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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/29/17 Houston Disaster, search and rescue.

Guests: Christina Bellantoni, Irwin Redlener, Carol Leonnig, Hagar Chemali, Linette Lopez, Katie Glueck

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 29, 2017

Guest: Christina Bellantoni, Irwin Redlener, Carol Leonnig, Hagar Chemali, Linette Lopez, Katie Glueck


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

The city of Houston is now facing its worst-case scenario. A city already paralyzed from the fallout of a record-shattering storm, Harvey -- it has seen as much as three-and-a-half feet of rain in some areas, and that rain is still falling.

The catastrophic flooding in Houston now threatening to get worse as two nearby reservoirs and a levy overflowed. Emergency crews meanwhile continue to race to find survivors. Already, thousands have been rescued from their homes, tens of thousands now seeking refuge in shelters.

Here is the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, HOUSTON, TEXAS: With respect to shelters (INAUDIBLE) at the jar-jar (ph) Brown now. We have expanded our capacity. The reality is, is that not only are we providing shelter for Houstonians, but we are also providing shelters for people who are coming outside the city of Houston who have been directly impacted by the storm. We`re not turning anyone away.


KORNACKI: The city plans to open two more mega-shelters to accommodate the homeless. There were also reports of looters in some parts of the city. Houston police chief Art Acevedo said a handful were arrested, but Houston would not be tolerating people victimizing the community. Acevedo also confirmed that one police officer, Sergeant Steve Perez, died after floodwaters overcame his vehicle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) got there. It was too treacherous to go under and look for him. So we made a decision to leave officers there waiting until the morning because as much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put more officers at risk.


KORNACKI: Officials say that Harvey could make a second landfall near Houston tomorrow morning.

For more now, I am joined by NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez. And Gabe, look, we see the scene you`re standing in the midst of right now. We`ve been watching pictures, images, videos like this for several days now. Take us to the ground there. What are you seeing that`s not coming through to us on TV?

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Steve. Well, one thing I can say. We are seeing something right now that we have not seen since this thing began here in Houston. And that is the sun. A bit of good news. The sun is now out in parts of Houston, so we`re getting a break from the rain.

Other parts of the Houston area, however, are still getting rain, and the water is still rising. As you can see behind me, this is a boat, one of the many water rescue vessels that we`ve seen over the past several hours here in this part of west Houston.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the neighborhood behind me, families, you know, being taken from their homes and said -- they say that they had several feet of water inside. They didn`t think that the waters would rise this quickly.

Now, as you mentioned, Steve, two reservoirs are overflowing here near Houston, and they flow into the main bayou that goes into downtown Houston, Buffalo Bayou, and that has prompted concerns that there could be more flooding. More than 17,000 people are in emergency shelters.

President Trump visited Texas today and vowed to help Texas get back on its feet. But yet, as we -- as you mentioned, as well, the Houston police chief confirming that among the five confirmed victims so far is that Houston police officer who was on his way to work, a 34-year veteran of the police force, Sergeant Steve Perez. His wife is devastated and says that she hadn`t wanted him to go in to work that day. But he said that there was work to do.

So here in Houston overnight, we expect these water rescues to continue. And the question will be, how long will this water be around? Authorities say some homes could be inundated for up to a month -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right, NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez on the ground there in Houston - - Gabe, thank you for that.

Meanwhile, the president, Donald Trump -- he traveled to Texas today. He praised the recovery efforts there while meeting with state officials and emergency responders. Trump was accompanied by the first lady, Melania Trump.

In Corpus Christi, the president got cheers for waving a Texas flag in the air in front of a crowd of supporters. While the head of FEMA warned of a long and frustrating recovery, the president offered an optimistic assessment, said that Texas can handle anything.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in ten years from now as this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion. Nobody`s ever seen anything like this.


KORNACKI: And Trump had this message for Texas`s governor, Greg Abbott.


TRUMP: So Governor, again, thank you very much. And we won`t say congratulations. We don`t want to do that. We don`t want to congratulate. We`ll congratulate each other when it`s all finished.


KORNACKI: The president also toured a command center in Austin. He did not go to Houston. According to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump wanted to be cautious about not disrupting the ongoing recovery effort.

For more on the president`s visit and what is going on in Houston, I`m joined by Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post," and Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor for politics at "The Los Angeles Times."

And Gene, this is one of those moments, I think in a presidency, in any presidency, when you just have a natural disaster of this scale, one of the jobs of a president traditionally just has to do with trying raise, to lift the community`s spirits somehow. It`s almost a pep leader role, a cheerleader role. I mean, the iconic example was Bush on that rubble pile after 9/11 with the bullhorn. That is the traditional job of a president.

President Trump tried to do that today. How did he do?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he -- he -- look, he wasn`t Bush on the rubble. He wasn`t Ronald Reagan after -- after the Challenger disaster when he gave that incredible televised speech.

He -- he was -- he was Donald Trump. He did what he had to do, which was to go. He had to go and he had to show, to demonstrate that the federal government in the person of the president is with you, Houstonians, is with you, Texans. And we have your back and the nation has your back. That`s what the visit was designed to say, and so he did it.

KORNACKI: Yes, and Christina, one of the things I`ve noticed just following the commentary around not just the president`s visit today but sort of the federal response to all of this this week, a lot of people looking in at Houston, looking at some of the scenes that are emerging from there of the many ways -- obviously, a terrible tragedy here, but a community coming together, a lot of the pictures showing, across ethnic lines, across racial lines, across a lot of the lines of division that dominate our politics. And obviously, the political culture right now, the Trump era of political culture is so much about division.

I do think this is one of those moments, nationally looking in, people -- a lot of people, I think, on both sides are looking at this with some hope that there could be a broader message here about unity in this country.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": You are such an optimist, Steve. I mean, I think that would be really nice, and you have seen many, many human stories coming out of this. You know, this is at a time when we need each other, right, and you see people come together just as you said, across lines.

I saw somebody with a sign saying, We`re not going to check your papers if you come to us for shelter, which, obviously, immigration is also a very big issue in Texas.

So yea, and the president being there also sends a signal to help the rest of the country really put a human face and showcase everything that`s going on there, maybe they open their wallets and give to the Red Cross or somebody, to be able to say, like, We`re here for you. We will rally in support.

You know, whatever happened after Katrina, there was a lot of really awful response, but there was a lot of people coming together to rally for a community that had been devastated because once the pictures aren`t on television anymore, you know, this is going to be a very, very long clean- up effort and a lot more happening there for a long time.

KORNACKI: And Gene, that is the other reality of this. When that water recedes, this is, as Christina is saying, this is massive, the rebuilding. And this is on Donald Trump`s plate as president now -- Houston, the recovery, what the city becomes from this.

ROBINSON: Exactly. At one point this afternoon, a reporter for "The Washington Post" was told by a Houston flood control official that 25 to 30 percent of Harris County was under water at that moment. And that`s -- you know, that`s 1,700 square miles or something, a huge, huge, vast extent of territory, and a huge city with lots of infrastructure. It`s going to be enormously expensive. It`s going to take a long, long time to fix. So that`s one piece of it.

The other piece of it -- and these are words that the president is not likely to speak, but he should, "climate change." It is fairly likely, certainly very likely that the effects of this hurricane were exacerbated by climate change, by the fact that the water in the Gulf of Mexico was so warm, by the fact that there were no prevailing currents to steer the storm away. And instead, it just sort of sat over Houston and delivered up to 52 inches of rain, which is just -- it was a new continental U.S. record.

And there are huge implications, I think, for the planning and protection of coastal cities, including Houston but not limited to Houston -- New Orleans, Miami. There are a lot of cities that really need to take a really good look at how they will deal with the next big storm because there will be more big storms.

KORNACKI: And Christina, I guess the question for the president, the question for our political system back in Washington...


KORNACKI: What is next? What is next in terms of, we see what`s going on on the ground, the water will eventually recede. Does this story recede? Does the issue of Houston recede from the national spotlight? Or -- is there a next step here?

BELLANTONI: I mean, in some ways, this is one more major thing added to Congress`s plate. You know, you`ve got the federal debt ceiling that they need to address, passing a budget, and they`re going to want to pass (INAUDIBLE) I actually went back and did a little research earlier today. So Hurricane Sandy, or Superstorm Sandy -- it took them more than two months after that storm to pass a federal disaster relief package, $50 billion. So you know, you can expect it would take at least that long, maybe longer given all of the gridlock. Maybe it`s something they can do swiftly.

Then you have to think about the fact that this is a president who really wanted to pass an infrastructure program and he had spent a good amount of time talking about that this year. There is support among both Republicans and Democrats. Here`s the place that infrastructure is basically in really, really bad shape. You know, is this an area where he can maybe put some momentum into his agenda and say, Look, let`s start in Houston, and we can talk about what we`re going to do in the rest of the country.

It`s possible, but anything related to spending is really, really sticky and difficult in any climate in Washington, but particularly in this climate in Washington.

KORNACKI: And we have -- we have certainly seen that. Christina Bellantoni, Eugene Robinson, thanks to both of you for joining us.

And as those floodwaters continue to rise in Houston, officials are warning Texans about the potential health threats posed by this crisis. And for more on that, I`m joined by Dr. Irwin Redlener. He`s the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University here in New York. Doctor, thank you for joining us.

Let me ask you a bottom line question her. We see all these pictures with three, four, five feet, it looks like, of water. When that water eventually recedes, how bad is the situation we`re going to be looking at?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR OF DISASTER PREPAREDNESS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, we`re going to see a horrendous amount of destruction of homes, et cetera. And even the houses that are going to look fairly intact, the inundation of this water is going to yield to all -- lead to all kinds of problems like the infestation of mold, which is actually a very dangerous situation. It may make some homes actually inhabitable. (sic)

So I think we have to really understand that this is going to be a massive problem. We`re going to have to have managed expectations for how quickly we`re going to get back to normal. Some people will not be able to return to their homes or communities for months if not for years. So we`ve got a long haul ahead of us.

And right now, though, we`re obviously focused on saving lives. Hence (ph) a couple other key issues that are going to help determine whether we`ve done a good job in the planning and execution of response with this major disaster.

KORNACKI: Yes, let me ask you about that response that we`re seeing right now because, obviously, the measuring stick for everybody for one of these is Katrina, Katrina being the ultimate failure in terms of a government`s response. That`s more than a decade in the past now. We`ve talked so much in the years between about learning the lessons from Katrina, not letting that happen again.

As you watch the response to Harvey right now, compared to Katrina, have lessons been learned in the right way?

REDLENER: Well, some lessons have and some haven`t. But one of the striking things now, Steve, is that we have a highly more competent federal response possibility or potential here. We have -- we have very excellent people that are running the health response in the Department of Health and Human Services, a guy named Bob Kavlick (ph), who was just determined to be the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, fantastic, a very capable leader of FEMA now in Brock Long, and actually -- oh, also in the National Security Council -- really good people.

So we have the infrastructure in place and the dedicated people that are going to help make this happen. The problem now is, how is this all going to relate to the local and state efforts, which are going to be absolutely critical to making sure this happens.

Texas is a strange place in some ways. They have home rule. That means that what we saw the other day was the governor says we have a mandatory evacuation. The mayor of Houston says, you know, shelter in place. And then every county, and there`s dozens of counties now that are in this emergency situation, each one of them making their own decisions.

So the management of the assets, the resources, the assessment of what needs to be done now is very much scattered. I`m worried about that in looking at how people are going to respond to the disasters.

But the big marker is going to be how good a job are we going to do at taking care of the more vulnerable people? 40 percent of Houston is in -- children are in poverty. We have people in hospitals, in nursing homes. We have old people, older people who need medications. How are we going to manage that? And that yet remains to be seen. But recovery is a long, long time away.

KORNACKI: All right, Dr. Irwin Redlener from Columbia here in New York, thank you for that.

Quick break here coming up, but we`ve got a lot ahead, including there is new scrutiny to tell about on Donald Trump and his praise for Vladimir Putin, this following reports that the Trump organization was looking to close a major real estate deal in Moscow while Trump was campaigning for president.

Plus, North Korea`s most brazen provocation yet, a missile fired over Japan. Japanese citizens awoke to emergency alerts saying that a missile was approaching the country. Today, President Trump says all options are on the table. What exactly does that mean?

And new reporting that President Trump fired a long-time aide because he wasn`t happy with the crowd size at one of his rallies.

And finally, the HARDBALL roundtable is going to be here with three things you might not know.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: As we`ve been talking about, President Trump was in Texas today. He was joined for part of that visit by Governor Greg Abbott. Governor Abbott offered praise for President Trump and the federal government`s response. Take a listen.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: What I`ve learned is we can count on the president of the United States and his staff for helping Texas.


KORNACKI: And that was Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, he among the Texas leaders who met with President Trump on his visit to that state today.

We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The news that Donald Trump was pursuing a real estate deal in Moscow while simultaneously running for president last year has brought new scrutiny to many of his campaign statements. In fact, it was during that time period that Trump issued some of his most questionable defenses of Vladimir Putin.

Here`s how he attempted to justify Putin`s treatment of journalists in Russia. This was back in December of 2015.


TRUMP: He`s running his country. And at least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.

TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe.


KORNACKI: Two weeks after, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sent an e-mail appeal to Putin`s top deputy, Dmitri Peskov. Trump also defended Putin from a British public inquiry that determined Putin ordered the murder of a former KGB agent in London.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is that he hasn`t been convicted of anything.

Some people say he absolutely didn`t do it. First of all, he says he didn`t do it. But many people say wasn`t him. So who knows did it?

QUESTION: But the relationship with Putin, you can`t go on saying, oh, he thinks I`m brilliant, and just ignore the things that he`s doing, right?

TRUMP: I would say this. I think it would be great if we had a good relationship with Russia.


KORNACKI: However, "The Washington Post" reports that -- quote -- "White House special counsel Ty Cobb said Trump knew nothing about Cohen`s effort to enlist Peskov`s help."

Of course, Trump also made overtures to Putin before he was a candidate as well. Back in 2013, he tweeted, "Do you think Putin will be going to the Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow? If so, will he become my new best friend?"

And the president`s defense of Putin continued long after that Moscow real estate deal fell through. Asked just yesterday whether Russia poses a security threat, Trump declined to mention the country by name.


QUESTION: Mr. Trump, would you consider Russia as a security threat?

Thank you.

TRUMP: Well, I consider countries a security threat, unfortunately, when you look at what`s going on in the world today.

But these are all threats that we will be able to handle if we have to.


KORNACKI: And joining me now is former federal prosecutor Paul Butler, an MSNBC legal analyst. And Carol Leonnig is a reporter with "The Washington Post."

And, Carol, let me start with you, because it`s -- we play those clips of Trump late 2015, early 2016. You`re now reporting that at this same time that he is saying those things about Vladimir Putin, the Trump Organization is pursuing this real estate deal in Moscow.

And I guess I`m trying to figure out how you tell the difference between is Trump saying something nice to Putin to try to get this deal through, or is Trump just saying what he always says about Putin and strongmen in general? Because we have got him praising Putin and other strongmen for years before and after.

CAROL LEONNIG, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You can`t be inside Donald Trump`s heart and mind, or at least reporters can`t.

But I would say that it is more than suspicious/coincidental that now that we have seen a series of e-mails and correspondence in the Trump organization in which there is discussion about Donald Trump saying nice things about Putin, and an aide and longtime ally of Donald Trump saying, I can get Putin to say nice things about you, it is odd that all in the fall of 2015, while this is being discussed, that`s exactly when both Putin and Donald Trump are saying nice things about each other, and continue on through the -- as the presidential campaign really heats up in 2016.

It is striking to me as well that with our reporting on Sunday night and more again on Monday, we`re finding out the president wasn`t entirely forthright about his interests in Moscow. He may have been absolutely correct in June of 2016 when he said, I currently, I have no interests in Russia, at least if you add the word currently.

But he had been pursuing this for some months, and a very, very close deal- maker in his team was doing it as well and reached out to Putin`s gatekeeper to try to get it done.


Paul, I`m listening to this and thinking about this on two tracks here. One is just the politics, the public relations, as Carol says, Donald Trump`s statements from last spring on and currently. He will always talk in the present tense. I don`t have business interests. There is no -- it`s almost like you think back to Bill Clinton, the definition of the word is.

But at one point, there was an attempt, we`re now finding out, to have a business deal go down there. From the standpoint of a prosecutor, from though, from the standpoint of a potentially even Robert Mueller, the special counsel, looking at this, is there anything in that discrepancy that a prosecutor would be interested in?


So, Trump operatives have this pattern of always looking for the hookup with high-level Russian officials. If it is a business hookup, it`s legal. If it`s a hookup for the campaign, that`s more problematic.

But here is the thing. The president is always obfuscating. He`s always creating these false narratives. He says he didn`t have any financial dealings with the Russians. We know that wasn`t true. He created this story for Donald Jr. about what happened at the meeting with the Russian lawyer.

What is he trying to cover up? The Bible says the wicked fleeth when no man pursueth. Mueller is wondering, what is that that Trump is trying to hide? He`s sure creating the impression that he doesn`t want something out.

KORNACKI: So, you`re saying, in terms if you`re a prosecutor, this smells funny. You get curious. You start looking, because you mentioned like this statement to the press about Donald Trump Jr. that the president himself had a role in, maybe Mueller is interested.

Just the act of a president or a political figure misleading or lying in public, there`s no crime there, right? You`re saying this just arouses suspicion.

BUTLER: Yes. It goes to consciousness of guilt.

When you go after public officials, you have to counter the defense that they were just ignorant, they weren`t intentionally breaking the law. So to prove that they were willfully and flagrantly violating the law, you look at situations like when they`re lying or not being transparent.

Or why are you not being forthcoming if you didn`t do anything wrong?

KORNACKI: And, Carol, the other thing where I ask the same question I asked you to start with, how do you know difference?

There`s this potential entanglement, it looks like we`re seeing here, between Trump the candidate and Trump the businessman. And I`m thinking back to this time period, December 2015, January 2016, when everyone in the world, including I think Donald Trump`s campaign, didn`t actually think he was going to become president in 2017.

So you can almost look at your story here and see two tracks, a political track and then a, yes, there has to be life when this campaign ends and I`m not president and I need to make money track. And can you even separate those things?

LEONNIG: Well, I don`t think we seen an absolute quid pro quo.

But I agree with Paul entirely that you do start to see an effort and now a pattern, at least in the stories that we have written at "The Washington Post," a pattern of cases in which the president is not telling the whole story or directs a story that shades out things that are not so flattering and not such a good thing for his narrative. He shades out the bad facts, if you will.

And that definitely happened on Air Force one when he was helping tell his son how to shape his story about why they met with a Russian lawyer and not to mention anything about incriminating information they were promised about Hillary Clinton.

But back to your question about entanglement, the reason this set of e- mails that we have now been reporting on for some days, the reason this is so sensitive to the president and to the White House and to the campaign is because it gives the impression that at least some people working on this deal were describing how this tower could help the presidential candidacy and the presidential candidacy could help the tower.

So, Felix Sater, the broker on this deal, and again a longtime ally of Donald Trump, said, we will all be celebrating with President Donald Trump and this wonderful skyscraper, the largest in European history.

KORNACKI: Yes. They got President Trump, but they did not get the skyscraper, I guess.

Anyway, Carol Leonnig, Paul Butler, thanks to both of you for joining us.

And up next: North Korea abandons restraint, firing a missile over Japan. What does this tell us about North Korea`s capabilities and where this conflict is headed?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Early Tuesday morning, residents in northern Japan awoke to the terrifying sounds of sirens warning them to take cover as a missile flew overhead. For the third time in the last two decades, North Korea had fired that a mid-range ballistic missile over Japan.

It ultimately landed in the Pacific. North Korea`s news agency announced that Kim Jong-un was present for the missile launch. The Associated Press also reported the North Korean leader said the country should conduct more missile tests into the Pacific Ocean.

And the president responded, warning North Korea that -- quote -- "All options are now on the table."

But what are those options?

I`m joined by Hagar Chemali, former spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and CEO of Greenwich Media Strategies, and Colonel Jack Jacobs, retired Army colonel and MSNBC military analyst.

Hagar, what is the message? From North Korea`s standpoint, they launch this over Japan. They say more are on the way. The leaders there is watching it. What is the message they want the world taking from this?

HAGAR CHEMALI, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, U.S. MISSION TO UNITED NATIONS: Listen, North Korea has been preparing for years for an attack on its own soil and their whole goal was always, they want to attack first, right?

And, in particular, they obviously have always had goals to unify the Korean Peninsula. Their message is, we are very serious and, more importantly, we are prepared, very well-prepared, to target and to hit Guam in particular.

KORNACKI: Colonel Jack, all options on the table, is that just sort of generic response? Is there something specific the United States can do?

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: I don`t think it`s anything.

I think that was mostly for American popular consumption. All options certainly are on the table, but we`re not going to conduct a preemptive strike on North Korea. I think we have got a great counterstrike capability. And we`re ready to use it.

But I don`t think we`re going to conduct a preemptive strike. And it would be useful if China would remind North Korea of this and that any strike on the United States or its allies will result in a devastating counterstrike.

KORNACKI: The message North Korea is trying to send is, we`re serious. Do we believe that? Given the capability, if North Korea ever launched anything against us, or against South Korea, for that matter, the capability the United States has to wipe North Korea out in an instant, do we think they`re that irrational?

CHEMALI: I don`t know that -- I think maybe there are some who think that Kim Jong-un, for example, is irrational, but I think most experts will say that he is actually quite a rational leader and that we have to approach him as such, and that doing any kind of provocations is not going to get us anywhere.

I think -- the colonel has always -- I have always agreed with you -- has hit it right on the...


JACOBS: You`re the only person in the world who has agreed with me on anything.


CHEMALI: He hits the nail on the head.

First of all, all roads lead to Beijing. It is time for China to ramp up the pressure. There are still things he could do. There are ways that we can twist China`s arms, of course, with additional sanctions and such and prohibiting them from importing textiles from North Korea and targeting their banks, of course.

But, that being said, I agree. I think this was for -- the all options on the table was about American consumption. And at the end of the day, all options are bad. We have to go for the least bad options.

JACOBS: Yes. We don`t have any military options, save maybe the use of cyber. But we`re not prepared to go...


KORNACKI: So, where is this going? Is this all coming to a head with some kind of resolution in the near future?

Or is this going to be like so many of these other altercations, dust-ups with North Korea, where it kind of fades out, and then there`s another one a year from now, two years from now?

JACOBS: Well, there`s one thing to keep in mind.

North Korea is never going to give up its nuclear weapons or its ability to deliver them, no matter what happens. So, that`s the first thing.

The second is that, as a result, we`re going to have to live with North Korea with nuclear weapons. And, therefore, we need to have the most dependable counterstrike capability, anti-missile capability, and cyber- capability, because, at the end of the day, we have to protect ourselves and our allies.

And, more important, we have to convince our allies, who are now very, very skittish, that in fact we do intend to defend them. And we have got a long way to go before we do that.


Well, Colonel Jack Jacobs and Hagar Chemali, thank you both for joining us.

Another quick break here. Up next, though: President Trump claims he timed the Joe Arpaio pardon to get higher ratings. That statement is revealing. It`s part of a larger pattern with the president. We`re going to talk about it next.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



TRUMP: A lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John.

And, actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally. The hurricane was just starting.


KORNACKI: All right, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump defending his decision to issue a pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio Friday night as Hurricane Harvey was coming ashore.

As the president explained, he said knew the ratings would be high.

Donald Trump has often displayed a fixation with numbers, whether it`s his ratings, crowd sizes, polls, money, presidential accomplishments.

Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. What a crowd. What a turnout.

I don`t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months.


TRUMP: I really don`t believe it.

We`re unleashing a new era of American prosperity, perhaps like we have never seen before.

It will be the single biggest tax cut in American history.


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

We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

They`re elite. I went to better schools that they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment and I live in the White House, too, which is really great.


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: All right. I`m joined now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Linette Lopez is a senior correspondent at "Business Insider", Katie Glueck is senior political correspondent with "McClatchy" newspapers, and Nicholas Confessore, a political reporter at "The New York Times", also an MSNBC contributor.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

Linette, I wonder what is the president, we had this recurring story line it seems with Trump where people say, well, you know, he`s 70, 71 years old now. He is not going to change. And I do notice this is how he talked for 40 years.

LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Yes, I`m not a therapist. So, all I can talk about is how the American people are receiving this. By the people who are leaving his discussion, talk, rally, whatever you want to call it, in Arizona, I think the American people want to hear about them and what he`s doing for them and not what they`re doing for him, and how they`re making him feel. How big he thinks whatever he thinks should be as big, is it big enough? I guess not.

KORNACKI: I guess what I wonder, Katie, is, it seems that the reaction splits everything with Donald Trump, right? It splits into two camp and they take very different things from it. And there`s part of the country I think that looks at it, and is offended by it.

You`re reducing this to television ratings. You`re taking the hurricane, you`re taking a pardon, you`re bringing up television -- it`s distasteful. It`s ugly. It`s wrong. I hear that.

But it seems like with Donald Trump, it does connect with something out there as well. And I guess that`s the question I`m curious. What does it connect with? I know it offends people, but it does seem to connect with some people, too.

KATIE GLUECK, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, it connects with the Republican base, and this is something -- I know you spent sometime taking a look and writing about it as well, but the Republican base remains very firmly in President Trump`s corner and they love his style. You know, if they`re taking a look at, the way that he`s handled Hurricane Harvey, for example. You know, they appreciate whether that brash approach, it speaks to that sort of businessman style that he`s had that drew them to him in the first place.

You know, even more so, they feel that the criticism he is getting, whether it`s, you know, the argument that he wasn`t empathetic enough early today in the way that he handled the storm or any other issue that is dividing the country here, they feel that Trump from the very beginning has not gotten a fair shake from the media, from the Democrats and they feel that he deserves to continue to note crowd sizes and note poll numbers as sort of an extra layer, a validation that they think he`s not getting otherwise.

KORNACKI: I`ll ask you about this. "Bloomberg News" reported today that President Trump was in a bad mood last week before that big rally in Phoenix. The president didn`t think the arena was full enough apparently. He blamed George Gigicos, he`s the former White House director of advance, who had organized the event as a contractor for the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he`d never manage a Trump rally again. This according to three people familiar with the matter.

In spite of his reported anger that night, President Trump alluded to the crowd size at that event during a press conference yesterday. Take a look.


TRUMP: You saw the massive crowd we had. The people went crazy when I said, what do you think of Sheriff Joe or something to that effect, that place went absolutely crazy when I was in Arizona last week.


KORNACKI: Nick, it`s an admission of weakness, right, if the crowd is anything but massive. It`s an admission of weakness if the crowd is anything but ecstatic to see them and to hear from. That`s the best I can glean from listening to this for a couple of years.

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, all presidents try to calibrate what`s popular and what`s possible. All president would rather being popular than unpopular. But this is a president for whom being liked and approved of seems to be the lode star of his politics and his campaign.

This is a president who on the campaign trail, as Katie remembers, would actually tailor and think about his policy speeches in terms of the crowd reaction in the room. It is everything to him and the problem is it sometimes seems as though that that`s all he has to guide himself on how he is doing.

KORNACKI: Is it a self-fulfilling thing on some level? Is that the calculation that if I say it enough, just enough, people will start to kind of feel and start to believe it themselves? In the absence of putting anything else out there?

LOPEZ: Yes, I think people who have known Trump intimately or who have written biographies of him actually say they`re these moments of self- awareness and moments of clarity that he has where he questions himself or he says something that`s a little bit self-deprecating. And you know that he`s conscious of what he`s doing.

But it`s all written in "The Art of the Deal". This is how you do it. You convince yourself. You convince the people around you. You make huge proclamations. If you don`t fulfill them, oh, well, you know, you just move on to the next thing.

And so, I think he`s thinking he can do that with the presidency. I think based on the poll numbers, we`re seeing that people are getting tired of that. You know, this isn`t just his base. This is about the Trump curious, the people who said, what the heck, I`ll just vote for Trump. I don`t know what I`m going to do.

And I was talking to some people who are in that camp this weekend, and especially the younger ones who were willing to say, you know what, we don`t have a leg to stand on. You know, we really messed up here. And this is getting into dangerous territory when you`re seeing things like what did he with Arpaio last weekend.

KORNACKI: Yes, we`ve never had a president who was elected with more of his voters having a negative opinion of him and lower expectations, which creates this whole dynamic of how do you measure if they disapprove now, did they -- were they all just going to disapprove.

Anyway, up next, a live report from Houston where the recovery effort continues. We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

More rain is expected in Houston. Already, thousands of evacuees have move into shelters there.

For more on what is going on in Houston, let`s check in with NBC`s Maya Rodriguez. She is at one of those shelters.

Maya, obviously, we can see the crowd around. But set the scene for us, would you?

MAYA RODRIGUEZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Steve, we`re at the George R. Brown Convention Center. We`re in downtown Houston. Good news, we have finally gotten a break in the rain. It has been raining all day long.

But take a look out here. There are several hundred people in line here just waiting to get into the shelter. They`ve been waiting quite a while. Part of the issue is, they need to check in. They need to go to security first, then they need to register with the Red Cross. All of these people waiting to get in, waiting to get out of the elements.

A lot of these people, of course, have been rescued from the floodwaters here in Houston. There are at least 17,000 people across the city who have been put into shelters, 45 of them around the Houston metro area.

This one the largest by far. There are more than 9,000 people here. Far more than the 5,000 they said they had had, which was at capacity. That`s because they only had 5,000 cots.

But they basically blew through that number last night because they said, listen, we are not going to turn anybody away. If they need to get out of the rain, get a warm meal, get some clean clothes, because a lot of the people that are coming in here are wet, they are cold, they`ve been plucked from the floodwaters. And they`ve been brought here either by helicopter, city buses, school buses, pretty much any vehicle that they can get on in order to get here to this shelter. But again, all of these people still waiting to get in. Many, many more in shelters all across the city -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. Maya Rodriquez, down there in Houston. Maya, thank you for that. And we`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.

With his visit to Texas today, Donald Trump was thrust into the role of consoler in chief. Take a look.


TRUMP: Thank you. We love you. You are special. We are here to take care. We`re going to get you back and operating immediately.


KORNACKI: And I`m back with the roundtable, Linette, Katie and Nick.

Katie, we didn`t show it there. I think the part that elicited the strongest response from the crowd from what I can tell you is when he held up that Texas state flag and started waving it. You know, not every state flag has a big sort of symbolic meaning to his residents but the Texas one certainly seems to.

What notes did he hit today? Did he miss notes he should hit? What did you think of it?

GLUECK: Sure. Well, certainly waving a Texas flag in Texas is going to play very well in a state with immense state pride for sure. At the same time, there are a lot of people including some Republicans, we heard from Ari Fleischer earlier speaking elsewhere today, talking about how there was an opportunity for him to hit for -- for President Trump to hit, sort of the empathy note. And he didn`t really deliver on that front.

We have these horrible and natural disasters, as we saw with President Obama dealing with Hurricane Sandy, for example, Jeb Bush dealing with hurricanes in Florida in the past, there`s really an opportunity to demonstrate some leadership there, to put some partisanship aside. And there were people on both sides today who thought, you know, as much as they felt it was positive and constructive that he went down there as opposed to --


GLUECK: Exactly.

KORNACKI: Something missing, you mentioned a couple of the previous examples in 2005. President Bush`s response to Hurricane Katrina. It was widely panned. That included his infamous praise for FEMA Director Michael Brown.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Again, I want to thank you all for -- and, Brownie, you`re doing a heck of a job. The FEMA director is working 24 hours.



KORNACKI: In contrast, President Obama`s response to Hurricane Sandy days before the 2012 election got mostly positive marks. He toured devastated parts of New Jersey with Governor Chris Christie. He met emergency responders and he comforted victims.




OBAMA: Tough on you.


OBAMA: We`re going to help you get it all together. All right? I promise. I promise. You`re going to be OK.


KORNACKI: Well, Nick, a lot of this is, it`s emotional when presidents visit scenes like this. A lot of it has to do with just trying to lift the morale. A lot of messages are simple. A lot of them can be non-verbal I think you`re seeing here, just in the gestures from President Obama a few years ago.

At the same time, Katie is talking about maybe missed opportunities for Donald Trump. One thing that occurred to me is in the wake of Charlottesville, in the wake of what that did to this nation, the kind of debate that came from that, you have all of these things coming out of Houston that sort of belie the idea that was presented by Charlottesville, of such a torn and divided nation. You`ve got all these people receiving across the lines of division that we`ve talked about existing for the last few weeks.

And maybe today wasn`t the appropriate place, necessarily. But I do wonder if there`s a chance there for the president or for somebody to use Houston as example to say, as a quick counter example to what Charlottesville revealed.

CONFESSORE: Look, there could be. The (INAUDIBLE) playback for a president dealing with disasters is that the press conference with Bush during Katrina. It is all come from there, right? The playbook is, show empathy. Get involved. Show you`re active. Be on top of it and don`t overpromise.

But I do think the empathy part is one that perhaps the president struggles with. He is not a hugger so much. It`s not what he does. And his message is predicated on the idea that there are bad people holding the country back. There are bad guys in this fight. I`m going to get them.

It`s hard to make turn from I`ll be a uniter. It is not his natural wavelength. So, I`m not sure I see him doing that, Steve.

KORNACKI: Yes, I would say, the reality show president`s -- it`s never the role he played before he came to politics, either, and government.

The HARDBALL roundtable, excuse me, is staying with us. Be right back.


KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Linette, tell me something I don`t know.

LOPEZ: I think it`s really important that people realize consumer confidence has been going up since Trump won the presidency. But CEOs of companies like JPMorgan and Accenture don`t see that confidence translating into people spending more money. So, there`s a divergence between the soft data, how we feel, and the hard data, what we spend. And as I think Trump`s ratings are lower, that hard data is going to matter more and more.

KORNACKI: All right.


GLUECK: What you may know is that there`s a lot of speculation about whether or not the president is going to endorse in the primary against Jeff Flake. What you may not know is that there are a lot of people around the official Republican Party apparatus who are also very mad at Jeff Flake. I was at the RNC summer meeting last week and the feeling was very much a sense of frustration that Flake that would write a book in the first place that was so critical of the president.

KORNACKI: Yes, he is in a world of trouble.

GLUECK: Absolutely.


CONFESSORE: All right. I was curious. So, what are Americans afraid of? Ahead of hurricanes ranked on what Americans are afraid of, according to a poll by Chapman, it`s a college, that hurricanes rank 40th in the list of things Americans are most afraid of behind terrorist attacks, Obamacare and reptiles.

KORNACKI: All right. And we are against the end of the show. Thanks for joining us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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