Show: HARDBALL Date: October 4, 2017
Guest: Nayyera Haq, Jonathan Swan, John Ralston, John Lewis, Rob Reiner, Annie Karni, Eugene Scott, Shannon Pettypiece
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Moron.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington where the United States secretary of state is now on record calling the president of the United States a moron. This rift between the president and his top diplomat, secretary of state Rex Tillerson, is deep and dangerous.
Tillerson and the State Department are now in damage control after an NBC report offers details of the tension and terrible words passing between Tillerson and the president. Multiple senior administration officials tell NBC that Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House."
The report goes on to add, quote, "Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a moron after a July 20th meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump`s national security team and cabinet officials."
Vice President Pence has said to be intervening or trying to intervene to smooth things over, and today Secretary Tillerson tried to push back with this remarkable public statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post. I serve at the appointment of the president, and I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.
QUESTION: Can you address the main headline of this story that you called the president a moron? And if not, where do you think these reports or...
TILLERSON: I`m not going to deal with petty stuff like that. I mean, this is what I don`t understand about Washington. Again, you know, I`m not from this place. But the places I come from, we don`t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Tillerson didn`t deny threatening to quit, nor did he deny calling the president a moron when he could have, given two opportunities to do so. President Trump tweeted, "The NBC News story has just been totally refuted" -- no, it wasn`t. You heard it -- "by Sec Tillerson and VP Pence. It is fake news. They should issue an apology to America."
Well, as I report again, Secretary Tillerson has not refuted calling President Trump a moron.
And in Las Vegas, the president addressed Secretary Tillerson`s comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I`m very honored by his comments. It was fake news. It was a totally phony story.
Thank you very much. It was made up -- it was made up by NBC. They just made it up. Thank you, all. Thank you.
Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence. Thank you very much, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For the latest, I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson. Hallie, why do you think the president is dealing with it this way? He obviously doesn`t went a tiff at this point to break out to the point of a true estrangement between him and his secretary of state. Is that what`s going on, he just wants to do damage control?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, this also allows him to get shots in at the media, Chris, which is something that the president has repeatedly done not just in his administration but also on the campaign trail.
Listen, here`s the thing. We know this president prizes two things, loyalty and strength. What you saw from Rex Tillerson in that impromptu news conference was what you could call strong loyalty, right? He came out and he very vehemently denied the reporting, some of it, as you point out. He also emphasized that he believes that the president broke the mold, as he said, when it comes to foreign policy.
And this is, the backdrop of this, after months of what you described as a rift between these two men, at least when it comes to policy and at least when it comes to what has been said publicly. I think of, for example, the crisis with Qatar, the crisis in North Korea, you have Iran, for example, places where -- in particular on North Korea, you heard the president say one thing, you`ve heard Secretary Tillerson say another.
And there`s a question from world leaders, from others about who is really speaking for the president besides the president himself? So it`s not surprising at all that that would be the president`s response to this story. It is also an indication, at least at the moment, that perhaps the president is not leaning toward eliminating his secretary of state from the administration.
I just think back to moments when others had been on the line a little bit. Their jobs had been in a little bit of trouble, and the president did not rush out to defend them. And I think of, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who obviously remains in his position, but as has been widely reported, including by us, there have been issues between him and the president.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s also been widely reported with a lot of sources, a single report by Carol Lee of NBC but lots of sources here, up to 10 cited, in the fact that he called the president of the United States a moron. But here`s the interesting thing...
JACKSON: Three sources on that particular point, Chris, but to your point -- you`re right.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. What about the larger question of the White House antipathy towards Tillerson? I just read before I got over here, three White House staffers were cited as saying they want him to quit, they hoped he`d quit today after this.
JACKSON: I had an interesting conversation. I`m here on Capitol Hill this afternoon talking about a different story, Chris, in my other role also covering the White House. And I had a conversation with the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, who actually spoke to some of what you`re talking about.
I asked him about whether he had confidence in Rex Tillerson to lead this administration`s foreign policy, and he said he believes in Rex Tillerson. His concern is what he views as the president essentially not giving enough support to his secretary of state, bringing up other voices inside the administration.
What does that mean? The other voice who is loud on foreign policy inside this administration is Jared Kushner. And it is no secret to you, Chris, that there has been perhaps some tension there as Jared Kushner takes on a portfolio that includes, for example, peace in the Middle East, something that would more traditionally fall to the State Department.
MATTHEWS: I`m sure he`s the perfect guy for the job. Thank you very much, NBC`s Hallie Jackson. Great reporting.
For more, let`s go in to Nayyera Haq. She`s a former State Department spokesperson, and Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for Axios. Thank you, both of you.
This discussion, these reports don`t come from nowhere, three sources at least, I have to tell you. I`m sure more people know about it than are admitting it. You call the president of the United States a moron, you got to take it back or you got to live with it. What`s this guy going to do, live with it?
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, clearly, that audience was for an audience of one, and that audience was Trump and the White House. It wasn`t a press conference for the rest of the world, other than to show unending loyalty to Donald Trump.
And Tillerson is not somebody who has had really any public profile. He`s barely given any interviews and certainly hasn`t spoken or been public on any of the world issues that would be in his purview, whether it`s troop deployment to Afghanistan, the Iran deal or North Korea negotiations. So this is indicative of the U.S. diplomacy being hijacked by the chaos personality of the president.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I think the other thing here that`s going on here is the decision by the president to call this guy Rex. It`s like he`s calling his dog, you know, when he says, Oh, don`t waste your time, Rex, in dealing with the North Koreans. I mean, he`s secretary of state. He`s entitled to have communications with hostile forces. He`s obviously been told -- like a dog, pulled back on his leash. Hey, Rex...
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Save your energy, Rex.
MATTHEWS: Yes. What`s the point?
MATTHEWS: I mean, I think this moron talk is not isolated. It seems to me it`s part of their attitude towards each other.
SWAN: I reported six weeks ago that the president had said to at least two people in the White House that, quote, "Rex just doesn`t get it. He`s totally establishment in his thinking." Trump has been criticizing Rex privately for some time. The relationship is frayed.
He has, as far as I can tell, approximately two allies in the administration, General Mattis and to probably some extent General Kelly. If you can find me one other person in the White House, Chris, one other person who will go on the record and say nice things about Rex Tillerson, I`ll give you a substantial sum of money.
MATTHEWS: Well, that jibes with what I just heard, the sources I (INAUDIBLE) three sources in the White House...
SWAN: I`m telling you I`ve tried...
MATTHEWS: ... they want him to quit.
SWAN: I`ve tried to find people.
HAQ: Well, we`re all waiting for Rexit. It needs to happen sooner, rather than later, given the state of U.S. diplomacy because, frankly...
MATTHEWS: That`s what you`re calling it.
HAQ: Rexit. Frankly, what Rex Tillerson said about the president of the United States is something world leaders have been saying for quite some time. It may be undiplomatic, but it`s frankly what they`re thinking because...
MATTHEWS: Yes, the world leaders aren`t working for the guy, either.
HAQ: No, but unfortunately, Rex Tillerson is. And so what -- when -- in public statements like this, what ends up happing is you undermine the U.S. position around the world, and everybody else is now setting the agenda in the Middle East and Asia because Rex Tillerson has not been given, because of these petty personality disputes -- has not been given a staff. We don`t have ambassador...
MATTHEWS: I know. He can`t get anything confirmed.
HAQ: He can`t get anything done...
MATTHEWS: He can`t even -- he can`t even get it to the Senate. He can`t get the White House to agree to people.
HAQ: We do not have an ambassador to South Korea that either one of them can agree on right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, as Hallie Jackson just mentioned, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker addressed the Tillerson controversy this morning. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: He ends up not being supportive in the way that I would hope a secretary of state would be supportive. And that`s just from my vantage point.
And -- but I`ve never -- you know, I no knowledge of the comments or anything else. I think he`s in a very trying situation, trying to solve many of the world`s problems a lot of times without the kind of support and help that I`d like to see him have. I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos. And I support them very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s an astounding moment in the film "Game Change," which reenacts a moment in which John McCain is told by one of his staff people -- I think it`s Steve Schmidt -- that the person he just picked for a running mate, Sarah Palin, quote, "doesn`t know anything."
And now we have this scene in July where the president is being briefed about the world, being told, Now, this is Afghanistan here, this is Iran, this is Iraq, being told where all these countries are that are troubling to us and why we have to play a role in keeping our forces in Afghanistan. And out of the meeting comes the secretary of state and calls the president at that moment a moron. This is serious business. He`s saying the man in charge foreign policy, the president, doesn`t know what he`s talking about.
HAQ: Well, the president hasn`t been able to explain why several countries are on the Muslim ban list when -- from the travel ban. Specifically, no one in the national security community can really understand why a partner like Chad in counterterrorism is on the list for not being -- allowing any visas or refugees into this country. So -- and the president was directly asked that question and couldn`t explain it, has yet to come forward with what the real strategy or intention in behind the -- sending 8,000 troops to Afghanistan. What is the end goal? And we still don`t know, other than some bombastic statements, what the end game is for him with the Iran deal coming up and the recertification.
What you have instead are the people who work for him making statements and making policy, but then getting undermined by him. And Corker said it best. These people in the cabinet are supposed to be the vanguard against chaos. Chaos in this case is Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, by tomorrow morning, Jonathan, everybody who pays any attention, reads any newspaper, watches "MORNING JOE," does anything is going to know the president`s been called a moron by his top foreign policy guy. And that guy hasn`t taken it back.
What are the dimensions of the horror here? What does this mean to the world? Somebody said a moment ago that the president`s been called -- you mentioned the world thinks he`s a moron, but rarely do you hear a cabinet secretary, a secretary of state call the boss a moron.
SWAN: In order to be -- your power as secretary of state depends entirely on your relationship with the president. So when you`re a foreign leader and you observe this man, you`re making a calculation. Does he speak for the president of the United States? Objectively, he doesn`t. I mean, he literally doesn`t. Like, he says things, and then 24 hours later, the president says, Don`t worry, Rex. Save your energy.
I mean, we are literally seeing a secretary of state being diminished by the day, and it`s very hard to see how people could take his word as gospel.
MATTHEWS: This crowd`s having problems. They`re coming apart. This isn`t the first time tensions between the secretary of state and the president have spilled out into the open. Here`s what Tillerson said about the president`s handling of the white supremacist rally down in Charlottesville in August. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president gets into the kind of controversy he does and the U.N. committee responds the way it does, it seems to say they begin to doubt our -- whether we`re living those values.
TILLERSON: I don`t believe anyone doubts the American people`s values or the commitment of the American government of the government`s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the president`s values?
TILLERSON: The president speaks for himself, Chris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Whoa! Anyway, thank you, Nayyera Haq, for joining us tonight, and thank you, Jonathan Swan.
Coming up, President Trump meets police, victims and first responders out in Vegas, but the big debate here in Washington after 58 people lost their lives is about guns. U.S. Congressman John Lewis, hero of the Civil Rights movement, is one of the Democrats ratcheting up the pressure for Congress to actually do something. He`ll be joining me here right at this table in a moment.
Plus, the Russian investigation. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one Republican and one Democrat, say collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians is still an open question. Did the Russians have inside help when they interfered to win the election for Trump?
And President Trump`s very spotty record responding to tragedies and disasters, from tossing out rolls of paper towels in Puerto Rico yesterday to blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville. He doesn`t always rise to the occasion.
Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He will not like it. You will.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: According to a new investigative report by Pro Publica, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., were nearly indicted in 2012 on fraud charges. The report says that for two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney`s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump Soho, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. It wasn`t until President Trump`s long-time lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, got involved that the case was finally dropped.
Also according to Pro Publica, in 2012, Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the reelection campaign of that Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance`s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the president -- actually, the investigation be dropped.
Shortly thereafter, Vance dropped the case, telling Pro Publica, "I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed." The district attorney`s campaign returned the $25,000 contribution, but months later, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance`s campaign and helped raise more from others, eventually a total of more than $50,000 in contributions to Vance, the DA.
In a statement issued today, a spokesman for the DA told NBC News no outside attorney influenced any decision in this matter. Kasowitz said his contributions were unrelated to the Trump case.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just have to tell you that I just met some of the most amazing people. We met patients that were absolutely terribly wounded. And the doctors, the nurses, all of the people at the hospital have done a job that`s indescribable.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) gun violence problem?
TRUMP: We`re not going to talk about that today. We won`t talk about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We don`t want to talk about gun violence today.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump visited Las Vegas today, the site of Sunday`s horrific massacre at a country music festival. And while he met with survivors, first responders and local leaders and offered actually warm words, he actively avoided any talk of action on gun violence or even gun violence itself.
For their part, Democrats are stepping up calls to reform gun laws. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill today to ban devices that convert semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic machine guns, basically. Twelve of those devices were found in the hotel room of Sunday`s shooter himself.
For more on the president`s visit today, I`m joined by Jon Ralston, editor of "The Nevada Independent." Jon, what do you think? Is Nevada one of those states that just is never going to do a gun control bill?
JON RALSTON, NEVADA INDEPENDENT: You know, it`s interesting you mention that. I`ve been talking about that, obviously, a lot, Chris. There`s a huge gun culture here. You`re very familiar with Nevada. You know, there`s this wide swath between the two urban areas, and they love their guns in rural Nevada.
We actually passed a background checks bill, Chris, in 2016, but all -- 16 of the 17 counties voted against it except for Clark County where I`m standing, and that`s how it barely passed because as you know, Las Vegas has all of the population.
And yet -- and this is so consummately Nevada -- it hasn`t been implemented because the Republican attorney general and the Republican governor, who are gun rights advocates, have refused to implement it. They`re now under threat of a lawsuit because of that.
Whether this changes anything or not -- it`s hard -- I`m as cynical about things changes in Nevada on guns as you are about Washington.
MATTHEWS: What about a guy who brings 23 guns into a hotel room? I mean, if he carried all them up himself, that`s one thing.
If he got help from, you know, somebody, even the hotel worker of the hotel, had them carried up, somebody would have noticed. There`s metal. There`s guns. These are heavy bags.
I guess it doesn`t matter, though. If the guy who carried them up thought they were guns, it wouldn`t matter, because it`s all legal. All 23 guns are legal. RALSTON: But that`s only part of the point. Chris, you`re right. It seems unfathomable that this guy goes up on the 32nd floor of this place right behind us here, had all those guns, had those bump fire stocks.
They found dozens of guns at two other locations, his homes here and then in Reno. But how does a guy get all of those guns up to the casinos, up to the hotel room inside the casino resort? What are they going to do?
I have mentioned this before. I interviewed Steve Wynn last year, Chris. and he said he was worried enough about the concentration of people at events here that he actually essentially has hired ex-Navy SEALs and ex-CIA guys to patrol the casino floor, look at registrations.
He has metal detectors hidden all over the place. That`s the debate now that`s going to go beyond what Steve Wynn has done. Are these guys going to have to do that? How do you do the balance between security and not scaring people away from Las Vegas after what`s happened?
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Jon Ralston.
By the way, Jon, when I see those two holes where those broken windows on the 32nd floor, it does remind me of 9/11. Those two big penetrations on the same floor, it`s just -- it`s iconic. It`s terrible.
Anyway, thank you.
Democrats held a press conference today calling for action on gun violence. Among the speakers was former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot herself outside a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.
Let`s watch her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Stopping gun violence takes courage. Now is the time to come together, be responsible, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m angry, angry that we are here yet again.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: This Congress has failed the American people.
What is the number? How many more dead bodies will it take to wake up this Congress? I have been around too long. I lost colleagues in Mississippi and Alabama to gun violence. We lost Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to a man with a rifle. We lost Senator Robert Kennedy to a man with handguns. I have seen too many gun deaths, and I am here to say right now, this must stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman John Lewis of Georgia joins me now.
You went through the -- you were the personification of the civil rights movement starting with the Freedom Riders. You have been through all of this.
This fight -- you won that fight, at least in the law. Is this ever going to be won, the battle for some kind of gun safety?
LEWIS: Chris, we will win this fight. The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because the lack of action on the part of the Congress.
We have to do something. You know, it`s 50 today, 58 or 59. How many tomorrow? It made me very sad to see what is happening.
Do you think this number will do it? I remember when Bob Kennedy was killed, your friend, and I wrote my congressman, and maybe the only time I ever did, and something happened. There was the Safe Streets Act or something there.
But nobody has really done anything. Dianne Feinstein`s bill was allowed to elapse. It doesn`t -- the -- what do they call it, the assault rifle ban is gone. Toomey and Manchin, they`re not going to reintroduce their thing on background checks.
Except for you, a lot of people seem like they`re falling -- they`re falling back. They`re not willing to show courage on this right now.
LEWIS: Well, we must show courage, nothing short of raw courage.
As Gabby said, we must be brave, bold, and we must fight. We`re going to organize on the House side. As Democrats. We`re going to organize. We would like to do something in a bipartisan fashion. But we`re going to organize all across America.
MATTHEWS: What`s your message to Republicans?
LEWIS: Come and join us. Let`s do it together. We should do it.
The American people are demanding action. I went to the speaker the other night on the floor of the House and I asked the speaker to join us in a bipartisan fashion. And he said, is it going to be about policies, about law? He said he couldn`t do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I would like to believe what you say, but I have seen Ronald Reagan almost killed. If he, effectively, hadn`t gotten the hospital in three minutes, he would have been dead.
Jack Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, all these people getting killed. No country in the world lives like we live. There`s no country in the world like us.
LEWIS: Sometimes, Chris, I`ll tell you...
MATTHEWS: And we keep putting up with it.
Is there something in the food we`re eating?
MATTHEWS: We`re cowboys. You know it`s the cowboy mentality.
LEWIS: Is there something in the water we drink or the air we breathe?
Something is wrong. We have got to fix it.
LEWIS: We have got to be brave and courageous. And the voters must stand up and speak up and speak out and do what I call, they got to get in the way.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump, the president? I should call him President Trump.
Why does he say don`t talk about gun control or even gun violence now? Today, he said, let`s not talk about gun violence. In Las Vegas, he said that.
LEWIS: But the time is always right to do what is right. We have waited too long. How many more people would die? Would it be a few hundred? A few thousand or several thousand? We have to act. We cannot wait.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this.
As a candidate -- well, we`re out of time. Unfortunately, we`re out of time for you, too, Congressman.
You`re one of my heroes, sir.
LEWIS: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for coming on.
LEWIS: Good to see you.
MATTHEWS: That`s John Lewis of Georgia.
Up next: The top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say that Russia is determined to strike future elections in this country. We`re going to make to filmmaker Rob Reiner. He`s launched a new group to help Americans understand this threat posed by the Russians in getting into our electoral politics.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What I will confirm is that the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever.
And I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously, as we move into this November`s election, and as we move into preparation for the 2018 election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Republican Senator Richard Burr, warning that the Kremlin`s ongoing influence campaign continues to pose a threat to democratic elections this country.
As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Burr and Ranking Member Senator Mark Warner today held a press conference on the progress of their investigation.
They made it very clear that the possibility of collusion remains an open question, despite the president`s insistence it`s all a hoax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: The committee continue to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion.
QUESTION: At this point, is the president right? Was this a hoax?
BURR: I`m going to let you guys quote the president and ask him questions about what he says.
It`s not going to be the committee. We`re going to through a very different process.
QUESTION: Do you have any evidence to suggest, to rule out that the president knew anything about any of these contacts that occurred between any of his associates and the Russians?
BURR: Let me go back and say -- because I thought I was pretty clear, that the issue of collusion is still open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined by MSNBC national security analyst Clint Watts, and Rob Reiner, a renowned filmmaker and director of the Committee to Investigate Russia, a nonprofit intended to help Americans understand Russia`s influence. He`s also the director of upcoming film on former President Lyndon Johnson entitled "LBJ." Can`t wait for that.
Let me go to Clint on this.
How did you read Chairman Burr`s statement that it`s an open question whether there as collusion? Does that mean they don`t have anything hard yet, or he doesn`t want to say what it amounts to? I couldn`t discern the distinction there.
CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think he doesn`t want to say yet. He`s probably going to try and keep his cards very close.
That is in their mandate. But I also have to wonder how this is being deconflicted with the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation has got way more experience in this case and in terms of pursuing with criminal charges. Anything in terms of collusion is going to fall to a criminal charge.
And so I`m curious as to how those two, the committee and the Mueller investigation, are working this through. I think it`s still very much on the table and something that shouldn`t be ruled out.
MATTHEWS: Rob, thanks for coming on.
It seems to me that the admonition from the chair and the ranking member just today was, if you see something, say something, like they say on Acela here on the East Coast. Point out dangerous signs you see.
And yet the Trump administration never pointed out anything last year. We never got a whiff of it from them.
ROB REINER, COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIA: Yes. And that`s the big problem. And it`s why we started the Committee to Investigate Russia, because, in the past, whenever the United States has been attacked, whether it`s Pearl Harbor or 9/11, we have always come together as a country to fight against -- you know, like the cliche that politics ends at the water`s edge.
But we are so divided,that Putin was able to exploit it. And we have a president who doesn`t acknowledge that we have been attacked. And we`re in a new kind of war, a cyber-war.
And Clint can certainly tell you about it. Clint is on our advisory board, along with James Clapper and Mike Morell and Michael Hayden and Leon Panetta. We have got some of the best national security experts in the world, basically shouting from the rooftops that we have been invaded, and we have to understand this, because, if we don`t, we`re going to have our democracy fray at the edges.
MATTHEWS: Rob, are you conducting an investigation alongside the Mueller investigation and the two House Intelligence Committee investigations and, I guess, generally, the FBI? Are they all complicit together?
REINER: Well, no.
Our -- what we`re doing is, we`re an aggregate. We`re trying to bring together all of the elements. It`s a very confusing situation. You have got, you know, cyber-security. You have got possible money-laundering. You have got three investigations in the Congress.
And then you have got Mueller and you have got the FBI. So, we tried to give people an overview, plus the history of what the Russians have been doing.
I mean, Chris, you know. We`re the same age. We ducked under desks when we were kids.
MATTHEWS: I remember.
REINER: You know, we worried about the atom bomb.
There`s no desk to duck under now. We have been invaded, and we have to understand the nature of this kind of war.
MATTHEWS: Although Senator Burr said the committee has been unable to interfere -- interview former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and cannot assess his credibility, he suggests that Senate investigators have corroborated at least some parts of the dossier going back to June of `16.
Let`s watch the chair here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: We`re investigating a very expansive Russian network of interference in U.S. elections. And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point has been somewhat impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Clint, since the beginning of this republic, we have worried and argued and debated and feared and worried about politicians getting involved with other countries, whether it was the French or it was the British. That went on in the early parts of our country, who were you allied with.
The Declaration of Independence, it seems to me, is the abiding document for this, just independence. How independent are we, as far as you know, in our politics from abroad? Are we independent? Or is there serious influence going on?
WATTS: I think there was -- the point that Chairman Burr made today about we have an upcoming election season, what everyone is kind of forgetting is, Putin`s plan wasn`t about one election. It was about winning audiences and then influencing them.
What we see going on today is a continuation of that plan. He has pulled off an amazing fete. He`s unified audiences in Germany, France and all across North America under a common nationalist, rather than globalist, agenda, which he will use to then influence politicians.
Remember, active measures is about the force of politics, rather than the politics of force. He`s going to use our politics, our divisions, our divisiveness against us to try and push candidates in one way or another.
And what I think Chairman Burr was alluding to is, whether it`s the integrity of elections, whether you think your vote counts or not, or whether you`re being shaped by opinions that are coming from abroad, we have not responded to this. We have no counter to this.
And it`s still a vulnerability of our country. And so Putin right now still influences an audience in this country, which he can wield against any politician, if he so chooses.
MATTHEWS: Rob, why do you think -- I know you have been interested in politics since you were born. I think you started reading "The New York Times" when you were 3.
MATTHEWS: But, anyway, why do you think Putin, who is a nationalist -- whatever else he is, he`s the Russian nationalist -- he wants the old empire back again.
And Steve Bannon, who is sort of like the Obi-Wan Kenobi of this administration. They both are nationalists. Why do they have something in common? It would be seem to be competitive on the part of the Russians if we became more nationalistic. Why do they want us to be nationalists?
REINER: Well, they -- they`re not interested in that.
They want, as you say, regain the strength they had when they were the Soviet Union. At the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union collapsed, and it collapsed largely because we were in a nuclear arms race, and it sunk their economy.
Now he`s using a relatively inexpensive tool of warfare to do what he wants to do, which is to regain that power. He is sowing all kinds of division in Europe with the European Union, NATO. Brexit was a part of that. And any kind of division he can sow and tear away at the fabric of democracy, he`s going to do it, because then he emerges. His power then emerges.
Thank you so much. I will call you citizen Reiner, out of great respect. Citizen Reiner, thanks for coming on, another great cause.
Thank you, Clint Watts, for your expertise.
WATTS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: The HARDBALL Roundtable weighs in on President Trump`s response to tragedy.
From tossing paper towels out like that in Puerto Rico, to his divisive response after Charlottesville, he hasn`t always hit the right notes, don`t you think?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In the face of crushing tragedies like Las Vegas and natural disasters like Hurricane Maria, Americans turn to the president for reassurance, stability and sometimes unity. Well, the public wants a president who can share in the country`s grief but also offer a sturdy hand forward. It`s a role that all presidents have been called upon to play and one that President Trump has had to perform in an increasingly number of times.
Here he was in Las Vegas today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The message that I have is we have a great country and we are there for you. And they`re there for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But in reflecting on national tragedies, the president has often fallen short. There was Charlottesville, here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think he added that on many sides. There was Hurricane Harvey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. I just want to say we love you, you are special, we`re here to take care. It`s going well. And I want to thank you for coming out. Thank you everybody. What a crowd, what a turnout.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a crowd, what a turnout.
And then there was Puerto Rico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you`ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we`ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that`s fine, we`ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the -- every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And who can forget the president flicking rolls of paper towels to a gathered crowd just yesterday.
For more on the president`s response to these tragedies, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight, Annie Karni, White House reporter with "Politico", Eugene Scott, political reporter with "The Washington Post", and Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for "Bloomberg".
In this order, how would you rate the president -- the words that we read, of course, are unfortunate, but they`re his words, you know, on both sides, hatred and all of this on both sides.
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And a great crowd, great turnout like it`s some sort of political rally, and all the rest.
KARNI: Well, the best -- I talked to a close Trump friend, Chris Ruddy, over the weekend, the best defense he had was this guy is never going to take a sensitivity course. He`s not the consoler in chief. It doesn`t come naturally to him. What we have seen is --
MATTHEWS: But he`s good at, he`s good at gigging people up to anger. Lock her up. He knows how to work that emotion.
KARNI: He knows how to work that emotion. The other one doesn`t come naturally to him. We`ve seen him read off of a teleprompter for a day, for instance, his reaction on the first -- his statement on the first day after the shooting in Vegas. He didn`t make a bad situation worse. His actions did nothing to inflame the situation.
But it never sticks and he goes off script and says things that don`t feel appropriate for the moment. This is who he`s been for nine months and it`s not his natural role.
MATTHEWS: Eugene, it comes with the territory. You`re head of state if you`re president of the United States. We don`t have a king. We have a president. He`s supposed or she is supposed to represent the people personally.
EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, absolutely. And I think that immediate speech following Vegas was very consoling. He appealed to many of the values of, not just his base but people in America broadly. He quoted from the Psalms, he talked about prayer and the need to be unified by faith, which is significant considering how divisive he was accused of being just a few days before when he attacked the San Juan mayor.
So, whether or not he`ll stick to that, we`ll see. If he does stick to that, though, I think this recovery, this response shall I say to Vegas could get him to some favorable marks.
MATTHEWS: But there is a touch of narcissism when he talks about the crowds he`s drawn and --
MATTHEWS: Even throwing out those Charmin or Bounty paper towel rolls. It was like he was the big shot.
MATTHEWS: He was feeding people that were almost desperate to get anything and he`s throwing -- it`s just weird. It looked like a superior attitude.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think narcissism is key and even people who --
MATTHEWS: It`s an embarrassing picture.
PETTYPIECE: Even people who are friends with Trump, even people who like him, who support him, they`ll say, well, yes, he tends to be a narcissist. He tends to perceive the situation as all about him. Any slight, it is all about him. The Puerto Rican mayor saying, San Juan mayor saying I need help, send resources, it`s all a personal slight to him. And that that is how he views the world, and that`s one of the things that inhibits him from being sensitive to a bigger situation because he can`t step outside of his own universe.
But he`s been an inarticulate messenger and even his supporters would agree with a lot of that, that he`s an inarticulate messenger. But the people who like him and support him understand that about him, acknowledge that about him and just sort of accept that because they agree with his policies and his bigger view on things. So, I don`t think any of this is costing him anything with at least his base.
MATTHEWS: Annie, what about compassion?
KARNI: What about it?
MATTHEWS: Is there any here? I mean, it isn`t just the people in front of him at some rally or at some disaster area. This country has got 330 million people and a good number of them in trouble all of the time. Not just homeless people you can see, but people at home, sick. You know, you see a lot -- lately I`ve been seeing a lot of people in wheelchairs and there`s a lot of people with real problems.
Does he care about them?
KARNI: The funny thing is --
MATTHEWS: I`m asking the question, does he have any evidence of caring about --
KARNI: Well, I`m going to give you an example, which is after we saw the Syrian president use gas on his own people, Trump was said to be very moved by images of babies and children being gassed and he talked about the babies multiple times. These images seemed to, you know, really move him. That`s the last time I can really remember him being moved.
He didn`t seem moved in Puerto Rico by meeting actual victims. He went back to Texas after not meeting victims on his first trip to meet people who had been displaced from their homes. And I talked to some gun control advocates yesterday who said they didn`t expect him to make any policy on this visit but they thought there`s value in him visiting the hospital and seeing what gun violence actually does to your family and to your body and that maybe it would sink in.
We`ll see if the visit had any effect on him. But his remarks today were totally in line with what a president should do in a situation. They were scripted. But we`ll see if he`ll talk about that extemporaneously and if it really --
MATTHEWS: Remember that line in Shakespeare, a touch of Harry in the night, where Henry V meets with one of the soldiers and they get a feel for him and he gets a feel for them and there`s that sense of Eisenhower did that before D-Day. He went to soldiers and said good luck soldier, that personal connection between president and a soldier. It`s not always in a sick bed.
I don`t know if Trump could do that much. What is your bet?
SCOTT: Well, I think there`s an interesting poll --
MATTHEWS: You got to be able to do it to be a popular president, accessible president.
SCOTT: Absolutely, especially if you want to be reelected. And so, about two weeks ago, NBC News did a poll with a Generation Forward about how millennials felt about Republicans and Democrats open Trump. And most millennials think neither of these parties or the president actually care about them. That`s what the answer specifically that they gave.
And so, I think something for the Republican Party has to look at is, if these voters -- this is the largest block, age group in our country. If they don`t think the president cares about them or the party, what impact could that have on them in 2018.
PETTYPIECE: One on one, people say he does connect with them empathetically, like he will really see, if you`re in a room with him, he is connecting with you sensitively. But he`s not translating that and maybe that`s something he will learn -- not necessarily change but learn how to translate that to a larger stage audience.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you.
The round table -- the great round table is sticking with us.
Next, we`re going to get three scoops tonight, we hope. I`m putting the pressure on scoops you`ll be talking about tomorrow if we`re lucky.
HARDBALL back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: Well, Steve Bannon is wading into another Republican primary campaign, this one on Staten Island, New York. Former Republican Congressman Michael Grimm tweeted this photo of the two of them earlier with the caption "game on". #makeAmericagreatagain.
Bannon is backing Grimm as he tries to win back his congressional seat from fellow Republican Dan Donovan. Grimm served two terms in the White House before stepping down to serve a prison sentence for tax evasion. He`s perhaps best known for threatening to push a reporter off of the balcony in the Capitol while the cameras were rolling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: All right. So, Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you.
MICHAEL GRIMM (R), THEN-U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.
No. No. You`re not man enough. You`re not man enough. I`ll break you in half. Like a boy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`ll break you like a boy. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
KARNI: I`ll stick with Bannon. So, you were just talking about him. Trump is still smarting over the Luther Strange loss. He hasn`t spoken to Bannon since then. He takes it personally that Bannon beat him there and he`s worried about the other races that Bannon is going to get involved in.
MATTHEWS: He shouldn`t. He shouldn`t worry about Long Island (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
SCOTT: The Arizona Senate race, everyone is looking at who the Republicans are going to put up to go against Jeff Flake. But I think what`s happening on the Democratic side will be much more interesting. We have Kyrsten Sinema from Congress deciding she`s going to run. But I think there may be some other names that are just going to put --
MATTHEWS: Will the Dem win?
SCOTT: That`s what everyone is hoping and think and have been saying. We don`t know.
PETTYPIECE: On the Mueller investigation, the White House is almost complete with responding to all of the requests that Mueller has asked for on documents and information. Next, they`re going to start interviewing White House staffers, so things should get interesting.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Annie Karni, Eugene Scott and Shannon Pettypiece.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. As I said, you`ll love it. He`ll hate it. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, October 4th, 2017.
Confident president surrounds themselves with a cabinet and advisers smarter than they believe themselves to be. By that standard, Donald Trump has expanded his horizons. He selected a secretary of state, someone to marshal U.S. foreign policy who thinks the president is a moron. Moron. Interesting choice of words. According to the dictionary, Secretary Tillerson could just as accurately said idiot, blockhead, dunce, ignoramus, imbecile. Want more? Halfwit, dope, nincompoop, dimwit, dingbat, dumbo, ditz, numbskull, numbnut, thickhead, jughead, chowderhead, goofus.
These are not words but the dictionary offered synonym for what Secretary Tillerson has now not denied calling the president. I didn`t, wouldn`t call this president such a thing. His secretary of state has. And when given a chance to take it back, refused to do so.
The characterization lies out there on the record now until someone clears it and that would have to be the secretary of state himself. He can either deny saying the president is a moron or he can take it back. And today, and perhaps for posterity, the honorable secretary has refused to do either. If these were still the days when men were challenged to a duel, almost had that done to me on HARDBALL once, we could expect to see Trump and Tillerson meet soon on the field of honor. That would be something.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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