IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/22/17 Trump divides and conquers

Guests: Bret Stephens, Rosie Gray, Astead Herndon, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 22, 2017

Guest: Bret Stephens, Rosie Gray, Astead Herndon, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: In unity, there is Trump?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, the prince of division is now pitching a message of unity. That`s right, President Trump addressed the country last night to outline his new Afghanistan policy. He began, however, with a call for the country to unify and -- catch this -- to heal. Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other. Let us find the courage to heal our divisions within.


MATTHEWS: But candidate Trump, don`t you remember, stoked those divisions. He ran not as a big tent Republican but as a man who divided and conquered.


TRUMP: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? And you know what? I wish he would because I think it`s a terrible pall that`s hanging over him.

When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re bringing drugs. They`re bringing crime. They`re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe as punishment for abortion? Yes, or no -- as a principle.

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes. There has to some form.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

Hillary Clinton would rather provide a job to a refugee from overseas than to give that job to unemployed African-American youth in cities like Detroit, who have become refugees in their own country!


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has also spent his first seven months in office as president attacking Democrats as crybabies, liars and sleazes. He`s accused them of trying to cheat his supporters out of their electoral victory.

And just last week, he called some of the people marching with Nazis and white supremacists "fine people." Let`s watch.


TRUMP: It would be nice to have Democrat support. But really, they`re obstructionists. They have no ideas. They have no thought process. All they want to do is obstruct government and obstruct, period.

They`re trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us! What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton`s 33,000 deleted e-mails!


TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at...


TRUMP: You look at both sides. I think there`s blame on both sides.

But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.


MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, the president`s set to speak at a rally out in Phoenix, the site of some of his most raucous campaign rallies. Anyway, surrounded by his base, will he call for national unity again? Really?

Well, I`m joined tonight by "The New York Times" columnist Bret Stephens, "The Atlantic`s" White House correspondent, Rosie Gray, and national political reporter for "The Boston Globe" Astead Herndon.

I want to start with Astead on this. You`ve been on the show many times, and I think you and I look at this thing in an interesting almost -- is this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Are we going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde tonight? I would bet on Mr. Hyde.

ASTEAD HERNDON, "BOSTON GLOBE": I would, as well. We`ve seen two different types of President Trump. We have seen the teleprompter Trump and we`ve seen off-teleprompter Trump, which seems more natural than the other one. We have seen the person who is talking about on many sides in that press conference is saying things that he seems like he believes.

And so when we are -- when we see him in these campaign-style rallies, when he`s around his base, when he is living in that element where he can feel the interaction with the crowd, that`s when we`ve seen some of his most outlandish statements. That`s when we`ve seen some of his most baseless statements. And that`s who I would expect we would see tonight.

MATTHEWS: Rosie, his bread and butter has been division. He`s been at the edge of the wedge right out there on issues of race and nationality and immigration. Every issue, he`s played brilliantly for his 40 percent of the population. Why is he going to give that up?


MATTHEWS: Why`s he going to become Mother Teresa, or St. Francis all of a sudden?

GRAY: Well, I don`t think he`s going to. You know, I think The thing that makes Donald Trump different from other presidents is that he hasn`t really shown a lot of willingness to reach out beyond his base. He`s constantly sort of talking to his base, and those are the people that he seems to really care about...

MATTHEWS: Why? What`s the rationale for that? Why not grow?

GRAY: Well, part of it is because Donald Trump`s power sort of derives from his base at this point. Part of the reason why Republicans still to this day are kind of wary about creating distance between themselves and him is because he does have a lot of support in the Republican base.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me -- let me -- go ahead. Why doesn`t he grow? I still don`t think why you add -- addition is better than subtraction and division.

Let me go to Bret. Bret, you know, we all grew up. Well, I did, and you did, too. With Reagan -- Reagan started with a core on the hard right. He was considered too hard right for the Republican Party. Well, then he won the battle in the Republican Party. Then he got big enough to bring in the Reagan Democrats, big enough to bring in a majority vote. He ended up doing quite well as a majoritarian president.

It`s doable if you come at it from the hard right or the strong right, like he did. Why doesn`t Trump do that? Why doesn`t Trump build instead of subtract?

BRET STEPHENS, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: And Reagan did it with a Democratic Congress for most of his -- for most of his administration.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s when we had very conservative Democrats. That`s right. Yes.

STEPHENS: Well, he doesn`t do it because division has worked for him. I mean, the truth is that a year ago, many of us were making exactly the kind of comment that, you know, you just made earlier, that it seemed like a strategy for electoral suicide for him to sort of divide the country the way he did with his rhetoric. And yet he won.

And his calculation is that that`s -- that`s what -- what has succeed for him his entire career, both in business and now in politics.

So I think -- I mean, leaving aside the moral issue, or even the kind of question of statesmanship, there`s a real question on a narrow political basis whether it isn`t the smart thing to continue to play to his base. It`s who he knows and it`s what he`s good at.

MATTHEWS: Do you or I -- I don`t know if you were stunned, but I interviewed him when he said women should be punished for abortion. Now, of course, they all pulled it back when the wiser heads got around him. But his instinct was, They`re pro-life people and there`s pro-choice, I`m making my stand with pro-life women, and I don`t care how many pro-choice people or other people I offend. I`m going to say we`re going to punish these women.

That`s instinctive on his part. He thought of that at the moment.

GRAY: Well...

MATTHEWS: What kind of a guy says, I`m going to unite the country by saying I`m going to punish women for abortion, punish them?

GRAY: Well...

MATTHEWS: And I`m not sure what punishment he had in mind, actually.

GRAY: His instinct is often to sort of lash out, to sort of have kind of, you know, a punitive attitude toward -- you know, towards people. And I think that, you know, after Charlottesville, we saw him sort of reverting to what his instinct had been, which is to say, you know, many sides -- his initial statement had been about many sides being to blame for the violence.

And then they got him to sort of walk it back the next day. And then was the Trump Tower press conference, in which he sort of reverted back and -- and -- you know, and moreso to what his original instinct...

MATTHEWS: His only evidence of tolerance so far has been towards the supremacists.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) he showed tolerance toward them, if you think about it.

HERNDON: I wrote a story last week that says maybe there`s another possibility. Maybe this is what he believes. Maybe this is -- and when we look over his history of racial division, he has one that is long and extensive. I was talking...

MATTHEWS: You mean Mr. Hyde is the real guy.

HERNDON: That Mr. Hyde is the real guy. This isn`t necessarily a political plan. I think that`s something that folks haven`t really dealt with. I was talking to...

MATTHEWS: I think the people who voted for him believe he is who he is.

HERNDON: Certainly. The white nationalists believe he`s one of them.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Anyway, today "The New York Times" reported on the escalating tension between President Trump and the leader of his party in the Congress, Mitch McConnell. According to "The New York Times," Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump`s presidency may be headed and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year`s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.

Anyway, "The Times" goes on, "In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match. During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated August 9th from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader`s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation."

Bret, this very well written, very nobly written by "The New York Times," your new paper. But this is amazing that the president of the United States and the Senate major are yelling back and forth at each other on the phone. Even I -- I can be accused of having chutzpah now and then. I don`t think I`d be shouting profanity and the president of the United States. But apparently, Mitch McConnell was up on his hind -- on his back legs, fighting with the president because the president had ticked him off.

What`s going on? He doesn`t seem to have unity within his own party at the top. Unity nowhere with Trump.

STEPHENS: If you followed Trump`s business career, this is how he behaved with all of his business partners. It`s why so many people in New York, in the real estate industry, just simply refused to have anything to do with him. And I have to say, as a kind of a never-Trump Republican, or former Republican, I should say, I find this all in some ways kind of gratifying because a lot of the Republicans who placed their bets with Trump sort of assumed that he was going to be an empty vessel into which they could pour the sweet wine of whatever is they wanted -- whatever legislation it is that they wanted to pass.

But it turns out that the character of the president is, in fact, decisive, that he has ideas of his own and that he`s not simply going to go along with the Paul Ryan-Mitch McConnell Republicans. I think what they`re getting is, in a sense, richly deserved, even if the rest of the country is, I`m afraid, collateral damage in this fight.

MATTHEWS: Are you to the right or left of Trump? Can you give me a position on that, or is that too difficult to even imagine an answer to that question?

STEPHENS: Well, I don`t...

MATTHEWS: But I`m going to give you a shot. Are you to his right or his left? I can`t tell.

STEPHENS: I think I`m to his left. I mean, although it`s hard -- it`s hard to say with Trump because he`s such a sort of malleable plastic amorphous figure. I mean, look, I believe in a Republican Party that`s about inclusion, opportunity and aspiration. So I believe that immigrants -- that this country does better immigrants, this country does better with a more open society. I also believe in free trade, and I believe in an engaged internationalist America.

So I guess that probably puts me sort of as a center-moderate Republican or former Republican in the spirit of Ben Sasse or Marco Rubio, certainly not this guy.

MATTHEWS: No, it sounds like Ike, too -- Eisenhower.

Anyway, Vice President Mike Pence backed up -- no surprise there -- President Trump`s response to Charlottesville. He did it today. President Trump called protesters on both sides "fine people," as you remember, as we remember. Pence was asked whether that offended him, that line by the president. Let`s listen to the VP.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I were very clear last weekend in the wake of the terribly tragic events in Charlottesville that we denounce bigotry and hatred and violence in all of its forms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... fine people on both sides of that rally.

PENCE: The president specifically denounced white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK repeatedly.


MATTHEWS: Well, I know why he picked him for VP because he gives him a kind of a churchy overlay, you know to Trump`s hideous secularism.

Anyway, Ambassador Nikki Haley was also asked about the president`s response to Charlottesville. Let`s watch her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You shot to national prominence because of the moral leadership that you showed in then your home state as governor. Do you believe that the president did that when he needed to last week?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I had a personal conversation with the president about Charlottesville, and I will leave it at that. But I will tell you that there is no room for hate in this country.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was well done by Chris Cuomo there, by the way, warmed her up by saying, You did a great job on the flag in South Carolina. You yanked it down. This guy needs to learn from you. And then -- then she did a smart move by saying, Well, I had a personal conversation with him. It was about this, but I`ll leave it at that. Well, no, she didn`t leave it at that. She said she had a personal conversation with him. They`re all separating themselves from Trump. That`s what they`re really doing.

HERNDON: It`s interesting that on an issue like this, an issue of what nationalism, of neo-Nazis, that we can`t know what conversation that was. You would think that that would be something that she said, I told him these folks are bad and he should say something. And that`s what we need to look at. There`s the political calculus here, and there`s the moral one. We have these people making choices, and they`re based on their individual political futures. But you have to think, what is the moral calculus?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about tonight because we`ve seen the red meat thrown into the cage, Rosie. We have seen it. We know what it looks like. He`s like a nightclub comic. He lives off the crowd. He`s got to have interaction. And the only way he does that is with the lines -- Lock her up! Right? Build the all!

Are we -- how can he do that after last night`s Mother Teresa performance?

GRAY: Well...

MATTHEWS: Or he Oprah Winfrey performance that we`re all friends together. We`re all in it together? Well, he`s not going to do that tonight.

GRAY: Well, like Astead was saying, you know, we tend to see these two versions of the president. One is when they get him to stick to these, you know, sort of teleprompter speeches, and then he gets to sort of let loose at these campaign rallies, which is where he feels very comfortable. He feeds off the energy of the crowd, and that`s often when, you know, some of the more sort of combustible moments happen.

MATTHEWS: When this Incredible Hulk thing grows in him, and he does that, you know, and he starts doing that thing he does! How`s he going to (INAUDIBLE) Well, we`re going to find out. It`s actually going to happen tonight. And I`m looking at the crowd down there. We`ll talk about it later in the show, but there`s a crowd building down there that`s not too pro-Trump. I`m thinking there can be trouble there tonight. It looks like there`s some people there that really don`t like him are ready to show up and make theirselves heard tonight.

Bret Stephens, welcome to the show. We`ll have you back often. Thank you for coming on. And Rosie Gray, thank you so much, and Astead Herndon, as always, sir.

Coming up, President Trump does an aboutface on Afghanistan. This is not playing well with the alt-right -- saying his position has changed now that he`s sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. Well, didn`t he run to sit behind that desk? What do military leaders think? We`re going to talk to two generals, including one who says he might have to accept an endless war. Will the American people accept an endless war?

Anyway, plus, the president returns, as I said, to Arizona tonight, come home to some of his wildest campaign rallies. Will Trump come out swinging? I keep thinking of Glen Campbell, "By the Time I get to Phoenix." Will he still be Mr. Nice Guy? There`s plenty to stoke his anger, and the protests are already taking place. And the Phoenix mayor, by the way, has already blasted the president in a scathing op-ed piece today.

And "The Washington Post" compiles a definitive list of Trump`s false and misleading claims. We`re going to have that tonight. The numbers are staggering, staggering stuff that`s unbelievable and shouldn`t be believed, topped over a thousand statements the president has made that are not true in just seven months as president. He really is president.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, a key figure behind the so-called Trump dossier -- remember that one? -- faced questioning on Capitol Hill today. Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the firm that produced the dossier, spoke behind closed doors to investigators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Reports say that those congressional investigators are particularly interested in the funding and sources behind the dossier, which contain, of course, salacious and so far unverified information about the president. Well, the committee`s chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, has not ruled out calling on Simpson to testify before a public hearing at a later date.

We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump, of course, last night addressing the country about a new path forward in Afghanistan. Well, after months of internal debate, the president finally announced to the American public last night that he would escalate the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan, reversing course on a campaign pledge to end what he called "crazy wars." Let`s listen.


TRUMP: I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America`s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.. Second, the consequences of a rapid exit, are both predictable and unacceptable. Third and finally, I concluded, that the security threats we faced in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s modest increase in troop levels is an incremental shift that will have America hold the line but will likely not change the current course. The President also refused to lay out specific details, nor did he outline what exactly victory would look like, or how much it would cost Americans in blood and treasure. Here it is.


TRUMP: I`ve said it many times. How counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plan for further military activities.


MATTHEWS: Well, the President was elected on the promise, a pretty clear one, that the country would not -- would not stop winning under his tenure, would not stop these wars. Anyway, but last time, he seemingly settled on a strategy that keeps him from losing. For more, I`m joined by two experts, Major General Robert Scales, former Commandant of the United States Army War College. And Lieutenant General Dan Bolger, author of "Why Are We Lost: A General`s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars." Thank you, both. General Scales, first of all, what is the President`s goal in Afghanistan as you heard it last night?

MAJ. GEN. ROBERT SCALES (RET.), COMMANDANT, U.S. ARMY WAR COLLEGE: Well, his stated goal is to win, a victory. That`s not going to happen given the level of commitment and the nature of the war. This is a protracted war, it`s a war of attrition. This war don`t end cleanly, oftentimes they`re generational. This is nothing new. It goes back to the days of the Romans. The Israeli`s have been fighting this war on -- around the periphery of their -- of their territory for almost 70 years. So, an incremental increase in troop levels or a large increase in troop levels, it doesn`t matter. This war will creep along perhaps for generations.

MATTHEWS: General Bolger, you`re assessment of what the President said last time in terms of our goals and what he meant by victory?

LT. GEN. DANIEL BOLGER (RET.), AUTHOR, WHY WE LOST: A GENERAL`S INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS: I wish I could tell you, Chris. I think what General Scales said is quite correct. It`s a -- it`s a long- term effort. It`s quite likely that none of us will even be alive when we get to the end of it, based on the open-ended statements I heard last night.

MATTHEWS: Well, last night, I did hear him say, our goal is to prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. Well, that seems to be a definition of a war of attrition. We`re going to just stay there as long as we can, and as long as we stay there, we`ll prevent them from taking over. But we`re not going to annihilate the Taliban if there seems of the -- it ain`t even humanly possible. So, how would we reduce it to something like -- oh, I don`t know, I`m trying to think of a war of attrition, where the big guy ends up winning and not just sort of splitting. Maybe to the level of Korea, where we have a hot armistice that never really cools down. But, will we ever be ever to find a 38th parallel, some line we can defend over that won`t be costly regularly of human lives, especially Americans. Do we ever get there?

BOLGER: You know, Chris, I think you could. But that line in Afghanistan is actually demographic. The Pashtun people form the majority of the Taliban. And we might end up drawing a line through a part of their land at some point. But as the President correctly said last night, it`s very difficult to conceive the Taliban actually coming in negotiation. Why should they? They`ve taken back about half the country. They think they`re winning.

MATTHEWS: You know what, studied on -- a military person like you two gentleman, but it seems to me, in our history, we`ve beaten the countries we thought were bad. We thought they were -- they were evil. Certainly, the Nazis, not the (INAUDIBLE) but the Nazis running the country and sending their orders. And the Japanese empire was bad, it was militarist and it was out to kill, and it was brutal with those POWs. So, we said, they`re evil, they`re the bad guys. We`re going to kill those bad guys, right?

SCALES: Right.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think that`s the way people felt toward the North Vietnamese. I don`t think they felt towards Ho Chi Minh that way. They don`t feel that way toward -- they know the Taliban was our Mujahideen when they were fighting the Russians.

SCALES: Right. They were our allies.

MATTHEWS: They were -- but now Trump says, oh, they`re terrorists. Is that going to make the case just calling people terrorist the word? Is that going to make them to an American, an enemy, and an evil worth losing men over and women over?

SCALES: I don`t think so. In fact, I think if there`s a lingering antipathy towards Afghanistan and the Taliban, it`s 9/11. They -- it`s not the fact that the Taliban are our enemies so much. It`s that they harbored the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers. And one of the things that just strike me about this whole speech yesterday is a long shadow that 9/11 has on our society 17 years later. I mean, we have kids going to college next year who were born on 9/11. And it`s very, very difficult to sort of erase that stain in the minds of the American. That`s why I think they`re so tolerant about casualties, about our protracted war. It`s not that they want to make Afghanistan free, but they want to prevent the return of terrorist cell.

MATTHEWS: Well, last night President Trump defended his decision to abandon Candidate Trump skepticism about war. Let`s watch this switch here.


TRUMP: My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life, I`ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.


MATTHEWS: General Bolger, you know, sometimes I think about the guy out there on post right now. At this split second we`re talking, who`s out there in a scary situation. He may be isolated. He doesn`t know what`s coming, I think he might be killed. He`s for his country. He`s there for his country. And he`s committed to that fight. Does this word about the politics back here affect the ability of that soldier to do what he has to do?

BOLGER: You know, Chris, the home front always affects every army but the American Army most particularly because we`re a people`s army. We come from every county and town in the country. When you`re at work and, obviously, when you`re out in the field in Afghanistan or a place like that, your focus is on doing your job and taking care of the men and women next to you. But certainly, you do -- you do always pay attention to what`s going on back home. And I will say this, the American people have clearly soured on the war. And I don`t know if it`s a long shadow of 9/11 or whatever, but there`s no doubt that they backed the men and women who fight the country, they fight for the country. They look out for us.

And that backing has been strong throughout. That was a mistake I think we`d made in Vietnam. We, to some degree, turned on the people who fought there. And those men and women who fought in Vietnam, you know, they were doing the task they were sent to do. The policy was screwed up, and it wasn`t their fault.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m reading Mark Bowden`s book about Hue, the horror that those troops had to go through in that battle of (INAUDIBLE) in that City of Hue. And you`re sitting next to a guy -- in the right fighting next to a guy, and all of a sudden, he`s got both legs gone, both arms gone, crying. It`s horrendous what war is. And thank you, gentlemen, for your service to the country. Major General Robert Scales and Lieutenant General Dan Bolger, thanks for coming on.

Up next, a live report from Phoenix where the President is set to hold a campaign-style rally later. A rally, do you think that`s going to be loving our neighbor? There are already massive protests there taking shape right now. You see them right there live, ahead of that rally. This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome to HARDBALL. Protest are already -- look at them on their way out there ahead of President Trump`s rally in Phoenix tonight. We`re watching live pictures, by the way, of the event site. And the rally is expected to revisit a topic he repeatedly campaigned on the Arizona, the issue of immigration. Let`s listen to that.


TRUMP: I didn`t think that the immigration thing would take on a life like it has. To make our country great again, we have to create borders. Otherwise, we don`t have a country.

They want to see people that love our country come into our country. Not people that hate us.

We take anybody. Come on in, anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore. We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me.

We will end illegal immigration. Deport every last criminal alien. And save American lives, and we`ll do it quickly.


MATTHEWS: Well, on the wake of Trump`s response to Charlottesville, however, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, asked the President to delay the trip. He wrote in The Washington Post, "America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the President may be looking to light a match." While thousands are expected to protest, we`re seeing it right now. It`s live pictures, by the way, of the President`s appearance which is coming up tonight at 10:00 Eastern Time. Three of the State`s prominent Republicans, Senator Jeff Flake and John McCain, as well as the Governor Doug Ducey, are all skipping tonight`s event. They don`t want to be near this trouble.

And more, I`m joined by Dan Nowicki, National Political Reporter for the Arizona Republic. Dan, you`re the reporter on site. A lot of noise there. But cut through the noise and tell us how it`s shaping up. Is there going to be violence tonight?

DAN NOWICKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Well, I don`t know if there could be violence but Phoenix very much is on edge. It certainly is shaping up with huge crowds. A lot of protesters, a lot of shouting outside. A lot of anti-KKK, anti-fascist slogan airing going on. On the other hand, you have a lot of fans of Kelli Ward, the GOP Senate challenger to Jeff Flake who kind of got some support from Donald Trump last week with a tweet. I think they`re here hoping that they`ll get some kind words from the stage as well.

MATTHEWS: You know, I remember during the campaign, and Dan, you probably remember. Remember when he went to Chicago, to an urban area in Chicago, a minority area. And you almost -- it seemed to me what he was doing was trying to stick a fight. Get a fight going, get protesters out there going fist to fist against his troops, his people, and it helped him politically. That`s what he was up to. Do you think he picked Phoenix because he knew there`ll be opposition in the streets?

NOWICKI: Well, I think he -- certainly, the talk about possibly pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, really did stoke emotions here. Probably, the decision he announced earlier today that he -- there is not going to be a pardon to announced, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that earlier. That`s probably kind of a responsible decision to maybe, you know, ease tensions here because, I think if he came here and pardon Arpaio on stage, you know, precarious situation regarding security on the outside might really erupt.

MATTHEWS: You know, I watch John McCain, I like him in many ways, and I`ve watched him over his career. He`s been very careful in handling the immigration issue. How does he do it? How did he inflate get away with getting elected with a Republican constituency at the same time not stoking the trouble, not making it worse, the division?

NOWICKI: Well, right. Well, there is a wing of the Arizona Republican Party that just can`t stand McCain or Flake. Then, that is actually Donald Trump`s base here in Arizona, so they mesh together well. But you know, McCain and Flake in this first Senate race, you know, they kind to have to talk up the border security aspects during the primary and then -- and during the General Election come out for, you know, more comprehensive immigration reform, you know, with the benefits for the -- you know, the millions of (INAUDIBLE) immigrants who`ve already settled into the country and have jobs and are raising families.

MATTHEWS: I got you. I understand. Thank you for that smartly -- I love that savvy reporting, Dan Nowicki, because I`ve seen that stuff before. You`re a little different in the primaries than you are in the general, and that`s how you survive. Anyway, I hear Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was like that for about a hundred years. Anyway, up next, Trump versus the facts. The numbers are in and they don`t look good for the President. The Washington Post reports that on average, President Trump -- this is all factual. He`s making five misleading claims per dim, per day. Do his voters care that he keeps saying things that aren`t true? Apparently not. You`re watching HARDBALL.



TRUMP: Here`s the thing, when I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts.


MATTHEWS: Do you believe that? I mean, do you really believe that "I want the facts." That was President Trump last week, however, claiming that he waits for the facts before he makes a statement. But according to The Washington Post, President Trump`s list of false and misleading claims has already topped 1,000 since Inaugural Day. The Post`s fact checkers note that at the President current pace, of his pace, he averages nearly five claims a day. Many are repeats of claims that have previously been debunked. We also include statements that are unacknowledged -- well, unacknowledged flip-flops from previously held positions. They also pointed out, The Post does, that Trump repeatedly takes credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office or had he ever been elected. Well, here are some of the times that the President has used these alternative facts.

Here he goes.


TRUMP: Here`s a picture of the crowd. Now, the audience was the biggest ever.

I guess it was biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.

When you look at the people that are registered, dead, illegal in two states, in some cases, maybe three states, we have a lot to look into.

We`re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We`re fixing the inner cities. We`re doing far more than anybody has ever done with respect to the inner cities.

You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

They`re investigating something that never happened. There was no collusion between us and Russia. In fact, the opposite. Russia spent a lot of money on fighting me.


MATTHEWS: Do you like the calliope music there? A circus music?

Let`s bring in HARDBALL`s roundtable tonight, Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, Heidi Przybyla is senior politics reporter for "USA Today" and an MSNBC political, and Gene Robinson is a columnist for "The Washington Post".

I should have said, save your political analyst references for all of them, but it`s all true. And glad to have you all.

Gene, you`ve been editor of your paper for many times. Does this guy belong on the style page, style section?


MATTHEWS: You can`t be serious.

ROBINSON: I don`t know where you put him. Look, I`ve never -- I never dealt with a politician like this. We`ve all dealt with politicians who stretch truth, who put everything in the best possible light, who occasionally tell something that just flat out isn`t true. I don`t know if we`ve ever dealt with a political figure who as he breaths, he lies. I mean, he just says stuff that isn`t true.

MATTHEWS: And it`s all checkable today.

ROBINSON: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: In the old days, it was one of the Long brothers, Huey or Earl Long, who would go to Louisiana saying in one part, and then talk about my Baptist grandmother. Then in the other part, it would be my Catholic grandmother. They just changed it whenever they felt like it, and nobody caught it because we didn`t of the Internet then. We didn`t have fact checks. We didn`t have any way to do it.

But, today, all facts are checkable immediately.



PRZYBYLA: There`s an important distinction, Chris, that pace, five a day, is not checkable. A lot of things go by and they don`t get checked.


PRZYBYLA: The reason why is because it`s just too much. And I think that we as the referees for the American people need to really prioritize what we go to town on. We have to go to town on those things can have the most potential to impact public policy. For example, like the claim about fraudulent voters. That has led to an entire government commission that is now going to come up with recommendations that may be based on a wholly false premise about millions of illegal people voting.

For example, the bogus crime statistics. That could have an effect, for example, on Justice Department policy. So, we as the refs I think have to really zero in on those things which threaten to change our public discourse and our public policy.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think that is different. I think this creation of these creations, these bogus realities, it`s not just lying about your weight or your age or anything. It`s creating this notion.

It`s like, I`m sorry. O.J. saying, I`m going after the real killer. I mean there is a real killer out there, you know? Whatever you think of the L.A. Police Department, there wasn`t another killer. But anyway, that`s my opinion.

But this idea of creating a bogus reality like the millions that voted illegally, so that stabs the consciences of the Republicans to say, oh, we didn`t win the popular vote? Oh, yes, we did. We won the popular, as well as the electoral vote, because there`s millions of illegal voters. And that feeds their self-delusion.

PHIL RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right, and this alternate reality just builds on itself because you got the president out there putting out blatant false hoods every day, but you`ve got media organizations, in "Breitbart" and other organizations on the right that are fueling this and that are creating this alternate universe in which many Trump supporters live. So, a lot of those folks who are going to be at that rally tonight in Phoenix and passionate supporters of the president don`t believe that he`s lying because they`re dealing with alternative facts.

MATTHEWS: Gene, can you tell?

ROBINSON: Huh? Can I tell?

MATTHEWS: Can you tell --


MATTHEWS: -- when he`s making it up? Can you tell when he`s making it up?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, look, whatever he says, you sort of question it. And, literally, whatever he says. You want to look it up and see, is that really true?

But Phil is absolutely right about him sort of creating this alternate reality. I do a live Internet chat every Tuesday and today I did a chat.

And somebody wrote in with a question that was just totally based on lie after lie after lie, you know? Just saying things about things that aren`t true about stuff that -- economic statistics under the Obama administration, for example.

So, he`s created a lot more jobs in his first six months than Obama. Well, that`s not true. The pace of job creation slowed. It`s not true.

MATTHEWS: Does anybody believe he will build a wall -- I mean, like a big 16, 20-foot wall that actually would stop people without ladders, although they had their ladder? Does anybody believe the president of Mexico can survive for one second if he agreed to pay for the thing? And yet people say build a wall. What world are they living? Even if you`re totally right wing, alt right, whatever, do you believe he`s going to build a wall?

PRZYBYLA: Don`t take him literally.

MATTHEWS: What do they mean? What do they mean?

PRZYBYLA: Isn`t that what his own staff said?

I mean, Chris, here`s the thing. It`s not even so much about Trump. It`s about the American people because when you go back and look at the exit polling from when he was elected, people elected him knowing that -- or believing that he is dishonest, those were the numbers. It was something like 60 percent. And so, that`s why we sit here, you know, scratching our heads and fuming and wondering why people aren`t more upset when he backtracks on his campaign promises. Well, they knew that going into this.

ROBINSON: But I think there`s a difference between like the wall. I think most people who voted for him know that there`s not going to be a 30-foot wall along the entire 2,000-mile border. They think he`ll do something there.


ROBINSON: But just the misstatement of basic facts, you know, I keep saying, we need a common chronicle of events and a common encyclopedia of facts. I just settle for that. And we don`t have that now and he`s partly responsible.

MATTHEWS: It started with that crazy thing about size and the hands and the crowd size. Everything is size. And it became ridiculous. Sean Spicer will ever be forgiven for those idiotic statements he had to make under duress obviously. You get out there and Spicer and you tell them I had the biggest crowd in history. And he did.

RUCKER: Yes, and it`s not these misstatements that Trump is making but his administration officials are all making them too. And they`re keeping our colleagues Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee pretty busy chronicling --


MATTHEWS: Let`s revisit something that we talked about earlier. "The New York Times" reports today that the escalating tension between President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going on. According to "The Times", Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

Gene first and everybody -- the fact that the leader of your party in the United States Senate thinks you may not be able to salvage a presidency at this point six months in. In other words, unsalvageable.

ROBINSON: Well, yes. Well, I think, you know, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate would have a better opinion of the president if the president would stop sniping at him, and haranguing him via Twitter and apparently by telephone, according to the story, for not sort of doing the impossible, for not making sense of an incoherent policy from the White House. So, you can understand why Mitch McConnell would be terribly frustrated and terribly pessimistic.

MATTHEWS: Imagine those generals being told, now, all I want you to do is figure out how to win this war and get out. And they go, well, victory is not going to be like that.


MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

PRZYBYLA: I think we`re at a point where these members, including McConnell, are realizing that the premise that they could use Trump, even though he was kind of anathema to everything that they stand for, as a vehicle to get their agenda accomplished, that is now vanishing. And he is not only not a vehicle but he is kind of turning on their own, turning on people like Jeff Flake, going after, wanting to primary members of their party. So, it`s becoming a bit of a civil war.

MATTHEWS: If he can bounce Mike Flynn, if can bounce the Mooch, if he can bounce Bannon, he can bounce Mitch McConnell. He doesn`t have any loyalty to this guy.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us. I don`t think he is a Republican. I think --

ROBINSON: Well, Mitch McConnell doesn`t think he`s a Republican either.



MATTHEWS: Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know, starting with people.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATHISEN: Well, President Trump`s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner quietly departed for the Middle East on Sunday in an effort to kick start peace talks. This is for real. Kushner and other White House officials plan to hold separate meetings on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

So far, the headlines do not look promising. According to reports, the Palestinian Prime Minister says he does not understand Trump`s peace plan and the, quote, chaos in the administration is not helping the process.

Well, I think that`s right and we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Philip, that`s very formal, tell me something I don`t know.

RUCKER: Yes. So, that the Afghanistan decision. President Trump deciding to send more troops into Afghanistan, there was an intense debate over many months over whether to do it. And Steve Bannon, the chief strategist at the White House, had been resisting sending more troops, telling the president that it was -- his supporters, his grassroots supporters would rebel. Once Bannon left, it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who stepped in to the void to make that case to the president in the final days.

MATTHEWS: To make against the case.

RUCKER: To make the case that gets --

MATTHEWS: By the way, I like that he says he`s going to keep secret the increment of the new troops, when everybody in the world, as Dana Bash said on CNN last night, he`s going to have to tell our coalition partners, the host country in Afghan -- they`re all going to know how many troops we`re bringing in.

PRZYBYLA: So, what would a Democratic wave in 2018 look like? It would look line Democrats winning a number of the districts that went to both President Obama and President Trump.

So, I went to one, and I found a pattern in terms of the Democrats that are now raising three hands. They`re the 2018 version of the Tea Party. And that they`re all kind of outside of the people who have not served in state legislative or in Congress before. They`re people that can`t be attached to national Democratic --

MATTHEWS: Will Nancy Pelosi be speaker again?

PRZYBYLA: I asked this person that and he would not commit to voting for her.


ROBINSON: That`s very interesting if the Democrats got their own Tea Party.

This you probably know, but the president said that Afghanistan and Pakistan were the two most problematic and dangerous countries to us in terms of terrorism. So, neither one is on the list of countries affected by the travel ban.

MATTHEWS: Explain.

ROBINSON: They`re not. Well --


ROBINSON: Mr. President, explain. So, apparently, there`s something of a disconnect in the policy process in the Trump administration.

MATTHEWS: I always wondered about 9/11, and 9/11, the harder it was could have been put together mostly by guys have been in Germany. The others -- the thugs they brought on, the 15 thugs who just did what they are told, who may not have known they were all going to die. They were told what to do. But the brains behind it, the four pilots, they were all sort of guys have been living in Germany.

This didn`t steam need geography to be planned. It wasn`t like we say terrorists with climbing ropes and everything. I don`t think that was important.

Anyway, Phil Rucker, thank you, Heidi Przybyla and Eugene Robinson.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. You will not like tonight at all. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017.

A certain kind of leader can say anything he wants. He can speak nobly of a rival even as he drives a knife toward the guy`s back. He can talk of peace in deep, his deep love of peace even while he plots war.

What were you thinking last night at 9:00 Eastern Daylight Time when you heard this president offer these prayerful words of a shared national caring?

When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. When one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.

Finally, we cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we`re not at peace with each other.

If it all sounds vaguely, weirdly familiar, it is not because these words were spoken by a Mother Teresa or even by a Dr. Phil. What they smack is the saccharine bromides of a Richard Nixon, trying to sound like a leader of goodwill, a uniter, a sincere human being.

Anthony Scaramucci said when he was bounced from the White House, he thought he would have lasted longer than a carton of milk. Well, it turns out his sell by date came sooner. But Trump`s commitment to people like Mooch, the Mooch, seemed like centuries compared to his miniscule commitment to the words he speaks.

We will see him in Phoenix tonight if Mr. Trump`s noble words of last night will survive even the coming of the Arizona sundown.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.