Impeachment threat grows. TRANSCRIPT: 03/14/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Karen Bass, Ted Deutch, Daniel Gelillo, Susan Page, Susan Del Percio, Tom Perez, Peter Emerson

Show: HARDBALL Date: March 14, 2018 Guest: Karen Bass, Ted Deutch, Daniel Gelillo, Susan Page, Susan Del Percio, Tom Perez, Peter Emerson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Democrats rising. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

It`s the latest sign that the party of Trump should hit the panic button. Democrat Conor Lamb pulled off a stunning upset in last night`s closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Trump country.

NBC News declared Lamb the apparent winner early this morning. It is an ominous sign for Republicans in November. Trump carried that same district by 20 points in 2016. And overall Democrats have over performed in the eight special elections since 2016 by an average of more than 12 points compared to the Presidential race in 2016.

Last night`s contest became a litmus test of sorts for the President and his party. Today some Republicans expressed a sense of dread.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLIE DEN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If you are a Republican in a safe seat, you`d better be ready.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER (R), NORTH DAKOTA: I don`t think you need to be alarmed but certainly need to be reflective on what happened.

REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Every race is a wake-up call. (INAUDIBLE) to see what we did right and what we did wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the President who travelled to the district twice dispatched two of his children there, his vice President there, his interior secretary there and his top, top strategist claimed credit, catch this, for shrinking the margin between the two candidates, cutting the loss.

Paul Ryan agreed with the President in that nonsense. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Look, I think the President helped close this race. I think you saw the public polling. The public polling wasn`t looking good and the President came in helped close this race and got it to where it is right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Toddies (ph).

Anyway. Meanwhile, Trump allies told "the Washington Post" the poor showing Tuesday was not a reflection on the President. But instead a reminder the GOP should be embracing candidates who emulate the unscripted former reality TV star.

Here is why last night`s results are so scary for Republicans. Currently there are 114 Republican-held House seats now considered easier for Democrats to win than Pennsylvania`s 18th district. That means 114 potential past evicted for Democrats in November, all easier pass than what they pulled the victory at last night. Democrats need by the way just 23 seats to take control of the House.

And taking control would mean Democrats controlling committees on the House. That means intelligence and judiciary, having subpoena power in the hands of Democrats and ultimately controlling the President`s fate through the Democrats`, it would be the Democrats control of impeachment.

Nearly 60 Democrats have already voted to move the House toward impeaching President Trump, already 60.

For more on what this election means going forward, I`m joined by Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and political analyst for MSNBC, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA today" and of course our big guest tonight Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Susan del Percio, Republican strategist.

I want to start with the two reporters up top.

Robert you first. This victory last night, I know it turned out going into it that if Saccone, the Republican candidate, had won it would have been an upset. It gotten so bad as an outlook. I know we are calling it an upset. But it looked so bad for the Republicans. And if Saccone has squeaked the victory, that would have been considered a big one.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Republican lawmakers I`m talking to are very troubled today, Chris. They say if you can`t win, if a Republican can`t have a clean win in a district Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016, that doesn`t bode well. Because this is Trump country, a land of steel mills and coal mines. This isn`t the Philadelphia suburbs. It`s western Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: And if Democrats run marines and you are always a marine, you are not ex-marine, you are always a marine, if they run guys run where young and clean with no record to run against and they come across - they look attractive and everything else going for them, how do you look -- that`s the right message. Will the Democrats get that message? You can`t just run candidates. You have to run the right ones in the right places.

COSTA: That`s the question for Perez. I mean, look. Primary season just started in Texas.

MATTHEWS: Will get to him.

COSTA: Well, I`m telling you. Chris, look at what happened in Texas. There was infighting going on in those Texas primaries just a couple weeks ago. You got a whole round of Democratic primaries coming up soon. You are not going to have Conor Lamb and Doug Jones like you had in Alabama and every Democratic race. And that is the Democratic challenge.

Are they going to have the same war they had in 2016? The Bernie Sanders Democrat versus the establishment Democrat? Or can they come together and have the same kind of candidates and recruitment they had in 2006 when they won the House last time.

MATTHEWS: Susan, how does it look in Texas? Because that is another state. They are looking at all the big states for pick up. (INAUDIBLE) the Dems come November?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yes. You know, I think Texas is one of those places that Republicans - that Democrats often think is about to turn their way. But it seems to me this is maybe still a little bit early in the transition of the demographic and other transition of Texas for this to be a great state for them.

What this race in Pennsylvania shows, that there are Republican held House districts in places like Michigan and Wisconsin and Illinois and New York and New Jersey that now look much - I think much more, the prospects seem much brighter than they did 24 hours ago.

MATTHEWS: What about the picking of candidates? I know it is very hard for party leaders like the one we are going to talk to in a second here to actually pick their favorite candidate but there are candidates who look better going in the general election than other candidates. I mean, you can be very left, for example, in some parts of the country and successfully and other parts you would better not do that. You better go - you know, trim your sail a bit going into say places like Texas or western Pennsylvania. You can be pro-choice but be a little bit careful about how you say it, for example. I think the way Lamb said it personally pro-life. Don`t be too militant in that area in certain parts of the country. What do you think?

PAGE: I think you need a candidate that fits the district, obviously. I mean, the candidate you want to run in California is different from the candidate you want to run in Ohio. So that is something that I think the party mounting the challenge, Democratic Party this time, has to be pretty sensitive to.

And the question is, will they have that big tent strategy where Democrats backed Conor Lamb even though he said he was not in favor of Nancy Pelosi as their leader and he is not in favor of gun control, he is not in favor of banning assault weapons.

So this is a question for the party going forward about how flexible they will be on some of these issues that have been litmus tests for party up to now.

MATTHEWS: It will be interesting if he says he won`t vote Pelosi when you runs in the next district where you has to run for a full term because he is not going to get to vote for Pelosi in this term. He is not only be going by December. So that promise is meaningless. Sorry, Mr. Lamb or congressman-elect Lamb.

Let me go right now Tom Perez. Well, that`s a great question. Are you guys ready to do what`s necessary? As I once heard in a great movie, are you willing to do what is necessary to win 218 votes in the House? In other words, find candidates who may not pass the litmus test of the real progressives but pass the litmus test of the voters in that district?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, Conor Lamb is a great example of what we are doing. I have known Conor since I worked at the justice department and we worked in some work in Pennsylvania. He is the real deal. And you know, people --.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- when he says I`m not voting for Pelosi?

PEREZ: Well, Conor Lamb has to do what is best in his district. The beauty was, Chris, this wasn`t about Nancy Pelosi. The Republicans are --

MATTHEWS: They say it is.

PEREZ: But the Republicans tried to make it about it. And the reason Conor Lamb won is because he was fighting for those mine workers who didn`t have their pensions. Healthcare was the number one issue, Chris, in that district. And they voted for Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Health care in Pennsylvania, because healthcare says to a wife of somebody working or a woman, middle aged woman, if the husband loses the job, that means no healthcare. It means in all families, you lose your job, you lose your healthcare. It has always been an issue. With Obamacare, it`s even more fragile sometimes.

PEREZ: Absolutely. But here is what I have been learning over the last year. This is not an aberration. This is a continuation of a trend. We have seen it in state special elections just in 2018. We have won special elections in Kentucky, in Wisconsin, in New Hampshire, in Florida. The list goes on. And the common denominator is we are fielding spectacular candidates.

MATTHEWS: How many Conor Lambs you got in your pocket right now?

PEREZ: Well, we got a tremendous stable of remarkable candidates. Down in Texas, we got a great stable. We can take on Pete Sessions and elect the first two Latinas to congresses in Texas.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Chairman, you found the new Jack Murtha in this guy. You have the perfect guy for southwestern Pennsylvania. And in the wake of last night`s loss, House Republican leaders are working on their messaging. Here is what they had to say earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: It`s really important to also talk about what would happen if Nancy Pelosi became speaker again. And last week we got a really good glimpse of that because the Democrats laid out their alternative to our tax cut plan. They get the majority. If Democrats get the House and Senate, their bill will raise taxes.

PRE. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGER (R), WASHINGTON: $40 million in the hands of real people in our communities will go a lot further than if it was just sitting in Washington, D.C.

RYAN: We need to execute. We need to get our message. We need to make sure that our candidates aren`t massively outraised and outspent on TV as to which the case between these two candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Susan, give me a sense of what you think the Republican reaction will be in terms of message right now, to lose in a safe district for them that`s not safe?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first, I mean, last night`s election results should be very concerning to Republicans. If 2017 was the canary in the coal mine, last night`s result is the first case of black lung for the Republicans or saying there`s no question.

Now what Republicans need to do is focus on their district. When they start talking about Nancy Pelosi in a swing district, the other candidate will talk about Donald Trump. Now I think that there were a lot of very good points brought up earlier. How far to the left will some of these candidates go in a swing district against a Republican? And that will be the challenge for the Democrats. Of course, the challenge for the Republicans in swing districts is to run from their home base and not from Washington. If they run from Washington, people are sick of it. And that was part of congressman elect Lamb`s message was he was from the district. He hasn`t gone Washington.

MATTHEWS: Is the name Trump a plus or negative for the typical candidate for re-election this year, Susan?

DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s a double edged sword because for some of these candidates, they need to get the Trump base out for them to win. That could be the margin of victory. At the same time, they can`t turn off all the independents.

MATTHEWS: I know.

DEL PERCIO: Because we see this all the time.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking you the question, what`s better to be for Trump or question him? If you are a Republican.

PAGE: Well, I mean, it depends where you are a Republican. If you are a Republican from a swing district, you can`t talk about Trump. He will bring you down. And we saw it. Even with Trump up 20 points two years ago or not even two years ago, Trump does not endorse well. His endorsement is not meaningful. People don`t care. That`s why his approval rating is in the 30s while people think that the economy is doing well and it`s rating in the 50s.

MATTHEWS: What do you make, Tom Perez, you are the Democratic leader, and I just - I don`t know. I`m blown apart sometimes by what conservatives and evangelicals will take from Trump. They were so tough on Clinton. I mean, I was tough on Clinton. He wasn`t square with us about the Monica business. But a lot of people said, well, move on, ignore it, a lot of progressives said that. But for some reason, you can see sort of progressives because they are more tolerant. But when you see a conservative evangelical saying give the guy a buy. Give him a mulligan. I mean, doesn`t that amaze you? And does that is work with somebody like Stormy Daniels` stuff and firing your secretary of state like he is a criminal, treat him like a bum. Is that bad behavior hurting him?

PEREZ: You usually get one mulligan every 18 holes. Not one mulligan every hole. And I think what`s happening now and why you see Donald Trump becoming such an albatross is that people understand that he is dishonest. He is deceitful. He promises we are going to deal with the dreamers and then he turns around and does the opposite. He promises on common sense gun violence. And then he literally turns around and does the opposite.

He promises I`m going to help workers out and in Green County where you have all the coal miners he is screwing them on the issue of pensions. He is hurting people on the issue of healthcare. It`s honesty. And the culture of corruption here.

And I will tell you one of the people who was in this clip on the Republican side, Catherine McMorris Rodgers, she has a great opponent in district five out in Washington State, a woman named Lisa Brown. And I believe we can win everywhere. I was out in Washington State recently. We are leading.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations, Tom. Mr. Chairman, last night you won a big one in Pennsylvania.

Thank you, Robert Costa, as always. You could talk a lot more about Pennsylvania. I know that.

And thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you, Susan Page and Susan Del Percio.

Coming up, one day after firing his secretary of state by tweet, Donald Trump`s planning more changes to his administration. He is remaking his cabinet in his own America first image and surrounding himself with people who agree with him. Yes men and yes woman. Let Trump be Trump. Of course, that`s ahead.

Plus, students across the country are leading the fight for common sense gun laws. And today, they protested Washington`s doing nothing on guns with a nationwide walkout. It is like the Congress has walked out, too. Will their walkout force Congress to act?

And if you listen to Trump, he says he hires the best people and likes to listen to many different ideas. But when it comes to his actions, it`s quite the opposite. The west wing is a revolving door. If you say something he doesn`t like, you are gone. Nobody gets to stick around but the yes men. What`s this say about Trump as a leader? No link in there.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a big thing that happens 50 years ago tomorrow.

This is HARDBALL" where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley today joined the international community in chastising Russia accusing that country of carrying a chemical weapons attack on UK soil. Haley said the United States believes Russia is responsible for a nerve agent attack in Britain that targeted a former Russian spy and his daughter. She called the attack a defining moment for U.N. Security Council. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: If we don`t take immediate concrete measures to address this is now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York or in cities or any country that sits on had council. Member states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance. Now one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For its part, and the United Kingdom has taken swift action against Russia. Today, British Prime Minister Theresa May voted the immediate expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats living in the country.

In the statement late today, the White House said it supports that decision. Is she different than Trump or what?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The recent departures of secretary of state Rex Tillerson and economic adviser Gary Cohn who are both viewed as steadying influences on the President have stoked new fears that an already erratic President will have even more latitude to make impulsive decisions.

According to "the Washington Post," the President has rash decision to go it alone on tariffs and North Korea have shaken and alarmed the west wing staff. With less dissent from his closest advisers the President`s allies say that Trump has been liberated to manage his administration as he did his private business, making decisions that feel good in the moment.

A person who has spoken to the President now tells the "Associated Press" that Trump in recent days has told confidantes that he feels emboldened and far less willing to put up with disloyalty around him. There are signs more departures could come from the White House possibly including Trump`s second national security advisor H.R. McMaster who has butted heads with the President.

The uncertainty is feeling anxiety within - fueling it within the west wing as one official tells "Axios," this is the most toxic working environment on the planet. This atmosphere is ripping people apart. There`s no leadership, no trust, no direction. And at this point, there is very little hope.

Meanwhile, it was announced today Gary Cohn will be replaced by Larry Kudlow, the longtime CNBC anchor and economist.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, and Phil Rucker is White House bureau chief at "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

First the news, Phil. Thank you for joining us tonight. You guys know what`s going on.

You and Ashley and the rest have been sniffing out trouble for a long time now. Who is -- how many more heads are -- it seems like Trump`s openly put -- calling it hunting season. He said on the driveway a couple days ago, yes, I`m almost where I want to get. In other words, more heads to go.

PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

So, Chris, I was just talking to a few senior White House officials this afternoon about this. And there`s a feeling that there will definitely be more departures and changes to come, in part because the president is more than a year into this job. He has a very clear sense of who he thinks is doing a good job in the Cabinet and the senior staff, who is doing a bad job, who he gets along with, who he doesn`t get along with,.

And one official said, look, think of it as a thinning out of the inner circle. He is going to try to rely on people that he has good relationships with, a good rapport, who he feels like get him and understand him.

And so that`s why you`re seeing a move like replacing Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo at the State Department, someone the president has a real comfort level with.

MATTHEWS: You know, just thinking back to our best presidents, I mean the ones that succeeded politically -- you can argue left, right all night -- but Roosevelt had Harry Hopkins. Reagan had Jim Baker. They relied on certain people -- and Mike Deaver.

They relied on certain people all the time, because they need a consigliere, that somebody says, well, wait a minute, you didn`t think of this, Mr. President, or you don`t know what this is going to lead to, or there`s a consequence here you haven`t considered.

You need somebody to second-guess you, not challenge you all the time, but be a bigger brain for you. Does Trump think his brain, his well-advertised I.Q., is enough to answer all the big questions, make all the big decisions without help? Is that what he thinks he can do?

RUCKER: I think he does. He feels like he knows how to do this job now, and in those first few months, he was learning, he was managed by people like Mattis and Tillerson and John Kelly, who is now the chief of staff, the sort of generals around him.

And he now feels like, look, he can make these decisions on his own. And I think he`s also going to look to get rid of people who are creating distractions, that create bad headlines and bad political optics for him.

And the first place to look would be the VA, the Veterans Affairs Department, where Secretary Shulkin, he seems to be under a lot of heat right now, and may be out soon.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was just thinking of all the presidents I admired. And Reagan, I do in certain ways. But like Kennedy, I really admired. He had like Ted Sorensen around. He called it his intellectual blood bank.

People need people. I don`t know how you operate, but...

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... I think a member of Congress, you need somebody to check something.

What do you think of that idea? Is that a good idea? Am I going to cancel that meeting? Is that a smart move or not? Or who -- this guy doesn`t think he needs advice from anybody.

BASS: Well, but the problem is, is that if you add to that the fact that he doesn`t read, he doesn`t want to have briefing memos, he doesn`t want information, he comes into the job with very little knowledge, and so he has experts around him, like Mattis and McMaster, and he doesn`t want to listen to them?

So who he is going to have at his side? Basically, his friends, donors, people that were in the construction...

MATTHEWS: His kids.

BASS: His kids.

MATTHEWS: It is like the Romanovs, as I have said a million times.

Anyway, Tillerson and Cohn now join a growing list of top-level aides, staffers and Cabinet members who have resigned or been fired in what amounts to a mass exodus from this administration, which is only 14 months old. Look at that list.

According to an analysis by a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Trump`s first-year turnover rate was 34 percent in 2017. That`s higher than all recent presidencies and more than double the Reagan -- the record during the Reagan administration during his first year.

So, it`s not an ideological problem here. It`s just a problem.

BASS: Right.

MATTHEWS: Are the people -- when you get your head rolled by tweet, you know, Phil, and you`re in Africa, and the only thing that stops you from being fired while you`re there, according to "The Post" today, is that John Kelly said, give the guy a break. Don`t lop his head off when he`s in foreign territory, and -- but warn him I`m going to do it when he gets home, so three hours after he`s home.

In other words, Trump`s inclination was to fire the guy while he`s overseas on assignment. Why would he want to do that?

RUCKER: Well, I think it`s more that he just decided at that moment he had had it with Tillerson. He wanted to fire him. He wanted to make the change.

And once he decided to make that change, he wanted to announce it. He is someone who likes to break his own news on Twitter, and had to be convinced he needed to wait for the secretary of state to finish his mission.

MATTHEWS: But it looks bad.

RUCKER: You know what?

(LAUGHTER)

RUCKER: It looks however it looks, but, look, I mean, he waited. He waited until Tillerson was back in the U.S. for about three hours, and then announced it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Go with him on jet lag. Get him while he`s weak and groggy, and then stick it to him.

RUCKER: And he was sick.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he had a bug.

BASS: What he doesn`t think about is that we have to think what this looks like to the rest of the world.

So, already, we know what the president said about the entire continent of Africa. This is his secretary of state`s first trip to the continent.

MATTHEWS: By the way, that particularly infelicitous term will be remembered for decades.

BASS: Well, exactly.

And so, to me, full attention should have been given to this trip. So, now what do you think the African heads of state feel?

MATTHEWS: Well, if I were in Kenya or Nigeria or Ethiopia expecting a grand trip by the top foreign minister of the United States, the most important country in the world and probably the most important state visit we`re having, and he gets fired on our watch...

BASS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... it`s an insult to us.

BASS: Which says you don`t look very -- you don`t consider very much to us.

But you know what? I have ambassadors in my office all the time who come in and say, what is going on in the United States? They come...

MATTHEWS: And what do you say?

(LAUGHTER)

BASS: Well, you know what I say?

I tell them, basically, that foreign policy is a bipartisan issue. You have to come to Congress, because you can`t really count on the administration. I can`t tell them what the administration`s position is.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I don`t think the secretary of state could either.

BASS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass. It`s great to have you over here.

And, Phil Rucker, you guys are doing it. You`re doing it.

RUCKER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next: Tens of thousands of students today staged a nationwide protest. This was impressive today, calling for action on gun control. Will this movement really force Congress to do anything? How is that for a standard? Anything.

I will speak to one of the organizers of today`s protest. He`s a young student himself.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: I want to tell you, as the representative of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the community of Parkland, what you`re doing here today warms our hearts.

The opportunity that you have to lead, the inspiration that you are taking from the student survivors of Stoneman Douglas and that the country is taking from all of you is going to change America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch in Washington, D.C., today, where thousands of students gathered in front of the White House -- there they are -- to protest inaction on gun violence exactly one month after Parkland school shooting.

The D.C. protest here was part of a nationwide school walkout that took place across all 50 states.

Let`s listen to some of the students who participated today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s become evident that students are the ones who are dying in these shootings. It`s our people. It`s us in school, when we`re trying to get an education. I won`t die saying nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m out here because I`m ready to spread the word, spread the message to keep our voices being heard. I mean, it`s a lot of violence going on. And it`s just time for someone to stand. And it`s our youth that needs to stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re educated. We have goals in our lives. And we have got drives. And now we have a purpose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this afternoon, the House passed the Stop School Violence Act, which provides some funding for strengthening school security, threat assessment teams and law enforcement training. It does not, however, address gun control.

And it`s been endorsed by the NRA.

I`m joined right now by Congressman Ted Deutch, who introduced that House bill, and Maryland student Daniel Gelillo, who -- David -- Daniel Gelillo, who helped organized today`s D.C. walkout.

Let`s go to Daniel, because we don`t get enough noise from you guys. And I mean noise in a positive sense.

Do you think this is going to work? It`s worked in Florida. They have actually raised the age to 21 down there. DANIEL GELILLO, STUDENT PROTEST ORGANIZER: Yes, I think that there we`re going to start seeing stuff really soon.

And these protests will turn into voting movements, which will turn into the House and Senate voting for some actual legislation that will keep us safe.

MATTHEWS: What would you like to see? Are you guys united on what -- do you want to raise the age for buying guns to 21? Do you want to go tougher background checks, which include gun sales? Or what do you want?

GELILLO: All of that.

We also need a ban on semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15. Like I said last time I was here, those weapons just don`t have any purpose for civilian use and they need to be off our streets.

MATTHEWS: Are you bipartisan?

GELILLO: Hard to say right now, but I think that this is a movement.

MATTHEWS: You got Republican -- you got Trump people with you, young people who are Trump supporters with you?

GELILLO: I saw a guy with a make America great again hat out there for some reason, but I don`t know for sure.

MATTHEWS: But they`re in the minority, though?

GELILLO: Definitely.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, this bill of yours, is this the best you could do?

DEUTCH: No, no.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know it`s not. Thank you for saying that, because it didn`t look like much.

DEUTCH: Of course not.

MATTHEWS: I did the math. It`s $50 million, which is a lot of money by any standard.

But for a country of this size -- I`m sorry -- and for 50 states, it`s about a million a state. What will get out of it? You are going to get some guy with a gun standing at the door? And not even that, apparently.

DEUTCH: Here`s what you have to remember.

This -- don`t let anyone tell you, Chris, that this is a response to what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

MATTHEWS: Even though it`s your bill.

DEUTCH: This is -- look, it`s a good bill. I introduced the bill before the shooting.

MATTHEWS: OK.

DEUTCH: It`s a good small piece of legislation that is a good thing to pass. It`s not the response to this. And don`t let anyone kid you into thinking that it is.

MATTHEWS: Where are we on school safety?

Like, some minimal things like there`s only one door you can come in. and there`s somebody there, whether there`s a metal detector or there`s somebody there who is armed. I don`t mean a teacher, but an actual law enforcement-type person.

Is that where we`re at, something like that, at minimum? Or what do we have as sort of best practices on protecting our students?

DEUTCH: Right.

So, there`s now, I think, finally a discussion -- and I had this today with one of my colleagues from Minnesota. How do we ensure that there are best practices in school safety? How do we make sure that that`s an important debate that we`re having and then we focus on mental health?

But the big issue, the things that we have to do are the things that Daniel and all of those kids who walked out today are advocating. We have to pass universal background checks.

MATTHEWS: But you can`t get a vote because of this character Paul Ryan.

DEUTCH: Right.

MATTHEWS: You know how the House works. You have taken civics.

If the speaker doesn`t bring it up, there`s no vote. They won`t vote on this stuff.

GELILLO: I don`t think he will be speaker of the House much longer if he continues to act this way, to be completely honest.

MATTHEWS: Really?

GELILLO: 2018, the election is coming very soon.

MATTHEWS: So, you think the Democrats are going to do something if they get in there?

GELILLO: I think they -- it`s more likely that they will.

MATTHEWS: Pelosi?

GELILLO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Well, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on the Parkland shooting.

Let`s listen to Ryan Petty, the father of one of the students killed. I heard a bit of this. It`s something. He asked why the massacre wasn`t prevented. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN PETTY, FATHER OF PARKLAND VICTIM: The senseless murder of so many, including my own beloved daughter Alaina, tests the limits of faith.

Nikolas Cruz and the deadly danger he posed were the worst kept secrets in Parkland. Yet every relevant authority knew he was deeply troubled with the potential for lethal violence.

Yet despite the fact that each of these agencies were fully authorized and empowered to take action well before tragedy struck, not one of them fulfilled their duty.

The testament of their failure is 17 dead children and teachers, 17 more with life-altering injuries, a burden we must bear forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Daniel, as a student, you`re fresh to the experience. Most of us have forgotten what it feels like. Do you think you could pick out the danger of a kid who just graduated? He was kicked out. He had a bad experience in school. He was bullied. He wasn`t -- unpopular.

Can you pick out the ones who are really worth putting under surveillance?

GELILLO: Well, why do we need to pick out people?

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you know -- picking out this guy, Nick Cruz? Stopping this from happening, what could you have done?

GELILLO: If he didn`t have access to guns, this would not have happened. I think that`s the bottom line. If Nikolas Cruz did not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But suppose his parents gave him a gun or he got -- one of these people shot their parent and grabbed the guns.

GELILLO: If there was no access to guns, this would not have happened. Like, what more has to be said?

MATTHEWS: OK. I hear you. I hear you.

DEUTCH: Chris, if you just -- if you look at what happened in the Florida legislature, where, for the first time in decades, they defied the NRA and they passed 21 to buy a gun and a three-day waiting period and gun restraining orders, those are the kinds of things that Congress should be passing right now.

And, by the way, we don`t know that we can always prevent these. But if we had that 21 to buy a gun, he wouldn`t have been able to buy the gun where he did. If we had universal background checks, we would prevent mass killings.

After this -- what happened today and the March for Our Lives, which is coming up in 10 days, there is a moment, a movement that has been created. These students are going to ensure that things will change.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with Daniel, but I`m pushing you -- I`m pushing you because the argument we keep hearing from the right is, it`s all about mental illness.

And now, by the way, once they got this guy on trial, they want to execute him. So all this talk about, it was mental illness, forget about that. That`s to solve the gun issue for them, right?

Now they want to -- they don`t think he`s mentally deficient. They want to execute him. Anyway, isn`t that is what going on?

DEUTCH: Well, listen, we can`t -- here`s the thing. Of course we should be talking about mental health, but we can`t demonize people with mental illness as part of this.

MATTHEWS: Of course not.

I`m just saying they use the mental illness as one of the dodges on gun control. And once they get this guy in trial, they will want to execute him. And they don`t really believe it was a mental case.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman.

DEUTCH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re a very forceful spokesman.

You are too, sir.

GELILLO: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Daniel Gelillo, for putting this whole thing -- I have never heard of anybody putting something this effective together so fast.

Up next: President Trump promised to hire only the best people, those who would challenge his ideas. But, in reality, have you noticed, his administration has proven to be just the opposite. It`s a classic case of, do as I say, not do as I do.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are those that are saying it`s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a cabinet and I happen to agree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he happens to agree with it being the finest cabinet put together. Well, that was President Trump back in October. Not a million years ago, in October, calling his cabinet the finest group ever assembled. Of course, he assembled it.

Here`s what he said about that same cabinet yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So, I`ve gotten a lot of people over the last year, and I`m really at a point where we`re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Heads are going to roll. It joins a list of things he d that turned out not to be true. He said he would hire the best people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to deliver. We`re going to get the best people in the world. We have the greatest people in the world. We don`t use them.

We`re going to use our smartest and our best. We`re not using political hacks anymore. That`s the people that do these deals. They`re political hacks.

We want experts, our finest people. We don`t want people B-level, C-level, D-level. We have to get our absolute best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, since then, Trump`s administration has set a record for turnover. Last week, Trump waived off the chaos engulfing the White House saying he just likes to listen to people argue, then make a decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it, I like seeing it and I think it`s the best way to go. I like different points of view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I like different points of view. And yet, the president continues to get rid of people who disagree with him. His top economic adviser Gary Cohn was driven out after disputing Trump`s trade policy. And here`s what he said about Rex Tillerson yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along actually quite well. But we disagreed on things.

When you look at the Iran deal, I think it`s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something. And he felt a little bit differently.

So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it`s going to go very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But perhaps Trump`s biggest whopper was what he said repeatedly about his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton.

That`s next with the HARDBALL roundtable.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If Hillary Clinton were to be elected, it would create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis.

Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency. And will make it virtually impossible for her to govern.

The investigation will last for years. The trial would probably start. Nothing will get done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, of course, on the campaign in 2016 saying that if Hillary Clinton was elected, the scandals would never end. Well, now, just 14 months into his administration, there`s a special counsel investigation swirling around his presidency.

On top of that today, a hearing date was set for the lawsuit adult film actor Stormy Daniels filed against the president and his personal lawyer.

Let`s bring in the roundtable. Eli Stokols is MSNBC political analyst, Kimberly Atkins is chief Washington reporter for the "Boston Herald", and Peter Emerson is a Democratic strategist.

So, let me ask you, Kimberly, how is this faring? The irony is a replete here.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, BOSTON HERALD: Can you imagine if someone was president when their campaign aides have been indicted? That`s what we have right now. There`s been an ongoing investigation. No end in sight, and just one scandal and hiccup and problem after another with this presidency.

But the same people who decried how terrible that would be if it were Hillary Clinton largely ignore it -- what`s going on on the Republican side.

MATTHEWS: I keep wondering whether normal people meaning somewhere in the center or center left or center right, not extreme in any way, how can they justify Trump`s behavior? His basic bad behavior, the way he treats human beings, the way he treats colleagues, firing people by tweet. It`s not the way people are supposed to treat -- your parents tell you don`t talk like that to other people, don`t treat them like that, when they`re going to school with you in third grade or you`re president, he`s secretary of state, or she is secretary of state. Nobody acts like that.

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, except Donald Trump and he`s been in the public life for such a long time, that maybe this is baked in with people, the allegations from women during the campaign. They didn`t prevent his election ultimately. And I think that.

MATTHEWS: Discounted.

STOKOLS: Well, it`s just difficult to know. I mean, in spite of all the controversy and pending investigation, the White House turnover over 40 percent in the first 15 months, in spite of all of that, his approval rating doesn`t budge much. It`s in the high 30s or the low 40s. That`s really a shocking thing given the sort of chaos that we see on a daily basis.

MATTHEWS: Peter, what do you think of this? Why does he get away with everything?

PETER EMERSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don`t think it`s shocking at all, because I think, in fact, they have nowhere else to go. They`re still holding onto the hope of his promises. Make America great again which translates into jobs and wages for them. Where else are they going to go?

But the interesting thing is the younger generation breaks up their relationships by Twitter. So, in some ways, it`s quite ironic that Trump just broke up with Tillerson via Twitter when all the young people I know do the same thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Kimberly, I didn`t know that was the new way to send a "Dear John" letter is by tweet.

ATKINS: Apparently so. Apparently so. I take your word for it. But look --

MATTHEWS: That`s a safe answer.

ATKINS: But, look, the Donald Trump that they have is the Donald Trump they saw on reality TV, the Donald Trump who was the brash talking businessman. That is not a surprise. So, this -- what they are seeing is something that was promised on the campaign trail. It`s not like all of a sudden he has changed.

MATTHEWS: Was Stormy baked in?

EMERSON: Yes.

ATKINS: Yes.

STOKOLS: Almost every aspect of this presidency is meant for public consumption whether it`s the tweets or whether it`s the appointees to the cabinet in many cases drawn from the ranks of cable television.

MATTHEWS: That`s true.

STOKOLS: And I think that it is increasingly difficult for the country to tell the difference between entertainment and government and things that actually matter because everybody is consuming this like it`s a show. The Stormy Daniels episode, the Sam Nunberg episode last week that everyone has already forgotten about. Every day there is something. And it`s just --

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if I`m going by this. Kimberly, you`re going to start everybody. It seems to me people know one thing about the presidency. It`s one person that they elect. It`s one person. The whole country gets to do it. You pick one person and you have to trust their judgment when there`s a crisis like an airplane pilot. You have to trust the judgment of the person up front when there`s a crisis.

Do they trust? Does his behavior suggest you should trust him?

ATKINS: No, and polls show people don`t necessarily --

MATTHEWS: But they still --

(CROSSTALK)

ATKINS: And, look, there have been presidents throughout history -- what`s different now, there have been presidents that may not have seemed that trustworthy but they had a good team. He is now eroding that team and Trumpfying that team around him. And I think what we`ll have to see is the polls that subsequently have that because people think, oh, well, you have John Kelly there, he`s a moderating force.

MATTHEWS: How longing is going to that last?

ATKINS: That`s changing rapidly. So, you`re going to have somebody who people don`t necessarily trust.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Eli, tell me something I don`t know.

STOKOLS: So, Larry Kudlow likely to be named to head the National Economic Council.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`ve known him forever.

STOKOLS: So, you know, we`re just talking about all the people that the president appointed and then who have left. He loves loyalty. And he loves the superficial qualities. How do they look and sound on television?

Kudlow is talking to couple of sources today who are remembering back during the transition, he wanted this job that went to Gary Cohn during the transition. One of the reasons he didn`t get it at that time was because Trump perceived him not to be loyal enough because he was critical after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out. Obviously, with more than a year later, that`s water under the bridge.

MATTHEWS: That`s under the bridge, it`s gone.

STOKOLS: I guess so.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Kimberly?

ATKINS: Remember DACA?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ATKINS: We haven`t talked about that in awhile. But, apparently, the White House floated another trial balloon of a DACA plan to attach the spending bill that has to pass to keep the government funded, some temporary reprieve for recipients in exchange for some border security. One reason you probably didn`t hear much about it is because it was dead on arrival with Republicans on the Hill.

MATTHEWS: They still want the diversity --

(CROSSTALK)

ATKINS: They still want the tougher attacks on legal immigration which means that there will be a stalemate.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re the bad guys, not him.

ATKINS: Well, we`ll see. He can change his mind.

MATTHEWS: Peter?

EMERSON: So, Trump is setting yet another example of behavior by another high level appointee in terms of mixing personal business with government business. Barry Myers has been nominated to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency. He`s the owner of AccuWeather. He`s triggered an inspector general`s investigation before his confirmation hearing begins. And three former administrators of NOAA have called for his rejection.

MATTHEWS: He fits the pattern, doesn`t he?

Anyway, Eli Stokols, Kimberly Atkins and Peter Emerson.

When we return, let me finish tonight with something that happened 50 years ago this week. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me end tonight with something I spoke about just minutes before the show tonight at a Senate ceremony marking the half century industry of New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy`s announcement for president.

Fifty years ago tomorrow, March 15th, Senator Robert Kennedy gave an instruction to his aide Frank Mankiewicz, quote: Better reserve the Senate caucus room for tomorrow.

Robert Kennedy hoped to put off walking into this room to declare for president and hoped to do it in 1972 when the matter`s nomination would be open. As I write in "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit", he didn`t want to challenge a Democratic president. Kennedy was a good politician and knew this wasn`t good politics.

Yes, Lyndon, Johnson had just gotten a scare from Eugene McCarthy four days earlier in New Hampshire, but Johnson had not just won but beat him on a write-in without the name Lyndon Johnson even being on the ballot. Bobby had tried an 11th hour maneuver to change Johnson`s war policies in Vietnam the day before he and Ted Sorenson had gone secretly to the Pentagon to talk about the commission idea with Johnson`s defense secretary, Clark Gifford.

Johnson shot it down and decided it would be admitting defeat on the Vietnam War issue.

Here was Bobby that Saturday, March 16th, the day before St. Patrick`s Day walking into this room that held so much history for him, so much personal history. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where had he worked for and against Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Rackets Committee where he battled Jimmy Hoffa and underworld figures like Sam Giancana, and most poignantly, the same spot where his beloved brother declared for president in 1960, eight years later.

Again, Bobby had hoped to wait four years for his campaign. He didn`t want to divide the Democrats now in three directions, Johnson, himself and Eugene McCarthy. But he decided finally that morning he had to try. He saw the war tearing the country apart. He wanted very much to hold it together.

And that showed and who came out to salute him along the railroad tracks when he was carried on his funeral train to join his brother in Arlington. We will always remember the people of Baltimore singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," but also the little families of all backgrounds quietly saluting their fellow patriot.

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

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