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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/19/17 U.S. bears burden of funding UN

Guests: Matt Apuzzo, Richard Blumenthal, Carrie Cordero, Ayesha Rascoe, Ruth Marcus, Steve Schmidt, Carol Leonnig, Jim Himes

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 19, 2017 Guest: Matt Apuzzo, Richard Blumenthal, Carrie Cordero, Ayesha Rascoe, Ruth Marcus, Steve Schmidt, Carol Leonnig, Jim Himes

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Don`t mess with Mueller.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Breaking news in the Trump-Russia investigation over the last 24 hours suggests that an indictment is possible, even likely, in the special counsel`s probe, and it`s become increasingly clear that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in serious legal jeopardy.

In a report on the aggressive tactics used by Robert Mueller`s prosecutors, "The New York Times" has revealed new details about the search warrant executed this July at Paul Manafort`s home, specifically that federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door. That means that prosecutors had to persuade a federal judge that Mr. Manafort was likely to destroy evidence.

Most significant, however, as I reported last night, is that Mueller`s team issued an unambiguous warning following the raid. Quote, "Prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they plan to indict him." That`s according to two sources close to the investigation. CNN is also reporting that federal investigators obtained two secret court orders to conduct surveillance of Paul Manafort`s communications. If true, that means that a judge saw indications of criminal conduct and was convinced that there was probable cause to believe that Manafort was acting as an agent of a foreign power. CNN further reports that some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

Two of those sources, however, cautioned the evidence is not conclusive. Well, that report has been independently verified -- not been independently verified by NBC News yet.

Reacting to CNN`s story, a Manafort spokesman released this statement late today. Quote, "If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant regardless of the fact that no charges have emerged. The U.S. Department of Justice`s inspector general should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration`s effort to surveill a political opponent."

I`m joined right now by one of the authors of that "New York Times" report, Matt Apuzzo. Carrie Cordero, by the way, is former counsel of the office of director national intelligence and Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Matt, tell us about this report. First of all, the picking of the lock. Why don`t you just knock?

MATT APUZZO, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I mean, that`s how it usually geese, right, Boom boom boom, we`re from the FBI, open up. And you know, Manafort comes down in his...

(CROSSTALK)

APUZZO: Yes, I mean, this was -- this was a -- what they call a no-knock warrant. They forced their way into the home. We know they...

MATTHEWS: Early in the morning.

APUZZO: Early in the morning. Manafort was still in bed. They made off with a bunch of binders full of documents. They copied the contents of his hard drive. They even photographed the suits that were in his -- in his closet.

MATTHEWS: Why would they do that?

APUZZO: Well, you know, when you`re doing a money investigation...

(CROSSTALK)

APUZZO: ... you want to know if -- how much money you have in the bank and whether, you know, if he only has X amount of money, how is he spending Y on, you know, suits or other luxuries.

MATTHEWS: Carrie -- explain to us, Carrie, why a judge would give a warrant for this no-knock operation, this pick the lock thing, rather than show a little pleasantness to the guy you`re investigating? What level has that reached that the judge would say, Break open the door, basically?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER ASSOC. GENERAL COUNSEL, OFFICE OF DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, this investigation is being run like a major criminal enterprise investigation, or it reminds me of some major public corruption investigations, where it`s -- it`s -- there`s perhaps a conspiracy, other individuals involved. They obviously...

MATTHEWS: So the judge believes this guy is the bad guy?

CORDERO: They had reason to believe that evidence might be destroyed, maybe that, you know, files would be deleted. I would expect that electronic data is so important in criminal investigations right now that those hard drives or other electronic devices that he had, information that was on them, were items that they wanted to take without any disruption to the...

MATTHEWS: What do you make, Carrie, of the fact that the prosecutors or rather we believe the prosecutors, or the FBI agents themselves told -- maybe you could tell us this. It`s in the -- told Manafort he`s going to be indicted?

APUZZO: Well, I mean, they`re clearly not...

MATTHEWS: Why would you tell that to somebody? What would be the tactic involved, Hey, guess what, you`re going to be indicted for federal crimes?

APUZZO: Well, Look, It`s a one-two-three, right. You search the house. You tell them you expect to indict them and then you come back over the top and you subpoena his lawyers. These guys are...

MATTHEWS: Explain to me that strategy, that...

(CROSSTALK)

APUZZO: They`re clearly trying to send a message or set a tone that -- you know, that they`re coming for Paul Manafort.

MATTHEWS: We have a prosecutor here. Senator, thank you. You were attorney general of Connecticut, so I bring this up to you. What`s the tactic you see here (INAUDIBLE)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The tactic is to persuade Paul Manafort that they mean business, that he is going to be indicted if he does not cooperate. And I think the overlay here is that, clearly, he is being noncooperative. He is resisting. He`s stonewalling them. And I can tell you he`s doing the same to the Judiciary Committee, where I sit. He`s very resistant. He`s not responding. And I think we`re going to have to issue subpoenas to him assuming that it is consistent with what the special counsel is doing. And this kind of resistance, I think, will be met with the very aggressive tactics that the special counsel is very rightly using.

MATTHEWS: Senator Dianne Feinstein answered questions today about whether Paul Manafort might speak to the Judiciary Committee. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you think that Paul Manafort will talk to the Judiciary in light of this information about his wiretaps?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think he will, if he`s under subpoena.

QUESTION: How close are you guys to that right now?

FEINSTEIN: I can`t answer that precisely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Or are they going to say, Are you guys going to subpoena him?

BLUMENTHAL: We should subpoena him. And if he claims the 5th Amendment privilege, he`s entitled to do it, but he should do it in the open, under oath and before the American people. I`ve been a long-time advocate that he should be subpoenaed and Donald Trump, Jr., should be, as well, and everybody who participated in that June 9th, 2016 meeting.

Plus, Chris, very, very importantly -- and your question is absolutely key -- all of the documents should be subpoenaed, as well. We`ve received documents from these potential witnesses, but we have no assurance that they are a complete set, nor will we unless there`s a subpoena.

MATTHEWS: Well, not -- not everyone`s thinking about how the president is going to protect himself from Paul Manafort when he begins to spin, begins when he begins to talk. What about the pardon issue? Is this something that the president is going to use quickly or wait it out -- wait until he`s actually subpoenaed, wait`ll he`s indicted? They say he`s going to be indicted. The clock`s ticking.

APUZZO: Well, I mean, look, I don`t know if the clock is ticking if you`re Bob Mueller. I mean, he`s clearly moving aggressively and swiftly. He does -- we know from his time as an FBI director, he doesn`t like these kind of meandering, languishing investigations, but I don`t know that he`s necessarily on a timeline. As to whether the president is going to pardon somebody, I mean, that`s outside sort of my area. I`m not in the president`s head. If he wants to pardon people, he can pardon people. There`s not exactly a huge check on that.

MATTHEWS: Carrie, what is the check on a pardon? Is there any one?

CORDERO: Well...

MATTHEWS: Is there anything that can stop this president, any time he wants, no matter -- begins to smell really bad, he looks -- the guy`s ready to flip, Manafort or Flynn or anybody else, can he at the last minute say, you know what? I don`t even care if he`s indicted. I`m going to pardon him.

CORDERO: Well, there certainly is speculation that that potentially is the strategy of some people not to cooperate, that they think they`re going to get a pardon. But look, Article 2 is not a blank check for lawlessness. If the president starts pardoning Manafort or anybody else in this investigation, people like Senator Blumenthal, his colleagues in Congress, are going to have to recognize that...

MATTHEWS: And what can they do about it? Senator, what can you do if the president wants to pardon people?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, the convention...

MATTHEWS: To cover himself.

BLUMENTHAL: ... is legally that the pardon power is absolute. But a pardon of Paul Manafort could be additional evidence of obstruction of justice by the president. It may be within his power do it, but not to abuse it if it is used to conceal evidence against him. And added to his firing of Comey and the statement that he prepared for his son on Air Force One, an apparently false statement that he apparently dictated, and other evidence, it could be used in an obstruction of justice case against him by the special counsel.

MATTHEWS: Back to you, Carrie, because this creates an interesting set of possibilities if he decides, the president, to pardon some of the people who might (INAUDIBLE) testify against him. Suppose he says to Manafort, I`m going to pardon you, and then Manafort says, Well, I`m not going to talk anywhere. I`m not going to hurt the president at all because they`ve got no leverage on me. But at the same time, the president has then made a move that looks like obstruction. So is he more vulnerable then to an obstruction charge even though he may have gotten rid of one witnesses, Senator?

BLUMENTHAL: Well...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) ready to go here. Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: Remember, Chris, also on the pardon of Paul Manafort, he can still be compelled to testify. He can be subpoenaed to testify. And if he`s been pardoned, what`s his 5th Amendment claim? And he can also be compelled to testify or charged criminally at the state level, which is why the special counsel`s cooperation with the New York attorney general, which is apparently ongoing, is so important.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Carrie about the level of seriousness here. The fact that the federal judge allowed that no-knock rule, allowed the FBI agents to show up at dawn, pick the lock before the guy can get out of bed and he`s in his pajamas, come barging in, look for all the stuff -- what does that tell you about the FISA court and what they decided to do to allow this level of action, if you will.

CORDERO: Well, I think those -- based on those reports, I think those are probably two different court orders. So the warrant authorizing the overt search, I that was a criminal court, a regular federal district court that authorized that, which would be an unclassified order. Separate from that is the CNN reporting that there were separate FISA surveillance or search orders, which would have been classified orders, and I believe those are separate from the...

MATTHEWS: Are they wiretaps?

CORDERO: According to that report, there were wiretaps or possibly a search. It`s unclear from...

MATTHEWS: It said communications. What does that mean?

CORDERO: So a FISA surveillance order could be targeted at phone calls, e- mails, things like that, any type of different communication, and it`s authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court under a different standard than a criminal order. So what it tells you -- here`s what it tells you, tells you that there is a wide-ranging investigation involving Paul Manafort that has aspects of both criminal activity in terms of financial crimes and a counterintelligence angle.

MATTHEWS: Wow. How do you put it all together if you`re the reporter?

APUZZO: Well, I mean...

MATTHEWS: I mean, the fact is -- is he working for Russia? Is he working to make money? Is he working to make money by working with Russia and helping Trump get elected? Is it all intermingled?

APUZZO: I think this case has -- as Carrie said, has these really unusual elements of both a counterintelligence investigation and a criminal investigation. I mean, look at the resources, over a dozen prosecutors. You know, you take your typical white collar investigation, you don`t have anywhere near these kinds of resources on this. And they just showed you they`re pulling out all these different strains in a super-super-aggressive way. And this is -- they`re using tactics that are not normal in your typical white collar investigation.

MATTHEWS: Well, in advance of his scheduled closed-door interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee, longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen circulated his opening statement, which denied collusion with Russia. Arriving on Capitol Hill this morning, Cohen met with committee staffers for an hour before the interview was canceled and postponed by Senate investigators. Here`s what Cohen had to say afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Why was it postponed?

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP LAWYER: (INAUDIBLE) question you`re going to have to ask the Senate (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Was it your request to postpone? Was it your request to postpone or was it on the committee?

QUESTION: What were you doing here today if you weren`t (INAUDIBLE)

COHEN: It was a request by the Senate Intelligence (INAUDIBLE) And I`ll be back and I look forward to getting all the information that (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the committee had said that Cohen violated an agreement they had with him, with congressional investigators, by speaking to the media about his testimony beforehand and the interview will be rescheduled for next month in an open hearing. Cohen was behind the effort, obviously, to develop the Trump Tower in Moscow, which he says was a real estate deal and nothing more.

Senator, how do you read all this? This business, business, business mixed in with running for president and money? Money.

BLUMENTHAL: Well, I think Matt put it well. Who you have here is a lot of different potential criminal violations entangled, money laundering involving business abroad by Manafort and potentially Donald Trump, Jr., and others. You have potential money laundering involving members of the Trump campaign. And you have potential collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in meddling in this election. And the Russian playbook is to entangle...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: ... to involve foreign officials or entrepreneurs in activities involving the Russian oligarchs or the government itself and then compromise them. And that`s the Russian playbook.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. I heard that from an FBI agent I went to school with years ago. Get them to give you just a press release, something anybody can give, and then you say, Well, you were helpful before, now you can be helpful again. Won`t you be? Because we have you.

Anyway, thank you, Matt Apuzzo. Thank you, Carrie Cordero, and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. We`re going to have more on the Russian investigation ahead in the program tonight.

But coming up next, after all the negative things President Trump has said about the United Nations, today was his day to say it to their face. And in his speech to the General Assembly, he threatened to destroy all of North Korea and, it didn`t stop there, believe me. That`s ahead.

Plus "The Washington Post" reports that congressional investigators believe Facebook is withholding information in the Russian probe, and that could mean the Russian influence of last year`s election goes beyond what we currently know already. Anyway, the HARDBALL roundtable on whether Trump broke the bonds that the grown-ups have and the foreign policy team tried to put him in, those bonds they tried to put him in, preaching the importance of America`s role in the world -- well, that didn`t work. It sure didn`t sound like that today at the U.N.

Finally, let me finish tonight with some bad news for the 1st Amendment.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Mitch McConnell today praised the latest Republican effort to repeal "Obama care" saying a proposal put forth by Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, quote, "has a great deal of support."

That said, there are signs that the legislation could be in trouble. Senate Republicans can only afford to lose two members of their caucus. If they lose a third, the deal is dead. They`re not going to get any Democrats to kill "Obama care." Already, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has come out against the legislation calling it "Obama care lite." And today, Maine Republican senator Susan Collins had this to say. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Sounds like you`re a no on Graham-Cassidy. Is there any way you`re going to get to yes?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, I`m leaning no certainly, but I am still evaluating the big (ph) bill and its text.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s two. He can still do it with 50.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some in fact, are going to hell. The American people hope that one day soon, the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a dark speech today at the United Nations. President Trump warned that parts of the world are going to hell. That sounds like his comment about American neighborhoods in big cities. According to "The New York Times," the speech was drafted by his hard-line policy adviser Stephen Miller, the guy responsible for Trump`s so-called "American carnage" inaugural address. Here`s more from today`s combative performance by Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States.

The Venezuelan people are starving, and their country is collapsing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s main focus was North Korea, of course, a country he`s threatened to wipe off the map. He did it today. He also repeated his insulting nickname for that country`s leader, Kim Jong-un, calling him "rocketman." Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No nation on earth has an interest of seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, what`s behind this bellicose talk? Is this about feeding his base?

I`m joined by Republican strategist Steve Schmidt.

Steve, he`s talking to the world there. And I assume that whatever President Trump, our president of the United States says, he is going all around the world, all hundreds of countries, poor countries, countries I ha civil war where they`re starving, where they`re refugees, where their governments are in terrible shape. Maybe they suck.

But what`s the point of saying so? What does he gain in the world by trashing that part of the world that`s having the worst time right now?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there`s a way to talk honestly and openly about deficiencies in the United Nations.

He`s not wrong when he talks about the mismanagement of the United Nations, that there should be greater accountability.

MATTHEWS: No.

SCHMIDT: But he obscures that message with his rhetoric.

The words of the president of the United States matter. And we have never seen an address by any president of either party to a world body, to the leaders of the world like that, with really the vulgarity of rhetoric there.

MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like what he said about African-American neighborhoods during the campaign, remember, when he was trashing them.

Some of the neighbors are tough neighborhoods, but what good is it to trash them? And now he`s trashing the parts of the world.

Let me go to North Korea, because we`re used to the rest of this nonsense he does. North Korea. If a guy has got a gun in his hand, you don`t make fun of the guy. You don`t say fatso. You don`t say Rocket Man. You don`t mock the guy. He`s got a gun. He`s got a suicide belt on this guy, a huge amount of rocket power, of artillery he can let go into South Korea tomorrow morning.

SCHMIDT: We don`t know a lot about the North Korean regime.

MATTHEWS: And now he`s got the bomb.

SCHMIDT: We don`t know a lot about Kim Jong-un. We don`t know what makes him tick.

This is as closed a society as there is on Earth. Everybody in that room, every leader in the world understands America`s nuclear deterrent and the awesome power of this nation, which is why the president of the United States can walk softly.

He doesn`t have to bluster in the manner of Kim Jong-un. And I think, historically, history teaches us that leaders believe that they control events, but history teaches that events control leaders. And when the events start to control the leaders, it`s when the miscalculations begin.

MATTHEWS: Is he talking to the world or is he talking to his base?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think that was a domestic political speech.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

SCHMIDT: And I think he`s confused about the duty that he has.

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he give it in Iowa? Why does he give it in the United Nations?

SCHMIDT: Well, good question

But, look, it`s not a speech that if you`re the British prime minister, the German chancellor, you have had occasion to meet Donald Trump, you have taken his measure, and I don`t think that speech today made any of them fall out of their chairs.

MATTHEWS: I`m talking about the other countries that are more fragile. And there are a lot of countries in the world who have real problems. They don`t need to have the big rich country dump on them.

Anyway, "The Washington Post" noted after the speech, "Just to be clear, the president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map."

What do you make of that?

SCHMIDT: Well, it`s extraordinary.

MATTHEWS: How do you do that? It sounds like he`s talking nuclear weapons.

SCHMIDT: Of course he is.

You have never heard an American president talk as loosely about the use of our nuclear forces as has Donald Trump, just as we never saw a candidate talk about loosely.

MATTHEWS: For who? Why is he doing it?

SCHMIDT: Why is he doing it?

I think it`s a function of his unpreparedness as president of the United States. Never had a president bluster about the use of nuclear weapons.

Interestingly, at the end of the Second World War, Chris, Douglas MacArthur on the Battleship Missouri, in his surrender speech, he talks about that we no longer have the option of war of the type that was just thought because of the scientific advancements, the use of nuclear weaponry.

And we would have to come up with better institutions than the ones we have ever had before. So, it`s remarkable to see a president in front of the United Nations blustering about the use of nuclear weapons.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me tell you something.

When I interviewed him and he got in that trouble with women must be punished for abortion, in that same interview, he seemed to not understand that you have weapons for deterrence. You don`t have -- he said, why do we have nuclear weapons if we`re not going to use them?

I mean, it`s like building blocks or girders. Like, you got to use in construction. You use weapons. He didn`t seem to understand that they have been there since 19 -- oh, 1945 as a deterrence.

SCHMIDT: He has no idea of America`s nuclear triad. Over the course of the campaign, he demonstrated that. He clearly understands we have these weapons so they will never be used.

And, again, you have never seen an American president talking as loosely about the use of nuclear weapons as you saw in front of the United Nations today.

MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump`s message, the world has taken advantage of the United States. So, let`s watch that. That`s the woe is me case, the woe is me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.

As long as I hold this office, I will defend America`s interests above all else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s for home. OK. That`s not going to hurt anybody.

But, you know, if every country gave that speech, we`d have a hell of a United Nations.

What I thought was interesting, one thing I will give him, he said something about the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, which has always been sort of a joke. Libya was on it. Gadhafi was. All the guys in the world, the Third World, worst countries in the world, were on it.

They`re supposedly looking out for human rights? You have got membership like China.

SCHMIDT: Sure.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s a bullseye right there. I will give him that one.

SCHMIDT: Dead on. Bullseye. Totally agree.

But there`s no country that has benefited more from the liberal global order that emerged at the end of the Second World War than the United States.

What he`s talking about, whether it has domestic resonance in this country or not, is just not truthful. It`s not reality. It`s a constricted vision of the world and our country`s place in it that just doesn`t hold up any -- under any level of rigor and scrutiny.

MATTHEWS: Do you like the way he said, welcome to New York, it`s my town, like you`re -- I`m a home court advantage here.

By the way, the U.N. happens to be in New York, but it`s not really -- it`s really at our sufferance. It was pretty bullying. But you know what? I understand the mentality. It`s sort of a New York thing.

Steve Schmidt, thank you, sir.

Up next: Congressional investigates are concerned that Facebook isn`t being forthcoming, honest, when it comes to the Russian investigation. They believe the social media site Facebook is leaving out critical details about how the Russian operation has been working.

We`re going to talk to a member of the House Intelligence Committee next what Facebook and what it`s probably hiding here, but maybe giving to Mueller, but not giving to Congress about how the Russians used Facebook to put their points across, their disinformation.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.

And we have some breaking news. A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Central Mexico today. Buildings collapsed and thousands ran into the streets. At least 119 people have died. That is according to the Associated Press quoting local officials.

The number is expected to climb as rescue efforts continue. The earthquake hit less than two weeks after another one that killed close to 100 people there. President Trump expressing support, tweeting -- quote -- "We are with you."

Now for the latest on Hurricane Maria from NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: We have the new update in from the Hurricane Center.

And, unbelievably, it is still intensifying on its way to Puerto Rico. This is as scary as it gets. And we`re only about 18 hours away from landfall of what will be just a devastating, will be the worst storm ever to hit Puerto Rico, now up to 175-mile-per-hour winds.

That`s almost as strong as Irma when it hit Barbuda. And you saw what those pictures looked like.

The forecast path takes it over Puerto Rico, and then, thankfully, it looks to stay away from all land areas throughout the next five days. So, this is the key map here. Later on tonight, towards midnight, it will get as close as it`s going to get to St. Croix. They`re already starting to lose power on the island, as the winds are starting to intensify.

It`s going to be so close if they get in that eye or not. But, unfortunately, for Puerto Rico, the line goes straight over the top of you. It doesn`t look like it`s going to be a miss whatsoever.

We`re expecting somewhere in Puerto Rico to have catastrophe from 160-, maybe 175-mile-per-hour winds. We`re already tracking the eye of the storm here is.

And this what we will be tracking. Wherever this eye goes is who will get that devastation. It`s a little small pinhole eye. And this has the 175- mile-per-hour winds in it. We need that to avoid land.

Unfortunately, it has its eye set on Puerto Rico. And if that crosses over San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the million-plus people that live in that region, you can only imagine the devastation tomorrow.

We will have more updates throughout Maria and on the earthquake throughout the night -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We need to know the full extent of their use of social media to influence us from Facebook, from Twitter, from Google, from any social media or search engine. They need to be fully forthcoming. And I`m confident they will.

I think, frankly, they need to come testify before Congress, because there`s a lot we need to know about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s for sure.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff of California on Facebook`s cooperation, or lack thereof, with congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"The Washington Post" reports today that the company`s openness is being questioned by congressional investigators, saying they`re -- quote -- "increasingly concerned that Facebook is withholding key information that could eliminate the" -- or "illuminate the shape and extent of a Russian propaganda campaign aimed at tilting the U.S. presidential election."

A major sticking point, according to "The Washington Post," "the full internal draft report from an inquiry the company conducted this spring into Russian election meddling, but did not release at the time."

Hmm.

Another issue, some information, including details about ads bought by a Kremlin-linked company, has been shared with special counsel Robert Mueller, but not with congressional investigators.

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat for Connecticut and member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post," who wrote today`s story.

Congressman, let`s talk about Facebook and how this thing worked.

First of all, tell me how it`s believed that Facebook aided the Russian misinformation or intervention in our campaign, our presidential elections. What was the Facebook role?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes. Look, it`s hard to say, because we have not yet gotten the kind of information and cooperation that we do want, not just from Facebook, from other social media companies.

Remember Twitter. We`re talking about Facebook today, but Twitter, remember that Roger Stone admitted to using Twitter direct-messaging to talk with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

I don`t want to get too much into the specifics of the investigation, but, generally speaking, we face resistance because -- and I think it`s because these companies, Twitter and Facebook, for understandable business reasons, want to be able to go to their customers and their users and say, we only provide information when we`re absolutely compelled by the government, usually via subpoena or a warrant.

And that`s what we`re experiencing right now.

MATTHEWS: But if the Unabomber used Facebook, wouldn`t they have to give the information out to the government?

(CROSSTALK)

HIMES: Well, they have to, period. It doesn`t matter if it`s the Unabomber of a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee or a warrant from Bob Mueller`s investigation at the FBI. At the end of the day, they have to do it.

We often find, though, with witnesses, witnesses will often come voluntarily or send us their information voluntarily. That`s not the experience we have, again, for business reasons that you can sort of get. That`s not the experience that we usually have with the social media companies.

MATTHEWS: Carol, we know that the Russians were involved in using social media, Facebook in this case, to send advertisement into our country to influence voters.

What we don`t know, and many people suspect, who are the people that helped them from the American side? Do we know that yet?

CAROL LEONNIG, "THE WASHINGTON POST": We don`t know that yet, actually, Chris.

And part of the reason is, Facebook is saying that they can`t determine that from their own vantage point, whether or not there was a U.S. person colluding with the Russian small, murky, mysterious troll farm company, an Internet research company in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

They don`t know if somebody was working with that company here in the U.S. to help the Trump campaign target specific voters, specific Facebook users, or even people on Twitter.

Remember that Facebook divulged to us and to Congress some weeks ago that 470 accounts it had shut down were essentially fake ones created in Russia by this funny, mysterious company called the Internet Research Agency. And all we know is that somebody in Russia was funding this effort.

It`s a group very much associated with the Kremlin. And we can`t tell yet whether or not there was a U.S. person. I think you are hearing and understandably sharing with your viewers the frustration that Congress has that they can`t get all of the answers to their questions about how this worked, because Facebook really feels that it can only answer these questions in full probably to federal investigators who are looking at whether or not this is a crime.

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess, Congressman, last thought.

You`re an equal branch of government. It seems like that Mueller is able to grab these people, force them through just influence in his role as special counsel to tell them who these Russians are that are paying for these ads on Facebook, whereas Congress doesn`t get that respect.

HIMES: Well, yes.

Make no mistake on that. Look, a congressional subpoena is, in terms of how you respond to it, no different at all from a law enforcement subpoena.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HIMES: You don`t answer a congressional subpoena, or you don`t have one of those very narrow exceptions, like attorney-client privilege, you either answer that subpoena or you`re in contempt of Congress, which is not a place that you want to be.

What we do -- what is different here, though, is that Bob Mueller has a very big team. He can get these subpoenas out. He`s not necessarily going to look for voluntarily cooperation, as apparently he did, if the story is to be believed, with respect to the Manafort raid.

So, our process, we usually ask for voluntary cooperation first and the -- traditionally, or at least typically, the companies have said no, so they can go back to their people and say, we only provide information if we`re compelled by subpoena or by law to do so.

MATTHEWS: So there`s nobody in Congress, Republican or Democrat, trying to protect Facebook from giving these names? There`s nobody looking out for them?

HIMES: No, I don`t think so.

In fact, there`s actually a fair amount of memory and in some circles resentment over -- remember the old Apple-San Bernardino issue? Apple really resisted hard cooperating with the FBI in terms of getting into that individual`s cell phone.

So, if anything, there`s sort of a sense in the Congress that we`re not -- and, look, we understand the commercial implications of this. But there`s a sense that law enforcement and the Congress is probably not getting quite the level of responsibility and reaction that we would like to get from some of the technology companies.

MATTHEWS: It`s the old slippery slope argument that the NRA uses. If you give away the Russians, you give away the guy next door.

Carol, you had a thought. Go ahead.

LEONNIG: Yes.

Keep in mind this isn`t just about disclosing business secrets. There`s also the embarrassment factor. Mark Zuckerberg said very famously around the time of election that there -- his platform that is, like, part of our American fabric was not being misused, that there was a lot of claims of fake news being promulgated on his site. He said 99-point-whatever percent was actual, authentic news.

And now, some months later, he`s having to acknowledge that, actually, there was a lot of face news being pushed on Facebook right under their noses, and they weren`t looking very hard for it.

In fact, our reporting is that, until Senator Mark Warner asked some very pointed questions about this in May, Facebook did not begin looking hard at ad purchases on its site, and this is how they found this most recent trove of fake accounts run out of Saint Petersburg, Russia.

MATTHEWS: You`re a great reporter, Carol. Thanks so much for coming on, Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post," and Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Up next: new reporting that Trump`s national security team schooled him on the importance of America`s presence around the world. So, did any of that shape his U.N. speech today? Apparently not. They had to teach him how to be president of the world anyway. Anyway -- in the world.

The Roundtable is going to weigh in on that baby.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it went very well. I said what I had to say and I think the United Nations has great potential. If they get there, it will be something that will be very, very special. But I think the United Nations has great, great potential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That was his review of himself.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s the president saying how great he was. Anyway, his overall assessment in his first address to the United Nations assembly has been given. But ahead of the speech, "The Associated Press" is reporting that the president`s top cabinet members felt like they had to give the president a crash course in what they call American power 101.

According to "The A.P.", back in July, not too many months ago, Trump`s national security team had become alarmed by this president`s frequent questioning of the valuable, robust American presence in the world. The sessions lay out the case for maintaining far-flung outposts and to present it using charts and maps the way the businessman-turned-politician would appreciate it.

So, they have explained why we have embassies around the world and people like that, and aide workers and stuff like that.

Anyway, did the home work pay off or did the president break the bonds of his globalist chains on the international stage today? Well, apparently, he ignored everything that he was taught.

For more, I`m joined by our roundtable tonight. Ayesha Rascoe sitting right here, White House correspondent for "Reuters", Michael Steele, former RNC chair and an MSNBC political analyst. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of "The Washington Post".

Ruth, I got to go to you because you`re my international person here. So, they pull him in, it`s almost like a scene from the movie "Dave", and all this card and they explain who this one.

RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is China over here. This is Africa over here, trying to explain why we have to have outposts over there, because we get gold over here and we got minerals over here, whatever. Trying to explain why we have strategic concerns in the world. We have PEPFAR over in East Africa, and all these places we have to worry about, and to worry about China.

And then he goes into the speech today like a bull in a China shop. In fact, he brought his china shop with him. He just went in there and just blasted away, made fun of poor countries, said he`s going to bury North Korea. That`s all anybody is going to hear. Your thoughts?

MARCUS: Well, bull in a china shop, yes, but he didn`t take on China too much.

But, you know, in "Dave", the guy who --

MATTHEWS: That movie.

MARCUS: -- yes, the movie, the guy who was playing president actually was pretty diligent. I remember him sitting there with his accountant kind of going through it and figuring out the complexities of the budget. This speech didn`t quite achieve that level.

MATTHEWS: Who was he talking to and why did he ignore all his lessons?

MARCUS: He put in some lessons, he did mention PEPFAR, the AIDS program. He mentioned the Marshall Plan. So, you can see these little like, OK, that`s on the test, that`s on the test kind of things.

But he really could use like the refresher course or the second semester of that, because fundamentally, he wasn`t speaking to the world leaders there. He wasn`t speaking to try to say, OK, you`ve heard about this guy Donald Trump and you`re worried about him. I`m here to calm you done. He was speaking, I think Steve Schmidt made this point earlier, to a domestic audience.

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s my theory, Michael. Let`s get to 202, not 201.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think what he was doing was balancing his act and Trump is a showman. He goes, look, I`m going to have to give away on DACA. I`m going to give away -- once they were called DREAMers, I know what nicknames mean. Once you get a good name, a good brand, you`re OK. I`m going to send them to other country. I`m going to have to make a deal on the debt ceiling, on keeping the government open, a bunch of things I`m going to deal on.

I`m going to have to leave the Iranian deal as it is, no matter what, I have to say. So, what I`m going to do is do a lot of bombast, a lot of Hillary Clinton golf ball back of her head, knock her down, do all of this stuff to appeal to the guys on the bar stools right now and they`ll love it so I can get away with the other stuff, the practical stuff. Your thoughts? Brighton circuses.

STEELE: I think that`s about -- I think that`s three-quarters right. And the reason I say three-quarters, I still think there are aspects of Donald Trump where he is going to push that envelope and try to get his way. And I think this speech is a good example of that. He -- you could tell the Trumpisms, you know, calling out North Korea and Kim Jong-un as a rocket man and all, putting his little slangy twist on it to let the folks in the room know, yes, I can do the diplomatic thing but I don`t really want to.

So, I think he --

MATTHEWS: Who is that for? Again, who is that for?

STEELE: I think -- for two people. I think it`s the base and I think it`s for Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: I think it`s for his own self satisfaction that he cannot be controlled even in moments like this that those sides of him still show through.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think it`s interesting because how do you -- he`s talking to the base but how do you talk to the American people? I mean, not the American people but do the world leaders.

But even if President Trump had come out there and not had the Trumpisms in the speech, I wonder how much of an impact it would have when he`s on Twitter the next day hitting golf balls at Hillary Clinton. I wonder as a world leader when you`re looking at President Trump, do you go, you know what, the scripted side of President Trump, is that really what we pay attention to?

MATTHEWS: Well, I was looking at Boris Johnson today. He`s the sane one at the table. That was weird.

Anyway, go ahead.

MARCUS: But it`s -- I pay attention to both sides. I pay attention to teleprompter Trump and I pay attention to tweeting Trump because they show two different sides of him. The fact that this teleprompter Trump speech was so bellicose, was so I`m going to say it may way with rocket man and threats of destroying a country, with the use of the word sovereignty more than I think probably any world leader has said that word before the United Nations.

MATTHEWS: What does that mean to you?

MARCUS: It means America first, America primary. That he understands the role of countries promote their national interests, not solely but primarily. And the notion of America as a sort of exporter of American values, as a champion of human rights around the world, that`s just in regimes that we don`t like, but in regimes that we like but know can do better on human rights, it`s a transactional kind of Hobbesian universe that he lives in.

MATTHEWS: Putin would love it.

Anyway, the president began his speech with a decidedly domestic message. He waxed about the success this country has had since he was elected. Let`s watch this statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high, a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ayesha, you know, he`s pretty good at beating that drum.

RASCOE: Yes, well, and that was one of the things that stood out to me. He`s starting out the speech at the United Nations saying, look, I`ve done a really good job as president. Guys reelect me.

MATTHEWS: He`s the guy you want to sell your house for.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: That`s the domestic consumption side of this speech for the Washington -- for the New York/Washington audience, maybe, but certainly for the middle of the country.

MATTHEWS: I wish Al Gore could brag as well as this guy. There`s a couple of Democrats along the road. I said, if you just learn how to brag.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You know?

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, "The New York Times" is reporting that the president`s son Donald Trump Jr., quote, has elected to forego protection by the Secret Service. According to "The Times", he was said to be seeking more privacy than he can expect with a contingent of agents accompanying him everywhere. Well, the agency reportedly stopped protecting Trump Jr. just last week.

"The Times" also reports that Kellyanne Conway has also given up her Secret Service protection. I guess it helps you stay away from the news reporters.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Ayesha, tell me something I don`t know.

RASCOE: So, I did a story on President Trump and his outreach to evangelicals and I found that surprisingly enough in his first 200 days in office, he actually mentioned God more than President Obama and more than President George W. Bush. He mentioned God 100 times in his first 200 days versus President Bush did about 64 times.

MATTHEWS: OMG.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Michael?

STEELE: Well, Sebastian Gorka, the erstwhile communications guru for the Trump administration now out in the private sector, pulling together the MAGA coalition.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: Make America Great Again coalition, apparently teaming up with Bannon and Sarah Palin. They plan to be a counter weight to what the president is going to be out there doing. So, it will be interesting to watch the push back that convention does against this administration.

MATTHEWS: Thanks, Michael.

Ruth?

MARCUS: Something you knew, probably knew but may have forgotten. I went back and I looked at Barack Obama`s last speech to the United Nations. He talks a lot about global interconnectedness and he said -- you`re going to like this quote -- today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself. There you go.

MATTHEWS: That was prescient.

Ayesha Rascoe, Michael Steele and Ruth Marcus.

When we return, let me finish tonight with some bad news for the First Amendment. You are watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with some bad news for the First Amendment.

According to a national poll of 1,500 college students, about one in five think it`s OK to use violence if you don`t like what a public speaker has to say. If you believe it is disgusting or hateful. These students believe you have a right to use violent means to silence such views.

Well, many more of the students surveyed in this national poll -- half in fact -- said it`s all right to create so much disruption in the room, such unearthly havoc, that a speaker can`t even be heard.

The partisan break down for such views is disturbing. Democratic college students are more likely to say it`s OK to disrupt the public speech that defends them. Men are more likely than women to say disrupting a public meeting in order to silence the speaker is OK. Men are more likely than women to back the use of outright violence to silence words they consider hateful.

Well, back when I was in school, it was those in the liberal side or on the left who defended free speech, defended the right of even communists to speak their views without violence or disruption. Freedom of speech is a basic right. We know that. It`s in the Bill of Rights for that good reason, to protect those with unpopular views.

Popular views are easy to defend. Unpopular views are not. That`s why we have this Constitution. Boy.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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