the big question. One would have thought --

MATTHEWS: They had to take it away and say it was just locker room talk, the talk about women abusing women, treating women a certain way, having an attitude about women in certain way. Reince Priebus said he went to Trump and said, you`ve got to get out of this race. You can`t run for president talking like that. Well, that passed. Now, this seems to be passed.

ALCINDOR: I was on the phone with an African-American supporter just a couple of minutes ago, and he told me that for him to not support Donald Trump anymore, he would have to go to the moon and back. He told me that he thinks that even he as a black man, he thinks that there are some nice people that might be part of the KKK. That some of those people are not violent.

So, that`s what some of thinking of Trump supporters are. And that`s coming from an African-American Republican. So, there are people thinking that -- so, in my mind as a reporter, there`s very little that`s going to happen before people completely divorce themselves from this president.

MATTHEWS: These Nazis.

ALCINDOR: Yes, that`s literally what this person told me.

EMERSON: As long as he is beating on the media, he is making fun mocking corporate titans and just giving nicknames to senators and congressmen, his base loves it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try something, Geoff, I think Democrats don`t mind being a little chaotic. I mean, I worked with -- I know they sort of enjoy, please clear the aisles of the convention. They never clear the aisles. They`re just table hopping.

Republicans like order. They like a leader. They like the John Wayne notion.

My brother told me, he`s a Republican. He told me that they need a leader. They like leaders and right now, there`s only one leader. And they will not live in a world of chaos, Republicans. If they`ve got a president, they`re going to back him no matter who he is.

BENNETT: Yes, and one would think that --

MATTHEWS: That`s a crude way of saying it. My brother said, they think he`s goofy but they`re sticking with him.

BENNETT: They are sticking with him. But here`s the problem though --

MATTHEWS: I`ll pay for this, but that`s true. Go ahead.

BENNETT: We`ve seen what happens when there is a vacuum, when there is a void of strong Republican leadership and what happened, the health care bill went in a defeat by one vote, which the president himself called a disgraceful.


BENNETT: So, yes, exactly. And so, when he attacks Jeff Flake -- when he attacks Lindsey Graham --

MATTHEWS: Flake Jeff Flake he called him.

BENNETT: Yes. And when he attacks no less than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, what he is really doing is undercutting the very people who he needs --

MATTHEWS: But who is more popular, Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump?

BENNETT: Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: There`s only one leader in the Republican Party. I mean, the Democrats are opposition. They don`t have a clear leader, but they don`t need a clear leader. They`re just opposed. And you don`t -- it would be nice to have one but they don`t have a clear leader.

Peter, last word?

EMERSON: Well, the actual translation of all of this is I`m criticizing you because I need the help. And you`re criticizing me because it works for you. It`s understood. That`s the game. So Trump pays no price ultimately.

MATTHEWS: I hear that one of the reasons people are attacking Trump is to separate themselves from Washington altogether, to say I`m not only against Trump. I`m against this whole mess.

EMERSON: The swamp.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`ll see if -- I`m counting on guys like Richard Burr, myself. I think he does have some stuff.

BENNETT: He`s a straight shooter.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to take this guy on, which would be in the tradition of Sam Irvin who did it against Nixon.

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

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable.

Yamiche, tell me something I don`t know.

ALCINDOR: I spoke to Donald Trump`s ex black girlfriend for two hours. She`s biracial. Her mother is black and her father is white. She basically told me that Donald Trump would tell her that she`s exactly like Derek Jeter. He was at one point impress that had black people like the watch tennis. And he basically said that he was someone who didn`t really want to talk to black people unless they were super interesting and super famous.

MATTHEWS: That`s what he said?


MATTHEWS: There`s a pattern here.

Anyway, Peter?

EMERSON: Trump`s national security adviser, General McMasters, is lobbying to be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and follow in the footsteps, the legendary footsteps of Colin Powell. There`s opposition from the Pentagon --

MATTHEWS: He can go back into uniform. That`s legal?

EMERSON: He`s already still in uniform. He`s not retired.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.

EMERSON: Much like Colin Powell. So, ultimately, we`ll see whether loyalty to Trump pays off.

MATTHEWS: Well, he may be sent to Afghanistan, too.

Go ahead.

BENNETT: The White House, as we know, scrapped the plans for infrastructure advisory council before it even got off the ground. Earlier this week, there are two other presidential panels that disbanded. But interestingly, not a single one of the president`s evangelical advisers has stepped away from him. And what`s more than that, a couple of them are defending his comments.

MATTHEWS: What`s left of economic nationalism if you don`t go with infrastructure, if you don`t really build this country back up again?

I`m sorry. It was the one good thing of his whole platform I really thought was interesting. And Democrats would have -- and labor would have supported it, rebuilding.

Anyway, Yamiche Alcindor -- I want to build a train right across this country, end all this left coast, east coast crap thing. I want the country united again.

Yamiche -- that was my speech. Peter Emerson and Geoff Bennett, thank you, of NPR.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re getting word from police in Catalonia, Spain, that there is a possible terrorist attack and ongoing operation happening right now in a town south of Barcelona.

NBC`s Claudio Lavanga is back with us now from Barcelona -- Claudio.

CLAUDIO LAVANGA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. We just heard that the city police are involved in some sort of operation in a town, as you said, Cambrils is about two hours south of Barcelona. And they are saying this could be another potential terrorist attack.

They are telling residents to stay home and stay safe. This is as much as we know for now. But, this is, of course, an indication that the danger is certainly not over here in Barcelona, in the whole of Catalonia, the region, of course, of which Barcelona is the capital, because the driver of the white van that rammed through the crowd and killed as many as 13 people today is still on the loose.

Back to you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Claudio Lavanga, who`s in Barcelona, Spain.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, August 17th, 2017.

We witnessed a kernel of American history this week. A U.S. president siding with people marching amid Nazi signs and KKK regalia. I call that history, wouldn`t you? And even as turn our heads to the terrorism over in Barcelona, let`s keep our national eyes on the pictures in Charlottesville, people dressed up with the enthusiasm of local sports fans, but bedecked with swastikas and giving up straight arm salutes of the "Heil Hitler" kind.

Perhaps now that it`s Thursday, the president senses trouble in those pictures, trouble in his being connected with them. They only get one reputation, Jack Kennedy warned us. Donald Trump has let himself get associated with those pictures ever since Saturday and that`s plenty of time for the impression to sink in, that he is part of what went down in Virginia last weekend, some kind of accessory after the fact, if you will.

Again, what do you think?

You know how you can tell he`s worried about being typed with the Nazi stuff. He is changing the battle line. It`s not about neo-Nazis. He now says it`s about those monuments and whether the left wing is now coming after Washington and Jefferson. That`s the line he wants people to buy into.

So, let the buyer beware now. If someone wants to talk about getting rid of the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, well, you heard it here, you`re doing Trump a big fat favor, one after this week`s historic embarrassment that he does not deserve.

And this is HARDBALL. And thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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