IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Twenty years of Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 05/28/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Twenty years of Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 05/28/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 28, 2018

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Twenty years of Donald Trump. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington with a special edition of HARDBALL.

Long before he took up the most powerful office in the world, Donald Trump had established himself as a public figure. Always willing to share his thinking about the issues and events of our time. Through two decades, I have interviewed this (INAUDIBLE) and too often divisive President more than a dozen times. And viewed today, those conversations take on a new meaning when seen through the lens of Trump`s presidency.

Let`s begin with Mr. Trump`s first appearance on HARDBALL just days after former President Bill Clinton confessed to his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in August of 1998. Trump, who is now facing allegations from Stormy Daniels, said that President Clinton should have taken the Fifth Amendment to avoid admitting to the affair.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk another 52-year-old, Bill Clinton. What`s he need to do?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don`t know. It`s so embarrassing. And you really have to say where does it stop? I really like this guy, but you really have to say, you know, where does it stop? Why do they keep revealing the details? He had sex, but now they talk about the kind of sex, where it took place, where it was, on the desk, off the desk. I mean, it`s so out of control. I have never seen anything like it. I just can`t imagine.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he could have gotten away with a complete mea culpa in January when he decided to cover it up? You think at that moment if he said I`m going to throw all my money on the table, the American people like me. They are going to buy this.

TRUMP: Well, I think he probably couldn`t any worse. I wouldn`t have done something I certainly different than what they did. I mean, that all started it. Paula Jones is a loser but the fact is that she may be responsible for bringing down a President indirectly. And you know, that statement was a bad statement to have been made. And it`s proven to be false, so.

MATTHEWS: Which statement was that? I`m sorry?

TRUMP: The Paula Jones in the deposition, which really started this.

MATTHEWS: When he denied it. So if you are in a hole, stop digging. At some point you walk away from the deal and say I`m not dealing here anymore. I`m going to drop his line.

TRUMP: Well, I think his little speech after it was a disaster. It wasn`t in the right tone. And I`m not sure he should have done it. And I`m not even sure that he shouldn`t have just taken the Fifth Amendment and said look, I don`t get along with this man, Starr. He is after me. He is a Republican. He is this, he is that. And you know, just taking the Fifth Amendment. It`s a terrible thing for the President to take the Fifth Amendment, but he probably should have done it.

I don`t think he could have done any worse than what`s happened. It`s such an embarrassment to him. I mean, I see him walking around. It is like a terrible embarrassment.

MATTHEWS: Where is he going? Up or down?

TRUMP: Well, I think the best he can do is tread water two years. I really believe that. I think he can tread. I think he can maybe keep the office and just tread and get out as opposed to Nixon who got out in a rather harsh manner. But it may be worse than that. But I really believe the best he can do is tread water.

MATTHEWS: Did you ever have a flicker when you are taking a shower, walking to work, you are waking up in the morning, you said Donald Trump, you have won every battle you ever fought. Why don`t you run for governor? Why don`t you run for President? Have you ever think about that?

TRUMP: People want me to all time.

MATTHEWS: What about you?

TRUMP: I don`t like it. Can you imagine that controversial I would be? You think about him with the women? How about me with the women?


MATTHEWS: My next interview with Mr. Trump was our 1999 HARDBALL college tour at his alma mater, the Wharton school of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Even back then Trump was talking up a run for President in 2000.

Here is what he had to say about his future bride, Melania, but also about the institution of marriage. Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: You have another special guest here I would like you to introduce at this time.

TRUMP: I do indeed.

MATTHEWS: I see her.

TRUMP: My supermodel. Where is my supermodel? This is Melania. This is Melania Knauss. Stand up.


MATTHEWS: And one thing it`s safe to say about you, Donald, you know the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia.

TRUMP: I do. I do. I absolutely do.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a tough question. This is a technical thing, but it`s kind of fun. The President of the United States gets an allowance to live on. That`s why you never have to cash a check when you are President. They live us off, basically. You won`t have that problem. But they have an allowance for parties and whenever they pass out the wine glasses and have (INAUDIBLE). The first lady gets to control all that. And that she has been think all the east wing? How are you going to handle all that?

TRUMP: Well, I got myself into a lot of trouble that I said could be married within 24 hours if need be and --. See, that`s what happens when you go to Wharton, folks. It`s one of those. But I could handle it. I could handle it very easily. I`m not sure that today being married, and I really could be married, and, you know, it`s one of those things. But I just got out of a marriage.

MATTHEWS: So you will handle the social arrangements if you get elected President yourself?

TRUMP: I really handle it I guess probably myself or we will see what happens. Lots of things could happen. Lots of changes made. And I believe -- I have to tell you, though, in all seriously, I believe strongly in the institution of marriage. To me marriage is an incredible institution when you get it right. My parents, my father just died, as you probably know a few months ago. They were married 63 years and they just had the most incredible marriage.

So I think the one thing that my father couldn`t believe and really didn`t understand is how could you get divorced? Divorce wasn`t even a word in his vocabulary, but it happens. I believe in the institution of marriage. There is nothing better. It beats being the world`s greatest playboy by a million but sometimes you don`t have a choice.

MATTHEWS: So if you are President of the United States -- I got a question about that later. But if you are President of the United States, you expect it will be inevitably a first lady joining you at some point?

TRUMP: I do.

MATTHEWS: Melania, would you like to stand up and answer one big question? The only person I can imagine putting Jackie Kennedy to shame. Melania, would you like to be first lady?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, it would be an honor to be a first lady.


MATTHEWS: Thank you.


MATTHEWS: In that same 1999 interview, Trump said his top concern as commander in chief would be to stop nuclear proliferation. And in particular preventing a conflict on the Korean peninsula. And now nearly 20 years later, Trump finds himself grappling with a nuclear North Korea. Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: If you get to be President, define the nirvana, the great age of Trump. What would it be like?

TRUMP: I think the nirvana would be cleaning up the world from nuclear missiles, because ultimately we have got ourselves a big problem. And these young folks in this room, and they Are incredible, these people are going to have themselves a bigger problem than me or you or anybody else. And frankly, you have North Korea that is loading up with nuclear warheads. You have other countries, China. You have Russia has them and they don`t even know who is controlling them. And I think it`s singly the biggest issue out there, and somebody has to talk about it. Now I brought it up. People don`t like mentioning it. But that really has to be done.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about some things that loom ahead. You are President of the United States. You get a call from the CIA chief. He says I got to come over. The CIA chief comes on and shows you all this paper that shows the North Koreans are ready to move. They are going use the tunnels they have got there. They are going to use perhaps the threat of nuclear. Their armor is mastered at the border. Everything is mobilized. They are ready to move. What would you -- how would go about dealing with a situation like that?

TRUMP: Well, I have to think about it at that time. I would have to see where they are. I would have to see how the south is reacting because obviously the south is going to have something to say about it. I will tell you, though, and I alluded to it at the beginning, that North Korea in my opinion is probably our single biggest problem right now.

MATTHEWS: But would you send them a threat of saying if you move, we move, you are gone?

TRUMP: I don`t think I want to signal anything right now. I think it`s fair. I don`t want to have it held against me at a later date. But to be honest, something is going to have to be done with North Korea. They are out of control. They are very unstable. They are very militant. And something is going to have to be done.


MATTHEWS: Trump next joined me in April of 2001 to discuss President George W. Bush`s first 100 days in office. He gave the new President high marks and contrasted Bush`s style in office with that Bush`s predecessor, Bill Clinton.


MATTHEWS: You know, Mr. Trump, it seems to me that we have a President here different than some of the guys who have running and for all this (ph) recently. He is not exactly a political junkie. He doesn`t talk about politics like a senator. He is more of like, you know, articulate. He is kind of an MBA kind of guy. Do you sense watching him? You`re a Wharton guy. He is a Harvard business guy. Do you have a sense that he is running this more like a business, the White House now?

TRUMP: Well, I think he is running it really well. I think he has really stepped up and he is doing an awfully good job. I mean, he had some little turmoil with China and other things that weren`t expected. They weren`t anticipated. But he really has stepped up to the plate. And I think he is becoming very Presidential and doing a very good job.

MATTHEWS: If you had to do a scouting report on a chief executive, how would you compare him? Put these two men side to side. The new President we`ll watch for 100 days now, and the President we had for eight years?

TRUMP: Well, you are talking about opposites. I mean, Bill Clinton was very comfortable, very everything. But, you know look, a lot of people were extremely upset with him, and especially the way he got out. I like him very much. But I know of Mark Rich. I have been studying Mark Rich for years. And you know, to give him a pardon was -- it was just something that was inexcusable. I think that we are dealing with very opposites. And I think that`s exactly what the electorate wanted. They really wanted opposites, and that`s what they got.

MATTHEWS: Do you is a sense that Hillary Clinton has really moved on to her own politically? I`m not talking about her marriage or anything, but as a person that she has really now dropped the booster rocket completely. She is Hillary Rodham Clinton now. Bill is not part of the scene.

TRUMP: Well, I think she is very much. I think she very much loves him. She has had to go just on a personal basis, which is probably more interesting to most of the people. I`m sure to all of your viewers, the fact is she really does -- she is totally in love with this man. But boy, she has had a tough time of it. There is no question about it.

MATTHEWS: Do you they that pardon for Mark Rich which you don`t think was a good idea? Do you think that hurt her in New York?

TRUMP: I think it hurt her. I think it really hurt him. People that were really backing him and willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, just said at the end, they just said look, we have just had it. And it was sad. And I like him so much.

I mean, I think he is terrific in so many ways. But it was just a culmination of so many different things. And I mean, I have friends that no matter what he did was OK. When he did that, they just gave up. And it was a very sad thing. I believe for him.


MATTHEWS: That same year, 2001, Trump joined me again, by phone this time, just six days after the attacks of 9/11. Here is what he said about rebuilding downtown New York, and how New Yorkers pulled together amid the devastation.


MATTHEWS: OK, we have on the phone right now New York real estate developer Donald Trump, an old friend of this show`s.

Mr. Trump, let me ask you the question. Rudy Giuliani said the best thing America can do for New York which has been so hard historically is to go to New York and spend some money. What do you think?

TRUMP (on the phone): Well, I think that`s true. Judging from the streets today, Chris, a lot of people are out there. A lot of people are very proud to be New Yorkers and very proud to be in this country generally speaking. I mean, it`s been amazing. There has been an amazing show of confidence and faith, despite what happened with the almost 700 point down market.

MATTHEWS: You know what shocked me about New York very positively? I`m usually shocked negatively, is the way everybody seemed to pull together last week. I mean, it wasn`t like who is the cop, who is the fireman, who is the rich real estate developer, who is the stockbroker. Everybody seemed to be on the same level. Tell me what you are thinking.

TRUMP: Well, Chris, it`s a truly great city. And I have known it for a long time. And people that are here know it. And it really is. It`s a truly great city. And I think they have really proved hit the week. Our firemen, our policemen, I mean, these people are so brave. It`s unbelievable what they have done and what they are doing. I watch the dig- out now, the construction workers. I have never seen anything like it. It`s a tragic event, but it`s somehow pulled the country and New York even closer to together.

MATTHEWS: Do you think New York needs to replace, Donald, do you think -- you need to replace the world trade towers?

TRUMP: Well, you know, the big question is the tenants. I mean, how many tenants, how feet are you going to build? It certainly would be beautiful. Symbolically it would be important. I`m not sure it has to take shape in the same form. You know, the world trade center was never considered a great architectural masterpiece until about six days ago, as you know. And now all of the sudden everyone is talking as though it was the greatest.

I really think we can do better. But I do think it`s important to rebuild in some form and maybe a much better form, a stronger form than even the world trade center.


MATTHEWS: Coming up, throughout my years of interviewing Donald Trump, I questioned him about running for President many times. He teased the notion, but his answer to me on this subject could also be surprising, and that`s ahead.

This is a special edition of HARDBALL, 20 years of Trump.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, 20 years of Trump.

We continue our look back on the interviews I have done with Donald Trump to see what we can glean watching the evolution of the man who became our 45th President. The attacks of September 11th figured prominently in candidate Trump`s 2016 Presidential campaign which brought him criticism for his attacks on Muslims. But back then, the real estate billionaire took a more measured tone. And he preys on then mayor Michael Bloomberg, someone who would later become his critic.

Let`s listen to this exchange I had with him six months after the attack.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about New York. You are not just a great builder in New York and developer, you are a figure of almost comic book status. You are a major personality in New York, in the celebrity culture of New York. You are part of the pizazz of Manhattan and the big apple. How is that mood of the city changed? Is it less frivolous? Is it more soaker? How has that changed? You know this as well as anybody. What`s the answer? What`s different about New York?

TRUMP: Well, there is a sadness, but at the same time I have never seen the spirit that we have in New York today. I think Michael Bloomberg is doing an amazing job as mayor. I think he is doing a really great job. He is going to go down. I have known Michael for a long time. He is going to go down as a great mayor. It is really -- there is a sadness, but there is a spirit, and I say New York will come back stronger and bigger and better than it ever was before.


MATTHEWS: 2016 wasn`t the first time Donald Trump dived into politics. In fact, he spoke of running as far back as 1988. In 2000, he launched an exploratory committee as a reform party candidate. In 2003, I asked if he was still interested in politics. Let`s watch that.


MATTHEWS: Donald Trump, you talked about possibly running in 2004 after pulling out last time. Are you still possibly interested? I think you`re a Republican. That`s my guess. You wouldn`t challenge the President this time, would you?

TRUMP: Well, no, I wouldn`t. Number one, I never wanted to run. I looked at it because we had some polls that you did and other people that show I would have done well. But I just love real estate. I love building buildings. You said you heard I was going to run in 2004. I hadn`t heard that one.

MATTHEWS: No, you were quoted. We dug up about an old quote of yours that said let`s play (INAUDIBLE). Anyway, there was an old quote we have that said you would take a look at it in 2004. Here`s what you said. I continue to be interested in the political process and cannot rule out a possible candidacy in 2004 that was you in February 2000.

TRUMP: That was a long time ago. I hadn`t heard that in a long time. I never did run and I probably never will run.


MATTHEWS: Take a listen to his answer on the same interview on who he would vote for in hypothetical matchups between the Clintons and potential opponents. There is a special appearance here by someone who now plays a prominent role in his legal defense. Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: What about Bill Clinton against Mike Bloomberg next time. Can he win the mayor`s race if he goes for it, the former President?

TRUMP: Well, Mike is really working hard, and I think he is doing a very good job. And Bill Clinton is not going run. And Bill just join mid golf club, so I like him very much. And I like him anyway beyond golf clubs. But he is not going to be running.

MATTHEWS: Rudy versus Hillary in 2008. Who wins?

TRUMP: That`s going to be a very interesting one. You are talking the Presidential. And that will certainly be an interesting one. And that could happen. I don`t predict a winner, but that could certainly happen.

MATTHEWS: You don`t have a favorite? Let me ask you who would you vote for, Hillary or Rudy?

TRUMP: Don`t ask me that question. Don`t ask me that question.


MATTHEWS: A major point of contention throughout the 2016 campaign was Donald Trump`s position on the Iraq war. Candidate Trump repeatedly said he had been opposed to the war before the invasion and often took credit for saying he knew it would destabilize the region. But back in November of 2003, he actually called on President Bush to stay the course. It`s a war his current national security adviser John Bolton helped orchestrate. Let`s watch the interesting exchange.


MATTHEWS: This was an elective war. The President thought we had to do it. He made a judgment call. He took us into Iraq. Do you think he will reconsider that judgment as the costs rise?

TRUMP: I don`t think he is going to. He`s a very committed guy. He`s -- he`s committed to that whole situation. And I don`t think he will really reconsider. I don`t think he probably can at this point. Other people will. And you`re going to find out at the polls whether or not those other people are right.

I mean, you see more and more doves, if you call them doves. The question is whether or not we should have been in Iraq in the first place. I don`t think that this president can do anything about that. He is really -- he is on a course that has to stay.


MATTHEWS: Much more to come from my interviews over the years with Donald Trump, including what Trump thinks makes a good leader, why we elect the presidents we do, and the newsmaking interview we had at the height of the 2016 campaign.

This is a special edition of HARDBALL, "20 Years of Trump."


MATTHEWS: Our special edition of HARDBALL, "20 Years of Trump," will continue in a minute, including that interview I did with him during the 2016 campaign, when he knocked himself off his game.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, "20 Years of Trump."

The year 2004 was a big turning point in Donald Trump`s career as celebrity businessman, given the debut of his reality show "The Apprentice."

I spoke with him the day the show premiered.


MATTHEWS: When you fire these people, it is not the same as firing somebody, or is it, in real life?

TRUMP: It is not much different, Chris, to be honest.

It`s -- you know, over the years, I have fired, unfortunately, a lot of people. And you can do it nice. You can do it easy. You can take your time. I have taken months and months to fire people. And, in the end -- or you can do it viciously and quickly, and you`re fired.

In the end, it doesn`t matter. When you fire somebody, they hate you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When Trump came back in September to promote the second season of the hit show, I asked the upcoming presidential campaign, his thoughts on George Bush vs. John Kerry, campaign politics, and the war in Iraq.

Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: Economically, what is the impact of a government that decides to borrow a war, basically, to pay for it later, fight now...

TRUMP: Well, it`s...

MATTHEWS: Fight now, pay later?

TRUMP: Look, I don`t think it is positive. I think it has been a big negative.

There are other places. If you look at North Korea, if you at -- frankly, I mean, I think if the United States used that as a launching base to go into Iran and clean out some of their nuclear problems, maybe, all of a sudden, I would start to say that was a great move.


TRUMP: Because we ought to look at Iran and we ought to look at North Korea, and what they`re doing with nuclear weapons.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this -- this choice people make.

What kind of a choice is it? I mean, historically, a reelection campaign has been distinctive from a regular presidential campaign, because you basically have a track record of a guy for four years.

Is this really what it is about? If the guy has done a good job, keep him, if he hasn`t, dump him, or is it a choice question, like we always face in other races?

TRUMP: Well, I think, in this case, it is both. Some people love Bush.

He is a very -- it is very fragmented. But it is really both. People love him and the job he`s done, and other people just can`t stand him and the job he`s done. And people are very mixed on Kerry.

And I will tell you this. I sat through the convention in New York. And they did a great job, the Republicans. But maybe the greatest spin I`ve ever seen on anything is, it`s almost coming out that Bush is a war hero and Kerry is not. I think that could be the greatest spin I`ve ever seen.

MATTHEWS: Because?

TRUMP: Well, you know, the whole thing with the Swift Boat group, which obviously is being done by Bush and Bush`s people, happened to be brilliant.

They`ve taken all of that war hero thing away from Kerry, and they`ve almost given to it Bush. And Bush, frankly, was not serving. That, we know.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- about perhaps what you might call unnecessary roughness in politics.

This week, Dick Cheney, the vice president, a very tough guy, said that, if we elect, the American people elect Kerry, that we`re basically going to face ourselves with the threat of a devastating attack.

He is saying, vote Democrat, you`re going to get attacked.

TRUMP: Well, it`s a terrible statement, unless he gets away with it.

But, you know, the other side doesn`t seem to be hitting very hard. The Republicans are hitting much harder than the Democrats. It`s a terrible statement, unless -- you know, let`s see how the other side handles it. But, already, after two days, I haven`t seen much handling.

MATTHEWS: It`s a terrible attack, because you`re saying -- because it means that you believe the other side, just by its election, would endanger the country.

TRUMP: Well, I mean, just take a look at that whole premise.

Nine-eleven happened during the Bush administration. Why doesn`t somebody attack him? I`m not taking sides. I`m just saying, it`s amazing. He made that statement two or three days ago, and I haven`t heard anything to knock him. It`s really amazing, when you think of it.

MATTHEWS: If you were the corner man -- I know "The Contender" is coming, the program you`re going to be producing -- if you were a corner man for Kerry right now, what would you tell him to do?

Quit? Change? Get tough? Be visceral? Be spontaneous? Be something you`re not?

TRUMP: He has to get out...

MATTHEWS: How can you -- how can you -- how can you change this guy to a winner?

TRUMP: Look, I know him. And he`s a very capable guy. And, frankly, every election, he`s losing until the end. That`s the one thing you have to remember about him. He was losing the primary, and he ended up winning easily.

And if you go back four weeks before the primary, he was out of it. I mean, people weren`t even talking about him. And he ended up winning.

He was also losing for the Senate to Governor Weld, and it was not even going to be a contest. He had 30 percent of the vote to 70 percent. And he ended up killing him. So, you know, the guy has a way of coming back.

So, don`t just think that he`s going to go away. He`s a very capable guy. But the Republicans so far have just been decimating the Democrats. And I think Kerry has to go out and do his thing. And he`s fine at it. He`s won lots of elections. But it`s very interesting. He has come from behind on many elections.

MATTHEWS: Why is he putting out even now a confusing position on Iraq?

TRUMP: Well, I think the whole campaign so far, as far as I`m concerned, has been confusing.

He ought to say something. And, frankly, I think what people really want to hear is, we`re going to get out of there was as quickly as possible. I think that`s what people want to hear.

MATTHEWS: You mean you don`t think they care whether he is for the war or not? Because that seems unclear as hell right now.

TRUMP: Well, you know, so many things can happen.

I was asking somebody today, why can`t they find a 6`6`` Arab named Osama bin Laden? He is 6`6``. He is on a dialysis machine, supposedly, and we can`t find him?


TRUMP: And then you see him on television all the time. They can`t track him? If I`m on television, they track me. If you`re on television, they track.

We can`t track this guy?

Now, if Bush found him prior to the election, the election is won. Then I would tell Kerry, you have to -- might as well give it up, because the election is won. So, a lot of things can happen that can inure both positive and negative to both parties.


MATTHEWS: After the 2004 election, I asked Trump about his take on the economy, and I got a look at how he would handle one government program if he were president.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the economy.

I want to ask you -- only got a couple minutes left here, Donald. I want to ask you about the three big concerns I have, as one of -- one of the many Americans worried about the economy.

The dollar, are you worried about them letting it go, dip too low on the world market?

TRUMP: Well, the dollar is keeping the economy good, in a sense, because people are coming to New York, as an example. They`re buying apartments in New York. They`re using the hotels.

The dollar, the -- it`s a horrible word when they say the low dollar, the cheap dollar. It`s a terrible word to use. But the fact is, it happens to bring a lot of business into this country.

MATTHEWS: But it`s great to travel in this country. It`s a terrible -- it`s a terrible situation to travel overseas with, right?

TRUMP: Well, that`s right, but it keeps people here. So I`m not sure that is so bad.

MATTHEWS: You are not worried that there will come a time when the people who are -- who are lending us money from the Far East, China and Japan will simply say, I don`t like the value of the dollar anymore, I`m getting out, and then we`re in big trouble with a bank run basically on U.S. paper?

TRUMP: I don`t see it happening. This is one country that it`s just not going to happen to.

Having the dollar where it`s a reduced value a little bit, it sounds terrible, and you hate to say it, but the fact is, it brings business, and it is actually good in terms of what we all do.

MATTHEWS: So, you expect they will keep this policy?

TRUMP: I think they`re going to keep the policy. I think the dollar is probably going to inch up a little bit. And that is not so bad.

But the worst times we`ve had is when you had a very strong dollar. Nothing came in at all.


TRUMP: And having a strong dollar, it turned out to be -- it sounds good. That one sounds great. But nothing happens good for the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about when you compound the situation by a long -- a big long-term borrowing situation?

In addition to the couple billion, we`re -- we`re borrowing about $600,000 -- $600 billion a year now. What happens when you add to that the big money we`re going to have to borrow to carry Social Security into this new form of individual accounts? That means big, long -- big short-term deficits for the federal budget.

Does that take us over the tipping point with regard to the value of the dollar, all that borrowing?

TRUMP: Well, we`ve had the deficits before, and we`re going to have them again, and we`re going to have them for a while. And the war is certainly costing a tremendous amount of money, far more than anyone ever thought.

The key is as long as interest rates stay low, Chris. If interest rates are low, we`re going to be fine. If interest rates go up, and the dollar goes up, that is a really devastating combination.

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you avoid rising interest rates if you double the borrowing with the new Social Security plan?

TRUMP: Well, it is really amazing, because I have been asking that for the last year or so. And the fact is that rates are still very low. They continue to be low. And I`m very happy about it, because I can tell you, the real estate industry, the entire -- so many different industries, if rates go up, they`re going to collapse, and it`s not going to be good.

So, if we can keep the dollar pretty much where it is, even a little bit higher is fine, and interest rates keep low, we`re going to be in good shape.

MATTHEWS: You`re not afraid this isn`t just another bubble situation, where it doesn`t go wrong until it does go wrong, and then it`s really bad?

TRUMP: Well, Chris, don`t forget, at some point, it always goes wrong. You know, no matter where, no matter when, it always goes wrong.

I mean, we`ve been riding something very good and very strong for a long period of time. At some point, things will happen, and they won`t be pleasant. And you know what? We`ll get out of them, and it will be all right.

MATTHEWS: If you were the president of the United States, would you push individual retirement accounts for Social Security?

TRUMP: I sort of think I would.

Something has to be done. Social Security is a huge problem right now, funding it. And something`s going to have to be done. And it`s going to have to be done very quickly, actually.

I think, you know, they`re moving on different methods. But something is going to have to be done rather quickly.


MATTHEWS: In 2005, Donald Trump was back, this time to promote his plan for the World Trade Center site.

He had some harsh words for the planned Freedom Tower, now called One World Trade Center.


MATTHEWS: Will you lead a coalition to stop Governor Pataki from his strong support for the Freedom Tower?

TRUMP: Well, there`s not much of a role I can take.

It all started when "The New York Post" called me and asked my opinion. And I`m the biggest developer in New York by far. I have done just about, I guess, everything you can do in the world of real estate.

And I see what is happening down there, and it`s a mess. And the developer is actually a friend of mine, but he didn`t want to build this building either.

If you look back at the records, I mean, when it was first foisted upon him, Larry Silverstein, he is a great guy. He`s a good guy. He`s a friend of mine, but he didn`t want to build this pile of junk.


MATTHEWS: Up next: I got to grill Trump on the issue that fueled his political rise, his wholehearted embrace of birtherism.

Plus: one of the rare times Trump was cornered in an interview, when I pushed him on the red-hot issue of abortion.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL.

Rarely a week goes by that president Trump doesn`t find something to blame on his predecessor, Barack Obama, but of course his obsession with Obama goes back years, that included an embrace of the birther movement, the bogus claim that Obama wasn`t born in the United States.

As he campaigned for president in 2015 and 2016, Trump refused to disavow his past comments.

After Republican primary debate, I pressed him on the topic. Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: OK. I want to ask you a last question before you leave. You can leave, but I`d like you to stay. Is Donald Trump honest when he says that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president?



MATTHEWS: It`s a good question because --


TRUMP: I didn`t say you couldn`t. I didn`t say you couldn`t. I knew you were going to --

MATTHEWS: You can`t stop me.

TRUMP: -- because, you know, I should -- I should -- no, I can`t. I should not tell you this, but I do watch you a lot, so I knew you were going to ask that question.

MATTHEWS: Well, because, it`s the president of the United States.


TRUMP: I don`t talk about that anymore. You know, the problem with talking about the question --

MATTHEWS: You get to answer the questions you like.

TRUMP: By the way, this guy -- this guy is a total professional. I have to tell you.


TRUMP: I don`t answer because you know what? If I do answer it, that`s all people want to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re going to have to answer it in the general election. You`re going to have to answer in the general election.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to take the Oval Office, the president leading the office is legitimate?

TRUMP: But I don`t answer that question because once I answer, they don`t want to talk about the economy. They don`t want to talk about --

MATTHEWS: No, it`s over. You know, we Catholics believe in confession. You say you were wrong and you move. Do you really believe this guy is an illegitimate president?

TRUMP: I don`t want to answer the question. Did you have a good time? Was it a good interview?

MATTHEWS: This? I want you for a longer time but thank you, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: We`ll do it. I would love to.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Trump, I do think that`s a blemish. I think it`s your original sin.

TRUMP: Now, I know how you feel. I know how you feel.

MATTHEWS: I think I`m an American, I think our presidents should be respected.


TRUMP: I understand. I understand. I know --


MATTHEWS: I think there`s a little ethnic aspect to it. I don`t like it. He`s African-American and we`re saying he is not a real president. I don`t like that. It`s not a good thing about you. But you`re a mixed bag. I`m allowed to say you`re a mixed bag.


TRUMP: I understand. Have a good time.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you for coming over here.


MATTHEWS: In March of 2016, candidate Trump joined me for a HARDBALL college tour.

Early on, I asked about his plan to fight terrorism and his very controversial call to ban Muslims from coming to the United States.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about ISIS. It`s the number one concern of a lot of people since last week.

TRUMP: Right.

MATTHEWS: How do you beat people -- now, when we fought the Germans or the Italians and, you know, the army puts their hands up at the end because they know it`s hopeless.

TRUMP: Right.

MATTHEWS: How do you fight --

TRUMP: It`s called uniforms.

MATTHEWS: And how do you fight people who wrap themselves in dynamite? They get up, brush their teeth in the morning, shave I suppose in some cases, they go off to the airport with the idea of blowing themselves up, killing themselves that day, that morning. How do you beat an army like that, because this gets down to something that we haven`t dealt with before in our history? How do we beat that kind of mentality?

TRUMP: We have to be so tough and so vigilant, and we have to do things, frankly, that we`ve never done before.

MATTHEWS: But they want to die for their cause.

TRUMP: Maybe they do, and some of them do. And I -- you know, a lot of people are trying to figure out why they do this, how they do this.

MATTHEWS: They`re recruited.

TRUMP: Are they drugged out? Tell me.

MATTHEWS: They`re recruited.

TRUMP: Are they drugged out when they do it? What`s going on when they walk in and they blow themselves up? Are they all drugged out? Is somebody drugging them? There`s a lot of things going on.

And you know, when I talked about we have to be very careful because we have people coming into this country, it`s a very bad situation. We have thousands and thousands of people coming into our country. We have no idea where they come from, who they are.

MATTHEWS: But oftentimes, it`s the second or first generation. It`s not the first wave of immigrants. These people in Belgium had been living there. They were born there. They`re Belgians.

And so, how do you deal with that situation?

TRUMP: Well, look at the guys in Boston, the Boston bomber. They came here as young kids --

MATTHEWS: They were here -- they were -- so what do you with -- OK. OK.

TRUMP: -- and they became radicalized.

MATTHEWS: Does banning their entry into the country, even temporarily, encourage them to be on our side against the terrorists or encourages them to be on the other side?

TRUMP: I think banning -- I think banning until we figure out what`s going on is an important thing. And I take a lot of heat for it and a lot of people like me for it, to be honest with you.

But, Chris, there`s something going on.


MATTHEWS: But there`s 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. And they`re all getting the message from Donald Trump, who`s leading the fight for the Republican nomination for president, saying, "Stay out of my country."

How does that encourage them to fight ISIS?

TRUMP: Chris --

MATTHEWS: How does that encourage them to fight the bad guys?

TRUMP: OK, let me -- they have a problem too. They have a big problem.

MATTHEWS: But if we say go away --

TRUMP: I have been told by more Muslims who are saying, what are you doing is a great thing, not a bad thing.

The two people in San Bernardino --

MATTHEWS: Are any Muslims telling you that?

TRUMP: I have actually -- believe it or not, I have a lot of friends that are Muslim and they call me.


TRUMP: In most cases, they`re very rich Muslims, OK?

MATTHEWS: But do they get in the country?

TRUMP: But they do call me.

They`ll come in.

MATTHEWS: How do you let them in?

TRUMP: They`ll come in. And you`ll have exceptions.

MATTHEWS: But you --

TRUMP: Wait, wait, wait.

Look, Chris, Chris, with the San Bernardino situation --


TRUMP: -- many people saw that apartment with bombs all over the apartment.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with that.

TRUMP: Bombs on table.

MATTHEWS: You see something, say something.

TRUMP: Not one person --


TRUMP: -- with all the people that said -- they said it`s racial profiling. That`s why they didn`t call.

You know why they said that? Because some lawyer said, "You know, you saw this, you better come up with a good excuse." They said it`s racial profiling.

A lot of people saw what was going on in that apartment. Not one Muslim, OK?

MATTHEWS: I`m with you on this. Of course I`m with you.

But that`s not the question.

TRUMP: OK. Why didn`t they report `em?

MATTHEWS: Look, look, you`re saying ban --

TRUMP: In other words, why -- but Chris, why don`t they report `em?

MATTHEWS: OK. You say ban them from entering the country. They get the message. Everyone in the world -- over 1.6 -- in Indonesia, Pakistan, everywhere, in Albania. Anywhere there`s Muslims, you know, they know you don`t want them. So they get the message.

They`re a little more ill-disposed to fight ISIS, a little bit more after that once they say, "The Americans don`t even like us," don`t you think?

TRUMP: I don`t know, maybe they`ll be more disposed to fight ISIS. Maybe they`ll say, we want to come back into America, we`ve got to solve this problem.


TRUMP: I`m serious about that. Maybe they`ll be --

MATTHEWS: OK. Cruz, your guy.

Do you know what Cruz is pushing more? He wants patrol cars driving up neighborhoods that he thinks are Islam -- Muslim people living there, looking into windows for plotting.

I mean, it`s an insane idea. These aren`t street criminals. They`re plotting bombings, if they are, and they`re getting -- Oh, we`re going to go up and down the street. That`ll make them more militant against us.

TRUMP: Well, he`s toughening up his stance because my stance has been very tough and --

MATTHEWS: What do you think of his stance? Patrol cars?

TRUMP: I think we have to look at the mosques. I think we have to be extremely careful. We have to look at mosques.

MATTHEWS: We`re making enemies here.

TRUMP: A lot of things -- we`re making enemies by doing nothing. I mean, they were knocking down World Trade Centers, were shooting planes into the Pentagon.


TRUMP: Probably the other plane was going towards the White House. You have some very brave people.

MATTHEWS: All right.

TRUMP: But, you know, what are we going to do, just sit back and say we want to be nice to everybody? We can`t be so nice.


MATTHEWS: Given President Trump`s decision to rip up the Iran nuclear deal and pursue a separate agreement with North Korea, his past views on nuclear weapons are relevant. Back in 2016, he told me he wouldn`t rule out using a nuclear weapon as president, even in Europe.

Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: Your most controversial suggestion was don`t take nuclear weapons -- I mean, you may have been hooked into this by pressing question --

TRUMP: Don`t take what?

MATTHEWS: Nuclear weapons off the table.

I have been trying to think of how we could conceivably use a nuclear weapon in the Middle East or in Europe in fighting ISIS. Where can you -- and why put it on the table or leave it on the table if you can`t imagine where to use it?

TRUMP: Well, I didn`t say don`t take it. I said I would be very, very slow and hesitant to pull that trigger.

MATTHEWS: Well, why would you -- why wouldn`t you just say, I don`t want to talk about it. I don`t want to talk about nuclear weapons. Presidents don`t talk about use of nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: The question was asked -- we were talking about NATO -- which, by the way, I say is obsolete and we pay a --

MATTHEWS: But you got hooked into something you shouldn`t have talked about.

TRUMP: I don`t think I -- well, someday, maybe.

MATTHEWS: When? Maybe?

TRUMP: Of course. If somebody hits us --

MATTHEWS: Where would we drop -- where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?

TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain.

Somebody hits us --


TRUMP: -- you wouldn`t fight back with a nuke?

MATTHEWS: No. To drop a nuclear weapon on a community of people that are --

TRUMP: No, no, but you can`t say -- first of all, you don`t want to say take everything off the table --

MATTHEWS: No, just nuclear.

TRUMP: -- because you`d be a bad negotiator if you do that.

MATTHEWS: Just nuclear.

TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly, possibly?

MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in `45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.

TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? We had --


MATTHEWS: Because of the old mutual assured destruction which Reagan hated and tried to get rid of.

TRUMP: I was against Iraq. I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS: So can you take it off the table now?

TRUMP: Because that`s sort of like the end of the ball game.

MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon on anybody?

TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.

MATTHEWS: How about Europe? We won`t use it in Europe?

TRUMP: I -- I`m not going to take it off the table.

MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?


TRUMP: No, I don`t think so. But I`m not taking --

MATTHEWS: Well, just say it. I will never use a nuclear weapon in Europe.

TRUMP: I am not -- I am not taking cards off the table.


MATTHEWS: The Trump administration has pleased social conservatives with a hard-line agenda on abortion. During that 2016 HARDBALL town hall, the future president signaled the direction he would take when he said women who have abortion should receive some form of punishment.

It began with a question from a young woman in the audience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your stance on women`s rights and their right to choose in their own reproductive health?

TRUMP: OK, well look, I mean, as you know, I`m pro-life. Right, I think you know that, and I -- with exceptions, with the three exceptions. But pretty much, that`s my stance. Is that OK? You understand?

MATTHEWS: What should the law be on abortion?

TRUMP: Well, I have been pro-life.

MATTHEWS: I know, what should the law -- I know your principle, that`s a good value. But what should be the law?

TRUMP: Well, you know, they`ve set the law and frankly the judges -- I mean, you`re going to have a very big election coming up for that reason, because you have judges where it`s a real tipping point.


TRUMP: And with the loss of Scalia, who was a very strong conservative --

MATTHEWS: I understand.

TRUMP: -- this presidential election is going to be very important, because when you say, what`s the law, nobody knows what the law`s going to be. It depends on who gets elected, because somebody is going to appoint conservative judges and somebody is going to appoint liberal judges, depending on who wins.

MATTHEWS: I know. I never understood the pro-life position.

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people do understand.

MATTHEWS: I never understood it. Because I understand the principle, it`s human life as people see it.

TRUMP: Which it is.

MATTHEWS: But what crime is it?

TRUMP: Well, it`s human life.

MATTHEWS: No, should the woman be punished for having an abortion?

TRUMP: Look --

MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge.

TRUMP: It`s a -- no, no --

MATTHEWS: If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under law. Should abortion be punished?

TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.

MATTHEWS: How about you?

TRUMP: I would say that it`s a very serious problem. And it`s a problem that we have to decide on. It`s very hard.

MATTHEWS: But you`re for banning it?

TRUMP: I`m going to say -- well, wait. Are you going to say, put them in jail? Are you -- is that the (INAUDIBLE) you`re talking about?

MATTHEWS: Well, no, I`m asking you because you say you want to ban it. What`s that mean?

TRUMP: I would -- I am against -- I am pro-life, yes.

MATTHEWS: What is ban -- how do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?

TRUMP: Well, you know, you go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places --


TRUMP: But you have to ban it.

MATTHEWS: You banning, they go to somebody who flunked out of medical school.

TRUMP: Are you Catholic?

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think --

TRUMP: And how do you feel about the Catholic Church`s position?

MATTHEWS: Well, I accept the teaching authority of my church on moral issues.

TRUMP: I know, but do you know their position on abortion?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I do.

TRUMP: And do you concur with that position?

MATTHEWS: I concur with their moral position but legally, I get to the question -- here`s my problem with it --


TRUMP: No, no, but let me ask you, but what do you say about your Church?

MATTHEWS: It`s not funny.

TRUMP: Yes, it`s really not funny. What do you say about your church? They`re very, very strong.

MATTHEWS: They`re allowed to -- but the churches make their moral judgments. But you running for president of the United States will be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe --

TRUMP: No, but --

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman.

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

TRUMP: I don`t know. That I don`t know. That I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.

TRUMP: Because I don`t want to -- I frankly, I do take positions on everything else. It`s a very complicated position.

MATTHEWS: But you say, one, that you`re pro-life, meaning you want to ban it.

TRUMP: But wait a minute, wait a minute. But the Catholic Church is pro- life.

MATTHEWS: No, let`s not talk about my religion.

TRUMP: No, no, I am talking about your religion. Your religion -- I mean, you say you`re a very good Catholic. Your religion is your life. Let me ask you this.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t say very good. I said I`m Catholic. And secondly, I`m asking -- you`re running for president.

TRUMP: No, no --

MATTHEWS: I`m not.

TRUMP: Chris -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking you, what should a woman face if she chooses to have an abortion?

TRUMP: I`m not going to do that.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I`m not going to play that game.


TRUMP: You have --

MATTHEWS: You said you`re pro-life.

TRUMP: I am pro-life.

MATTHEWS: That means banning abortion.

TRUMP: And so is the Catholic Church pro-life.

MATTHEWS: But they don`t control the -- this isn`t Spain, the church doesn`t control the government.

TRUMP: What is the punishment under the Catholic Church? What is the --

MATTHEWS: Let me give something from the New Testament: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar`s, and to God the things that are God`s. Don`t ask me about my religion.

TRUMP: No, no --

MATTHEWS: I`m asking you. You want to be president of the United States.

TRUMP: You told me that --

MATTHEWS: You tell me what the law should be.

TRUMP: I have -- I have not determined --

MATTHEWS: Just tell me what the law should be. You say you`re pro-life.

TRUMP: I am pro-life.

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean?

TRUMP: With exceptions. I am pro-life. I have not determined what the punishment would be.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: Because I haven`t determined it.

MATTHEWS: When you decide to be pro-life, you should have thought of it. Because --

TRUMP: No, you could ask anybody who is pro-life --

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s the problem -- here`s my problem with this. If you don`t have a punishment for abortion -- I don`t believe in it, of course -- people are going to find a way to have an abortion.

TRUMP: You don`t believe in what?

MATTHEWS: I don`t believe in punishing anybody for having an abortion.

TRUMP: OK, fine. OK.

MATTHEWS: Of course not. I think it`s a woman`s choice.

TRUMP: So you`re against the teachings of your church?

MATTHEWS: I believe, I have a view -- and a moral view. But I believe we live in a free country, and I don`t want to live in a country so fascistic that it could stop a person from making that decision.

TRUMP: But then you are --

MATTHEWS: That would be so invasive --

TRUMP: I know, but I`ve heard you speaking --

MATTHEWS: -- so determined of a society that I wouldn`t be able -- one we are familiar with. And Donald Trump, you wouldn`t be familiar with.

TRUMP: But I`ve heard you speaking so highly about your religion and your church.


TRUMP: Your church is very, very strongly, as you know, pro-life.


TRUMP: What do you say to your church?

MATTHEWS: I say, I accept your moral authority. In the United States, the people make the decisions, the courts rule on what`s in the Constitution, and we live by that. That`s why I say.

TRUMP: Yes, but you don`t live by it because you don`t accept it. You can`t accept it. You can`t accept it. You can`t accept it.

MATTHEWS: Can we go back to matters of the law and running for president? Because matters of the law, what I`m talking about, and this is the difficult situation you`ve placed yourself in.

By saying you`re pro-life, you mean you want to ban abortion. How do you ban abortion without some kind of sanction? Then you get in that very tricky question of a sanction, a fine on human life, which you call murder?

TRUMP: It will have to be determined.

MATTHEWS: A fine, imprisonment for a young woman who finds herself pregnant?

TRUMP: It will have to be determined.

MATTHEWS: What about the guy that gets her pregnant? Is he responsible under the law for these abortions? Or is he not responsible for an abortion?

TRUMP: Well, it hasn`t -- it hasn`t -- different feelings, different people. I would say no.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re usually involved.


MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with "Trump Watch". You`re watching a special edition of HADBALL, "20 Years of Trump".


MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Monday, May 28th, 2018.

As you can see watching Donald Trump over the years, he`s much today as he was before -- peripatetic, jumping lightly from one topic to another, engaged in national topics, but only to a degree. When it comes to issues of national life -- he spread himself widely, if not deeply. And what you don`t get from him is a sense that he has shown the patience or had the interest to dig into the consequences of his positions or to absorb the trade-offs that come with them.

That said, you can spot the ambition, that unique human ingredient that separates those who achieve the American presidency from those who make a try for it.

As we Americans take this presidency to heart and look to its endurance, this factor of ambition is dangerous to overlook, because as it was in the electoral success of Donald Trump, so will it be to the success of who comes to challenge him. The man or woman who stands on the stage with Trump in 2020 may need one undeniable human attribute, an ego able to challenge him, not just an intellect or in the national interest, but in the moment. He or she will have to look him in the eye and take him down, face-to-face, matching him point for point, hopefully with the added weapon of the truth.

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

Join me again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern. See you then.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.