Puerto Rico "an incredible, unsung success." TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: John Kasich, Sherrod Brown, Ginger Gibson, John Brabender

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 12, 2018 Guest: John Kasich, Sherrod Brown, Ginger Gibson, John Brabender

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Shipwreck, let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

What does Donald Trump fear more, the coming category four hurricane soon to hit the Carolinas or the Gail force political wave about to demolish his majorities in the Congress? It`s the emerging Specter of the second jeopardy that has caused a top Republican strategist to warn of a GOP shipwreck this fall.

Meanwhile, the mean in the White House remains oblivious to both dire of realities. Donald Trump rose, you won`t believe this, at 6:50 this morning, bragging how he has won A pluses for his handling of hurricanes. And a quote "unappreciated great job he did on last year`s hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Well Trump tweeted this. We got A pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent mayor of San Juan. We are ready for the big one. That is coming. It is Trump.

Trump was seemingly reacting to the San Juan mayor Carmen Cruz`s criticism of his statement yesterday in which he defended his administration`s response to hurricane Maria as a quote "incredible unsung success."

Well, here`s what she said on the HARDBALL last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARMEN CRUZ, SAN JUAN MAYOR: 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 death of 3,000 people is the best, he really doesn`t know what this was all about. This was never about politics. He`s talking about unsung praise. You know, nobody is singing his praises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Trump`s self-congratulations come amid scathing report in Bob Woodward`s book that his White House is on the precipice of a nervous breakdown. Directed by a president who refuses to prepare himself with the responsibilities of his office.

Trump proving the more frightening warning, of course, he is quote "detached from reality and incapable of speaking the truth."

For more, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS News Hour, Robert Costa, national political reporter for "the Washington Post" and Tim O`Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg Opinion."

What Woodward says in his book about this President are basically he is incapable of expressing the truth because he doesn`t know how to actually word it. And more scary to me that he is unattached to reality. Now he is coming out and saying he deserves A pluses for his handling of hurricanes and basically is ignoring what looks to be the storm warnings of him losing both House of Congress in November.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, President Trump is someone who wants to look like he is winning at all times even if he lost. Obviously, more than 3,000 people or some 3,000 people were killed in hurricane Maria, people had no electricity in Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, for more than a year. So they decide, you know, he doesn`t want to deal with any of that. He doesn`t want to deal with the reality that there were people suffering because of the things that his government failed to do. So in his response, instead of doing - instead of kind of taking credit for that, he is saying, well, really, it`s this mayor of San Juan, who has been very critical and open about how much I should have done differently. And as a result he is attacking --.

MATTHEWS: So he picked a fight with a minority woman.

ALCINDOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s not unusual, is it?

ALCINDOR: No, it is not.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Robert Costa. You know, is he thinking about the optics or is he thinking about the performance? I get the sense that bill show the optics guy is going to be in charge of this hurricane coming to the Carolinas.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Sometimes the optics are out of your control. Hurricane is not a TV studio. You look at 2012, talking to Republicans all day, they say President Obama handled Sandy, went to New Jersey, worked with the Republican and governor Chris Christie. But this could also be, this coming hurricane, hopefully not for the people on the ground but it could be like Katrina Walsh was for the Bush administration. It is a test for administration. You are right, they are facing two waves. That blue wave too for the Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Well, Tim O`Brien, you are an expert on Trump. Go back to this. Is he capable of seeing what`s coming as reality or is he just, you know? I hear he doesn`t like to prepare. He likes to improvise. But part of improvising, it seems he has to recognize truth. Does he realize he could lose both Houses of Congress this November? Does he recognize this a category four hurricane which requires real executive skill in dealing with it?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Whether or not he recognizes it, Chris, I don`t know how much he authentically cares about. I think one of the President`s strength historically is that he is a survivor. He cares a lot about of self-aggrandizing it and a lot about survival. And one of the keys to him being a survivor is that he lives in his own reality distortion field. He is almost impervious sometimes to advice. And he is certainly impervious of the fact pattern.

When it comes to November, I think he is going to be looking away from that. And he will blame it on the GOP, he will blame it on Paul Ryan, he will blame it on the party, he will blame it on Mitch McConnell, he won`t take any responsibility for whatever results in November.

When it comes, you know, to hurricane relief, this is something that should reside right in his wheel house. He is a builder and a developer. He sees himself as a can-do person. What happened in Puerto Rico a year ago, despite how he has tried to spin this is the hurricane made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20th. He didn`t convene a national security meeting on the situation in -- a situation room meeting on the situation in Puerto Rico until six days later. And yes, they were confronted with an island that was distant from the states --

MATTHEWS: They can`t vote. They can`t vote.

O`BRIEN: They won`t. But you know, those Puerto Ricans can vote. And a lot of them have gone to Florida. So he is going to have an electrical reality around that. But the other thing is the Obama administration got relief to Haiti in 2010, even though it was an island in the middle of the big ocean. I think the test on Florence is, can he orchestrate a mature, sophisticated response to a natural disaster. And I think that`s a wait and see.

MATTHEWS: As I mentioned before, author Bob Woodward issued a stark warning this week that the Trump White House isn`t prepared for a crisis. Here is Bob.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, FEAR: You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, let`s hope to God we don`t have a crisis. People who work for him are worried that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country or the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, according to the Woodward`s book, the President does not like to prepare himself for the responsibilities of the office he holds. As one aide concluded, Trump acted like doing too much advance preparation would diminish his skills and improvising as if a plan would take away his power. What do you make of that?

ALCINDOR: Well, I say this. The President want gut. He believes in his guy. He believes in this idea that he can captain his own ship and as a result he knows what`s best. The problem is empathy is a big of the Presidential job. And it is something that President Trump hasn`t done well.

Every time the nation look at him, think of Charlottesville, to try to bring us together, he has really failed at that. That`s why as a result, now you are having this big hurricane that is coming and instead of saying, my God, we need to make sure we learn from our mistakes. He wanted to try to make sure that that people, they will say, he`s saying some of that on twitter but he can`t help but also say this is really about me and I did such a great job. And I`m getting accolade. He literally said in the White House today that should get accolade - I mean, getting accolade in the Congress.

MATTHEWS: It was.

ALCINDOR: From all the things that he is doing.

MATTHEWS: But let me go to Robert. Do you have a sense that this is true? Do you buy the fact that Woodward -- do you buy the fact that Trump doesn`t like to prepare? In other words, if he knows there`s a hurricane coming to the Carolinas, you get a bunch of people in the room with charts, and everything else, OK, what`s the plan? When it hits, who is going to be in charge? Is it going to be - FEMA is going to do this? Are the governor going to do this? What is the governor - how is that relationship? Where`s the war room? Who is going to be? And when am I going to get the call when I have to release federal money? Does he not do that? He would do that, wouldn`t he? Wouldn`t he do that minimal planning for a hurricane?

COSTA: Woodward`s depiction of the President`s trait is accurate. Look back to the campaign. The President had a whole plan for the transition. He ripped it up. He didn`t want even address --.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. He said that don`t worry, you know.

COSTA: Superstitious.

MATTHEWS: Yes. It will spook me.

COSTA: And he wanted to run on his instincts. But the government is separate from the President. The buck stops with the President. Every President you have to answer for how your government handles these kinds of situation. But the government when you talk to people inside of the administration, they say we are moving on with this hurricane in preparation, regardless of what the President wants.

They do say he could face a political challenge and why didn`t he do infrastructure first? Why did he go after the tax cut and healthcare? Did he really prepare this country infrastructure wise for hurricane?

ALCINDOR: Optics is going to be a really important here. When I talk to sources at the White house, they say that the President really cares about the country, people need to understand that. Well, remember the optics from hurricane Maria. It was the President throwing paper towels --.

(CROSSTALK)

ALCINDOR: So maybe he learned from that. And the least will say, OK, I`m going to take their advice and not go and throw paper towels at people.

MATTHEWS: Tim, that`s a classic example of idiocy. I mean, to throw paper towels at people who are suffering from a horrific hurricane and people getting killed by the thousands, and you`re throwing them paper products. I mean, (INAUDIBLE). What does he want to look like, sea world? I mean, why does he want that picture out there? Is that supposed to be compassion?

O`BRIEN: Again, I think you are thinking about him thinking strategically. And don`t think he thinks strategically. He enjoys doing whatever he wants to do the moment that he is in a space.

Yesterday at the 9/11 memorial, he walked, you know, in front of, you know, people pumping his fist and giving thumbs up. It was a completely inappropriate gesture. You can`t under estimate the fact he lives in his own private Idaho. And when he says he doesn`t want to prepare, he doesn`t read, he does get a very short attention span, he is impatient. These are not strategic things, it`s just who he is. His aides have learned that they have to give him charts, that they have to walk in (INAUDIBLE) almost cartoonish fashion, serious issues around national security, trade, immigration, because otherwise it`s lost on him. And even if they do that, they know that he is going to forget about a lot of these details in fairly short order.

The other thing is this is not new behavior. President Trump who emerges in Bob`s book is the same guy who campaigned. He is the same guy I wrote about a decade ago. He is the same guy New Yorkers have known about for the last 50 years. This is who he is. It shouldn`t be a surprise to anyone.

MATTHEWS: But it`s flimflam.

O`BRIEN: But this is not a surprise. This is just not a surprise. But he is also -- it`s not entirely flimflam. He was a very good messenger to the needs of his base. He was consistent on that message. And he walked into a vacuum. I think a political vacuum --.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about reality when we have all you guys. When there`s a natural disaster, some people benefit from them. Jeb Bush was very popular in Florida because he handled the hurricane there. Hailey Barber was a superstar in Mississippi, the way he handled that as governor down there.

You can perform well as an executive, you can get the act together, rally the people, get them doing it and a couple months looks like they are rebuilding. And looks like they really would led by a leader. Doesn`t Trump know that that`s something that`s real, Robert? Doesn`t he know you have to be a leader to look like one?

COSTA: I can`t read his mind. That`s one thing the White House continues to tell reporters, is that they believe there is so much controversy around this President. So much action, activity, drama, negative, positive, whatever you want to call it, that one episode, one moment is not going to define this presidency. They know this midterm election is a referendum on Trump going back to January 2017.

MATTHEWS: Right.

COSTA: And it is not just going to be about --.

MATTHEWS: But hurricanes make or break these guys.

ALCINDOR: But I think it all still goes back to optics. Is the nation going to see a President Trump, that goes and understands people, talks to people and understands if their homes are broken or if there`s large damage or are they going to see a President throwing paper towels again or who is saying, you know what, I can`t wait to get back on the campaign trail to help all my Republican friends. I don`t really want to go to these damaged places.

MATTHEWS: We`ll see.

Yamiche Alcindor, Robert Costa, and Tim O`Brien, great expertise here tonight.

Coming up, Trump is facing a political capsizing in his party this November. We are going to get to best talk. We have two top guests coming up. Ohio governor John Kasich and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, both here joining us in a minute.

Plus Paul Manafort is reportedly in talks with prosecutors on a possible plea deal. Before that happens, Robert Mueller wants him to agree to cooperate and provide information about Trump. He wants him to talk about Trump.

And the department of homeland security took $10 million from FEMA`s budget and gave it to I.C.E. to pay for detentions right before hurricane season. The HARDBALL round table is going to weigh on that baby.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The national weather service is now calling hurricane Florence the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast.

Let`s go to right now NBC News meteorologist Bill Karns who has the latest to track on the storm.

Bill, thank you. What -- is this a three or four right now? What are we looking at?

BILL KARNS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: It`s a three. But, Chris, we really don`t want to pay too much attention to that. It only describes the winds. It has nothing to do with how much rain it is going to do or how much storm surge. That`s what kills the most people. So yes, it`s down to a three, less wind damage, but that`s not the whole story.

So it is 120 miles per hour wind. It still a major hurricane. Now only about 350 miles from the Carolina close line. Here`s the all-important track from the hurricane center. And the important point here is that it`s heading right through Wilmington, North Carolina and it`s going to crawl down to Myrtle Beach.

This is a 48-hour period of an onslaught of horrendous amounts of rain, numerous high tide cycles of the water piling up on the coast. And, of course, we are going to get the storm surge and the beach erosion too.

Power outage potential, high as you would expect, where we could see the direct landfall in Wilmington area. We will have a scattered power outages. We really caught a break from areas in rally to Richmond and North of Virginia beach when we did the shift last night of the track a little further south. But we are still going to see that extreme areas. The (INAUDIBLE) beach area (INAUDIBLE), Carolina Beach is gorgeous. (INAUDIBLE) is so nice. All the way back up here through Atlantic beach, beautiful coastal areas, a lot of houses on the beaches, that`s where we could see the destruction from the storm surge.

High tide, the worst of it, will be around 11:46 tomorrow. And we get another one after that and we get numerous high tide cycles. And Chris, the reason that that is so dangerous is because the water is going to pile up with each and high tide cycle and more water will be sent inland as we go throughout. It could be four cycles of high tides. I have never done that before the storm before. I have been around for a lot of storms. I don`t think I have ever seen a major hurricane on the coast for 36 to 48 hours.

MATTHEWS: And people should leave, right?

KARNS: I mean, if you have the means, you know. In Wilmington, they are not telling everyone, the 100,000 people to leave. But if you are in a low lying area and you have the means, get out of there. If not, Chris, you could be stuck in your house for 24 hours straight with hurricane forced wind. You don`t want to walk outside and be killed by a tree falling. So, you know, if you are prepared to sit inside a bathroom with your family for 24 hours, go ahead and do it, you know. You only have about maybe 12 of the 24 hours to get out of town. That`s about what you have left.

MATTHEWS: Bill Karns, thanks for that reporting and warning.

Up next Governor John Kasich and Senator Sherrod Brown join me here.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republicans face daunting challenges this November, of course. Majority leader Mitch McConnell is warning of big electoral losses even Texas seems to be in trouble thanks to Beto O`Rourke, candidate of the Democrat who has taken on Cruz.

Well, meanwhile, the President`s reputation is under assault thanks to Bob Woodward`s scathing towards of the White House on the precipice of a nervous breakdown. However, the commander in-chief still gives himself high marks. In fact, A pluses on twitter he wrote his administration`s past performances to responding to hurricanes are, in fact, A pluses.

Joining me right now is Ohio governor - Republican governor, John Kasich.

I keep thinking of you, governor, as the sort of the Republican alternative to Donald Trump. Sort of the classic Republican executive getting down at the job. What did you think when you hear about Trump described as someone unattached to reality, incapable of expressing the truth?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: It`s sad, Chris. And you know, I sometimes feel as though I live in a parallel university, or that you know, this is some kind of a Woody Allen movie. It`s truly very different.

And, look, the Republicans are having trouble because people don`t want chaos. They don`t want all this fighting. They don`t want all this name- calling. This has been something that`s been going on for a long time. They don`t want family separation at the border.

Let me give you another one. The thing that really troubles me is, I cannot believe that there are group of people in my party who are saying people who have preexisting conditions can be denied health care.

I mean, I talk to a lot of Republican friends of mine. And when I say, hey, your kid, your kid has got problems, right? Yes. I said, well, if they have a preexisting condition, you may not be able to get health insurance.

I mean, this is really, really odd. And -- but I think that there are parts of our party that are really saying, enough of this. I`m starting to sense it. I`m starting to feel it.

And you remember that old lesson, Chris, that you and I both learned when we were on Capitol Hill, and that is, you don`t work for a president. You don`t work for a party. When you`re on the streets with the folks, they`re judging you for who you are.

So my advice to Republicans is, hey, be your own person. Be your own man or woman. Talk to people about health care. Talk to people about bringing the country together.

MATTHEWS: Well, the chaos emanating from the White House right now adds another layer of trouble for Republicans in this November`s midterm elections.

Here`s how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the Republican situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We know this is going to be a very challenging election. On the Senate side, I will just list you a bunch of races that are dead-even, Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, and Florida.

All of them too close to call, and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley, I mean, just a brawl in every one of those places.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A new poll, set of polls out today explain why the Republicans are worried, why they have reason to be concerned about what`s coming up, this -- like losing the House almost for sure now.

On the generic congressional about, about House votes, when voters were asked which party they would prefer to control the U.S. Congress after this November, a new NPR/Marist poll shows voters give Democrats a 12-point lead. Quinnipiac gives them a 14-point lead.

Governor, what happens when Trump, who inherited majority control of the Senate, majority control of the House of Representatives, loses at least one of those controls? Is he going to be faced with reality in the Republican Party? Or is he just going to B.S. his way through it again?

KASICH: Well, it`s going to be interesting to see how the party reacts, Chris

I mean, to some degree, there are people who say, oh, things are going great. And -- but that`s -- that`s not the case. You know about the congressional race right out here in Columbus, Ohio, where the Republican should have won overwhelmingly, and barely squeaked it out.

Look, there`s a couple things, Chris, that we have to think about. When you`re the president of the United States, people look to you as a father. They look at you as somebody who`s the consoler. They look at you as somebody that can bring harmony. They look at you as somebody that can -- that can bring peace.

And when the leader -- I mean, we all have these images of presidents in our minds, right? And we think about -- we learned about George Washington early. Or we learn about Lincoln, or we learn about Reagan, or we learn about Roosevelt.

And the sense is that our president is a special person, who`s not supposed to engage in name-calling or fighting or chaos all the time. That president is supposed to be somebody that is a healer and brings the country together.

This is one of the reasons why I have never supported the guy, one of the few in my party that didn`t support him, because I believe people need to be lifted. I don`t believe that people need to be divided. And all the name-calling and all that, it`s just wrong. And it continues.

And I tell you, there`s going to be Republicans who are going to pay a price for it. Now, if they want to do better, then these individual Republicans need to start being their own man or woman, their own person, and talking about the things they believe in, and knock it off.

And don`t be afraid. The president...

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s your chance.

KASICH: ... does something they don`t like, tell people.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the guy sitting next to me right now, Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio? What do you make of him?

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: I have known Sherrod for a long time, you know? What do you want me to say? He`s -- he`s in a race for the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Something consoling and uniting.

KASICH: I mean, I`m not here to endorse -- I`m not here to endorse Sherrod Brown, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: I mean, that`s not -- that`s not what my job is.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

KASICH: And what I`m saying to you, for any Republican...

MATTHEWS: The fact that you didn`t knock him tells me a lot. The fact you haven`t knocked him tells me something.

Thank you.

KASICH: You know what? I don`t know like to -- look, I don`t like to knock a lot of people.

I disagree with Sherrod on a lot of issues, but it`s not my job to just go around knocking people. I mean, I`m not running against him. I would have a lot of things that I would want to say about him if I was running. But that`s not my job.

MATTHEWS: I would say nice things about you, Senator, but it might hurt you with the Republicans -- I mean Governor.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: He was -- you know what? He was pretty good on -- he was pretty good on the congressional baseball team. That -- I will say that about him.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s a softball.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: That counts for something.

KASICH: In all seriousness, we have -- we have a lot of differences, but we don`t ever name-call. He and I have never done that about each other. And we can respect each other, even though we have very significant differences.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. Thanks so much, Governor John Kasich.

Let me bring in right now Senator Sherrod Brown.

You`re up for reelection this year. And you know one thing I have noticed about...

BROWN: Can I say somebody about John?

MATTHEWS: Sure.

BROWN: You know what?

I appreciate that -- I mean, John Kasich has spine. And I appreciate that. He has stood up for what he believes.

And our state will always owe him a debt of gratitude, because he worked with me and others on health care. And he expanded Medicaid. And 900,000 Ohioans have insurance. And John Kasich is part of the reason for that, so I will always be grateful for that.

MATTHEWS: One of the attractive things about President Trump -- and it was -- he had a couple of them, like no more stupid wars. The other was infrastructure.

And yet he`s taken 10 million bucks out of FEMA and given it to border control. I mean, it doesn`t like he`s really like built up our preparation for these kind of natural disasters coming.

BROWN: Yes, well, more than that, he took what we thought was going to be a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, water, sewer, community colleges, medical research on Alzheimer`s, all kinds of things, and he gave it away in a tax cut, where 80 percent of the benefits went to the richest 1 percent.

I mean, that was -- that was the worst -- there are so many reasons that tax cut didn`t make sense, overwhelmingly to the wealthy, all the stock buybacks.

MATTHEWS: So, why do working-class people, a lot of them stick with him? Because they would have benefited from the jobs, from the infrastructure. They have to go long distances to work. We know that. Working people go a lot further to work than rich people do.

And they need good roads and new mass transit, all kinds of stuff. And yet the money went all to the rich people, and you still have, what, 43 percent of your state is backing Trump right now.

BROWN: Yes. Well, it`s hard -- in some ways, it`s hard to understand.

I think people in Ohio, a lot of people don`t think their kids are going to have a better material life than they do. A lot of, I think, people in Ohio don`t believe that people in Washington respect them and respect the dignity of work.

We talked on that show before, respect the dignity of retirement, where if you -- if you have worked hard all your life, you have contributed to society, you ought to have Medicare and Social Security for sure there.

And I think they feel like politicians in Washington in both parties aren`t paying attention. And Trump was the alternative. And that -- but we let that happen because we didn`t -- we didn`t stand up in the right way.

MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats do face -- are very hopeful about a blue way this November. I think there`s a big wave coming. Still face a challenge in Ohio, a state that voted for President Trump -- President Obama, rather, in `08 and `12, then swung to Trump in 2016.

Here`s a new Politico poll that shows you hold a 16-point lead over your opponent, Renacci.

Tell me about this race, this Senate race. How close do you think it`s going to be?

BROWN: There was a poll a week ago that showed me up four. So polls are all over the place.

I don`t think people are paying attention yet. People don`t know him well, particularly well yet. The race is going to be a contrast between -- between a guy that wanted to -- that voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And I stood with Governor Kasich on and solidly for it.

But I think, in the end, my concern about a race like this is, every time I have run, the gun lobby pours millions in at the end. Oftentimes, the drug companies do and Wall Street does. And it will be a close race.

I mean, Trump won the state by eight points. There has not been a Democrat elected statewide in Ohio in the last 10 years, except my 2012 race. And the state tends to lean a little bit that way. And we fight like hell.

But, I mean, the difference in this race, we`re -- I`m usually outspent. I probably will be outspent. The difference is our grassroots efforts. And I appeal to people to come to SherrodBrown.com and help us out. Help us by volunteering, because we win races in Ohio by working harder than they do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about the person who voted -- I got a member -- a couple members my family, three of them, in fact, who voted for Trump. And I got to deal with them.

One just switched, by the way, now can`t stand Trump. So something`s going on out there.

BROWN: That`s not surprising.

MATTHEWS: What do you say those people that voted for Trump last time, but you want them to vote for you this time, and let them think about the next election coming up when that time comes?

BROWN: Well, because it`s, whose side are you on?

In the end, I always fight, I always fight for the -- whether you punch a clock, whether you work in a diner, whether you`re a salaried office worker, whether you`re working in a hospital, you fight for people and have their backs.

And it really is, whose side are on? And enough voters in Ohio, too many voters in Ohio thought Trump was on their side. They have seen me fight for them. I will continue to, whether it`s trade agreements or a tax policy that helps -- means companies move offshore, whether it`s fighting for consumers.

And I will be there always.

MATTHEWS: Good luck out there, Senator.

BROWN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Up next: Jury selection is about to begin in that second trial of former campaign manager for Trump Paul Manafort. And now "The Washington Post" is out there reporting that Manafort is talking to Mueller`s team about a plea deal.

How`s he going to get a plea to and get a pardon? We`re going to talk about that. That`s going to be tricky for this guy.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When Paul Manafort was convicted last month, President Trump praised his former campaign chairman for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors against him, Donald Trump.

Trump`s law Rudy Giuliani even hinted at a potential pardon for Manafort in June of this year. Yet, despite those public assurances, Manafort is back at the bargaining table with the prosecutors.

"The Washington Post" is now reporting that Manafort is in talks with the special counsel`s office about a possible plea deal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. However, according to ABC News, there`s still one big sticking point. Mueller`s office is seeking cooperation from Manafort for information related to President Trump and the 2016 campaign.

However, Manafort is resisting, and his team is pushing prosecutors for a plea agreement that does not include cooperation, in other words, selling out the president. Convicted on eight felony counts in Virginia, Manafort could be sentenced to 10 years in prison on that. And he`s still facing another set of charges in Washington, D.C., coming up soon, where he is scheduled to be on trial this month.

Well, this is Manafort`s second round of negotiations with prosecutors. "The Wall Street Journal" previously reporting that Manafort also weighed a potential deal last month, which ultimately fell through.

Well, joining me right now is an expert, U.S. attorney Joyce Vance.

Thank you, Joyce, for this.

I keep thinking this guy`s going, she loves me, she loves me not, one of those things. Am I going to go for a pardon? Am I going to sell this guy and try to get a lesser sentence?

Isn`t that the choice, ultimately, in fact immediately, now facing Mr. Manafort?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It is, but he doesn`t really hold all the cards, Chris.

And so I`m wondering if what we`re seeing here is Manafort taking a page from the president`s playbook and running a strategy that`s a public relations strategy, not a legal strategy, trying to put Donald Trump on the alert to say, if you don`t give me a pardon right now, there may be so much pressure on me to cooperate against you, that I won`t be able to withstand it.

Maybe that`s what this I about.

MATTHEWS: I guess this is all about speculation.

My sense is that Trump`s got some cards in his hand. He can go sometime next year decide if he`s going to run for reelection or not. He can decide, I`m going to pardon all my family members, pardon people like Manafort who have been true to me, and then decide if fallout from that is so bad, I can`t run for reelection.

In other words, once I have taken care of the family and all my friends, then I will decide whether to run for reelection or not. That seems to be the smart move for him, because he`s not going to let his family swing, I don`t think. Your thoughts.

VANCE: It`s hard to know whether anyone would develop a spine and hold him accountable for using the pardon power in that manner.

Obviously, the president has under the Constitution a virtually unlimited ability to pardon folks, with the exception of himself during impeachment proceedings perhaps. But whether he could politically survive this level of pardon is one issue.

And then the other is, it`s a gamble for anyone who`s counting on the president to give them a pardon, because although he looks like he`s got survivability right now, that could change at some point in time, and perhaps he wouldn`t be in a position to issue pardons.

So the longer folks have to wait, the more risky it is.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Manafort himself.

Manafort facing a decade of prison time coming out of the trial held last month in Virginia. He`s going into a D.C. jury, which are pretty well known to be liberals, not exactly fond of Republican big shots. So he`s not facing a happy jury when they see him coming.

What does that tell you about where he will deal his cards right now?

VANCE: Well, I think this jury will do what we expect juries to do across the country. And that`s to leave their prejudices at the door and to make a decision, as the judge will instruct them to, based only on the evidence and the law.

MATTHEWS: You`re being very clinical.

(CROSSTALK)

VANCE: Mueller`s got great evidence. And we saw how good that evidence was in Virginia.

Manafort is looking at an almost certain second conviction. But Mueller has already got what he needs here. He`s got a conviction in Virginia. Manafort is looking at about eight years under the guidelines as the sentence that he would serve.

From Mueller`s point of view, the only thing left that he really wants is Manafort`s cooperation. And so I would expect him to drive a pretty tough bargain here. He doesn`t have to agree to let Manafort plead. Manafort can plead blind to all counts in the indictment, with no deal from prosecutors if he wants to. He cannot force Mueller to give him any kind of terms for that agreement.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, we will see what he`s got in his pocket.

Thank you so much, Joyce Vance.

Up next: With Hurricane Florence barreling toward the Carolinas right now, President Trump says his administration did a great job handling the hurricane over in Puerto Rico, great job.

But with nearly 3,000 deaths caused by that storm, do you think there`s room there for improvement maybe by him, the A-plus guy?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERVIEWER: What grade do you give yourself so far?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I give myself an A-plus. I don`t think any president has ever done what I`ve done in the short -- we haven`t even been two years.

I give myself an A-plus, OK, effort.

I would give myself an A-plus, nobody has done what I`ve been able to do and I did it despite the fact I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn`t exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He didn`t have any problem with Fox on that, did he? A-plus went well with that panel pretty well.

We`re back to HARDBALL.

President Trump has given himself, right here, A-plus is pretty good, in his presidency multiple times now. And this morning, he did so again, tweeting, we got A-pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico. This comes after the president calls his hurricane work an unsung success. He did that yesterday.

Well, a few days after that hurricane last year in Puerto Rico, he said he was proud of the responses he offered, nothing that far fewer people died in Puerto Rico than they did during Hurricane Katrina. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you`ve thrown our budget out of whack because we spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that`s fine. We 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 overpowering, nobody has ever seen anything like this.

Sixteen versus literally thousands of people, you can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what`s taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Remember Ming the Merciless, the old Flash Gordon series, what kind of costume was the president wearing at that time anyway? What do you make of his bragging? There was 3,000 people killed in the Puerto Rico hurricane and he was saying, we`re going to lose a few deaths here and there.

GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I think as someone from the Gulf Coast who calls New Orleans home, nobody wants to be in a competition for how many people died in their hurricane. And no one wants to start bragging that New Orleans` Katrina response was the measure. I think President Trump is always going to give himself A-pluses and I think the risk that comes with talking about his Maria response that was so heavily criticized, now we know thousands died there --

MATTHEWS: Instead of 64.

GIBSON: Instead of 64.

GIBSON: We got Ginger Gibson, John Brabender and Jason Johnson.

John?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Here`s my question, first of all. How many of you thought when he got asked that question he was going to say B minus, C? Everybody knew he was going to say A-plus.

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on.

BRABENDER: Everybody knew he was going to say A-plus. Was that a surprise?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We know he`d say it.

BRABENDER: I think it`s a dumb question, he shouldn`t have answered it.

Number two, though, look, this president has a frustration because when you ask people in the last election, what are the two big issues? It was the economy and it was fighting terrorism? And frankly he probably deserves an A, A-plus on those categories and he thinks nobody gives credit.

So, where he takes the bait on this, he feels he has to be his own promoter. He has to do it because nobody else is there. But it doesn`t look like what a president should be doing. And in the long term, I think it hurts him when he goes down that rabbit hole.

JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: You`ve got to be able to pat your head and rub your tummy. I mean, part of the job is you`re doing more than what you campaigned on. And his inability to take any sort of responsibility -- look, the particularly tragic part about it for me this is not the time to grade yourself, as the professor, I can tell you, never let your students grade themselves, right? They`re always going to give themselves a great grade.

Rather than grading himself, the president has always lacked a certain amount of empathy for people in tragedy. It`s not just a matter that he was saying I did this fantastic job or making a comparison to Katrina, it`s the fact his administration lied and promoted a lie about the number of people who died. That`s the most egregious part.

GIBSON: He is now reminding all of the people who were critical of his response to Maria, that they should be critical, look, his response to Maria. He could have just never mentioned it, not given himself any grade and now he`s reminded all these people --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s going into voter territory now. Puerto Rico, you can`t vote or some of the people live here --

GIBSON: Except all the people that had to go to Florida.

MATTHEWS: When they come to Florida, yes.

But now, we`re going to Carolinas, the two states he needs, John.

BRABENDER: But I also want -- no one is talking about what Merkley did, what Pallone (ph) did, which is more insanely, they hijack this issue to try to use it as a political football to hit this president --

MATTHEWS: You mean Merkley saying he took $10 million of a hurricane related --

BRABENDER: Which turned out not to be true. He said that last night, and it turned out the money that was shifted was nothing to do with disaster relief. So, what he did is give false information to try to make this into an election issue. That`s unfair.

MATTHEWS: Well, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is voicing more concern about whether the Republicans can hold on the Senate majority this fall. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope so. It`s going to be -- you know, we`ve got a storm headed toward the coast, and, Lawrence, you`ve heard me say this before, we know the wind is going to be in our face, we don`t know if it`s going to be category 3, 4 or 5. I hope when the smoke clears, that we still have a majority in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John, back to you. And that`s the question, is it looks like the Republicans, two weeks ago I thought they were going to hold the Senate, they may pick up a couple seats, 51, 53, they`ll end up, I think now they`ve got a fight for their lives.

BRABENDER: Well, I think that`s true. I think all these races, as Mitch McConnell said are tied. And so, the bottom line is, generally, they`re all going to go almost one way. You have surges at the end.

So, it could still come back it`s a big Republican year in the Senate and they`re safe, especially if they win Florida and North Dakota and Montana, which looks like today they very well might and Missouri --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Republicans will beat Tester?

BRABENDER: Ii think those are the four that have better chances than any other state.

MATTHEWS: Really? I never heard that.

BRABENDER: I`m just telling you, right --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t see that happening.

JOHNSON: There`s a difference between having a chance of being successful. What Republicans really have to worry about and what Mitch McConnell is talking about is, regardless of how weak in the bad territory some of these Democrats are running in, they`re in places where lower races may help them.

Andrew Gillum may end up pulling Nelson over the line, even though he`s running against Scott, who might be a better candidate. You`ve got what`s going on in Tennessee right now. That should not be a competitive race.

So, he`s actually correct to be concerned, and here`s a thing, in a wave election, you always have people losing who you don`t anticipate. If you asked me a month ago, is Beto O`Rourke have a chance of beating Cruz? No. But now that everybody has admitted the fact that like we don`t know what could happen, that means --

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts? I completely believe that waves are waves. They work.

GIBSON: There`s a wave and McConnell knows if he sits by quietly and waits the wave is going to come for him. If that was a smoke signal to his donors, know the fire has been burning in his office for a while now. They`ve been raising money, and they`ve been concerned.

And it`s not just Tennessee, it`s Arizona and Nevada. I mean, these are states they hold now and could lose. I think about a week ago, the public realized outside of these political offices that there was concerns to be had in the Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think they`re losing two of the top 10 now. I think it`s moving that way for the Democrats.

John, you don`t agree?

BRABENDER: But here`s the thing that happens too, surges really happen much more in the House than they do in the Senate because they become almost like governor`s races. They know the two candidates so well. House members are much more likely to get pulled into some type of wave one way or the other.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think anybody is in the mood to give Trump a little keep it up, you`re doing great work there. I think, at the edge, I think people are going to say, let`s check this guy`s power a little bit, at least.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with the HARDBALL roundtable. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.

GIBSON: A large group of business interests launched a multimillion campaign today to convince President Trump to abandon his tariffs on China. But what we`re seeing a division in the business community. Millions of dollars behind on an effort to convince the president that he`s wrong, while some think they should be trying to convince him that he`s already won a victory to abandon the --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: John?

BRABENDER: There`s some new fears in the Republican Party that some new research showed that among millennials and generation Z, our share of voice of talking to `em is minuscule compared to the left. And that --

MATTHEWS: What`s generation Z?

BRABENDER: It`s the one behind --

JOHNSON: Behind millennials.

BRABENDER: The millennials. And so, there`s now going to be a big shift, they`re taking a hard look at is spending more on TV or more on digital or should we be creating our own spaces of communications of how they do it socially and others? You`re seeing big shifts in 2020 on that.

MATTHEWS: And where the money goes.

BRABENDER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Jason.

JOHNSON: So, we know we got a tight race for governor between Ducey and Garcia in Arizona right now. Here`s the catch, one of the biggest attacks that Republicans have on Democrats, they`re trying to get rid of ICE. They want all sorts of dangerous people to come off from the border. The problem with that argument is, governors can`t do anything about ICE.

So, if Republicans want to make the abolish ICE and issue that they hit Democrats with, they probably ought to keep it at the congressional level because it doesn`t go anywhere on a state level race.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Ed Koch got elected mayor of New York by saying for capital punishment. He had absolutely nothing to do with the issue of capital punishment.

Thank you, Ginger Gibson, and thank you, John Brabender. I have a memory. Anyway, Jason Johnson.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re not going to like this one. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Wednesday, September 12th, 2018, just one day past the 17th anniversary of 9/11, the president of the United States seems unconnected to both political and atmospheric reality. He faces a category 3 hurricane headed for the East Coast, and a political storm warning of the same level.

But his reaction to both is vintage Alfred E. Newman, what, me worry?

Well, Donald Trump, who`s stranger to shame seems equally unbothered by storm clouds, either those of extreme weather, or the political shipwreck type. It`s particularly hard to explain the latter.

Donald Trump won the presidency -- let`s face it -- in the Electoral College due to his public demand for change. Yet, he seems unable to recognize the growing anger out there today among the electorate of 2018. Others see suburban voters heading to the polls now with clear and passionate intent to vote Democratic this November and thereby Trump in check, Trump sees nothing of the kind.

A great thing about Americans, I think, is our ability to catch up with things. People who voted for Trump in 2016 are ready to vote against him in 2018. I see that particularly in suburban congressional districts. States that voted for him in 2016 are now teetering between his preferred candidate, the Republican and the Democrat riding a wave of resistance. A candidate who`s in tune to voters` urge for change in 2016, Trump, now sits behind the Oval Office desk, giving himself A-pluses and refusing to recognize that in a democracy, it is the voter who gives out the grades.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next. By the way, he`s got a special town hall right away tonight with guest Michael Moore.

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

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