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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/27/17 Trump unhappy with Price travel

Guests: Eli Stokols, Annie Linskey, Ricardo Rossello, Matt Schlapp

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 27, 2017 Guest: Eli Stokols, Annie Linskey, Ricardo Rossello, Matt Schlapp

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Here comes the judge.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump came face to face last night with the limits of his political power. In a Republican primary fight down in Alabama that pitted an establishment-backed candidate against a conservative firebrand, President Trump bet on the establishment candidate and lost big. The president even went down to Alabama himself last week to rally supporters for his candidate, Luther Strange. He downright tweeted for his guy.

Well, today, all those tweets have been deleted. He`s now enthusiastically backing the Republican candidate, Roy Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a man who`s going to be a great senator. And I -- I`m very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I`m very happy with him. And I have to say Luther came a long way from the time I endorsed him, and he ran a good race, but Roy ran a really great race and I know what they did with Mitch and they used him very much in the campaign, but he works hard and I`m sure things will work out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And anyway, so who is Roy Moore and why are moderate Republicans afraid? Well, Moore is a former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court who was once -- or actually twice removed from the bench, once for his refusal for remove a monument to the 10 Commandments from his courthouse, and then again removed for instructing judges in the state to ignore the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. He has a history of inflammatory statements. He backs criminalizing homosexual behavior wherever it can be found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think homosexual -- homosexuality or homosexual conduct should be illegal today? That`s a yes or no question.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Homosexual conduct should be illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s called homosexuality itself an inherent evil and abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature`s God. He has suggested the attacks of 9/11 happened because God was punishing what he calls perverseness. He was asked about that last night and didn`t back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: I`m not God. I don`t know what God does. You know (INAUDIBLE) it`s the lack of morality in our country which has landed (ph) these things and the only basis for morality in this country is God (INAUDIBLE) logic and in law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Which has led to these things. Anyway, over the years, Moore has also backed the birther movement -- of course he would raising questions about President Obama`s legitimacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: I think they can holler political question all they wish, but it`s a simple fact that if he`s not a natural-born citizen, he`s not qualified to be president. And I don`t care who he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Moore has advocated blocking a Muslim elected official, Keith Ellison, from becoming a member of Congress just because he`s a Muslim. He has falsely stated there are communities under sharia law right now in our country. And he`s attacked the entire religion of Islam itself. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: False religions like Islam who teach that you must worship this way are completely opposite than what our 1st Amendment states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that is the man who will very likely be the next U.S. senator from Alabama. What does it mean for the Senate, for Republicans, for President Trump?

I`m joined by "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa, "The Wall Street Journal`s" Eli Stokols and "The Boston Globe`s Annie Linskey.

Let`s go with Robert Costa. What do we make of this, and was Trump really flummoxed by this, because somebody`s going to the Trump side of Trump?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The White House is pushing back on the idea today that he`s flummoxed by the whole situation, but it was a political rupturing for President Trump. It showed that he does not have total control over his core voters, the Republican base, and that that`s uneasy. That makes a lot of Republican senators on Capitol Hill feel uneasy about their chances next year as they look at reelection.

MATTHEWS: Well, does this mean that Trump -- does he now realize he`s in the caboose, not in the engine, and that he`s following -- responding to this populist, grass roots thing which may have its heart down in the deep South, like Alabama, hard right, alt-right, if you will, not exactly positive about diversity and certainly not big on gay rights -- that group that backed him -- is he the leader of that group or simply the repository of their support until they get somebody further right than him, like Judge Moore?

COSTA: Alabama is not an example of those voters moving away from President Trump. He still remains their leader in spirit, but he`s not their director. And that`s a really key distinction. They`re not taking cues from this White House. And if you`re a Republican on Capitol Hill, counting on President Trump to be at your side, just like he was for Senator Strange, and he can`t pull Strange across the finish line, then you start to wonder, Maybe I should retire. We saw Senator Corker announce that yesterday. Others, I`m told, are mulling the same.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Annie Linskey. Annie, you know, I`m looking at the Republican Party. Is there a Republican Party? There`s Mitch McConnell. He`s there, but he seems to have no relationship to the president. The president would rather deal with his fellow New Yorker, Chuck Schumer, and have Chinese with him (INAUDIBLE) out of those little white boxes. He`s more at home with him than he is with this guy from Kentucky.

I don`t even know what he does anymore because he can`t pass anything. Health care fails again and again. He`s a defeated army and he`s general of that army, and Trump now says, Who else can I work with? Oh, I guess I`ll work with the Democrats. And oh, by the way, I`m going to do a tax reform bill that`s more Democrat until I do the details. And then I`m going to try to deal with this far-right guy.

LINSKEY: Yes, no...

(CROSSTALK)

LINSKEY: It`s such a fractured party right now. And there are just so many pieces to it. And I think, you know, certainly, when you saw last night when Steve Bannon got up on stage to, you know, introduce Roy Moore, I thought -- and said, This is the beginning of the revolution, you know, that was a key piece because one of the power centers is clearly Bannon, not necessarily Trump.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LINSKEY: And then you have Mitch McConnell on the other side.

MATTHEWS: Which would you rather have backing you in the deep South and a lot of parts of the country? Would you rather have Steve Bannon, the alt- right hero and strategist, or the president? Looks like you`d rather...

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: By the way, if I were really cruel, Eli, I would have a box score up there, a big box score, and it would say -- oh, we have one!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Hold that up there -- Bannon 1, Trump 0. It`s the first time they`ve gone up against each other and Bannon`s won. And everybody knows it in the country. Trump`s lost.

ELI STOKOLS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think Trump knows it. Bannon knows it. Bannon probably doesn`t have it on a whiteboard in his office because he doesn`t want Trump to find out about it. But you know, I think...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have a whiteboard?

STOKOLS: Well, he had the whiteboard in the office in the White House with all of his, you know, to-do items on it. But no, I think that it`s less important about whether it`s Bannon or Trump who sort of, you know, officially endorsed (INAUDIBLE) I mean, Roy Moore is basically a demagogue in the style of Donald Trump and relates to a lot of...

MATTHEWS: But I think he believes this stuff.

STOKOLS: ... those same voters, No, that`s right. I think, you know, the problem...

MATTHEWS: His anti-gay -- down the line attitude about the Old Testament - - he`s the Old Testament version of Trump!

STOKOLS: Right. Right.

LINSKEY: I think he`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Fire and brimstone.

LINSKEY: ... actually. I mean, I think ideologically, there`s an argument you could make that he`s a bit closer to Pence even than Trump. I mean, he`s a conservative in a much sort of -- he really believes it in a way that Trump has an ideological flexibility that we hear about so much.

STOKOLS: Well, and you know, the reason Trump endorsed Strange in the first place was because he was easily manipulated. He had advisers bring his comments that Mo Brooks made in the primary that were negative about Trump and he said, Well, I don`t like that. Who else can I endorse? And he endorsed Strange not really even knowing that Moore was out there and likely to win.

So he got himself in this box. But you heard him today basically saying, Well, you know, they used Mitch down there a lot. I was treated fine, but they used Mitch, sort of like Republicans use Nancy Pelosi against Democrats in a general election. What he`s saying is, This isn`t my fault. Obviously, Trump made it easier for them to use Mitch because what was he doing...

(CROSSTALK)

STOKOLS: Mitch, you`re not getting this done. Mitch, it`s your fault.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they`re running against Mitch the way they used to run against Bella Abzug or Tip O`Neill or Teddy Kennedy. Look, this is Republicans. Roy Moore has been an aggressive critic of Mitch McConnell. And here in an interview with Breitbart, he said this about what his victory would mean. "I hope it sends McConnell and the Senate leadership fund another message, is that they can be beaten and let them run scared for a while." One of his campaign ads also went after McConnell. Watch this baby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They lied about repealing "Obama care." Now Mitch McConnell`s D.C. slime machine is spending millions spreading lies about Roy Moore. Drain the swamp. Send McConnell a message. Send them all a message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a strong -- sort of an Alabama sound a little bit anyway. According to Politico, a fund-raising e-mail told supporters Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate means the end of Mitch McConnell`s reign as majority leader. To your point.

STOKOLS: Well, I mean, it`s a thankless job. I don`t know who else would want to do it. But the caucus is changing. Yesterday, you didn`t just have Moore`s victory in Alabama. You had Bob Corker, a stalwart moderate in the caucus...

MATTHEWS: Friend of Mitch McConnell`s.

STOKOLS: ... respected across the aisle.

LINSKEY: Yes.

STOKOLS: He decided he`s hanging it up. And you have other Republican challengers styled along the lines of Trump in Arizona and a number of other states emboldened by this. And so it`s not just Alabama. Alabama is the tip of the spear.

LINSKEY: Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... three pieces of the Republican Party. There`s the leadership, which is becoming atrophied and useless. There`s the Trump crowd, and there`s still -- Republicans still vote for Trump in every poll we take. But then there`s the part that just wants to quit. Charlie Dent from Lehigh, Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley...

LINSKEY: Governing (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: ... walking away. That part I think is going to grow.

LINSKEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think a lot of these guys don`t like this.

LINSKEY: Yes. And (INAUDIBLE) Dent -- he calls himself part of the governing wing of the Republican Party. And I mean, it is -- it -- they are showing...

MATTHEWS: Not anymore. If you leave, you`re not governing anymore.

LINSKEY: You`re not governing anymore. And so far, the party has not been able to govern. I mean, in the first seven, seven-and-a-half months of the Trump presidency, there`s been very few accomplishments, if any (INAUDIBLE) also add that Luther Strange was not a good candidate. I think we just have to remember here that this is another instance of an establishment installing a candidate that the people decided they didn`t like. And I think when you are in that dynamic, especially right now, it`s -- you`re -- you`re -- you`re asking for some trouble.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Robert. Robert, let`s talk about how Trump won and where he may be in trouble around the edges. He won not just because of the T in Pennsylvania, the rural part in the middle between Pittsburgh and Philly, he also won because he did pretty well, certainly better than expected in the suburbs, Bucks County, Montgomery County even, and he certainly did well in Lehigh Valley and places like that. Now you see Charlie Dent from Lehigh Valley quitting. What about all those other guys, Fitzpatrick and Meehan and all those -- are those people getting a little -- and people from south Jersey -- all they all getting a little nervous about their kissing cousin here?

COSTA: They`re not nervous when they hear the president talk about tax cuts today. To them, that`s the kind of refrain they`d prefer to hear every day.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTA: What makes them nervous is the weekend talking about the NFL and taking a knee and the flat and the politics of grievance and the president`s wading into the culture wars. That makes suburban Republicans skittish about their reelection chances, and they just are not confident that the president can focus his message, focus the party ahead of 2018.

MATTHEWS: Well, one theory I`ve heard, which makes sense to me, is every time Trump decides to deal with the Democrats, deal with Nancy on keeping the government going, continuing resolution, boring stuff like the debt ceiling, going along with DACA, which really doesn`t really offend the right wing that much in the suburbs -- he always bounces it off with some wild right-wing crazy cultural statement, whether it`s the NFL or some -- in other words, he feeds them circuses, as I said last week, while he basically feeds them bread, too. He keeps them happy on taxes and pragmatic stuff, the left and the center. Meanwhile, he keeps the right wing and his people stoked up with the cultural fight.

Do you see that pattern? I do. He`s mixing it up like a baseball pitcher. He`s mixing it up, the right-wing cultural stuff with the pragmatic deal- making with the center and the left.

COSTA: My sources tell me there is somewhat of a strategy at times. But Chris, to be candid, often, the president is careening from controversy to controversy. So while he is using his instincts to try to guide him and understand what his base wants, there`s really no coherent way of understanding a lot of the political strategy that`s coming out of this White House.

MATTHEWS: Eli, last word. Is it strategic or is it just serendipitous and God knows what?

STOKOLS: I think Rob put it very well. I mean, sometimes it`s just a matter of impulse control, but he does know that he needs to sort of keep the base happy and a lot of these things...

MATTHEWS: Circuses.

STOKOLS: ... are doing it. He thinks -- our reporting is that he thinks this NFL controversy, which he has stoked, is actually good for him. This is a president dividing the country who thinks it`s to his political benefit.

MATTHEWS: Well, you got to get to Friday night on route 40 or someplace like that, at the barroom and have the guys on the stools telling us which way they`re going to -- I think you may be right. Anyway, I think I there might be a mix on this one, anyway. Robert Costa, Eli Stokols, Annie Linskey, what a trio.

Coming up, the devastation in Puerto Rico is massive, as we all know now, unfortunately, and the Trump administration is unfortunately pushing back against the growing criticism. But is it doing enough actually? Even Republicans are warning against a Katrina-style political disaster, as well as a natural disaster. We`re going to talk to the governor of Puerto Rico next.

Plus, Roy Moore`s victory last night in Alabama challenges the Republican Party as we know it, the existent Republican Party. Trump has helped create something on the right, something he can`t control. The question now is whether Democrats can exploit the Republicans` lurch on the right.

And more bad news for Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, the guy who wants to take away "Obama care." Well, he used private planes to meet up with friends and have lunch with his son all at taxpayer expense. In other words, money that was to be used for health care. And he`s just one of those three cabinet Trump members now fleecing American taxpayers fro private aircraft.

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STOKOLS: We need gas. We need our hospitals not to become death traps. This is a big SOS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was San Juan`s mayor talking about the humanitarian crisis that Puerto Rico faces and asking the U.S. government to do more to help. Today President Trump says he feels badly for the people of Puerto Rico and reiterated his plan to visit the island next Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Puerto Rico is in a very difficult situation. That place was just destroyed. That`s not a question of, Gee, let`s dry up the water, let`s do this or that. That place was flat. That is a really tough situation. I feel so badly for the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Trump administration has also come under criticism for not waiving the Jones Act. That act requires that ships going between U.S. ports be owned by and crewed with Americans. Anyway, the act was waived after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and critics say it`s slowing down the aid that Puerto Rico needs right now. It`s in contrast, by the way, to the British (INAUDIBLE) the other night in World War II, when they sent every boat or ship they had to rescue their people in Dunkirk.

President Trump today said the administration was still thinking about it but that he was concerned about the shipping industry. Let`s hear it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don`t want the Jones Act lifted, and we have a lot of ships out there right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello. Governor, thank you for joining us. You know every answer to every question, so let me ask you this. Generally, is the U.S. government in Washington doing the job for Puerto Rico right now?

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: Well, yes. Thank you for the opportunity, Chris. The answer is yes. They are working diligently. We`re having communication, but you have to understand that this is a devastation of an enormous magnitude, that our grid, our energy grid is completely destroyed, and that we are in an island. So getting resources over here has been, you know, a (INAUDIBLE) limiting step. (ph) So you know, we`re working on it. We`re delivering food and water. We`re making sure diesel gets to the people. We`re right here (INAUDIBLE) to make sure that that`s happening and it`s done in collaboration with the federal government.

MATTHEWS: Do you want the president to waive the Jones Act?

ROSSELLO: I think he should. You know, we can have a larger discussion later if it`s important in the long run or not, but right, now we need all hands on deck, as they did in Irma. We had a one-week waiver. I think we need every boat that can come in. And I don`t think it harms the industry because, quite frankly, we just need all hands on deck and every boat that can supply, you know, basic necessities should be coming to Puerto Rico.

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, President Trump boasted that you had repeatedly praised his handling of the recovery efforts. Let`s listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have been really treated very, very nicely by the governor and by everybody else. They know how hard we`re working and what a good job we`re doing. As Governor Rossello just told me this morning, the entire federal workforce is doing great work in Puerto Rico, and I appreciated his saying it and he`s saying it to anybody that will listen.

And the governor said we`re doing a great job. In fact, he thanked me specifically for FEMA and all of the first responders in Puerto Rico. We have had tremendous reviews from government officials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor, is all that true? Are you on the same page with the president?

ROSSELLO: Yes, the president has been very diligent. He has essentially talked to me every day. Every petition we have of him, he has answered in the affirmative. He issued two pre-landfall emergency declarations. He declared Puerto Rico a disaster area by my petition verbally as the hurricane was passing Puerto Rico. He waived the cost-sharing for FEMA, and now, you know, recently, we asked him for more resources. They`re coming over here.

But I want to say, Chris, that this is also the state government that`s helping. You know, Governor Cuomo is helping. Governor Baker in Massachusetts is helping, as well, Governor Hogan, Governor Scott, Governor McAuliffe. A lot of people are helping and putting resources. But the president has been very diligent and has answered our requests. Now we just need to recognize that those human resources that we need on island need to get here as fast as possible.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much, Governor Ricardo Rossello. God bless Puerto Rico, sir.

Up next, Senator Bob Corker`s just the latest temperate Republican heading for the exits. Is quitting the only way to show rebelliousness in the Republican Party right now? That debate is coming up next here.

And this is where the action is, HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m honored to be here today with many of your tremendous modern-day leaders.

We`re joined tonight -- and I want you to give him a nice hand, because he`s on our side. Got to take good care of our people, right?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And he`s got a lot of power for the people of Kentucky.

By our Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Where is he? Come here, Mitch.

Everything good? That health care is looking good? Good. Thanks, Mitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Health care is looking great.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

What a difference a half-a-year makes. That was President Trump back in March praising Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Well, today, a day after his candidate Luther Strange lost, President Trump is stewing over a string of defeats, his seeming victories only coming when he works with Democratic House majority -- or Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow New Yorker who speaks his language and eats Chinese with him.

Anyway, according to Axios, the president is openly venting about his frustration with what he considers the failed leadership by Senate Republicans and making fun of Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator John McCain. So, in private, he`s mocking these guys.

And, according to Politico, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is privately acknowledging that Roy Moore`s victory last night would stoke insurgent bids across the country.

This comes as a stinging defeat for Senator McConnell just hours after one of his close allies, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, there he is, announced that he`s not running for reelection next year.

Yesterday seemed to highlight a deepening divide between the establishment wing of the Republican Party and the populist wing personified by the president`s own election.

So who or what exactly is the Republican Party of 2017?

For more, I`m joined by Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, who had dinner with Trump Monday night -- we got to hear about that -- and David Corn, who did not have dinner with the president Monday night, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Well, what it was like not to get...

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I couldn`t make it. I couldn`t make it, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I know. OK, too bad you had to RSVP.

Matt, what`s the president...

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: I would like to see that, though. That would be kind of fun.

MATTHEWS: Well, you can arrange it with your inside.

Let me ask you about the president and taking this buffing -- buffering, because it seems to me he put his name on the ballot for Strange. By the way, there`s an odd name anyway, Luther Strange. But it didn`t work.

And this other guy, who is a wild man, a wild man, hate -- the stuff about gays is so out of line right now in terms of our Constitution, as we interpret it now, and yet it doesn`t seem to bother Trump. And he flipped 180 today: He`s my guy, this guy Moore.

SCHLAPP: Yes, that doesn`t surprise me.

I actually think Trump actually was with Luther Strange, because he was the incumbent, although he was only appointed. He voted for the Trump agenda. They ran this primary about who could be the closest to Trump. And Roy Moore certainly didn`t try to have any separation with Trump.

And Trump wants a reliable vote in the Senate, and he`s going to be for the Republican. That should not be shocking.

MATTHEWS: But a week or two ago, we would say Roy Moore was a wild man. He`s the guy who got the Ten Commandments in his courthouse.

SCHLAPP: He didn`t go after Roy Moore, if you notice.

MATTHEWS: You`re missing my point. Your Republican Caucus in the United States Senate -- this isn`t some odd state senator here. He`s in the United States Senate. His name is Roy Moore.

SCHLAPP: Right.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And he`s been kicked out of his judgeship twice because he won`t obey the Constitution.

SCHLAPP: I think that`s a problematic thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Is he going to take an oath to the Constitution?

SCHLAPP: He absolutely is. He`s going to have to, or he`s not going to get seated.

MATTHEWS: And what does that mean? He doesn`t allow his current interpretation to affect him. Boy, I think you`re stymied here.

David?

SCHLAPP: I`m not stymied.

I`m just saying, it`s like the voters chose Judge Roy Moore. And the president is standing behind the Republican. And we`re going to have another election. And I think Roy Moore is going to be the next senator.

CORN: The Republican voters of Alabama chose Roy Moore, the way the Republican base voters chose Donald Trump.

They are going for some of the more extreme and erratic candidates that the party has to offer. They`re turning against the governing Republicans, anybody with anybody real experience for the job.

Listen, Roy Moore not only compared homosexuality to bestiality. He`s not just against it. He calls it bestiality. And, at "Mother Jones," we just put up that clip.

But also he says there`s Sharia law in Indiana and Illinois. That shows that he`s really not that smart a person. Yet Republican primary voters chose him. And it shows that the party is sort of still in the grips of this Tea Party fever in which they are turning towards extremists who want to disrupt and destroy and who don`t show experience or competence.

SCHLAPP: Well, let me just tell you, as far as the Tea Party movement is concerned, they were focused on the Constitution, which I think we all think is a good thing.

As far as the governing majority, this is the big thing, which is, the problem for Mitch McConnell and the other leaders, who I have respect for in the Congress, is, is that the base of the Republican Party feels like they are actually not governing and getting it done.

If they were getting these things done, like repeal and replace -- we will see what happens on taxes. I`m optimistic, but if they don`t get it done, they are not governing in that case. They were given a majority and it ain`t happening. Our party, my party has a big problem with the fact that they are not implementing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know how you play musical chairs when you`re in grade school and everybody loses a seat?

SCHLAPP: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s like your party is losing seats for moderates.

Like, Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania just quits. Bob Corker just sits. But the people...

SCHLAPP: We haven`t lost...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They are not comfortable in the party anymore, these guys.

They`re not being -- they`re not comfortable.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, just a minute.

And all of a sudden, a guy like Roy Moore feels comfortable. He`s part of the Republican Party now. And these other guys don`t feel like they are. So, moderates or people who we used to call mainstream Republicans are quitting. The wild people are coming on board.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are you going to defend that as a political move?

SCHLAPP: Look, in fairness, I will tell you that I think the Republican Party is moving to the right, and I think the Democratic Party, with their strident voices of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, they are moving to the left. I think we`re seeing the reduction of power of these parties and the strident voices are taking over, strident voices like yours.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: You see Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer actually trying to govern, find out where they can persuade the president -- not just the president, but other...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Well, then give Trump credit, too. Then give Trump credit, too.

CORN: Yes, but they are the ones putting this deal together. They came forward.

And we may see this in infrastructure. We won`t see it on tax reform, because tax reform is going to really be bad for people in the low middle class, middle income.

SCHLAPP: They don`t pay income taxes.

CORN: But, nevertheless, but the thing is, a lot of Republicans do not want to govern. They want to disrupt and destroy. They want to come here.

They don`t want to -- they don`t have a plan. They don`t have a health care plan. They want to get rid of what is there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Make your statement about how working people don`t pay taxes. Say that again. Just keep saying it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Fifty percent of Americans pay income taxes, Chris; 50 percent of Americans don`t. That`s not my numbers.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, they pay sales taxes. They pay payroll taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Look, we don`t want to get stuck here, but a lot of them actually get rebates as far as income taxes are concerned.

So don`t say that the poor are paying income taxes. But the second thing of all this question is, if you`re going to say...

MATTHEWS: Pay property tax.

Don`t tell me that working people in this country don`t pay taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: I said income taxes. They don`t pay income taxes.

I`m for them paying -- I`m for the -- I`m the low-tax guy here. So, I will win that argument every time.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: But the fact is, if Schumer and Pelosi get credit for trying to govern, Trump`s in that mix. And you have to give all of them credit for trying to govern. You can`t just say, oh, it`s just the Democrats who are trying to reach across the aisle.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: How has Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan tried to?

SCHLAPP: That`s their problem, is they don`t look like...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: You can`t have it both ways.

They can`t be extreme to meet the Republican Party base desire, and then work with Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Don`t worry. They are not meeting it.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Because any time they work with Democrats, they tried to work with Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would we be better off if we never had Obamacare?

SCHLAPP: Yes, I think we...

MATTHEWS: No, we would be better off going back to nothing?

SCHLAPP: No.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Let me finish. Can I answer?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, you can say it your way, but you can`t -- if you will answer.

SCHLAPP: I will answer.

I think we would have been better off on these big questions of entitlements that it be done in a bipartisan way, like your old boss and Ronald Reagan.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the question.

See, the problem...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: Yes, we`re better off without it. We`re better off without it.

MATTHEWS: Oh, in other words, we would better off just repealing it?

SCHLAPP: Absolutely.

CORN: And having nothing.

MATTHEWS: Well, you can`t get a bill for that.

SCHLAPP: Not having nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLAPP: You see how big this government is? Not having nothing? That is absurd.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They are unable to get a vote that says repeal Obamacare, because they know it`s better than what we had. That`s...

(CROSSTALK) CORN: They don`t want to go back to preexisting conditions and all that.

SCHLAPP: I will say on your TV show that this country would be better if Obamacare had never passed. And there`s a lot of Democrats that...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: No.

MATTHEWS: See if you can get 51 senators for that.

Anyway, thank you, Matt Schlapp, speaking for the minority of the Republican Party.

David Corn, thank you, speaking for many in the Democratic Party.

Up next: the latest in the Russia investigation, new reporting that these Kremlin-linked Facebook ads promoted Green Party candidate Jill Stein, all in an attempt to divide the Clinton vote.

We are going to talk to a member of the House Intel Committee to explain why the Russians are pushing Jill Stein, who, by the way, was at that he dinner table over there with Michael Flynn, if you remember that picture.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

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

President Trump is in Indianapolis pitching the Republican tax plan and calling it a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Corporate and individual taxes would be slashed and tax brackets consolidated. It is not clear how Republicans will pay for these cuts.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has been effectively fired, according to his attorney. It`s part of a federal investigation into NCAA bribery schemes where coaches were allegedly taking cash to steer athletes to certain managers and schools.

A driver trapped by rushing water from flooding water was rescued in Oklahoma City today. Only a tiny guardrail was holding the SUV in place. Emergency crews got the woman to safety. No injuries were reported -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump is lashing out over reports revealing the extent of the Russian-sponsored ad campaign on Facebook during the `16 election. He now says the social media company actually worked against him, suggesting that Facebook also colluded with other media outlets -- quote -- "Facebook was always anti-Trump. The networks were always anti-Trump. Hence, fake news. `The New York Times` and `Washington Post` were always anti-Trump. Collusion?"

Well, this comes as Politico reports that a number of Russian-sponsored ads on Facebook were designed to peel support away from Hillary Clinton among left-wing voters. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform, even after his presidential campaign had ended.

Furthermore, Jill Stein was the beneficiary of at least one of the Russian- bought political ads, according to a person with knowledge of the ad. It said, "Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it`s not a wasted vote."

Well, "The Hill," the Capitol Hill newspaper, is reporting late tonight that Senate Intelligence Committee has invited Facebook to testify in an open hearing. NBC News also reports that representatives from Twitter will meet with both Intelligence Committees tomorrow.

I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Eric Swalwell of California, who sits on the House Intel Committee.

Congressman, I`m overwhelmed, because I`m looking at numbers in the last campaign that shows how Jill Stein, a minority candidate who only got a few votes, made the difference in states like Michigan, where she got 51,000 votes. The margin there between Hillary Clinton and Trump was 11,000, five times the vote she took away from the battle between the top two.

In Wisconsin, she got 31,000 votes. Trump won by 21,000. So, if there was a conniving here, a strategy to destroy the election for Hillary by dividing up the left and center vote, it worked.

My question to you, when they write the history of this campaign, will they write that the Russian involvement in dividing and conquering on the progressive side of the political spectrum was decisive?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Chris, good evening.

Also of note here is the level of sophistication. The hashtag on the post that you just read said, "Grow a spine, vote Jill Stein." That is an idiom, grow a spin. And idioms are often lost in translation, which makes you wonder if they had help on the inside here.

The smartest political scientists in Russia probably wouldn`t understand how to use U.S. idioms to U.S. voters.

And so I do think they weren`t just lifting up Donald Trump and tearing down Hillary Clinton. They were trying to alienate likely Clinton voters and peel them off away. And so that`s what we`re seeking to understand.

MATTHEWS: Do you know the technology which would allow us to prove what you just said, or to find the truth there about whether -- how Facebook was used, how smart intel spotting on the ground, like you suggested, knowing the idioms and things like that, how that all worked together in terms of a collusion?

How would you have to prove something like that?

SWALWELL: Yes. Well, one way we could do that is to look if advertisement A, the Jill Stein advertisement that was funded by Russians, if there`s a similar or identical advertisement funded by another foreign entity or a U.S. person.

You could probably assume that they were in some way working together, but using cutouts to post it, because $150,000 seems like a relatively low amount. And the Russian way is to use cutouts and other sources of funding.

And so you can do that diagnostic by doing a pixel analysis. It`s going to take a little bit of time, but that`s one way that better be conducted.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at something we sort of overlooked.

I agree I`m part of the overlooked people. I overlooked it. Look at Jill Stein sitting there with Putin. I mean, Michael Flynn was there. He`s on the left. Putin in the middle. And Jill Stein is sitting. They`re all dressed up for a nice fancy dinner very comfortably there in Moscow with the head of the Russian government there.

What do you make of that courtship? You got to call it a courtship, brought her over there, wined and dined her, and then promoted her through Facebook, apparently. Well, they did.

SWALWELL: Yes.

Frankly, Chris, I would love to hear from Jill Stein about why she was at that dinner and whether she had followed up at all with any Russians. That would also be helpful for us in our investigation, knowing now that the Russians sought to use her candidacy to also tear down or take away votes from Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Well, I couldn`t get her on HARDBALL, but I guess Putin knew how to get the big get. He got her over there. I couldn`t get here in Washington.

She was a hard -- I couldn`t even get Gary Johnson here, who didn`t know any world leaders. He couldn`t name one world leader. But she wouldn`t even come on this show, but she wouldn`t mind hanging around with him.

This is interesting stuff, that the Russians are sophisticated enough to divide the progressive side of the political spectrum, to the detriment of the one progressive, Hillary, that could have won.

Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California on the Intel Committee.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

MATTHEWS: Up next, is this draining the swamp? Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is under fire for taking taxpayer-funded private jets when he could have taken the regular commercial flight. He`s not the only cabinet member under fire for the same reason, reportedly abusing the system. That`s next with the roundtable.

These guys are supposed to be cleaning the swamp. They are swimming in it.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you personally, I`m not happy about it. I am not happy about it. I`m going to look at it. I am not happy about it and I let him know it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s not happy about it. He`ll let him know.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump being clear in commenting on Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price`s use of private jets for official business. The cost to taxpayers for that trouble, more than $400,000 since May.

Well, "Politico" reports that Price often combined business with pleasure rather than a, quote, Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simon`s island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land. A day and a half before, he addressed a group of local doctors at a medicine conference. Adding that on June 6th, HHS chartered a jet to fly Price to Nashville where he owns a condominium and where his son resides. Price toured a medicine dispensary and spoke to a local health summit organized by a long time friend. He also had lunch with his son.

Well, the HHS inspector general is conducting a review of those expenses and now, the president says he`s looking into Price, too. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in Secretary Price?

TRUMP: I am going to see -- I`m looking to that very closely. I am not happy with him. I will tell you, I am not happy with him.

REPORTER: Is it possible you fire him, maybe? Would you fire him, sir?

TRUMP: We`ll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`ll see. Did you hear that?

Price is one of the three Trump cabinet members facing questions about their air travel.

Let`s bring in HARDBALL round table. Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, MSNBC political analyst as well, Betsy Woodruff is a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast", and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

John, what do you make of this kind of stuff? You can say small potatoes but it`s what most people connect with.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Tom Price should be in a stronger position if they pass Obamacare repeal with the president, first of all. Second of all, this reminds me of when David Watkins, remember him, he was fired in the Clinton administration because he took a helicopter ride with golf clubs.

Anytime you embarrass your boss in this kind of way, it`s bad for you especially when your boss is not sure about you. David Watkins got fired and it caused a big problem for the Clinton administration in 1994. This is a problem for the president.

MATTHEWS: Betsy, I`m thinking about the average person who takes a trip once in a while, they consider it a real luxury. And they sit back in 28D, and they are wondering, why does this guy get to fly on his plane at my expense? Because that money is supposed to go to health care, not his travel plans.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Exactly. And I think the optics of this particular narrative is what`s really damaging to Price. Of course --

MATTHEWS: And we don`t even see it.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Exactly, right. Everybody knows how planes work. Everyone is familiar that private planes are slightly nicer than the alternative. I mean, I don`t know. I would assume.

MATTHEWS: You have your own flight attendant, nobody is bothering, plenty of air to breathe and usually, you know, a lot of nice cupcakes and stuff to eat while on the plane.

WOODRUFF: Sounds pretty good. Yes. And normal people can understand that that is a special privilege that appears to be coming with Tom Price.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Sorry to interrupt, but, Cornell, he`s not talking about a private flight to somewhere in Oklahoma. Philly.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: He could take the train. Joe Biden took the train to Delaware every night. I mean, it`s not a big haul. You walk over to Union Station, you get a ride over there on Uber and get on the train and there in an hour and a half. What`s the problem?

BELCHER: I think this is really problematic to someone who came in and talked about draining the swamp, right? I think this is such an easy picture for Americans to think, OK, when they think about what is wrong with Washington, big fat cats, riding in a limousine, smoking cigars, flying on private jets doing hardball, right?

And this goes against what his brand is, right? His brand was, I`m going to drain the swamp and I`m going to be for -- the populist for the small people and this is actually an important story for Democrats because this undermines the foundation of Donald Trump`s brand and what he talks about is draining the swamp and he`s actually filling the swamp with billionaires.

MATTHEWS: Let me fill up the rest of this dance card. It`s not just Price who`s under scrutiny for his expensive travel habits. The EPA inspector general is reviewing the cost of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt`s frequent trips home to Oklahoma, and the Treasury Department is looking into Secretary Steve Mnuchin`s use of the military jet to fly from New York to Washington at the tune of $25,000.

Here`s how Mnuchin defended that travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Let me say that the inspector general is reviewing my travel. I look forward to that review. I`m comfortable and we`ve had our legal counsel review everything but if their suggestions will follow it, that`s number one.

Number two, it doesn`t cost $25,000 an hour but it costs a lot of money.

And number three, as I`ve said, there are times when I need secure communications to be in touch with the president, the National Security Council and that`s the reason why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He said Betsy he was comfortable with this discussion. His flight (ph), of course.

WOODRUFF: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t bring it up.

WOODRUFF: I heard people sound slightly more comfortable than Secretary Mnuchin sounded in that clip. Part of the reason this is such an issue for Republicans, that this broad question of cabinet secretary taking private flights is a problem is because one of the main criticisms that congressional Republicans have of Obama during the prior administration was government waste. It`s something Republicans love talking about. They love talking about spending. They love picking out individual line items and suggesting that those expenditures are the reason that we have a national debt at all.

But now that Republicans are in power and in a position to all of a sudden think, oh, maybe a private or military plane from New York to D.C. would be nice, the tables are kind of turned.

MATTHEWS: This is why we have a problem with the government that does nothing, because the Democrats don`t mind spending money. They don`t mind. I have to tell you, they don`t mind spending money.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`ve worked with them. I know they like to spend money. They like the taxes. It`s a fact.

Republicans don`t want to do anything like that. The people trust Republicans usually generally more tight-fisted than Democrats. They think they are generally more tight-fisted. This isn`t helping.

BELCHER: That is not necessarily true. I mean, if you look at where the deficit explodes, Chris, it explodes under Republicans.

MATTHEWS: But it explodes when we have a recession. That`s when it explodes.

(LAUGHTER)

FEEHERY: Well, you know, you can explain this because there`s a busy schedule and they have a lot of places to go and it can be a pain to take commercial trouble. That being said, Republicans don`t like this wasted money from the taxpayers.

MATTHEWS: Trump doesn`t like it. He better fire that guy`s butt right there in that camera. He was caught on camera and he knew the wrong position to be in would be to defend this guy.

FEEHERY: And this is a problem for those cabinet secretaries, is Trump doesn`t have a lot of patience for these stuff.

MATTHEWS: Or loyalty.

FEEHERY: And what happened to Steve Bannon? Bannon got way ahead of the president and he got fired. If you get way ahead of the president, or cause him any kind of embarrassment, you`re going to get fired.

It wasn`t just -- this doesn`t just happen with President Trump. It happens with a lot of presidents.

MATTHEWS: Who is winning the fight, Bannon or Trump?

FEEHERY: You know, I think, right now, it`s Bannon.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. We still got a box score earlier. Bannon is beating Trump.

FEEHERY: I think Trump is still winning. I think they`re still on the same side.

MATTHEWS: Are you a Trumpster snow?

FEEHERY: I`m for the country doing better under this president.

WOODRUFF: You`re not running for office. You don`t have to --

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us. That`s well-said by our friend John Feehery.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(CXOMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: When we come back, the HARDBALL round table will tell me three things I don`t know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Cornell, tell me something I don`t know.

BELCHER: You know, a lot of data coming out right now, particularly looking at minority voters. We did a poll recently and looking at minority voters. In 2008, 2012, the African-American was most likely voter, particularly African-American woman. If you look at what the data is going on right now, there`s a lot of questions in the party whether or not we`re going to see a reversion back to pre-Obama times with minority voting and youth voting. If we do so, it`s a real problem for the Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Who gets the black woman vote? Will it be Elizabeth Warren or Bernie? They`re both fighting for it right now.

BELCHER: I think Harris or Booker.

MATTHEWS: The new ones.

BELCHER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Betsy.

WOODRUFF: This is the most dangerous week yet to be a White House senior staffer because there are reports that Bob Mueller and his team are going to start questioning some of President Trump`s inner circle either this week or the coming weeks. And the reason that`s dangerous is because, based on my reporting, we can expect there to be an FBI agent in the room for those interviews which means any of these folks who are on Mueller`s list willfully mislead, either the prosecutor investigating them, it`s a felony. It`s against the law.

MATTHEWS: John Feehery?

FEEHERY: Marsha Blackburn will replace Bob Corker in the Senate from the state of Tennessee.

MATTHEWS: She`ll run and win.

FEEHERY: She`ll run and win. She`ll also unite both wings of the party. She`s pro-Trump and pro-establishment.

MATTHEWS: Well, she`s on the show a lot. So, that could be good for us all.

Anyway, Cornell Belcher, Betsy Woodruff and John Feehery.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. He won`t like it.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, September 27th, 2017.

Is Donald Trump driving the engine of this angry train or simply riding in the caboose? Well, the answer to that question came late last night from Alabama. Voters down there, the same voters who gave Trump his big number last November just gave his candidate a whoopin`. Why? For the same reasons they went for Trump last year. They found someone running for office with the same anti-Washington, anti-establishment, anti-the way things are brand and more so.

Roy Moore is that judge who ignored the Supreme Court on every issue he cottoned to. The court wanted to ban the Ten Commandments from standing there in his courthouse. Judge Moore wanted to ban gays from the land of the free. No wonder someone said Trump went to bed last night embarrassed and pissed. He had been trumped -- outtrumped by someone even less politically house trained than he is.

Not even Donald Trump would dare claim he was being guided 24/7 by the good old Ten Commandments. Not even The Donald would run for office against sodomy, though he did talk right here on HARDBALL about his desire to find, quote, some form of punishment, actually like that phrase, for anyone who had an abortion.

But with the emergence of Roy Moore, Donald J. Trump has come face to face with an Old Testament version of himself, a fire and brimstone preacher to match his reality TV number.

Well, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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