Show: HARDBALL Date: September 29, 2017 Guest: Toluse Olorunnipa, Ken Vogel, Kamar de los Reyes, Jenna Johnson, Clarence Page, Dan Diamond, Peter Baker, Eliza Collins, Kurt Bardella, Seung Min Kim, Sally Quinn
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Swamped.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Trump saw the mud clinging to his brand and didn`t like how it looked to the country, including the Trump people. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the smell of the swamp, as well, the smell of the rot at the top, of big shots using private and military jets to ease their official trips. Maybe it was that, too, that led him to what he`s just done.
Tonight, President Trump fired Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price after Price was unable to justify his decision to use private planes for otherwise routine travel. Driven by a series of investigative reports by Politico, the stories of the secretary`s travel expenses caused an uproar that ultimately the former secretary could not contain.
The behavior that those reports exposed threatened to tarnish further a president who famously vowed to drain the swamp. Here`s how President Trump expressed his displeasure with his now former secretary late today just minutes before Price was officially gone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s a very fine man, but we`re going to make a decision some time tonight. We are looking into it, and we`re looking into it very strongly. I`m not happy, OK? I can tell you I`m not happy. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in firing Price, President Trump sent a strong signal that he won`t tolerate government excesses, at least when they embarrass him. Now former secretary Price joins a growing list of top Trump advisers and officials to depart this administration over the last eight months.
Joining me right now is Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Dan Diamond, reporter with Politico who first broke this story -- in fact, he broke it about Price`s private plane trips, and Jenna Johnson`s a White House reporter with "The Washington Post" and my friend, Clarence Page, columnist with "The Chicago Tribune."
Let`s get your take. First of all, Dan, congratulations on breaking a story that`s made news here now and has changed the shape of this cabinet. Did they know when you broke the story about his use of private planes, which cost about $300,000 or $400,000, not the $30,000 or $50,000 he claimed it did, and then it turns out another half million dollars in military planes of questionable use in this case -- did they know they had stepped on it?
DAN DIAMOND, POLITICO: They didn`t realize how much we had when we first reported it, Chris. They told the White House this would be a one-day story. They played us off.
MATTHEWS: Who said it was a one-day story?
DIAMOND: Well, the HHS press people to the White House press people, which I think was part of the problem that got us to today. The White House felt ambushed that they didn`t have a full picture, and by the time that HHS and Price responded, it had already become a mushrooming scandal.
MATTHEWS: Peter, tell me what you think went into Trump`s head because he seemed to have gotten the smell of this several days ago. It wasn`t like he erupted this Friday night. You know, you dump the garbage in politics in Washington on Friday night, we all know that, because they think people don`t read the Saturday paper, which is nonsense. I happen to like your paper a lot on Saturday morning because it`s filled with news like this, people getting fired on Friday night. Of course...
PETER BAKER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Politico will have that, too.
MATTHEWS: Yes, Politico had that. But you know, I like the paper in front of me, OK, on Saturdays. Peter, tell me why you think that Trump -- who`s covered up and put up with a lot of crap, but this thing seemed to have gotten to his nose and his eyes. This looks and smells bad, this big-shot behavior.
BAKER: Well, there are two things to remember. First of all, Mr. Price was already sort of in trouble anyway with the president because for months, he`s been seething about the failure to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama`s health care plan. He blamed Tom Price for that at least in part.
So when this came up, there wasn`t the reservoir of good will. And then as you say, it affected his brand. One of the most important things he is looking at in terms of his base is this "drain the swamp" image that he brings to the table. And this has been a bad week for that, with the Luther Strange defeat in the Alabama primary, the president found himself on the opposite end of his base on two big things, and the latest failure in the Senate to pass health care legislation. So at the end of a bad week, he felt the need, I think, to get control of his public image again.
MATTHEWS: Jenna, I agree. It`s become sort of the capstone of the week.
But let`s talk about the big picture. Trump, as he just said, he`s fired the guy. He`s heading to another airplane, another weekend at some luxury spot like Mar-a-Lago or up in New Jersey at his golf -- all paid for by the federal government -- big plane, by the way, not a little one but a gas eater, a big one.
He seems to have no compunction -- he flies his family, Jared and Ivanka, all around the world. They go to Asia, Africa, everywhere, all at government expense with huge entourages. You know, they aren`t the Romanovs. Now, this guy, Price, may behave like an oligarch. He and his family behave like the Romanovs.
How can -- where`s the consistency here in the splurging of taxpayers` money and it only is that Price pays the price?
JENNA JOHNSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, when it comes with Trump, a lot of that has been explained away by saying it`s security, that the president has to...
MATTHEWS: How about spending one weekend a year in the White House? That would save a few bucks...
JOHNSON: It would.
MATTHEWS: ... like one weekend. He`s never been there on a weekend.
JOHNSON: Yes. I mean, those complaints are adding up and adding up. But with the president`s base, they have a lot of tolerance when it comes to the president. They think that he should be able to work wherever he wants, that his family should be protected. Where people start to get angry is where they see someone like the health secretary, who they might not have even really known that person`s name.
MATTHEWS: Some lower form of life.
JOHNSON: Exactly. And they see that person, you know, using government taxpayer dollars...
JOHNSON: ... to go to...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s try to get ourselves in the head and the soul of Tom Price. I don`t know the guy, but he might have gotten the idea he could behave the way he does because he watches how the president behaves and his family.
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Following an example there. But you know, funny thing about Tom Price is, you know, during the time of the health care debate -- this is his specialty, and he was out of the country on another trip to what, about three cities over in Africa and Europe.
And Trump was saying, Where is he? Because Trump`s not going to go over to Capitol Hill and start pushing for his own health care legislation.
MATTHEWS: He`d have to read it.
PAGE: Yes, he would have to read it. Heavens. We can`t have that.
PAGE: But this is what has been happening. There seems to be a combination of, first, a shortage of personnel, a shortage of reverence for the instructions that they`ve gotten as far as travel rules go.
But notice how the president is handling this. Even though he does have extravagant travel of his own, he once again is pushing off the onus here on his cabinet officer, and his base goes along with that. They will point to Congress. They`ll point to the cabinet. They won`t point to President Trump as being Republican for (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Yes, when a plane has engine trouble, they start throwing chairs out the door.
Anyway, Price isn`t the only Trump official who`s racked up questionable expenses on travel. The Environmental Protection Agency`s Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also are under scrutiny right now. And according to reports today, so is interior secretary Ryan Zinke and Veterans Affairs secretary David Schulkin.
According to Politico, Secretary Zinke`s travel with his staff includes a $12,000 charter flight to take him to events in his hometown in Montana -- that`s convenient -- and private flights between two Caribbean islands. Anyway, VA secretary David Schulkin mixed his official business with pleasure on a 10-day trip to Europe funded at least in part by the government, according to "The Washington Post." Quote, "He and his wife spent about half their time sightseeing, including shopping and touring historic spots."
We`re lucky to have Dan Diamond here of Politico. You guys are hot on the trail. How deep does this go? How wide does it go, this misuse of federal planes, government planes, misuse of private charter flights when you can take a train ride to Philly. You can take the Amtrak, the Acela, splurge a little. Put them in first class even. But chartering a plane is a bit more.
DIAMOND: I went to college in Philly, and I did that drive...
MATTHEWS: Where you go?
DIAMOND: I went to Patton (ph).
DIAMOND: And I did that driver over and over and over again. It`s only 90 minutes, two hours maybe down to Baltimore/D.C.
I think once you start pulling on this thread, Chris, it`s pretty clear the controls have not been there across these different agencies. Whether that`s because they shredded some of the career staff and they have these positions still to fill, or the politicals who have come in just don`t have the same reverence...
MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute! I don`t want to cut you off. Whey didn`t -- didn`t he -- didn`t Price call the White House and get an approval on the use of these planes, these private planes?
DIAMOND: He got approval for the military flights overseas, but the jet up to Nashville or San Diego, the White House said they didn`t know about that and they would not have approved a domestic flight that cost $20,000.
MATTHEWS: Would they have approved the military flights, which cost another half mill?
DIAMOND: They would. And that`s a different story.
MATTHEWS: Only one.
DIAMOND: Well, they say that it`s necessary for national security, for communications.
MATTHEWS: Explain the national security, why the HHS secretary -- he doesn`t really command an army or a CIA or any kind of dangerous, exciting agency -- why he or she has to be flying in a federal plane, a military plane.
DIAMOND: I cover HHS, so I think they`re exciting, and he does have the surgeon general in his -- in his army.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Peter Baker on this at "The Times." Peter, what do you think is the breadth of this story? Is this the first -- is this sort of the sacrificial lamb, they throw Price out the door? I mean, he`s a doctor. He can go back and practice medicine, I assume. He can find another career. Is this going to put the fire out or not?
BAKER: Yes, it`s a good question. I think as long as there are more revelations, it`s going to keep the president angry and on the defensive. So you might see other changes. Again, remember, Dr. Price -- Mr. Price, the secretary, had been in the bubble already...
MATTHEWS: He`s Dr. Price again. He`s Dr. Price again.
BAKER: He`s Dr. Price again. Exactly. And he`d been on the bubble basically for other reasons. And this certainly pushed him over the edge.
But you know what? This is -- This is dangerous to an administration. It hurt President Bush 41 when his chief of staff was using a government limousine to go to a stamp collection, you know, event, and when President Clinton had an aide who took a helicopter to go golfing. These are things that people remember, and they stick.
And it`s a lot more -- it`s not a particularly deep story, but it`s a memorable story and it`s the kind of thing that can hurt you politically.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump joked about firing Secretary Price if he couldn`t get the votes on health care, something the White House continues to struggle to do. Let`s watch the first threat to Mr. Price, Dr. Price.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Secretary Tom Price is also here today. Dr. Price still lives the Scout oath helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our secretary of Health and Human Services. And he`s doing a great job. And hopefully, he`s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as "Obama care" that`s really hurting us.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: By the way, you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them! Oh, he better -- otherwise I`ll say, Tom, you`re fired! I`ll get somebody.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: "Fredo, you broke my heart," you know?
There he is, giving him the evil eye right there, Jenna. I mean, I`ve never heard of a guy, like, threatens people with firing them as sort of a morale booster.
PAGE: That kind of applause will do it!
MATTHEWS: I know. The people love -- (INAUDIBLE) gladatorial, the Trump people. They -- you know, beat him up on the way out the door, you know, take him -- don`t -- bang his head on the car window as you put him in the car. I mean, they have -- the Trump people are a gladatorial crowd.
JOHNSON: Yes. I mean, it reminds them of "The Apprentice," which is what Donald Trump was most well known for.
MATTHEWS: It reminds them of the Coliseum.
JOHNSON: Yes, but when it comes to...
JOHNSON: ... actually firing people, the president really hasn`t been able to pull the trigger on that.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really?
JOHNSON: He`s been waiting for people...
MATTHEWS: Have we got a list?
JOHNSON: Yes, there`s a long, long list.
MATTHEWS: Michael Flynn and head of national security and the press secretary...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all quit. No one gets fired.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all resign.
MATTHEWS: Well, this guy did, technically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: He technically put his resignation in early today, but we all know he was fired. You can see the language. Trump said this afternoon, I`ll decide tonight to fire him or not.
MATTHEWS: Right? He was fired, right?
DIAMOND: Essentially. They didn`t have a close relationship, too. I think that played into the desire to see him out the door.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about where this goes further because I get the feeling that they don`t have a clean theory of ethics in this White House. Do they have someone who tells them what you`re supposed to do? Because if they get their leadership from the top, they got a problem because Trump is very unclear in the ethical department.
DIAMOND: Cabinet secretaries were briefed on taking military air abroad. And Mick Mulvaney, the OMB chief, the budget director, today just sent out a memorandum saying, Look, you`re here on behalf of taxpayers, and it`s up to you to not only do what`s legal -- because Price`s flights were legal -- but do what`s right.
And that reminder, whether it`s claiming Price -- getting him out of the White House or just the pressure that is now being brought to bear on the rest of the cabinet seems to be pushing for transparency. Schulkin, the VA secretary who`s under scrutiny -- he put out this afternoon an e-mail saying, Look, I haven`t taken any charter flights, and here is a new Web site where you can track my travel and know if I took (INAUDIBLE) .
MATTHEWS: So he`s the one with the price on his head right now. He`s the one that`s being looked at.
DIAMOND: I don`t think he`s the one at the top of the list. There`s a lot of...
MATTHEWS: Who`s at the top of the list right now in terms of trouble?
DIAMOND: I think probably Pruitt and...
MATTHEWS: ... and Zinke.
Peter, do you know that? Is that what you think, those two guys are the ones right now who are in the on-deck circle of ethical problems right now on travel?
BAKER: I mean, it`s possible. I mean, he likes both those cabinet secretaries. He has other reasons to keep them in there.
You may also want to look at White House staff, you know, who`s been managing the cabinet. We`re hearing that Rick Dearborn, the, you know, deputy chief of staff, has earned the president`s ire this week. He also is the one -- one of the ones who urged the president to go down to Alabama for the rally for Luther Strange. It turned out to blow up in the president`s face. Mr. Trump is not happy about that, and Rick Dearborn I think has gotten some of the president`s unhappiness directed at him as a result. So you never know...
MATTHEWS: I think Robert Porter`s OK, isn`t he? Robert Porter OK?
BAKER: I think he`s OK, but today is Friday. Ask me again on Monday. You never know. I mean, the truth is, I think in Trump`s orbit, it`s always a game, right? It`s always a guessing game on who`s on, who`s up, who`s down. And just because you`re on the outs with the president doesn`t necessarily mean you`re going to be out. Jeff Sessions is still the attorney general, and you know, H.R. McMaster is still the national security adviser. For all the heat that each of them has taken, they`re still on the job. So you can never tell for sure.
MATTHEWS: Peter, what`s the name of your book about Obama, the big coffee table book you`ve done?
BAKER: It`s called "Obama: The Call of History." But there`s another book coming out this fall looking forward to -- coming soon about...
BAKER: ... Bobby Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: That is definitely coming. And I did not set that up. I was trying to help you out, brother. Thank you. Your book`s beautiful on the president. Anyway, thank you, Peter Baker. Thank you, Dan Diamond, Jenna Johnson and Clarence Page.
Coming up -- the ouster of Tom Price caps off a very bad week for the Trump brand. What`s going to hurt Trump the most this week? Is it the bad tax bill? Is it everything that`s going on in Puerto Rico? Everything, the flyers -- the high flyers in the cabinet living on the taxpayers` dime, the failure to repeal "Obama care" again, his big loss down in Alabama when he had his name on there, or maybe it`s his response to the devastation, as I said, in Puerto Rico that could really sing -- singe for a while?
The head of Homeland Security says the recovery effort down there, out in Puerto Rico is a good news story. Really? Three and a half million people without power, running water, food and money is a good news story? You`re doing a great job, Brownie. The White House is already under fire for their response to Hurricane Maria, and this isn`t going to help, congratulating themselves.
Plus, Steve Bannon`s beaten the president once this week. Now he`s looking for more Republican scalps. Bannon wants to lead a breakaway party and he has the war chest he needs to do it.
Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch."
This is Friday. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, this evening`s ouster of Tom Price is just the latest hit to the Trump brand. The president`s coming off a wave of losses this week, from the failure to repeal "Obama care" to that major defeat down in Alabama. We`re going to take a look at a very bad week for Donald Trump. That`s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t like to see that happen, and I think it`s a shame because as a human being, Tom Price is a very good man, I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump talking about HHS secretary Tom Price earlier today. Now that good man, as Trump calls him, is out of a job after the firestorm over his expensive travel habits.
And that caps off -- it does -- a week that`s not been good for President Trump or his brand. The president started the week stirring up more trouble than he counted on by taking on the NFL over player protests. There was a major setback on his party`s plan to repeal "Obama care,` another one. Senate leaders were forced to pull a planned vote due to lack of support from Republicans. And now the defeat of his candidate, Luther Strange, by conservative Roy Moore down in Alabama in that Republican primary this Tuesday, leaving him 0 for 2 against his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
And now even though Price is out, other members of his administration are also now under scrutiny for their travel habits. All this as the administration struggles with the recovery down in Puerto Rico.
But look at the picture, now with the acting homeland security secretary calling the efforts there a "good news story." Why would you say that?
For more, I`m joined by Ken Vogel of "The New York Times." And Toluse Olorunnipa is a White House reporter for Bloomberg.
Thank you, gentlemen.
Ken, I want to start with you at "The Times."
We had your colleague Peter Baker on.
Let`s put it together in terms of a -- sort of a time capsule of this week in the presidency, the young presidency of Donald Trump. I mean, Tom Price, NFL protests. The Cassidy fails on health care, no repeal there. Trump loses with Strange. Bannon beats him. The official using jets. And now the Puerto Rican absurdity of claiming it`s a good story.
Put it together.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Yes, I mean, on at least a couple of those fronts, things are only going to get worse.
The loss of Luther Strange in Alabama. Mitch McConnell is going to be getting potentially another -- at best, another Republican senator who is not going to be willing to go along with him, making it that much harder to pass big-ticket legislative items like health care or tax reform.
And then the situation in Puerto Rico obviously, very sadly, does not appear to be getting better, and Trump has sort of put himself out there, as have members of his Cabinet, in a way, vouching for the recovery effort in a way that appears insensitive right now, and if things continue to get worse, could look very bad in retrospect. Could be sort of the George W. Bush "Heck of a job, Brownie" response to Katrina.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s what I thought.
Well, let me go to Toluse on this, because I -- let`s start with the beginning of the week, because it was a bad week.
I think Trump thought he would take on a football player or two, maybe a group of them, and he would win because he`d have the fans on his side. He would have the white players on his side. He would have the owners on his side.
It turns out he was trying to isolate these players who were militant in their politics and wanted to make a statement. He ended up getting isolated.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, BLOOMBERG NEWS: That`s exactly right.
And we have to remember that these protests were basically pretty small events in 2017. It happened in 2016, when these protests started to gain steam.
MATTHEWS: Taking a knee.
By 2017, you had maybe three or four players that were doing it. And President Trump wanted to make a political issue out of this. He was playing to the base down in Alabama, feeling like if he was able to get on the same side as the flag, that he`d be able to play to his base, get more people on his side, maybe get some of these football fans on his side.
But it turned out that a number of these players, owners, the NFL commissioner all spoke out against him in a forceful and united event. And this is something that sort of led into this sort of horrible week that the president has had that makes you sort of remember the days of infrastructure week, where they were...
MATTHEWS: Well, infrastructure.
MATTHEWS: You are laughing, Ken.
I think the statues can go either way in a couple of places like battlefields. I think we`re going to end up keeping the statues at Gettysburg, where the generals actually fought on both sides. That`s where the statues belong, but -- and some other places.
But I think this one really blew in his face -- blew up in his face, the football one. People love football. They love the players. They`re heroes, these players. They root for them when they got the ball.
VOGEL: Yes. I actually think that it does play to his base.
MATTHEWS: Really? Tell me how.
VOGEL: Yes, because he is being -- in this way, he`s being not politically correct in taking on people and potentially calling out their First Amendment right to protest.
But the fact he`s doing it in a way that his base perceives to be in defense of patriotism plays right into that sort of positioning that he`s already had and, as you suggested in the some of the Southern states, may play to some of these latent racist sentiments that actually have served him well, despite the fact that we don`t like to talk about them as political calculations.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I will come down in a minute. I think, when you put your fist in the air, that`s one thing. When you kneel down, I just don`t see that as an act of aggression.
I think it`s a fairly recessive kind of act. It`s like, I can`t salute this right now.
And, obviously, President Trump is trying to rally up his base at a time when he knew during that rally in Alabama that there was a good chance that his candidate would not win. His candidate ended up losing by about 10 points. So, this was a ploy to try to rally up his base and get them excited.
OLORUNNIPA: Not so excited about private charter jets and military planes and all of these expensive costs that his Cabinet...
MATTHEWS: Well, Toluse, I think -- Toluse Olorunnipa. And I`m learning.
OLORUNNIPA: You got it.
MATTHEWS: Great name.
Ken Vogel. It`s so easy to Ken Vogel.
You know, Ken, I just think this week is going to end with people thinking about Tom Price, and Trump was right to nip this one in the bud, if you will, because I think it was the one people could understand.
When you get on an airplane, and you are back there, if you are lucky to be on an airplane, and you`re back in 48-D, and there`s two heavyset people around you, and you might get a cup of coffee two hours into the flight, maybe, maybe, maybe, or some sort of snack, they call it, that nobody wants, because it`s still left in the basket, you`re wondering, how does this guy get to fly around, not only first-class, but on a chartered jet?
Anyway, they don`t like that stuff. And that`s the resentment that got Trump elected. And he`s playing against that if he kept a guy like this around. And there`s more of this coming.
Up next: The Trump administration has called the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, as I said, a good-news story. But the mayor of San Juan has blasted that. In an emotional press conference this afternoon, she said she`s begging for help.
She`s tough. I like this mayor down there in San Juan.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I am very satisfied. I know it`s a hard storm to recover from, but the amount of progress that`s been made, and I really would appreciate any support that we get.
I know it is really a good-news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A really good-news story.
And welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was acting Homeland Secretary -- Security Secretary Elaine Duke calling the government`s response in Puerto Rico a good-news story.
But San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has painted a very different picture. Let`s listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: We are dying here. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy. We are going to see something close to a genocide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, President Trump responded to the crisis today by pointing out that the island is totally unable to handle the situation on its own.
Let`s listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re closely coordinated with the territorial and local governments, which are totally and unfortunately unable to handle this catastrophic crisis on their own, just totally unable to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Totally unable to.
I`m joined right now by Gabe Gutierrez, who is in San Juan.
How does that sound out there, totally unable?
GABE GUTIERREZ, rMD-BO_NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Chris.
Well, you just played that press conference from San Juan`s mayor. She -- the anger just boiled over today. Up until now, she kind of had been saying that FEMA had a lot of red tape. She kind of minced her words, parsed her words a bit.
Local officials here up until today for the most part had been very careful talking about the federal response, saying they appreciated the federal response. The governor over and over again has said that the federal government has delivered so far. He even said that in his news conference this afternoon with the acting DHS secretary.
But San Juan`s today just sounded off, saying that this response was -- that that comment from the acting DHS secretary that this was a good-news story seemed to set her off. And she said, repeated over and over that people are dying here.
We didn`t speak with just her. We had a -- spoke with a local representative who was saying the same thing, very frustrated at the federal response, Chris.
We have been talking about those shipping containers that have been in the port for several days now, all this aid that isn`t getting to the right places.
Now, today, in a neighborhood outside San Juan, we saw that, yes, indeed, some of that aid is trickling out, it is getting to some of the people, but for many of them, it`s too little and it`s coming too slowly. Many people are still desperate for food. They`re desperate for water.
There hasn`t been any power, there hasn`t been any communications systems. And for them, hearing what the president said -- and I will remind you, Chris, many of them can`t actually hear what the president said. Their telecommunications systems here are just decimated.
GUTIERREZ: But when you tell you -- when you ask them, do they think the federal response has been adequate, many of them will tell you they don`t think it has.
That`s not everybody here, but there`s a growing frustration here among some of these folks that say that they just haven`t seen the robust federal response that you would see on the U.S. mainland. That`s the way they feel.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for that sad report, NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez in San Juan.
I`m joined by actor Kamar de los Rose -- de los Reyes, rather, who you may know from "One Life to Live." Of course, he`s on that program every day. He just returned to Los Angeles after visiting a family in -- his family in Puerto Rico.
Kamar, tell me about what you saw, what you feel, what you think about this whole thing.
KAMAR DE LOS REYES, ACTOR: Well, the majority of what I saw was desperation. It`s catastrophic there in Puerto Rico right now. And people are desperate. There`s no active running water. There`s no power. There`s shortages of food and fuel and lines to get all of that, lines that run thousands-of-people deep.
So, it`s dire there in Puerto Rico. And, just like the correspondent before me said, people are dying. And just like the mayor -- I echo the mayor. People are dying, and we`re not hearing about it.
MATTHEWS: Is there someone -- I guess my tendency is to think somebody will come in, sort of a General MacArthur type and just bring order to the thing. Is FEMA in charge? Is the governor in charge? Who is sort of going around saying, where are the bottlenecks? What`s being held up? What are the logistics? We will solve them.
Is there someone like that putting that together, or not?
DE LOS REYES: Well, it certainly doesn`t feel that way.
I`m not well-versed on, you know, on the politics and the bureaucracy of this whole thing. I`m just one man, and I saw what I saw, and I experience what I experienced. And I saw my family suffering. And I saw my friends suffering.
And I walked into supermarkets, and there was no water. And I stood in gas lines for hours to get gas. And I stood in ATM lines for hours to get cash. And then they ran out of cash.
DE LOS REYES: So I -- you know, I don`t know what`s going on, but there`s definitely a disconnect there, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It`s like it`s not even part of America. It`s like it`s...
DE LOS REYES: Correct.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.
DE LOS REYES: And I also think that there`s a denial, a denial of the deplorable nature of which this entire relief effort has been handled.
And Secretary Elaine Duke right now is -- I know she`s backtracking, but she obviously stuck her foot in her mouth. She`s trying to save face. And she has put a lot of people at risk with her lack of action. And I honestly believe she should consider resigning.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m not usually a military person, but I sometimes wish, in this situation, there was just someone down -- like one of our great generals, just to get down there and crap the whip, make these bureaucrats get it moving. Get those ships unloaded. Get the truck drivers back to work somehow. Get the stuff rolling.
It`s not like we`re a poor country. This...
DE LOS REYES: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... not a poor country.
DE LOS REYES: And why did it take, you know, eight days or nine days to get 10,000 troops there?
DE LOS REYES: We -- it took 48 hours to get 8,000 troops, boots on the ground to Haiti in 2010, when the earthquake happened.
Why has it taken eight or nine days to get 10,000 troops to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory? We`re American citizens.
MATTHEWS: I know.
One thing you would expect Trump to be good at would be the kick-ass stuff. And he`s not.
Thank you, Kamar de los Reyes.
DE LOS REYES: Thank you. Thank you for having me on, Chris. I really appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for having a strong, strong, credible voice.
DE LOS REYES: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Steve Bannon has just gotten started. He scored a big win over the president in Alabama by knocking off the president`s candidate down there. Is the next step a breakaway political party?
Is he going to break up the Republicans? I think he`s trying to. I think I know it.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Last night, we talked about starting a revolution with Judge Moore`s victory.
Well, Senator Corker stepped down today. He`s not going to run for reelection.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BANNON: And you`re going to see in state after state after state people that follow the model of Judge Moore, that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington, D.C., New York City, Silicon Valley.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That was -- welcome back to HARDBALL.
Anyway, that was, of course, Steve Bannon, who looks like Steve Bannon, the president`s former chief strategist, shortly after Roy Moore`s primary victory down in Alabama.
"The New York Times" reporting that Bannon is now putting together a political coalition designed to back other insurgent Republican candidates similar to Moore all over the country.
He`s enlisted wealthy conservative mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer to help him pay for it. They have been in talks about creating a shadow party since back in July.
Sources also tell "The New York Times" that: "Early plans call for the creation of a sort of think tank to articulate the animating issues of the coalition, and that the coalition will ally with existing groups on specific issues and will support vetted candidates" -- that`s a lot of Latinate phrases -- "and causes."
Anyway, according to several reports, Bannon has already met with prospective candidates who could challenge Republican incumbents.
They include Danny Tarkanian, who`s challenging Senator Dean Heller out in Nevada, Chris McDaniel, potential challenger to Senator Roger Wicker in Mississippi, and Kelli Ward, she`s a piece of work, who`s running against Senator Jeff Flake in Arizona. She`s the one not being very kind to John McCain.
Roy Moore`s victory, by the way, has given Steve Bannon the green light to wage a war against the establishment wing of the Republican Party but at what cost?
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Eliza Collins, Capitol Hill reporter for "USA Today", Kurt Bardella is president of Endeavor Strategies, he`s a former "Breitbart" spokesman, and Seung Min Kim is a congressional reporter for "Politico".
Seung, you tell me this. Is this a breakaway movement to explode the Republican Party or is he really trying to create a new faction, a new sort of sub-unit of the Republican Party to challenge the Mitch McConnell types?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think we`re going to see how effective they are in the coming primaries. You have to remember with Alabama, there were other factors in play with Senator Luther Strange`s loss beyond the Bannon influence in the Trump --
MATTHEWS: Like what?
KIM: His involvement with the disgraced former Governor Bentley. He was the attorney general at the time when he sort of informed the legislators in Montgomery to basically stop their impeachment process and mysteriously later appointed to Jeff Sessions` Senate seat.
KIM: And I`ve talked to people in Alabama. I was down there in August before the first round of voting. A lot of people said that at the end of the day may have had a much bigger impact --
MATTHEWS: Do you think his name was a turnoff? Kurt, what do you think?
KIM: It was a little strange.
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER BREITBART SPOKESMAN: Strange, a little strange.
MATTHEWS: Everybody has a name, but I just thought Strange --
BARDELLA: Moore or Strange.
MATTHEWS: This guy is eerie.
Let`s get serious. I look at Bannon. Here`s a guy that looks like Bannon. Bannon looks like he is. He`s got that expression on his face. He`s very militant. He`s angry all the time.
Look at him. He never puts a coat and tie on. He`s got this sort of revolutionary fatigue on there, ready to go like Castro or something. Look at him.
He just looks like -- he`s like Michael Moore from the right. He`s very much like that. No, look at him. It`s all tough guy stuff.
Look at him. Look at the way he holds the mike. Everything is tough guy. What does he want to do, just beat up Mitch McConnell?
BARDELLA: Yes. He wants, he -- I`m sorry, he has said he wants to blow up the Republican Party, the establishment party. He tried this back in 2014.
MATTHEWS: For what? Why?
BARDELLA: Because he hates anything that has anything to do -- because they rejected him. I mean, that`s part of it. I think a lot of this from Steve Bannon and a lot of ways from Donald Trump, too, stems from being rejected by the establishment class and they want to get back at him.
ELIZA COLLINS, CAPITOL HILL REPORTER, USA TODAY: He wants to replace them with people that have what Trump ran on, whether or not Trump is the top of the party, I don`t think is the issue. They want strong on immigration.
MATTHEWS: You mean strong against immigration.
COLLINS: Strong against immigration. Yes. They want the wall. They want anti-trade. You know, they want --
MATTHEWS: So, it`s nationalism.
MATTHEWS: In the crudest form.
COLLINS: It`s not the Republican Party that Mitch McConnell represents.
MATTHEWS: You think it would be interesting if they would at least adapt some of the stuff I like starting with, well, how about the stupid wars. Why don`t they take on Trump for re-activating the war in Afghanistan which is what Trump ran against stupid wars, that`s he`s now going to continue in perpetuity?
KIM: Exactly, and you`ve seen -- especially what the president`s announcement regarding Afghanistan last month. That`s again something that is --
MATTHEWS: Is Bannon going to fight that?
KIM: Doesn`t seem like it so far.
KIM: If you look at -- I mean, if you look at Breitbart and what they are focused on, it is those issues of trade and immigration that really jazz up the conservative base.
KIM: And that`s what you`ll see continue in these other primaries going on. I mean, look at Kelli Ward in Arizona. Jeff Flake is going to be the perfect test case of that because Flake has been that classic let`s reform the immigration system.
MATTHEWS: Kelli Ward, I have -- she`s leading Jeff Flake in the polls, Kurt -- I don`t understand this. She said John McCain should quit because he`s in bad health and should get out of the way. That`s pretty rough.
BARDELLA: Bannon and Breitbart world --
MATTHEWS: So she can have the job. I`m sorry.
MATTHEWS: She wants him to go away, leave the seat so she can be the senator even though she`s never been elected.
BARDELLA: A lot of self-interest at play. But for a lot of these people - - again, Bannon and Breitbart believe the voters are so angry with anyone with the word incumbent in Washington next to them that they can easily say come out.
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess the tricky part is Steve Bannon is not to have a job so you can`t be an incumbent, right?
COLLINS: Right, you can`t be an incumbent.
MATTHEWS: It`s amazing that you can make a living doing this. Have you noticed that? How do they all get paid these guys? Is this family? The - -
BARDELLA: Oh, you have the Mercers. I mean --
KIM: They are going to fund these.
BARDELLA: Bannon is a lot --
MATTHEWS: Follow the money.
BARDELLA: He`s got a bank roll.
MATTHEWS: Let`s follow what those people want.
Anyway, the round table is sticking with us. Next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. Hopefully something you`ll be talking about all weekend because you heard it here, right? I`m raising the bar.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s Friday night. We`re back with the roundtable.
Eliza, dazzle us with something we`ll talk about all weekend. What is it?
COLLINS: So, it`s not just the anti-establishment Republicans that are upset with Mitch McConnell I think most recently because of failure to pass Obamacare. Yesterday, I was talking to Rep Mark Walker, head of the Republican Study Committee, which is conservative but not hard line. And he said this is the eighth or ninth inning of strikes against McConnell, and he`s going to leave it up to the Senate if he should step down. But he --
MATTHEWS: They don`t like him?
COLLINS: He didn`t say he should stay.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see.
BARDELLA: You know, during the Obama administration, Republicans in Congress issued more than 100 subpoenas for discovery against the administration. This year, less than five from Republicans in the Oversight Committee.
MATTHEWS: Whoa. They are being nice.
BARDELLA: Very nice.
MATTHEWS: I thought --
BARDELLA: We weren`t that nice when I was there.
KIM: So, remember the name Michael Grimm. Before we had --
MATTHEWS: Oh, the guy who was going to beat up that guy, break him -- break him like a boy --
KIM: Yes, before we had a lawmaker threatening to body slam reporters and admin officials throwing reporters out of meetings and threatening to arrest us, Michael Grimm was the congressman who threatened to throw a reporter over the balcony at the Capitol, ended time in prison, federal prison for tax fraud, but he`s out. And he`s announcing that he`s running for Congress again tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Against Dan Donavan.
MATTHEWS: I think I`m for Donovan. I hope he doesn`t hurt him up there.
Anyway, Eliza Collins, Kurt Bardella and Seung Min Kim, thank you.
Up next, "The Washington Post`s" Sally Quinn, the Sally Quinn, is coming here. She`s got a new memoir out and it touches on everything from marriage to her use of hexes against people who did her wrong.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When people think about Washington, D.C., spirituality isn`t the first word that comes to their mind. In a new book, however, "Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir," journalist Sally Quinn explores what the word faith means to her while describing what it`s been like to live in Washington, D.C. throughout Watergate, Vietnam, and 9/11.
She writes: Washington is all about power, and seeking power, often makes people, even good people, do bad things. That`s from most of my adult life in Washington, of course, watching those seeking power, getting and losing it, using and abusing.
That`s Sally Quinn talking. Not me.
I`m joined right now by herself, Sally Quinn has always one of the most frightening people in Washington.
Glamorous, yes, I`ll give you that. But when you wrote for "The Washington Post", when you went after like Steve Martindale, Hamilton Jordan, they died. I used to read it on the bus, these gigantic takeout pieces in "The Washington Post" when your husband was running the paper, which is a hugely successful paper, "The Washington Post", it crackled with excitement.
And now, you write a book where you say, if you think I was scary as a reporter, I can put a hex on you. Talk about the spiritual power of wishing someone to die. How does that work?
SALLY QUINN, AUTHOR, "FINDING MAGIC: A SPIRITUAL MEMOIR": Well, let me just say --
MATTHEWS: No, no, you have it here, you can`t run away from it.
QUINN: I`m not. Listen --
MATTHEWS: This is a book you`ve got to read because it`s the only book I`ve read about D.C. and spiritual power that comes alive with a really smart person with strong focus.
QUINN: Yes. Well, I did in my youth, because I was raised in Savannah, Georgia, in Statesboro, Georgia, by Presbyterian Scots who believed in the standing stones and time travel and voodoo and the occult and ghost and psychic phenomenon and astrology and tarot cards. So, I was raised -- that was what I call my embedded religion.
MATTHEWS: Does it work?
QUINN: Well, I don`t know whether it works or not.
MATTHEWS: But you knocked off a couple of people with hexes.
QUINN: I did put hexes on people, but you can also call it spells or prayers or wishes. I didn`t wish them to be knocked off. I wish them only to suffer what they had caused me to suffer.
MATTHEWS: Yes, so it`s justice here?
QUINN: Yes. I mean, so, if you`re in Washington, for instance, look at how many people wish other people ill in Washington, D.C.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
QUINN: And I cannot tell you how many people, my friends, who don`t believe in this, have begged me to put a hex on Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Yes, you know, when --
QUINN: And I don`t do it anymore. I`m not doing it. It`s over.
MATTHEWS: You know, I knew something -- one of my producers, she said n Washington, no one`s late for an execution. There`s a schadenfreude in this town. When somebody goes down like Tom Price, there`s a sort of, it ain`t me. I`m lucky, it didn`t kill me.
Let`s talk about your husband who we both liked. I mean, you loved him. You were married to probably the greatest journalist in Washington in modern history, the editor of "The Washington Post" who brought down Nixon, did the Pentagon papers, all this incredibly gutsy stuff. And every single person wanted Ben to respect him. What I always wanted was Ben to look at me and say, you`re great, Chris. You`re great.
QUINN: He loved you. He said you were great. He loved you. You made him laugh.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, here`s the story. You`re married to Ben.
QUINN: And he also admired you because of the books that you wrote and he thought you were a great American.
MATTHEWS: When I did my last book on Jack Kennedy, when I did that book and you had that wonderful party, I got there early at Georgetown, and Ben was sitting there and I could tell there was something wrong. And you knew about it and you kept it, and you protected this great man who was suffering from dementia. He was so charming and good looking, to put it bluntly.
MATTHEWS: All that may be true from your perspective and, well, it should be. But Ben Bradley was such a guy that I didn`t recognize, but I did notice he was reading my book and he was like puzzling.
MATTHEWS: When did that start, this beautiful couple of yours, when did you realize that he had a problem?
QUINN: Well, he was diagnosed eight years before he died. But I got him diagnosed because he started turning against me. He started becoming hostile.
MATTHEWS: You write that.
QUINN: And we had a fabulous marriage. I mean, we were really in love with each other.
MATTHEWS: That comes with dementia. That`s classic.
QUINN: But I didn`t know that. So we went to a shrink and I would say to shrink, my God, he`s saying these awful things to me. And he would say, I never said that, I love you, why would I talk to you that way? And I thought he was gas-lighting me.
And then he was diagnosed, because he was getting very forgetful, then I read about it and saw the classic thing.
QUINN: Particularly the person they love --
MATTHEWS: I mean, you loved him so much, but the great story -- there`s three or four great stories here. First of all, you`re frightening sometimes.
QUINN: Only three or four?
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m going to tell you some of the big stuff, because if I`m going to read this book, the parts I like to read, what I liked, the hexes of course. How could I not like the fact that you knocked off some people just by wishing them evil, which is really a great story about Washington, because there`s so much of this town. You actually succeeded.
And the other thing is about your love for the guy we all admired. And you were the social arbitrix of this town. You decided who was in and who was out.
MATTHEWS: OK. Sally Quinn, who decides who`s in and who`s out in Washington, her new book, "Finding Magic," it really is about spirituality of a kind I felt in the Peace Corps, which was it wasn`t going to church spiritualism, it was a feeling of really happy connection to your world you`re living in.
And I know what you meant. I know what you mean by this spiritual thing that you write about. It`s lower case Christian.
QUINN: Yes. It`s Christianity with a C.
MATTHEWS: The lower case, it`s just really good. And I think she`s a great person with a hell of a story here, and really a great read.
QUINN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: She`s a great writer. Most importantly that.
We return -- when I come back, I want to talk about the Trump watch tonight, this Friday night.
QUINN: I just want to say one thing, Washington is a spiritual hardship post, and that`s what people should know.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We do have the Lincoln Memorial.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch" Friday, September 29th, 2017.
I`ve noticed here in Washington that no one is ever late for a hanging. There`s a zest that comes from late-breaking news, to someone has gotten the axe, someone else that is, someone not you. It`s called in German schadenfreude, a joy to other`s tragedy, and yes, it is fairly grotesque.
Why would anyone get a kick out of someone getting brought down, knocked out of their job, shoved into humiliation by the sometimes unpredictable shifting standards in this city. The fact is nothing and therefore no one is all that secure here, especially in Trump`s Washington. And that applies to the people working for him most of all. When you come roaring into town like Oliver Cromwell looking for witches to burn and condemning the establishment, you have to expect some blowback.
Tom Price was supposed to repeal Obamacare. Instead, he got repealed. The Trump family has allowed the oligarchs to reign freely and ride expensively. Meanwhile, they`ve behaved themselves like the Romanovs.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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