Trump says he's "very disappointed". TRANSCRIPT: 9/19/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Janai Nelson, Anita Kumar, Sahil Kapur, Ashley Parker, Bill Weld, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 19, 2018 Guest: Janai Nelson, Anita Kumar, Sahil Kapur, Ashley Parker, Bill Weld, Doris Kearns Goodwin

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me. I will see you back tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

"HARDBALL" with my dear friend Chris Matthews starts right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Calling all witnesses. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington with breaking news.

Christine Blasey Ford`s lawyers responded tonight the Senate Republicans and their plan to plow ahead with the hearing.

And a statement to NBC News, her lawyers says quote "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago. She is currently unable to go home and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family`s safety. Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this. She continues to believe that a full non-partisan investigation of this matter is needed. And she is willing to cooperate with the committee. However, the committee plans to move forward with a hearing that has two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation. There are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding. The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth."

Well, Blasey Ford has alleged judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denies the allegations.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the judiciary committee made clear that Monday, this coming Monday was the last shot for Dr. Ford to testify. He wrote to her lawyers quote "you have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so either privately or publicly on Monday."

Republicans have begun closing ranks on this of course signal that they will move on with the Kavanaugh hearing without her. Let`s watch them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don`t understand why the hearing shouldn`t go forth. I think it`s not fair to judge Kavanaugh for her not to come ford and testify. Both of them need to testify under oath next Monday before the Judiciary Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she`ll testify only if there`s an investigation first. Would that be something that would be acceptable to Republicans?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: She is really not in a position to make conditions in my view.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: He was unequivocal. He was categorical. He was resolute. He is determined. He said, I`m ready to come testify.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, earlier today a former schoolmate posted a statement on social media in which she recalled hearing about the alleged assault as a student. The woman writes, I did not know her personally but I remember her. This incident did happen. Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details.

Well, NBC news confirmed that the statements were hers but they did not confirm her allegation itself. The former schoolmate later said that she did not have firsthand knowledge of that incident.

Meanwhile, at the White House President Trump said it was hard to imagine Dr. Ford`s allegation against Kavanaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we`ll have to make a decision. But I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, you said you feel badly for Brett Kavanaugh and his family. Do you feel anything for Christine Blasey Ford?

TRUMP: Well, I would have to see what she has to say. I have given her a lot of time. The Senate has given her a lot of time. We continue to give her a lot of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined right now by Megyn Kelly, host of NBC`S MEGYN KELLY TODAY. She`s a trained attorney of course who covered the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court justices Roberts, Solito, Sotomayor and Kagan.

Megyn, you have through a number of times, obviously, as a reporter. You are an attorney. What do you think of where this is at right now tonight with all these demands from the witness, the accuser, and the insistence of the committee that they are going to go ahead on Monday take it or not?

MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS HOST, MEGYN KELLY TODAY: I think Dr. Ford is running out of options. I think she needs to show up on Monday and offer her testimony if she wants to be heard because for better or for worse, she is not in charge of this. The Senate is in charge of this. That committee is in charge of this. And their obligation is to provide advice and consent to the President on his judicial nominee. And so, they get to decide what will inform that decision.

And what they have decided is they will reopen the hearings, which they think is an accommodation given that Dianne Feinstein knew about this allegation when the hearings were open originally. She could have raised it, you know, saying there`s an anonymous accuser.

But notwithstanding that, they are reopening it and giving her the chance to speak publicly, privately. Senator Grassley even said we will send somebody out to California to interview you. And she has rejected all of those. Senator Cornyn is right she`s not in a position to demand protocols. It`s not her right.

MATTHEWS: What would it be like Monday afternoon if there`s no hearing and they proceed to a vote next week? Will this possibility of this witness she could go on "60 minutes," she could go on your program. She is still going to be out there with her charges. What would that do to the lifetime appointment and confirmation if he is confirmed of Kavanaugh with this hanging out there as part of the history book?

KELLY: You know, it`s tough to say because one of the reasons why she should come forward, right, if she wants to tell this story, and I realize she`s going through a lot right now with the death threats and all the insane stuff that`s happening to her, but I can say this. It`s not easy for any sexual assault victim or person who claims to be a victim, we don`t know in her case one way or the other, but hearing her would really help. And it`s always tough for these women to actually come forward and offer their testimonial. It`s never an easy thing, but women stand up every day in criminal courts and civil courts across this country and they do it. And I would say most find it rather empowering to tell the story.

So, you know, if she wants to be heard, she has an opportunity. You know, Monday is still a few days away and she could do it. If she doesn`t do it then, she might ding the guy up publicly as a matter of reputation as she already has, but it`s not going to be much more than that. And so, this is it. It`s do or die for her.

MATTHEWS: OK. If you`re chuck Grassley, and you are the majority member of that committee and you are right, they have the call on how to do this. You are looking at a guy who is publicly identified himself as a drinking buddy of Kavanaugh. He wrote a book where he described a character as Bart O`Kavanaugh who is a big drinker with him. OK, people make up stories. That seems a little closer to life.

What about inviting him and what about inviting the other woman who put out the word today, just today. By the way, they are showing now. They are sort of third degree witnesses. And she knew about the buzz at the time of the story. And then he was accused according to the accuser, Dr. Ford, of being the guy who pounced on the two of them when they were on that bed together. Shouldn`t he be called as a witness as well if you are Chuck Grassley, the chairman?

KELLY: So, not unless you get the accuser On the Record. I mean, that`s how any investigation would begin, an FBI investigation, a police investigation or a congressional investigation starts always with the accuser.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KELLY: So if the accuser is not going to go offer her testimonial, then that is pointless. As for her friend or the woman claiming to be her friend, she deleted that tweet right after she sent it. And she admitted very quickly thereafter, all right, I have no firsthand knowledge. So I don`t know how much probative value there is there.

What we have seen in other Me Too allegations, Chris, and the thing that really winds up condemning anyone who finds themselves on the wrong end of these are a series, a series of accusations.

MATTHEWS: Right.

KELLY: That`s not to say you can`t have one that is damning enough to ruin a person`s career, you know, who is on the receiving of it. But it tends to be one woman or person opens the flood gates and then others come forward saying me too, me too, me too.

For whatever it is worth in Kavanaugh`s case, we haven`t seen that in the days since this is broken. It has been about a week. And more over what we have right now is repeated testimonials of 30 plus years of exemplary public service. Now, the Democrats might not like Kavanaugh, I realize that, but they should consider what they are going to get if, you know, he goes away and Trump rushes to replace him.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it will be good for the Republican Party to have two Supreme Court justices, both associate justices who have had this problem generally speaking?

KELLY: I don`t think Republicans are going to care about that at all, you know. They want a conservative justice, right. They don`t believe in the Anita Hill. And they are probably not going to believe Dr. Ford.

This is so political, right? I mean, the whole thing, I believe this woman should be heard. I hope she shows up and testifies on Monday. But the truth is, most of these Republicans are not inclined to believe her no matter what she says. And most of the Democrats are not inclined to believe judge Kavanaugh no matter what he says. So part of this is all for politics and it is for show. And I frankly don`t blame either party for not wanting anything to do with it. But my calculation right now is probably nothing is going to change and he is going to get confirmed.

MATTHEWS: Well, your brutal assessment of the Republican thinking on this and wanting to move ahead seems to be squaring with all kinds of evidence. Thank you so much. It is great to have you.

Megyn, good luck with everything. And thank you for coming on tonight. I know you are an expert on this.

KELLY: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: Coming breaking news tonight, here it is. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced tonight that she will vote no, nay, on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination.

For more, I`m joined by Phil Rucker, "Washington Post" White House bureau chief and Janai Nelson, associate director counsel at the NAACP legal defense.

Janai, you are going first. I want to go with you on this. Where do you see this case running now? It supposed to be go through Monday night. There is no testimony from the accuser. No other witnesses called. Republicans on that committee who control the timing and schedule say, hey, you know what? We are going to make this guy Supreme Court justice like it or not. Where does that take us towards our justice system?

JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE: It take us to a very troubling place, you know. We have been framing this all wrong from the start. It seems as if this is a battle between Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh and really what is at stake is the integrity of the Supreme Court and who is responsible for ensuring it is our Senate and the Senate judiciary committee as a threshold matter.

There are so many questions swirling around judge Kavanaugh and his credibility and his suitability for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. We are deeply troubled obviously by these allegations of sexual assault, very credible allegations that deserve not just a hearing but an investigation to proceed that hearing so that it`s informed by the best information, by the right witnesses, by the right questions, by a thorough vetting of these circumstances.

And so, for the Senate to move forward on Monday without Dr. Ford`s testimony, without having engaged in a full FBI investigation which if Donald Trump was very serious about this would call for immediately, this short changes the American public on one of the most significant posts in this country.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Phil on this. What do you make on the hearings right now? It looks like she still as the accuser, Dr. Ford, is still calling for a thorough bipartisan investigation. But it seems like she is focusing now on who else is testifying on Monday like she might agree to come if this guy, Mark Judge shows up, the guy who is involved according to her in that incident. Or if this other person remembers that the word was around at the time that it happened.

PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. And the statement has shifted from demanding the FBI investigation before any hearing to saying that she wants this hearing to have more people, to have other witnesses. But they are still calling for the nonpartisan investigation. It doesn`t explosively say it has to be done by the FBI, but her lawyer wants that investigation.

The FBI could investigate this issue if President Trump were to direct them to do so. But President Trump said today and said yesterday as well that he is not going to do that. That he thinks it needs to be handled by the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to happen. Something is going to happen. Either they have one side buckles at the other - it is a terrible game.

RUCKER: It`s a stalemate.

MATTHEWS: Because one side is going to proceed and have a confirmation. And if force all its members of the Republican Party in the Senate, 51 members to just stand up and say without the testimony of this woman, this accuser, they are willing to go on board to say, yes, this guy should be on court for life. That`s really putting the pressure on these guys.

RUCKER: Exactly. And it`s politically risky for these Republican senators if she doesn`t agree to come in this hearing on Monday to move forward immediately for the vote. There could be a voter backlash in the midterm elections in November especially with a lot of suburban independent voters, a lot of suburban women who are fleeing the Republican Party to begin with. Because of disapproval of President Trump, it could potentially exacerbate that gender gap and damage Republican prospects.

MATTHEWS: Janai, talk about that in terms of just gender and women feeling that they have been disregarded their testimony. Like we don`t really need to hear from you, lady. That`s sort of the message to be put a blunt. We can go on without you.

NELSON: Yes. And we have seen this before. We saw this with Anita Hill. Even when women are given the opportunity to tell their stories and to bring forward information and evidence, the way in which she was treated is exactly and precisely why Dr. Ford is making the request that she is making to ensure that if there is a hearing, that it is properly conducted, that it is trauma sensitive, that there are the right protocols are in place to ensure that she has a fair forum in which to raise these issues.

We all remember the absolute mistreatment and abuse that Anita Hill suffered. And Dr. Ford did a courageous thing with that backdrop still being willing to come forward and raised these issues.

But I would be remiss if I did not remind everyone that we are not only dealing with these very serious allegations. We also have a very suspect record on civil rights that judge Kavanaugh has. And many other concerns about his credibility. So this is one larger story. And the Senate should not deal with this simply as a political matter. This is a constitutional matter.

MATTHEWS: Well, Anita Hill speaking to ABC News urge the Senate judiciary committee to hold off on moving forward with the hearing schedule for Monday. Let`s listen to Anita Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA HILL, ATTORNEY: The hearing questions need to from a frame and the investigation is the best frame for that. Six days is not enough for the senators who probably know very little about these claims. It`s not enough for them to inform themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So what`s the President afraid of? Because he can ask the FBI to do all sorts of sometimes crazy things would notice like after Hillary and whatever emails, whatever. Why doesn`t he just say, we will give you a month to look at this.

RUCKER: It is a good question. He certainly can and there could be a time when he decides to tell the FBI to do it but he is not doing it now. He is taking direction from White House counsel Don McGahn and others in the White House and he is letting the Senate control this process. He is letting Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the senate and Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the judiciary committee decide how this investigation, if they are going to do unfold and decide how this hearings unfold. And the President so far has been relatively mute other than to defend Kavanaugh.

MATTHEWS: I can give a scenario for both of you that the Republicans will not like. They confirmed Kavanaugh next Thursday. He becomes a lifetime member of the Supreme Court. He is in business on the court deciding issues like Roe v. Wade and things like that. And come Sunday night or the Monday night before the next election, the midterm elections. The accuser, Dr. Ford appears on television and gives her full story to a reporter or an anchor person and it is deadly. It is deadly. And they are stuck with this confirmation. I don`t think they are going to be very happy with that scenario. If I were the Republicans, I would think two or three weeks ahead over a month-and-a-half ahead and know where you are putting yourself. Wherever you go, that is where you are going to be. And they are going to be in a very bad place where a nominee confirmed who shouldn`t have been confirmed.

Thank you very much Phil Rucker. Thank you, Janai Nelson. Great to have you both on.

Coming up, Donald Trump again in taxes. Attorney general Jeff Session, he is demeaning this guy. And when he was asked if he would fire Sessions, the President responded, we will see what happens. He is bullying this guy.

Plus, President Trump said today he studies history. Do you believe that? (INAUDIBLE) who joins us right tonight to explain Trump can learn from him if he really did study history.

And Trump says he thinks Republicans are going to do much better in November than anyone expects. How will the flowed from this Kavanaugh drama as I suspect will hurt the Republicans in the midterms and not just with women.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a huge difference and how the two parties are approaching, this Kavanaugh episode. It is very teaching about the parties and their values.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Checking in now with our HARDBALL ten. Those ten races in the country that will decide who controls the U.S. senate come November. A new Quinnipiac poll if like voters down in Texas shows incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz with a nine point lead now over Democratic challenger Beto O`Rourke. But a new Reuters (INAUDIBLE) online poll of likely voters shows O`Rourke with a two-point edge over Cruz. That`s within the poll`s margin of error. A win for O`Rourke would actually make him the first Democrat to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate in a quarter century.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We continue to follow the increasingly partisan confirmation battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But while the president showed support for his nominee to the Supreme Court, he`s slamming the man he chose to lead the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions.

Trump, who has long accused Sessions of failing to protect him, expressed his frustration an interview with "The Hill" newspaper today, saying that - - quote -- saying -- quote -- "I don`t have an attorney general. It`s very sad."

He said that.

Unable to hide his contempt, Trump said of Sessions: "He wanted to be attorney general, and I didn`t see it. And then he went through the nominating process, and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused."

This is Trump`s talking about his attorney general.

It`s the latest evidence that Trump views the attorney general as his own personal fixer, whose job it is to insulate him from the law, rather than uphold the law.

And later, when pressed by reporters, Trump wouldn`t rule out firing the attorney general. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons. But we have an attorney general. I`m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons. And you understand why.

QUESTION: Are you going to fire him? Are you going to fire Jeff Sessions?

TRUMP: We are looking at lots of different things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Lots of different things.

"The Washington Post" has tonight reported the president`s associates say: "He increasingly believes he is unprotected."

Yet his attacks on Sessions have raised alarm. As one former White House officials said: "It`s a complete disgrace. What an absolute baby. He`s disgracing himself."

Anyway, joining me right now is Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts and former head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, and also ran for vice president this past time on the Libertarian ticket, also Ashley Parker, one of the great reporters of our time, White House reporter for "The Washington Post," who co-authored this report.

I`m going to start with Ashley about this thing.

What is Trump up to? Is he trying to bully this guy out of office?

ASHLEY PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, yes and no.

It is more that he is just again expressing his sort of sense of anger and betrayal and frustration.

MATTHEWS: Why out loud?

PARKER: To be fair, he`s done it out loud for quite some time.

I think, early on, there was a thought that he could pressure Attorney General Sessions into leaving. That`s simply not going to happen. He`s frustrated and he`s angry and he wants to be protected, and he simply can`t contain it.

This is a president who says out loud sort of the stage directions and what he`s feeling, and this is what he`s feeling right now.

MATTHEWS: Governor, thank you for joining us.

What would happen if he fired him, say, the day after this election, which there a lot of suspicion he`s going to do? Will that open the floodgates to him finding an attorney general who will squash this investigation on Russia?

BILL WELD (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I think the president`s treading a very dangerous path here.

When he says, "I don`t have an attorney general," he means, I expect the attorney general to be loyal to me. And, as you said, that means, protect me.

That`s just a massive misunderstanding of the idea that, in this country, we have a government of laws and not of men. And it`s pretty close to the kind of undermining of the rule of law that forced President Nixon to resign.

MATTHEWS: Well, in his interview, the president also claimed incorrectly that -- quote -- "Now it turned out Sessions didn`t have to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe."

However, it`s been there since day one that Sessions, as a former surrogate during the election, would not be able to oversee any investigation of the president`s campaign.

(COUGHING)

MATTHEWS: I`m so sorry.

The code of federal regulations on recusal says no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation -- excuse me -- or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation.

That sounds like the law, Governor.

WELD: I think Sessions with within his rights in recusing himself.

I served with him as fellow U.S. attorneys in the Reagan administration, and never heard negatives about him. He was well -- well-liked in the Senate. I thought made the right call on that.

I will say that I think undermining the rule of law, failure to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, that was a cornerstone of the Nixon impeachment. Article two of the articles against President Nixon got the most votes. And it`s about exactly this sort of thing.

And the fact that you do it in the open is not good enough as an excuse.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the fact that he put it all together the offer -- the request for loyalty from the FBI Director Comey, the asking of Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, the firing of Comey, do you put it all together with the statements he`s making now about it`s the job of the A.G. to protect him, to be his protector, is obstruction?

WELD: It`s pretty close.

I -- the demands for loyalty really give me the creeps in a law enforcement context. I have often said that I think in Washington, in this town, all too often, loyalty is an excuse for doing the wrong thing. And demanding or even requesting loyalty from someone in a law enforcement context is damn close to obstruction of justice.

MATTHEWS: Ashley, put it in perspective what`s going on with the president now, going out there and saying, I`m going to release all the text messages, all the e-mail, all the classified information, everything these guys have in their drawers or have on their phones or anywhere, I`m releasing it all, no matter the -- whatever happens?

PARKER: I mean, I think, on some level, we have become desensitized to this, because the president has been at war with his own Justice Department and his own FBI just about since the day he took office.

But you sort of cannot overstate how remarkable and how striking this is that you have in a president who, for instance, chose Attorney General Sessions just to go out and trash him just about every single day, who is at war with his Justice Department, is at war with his FBI.

And as the governor was saying, at the very least, it is horrible for morale in law enforcement. And it`s also an erosion of trust in democratic institutions.

MATTHEWS: How do you think he is going to get out of it, a whole series of pardons, then agree not to run for reelection? What are his options at this point?

WELD: I don`t know. I can remember sitting around the dinner table many years ago saying, well, if President Nixon fires Archie Cox, he`s gone.

Well, he did fire Archie Cox. In less than a year, he was gone. And I sense that kind of temper here. And I`m really not saying this as a pundit. In a way, I`m giving the president a piece of advice, almost a warning. This stuff is really important.

MATTHEWS: How about the Republican Party? Is the Republican Party still vulnerable to truth? Do they still respond to fact? Or are they now so regimental in their support for this president, they will back him until the end?

WELD: Well, I don`t know.

I mean, I think -- I think, if the Dems did win the House, probably an impeachment proceeding, a trial would result, and it wouldn`t be a pretty picture. So it would be 12 months of unremitting negative publicity for the president.

I don`t think you would get 10 Republican votes to remove him. So I don`t think he`s going to be removed through the impeachment power. But it could lead to tough slogging at the ballot box for the president on the reelect if he should run.

MATTHEWS: Yes. It could take two-thirds.

Thank you, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld and Ashley Parker.

Up next: President Trump likes to compare himself favorably to Lincoln. Why not? We`re going to talk to a renowned presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, about how these two American presidents really stack up against each other.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Did you hear? The most popular person in the history of the Republican Party is Trump. Can you believe that?

Does that include honest Abe Lincoln? You know, he was pretty good. Right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump tends to use the concept of history to boast about his accomplishments, such as comparing himself to honest Abe Lincoln.

In interview with Hill TV yesterday, he floated the idea of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions by noting that: "I guess I study history. And I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair, what he did."

In his new beautifully written -- her beautifully new written book, "Leadership in Turbulent Times," Doris Kearns Goodwin writes about the leadership of four presidents, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson. She asked, is history or leadership possible without a purpose larger than personal ambition?

Well, it`s an issue that one of the great political figures of our time, Senator John McCain, tackled frequently. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I learned long ago that serving only oneself is a petty and unsatisfying ambition. But serve a cause greater than self-interest, and you will know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of fame and fortune.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote -- quote -- "It is my hope that these stories of leadership in times of fracture and fear will prove instructive and reassuring."

I`m joined right now by herself, presidential historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Thank you.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I`m glad to be with you.

MATTHEWS: So, I want you to tonight answer that. You have studied the presidents.

These four -- four gentlemen especially, Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, and Johnson, who you knew personally, big vision, besides just television kind of celebrity.

GOODWIN: You know, they came into office, maybe all of them, with personal ambition. The real test of whether a leader is good or even great is, when does that personal ambition become something larger for the collective interest?

Lincoln`s the one who had it early on. Even when he first ran for office at 23, he said his peculiar ambition was to be held in esteem by his fellow man for doing something worthy. And he, of course, had this huge problem to face, the Civil War, and he had exactly the right temperament to face it. So he goes into greatness.

Teddy, when he first enters office at 25 years old, 23, he says, I`m just going in for an adventure. I`m not changing people`s lives. I just think I should do this.

But then, as he went around to the tenements, as he became police commissioner, as his experience broadened through his political career, he wanted to do something to change the inequities of the industrial order. So it gets the Square Deal for the rich and the poor.

FDR is a pretty interesting fellow. But then he gets polio. And somehow he becomes so warm-hearted, wanted to connect other people to him. Fate had dealt an unkind hand. He gets the Depression and World War II, a crisis that he can answer.

LBJ is sort of in it power. He becomes the most extraordinary majority leader in terms of power, has a massive heart attack, and says, what if I died now? What would I be remembered for? And then he goes for civil rights in the Senate, and then he goes for civil rights as president. And that`s what he wanted to be remembered for.

You need that larger ambition. Otherwise, what`s the purpose of being a leader?

MATTHEWS: None of the gentlemen you mentioned wanted to divide the country as a political tactic.

The president we have now is. I think Trump knows what he`s doing. He takes white people, attacks minority after minority, starting with Obama. He`s very clear about it. He makes fun of people, saying they`re not too bright if they`re minorities. He`s open about it. I have never seen a guy in our lifetime as openly the way he is.

And he`s using division.

GOODWIN: I mean, campaigning is often about division, but governing is supposed to be about unification.

I mean, when he goes around the country, he`s just stoking his base. He`s not trying, as Teddy Roosevelt did, to go to the states he lost, as well as the states he won.

But what that division shows is an utter lack of empathy, which is the most important quality in a leader. You can`t say something about people who are disabled or say something about people of another race if you feel that you understand their point of view.

Teddy Roosevelt said that, if you have a rock of democracy, it`ll founder if people see themselves as the other.

And that`s what`s happening in the country right now. It happened before Trump, but it`s being made worse by him.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, Doris, your book also covers Abraham Lincoln a lot, from the very beginning of his political career to his leadership during the Civil War.

Here`s what Trump had to say recently on Lincoln`s Gettysburg Address:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address speech, the great speech, do you know he was ridiculed, he was excoriated by the fake news? They had fake news then.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: He was excoriated.

They said it was a terrible, terrible speech. And he died -- 50 years after his death, they said it may have been the greatest speech ever made in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s like he was saying, yes, he died up there.

(CROSSTALK)

GOODWIN: That was the end of him.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this claim of the worst speech in history, and...

GOODWIN: Well, the fact is that he spoke for only two minutes. So there was some sense among the audience, could he possibly be done? There`s two hours, normally, the speech is.

But very soon thereafter, they realized -- in fact, Edward Everett, the guy who was this person before him...

MATTHEWS: Sure.

GOODWIN: ... he said, "You said more in two minutes then I was able to say in two hours."

People recognized. The only thing he`s truthful about is -- and I hate to say -- it wasn`t fake news. But, in those days, the news was so partisan, if you just took a Republican paper or a Democratic paper -- there was very few national papers. They were just beginning to come along.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOODWIN: You might read about Lincoln and a Lincoln-Douglas debate, in the Republican paper, he was so great. We carried him out on our arms. He was so triumphant.

Democratic paper, he was so embarrassing, he fell on the floor, and we had to drag him out of the room.

So that`s the way we were then. And that`s what led up to the Civil War, that kind of divisiveness among media. Then we lost it. The national papers came along, radio, pretty objective. Television came along.

And then the cable networks came along, and then social media.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: One last question.

Barack Obama a couple weeks ago said, we shouldn`t wait for some super president to come along, a superstar on the Democratic side. We should accept something a little more close to the ground.

Do you buy the fact the American people are ever going to get excited about somebody who isn`t great and who doesn`t have charisma?

GOODWIN: Well, I think somebody needs passion in this environment right now.

But you have to have passion for the cause, and not just for yourself. And, more importantly, the citizens have to be active. Every change in our country has come, from the anti-slavery movement, the women`s movement, the gay rights movement, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement, it`s up to the citizens right now.

That`s the main lesson that I would say from my book on leadership. We can`t sit around waiting for leaders. We have to do it.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Thank you, Doris Kearns Goodwin. You know what you`re talking about.

"Leadership in Turbulent Times" is the name of her new book.

Up next: How are voters responding to Supreme Court -- the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh out in the country? And what impact will his potential confirmation have on the upcoming midterm elections? I`m thinking a lot about that. If he`s in, are the Republicans out?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last night, Trump tweeted this warning: the Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected president. I hope Republican voters and others are watching and studying the Democrats` playbook.

But "The New York Times" reports the path forward surrounding Kavanaugh`s nomination could impact this fall`s midterm calculus for both parties, noting Republicans acknowledge that in pushing Judge Kavanaugh forward, they`ve only further imperiled their House majority which depends on a series of suburban districts filled with voters already enraged by Mr. Trump`s treatment of women.

I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Anita Kumar, White House correspondent from "McClatchy", Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for "Bloomberg", and Jason Johnson, politics editor for theroot.com.

All three of you in order, quickly, what would be the impact if this guy is confirmed amid all of this question about his behavior in high school?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, I mean, you`re right. We`ve already seen women, Emily`s List, one of the groups and other groups talking about how women are getting motivated, enthusiastic, passionate about going to the polls and volunteering for a different candidate.

MATTHEWS: How about this thing of the accuser, Dr. Ford and what she said about what she said he did?

KUMAR: Well, I think you hit it just right earlier when you said, what if they go ahead with this quickly and they don`t give her a say and they -- something else happens in a couple of weeks? Other information comes through.

MATTHEWS: Sahil?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: It will light a fire under an already passionate and raging movement, which is, you know, the #metoo movement, suburban, college educated professional women are already motivated in big numbers. And this is only going to likely propel them even further. And that`s going to have the biggest impact in the House in races like Barbara Comstock in Virginia, Peter Roskam in Illinois, Amy Walters --

MATTHEWS: They`re going to hurt her? It`s going to hurt Comstock in Virginia?

KAPUR: I think it will. I think it will motivate more Democrats to show up at the polls. And the Senate is obviously more complicated picture. But even there, in places like Tennessee and Missouri, suburban could hold a balance of power.

MATTHEWS: A lot of single women in northern Virginia. A lot of people moving in and out.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Right.

MATTHEWS: But they vote Democrat and they vote on choice and other issues like that.

JOHNSON: Tennessee, Missouri, Arizona, this becomes a debate question right? You can play with this as a national issue and say, this is some inside D.C. stuff, but when you have women Republicans running for the Senate and they`re going to be asked this question by local debates when they have to argue on behalf of this in their own states, it`s going to have an impact.

MATTHEWS: On Tuesday when they didn`t hear from the witness and they`re about to vote on Thursday, and how about Friday after they vote to confirm and they haven`t heard from her and she`s planning to go on "60 Minutes" or somewhere on NBC with her full story. I mean, who wants on the Republican side, to hear her full story when they can`t do anything to protect themselves?

Anyway, meanwhile, President Trump expressed confidence in his party`s chances next fall in an interview with "The Hill" newspaper. I think we`re going to do much better than anyone thinks because the economy is so good and people do like the job I`m doing, said Trump, who has talked about the possibility of a red wave for the GOP this fall.

Red wave?

KUMAR: Well, a couple of things from that. One, the economy is doing well but nobody`s talking about that. Not nobody. A lot of people --

MATTHEWS: Why not?

KUMAR: Because he`s tweeting something a minute.

MATTHEWS: Why is he getting no respect like Rodney Dangerfield because I agree with you. People don`t really attach him to that.

KUMAR: Yes, but let`s also be clear that people close to the White House and to the political staff are -- Trump can say what he wants but they are bracing to lose the House.

KAPUR: No political observer in their right mind believes there`s going to be a red wave. The only question is how many seats in the House do Republicans end up losing? And one of the big problems with this talk from President Trump is that it`s lulling Republican voters into a sense of complacency.

MATTHEWS: I say 30 to 40, what do you say, Sahil?

KAPUR: On the House? That`s probably right. My colleague Josh Green obtained a poll from the RNC that was done internally, where they found out well over half of their voters describing something strong, Trump supporter, don`t believe the Democrats have a chance of taking the House. So, they`re not motivated to show up.

MATTHEWS: Why not? Don`t they read the paper?

KAPUR: They`ve been told polls are wrong.

MATTHEWS: Good for them.

JOHNSON: What else is he going to say?

Look, one, we know Trump doesn`t pay attention. He doesn`t pay attention to the facts or polls or statistics, whether it`s polling numbers or the number of people who passed away. But else is he supposed to say?

He`s the coach. Your team is down 0-2. He`s supposed to say we`re still going to make the Super Bowl. So, this makes perfect sense. Of all the crazy things Trump does, him saying, we still got a chance to keep the House and Senate, it actually makes sense.

KAPUR: You`re supposed to say it`s close.

(CROSSTALK)

KUMAR: No president`s going to say losing 40 seats.

JOHNSON: Yes, he`s got to say, we`ve got a chance to turn this around.

MATTHEWS: You know what, they need a slogan. Mine would be to Democrats, at least try to keep this guy under control a little because in the end, that`s what you`ve got to get. You`ve got a lot of people believe that. I think most of the country believes this guy goes too far.

Anyway, finally, I mean most. A strong majority. A minority think he`s awful. Anyway, President Trump toured the Carolinas today visiting areas impacted by Hurricane Florence. In North Carolina, Trump handed out food toward affected communities, meeting with the residents there. There he is.

Trump`s visit comes less than a week after he stirred criticism with his tweet claiming the death toll, however, from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was being inflated by the Democrats to make him look bad.

Ron DeSantis, the Republican running for governor down in Florida, weighed through his spokesman, saying he, that would be DeSantis, doesn`t believe any loss of life has been inflated but "Politico" reports that those comments have made Trump furious with his former ally. The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself.

The report goes on to add, one person close to the president described the situation as a divorce. At the moment, Trump has no plans to travel to Florida to campaign for DeSantis. So, DeSantis said he didn`t think the numbers were bogus. Trump says they are bogus. Therefore, he`s not loyal to Trump.

KUMAR: Right. But let`s clear, most every Republican that I saw said the same thing. But for DeSantis to say that was a big deal for President Trump. This is a guy who was down by double digits. Trump endorsed him. He went on to win.

He really feels like he`s --

MATTHEWS: What are a lot of in Florida? Puerto Rican voters.

KUMAR: I know. I mean, he`s caught between the president and his seat.

KAPUR: That`s the level of loyalty that President Trump demands. He doesn`t want you to contradict him. He doesn`t want you to criticize him, even he saw something conspiratorial. That`s not back by evidence that offends a politician`s voters who they need to win an election in a couple of months. I mean, it`s a very high bar.

JOHNSON: Rick Scott said the same thing, he`s not going after Rick Scott. This is because he thought DeSantis would be a ploy or a good buddy in the Senate. Here`s the issue.

He can`t win this either way, right? If he had agreed with the president, that sinks him even lower. He`s already down by six to Gillum. If he says a president is wrong, the Trump is not going to come down and campaign for him and he needs Trump to campaign for him to win Florida.

MATTHEWS: Prediction, they`ll be on each other`s dance cards well before election. We all know that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Trump is now citing, quote, tremendous progress in U.S. efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prior to my coming into office, a lot of people thought we were going, it was inevitable, we were going to war in North Korea. And now, we`re -- the relationships, I have to tell you, at least on a personal basis, they`re very good. It`s very much calmed down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump made these comments after the South Korean President said the North had agreed to dismantle a weapons complex under the supervision of international inspectors. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Anita, tell me something I don`t know.

KUMAR: We`ve all seen the picture of flooding streets and homes. I`m going to give you two sort of sad statistics. Only 3 percent of households in North Carolina have flood insurance, and only 9 percent in South Carolina. So, it`s going to be hard recovery.

MATTHEWS: They`re paying for all the loss, everybody.

Sahil?

KAPUR: Chris, Texas Democrats I`ve talked to believe they have a real race on their hands for the Senate. They believe Beto O`Rourke has a shot of that seat, but they`re sweating one aspect of the poll numbers, which is Hispanics. He`s only at 54 percent in the recent Quinnipiac poll that you talked about earlier in the show.

MATTHEWS: What`s the Cruz appeal to Hispanics?

KAPUR: Partly the name I suppose. Partly that he`s an incumbent. Texas Hispanics think a little bit differently than Hispanics as a whole I think in the nation.

But the view among Texas Republican operatives is that he needs to get that well over the 60s, if not 70 percent, given that he`s likely going to get crushed among white voters in order to have a shot at victory.

JOHNSON: So, you know, in Georgia it is a tied race between Stacey Abrams, the Democrat, and Brian Kemp, the Republican. What you may not know is about two weeks ago, at a campaign stop in Augusta, Georgia, the Nationalist Liberty Union, a white nationalist group, protested and threatened the Abrams campaign while she was campaigning with women veterans.

MATTHEWS: Because she`s black.

JOHNSON: Because she`s black.

Here`s the catch, they were flashing Brian Kemp signs while they were doing so. The Kemp campaign has remained silent. As this grows, it`s a kind of thing that can blow up in your face during the campaign, especially in a tight race going down the stretch.

MATTHEWS: Does she have the best chance of a minority to win the governorship?

JOHNSON: I think Gillum is first. I think Abrams is second.

KUMAR: Kemp is another Trump guy.

MATTHEWS: It`s a new world, I hope.

Anyway, Anita Kumar, Sahil Kapur and Jason Johnson.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the huge difference in how the two parties are approaching the Kavanaugh nomination.

The Republicans are focused on procedure. They don`t like this accusation about their Supreme Court nominee that`s surfaced just days ago. They say the accuser should have been brought forward months ago.

The Republicans are sticking to their focus on the time. They say the time has come for the judiciary committee to vote on this nomination. If the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, wants to tell her story, she needs to get moving, they say, it`s Monday or nothing.

The Democrats are focused on letting Dr. Ford have a say. The goal to them is to hear her story no matter what day that happens. It`s not about timetables or procedure, but the Democratic right of a citizen to make her case. It`s about the respect due to the individual person here who believes she has been wronged by someone who`s about to be made a national big shot. That stood up there as a member of this country`s highest court.

This difference in the two parties follows a pattern we lived through during the Florida presidential recount back in the year 2000. Back then the Republicans were the sheriffs of procedure. What mattered to them was the deadline and the ballots were marked according to the rules.

Democrats set a different rule back then. They wanted everyone who voted to have their vote counted no matter how long it took, how they might have erred in casting their vote. Every voter should count, they said, every vote should be counted, think said, whatever time it took, whatever effort needed to be made to determine what that voter intended.

Well, this treatment of Dr. Christine Ford follows the same stark pattern, one party in the Democrats care what this person went through as fundamental as the other party. The other party, the Republicans, want to keep to the schedule, even it if it means leaving her along the roadside.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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