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Russian hackers scanned U.S. voter rolls. TRANSCRIPT: 2/7/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, Shannon Pettypiece, Gabe Debenedetti, Ayesha Rascoe

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 7, 2018 Guest: Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, Shannon Pettypiece, Gabe Debenedetti, Ayesha Rascoe

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Our show began with Nancy Pelosi making parliamentary history, the longest speech ever on the floor of the house calling for the DACA vote.

And we wrap up here with a little programming note. Eric Holder will be on the "Rachel Maddow" show tonight. Something worth watching.

"Hardball" starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Misfire. Let`s play "Hardball."

Good evening. I`m Matthews in Washington.

It`s become clear this week Republicans on Capitol Hill are carrying out a show trial against the FBI. And we are seeing it play out on a near nightly basis. The Republican chairman of numerous committees now have now closed ranks and using a three-pronged attack to impugn the overall credibility of the FBI. The House intelligence committee led by Devin Nunes has, of course, been accusing the FBI of wrongful surveillance and a so-called memo.

The Senate Judiciary Committee led by Chuck Grassley is seeking criminal charges against former FBI informant Christopher Steele. And today the Senate homeland committee chair led by Ron Johnson launched a third line of attack suggesting that former President Barack Obama was himself personally involved in the FBI`s investigation of Hillary Clinton`s emails.

Well, the problem is that Senator Johnson attacked but missed. It turns out his charge is not true. To support his dubious claim, Johnson cited a newly released batch of text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two FBI officials who were critical of Trump in the private texts they exchanged during the 2016 election.

In a report he issued today, Johnson cherry picked a text page sent to Strzok as she was drafting taking points -- talking points for then FBI director James Comey. She wrote and quote "Potus," that`s former President Obama, "wants to know everything we are doing." From there, Senator Johnson attempted to implicate President Obama claiming that this text raises additional questions about the type and extent of President Obama`s personal involvement in the Clinton email scandal. Well, the trouble with the senator`s presumption is he showed no evidence the text was even referring to the Clinton investigation, an investigation that was closed at the time the message was sent.

Anyway. Now "the Wall Street Journal" is confirming late tonight that Johnson`s presumption was wrong. According to associates of the FBI employees involved in that exchange quote "the text messages show preparation to brief Barack Obama about Russia`s interference in that year`s election," not as the Republican senator suggested meddling by the then President in the federal Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Well, this latest insinuation against the FBI further shows that Republicans are desperately preoccupied with smoke screens while ignoring the real threat to this country that comes as secretary of state Rex Tillerson warns Russia will likely interfere in the 2018 midterm elections just as they did in 2016.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There`s a lot of ways that the Russians can meddle in the elections. I think it`s important we just continue to say to Russia, look, if you don`t think we don`t see what you are doing, we do see it and you need to stop. And if you don`t, you are going to just continue to invite consequences for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the U.S. better prepared than 2016?

TILLERSON: Well, I don`t know that I would say we are better prepared because the Russians will adapt, as well.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s pretty thoughtful, actually.

And furthermore, the head of cyber security at the department of homeland security tells NBC News tonight that the prior to the 2016 Presidential election, the Russians successfully penetrated, hear this, the voter registration roles of several states. Though officials say there as no evidence yet that those rolls were actually altered.

Joining me right now is Maya Harris, a political legal contributor for MSNBC and Evan McMullin, is a former CIA operative in 2016 Presidential candidate.

I want to start with Evan on this. Evan, it seems to me the Trump forces on Capitol Hill are simply trying to do everything they can to focus onside shows to try to come up with anything like the President was somehow in some strange way involved in the Hillary email situation, whatever it was. And we are never quite sure what it was if it was anything. And that somehow he was involved when all they had was one of those FBI agencies saying, well, he wants to know what`s going on. He wants to know what`s going on is evidence that he is involved in the email mess even though he wants to know, come something about what`s happening with the Russian hacking.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Right, that`s right. The President, President Obama wanted to know about Russian hacking, about Russian interference in our democracy. Of course, he wanted to know.

MATTHEWS: He is President.

MCMULLIN: He is President of paramount national security issue. Look. These Trump loyalists in Congress both in the house and now in the Senate are making fools of themselves, frankly. But this is their game. Their game isn`t to convince people like you and people like me who see through it. The game is to keep their base, the President`s base, in a pen and in this alternative reality universe. And they are being quite successful with it actually.

Quinnipiac came out with the poll this week that says 77 percent of Republican voters think the Russia investigation is a witch hunt, 58 percent think the FBI is biased against President Trump. I mean, this is the alternative universe that they have create for these voters and all they have to do is keep throwing story after story out there. And it`s going to keep people misled.

In fact. FOX is still running with this bogus Ron Johnson scam today. And that`s how you keep Republican voters misinformed.

MATTHEWS: Well, it wasn`t long before President Trump himself weighed in on those messages tweet quote "new FBI texts are bombshells." Well, this comes after the President said in "the Wall Street Journal" interview that FBI agent Peter Strzok had committed treason. Senator Ron Johnson said these new text messages quote "raise questions about the leadership of the FBI."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have confidence in the current leadership of the FBI and DOJ?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: I have questions about some top level managers in those departments carryovers probably from the previous administration. I have questions. I think the are legitimate questions.


MATTHEWS: Let me go to Maya on this.

MAYA, it seems to me we have two things you can could with your brain right now in 2018. You can actually think towards the next elections coming up in November. That`s exciting. You can think about sports and the fact that the eagles won the championship, things like that. Or you can focus on what is probably really important which is did the Russians interfere with our election in 2016 which is probably true already and what role did the winning candidate who is now our President play in that Russian interference? And to really try to find it out. Get all the details in terms of collusion, all the details there if there was obstruction and the case itself. And also while we are at what was Trump up to in possible money laundering. I would like to know the answer answers to all those questions, right. That`s how he answers.

What are the Republicans interested in finding out? What do they want to know that they don`t know the now? I don`t think this guy Johnson looks that serious a person. I don`t think Nunes is that serious a person. I look at these guys being pushed around and led around by their staff whoa are all looking for jobs at the White House.

There is something really screwy about these guys. When you ask them a question, they don`t seem to know the answer. They don`t seem very clear- headed about it or even that interested. They seem a little numb. And you go wait a minute, if this guy`s behind all this thing about writing these memos and seems intellectual, how come when you interview them on television, there`s not much sot of the brain power there.

I don`t get it. Somebody is pushing this thing for the White House. They are working together. It`s fascinating to watch. I don`t like it but it is going on.

What do you see, Maya? What`s going on here in terms of changing the focus of the public away from this investigation of the President and the Russians into this other space?

MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL AND LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: You are right, Chris. I wish like you that we actually had a really serious investigation going on into what happened with Russia interfering in our elections.

Well, I mean, this latest series with these text messages is clearly after Nunes` so-called bombshell memo actually bombed, they need to resuscitate another attempt to delegitimize the FBI as the Russia investigation picks up steam and begins closing in on you know Donald Trump. Their desperation around this would be comical if it wasn`t so serious.

I mean, this is the same, you know, Ron Johnson who just weeks ago was, you know, up, you know, in a tizzy around a secret society and then he has had to walk that back. OK. Well, maybe they were joking. It`s the same Donald Trump tweeting today about, you know, these bombshell FBI texts who said that those missing text messages were going to be one of the biggest stories ever. And then oops, it turns out they weren`t actually missing at all.

I mean, it`s really a disgrace what`s happening. And I think you really have to look what`s going on with Republicans in Congress, as well. Where are they? When are they going to say enough is enough.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Maya just mentioned, Evan, this is the second time Senator Johnson appears of jumped to conclusions based on these text messages he has been given. Last month he and other Trump defenders can were in a frenzy because one of those messages between Page and Strzok, the two FBI agents contained a reference to a secret society. That led Johnson to allege FBI agents were conspiring against the President. Let`s watch him here.


JOHNSON: What this is all about is further evidence of corruption, more than bias but corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. That secret society, we have an informant talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off site. There is so much smoke here. There is so much suspicion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy , let`s stop there. A secret society, secret meetings off site of the justice department.

JOHNSON: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have an informant saying that?



MATTHEWS: Well, two days later however, Johnson conceded that the text about a secret society could have just been a joke. Here he goes now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After reading those transcripts or the text messages, do you think it was made as a joke?

JOHNSON: It`s entirely possible. Let`s see what the next texts.


MATTHEWS: Let me go to Evan. I don`t know what you smell here but I smell a lot of staff people, about a whole bunch of them, not a big bunch, but a small bunch of all ganging around trying to get big jobs with the Trump administration over to NSC and place like that all around the Eisenhower executive building. They bring this guy down, Nunes, then there was -- give him material, send him back the next day at the west wing. They are using him like an operative.

These congressmen and senators are acting like - they are not even staffers. They are operatives. And they are working for the Trump crowd. This is not the regular Republican Party. I hate to say it. They are quiet on the sidelines. Republicans are basically behaving like sideliners whereas this little group of people, it is always the same little group of munchkin people running around back and forth to the EOP with the paper saying I have got something. I have got this thing. I have got this thing. This has been going on now for two or three months now. Your thoughts?

MCMULLIN: My thoughts are just that there`s enormous party pressure to -- for the relevant chairmen of the relevant committees to undermine this investigation. That`s what this is happening.

Look, I don`t know that you can -- I wouldn`t put it on the staffers, frankly. I mean, certainly, there are aligned staffers but they are just - - they are staffers. The members, the principals, they have to take responsibility for this.

MATTHEWS: Well, who is saying -- what`s the little signal coming?

MCMULLIN: The party. It has to be the party. It has to are far more powerful than the staffers.

MATTHEWS: You mean McConnell?

MCMULLIN: This is a campaign. I don`t know if it`s McConnell or I don`t know if it is sort of the RNC. But this is too coordinated too sustained for it to come from staffers or even from these menace individuals.

This is a Republican Party leadership effort and I can`t say who exactly. But this kind of pressure, this kind of coordinated campaign has to come from on high. Enormous pressure from the President I`m sure from the White House itself. I mean, the idea of course, they are coordinating. That`s been a question. Are they coordinating?

President always coordinate with loyalists in Congress. Always, always, always. And right now President Trump cares most about protecting himself and his family from the consequences of potential wrongdoing. And so he is engaging with his loyalists in Congress to try to help protect him as much as possible. That`s what`s happening.

MATTHEWS: Well, you are right about the Romanoff`s (ph) trying to avoid being dumped out of power.

Maya, I want to get back to you in that question. One of the producers here thought it was sort of like king John in Beckett where he puts up, will someone rid me of this meddlesome priest, well,, somebody do it. And they all find their ways whether it`s Grassley of Iowa or Nunes in California or it is Johnson of Wisconsin. They just put their hand up. I got something for you. I got something to dump on the FBI. It`s so the -- it`s what we are watching. Your thoughts, Maya?

HARRIS: They fall into two categories, the Republicans in Congress are either one, looking the other way and doing nothing and being content to either be able to in ruthless pursuit of their own policy agenda when they are scared of his face. That is one category.

And then have you another category which is actively engaged in helping and doing the President`s bidding around trying to discredit the Russia investigation. They are sort of only those two things seem to be happening with Republicans in Congress. And it has gotten so bad that now you actually see some, you know, people on the right who are saying and urging that, you know, Republican voters actually have a moral obligation to go to the polls in November and vote out this GOP Congress because even they know that the only way that we are going to at this point have any check on this administration is if the Democrats take control of either the House or the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Evan. Last question, Evan. If the special counsel Robert Mueller comes through with what looks to be an evidence based and evidence founded indictment in the form of a report and he sends it to the justice department and the justice department forwards it over to the house, will they act?

MCMULLIN: This Republican.

MATTHEWS: Or just say, Republican led Congress, if it`s still Republican led in the House, will they act on what is the substance of an impeachment measure.

MCMULLIN: No, this is Republican conference in the House will not do it. I know there are some members some Republican members in the House who certainly would vote to hold the President accountable. But in some collectively they will not do it. They won`t do it because the base is still very strongly on President Trump`s side as I said before. They don`t trust this investigation. They are putting enormous pressure on their members, their representatives to fight back. And that`s why in part you see the actions we are seeing from Nunes and Johnson. The Republicans in the House will not hold President Trump accountable even if there`s facts.

MATTHEWS: What has happened to people like Orrin Hatch? What happened to them?

Come on, Evan. You know those guys out in Utah. What happened? I know a little bit. What happened to the regular Republican conservatives who used to believe in the constitution and now they let Trump over them? Dump on them.

MCMULLIN: This is what happens. For a long time the Republican Party had crazies, crazies in talk radio, members of the base that were out there. And they were sort of kept in the dark corners of the political activity, the political scene.

Those people have been empowered by President Trump, leaders like those that you mentioned are -- have been unwilling to stand up to them and lead and say no, this isn`t right, this isn`t fact, this isn`t where we want to go as a party. And now those fever swamps as Charlie Sykes likes to call them have risen to the point that they control the party. And that`s what it is. Now it`s even harder to stand up for them.

MATTHEWS: I wish Hatch and the others -- McCain is doing and a few others. Flake is doing it. I wish more would do it.

Thank you, Maya Harris and thank you, Evan McMullin.

Coming up, the Senate reaches a big bipartisan deal to fund the government again and avoid a shutdown. But will House Democrats go along with it especially if there`s nothing in it for the Dreamers? Nothing. None for DACA. That`s ahead.

Plus, marching orders. Trump tells the Pentagon to start planning a grand military parade in the streets of Washington. You know, like the ones Kim Jong-un presides over in North Korea. That`s ahead. Unbelievable.

And the Democrats get yet another sign that they might win back the House of Representatives in November. History is on their side, but only by a little bit. We are going to talk about that and how close this could be in November.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. It`s about the parade. He loves a parade.

This is "Hardball" where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Former attorney general Eric Holder today told "Politico" that he believes special counsel Mueller could legally prosecute President Trump on obstruction of justice charges. Quote "if there is a technical case there now, could be, he was asked and he said I think so. There is a case.": And during an event this morning Holder was also asked if he thinks the President will speak to Mueller`s investigators. The former AGI argued Trump might plead the fifth. Let`s go.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It`s entirely possible that you know, he could use his fifth amendment privilege which would be you know, almost fatal for any other politician. But as this President says, he could shoot somebody on fifth avenue and not suffer any negative political consequences. The number five is kind of an interesting one. He uses fifth avenue. There`s also the fifth amendment. And I don`t know, you know, I think that`s at least a possibility.


MATTHEWS: Eric Holder`s comments came during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian science monitor. At that same event, he also signaled that he is open to running for President himself, Eric Holder in 2020.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you possibly thinking of running for office?

HOLDER: You know, I`ll see. I`m focused on NDRC at this point. But I think I will make a decision by the end of the year about whether or not there is another chapter in my government service.


HOLDER: We will see.


MATTHEWS: He has to do more than see. He has got to crank it up a little bit, don`t you think? We will know more about the prospects in 2020 for the Dems and 2018. We will talk about that in the show tonight. What`s going to happen this November. That`s more interesting. We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Earlier today, Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a bipartisan deal on government funding. The two parties, who seem to have forgotten what it`s like to work together, agreed to a budget to lift caps on defense and domestic government spending. So, we`re going to spend more money.

More importantly the deal would put an end to the bitter cycle of short- term funding deals. Here we go.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope we can build on this bipartisan momentum and make 2018 a year of significant achievement for Congress, for our constituents, and for the country that we all love.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: After months of legislative logjams, this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough. After months of fiscal brinksmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship.


MATTHEWS: Well, the new budget would lift sequestration, extend the Children`s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, for 10 years. It includes disaster relief and opioid response funding. It also sets aside $20 billion for infrastructure. I don`t think that`s enough.

But the budget deal does not include a proposal of what to do with the roughly 700,000 DACA recipients. For now, Majority Leader McConnell has only promised to hold a vote on an immigration bill, although it`s unclear which one he will take to the floor.

Reaction to the Senate compromise over in the House was less than receptive.


REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: This spending bill is a debt junkie`s dream.

QUESTION: How many of your colleagues do you think might vote against this deal?

REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: I don`t know. I think it will be a good number.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: A number of us are concerned about the fiscal reality of a bill that will come due, not on our grandkids, but really on our children.


MATTHEWS: And the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, said that she too opposed the deal because it didn`t do anything to protect the dreamers, as I said.

She then embarked on a eight-hour talkathon demanding that Speaker Ryan guarantee a vote on DACA. Here she goes.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Every day, courageous, patriotic dreamers lose their status. Every day, the American dream slips further out of reach.

I don`t know when we would have had another opportunity that matches today for us to just get a simple commitment from the speaker of the House that he will give us a vote.

There`s no guarantee. This is about the children. It`s about the children. You see the recurring theme of the dreamers wanting to give back to America. It`s not just an issue. It`s a value. It`s something very important to us.

I have no intention of yielding back, Mr. Speaker.

Find a solution that then builds trust in a bipartisan way. In addressing their needs, we`re talking about who we are. Our basic request is honor the House of Representatives. Give us a chance to have a vote on the floor.


MATTHEWS: Well, today`s was the longest speech delivered in the history of the House, actually going back to 1841, when the filibuster was actually terminated in the House.

What`s not clear is how effective the speech was as a strategy.

For more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, "Washington Post" political reporter and MSNBC political analyst.

Robert, let me ask you about this thing here. Why would Chuck Schumer drop the DACA constituency in this big fight to keep the government open?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We always talk about the bases driving each party.

But let`s talk about who really runs Congress, the appropriators, the committee chairmen, the ranking Democrats. They have been spoiling for a deal for months. They have been telling that to the leaders in each chamber. They wanted this deal and say just push the immigration fight a few weeks down the road.

MATTHEWS: Well, have they got a guaranteed fight two weeks down the road or a few weeks down the road?


COSTA: And they would rather fight with a clean plate. They would rather get the spending deal done, get the money they want on the domestic, on the military side, and then you go full-throated fight into the immigration.

MATTHEWS: Well, what changed? Because a couple weeks ago, the Schumer people and Pelosi and all those people said, we will die on this fight. We will fight on this hill for DACA, for the dreamers. And that`s going to be our fight. And if we don`t get the dreamer bill, we`re not going to keep the government open.


COSTA: But you saw how long that -- you saw how long that government shutdown lasted. Only a few days.

MATTHEWS: So, what changed?

COSTA: Red state Democrats squirmed.

MATTHEWS: What message did they get?

COSTA: Red state Democrats said, we don`t want to have a showdown over immigration. We want to get a spending deal. Then, if the base wants to fight over immigration, have the fight, but don`t put it on our shoulders.

MATTHEWS: I looked at the numbers today. One of our producers pointed to me, that what happened around January 20, all of a sudden, that big double- digit gap between how many people are going to vote for Democrats this November and are going to vote for Republicans went from double digit down to about half-a-dozen.

Is that it? They saw how they were dripping away, they were losing their advantage come this November on this DACA thing.


COSTA: And Leader Pelosi knows the base is still going to want it.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with me on that? Is that what they saw?

COSTA: Sure. They all saw internal polls that saw it narrowing for Democrats.

And they also believe the Democratic base is going to be there in February and March ahead of the DACA deadline to fight, to push the Republicans around.

MATTHEWS: Right. OK, well, thank you, Robert Costa.

For more on the personal side of the debate, I`m joined by Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, an undocumented dreamer and entrepreneur.

Thank you so much, Pat, for coming on. Sam, rather. Sam. I knew it was a short name.

Sam, thank you.

Tell us about how you react to this changing environment where a couple weeks ago, they were going to die on the hill for you guys, people who came here with their parents and undocumented, and now it looks like they have got other objectives, the Democrats.

SAMANTHA RAMIREZ-HERRERA, UNDOCUMENTED DREAMER: Well, right now, Chris, it is such a psychological turmoil going on.

I actually met with dreamers in Los Angeles yesterday. And let me tell you, there are students that are not enrolling in school anymore. There are small children that are actually showing up to school crying. There are people that are, you know, dropping out of school.

There is -- there is so much turmoil going on right now. And to hear that there actually won`t be a deal that includes DACA protections is disheartening. It is, of course, disappointing, but it`s not surprising.

They have been kicking this football around. And we don`t see any solutions coming forth. But I also want to commend the dreamers that are still proactive, that are still out there, you know, just asking that protections come for us.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you about the football. It`s an old metaphor. But it`s true. You`re being used as a community for political back and forth.

Anyway, yesterday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke to reporters about undocumented immigrants eligible for the Obama era DACA program. Chief of Staff Kelly told reporters that President Trump`s immigration plan would benefit more than just those who had registered for the protection of DACA.

Let`s listen.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There are 690,000 official DACA registrants.

And the president sent over what amounts to be two-and-a-half times that number to 1.8 million. The difference between 690,000 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn`t sign up.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that language?

RAMIREZ-HERRERA: It`s not surprising.

But I would like to also state that, you know, there is a large number of DACA -- people that could be in DACA that have not yet met the age requirement to apply for DACA.

There are also people -- there`s a fee that is included to pay for DACA. There`s a lot of people that can`t afford to pay that fee. And there`s also -- there`s also a lot of people that don`t trust the government. They don`t trust it any longer.

And, you know, there was a campaign promise that was made that said that DACA would be rescinded soon. So, why would anybody sign up for something that, you know, has no future?

MATTHEWS: Have you ever thought about -- maybe this is too tough -- you are a civilian. You`re a regular person. You`re not a lawmaker. But let me ask you a question that we argue about all the time around here.

What do you think would be the elements of a final resolution of this fight over immigration, illegal immigration? What can we do to the 11 million people here, to the people still trying to get in this country? How should we regulate it? What should be done?

RAMIREZ-HERRERA: Well, we have a DREAM Act in place that has been on the table for 17 years. For me, the solution is a clean DREAM Act.

MATTHEWS: OK. You don`t want to address the overall question of immigration?

RAMIREZ-HERRERA: Well, the DREAM Act would actually allow us to sponsor our families, our parents. It would be some sort of amnesty, which I know that a lot of people are against.


Well, thank you so much. It`s great to have you on to give us a human face to this whole fight.

Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, thank you. Please come back again.

Up next: President Trump wants the Pentagon to stage a grand you won`t believe this military parade down the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue. It`s the kind of spectacle seen more in the streets of North Korea, like that, than here in the U.S. of A.

So, why does the president want to do this thing? Why do we want that here?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was your guest at Bastille Day. And it was one of the greatest parades I have ever seen.

To a large extent, because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. I don`t know. We will have to try and top it.

But we had a lot of planes going over and we had a lot of military might. And it was really a beautiful thing to see.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last year telling French President Macron that he wanted to try and top the French Bastille Day military parade.

Well, according to "The Washington Post," at a January 18 meeting between Trump and top generals, Trump`s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive -- quote -- "The marching orders were, I want a parade like the one in France,` "The Post" reports, quoting a military official.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Mad Dog Mattis, today said the military was presenting options for the parade to Trump right now. Let`s watch.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think we`re all aware of, in this country, of the president`s affection and respect for the military. We have been putting together some options. We will send them up to the White House for a decision.


MATTHEWS: Well, this spectacle appears to be nothing more than a saber- rattling move by the president, as his very own big hands parade, you might say.

It`s an archaic show of strength reminiscent of what President Nixon did when he came back from Europe in 1970 and ordered that the White House police get new Baroque-style uniforms -- they`re they are -- for special occasions can, white jackets with gold braids, shiny belts and peaked caps. You see them now. That was the uniform for months.

I`m joined by a man right now, someone who remembers it, George F. Will, who is a "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC and NBC contributor.

What is it in presidents that occasionally strokes their need for these shows of Baroque power?


Every parent knows that if you have an obstreperous infant, you can distract him with a bright shiny thing. And this is a bright shiny thing, this parade. And if it satisfies his military urge in a way that otherwise might be satisfied with a war on the Korean Peninsula, this would be a good thing.

I don`t think the troops are going to like it so much. No one joins the volunteer armed services other than to protect this country. They certainly didn`t join to participate in a pageant to satisfy the parade envy of a president.

And I`m not sure the president knows that an Abrams tank weighs more than 60 tons. So, if you`re going to bring in Abrams tanks, it`s going to be expensive and difficult and might chew up Pennsylvania Avenue a little bit.

MATTHEWS: And the idea -- I hadn`t thought of this clearly, but the idea they would not just be parading, but they would be parading in review, and the commander in chief would be the one returning their salutes.

It would seem to me that would be part of the spectacle.

WILL: We have done this before, after the Civil War ended, after the victory in World War I, after the victory in World War II, after the victory in the 1991 Gulf War.

What are we commemorating this time? There`s no particular victory involved.

MATTHEWS: It`s strange.

Anyway, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana warned today that a military parade is something that North Korea or Russia would do, not the United States. Let`s hear from him.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think confidence is silent, and insecurity is loud.

America is the most powerful country in all of human history. Everybody knows it. And we don`t need to show it off. We`re not North Korea. We`re not Russia. We`re not China. And I don`t want to be.

And for that reason, I would be against flaunting our strength. We don`t need to. Everybody knows we have it.


MATTHEWS: It`s hard to beat that, isn`t it?


WILL: It`s very well said.

North Korea can`t make food, can`t make shoes or butter or poetry. What they can do is make their Third World country with First World missiles, or getting there.

The United States uses its military to protect what we`re proud of. That is freedom. So, we don`t need to do this. And the idea of just using these men and women as a prop to satisfy the kind of animal spirits of the president, seems to me, unworthy.

MATTHEWS: Do you think there`s another piece of this? Totalitarianism. I just wonder whether there`s a reason why we grew up watching May Day parades and watching parades down Unter den Linden with Nazis.

And it seems like people, all-powerful leaders like parades. It`s just a fact.

WILL: They do. And that`s the difference between people who have a parade for the parade`s sake to show off.

MATTHEWS: Now, there`s a pretty parade, I must say. That`s the French one he was taken with, with the horses.

WILL: The French are very good at this.

But we spend twice as much of our much larger GDP than they spend of their GDP, because our military is busy. Two-thirds of the planet are covered with water, and it`s all policed by the United States Navy. Our forces are stretched.


WILL: Their budgets are emaciated now as a result of the Budget Control Act of, what, 2013. This strikes me as an optional frippery.

MATTHEWS: Well, here we have -- we`re looking at that, which nobody likes in this country. We hate goose-stepping. We hate that kind of regimentation, which is frightening to think how much discipline went into those people jolting up and down like that in unison.

Do you think this -- I know you`re not a sentimentalist. I know that well. But we have an Olympic coming up -- Olympics coming up this week, and on our network, of course, NBC.

And what I like the idea is that the North Korean and the South Koreans are actually going to get together on their ski teams and other -- their teams.

I wonder if that`s running into the face of a war on the Korean Peninsula? They`re not looking like they want to go to war with each other.

WILL: Well, they have been living together for a long time. And I think they`re used to it.

It`s possible something could come of this. Highly unlikely.

MATTHEWS: Nothing good.

WILL: Well, the ping-pong diplomacy started the opening to China that culminated in 1972. So, stranger things have happened. But not many stranger things than this being an opening between this astonishingly successful open society of South Korea and this astonishingly grotesque country to the North.

MATTHEWS: They seem to feel they know their cousins more than we do, or something. I don`t know what keeps them calm, because I wouldn`t be calm.

Thank you, George F. Will, as always.

Up next, Democrats pull off another upset victory in a district where President Trump had won big in 2016. Will they take control of the House in the midterms? Boy, I`m telling you, we`re going to scare you a little bit, you progressives, whatever, Democrats. You`re going to be worried after this because this election coming up in November could be very, very close.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats are hoping for a big blue wave this November, of course. And last night, they got further proof that momentum is on their side. Democrats flipped a Missouri state house seat in a heavily Republican district that President Trump carried by 28 points in 2016. That`s another good sign. It is for the party after big victories last year in Alabama and Virginia. There`s still room for worry.

"Washington Post" columnist Karen Tumulty today warns that taking back the House will be harder than Democrats think. She writes: perhaps the single biggest miscalculation the Democrats could make right now is to expect Trump to do all their work for them. One thing to remember about waves, most of them break before they reach the shore.

Well, there`s a good completion of the metaphor because they do break before they hit the shore.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Shannon Pettypiece is with me here right now, the White House reporter from "Bloomberg News", Gabe --


MATTHEWS: Debenedetti, it`s great. It`s a beautiful name. He`s a reporter for "Politico". And Ayesha Rascoe is White House correspondent for "Reuters".

Thank you all.

So, this question of, you know, we`re looking at the generic number which is what people say I`ll vote Democrat or vote Republican. Republicans win even if they`re 4 percent down because of gerrymandering and the way the districts are run or apportioned. So, Republicans are now down about 6.5. Is that enough to win?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: There is so much that can happen between now and then, especially in this news cycle where things that happen, remember the government shutdown --

MATTHEWS: Not the shutdown, according to what we`re talking about has helped the Democrat. it cut their advantage in half.

PETTYPIECE: It would be completely forgotten by then.

MATTHEWS: Why did the shutdown hurt the Democrats in the last month?

DEBENEDETTI: Well, basically because the narrative after it was, Democrats gave up on immigration, Republicans want to enforce --


MATTHEWS: Oh, why is that? You think it was they gave up on DACA or because they fought for DACA.

DEBENEDETTI: I`m saying that`s what the narrative is.


MATTHEWS: What hurt them?

DEBENEDETTI: Well, you know, that remains to be seen if it hurt them.

PETTYPIECE: Yes, I don`t think anyone`s ever going to remember the shutdown like a month from now.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think they -- I think Chuck Schumer decided hanging out for the DACA kids alone and letting that be the one issue that you`re fighting to end the government on was not smart politics, your thoughts?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: It showed they didn`t have the stomach for it. It`s either you stick with it and go for it.

MATTHEWS: They could have kept the government shutdown for weeks. You thought that would have been stronger?

RASCOE: Well, it`s either you`re going to stick with it and go all the way --

MATTHEWS: You`re arguing it would have been stronger if they kept the government shut down for two or three weeks.

RASCOE: I`m not saying that it would have been --

MATTHEWS: You just did.

RASCOE: I`m not saying it wouldn`t have been the smartest thing to do. But I think that that would have been pleasing to their base. So, it`s like either you go all the way to the left and play to your base or you`re going to try to do --

MATTHEWS: Would that be a smart move to go all the way to your base for the Democrats, Gabe?

DEBENEDETTI: I think we`re going to find out, shortly. We`re pretending as -- we`re talking as if this is an issue that`s over already. We had one shutdown and we might get more and more over the next few months, or at least more confrontations over DACA as an issue. Today, you saw Nancy Pelosi --

MATTHEWS: Nancy is a smart pol. And today, she spoke for eight hours to make the point she cares about DACA. Did she make her point?

PETTYPIECE: She did for maybe an hour of this news cycle and Trump has a way of sucking the oxygen and the attention out of the room. So, Democrats really can`t get their message in. They can`t get their voice in. She can`t get whatever she`s looking to.

MATTHEWS: What is their message?

PETTYPIECE: Well, and that is the perfect question because they --

MATTHEWS: Do they really need time to say nothing?

PETTYPIECE: They need to define themselves in all of this.

MATTHEWS: You know, in the old days, you`d say, ask a politician to go on Johnny Carson was the number one show. And if you give him 15 minutes, him or her, they should be able to tell you what they stand for. I`m not sure what 50 minutes today, you would get a clear statement.


DEBENEDETTI: That may be true. What you would get behind closed doors, what you do get behind closed doors from Democrats all across Capitol Hill is who cares? Listen, it is true they know they need some sort of message. You tell me the last election cycle in which you could point to a specific slogan that the party had and that that worked.

The Democratic argument which is correct right now is there`s so much active dissension from the base. A better deal is not something these people are actually be campaigning on. You`d never --

MATTHEWS: That`s the word they`re using?

PETTYPIECE: That`s what they tried in 2016. We`re just the not Trump party, where Trump had a slogan, a message: Make America great again.

MATTHEWS: OK, Gabe make a point, I want to check with all you guys. Do you believe running against Trump is enough? It`s a good open question.

RASCOE: I think the energy is there. They have to be able to capitalize on that. The energy is in the not Trump. That`s fresh.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that completely. You saw with the resistance. But what about -- I`ve heard this every day from now until November talks about, I gave you a tax cut. What have the Democrats done for you? I`ve given you a tax cut.

Don`t they have to respond to that by saying, yes, he gave you a tax cut and going to screw your Medicare, your Medicaid and he`s going after your Social Security. Don`t trust this guy. He`s getting the money from you and the working people. Don`t they have to come back with that?

PETTYPIECE: I don`t know if the rubber will have hit the road on some of those issues by November 2018 yet. I don`t know if people will be feeling it the effects of that.

MATTHEWS: That`s the job of the Democrats.

RASCOE: That`s what`s working against the Democrats really is the economy, that things are going pretty well. Like that`s really one of their main enemies right now.

DEBENEDETTI: That`s why you see someone like Joe Biden get up there today on Capitol Hill and essentially say, listen, the argument we have to be making is here, you may have gotten a tax cut --

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch Joe. Let`s watch Joe.


MATTHEWS: Cue him.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I just marvel at some of the things he says and does like what two days ago, anybody who didn`t stand up and clap for him was un-American and then maybe even treasonous.

HOST: They say it was tongue in cheek. Democrats can`t take a joke.

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you, he`s a joke.

HOST: You say the president is the joke.

BIDEN: Yes, I mean in this kind of stuff.


MATTHEWS: Whoa. And that`s the moderate wing of the party.

The roundtable is sticking with us and you`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with the HARDBALL roundtable. Lots of headlines from these three right after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

And Shannon comes first. Tell me something I don`t know.

PETTYPIECE: I know there`s a lot of anticipation about public hearings with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. on these Russia probes. It doesn`t look like it`s going to happen. Our reporting shows the Republicans are probably going to block them from any public hearings despite Democrats wanting to see --

MATTHEWS: Why? Why do they want to protect the royal family?

PETTYPIECE: Because Republicans want to protect Republicans. They don`t see any advantage gain from dragging --

MATTHEWS: Do they know they`re supporting a royal family, the Romanovs? This is unusual in American history. I`m sorry.

PETTYPIECE: This is the dance they`ve been doing.

MATTHEWS: This is royal stuff. Gabe?

DEBENEDETTI: I`m going to change directions. Earlier in the program you heard from Joe Biden, saw Eric Holder. People are talking how both of them might run for president. We`ll see if that actually happens. But we`re seeing something a little bit unprecedented here, where up to three senior members of the Obama administration could be running if you add in Julian Castro who is going to New Hampshire later this month and who has said maybe he`ll run for president. Add in Deval Patrick who`s also being part of this conversation recently --

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`ll run? Do you really think Deval would run?

DEBENEDETTI: I`m not sure if any of these people will run but I know that some of them are looking at it seriously.

MATTHEWS: What`s the third one you had? You`re allowed to drop another one.

DEBENEDETTI: It was Deval, Julian Castro, Eric Holder and Joe Biden. All these people are in some ways pretty close to President Obama who is in his way keeping his fingers on the Democratic Party.

MATTHEWS: Well, one Joe is 37, the other is 77.

DEBENEDETTI: Yes, well --

MATTHEWS: It`s amazing.

Go ahead, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Well, President Trump has been complaining about NATO not carrying is weight and "Reuters" is reporting today that Secretary Mattis sent a letter to NATO asking them to I guess kind of step up in Iraq and help with training Iraqi -- help with training Iraqi soldiers. But, of course, the Europeans don`t want to necessarily get involved in an unending conflict.

MATTHEWS: That`s European of them. That`s European.

Thank you so much, Shannon Pettypiece, Gabe Debenedetti, and Ayesha Rascoe.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like this one. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch February 7th, 2018. Americans like parades. Thanksgiving parades, New Year`s parades, St. Patrick`s parades, gay pride parades. We like parades down Wall Street for our heroes like Lucky Lindy and Ike.

We`re not the only country that likes them, of course. Communist countries always like their May Day parades, the one that are still communists still do. Look at North Korea, look at Kim Jong-un looking at all the missiles all ready to launch, lines after lines of stiff strutting soldiers all ready to attack.

And now, President Trump wants all this stuff. He wants the U.S. military strutting their stuff on the streets of Washington. He wants those units marching past him looking up at him, saluting him, showing the world what kind of power he`s got.

Look, I don`t know about you, but I find something baroque about this whole thing. Americans know what power we`ve got militarily. Nobody thinks we don`t have enough might in this world. Nobody doubts our strength.

Or is it the president that has doubts?

I remember Nixon seeing something in Europe he liked. He saw the pretty uniforms on the guards protecting the presidential palaces and royal palaces over there. He had some of those made for himself at the White House. How stupid they looked.

And then everyone laughed at him. What if they do the same to President Trump and his parade and what if that character over in North Korea who loves paradise dearly starts thinking that this Trump guy might be just be a little trigger happy?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.