Defense Secretary Mattis visits South Korea Transcript 10/26/17/ Hardball with Chris MAtthews

Guests: Evan Thomas, Gerry Connolly, Betsy Woodruff, Sahil Kapur, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ruth Marcus, Jeremy Peters

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 26, 2017 Guest: Evan Thomas, Gerry Connolly, Betsy Woodruff, Sahil Kapur, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ruth Marcus, Jeremy Peters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump`s trump.


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Get on board or get out. That`s the message to Republicans uncomfortable with the party`s new world order. According to "The New York Times" today, quote, ``The president`s brand of hard-edged nationalism and with its gut- level cultural appeals and hard lines on trade and immigration, is taking root within his adopted party, and those uneasy with grievance politics are either giving in or giving up the fight. The Republican Party is now the party of Donald Trump.

What does that mean for Steve Bannon? Is he the president`s henchman, his gatekeeper, his commissar of Trumpdom? The far-right firebrand has declared war on mainstream Republicans, and especially Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Let`s watch.


STEVE BANNON, BREITBART.COM: Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country!


For Mitch McConnell and Ward Baker (ph) and Karl Rove and Steven Law-- (BOOS)

--all the instruments that tried to destroy Judge Moore and his family, your day of reckoning is coming.

We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda that Donald Trump ran on and the president of the United States. It`s a new game in town. We`re going to cut off the oxygen to Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell`s biggest asset is the money. We`re going to make it the biggest liability because we`re going after these guys tooth and nail.

There`s a time and season for everything, and right now, it`s a season of war against a GOP establishment.


MATTHEWS: War. When asked about Bannon`s challenge to purify the party of non-Trumpsters and replace them with full-fledged Trumpsters, McConnell has characterized it as a threat to a governing party, a governing majority.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: You have to nominate people who can actually win because winners make policy and losers go home. So our strategy going forward is to protect our incumbents and to help people get nominated who actually can win elections.


MATTHEWS: Well, there are new signs that McConnell is at least trying to fight back. According to ``The Washington Post`` today, allies of Senator McConnell-- or Senate McConnell-- Senator McConnell declared open warfare on Wednesday against Steve Bannon. Open warfare. A super PAC aligned with McConnell revealed plans to attack Bannon personally as it works to protect GOP incumbents facing uphill primary fights. The message, Bannon is toxic, stay away from him.

Here`s Steve Law, the head of that Super PAC.


XX: Our concern about Steve Bannon is really just limited to this, and that is that candidates who get wrapped around him will have to answer for his toxic views, things that he said, his associations with the alt-right when Democrats make him the star of their attack ads next fall. That`s our concern, and that`s simply what we want to make sure tha Rtepublican candidates know what they`re getting if they sign up with him or get closely too allied with him.


MATTHEWS: Si who`s going to win this civil war? Ruth Marcus is a columnist with ``The Washington Post.`` Jeremy Peters is a reporter for "The New York Times" and Robert Costa is national political reporter for ``The Washington Post.``

I want to start right across the list as I began it. Ruth, it seems to me there`s two purifying agents in the Republican Party right now. There`s Bannon out there, sort of, you know, an Oliver Cromwell type who`s just basically saying, I`m purifying the whole church here. And there`s McConnell basically snapping in line like a turtle to everything Trump wants. I mean, they`re both behaving like purifiers and commissars.

What`s this civil war about, who`s the most Trumpy?

RUTH MARCUS, "WASHINGTON POST``: I think it`s a civil war about who is going to control the future of this party, and it`s completely up for grabs.

MATTHEWS: Inside or outside?

MARCUS: Inside versus outside.


MARCUS: And the thing that`s so crazy about this civil war and the fact that it`s erupting now, though you know, you`d take more delight in it if you were from the opposite ideological point of view, if you didn`t see the same thing about to happen with Democrats probably. But the amazing part about it is right now, this is the exact last time they should be-- last moment they should be doing this because they need to concentrate on passing their tax cut, which will be their only legislative achievement besides Judge Gorsuch, Justice Gorsuch.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, that`s right. You know, Jeremy, at the very time they`re trying to get one thing done this year-- I`m not even clear they care what`s in it as long as it--


MARCUS: Right.

MATTHEWS: --it`s an it (ph).

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) they`re deciding who`s in and who`s out. They`re having one of these purifying moments like in a church. Who`s the real believer and who`s not the real believer. They are coming apart. I really do think they`re both acting like "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." I mean, it`s all about-- are these people anymore, or are they just marching robots?

PETERS: This is what happens--

MATTHEWS: They`re acting like robots.

PETERS: This is what happens when Republicans nominate someone who is not a Republican. There is a civil war going on inside the party right now about what it really stands for. And with the election of Donald Trump, the party of cutting your taxes and boosting military spending is no longer there. This is the party of closed borders. This is the party of economic nationalism, and that`s really what you`re seeing, the candidates who are going to be primarying these Republicans-- (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: And it`s also the party of the person of Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Robert, it`s about the person of Robert-- I mean, of Donald Trump, almost like a Peron party. It`s a-- it`s a cult. It`s like-- it`s hard to believe with any Democratic equivalent of this, maybe FDR, where everything`s about, Do you like this guy? Do you support him, or don`t you? His tweets, his early morning craziness, his name-calling, his nicknaming, his calling (INAUDIBLE) foreign leaders (INAUDIBLE) taunting trouble with him. If you don`t like it all, then you`re not in it. You should get out of it. I mean, it almost is getting like a personality cult.



MATTHEWS: Can you be a non-Trump Republican today?

COSTA: No. And in fact, they`re turning their ire and targeting Bannon instead of President Trump. That`s revealing of where this Republican Party is. Like you said, they`re not ready to break from President Trump in part because they want to get this tax cut. They also know he has a grip on the base. But they need to fight all this disruption within the party, and that`s why you have this effort against Bannon.

MATTHEWS: Well, former senator Tom Coburn, a critic of Trump, told "The New York Times,`` quote, ``We have a leader who has a personality disorder.`` That`s pretty strong. Quote, ``But he`s done what he actually told the people he was going to do, and they`re not going to abandon him.``

Ruth, again back to you. I mean, it is-- it is like Trump is running the Republican Party, perhaps into the ground but he`s running it. He really is.

MARCUS: Well, he did tell the people who elected him that he alone could fix it, and I might have missed something, but I haven`t seen anything quite fixed.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true.

MARCUS: Quite the contrary, he`s failed--

MATTHEWS: Except he`s still got the 30-80--


MARCUS: He still does that. I think there`s this really interesting distinction between Trump and Trumpism. Because remember we were sitting here a few weeks ago and talking about Trump cozying up to Chuck and Nancy. So yes, he`s had a lot of views that he`s held for a long time, but he also can--

MATTHEWS: That was a speed date.

(CROSSTALK) That was a speed date.

MARCUS: Well, it was never going to-- it was never a marriage that was going to last. But he is much more flexible. Trumpism is a different thing, and Bannon is really trying to cement Trumpism and make sure that it outlasts Trump.


MATTHEWS: Jeremy, who`s in charge? Is it the people out there who define who Trump is because they hate the establishment, they hate the cultural elite, all the things we completely have come to understand they hate. Is that the thing that leads them and therefore leads Trump? Or is Trump the leader? Can he redefine the hate whenever he wants to? Can he say, like Nixon did, We`re going to China. We`re going tomake friends with the commies. Nixon could pull that off.

PETERS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Reagan could pull of a couple things like that. But are you-- can Trump change Trumpism? (INAUDIBLE)

PETERS: No, I think there`s--

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure.

PETERS: --there`s something--

MATTHEWS: The (ph) hate people.

PETERS: There`s something so emotional about this movement, I think that changing the ideology of it, Chris, would be extraordinarily difficult.


PETERS: Bannon himself has said that Trump was a blunt force instrument to take economic nationalism as a movement and bring it to power, international notoriety, and that`s what`s happened. So like we often see in revolutions, the leader falls to the wayside and someone springs up in his place. Whether or not that person is as charismatic and compelling as Trump, I doubt it, but it`s not always going to be Trump.

MATTHEWS: Robert, you`re an expert on Trump. And I think Trump-- and I think you and I might agree on this-- like a nightclub comic-- and I`m not putting him down in this regard-- it`s all interactive. He tries out a line for a couple weeks. If it works, he keeps using it. If it doesn`t work, he drops it. It`s always interactive. It`s checking in. I think that`s why he likes to have these rallies at lot, every couple weeks, so he can (INAUDIBLE) and check in with what`s working like a good nightclub comic. Who`s calling the shots, him or the crowd?

COSTA: He listens to the crowd. He used to tell me during the campaign that he would react to what the crowd was responding to and he would go with it. And you see him in the White House now not being controlled by General Kelly or by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It`s all him watching television, reacting, thinking about what the people want. It`s pure populism.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think so. Senator Bob Corker offered another observation today of the president. Let`s listen to him.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think that when you have a governing model that`s about dividing the country, when it`s about resentment, when you-- when you only focus on keeping your base solid to the extent of really alienating other people instead of trying to bring our nation together, to bring out the better angels in our citizens-- typically, presidents try to be aspirational in what they do. They try to bring out the best in our country. That to me is not happening. And I`m going to continue to rail against that in an appropriate way.


MATTHEWS: Well, it tells you something that Bob Corker, the senator from Tennessee, who is retiring, still gets up early enough in the morning to do a morning show. He is on a case. He`s making his case to the last, in the same way I think McCain is.

What seems clear at this point, the cavalry is not coming to back to back up senators Corker and Flynn.

Here`s where Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio were today, with Trump. Let`s watch.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know what the American people want to see us do? solve their problems. I don`t think the American people want to see us up here yelling at each other. They want to see us fighting for them.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: He was elected president. I`m going to work with him for the good of our country and we`re going to try to get good things done.


MATTHEWS: What`s with this kiss butt thing? I mean, seriously.

XX: They won`t say it.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I watch (INAUDIBLE) people have been singing that guy`s praises, that he`s going to come on, he`s going to be a leader. He`s not a leader! He`s just going along with Trump. That`s all he ever does. He did it at the Al Smith dinner last week. Every time challenges him, Let`s get together and have a little beer summit, let`s work it out. I mean, come on out~! Doesn`t anybody have the right to criticize Trump? According to him, no.

PETERS: They won`t do it. There`s good great a political cost.

MATTHEWS: Well, who`s this guy afraid of, the Boehner treatment, he`s going to get bumped?

PETERS: Absolutely. Yeah. Oh, sure.

MARCUS: They`re all falling in line. The Republican senators sat there, listened to Corker and Flake. Most of them agree. You have not heard a peep.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, not a peep.

MARCUS: Complete crickets. And you know, and if you have a question about where the Republican Party is heading, look at the gubernatorial race in Virginia where the Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, a Bob Corker type of Republican, total establishment Republican is running ads about MS-13 that look like Willie Horton ads--

MATTHEWS: There`s also-- a full embodiment of statues position.

MARCUS: And saving our statues.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, I know where he`s going. He wants to win, too.


MATTHEWS: --because he loves Trump, he wants to win.

MARCUS: He doesn`t love Trump, but he knows-- but he is a Trumpista.

PETERS: Look what`s happened in the Alabama race with Judge Roy Moore, pariah) among establishment Republicans. Yesterday, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn, went out and endorsed him. That-- these guys are running scared and that is a perfect exaple--

MATTHEWS: Running toward Trump.

PETERS: Running toward Trump. That is a perfect example of how they are so afraid to get on the wrong side of--

MATTHEWS: Well, we keep looking at this numbers, 80-some percent for Trump among Republicans. So who`s in this new class of Republicans being championed by Steve Bannon? Meet, as you said, Jeremy-- meet Roy Moore, the former chief-- there he is on horseback-- chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He was twice removed from the bench. He refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and then instructed judges in his state to ignore the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. He backs criminalizing-- there`s a strong word-- homosexual behavior. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that homosexual-- homosexuality or homosexual conduct should be illegal today? That`s a yes or no question.

MOORE: Homosexual conduct should be illegal, yes.


MATTHEWS: Conduct. Well, he`s called homosexuality an inherent evil and a crime against nature. Judge Moore advocated blocking a Muslim elected official, Keith Ellis, of course, the congressman, from even becoming a member of Congress because he`s a Muslim. He also falsely said there were communities under sharia law right now in our country, which is not true. And he has attacked the entire religion of Islam. Here he goes.


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: False religions like Islam, who teach that you must worship this way, are completely opposite with what our 1st Amendment stands for.


MATTHEWS: Robert, which way is Trumpism going? Because it seems to be going beyond where Trump was when he ran. And it`s now embracing this fellow. He may embrace Kelli Ward-- now, there`s a real piece of work out in Arizona. There`s a blood-thirsty politician.

Is he willing to go that far beyond where he went in the campaign with this kind of cultural warfare that`s beyond Pat Buchanan-- beyond him?

COSTA: Republicans are alarmed because they see what`s happening in Alabama. Senator Strange down there was given more than $10 million from the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConell-alied super Pac, still wasn`t able to win. Judge Moore had these kind of views, was still able to win. They wonder, is anyone really safe even if you have the money?

MATTHEWS: Well, what do we think? Is Trump going further Trump? Ruth Marcus, is he going further in the direction he ran in?

MARCUS: If that gets results, he will go there.


PETERS: Absolutely. I mean, the-- there`s going to be a big test coming up at the end of the year, right, because DACA and the wall are going to be wrapped into this big spending bill that the Congress has to approve.


PETERS: So it`ll be telling to see, does Trump veto that? Is he willing to see the government go into a shutdown right after they`ve presumably passed this tax cut that they`re all excited about? I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: How can they tax people any money and spend it on a wall? I mean, how can working class people, white or whatever ethnic background, be willing to support the waste of their money?

PETERS: Well, that`s why--


COSTA: That`s why the Republicans are clinging onto this idea of a tax cut because they know there`s not a consensus even within their own party to have a border wall along the U.S./Mexico border. So you have to get something that the base and the business community likes. And that`s the tax cut. And if they don`t get that, they`re worried about the wrath of everybody in the party.

MATTHEWS: There`s not a working class white guy out there, any ethnic group guy out there right now, or a woman, who wouldn`t get past the wall if they needed a job. They will go to get the job. So they must know intuitively, the wall won`t work. Thank you, Ruth Marcus. Thank you, Jeremy Peters and Robert Costa.

Coming up, 2,800 secret documents from the JFK assassination files are being released this night, but President Trump blocked the release of hundreds more for now. We`re going to see what-- waiting for these-- we`re going to keep waiting for them tonight. They`re coming out in the hours ahead, and we`ll have the latest details as they come out, coming up next.

Plus, President Trump weighs in on the Virginia governor`s race, saying Republican Ed Gillespie will save our great statues and heritage, as Ruth said, while Democrat Ralph Northam is trying to both-- to tie both Gillespie and Trump to the white supremacists. They`re getting dirty down there. With a week-and-a-half to go, this race could turn either way, but it`s certainly getting hot and dirty.

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here as the Russian investigation-- here`s the word to watch-- escalates. And Republicans move closer to a tax bill critics say will hurt the middle class. It ain`t going to help them any.

Finally, let me finish tonight with ``Trump watch`` tonight. Get ready, the invasion of the body snatchers.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Defense Secretary James Mattis-- ``mad dog`` Mattis-- arrived in South Korea earlier today where he is scheduled to meet with U.S. allies about the threat posed by North Korea. The visit comes amid reporting from NBC News that diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Kim Jong-un`s regime are on their last legs. I never knew they were on their legs.

Anyway, NBC`s Keir Simmons is in Seoul, South Korea, having just returned from a visit to North Korea-- Keir.

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris. Defense Secretary Mattis is now here in South Korea. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, was already here. On their agenda is quite simply, can negotiation work, or are we heading for war in this region, a war that would potentially be devastating, causing thousands, possibly worse, deaths in even the early stages.

And you know, Chris, we spent a week in North Korea, and I have to say just quite coldly that everyone we spoke to there did not give us the impression that negotiation was really on the table in the sense that if what the-- Washington wants, if what the U.S. wants is for North Kosea to freeze its nuclear program or even step back or reverse it, nobody that we spoke to in North Kosea gave us the impression that they thought that would be acceptable.

Now, look, admittedly, Chris, the people that we spoke to there always (ph) from going down to the DMZ, the front line on the border with the south here and all the way up an hour-and-a-half outside of Pyongyang, the capital. But yet no one was spoke-- all those people we spoke to, they were in the higher echelons of society, people around Kim Jong-un. But at the same time, they gave us this one message mostly, and that was pretty unequivocal, like their ideology is very firmly held, their belief in their supreme leader. And they don`t appear to be easily shaken on that.

Now, of course, Chris, when you speak to people in North Korea, you find yourself questioning exactly what they`re really thinking. But you wouldn`t want to gamble on that, not when the potential for a war here is so-- so bloody-- Chris?

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, NBC`s Keir Simmons with that report from Seoul, South Korea.

Up next, 2,800 secret documents related to the JFK assassination will be released tonight. But we`ve learned that hundreds more will remain under wraps pending further review. We`ll have the latest reporting on that straight ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After being withheld from the public for over 50 years, a portion of the remaining documents related to John F. Kennedy`s assassination are being released tonight from the National Archives.

In a memo, President Trump ordered late today that the veil finally be lifted. However, at the request of the intelligence community, the president`s agreed to a six-month further review period for the most sensitive of the documents.

The secrecy around these files has stoked conspiracy theories for decades, ever since the Warren Commission concluded in its 1964 report that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman responsible for the president`s death.

Even the late president`s brother Bobby Kennedy was confronted by skeptics of the report`s conclusions.

Here`s how Bobby Kennedy responded to hecklers demanding the release of the Archives` files during a campaign rally in March of 1968.


BOBBY KENNEDY, BROTHER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: Can I just say that -- and I haven`t answered this question before, but there would nobody that would be more interested in all of these matters as to who was responsible for the death of President Kennedy than I would.

I have seen all of the matters in the Archives. If I became president of the United States, I would not -- I would not reopen the Warren Commission report. I think I stand by the Warren Commission report. I have seen everything in the Archives. The Archives will be available at the appropriate time.


MATTHEWS: "I have seen everything in the Archives."

Well, due to the sheer volume of the materials, it may take time before historians and experts can draw any conclusions about what they contain.

Joining me right now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams, Julia Ainsley, who is a national security report with NBC News, and Evan Thomas, a distinguished presidential historian. His most recent book is "Being Nixon."

Pete, what do you know about this thing tonight, the timetable of us getting anything interesting overnight?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: So, the quick answer is not yet. Let`s go to the Web site. Let`s go to the National Archives Web site, and it still says at this hour, with just a few hours left on this date, stay tuned for updates.

That`s what it`s said all day. And to explain why, Chris, you would have to go back to the law. It was 25 years ago today that Congress passed a law saying all the documents have to come out by the end of today, unless - - and that`s the part that`s held them up -- unless the intelligence agencies appeal to the president and ask him to withhold certain information.

And now we know that, for the past couple of weeks, the CIA, the FBI and some other agencies have been going back and forth with the White House, saying, we want these portions of documents redacted.

We don`t believe they have asked for any documents to be held -- withheld in full, but they have asked for lots of redactions. We`re told the White House pushed back on that, that they couldn`t reach any agreement, and so the president finally said, get out what you can, what there isn`t a disagreement about, and then I will give the agencies six more months to see if they can`t winnow back what they want withheld, and then we will decide what to do finally in March.

So that`s where we stand tonight. Nothing has come out yet.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at the trail many of us think is the trail right now, which is the CIA may have missed surveilling Lee Harvey Oswald after he returned from Russia, when he went down and visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, the Cuban Embassy, joined the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, the pro-Castro committee.

All those signs this guy might be trouble. Of course, we know later we learned that he was going after Edwin Walker. He took some shots at the right-wing general. He also, according to his wife, went after Nixon at one point to shoot him, thinking he was in town.

But all of these signs, and they missed them. But why would you protect the name of an agent at this point? Why would they redact names if there was missing surveillance here?

WILLIAMS: So, my understanding is, it`s names of people who were cooperating with the U.S. at the time in Mexico who are still alive.


WILLIAMS: It`s any agreements that we had with foreign governments that we promised we would never disclose, that kind of thing.


WILLIAMS: That is apparently the sort of thing they`re worried about.

But what all the scholars tell us, Chris, all the historians that have looked at this, they say they don`t believe that there is anything in these documents that are going to change the bottom line that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

And I talked today to a judge who was on the records review board, who has seen all this material that hasn`t come out yet. And his understanding of what the government want, what the agencies want redacted is the way I have just explained it.

MATTHEWS: Pete, you`re always great. Thanks so much.

We will all be the sort of Christmas Eve feeling tonight, what`s going to be in our stockings tomorrow morning.

I want to go now down to Julia and then to Evan. What are you going to do tonight? Tell me about the process, because you`re going to be on this thing.


We have a team of reporters at the D.C. bureau with NBC just combing through these things.

There are a few areas we want to really concentrate on. Some of these are personality profiles that they did of Oswald, of people he would have spoken to in Mexico. And we`re trying to piece together a picture of what the CIA had on Oswald before the shooting and also what they had afterwards.

And were there any things that were withheld simply to try to not to embarrass the agency?


Evan, let`s talk about this.

Bobby was very strong there in March of `68, late in the game for him near the time of his death. Everything I have been coming across, he officially always said, as did his brother before Teddy died, much more recently, they did believe the Warren Commission.

Yet you hear these utterances from people that he had his doubts.

EVAN THOMAS, HISTORIAN: I believe people who say he had his doubts.

Bobby was racked with guilt about his brother`s death and, at some horrible level, blamed himself.

MATTHEWS: Was it the mob he went after? Was it going after Castro? Was it his brother not backing up the Bay of Pigs promise by the CIA that we would give military cover to them? There`s so many suspects.

THOMAS: There are a lots of people who killed have killed JFK.


THOMAS: And Bobby thought that one of them actually had, or feared, feared that he actually had.

Now, proven, I think these are all conspiracy theories that aren`t true. I think Oswald killed JFK.

MATTHEWS: I do, too.

THOMAS: And there was no conspiracy.

MATTHEWS: But what about the Jerry Bruno charge? And he wrote -- he was his advance man, President Kennedy`s advance man. He put out the trip.

THOMAS: Right.

MATTHEWS: He planned it. He said there`s no way these conspiracy theories could be true because we didn`t put out the plan for where he was going that day until the day before. And how can anybody plan to put Oswald in that job six or whatever weeks beforehand to plan this? It makes no plan - - no sense.

THOMAS: There are millions of holes.

All the people, all the historians have really looked into this. At the end of the day, Oswald acted alone, all the people who have really, seriously looked at this. Nonetheless, there are a lot of nutty conspiracy theories.

MATTHEWS: And a lot of nutty people too.

THOMAS: Aided by the CIA and the FBI, who kept these secrets all over the years, fueling these conspiracy theories.

MATTHEWS: Well, Oswald could have had a crucial witness in determining whether he was part of a larger conspiracy.

However, just two days after the assassination of President Kennedy, he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.

Here`s how that scene played out on live television on NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is Lee Oswald.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been shot. He`s been shot. Lee Oswald has been shot. There`s a man with a gun.

It`s absolute panic. Absolute panic.


MATTHEWS: Well, three months before he took the president`s life, Oswald himself admitted to being a Marxist in a local TV interview.


QUESTION: And are you a Marxist?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD, ASSASSINATED JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well, I have studied Marxist philosophy, yes, sir, and also other philosophers.

QUESTION: But are you a Marxist? I think you did admit on an earlier radio interview that you consider yourself a Marxist.

OSWALD: Well, I would very definitely say that I am a Marxist. That is correct. But that does not mean, however, that I`m a communist.


MATTHEWS: Well, that distinction is lost on me right now.

But, Julia, years ago, my wife and I got to see the King Tut`s tomb. We got into it. There`s nothing left.


MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s all been taken to the British museum. It`s gone.

Do you get the feeling we might get there tonight to an empty museum?

AINSLEY: I think so. And I`m afraid so. But, really, just as we were all just pointing out, there has been so much conspiracy built around this that putting out anything could put some of those conspiracies to rest, maybe not for all.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think took? Why do the conspiracy theories -- and I`m going to get to you.

AINSLEY: Well, part of it is that he -- Oswald took this to his grave.

And so there`s a lot that has remained unknown. But also, in kind of piecing together why some of this information would have been held back, think about the time, the height of the Cold War. People were really on edge about what other governments might have been planning, and then their own government, with the distrust of the CIA.

People knew that their capabilities were growing. And so conspiracy theories just ran wild at this time. And they have really continued.

MATTHEWS: Is part of it, Evan, that the left, the political left, starting all the way at the center, all the way to the left, cannot stand the idea it was communist that did it and want to believe somehow the right wing did it, somehow, they did it?

THOMAS: People want to believe things. That`s how you have conspiracy theories. They have the belief first, and the facts come second.

There always will be -- any time something terrible happens, there has to be an explanation. Even if the truth is just some crazy person with a gun, there has to be a broader plot, a broader conspiracy.

And that sustained it all these years.

MATTHEWS: And yet that is disproved. Every time we have a mass shooting, every time -- an assassination, it`s some zero that did it, some guy that we only know about them because they`re bad.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Julia Ainsley. Good luck tonight in your search looking through those Christmas stockings.

AINSLEY: It will be a long night.

MATTHEWS: And, Evan Thomas, one of the great historians.

Up next: President Trump jumps into the Virginia governor`s race, making it a referendum on Confederate statues. How`s this culture war going to play with voters? I don`t know. I think the statue issue is very tricky.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: They`re promoting divisiveness, hatred and bigotry. And my opponent, Mr. Gillespie, is running these ads.

And his target is Mr. Trump. And he`s finally hit his target.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Democrat, of course, Ralph Northam responding to negative ads in the Virginia governor`s race that were put forth by his opponent, Republican candidate Ed Gillespie.

With the election just 12 days away now, President Trump has weighed in himself, writing: "Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy numbers around and fast. Strong on crime. He might even save our great statues."

What is the rest of is? I don`t know what it is anyway.

Gillespie inherited -- whatever.

Anyway, Gillespie, who has not campaigned with the president, is also embracing the issue of Confederate monuments. Let`s listen to the latest campaign ad from Gillespie.


NARRATOR: Ralph Northam will take our statues down.

Ed Gillespie will preserve them.

ED GILLESPIE (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m for keeping them up. And he`s for taking them down. And that`s a big difference.


MATTHEWS: Well, the issue of Civil War monuments helped ignite that violent and deadly protest in Charlottesville early this summer.

The Virginia Democratic Party has circulated a mailer linking Gillespie and Trump to the white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville. The Northam campaign stands by that message.

I`m joined right now by Gerry Connolly.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining me.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: Great to be with you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re kind of a moderate Democrat. I think you`re close to the center politically.

Let me ask you about this. A couple of weeks ago, Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie, who gave a really tough race a couple of years ago to Mark Warner, almost won the Senate seat down there...

CONNOLLY: In a Republican year.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he`s a serious political leader, figure in the party.

He said he wouldn`t even answer -- he wouldn`t answer a public question, what do you think of Robert E. Lee? OK, now he`s embracing the statues. He`s saying it is an issue. He wants them.

What has changed in this party, this election dynamic where a guy who was afraid of an issue which was so cultural, so sensitive now says, I`m on the side of the Confederate statues?

CONNOLLY: I think it`s a sign, frankly, of real political weakness.

I think he has recognized he has not succeeded in unifying his base. He had a very contentious primary. He almost lost.

MATTHEWS: To a real winger.

CONNOLLY: To a real right-winger.

And he`s trying to do this delicate dance.

MATTHEWS: He won`t have Trump come in for him.

CONNOLLY: He has amnesia about Trump.


MATTHEWS: He won`t let him in the state.

CONNOLLY: In Northern Virginia.

I don`t know who he is, don`t know who you`re talking about. In the south, it doesn`t matter.

MATTHEWS: Right. But he loves the statues now.

CONNOLLY: Well, here`s a kid from Southern New Jersey who suddenly is chaining himself to statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest.


MATTHEWS: He`s the guy that started KKK.

CONNOLLY: Exactly.

My friend Jim Boran (ph) used to say, if you`re going to be a phony, at least be sincere about it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Where are you on Robert E. Lee? Where are you on Robert E. Lee?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think you have got...

MATTHEWS: Where are you on Robert E. Lee?

CONNOLLY: I`m going to tell you.

I think you have got to separate history from acts of defiance during the integration period. And I think those are two very different things.

So, you honor your history. You don`t deny it. But, on the other hand, if symbols were put up deliberately as a statement about integration, I think we got to reexamine.

MATTHEWS: What do we? We have Jefferson Davis Nigh in Northern Virginia, in Alexandria. We have the Lee Highway. We have Washington and Lee University. We have got that wonderful little Confederate statue of the poor soldier who lost the war called Appomattox right on the main street.

Where do you draw the line? Do you take the statues away from Gettysburg, the battlefield monuments of the Confederates, but keep the Northern generals? I wonder about this. Where do you draw the line?

CONNOLLY: Yes, you can`t whitewash history. You couldn`t pretend that didn`t happen.

And that`s why I have got to say, you have got separate. When acts -- names weren`t made deliberately to make a statement...

MATTHEWS: And when was that? What period was that?

CONNOLLY: Well, that`s in the `50s and the early `60s.


CONNOLLY: And they were everywhere.

MATTHEWS: During a time of massive resistance.

CONNOLLY: Massive resistance. That`s an ugly part of our history we need to reexamine.

But if it`s a statement of history from right after the Civil War or during that period, yes, if you want to put up a different statue of U.S. Grant, I`m all for it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m with U.S. Grant too. He`s finally getting a hearing, by the way.

CONNOLLY: Yes, that`s right, new biography.

MATTHEWS: But I like the way the Brits do it in a -- what do you call it, their Westminster Abbey. They put them all in there, the good and the dreck.

CONNOLLY: Oh, my God, yes.

MATTHEWS: They have got a Bloody Mary in there. They got Henry VII. They keep them all.


CONNOLLY: They are together.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly.

You can see why he`s a very popular fellow in his district.

The JFK assassination documents have been posted now. And our team is going through them for NBC. And we will bring you the headlines when we get them. They could come out any minute tonight.

Up next: the HARDBALL Roundtable. There`s new reporting tonight on the Russian investigation. It is escalating. Bad news for Trump.

Plus, the House narrowly passed a budget today. But there were plenty of Republican holdouts, the ones from states with high taxes, like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California. Don`t want to vote for a bill that doesn`t give you a tax deduction for your high state taxes.

They`re worried.

And you`re watching HARDBALL.


We`re watching right now three important stories and we`re taking a quick look at the -- where they`re headed with the reporters covering those stories.

First up, "The Daily Beast" is now reporting on how the head of a data analytics company called Cambridge Analytica which worked with the Trump campaign last year offered to help Julian Assange find Hillary Clinton`s missing e-mails.

Also, Republicans got their act together and pass a budget that paves the way for a tax reform. It`s the first step. But can they get that tax bill through before Christmas?

And, finally, the president today declared a health emergency to fight the opioid epidemic.

For all this, let`s bring in the HARDBALL tonight. Betsy Woodruff, reporter with "The Daily Beast", Sahil Kapur, national political reporter with "Bloomberg News", and Sabrina Siddiqui, reporter with "The Guardian".

So, everybody here, I`m going to try to get to hot stuff for people to think about right now, starting with you, Betsy. Tell me about this thing that you`re working on.

BETSY WOODRUFF, REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: What I reported yesterday is the closest known connection between people on the inside of the Trump campaign and Julian Assange. Trump`s own CIA director has characterized WikiLeaks as a hostile foreign intelligence service, according to my sources, and this is reporting that Julian Assange confirmed to me. There was outreach from Cambridge Analytica, which the Trump campaign paid almost $6 million to and Julian Assange.

This is a great interest to investigators, both on Capitol Hill --

MATTHEWS: So, you`re trying to gather Trump with getting the e-mails out of the public light. They did it. Trump did it?

WOODRUFF: We don`t know that. What we do know is that people at the very top, on the very inside of Trump`s inner circle wanted to help Julian Assange potentially distribute material that he could have obtained illegally.

MATTHEWS: Well, in response to Betsy`s reporting for "The Daily Beast", the Trump campaign issued the following statement. Quote, there is still a Trump campaign: We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from another played a key role in the victory is false.

But that`s not true. According to FEC filings, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge close to, as you said, $6 million in 2016 for their services. The companies partly owned by powerful mega-donors and early Trump supporters Robert and Rebecca Mercer.

Another sign, Sabrina.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Yes. It`s important to know that Cambridge Analytica was also instrumental in the Brexit campaign, where you saw some similar themes as you did with the kind of campaign that Trump ran. And, look, the Trump campaign initially after the election bragged about its data apparatus, not just speaking about the RNC but talking about some of the ways in which they micro-targeted voters, including ways in which they tried to engage in voter suppression tactics, through groups like Cambridge Analytica.

MATTHEWS: As we say in journalism, this got legs. You keep working on this. You make that connections. Let me go to --


MATTHEWS: Sahil, let me ask you this.


MATTHEWS: What have you got?

KAPUR: There`s a lot --

MATTHEWS: About the budget.

KAPUR: About the budget. So, the House Republicans passed the budget with one vote to spare in the house. There`s a lot in there but the only thing that matters is the tax aspect of this. They want to pass the tax bill through in the next month or two, that drastically reshapes --

MATTHEWS: How does a Republican member of Congress from New York state or New Jersey or Illinois, high tax states, go back and say, yes, I took away your deductions.

KAPUR: Those are the ones who voted no on this budget. Most of them, there are a handful of purists who voted no because it doesn`t go far enough in a conservative end, but most of them were New York and New Jersey Republicans who cannot go home and defend the fact that state and local deductibility will be gone, which would hammer some middle class.

MATTHEWS: Kill them. If you`re paying -- if you`re paying 10 percent the marginal rate or 11 percent state taxes, you lose that, you`re effectively paying another 5 percent of your income in taxes.

KAPUR: If you`re a large family in the middle class in, say, Staten Island making between $150,000, and $300,000, your property taxes are high, you can no longer deduct them, you lose personally exemptions. This is 1/3 of Americans in that bracket who would see higher taxes.

MATTHEWS: So, good-bye, Mr. Donovan?

KAPUR: Well, he`s one of the no votes for that reason. Peter King, another no vote. This is a huge issue for them if the bill fails --

MATTHEWS: I like those stories. That will not go away.

Sabrina, your story?

SIDDIQUI: Well, today, the president declared a state of emergency over the opioid crisis. This is one of the greatest health crises facing United States, 175 deaths per day. More people are being killed by opioid-related illnesses than traffic accidents and gun violence.


MATTHEWS: How does this happen?

SIDDIQUI: Addiction to prescription painkillers.

MATTHEWS: And you just O.D., or what do you do? Does it take time?

SIDDIQUI: Well, there`s both. I mean, overdoses is the leading cause certainly, and then, look, the point here is that this touches every socioeconomic level, but it especially has ravaged rural communities, working class white voters who supported Trump. They`re expected more from him.

He did not announce anything substantive. He`s not allocating new funding towards them. That`s what they really need, is more resources.

MATTHEWS: As you said, before signing the order declaring the national opioid epidemic a public health emergency, President Trump opened up about his older brother who had his own addiction problems. Let`s watch the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I learned myself, I had a brother, Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine. But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol and he would tell me, don`t drink.

But he really helped me. I had somebody that guided me, and he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol, believe me, very, very tough, tough life. He was a strong guy, but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through. But I learned because of Fred.


MATTHEWS: Sabrina and Sahil, who are the bad guys in this opioid problem. Are the drug --


SIDDIQUI: Pharmaceutical companies.

MATTHEWS: Are they giving away stuff without prescription? Are doctors giving prescriptions too freely? Are the drug companies pushing this stuff? Who are the bad guys?

SIDDIQUI: There is the drug companies who certainly have tried to make opioids more available on the market as opposed to the other way around. There`s also high priced prescription Naloxone which actually reverses an overdose. That is -- (INAUDIBLE) can`t afford that medication.

But really the point here is that Trump, he needs to deliver more resources and instead he has backed many proposals that would slash funding to deal with opioid crisis.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, these three, all of them will give me scoops. More scoops. They already gave me some for tomorrow. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, it was confirmed early this week that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, helped fund that research that ultimately produced the now infamous dossier on Donald Trump. It`s still unclear, however, which Republican campaign or group initially funded Fusion GPS opposition research project on Trump back during the Republican primary.

Well, today, Senator Marco Rubio denied he was the one. Let`s listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: As far as my campaign, it wasn`t, and I`ll tell you, because I was running for president. I was trying to win. If I had anything against Donald Trump that was relevant and credible and politically damaging, I would have used it. I didn`t have it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, your campaign never funded any of the initial research and you`re right, that initial research was done before Christopher Steele, the former British spy, got involved. I just want to be precise, your campaign had nothing to do with it, right?

RUBIO: With GPS, that group, absolutely not.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

We start with Betsy.

Tell me something, give me a scoop.

WOODRUFF: David Kautter has been named as the new interim director, interim IRS commissioner. He`ll take over when Ron Koskinen`s term is up. He does not, in my understanding, have experience in the IRS. However, he has worked against it when he headed the tax practice at his law firm, Ernst and Young. That firm settled for upwards of $100 million with the IRS and the Justice Department because it marketed tax shelters.

MATTHEWS: So, maybe he can close some of them.

WOODRUFF: So, it`s kind of interesting.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Sahil?

KAPUR: Chris, Congress has let Children`s Health Insurance Program expire on the 1st of this month. Nine million kids depend on this. It`s been around for two decades. It always gets extended as a matter of course.

This time, there`s no end in sight. This has gotten caught up in the politics of Obamacare and various other things that people want to do.

MATTHEWS: Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Scott Brown, Trump`s ambassador of New Zealand.

MATTHEWS: We know that story.

SIDDIQUI: He`s being counseled on standards of conduct for government employees after complaints over inappropriate behavior and harassment.

MATTHEWS: What did he do wrong? What did he do wrong?

SIDDIQUI: He made lewd comments to women. Some said he was staring at them, objectifying them. This is while representing the U.S. at a party in Samoa this summer.

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable.

Anyway, Betsy Woodruff, thank you, Sahil Kapur and Sabrina Siddiqui.

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


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, October 26th, 2017.

The Republican party of autumn 2017 resembles the 1956 movie, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", a leadership that weeks ago kept its distance from Donald Trump has now become a party of Trumpites. It`s much like in the movie, one day, a person is an individual, a real life human being and the next moment, you meet them and they have all the visible appearances of that previous human being, but are now speaking, thinking, replicants of people, marching to the call of Donald Trump, no longer the actual people we knew. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

It`s a frightening yet true description of a party where those who remain human and individual and distinct pull out of the way rather than be replaced by representatives of their former self. U.S. senators who feel the transformation coming over them decide to bolt rather than have their reputations destroyed by the zombie substitutes marching to the command of the man in the White House.

Here`s a preview of what`s happening courtesy of that 1956 classic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone, they`re here already! You`re next!


MATTHEWS: Who`s next? Who`s the next Republican senator to race for the doors rather than be replaced by the body snatcher?

And that`s HARDBALL for now. And it`s all true.

Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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