Ryan: Trump & Corker should "just talk it out" Transcript 10/11/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Annie Linskey, Clarence Page, David Jolly, Doug Thornell, Eli Stokols, Christopher Hill

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 11, 2017 Guest: Annie Linskey, Clarence Page, David Jolly, Doug Thornell, Eli Stokols, Christopher Hill

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Unraveling.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Alarming stories out of the White House tonight. "Vanity Fair" reports that people close to the president say he`s unstable, even unraveling. They describe the president as consumed by dark moods saying he hates everyone in the White House.

And then there is the NBC News exclusive about the president and his thoughts last summer on nuclear weapons. President Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly 10-fold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering of the nation`s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room. NBC added, According to the officials present, Trump`s advisers were surprised. It was after this meeting that officials heard Secretary of State Rex Tillerson call the president a moron.

Donald Trump responded today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you want to increase the nuclear arsenal?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I never discussed increasing it. I want it in perfect shape. That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news lately.

No, I never discuss -- I think somebody said I want 10 times the nuclear weapons that we have right now. Right now, we have so many nuclear weapons. I want them in perfect condition, perfect shape. That`s the only thing I`ve ever discussed, and it`s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary of Defense James Mattis also put out a statement today. Quote, "Recent reports that the president called for an increase in the nuclear arsenal are absolutely false. This kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible."

Well, for the record, the NBC story never said the president called for an increase. He told his national security leaders he wanted an increase, a 10-fold increase, in effect.

It`s not the first time Donald Trump has made alarming statements about nuclear weapons or shown a lack of understanding about the historic nature of nuclear deterrence himself.

Here he was with me in March of 2016. Let`s watch him in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nuclear should be off of the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly.

MATTHEWS: OK, the trouble is, when you said that...

TRUMP: Possibly.

MATTHEWS: ... the whole world heard -- David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese (INAUDIBLE) bombed them in `45 (INAUDIBLE) They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? We have...

MATTHEWS: Because of the old "mutual assured destruction," which Reagan hated.

TRUMP: Just so you understand...

MATTHEWS: He tried to get rid of it.

TRUMP: I was against Iraq. I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons because...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon?

TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.

MATTHEWS: How about Europe? We won`t use it in Europe.

TRUMP: I`m not going to take it off the table for anybody.

MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?

TRUMP: No. I don`t think so, but I`m not taking...

MATTHEWS: Well, just say it, I`ll never use a nuclear weapon in Europe.

TRUMP: I am not taking cards off the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Carol Lee, one of the authors of the NBC report on the July Pentagon meeting, "Wall Street Journal" White House reporter Eli Stokols and Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and South Korea, among other responsibilities.

Let me go to Carol on this. This whole discussion about Trump, that he seems to not understand -- and I believe he doesn`t understand. He doesn`t understand the history (INAUDIBLE) which Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, explained was the reason we didn`t have a third world war with Russia all those years during the cold war because nuclear weapons made war impossible. The purpose of a nuclear weapon was to get old, to rust, to atrophy, become useless finally and never to be ever used.

Trump (INAUDIBLE) He said to me, Well, why are we making them? Like, if you`re not going to use them, why are you making them? It`s -- an 8-year- old would know that. You don`t use nuclear weapons.

CAROL LEE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: So what happened in this meeting is the -- he was shown a chart of nuclear weapons stockpile for the U.S. and Russia from the beginning, 1950s, until now. And you know, it goes like this, and it peaks in the late 1960s for the U.S. And he looked at it and said, I want that. Why don`t we have that many?

MATTHEWS: Like, at the peak.

LEE: Yes, where the peak is, is now it`s -- and now it`s 4,000 and then it was about 32,000, which is essentially a 10-fold increase, which is what he was saying that he wanted, and...

MATTHEWS: Well, why is he denying it now?

LEE: Well, if you...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: If you look it, I mean, it`s obvious...

MATTHEWS: ... sounds ridiculous.

LEE: Well,, but also, he said he never discussed an increase in nuclear weapons. Of course he did. You know, he discussed it publicly, and he discussed it once he was in the White House.

MATTHEWS: So if he were standing right now and you did explain it to him - - What I meant was, Mr. President, that during the course of that discussion, in the briefing for the generals, you were shown a graph and you pointed to the graph, the high point -- the optimum point, said, I want to go back to there -- you did say that, right? What would he say?

LEE: I have no idea. I mean, I presume he would say what he always says, which is a pushback on anything that he doesn`t like when he sees it in print or watches it on TV, which is that it`s fake news.

But look, you know, he went in this briefing. It wasn`t just nuclear weapons that were discussed. It was every military, every -- you know, troops, whether it`s equipment, all around the world and everywhere. But we talked to three people who were in that room. And it was a small group of people. Everywhere they went, he said, I want more, more troops, more - - you know, more of this, more of that. So that`s just how he thinks about these things.

MATTHEWS: And he was getting a wide-ranging briefing on U.S. deterrence, U.S. security in the world, global security (INAUDIBLE) looking at the global map.

LEE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And it was after that meeting where Tillerson called him a moron.

LEE: Correct, and...

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you -- how do you -- what is the causality between those meetings, those briefings, including the request for 10 times the nuclear weaponry, and all that leading to the term "moron" afterwards? How do you -- how can you report the connection?

LEE: There was a lot going on at that time. It wasn`t just that. Tillerson and the president were having -- you know, we don`t know specifically what Tillerson was referring to, what he was referencing when he referred to the president as a moron. And we know that he was coming out of that meeting. There`s a small group of people that lingered. And he said -- that`s what -- how he referred to it...

MATTHEWS: That picture looks like he thinks he`s a moron, that kind of discerning look from the left there.

LEE: He also -- you know, there was a meeting the day before on Afghanistan, where the president left some of his advisers in the room with their jaws dropped for some of the things he was saying in there, including suggesting firing the commander of the -- war in Afghanistan.

But this July timeframe was -- the secretary and the president were not getting along. They were at odds over -- they had just argued over the Iran recertification of the nuclear deal, and it was just a very contentious time. And so we don`t know specifically why the secretary called him a moron, but that`s...

MATTHEWS: I want to go to Eli. Eli...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this, your reporting, as well, and let me ask you about this -- this does seem to jive with the -- I wouldn`t say lunatic, but pretty wild statements he`s made about how we`re going to flatten North Korea. We`re going to basically kill everybody in the country. Presidents don`t talk like that about nuclear weapons.

ELI STOKOLS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": That`s right, and that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And Reagan hated nuclear weapons.

STOKOLS: That`s right. And this has really dismayed the president`s staff. When he stood on the stage of the United Nations General Assembly a couple weeks ago, and in his speech said to the entire world, We will potentially totally destroy North Korea -- that rhetoric was never in his speech. Yes, it was going to be a tough speech about North Korea, about Iran...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STOKOLS: ... but that rhetoric was added by this president himself, who has always demonstrated, along with a sort of imprecision and lack of sophistication on these things, a reflexive need to sort of amp the rhetoric up and talk tougher than everybody else.

It`s not surprising that he would see that chart and say, I want the most nukes, because he always wants to be the toughest, strongest, and he equates military strength and weaponry with toughness.

MATTHEWS: With macho. Anyway, by the way, even morally speaking, you can say, I`m going to get this little weirdo, so-called "dear leader" over there. But to say, I`m going to kill every North Korean that`s been forced to march in step for this guy, I`m going to kill all those people as my retaliation, doesn`t seem like the right American point of view.

Anyway, this summer -- this summer, president -- his rhetoric in North Korea has been ratcheting up. Let`s watch it in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what do you mean by military solutions or "locked and loaded" as it relates to North Korea?

TRUMP: Oh, I think it`s pretty obvious. We are looking at that very carefully, and I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said. And what I said is what I mean.

The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, you have to put a lot together. I mean, if somebody were visiting from another planet and just watched our leader right there, elected president right there, there`s a guy talking about wiping another country off the map, killing everybody in the country, sitting next to his wife. What is she doing sitting -- this is the Romanoffs. (INAUDIBLE) the other picture with his daughter. He behaves like a royal leader of our country that makes these decisions by fiat and talking about the absolute destruction of another people.

Anyway, Trump tweeted this weekend, "Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid. Hasn`t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work." Interesting.

Those comments aren`t sitting well with the majority of Americans, however. A new Associated Press poll found that 65 percent, about two thirds of us, say the president`s comments have made the situation worse. Two thirds of us say it`s worse, just 8 percent say they like the way he`s doing it, and 67 percent say they`re extremely or very concerned about the threat posed by North Korea to the United States.

Ambassador Hill, put this in the perspective of normal world relations, normal behavior, moral behavior, I must say, about one country talking to another. And again bring in Trump sitting there with his royal family. I think the whole idea thing (ph), it`s like the Romanoffs. You`re familiar with Russia. It`s the Romanoffs, a royal -- a royal family sitting there and dictating the future of another people. Your thoughts.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: But I remember the Romanoffs as much more sort of measured in their comments. I mean, these comments -- these comments bear no relation to reality. I mean, I guess he outsourced his speeches to a North Korean. And so he`s coming across as a North Korean leader.

The problem is, he doesn`t seem to understand -- he seems to want to make statements to the North Koreans that they would find very familiar, since they hear them all the time from their own leadership. He doesn`t seem understand he has a Chinese audience out there. He has a South Korean audience out there that is very concerned. I mean, they`re living within range of North Korean artillery, let alone missiles. You have a Japanese audience.

So what he ought to be doing is, you know, try to sort of show a little dignity, and frankly, that he knows what`s going on. I mean, increasingly, he seems over his head, and I mean, some people are saying he`s out of his mind.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about this...

HILL: So these are problems in terms of diplomacy.

MATTHEWS: Let`s assume there`s a sane general among those people goose- stepping to the tune of the dear leader over there in Pyongyang, and they`re trying to get some sense across with the other generals, and they hear their adversary, this president, saying, Only one thing will work. What do they hear?

HILL: Well, what they`re hearing is -- I mean, no one in North Korea wants to be moderate at that point. It`s -- you know, they hear that kind of stuff, and it`s kind of grist for their propaganda mill.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HILL: The idea -- I mean, I think his idea is that he`ll talk like them, and they`ll say, Oh, my gosh, he`s really serious. But you know, they bluff every day of the week. I mean, so, you know,they talk about a sea of fire in Seoul. They talked about surrounding Guam in fire. They bluff all the time.

So if he`s trying to sound like a North Korean, he`ll come across as a bit of bluffer to them, but to everyone else, he comes across as someone who simply does not understand what he`s talking about.

And I think that is the most worrisome thing. This whole issue of the NBC report -- I mean, he`s clearly looking at charts. He goes, Well, you know, why can`t we have more weapons? He doesn`t understand what they`re explaining to him. And I`m sure he doesn`t understand that, frankly, our military is not anxious to spend a lot more money on nuclear weapons. They`d like to spend money on things that are useful for a military in today`s world. So it`s a -- it`s just a complete absence of an understanding of what the job entails, what he should be doing.

MATTHEWS: He should understand what the nuclear weapons are, which is not to use them. Here he is -- I`ll go back to his quote to me last summer, Then why are we making them if we`re not going to use them? These aren`t Tinker Toys!

Anyway, President Trump was asked today whether he was on the same page as Secretary Tillerson on North Korea. Let`s watch his response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have.

QUESTION: Other than your secretary?

TRUMP: And I listen to everybody, but ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn`t it. That`s the way it works. That`s the way the system is. But I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people.

I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people. But I listen to everybody, and ultimately, I will do what`s right for the United States and really what`s right for the world because that`s really a world problem. That`s beyond just the United States. That`s a world problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m a little stronger.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think -- my brother-in-law worked in Korea and their use of the term "strong" and the way they use it is kind of interesting, but...

LEE: That`s the second time in I don`t know how many, a few days, that the president questioned the strength of his secretary of state. You know, look, that...

MATTHEWS: Is this an arm wrestling contest with him and Tillerson?

LEE: I think there`s a bit of a will -- a contest of wills. These are two former CEOs who both have been used to calling their shots their -- you know, their entire -- their in charge --

MATTHEWS: So what`s the effect on us, the Americans in a possible wartime situation?

LEE: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

STOKOLS: ... my attitude is the one that matters. He`s asserting his supremacy over everyone. A week ago, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, How can he disagree with the cabinet? The cabinet is there to represent him. It is this idea that he`s in charge and he`s not going to listen, if he doesn`t want to, to the other people who are brought on, the experts, the grown-ups in the room, as we call them. And so what does it mean? You know, it`s a little different than if he was taunting someone during the campaign because what we`re talking about now has huge stakes for national security, for the people in Korea...

MATTHEWS: And I remember...

STOKOLS: ... and for Americans` national security.

MATTHEWS: Remember, Ambassador and everyone else, it wasn`t too long ago we referred to people that behave like that as tinhorn dictators, like Saddam Hussein, people that behaved like this.

Anyway, thank you, Carol Lee, great reporting, another -- another amazing bit of reporting. And Eli Stokols and -- it`s great to have you on, U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill out at the University of Denver. Thank you, sir.

Coming up -- first it was Rex Tillerson calling Trump a moron, then it was Bob Corker from Tennessee, now Trump`s good friend, Tom Barrack, one of the sane friends of his, says he`s shocked by the kind of rhetoric Trump`s been using in office. Three early Trump allies are sounding the alarm about this president. Is anyone going to do anything about it?

Plus, the pictures of devastation from California are stunning right now, entire neighborhoods burned to the ground. We`re going to have an update on these deadly fires out there still raging in California, in the wine country included.

And we again -- we heard it again today, Trump attacking the press. He needs a boogey-man, and he always seems to find it in the people who cover him. Funny thing. Truth hurts.

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

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was forced to respond today to Senator Corker`s revelations about President Trump. It comes after Corker described the White House as an "adult day care center" and warned that Trump could lead us into World War III. Here`s how the speaker attempted to cover over the Corker revelations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it`s just talk it out among yourselves. I think my advice is for these two gentlemen to sit down and just talk through their issues. I think that`s the best way to get things done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That is a coverup. This was a revelation by Corker, the behavior in the White House. It wasn`t a feud between two politicians. That word from the speaker was an attempt to cover up a serious whistleblowing within this administration.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. First it was Secretary of State Tillerson calling the president a moron. Then came Senator Bob Corker raising the president`s very fitness to serve. And today, Tom Barrack, one of the president`s closest friends and confidants, the fellow who ran Trump`s inauguration, is the latest to speak out.

Barrack, a formal adviser to the president, told "The Washington Post" that he`s been shocked and stunned by some of the president`s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. He also told "The Post" -- quote -- "He thinks he has to be loyal to his base. I keep on saying, who is your base? You don`t have a natural base. Your base is now the world and America. So, you have all of these constituencies. Show them who you really are. He`s better than this."

And in a new "Vanity Fair" piece out late today, sources close to the president say that the public criticism matches what they`re seeing privately, which is "an unstable president, losing a step and unraveling."

The president is quoted as saying, "I hate everyone in the White House."

For more on this, I`m joined by Robert Costa, national political reporter with "The Washington Post" and, of course, an MSNBC political analyst.

Robert, thank you for joining us.

You talk about a pressure-cooker atmosphere, where the president has to let off steam, or he really will blow one of these days. Tell us about that situation.

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There are two camps around the president who are deeply concerned.

You have his friends who think he`s distracted, he`s not getting along with his own party. And then there are fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill who see the stalled agenda and they`re wondering, can this be put back together again?

MATTHEWS: Well, is he? Well, what stops him from focusing? Why isn`t he thinking every day at this point I need a tax reform bill, I need to put together enough votes in the Senate, enough votes in the House to get it done, or I will be a loser by year`s end?

Why doesn`t he focus? Is it mental, emotional? What`s stopping him from doing the job he got elected to do?

COSTA: Talking to people inside of the White House, Chris, they say he`s so flummoxed by congressional Republicans, burned by the experience in health care and other issues, and he`s stepped back a bit from trying to fully engage with trying to sell the tax plan.

He laid out some of those principles tonight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. But, otherwise, he`s really putting the onus on Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell.

MATTHEWS: And what`s the reaction of the people in the political Republican world beyond his inner circle? What do they make of him right now?

COSTA: Right now, most senators and congressmen I`m talking to on the Republican side, they say Senator Corker`s comments to an extent do reveal some of their own private concerns.

But because of the lingering issues on taxes, they`re not ready to break away, in the same way Corker has broken away. They want to get something done, so they can run on at least an issue besides the confirmation of Gorsuch in 2018.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that 80 percent-plus of Republican voters out there stick with Trump? Is that one of the things holding him together and making him stubborn, that he has just that support, rock- ribbed base out there?

COSTA: I have been in Pennsylvania, Georgia, all across the country talking to Trump voters. They still have a grievance against some parts of the economy, against the political class.

And so they like that the president is a total outsider. But that doesn`t mean, if they support him, that they`re going follow him on everything. And we saw that in the Alabama Senate race. They didn`t go lockstep with President Trump, but they`re still with him in many polls.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I found 10 percent in that latest Quinnipiac poll are people who both believe that he`s not level-headed, but support his job performance. Put that together in your head. That`s tricky stuff for 10 percent of the country.

Thank you, Robert Costa, as always.

"Vanity Fair" is also reporting that some of the president`s advisers are so concerned by the president`s behavior right now that some are worried that it could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary constitutional measures to remove him from office.

For more, I`m joined by former Republican Congressman Dave Jolly and former DNC senior Doug Thornell.

The Constitution we have gives tremendous powers to the president.

FMR REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Sure.

MATTHEWS: The only way to get rid of him is impeachment and conviction in the Senate, which is a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

JOLLY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: And we have a Republican Senate right now and a Republican House.

Or this 25th Amendment thing, where you have to say the president is unable to perform the duties. That is a very high bar.

JOLLY: It is.

Listen, Gabe Sherman`s piece kind of reads like a 20-count indictment preparing for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. But we know it`s a political question that likely will never happen.

I do think what`s important -- and you see this in the article -- is John Kelly. And we know that John Kelly is a barometer for the seriousness of this administration.

I have had the opportunity to watch John Kelly for over 20 years. He is a sober leader. If John Kelly were to ever leave, that`s an indication, I think. And, as an attorney, they call it noisy withdrawal, right? If your client is actually committing fraud, you have to withdraw.

If John Kelly decides to leave, I think that means there`s something there.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re talking an implicit military coup, where the military is basically controlling the country, not the elected president. You need Kelly to tell Trump what he`s allowed to do?

I mean, seriously, you`re saying that, aren`t you?

JOLLY: This is a president who`s declared war on North Korea twice through a tweet.

MATTHEWS: I know.

JOLLY: And so if you`re John Kelly, the former commander of U.S. Southern Command, if you`re Mattis, if you`re McMaster, yes, that is a worry.

MATTHEWS: This is "Seven Days in May," basically.

You`re saying we need a general to tell the president what to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Amazing statement.

DOUG THORNELL, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE SENIOR ADVISER: I actually think what we`re seeing with the "Vanity Fair" story, with Tom Barrack, is people conducting a public intervention for the president, a president who has -- you know, he`s unraveled. He`s unhinged.

They don`t know any other way to get through to him than through the media. He doesn`t -- and I think that...

MATTHEWS: Like Mr. Barrack, Tom Barrack.

(CROSSTALK)

THORNELL: Exactly. This is his best friend.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

THORNELL: This is his best friend.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And he has to go to "The Washington Post" to talk to him.

THORNELL: And he has got to go to "The Washington Post" to break through.

I think that`s stunning. But I think that`s what you`re seeing. You`re seeing a public intervention. And that is -- that should be pretty scary for the American people.

MATTHEWS: The thing is, if you meet Tom Barrack, you meet a guy -- and I had met before the inauguration -- who has that -- who exudes, like Colin Powell, that confidence.

JOLLY: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: You normally would trust a guy, whereas Trump, despite all of that sort of show business charm of his, can be very uneven and very unsettling to even listen to, Doug.

THORNELL: And I think he`s probably very insecure. And I think that...

MATTHEWS: Well, you know more than I.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But you may be right.

JOLLY: Very quick on something, Chris, that is the tragedy of Donald Trump, the fact that, who is his base? His base is now the American people.

Donald Trump could have kept his rapid base by simply being a deal-maker, getting things done. And he could have grown the base. Instead, what he`s done is, he`s whittled it down and he`s alienated most of the country.

MATTHEWS: I keep looking at all -- I`m going to say at the end of the show, I look at all the economic numbers. They`re pretty good.

If -- Obama would like these numbers. W. would love these -- Bill Clinton would love these numbers, unemployment 4.2. I know they`re not really precise estimates of the economy, but they look good.

And the stock market is zooming. And people -- two-thirds of the people now say things are pretty good. I haven`t heard anybody be that positive in a long time. And yet they also say this guy is unfit.

THORNELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: You know?

THORNELL: Well, I think, in defense of President Obama, he left President Trump with some pretty good economic numbers, both unemployment and the stock market.

What we don`t have now is one party yelling and screaming about how bad the economy is. Democrats are pretty silent on the economy because, in many ways, our president left it to President Trump. And you hear a lot of the Republicans talking about how strong the economy is.

So, I think that`s impacting the poll numbers. But you`re seeing in Quinnipiac numbers that Republicans are taking a big hurt here. Congressional Republicans` approval numbers are low, and so are generic numbers.

MATTHEWS: Let`s see. They need about a 10 percent spread to win this, 10 percent to win this House back.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I agree.

Look, well, two sources tell "Vanity Fair" that Steve Bannon has told the president he should worry more about the 25th Amendment than he should worry about impeachment. We were just talking about that.

The 25th Amendment, as we said, allows the majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove a president. According to the magazine, Bannon told allies that he think President Trump has a 30 percent chance of making it to the full term of his presidency.

That`s his good bosom buddy, by the way. He got about two-thirds chance of surviving without being thrown out of office for unfitness.

JOLLY: Look at -- the two interviews today involve two people who are closest to the president saying to the American people, as their audience, this is a president who may not make it through his first year.

THORNELL: And then senior White House aides...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, what kind of Republican are you?

(LAUGHTER)

JOLLY: One that`s honest and one that actually called on Donald Trump to drop out of the race when I was still a sitting member of member, after he announced a Muslim ban, one that spoke to marriage equality.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your state voted for him.

JOLLY: Yes.

But, listen, as a party, we are gone in the wilderness for a very long time if we don`t find a voice that`s different than Trump`s. I think he should be primaried in 2020 if he decides to run reelection.

MATTHEWS: Who`s your candidate?

JOLLY: You know, you have got to look at some -- John Kasich.

MATTHEWS: Well, give me one.

JOLLY: Well, OK, so John Kasich. Does John Kasich do it?

MATTHEWS: OK. He`s certainly got the attitude.

Doug, who is the candidate for the Democrats to beat him? Best bet right now? Best bet right now?

THORNELL: I like Chris Murphy. I said he -- I heard he wasn`t going to run.

MATTHEWS: He just pulled out. Oh, come on. He just pulled out. What a chicken number.

(CROSSTALK)

THORNELL: Mitch Landrieu. I like him.

MATTHEWS: For president? OK. I hear you. All for that.

OK, great, mayor of New Orleans, New Orleans.

THORNELL: New Orleans.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, former U.S. Congressman David Jolly and Doug Thornell.

Up next: Fires are raging across parts of Northern California right now. They have been moving at such a -- I have seen this before with friends of ours. These fires move so fast. In 10 minutes, they`re facing you. They`re right there.

The residents have been forced to evacuate with little or no warning. It`s unbelievable. We`re going to have a live report of what`s going on there in California in a couple of places out there. Twenty different places, there`s fires.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, life is the most important part. So you just take what you can, and then you just move on, because there`s other people that are hurting a lot worse than I am right now with what they have had to deal with.

So, just going to rely on all of these good people to help us out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Of course, that was one Napa Valley resident on her decision to leave her home amid the massive wildfires raging in California. Just get up and leave as fast as you can. More than 20 large fires are burning in that state, mostly up in Northern California. They have scorched nearly 170,000 acres of land.

Near Santa Rosa, for example, the Tubbs fire has consumed more than 28,000 acres, destroying more than 500 homes and businesses. Eleven people have been killed in that fire, with 21 deaths reported now across the state.

Red flag warnings have been issued for much of Northern California, meaning any fires that spark will spread rapidly.

In Southern California, the Canyon 2 fire forced evacuations near Anaheim, threatening neighborhoods as it burned more than 8,000 acres. Look at these fires. The blaze left a dramatic orange haze visibly from nearby Disneyland.

President Trump approved the state`s request for a federal disaster declaration on Tuesday, at the request of California Governor Jerry Brown, who addressed the situation today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you have heard the story here, profoundly serious fire. We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious. And it`s not over.

So, that`s the way it is with a warming climate and dry weather and reducing moisture. These kinds of catastrophe have happened. They will continue to happen. And we have to be prepared to do everything we can to mitigate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for more on the latest, we`re joined by NBC`s Joe Fryer, who is in Santa Rosa.

Joe, what is the situation up there?

JOE FRYER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we`re standing in one of the now 3,500 homes and businesses throughout this area that have been destroyed by these fires.

This home belonged to the Clark (ph) family. We spent some time with them today. As you can see, they didn`t just lose the house. They lost this Ford Mustang here. This garage, all of Jamie Clark`s (ph) tools were in here. He was a mechanic for 30 years.

They went to sleep Sunday night. The fire was several towns away. They weren`t terribly worried. Then, a little after 2:00 a.m. Monday morning, they knew the fire was coming. At that point, they say they had seven minutes to get out and escape. They were able to do so. But you take a look. It`s not just their house. If you look down throughout their neighborhood here, the destruction stretches basically as far the eye can see when you`re looking to my right, right now.

The danger is far from over still days later. The winds are really picking up tonight. These are warm, dry winds. They call them diablo winds, or devil winds, that are common in October. They really can fuel these fires.

And so, in Calistoga, that entire city is under evacuation tonight. A number of people around that area also under evacuation, because the fire threat is only growing. It`s expected to last several days. More than 20 large wildfires are burning throughout the state right now.

Already, they have burned 170,000 acres. That`s roughly 265 square miles. Chris, that`s larger than the size of the city of Chicago.

MATTHEWS: Joe, what can they do? How are they fighting the fires?

FRYER: You know, the good thing is, you know, Sunday night, Monday morning, people got caught off-guard. They didn`t know the fires were coming, certainly not so quickly. People weren`t prepared.

Now they have a lot of resources out here. More resources are coming in all the time. That means more firefighters, more ways to attack from the air. They have a lot of people in place to sort of defend homes.

So, at least they know the threat is coming. That doesn`t make things any easier. If these wind gusts really pick up tonight, they may not be as high as they were Sunday night, when it reached 50 miles an hour or higher, but if those ghosts pick up, they can take an ember, launch it into another neighborhood. That can spark a whole new fire and create a lot of problems -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, lots to talk about the future there.

Thank you, NBC`s Joe Fryer, out there in Santa Rosa, California.

Up next: President Trump goes after NBC News now, saying he might strip the network of its broadcast licenses. Is he serious?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump made it clear on Twitter this morning that he`d consider retaliating against networks like NBC by challenging their television licenses. Quote: With all of the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license? Bad for country.

That`s Trump talking there on tweet. His threat was in response to NBC`s report this week that Trump said at a meeting that he wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly tenfold. That was in a meeting in July with the top chiefs of staff, according to three officials who were there in the room.

So, we have good reporting on that. It`s a latest in a series of broad sides against the media that the president issued since taking office.

Let`s watch him at it here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.

These are really, really dishonest people and they`re bad people and I really think they don`t like our country. I really believe that.

The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. If you want to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media.

"The Washington Post" is terrible.

The failing "The New York Times" which is like so bad.

Or CNN which is so bad and so pathetic and their ratings are going down.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump is also going after individual reporters personally, most notably as a candidate in 2015, he appeared to mock a journalist for having a physical disability.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And now the poor, you got to see this guy. Oh, I don`t know what I said. I don`t remember. He`s going like I don`t remember. Maybe that`s what I said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s the guy that got elected president.

While the president was long attacked the media, this is if first time he`s threatened to use the FCC, it`s a regulatory authority, in retaliation against the media, against NBC in particular.

I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Annie Linskey, chief national correspondent for "The Boston Globe", Clarence Page, columnist with "The Chicago Tribune", and Howard Fineman, global editorial director for "The Huffington Post", and an MSNBC political analyst.

Howard, why don`t you start here? Is this just Nixon stuff? Is this chest pounding? Is it a real threat?

HOWARD FINEMAN, GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, it`s way beyond Nixon rhetorically and it`s way beyond Nixon in terms of open, direct threats to somehow use the regulatory mechanics of government to shut down opposition.

MATTHEWS: But to say it out loud, even Jon Meacham, did it on tape.

FINEMAN: Yes, and they were probably more effective than, frankly, he is going to be here in regulatory terms. For example, over at the FCC, they don`t actually regulate networks.

MATTHEWS: I know.

FINEMAN: They just regulate individual TV stations. And also, the current regime over at the FCC is against regulating very much of anything. They`re not suddenly going to stamp on free speech. I don`t think the chairman of the FCC is going to do that.

MATTHEWS: So, this is chest pounding?

FINEMAN: This is Trump -- this is Trump venting much more dramatically than Nixon ever did publicly. Nixon did it in private. He`s doing it out front. And it`s disturbing and upsetting because he doesn`t understand our role any more than he understands the role of Congress, the Republican Party, the intelligence community.

MATTHEWS: Nuclear weapons.

FINEMAN: Nuclear weapons or anything else. He doesn`t understand what we do. He doesn`t understand it.

MATTHEWS: Clarence, you remember the old days of Spiro Agnew.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I`m afraid so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You remember Pat Buchanan writing those incredible fiery speeches of his, the nattering nabobs.

PAGE: The nattering nabobs of negativism.

MATTHEWS: At least there was a little bit of humor in that.

PAGE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: A little bit of fun, you know?

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Dana Milbank out there on the stump almost. This guy, it`s like throwing red meat into the cage.

PAGE: Well, truly. You know, Howard is right. But the thing that gets me is the fact that Nixon didn`t talk about it publicly is what made it so insidious. The fact that Trump is talking about it tells me he`s not going to do it.

I mean -- but the fact that he talks like somebody who has never talked in TV himself. To talk about NBC News license being challenged. The government doesn`t license NBC News. It licenses the stations, not the networks.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know where`s "The Globe" --

ANNIE LINSKEY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- in your editorial policy.

But, yes, I`ve watched this in action at NBC. The levels of stuff, the standards going through it, and the lawyers going through it, and the editors going through it, and the producers at the highest level going through all of these kinds of reports, especially when you`re dealing with the president and national security. They got to get it right. It`s got to be based on real good sourcing with lots of sourcing.

And the president who just flips -- gets up at 6:30 in the morning and starts spewing this crap through his tweeter box or whatever it is and he`s talking about fact. Who is he to talk about fact?

LINSKEY: The problem though, I think, he does seem to have a chilling effect when he takes on other industries.

MATTHEWS: Does he?

LINSKEY: Look at the NFL. I mean, there`s a great example there. He decided to take on the NFL --

MATTHEWS: Do you think Roger Goodell was responding to Trump?

LINSKEY: I think he was. I think he was.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: There`s a difference here. The NFL is vulnerable. It`s often said the NFL has more of the red audience, while NBA is more blue. I mean, you know,

MATTHEWS: Very true. I`ve never thought of that vision there.

PAGE: And, you know --

MATTHEWS: The hipper players like Spike Lee and Jack Nicholson, they`re along ring side for an NBA game. But the football games, with jabbers with red faces, and they`re for the Bills --

LINSKEY: But they`re all motivated by profit.

PAGE: That`s right.

LINSKEY: These are for-profit media corporations.

FINEMAN: But I can say also, things are a lot different now than even though we`re sort of making fun of whether Trump can actually do something in a regulatory fashion here. The tinderbox that is the American public right now is who he`s playing to. And the fires can get -- can roar because in the old days when Richard Nixon was around, there was a general aspect of respect overall for the national media, overall.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

FINEMAN: Right now, there is not. The National Press Corps were, the national media is held in very low regard by most American people and that`s who Trump is playing to.

MATTHEWS: So, Dan Rather, Lesley Stahl, you know, those people, you think people looked up to them and today they don`t?

FINEMAN: Well, I just think there`s -- a generation has passed and the attitude of respect for most institutions of power, especially ones based in New York and Washington has disappeared.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

FINEMAN: And that`s who Trump is playing to here.

He`s beating his chest about the FCC, his real target again, once again, is his base, as Congressman Jolly said. He`s playing back into his base with this kind of talk and it`s dangerous because it legitimizes a whole lot of stuff on the right side of the spectrum.

MATTHEWS: The stuff that we haven`t seen yet that could be really scary.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: As I mentioned, not since Nixon have we had a president threaten to retaliate against a media company coming by revoking its TV licenses. Back in 1962, Richard Nixon discussed using the same tactic against Katharine Graham who owned "The Washington Post" at the time. Here`s Nixon on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Screw around with her television license?

CHUCK COLSON, FORMER AIDE: Oh, yes. Just not renew it.

NIXON: Is there a way we can do that?

COLSON: Yes, sir. It has to come up for renewal every three years.

NIXON: When will it come up?

COLSON: I don`t know.

NIXON: I hope to Christ it comes up this year.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`s Nixon figuring out when he can get to them.

Anyway, challenges to "The Washington Post" local TV license were later filed, actually filed in Florida, though, Katharine Graham later wrote that she could never prove that Nixon was behind it. So, that was real, Clarence.

LINSKEY: Yes.

PAGE: Yes, that`s what I was talking about. You know, and remember, that`s a local license. That`s what FCC licenses. Not networks, not network news.

Trump is talking to his base but unlike Howard, I see his base as somewhat shrinking. I mean, look at the NFL polls. Most of the public doesn`t like the NFL protest but they also don`t like Trump trying to tell the NFL what to do and I think Trump has a problem overplaying his hand.

MATTHEWS: Divide that up. Unpack that. How come people don`t like to take the knee generally, they`re more conservatively than the players, but they don`t like Trump getting his nose in the thing?

PAGE: No. I mean, look, it violates a Republican principle right there, government intrusion into private affairs of the NFL.

LINSKEY: I think it is very strange. But getting back to a point made earlier, I don`t know that -- you know, our readership is up. You know, we have more subscribers than we`ve had ever before and our viewers on stories are up.

While there might be in the national media some sense that we`re not as trusted anymore as an institution overall, individual newspapers like "The Globe", like "The Times" --

MATTHEWS: "San Francisco Chronicle" is doing well. I was talking to Will Hearst. I mean, the fact is, the print is doing OK. Although the problem today has nothing to do with Trump, it`s the fact that they rely on the subscribers to pay the cost of the newspaper, the advertisers --

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Remember that line, Chris, the media are like Congress, everybody hates Congress but loves their own congressman. Same thing with the media. Everybody`s got their favorite medium --

MATTHEWS: And the bad news is the ink is getting smaller. That`s the trouble.

The roundtable is sticking with us. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The round table sticking with us. They`ll be back in a minute. And up next, they`re going to give me three scoops that you`ll be talking about tomorrow hopefully, making news here in any minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Annie, tell me something I don`t know from "The Boston Globe".

LINSKEY: Yes. So, this is -- my something is about the rights. There`s a lot of primaries going on, getting set up right now in the Senate races and one of the litmus tests that`s going to be used -- I`ve been talking to a lot of Republican donors who are saying that the litmus test they want to use to determine if somebody is conservative enough is whether or not they support the filibuster or not.

MATTHEWS: They want to get rid of the filibuster.

LINSKEY: They want to get rid of the filibuster. And so, some of the conservative donors are looking for candidates to back who are willing to back away from the filibuster.

MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t it be great to make the Senate just like the House?

Clarence?

PAGE: You remember Ben Jealous, former NAACP. He`s running for governor - -

MATTHEWS: I know him well.

PAGE: -- on the Democratic ticket. And he, last night, at a town hall with his Democratic rivals and with Bernie Sanders being the emcee who Ben Jealous campaigned for. Now, Bernie is on Ben`s side and Ben came out last night for free college in Maryland, which is not a new idea there but --

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS: Is he backing him?

PAGE: Yes, he is now. I don`t know if it`s an official endorsement but they`re very tight.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you go to left. I know what`s going on.

Go ahead. Howard?

FINEMAN: Chris, I`m going to make the assumption that Donald Trump has now actually read the 25th Amendment and presuming he has, he might want to start being careful about who he puts on the cabinet.

MATTHEWS: Because they can knock him out.

FINEMAN: A majority can say that he`s unfit to hold the office. I`m telling you, it`s going to completely change Donald Trump`s view of a cabinet.

MATTHEWS: OK, this is really interesting.

FINEMAN: He`ll never have a cabinet meeting again.

MATTHEWS: Howard is a freaking genius. Here`s the question, will he ask them to sign an oath that they won`t vote him off of the island.

FINEMAN: Of course.

MATTHEWS: He knows they can vote off the island.

FINEMAN: Of course. It`s "The Apprentice" or island.

MATTHEWS: Howard, you learned your (INAUDIBLE) a million times.

Thank you, Annie Linskey, Clarence Page and Howard Fineman.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. He`s not going to like tonight. He might like a little of it. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, October 11th, 2017.

President Trump tweeted this morning that he`d be nice, he`d be nice of us in the media if we reported the historic rise in the stock market.

Well, I`m, of course, glad to do that. From the time President Trump took office to this afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 15 percent. It`s now approaching 23,000.

There`s other improving economic news as well. The jobless rate is down to 4.2 percent, the lowest since 2001, before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

A new Quinnipiac poll has some other numbers to applaud. Over 60 percent of the American people say the country`s economy is excellent or good. Three quarters say there are personal financial situation is excellent or good.

But there are other numbers out there, Mr. President, which also come from the same poll. A strong majority of the American people say, sir, that you are not honest, that you`re not a good leader, that you don`t care about the average person and not only that. A full two-thirds of the American people, two out of three, say you are not level-headed. Those are also numbers we need to report to the public. And you perhaps need to take some thought to think about.

But you`re right, there is good news out there. Why not keep it going by doing what you promised to do in the first place? Stay out of stupid wars and start building this country, instead of spending morning to night yelling schoolyard trash talk at the other kids on the playground.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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