Show: HARDBALL Date: October 27, 2017 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Kimberly Atkins, Bob Cusack, Kathleen Parker, George Will, Jon Meacham
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The word from Dallas. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Journalists, scholars and historians have been combing through the 2,800 documents all related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy which were released late last night. Much of the material reflects what government officials and law enforcement authorities were thinking in real time in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. On the day that Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead by Jack Ruby, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover dictated a memo about how the bureau should proceed. It`s not clear if a wider conspiracy was suspected, but the memo shows that Hoover was concerned that the public would be skeptical of the initial conclusions.
Quote, "The thing that I am concerned about is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."
It`s also clear that the CIA had conducted surveillance on Oswald and were aware of his associations with Soviet and Cuban officials during his visit to Mexico City. However, the documents show that Lee Harvey Oswald was not on the list of potential threats to the president, and he was only added after he had killed the president on November 22nd.
I`m joined right now by Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent with NBC News. Julia Ainsley`s a national security reporter with NBC News. And Jon Meacham is a presidential historian and an MSNBC political analyst.
I want to get as much as we can get done tonight here, starting with what is your understanding, Andrea, of what Hoover was trying to say with that memo?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: What he was trying to say, at least if you read the words, is that he was concerned that Americans would not accept the finding that Oswald acted alone and he wanted to rule out any suspicions of a conspiracy and --
MITCHELL: -- reassure the American people. The why is what we don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Was it he was afraid -- well, that`s what we have to speculate on, Julia. We have to speculate on was he afraid that people would go shooting Russians? Would they start engaging -- ginning up the cold war again, turning it hot?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, that`s why this document is so interesting. It gives us a window into the time, and the time was this height of tension during the cold war. He And was worried that this would become more than the nation losing its president. It was going to put people on an edge and lose trust in their democracy and their security.
MATTHEWS: Jon, put that in a box, will you, in a context about -- That`s how I remember it. And I`m old enough to remember it, that we were worried -- I mean, I wasn`t a leader then, obviously, but I knew that leaders were worried that we were right at the edge of the cold war turning hot, and if the word had ever gotten out in any way that the Russians had re killed our hero, there could have been real trouble.
JON MEACHAM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you were only 13 months away from what Arthur Schlesinger called the most dangerous hours in human history, the Cuban missile crisis of October `62. Diem had been assassinated in Vietnam. It was one of the darkest and scariest times ever.
And when you think about what was going on in the United States, you had fear on the far right, you had fear on the far left. These documents show that there was a lot of speculation. Was this a far-right assassin? Was this a far-left assassin? People were genuinely concerned and rationally that the country was facing an existential crisis.
MATTHEWS: We also know that Oswald went to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City in September of `63, just a couple months before, and met with a man named Kostikoff. A memo delivered to the director of the CIA the day after the assassination says that Kostikoff is an identified KGB officer and had worked with the KGB`s 13th department, which is responsible for sabotage and assassination.
However, as far as the CIA could tell at the time, Oswald discussed passport and visa matters with Kostikoff That is information we would have liked to have had at the time, right afterwards. He`s meeting with the Soviet KGB guy in Mexico City two months before he assassinates Kennedy.
MITCHELL: And that`s what makes me so suspicious of Hoover`s, let`s reassure the public that it was just Oswald. Is he covering up for either the FBI or the CIA.
MITCHELL: The incompetence, the fact that they were tracking him. Was high school under surveillance? He must have been in Mexico because we know some of these other documents they know exactly what his path was, and --
MATTHEWS: He was with that playwright at a party. We know that. It shows up in a --
MITCHELL: Did they drop the ball and was he covering up for the FBI or the CIA?
MATTHEWS: And we also have these other documents, Julia, we all looked at overnight, where he`s on the phone with the Soviet people, the Soviet embassy and people down there. He`s writing a letter to the Soviet embassy in Washington. He`s dealing with them on visa matters and stuff like that. But also complaining that he`s under surveillance by the FBI, complaining to the Soviets that his fair play for community participation was getting him watched.
AINSLEY: Right. So that`s --
MATTHEWS: Why is he telling them that?
AINSLEY: It al also begs the question if he is under surveillance by FBI and CIA. They know about these conversations. Why is he just showing up on the Secret Service watch list the day of the assassination?
MITCHELL: After (INAUDIBLE)
AINSLEY: Right, after the assassination, after the fact.
MATTHEWS: How do you put it together, Julia? He spends a couple years in Russia, marries a Russian woman, comes back disillusioned with Soviet communism, but becomes an activist for a communist in our hemisphere, Castro. And by the way, we all forget. Castro had come into power a few years before, executed all his enemies. He was our enemy. He had lied to us about being a democratic leader. He was a Soviet ally against us. And I understand -- all of a sudden, this guy is working with him down at the embassy in Mexico City. He`s our enemy!
MITCHELL: Well, the other thing is --
MATTHEWS: He`s the president`s enemy.
MITCHELL: -- you have to remember the context, which I know you do and Jon does, Julia is too young, but coming at that point when we were just having come through in the `50s this anti-Soviet -- this was the height of the cold war --
MITCHELL: No, I`m not saying -- I`m not saying that. But McCarthyism, all the rest. There was suspicion around. People were being followed and put on watch lists. So the fact that he did not pop up as someone that the Secret Service should be concerned about with the president going to Dallas, given his movements, is very suspicious.
MATTHEWS: let`s take a look at some more documents. Another FBI document we just got summarizes the Soviet reaction to the events that unfolded in Dallas on that day. Quote, "Officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believe there was some well organized conspiracy on the part of the ultra-right in the United States to effect a coup. Our source further states that Soviet officials were fearful that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union."
Jon Meacham, what do you make of that? Do you believe that was agitprop or sheer true Soviet fear that there was a right-wing conspiracy in this country that led to the assassination?
MEACHAM: Well, you know, fear is often projection. And I think the Soviets worried about that in their own country, and I think they probably looked at the United States and wondered. You know, "Seven Days in May" was not that remote a possibility --
MEACHAM: -- in those days. The other thing I think that`s a big part of all these documents, kind of a unifying denominator, is that this is a dark forest, right? The early 60s is a dark forest in American politics. We think of it as a golden age, of Camelot in Mrs. Kennedy`s marvelous formulation. But you had an enormous amount of loose factors, if you will. You had the mob running around. You had the CIA and the Bay of Pigs. You had fear of Soviet and far-right penetration and agents provocaturs in the United States.
I think one of the things that probably Hoover and the other authors of these documents didn`t know is really what had happened, and they didn`t know what they might have set in motion at some point or another that might have reaped the whirlwind in Dallas that day.
MATTHEWS: You know, what I`m struck by in the middle of the night because I`m working on this book on Bobby for all these years. There I`m reading the real documents. I`m reading how, you know, Giancana, who the CIA had hired to kill Castro.
MITCHELL: The mob boss.
MATTHEWS: The mob boss. The heir to Al Capone in Chicago, the hitman -- there he is, the godfather! He was the role model, was hired by the CIA to kill Castro. He wouldn`t take the 150,000 bucks they offered him because he wanted to have them on the hook.
Bobby, meanwhile, who`s been chasing Giancana since his racket committee`s days for three -- and then putting them on the list of people who went after -- with -- with the -- (INAUDIBLE) what was it, for the IRS. He was trying to get his tax returns, just trying to nail him just like they nailed Capone, and then they found out they`re all on the take they`re all working with us. And Bobby says, "Don`t do that without talking to me again." Now, he didn`t say, Don`t kill Castro without talking to me again, Jon. He said don`t do -- go after using Giancana and the mob to go after them.
And then all these questions that swirl afterwards. Was the mob getting even with Jack Kennedy? And I`m sure Bobby Kennedy, although he went along with the Warren commission to the day of his death, really, and so did Teddy Kennedy -- he must have, and I`ve heard this from people like Sorensen and others, Ted Sorensen -- he was always in the back of his mind thinking, Did I do something to disturb that whole awful underworld that somehow led to Lee Harvey Oswald doing what he did?
MEACHAM: I don`t -- you know, you`ve forgotten more about this than I know. But I will say about this about Robert Kennedy. It has always seemed to me in reading the record that his deep grief was exacerbated by a fear of guilt. And I think that his immersion in the ancients in the wake of the assassination and Aeschylus and reading Edith Hamilton -- you know, the great quotation he ended up using when Martin Luther King was killed --
MEACHAM: -- when RFK was in Indianapolis about grief and sorrow, the quotation that is there at Arlington -- I think that has some connection to exactly that, the fears that perhaps he set something in motion or may have helped something along that --
MATTHEWS: -- ended up with those shots in Dallas.
MATTHEWS: Catholic guilt goes a long way. Anyway, another document shows that in a 1975 deposition, former CIA director Richard Helms was asked, quote, "Is there any information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent" -- at that point, the sentence stops. It`s the end of it. The document`s incomplete. It just ends there.
My friend, Andrea, this is what gives conspiracy theorists lives.
MITCHELL: When I saw that, it just -- the last page of this deposition --
MATTHEWS: Who rippled the page off?
MITCHELL: -- is missing. This is the former CIA director, Richard Helms, who is a legendary, iconic figure, a spymaster. And he`s -- this --
MATTHEWS: OK, but they left the CIA part on, but the other possibility (INAUDIBLE)
MITCHELL: There`s only one possibility, really --
MATTHEWS: So this --
MITCHELL: -- an agent of the Soviet Union --
MATTHEWS: Yes. Why`d they --
MITCHELL: -- because you wouldn`t say an agent of the mob.
MATTHEWS: Why are we still, in 2017, trying to defend a Soviet Union which doesn`t exist anymore?
MITCHELL: Well, to avoid an eruption, I presume. This is 1975, so the height of the cold war to avoid some sort of huge conflagration, which could have led to a war between -- I mean, you -- you had two nuclear powers, and this was still so raw. And the fact, by the way, that we`re not going to see the rest of the documents for six months and there will still be redactions is so tantalizing and so mysterious. What is the purpose any --
MATTHEWS: Why six months? Can`t they speed it up a little bit?
MITCHELL: I mean, they had 25 years to do this. Don`t they have enough people at the CIA and the FBI --
MATTHEWS: Julia, what do you think? You`re fresh -- you`re fresh eyes on this. Andrea and I grew up with this. (INAUDIBLE) fresh eyes looking at this thing. These are the same old theories we had. The Soviets were involved. They didn`t want a third world war. They better keep it from us because we`re all children, of course, the United States, so keep the information from us.
AINSLEY: Right. I mean, you can understand that reasoning in the `60s. You can understand that reasoning even in the `70s. Why in 2017 are we setting an arbitrary deadline six months from now that has nothing to do with the law in 1992 that was supposed to give us --
MATTHEWS: I learned one thing. You weren`t here at lunchtime. Peter was here. But I learned one thing in digging through this stuff in the middle of the night. Jack Ruby -- how did he get in that room when Lee Harvey Oswald walked by? According to this informant, he had a nightclub and he had what we called in the `60s "B girls." These were women who would hang around bars, cheap, sleazy bars, and guys would come in alone and they`d sit there and tell -- and you`re nice, it`s nice to talk to you, and get them to buy them drinks, watered-down drinks, and have the guy run up the tab. And it wasn`t awful (ph). It was just a little bit sleazy.
And the police protected -- this guy said the police protected that racket, so he had a good -- quote, "good in" with the Dallas police. So it explains how he could go carousing with these guys, find his way into the hallway. Oh, that`s just Jack Ruby. He`s our buddy. You know? I always wondered, how`d he get in that room?
MITCHELL: And what about the Hoover note saying that -- upset that the FBI had warned the Dallas police that there was quote, "a committee to get Jack Ruby" --
MITCHELL: -- to kill Jack Ruby, and he was upset that --
MATTHEWS: You know --
MITCHELL: -- the Dallas police had not --
MATTHEWS: You know, J. Edgar Hoover looks pretty good in this whole thing, I got to say. I know he has his critics, to say the least, on all fronts. I thought he was trying to do his job. He didn`t want to start some kind of a big craziness about something until he had the facts.
But by the way, what we can tell from these notes, he was trying to find out if there was a conspiracy. He may have shut it down in the short run, but he wanted to know what was behind it because the FBI didn`t look too great beforehand. They looked better afterwards.
Andrea Mitchell, my pal, thank you so much. We`ve been through this all in real time. Anyway, Julia Ainsley -- we really were! -- and Jon Meacham. You`re the best. Thanks for putting the wrapping around this story. It`s an amazing story.
Coming up -- it`s official. The Republican Party has become Donald Trump`s party. Last night, I called it the invasion of the body snatchers, regular Republicans now in the grips of the triumphant right wing, anyway, marching to the beat of the man in the White House. The GOP may be getting smaller, but Trump`s hold on it is getting tighter.
This is HARDBALL.
ANNOUNCER: Plus the Trump distraction strategy as Robert Mueller escalates his investigation into collusion with Russia. The Trump crowd is going back to a tried and true game, blame Hillary. Believe it or not, they`re doing it again.
And the HARDBALL roundtable tonight takes on Republican unity under Trump. The president`s awkward interaction with the children of the press corps -- we just (INAUDIBLE) see that and how the GOP is getting on board the Roy Moore train.
Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch. " He will definitely not like it tonight.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: A quick programming note. This weekend, I begin the nationwide tour for "Bobby Kennedy: Raging Spirit" with an appearance on Sunday morning on "Meet the Press."
And then on Monday, I begin the day on the "Today" show, back here on HARDBALL Monday night. And then I do the Rachel Maddow show also here on MSNBC.
This is a beautiful book inside and out. I think it will revive the spirit of a country that needs to believe again in leadership to unite us, not divide us, who show compassion for those overlooked, who believe a great country must also be a good country. "Bobby Kennedy: Raging spirit" arrives next Tuesday.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As the smoke clears, it looks like the Republican rebellion has been broken. It`s been three days since Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona publicly criticized the president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It`s obvious his political model and governing model is to divide. And he has not risen to the occasion. I think that the worst of it is just going to be the whole debasing, if you will, of our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. But it was a call to arms that fell on deaf ears. In fact, it seemed to do the opposite. President Trump rallied Republican -- congressional Republicans around him. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think people should settle their differences personally. I think it`s better that way. I think it`s in our interests to have party unity so that we can continue to work forward on an agenda.
SEN. MITCH MCCONELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: We`re here to try to accomplish things for the American people. We`re all on the sage page on the issues that I`ve mentioned.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: I think that there are always going to be differences of opinions and agreements, and that`s true in any family. But I just think it`s better if you can to keep those family feuds and fights within the family. It would have been better if either side in some of these disputes if they would just have those conversations in private rather than having them in public.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The one thing I would say to both of these of my colleagues. I admire you. I like you. You`ve got guts. To the president, you won, you beat me. I want you to be successful. To all three of you, knock it off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, 12 months since the election, and the metamorphosis of the Republican Party is complete. It`s Trump`s party now.
Among his base, Trump is stronger than anybody thought, with most polls showing him that 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job the president is doing.
But as Trump`s grip on the party tightens, the Republican tent is getting smaller, not bigger. According to a recent poll, only 40 percent of independent voters approve of the job the president is doing, while 60 percent, of course, disapprove.
For more, I`m joined by Kathleen Parker and George Will, both columnists for "The Washington Post," and Yamiche Alcindor, reporter with "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor.
Kathleen, you know, you would have thought after that dramatic indictment, "J`accuse," of Senator Flake, it would have had the walls tumbling down. In fact, he`s just leaving. That`s all. That`s all that`s happening.
KATHLEEN PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.
No, he got 24 hours of, oh, you`re awesome, you`re so brave, you`re so courageous. Of course, he had started this long ago with his book in which he took on the president.
MATTHEWS: Right. Of course, he took on the president, until he got sitting right there one night, and wouldn`t do it. So he wasn`t quite sure of his attack plan.
Well, and then upon realizing he`s not going to be reelected, he decides to make a stronger statement. But, you know, virtue only lasts about 24 hours in Washington, and I think that he`s going to now discover that it`s a lonely place for the next -- for the duration of his term.
MATTHEWS: Is it your sense that there was a rally that was done organizationally that all the Republican leaders like Thune and all the rest of them all were called together and say, I want positive statements from you about the leadership?
Because it seems like they all were rolling out today, including Lindsey Graham. Everybody was ready to say, let`s rally together.
PARKER: I think they have to, if they want to get anything done. And as long as Trump lets them get done the things that they want, they`re going to still be -- they`re still going to carry the banner. They might not like it and they may talk about the president behind his back.
And, in fact, they do often and with great passion. But they`re nonetheless going to protect the party, to the extent they can.
MATTHEWS: George, is it the one thing they do agree on, they need to get something done this year, they have to agree on the tax bill, which means they need 50 out of 52?
GEORGE WILL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Look, these Vichy Republicans would be perhaps excused if they were getting things done.
But, remember, they were going to do repeal and replace Obamacare by March, tax reform by August and the infrastructure by Christmas. They`re going to get one-half of one of those, that is, tax reform, understood as tax reduction, understood as further inflating the national debt, and go home and say, we advanced our agenda.
Mr. Thune in that quote you just had there says, well, we have differences of opinion.
They`re not arguing about how much to subsidize soybeans or what the marginal tax rate ought to be. This is about a persona. This is about an approach to public rhetoric. This is about manners in public life. This isn`t a family argument about what`s for dinner.
MATTHEWS: Well, to bring back an historic point, Winston Churchill left the Tory Party for a while because he didn`t -- he believed in free trade and he didn`t believe in protectionism.
That was an issue with him. Now you have a Republican Party which is willing to switch from concern over deficits to we`re going to blow out the whole budget and have a big deficit and we don`t care. What happened? We`re going to become the protectionist party, instead of the free trade party.
That`s a lot of orthodoxy thrown out the window.
MATTHEWS: For one guy.
A great Catholic theologian once said about the liberalism of the church, he said that the dogmas fly out the window, but the parishioners don`t come in the door. And we will see if this attracts people in the Republican Party, or whether they lose an equal number, convictions and voters.
Yamiche, it looks like the Republican Party is still the Republican Party of falling in line, rather than falling in love. I don`t think any of these senators love Trump. I don`t think they go to bed at night reading his catechism.
I think they agree with him on anything, but yet they know they have to do what? Why is it, as a reporter, do you see them falling in line?
rMD-BO_YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC ANALYST: They`re falling in line because they`re looking at their base, and when they go back to their districts and reporters like me ask them questions, they are looking at constituents and say, why didn`t you support the president with the health care bill, why didn`t you stand up for President Trump when he was fighting with Corker? I want answers from you.
And that`s because, while President Trump`s numbers, well, you show that they might be good among Republicans, there isn`t approval nationally, that he still has a pretty low approval rating. But Congress` approval rating is even worse.
So, they`re in an even worse position than President Trump. And you have the Republican leadership, like Mitch McConnell, also not being very strong. So, what do they have to do? They have to fall in line with the person who at this point is leading the party.
MATTHEWS: You know, Roosevelt was trying to do purges in the second New Deal and it didn`t work, with Senator George in Georgia. He didn`t get rid of anybody. He was the most powerful president we can imagine.
It does seem that, although he`s not purging people, there`s an atrophying going on. You have got Strong loses. You have got the guy Heller in trouble now in Nevada. You have got -- it looks like Orrin Hatch is going to probably retire at the end of the year, probably. It looks like it.
They`re all at the edge of Trumpism, and they`re falling off the cliff.
PARKER: Well, look, something is definitely happening.
MATTHEWS: And, of course, Flake and, of course, Corker.
PARKER: Well, yes, of course.
And President Trump can use those exits as evidence that, you know, we`re getting rid of --
PARKER: -- the people who are in our way.
MATTHEWS: Steve Bannon calls them scalps.
PARKER: And there you go. And Steve Bannon is out there recruiting candidates who are even further to the right than these real -- these people who are actually true conservatives, but not quite conservative enough, but, most important, not loyal enough.
MATTHEWS: George, do you think it will be a Trump party three years from now?
WILL: Yes. Four years from now is another matter.
We`re losing sight of one fact. And that is, he`s way underwater in approval of the national electorate. He`s about 38, 39 in the RealClearPolitics average.
If he goes into 2020 like that, he will not be reelected. Now, the Democrats seem to me have figured out in their shrewd and self-destructive way how to have another McGovern moment.
MATTHEWS: Yes, i know.
WILL: Because they`re going to say, oh, we have a bright idea. Let`s make everybody sign up to get into the nomination contest for a single-payer system.
That immediately offends 155 -- 157, actually, million Americans.
MATTHEWS: I read them in your column the other day, the people with insurance.
WILL: Who get their insurance from their employers and are happy with that.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, President Trump is casting a long shadow, of course, over races across the country, as we said.
The Virginia governor`s race, of course, coming up very soon is proving to be a dry run on how Republicans adjust to Trump`s GOP. Democratic candidate Ralph Northam has gone after the president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Making progress means taking on tough fights and, as governor, I won`t let Donald Trump stand in our way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: His Republican challenger, meanwhile, Ed Gillespie, is taking a different route. Despite avoiding the president, not inviting him into the state, he has embraced the president`s issues.
Gillespie echoed the president`s stance on immigration, even running ads in Northern Virginia about the threat posed by the Central American gang MS- 13. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: MS-13 is a mess, yet Ralph Northam voted in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13.
Ralph Northam`s policies are dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yamiche, why would they run that in the Washington suburbs? We have a lot of minorities here. We have a lot of people who are sensitive to what look like ethnic politics.
ALCINDOR: They`re running it because Ed Gillespie almost lost the race to Corey Stewart. And, as a result, he is in some ways really scared about the fact that he has to cater to this base that almost voted for his opponent.
MATTHEWS: Even up here around the Potomac River? Even here?
ALCINDOR: I think that when people have to -- when people can vote anonymously that they`re voting with the idea that they don`t have to answer to some of the cultural issues that we have.
And Northern Virginia is changing a lot. If you look at the schools that people are starting to send their kids to are getting browner. And people are in some ways --
MATTHEWS: Yes, but then why are they running against brown people in this ad?
George, why would you make a decision? I know and you know, George, we all know Maryland and Virginia. They figure out which group to play to, which group not to play to, the white working class, the rural whites, the African-Americans, the single white pro-choice women.
They know exactly who to play to. Why are they playing up north here with this rabble-rouser against Hispanics?
PARKER: I don`t know. It`s right out of the "Reefer Madness" movie- making. It`s comical.
And the decision was obviously, I don`t know, a ridiculous one.
MATTHEWS: George, what do you make of this programming here?
WILL: Well, Ed Gillespie speaks Trumpism as a second language, awkwardly. And he doesn`t get the syntax, so he does a thing like that.
He has a problem, as you say. He barely beat a Trumpkin in the primaries. Now he has to appeal to them without offending everybody who is offended by them, which is a very difficult thing to do. And he`s running against a man who is militantly vanilla.
Dr. Northam, he`s a pediatric neurosurgeon.
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. The ads are vanilla. I know.
WILL: He`s a pediatric neurosurgeon being advertised as a friend of an international criminal gang.
ALCINDOR: But here is the thing.
I think that part of why this might work, if he wins, is because Donald Trump is at his best when he`s doing cultural wars, right, like not when he`s doing policy, because he didn`t win on policy.
He won on that feeling that America is going to take of you and I`m going to define what America is, and these MS-13 people are not what America is about.
And, as a result, they`re also the same thing as a 10-year-old girl who may be looking for -- to get surgery, but is undocumented. They`re meshing those two populations together pretty masterfully.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you.
This is an amazing topic.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Last word.
PARKER: It`s just the most extreme example of horrible people that you could possibly come up with.
I think speaking Trumpism as a second language reminds me of Trump trying to speak empathy as a second language.
MATTHEWS: They`re neither very good at it.
Kathleen Parker, George F. Will, and Yamiche Alcindor.
Up next: With the Mueller investigation intensifying, President Trump and his associates have returned to their own playbook, distract, distract, distract.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We have got three late-breaking stories right now relating to the Trump- Russia investigation.
Byron York of "The Washington Examiner" is reporting on the genesis of that opposition research that eventually produced the dossier on Donald Trump -- quote -- "The conservative publication `Washington Free Beacon` informed the House Intelligence Committee today that the organization was the original funder for the anti-Trump opposition project with Fusion GPS."
Wow. That`s a blockbuster.
Thereafter, after we learned this week, the Clinton campaign and the DNC picked up the tab. "the Free Beacon" has also now confirmed that they were responsible, but say that none of the work they received from Fusion appears in the Steele dossier.
Separately, NBC News is exclusively reporting tonight that former CIA Director James Woolsey has been interviewed by the special counsel`s investigators to discuss his allegation that Michael Flynn proposed a potentially illegal plan to send a Turkish cleric back to Turkey from the U.S. against his will.
NBC News also reports that former Trump adviser Carter Page -- there he is -- met with the Senate Intelligence Committee today for five hours.
I`m joined right now by NBC`s investigative reporter, Ken Dilanian.
First of all, "The Washington Free Press" (sic), that`s a Bill Kristol operation, a neocon operation, if you will. Why were they investigating Trump?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, "The New York Times" is reporting this hour that that publication is financed by Paul Singer, who is a New York hedge fund billionaire who supported Marco Rubio.
Now, "The Times" says that Singer also had no knowledge of the dossier. And, as you said, "The Free Beacon" says in their statement that they funded -- they hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump, but they had nothing to do with the dossier, with Christopher Steele, that former British intelligence officer, or anything to do with the Russia research, according to them, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, who was putting out the word that it was a Republican candidate? We all got the idea it was a candidate -- one of the candidates against -- remember, we were going after Marco Rubio, and he denied it.
How did that trail lead to another Republican candidate, rather than this conservative, neoconservative organization?
DILANIAN: Well, Singer, the bankroller of this publication, was a Rubio supporter, so maybe that`s the germ of it.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.
Let me ask you about Jim Woolsey`s testifying. Jim Woolsey has been a major player in this town. What about this thing that Michael Flynn, he`s bringing up, where Michael Flynn apparently suggested or went along with some Turkish plan to reclaim one of their nationals here in the United States against his will?
DILANIAN: Here is why this is significant, Chris.
We have known that Michael Flynn has a Russia problem. It`s also pretty clear he has a Turkey problem. He was paid more than half-a-million dollars to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey.
And he has this meeting, according to the former CIA Director Woolsey, where, according to Woolsey, a plan was discussed to send this cleric back, a potentially illegal plan.
Now we know that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating this as part of his probe into Flynn. And we know that because Woolsey telling us in a statement that he`s been interviewed by the FBI and by FBI agents working for Robert Mueller, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know especially this spy stuff, Ken, but this looks like a scene from "The Americans," where they grab somebody and exfiltrate him, if you will, against his will. This -- it sounds like kidnapping.
DILANIAN: It`s incredible. That`s exactly what it sounds like.
But don`t forget, Mike Flynn became the national security adviser, and there was a proposal on the table. The Turkish government wants to extradite this cleric through legal means. And so an open question is, what did Mike Flynn do when he got in the government to advance this cause, Chris?
Let me ask you about the Senate Intel Committee going after Carter Page, the one that I call the Kato Kaelin of this affair.
It`s never clear to me what role Carter Page played in anything, except sort of being around. There he is walking away after his testimony today.
DILANIAN: You`re absolutely right.
And, you know, I`m in regular e-mail correspondence with Carter Page, and he completely denies any collusion with Russia. But he did take that trip to Moscow in 2016, and he made a -- what has been described as a pro-Russia speech while he was advising the Trump campaign.
And I think it`s interesting that they talked to him, the Senate Intelligence Committee did, for something like five hours, we`re reporting. Clearly, he`s got something that they`re interested in.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the Trump people`s charge that Hillary Clinton was somehow in cahoots with the Russians with regard to the uranium deal and also with regard to the dossier?
DILANIAN: Look, it`s bogus.
In terms of that Uranium One thing, I mean, look, it`s a story that doesn`t look good for the Clintons because they got money while this thing was going through the government, but there`s no evidence that she played any role in approving that sale of a Canadian uranium company to a Russian uranium company.
MATTHEWS: And the uranium wasn`t going to Russia. And the uranium wasn`t going to Russia anyway.
DILANIAN: It`s staying in the United States, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you so much.
And comparing her to the Rosenbergs, unbelievable.
Anyway, Ken Dilanian, thank you for the great Friday night reporting.
Up next, there`s a lot to go with the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight, lots to talk about, from the lovefest between Trump and the Republicans, to the growing list of GOP senators throwing their support behind this guy, Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments guy. They`re giving him the 11th commandment treatment, say no evil of a fellow Republican.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have actually great unity in the Republican Party. If you look at what happened yesterday at the meeting, I called it a love fest. It was almost a love fest. Maybe it was a love fest. But we -- standing ovations. There is great unity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
According to President Trump, of course, the Republican Party is perfectly unified. You just heard it. But one of his strongest allies, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, disagrees. He warned his party today they could pay the price in the 2018 election. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: GOP unity on a scale of one to ten.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Five. Five. You know, I think we`re unified on a lot of issues, but we`re not unified on how to approach those issues. And if you`re not unified on both, you`re not going to get things done. I want to see these things done and we`re not unified on how to go about this and if we`re not, we`re going to pay a price at the polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, who is right?
Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Shannon Pettypiece is White House reporter for "Bloomberg News", Kimberly Atkins is chief Washington correspondent for "The Boston Herald", and Bob Cusack is editor in chief of "The Hill".
Let me start with you right down the line here. Is the Republican Party in good shape?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: There is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party going on right now certainly. There is unity to some extent around issues. These are all still Republicans. They all still believe in some core issues.
One of the biggest divides among them is how do they deal with Trump, though. Do they speak out against inflammatory tweets and rhetoric and concern about national security --
MATTHEWS: But they`re not doing that. You know the answer -- circling the wagons around him.
PETTYPIECE: And if you are Jeff Flake and John McCain and Bob Corker, you do. While the rest of them fall in probably not after seeing what happened to Flake.
MATTHEWS: Kimberly, I thought when they started to give those dramatic speeches, especially Senator Flake, it was right out of the movies. It was like Mr. Smith goes to Washington, that the walls would start tumbling down but they have not. The Republicans have united.
KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE BOSTON HERALD: They have not. And it`s tough. I mean, you know, Governor Christie is in New Jersey and he`s in a position where he can give a little more honest assessment of it. Members of Congress have their constituencies to please.
MATTHEWS: He`s gone politically. Have you noticed?
ATKINS: Right, right. He`s not here. And so, you know, voters so far think that the president is doing an OK job and that it`s the Congress that`s the problem that`s keeping him from passing his agenda. They`re blaming them not him. They have a lower approval numbers than the president. So, they really don`t have the ability to speak out.
MATTHEWS: Well, speaking of division, the Republicans are grappling with how fully to embrace Roy Moore. This is the same question to you. The Alabama Senate candidate who backs criminalizing homosexual behavior and once argued a Muslim elected official shouldn`t be able to sit as a U.S. congressman.
Anyway, Senator John Cornyn endorsed Moore this week, saying he was proud to offer his support. He joins Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul in endorsing Moore. What do you make of it, Bob? Are they together or not together?
BOB CUSACK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE HILL: This is a problem for Republicans because if Roy Moore is elected, he`s going to say some controversial things and a reporter is going to go to every Republican senator, do you agree with Moore? It`s not a done deal that he`s going to get elected in December.
But, you know, on health care, if they were united, they would have passed that bill. They didn`t. Mitch McConnell said earlier this year if we unite, we win, and they haven`t been able to unite.
MATTHEWS: They need 50 to 52. But I remember the Ronald Reagan phrase, the 11th commandment, speak no evil of a fellow Republican. Should they or will they extend that eleventh commandment to Roy Moore who believes in the 10 Commandments being nearby?
PETTYPIECE: If you`re a Republican who is trying -- who is facing a primary in 2018, I think you keep your mouth closed. Because the people who show up for Republican primaries are the Trump base, are the far right- wing of the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Yes, with Moore.
PETTYPIECE: Now, it may not get you elected in a general election, that we don`t know yet.
MATTHEWS: Now for something on the lighter side. For Kimberly in the spirit of Halloween, President Trump met today with the children of White House press corps people. Let`s watch that intermingling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful children. How the media did this, I don`t know.
She`s Japanese. Beautiful. I`m going to be in Japan in two weeks. I`ll be in Japan.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I know.
TRUMP: You know that?
That`s beautiful. These are beautiful, wonderful children. You`re going to grow up to be like your parents?
Don`t answer. That can only get me in trouble, that question.
Who likes this? You have no weight problems. That`s the good news, right? So how does the press treat you?
I`ll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world, right? I think so.
Anyway, well, congratulations, folks. You did a good job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thank you.
TRUMP: You did a good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Kimberly, is your heart melting, come on?
ATKINS: Oh, my goodness. It`s nothing new, the president reeling against the press. I mean, the fact that he`s doing it to the faces of their children is a little uncomfortable to watch. I mean, but the weight comment, come on. Didn`t he learn anything from the controversy about Alicia Machado, about, you know, weight-shaming people? He said that there`s no weight problem in the room, so that they can have their candy. I mean, come on.
MATTHEWS: He touched all the wrong areas there.
PETTYPIECE: Michelle Obama`s healthy eating.
ATKINS: Right. Maybe. That`s a stretch.
CUSACK: You know, when Republicans used to complain about the press, it just didn`t work. For Trump, it`s worked. I mean, it`s worked certainly with his base. He keeps going back to it.
MATTHEWS: He`s smart. He`s using the kids against the parents.
Thank you so much. That`s like grandparents too.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will give me three scoops they`ll be talking about tomorrow. This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Shannon, start this off. Tell me something I don`t know. Give me a scoop.
PETTYPIECE: OK. Next week, watch for the Fed chair. We reported today that Jerome Powell is the first pick in the running or he`s the lead horse there. So, it`s important decision next week.
MATTHEWS: Not Gary Cohn.
PETTYPIECE: Gary Cohn is out, we`re reporting.
ATKINS: So, Democrats aren`t all in agreement perhaps about how to push back against the tax bill as it comes up next week, although Nancy Pelosi is saying that the bill is essentially looting middle class Americans. Some Democrats know that there are a lot of voters who want a simplified tax code, who want a middle class break, and they`re afraid if they rally too hard against it, they`ll be label as obstructionists, just as the president is trying to do --
MATTHEWS: They shouldn`t have to hire accountants when they make moderate incomes. Go ahead.
CUSACK: House quietly passed a bill that would strengthen congressional oversight over the executive. Darrel Issa`s bill, the Trump White House has not said whether they support that bill and I don`t think they will because Democrats could control the House in 2019.
MATTHEWS: What is, Issa is going to get bounced out of there anyway.
Thank you, Shannon Pettypiece, Kimberly Atkins and Bob Cusack.
Up next, what should Democrats be doing to take advantage of the growing divide within the Republican. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Republican Party is fighting a civil war right now, split between loyalist to President Trump and principled conservatives such as Senators Corker and Flake who worry about the danger that president poses to the party. But will Democrats be able to take advantage of this political opportunity?
I`m joined right now by the great E.J. Dionne, one of the authors of the new book "One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not Yet Deported". E.J. is also a "Washington Post" columnist, of course, and an MSNBC contributor.
E.J., I`ve only got a few minutes, so I`m going to give them to you, about three minutes. And this is the challenge of your life. How do you reunite working white people , white middle class people, working class people, poor people, whatever, who have become enamored of Donald Trump, how do you unite with the other people with the same economic interests again?
E.J. DIONNE, AUTHOR, "ONE NATION AFTER TRUMP": Well, you`ve got a book about Bobby Kennedy and he knew how to do it because both groups trusted him. Why did they trust him? They trusted him because he was for civil rights unequivocally, but he was also for measures that were going to help white working people.
And there is no reason why Democrats should choose between one of those commitments and the other. The slogan of the great Civil Rights march in 1963 was jobs and freedom. And what that was is a message that if you care about racial justice, you got to care about economic justice. But if you care about economic justice, you got to care about racial justice.
And Donald Trump has opened the door wide for progressives and Democrats to make this case, because he talked about working people in the campaign, but what he`s done on tax cuts, on health care, and on pretty much everything else, and by the way where is infrastructure program, nothing he`s done has really helped white working class people.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you, because the one or two things I did like about Trump`s message, not him but his message was, no more stupid wars, and I thought that was good argument to make for this country, because I thought Iraq made no sense at all. In fact, it was horrendous. And also the idea of rebuilding our public infrastructure, building railroads across the United States, doing stuff the Democrats like Roosevelt used to proudly say we`re going to do and they don`t do it anymore. They don`t talk about building anymore.
DIONNE: You know, if Trump had actually started with infrastructure, he would have put Democrats in a very difficult position. Instead, he tried to repeal Obamacare, and doing that was going to hurt his own people like in places like Kentucky and West Virginia.
And Democrats have put out an infrastructure program but I think they need to talk about that a lot more. They also need to talk about ideas about Sherrod Brown and Michael Bennet have put forward about a child tax credit of 3,000 bucks. That would actually help working families more than this Bush tax cut.
They need day after day, the Democrats, to say he`s not doing anything for you. Here`s what we are going to do for you. And it`s going to be credible. I think that`s the other problem a lot of people in the working class don`t trust government.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
And stop talking to your donors and start talking to your voters.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. I know you amen, that`s I said it because you`re like me on this.
E.J. Dionne, "One Nation After Trump", thank you so much.
Anyway, when we come back, we are going to finish tonight with "Trump Watch". He`s not going to like it.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Friday, October 27th, 2017.
With Halloween on the way, we should have anticipated the masquerade rather than grotesquery that the Trump ballyhoo team would have ready for the occasion. Here they are facing a historic investigation into the role Russia played in distorting an American presidential election, a role verified by everyone of our intelligence agencies, and what do the Trump people and White House decide to do?
Well, rather than deal with the investigation as a serious national matter, they decide to stir up some Russian dressing, if you will, and squeeze it on anything to do with Hillary Clinton. Why not? Their people will buy it.
As Trump himself put it, he could shot someone on Fifth Avenue, and they`d buy that.
Christopher Steele`s dossier on Trump is being portrayed now as a Russian job, the Russian dressing works just as well on anything you can cover it with. And speaking of grotesquery, have you ever heard anything as despicable coming from a national political figure as this guy Gorka saying that Hillary Clinton should go to the electric chair like the Rosenbergs because of the trade decision over uranium that does not send uranium to Russia.
I have to say, this is too spooky even for Halloween, even too ghastly for Donald Trump.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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