Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/6/17 WAPO: Trump against Iran nuclear deal

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jeremy Konyndyk, Eli Stokols, Nik Steinberg, Libby Casey

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 6, 2017 Guest: Dana Milbank, Jeremy Konyndyk, Eli Stokols, Nik Steinberg, Libby Casey

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Calm before the storm.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The president is at war with his secretary of state. He`s reportedly about to decertify the Iran nuclear deal and kick it back to Congress, and he`s making cryptic comments about a coming storm that nobody knows what he means. What is the world thinking about the man who has the title, at least, commander-in-chief.

Rex Tillerson`s effort to clean up the mess this week after the NBC reported he called the president a moron and threatened to quit didn`t do enough to satisfy the president. According to new NBC reporting, it`s what Tillerson didn`t say that further enraged Trump, officials said. The secretary`s refusal to deny that he had called the president a moron in his opening statement and in his responses to questions from reporters stoked Trump`s anger and widened the rift between the two men, officials said.

Meanwhile, the president is reportedly set to reject the advice of his top national security advisers and decertify the Iran nuclear deal, leaving it in the hands of Congress to decide what to do. The world is looking on in horror.

According to "The Washington Post," President Trump`s decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal could start a chain of events that could -- that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world. None of the three European signatories -- Britain, France and Germany -- believes Iran is in violation, and each has said publicly it will not renegotiate the nuclear deal.

And then there was the president`s bizarre and ominous statement just last night during a photo session with his top military advisers and their spouses before a dinner at the White House. Listen to what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys know what this represents?

QUESTION: Tell us, sir.

TRUMP: I don`t know. Maybe it`s the calm before the storm.

QUESTION: What`s the storm?

TRUMP: Could be the calm -- could be the calm before the storm.

QUESTION: You talking Iran or ISIS or what?

QUESTION: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: We have the world`s great military people in this room. I will tell you that. And we`re going to have a great evening. Thank you all for coming, by the way. Thank you.

QUESTION: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You`ll find out.

QUESTION: Give us a hint on your Iran decision, on ISIS...

TRUMP: Thank you everybody. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What storm exactly was the president referring to? He offered no clarity today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, what did you mean by calm before the storm? What did you mean by that?

QUESTION: Thank you very much. You`ll find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was equally vague. Let`s watch her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Was he referring to military action when he said calm before the storm?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we`ve said many times before -- I know the president has, as I have from this podium on quite a few occasions -- we`re never going to say in advance what the president`s going to do. And as he said last night, in addition to those comments, you`ll have to wait and see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Joy Reid, host of "AM JOY" on MSNBC, "Wall Street Journal" White House reporter Eli Stokols and Nik Steinberg, a former counselor and speech writer for Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in those years.

Joy, it`s great to have you on, haven`t seen you in a while. You`ve been a superstar on the weekend, so let`s try your luck on a weekday. Here`s the question. What is he talking about? And why he is talking about in these sort of a prophetic language, like he`s the Oracle of Delphi? Big thoughts are coming to me, I may be doing something important, I can`t say what it is. What`s this about?

JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY": Yes. Well, Chris, first of all, it is great to see you. I definitely miss talking you on a more regular basis. So it`s really good to be here.

And look, you know, this is the fundamental sort of recklessness of Donald Trump. He thinks that what he`s doing is keeping everyone on edge and giving himself an advantage strategically by not telling people what he`s thinking.

But what he`s doing is he`s destabilizing not just our situation vis-a-vis Iran -- this idea that he`s going to decertify Iran`s compliance when all of our allies say that they are in compliance. But if you`re sitting in Beijing right now and you`re thinking about what to do about North Korea, about how to approach Pyongyang, why should North Korea even believe a deal that we put on the table to try to get them to stand down from their nuclear ambitions if Iran made a deal with the United States, and the next president comes along open throws it in the trash?

Donald Trump is wreaking havoc on our relationships around the world. No wonder Rex Tillerson is frustrated.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Eli on this. First of all, it looks like -- when you say it`s the -- what did he call it, the "calm before the storm" - - there`s three storm fronts that we know about, North Korea, as Joy said, Iran and whether we`re going to decertify, and who`s he going to fire at the highest level of his administration. We`re not guessing all over the place. We think it`s one of those three areas.

ELI STOKOLS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, I mean, it`s insane to think that this is actually the calm because nothing feels calm around this administration. But yes, nobody knows. Sarah Sanders today was asked about that. Is he referring to something specific? She said not that she knows of. And yet when the president was asked again about this today -- you played the clip -- he had an opportunity to put people`s anxieties -- to ease those anxieties and say, Look, nothing is imminent. He didn`t. He likes the drama. He likes teasing it out.

I mean, presidents have often been very careful and very sober with their language about foreign policy, about the use of the military. You don`t see that from this president, even standing next to the families of our servicemen and women. And it`s anyone`s guess what he`s talking about.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to why he`s even thinking about decertifying. But let me go -- let me go to Nik on this, Nik Steinberg. You know, April asked him from the White House press room today, Are you thinking about firing -- basically, she said, Are you thinking about firing your chief of staff? And I guess it`s getting in crazy land. He`s got an attorney general he doesn`t like now, the president. He`s made it clear. Sessions -- doesn`t like Sessions, doesn`t consider him the guy he wants. He doesn`t seem to like his secretary of state. That`s pretty clear because the guy reportedly called him a moron and hasn`t taken it back, which is pretty rough. I can understand why he wouldn`t like that. And it seems like he may not like the straightjacket he`s in, thanks to his chief of staff.And so the question is -- Kelly, John Kelly.

So Nik, how do we know what`s going on here? Do you have any reporting on this? Is he going to fire either the secretary of state or the chief of staff this weekend or tonight?

NIK STEINBERG, FORMER COUNSELOR TO U.N. AMBASSADOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well, look, I think what is telling about the president`s reticence to keep his officials on is what actually is the decision point, what pushes him over the edge in terms of whether he trusts them or not? And in fact, it is not their leadership of the institutions that they`re in charge of, but it`s their blind loyalty and ability to express their fealty to him.

There are legitimate reasons to question whether Rex Tillerson is the person who should be leading the State Department. I have a piece out this week that talks about a growing number of career foreign and civil service officers who no longer feel that they can serve in this administration because their voices aren`t heard, because they don`t have a seat at the table, and because, frankly, this administration puts no trust in diplomacy.

Now, that is a legitimate knock on this secretary of state. That doesn`t seem to bother the president. What does is maybe what something -- something that was said that was disrespectful of him in an offhanded comment.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me stay with you on one question here. How do we know in the world -- suppose they`re representing the government of Ghana or Tanzania or any government, do I think the secretary of state is the person I should to get ahold of? Do we think he has anything to do with anything, like aid levels or trade decisions or anything?

STEINBERG: Well, look, repeatedly, this president undercut the credibility of his own secretary of state. And the ability, the leverage that any secretary of state in any administration has is the belief of people outside the United States that he speaks for the president. And you know, if I were a leader or a diplomat outside of the United States now, I would not have that trust.

The other trust that Rex Tillerson has lost is the trust of the institution that he leads. You know, you don`t show up to a department, and before you basically have even found your way around, propose cutting a third of it before you even understand how it works. But that`s what he did.

MATTHEWS: I know.

STEINBERG: And so when you lose that trust both above and below, I don`t know how you can credibly do your job anymore.

MATTHEWS: Joy, let me go back to my wheelhouse, which I think you share with me sometimes, and that is this president`s sort of ethnic look at history. This president doesn`t want to admit that his predecessor was Barack Obama. He wants to erase his face, his name, his origin, everything from the history books. He`s proven it over and over again.

It`s not a joke to think that one of the chief reasons he wants to decertify the Iranian nuclear deal is that it works, that it is a success, just like Obama is a success, like his whole life has been a success. He must be erased, just like "Obama care," which is the first successful health care program we`ve had in this country since Teddy Roosevelt talked it up -- Teddy Roosevelt. And so he must destroy his legacy.

Is that the cardinal reason why this president keeps going back to a deal that`s working, that the world knows is working, it`s restraining a nuclear program so we don`t have to contend with two at the same time, we can focus on North Korea? Why would he want a two-front war except out of weird, weird bitterness towards the success of Barack Obama?

REID: Yes, and that his own...

MATTHEWS: Well, am I right? I don`t know. Am I right? Check me.

REID: No, I think you are. I think that we are constantly working through the psychology of Donald J. Trump. He isn`t making decisions based on policy. He`s making decisions based on psychology and his obsession with Barack Obama, his obsession with erasing and outdoing and somehow surpassing Barack Obama. He`s angry that Barack Obama had the respect of the world. So he`s crashing through the world, ripping up agreements that Obama had anything to do with.

There is no objective reason for him to decertify the Iran deal. His own experts are telling him he shouldn`t do it. There`s no reason to do it other than that Barack Obama`s name is on it, he negotiated it and therefore, it has to die. And there`s a part of Donald Trump`s base that feels the same way, that feels that his job is to erase the memory of Barack Obama.

But the problem with this approach to foreign policy is that it`s dangerous, is that it not only impacts Iran and our relationships there, but our relationships with our European allies who helped negotiate this deal, and as we`ve been discussing, our stance toward North Korea, which is looking at what we`re doing with Iran and then asking itself whether it even makes sense to try to cut a deal or to stand down from hostilities with the United States. It`s incredibly dangerous.

MATTHEWS: I want to check -- well said. I want to ask the -- Eli about this. You know, everybody has a little vengeance in their heart. And I`m just checking you with this. Maybe I`m wrong. But remember the White House press dinner and -- and...

STOKOLS: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and Trump -- and Trump was made a fool of...

STOKOLS: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... like, by the president...

STOKOLS: Obama gave it to him good.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: About meatloaf and all those stupid...

STOKOLS: That motivated him to run.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And I just wonder whether this is still bigger than the moron line. Moron`s fresher. But I mean, his secretary of state called him a moron, but Obama -- his satire was much more brutal, I thought.

STOKOLS: And Joy is right that there is -- that most of Donald Trump`s policy -- not just foreign policy, but domestic policy, as well -- is driven by domestic politics and by this president`s own ego. And so she`s right, anything that Obama did that`s considered a legacy accomplishment, he wants it gone.

It`s the same thing with the Paris agreement. It`s the same thing this week...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

STOKOLS: ... with the clean power plant...

MATTHEWS: There`s three big ones, yes.

STOKOLS: ... repeal by the EPA that we`re not really even talking about because it can`t even break into the news cycle, the contraception rule that the administration is scrapping today, all of these things.

And what you see that`s common on all of them is there`s a lot of bluster about, I`m getting rid of this, this was a terrible deal, I`ll make a better deal.

Oftentimes, his own advisers, as they`re doing -- telling him to stay in the Iran deal, as many did, telling him to stay in the Paris agreement, these things matter, you can`t just unwind them, it puts the U.S. on an island -- they`ve urged him to stay in this, too, and he`s not even listening to his own advisers on a lot of these things.

But the bluster sometimes obscures the fact that, you know, it takes three years to unwind the Paris agreement. On the Iran deal, it goes to Congress. He`s really just kicking this to Congress and letting them decide what to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, it could be bluster leading to more bluster.

Anyway, the president`s reported decision on the Iran deal seems to be at odds with two of his top national security advisers. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in August he has a difference of opinion than the president on the Iran deal and how to use it. And here was Secretary of Defense James Mattis just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Do you believe it`s in our national security interests at the present time to remain in the JCPOA? That`s a yes or no question.

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Yes, Senator, I do. If we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interests, then clearly, we should stay with it. I believe at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the president should consider staying with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nik, why would the president want to bring down the Iranian deal? He seems like he can`t do it under the procedure at hand here, but he wants to. What is he thinking?

I mean, we`ve seen this with "Obama care" on the home front, where they don`t have anything to replace it with, that "repeal and replace" means nothing, it just means squaring a circle. It`s not going to happen. And in this case, everybody knows the only thing stopping the Iranians is the fact that we`ve opened up trade with them again, opened up their trade doors, and they`ve said that they`d rather have that than five more years in the -- five more years in the coming years in developing a nuclear weapon. But we get rid of that incentive and that carrot and that stick, what`s to stop them?

STEINBERG: There`s nothing to stop them. And frankly, the people who negotiated this deal are aware that it is not the perfect deal that President Trump has said he seeks.

You know, Iran creates a lot of trouble and is a threat to national security in many ways. They fund terrorism in the region, where they are - - they are a threat to Israel. They repress the rights of people within their country. The Iran deal is not meant to fix those things. It is meant to restrain Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and by every measure, it has for the last two years succeeded.

So the burden is on this administration to say, if all of the experts say that Iran is complying with the deal and our allies say, Please stay in the deal, why are we pulling out?

The only explanation I can come up with, in addition to the ego issues that you`ve raised, is this is an administration that just has a fundamentally different view of America`s role in the world. And they believe in a zero sum game, where if the rest of the world wants it, it must be bad for America. And that, in my view, is just misguided. American leadership is predicated on the idea that we go out, we lead in the world, and we persuade others to tackle problems we can`t fix on our own. I don`t think this administration at the top believes that.

MATTHEWS: Well, he also said he was against stupid wars. And I think going to war with Iran is not a good idea.

Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid. What time`s your show on tomorrow?

REID: 10:00 AM Eastern.

MATTHEWS: On this network right here. Hold that dial! Anyway, thank you, Joy Reid...

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... the best in the business.

REID: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, she will be if she isn`t already. Anyway, Eli Stokols -- you`re the best. Eli Stokols, thank you, sir. It`s great to have you on, from "The Wall Street Journal." And Nik Steinberg, thank you. Must have been great working with Samantha. Thank you.

Coming up -- take a look at the crowd Steve Bannon is pushing right now for public office. Mr. Ten Commandments, Roy Moore of Alabama, ex-con -- we`re cruel here -- Michael Grimm of Staten Island and Arizona`s Kelli Ward. She`s a piece of work. She called John McCain weak and old and said he should retire so she could have his seat in the Senate. Isn`t that sweet?

Plus, as the death toll climbs in Puerto Rico, there`s new criticism tonight that President Trump has not a clue how to handle the recovery effort on that island, despite his claims that the federal response has been incredible.

And remember this bombshell news that dropped just one year ago?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It`s like a magnet. I just kiss. And when you`re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When you`re a star, they let you do it. You can get away with anything. Anyway, that -- well, maybe he did, actually. The "Access Hollywood" tape of Donald Trump was unearthed -- that`s a great phrase -- a year ago tomorrow, the same day Wikileaks dumped John Podesta`s e-mails. I think the Russians had something to do with that -- and nothing`s been the same since.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch."

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report for September, with the economy shedding 33,000 jobs due to the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That said, the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.2 percent -- 4.2, the lowest it`s been in 16 years.

Today`s report comes amid new optimism about the U.S. economy. A "U.S. Today" poll out this week found that for the first time in Trump`s presidency, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the economy is in recovery.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After leaving his job, Steve Bannon, the president`s former chief strategist, told "The Economist" magazine that at the White House, he had influence, but, at Breitbart, he has power.

Since Roy Moore`s victory in Alabama, Bannon has been flexing his muscle and hand-picking candidates that are loyal to the Breitbart brand of national populism.

This week, he recruited a new soldier, former U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm. He`s got a great name. The convicted felon and Republican from Staten Island, New York, tweeted this photo after Bannon backed his primary challenge of fellow Republican incumbent Dan Donovan, who currently holds the old seat.

Grimm joins an already growing list of disruptive candidates in Bannon`s brigade, including Kelli Ward, who is running against Senator Jeff Flake in Arizona. And she is a piece of work. Ward has a long history as an anti- establishment candidate. That`s the good part. While in the Arizona state legislature, she tried to outlaw enforcement of federal gun laws, outlaw enforcement of gun laws in Arizona.

Last year, she called on John McCain -- she called him old and weak. And this past July, after Senator McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, she called on him to step aside as quickly as possible and give her -- and give her his Senate seat. She said it right out loud.

For more, I`m joined by Dana Milbank, political columnist for "The Washington Post," and Jonathan Allen, national political reporter with, well, NBC News.

Thank you, gentlemen.

I want to start with you, Dana, and then on, Jonathan.

What a rose gallery this guy is putting together.

DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It`s like the land of broken toys.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: You know, Steve Bannon said that he was going to be a killing machine. And he is. The thing he`s killing, though, is the Republican Party and conservatism.

MATTHEWS: These guys can actually lose generals in red states like Arizona, can`t they?

MILBANK: Well...

MATTHEWS: They`re horrible candidates.

MILBANK: You can`t lose in a place like Alabama. You could wind up losing races in Arizona.

MATTHEWS: Arizona.

MILBANK: But what they`re doing, even if they win the seats, is they`re making this the party of Roy Moore. This is the party of Michael Grimm.

And you have got a guy who doesn`t really believe in the Constitution. You got a guy threatening to throw reporters off of a balcony and getting into tax evasion trouble.

MATTHEWS: Break him like a boy.

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: Break him like a boy, for example.

MATTHEWS: That was interesting language.

MILBANK: Maybe that`s the slogan the Republicans will want to adopt now.

But it creates such a long-term problem for them, even if it doesn`t cause a disaster in the near term.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what it`s about, because -- I don`t want to say. Flake seems like an all right candidate. But maybe he`s too thin. I don`t know.

But Kelli Ward, oh, my God.

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Flake`s approval rating in Arizona has been terrible. He`s somebody who is vulnerable.

And Kelli Ward...

MATTHEWS: He came on this show attacking Trump, but on the book. He attacked Trump. The minute he sat in that chair, he wouldn`t do it. He wouldn`t do what`s in the book. He wouldn`t repeat his own book. I didn`t think that was ballsy. I`m telling you, that was a problem.

ALLEN: Well, he`s clearly certain that a lot of people who vote in Arizona aren`t reading the book.

But, look, he`s making -- Flake is making an argument that the Republican Party is no longer conservative. And Steve Bannon is trying to make sure that it`s not establishment conservative. This shouldn`t be a surprise. He has declared war on the establishment of the Republican Party, on the establishment of the country, and he wants to destroy what exists.

If that means he needs to support a felon like Michael Grimm, the former congressman, he will do that. If it`s Kelli Ward, who has attacked John McCain, just like Donald Trump did, he will do that. And if it`s Roy Moore, who was just up in Washington and apparently, according to folks I have talked to, didn`t really have a plan for what he wants to do when he gets there...

MATTHEWS: Will he take any shutout? Any shutout is good enough for him? Anybody who has been excluded is all right with him.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Like the guy who believes -- OK, I believe in the 10 Commandments too. Most of us do. In the courthouse, fine. That`s a debate. That`s not the end of the world. It`s the debate.

But that`s what he`s known for. He`s known for the courthouse having the 10 Commandments in it. This Kelli ward is known for being an awful person. And the other guy is known for being a felon, a tax cheat who wants to write tax law.

How do you get that guy in the Congress?

ALLEN: Well, I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Even Staten Island, it is a rough area, but that`s not that rough to put...

ALLEN: It`s not Rikers Island.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: His purpose is to make a point, I think, not to win elections.

MATTHEWS: What`s the point?

MILBANK: The point is, you have to have the most pure guy in the room.

MATTHEWS: Pure what?

MILBANK: Well, a pure nationalist.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: See, I don`t see conservative here. Tax cheats, are they conservatives?

MILBANK: Steve Bannon thought that he could create this populist nationalist movement, that it would be -- all these guys would come over from the left, the blue-collar union guys.

Well, it hasn`t happened. It`s been this very small group. So, instead, he`s becoming an ever more pure circle, with ever more exotic candidates. And...

MATTHEWS: OK. Could this bring down the Republican leadership, this whole -- this rock and roll effort to bring down these particular seats?

In other words, I`m looking at McConnell. Mitch McConnell seems to have no support in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Nobody in America -- it`s wobbly to the point it`s going to fall. It reminds me of the British Tory party, right, what is going on over there. They`re falling. Theresa May is falling.

ALLEN: Absolutely.

And I think you have to look at this as a longer arc. This is the apotheosis of the Tea Party movement. You saw these guys come in, in 2010. John Boehner fell after that, had to leave the Congress. Paul Ryan has had his struggles, though I think he`s in much better shape today than he has been at certain points.

And Mitch McConnell has this incredibly low approval rating as well. I don`t know that there`s anything -- an imminent threat to Mitch McConnell, but his ability to get things done as the Republican leader in the Senate is totally compromised by a Roy Moore coming in.

MILBANK: McConnell is very unpopular nationally, but where he has a lot of popularity is among the other 51 Republicans in the Senate.

There`s no threat to him in the short term. Roy Moore is not going to be the Senate majority leader. Ted Cruz is not going to be the Senate majority leader.

But what it does is, this dynamic denies McConnell the votes to get anything passed. It`s a continuing self-perpetuating cycle, more ineffective governing in Washington, more anger people kicking out more establishment Republicans, and more dysfunction.

MATTHEWS: Well, one thing you notice is that the latest polling shows the Democrats are within the margin nationally to win the Congress next time.

You never know how it`s going to translate, how it`s going to crosswalk to actual seats, but they have got a margin of double digit. They can do it. And the question is, will this make it easier for the Democrats to win, this coming apart of the Republican Party?

John?

ALLEN: You have to look at it race by race. And I think we`re going to have to look a lot closer to the election to see where these candidates, these unconventional candidates whereby, where have they won the primaries, where have they lost the primaries.

But one of the things I think we have learned over time that is in a lot of these districts, it doesn`t really matter. The R or the D matters a lot more than the flavor of R or D.

MILBANK: And remember the Democrats almost never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. So, that will be working against them.

MATTHEWS: Shimon Peres came up with that line over in Israel.

But go ahead.

MILBANK: And the deck is stacked against them in the House because of gerrymandering, and in the Senate because of the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think the Republican Party -- the Democratic Party is moving left. We know that. For better or worse, we don`t know that. But it`s moving left. But it seems to be moving sort of reasonably left. It seems to be moving over slowly.

The Republican Party seems to be creaky and getting into real trouble.

Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank. Thank you.

And, Jonathan, you`re very serious tonight.

ALLEN: Sorry.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump continues to praise his administration`s response -- he`s praising his administration`s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico.

Our next guest says that Trump has no idea what he`s doing out there and that his handling of the situation should worry every American.

Wow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui in the MSNBC newsroom.

The body of a fourth U.S. soldier has been recovered in Niger, according to the Pentagon. The Special Forces were on a routine patrol when they were ambushed by Islamic State militants on Wednesday.

And then watch this, the world`s largest passenger airline having a rough landing here, almost sliding off the runway in Germany yesterday. The Emirates pilot was able to safely land that plane in crosswinds.

New Orleans is under mandatory evacuations for another possible hurricane. Tropical Storm Nate could gain strength before hitting the Gulf Coast -- for now, back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are also praying for the people of Puerto Rico. We love Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you.

TRUMP: And we also love Puerto Rico. And we`re marshaling every federal resource at our disposal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, of course, today once again praising the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico.

His comments come as Puerto Rico`s governor announced the storm-related death toll out there has risen to 36. Ninety percent of the island -- this is unbelievable -- is still without power, and just about half of the island has not got drinking water. Water.

Vice President Pence traveled to the island today to survey the damage.

The president made his own trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, including a stop at a relief center, where he, well, strangely tossed rolls of paper towels into the crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was a great trip and a beautiful place.

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. What is death count as of this moment? Seventeen?

Sixteen people certified, 16 people, vs. in the thousands, you can be very proud.

Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you have thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we have spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.

And that`s fine. We have saved a lot of lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more on the president`s handling of Puerto Rico, I`m joined by Jeremy Konyndyk, former director of foreign disaster assistance at USAID.

Sir, you know, these numbers of amounts of water being brought out there, and the numbers of people, 15,000 U.S. personnel from the federal government, and yet I have the sense that it`s incoherent. There`s no hierarchy. There`s nobody -- there`s no General Patton or Petraeus or somebody like that leading the assault, coordinating everything in terms of water, electric energy, everything.

It doesn`t seem to be coordinated. Who is the boss? Is there a person?

JEREMY KONYNDYK, FORMER USAID OFFICIAL: So, in a standard response, the governor of the state and the state and local emergency management authorities will be leading, with FEMA in support.

And that`s one of the things that makes this response..

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, who`s the boss? The governor?

KONYNDYK: So, the boss is -- if you listen to FEMA talk, they will often say, we`re working with the governor, we`re supporting the governor`s requests.

The challenge with that in this environment, of course, is that Puerto Rico`s emergency management capacities has been badly damaged by the same storm that badly damaged the rest of the island. And so FEMA is having to do a lot more of the heavy lifting on their own.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KONYNDYK: And one of the most challenging things when you`re in federal government is having to do something that your agency wasn`t quite built to do. And that`s where the role of the president is very important in ensuring that all of the tools that are needed for a big federal response come in.

And that`s where I think some of the shortcomings...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you had a real can-do president, hands-on man or woman running it, Hillary, anybody like that, running the United States government, would they go down there, like Patton?

Would they pick a viceroy, somebody that is going to run the show from a war room in a modern way, like you fight a war, or the way you run an investigation of the Russia connection? That seems coordinated. This doesn`t.

KONYNDYK: I think that`s a great point.

One of the concerns is, when you have this big of a response, this many parts of the federal government pulling together, you do need some higher- level political attention to coordinate all those different pieces. And that`s tough to do.

I sympathize with the FEMA administrator. That`s tough to do when you`re also running the operations of the response.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, why does it look good? I admit this is outside, and it`s horrible. And I`m not looking for blame.

KONYNDYK: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But it does bug we can`t get the job done. It`s part of our country.

I remember Haley Barbour down in Mississippi, everything seemed to be going fast. The people rebuilt fast along the coastline. I looked at Jeb Governor Bush down in Florida with Andrew. That seemed to get done. He was reelected because of that. People liked it.

I don`t get that sense. This seems more like Louisiana. It seems more like Katrina. And they bumped their governor there. They got rid of Blanco.

KONYNDYK: Yes.

This is a -- certainly the toughest domestic response since Katrina. I would point to a couple of things. First, it is a very difficult response. From a technical perspective, it`s a tough response.

But it`s nothing that we haven`t faced somewhere in the world before.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s start with water.

KONYNDYK: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Water comes in bottles.

KONYNDYK: Yes. Well...

MATTHEWS: Why have they had such a hard time getting them to the rural areas? Is it the roads have been cut off by trees falling down or the drivers don`t show up to work because they can`t get out of their houses?

What`s going on? Why isn`t the water getting delivered? Start with that.

KONYNDYK: Sure.

So, the overland road blockages have been a problem, but what`s puzzling to me is why they didn`t go much bigger on airlift much sooner. So, for example, in the Haiti response in 2010 after the earthquake, or the Philippines typhoon in 2013, which was the largest typhoon ever to make landfall, we didn`t wait for the roads to be cleared before we could get to all the affected areas.

We brought in loads and loads of helicopters, 66 DOD helicopters to the Philippines, 300 DOD helicopters to Haiti in 2010, and just went over the roads.

And they`re starting to do that now. They have gotten more helicopters in, but it`s been very slow in coming.

MATTHEWS: What about electricity?

KONYNDYK: Electricity is going to be very tough.

MATTHEWS: Why is that hard? What was blown apart? The generators? Or what -- is it hydraulic or is it gasoline? What`s powering these? Is it diesel? What`s powering the electricity there?

KONYNDYK: As I understand it, it`s a matter as much of the transmission lines as anything.

So, to get the electrical grid back up and running will entail rebuilding a lot of the electrical grid. In the interim, what is needed is generators on critical infrastructure.

Some have those. A lot of the hospitals have those, but they have been running into these same logistics hurdles again with getting the fuel to them because of the road blockages. So, again, as they have gotten more helicopters in, that is starting to get better. But it`s been slow in coming.

MATTHEWS: Do you wish you were running the thing? Doesn`t it get to you that it isn`t working right? And you`re a pro at this.

KONYNDYK: I think there`s always -- for anyone who has been in disaster response, there`s also a twinge when something big hits.

MATTHEWS: You want to be on the job, right?

KONYNDYK: But, look, the men and women of FEMA are very, very capable. I think the challenge is -- the question is, in my mind, have they had access to the full scale of tools that they need to do the job right?

MATTHEWS: Should Trump be more on this?

KONYNDYK: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought you would say that.

Thank you, Jeremy Konyndyk.

KONYNDYK: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

KONYNDYK: My pleasure.

MATTHEWS: You seem like a pro to me.

Up next: It`s been one year since the "Access Hollywood" tape, remember that baby right there from that bus, was released. And Billy Bush, well, he got in trouble for this, not the president. And the chaos hasn`t let up ever since.

We are going to get to the HARDBALL Roundtable. Why did that scene start endless trouble in this country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Almost exactly a year ago today, actually on Friday, October 7th, 2016, a slow Friday afternoon turned into one of the biggest news days of the 2016 election when "The Washington Post" published the now infamous "Access Hollywood" video of President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-REALITY TV CELEBRITY: I`m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. Like a magnet. I don`t even wait. And when you`re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we got the drift.

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL round table. Libby Casey, a reporter for "The Washington Post", Jason Johnson, politics editor at "The Root", and an MSNBC political contributor, and David Corn is Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones", and also a contributor here.

Libby, you`re a woman.

LIBBY CASEY, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I am. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: The only one at the table right now so we`ve got to go to you first. Why didn`t women just say this guy is a pig?

CASEY: I think there was an instant recoil. But I remember talking to suburban Philadelphia voters a few days after this, after the debate, this was Friday, there was a Sunday night debate. Now, President Trump got through the debate and they had normalized it in their minds. I thought this would be a game changer.

MATTHEWS: Tell me what that word means.

CASEY: Well, his team said it was locker room talk, said this isn`t a Sunday schoolteacher. We`re not looking for that, we`re looking for the leader of the free world.

I remember a question in the debate he pivoted to ISIS from coming out of a question about the tape. And when I talk to these voters, these are Catholic, white, well-to-do suburban Philadelphia voters, you know these people, and they said, I care about the Supreme Court, I`m a Catholic voter and I hate Hillary Clinton.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Yes.

CASEY: And there was so much other news that weekend, that muddled the story.

MATTHEWS: The pro-life (INAUDIBLE).

You know what I though, when I heard that Reince Priebus called him up saying you`ve got to put Trump out, you got to get out of the race, that`s how serious -- he`s an old style politician.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he`s a decent man.

MATTHEWS: Get out of the race. Yes, you`re an awful person. You shouldn`t be running for president.

JOHNSON: This is what I experienced with the Ohio voters that I talked to at the time. It`s kind of like, there`s like offensive music at a club, right? And women listen to music that sometimes say bad things about women.

If you can ask them, how can you dance to this. Well, he`s not talking about me. A lot of the woman who I spoke to, like, well, he`s talking about the kind of women that throw themselves at men like Donald Trump. That`s not me. I`m a decent, upstanding woman. He`s not talking about women like me. I don`t feel affected by this.

MATTHEWS: Brilliantly discriminatory. It keeps you off the hook. In other words, I can vote for this guy.

JOHNSON: Exactly, because it`s not me.

CORN: Well, the people wanted to vote -- people who did vote for him, again a minority of the population wanted to vote for him. They knew that he was a jerk, his misogyny was already well known, the fact that he screwed contractors and that he was not very --

MATTHEWS: How about the bills --

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Not loyal to the truth.

MATTHEWS: Why did they --

CORN: Because they thought he was echoing their resentment, their anger. They don`t want to be, you know, have to behave normally. Sometimes, they want to say things that are unacceptable. He got away with it. There was a lot of that. And so, these are people who want to vote for him.

So, when this happens, they spend a few days recoiling, that`s a good word. But it`s happened again and again throughout the campaign. Every time he did something that seemed to be unacceptable, his numbers dropped but within three, four, five days, the Republican voters started coming back to him gradually.

MATTHEWS: I live like David, we lived through Watergate and we realized the thing that nobody likes to admit about Watergate, it had no impact on the election. We know all about it. The Cronkite, Walter Cronkite, was all over it, the CBS team was all over it that year and nobody cared.

They didn`t think McGovern. He had squeaky voice, they didn`t think he was the right guy, too far left. Nixon was fine. They went to Russia and went to China. And they ignored it.

Now, I`m looking at the thing, the same day that this "Access Hollywood" hit, it wasn`t the only big news that day, that broke on that day, on that Friday. Around 3:30 that day, the U.S. Intelligence Committee announced that they were confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromise of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. So, they knew it, they knew it then.

That "Access Hollywood" tape was released shortly after 4:00. At 4:30, WikiLeaks released the Clinton campaign chair John Podesta`s e-mails went out. We now know that Russia was responsible with that hack as well. So, all of that stuff that had real historic information in it didn`t have much of an impact either apparently.

CASEY: Well, my colleagues at "The Washington Post` have called that Russian interference the crime of the century in terms of political crimes and it just got buried, and the intelligence community was devastated by it.

MATTHEWS: But the people heard it. Why didn`t they care?

CASEY: Because that tape was so electric and so shocking in its nature that that is what people took away. But I have to say, those same Philadelphia voters, when they heard this Podesta leaks email, Hillary, what they took away from that was Hillary Clinton e-mails. They weren`t listening.

MATTHEWS: It was another reference to Hillary`s e-mails.

JOHNSON: And that`s all that matters.

CORN: The amazing thing is those three big stories, you know, the president admitting to being a criminal, not just being a cad, but being a criminal --

MATTHEWS: Because of what he said.

CORN: Because of what he said, grabbing women by their private parts. And a Russian foreign adversary for the first time the government saying they`re messing with our election and what was the impact in the final outcome, the Podesta e-mail e-mails, 60,000 of them. Not a single one of them was truly scandalous. There was interesting political juicy gossip stuff, but nothing about breaking the law --

MATTHEWS: Catholic stuff in there.

CORN: One or two people not connected to the campaign saying things. So that, at the end of the day, because of this connection, it reinforced the idea of Hillary Clinton and e-mails being shifty, that had the impact.

MATTHEWS: Everything you say is what I heard from my brother. When he went out to vote and he voted for, one of my brother, I wouldn`t say which one, he voted for Hillary, I did, big surprise. He called me at 8:30 that morning saying I`ve never seen so many people with walkers at the voting station. Older people had gotten up in their old age, all pro-life Catholics. They had to work their way out to get out there and that thing he said to me that women must be punished for abortion, that probably helped him with these people, as much as we all thought it was outrageous to punish somebody. It sent the message.

JOHNSON: I think in a lot of respects --

MATTHEWS: So bizarre.

JOHNSON: -- for your average voter also as well, it was almost like in football, it was almost like offsetting penalties. Like if you hated Trump, you`re like, aha, see, this is the evidence that you yelled at your brother and your cousin. If you hated Hillary, here we go more e-mails.

At the end of the day, I still think that it was all trending toward Hillary Clinton until the Comey letter and I think that that weekend ended up being a wash because both of those things reinforced exactly what a polarized electorate already felt.

CORN: The Comey letter was important because it came after four weeks of Hillary Clinton e-mail. E-mail -- and you talked to the pollsters and they did the focus groups in this time, voters, particularly independent voters in swing states, thought that all of this Podesta e-mail stuff, rather than Clinton being the victim was about her e-mail server controversy.

JOHNSON: Right.

CORN: So, that set up the perfect teeing up for --

MATTHEWS: Well, as I said, Watergate didn`t happen during the campaign. It all came in after as aftermath of what happened. A fallout was much more dangerous than anything that happened in the campaign and we don`t know whether Mueller`s case when he presents it with that briefcase he carries around with him, if that`s heavier than anything that happened in the campaign, and it could well be.

The round table is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something -- in fact, they`re going to give them some scoops. This raises the bar this week. Let`s have some scoops from these people. They`re reporters. Show it. Show it. Show me.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump injected himself into the Virginia governor`s race last night, accusing the Democratic candidate of supporting violent gangs. Trump tweeted Ralph Northam, who is running for governor of Virginia is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs and sanctuary cities. He then endorsed the Republican, writing, vote Ed Gillespie.

Well, Gillespie downplayed Trump`s endorsement, telling reporters, I`m a little surprised that this is news.

Recent polls have consistently showing Gillespie trailing his Democratic opponent and by a lot.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back with the HARDBALL round table.

And, Libby, Libby Casey will tell me something I don`t know.

CASEY: The Trump administration limited the Affordable Care Act`s mandate to cover birth control today, 120,000 women by the department`s estimates will not get free birth control anymore. Activists say it is much, much more.

Democrats are at a loss of what to do. They are outraged. They hope this mobilizes people to get involved on the fight on the budget, on taxes, but there`s a lot of fatigue out there, and the question is, can they turn this into a fight over Medicare and other health issues.

MATTHEWS: Yes?

JOHNSON: Chris, what you may know is that Charlottesville was attacked by white nationalists. We had white nationalist attacks in Maryland. We had them in Oregon.

But what you may not know is the FBI has decided that that the new most dangerous terrorist group are black identity extremists. That`s right. They have identified black identity extremists, a group of African- Americans who are prone to violence due to police brutality. They`re primarily concerned about that, and they say the largest group for black identity extremists are in California, giving the DOJ an opportunity to engage in anti-terrorism behavior and the biggest --

MATTHEWS: Do they exist?

JOHNSON: No, they don`t.

MATTHEWS: OK, I had to ask.

JOHNSON: But they say they are.

MATTHEWS: David?

CORN: You know this, two days ago, Richard Burr, the senator, the head of intelligence committee came out and said those Russian Facebook ads, we can`t tell who they were supporting, they were indiscriminate, his words. I did an interview with Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, who is on the intelligence committee, who presumably has seen some of the Russian Facebook ads. He says that Burr is wrong. They did show favoritism for one candidate, we can guess who that is, and that`s why he said these ads need to be released by the committee or by Facebook itself.

MATTHEWS: Why is Burr covering for Trump?

CORN: Well, Burr is in a very difficult position. He`s leading this investigation that Trump calls a hoax. So, whatever he can, I think he tries to spin things a little bit to help Trump.

MATTHEWS: Good reporting there.

Thank you, Libby Casey, Jason Johnson and David Corn.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Friday, October 6th, 2017.

You could call Donald Trump a bull in a china shop but that doesn`t quite get it because wherever he goes, there`s confusion and chaos. So this president is a bull who brings his china shop wherever he happens to be headed that day, and this is the week we cannot forget that began with horror. The Sunday night shooting deaths of 58 people out in Las Vegas, with more than 500 wounded, and yet everything seems to be suspended in time right now, Las Vegas, Hurricane Harvey, the devastation in Puerto Rico.

And in front of it all is the president performing, throwing rolls of paper towels in the air as if the people of that island needed something else to grab their time and attention, some little circus performed by the president to excite them. Then it was off to Las Vegas, the president once again in the midst of another china shop, this time a secretary of state calling him a moron. And he, the president, blaming the media for informing the country what the secretary of state secretly thinks of a man giving the orders, that he`s a moron.

Then on top of the buffoonery, the president declares he`s decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, acting like he has some better way to restrain the Iran nuclear program there, some better way presumably, like his way of restraining the North Korea nuclear weapons program. You`ve seen how well that`s going.

Watching the Trump circus this week, we`ve been distracted again and again from the carnage on the Vegas Strip, but not distracted enough to relieve the real life tragedy of it all.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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