Woodward's book just confirms the reality. TRANSCRIPT: 9/11/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Carmen Yulin Cruz, John Kerry, Susan Del Percio, Philip Bum

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 11, 2018 Guest: Carmen Yulin Cruz, John Kerry, Susan Del Percio, Philip Bum

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The circle tightens. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

And tonight Donald Trump finds himself surrounded in a tightening circle. The number of those he can trust, according to a member of his own family, is drastically shrinking.

Angry and isolated the President is fixated on those around him who might have let the truth slip out about his presidency`s incapacity. And today, the President`s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. told NBC News that his father`s circle of trust is shrinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP`S SON: I think there are people in there that he can trust, it`s a much smaller group than I would like it to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who do you trust?

TRUMP JR.: You know, I`ll keep that to myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they`re not family?

TRUMP JR: Well, obviously. I`m talking outside of family. I think that one goes without saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, today, as Bob Woodward`s book goes on sale across the country, it`s becoming more difficult for the President to escape the emerging image that he is an incompetent chief executive who poses a danger to national security. And those revelations along with that anonymously published op-ed by a senior official have already fielded an atmosphere of suspiciousness in the White House.

According to the latest from the "Associated Press," quote "Donald Trump continues to insist privately that he wants leakers punished."

A source familiar with the President`s thinking says that when it comes to the anonymous op-ed Trump has continued to focus on identifying and firing the author even as some advisors have urged him to let the matter go.

Meanwhile, with the publication of his book, America`s most trusted reporter, Bob Woodward, is warning the American people that they can no longer be dismissive of the President`s behavior.

As he told NPR, I am convinced that people need to wake up and not kind of pretend this is just politics or this is partisan.

Well similarly, Woodward said in a "New York Times" podcast that his reporting backs up the notion that this administration is teetering on the brink of collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You basically say that the administration is teetering on a catastrophe or a collapse.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, FEAR: Well, I provide the evidence of it, and it`s just supported by fact, I believe. It`s not a partisan position. This isn`t about Democrats or Republicans or left, right, it`s about the stability of the country and it`s not something you can read and feel comforted by.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for "the Associated Press," Elise Jordan is with "Time" magazine and MSNBC political analyst as well and Zerlina Maxwell, of course, director of progressive programming for Sirius XM. Thank you all.

I want to start with Jonathan on your reporting inside the White House. Who does he still trust beside blood relatives, the people he`ll pardon eventually?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Sure. It`s a very shrinking circle as Don Jr. said in that interview that you just played. This is a President who all along has been somewhat suspicious of what he called the deep state, right. He is career bureaucrats. He feels like we never supported him during the campaign and who have tried to undermine him since taking office.

But in recent months and particularly in the last couple of weeks in light of the op-ed and the Woodward book, he is now looking at people around him. Some of his advisors in the west wing. He gave an interview the other day to a TV station out in Montana, I believe, when he was out there for a campaign rally, in which he candidly said that he sometimes goes in the meetings and looks around the room to see who is there before he starts talking. And it is this sense of paranoia that is really --

MATTHEWS: Is it paranoia or is it reasonable suspicion? You know, after 9/11 a lot of people got on the airplanes and looked around to see who else was on the plane because they didn`t want to have any, you know, anybody hijackers on the plane or anybody that might be one.

Is the President, you think covering him as you do every day, is he right to suspect the people around him are ratting him out and saying behind camera with nobody watching, this guy is not competent to run the country? I would worry about those people because they are probably telling the truth as they see it.

LEMIRE: Sure. I think it`s a little bit of both. I think there is a degree of paranoia. But of course, this is an administration that has been beset by leaks, more than most of his predecessors. And we know that he is obsessed with finding them.

And as you just read from our reporting, over the last couple of days he has remained really fixated on this. He wants to figure out who the op-ed author is. He wants that person fired. He has even suggested going to the department of justice to sort of activate the mechanics of the federal government to try to figure this out.

People around him are trying to talk him off that suggesting that, look, there`s no crime committed here. Certainly this is a personnel issue. You are right to want this person fired, but there`s no suggestion that state secret or classified information was disclosed.

MATTHEWS: Who does he trust besides blood relatives? Who is he trust? Does he trust Kellyanne? Does he trust Kelly?

LEMIRE: I think it varies by the day. I think largely those people, yes, he still does. But every day, there are only people in the building or in his orbit who have his full 100 percent trust are his relatives, are his family. And people around him are trying to get him off this, to focus on something else, focus on the Midterm, focus on the economy and now focus on the storm.

MATTHEWS: Elise, how do you run a country when you don`t trust anybody to do what you are telling them to do and you think they are going around your back?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And the only people you trust are your family members who are incompetent.

MATTHEWS: This is Romanov. I have been saying this to Romanov for years, for months now. He is running it like a royal family. He only trusts blood relatives and they are the ones who will end up on his way out the door pardoning.

JORDAN: Well, Chris, look at already the trouble his blood relatives have gotten him into. The worst decision of the campaign arguably was Don Jr. meeting with a Kremlin associated lawyer at Trump tower. And then you look at the decision to make Mike Flynn national security advisor was pushed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. And then Jared Kushner pushed Donald Trump to fire Jim Comey and said it would be politically palpable to Democrats. These are the most destructive political decisions and they were pushed by the family.

MATTHEWS: OK, Zerlina, here is your chance. He only trusts people he shouldn`t trust. He puts Jared as his vice Roy (ph) for the Middle East.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUS XM: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What is his knowledge of the Middle East (INAUDIBLE)?

MAXWELL: Nothing.

MATTHEWS: He puts his daughter, who everybody sort of likes, Ivanka in charge of the sun in terms of what climate we are having. I mean, it`s insane. She is going to protect us, we were told, in the beginning against climate change, against global warming. These are insane decisions.

MAXWELL: Well, essentially what it demonstrates is that he doesn`t really care about the underlying policy. He doesn`t know anything about the policy and he doesn`t care about the outcomes and how that impacts people because if you put Ivanka Trump in charge of climate change, you are basically saying I don`t take climate change seriously and I don`t actually care because you haven`t put an expert in place.

And I think in terms of when it goes to the family, yes, he is setting this up. So those are the folks that he is going to pardon. But the reason why the circle of people he trust is so small is because the loyalty goes in one direction. You aren`t going to have a lot of friends if you can`t be trusted to be loyal --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Two former Trump officials who figure prominently in Woodward`s book spoke out today trying to protect their connection with him.

In his statement former staff secretary Rob Porter said I am struck by the selective and often misleading portrait it paints of the President and his administration. He continues, the suggestion that materials were stolen from the President`s desk to prevent his signature misunderstands how the White House document review process works. Well, that was wormy.

Former economic advisor Gary Cohn said in a statement, this book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House but he declined to cite any specific inaccuracies in the book.

"Axios" reported yesterday that President was quote "privately furious about both officials, however, here`s what he had to say when asked about them today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe Rob Porter and Gary Cohn`s denials today?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you shouldn`t be talking about that right now because it doesn`t matter, but I really appreciate their statement. Their statement was excellent. And they both said I`m beautiful which shows the book was a piece of fiction. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I want to talk about the more interesting -- there`s a whole thing. I think the story here is not betrayal, John, I think the story is revelation. And months from now we will be talking about not who fights with who, who is denying the wording although nobody ever challenge the structure of the truth that Bob Woodward presents. It`s always about, well, it`s not quite the way I saw it. They never challenge the events described, the incidents and what happened at those meetings. Isn`t that interesting?

LEMIRE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They never challenge the reality of what Bob`s - and I want to talk to you about that. Is this an administration teetering on collapse? Because that`s Bob Woodward`s assessment.

LEMIRE: Well, to answer your two questions, first. I was in the oval office for the exchange earlier coming at the end of the hurricane briefing. And it is striking the President, you know, was able to give some degree of support to what Porter and Cohn said although as you note, they didn`t actually deny any specific examples. So it was sort of this broad statements without any suggestion of no, that didn`t x, y, or z didn`t happen. And it comes on the heels of statements from Kelly and Mattis, and even the vice President saying they weren`t the author of the op-ed. But of course Deep Throat didn`t admit that it was him for a long time either. So we need to take this with a little bit of a grain of salt.

MATTHEWS: More itself, yes.

LEMIRE: Teetering on the edge perhaps a bit strong but this is a White House under siege. This is a White House that right now that is staring at the Midterm elections 60 days away. They know privately, the President, of course, won`t admit it publicly. But privately, they know how bad the polling looks particularly for the House. And they know that if the Democrats get the House perhaps it is impeachment, perhaps not.

But what is going to happen is a never ending parade of investigations on Capitol Hill where anyone who even said the name Donald J. Trump who worked in this White House is going to be hauled up there, sworn in, and asked questions not just about Russia but about corruption, emoluments, and things like that. And they feel that this is the White House that is going to bogged down in investigation after investigation. And that is going to define the next two years of his term. So yes, there`s real concern in their building.

MATTHEWS: Well, Elise and Zerlina, that`s not paranoia, that`s a fact. Because when Richard Nixon faced reelection in 1972, when he won what, 49 states, he said in the middle of the night that Chuck calls him, we have lost the power of subpoena again. He understood that he was going to be investigated, investigated, investigated and he was probably going down.

And so maybe he didn`t know the whole truth but he knew the horror of it. I think that John just pointed out. If the Democrats, you know, if the Senate and the House both go Democrat and they both have the power of the Senate, they will be competing with each other to get this guy.

JORDAN: Well, it`s all in plain sight. We already know. We see what`s happening with the Trump hotel and with various foreign governments entertaining there. We see what`s happening with Donald Trump weighing in on --

MATTHEWS: You think the emoluments clause will be brought up for inspection?

JORDAN: Of course. The renovation of the FBI building. Now, it doesn`t want to necessarily affect the view of the Trump hotel. It`s absolutely ridiculous and completely unacceptable. And it should be bipartisan that we stamp out this corruption.

MATTHEWS: So don`t you understand the division of labor, Zerlina. Let`s get it straight. Jared`s in part charge of the Middle East.

MAXWELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let`s see, Ivanka`s in charge of the sun, of climate change.

MAXWELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: Donald Jr. and the other guy are in charge of the hotel down the street.

MAXWELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: Where the till is.

MAXWELL: And Donald Trump Jr. is going to get all of the Republicans elected because he is the new campaign trail superstar, but I think like to Elise`s point, the investigations are in plain sight but there`s one that we have the day, we talked about it for 24 hours, and then we forgot.

The President`s personal attorney went into a courtroom and said, I committed a federal crime, two of them, at the direction of the President in order to impact an election. I would argue, that should be investigated by our Congress. It`s already being investigated obviously in terms of the Mueller probe and the southern district but, again, it`s something that Congress might want to look into.

(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: January 3rd. Despite the President`s dubious attacks on Bob Woodward`s credibility this week, Woodward is standing by his reporting of course warning the President that he can`t hide from the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel when the President says, you are lying?

WOODWARD: I`m not and I`m willing to put myself out here. I have done the work. This is the best reporting you can do or that I can do. And for him to gets up and -- you know, look, he has his first amendment rights. He can say anything, but the great editor at "the Washington Post," Ben Bradlee during Watergate, used to always say when there was a contest back and forth, he said, the truth emerges, and the truth will emerge on this, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John Lemire, last question to you. I sense you agree?

LEMIRE: Yes. I mean, first of all, we know this is a President with a shaky relationship with the truth. But this is -- there is a sense here that very few -- the President himself of course is going to go on the attack on the Woodward book. Privately, people around this, the aides say that the themes in that book, which are the same themes in the op-ed which to a lesser degree are the same themes in the Omarosa book and the Michael Wolf book are there. That this is an administration that often works to thwart the President. It`s the President versus the presidency.

And as much as Trump can be on one track and ask for certain things, those around him try to slow that down. They try to distract him. They try to move onto the next thing. And frankly, the investigation into the leaks may be the newest example of that where he is calling for this full-court press, calling for either the department of justice to be involved and those around him are trying to steer him away from that.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, at the risk of blasphemy, all these authors do have sort of a rhyming aspect to them like the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They do tell the same story. And it`s ironic that Omarosa from her different background, from Bob Woodward, from Michael Wolf and from this person we don`t know inside the administration, they all sing the same song. And if I were the President, I would worry about the one that`s out of tune.

Thank you, Jonathan Lemire.

Thank you, Elise Jordan.

Thank you, Zerlina Maxwell.

Coming up, former secretary of state John Kerry is going to join us to about the dangers of a President described as detached from reality.

Plus, as hurricane Florence approaches the east of the Carolinas, President Trump defends his administration`s response to hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as quote, you will not believe this. He said it was an incredible unsung success. A storm that led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people while Mayor Carmen Jolene Cruz of San Juan is going to join us to criticize that assessment.

I`m going to take a look at the close Senate race out in Nevada. It is not Nevada, it is Nevada, seen as a must win for Democrats if they want to grab the Senate. And by the way, they are ahead slightly.

Finally, let`s finish with Trump watch. What do we expect the President`s family reigning in power? These are the Romanovs.

And this is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Exclusive new reporting on the mystery attacks against U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Nearly two years after the first attacks, the exact cause is still l under investigation. But NBC News is now reporting today suggesting Russia, big surprise, could be the one to blame.

According to three U.S. officials and two others briefed on the investigation, the suspicion of Russian involvement is backed up by evidence on communication intercept obtained from an investigation involving the FBI, CIA and other U.S. agencies. If true, it means the same country that attempted to interfere in our Presidential election in 2016 also launched attacks on our diplomats. Serious business.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you shocked by what you uncovered in this book?

WOODWARD: Well, I have never seen an instance when the President is so detached from the reality of what`s going on. Here is the problem, this has not been treated seriously enough and the things -- some of the things Trump did and does jeopardized the real national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was an alarming assessment by Bob Woodward. He has covered nine administrations already. He paints a picture of a commander in-chief ill- prepared and uninformed. In fact, during a national security briefing of Afghanistan quote "Trump looked bored and seemed unengaged."

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson has said that called a moron. And after meeting on North Korea, defense secretary James Mattis told associates the President acted like and had the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.

And Trump`s chief of staff says simply, he is an idiot.

I`m joined right now by former Secretary of State John Kerry, whose new book and his own life -- about his own life in public service is "Every Day Is Extra."

This is a powerful book. And the great thing about your book, Senator -- I mean, Secretary -- you`re all those things -- is all the history of your political career and the power of it and the substance of it.

What is -- just what`s your reaction? I want to get to the book in a minute, but what`s your reaction to this mishegas going off, this craziness that is going on, where the president of the United States is accused by the top reporter in the country of basically out to lunch?

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think, as you said earlier, and as everybody in Washington knows, this has been circulating in Washington for a year-and-a-half.

So, this is not new. What Bob has done is, he has confirmed, in a remarkably well-put-together conglomeration of all of these events that we have touched on one time or another, a reality to it that does make this of enormous concern, well beyond the attention that it is getting from people in positions of responsibility in Washington.

And I think that -- I think Bob makes the point. I mean, look, he`s a careful reporter. Everybody knows this. The fact is that he does an extraordinary number of interviews. They`re all taped.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: And, you know, they`re all taped. I mean, Trump should be careful what he wishes for, because those tapes tell the full story.

Now, obviously, there are agreements with certain people that that`s not going to happen, unless there is cause to call into question the voracity of the book in the whole.

I just think -- I mean, look, today`s the anniversary of 9/11. We wake up today. You and I are in New York right now. Some of it unfolded in Washington. I remember watching that plume of smoke around the Pentagon, and two of the planes came from Boston. We all think about this.

Today, Donald Trump woke up this morning, president of the United States, on 9/11, and his tweets were attacking the attorney general of the United States, his attorney general.

It`s so outside the norms, that it is unbalanced. It is deeply troubling.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to your book. And let`s talk about it, because there`s some positive aspects of American life in politics we have forgotten so recently.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, not too many years ago, you actually wanted to put together a bipartisan ticket. It was going to be you and John McCain, the two guys who came out of Vietnam in different perspectives bringing the country together.

It was like a national healing process you were proposing. Talk about that a bit, the fact that you were willing to stick your neck out and do that. KERRY: Well, I wanted to have the conversation with John, and he wanted to have the conversation with me. In fact, some of his people had reached out to us about it.

I was intrigued by the idea. I mean, I thought exactly what you just said, the idea of showing people we could do something in a nonpartisan way, bring people together, and try to unite the country around the major items of the agenda of our nation, because we`re falling behind, Chris, on a -- you know, we`re a great country.

Don`t get me wrong. I believe in America, but I believe in the America that I describe in the book, where we work together. We worked across party lines. John McCain and I spent 10 years together coming out of being a POW and a protester, and we found this common ground to try to find answers for American families about what happened to their loved ones.

I just think that it`s not that the Senate rules have changed. It`s that the people have changed, the attitude has changed. And the absence of leadership that wants to look beyond the next election and start thinking about the next generation and the next decade for our country, that`s the key.

It`s got to begin to happen, because China, Russia, other countries are moving in lightning speed to make some of those decisions. And President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, that is going to cost lives. That`s not a simple political move. People are going to die because of the decision he made. And billions of dollars of property may wind up being destroyed and damaged because we`re not doing enough to deal with the problem of climate.

So, you know, this is a very perilous moment for our country. And I think...

MATTHEWS: Should these people quit around the president, or should they stick in there? Mike Pompeo, he`s a sound person. Should he stick around? Should Mattis stick around at Defense?

KERRY: I think there was a rationale in the last weeks leading up to this moment where you could say to yourself, it`s important to be here to stop things from happening.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: I think now the issue has suddenly been forced, in a way, by virtue of the anonymous memo and Bob`s book and everybody`s awareness of what`s happening.

And I think that -- I think that adults in Washington need to deal with this in a very swift way.

MATTHEWS: You know what I loved about the book, your book? Because I think your book`s going to have a longer impact than Bob`s book, because I think it`s about America and it`s about warfare.

You were really in it. I mean, the nonsense of the campaign when you ran for president in 2004 about whether you had done the right thing or not was not -- this has so much material about facing the enemy, of up and down those rivers, and having -- being under fire, and having seen the cruelty a lot of American service people toward the Vietnam allies we had, and how they -- they seemed to be cold about it.

And then you also point out -- you talk about what watching -- what`s it like to watch people die in front of you, fellow soldiers, just watch the blood come out of hem.

I -- don`t you think presidents on to have that experience if they`re going to be commander in chief? Isn`t it valuable to have been there and seen what war is?

KERRY: Well, we have learned that it`s not a prerequisite. And we have had good presidents who haven`t had that experience.

Is it helpful? Sure. I learned an enormous amount in the service. By the way, as I write in the book, you know, it was an alternative, sort of a graduate school of a different kind going into the military, learning leadership, having people, you know, working together as a team like that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: You learn an enormous amount.

I mean, to me, I say to young people whenever I have a chance to talk to them, you know, go into the military, or, if you don`t like the military, go do something...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: ... in a non-government -- in a governmental organization or extra- governmental, and make a difference in people`s lives, and, forever, you will value that.

And it`s one of the reasons why I have always been in favor of some kind of service by people.

MATTHEWS: Oh, me too. Me too.

Gene McCarthy, one of my heroes, once said it`s easier to run for president than to stop.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: How about John Kerry?

KERRY: Well, I write -- I write...

MATTHEWS: How about John Kerry?

KERRY: I write...

MATTHEWS: Have you stopped wanting to run for president?

KERRY: Yes, I have stopped running for president.

MATTHEWS: Really?

KERRY: Have I stopped running?

MATTHEWS: Because I keep hearing there is -- that you might be in the race.

KERRY: I have heard that a lot, obviously, since I have been out on the trail, et cetera.

But what I have said again and again and again, everybody needs to focus on the greatest remedy we have in our hands right now, which is the midterm elections.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: And we have a chance for an enormous course correction in the next two months, Chris.

And then after that, things will take care of themselves.

MATTHEWS: Just one more tough question.

Better you than Trump? Better you than Mike Pence? Better you running the country?

KERRY: You`re really pushing this president thing.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder how you can handle yourself and say not better you than Trump.

KERRY: Well, there are going to be obviously a lot of people running, Chris. I don`t think we`re going to be wanting for candidates for president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: No, there will be 30 or 40 of them. I just wonder if we`re going to have this guy running.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You would certainly be qualified.

Senator John -- I still call him Senator John Kerry, because he was elected to that.

KERRY: It`s a great position.

MATTHEWS: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you.

A great book, if you want to hear about the military and real life. And the best part of the book is also the politics, how this guy fought his way through Massachusetts politics, which is not fun.

Up next: As Hurricane Florence...

KERRY: It was fun.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re right, when you win -- heads towards the Carolinas, President Trump today called his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico -- catch this -- "an incredible unsung success."

The storm left almost 3,000 people dead. And the mayor of San Juan is going to join us to talk about what the president`s assessment is worth.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Hurricane Florence is now charging towards the East Coast. It`s an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. And we know what that means.

Ahead of landfall, President Trump held a briefing to assure Americans that the government was -- quote -- "totally prepared" to handle the storm.

Well, the president was then asked what lesson he had learned from last year`s Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico. And here`s what he said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful. I actually think it was one of the best jobs that`s ever been done with respect to what this is all about. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, two weeks ago, Puerto Rico had to raise the official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 people to nearly 3,000 dead. The figure was 46 times larger than was initially expected, almost 3,000 people dead, as opposed to 64. Well, that`s a mistake.

The mayor of San Juan quickly responded to the president`s comments today by tweeting: "Success? Federal response, according to Trump, in Puerto Rico a success? If he thinks the death of 3,000 people is a success, God help us all."

Well, joining us right now on the phone is the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Cruz.

Thank you so much, Madam Mayor. Thank you.

What do you make of the president`s assessment of the quality of work done by the federal government?

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Well, I think the president`s statement is despicable.

It just goes to the lack of understanding of reality that he has. If he thinks that the deaths of 3,000 people is a success, he really doesn`t know what this was all about.

This was never about politics. He`s talking about unsung praise. Well, you know, nobody is singing his praises, because when you have 3,000 people...

MATTHEWS: I think we just lost the call here.

Susan, you had some experience there, Susan Del Percio.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.

I was in -- down in Puerto Rico six weeks after the hurricane hit on a humanitarian mission up in the mountains, where they had not seen anybody. They had not seen doctors. And I was with a group of doctors. They had no commerce. They couldn`t even buy medicine. They had no changing of money.

But, more importantly, these people were sick. Their water supplies were gone. They had -- were drinking dirty water. I was staying at some kind of lodging with FEMA workers and military people on site, and they were having trouble reaching the people up there.

It was devastating, Chris. And I`m -- actually, given what I saw, I wouldn`t be surprised if those numbers get readjusted again, because there were so many people who had no access to dialysis and other medications, that it was so tragic.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Carmen Cruz. We have reconnected with her.

Madam Mayor, tell us about the situation today, because my understanding is that this crisis is not over in Puerto Rico, even from last year.

CRUZ: No, the crisis isn`t over.

Our infrastructure is very weak. Actually, I`m right here with a group of employees from the municipality of San Juan. We had flooding last week in San Juan. We have flooding this -- today, just today.

And there`s about 50,000 people with blue tarps or blue roofs. Suicide rate has gone up between 20 and 30 percent. Suicide attempts have gone up between 55 and 50 percent.

So I really don`t know where the president gets the nerve to call this a success story. He thinks this is about him and about his political positioning.

Well, you know, I -- my heart goes out to the people of South Carolina and North Carolina, if he thinks what he did in Puerto Rico is a success. And I sure hope, for the sake of lifesaving situations, that he learns from his mistakes.

He doesn`t have to say it, because, apparently he`s incapable of getting what went wrong in Puerto Rico.

MATTHEWS: If Puerto Rico how a vote, electoral votes in the Electoral College in picking a president, how would President Trump do there?

CRUZ: Well, you know, answering that question really is making this about whether Puerto Rico should be a state or not.

And Katrina is an example of how, when governments don`t respond properly, people die. Definitely, the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States needs to change. We need to sit down and talk about a process, not about the end result.

Some people believe in statehood. Some people believe in free association, like I do. And some believe in independence. But this was never about politics, you know.

You know that Carly Simon song that says you`re so vain...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRUZ: ... you probably think this song is about you?

President Trump is so vain, he thinks this humanitarian crisis was about him. It was not about him. It was about saving life. And he was not up to par.

MATTHEWS: Yes. We`re watching now -- Mayor, we`re watching him doing this doofus thing of throwing Bounty Picker Uppers to the crowd of people out there during the -- paper towels.

It`s the strangest thing to do for people facing a crisis, throwing paper towels at them.

Anyway, thank you for joining us in this critical time, San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz. Good luck with what`s going on. Good fortune with you.

Up next, we`re going to take look here at some new polling out of Nevada, where the race for the Senate out there is tighter than a drum.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the -- every death is a horror but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody`s ever seen anything like this, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last October touting, bragging about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Well, today, he called it an unsung success. Well, death toll as I said in Puerto Rico is now more devastating than that of Katrina, which was a political disaster for President George W. Bush. Remember that. You`re doing a great job, Brownie.

And for more, I`m joined by HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Susan del Percio, we heard from her, she`s a Republican strategist. Of course, Eddie Glaude is a junior professor, well, junior, he`s a professor at Princeton, he`s not a junior professor. And Philip Bump is political reporter with the wonderful "Washington Post".

Let me talk to you first, Professor, about this. Why would the president brag about something that makes him look like a fool?

EDDIE GLAUDE, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Because he lacks the capacity for empathy. He can only see suffering through the eyes of his own self interest and purposes. And so, he can`t see the bodies at his feet because he`s constantly looking up. And to the extent that which --

MATTHEWS: Throwing the Charmin out here, picker upper. Why would you throw paper towels at people who are suffering from death?

GLAUDE: Because he views his role as a charitable one, as a philanthropic one. He doesn`t see himself as a commander-in-chief.

And to the extent to which that`s true, then because he lacks empathy, he lacks the capacity for self-reflection, for self critical self reflection. So, in the midst of failing with regards to Puerto Rico, now you know that close to 3,000 people died. You know you failed logistically. You can`t self-correct because you`re too much --

MATTHEWS: So, let`s get back to reality. You`re talking about Bob Woodward`s book. He can`t identify the truth, he can`t speak the truth, his lawyers don`t trust him to speak the truth and he can`t get attached to reality. Here he is on display here today again acting like he`s not attached to reality.

PHILIP BUMP, THE WASHINGTON POST: The anecdote is when we hear Donald Trump advising someone else who`s under assault for -- I believe sexual assault allegations, and Trump says you just have to deny, deny, deny. You just have to keep pushing back. And that`s what Trump is doing here.

The Government Accountability Office came out with a report last week that essentially said the government fell down on this. They said the staff was not prepared. They didn`t have the staff. They said the staff wasn`t physically fit enough for Puerto Rico.

It was not a complementary report for how the government did, but Trump sets all of that aside to the extent that he`s even aware of it and instead just doubles down, this is the best job anyone`s ever done because that`s his -- .

MATTHEWS: We`ll see in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, we got a test coming.

Anyway, we`re 56 days away from the midterm elections right now. We continue to focus on the HARDBALL 10, the 10 key Senate races that are going to determine the balance of the Senate which controls, of course, Supreme Court nominations and everything else. One of them is Nevada, a state where Hillary Clinton beat, this is the only one of our 10 where Hillary won, beat Trump by two points.

If Republicans want to get control of the Senate, keep if they had to hold on to that Senate seat currently held by Republican Dean Heller. According to a Suffolk University/"Reno Gazette Journal" released today, that race is tied. Democrat Jackie Rosen, first term congresswoman, has less than a 1 point lead over the incumbent, less than one. It`s 41.6 to 41.2. That is so tight the only thing I`ll say as a student of this, if the incumbent doesn`t have 50 or anywhere near it, you`ve got to give the edge to her.

DEL PERCIO: Absolutely. His unfavorable/favorable numbers are upside down. His favorable numbers are higher.

MATTHEWS: Why is he weak? He seems like Fredo in "The Godfather". He seems weak.

DEL PERCIO: He`s weak, but Donald Trump is really having an effect on this state, and we see it in the economic numbers. Almost 60 percent -- 62 percent of the people think that the economic direction of Nevada is going the right direction. When asked if you are coming out to vote for U.S. Senate because you want to support Donald Trump`s policies --

MATTHEWS: Right.

DEL PERCIO: -- 36 percent. When you say are you coming out to go against Donald Trump`s policies, 46 percent. So, this is all Donald Trump taking a large toll. So -- and plus immigration`s the fourth issue on the ballot for them when you --

MATTHEWS: They`re not anti-immigration.

Eddie, one thing, Professor, one thing about it I like about Nevada, you can see union workers.

GLAUDE: Right.

MATTHEWS: You walk into a hotel, they`re all around you. You go to a casino, they`ll around you. The group, the wait persons, everybody, the bell hop, everybody you need, the guys driving the car, everybody`s in a union it seems.

GLAUDE: So, I mean --

MATTHEWS: That`s unique in America now.

GLAUDE: I think it is. We have to think about this is a local race. We are to think about the ground game and the ground game to get at those undecideds, those independent voters and those unlikely voters. What`s been really interesting to me this season, and you`re tracking it with your HARDBALL ten, right, are those folks who are unlikely voters, those folks who are --

MATTHEWS: Who only vote in presidential elections.

GLAUDE: Who only vote in presidential elections. They are going to tip the tide, tip the balance of this, and I think --

MATTHEWS: And, Phil, they`ve got all the energy from everybody we know and everybody we talk to. The ones that went out and voted want to vote against Trump.

BUMP: Yes, that`s exactly right. We`re talking also, though, about the institutional benefit that the Republican Party has with a voting base that goes out and votes more often. If you look down in that poll, if you ask the people who say they`re absolutely certain to vote, Heller`s got a 3- point lead because that`s his base, Republicans go out and vote more often.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUMP: You`re right about the unions.

MATTHEWS: Is the Mormon factor a matter here? He`s a Mormon, member of the LDS Church.

BUMP: Yes, exactly, I think it does to a large extent. I think that`s one of the reasons that he has some popularity there. He`s in bad shape, let`s not sugar-coat this. But this is the case that Republicans both there and nationally have this built to an advantage.

And to Eddie`s point, the Democrats have to make up for that. To your point, the union has to do that, the culinary union of Las Vegas can help make up the difference.

MATTHEWS: Well, today marks the 17th anniversary, as we all know, of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when 3,000 people were killed in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and, of course, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Well, President Trump started his day by tweeting about Russia and Hillary Clinton.

Moments before delivering a speech commemorating those who had died, the president greeted supporters at the airport, at a moment which was caught by a photographer, quickly went viral. It looks, Susan, like a campaign event.

DEL PERCIO: And that`s how he looks at everything. He assumes that people are there for him and that --

MATTHEWS: What`s the rah-rah about that? I mean, there was courage on that plane, Flight 93.

DEL PERCIO: Of course.

MATTHEWS: It was courage, let`s roll, it`s one of -- actually the thrilling moments of a terrible day in our history and the world history where the people on the plane who knew it was going to happen said no.

DEL PERCIO: And what`s interesting is Donald Trump knew the speech he was going to give. And he actually delivered in that window the speech quite well for Donald Trump, but he woke up and tweeted about Hillary Clinton and in going against Jeff Sessions, he completely turned the tone of that event and that`s what he woke up doing, wanting a fight, and that`s what you see with the fist pumps and everything else. And he really just turned a day two times today, once with that and once again when talking about Puerto Rico.

The man just cannot get out of his own way and stop thinking about himself.

GLAUDE: He`s not a decent human being, Chris. He`s simply not a decent human being in my view. And here, everything he says about 9/11 is overshadowed by the fact that he lied and said he saw Muslims cheering in New Jersey. He lost hundreds of friends that he could never, he never verified, right?

DEL PERCIO: He didn`t have hundreds of friends.

GLAUDE: Right? And then so, to come into a space and not really recognize what it is, reflects again exactly about the thing he said about Puerto Rico, the guy lacks the capacity for empathy which means he`s not a decent human being, and the sad thing about it is he`s the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: You sound as if he`s schizoid, that he doesn`t connect with human experience, that he doesn`t know people died, doesn`t feel that.

GLAUDE: I think he`s so preoccupied with himself that it`s a clinical narcissism. I`m not a clinician. He`s so preoccupied with himself that he can only see suffering through his own interests.

DEL PERCIO: He has no core values, Chris.

MATTHEWS: This is going to be part of the story in the papers. It`s not going to be a good report for him to be talking about himself and Hillary Clinton?

BUMP: Right. Yes. If you look at what he was doing this morning, he got up this morning, he was watching reruns, tape delayed broadcasting Fox Business complaining about Hillary Clinton on Twitter. The only times he tweeted about September 11th was to retweet his own social media director which one can assume the social media director maybe stepped in to retweet something to get 9/11 focused in there. And then odd tweet and then he praised Rudy Giuliani`s work as mayor of New York, and this odd tweet about 17 years since 9/11.

It`s baffling outside of the context of Donald Trump. Within the context of Donald Trump, it`s another day in Trump world.

MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani has to get back to be America`s mayor and stop being Trump`s lawyer.

Anyway, 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 going to have a big focus tomorrow in the state of Ohio. I`m sitting down with the Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich, who doesn`t like Trump very much, and also Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. We`re going to talk midterms, 2020, and beyond. Both of these guys are president`s material.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Susan, tell me something I don`t know.

DEL PERCIO: Andrew Cuomo is going to be having a nail biter on Thursday night.

MATTHEWS: It`s a primary.

DEL PERCIO: It`s not because of his primary, because the primary for attorney general. Zephyr Teachout, his opponent in 2014 is looking like she will be the A.G. nominee who recently promised to investigate him in a corruption case in his office.

MATTHEWS: There`s party unity for you. Go ahead, Eddie.

GLAUDE: In 1962, a middle class subdivision in Atlanta built a wall, and they built a wall to keep the black folk away from the white folk. I write a piece -- I have a new piece in "Time" magazine saying if we only focus on the loud bigots, we won`t understand the nature of our racial malaise. We`ve got to look at the soft bigotry of the so-called silent majority.

MATTHEWS: That`s like (INAUDIBLE) Washington metro not go to Georgetown. Remember that one?

Go ahead.

BUMP: The economy is not going to save Republicans this year. If you look at new polling from "Post" and ABC News, we see that by ten points, those who say the economy is good, those who think the economy is in good shape by ten points prefer Democratic candidates for the ballot in November. Not only that, 48 percent of those who think the economy is good --

MATTHEWS: That`s the worst Republican news I`ve ever heard.

BUMP: Strongly -- 48 percent of those who say the economy is good strongly disapprove of President Trump.

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable. You don`t get any respect.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Del Percio, Eddie Glaude and Philip Bump with that news.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Tuesday, September 11th, 2018.

Didn`t anybody notice this, didn`t people think there was something un- American and weird about the way this Trump family arrived in Washington? You have the president, of course, but bringing with him his daughter, a pair of sons who seem to be very much in the financial picture, and a son- in-law to boot? Then we began hearing about how the son-in-law was a kind of viceroy on Middle East policy, the way the daughter was in charge of climate, or at least the one we were supposed to trust in the planet`s rising temperature. Was this crazy to begin with?

And now, it seems to be about to end this way, a president accompanied in power alone with his relatives, a daughter who refers to herslef as the first daughter, a son who says the circle of those who his father now trusts has tightened to a fault. Again, didn`t the country find this strange to begin with?

This isn`t the brain trust FDR brought in to fight the Great Depression. Or Jack Kennedy`s beloved Irish mafia, or even Jimmy Carter`s Georgia mafia.

This is the Romanovs, a family held together by blood and the assurance of presidential protection, most assuredly of presidential pardon once it comes to it.

Donald Trump Jr. said today he`s not worried about going to jail. Well, that`s certainly understandable given his father`s constitutional power. The question is how much the country has to worry about given the kind of power that Donald Trump has given to relatives who act less like a royal family of a constitutional monarchy and more like the royal families of old, like the Romanovs.

This is HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

END

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