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Trump on Porter: It's a tough time. TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: David Jolly, Christine Todd Whitman, Eugene Scott, Nancy Cook, David Catanese

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 12, 2018 Guest: David Jolly, Christine Todd Whitman, Eugene Scott, Nancy Cook, David Catanese

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Who you going to call? Let`s play "Hardball."

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

For the record, this is what a White House in chaos looks like. The knives are out for the chief of staff. There are reports that the President is asking around for someone to replace the chief of staff. Members of the President`s own party are criticizing his response. Staffers are unable to present a clear timeline of who knew what and when.

The rally is the White House is still scrambling to put together a response right now to the revelation last week that one of the President`s top aides was leaving the White House after accusations he abused two ex-wives. The aide, Rob Porter, denied the charges. President Trump didn`t help matters with the response on Friday that failed to mention anything about the two wives accusing Porter of abuse.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We certainly wish him well. It`s obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career. And hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him.


MATTHEWS: As Katy Tur of NBC said lots of his and lots of hims and no hers.

Well, today`s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to clean that up.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. Above all believes everyone should be treated fairly and with due process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven`t we heard the President say exactly what you just said right there, that he takes domestic violence very seriously?

SANDERS: I spoke with the President. Those are actually directly his words that he gave me earlier today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But why hasn`t he said that? He had the opportunity?

SANDERS: It`s my job to speak on behalf of the President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President still wish Rob Porter well? Does he still believe that he wants him to have a great career ahead of him?

SANDERS: I think the President of the United States hopes that all Americans can be successful in whatever they do.


MATTHEWS: That is one of the most grandest statements in history. I hope the president -- the President believes that all Americans should do well in whatever they are doing.

The reports late last week were of a White House in crisis, of course. According to "The New York Times," aides to the President said they remained confused and upset over the handling of the accusations against Rob Porter.

The "Washington Post" put it this way. The White House was engulfed in chaos Friday. Aides described the resulting level of dysfunction not experienced behind the scenes since the early months of Trump`s presidency. On Friday, NBC`s Hallie Jackson described to me a weird vibe in the White House. She said there were a lot of slammed doors and a lot of serious faces. Well, White House officials fanned out Sunday to declare a state of Kumbahyah in the west wing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that talk about the chief`s departure is much ado about nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he still have confidence in general Kelly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He absolute confidence in general Kelly.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He has full confidence in his current chief of staff, general John Kelly.


MATTHEWS: For more I`m joined by "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, White House correspondent for the PBS News Hour, Yamiche Alcindor and former Florida congressman David Jolly.

I want to start with you, David, because you have been a staff and you have been a congressman and when you were in office has to run by. Of course Gene was an editor, of course, he had managerial responsibilities too.

But this time, who is he going to call? My question is Trump, all right. Already, everybody has people they call when they get in trouble. It could be their spouse. It could be their chief of staff. If could be anyone. Who is Trump calling now in that loop? I don`t think he has got anybody he trusts now. Even Hope Hicks let him down because she was involved with Rob Porter. And there is nobody that was clean in this thing. Your thoughts.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Look, his political soul mate was Steve Bannon. And we saw how that breakup went. And so general Kelly was brought in as a retired marine general, a steady hand, if you will.

But Chris, you know this very well. White House chief of staff have a very specific role. And it is not to expose their own ideology to the world. It is not to step into these controversies. It is to manage the process, to position the President, to keep the confidence of the American people. And John Kelly has failed to do that.

Donald Trump makes the decisions by himself. But when we see him express his own personal ideologies, all of the sycophants around him go out on in the media to affirm it. And I think that`s why there is such distrust in this entire team around the President.

MATTHEWS: You know, I keep asking myself, guys, that there is a person in the White House. He is called the President or it could that she is the President. It`s a human being who has to get up in the morning, you know, have breakfast, go to the bathroom, take a shower, worry, have dreams, have --, you know, the human condition.

And through that all, that person is going to deal with the world. It`s an awesome, chilling responsibility. And even a healthy person who gets eight hours of sleep and has a reasonable IQ and is unscrewed up has a hard time with it. This guy, with calamity around him, how does he do it? How ask he even think North Korea, think China, think Europe?


MATTHEWS: Gene? How does he even get that stuff square in his head?

ROBINSON: Well, I think that`s kind of part of the problem. Look, I get the impression that he doesn`t spend hour after hour sort of brooding over the subtleties and nuances of foreign relations the Nixon used, right?

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) there were 16 or you go back --.

ROBINSON: I mean, Nixon used to spend hours and hours just thinking about his China play, thinking about India, thinking about Pakistan. I don`t think, you know, I don`t think this President does it.

And look, if there is something constructive he might do is call one of his billionaire friends, but one of his billionaire friends who has run a public company, who understands things like sexual harassment, things like spousal abuse.

MATTHEWS: Office politics.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And the duty of, say, a corporate officer facing that sort of thing. And maybe can give him some advice that he never learned running his family shop.

MATTHEWS: He has been immune to these sort of civil concerns.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS: I think he sits and stews thinking about the perception of his White House. This is someone even if there are people who don`t take him seriously wants very deeply to be taken seriously the same way President Obama was taken seriously. And instead, what you have is someone who continues to brew himself in a scandal.

There is no reason why he had to tweet on Saturday that Rob Porter should have due process, that people`s lives are being destroyed. That did not have to happen. Friday maybe he was caught off guard. There were reporters. But this could have ended on Friday. Instead, he gave more fuel to the fire. So what you see is someone also feeling like a victim. He knows that he has allegation against him that have not been resolved. And as a result, has see going to the defense of Rob Porter because he cease himself in Rob Porter.

MATTHEWS: Well, Obama, as President was known - David, was known as no drama Obama. And he could be cool is for school. And I was a big fan, of course. But he could be too cool. But he was never was rattled. He never was sweating in the job. He was never confused. There was never fights going on among the staff. There was not this domestic turmoil of White House. I`m talking about in the oval office, not even upstairs. The oval office turmoil.

How does he -- I want to ask you, here is what did -- Peggy Noonan, she is so smart. She said in "the Wall Street Journal." She said this on the weekend on "Meet the Press" with Chuck. She said that the White House might have let Rob Porter stay on because they were desperate for competent staffers. In other words, the reason they couldn`t let the guy go for all those dangerous days they kept him when they knew what the problem was, they couldn`t find anybody else they could keep the paper flow organized around the President. Let`s watch her.


PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: The White House had a lot of trouble because attracting really good workers and high level staffers early on in the first six, nine months, in part because there were many people in Washington who just thought this administration isn`t going to work. I don`t want to get the cooties on me. I`m not going in there.

But there was another thing that was brought on the Trump White House by Trump himself. They would not let anyone in who was not a fierce loyalist. And because of that, they lost a lot of talent. And that is all Trump.


MATTHEWS: Well, there is a Jersey girl. Despite are sophistication, the cooties. That is so Jersey. And south - and Philly too. (INAUDIBLE)

Let me go. David, she made the point that nobody wants to get too close to this guy because you come away damage and dirty.

JOLLY: Yes, look. Peggy is right. David Frum in his recent book "Trumpocracy" describes the White House staff as a bunch of c-list talents pledging their loyalty and willing to accept betrayal.

But let`s look what else is going on here. Listen, let`s look at what else is going on here, Chris, and it`s this. This President we know go back to the Porter comments, believes that white men of privilege hold a different place in this society. And so when he tweets out ideas of due process and innocent until proven guilty, those ideas are right. But by his own word and deed we know what he is doing is projecting his own judgment of the case on the American people. And that`s why we can`t accept the tweets that we saw this weekend.

MATTHEWS: Great point.

On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted, as you said, David, people`s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Of course that`s true. But some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?

His argument for due process struck many as a bit hollow. While he has defended friends like Roger Ailes, Bill O`Reilly and Rob Porter, he also went briefly after accused critics, especially Democrats, people like Al Franken and of course Bill Clinton. And he built his campaign around Hillary Clinton around a promise, here is due process, to lock her up. Let`s watch.


CROWD: Lock her up! Locke lock her up!

TRUMP: She should be locked up. I tell you right now. What she has done, what she has done, Hillary Clinton around a promise, here is due process, to lock her up. Let`s watch.

Lock her up! Locke lock her up!

She should be locked up. I tell you right now. What she has done, what she`s done, she ought to be ashamed of herself.


MATTHEWS: Other people point to the notorious incident back in 1989 when he took a full page ad, paid for it in New York newspapers calling for the state of New York to reinstate the death penalty and give five African- American Hispanic teenagers who were arrested on charges they raped a white woman in Central Park. It was called the wilding. Here is how he defended that ad at the time.


TRUMP: The problem with our society is that the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights. Unbelievable rights. And I say it has to stop. That`s why I took the ad. And I have to tell you, that ad, I have never been anything that has been so positively received.


MATTHEWS: Actually, the teenagers were actually declared actually innocent by DNA evidence. They didn`t do it. And he was going to execute them.

ALCINDOR: And what`s more remarkable or even as remarkable is the fact that he has not apologized for calling for death penalty. So you have five men now who are out in the world and President Trump has not at all said I`m sorry about that. I`m sorry. I know that you`re innocent.

On top of that you have someone -- I wrote a story about this idea that there are people who grew up under dictatorships in Venezuela and Haiti who saw old leaders in Donald Trump. He was talking about putting in prison a political opponent. That`s not something that we do in America. That`s something that we do in Haiti.


MATTHEWS: Third world countries, but it`s so third world. You see that in Pakistan, in India. You lose an election --

ALCINDOR: I have never, ever seen an American President look like someone that I fled in my country.

MATTHEWS: You know why they never give up power until they are 99 years old? Because they know the next guy will probably lop her head off or hang them.

ROBINSON: On the Central Park, probably not only as he has never apologized, he has never acknowledged that they were proven innocent by DNA evidence. And he maintained -- not only doesn`t he talk about it, but he maintained for a while that they were still guilty.

MATTHEWS: David, give me your sense of that. You have been in politics. What do you make of his sort of cultural ruling, his way of -- what would you call the rule? Machismo? What is it?

JOLLY: No. Listen. It is obvious with Donald Trump. You can draw a direct line from the central park five to birtherism and you see his own ideology. And if it`s not his own ideology, it is absolutely his path to power. He pursued it and he manipulated it.

MATTHEWS: And he has pointed to minorities to get there, right?

JOLLY: That`s exactly right. And look, where Bill Clinton felt your pain, Donald Trump feels your anger. And he is playing into this base instinct that as kids we are taught to leave and to walk away from. Donald Trump is bringing that back in grown adult men and women.

MATTHEWS: That`s pretty well said.

ROBINSON: Yes, very well said.

MATTHEWS: I think what you describe is the normal course is become more American as you get older and less tribal.

ROBINSON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: He gets worse. He is getting smaller and younger.

Anyway, Eugene Robinson, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor and David Jolly.

Coming up, is there any surprise that Trump decided not to release that Democratic memo? The so-called Devin Nunes memo? For Trump it never was about transparency. It`s all about politics and protecting himself.

And now we are learning that the number three official in the justice department left over fear she might be asked to oversee the Russia investigation. She is worried about how strange that`s going to be.

Plus, with the Trump takeover of the Republican party complete now, how long can Republican moderates stay in hibernation? How long will the lion stay in winter? Is there any room now for an anti-Trump Republican to run against him? We got the former governor to talk about that. And more importantly, there any appetite for moderate Republican?

And Trump increasingly has a problem with women voters. Have you noticed? His job approval rating among women is plummeting right now. And defending an aide accused of spousal abuse is probably not the best way to turn the numbers around.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. Come to think of it, he won`t like this one.

This is "Hardball," where the action is.


MATTHEWS: The United States appears to be inching closer to direct talks with North Korea. Vice President Pence told "the Washington Post" this weekend that the Trump administration plans to continue its pressure campaign on the regime until it makes clear steps towards nuclearization or denuclearization. That said, talks are still on the table.

Pence told the post the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue to intensify. But if you want to talk, we will talk. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has raised the idea of direct negotiations multiple times. President Trump dismissed that idea tweeting I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man. So what gives? Are we talking or not, Donald? Mr. President.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Back to "Hardball."

President Trump spent the whole weekend trying to discredit the FBI investigation of guess who? Him. He again tilted the scale in favor of congressional allies out there to discredit the whole bureau`s investigation altogether.

Well, after releasing the Nunes memo criticizing the Russian probe, President Trump on Friday declined to release the Democratic rebuttal, citing national security, a move that suggests he is less interested in transparency and more interested in controlling the narrative -- his narrative.

The White House asked Democrats revised their memo saying it contains classified information. The President blasted Democrats on twitter. The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods and more, would have to be heavily redacted whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them they would do it and send back in proper form.

Well, yesterday, congressman Adam Schiff who drafted the Democratic memo criticized the President his double standard.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The hypocrisy of this reaches out and grabs you by the throat. Now they claimed when they released the Republican memo that this was in the interest of full transparency. And all the White House people are saying full transparency. Well, apparently full transparency only goes so far. But what is really going on here, major, is the President doesn`t want the public to see the underlying facts.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the argument that Adam Schiff, the Democratic leader on the intelligence committee says the President is trying to hide. He is trying to cover up.

Meantime, the Kremlin announced that President Trump spoke to Vladimir Putin today to offer his condolences after a plane crashed outside Moscow yesterday.

I`m joined now by Julia Ainsley, investigative reporter for NBC News and Malcolm Nance is an MSNBC national security analyst.

Malcolm, I want you to start on this thing. Because I think it reminds me of growing up and reading about the McCarthy, the army of the McCarthy trials. It gets a little bit in the woods when in fact, when in fact it still comes back to a President who really doesn`t want the fax out, a President who really doesn`t want to give credit to those investigating the facts, who are digging up the facts which is the FBI. He doesn`t want them to be credible. He doesn`t want the people who are Democrats on the intelligence committee who are supporting the FBI to look good. And so he supports any effort to destroy, to discredit the FBI.

And any attempt to give credit back to the FBI in its investigation, which could bring him down this year or next year in an impeachment operation, he is trying to destroy.

Your thoughts?

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it`s been said on this program, slow-motion Watergate. It`s almost like he read "All the President`s Men" and thought that it was a user`s manual.


NANCE: Going after the FBI is certainly not the way to stop this investigation.

It`s a way to accelerate the FBI`s investigative techniques. They understand what it`s like to have mobsters and criminals and other people go out and try to intimidate witnesses and stop a federal investigation.

And they`re very well skilled in putting an end to that. Now, this is the president of the United States. He does have rights and authorities to gain information. But if he thinks that slow-walking the Democratic memo is going to be the stake in the heart of Mueller, he is very wrong.

MATTHEWS: I think he wants to make the issue confused and slow. I agree.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. It`s muddying the waters.

That`s something that we heard a lot during the debate over the Nunes memo. And the Democrats are calling the president`s bluff.

MATTHEWS: But if this thing comes -- what is your hunch? This Democratic memo when it comes out, say, this week or next, what will it show in favor of the FBI investigation? What will it show that will enliven the prosecution?


AINSLEY: You mean if it was free to go as Democrats want it to?


AINSLEY: I think it would show that there was more information that led to the FISA on Carter Page than just the dossier.

MATTHEWS: In other words, the FBI had full rights and full reason to go out and investigate this guy who had this footsie relationship with the Kremlin, Carter Page, and a relationship with Trump.

And you have to wonder what intermediary role was he playing.


The entire Nunes memo wants you to think that the whole Russia investigation was built on a flimsy dossier that was funded by the Democrats, when, in fact, we know that the Carter Page FISA is not the whole reason why they`re investigating in the first place. They began at different times, first of all.

And then also we know that there is more to that Carter Page memo than just the dossier. That`s what the Democrats have. And that`s what Trump doesn`t want them to release.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me that, from the beginning of this -- and I have said it -- there`s so many Russian involvement pieces to this, that the Trump campaign seemed to have a Russian-philia, a love of it.

So many people involved, from Manafort, to Carter Page, to Roger Stone, they`re all involved. And he seemed to be pushing it with his son-in-law and his son. And they`re all meeting regularly. And the senator, then from Alabama, Sessions, was meeting with Kislyak, and they`re all meeting.

And now they`re saying there was no reason for the FBI, seeing all this spookiness, all this stuff going on with the Russians, to have been investigating it.

It just drives me crazy. How can you say that wasn`t worthy of investigation? At an absolute time the Russians are trying to screw with our elections, one of the candidates people are all over the place in this sort of man-to-man defense, or whatever you want to call it, connection with the Russians. Why wouldn`t you investigate this guy Carter Page?

Just dying to be investigated, I think.



Well, to tell you the truth, you really want to be dying to investigate Carter Page. Let`s just clear something up that, every once a quarter, we need to remind people that this started as a national counterintelligence investigation, a spy hunt. And if there is a FISA warrant out there -- and we now know that there is -- that means that three times the FBI managed to convince the FISA court that Carter Page was a suspicious character, and they believed that he was -- you`re only going to get a FISA if you`re suspected of being a supply for a foreign agency or a member of ISIS or al Qaeda.

So, we know it`s not ISIS and al Qaeda. Therefore, this investigation is legitimate and valid. Like you said, the Trump administration is playing this man-on-man defense. They do not want anything related to the word Russia to be exposed in a federal investigation.

And by doing that, all they are doing is bringing down more heat. You know, they can fire everybody in the chain of command. But the investigatory documents, the materials that they have found, the underlying intelligence that started this, that still exists and, as we have seen over this last year could be made public, in certain ways.

MATTHEWS: So this Democratic memo that comes out eventually, it`s going show, to this particular point, that Carter Page was worth investigating?


I think that is what bears out when you speak to people who are behind this. Also, another thing to keep in mind is, it says it was top-secret. That is the one thing that was redacted from the Nunes memo. So, we know that pieces of that were removed were top-secret, which meant that they relied on human intelligence.

We didn`t see any human intelligence in the Nunes memo. So, there`s reason to believe there`s a lot more information that led to why they were able to convince three FISA court judges that they needed to be watching Carter Page.


Anyway, there is now evidence today, by the way, that at least one Justice Department official has been bracing for a potential Saturday Night Massacre.

NBC`s Julia Ainsley, right here, is reporting that Rachel Brand, the outgoing number three official at the Justice Department -- she is leaving -- is leaving in part because she didn`t want to oversee the special counsel`s probe in the event that the president fires number two, Rod Rosenstein.

According to sources close to Brand, the number three person -- quote -- She grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation."

Your report.


MATTHEWS: Why she was afraid of taking on a -- most people love to be part of history. Why wouldn`t she want be part of history?

AINSLEY: Let`s look at this position in history, though.

Let`s look at Rod Rosenstein, someone who is under a lot of pressure right now from the administration he is trying to serve faithfully. He has been publicly criticized by the president. Rachel Brand is someone who has served faithfully through Democratic and Republican administrations.

She is a conservative. But she didn`t want to come into this space. And she already felt unsupported in the job she was in. There are a number of vacancies that were unfilled. And just today in the budget, President Trump is proposing to defund the Community Relations Service, which she oversees, which gives funding to minority communities.

That was stripped away from her. She felt if she was put in a position like Rod Rosenstein, she would have even less support and even more political pressure.

MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, Malcolm, up your line, your wheelhouse. Why is it we`re always hearing from the Russian about contacts between Putin and the president, our president? We get the word -- the rolling disclosure comes from Moscow. What do we make of that?

NANCE: Well, you`re -- because the Russians know how to play the information warfare game.

Anything that has been done, said quietly between the president and Moscow is going to be revealed on the schedule of the Russians. They are aware that Donald Trump has this problem, and they are -- I really believe they`re framing him -- framing him in the sense that they`re creating a narrative around him.

And they have the ability to nudge him in certain directions. We just saw today Prime Minister Abbas of the Palestinian Authority came out and said that Vladimir Putin was -- told him that Donald Trump gave him authority to negotiate on the United States` part.

That was not released by the State Department. The Russians are playing this game well. They know how to play it. And the United States, they`re amateurs at this game. And we`re going to get taken. We`re going have our lunch eaten.

MATTHEWS: Well, that would be a revolting development, if I were Trump and I find out that Vladimir gives away my big game, which is to somehow bring a big peace to the Middle East, thanks to the Palestinian Authority, and then to have the Russians give that away.

I don`t know what -- I don`t think the Russians are good players. Anyway, is that all right to say, is, they`re not your best friends. Thank


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Julia Ainsley. Great reporting. And Malcolm Nance for your analysis and sort of prognosis too.

Up next: As President Trump wrestles away control of the Republican Party, where are the moderates, the moderates in the Republican Party, and the regular conservatives? And how long can they stay in hibernation?

We`re going to ask the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In an opinion piece published just last month in "USA Today," former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara wrote that: "One year into the Trump presidency, it`s clear that the norms and boundaries traditionally guiding American political behavior have deeply eroded. Public confidence in our institutions is plummeting. And with an ever-quickening news cycle that turns on every tweet, we have to take on these challenges in short order."

Well, chaos seems to be the Trump administration`s guiding force.

So, where are all the moderating voices in the Republican Party right now? And can anything be done to restore faith in this presidency?

For more, I`m joined by Christine Todd Whitman, the former administrator of the EPA and two-term Republican governor of New Jersey.

Thank you so much, Governor, for coming on.

And I had lunch with you recently.

And I`m hearing sounds from somewhere. I don`t know where they`re coming from.

Let me ask you a couple of general questions. What do you make, as a former chief executive in Trenton, as to what seems to be the chaotic situation in the White House right now after this week?

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Well, it`s one of those things that you try to avoid at all costs.

You want to have -- you`re a waste of time. When you keep having this kind of turnover, you`re losing your competency, you`re wasting time. You`re not getting your agenda done. And it shows a dysfunction that has got to be troubling. You have got to take control. You need to have the people you can trust.

And then you to rely on them and not try to do everything yourself. And when you see this kind of turnover, you think, well, somebody is trying to bring it all and only control it from the center, and not let other people give them advice, think through some of the issues, sort of help them think through the issues.

And it`s not doing our country any good right now.

MATTHEWS: There is an old line in "The Godfather" which gives me advice so many times. He said -- the godfather insists on getting all bad news immediately.

It seems like this president got the bad news about his staff secretary pretty late and in a disorderly, useless fashion, where he didn`t know what to make of it. Who is serving this guy, Trump?

WHITMAN: Well, that`s that -- yes, I mean, that`s one of the issues.

First of all, I always thought you do want to know the bad news. You want to know who is coming at you and why. And then you decide, well, I`m going to bother about this or I`m not. I`m just going to go on and do what I need to do.

But you need to have faith in your staff that they are bringing things that are major issues or something that could blow up right to you, because you need to know. You need to know what might be coming at you. You need to know if you need to make a quick decision and say, we`re going to cut this off at the knees before it gets any traction at all. We have to project that we are in charge, that we have got a stable administration, and that we operate with the highest ethical standards.

MATTHEWS: I grew up with Republicans like you.

A moderate Republican family. My dad was a moderate Republican. My mother, I think, was a secret liberal Democrat. But that`s all right.


MATTHEWS: We had people like Tom Ridge. We had people like Bill Scranton, governors like you. We have Clifford Case of Jersey, all kinds of New England Republicans, Henry Cabot Lodge. They were all reasonable people.

Where are you guys now? Are you hiding under the bridge? Are you hibernating in winter?


MATTHEWS: Where are the reasonable Republicans now?

WHITMAN: Well, they`re speaking out.


WHITMAN: They are the Problem Solvers Caucus. There are 24 Republicans, 24 Democrats that have come together and said, we`re here to solve problems, not just to serve our party. We are Republicans. We are Democrats. But we want to solve problems.

And they are -- that group is growing. It`s supported by No Labels. And they have decided that if they come to an agreement with 75 percent of them on any issue, they will vote as a bloc.

And with this next election cycle, it`s traditional that the party in power with the presidency loses seats. And, certainly, with all the resignations you have and retiring that you have now going on, that that`s very likely to happen. Who knows how -- whether it will turn over or not. But it`s clearly going to be close.

A group like that is going to have a lot more sway and a lot more influence. But they need support. They need the public to say, you`re doing the right thing, and to be there to help them in their campaigns.


What do people who vote for Trump tell their daughters?

WHITMAN: I don`t know now.

I think what they will say is, look, we like what he is doing on some things. We like what he is doing on the economy maybe, regulations. They will pick and choose the things they like.

But I certainly hope they`re telling their daughters that whatever they should do is, they should always stand up for themselves, not be afraid to confront people when they treat them badly, and never let somebody abuse them in the way that these women have come forward have been abused, and have the courage of their convictions.

It`s hard. It`s not easy. It brings attention to them. But, as you have seen, and certainly in the Hollywood scene, it also brings attention to those who have been abusing them, and the same thing with our athletes.

I mean, think of how strong those girls were, to be abused the way they were by their team physician, yet go out there and perform the way they did on the Olympics.


You know, on another -- that`s very powerfully put. And I`m so glad you said it.

I want to ask you one last thing, because I do think about it. I`m riding on Amtrak the other day. And I love Amtrak. There is something about it. It`s comfortable, in the sense that it`s cozy. But, boy, to rock and...

WHITMAN: Comfortable?

MATTHEWS: No. OK, I`m being nice. It`s rock and roll.


MATTHEWS: You can`t stand up on that train.

You try to head to the -- get a cup of coffee or a hamburger -- the hamburgers aren`t bad, by the way. You go down to the -- you have to really grab -- they say now grab on to the chairs as you walk by.

Now, you go to any other country in the world, China, Japan -- I say this so ad nauseam -- Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, they have these fast trains. They go 300 miles an hour. They don`t make a sound. You can keep your soda on the table next to you. Nothing rattles.

Why are we living in a different century than the rest of the world when it comes to infrastructure? Your thoughts, Governor.

WHITMAN: I don`t know. And we shouldn`t be.

I`m on the advisory board to bring the superconductive magnetic levitation train, which is the Japanese next iteration of the bullet train, to the United States. They`re giving us the technology. The Japanese will put money in. We`re ready to go with this. It exists.

It`s something -- it`s not like the vacuum tunnel that Elon Musk is talking about.


WHITMAN: There is a test track in Japan that goes the same distance it would be from Washington to Baltimore.

I have been there. I have ridden on it. You go 319 miles an hour and stand up in the aisle and handwrite a letter.


WHITMAN: You cannot handwrite on Amtrak, not under any circumstances.

MATTHEWS: You know, I keep thinking, Lincoln built the Intercontinental Train during the Civil War. In New York, they built the Empire State Building at the depths of the Depression.

It`s been done. And all we`re doing is tax cuts. OK. Put it in proportion.

Thank you, one of my favorites.

WHITMAN: OK. Good to talk to you.

MATTHEWS: Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, thank you so much for coming on.

Up next: Trump`s problem with women voters is getting worse, not better. It certainly doesn`t help that he continues to defend men who stand accused of hurting women.

What does this mean for Republicans in 2018? Well, you figure.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This president has -- I think he is doing a great job for America`s women. We have to look at the full picture. You have 800,000 women took new jobs last year because of his leadership. You have women who work at over 300 companies now that are getting wages and benefits and capital investments happening within their own communities. We are a safer, more prosperous nation that includes all of us, including the nation`s women because of Donald Trump`s leadership.



That`s White House counselor Kellyanne Conway this weekend defending the president`s comments regarding former White House staff secretary Rob Porter while also making the case that women should be fans of the president`s job performance. That`s Kellyanne`s argument.

Most women voters seem to disagree with Kellyanne. According to the latest "Washington Post"/ABC poll, the president`s approval rating among women now stands at 29 percent. That`s not big, 29 percent of women like Trump.

"The Post`s" Eugene Scott took a deeper dive into those numbers, writing, approval from white women has fallen since the president`s first 100 days. While most white women voted for Trump in 2016, his approval rating has fallen 10 points since then among them.

Meanwhile, "The Atlantic" reports and another troubling sign for the president, white women in the Rust Belt are also turning against him. The report notes his 2017 approval among blue collar white women in the Rust Belt represented some of his largest declines anywhere.

So, let`s bring in the round table. Eugene Scott himself, reporter for "The Washington Post", Nancy Cook, White House reporter for "Politico", and David Catanese, senior politics reporter for "U.S. News and World Report".

So, you can all hash this through. I`ll start with Eugene. Tell me what you think is going on, is it Me Too? Is it just Trump`s manner? Does it go back to the commentary -- I can call it the commentary on the bus. I wouldn`t call it the commentary. What it is?

EUGENE SCOTT, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: There are a couple of things happening. Every time someone brings up problems that the White House is having with women voters or black voters, they pivot all the time to the economy and jobs. The reality is women voters care about more than just jobs.

And so, they`re seeing that their president supported Roy Moore in December. And in January, he had the Stormy Daniels situation. And now, he has the Rob Porter situation.


SCOTT: And they`re looking at the White House run by someone who hasn`t proven a track record to care about women the way they would like to see a president care about them.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Nancy, because I always wonder about commentary about guys along Route 40 at 11:00 on Friday night, after three or four beers, not 10 beers, three or four, when they start talking politics and how they really do talk. When women get together at lunch and they talk about this --


MATTHEWS: There is only one of the four of us here. You`re going have to do for us.


MATTHEWS: Speak for women kind! Are people saying, yes, I got a bonus this week, but this guy is terrible? What is --

COOK: Well, I think what is happening is that white women in this country voted for Trump for two reasons. One, they thought he had a traditional conservative message. And secondly, because of his economic record. And I think that he had --

MATTHEWS: You mean he`s rich?

COOK: Well, no, no, no. That they thought he would bring about prosperity. But fact of the matter is, is that, you know, the Trump White House keeps touting things like deregulation in the tax bill that normal Americans aren`t seeing that trickle down to their own lives. We`ve seen lat of pulling with the tax bills, how people don`t really see it showing up in their own pocketbooks yet. And that`s really hurting them.

So, Kellyanne Conway is talking about the jobs that they`ve created. But if people aren`t seeing it in these Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, that`s not going to be something that is going to help the Republicans in midterm.

MATTHEWS: So, switch it around, David. And what I heard from Republicans is what they intend to do between now and November is pound the tax cut. Just keep pounding it.

You`re going get a bonus. You`re going get a raise. You`re going get something in your W2. It`s going to be good for you and you`re going know it and see it before November.

So, they are responding to that reality. They want to -- show me the money. Remember Cuba Gooding?


MATTHEWS: Show me the money.

CATANESE: Polling has gone up on the tax cuts since it was passed. It`s gone up in the mid-40s. They hope by spring, it gets into the 60s and he is in a much better place.

But I think to your original question, I think the question is a lack of empathy from the president. There`s no -- what`s the biggest story that`s defined the last year? It`s been the abuse of women. And he`s never shown empathy toward those women. Every time he makes a statement, it`s well, he denied it, whether it was Roy Moore, whether it was Porter. Well, he says he is innocent. It`s never an acknowledgment that this country has a problem.

MATTHEWS: Except in Al Franken case.

SCOTT: Sure. Sure.

MATTHEWS: He`s a Democrat.

SCOTT: If you are his political rival, he seems to believe the women. And to be honest, I guess --

MATTHEWS: Or the wilding case, when he wanted these guys executed.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

CATANESE: But that`s not credible.

SCOTT: Yes, it`s not credible because it`s so politically motivated. And it comes off, to David`s point, not of a concern for women, but a political calculation.

MATTHEWS: But dogs learn tricks. Politicians can learn tricks. I`m sorry, it`s true, Nancy.

SCOTT: Can old dogs?

MATTHEWS: Not all dogs. Maybe, actually I`ve had problems with one of them.

But, look, you got me off my track here. Politicians have advisers sitting around them all the time. Kellyanne says this all the time. What`s his name -- you know, Huckabee probably says, Mr. President, you`ve got say something about women. You`ve got to stop saying he and him and say her once in a while. Why doesn`t he do it? At least advise him?

COOK: They do advise him. And we`re on day six of the Rob Porter story. This has totally blanketed the White House. And the fact of the matter is Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the briefing today said the president cares about domestic violence and that he really cares about that.

MATTHEWS: The reporter said why won`t we hear it from him?

COOK: Right, exactly. The fact of the matter is he tweets things all the time, like, if he wanted to get that message out, he could make that message himself. He could call into CNN.


MATTHEWS: -- explain this?

CATANESE: He`s been accused.

SCOTT: Yes, I was going to say you opened the door.

MATTHEWS: Trump`s lagging support among women could spell trouble for Republicans this November and for Trump in 2020, of course. A fact not lost on former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

"Politico" reports today that a new edition of the book "Devil`s Bargain", Bannon is quoted as saying, this is amazing: The anti-patriarchy movement is going to undo 10,000 years of recorded history. I have to say this right. The watch, the time has come -- you watch. Women are going to take charge of society, and they couldn`t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch.

COOK: Back to the woman on the hill. Who else are going to go to?

MATTHEWS: That moment we`re living in. Trump is the antichrist, he is the guy, the reason for this big change and loss of power by men. It`s all Trump`s fault, right?

COOK: Well, I think that women in the Democratic base are really fired up about Trump. And I think that gives a huge opening the mid terms. What Democrats are going to do is try to tie all Republicans in office to the presidency. And Democratic voters are energized.

MATTHEWS: I think the passion factor, not just numbers. I think women will own the vote. I keep hearing this at home and other places. I think -- my daughter, my wife. I think women are going to vote this fall.

Anyway, the round table is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took part at a presidential ritual, helping unveil their official portraits at the Smithsonian`s National Portrait Gallery. Not only are the Obamas the first African American couple to be included in the collection, their portraits are the first ones created, painted by black artists.

The painting of President Obama depicts him seated against a backdrop of flowers from Chicago -- I don`t know they`re Chicago flowers, Hawaii and Kenya, all places important to him. Obama today joked about offering some suggestions to the artists.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: There were a number of issues that we were trying to negotiate. I tried to negotiate less gray hair. And Kehinde`s artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the hard table roundtable.

Eugene, tell me something I don`t know.

SCOTT: Many Trump voters voted for him, believing he would bring jobs back to rural areas. But in his proposed budget, he is proposing eliminating the rural business and cooperative services which helps to bring jobs back to rural areas.


COOK: There is a very mysterious opposition research guru who used to work for the secretive Koch network working in the White House counsel`s office which is very unusual. I wrote a story about it today for "Politico". And no one in the White House seems to know what he is doing.

MATTHEWS: Do they deploy their people, the Koch brothers? Do they send them into different organizations? I wonder.

Go ahead.

CATANESE: Missouri Senate race here, Chris, the Republican was supposed to be the top recruit, Josh Hawley, the attorney general. Now, I`m hearing over the weekend from Missouri Republicans and national Republicans, they`re worried about him. They`re whispering about possible replacements and they`re wondering if --

MATTHEWS: What`s his problem? What`s the dirty secret?

CATANESE: He`s not raising enough money. He is not out there. He`s not campaigning.


CATANESE: McCaskill is in 50 town halls.

MATTHEWS: McCaskill has what I love. Like General Grant had in the civil war, luck.


MATTHEWS: I think she has --

CATANESE: She got lucky twice in a row, two cycles in a row. That`s really tough.

MATTHEWS: Barbara Boxer, tough as hell but also had luck. She had guys that had real trouble. You know, (INAUDIBLE) Barack Obama, like two disasters in the Republican side against him. He ended up running against Alan Keyes.

Anyway, thank you. You know, luck is important. Thank you, Eugene Scott, sir. Thank you, Nancy Cook, for being the woman.


MATTHEWS: Speaking for half this population and more.

David Catanese, thank you.

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


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, February 12, 2018.

I wonder about Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office these days, or even when he wakes up in the morning. Who does he go to when things get scary, when the world seems to be get him, and even his massive ego seems to fail him?

Well, the irony is his team out there in the country, Trump`s people don`t seem to worry about his being caught shorthanded like this. The reason is they didn`t vote for Trump to get better government or tight ship efficiency or things so tangible. They did so out of sheer, amyloid I think resentment, resentment at a political class they felt and showed itself superior to them.

Well, resentment doesn`t call for fine engineering or executive workmanship. To them, the goal of having Trump in the White House is simply having Trump in the White House. Maybe that will some day, not too far enough, not be enough.

Today`s "USA Today" newspaper has a big story in its front page about how the voters of Appalachia in eastern Kentucky where Robert Kennedy visited and championed 50 years ago this month are now Donald Trump voters out there. So, what happened?

What happened is the people who care about hardship forgot that we`re in this together, that the concerns of working people should be the politics of working people, all working people. Bobby Kennedy was one leader who championed the cause of waitresses and construction workers and police officers and other working people. Unlike Trump, he was a uniter. And for that reason, he had the look of someone who could actually deliver for all those working people.

My book is called "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit." You can order it right now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It will lift your spirit, your own spirit. It will remind you of what once looked possible -- not Trump.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.