Trump sketches out tax reform plan Transcript 10/17/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, David Catanese, Rosie Gray, Boyd Matheson, Bob Casey

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 17, 2017 Guest: A.B. Stoddard, David Catanese, Rosie Gray, Boyd Matheson, Bob Casey

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: It won`t be pretty.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. It`s Chris Matthews in Washington. In fact, I`m Chris Matthews.

Senator John McCain, the maverick, had a message last night, and it looked directly aimed at the man in the Oval Office. McCain accepted the National Constitution Center`s Liberty Medal up in Philadelphia, an honor previously given to U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, and presidents Jimmy Carter, Herbert Walker -- or George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, among others.

Here was part of what the Arizonan said in his acceptance speech.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half- baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems...


MCCAIN: ... is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.


MATTHEWS: Well, you know what he`s talking about. He`s talking about Steve Bannon. He`s talking about Steve Bannon`s protege, President Trump.

Anyway, the president was asked about that speech today and didn`t hold back. Let`s listen.


QUESTION: You heard what he said yesterday, Senator McCain.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Well, I (INAUDIBLE) People have to be careful because at some point, I fight back. I`m being very very nice (INAUDIBLE) very nice, but at some point, I fight back, and it won`t be pretty.


MATTHEWS: Again, it won`t be pretty.

Earlier today, NBC`s Kasie Hunt asked Senator McCain to respond to that threat. Let`s watch.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don`t comment on what the president says. I comment on what he does. And I will say that I have -- I have faced some pretty tough adversaries in the past. I`m not interested in confronting the president. I`m interested in working with the president.


MATTHEWS: Well, last month, Senator McCain announced he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, yet he hasn`t been shy about criticizing the president or casting votes against his agenda.

But what does President Trump get out of attacking McCain -- that`s the question -- and promising a fight that won`t be pretty?

Heidi Przybyla`s White House reporter for "USA Today," Michael Steele is the former chair of the Republican National Committee and Eugene Robinson is a columnist with "The Washington Post." All are MSNBC political analysts.

So in order of this, Heidi, why would this president attack McCain when it`s so clearly McCain will win this moral fight? People will root for McCain.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Why does he attack anyone? Because we`re on a sandbox and somebody hit him, so he`s just punching back. And that`s how he interpreted that speech. And frankly, that was an attack on the president because he -- McCain didn`t make up "America first." He is being aggressive about trying to warn this country that we`re at a very pivotal moment right now. And I think particularly, it`s no mistake that McCain is of this ilk of these GOP foreign policy advisers and former officials who have been warning us since the campaign -- you remember, the one group that was completely unified in being resistant to this president were these foreign policy -- the 50 foreign policy experts...


PRZYBYLA: ... who signed the letter, and that`s McCain. That`s who he is.

MATTHEWS: But Michael, he also got to the heart of Trumpism, which is this ethnocentric white America basic -- nationalism`s based on ethnicity, not on ideas or values, and he really hit him.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He hit him hard, basically saying this is all trumped up, to apply the phrase. And I think he`s...

MATTHEWS: Half-baked.

STEELE: Half-baked. And I think that that`s important to note.

To Heidi`s point, he`s drawing a very bright line for the country right now, and he`s saying that with these big issues that we have to confront, from health care to certainly questions of war and peace, we need to be smart about this and we cannot fall prey to this ideology, this made-up ideology, this made-up sort of nationalist approach.

You know, I was talking with some Republicans today who were saying, Well, that`s always been a part of the Republican brand. Like, I`ve been a Republican for 40 years. I never had that conversation. I chaired it for two. We never had a meeting on Republican nationalism.

So this is made up. And this is a fight that I think McCain is prepared to take to the president. And to Heidi`s point, I don`t think the president knows that this is one he doesn`t want to take.

MATTHEWS: Why "it won`t be pretty"? I mean, that sounds like Roger Stone talking.



MATTHEWS: It`s not bluster. It`s frightening. I think he means it.

ROBINSON: Never pick a fight with somebody who`s got nothing to lose, right? And John McCain`s got nothing to lose here. So it won`t be pretty, but it won`t be pretty in a way that I think the president doesn`t anticipate.

And you know, it sounds corny, but it`s not. John McCain and a lot of people who come to Washington to work in these jobs, whole -- you know, it`s terribly hard work for not a lot of money. Maybe they can get rich later or whatever, but they come here because they believe in the idea of America. And they believe in the idea of America as a credal (ph) nation, as a nation founded around these enlightenment ideas that were set out by the founders, including natural rights given by the creator. And that`s the way people here think.

And Donald Trump doesn`t understand that. He just does not get the idea of America, as someone like John McCain gets it. So McCain`s not going to back down on this. I mean, this is as important as it gets to him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Why does it take a Republican who`s a conservative to say what liberals, progressives people of the center-left should have been saying for a year with Trump, carving out exactly what he`s offered the American people and rejecting it and saying it in ideological, or rather, philosophical terms like McCain did last night with the Constitution -- why can`t a liberal -- I`m sorry to use the old term. Progressive. Why can`t a progressive speak like McCain. I don`t -- I hear it in your columns, Gene, I hear it. I don`t hear it from politicians. Where`s Schumer? Where`s Nancy Pelosi? Why aren`t they talking like McCain?

STEELE: They`re trapped by the politics. To Eugene`s point, McCain is not trapped by that politics anymore. And he is free on so many levels. They`ve come after him in his campaigns for reelection, so he`s done that fight.


STEELE: He`s been in that room and he`s won. So to that extent, he has nothing to lose here. He can put it on the line in that...


MATTHEWS: And I thought...

ROBINSON: ... but the politics that a liberal politician could not have said.

MATTHEWS: Of course!


MATTHEWS: I`m thinking back to Watergate. Nothing`s parallel, but it took a Sam Rayburn. It took -- not Sam Rayburn, Sam Ervin, an old seggie, to stand up for the Constitution. Talk about ironies.

Anyway, on leadership, humility and bipartisanship, President Trump and Senator McCain present very different fronts to the American people in their careers. Let`s watch the differential.


MCCAIN: I am aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me in. I`m humbled by it, and I`ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of it.

TRUMP: I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular, with most Republican senators. But we`re not getting the job done. And I`m not going to blame myself. I`ll be honest. They are not getting the job done.

MCCAIN: We didn`t always agree on the issues. We often argued, sometimes passionately, but we believed in each other`s patriotism and the sincerity of each other`s convictions.

TRUMP: Frankly, the Democrats have terrible policy. Terrible. Their policy is no good, and I`m not even sure they`re very good politicians because they don`t seem to be doing too well. That could be because of their bad policy. But they`re great at obstruction.


MATTHEWS: Well, the two men have a history, of course, going back to Donald Trump`s attack on McCain`s war record, of course. Let`s watch that.


QUESTION: Five-and-a-half years...

TRUMP: he`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK?

QUESTION: Did he ever apologize for saying you`re not a hero?

MCCAIN: No. But I also understand that we`re very different people, different upbringing, different life experiences.

He is in the business of making money, and he has been successful both on television as well as Miss America and others. I was raised in a military family.


MATTHEWS: Well, to remind everybody, the reason he was captured -- and I`ve been in Hanoi. Some of us have been there. His airplane was right down over that lake, right in downtown Hanoi, dropping bombs. That`s how you get captured. His plane was hit and he went into the water, and they broke all his bones and dragged him up there, beating him up. It`s not like that would happen to Donald Trump on 5th Avenue. That wouldn`t happen that way.

PRZYBYLA: That`s why this won`t end well because as we all know and we haven`t mentioned yet, McCain is very sick. And as we get closer to him potentially, you know, exiting or maybe not being on the stage so much, those are the stories we`re going to be hearing about John McCain and it`s going to be a juxtaposition against these insults that have been hurled his way by the president.

STEELE: I think that`s -- I think that is profoundly the point, that this is a fight for a whole lot of reasons the president doesn`t need to engage in. And I guess for me, at the end of the day, I keep asking myself, is, What is your point? What are you trying to get to? What are you trying to achieve? Here you`re alienating the majority leader. You are...

MATTHEWS: Why does a skunk squirt?

STEELE: Yes, because that`s his nature.

MATTHEWS: OK. Yesterday, President Trump made this false accusation about his predecessor, Barack Obama -- again the reference to the skunk. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn`t make calls. A lot of them didn`t make calls.

QUESTION: Earlier, you said that President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?

TRUMP: I don`t know if he did. No, no. No.


TRUMP: I was told that he didn`t often, and a lot of presidents don`t. They write letters. I do -- excuse me, Peter. I do a combination of both. Sometimes it`s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.


MATTHEWS: I like instantaneous fact checks, don`t you gentlemen? Anyway, President Trump`s claim is not true. President Trump called, wrote letters and met with the families of fallen soldiers. So did President Bush, W. Bush, before him.

And today the president invoked the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Here`s what Trump said today. This man has no sense of decency. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: As far as other representatives, I don`t know. I mean, you could ask General Kelly did he get a call from Obama. You could ask other people. I don`t know what Obama`s policy was.

I really speak for myself. I`m not speaking for other people. I don`t know what Bush did. I don`t know what Obama did. You could find out easily what President Obama did. All you have to do is ask the military people. But I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, a White House official told NBC News that Obama did not call Kelly after his son`s death. Kelly and his wife did attend, however, a private event at the White House for Gold Star families and were seated at Michelle Obama`s table. Gene?

ROBINSON: Yes, I was just going to point that out...


ROBINSON: ... that, in fact, President Obama had General Kelly in with a group of Gold Star families. This is just reprehensible. You know, this is man, Donald Trump, who is incapable of saying, I made a mistake. I`m sorry. Has anyone ever heard him say those words?


ROBINSON: My mistake. I`m sorry. He can`t say that. So instead of saying that, when he`s caught in a situation where he has not done something he should or has done something he shouldn`t, he attacks and makes stuff up. And you know, and this is just particularly offensive because we were talking about Gold Star families.

PRZYBYLA: Just like with Puerto Rico.

ROBINSON: We`re talking about soldiers.

MATTHEWS: What has this got to do with the job of commander-in-chief, chief executive of the United States government running the Republican Party, running the government, basically? What`s this got to do -- why are we involved with this crap? Why is he involved with all these fights? I - - I -- I don`t -- he`s not -- I`m not calling him a skunk, but why does he act like that? Why does he always have to squirt at people?

PRZYBYLA: Look, I was there in the Rose Garden when this happened. And the question -- even the fact that it had to be asked why he hadn`t been in touch or even mentioned these soldiers yet reflected poorly on him. So his immediate instinct in every one of these incidences -- for instance in Puerto Rico, to blame the Puerto Ricans. Whenever he looks bad, whenever the Trump brand looks bad, is to immediately find a foil. Obama is his favorite foil.


MATTHEWS: ... the Republican Party going to say, This guy is off base, that the whole thing, his whole repartee, his whole conversation, his whole shtick is not Republican, if it`s not?

STEELE: I`ll start with that.


STEELE: I`ll start with that right now. It is not about anything that we have advocated or represented in the past or will represent in the future, and that`s the unfortunate part. The leadership is -- is caught themselves in protecting something that they can`t protect themselves from. You can`t protect yourself from that. The bottom line is you go out and lead and you call it what it is. And the moment you do that, you will realize just how freeing it really is.

MATTHEWS: I think McCain is going to look very good.

STEELE: And that`s where John McCain is.

PRZYBYLA: It`ll happen after (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: And I did think the time would come when someone would stand up. I think it`s going to be McCain. I think it should have been Schumer or Pelosi. It`s going to be McCain. Somebody`s going to stand up and say, This guy is wrong. He`s not American in a sense that we believe in us. A credal purpose is not being honored by this guy.

Former vice president Joe Biden, by the way, slammed President Trump today as someone who doesn`t understand how the government functions. He said foreign leaders have reached out to him to help understand what is going on, and he relayed the criticism from one European prime minister. Let`s watch Biden.


JOSEPH BIDEN, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At one point, this prime minister said, And did you see what he did? We`re sitting on the same side of a conference table, sort of as close as you and I are. And he said -- he stood up. He said -- he took the president of Montenegro and he shoved him aside, stuck his chest out and his chin. And all I could think of was El Duce.


BIDEN: Not a joke. Not a joke. That`s what people are thinking. That`s what people are thinking. Violating the norms of personal conduct generates more anxiety and fear than any policy prescription that this president has enunciated.


MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll let it go at that. Thank you, Heidi Przybyla. Thank you, Michael Steele, and thank you, Gene Robinson.

Up next -- so much for that show of party unity we heard yesterday between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell. Remember the loverboys together there? Anyway, the president`s henchman, Steve Bannon, is still out there crusading against Republican incumbent senators. He wants to get the McConnells of this world. He`s campaigning tonight for Arizona`s Kelli Ward. She`s a piece of work, the same woman who called Senator McCain old and weak and told him to step down so that she could have his job. That`s nice.

Plus, Trump ran for president promising to fight for the middle class. We`ll get ahold of his tax plan he`s pushing. By the way, it`s written for the rich. It`s all for the rich. Wait`ll you see the numbers. Can Republicans get it passed? I don`t think so. And how do Democrats use this politically?

And another lousy appointment for the Trump administration. The president`s nominee for drug czar, of all people, was forced to withdraw today after a damaging report. Why is Trump so terrible at picking people?

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump watch." He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Politico is reporting that former White House press secretary Sean Spicer met with members of the Mueller team on Monday. That`s yesterday. According to Politico, the interview lasted much of the day. The report goes on to say that Spicer was grilled about the firing of former FBI director James Comey and his statements regarding the firing. Spicer was also questioned about Trump`s meetings with Russians, officials, including one with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. Spicer declined to comment, of course, on this report.

And we`ll be right back.



STEVE BANNON, BREITBART.COM: Let me give a warning to you. Nobody can run and hide on this one. These folks are coming for you. The day of taking a few nice conservative votes and hiding is over. There`s a time and season for everything, and right now, it`s a season of war against the GOP establishment.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Trump enforcer Steve Bannon this weekend declaring a state of open warfare against Republican incumbents in Congress. So Trump is going after McCain. He`s going after the other Republicans. Backed by the wealth of the Mercer family, Bannon says intends to challenge every Republican lawmaker with the exception of that sweetheart, Ted Cruz of Texas.

So far, he`s targeted a half-dozen senators who he views as close allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and promises to recruit more challenges to come.

However, a costly civil war could jeopardize the Republican majority -- they only got 52 seats -- in 2018 and even further devalue or derail the Trump agenda.

It comes as the president tried to make amends with McConnell yesterday, so-called, saying he will ask Bannon to call off the mob. Let`s see.


QUESTION: Do you support the plan by people who previously served in your administration, such as Steve Bannon, to primary Republican candidates in the 2018 elections who do not support your election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing. Some of the people that he may be looking at, I`m going to see if we talk him out of that, because, frankly, they`re great people.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, according to reports, Bannon will continue to -- keep going with the prompter here -- back insurgent candidates who pledge to usurp Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Anyway, tonight, Bannon is set to headline an event in Arizona for Kelli Ward, who is challenging Republican Senator Jeff Flake.

I`m joined right now by Rosie Gray, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic."

Rosie, thank you.

What is the bottom-line consequence of all of this? This guy looking like a bruiser, going out and saying, I`m going to tough-guy, I`m going to push people around, I`m going to rid of them, we`re in war?

Trump, meanwhile, going to war with McCain, saying it won`t be pretty. What`s the bottom line? Are they going to lose their 52-vote majority out of this?

ROSIE GRAY, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, Bannon`s ultimate goal is to eventually get rid of McConnell as leader. So, that`s really kind of the overarching goal of this.

MATTHEWS: And put in who, John Cornyn? What`s the point? What is the point of all this deck chair moving?

Who is going to be the leader of the Republican Party? Some other establishment guy.

GRAY: Well, I don`t know if that`s the part -- I don`t know if that part has been really thought through actually.

But the point is, you know, something that really animates Steve Bannon is this sort of like internecine war in the Republican Party that he`s now sort of leading his side on.

In terms of consequences, this is the type of thing that could theoretically put the Republican Senate majority in jeopardy. And that`s something that the leader I think is pretty worried about.

MATTHEWS: These guys, they are going after all 90 percenters, with voting records around 90 percent conservative. What do they want, 100 percent conservative voting record? They want actual right-wingers in the Senate? Is that what they want? Is that what Bannon wants, right-wingers, alt- right people?

GRAY: Well, I wouldn`t necessarily use the term alt-right, but I think he certainly wants sort of like avatars of the Trump base.

He wants kind of anti-establishment candidates. He wants outsiders and he wants people I think who are going to sort of support him in his goal of getting rid of Mitch McConnell.

MATTHEWS: Why does he want to get rid of Jeff Flake? Why does he want to get rid of Orrin Hatch? Why does he want to get rid of Deb Fischer?

These people are all conservatives. They`re hard-righters, pretty much. What does he want?

GRAY: Jeff Flake in particular has kind of made himself persona non grata among the Trump movement for being so critical of the president.

MATTHEWS: This is an ideological war on the farthest frontier.

Thank you, Rosie Gray of "The Atlantic."

As I mentioned, Steve Bannon is encouraging a slate of challengers to run against Republican senators. Among them is Boyd Matheson, who is looking to challenge longtime Senator Orrin Hatch out in Utah. Hatch appears undaunted. His spokesman told Politico earlier this month he should decide to run again -- if he decide to run again, he will win.

I`m joined right now by himself Boyd Matheson, a former chief of staff to Senator Mike Lee, currently weighing a run.

Are you going to run for the Senate against Orrin Hatch, sir?

BOYD MATHESON, FORMER SENATORIAL CHIEF OF STAFF: Just thinking about thinking about it right now.

We have had a number of people say, from the Trump loyalists from people who were the never-Trumpers. I think I may have found the one thing that unites them all. And it`s their absolute frustration and disdain with the United States Senate and the fact that things aren`t getting done.

And so I will think about. I will look it through.


MATTHEWS: Boyd, Boyd, you seem like you know your stuff. You were a chief of staff and you know your stuff.

Are you expecting the people who watch this show right now to believe that you`re sort of waiting for the people to tell you to run?

MATHESON: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Look, I remember student council races where guys who always ran would say a bunch of the guys got together and thought I ought to run.

No, that`s not the way it works.

MATHESON: Yes, I agree.

MATTHEWS: Ego and ambition drives politics.

Do you have the ego and the ambition to take on Orrin Hatch? Do you have the stuff, first of all? Do you have the stuff?

MATHESON: So, first of all...


MATTHEWS: Do you have the stuff to take him on?

MATHESON: Sure. Sure, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: That`s a simple question.

MATHESON: Very simple.

MATTHEWS: OK, what do you mean by that?

MATHESON: So, the question to me -- and you know this as a former chief of staff, playing the gatekeeper. I would always ask candidates who wanted to see my boss, what is the vision or agenda that you`re willing to run on that will make all of this crap and garbage of going through an election worth it, even if you run and lose?

And so my decision, and what I think the stuff is, we have got way too many people in Washington whose only vision is a vision of themselves in office.

And so I will either say I have a vision and an agenda that is worth having a conversation with the people of Utah and the people of the country. And if I have that, then I will get in regardless of who gets in.

MATTHEWS: Give me one big difference between you and Orrin Hatch.

MATHESON: Well, 42 years in the Senate.


MATTHEWS: No, one big different issues, on issues, one big difference between you and Orrin Hatch. That`s all I`m asking for, one big difference.

MATHESON: Sure. Sure.

I think the size and scope of the government that has continued to grow as he`s been in the Senate I think is a big thing and a big discussion we have got to have.

And there`s too much of this maintaining the status quo. The big shocker to me going to Washington as a business guy was that most of the battles aren`t left and right. It`s those in power against everyone else. You can`t get $20 trillion in debt through conflict. It`s not conflict in Washington. It`s collusion.

And that`s probably the biggest difference.

MATTHEWS: Has he colluded with the liberals?

MATHESON: It`s all of it. Again...


MATTHEWS: No, has he colluded with the liberals?

MATHESON: Yes, sure.

MATTHEWS: You want to knock this guy out of his seat after all those years. Tell me what he`s done wrong. Help the voter here.

What has he done wrong? Has he colluded with Ted Kennedy? Has he been part of the big government movement in the last 20 or 30 years? Yes or no? Has he been part of that? Is he guilty of that?


MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

MATHESON: Anybody who has been sitting in that long. Yes, absolutely anyone who has been sitting in that long is part of the problem.


MATTHEWS: No, no, don`t be cute. Don`t be cute.

MATHESON: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Has he been colluding?

MATHESON: Sure, yes, absolutely. Everybody there has been going through that process, no question at all.

MATTHEWS: Well, not everybody. Ted Cruz, I don`t think he`s been colluding. You think he has? Everybody? Come on.


MATHESON: All right. All right. You got me.


MATTHEWS: Change is always good, Boyd.

You have got a great LDS name, I must say, Boyd Matheson. That is LDS.

Thank you, sir, for joining us tonight.

MATHESON: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Good luck in your race.

I guess change is good.

President Trump is delivering a speech on tax reform at the Heritage Foundation tonight. We`re going to monitor that event and bring you anything -- there he is -- it`s live -- anything he says juicy, I suppose, we`re going to bring it to you if it`s newsworthy.

Up next: the rich man`s tax bill. Republicans are pushing a tax plan that overwhelmingly benefits the very, very rich, lower the top corporate -- -- corporate -- lowers the top individual, gets rid of the estate tax, which only affects people who have $11 million to give their kids.

It`s really for the rich.

Anyway, are the Democrats going to do anything about it? Can they use it politically to help themselves? That`s a great question.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


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

A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the latest version of its travel ban, calling it dangerously flawed. It was blocked less than 10 hours before it was set to take effect. The Justice Department says it will appeal.

The NFL`s policy on players kneeling during the national anthem appears unchanged after a meeting today between the NFL players and owners at the league`s headquarters in Manhattan.

And Wall Street hit an important milestone today. The Dow hit 23000 for the first time ever -- back to HARDBALL.


TRUMP: I would like very much to see it be done this year. So we won`t go a step further. If we get it done, that`s a great achievement. But don`t forget, it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done. I have been here for nine months, a little more than nine months.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump today on the need to pass the tax plan, the White House`s last desperate hope heading into the end of the year.

Well, today, Vice President Mike Pence made a populist pitch for the one element -- one element slashing the corporate tax rate.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We let Americans keep more of what they earn. We allow American businesses to be more competitive by cutting our 35 percent corporate tax rate down to 20 percent. You`re going to see this economy take off.


MATTHEWS: But "The New York Times"` Paul Krugman says the math doesn`t add up, writing: "It`s not difficult to see how the plan is tilted towards the very top. The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every aspect of their tax plan."

For more, let`s turn to MSNBC`s Stephanie Ruhle.

Stephanie, I looked at that report today. Lower the top individual rate, that`s billions of dollars, trillions of dollars. Lower the corporate rate. Get rid of the estate tax, which only affects people with $11 million to give their kids.

I don`t see where the middle class comes out here at all.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Listen, it`s either a very, very aggressive, hopeful plan, or, as Paul Krugman or Larry Summers would say, it simply didn`t make any sense and it`s not true.

There`s no direct link to cutting corporate taxes and then paying people more. Have you ever seen, when there was a corporate tax break, your employer say, well, Chris Matthews, today, you`re going to get a bonus for our tax break.

MATTHEWS: Well, who gets the money?

RUHLE: It doesn`t exist.

MATTHEWS: No, who is going to get the break when it -- I hear last night from a guy, a very wealthy guy at this fund-raiser, this charity thing I went. He said, it`s all going to go to the stockholders.

RUHLE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: The people are just going to get higher dividends. The money is going to pour to the people who have the most money in the company, not the workers.

RUHLE: For Vice President Pence to say you`re going to see corporate America take off, look at the stock market, the Dow hitting 23000. It`s already taken off.

It`s doing fine and dandy. Companies have plenty of money. They`re choosing not to pay their workers more because they`re not forced to. It will result in share buybacks, dividends or investments that don`t necessarily result in hiring more people or paying anyone any more.

The last time there was repatriation in 2004, even companies that said they would pay their people more didn`t. There`s no lever to force that.


Why do they always put estate tax in? Every one of these goody bags, the Santa`s bag, always includes the estate tax, which only really affects -- you could give your kids $5 million per parent, and there`s no tax.

It`s only when you get beyond about $11 million total that it affects people`s taxes. And I don`t understand. How can they get vote -- there are not that many people with $11 million to give their kids. So, why don`t they keep doing it? RUHLE: Chris, dare I say, it doesn`t even impact those people?

Who are some of the highest paid, most skilled lawyers, the ones with the biggest beach houses in your neighborhood? Tax lawyers. It`s what they do. They create offshore tax shelters, so these people don`t ever pay that tax.

And if it`s one thing to make an argument we want to do this, fine. But the fact that even Steve Mnuchin would say I concede it only helps the rich, you tell me, what does "I concede" mean? It means, I admit it, you got me.


RUHLE: There shouldn`t be a, you got me. It should be transparent. How is this plan going to help people?

And if cutting the estate plan helps the rich, simply say it, plain and simple. And that`s what they haven`t done.


It`s the Trump Tower tax cut.

Thank you very much, Stephanie Ruhle, who always says it great.

RUHLE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: If Senate Republicans hope to get anything done on taxes this year, they will need to act fast, of course. There are just 37 days remaining in the Senate`s legislative calender.

And the senators must first pass a budget resolution before even going to tax.

For more, let`s bring in somebody who knows, Pennsylvania`s Bob Casey.

Senator, you`re a regular bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes Democrat. You`re not some crazy lefty. You`re the person that usually wins on economic issues.

How can you not win on this tax bill? Just run against it. Run against what Trump is doing.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Chris, as you pointed out and Stephanie did, three basic problems here.

One is the fact that it doesn`t reduce taxes for the middle class, as the administration proposes or argues.


CASEY: In fact, one estimate, 30 percent of those making between $50,000 and $150,000 will end up paying more taxes.

Number two is...

MATTHEWS: Such a deal.

CASEY: Number two is, it goes to the top 1 percent.

About 80 percent of the benefits, by one estimate, goes to the top 1 percent. If you`re in the top 1 percent, you`re going to get just next year $146,000. It`s a pretty good deal.

MATTHEWS: How come people on the right think the way to incentivize the rich is to give them more money? And they believe the way to incentivize middle class and poor people is to screw them a little bit, cut some of their programs?

And that`s what Trump is doing. He`s cutting health care and giving tax breaks to the rich. He`s incentivizing one group by giving them stuff, pushing the other ones in the butt by giving them less, taking away what they have, which is health care.

Why do they think like that?

CASEY: Everything is to the right, the tax bill, the health care bill.

Here`s what they`re also trying to do. You have to look at their tax proposal and their budget together. In the budget proposal, they`re trying to reduce Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $1.5 trillion -- with a T. - - $1.5 trillion.

MATTHEWS: Where is that money going, to tax cuts?

CASEY: Absolutely, so they can make some of the math work.

Look, this is -- it`s a giveaway to the top. It decimates Medicare and Medicaid, when you read it with the budget.


CASEY: And, thirdly, it doesn`t do anything for the middle class.

Just think of the estate tax. You mentioned that before. How many estates in Pennsylvania, do you think, are benefiting from this? One hundred and fifty, not 150,000, 1-5-0.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know Scranton. You know Lackawanna County. In fact, you know the state of Pennsylvania, which I said when I was in Ireland last year, don`t worry, it`s the blue wall. There`s no way it`s going to vote for Trump. And it did.

So, what`s different now? Is it going to vote for Trump again?

CASEY: Well...

MATTHEWS: Is there something that`s changed in the hearts of the Pennsylvania voters, in that blue wall?

CASEY: I think that there are a lot of folks that -- especially between now and 2018, that we can talk to in Pennsylvania that will have a different view.

Now, there were a lot of people whose wages haven`t grown.


CASEY: There was a real sense of frustration.

MATTHEWS: When are they going to blame Trump?

CASEY: Well, I think they`re going to have a lot of trouble lining up what he said as a candidate on what he`s proposed on health care to the right, a budget to the right, as well as tax reform.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe Trump is pro-life? Really pro-life?

CASEY: Oh, I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Well, he says he is. Do you believe him?


MATTHEWS: I don`t believe he has any thoughts on the subject.

CASEY: All I know is that...

MATTHEWS: I think he has never given it a thought.

CASEY: What he has said about the tax proposal doesn`t add up in the math, when you look at the numbers.

When you`re giving 80 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, who have had a bonanza of tax breaks for many years, I think your credibility is in question.

MATTHEWS: Senator Bob Casey, thank you, of Pennsylvania.

CASEY: Chris, thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s great. Anyway, thank you so much.

And thank you, Stephanie Ruhle.

Anyway, up next: President Trump has had a string of lousy appointments, don`t you think? And now there`s another one to add to the list. His pick for drug czar, it turns out, was working for the drug company. He undermined efforts to fight the opioid crisis, didn`t he?

And why is this president so bad at picking people to fill his jobs?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Nine months into his term, another one of President Trump`s nominees has pulled his name from consideration. That`s a nice way to put it. He`s dropping out.

This time, it`s Pennsylvania U.S. Congressman Tom Marino who was originally picked to be, of all things, drug czar. Marino withdrew days after a report by "The Washington Post" and "60 Minutes" found that a bill he sponsored, he was the chief sponsor, weakened the DEA`s ability to regulate the distribution of painkillers across the country, to stop all these people dying from, you know, drug overdose.

Anyway, this nomination is just the latest in a slew of questionable picks by the president. They including labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder, remember him? Who was also forced to withdraw from consideration. As well as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, of course.

For more, I`m joined by A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at "RealClearPolitics" and host of No Label Radio on SiriusXM, Vivian Salama, an NBC News political reporter, and David Catanese, of course, a senior politics writer at "U.S. News and World Report".

First of all, this is one of the horrors of the United States, which is opiates.


MATTHEWS: People are dying. They`re getting pills from doctors, somehow. They`re getting prescriptions. They`re using overdoses. They`re killing themselves.

And the attempt to stop them was broken by the DEA`s ability to stop this stuff was weakened, defanged is the term they use by people working for the drug company and guess what, they`re getting paid for being in the U.S. Congress but they`re really working for the drug companies.

Your thoughts, A.B.

STODDARD: Yes, the story is such a powerful illustration of the influence of the pharmaceutical lobby. And even in the Obama administration who let this sort of go through. They said, oh, no alarm bells went off from the DEA.

This is really facing a backlash on the Congress. They`re going to push the revisit the law. The Trump administration has got to respond to this issue. His engagement --

MATTHEWS: Because it`s his peeps.

STODDARD: It doesn`t match the rhetoric from his campaign. This is not a partisan issue.

MATTHEWS: Vivian, this is affecting working people, white people, all kinds of people who in working towns, where there`s just kind of hopelessness and they go into drugs. You know this syndrome.

VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. And I`m a firm believer that a lot of times in crisis comes opportunity. The president really has an opportunity after the report broke in "The Washington Post".

MATTHEWS: Does he get it?

SALAMA: Well, that`s the problem. We need to see action right away. We know that the White House has formed this opioid commission.

MATTHEWS: Did they yank this guy, Marino, did he yank himself?


SALAMA: I don`t --

MATTHEWS: He didn`t yank himself?

CATANESE: I was told he yanked himself.

SALAMA: And you have the situation with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price where he resigned, that`s the word that they used. You know, the president has to take action. He has to show his voters, he has to show his people that put their faith in him that he is taking action. He promised to drain the swamp and one way to do that is to really crackdown on this. Opioid addiction was something that they really talked about on the campaign.

MATTHEWS: David, let`s put together to days, all three if you can do this, all two days. Yesterday, he said something that was great. He talked about how you can buy the same pill in France, same pill in Canada much cheaper, a fraction of what you pay here.

Everybody knows that. I don`t know whether it`s subsidies or what`s going on, price discrimination, the way markets are shared. You know how people do this. They charge more where they can charge more here.

OK. At the same time, he says he`s going to take on the drug companies, here he is caught putting a guy in charge of the drug enforcement who`s working for the drug companies.

CATANESE: But look --

MATTHEWS: He`s caught in the act here.

CATANESE: They cut him loose, so the right solution did occur. The guy stepped down. They knew they couldn`t afford this fight.

MATTHEWS: The newspapers caught it.

CATANESE: Yes, they did. Good journalism brought this guy down, but Trump left him hanging out there in a press conference. He did not give him 100 percent backing. He said I`m going to look at that and if there`s 1 percent chance of anything negative, was his quote, I`ll get rid of him.

Marino knew this was untenable and I`m told by the White House officials that he submitted his resignation, that Trump didn`t force it and that Trump accepted it, because they knew the administration shouldn`t have a fight.

But let`s be clear. This is an institutional problem. This law was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Any senator could have stopped this. This was passed with unanimous consent. Any one senator, so Democrats across the country passed this.

This wasn`t a Trump administration failure. We can point to a lot of Trump administration failures. This was not one of them. This was an Obama administration failure that allowed this law to go through and I think that says more about the institutional --

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t he jump on it? Why didn`t Trump jump on it?

CATANESE: Well, he`s not a details guy. I don`t think he knew.

MATTHEWS: Details -- how about picking people? Vivian, picking people, he`s been picking people like Michael Flynn, he`s got problems, and Pruitt, he`s got a problem with him, you can argue about DeVos, but these people are just going to be trouble. Why didn`t he vet them?

SALAMA: Again, at the same time that he promised to drain the swamp. I think a lot of it has to do with just the fact that he was politically inexperienced. He was a businessman and he thought he could construct the government with the same way that, you know, the kind of experience that he would have looked for as a businessman was similar to what he would have wanted as a politician.

MATTHEWS: Because he`s supposed to be smart.

The drug companies know how to write the bills. You know, A.B., you know the Hill. They write these bills. They wrote that bill, the drug company. They also know how to create a campaign for somebody.

So, they want somebody run the DEA or whatever, guess what they? They`ll be the drug czar. They start writing the letters and, all of the sudden, the president is a new president, I`m hearing all of this great stuff about Marino. He must be great.

All of a sudden, he picks the guy and it`s the same campaign going on. It`s the swamp.

CATANESE: But Marino is also a top supporter. So, he was --


STODDARD: I mean, look, David make as good point they was talking about in the beginning. This passed by unanimous consent. Why did the administration before let this past, probably the power of pharma. But --

MATTHEWS: Pharma meaning? Explain pharma.

STODDARD: The pharmaceutical lobby.


STODDARD: If Trump is going to hire the best people, which he kept promising and then these people are not properly vetted, you`re right, Chris. What he said yesterday and what he said during the campaign about drug prices, he`s clean. He said, I don`t take that kind of money. I`m the one person who doesn`t take the pharmaceutical lobbying money.

And he could have made this a pet issue from day one and now, it`s going to be an issue up in his face. On the opioid thing, he says he`s going to declare an emergency next week, he said that many times. We don`t know what it means. But he can`t avoid this any longer and it`s not a partisan issue.

MATTHEWS: It`s on the ground issue. It doesn`t make the front page of the big papers because it`s not an elite issue. It`s a working people issue of all ethnic groups.

STODDARD: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: It`s out there. You hear about it once in a while. It`s a terrible thing. It kills people already have limited hopes.


MATTHEWS: These kids are not going to college, not going to make it and on top, they get a drug habit.

SALAMA: And drugs are something that you can really support from both sides. We just saw a terrible tragedy in Las Vegas. A lot of people were outraged about the guns and, you know, talk about the changing the gun lobby. Does that ever the gun laws, does that ever happen?


SALAMA: Actually, days later, the argument faded away.

But this scandal is coming at a very interesting time for the Trump administration where on the one hand you have the president talking -- you know, surrounded by all of these cabinet officials and other members of his administration who are -- who have these issues --

MATTHEWS: Incompetence. Trump is incompetent.

SALAMA: But at the same time, you people like Steve Bannon going after the GOP establishment. It`s going to have a very interesting effect in 2018 when you have all of these things playing out at the same time.

MATTHEWS: It`s a rump government.

Anyway, thank you. The roundtable is sticking with us.

And up three -- and up in a moment, these three will give me scoops of something you`ll be talking about tomorrow. That`s the standard. Tell me something that`s worth talking about tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump won`t like this next one. According to "Forbes" magazine, the president the president lost $600 million in net worth last year, causing him to drop 92 spots in the annual list of richest Americans. "Forbes" blamed the president`s decline in wealth on a variety of factors including a tough New York real estate market and an expensive presidential campaign. Trump now ranks 248th on the "Forbes" list. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett occupy the top three spots.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable, beginning with A.B.

Tell me something I don`t know.

STODDARD: Well, a health care deal has come out from the Senate and a lot of Republicans on the House side, conservatives saying they can`t get behind it. President Trump is sort of saying it`s a temporary deal and then later on, they`re going to get their votes together in a year or two for health care. President Trump is going to push for this, he really wants it. Not only as we know --

MATTHEWS: Is this a short-term thing?

STODDARD: Not only did -- yes. Not only did he tell Lamar Alexander over the weekend that he doesn`t want people to suffer, but last week in a being at the White House with a national security foreign policy official, he spent the most of the meeting talking about trying to get a deal --

MATTHEWS: This is Trumpcare. It`s only to cover until he gets rid of the thing.


SALAMA: Remember President Trump`s big Iran rollout. I think it was last week. The policy to crack down on Iran? Well, as it turns out, it is not as easy as you think, because right now, an Iranian general is in Iraq helping our two allies, the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, try to make peace so they don`t tight in Kirkuk.

What are we going to do about it? That`s something that remains to be seen.

MATTHEWS: You mean there`s a linkage there?

SALAMA: There is a linkage there, and it`s a predicament for the Americans.

MATTHEWS: And to you, David.

CATANESE: So far, the Russia investigation has focused on Paul Manafort, has focused on Michael Flynn. I`m told the next focus is going to be on Trump`s digital director in the campaign because the fake ad, his name is Brad Parscale. He was featured on "60 Minutes" -- feature a couple of weeks ago and that got the attention --

MATTHEWS: What did he do?

CATANESE: He was the digital guy. He decided where to spend all that digital money, how to target --

MATTHEWS: Therefore colluding?

CATANESE: We don`t know that, but that`s what the Mueller team is going to want to know in the next phase of this.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, A.B. Stoddard, as always. Vivian Salama and David Catanese. It was something very hot there.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." It`s about politics. I don`t know what he`s going to make of this tonight. It`s something. Anyway, we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Tuesday, October 17th, 2017.

I think we`re about to see a test of strength between presidents past and present. It`s going to happen in Virginia and happen soon. It`s about the governor`s chair. President Obama`s going to Richmond this Thursday. I expect Trump is thinking about whether it`s smart for him to make his own entry. President or not he`s clearly going to be a factor. Trump`s tweeted his way into the race making a play for a more conservative Democratic Party, the commonwealth.

Quote: The Democrats in the southwest part of Virginia have been abandoned by their party. Republican Ed Gillespie will never let you down.

Well, that`s Trump talking and tweeting.

This Virginia fight is a fascinating contest because it pits the two sides against each other with both having an edge they enjoy country-wide.

Ralph Northam, the Democrat, has a huge number of northern Virginia women, many of them single, on his side. They tend to be supportive of abortion rights and are generally progress on social issues.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican, has the old Virginia tradition on his side. It`s my guess he will benefit from the passions who hold belief in the old dominion, including those statues that recognize soldiers and generals who fought in the civil war. I think there will be a quite backing for holding that story close. This is a state after all of Washington and Lee.

Virginia will be a battleground again this November as it has so many times in the war between the states. But the progressives I offer a warning, in the First Battle of Bull Run, the north thought it was going to be such a cakewalk that family members and other onlookers decided to make a picnic of it, heading down to watch the battle from the sidelines. It was going to be such fun.

Well, that`s not how the history books wrote it up. And hat is tonight`s lesson. If young people, the millennials don`t show up in good numbers in Virginia, if African-Americans don`t show up in presidential year numbers, you better watch out. Why?

Because the people who care about those statues will turn out. They`ll be out there to protect their pride in the past, their honor as they see it. So, if you want the north to lose another battle at Bull Run, stay standing with your picnic basket.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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