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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/13/17 Pelosi and Schumer to the WH for dinner

Guests: Chris Coons, Jackie Speier, Peter Baker, Craig Cooper, Katina Coulianos

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 13, 2017 Guest: Chris Coons, Jackie Speier, Peter Baker, Craig Cooper, Katina Coulianos

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Another Trumpster targeted.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

NBC News has learned that According to current and former government officials, the inquiry into Flynn is focused at least in part on his work with his father`s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, where he had a heavy hand in the day-to-day operations.

But the younger Flynn is known best for pushing that conspiracy theory known as "pizzagate," the fabricated story that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

Well, in December, that outrageous claim provoked a gunman to fire shots inside the restaurant, yet Flynn still tweeted this about this discredited allegation. Quote, "Until pizzagate proven to be false, it`ll remain a story."

Reacting to the news of the expanded investigation tonight, President Trump`s special counsel, Ty Cobb, tells NBC, "This does not impact the White House to any extent with regard to its continuing cooperation with the special counsel." That`s what this guy said.

Anyway, the report that Flynn is the subject of the investigation also comes amid new charges that his father, the senior Michael Flynn, had deeper foreign entanglements than previously known. Democratic congressmen Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel are probing Flynn`s involvement, the senior Flynn`s, in a private U.S.-Russian business proposal to build 40 nuclear power plants in the Middle East, as well as a trip to Saudi Arabia to promote the plan in 2015.

In a letter to Flynn`s lawyer, the lawmaker say that it appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts with his security clearance renewal application in 2016. They have requested all communications relating to the venture and say they`ll refer their findings to special counsel Robert Mueller.

I`m joined right now by Democratic senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Ken Dilanian`s a reporter with NBC`s investigative unit.

I want to start with Ken, our guy here. The subject of the investigation - - explain the law on that. Michael Flynn, the younger now involved in what? Why is he joining this mess?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC INTELLIGENCE & NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Chris, a subject of the investigation means that prosecutors and the grand jury suspect you may have committed a crime, but they need more information to find out. So it`s more serious than being a witness, but not as serious as being a target, which means you`re about to be indicted.

Now, we know that Mike Flynn, the father, appears to be facing serious legal jeopardy over his failure to disclose his lobbying for the government of Turkey and his various business entanglements, failing to clear things on his security clearance application.

And Mike Flynn, the son, was, like, his father`s right-hand man. He was his executive assistant. He was his chief of staff. He was involved in all these dealings. He was involved perhaps in filling out forms. So that may explain the special counsel`s interest in him.

Of course, there`s also the issue of leverage. If the theory goes that Robert Mueller wants to flip Mike Flynn, the father, and get him to talk about what he knows about Russian collusion, you know, investigating his son and looking at potential crimes by his son is another way to put pressure on Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser.

MATTHEWS: Well, in terms of a criminal -- the way they do a criminal case, tell me that, how it works. They start, as I understand it, from outside the ring and work their way in closer. You start with the small fry who may be vulnerable on particular charges that may not even relate to Trump. You squeeze them on these charges, say, You want to go away for 20 years? Maybe you`ll go away for two, three months or two or three years if you tell us what you did with Trump. Am I right?

DILANIAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. You`ve got it exactly right. And especially -- we`re talking about a counterintelligence investigation here, allegations of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, which would be really hard to prove, right? You need people who were involved to talk about it.

So you begin investigating the potential players, and if they committed other crimes having nothing to do with, you know, Trump-Russian collusion, that`s still relevant because that gives Mueller leverage over these people. So in the case of Flynn and Paul Manafort, they seem to have legal jeopardy unrelated to Trump and Russia, but that`s very relevant to whether they`re going to be compelled to talk about what they know, if anything, about meetings they had, any potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And adding the son and other ancillary figures...


DILANIAN: ... just plays right into that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: While we finish with you on the legal question, what do you make of the fact this lawyer for Flynn -- Flynn, Senior -- says no comment when he`s asked if there`s collusion? Well, that seems a pretty soft, undirected kind of response. Don`t you usually say your client`s innocent?



MATTHEWS: ... starting point?

DILANIAN: I agree with you. I was very struck by that. Everyone else in this investigation has flatly denied collusion with Russia -- Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, the president himself. Mike Flynn`s lawyer, when we asked him, said "No comment." Now, he may just be being cautious. But of course, the other -- you know, if, in fact, his client was negotiating a cooperation agreement with the government, that would be another reason he would not want to directly contradict things that his client may be admitting.


DILANIAN: That`s just speculation at this point, but that is one thing that crossed our minds when we saw that squishy "No comment" as you put it.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s pretty (INAUDIBLE) I didn`t use the word "squishy," but you did, but thank you. I -- thank you for that help.

As I mentioned, NBC News also reports that the lawyer representing the former national security adviser himself, who`s being scrutinized for his contacts with Russia, had no comment when asked whether any collusion took place. Quote, "The older Flynn`s lawyer, Robert Kellner (ph), declined to comment Tuesday when asked how his client responds to allegations of collusion with us." In fact, he used the words.

His silence stands in stark contrast to what we`ve heard from other Trump associates, as well as the president himself. For over a year now, it`s been standard operating procedure for everyone in Trump`s orbit to deny outwardly and conclusively any collusion with Russians to influence the election. Let`s watch them in action.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So they`re investigating something that never happened. There was no collusion between us and Russia. There is no collusion. You know why? Because I don`t speak to Russians.

JARED KUSHNER, TRUMP`S SON-IN-LAW: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would certainly say Don, Jr., did not collude with anybody to influence the election.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So no collusion whatsoever...


WALLACE: ... anybody involved with Trump and anybody involved with Russia in the 2016 campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?


CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS: Paul, let`s go back to this question of Russia and hacking. Can you tell us what you know about the relationship and the campaign knows and what Donald Trump believes?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We -- we -- we have no relationship.


MATTHEWS: You know, I have to ask you, Senator, first of all (INAUDIBLE) no, I`m sorry -- we`ll go with the senator first. I`m sorry, Congresswoman. We`ll get with you in a minute.

This -- this whole mess -- it just seems like it widens, it deepens, no comment, Flynn, the older, Flynn, the younger, they`re all under investigation. I get the sense that Mueller is not going to stop with some narrow investigation. He`s looking at any criminality. In fact, that is his mandate, any criminality. He`s going to squeeze whoever he finds guilty of something.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Robert Mueller is an exceptionally thoughtful, thorough, seasoned federal law enforcement leader. And if I were representing someone who were on the target list of his investigation, I`d be very concerned because I think he is going to persistently, patiently and professionally keep at this, as you put it, starting at the outside and just squeezing and working his way in until he gets to his principal targets (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: The second question -- I mean, I don`t want to play -- what do you call it? Nativist or chauvinist, meaning I only care about this country, although I care primarily about this (INAUDIBLE) like most us do. But there`s something weird about this constant word, Russia. Every frickin` time we talk about any one of these people, the word Russia comes up. I mean, what we now got Flynn involved with some deal with building Russian-built nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia. It`s like everybody Trump dealt with was entangled with Russia, from Manafort to stone -- I mean, my God, you keep going through the list.

COONS: It is a strikingly...

MATTHEWS: Carter -- Carter Page...

COONS: ... pattern how many of the core campaign team neglected to mention, forgot about or overlooked...

MATTHEWS: But we`re in bed with Russians!

COONS: ... some significant contact...

MATTHEWS: Why Russia?

COONS: It is odd because there are so many other countries in the world. There`s so many other places...

MATTHEWS: And it fits in with his love affair almost with Putin.


MATTHEWS: You`re smiling!

COONS: It`s an unsettling and constant strain that has now gone on for nine months, where the number of folks in his immediate family and his core campaign circle, or who were in his initial cabinet, had some inexplicable contact or relationship with Russians.

Obviously, this is part of working from the outside in. The investigation`s got, I think, quite a distance to go. But you`re right, there is a truly unsettling consistent pattern.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Congressman Speier, thank you. It`s always great to have you on. I know you understand politics, and I love to talk about it. I do not understand why your committee majority has just signed on one of these gofers from the White House, who was the guy that led Nunes, your so-called leader, the chairman of your committee, on that midnight ride of Paul Revere down at the Executive Office Building and then he shows up the next morning with, Guess what I learned? He learned it from the night before (INAUDIBLE) Executive Office Building the same Trump people, and now he -- they`re -- they`re bringing -- he`s bringing aboard a Trump guy from the White House.

Can`t you guys just stand up and say, No, this isn`t what we do here? We don`t bring in gofers from the other side to defend them. We`re investigating them.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: So Chris, the majority in the Intel Committee controls the Intel Committee. They get to decide who they hire. The minority also gets to decide who they hire. But we don`t have any control over who is hired within the majority side.

MATTHEWS: You don`t have any control.


MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you something. Back in the old days when you were a -- I don`t think you were born, in fact, Congresswoman. In fact, I know you weren`t.

When Joe McCarthy was riding (ph) at his worst, the Democrats on that committee led by Scoop Jackson and some other going to people said, You know what? We`re not putting up with Roy Cohn and that crowd running this committee anymore. They`re totally irresponsible. They`re terrible people. They`re making -- they`re making accusations that have no foundation. They`re McCarthyites. We insist on having our own counsel.

And finally, they stopped going to meetings. And finally, they got Bobby Kennedy to be their counsel on the Democrats`s side. So why don`t you go - - go wild a little bit and say, We don`t want to have people working for the defendant running our investigation of the defendant. Am I being too rough here?

SPEIER: There may come a time when we do that, but our intention is to work with our Republican colleagues on that committee to do this investigation and then come up with a report that we can both sign off on. And you know, it has always been a bipartisan committee. It was regrettable once Chairman Nunes went on his, you know, Paul Revere ride that we then became more partisan, and when he had to recuse himself, sort of, from the committee and its investigation.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk -- are you going to try to get some of these more interesting characters, like, oh, Donald Trump, Jr., people like that -- are you going to try to get them to testify in public so we can actually -- you know, like citizens, actually get to watch them and decide if we believe them?

SPEIER: You know, we`ve been calling...

MATTHEWS: I say that because people are implying that he isn`t believable, that nobody really believes Donald Trump, Jr., when he shows up, that he doesn`t really have a credible face.

SPEIER: Well, we are calling for public hearings and we would be delighted to have Junior actually appear in public. And in the end, you know, the public does have a right to know.

This has been an act of war by Russia, and it shouldn`t be lost on any of us that they have used multiple platforms to undermine this democracy, whether it was RT, their TV stations, or Facebook or hacking into our political institutions, the DNC and the Republican National Committee, or you know, furthermore, hacking into the very election system, both the voting records -- and I`m not convinced that they didn`t get into the machines. And that`s what we`ve got to spend a lot of our time on.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have to see. We don`t know that yet. We don`t know that.

Let me go back to the senator. What`s your position on subpoenaing people like Flynn, the senior Flynn, and maybe the junior Flynn, and also the question of bringing in people who -- Donald Trump, Jr., for example, because I was getting the clear signal last week from senators that they didn`t really believe him and they`d like to put him in public, so the public could share their incredulity.

COONS: Well, Senator Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said we will have Donald Trump, Junior, in front of the Judiciary Committee giving sworn testimony, televised, so that we can ask direct questions and the general public can hear. She said, come hell or high water, she`s going to get that done.

And so far, Chairman Grassley, the Republican chairman, and the ranking member have worked very well together. They`ve come to agreement about who they subpoena, who they request voluntary meetings with. And over the August recess, the staff were very busy. They got more than 20,000 documents. I think there`s a ways for us to go in our obstruction of justice investigation on the Judiciary Committee, but I do think we`re making progress.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Dianne Feinstein should run for re-election?

COONS: Oh, I think Dianne Feinstein is sharper on her best days than I have ever been. So I`ll tell you, there are moments when she is a remarkable, capable senator.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you. Let me ask you another question. Is your buddy, Joe Biden, running for president?

COONS: You know, I don`t know that yet.

MATTHEWS: I believe he is.

COONS: I don`t know that yet.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with me?

COONS: But I`ll tell you...

MATTHEWS: You don`t know?

COONS: ... I`d be thrilled if he would.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. You`d be thrilled if he would. There`s a story (ph).

Thank you, Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Jackie Speier and Ken Dilanian.

Coming up -- guess who`s coming to dinner? Last night, red state Democrats spent the evening at the White House. And tonight, President Trump is hosting Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. What`s the president`s play here?

Plus, the death toll is rising following Hurricane Irma, and millions are struggling without power in the Florida heat, and it might be days, even weeks, before it comes back on. We`ll also talk to one woman who survived the storm after the roof was ripped off her house.

And Hillary Clinton says that she would have won the election but for people like James Comey and Bernie Sanders. We`ll get to that with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He`s not going to like this one.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got an update on a story we brought you last night, an important one. The Senate today blocked a proposal by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to approve new authorization for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the Senate voted to keep his amendment for an up or down vote off the floor. The Senate doesn`t want to take responsibility for these wars.

We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: More and more, we`re trying to work things out together. It`s a positive thing. And it`s good for the Republicans and good for the Democrats.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are at the White House right now having dinner with President Trump. That`s tonight now. NBC reports that they`re going to discuss the Dream Act and health care, Democratic priorities.

Meanwhile, Republicans want to work out a deal on taxes and the debt ceiling. This comes after the pair made a deal with the president last week to give hurricane funding -- funding for the hurricane and for government spending to avoid the shutdown. Pelosi also met earlier today with Republican House speaker Paul Ryan to talk about protecting those affected by the president`s decision to rescind DACA.

I`m joined right now by "New York Times" chief correspondent at the White House Peter Baker. Peter, it seems to me that there`s a basis here for some reasonable deal-making. The president -- or -- the president wants to get a debt ceiling bill through so it doesn`t embarrass the government. He wants a continuing resolution to keep us from not having to pay our bills. And also, the Democrats want the continuation of basically the ER, that President Obama did for the people who came here as young people to this country illegally, and also to deal with protecting health care, "Obama care," from any real assault. In other words, do no harm.

These seem like four reasonable deal-making elements that sides can agree on and get us to Christmas without chaos.

PETER BAKER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, they are reasonable, but this is Washington, and so that doesn`t necessarily apply, right? You`re right. On any given day, you can imagine certainly how in the past, Republicans and Democrats could have come together and horse traded on some of these issues, found some common ground, give a little here, give a little there. This being Washington, you can`t count on it anymore.

But you`re right, there is a new-found intent, at least, by the president to try to reach out to the Democrats. You mentioned the meetings today. They had a number of them. And in fact, he`s having for dinner Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. So this is a -- you know, a new phase, in effect, of his presidency. We don`t know whether it`ll last. It could be over tomorrow. But there`s certainly room for deal-making if both sides can find a way to get there. MATTHEWS: Yes.

We`re looking at a picture, by the way. It`s a picture through the -- into what looks like the Oval Office of this very aggressive, very demonstrative Chuck Schumer. We know he is like that. He`s very New Yorkish, in the sense of very open behavior, very demonstrative.

And there`s Trump pretty much the same way. They`re both mouthy guys. They`re both talkers. They`re both love to think quick.

It just seems to me that they speak the same language, to put it lightly. They`re both ready to make a deal. There is no cultural difference between Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump. Basically, they come from the same block, although one is from a different part of Brooklyn maybe. You know what I mean?


MATTHEWS: So what is the problem with getting something done? I just don`t see any failure to communicate there.

BAKER: Well, one of the problems -- or one of the challenges at least for getting something done is the disincentive.

If you`re a Democratic leader right now, there is a lot of people right knew in your base looking at you a little askance, wait a second, don`t be so quick to make a deal, especially with this guy. We spent seven months, eight months looking at Donald Trump as evil almost, some of them would say. And therefore suddenly making a deal, any deal is automatically suspect, even if it`s a deal that might be a good one.

That is for starters on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, on Trump`s side, he doesn`t necessarily control his own party. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were flabbergasted by last week`s deal, not happy about it. He surprised them at a meeting. This deal didn`t really address any of the substantive agreements.

It only sort of punted for three months. So whether President Trump can bring his own party along is a bit of a challenge as well.

MATTHEWS: I remember a great Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, saying it`s the job of leaders to lead.

And I agree with you about the concern on the progressive side in the Democratic Party, the active left right now. But I think saving DACA is worthy cause. Saving Obamacare is a very worthy cause, especially for people who are on the progressive side of things.

I think I could go -- if I were Schumer, I could come out and wave a paper that said, look, I just got DACA continued indefinitely, and I have gotten Obamacare, no more attacks on it, no more of this cutting in spending to sell it or inform people how to use it, the tricks that the administration has been pulling. That is all gone now. We have saved the program that our president elected last time, Obama created.

Maybe his greatest achievement is now going to be saved at least for further examination later down the road.

What do the Democrats gain from the government shutting down? What do the Democrats gain from the government unable to pay its bills? The Democrats are the governing party. They believe in government working. Republicans are on the hard right, the Freedom Caucus crap, that crowd, they love confusion and chaos and government shutdowns, you know what I mean?

It seems to me it`s in the -- I can`t make this deal sitting here. But it seems like there is a deal there to get some crap out of the way and also get some good stuff done for the Democratic progressive side. It seems doable.

BAKER: It does seem like there is a deal there to be done.

And you could see how President Trump was excited by last week`s fiscal deal, again, not a very big deal, honestly, but he was so excited by the reaction to it, by the sense of actually making progress, after feeling frustrated by seven months of not getting very far with his Republican allies on the Hill, and that is why he seems to be trying this out.

The trick is, though, of course, why do we have Paul Ryan as speaker? We have Paul Ryan as speaker in part because John Boehner, his Republican predecessor, got in trouble for making a fiscal deal with Barack Obama. His own party rebelled to some extent, the Freedom Caucus you mentioned.

So there is a skittishness I think on the part of party leaders to cut across the aisle. It used to be there was an incentive. You were rewarded in Washington if you could call anything bipartisan. Today, there is a disincentive structure built into the system.

MATTHEWS: Is your bet -- you know this. You`re a New York guy.

Is there a deal there to be made on tax reform? Is there a Democratic incentive to join the Republicans on something that gets rid of loopholes that makes the system better for middle-class people? Is there a deal to be made there with the Republicans?

BAKER: Yes, sure, of course there is.

Look, it has been done. Reagan did it with the Democrats in 1986. They reformed the tax code top to bottom.

MATTHEWS: I was there.

BAKER: You were there. You know what it`s like.

The trick is, they had a Dan Rostenkowski and a James Baker. They had deal-makers who wanted to get to a bottom line, Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood, guys like that.

I don`t know that this generation has that. It`s an interesting question. Can they reconcile their very different priorities in a tax reform and come up with something that meets them in the middle?

That is really, really hard. If health care was hard, this in some ways could be harder, because not only do they have Democratic priorities and Republican priorities. You have a million special interests out there that are trying to protect their own little section of the code that is really important to their particular industry or their particular consistency group, any one of which can bollocks up something on the Hill if things gets really messy.

MATTHEWS: You`re so smart.

By the way, Rostenkowski, for all the trouble he caused himself, was really clean and big on the big stuff. He really was good. And he and Baker worked together.

Thank you so much, Peter Baker, another Baker.


MATTHEWS: And up next, we will get the latest, very latest from Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which truly got hit hard. What a beautiful part of the world, part of United States territory. Hit so hard.

It`s continuing trying to recover down there in the aftermath of Irma.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

Eight patients at a sweltering nursing home in Florida have died after Hurricane Irma knocked out their air conditioning. The victims ranged in age from 71 to 99. The rehab center in Hollywood, Florida, has a poor record with state inspectors, that according to "The Miami Herald." More than 150 patients have been evacuated.

In a statement, Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was -- quote -- "heartbroken" and will demand answers.

Power is still out for more than four million Floridians, complicating recovery efforts.

A student has died in a shooting at Freeman High School near Spokane, Washington. The victim was killed when he tried to engage the student gunman. Three others had been injured. The gunman is in custody -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s been a little over a week since Hurricane Irma made landfall, bringing devastation and destruction. Initially, the Category 5 storm tore through a string of Caribbean islands, then veered left, finally turning right, sawing through Southern and then Western Florida, weakening through Georgia and then South Carolina.

In its wake, Irma left has thousands with the bleak reality of rebuilding their lives amid hot and dismal conditions. To date, 21,000 individuals remain in Florida shelters. Roughly 38,000 federal personnel have been assist in recovery and rebuilding after Irma.

Approximately three million meals and more than three million liters of water have been transferred to states in the Southeast. The islands of St. John and St. Thomas have received roughly 500,000 meals and about 300,000 liters of water.

As of today, roughly four million Americans in the continental United States remain in the dark because of Irma, and roughly 300,000 in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without power.

Sadly, as of Wednesday at noon -- that`s today -- NBC News has confirmed at least 65 deaths related to Hurricane Irma. This includes eight patients who died at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, because of the heat.

The next few weeks and months will remain a challenge for those battered by Hurricane Irma, especially for those in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which some say have been left in an apocalyptic state.

For the very latest, I`m joined on the phone by Katina Coulianos from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. She weathered the storm from her home in St. Thomas.

Katina, thank you for talking to us on the phone.

You know, I have been to Charlotte Amalie. I have been to Cinnamon Bay in St. Thomas. What shape is it in now, that area of the world of our U.S. territory?

KATINA COULIANOS, HURRICANE VICTIM: Well, I can`t speak for St. John, except I hear that it`s worse than St. Thomas.

I was just a few minutes ago at a home overlooking Charlotte Amalie, and the whole town is in pretty good shape. A lot of the -- most of the buildings have roofs and so forth. You can see we did have a storm surge, and the first few days -- we are under curfew. We`re allowed to go out between 12 and 6:00 p.m.

But when you drive around, you can see where there was a lot of mud and so forth, although they have cleaned it up. But you can see where there was stuff. And they`re working hard to clean things.

Our roads are slowly becoming passable. There are a lot of downed power lines. And all the utilities, things are down, so sometimes you`re down to one line, one road, one lane trying to dodge around hanging wires and things like that.

Now I`m overlooking the north side. I`m overlooking Magens Bay and Windburg (ph) Valley, which is where I live. And there`s a lot more damaged homes here. And the trees are much more devastated than let`s say on the other side.


COULIANOS: But, all over, the trees look like winter occurred, no leaves, lots of broken branches, many things uprooted, like that.

MATTHEWS: I hope you get that place back together. It`s a beautiful part of the world. I have been there. I wish you best. I wish you the best, Katina Coulianos, who witnessed it all and actually had a roof blown off.

For more on what is happening down in the Florida Keys on continental U.S., let`s go to NBC`s Jay Gray.

JAY GRAY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. Good evening, Chris.

We want to give a firsthand look at the devastation from this storm on the ground in the Keys. These barrier islands were ripped apart. And as you take a look, you can see the twisted metal, the splintered wood, the shattered glass.

That`s not debris, though. That`s people`s lives that are scattered across these barrier islands. And now they have got the monumental task of trying to recover and eventually rebuild here, though most you talk to say that is exactly what they plan to do.

They also acknowledge they are going to need some help in doing that. FEMA is on the ground here, obviously. You have got the National Guard, more than 8,000 troops here working to clear away what they can, but in so many areas like this one, the basic necessities that we all take for granted, food, water, cell service, they don`t exist right now.

And so getting things cleared away and getting that back in here is the primary mission. You have got people coming out, taking a look at what is left, if anything, of their homes and trying to salvage anything they can.

But most here come in realizing that this is going to be a fresh start. This is going to be something that they will have to do from the bottom up here.

The president travels to the state tomorrow. He will be on the west side, in Naples, touring the devastation here.

We have talked to people here in the Keys about that. Generally, what they`re saying is, they`re glad the president is going to be here. They can`t stop. There is too much work to be done here to stop down when the president comes to Florida, but they think, if he gets his eyes on the devastation here, if he sees it firsthand, that he will be committed to the recovery here.

It`s going to be a long, it`s going to be a difficult recovery, but again, they say they are up to the task here in Florida -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, NBC`s Jay Gray.

For more on the recovery effort in the Keys, I`m joined via Skype by Craig Cooper, a Red Cross volunteer who has been working in the Florida Keys.

Thank you so much for joining us.

What do you think? How long is this going to take to fix what we have already? I remember when they had a railroad that used all the way to Key West. That got blown away and never was rebuilt.

I assume the highway and everything else is going to get rebuilt all the way to the Key West.

CRAIG COOPER, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER: Well, we could have made it there today.

The good news, Chris, is that roads are being cleared. We drove as far as Big Pine Key today. And it was absolutely heartrending to see what is going on there. The devastation is as bad as everyone has seen on the news.

We have had some opportunities to talk to people. I actually was able to connect with someone who was a friend of a family friend and to let them know that they were OK.

But your question was, how long is this going to take? Obviously, it`s going to take months, if not years. After Sandy, where I live up on Long Island in New York, we`re still -- there is a little bit of recovery still happening all these years later.

MATTHEWS: FEMA is putting out word that 25 percent of the houses in the Keys are demolished. Do you like that number? Do you think that is right? Is it that bad?

COOPER: Well, the destruction that my partner Jim and I saw today as we drove around was pretty bad.

And I think if you combine the communities that are very heavily devastated with the ones that are in better shape, I don`t want to get into questions of percentages, but I will tell you the devastation is certainly as bad as we saw in New York after Sandy.

And it -- after Hurricane Ike in Houston, along the Galveston coastline, it`s that bad.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for that report. It`s a sad one, but thank you for being there, Craig Cooper.

Up next: Hillary Clinton speaking out about President Trump`s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. But she is also after Comey herself, saying he cost her the 2016 election. Wow.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": When it comes to the self-inflicted wounds, when you look at the list of them -- and you go through them in the book -- did you make enough mistakes yourself to lose the election, without any of the other things you talk about?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I will say no, Matt. I don`t think that will surprise you.



Matt asked the right question there.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Hillary Clinton, of course, talking about her 2016 defeat on "The Today Show" this morning.

Secretary Clinton opened up about the factors that led to her loss. And she didn`t hold back when asked who she thinks bears the brunt of the blame from her.

Let`s watch.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the determining factor was the intervention by Comey on October 28th. It stopped my momentum. It drove voters from me. And so, I think that in terms of my personal defeat was the most important factor.

I was just dumbfounded. I thought what is he doing? The investigation was closed. I know there`s no new information.

I feel very strongly that he went way beyond his role in doing what he did.


MATTHEWS: Despite her words on Comey, Secretary Clinton doesn`t agree with President Trump`s firing of the former FBI director.


MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: When you heard the news that James Comey had been fired by President Trump, what was your immediate reaction?

CLINTON: He was fired for the wrong reason.

LAUER: But should have been fired?

CLINTON: He should not have been fired for Russia. He should have been disciplined, whether or not fired, that is not for me to say, but he should have been disciplined for the way that he behaved on the e-mail investigation.


MATTHEWS: On "The View" today, Clinton was asked about her 2016 primary rival, Bernie Sanders.


CLINTON: I know what it`s like to lose because I lost in 2008 to President Obama. As soon as I lost, I turned around, I endorsed him. I worked hard for him. I was arguing with my supporters at the Denver Convention in 2008 about why they had to quit complaining that I didn`t win and get out and support Barack Obama. And I didn`t get that respect from him and his supporters.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL round table. Sophia Nelson is a contributor to, Eli Stokols is White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" and MSNBC political analyst, and Eugene Robinson, of course, is a columnist with "The Washington Post" and our serious hero here.

Gene, I want to ask you about this. We all have to be somewhat prudent in going after this because it`s very personal with Hillary Clinton.


MATTHEWS: She lost and has the right to blame whoever she wishes, I suppose.

How do you calculate one particular thing that cost her the election, when there are so many variables?

ROBINSON: Well, I don`t think you can. I mean, from her point of view, she was way ahead in the polls before the Comey intervention, she did seem to have momentum, I get all that. It`s not possible to quantify I don`t think.

And, for example, had she done better in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, she would be president today. Well, did the Comey intervention only have an impact in those states or you know, it was broader -- how do you pinpoint that? I don`t think you can actually say that, although one can understand why she would feel it.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was a good question by Matt Lauer, my colleague, and I really he`s great in any, he`s sort of a Bogart-esque kind of way of asking questions. He does it with some charm. But he pretty much nailed her and got her to say, it`s not my fault. Which I`m not sure was the total point of the book.

I think she wanted to take some blame but I don`t think she wanted it to look like it was everybody else`s fault. I`m not sure this was the subtlety she hoped for in that book writing.

SOPHIA NELSON, CONTRIBUTOR, NBCNEWS.COM: Well, I think it`s fair to say I`m a Republican woman who voted for Hillary Clinton. And I can tell you that there were other Republican women I know and other women who were on the fence about her and when the Comey thing happened, they said I can`t do it. I`m not doing the Clinton drama again.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was about Anthony Weiner and Huma, and the laptop, and didn`t offer any new information. My problem with Comey was, why didn`t he just run it through his system, find out if there was anything there that was probative, useful in the investigation, and say there`s nothing to it, and get it over with in three or four hours, but that`s all it took. It didn`t take ten or 11 days to election day. Eli?--

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Hillary has got a point when she talks about Comey, when she talks about misogyny, when she talks about all the things she talks about. But she`s got the point. The problem is she lost.

It may be cathartic for her. It`s not cathartic for Democrats, and it makes her look, when she`s sitting there saying, I take responsibility, and then saying, I didn`t make any mistakes, it makes her look sort of two-face there, like she`s trying to have it both says.

The biggest problem when she said -- the question that Lauer asked was perfect about, did you make mistakes, and she said, I don`t think so. I think her biggest mistake was trying not to make mistakes, running such a risk-averse formulaic, data-driven campaign that looked almost bloodless next to what Trump was doing. They thought they could follow the playbook and get there and they just sort of misread the electorate and a lot of things. I think that was a big mistake.

Did she make a gaffe every day? No, but, you know, that is not what the campaign was about.

NELSON: She didn`t connect.

ROBINSON: There`s another factor, though. There was a lot of Clinton fatigue out there, you know? I mean, let`s face it. She was probably perhaps the best candidate Democrats could have put up. But she lost to Donald Trump.

I mean, you know, you can`t lose to Donald Trump --

MATTHEWS: But still, Gene, think of the biggest --

ROBINSON: -- and say I didn`t make any mistakes.

MATTHEWS: I think, every time I get up in the morning, I say the biggest news today, no matter what else happens is that Trump is president of the United States. I still can`t get over it. It still blows me away because it`s not the way things work.

People generally are offended by the language he used. It was awful. And I don`t care about his -- talk about --

STOKOLS: It was a backlash to this idea about the way things were. People didn`t want to be told you can`t vote for this guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary`s argument to follow through was that she only carried California by 3 or 4 million votes, New York by a couple of million, would she have carried more in those states if this thing had not happened with Comey? Would she have carried California by 5 million votes, New York by 4 million votes? I mean, I just wanted, one of you guys raised the questions, how come it only affected the highly difficult, hard hit industrial areas where she lost?

ROBINSON: Well, and the answer is, no, I don`t think it just affected those states. I think it had -- whatever impact it had, it was a broader impact.


ROBINSON: But I think it`s pretty undeniable that the Clinton campaign missed what was happening in those Rust Belt states.


NELSON: But there is a plausible argument, though, when we`re talking about Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and those blue -- I grew up in South Jersey, right outside of Philly. You know what it`s like there. That`s blue collar territory. She didn`t connect with white voters in this country.

Let`s just get the 800-pound elephant out in the room. Trump did, he tapped into this anger, this fatigue, this frustration, and Hillary ran a straight laced campaign and she didn`t connect with people`s pain, their frustration, the racial tensions, the demographic changes in America, all of those things were in the room.

MATTHEWS: OK. And what would you have said if you were sitting next to her, three weeks before the election and said, you got to change your tune. You got a lot of money out there to spend. You can get the right message out, you are not addressing this white anger.

NELSON: There are people that told her that, her husband told her that.


NELSON: She didn`t listen.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know he did.

NELSON: She didn`t listen. Simple, I didn`t have anything else I could say. She didn`t listen.

ROBINSON: Well, it`s also true, though, if there had been a bigger African-American turnout, Obama-level African-American turnout in Milwaukee, and Columbus and Cleveland, in Philadelphia, she would be president today.

MATTHEWS: I know that. That is another argument.

ROBINSON: And Obama had a unique ability to bring people out.

MATTHEWS: He is also Obama. He was Obama.

What about this Bernie fight -- last stone thrown her by Hillary Clinton seems to be, she`s getting a little nervous I think is that blaming Bernie, and that means something tomorrow, the next day, 2020. Bernie is still out there campaigning, he`s got more -- you`re wincing, but to a lot of people -- people at the other end of the age spectrum like him.



STOKOLS: Well, I mean, you just got this Democratic Party --

MATTHEWS: She doesn`t like him.

STOKOLS: The Democratic Party is trying to turn the page, trying to figure out its identity going forward into next year`s election and obviously 2020. And this is just keeping the page turned back to 2016. The Bernie/Hillary fight, that`s really the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.


ROBINSON: You can`t pretend that Bernie didn`t put his finger on something because he really did. Or the candidates who had the position of universal health care. Bernie Sanders and initially Donald Trump, two of the candidates talked about trade --

MATTHEWS: Well, Hillary is one of the few --

ROBINSON: -- talked about trade in a different way. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: In all the years of watching this, like you and I, Gene, I have to tell you Hillary Clinton is one of the few losers who lost primary fights and then went on to really help the general election.

ROBINSON: It`s true.

MATTHEWS: Because most of the time, Gene McCarthy, go through the list, you know, Bobby -- Teddy Kennedy, they didn`t help. They didn`t help.

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


MATTHEWS: Senator Bernie Sanders today unveiled his Medicare for all plan, a proposal that would transition the country to a government-run health care system that would provide coverage for all Americans. At least 16 Democratic senators have signed on to cosponsor the bill, including potential 2020 candidates like Senators Elizabeth Warren, of course, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. When Sanders put forth similar legislation back in 2013, not a single Democrat signed on as a cosponsor. We`re still waiting to hear the arithmetic.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL round table.

Sophia, tell me more of what I don`t know. You`ve already been pretty good tonight. Go ahead.

NELSON: I tell you what, there`s an underreported story where the United States has sent troops to Poland in fear of a Russian land grab there. "Newsweek" reporting that but nobody is talking about it.

MATTHEWS: A Russian land grab?

NELSON: Yes, they think. So, we`ve sent some troops over there. We`ve sent some military folks over there to Poland to defend.

MATTHEWS: Is this 1939?

NELSON: I don`t know what it is, but that`s something we ought to be thinking about. Russians are at it again.

MATTHEWS: You`re sure about this?

NELSON: "Newsweek" reported it before I --

MATTHEWS: OK, great. Eli?

STOKOLS: The president this afternoon met with Tim Scott, the African- American Republican senator from South Carolina at the White House. Scott requested the meeting, wanted to talk about the president`s response to Charlottesville. We don`t know too much about the meeting. Scott says he`s expressed displeasure at the president`s initial response, also that the president has obviously reconsidered his response, but we didn`t see much of that. We just got a very short readout from the White House saying that everything was great and they`re interested in the race --


STOKOLS: And actually called Tim Scott Tom Scott in the White House readout of the conversation. That`s what we got.



MATTHEWS: I think he`s the saxophonist.

Go ahead.

ROBINSON: While here in the East and most of the country, we`re talking about the hurricanes, how incredibly wet it has been in Houston and in Florida. Out in the Pacific Northwest, they`re talking about how hot and how dry it has been. In Portland, there`s a big forest fires, one of the kind they`ve never seen before.

We`re going to talk about climate change in this country. We should do it now. We`re going to do it eventually, but we better talk about it.

MATTHEWS: Keep listening to Al Gore.

Anyway, Sophia Nelson, thank you, Eli Stokols, and Eugene Robinson.

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


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, September 13th, 2017.

It was another trifecta today on the Robert Mueller front. First, we learned that the son of Michael Flynn is the subject of an investigation. Remember him? He was the guy pushing the story that the pizza joint down the street from where we used to do HARDBALL was some kind of child prostitution ring. Some guy ended up by the way coming in there and shooting his gun in the air thinking this was some den of evil.

Well, just to give you the picture, it`s one of those family places where you bring your relatives, your brother-in-law`s family, whoever, the works and you all grab a long table and keep ordering pizza. The prices are not all that bad either.

Yet that Michael Flynn, the son. As we reported tonight, he`s one of the subjects now of Robert Mueller`s probe. You have to wonder what kind of thinking goes own with a guy like that, someone who`s benighted enough to believe conspiratorial nonsense like the pizza story.

Item two today, it appears the senior Michael Flynn has also been caught off base again, this time, he`s been found not reporting a little foreign engagement involving Saudi Arabia and some nuclear facilities in cahoots with -- guess this -- a Russian company. Why does everything have to do with Trump and his team, especially his family always end up involved with the Russians?

It reminds me of Denny`s, you know, that restaurant out in the highway. You don`t start out the evening planning to go there, you used to always end up there.

Anyway, finally, you got to love this one. This no comment from Flynn`s lawyer. We`ve gotten use to hearing the lawyers around Trump`s world denying all, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Donald Trump himself. The word is always not guilty.

What do we make of the lawyer for Trump`s former national security director now saying no comment when asked if there was collusion with Russia? No comment doesn`t sound like the battle cry of a winning army.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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