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Lawmakers grapple with deadly school shooting. TRANSCRIPT: 2/5/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Erica Laferty, Jared Moskowitz, Chris Lu, Betsy Woodruff, Chris Wilson

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 15, 2018 Guest: Erica Laferty, Jared Moskowitz, Chris Lu, Betsy Woodruff, Chris Wilson

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Tomorrow one of the stars will be on the beat, Winston Duke, his original story coming all the way here to be in this very anticipated movie. That is our show.

"Hardball" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Frozen in the headlights. Let`s play "Hardball."

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, D.C.

Occupied territory of the American gun lobby. So here we go again. Once again, a mass shooting and once again mass inaction by our politicians. And once again, someone has taken a battlefield weapon, the AR-15, into an American school and opened fire. And once again, we are told to shut up about it. We are asked not to - we are not to do ask why this battlefield weapon designed for the single purpose of killing lots of humans quickly as once again been about put to its designed purpose of killing lots of humans fast.

This is no time for politics those in the pocket of the National Rifle Association tell us. We are not even mentions stopping this open traffic to teenagers in semiautomatic combat guns. Well, here tonight, like last night, we are going to talk about it.

It`s been a little over 24 hours since Nikolas Cruz barged into his old high school in Parkland, Florida opening fire on hundreds of terrified students and teachers, ultimately murdering 17 and wounding 14 others. And since Sandy Hook, by the way, where 20 children were murdered, there have been roughly 1600 mass shootings in this country. So far there had been 18 school shootings in this new year alone. With all the grief and chaos, it`s been the voices of the NRA funded politicians. Let me say that again, the NRA funded politicians rising above the din. Here they go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of your colleagues in the Senate here from Washington, D.C. having already been trying to make this about policy and about gun control. Is this the appropriate time to be doing that?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It`s not only because people don`t -- they don`t know how this happened. I think it`s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there`s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn`t we at least know the facts?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is try to politicize it. So They immediately start calling that we have got to take away the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens. That`s not the right answer.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You got to pray for these victims and the people who are still who are in the hospital, you know, in surgery today. And so, I just think what you don`t do is Knee-jerk and say let`s just take away a citizen`s rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let`s just follow the money. The Marco Rubio received $3.3 million from the NRA. Notice how he commented today. Ted Cruz has received $77,000, Paul Ryan another $61,000.

President Trump today address the country calling the suspect mentally disturbed but the President made zero mention of the battlefield weapon the suspect used in the mass shooting. The weapon he bought at the age of 19. Instead he urged citizens to reach out to faith leaders in their community for help. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to speak now directly to America`s children especially those who is feel lost, alone, confused or even scared. I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you. Who love you and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer or a faith leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Advice ongoing to a faith leader from the President.

Congress has been paralyzed when it comes to dealing with gun violence, of course. They have done nothing to keep these combat weapons designed from mass human killing from the hands of those intending just that.

Congressman Ted Deutch represents the district including Parkland, Florida, tweeted while I`m at home in Parkland, the House will pause for a moment of silence. I appreciate the thoughts and prayers of colleagues. I would also appreciate an open ended willingness to work with me on gun violence legislation when I return to Washington. Whatever gun violence legislation is.

Anyway, victims and parents of victims called on politicians to do more than just pray. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HOGG, MSD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: The state that this country has been allowed to come to, through the work of through politicians honestly just saying yes, thoughts and prayers go out to people and we are going to propose all of these ideas.

We don`t need ideas. We need action. We need action from our elected officials. And we need action from the civic public because without that, this happen again.

LISSETTE ROZENBLAT, MOTHER OF STUDENT: You see the city is mayhem between the cops and helicopters and politicians and probably the President who is going to fly in and give us words of condolences which are irrelevant and empty at this point because the action that need to take place in my opinion, the NRA. It is a really, really sad state we are living in when money comes first. And I think that`s a huge problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Erica Laferty, outreach associate for every town for gun safety. Her mother Dawn (INAUDIBLE) was of the principal at Sandy Hook elementary school up in Connecticut and was murdered while trying to protect her students. Kurt Bardella who is contributor to NBC Think and former spokesperson for Breitbart News. And Florida state representative Jared Moskowitz.

Thank you so much Erica. And thank you for coming. You have lived close to this.

Here is the question. Why does an 18-year-old, that`s you all have to in Florida, be able to walk into a gun shop and buy an AR-15 and all the ammo magazines you need to go out and do what the gun is designed for, mass shooting of human beings quickly? Why is that so easy to do in the United States? Your thoughts, legally.

ERICA LAFERTY, EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY: I think that the more broad question here is how do we keep guns out of schools. That is something that for the past five years, I have been dealing with on very obviously a firsthand basis, you know. We see this happen time and time and time again. And I think the bigger issue that we need to think about is how to stop this in general with any type of weapon. You know, the fact is we are just over 24 hours out from this terrible tragedy and are still learning all the information. You know, but I think getting back to the basics here and trying to figure out, you know, specifically what acts can be taken, what legislation can be proposed to stop all incidents like this regardless of the type of firearm used.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the firepower needed to do that. If someone comes to a school armed, maybe a couple of people come armed with AR-15s with unlimited ammunition, what kind of firepower is needed to stop them at the door?

I`m just asking, can you outmatch the kind of firepower which is available at any gun shop in most states?

LAFERTY: Unfortunately, I know my mom couldn`t. I know my mom couldn`t.

MATTHEWS: Representative Moskowitz, you are down there. It`s your responsibility to deal with the repercussions down there. What do we do with people who go on television with $3 million behind them like your senator down there who say we shouldn`t talk politics because I`m getting $3 million from the NRA. Of course, I don`t want to talk politics. I`m getting the money to fight people talking gun control. Your thoughts?

STATE REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D), FLORIDA: Chris, I will tell him to come the city of Parkland. Let him come and say that to the families who lost 14-year-olds. If that`s his position, that`s fine. He is entitled to that. But let him come, not in Washington, D.C., not in the halls of Congress, come to Parkland. Look these families in the face who are sitting in a room last night for six hours praying that their kid was in a hospital instead of on the floor of the school. And let him look them in the face and say, there`s nothing we can do. It`s too early to talk about your kid. But we have been doing that, Chris. How is that working out for the country?

MATTHEWS: I`m just wondering about the disproportion of concern that you hear in these hours since this tragedy and all the tradition since. There`s one about one a week now, a school tragedy. Erica is right. It is partially focused just on schools, this mass shooting. And I will say again, bringing these semiautomatic weapons to the schools, how do you keep them out of the door. This guy had a plan, smoke bombs, turn on the alarm, get people on the hallway and start mowing people down. He had a plan.

What`s the plan of those playing defenses, my question? Let me go to Kurt on that. What is the defensive plan? Anybody got one. What`s the NRA plan to protect our schools?

KURT BARDELLA, NBC THINK CONTRIBUTOR: There is no plan. The plan is to be helpless. The plan is to continue to feed the people that have been giving you money and to turn a blind eye to tragedy.

You know, I like how when it`s an illegal immigrant that commit a crime, we need new policy. We need to do something because our safety is at risk. When it involves a gun, well, we need to take a step back. We need to wait and see. Get all the facts. Why is there a double standard on tragedy with Donald Trump and Republicans?

MATTHEWS: Well, the shooter`s choice of weapon, I hat to say choice. It sounds so joyous. Its choice of military style weapon is an AR-15. And according to experts, the semiautomatic weapon is designed to kill multiple enemy combatants at once. That`s why it exists. That`s what you do. And despite that, it`s very easy, it seems like accessible and legal, apparently very easy to use for civilians across the country. You don`t have to be a pro to use this gun.

In Florida, any 18-year-old can walking in as long as they are not a convicted felon. That`s just about everybody. In five of the six deadliest mass shootings in the past six years, the gunman in the case has choose an AR-15 style semiautomatic weapon.

In July of 2012 for example, a gunman used an AR-15 and other firearms to kill 12 people and injury more at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. We all remember that one.

On December 14th, of 2012, the AR-15 was used to kill 27 people including 20 school children at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. We all remember that one. The gunman also killed his mother in that case.

On June 12th of, 2016, 49 people were killed and more than 50 hurt when a gunman opened fire with an AR-15 and it is that semiautomatic pistol at the Pulse nightclub down in Orlando.

And five months ago on October 1st, a gunman used an AR-15 and a whole of others firearms to kill 58 engine hunters at a country music festival in Las Vegas.

And just five weeks later, on November 5th, the rifle was used, the AR-15, to kill 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs Texas. The victims include eight members of one family alone and the pastor`s daughter.

And earlier today, the mother of one of the school`s victims had this question for the President. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORI ALHADEFF, MOTHER OF MURDERED STUDENT: President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children`s hands! Put metal detectors in every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the interesting thing, and I will start with Kurt on this one, is that the absence of conversation is mandatory now. You must not talk about it. That`s to politicize it. And then two weeks from now, we are not talking about this. That`s when they will say, OK, you can talk about it but nobody wants to talk about it. And you can`t talk any policy. But you know, I really don`t want to hear from policymakers except about policy.

BARDELLA: That`s why it exists.

MATTHEWS: I don`t want to hear how to contact my faith leader. I don`t really need Trump to tell me how to find my church. I know where it is. I go there on my own. I need him to lead this country in doing something about gun safety and he refuses to do anything.

BARDELLA: There`s a reason why they are called policymakers, Chris. It is their job is to enact public policy that in theory will keep us safe and stop these things from happening. Remember after the Vegas shooting, there was all this talk about bump stocks, they are being banned. Even Paul Ryan --.

MATTHEWS: That`s what takes a semiautomatic and makes it an automatic.

BARDELLA: Exactly. It`s been months since Vegas, the worst mass shooting in history. Bombs stuff are still legal. There was no action. There was no policy. There was even bipartisan consensus at least on paper and in the news to get something done there. They didn`t do anything about that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Moskowitz, let`s talk about state and federal because, you know, we have crime in different cities. There is different kind of guns. There`s gang crime in tern cities and this kind of mass shootings and there`s all to soon (INAUDIBLE), whatever you -- cultural (INAUDIBLE) and things go into it the unhappy student. We know all profiles, all the stereotypes.

But the bottom line is this country. We have no more mental illness than any other country, I assumed, than Japan does or Sweden or anywhere else. And yet, we have killings on a mass basis because what we do have different than countries is the American exception is lots and lots of combat weapons in the hands of regular people. And right now, I bet you the stores are being crashed right now because they are afraid somebody might outlaw them. Of course, they never will so they keep finding them in hoards. Your thoughts. They are hoarding them now. Your thoughts?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, weapons that were made for Afghanistan are on the streets of America. And let me tell you something, anyone who says, well, they are for hunting, I tell you. Right, they are for hunting. They are hunting children.

It`s time and time again that this weapon is used. And I will tell you, Chris, the shooter here had 120 more bullets in his magazines that he did not use. He had extended magazines. He dropped his weapon and stopped. This could have been a lot worse. The number could have been 30 or 40 or 50. He was armed for war in the city of Parkland. The safest city in the state of Florida.

Did you know, Chris, in the state of Florida, that if you are the mayor of a city and you want to institute better background checks under the laws you will be arrested in the state of Florida? That`s the laws that we put in place here. It is so backwards.

MATTHEWS: You make a really good point. Not just the weapon he has got and the amount of bullets he is carrying with him in magazine form. But he was able for a bit there to escape with the other students because he look like one of the students. He was young enough to look like one of the high school kids. So a guy who looks like a high school kid goes into a gun shop and buys God knows how many magazines of bullets, a combat bullet gun which he has got, you know, a semiautomatic capability and good for the bomb stock on it and nobody questions him. And for all I know, he looked crazy when he went into that store.

It`s hard to assume he wouldn`t calmly without any sweat and just said, excuse me, sir, would like to order an AR-15. Somehow, I wonder for what is like that. Your thought? But it certainly was damn easy to get that gun and to fit in with the students leaving the school that day, that`s why he got three quarters of mile away before the police officer caught him.

MOSKOWITZ: Chris, we are in most powerful country in the world, most powerful military in the world. We have the best economy in the world. And yet can`t keep kids safe in school. How is it possible? How is that possible that someone who might be a white nationalist who says on their Facebook page that they want to kill people. They want to become famous, a famous school shooter? How can they walk into a gun store and buy an AR- 15? He didn`t take his parents` gun. He didn`t buy this at the back of a car. This was bought through the legal process. We have failed these kids, Chris. Democrats, Republicans, we have failed.

MATTHEWS: Let me bring in Erica now to talk about this.

You have a personal horror in your life. And -- tell me about an heroic behavior by your mom. Let me ask you about that If you had five minutes with this President, what would you say to him on this be?

LAFERTY: I would just want to know why. I honestly don`t think that I would let the shooter speak. I would tell him about my mom, about the wonderful person she was. And then give him every single piece of detail about her tragic death. And how she literally laid herself on the line to protect the students and staff at Sandy Hook that day. Tell him about my life since, the pain, the suffering. Watching my nieces, my niece and nephews grow up without their grandmother. Watching my sister and I struggle without our mom. I mean, if that story can`t help to change the narrative, I don`t know what will.

MATTHEWS: When do you think about your mom?

LAFERTY: Every second of every day.

MATTHEWS: And what do you say to her?

LAFERTY: That I miss her. I miss her contagious laugh and her warm hugs. And I just hope that everything I`m doing and everything that I have done and will continue to do makes her proud.

MATTHEWS: Well, it should because you are here. Thank you.

Erica Laferty, Kurt Bardella, and state representative of Florida Jared Moskowitz. I like the way you do your business, sir. Keep representing the people and not the gun people.

Coming up, a stunning report from NBC News. More than 130 political appointees in the executive office of this President have been working without permanent security clearances. Why?

And the way, catch the names of those without these clearances, Jared Kushner, son-in-law, Ivanka Trump, the daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press flag, even the White House counsel, they don`t have clearance. Why not? We have got to find out.

Plus breaking news in the Russian probe. Steve Bannon, the ousted White House chief strategist, stonewalled the House intelligence committee today, not that the committee`s worth much. But we learned that he spent 20 hours over the past week talking to Robert Mueller`s prosecutors.

And turmoil in the White House, of course, Trump says he is totally opposed to domestic abuse. But why is a top aide allowed to remain in a job after spousal abuse allegations surfaced in his faces?

Finally, let me finish tonight with a major anniversary that was marked last week. I see some good news on this anniversary.

This is "Hardball" where the action us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, those rights were striped from college kids in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara and from high schoolers at Columbine. And from first graders in Newtown, first graders. Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A lot of people they think about we don`t have him anymore makes them mad. That was President Obama in January 2016 fighting back tears as he recounted the litany of mass shootings that took place during his time as President.

Well today, Obama, President Obama offered his condolences to those affected by this latest tragedy and also called for action.

He tweeted, we are grieving with Parkland but we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we are doing enough to keep them safe from harm including long overdue common sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The Rob Porter scandal has focused new attention on the security clearances that have or not been granted to the executive employees of the Trump White House. NBC News is reporting that more than 130 political appointees working in the executive office of the president did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017.

While it`s unclear how many of those employees may have had a change in their clearance since that time, it means that roughly a quarter of all executive appointees in the White House were working under some kind of interim security clearance 10 months into the Trump presidency.

And among them are some of the president`s top advisers, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, senior adviser Jared Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn. And even Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doesn`t have the right one, as well as 10 officials on the National Security Council itself and many others.

Well, this report comes after Trump`s director of national intelligence warned that minimal access to classified information should be granted to those with temporary security clearances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: If that is the case, the access has to be limited in terms of the kind of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a serious public official.

It`s unclear what has prevented so many from obtaining permanent clearances for so long, and it`s not clear how much access they have had to this country`s most sensitive materials.

I`m joined right now by an expert, Carol Lee, reporter for NBC News, and Chris Lu was executive director of the 2008 Obama transition, also served as an assistant to the former president in the White House.

Thank you both for joining us.

What are the reasons why there`s such sloppiness, I think it would call that, and a lack of safety precautions that so many top people don`t have the right clearances?

rMD-BO_CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don`t fully know, because the process is not very transparent. The White House has not been very forthcoming. There are a number of reasons why someone could have a security clearance, an interim security clearance months into the administration.

There could be a backlog of requests. There could be things like someone who has very extensive business ties. They have to go through those. If you have family that is living overseas, for instance, that could be it.

But I think when you talk to national security experts and legal experts about this, the thing that sticks out to them is just it`s not necessarily the overall number, but how the people who are closest to the president still don`t have permanent security clearances.

And while some of the individuals that were operating on interim clearances may have them now, we know people like Jared Kushner certainly does not.

MATTHEWS: Well, Chris Lu, it seems to me that my experience is when is you name a top appointee, they get it through pretty quickly, because it`s important that that person be cleared.

These people are pretty high-level people, the president`s family, the press secretary, all the -- the president`s lawyer, the White House attorney. You would think that they would get priority. And if they didn`t get priority, it must be some red flag out there, not just the slowness of the process.

But there`s some reason why they haven`t been cleared a year in.

CHRIS LU, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, that`s absolutely right.

I mean, how we avoided this in the Obama administration is, we pre-cleared 200 appointees before Election Day of 2008 to avoid this backlog at the beginning of the administration.

First of all, there are only 25 assistants to the president. That`s the highest rank. You should push those people in the queue before anyone else comes through.

And the fact that Jared Kushner has been sitting there for well over a year, while he`s also receiving the president`s daily brief, the highest intel briefing in the country, with an interim clearance is trouble and should make you wonder whether national security is at risk right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the president asks his family members, have you been cleared yet? What is your problem? Or does he actually know what the problem is?

LEE: We don`t know. But...

MATTHEWS: Don`t they talk about this? How come you don`t have a badge? What`s the matter with you?

LEE: Well, certainly, certainly, now they would be having this conversation, because the Rob Porter issue has been so much in the news.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LEE: And there are some suggestions that the White House is leaning into deal with some of these interim clearances a little bit more since Rob Porter, the individual who was let go this week.

MATTHEWS: Well, Carol, let`s look at this.

As a candidate, to remind people, Trump routinely attacked Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. Let`s watch him in action as a candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was not just extreme carelessness with classified material, which is still totally disqualifying. This is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct followed by a cover-up.

She sent vast amounts of classified information, including information classified as top-secret, top-secret, OK? She said she never sent or received classified materials. A lie. Such a lie.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: She said she couldn`t recall details about her mishandling of classified information.

In my administration, I`m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information.

We also need the best protection of classified information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to say.

I mean, you can say hypocrisy. You can this guy talks out of two sides of his mouth. You can say he will attack Hillary for any possibility of doing something wrong, without ever saying what anything was wrong done.

And yet, in this case, oblivious.

LU: This is hypocrisy on so many different levels.

MATTHEWS: They know that Rob Porter had a problem.

LU: Right.

MATTHEWS: They knew that he had a -- now, you could argue about the degree of the problem, what kind of abuse it was, what kind of felony he had committed.

But they would know it. And all that time, he said, give him all the latest stuff.

LU: Right.

MATTHEWS: Make sure he gets all the hot stuff. So, he knows how to violate the trust of the country, because he did it.

LU: This is Donald Trump saying he hires the best people, which we now know he doesn`t. This is him saying, a businessperson needs to run the government, when we see the problems we have now.

And it`s this whole hypocrisy on mishandling of classified information. And the problem is right now the there`s a percentage of people who have these interim clearances that are getting access to classified information who probably will not get their permanent clearances. You can`t unring that bell.

MATTHEWS: Ergo, ergo, they will leave the White House having seen all this stuff, Carol, and nobody`s going to ever be able to reclaim it.

LEE: Right. Right. Well, and we saw that happen already.

MATTHEWS: Well, they can sell it, for all we know.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: Well, we don`t know they`re going to take...

MATTHEWS: Well, why not?

LEE: Yes. We don`t know that they`re taking it home in their bags.

MATTHEWS: Well, who is to stop them with this crowd?

LEE: I do think that this -- one of the -- we have seen Donald Trump do this over and over again. He will say one thing, and then he -- it doesn`t apply to him.

The interesting thing to me that`s happening...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You were laughing because it sounds so ridiculous.

LEE: Congress...

MATTHEWS: I got to get to this thing.

Rob Porter`s gone now. Right?

LEE: Right.

MATTHEWS: He has in his head, I would think, notes at home in his notebooks, whatever, all this classified stuff he`s been looking at for a year.

LEE: Correct.

MATTHEWS: You can`t get that back from him, can you? Can you stop him from talking about it or selling it for a magazine article or whatever?

Can you?

LEE: Well, certainly, if you`re operating under even an interim clearance, you`re -- it would be illegal.

MATTHEWS: Yes?

But he never had. Oh, even -- even -- but he`s permanently compelled to keep that secret?

LEE: Mm-hmm. It`s classified.

LU: Well, he should be, but this is why we have clearances, to test people`s honesty, reliability and trustworthiness.

And, clearly, Rob Porter doesn`t meet those standards.

MATTHEWS: Good point. So, he never will be cleared. He never will be found trustworthy.

(LAUGHTER)

LU: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Carol Lee. Thank you, Chris Lu. It`s good to have you both.

Up next, breaking news on the Russia probe. We`re learning tonight -- catch this -- Steve Bannon spent 20 hours being grilled by, guess who, Mueller, Robert Mueller. And, today, Bannon was back on Capitol Hill dodging questions from the House Intel Committee. That committee`s not worth meeting with.

Anyway, the HARDBALL -- well, this is HARDBALL. And the action here -- stick with us. We will be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We learned today that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with special counsel Robert Mueller multiple times over the past week, according to NBC News.

Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller. That`s according to two people familiar with the proceedings. This comes as Bannon also returned to Capitol Hill today for further questioning by the House Intelligence Committee.

However, just as he did last month, Bannon once again stonewalled the members of that committee. According to members of the committee, Bannon presented the panel with a list of 25 questions that he would be willing to answer and refused to discuss anything beyond those pre-selected questions.

That led the ranking member of the committee, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, to threaten contempt proceedings against Bannon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Certainly, it will be our recommendation to our leadership that we initiate contempt proceedings. And I hope that we have a meeting on the minds.

I expect that we likely will, judging from the comments that my colleagues in the majority have made publicly about the necessity of compelling answers to these questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, such a measure might face long odds. But at least one top Republican on the committee, U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway, did not rule out the prospect of holding Bannon in contempt.

Joining me right now is Betsy Woodruff, who covers the Russia probe for The Daily Beast.

What won`t -- I`m fascinated by what Bannon may have told Mueller, because I think Mueller is the key here. It`s not the House Intelligence Committee. They`re not going to do anything. And I`m serious about that. They`re useless. The House -- the Senate might do something, because I will respect Burr and Warner.

But let me ask you about what Bannon was willing to tell or had to tell under oath Mueller and what he refused to tell the House committee.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: The major outstanding difference is that what I have been told is Bannon refused to answer any questions from Congress, besides pre-cleared ones that he had given them beforehand, about what happened during the transition and while he was in the White House.

So, that is a massive, vital, key point of time that Bannon just refused to take hard questions about. At the same time, I have been told by a person very close to Bannon he did answer basically anything Mueller asked him.

So, what we know now, what we can infer is that Mueller, unsurprisingly, knows way, way, way, way more about what happened from the transition team to Bannon`s exit of the White House than Capitol Hill will probably ever know.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not a legal correspondent. All I`m interested in is impeachment here. And all I`m interested in is, did this guy obstruct justice, the president, or did he deal -- did he deal with the Russians during the campaign.

Now, what would Bannon know about either of those questions, sitting in the Oval Office? We see him sitting in the Oval Office on the front desk there all the time chatting away with the president, kibitzing, spending -- shooting the whatever.

So he must have been there. When was he there? These kind of pictures. He must have overheard interesting conversations. And can he be pinned down by Mueller about those?

WOODRUFF: What I think is notable about Bannon`s time in the White House is that he was quite close with Michael Flynn.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WOODRUFF: They were very much of the same mind, their thinking about Iran, their thinking about national security, cultural issues.

MATTHEWS: So Flynn would have shared what all was going on.

WOODRUFF: Right.

Those were -- Bannon`s closest ally in the White House probably was -- at least one of his closest allies was Flynn. So, to the extent that Flynn has been involved in a lot of these conversations, Bannon is probably very much clued in.

MATTHEWS: So, who are the people that are now talking about -- you have got -- Manafort`s not talking. Flynn`s talking. Papadopoulos is talking.

Who else is talking now?

WOODRUFF: That`s all that I can confirm are the folks who are talking. There have been some reports on other outlets, but I haven`t been able to confirm those from my sources.

That said, though, this is a really significant number of folks that are close to the president who were intimately involved in the campaign who are now cooperating with Mueller. And I think a piece of that is probably the fact that just hiring an attorney to help you deal with an investigation like this is extraordinarily expensive.

People who have testified before the House on this matter will tell you sometimes they have to pay upwards of $20,000 to prepare just for one congressional hearing.

MATTHEWS: Let`s use our smarts here.

Bannon is a big nationalist. Right? Parts of that is somewhat interesting. Some of it is definitely awful. He wanted to cut a deal with the Russians because they`re nationalists and they would deal with the world big shot to big shot.

Wouldn`t Trump have talked to him about that? Wouldn`t he have sat down, let`s talk about nationally how we`re going to talk to this other guy, Putin? How are we going to deal with this tough customer? How are we going to work a deal on the Middle East?

Wouldn`t he have had those conversations, would have dealt with sanctions and all this stuff, with the tricky stuff that they shouldn`t have been dealing with during the campaign? Wouldn`t he know that stuff?

WOODRUFF: I think it`s most likely that Flynn would have been the person more involved in those conversations of the nitty-gritty about foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Right.

WOODRUFF: One thing that Bannon was really an expert of during his time in the White House was overstating his power and spinning a lot of reporters that he was a puppet master.

But it`s certainly, absolutely probable that he would have been in the loop on those things.

MATTHEWS: If you`re Trump, the president of the United States, do you trust Bannon?

WOODRUFF: I don`t think so. Trump, I think, has said that almost on the record, that he thinks Bannon was -- is deceptive and acted in bad faith.

MATTHEWS: Would he rat him out?

WOODRUFF: And he cast him into the outer dark.

Would the president rat Bannon out?

MATTHEWS: No.

WOODRUFF: Would Bannon rat out the president?

MATTHEWS: That`s what happened -- 20 hours of testimony before Mueller, what did he tell him?

WOODRUFF: I`m confident...

MATTHEWS: If you`re the president, what are you worried about?

WOODRUFF: If you`re the president, I think one of the things you`re most worried is money, the president`s finances, Jared Kushner`s finances.

What we have been hearing that White House people are most concerned about isn`t necessarily things that happened on transition and campaign, but that what could be more troublesome for people in the president`s inner circle are all these financial dealings. If you were...

MATTHEWS: The laundering.

WOODRUFF: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Betsy. You know so much. Betsy Woodruff, thanks for joining us.

Up next: President Trump has been forced to condemn domestic violence on Twitter following allegations against a top aide, Rob Porter. But this latest controversy shows no signs of letting up, in part because this White House can`t seem to get his story straight.

I love Nicholas Kristof in "The Times" today. Lying is bad, you know? When you lie a lot, it`s really bad.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Always but especially today, let us hold our loved ones close. Let us pray for healing and for peace. And let us come together as one nation to wipe away the tears and strive for a much better tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump today on the deadly shooting in Florida. And while the nation`s focus has been on Florida, the White House remains in turmoil inside of the Rob Porter scandal in part due to its constantly changing story. Chief of Staff John Kelly first told reporters he acted immediately upon hearing about Porter`s abuse allegations.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REPORTER: You found out Tuesday night?

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That the accusations were true. Forty minutes later, he was gone.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But according to NBC News, Kelly knew in November that Porter`s ex-wives had told the FBI and what had he told them. On Monday, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the investigation was still being handled by the FBI. And the very next day, FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators under oath that the investigation was first completed last July.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Soon thereafter, we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And we administratively closed the file in January.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, on Tuesday, Sanders reacted to that with a new story saying that a separate office at the White House was still conducting an investigation. But that office is part of the president`s executive office. According to NBC, if there was a problem with somebody`s security clearance, they would have flagged White House counsel Don McGahn immediately.

Amid all of this, many aides blamed Kelly for the chaos with one calling him -- this is what I can`t believe -- a big fat liar. Somebody working for the White House called the chief of staff at the White House a big fat liar according to "Washington Post."

Let`s bring in the roundtable. I want to start with Ashley Parker on that one who wrote that story. She`s a White House reporter, a top one for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. Chris Wilson is a Republican pollster. And Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster and an MSNBC political analyst.

I`m sorry, Ashley, I did work at the White House once, and that people Lesley Stahl calls up, she`s still around, and say, come on, tell me, can you tell me, can you tell me anything. And I`d say, I`m not telling you anything. Here`s somebody who says, our boss here is a big fat idiot to a reporting.

It`s stunning to me, the lack of loyalty and the freedom with which you get sourcing over there.

ASHLEY PARKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what`s interesting about --

MATTHEWS: You don`t laugh about this, but this is odd. You actually heard a person say big fat liar on phone. Let me get that down here.

PARKER: I did get it down. We put it in a story. And what`s interesting about this is when Kelly came in at first, there actually was a lot of discipline and he sort of staunched those leaks and the chaos we saw under the first chief of staff in the early months of the White House. So, this sort of quote and sentiment told me how much General Kelly has lost the support and the trust and the respect of his staff and his subordinates. And part of that is because some of them believe he asked them to lie for him or at least pass on --

MATTHEWS: This 40 minutes deal?

PARKER: Exactly. An account that they knew not to be true. The fact that someone would feel emboldened to say that to the media underscores the strife that General Kelly is now dealing with.

MATTHEWS: So, Chris, it looks like the public trying to read in the newspaper about this is reading about a cover-up of a cover-up. They covered up why they kept Porter in the White House because they like him and they wanted to keep him around and there weren`t any replacement parts out there. There`s nobody wanting to work in this White House.

So, now, they have to cover up that. Now people in the White House know exactly what`s going on and leak it.

CHRIS WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, they do, and I think big fat liar is probably called progress from Scaramucci`s comments about the chief of staff going back to six months. So, at least maybe the language --

MATTHEWS: Scaramucci is now attacking Kelly -- the mooch.

WILSON: I mean, you just can`t get away from the lack of loyalty that seems to exist within staff. I mean, I find that utterly incomprehensible that you have a White House operating like this in which there is no level of loyalty toward the chain of command. I don`t -- I could not imagine being in the position, much less Kelly when he`s got a staff that he`s lost confidence.

MATTHEWS: Cornell, if you can`t get sourcing on the Hill and the White House, it`s not just you but other reporters can get a great quote from people on the inside, is that because they think the president doesn`t respect Kelly anymore? So, they`re not really afraid of the banter?

PARKER: Well, here`s the thing. The president, and again, he hasn`t made any decisions, but he has grown frustrated and irritated with Kelly. And when he does that, he begins calling friends and confidantes and some of his own staff and asking, what do you think I should do? Should I keep Kelly? Should I replace him with Gary Cohn? You know, what if I bring in this guy, that guy? And when he does that, that then leaks out in consecutive circles until it makes its way to us.

MATTHEWS: There`s no secrets. Let me go to Cornell about this horrible shooting. Now, you know, from the first thing that hit last night, I said I`m not going to -- we`re going to talk gun safety here and we`re going to talk about the AR-15, readily available for an 18-year-old down in Florida. How many magazines you want, kid? Great. Let me get stock them up here. What`s your plan for this?

There`s only one plan. Shoot. Shoot a semi-automatic weapon, battlefield weapon. So it`s used for its purpose which in this case brutally stated is killing people. And nobody wants to do anything about it. I don`t hear any politicians talk about it. Well, and, by the way, unless you`re from Connecticut or you`re from California, I don`t hear anybody talking gun safety.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`m going to disagree with you there. I think House Democrats and Senate Democrats have been fairly vocal about wanting to do something, common sense around gun laws.

MATTHEWS: When?

BELCHER: But if you look at this and look at Pew Research, 68 percent of Americans think we ought to ban assault weapons, right? For Americans, this is just common sense. But you have a Congress that is bought and sold and owned by the special interests, that is the NRA. And when you look at the money that they`re funneling into our politics, they want something in return for this, and it`s blocking common sense gun legislation.

Right now, if you put a pump, the bump clip things, if you put that on the floor of the House, you wouldn`t get a majority vote for it, but you would get a majority voting for that ban of that on the House floor because you would get --

MATTHEWS: You can`t get the vote.

BELCHER: You can`t get that vote. But that`s my point, because they`re held hostage by special interests.

MATTHEWS: Do they say that among themselves, Chris? Do they say I got the NRA on my back, I can`t move an inch here?

WILSON: No, it`s not about that. I mean, look, you take a national perspective on this and then you take it down and you look at in districts where there are -- there is what I would call a hunting culture and people who grow up with guns. And I know it`s really easy for us to label something as common sense legislation, but one man`s common sense --

MATTHEWS: What`s an AR-15 in terms of hunting?

WILSON: I would say an AR-15 is used more for sport than it is for hunting.

MATTHEWS: What kind of sport?

WILSON: Like gun ranges. I`ve shot one at a gun range. It`s actually fun. Would I take it outside of a gun`s range? Absolutely not. But that`s also not my culture. And so the difference there --

MATTHEWS: Why do the gun people -- I`ve got one in my family, look, I love the guy, my brother. But they`ve got the Second Amendment thing. How come we managed to outlaw Tommy guns? I asked this last night, because all these Chicago criminals, the mobsters were using Tommy guns to shoot cops. They said OK, we`ll outlaw.

How come the NRA lives with outlawing -- what do you call -- an automatic weapons, Tommy guns but not semi-automatics that could easily be turn into anytime you want this bump stock into an automatic. Why can`t they outlaw that? That`s in effect an automatic weapon.

WILSON: But most people didn`t know what a bump stock was before Las Vegas. And I think you`re right. It is --

MATTHEWS: We do now.

WILSON: We do and something should be done about it. That`s absolutely right, and I don`t think the Second Amendment was written to cover bump stocks and you don`t find many people who do. But I disagree about -- I mean, the process here is not about the bump stock itself. If it gets introduced by itself, it would be passed.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When they wrote the Second Amendment, you had a musket which wasn`t too accurate and it took back ten minutes to load it. So, it wasn`t like people walking around with bazookas and all kinds of flame throwers. You can have almost thinking.

Yes, go ahead.

BELCHER: You`re not getting this on the floor because of special interests, right, point blank, end of conversation. If it got on the floor, it would pass. It`s not going to get on the floor because there`s big money in our politics. End of conversation. It`s not going to happen.

MATTHEWS: Maybe we should have a third house of Congress who actually votes on things. That`s what they do there, they actually vote.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

We have just time for Ashley Parker of the "Washington Post" to tell me something I don`t know.

Ashley?

PARKER: So, there`s a close friend of Melania Trump`s who we just learned her firm was paid $26 million by the inauguration committee for her work. She kept $1.6 million of that herself. She paid her employees but it raised a lot of eyebrows in the West Wing, a because of the eye popping amount. And also, she has an unusual arrangement. She has a White House hard pass. Means she can get on the grounds.

MATTHEWS: Is it graft?

PARKER: And she`s --

MATTHEWS: Is it graft?

PARKER: That`s an open question.

MATTHEWS: Sounds like graft, anyway, the way you describe it. Anyway, that`s the way you reported it.

Ashley Parker, well, that`s a hot one, I must say.

Chris Wilson, thank you. Cornell Belcher, she`d beat you.

We`ll be right back after this. That`s good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a major anniversary that was marked last week. I think we can use a good one.

The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it stood up. 28 years. Constructed by East Berlin`s communist bosses in August of 1961, the notorious barrier has now been torn away since November, believe it or not, of 1989. And I will never forget being there in that moment of hope, that rainy night in East Berlin when I walked among the young people who got word the great Brandenburg Gate was about to be opened. They stood solemnly in that cold drizzle wanting to be there when the historic moment arrived.

And then a calmness for "The San Francisco Examiner", I wanted to know what it meant all these people kept captive all those years behind the iron curtain. I asked each of them I approach what`s freedom mean to you? And from some work a day answers, I want the freedom to earn what I`ve worked for, a man told me and not be forced to do something because I`m told to.

A nurse told me how her hospital had been losing people like her, thousands had fled to a freer life in the West. It`s bleeding us to death he told me. And finally I heard the voice of history.

This is Freiheit (ph), a young man told me talking to you. He was telling me an American journalism that his new freedom rising up as that wall was coming down was the human act of simply talking openly to someone like me. From the first days of the Cold War, we were told of the lack of freedom behind the iron curtain and later would hear about the Stasi, the secret police, and fear in East Germany of saying anything that might cause trouble, meaning saying anything political. And here I was getting that truth at me firsthand.

As we on HARDBALL continue to say pretty much what we want here night to night, I want to share this peek into history with you from not so very long ago, not so very far away.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END