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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/7/17 Don. Jr. on the hill

Guests: Ginger Gibson, Angus King, Richard Blumenthal, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rodgers

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 7, 2017

Guest: Ginger Gibson, Angus King, Richard Blumenthal, Matt Apuzzo, Jennifer Rodgers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Irma heading to Florida.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We`ve got big news tonight on the Russian investigation with Donald Trump, Jr., being interviewed before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But we have to begin tonight with that monster storm heading towards southern Florida. Residents are boarding up and getting out. The storm is expected to make landfall this weekend. And let me read you the lead for the Associated Press. It puts it in perspective.

"They call it the big one, a mythic massive hurricane that would obliterate the densely populated southeast coast. It has long been the stuff of Florida`s nightmares. Irma, it appears, could be it."

The storm has triggered near panic in a region of more than six million people that includes Miami. Well, currently, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm with winds up to 175 miles an hour, is barreling toward the Florida peninsula. You see the picture there. President Trump has asked about it earlier today. Let`s listen to him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re very concerned. We are working very hard. We have tremendous groups of talented people there. The people of Florida are like the people of Texas, Louisiana. You`re seeing how the people of our country have reacted under this tremendous pressure and these horrible things that we call hurricanes. This is something that is probably bigger, not as much water but much more power than Harvey.


MATTHEWS: Much more power than Harvey. In its wake, Irma left a path of devastation. Look at the destruction across the Caribbean, killing at least 10 people and leaving nearly a million without power. Earlier today, all of south Florida came under hurricane and storm warnings, of course, and Governor Rick Scott had this dire warning.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Look at the size of this storm. It is wider than our entire state and could cause major life-threatening impacts from coast to coast. Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember you can rebuild your home, you can buy your possessions again, but we can`t rebuild your life and we can`t recreate your family.


MATTHEWS: Well, NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez is in Miami. Gabe, you know, I`m trying to figure out the tremor that`s coming, the talk in the Associated Press in that dramatic lead of "the big one." Is that the sense we`re getting in these days before it`s about to hit Florida?

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it -- hey, there, Chris. Well, a lot of people here are talking about this storm and referring to Hurricane Andrew, of course, 25 years ago, that massive Category 5 storm that hit Florida with winds of -- sustained winds up to 165 miles an hour.

Irma is packing an even bigger punch, and because of that, this is some of what we`re seeing. We`re seeing growing lines for fuel. People are rushing to stock up, and often, this fuel is selling out before supply trucks can get here. Governor Rick Scott said today that some of these supply trucks are now being escorted by police. They`re really trying to resupply these gas stations.

We`re seeing a run on food and supplies. Bottled water is flying off the shelves. But Chris, it`s not just Florida that`s looking at this. Up and down the East Coast, four states have states of emergency, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The National Guard as far north as North Carolina has been mobilized and nearly 700,000 people in Florida are rushing to get out. Some of the major highways, I-95, I-75, have seen gridlock today. And shelters are opening up here in Miami-Dade County. We expect to see more families there throughout the evening. But people are taking this very seriously.

What makes this different, Chris, is that this storm, unlike Andrew, which sliced through the storm from east to west, this one, the projected path could go from south to north, basically engulfing this entire state so there`s really no way to get out. Some people are hunkering down in those shelters. Others are just rushing north, really trying get out of Irma`s path, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much, NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez in Miami.

For more on where Hurricane Irma is heading, let`s bring in NBC meteorologist Bill Karins, who`s at the MSNBC (sic) Weather Center. Bill, I wonder about Florida (INAUDIBLE) wondered about -- not tonight, the conversation about climate change. But it is a fact Florida has very low - - very low ground level, very close to sea level. It wouldn`t take much for a surge, it seems to me, to sweep that peninsula.

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: And that`s an excellent point, Chris. This is completely different than Harvey, that all the devastation was caused by flooding. This devastation will be caused by the winds and the storm surge near where the landfall will be. There will be areas that`ll be hit so hard in Florida that they`ll be uninhabitable for weeks in a few areas. That`s how bad the storm will be.

But we don`t know exactly where that will occur. I know that`s frustrating people. We`re going to get a better idea of that in a couple days, and probably maybe even 24 hours from now.

So our thoughts, immediate thoughts are with the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is the eye of the storm on our one-minute satellite imagery. And as the sun sets, it was right over the tops of the Turks and Caicos. They are in the middle of a Cat 5 hurricane at this time.

So let`s go to the wider view and update you where we are with the storm. You can see Florida up here on the left, the Bahamas, Cuba, 175-mile-per- hour winds. It`s incredible that we`ve had a storm this strong now for over two, almost two-and-a-half days. That`s almost unheard of. Usually, these only are Cat 5s for maybe one or two days. The longest ever was only three, and we think this could even top that.

So 175-mile-per-hour winds, movement west-northwest. The Hurricane Center gives us the new path updates and the new cone of uncertainty every six hours. That last one was 5:00 o`clock Eastern time. The next big update is 11:00 o`clock Eastern time. Here`s their latest path, Saturday, 2:00 PM -- look how close this is to the Florida Straits. There`s Miami. Key Largo would be located here. It avoids the mountains and the land of Cuba. That`s a Cat 4. So they think a little bit weakening. It may not.

Forecast of intensity is very difficult. There`s warm water here. This easily still could be a Cat 5 as it makes landfall or approaches Florida. And this is worst-case scenario. We`ve been worst case scenario for Miami for about 24 hours now. This forecast hasn`t changed. This is 2:00 PM on Sunday, inland, now the worst of it will be over Ft. Lauderdale, the West Palm Beach still 130-mile-per-hour winds a strong Cat 3. And Then the Hurricane Center has that center line going right up the coast. And then somewhere in the Carolinas, Georgia, or possibly even as far to the west as even affecting areas there into the Southeast. SO that`s the path.

Now let`s get into the watches and the warnings. We have watches out, Lake Okeechobee, all of south Florida. These will be upgraded a little later today. We`ll get watches extending through the whole peninsula of Florida. Right now, with this current path, everyone that`s not in the Panhandle could see hurricane-force gusts.

Now let`s go over to the computer models. You`ll be hearing a lot about this. We still have about 36 hours of forecasting on this. You`ll hear about our European computer models versus our American computer models. They`re the best long-range forecast modes.

Earlier today, the euro was right into Miami. The USA model was off the coast. So as we advance this in time, this takes us towards the landfall. This is 9:00 AM Sunday morning.

This, Chris, is excellent agreement with two models, not what we want for Florida. We wanted this to be off the coast and to miss south Florida. Now both of them would have that eyewall into southeast Florida come Sunday morning at daybreak. You turn your TV on here at MSNBC, and you will see what a Cat 4, possibly a Cat 5 hurricane looks like hitting the U.S. and southern Florida.

There`s still 48 hours. Something could change. We hope it will. We`ll pray it will, that it will somehow be further to the east and miss. But this is 2:00 PM Sunday, so a slow-moving Cat 4-5 devastating storm there in the south, Chris. And this is as bad as you can ever forecast.

I made the analogy that if I was teaching a meteorology class 101 to freshmen, and I said, Give me a forecast of a hurricane that would be absolutely the worst, they would draw this.

MATTHEWS: What are the authorities down there, the governor on down, telling people who live in exposed areas like Key West and all the key, and then on to Miami Beach and South Beach. They`re all to me totally exposed to the elements when that comes to landfall.

KARINS: Yes, if there`s anyone that didn`t do the mandatory evacuation of those areas that you just mentioned, if they see this and they`re hearing this from all their meteorologists out there, we`re trying to tell you you do not want to wait this one out.

They`re thinking that the storm surge in those areas, Chris, you just mentioned could be as high as 15 feet. This monitor here is only about seven feet. So this would be double this monitor. And then on top of that storm surge, you`re going to have the wave action. You`re going to have debris in the water hitting up against. So even the houses that are 10 to 12 feet on stilts, those are still going to go down. Those are going to get washed into the ocean.

MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s no -- there`s no strong brick buildings down in the Keys. I mean, these are wooden buildings. They`re maybe a couple floors high, from what I remember. And it seems to me they`re not built for this. Nothing`s built for this.

KARINS: Most people, Chris, can`t afford to build their homes to withstand a Cat 4 or 5. They usually do it to withstand a Cat 2 or a Cat 3. You know, the amount of money it costs to survive a 155-mile-per-hour storm...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I`d think.

KARINS: ... most people can`t pay that money.

MATTHEWS: Bill, so what`s it like on 95 and -- I`ve seen some pictures of cars heading north. Can you get on those highways, the major interstate, and head north and get out of harm`s way? Is it doable at this point?

KARINS: You know, the biggest thing is gas, Chris. Everything that I`m seeing is there are people struggling to find gas. You know, a lot of people...

MATTHEWS: Look at it! We`re seeing it now, this -- this three or four- lane, four-lane crunch heading north, slowly heading north on I guess 95. I`m guessing.

KARINS: Yes, there`s only two ways out, right? I mean, there`s the east highway on 95, or you can come up the other side across Alligator Alley and go north through Tampa and Sarasota and Fort Myers. Those are the only two escape routes and...

MATTHEWS: Oh! Look at it! Oh!

KARINS: And Chris, here`s what changed...

MATTHEWS: You`re going to run out of gas in that kind of speed. You know, you`re going to out there on that highway...

KARINS: Don`t even try it without a full tank. Exactly.


MATTHEWS: You got to get from station to station, if you can get off.

KARINS: And here`s the other issue. Obviously, you know, you see how Florida is like this, the shape of it, pretty -- it`s only 140 miles wide. Now that we`ve taken the forecast, which was a little further east, and now put it right in the middle, a lot of people went from West Palm (INAUDIBLE) Miami over to Fort Myers and Sarasota. They just had evacuation orders for low-lying areas in Pinellas County outside of Tampa.

So all of a sudden, we have such a huge area of risk that everyone has to kind of go to the middle of the state. I imagine everyone is going on I-4 and heading up the Florida Turnpike into the Orlando and Kissimmee areas there. I`m sure those hotels are all booked up. And even that area, Chris, could experience 100 and 120-mile-per-hour winds.

I lived there when Hurricane Charlie went through Orlando, and we didn`t have power for two weeks. So I mean, there`s not many places that are safe right now in Florida. I mean, if you can get to Georgia and even north Georgia or even head to areas in Alabama and Mississippi, those are the only completely safe areas where your families won`t risk losing power.

MATTHEWS: I hope people are listening. I remember what happened when Nagin, the governor -- of the mayor of New Orleans those years ago in Katrina was saying, Well, we`ll get 90 percent of the people out of here. Well, that`s pretty good unless you`re the 10 percent left behind.

KARINS: Well, that`s the problem, Chris. There`s people that can`t afford to evacuate.

MATTHEWS: 50,000 people there were left behind. I know.


MATTHEWS: ... people in wheelchairs. I understand. We have to encourage what can be done from the authorities on down. I hope Rick Scott`s got his act together. This is one hell of a challenge for everyone.

Thank you, Bill Karins. This is scariest weather report I think I`ve ever heard.

Let`s bring in MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff. He`s with us tonight from Miami Beach. Jacob, I was thinking of South Beach and all the fun lovers out there and the world they live in of luxury and pleasure. And now they are totally exposed to God`s work here. I mean, you got to say this is going to be nothing you control, nothing you can control except get out of the way.

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s -- the only way I can describe it, Chris, is it is absolutely eerie to be on one of the most famous beaches in the entire world and see right now virtually nobody. When you look around here, you know on a normal night, you`d see chairs, people out here, music, people having a great time, people exercising, running up and down the boardwalk. These beach shacks would be here.

To hear you and Bill Karins talk about the storm surge to be anywhere up to 15 feet -- that`s over the tops of these shacks right here, part of the reason you see forklifts like that one over there picking up just about everything along the beach right now.

That`s not the only preparation, Chris, that`s going on out here. All these luxury hotels, condominiums, apartment buildings are being boarded up with plywood, corrugated metal that`s coming in to close those windows. A lot of these people went through Hurricane Andrew, and they exactly know what that is like and they know that they are, indeed, direct target of Hurricane Irma and what that can mean for their safety and their livelihood. That has not stopped everybody from leaving here.

One big group of people that is coming in here, Chris, though, is the National Guard. They`re mobilizing 7,000 troops from all throughout the state. We were over at the armory earlier today, and these are people that are just everyday Floridians. Some of them are sheriffs` deputies. Some of them are former military. They`re coming in to aid their fellow citizens, their brothers and sisters in the state of Florida should something happen.

And one of the most amazing things that I saw today, Chris, is sort of the unsung heroes here in Miami that have come out before all of this happens. In the past two days, about a month`s worth of trash has been picked up by the men and women of the sanitation department of the county of Miami-Dade.

And that is -- it`s hard to understate how important that is because the trash that is sitting out on people`s front lawns, the trees that people have trimmed, the discarded mattresses and dressers, could become deadly debris in the event that this does become the hurricane as it is currently tracking to become and kill people.

It`s a very scary thing. And these men and women have been out there every day, every single hour to make sure that, ultimately, if and when this hurricane comes, people are safe here in Miami.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was thinking of being at the News Cafe there on South Beach in good times. And now it`s -- it`s not where you want to be right now. I hope people get out.

Thank you so much, Jacob Soboroff in Miami Beach itself. We will continue to follow Hurricane Irma throughout the hours the massive storm moves closer and closer to Florida.

Coming up -- after a summer of shifting explanations, none of which made sense, President Trump`s son, Junior, Don, Junior, had another chance to explain what happened when he arranged that meeting with the Russians last year in Trump Tower. We`re going to talk to one of the senators who questioned the president`s son. That`s coming up next in about two minutes.

Plus, Steve Bannon`s back, and he`s now working on outside, finding someone to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan. He`s causing trouble. Is Bannon more dangerous now that he`s out than when he was in? That`s hard to believe.

And Republicans continue to fume over President Trump`s deal with the Democrats. We`ll get the inside story on what happened there. Looks like -- looks like Trump changed partners and danced with the Democrats for once. We`ll see what happened there. By the way, Trump today issued a tweet about DACA at the request of Nancy Pelosi.

Finally, we`ll get back to Florida for more on the ground and more reports on Irma as it bears down on Florida.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`re coming right back with a big day on Capitol Hill today. Donald Trump, Jr., was questioned before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role arranging that infamous meeting last June with the Russians in Trump Tower.

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After a host of evolving accounts and contradictory explanations, the president`s eldest son had another chance today to tell his side of the story. Staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee today held a five-hour interview with Donald Trump, Jr., questioning him on all things Russia, including the June 9th campaign meeting that he arranged with Russians at Trump Tower last June.

In his opening statement, Trump acknowledged that he was receptive enough to the promise of Kremlin dirt on Hillary Clinton that he proceeded with the meeting. Quote, "To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out." Well.

Junior also told congressional investigators that he intended to seek legal advice on the matter but only after the meeting took place. Quote, "Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration."

This guy has been lawyered up. Further, according to the Associated Press, Trump, Junior, told committee staff that he didn`t inform his father about the June 26th meeting. But that`s not true. We know that just days after his son received that promise of dirt from the Russians, Donald Trump boasted he was going to deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton in a coming speech. Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we`re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you`re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.



MATTHEWS: Well, six members of the committee, Judiciary Committee, were present today for the interview with Donald Trump, Jr., which was conducted by congressional staffers. Following interview, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware sent reporters a memo reminding them that, quote, "Material false statements to Congress are criminal."

Joining me now is one of the committee members in that room today, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Matt Apuzzo, by the way, of "The New York Times" reported on the interview today, and Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor.

Thank you, all.

Hold on for a second for the senator.

Senator, did this guy, this son of the president, say anything today to dislodge us from the factual knowledge that he went in that room because of the promise of getting dirt from this Russian on Hillary Clinton?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Let me just say, Chris, he left more questions unanswered than he answered.

There were gaping holes in the information that he provided, which is why we need to have him come back in public, under oath, in a hearing of the Judiciary Committee.

But he left nothing to dispel my impression that that June 9 meeting essentially signaled to the Russians, we`re open for business. We`re ready to deal. And he went to that meeting because he was promised, in effect, dirt on Hillary Clinton. The word was incriminating. And his response was, "Love it."



MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, his father loved it, too, because he went out and started bragging about he was going to get some dirt to use against an opponent, who looked at that moment like she was going to beat him.

BLUMENTHAL: And that`s a very important point, because there are so many circumstantial facts here, that speech, also the Air Force One statement, which came in effect from the president and concealed the truth about that meeting, saying it was only about the adoption issue.


BLUMENTHAL: So, there is a lot of fact here. And, ultimately, this investigation will be determined on the facts.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s what -- I`m not sure the term dangle is right, but where I have watched "The Americans" enough times to know that the Russians have techniques, even in the post-Soviet days, that they check and see, is Trump open to the idea, this candidate? He seems to be in trouble right now. Maybe he`s desperate enough to use our help.

We don`t want Hillary. I`m thinking through this theory -- the theory here. So, we will test him with some dirt from this cutout, this lawyer.

BLUMENTHAL: It is a classic ploy. Begin with the overture, or the prelude. Have them come to the meeting. Are they interested?

But also what are the financial dealings here? And that is equally important, because we know now that Donald Trump, the president, was interested in a deal in Russia. They followed through on it, at least to the point of the letter of intent.

And follow the money is a classic investigative technique. The special counsel is obviously using it. He is interviewing White House staff, as well as seeking records that would reflect on financial dealings.

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump Jr., his credibility. He began by saying nothing happened with the Russians. He then went on to say, as you said, Senator, something happened, but it had to do with adoptions and good stuff like that.

Any American would want to do that, help with adoptions from Russia. Then it went on to, I was chaotic, I was all confused, I`m over my head, that sort of defense.

I can`t keep up with this guy. And then he said it had to do with fitness. I was just being Johnny Citizen out there. I just wanted to make sure that no one who was unfit to be president would actually become president, so it wasn`t a partisan interest I had.

He has changed his position so many times. Even when he said "I love it" to this Russian -- to this person who got into the meeting, he said, well, that was just a colloquialism. It doesn`t mean anything.

"I love it" means something. This guy doesn`t seem to have a straight story in his brain.

BLUMENTHAL: That`s why a public hearing really is so necessary, because the American people deserve the opportunity to hear what he said, the evolving accounts that he`s given, and to judge in public, under questioning from senators like myself.

I would welcome the opportunity, as a former prosecutor, to pose some of these questions to him and to see where the consistent line of thought may be, if there is one.

And, ultimately, the president also has to be held accountable, because he is the one who is embroiled and involved in this issue. And the question is, what did he know and when did he know it?


He went through that whole Bridgegate thing with Governor Christie, and it turns out all these surrogates of his are going to jail, but somehow he escaped it.

It seems to me, although all stories are a bit different from each other, here we have the president helping his son write his explanation of the meeting, apparently drafting it for him. He also benefits from the knowledge that kid, his son, was going to get some dirt, because he went out and bragged about it.

It seems like they were working hand in glove. It`s not going to be one of these Christie cases where the governor can slip aside and say, I didn`t know all that was going on.

He knew it was going on, obviously, from the moment he got the proffer of the meeting and his son shared with it him. And then he loved -- he kept talking about, I have got to help the kid explain his way out of this now, because I was in it with him, and I don`t want my kid to go to jail.

It seems like there are -- isn`t it fair to say the president is involved?


BLUMENTHAL: That`s why today`s session was important, because it focused on the questions relating to the president.

And without going into what was the testimony, I think there`s a need for filling in these gaps in information that were left today about going forward after the June 9 meeting, what kind of meetings may have taken place, what kind of communications with the Russians, what may have come out of White House and the Trump campaign in these almost 20 meetings that occurred between Trump campaign officials and the Russians.

MATTHEWS: And Russians. A lot of Russian connections.

Well, hold on, Senator.

We`re going to bring in Matt Apuzzo.

Matt, give us a sense of this news development, of this prosecutorial effort we have right now. What do they have right now? They know there was a meeting. They know the meeting was basically organized to share some dirt. We know that, circumstantial evidence, that the son shared that information with the father, the promise of getting some oppo on his opponent.

We know that president helped write his explanation, the son`s explanation for what happened in the meeting. Talk about both people and how exposed both of them are, the president and the son.

MATT APUZZO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, so, our understanding of Donald Jr.`s explanation for the clip you played with then candidate Trump said, I`m going to give a major speech about Hillary Clinton, is, his son basically says, look, I didn`t tell him about the meeting. He didn`t need me -- he didn`t need me to give him that speech. That`s just the way he talks. That`s just the way he is.


APUZZO: It is a little bit of the bravado, a little bit of the showman.

And that`s, frankly, a recurring theme that we`re hearing. We heard it last week with Michael Cohen, the president`s longtime lawyer. A lot of the language in some of the e-mails he turned over to Congress made it seem like, oh, we`re going to embrace the Russia tie. It`s going to be politically advantageous.

And he said, well, that`s just talk. Right? That`s kind of showman or over-puffery or whatever.

And so you`re starting to hear that defense for when things get said: Don`t take that at face value. That is just talk.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, Rod Blagojevich is in prison right now for just talk.

This conversation seems to be very much related.

Jennifer, give us the new sense here as it develops today and what are you able to get out of that committee meeting today that you Can report? JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think they were trying to do two things.

Of course, they`re trying to collect information and fill in some of the gaps. And it sounds like that was only partially successful, if it was successful at all.

But they`re also, of course, now having a conversation, or taking testimony from Donald Jr. for the first time, which means that he is now subject to potential charges for lying to federal investigators for the first time; 1001 charges, as they`re called, are a very common way to get a charge on someone if the underlying information doesn`t pan out and doesn`t lead to charges.

So, I think today was important, because now they can use the statements today, whether they were omissions that then prove to -- they can prove that he knew things he didn`t tell, or whether he made affirmatively false statements. They may actually have a charge on him for the first time based on what happened at today`s hearing.

MATTHEWS: Senator, who would make that motion? Would it be someone in your committee who would say -- go to the Justice Department with a -- we believe that one of our witnesses perjured himself?

BLUMENTHAL: It could be someone on our committee. And it could be the FBI or the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.


BLUMENTHAL: But when the law is broken, people can make complaints and charges can be brought.

And Jennifer is absolutely right -- 18 United States Code 1001, it is the bread and butter charge that is brought when people lie to federal prosecutors, a material misstatement.

MATTHEWS: Would that be within the domain of Bob Mueller?

BLUMENTHAL: It could be.

MATTHEWS: Could he be the one to bring the charges in this case?

BLUMENTHAL: It could be within Bob Mueller`s domain.

And, certainly, I would think, although I haven`t talked to Bob Mueller about it -- and we have made every effort in our investigation on the Judiciary Committee to avoid any conflict with the special counsel -- that he has under consideration a number of those kinds of charges against potentially...


MATTHEWS: Right. And he will have the transcript of today?

BLUMENTHAL: He will have the transcript, for sure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Judiciary Committee.

Thank you, Matt Apuzzo and Jennifer Rodgers.

Up next: Steve Bannon is back. He says he`s a street fighter and is vowing to stick up for Trump. Is he more dangerous now that he`s working from outside the Trump White House?

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.



STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: In many areas, I think it`s pretty accurate. I`m a street fighter. That`s what I am.

CHARLIE ROSE, "60 MINUTES": You`re more than that.

BANNON: No, I think I`m a -- I think I`m a street fighter.

And, by the way, I think that`s why Donald Trump and I get along so well. Donald Trump is a fighter, great counterpuncher, great counterpuncher. He is a fighter.

I`m going to be his wing man outside for the entire time.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump fired Steve Bannon in August of 20 -- actually, August 28 of August, not long ago. But according to "The Washington Post," the president`s relationship with the alt-right firebrand has not ended.

Quote: "The president continues to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, from his personal phone, when Kelly is not around."

This is childish.

Anyway, in his interview with "60 Minutes" this week, Bannon defended President Trump`s response to Charlottesville. He also slammed the president`s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who criticized that response.

Let`s watch.


BANNON: My problem -- and I told General Kelly this -- when you side with a man, you side with him. I was proud to come out and try to defend President Trump in the media that day.

ROSE: There are no objections in terms of siding with someone?

BANNON: You can tell him, hey, maybe you could do it a better way.

But if you`re going to break, then resign. If you`re going to break with him, resign.

The stuff that was leaked out that week by certain members of the White House, I thought was unacceptable. If you find it unacceptable, you should resign.

ROSE: So, who are you talking about?

BANNON: I`m talking about -- obviously about Gary Cohn and some other people, that if you don`t like what he`s doing and you don`t agree with it, you have an obligation to resign.


ROSE: So, Gary Cohn should have resigned?

BANNON: Absolutely.


MATTHEWS: Well, Robert Costa is national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican National Committee.

Robert, I want to get to that principle there. I think journalists and politicians differ on that. I think my political brain says to me, don`t work for somebody you trash in secret. Be a man. Be a woman. Don`t get out there and say, I want the pay, I want the responsibility and the honor of serving in the White House under someone, but the minute I get near a phone when nobody is listening, I will trash the guy.

I think this is where Mr. Bannon has a strong point to make.

What is yours? Journalists can`t live with that, of course, because if you`re a reporter on the beat, you want everyone talking out the back window. Right?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, my reporting tells me that this fight between Cohn and Bannon, it is deeper than about the response to Charlottesville and the president`s leadership.

It is about who is going to control the Republican Party, who is going to control White House.


COSTA: Cohn and Bannon were part of the two blocs battling.

Was it going to be the nationalist vision of Bannon or more traditional Wall Street-type corporate conservative vision that was coming out of the National Economic Council?

MATTHEWS: Well, is Trump going to end, after this back and forth, if he survives another year or two -- let`s try to do it this way.

If Trump is still president in say, 2017 -- it`s 2017 now -- 2018, 2019, as the years, as months roll ahead, will he be more like Bannon or more like Gary Cohn?

COSTA: He is almost a politician at a political grocery store. He is testing out a lot of different ideologies right now.

He drifted with Bannon for a while. Now he is going even to the left, talking to Chuck Schumer, the New York senator, and House Democrats. He is trying to find a way to be popular. He is not driven by ideology.

He does have the pugilistic and nationalist instincts of Bannon, but, more importantly for the president, based on my conversations with sources in the White House, is, he wants to be seen as a popular national figure.

And whatever ideology at the time pushes him in that direction, he will go with.

MATTHEWS: Do you know what I like, Michael? I think the Democrats have got their brains figured out how to use him now.

Instead of fighting over statues, which is about a 45-55 split, they said let`s go after the Nazi crap now. And they`re passing a resolution in both houses that will go to Trump`s desk where he will to have sign an attack on the neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and all the bad guys in a way the Democrats could force him to.

It seems to me that is going to force him to say, am I with Bannon or am I with the American people?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there`s a little bit of...

MATTHEWS: What do you think he will do? Will he sign it?

STEELE: Oh, I think he would sign it. I think he probably would sign it.

MATTHEWS: Bannon wouldn`t.

STEELE: Bannon wouldn`t.

But there are some things that Trump will do, to Robert`s point, that will keep him on that popular track, that will help him in that vein.

The country is not going to sit back and go, oh, that`s OK, Mr. President. You can...

MATTHEWS: He`s at 33 percent. Why do you say the popular vein?


STEELE: Well, in terms of how he sees his popularity.


STEELE: His popularity is not measured the same way you and I are looking at it.

MATTHEWS: I know that.


MATTHEWS: Still got a notch on Hillary, which blew my mind when I read that this morning.

STEELE: And to be honest, if we were to hold a national election today, he would probably would win it.

So we need to understand exactly where the president sees himself right now. And more to the point, Chris, listen to what Steve Bannon said about him.

He is a pugilist. He`s a fighter. I`m the guy who is going to be his wing man.

There is still this sense in this White House that this relationship between these two is a powerful one.

MATTHEWS: Well, they look like they`re in love there.

Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa and Michael Steele.

Michael, it is always great to hear from you, sir.

Up next: A shady Russian company bought thousands of dollars worth of Facebook ads in order to spread propaganda ahead of the 2016 election. Guess whose side they were on? And some are suggesting that it is just the tip of the iceberg.

We`re going to talk to a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee next about this Russian meddling that keeps getting proven and proven again.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Well, Facebook told congressional investigators yesterday that a Russian operation purchased roughly $100,000 in ads targeting voters by promoting divisive social and political messages. And just last month, Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, openly speculated about the role Facebook played in spreading false news during the 2016 election.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: So the ability to manipulate these search engines and some of the social media platforms is real, it`s out there and we need information from the companies as well as we need to look into the activities of some of the Trump digital campaign activities.


MATTHEWS: Well, for more, I`m joined by Senator Angus King of Maine. He`s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an independent member of the Senate.

Well, what -- just lay this out for the average person. What went wrong here? What were the Russians involved in putting ads in Facebook to create trouble politically, apparently for the Democrats?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Well, there are two paths that are being used that we know of. One is a good old ad. You get your Facebook page comes up and sometimes a little ad comes up and says buy some boots from L.L. Bean. But in this case, an ad came up and said, Hillary Clinton wants to read your e-mails or, you know, something. We don`t know what the content. Facebook hasn`t said that. But they have said that they were highly provocative ads, to sort of get people upset in the early parts of the 2016 --

MATTHEWS: Well, the kind of gender and sexual issues that do stir people`s emotions here.

KING: Yes. And -- but then, the other I think even more insidious is the creation, we know that these folks, and in Russia, they`re getting good at this. Create a fake identity so that you have a comment from what you think is a person, a real person that says, hey, check out the DC Leaks Website and you`ll see some amazing stuff about Hillary.

Well, DC Leaks was set up by Russia. And it was a source of a lot of the leaked e-mails. So, this is a very insidious manipulation using social media like Facebook and Twitter. And I think what we`ve seen this week is probably just the beginning.

MATTHEWS: Well, how can someone, the president included, say the Russians weren`t involved in trying to mess with our elections?

KING: Well, they were. I mean, you can`t say that. I mean, the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.

Now, the evidence -- whether or not the Trump campaign cooperated or worked with the Russians, that`s an open question, we don`t know the answer to that. And that`s what my committee, Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence, Mr. Mueller, they`re all looking at that.

But the underlying question which I think is really important, Chris, what people are missing to some extent, is the Russians really tried to screw up our election. Not only things like leaked e-mails, fake news and that kind of thing, but also by getting into state election systems, voter registrations.


KING: And what worries me is this wasn`t a one-off. They`re going to be back in 2018 and 2020.

MATTHEWS: So, you think they might be down the road, trying to create another Florida 2000, where there`s just mass chaos in some state?

KING: Absolutely. They can -- they can go in one of two directions or both at the same time. I think in 2016, they started out simply wanting to sow distrust.


KING: They wanted to undermine the system and, frankly, they did a pretty good job of it. But then they got in, all the intelligence is that they decided at the some point, in 2016, they were going to try to help Donald Trump get elected. Whether they liked him or didn`t like Hillary, that`s - -

MATTHEWS: They were ahead of a lot of us.

KING: Well --

MATTHEWS: They knew he could win. That was smart and scary.

KING: But what we have to focus on is how do we prevent this from happening again?

MATTHEWS: Keep at it. Thanks very much. Angus King is working on this thing.

Up next, a day after President Trump left Republicans gobsmacked by striking a deal with Democrats, he issued a tweet at the request of Nancy Pelosi. Is Trump willing to change the dynamic by working with Democrats?

Plus, the very latest as Hurricane Irma moves closer to Florida.

This HARDBALL, where the action is.


BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I`m meteorologist Bill Karins. A little update for you on the storm, if you`re just joining us.

A hundred seventy-five mile per hour winds, it`s still a beast of a storm, right over the stop to the Turks and Caicos. That`s the latest island that`s getting a devastating blow and a 20-foot storm surge as we speak.

Hurricane watches will be expanded later on today. Let`s deep dive a little bit into the forecast. These lines represent are spaghetti lines. These are our forecast models of the storm. This is as we go to Saturday afternoon.

This is the critical moment with that northwards turn. If it happens earlier, maybe we can get the miss. If it happens later, then the west coast of Florida, you`re more in jeopardy.

But as of now, there`s excellent agreement as we go throughout Saturday morning, this is at 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Each of these lines represents where the center of the storm would be. Look at Miami. I mean, that is just dead on set for southeast Florida, the highly populated corridor from Miami, northwards, all the way up to West Palm Beach.

And then from there, we take the storm possibly to the north. Now, this can shift. As we go through time here, we can get a little wiggle. We`re still 48 to 60 hours away from the impact in South Florida. These lines all represent part of our American models. This gets very in the weeds here. But this takes the storm. This is center line from the hurricane center. Straight up the corridor of Florida.

This white line is the American model. Each of these gold lines, we kind of tweak it a little bit, just to see what would happen in the atmosphere. There`s still a chance we could miss. But you notice that most of these, about 80 percent, have a direct impact there in Florida and then send it northwards.

And finally, our last weather map shows you when the winds will arrive in Florida, we can start to expect power outages, as early as 8:00 p.m. Saturday in the Keys, and in Miami, overnight, and to Sunday morning.

We`ll have more on this throughout the night here on MSNBC and as we go throughout the upcoming weekend, with the landfall likely of Hurricane Irma.

More HARDBALL when we come back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, President Trump campaigned as master of "The Art of Deal" and striking one meant swerving to left. Well, the president abandoned his own Republican leaders to cut a deal with Democrats to fund hurricane relief and short term extension of the debt ceiling and the budget, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, Republican leaders are said to be fuming and today, Trump softened his threat on the DACA program, tweeting: For all those DACA that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about. No action.

He tweeted after calls with all four leaders this morning. And here`s Nancy Pelosi.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: He called this morning and I said, thanks for calling. This is what the people really need a reassurance from you, Mr. President, and to do. And boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared.


MATTHEWS: Boom, boom, boom.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Ginger Gibson is a political correspondent with "Reuters". Jason Johnson is politics editor at and an MSNBC contributor. And Glenn Thrush is White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Glenn, let me talk about Trump`s moves here. Was this a change-up in pitching where you throw a different pitch after throwing a bunch of fastballs? I mean, what`s going on here? All of a sudden, he says, Nancy, you know, I`m doing it your way, I`m doing it with you guys.

GLENN THRUSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she got with it the boom, boom, boom.


THRUSH: Donald Trump, as a person close to him often says, he lives life in 10 to 15-minute increments. He has to get through the next 15 minutes. And, you know, with his back against the wall, the response to the DACA rollback was really, really negative. He saw -- he got a little love when he went down to the gulf. So, he got a sense of a little positive feedback.

And you know something? With Steve Bannon out of the White House, why not do the one political move that he hasn`t tried. He`s basically stayed, everything that has happened to the guy, he`s moved farther and farther to the right. His base is shrinking. His numbers are shrinking.

This was guy, in terms of cutting deals with people like Pelosi and Schumer, this was the guy that ran as an iconoclast.

MATTHEWS: You think, Jason, he was trying to smack his Republican so- called colleagues a little bit there?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Of course he was. This is like, you know, you`re angry at your husband, so you come home and it`s like, guess who called me, my ex-boyfriend. Look, this was his way of saying --

MATTHEWS: How did you get the female perspective on that? Beautifully put.



MATTHEWS: That`s really -- probably true. But you can role play very well.

JOHNSON: Oh, yes, very quickly, very quickly. I`ve learned. I`ve learned. But, yes, that`s basically what it was. Look who I can make friends with. You guys aren`t supporting me. You don`t treat me right. You don`t make me feel good. They`re going to praise me.

MATTHEWS: Ginger, he lives in the moment, I agree completely with Glenn. He lives in a moment. This moment, he needs get things moving. We`re about to face Irma and all kinds of damage to our people, the American people. No one wants sort of a fight going on, as we go into this natural disaster.

GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: He has had a lot of struggles. But he knows he needs wins and that`s what this is, a good old- fashioned win. You say I solved a problem, I brought people together and we got it.

MATTHEWS: So, are we through with debt ceiling discussions for at least three months?

GIBSON: For three months. I mean ,but they`re going to have to come back and have them again. The thing you got to worry about here is it could still all fall apart. They have to vote on things, bills have to pass.

MATTHEWS: Now or in December?

GIBSON: At both times. I mean, at both points in time, it could still fall apart. And that may be the hardest lesson he would get in legislative politics in office so far.

MATTHEWS: How do you get reelected to the presidency and I assume that`s still Trump -- you start here, Jason.


MATTHEWS: I assume that`s still Trump`s back of his mind. I want a second term, because that`s how you win in American politics. You get two terms. You lose, you lost, historically.

So, how does he get reelected, if he basically, he`s on one party, the Republican Party, and says, I want to dance occasionally with the Democrats but I don`t hate Democrats.


MATTHEWS: I mean, who`s he got?

JOHNSON: He doesn`t really have much of anybody except maybe the Democratic Party. If they`re foolish enough to put someone up who is so unpopular --

MATTHEWS: They wouldn`t do it to help him. They would do it fulfill their ideological route (ph) right now.

JOHNSON: Exactly. Yes. So, there`s still a decent chance that the Democrats will just screw up. They had a terrible primary. They`ll get a bad candidate.

But here`s the thing. I don`t think Trump has still fully understood how politics work yet. I don`t think he`s got the real feel for it. I think he`s got the feel for crowds but not politics in general. I don`t think he knows how to run as an incumbent. And that`s going to be his greatest challenge in 2020. It is easy to run as an outsider. But once you`ve been in the house for four years, how do you prove people you`re different?

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, is there a pattern here, Glenn? Or is this just erratic behavior again?

THRUSH: You know, you can -- you can look at this. This accelerating train wreck that we`ve seen over the past seven and a half months as all negative. But, you know, there`s an alternative theory that`s sort of emerging. Maybe it`s in my own head.

John Kelly, the new chief of staff, has rationalized the White House a little bit. You know, they`ve torn everything down. It seems the president is intent on reinventing the wheel on everything. So, maybe this is just a guy learning.

He`s doing -- everything is improvisational. He is doing in it plain sight.

MATTHEWS: Not in plain sight. Apparently, he picks up his private phone when General Kelly is not around and calls Steve Bannon.

THRUSH: Well, and Richard LeFrak, his buddy. He`s calling Bannon for two weeks, you know?

MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t -- he sneaks into the side room. His little room over there and makes phone calls? I mean --

THRUSH: It`s like Obama smoking a cigarette, yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s -- I stand on the argument that it`s ridiculous.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Ginger, we just got the word. It just came in, Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, is quitting.

GIBSON: He`s calling quits. You know, you have moderate. His legacy might be trying to end the shutdown back in 2013 to bring people together. They will lose a real compromiser, someone who is willing to work across the aisle.

MATTHEWS: That is, by the way, the key area of Pennsylvania to predict all action, it`s the Lehigh Valley and he`s going. This is fascinating. There`s a great seat to run for if you want to be important.

Anyway, Ginger Gibson, Jason Johnson, and Glenn Thrush.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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