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Trump stands by Saudi denial. TRANSCRIPT: 10/17/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Zerlina Maxwell, Ed Goeas, Michelle Goldberg, David Jolly, Ayesha Rascoe

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 17, 2018 Guest: Zerlina Maxwell, Ed Goeas, Michelle Goldberg, David Jolly, Ayesha Rascoe

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Donald of Arabia. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

It`s hardly been two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out. Turkish officials say Mr. Khashoggi was murdered moments after he entered the consulate and his body dismembered. Saudi officials have vehemently denied those claims as they would.

As Turkey continues its investigation to what happened, it looks like President Trump is more interested in helping the Saudis cover up than get to the truth. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Saudis are investigating themselves essentially. What do you think of --?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well they are just - they are great, very talented people. They are not investigating themselves.


MATTHEWS: President Trump was asked today about Khashoggi and an alleged recording, recordings capturing detailed events around the apparent killing, recordings NBC hasn`t yet been able to corroborate. Here he is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are talking about a man who lived across the river in Virginia. Why not send the FBI in to figure all this out?

TRUMP: Well, he wasn`t a citizen of this country, for one thing. And we are going to determine that --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked for this audio, video intelligence that the Turks --.

TRUMP: We have asked for that if it exists, we have asked for it. I`m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.


MATTHEWS: According to the state department, a spokesman there, secretary of state Mike Pompeo who just wrapped up a trip to Riyadh, an anchor at the Turkey, didn`t even listen to that audio recording the Turks say they possess. Pompeo, while on-route to Turkey, did tell reporters that the U.S. wanted to give the Saudis, catch this, space to come out with an answer. You know all this interrogate suspect in the case quickly to get the information before they cooked up an excuse, an alibi. We are giving time to cook up an alibi. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did they say that Mr. Khashoggi was alive or dead?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don`t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn`t want to either and that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.


MATTHEWS: Yes, right.

Anyway, "the New York Times" reports that Pompeo was dispatched to Saudi Arabia to deliver the message that quote "a credible investigation and a Saudi explanation of what happened had to be conducted rapidly before it imperiled the rest of the agenda that Mr. Trump and his lieutenants with Jared Kushner have devised with the kingdom."

According to multiple media reports now, the Turkish government has alleged that Saudi Arabia dispatched a 15-member team to kill Khashoggi while he was inside the consulate. And earlier this week it was reported that Saudis were preparing to protect the crown prince by saying that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation manned by rogue agents.

However, "the New York Times" reporting that four of those 15 alleged killers were close to the crown prince himself. Amid-this growing diplomatic crisis debuting nations, "the Washington Post" reports that the crown prince has said to vacillate between dark brooding and rampaging anger looking for someone to blame with the murder.

For more, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, PBS News hour White House correspondent, David Corn, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief and himself, David Ignatius, "Washington Post" foreign columnist.

David, are we on an attempt, are we part of an effort to find the truth or to help the Saudis with a cover up? What`s our mission here?

DAVID IGNATIUS, FOREIGN COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: So far President Trump in his own statements has seemed to me to be opening the way for the Saudis to come up with, you know, a way to find a scapegoat. President Trump talked about rogue killers having been involved.

The evidence that`s emerging, you referred to "the New York Times" story. "The New York Times" had a powerful report showing that one of the 15 people who it`s believed were sent to Istanbul has been a close body guard with Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince in Boston, in Houston, in Paris and Madrid. That`s pretty devastating evidence that MBS, as he`s called, was himself involved in this process. But so far I see nothing from the Trump administration that`s really pressuring the Saudis to make a complete account of this.

MATTHEWS: We have got an American resident who is missing, most people believe dead, most people think the Saudis did it in that consulate. They had control of that room. Are we using any of our agencies, the FBI or the CIA to try to get to the bottom of this or have they been held back by this President?

IGNATIUS: Chris, I think that`s one of the questions that people need to focus on. In my own reporting, it`s something I`m looking hard at. Jamal Khashoggi, my colleague, somebody I have known for more than 15 years, was a permanent resident of the United States, as you said, living in Virginia. That means that in legal terms he was a U.S. person. And if any information emerged through intelligence channels that he was threatened, there was for government officials a due duty to warn. What did they do when they learned information? If they didn`t learn information, why aren`t they pushing harder for it? The Saudis have been advertising their angry at him.

So those are some of the questions I think that need to be asked because this was not just a "Washington Post" journalist. This was somebody who had a status as a U.S. person living here.

MATTHEWS: So well said. And I think that just think if we had given him the heads up that the Saudis were after him, he wouldn`t have walked into that consulate. He would be alive today.

Yesterday, President Trump was asked by the "Associated Press" if the allegations were true, would he reconsider the relationship between us and the Saudis. He told the AP quote "I think we have to find out what happened first, you know. Here we go again with, you know, you are guilty until proven innocent. I don`t like that. That`s Trump talk.

Anyway, today he was asked if he was providing cover for the Saudi regime when he said that. Here`s what he said now.


TRUMP: I`m not giving cover at all. With that being said, Saudi Arabia has been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East.


MATTHEWS: You know, David, it doesn`t take -- this isn`t like he is comparing it, I guess, to the Kavanaugh case. We know that case. That was 36 years ago and there was murkiness. Look at all in the record now.

But here is a case where a guy walks, his fiancee, the woman he is in love which he is going to marry, waits outside while he (INAUDIBLE) goes in. We see him going in on the camera there. He never comes out. Inside that rom are 15 security agents, included four or five of them very close to the crown prince. He never comes out. And one of them according to the "Times," it was a doctor. I can`t get into that because we have not asserted it yet or corroborated it, but there`s no other factor. There`s only the Saudis in their consulate and he never came out.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: A moment ago you mentioned the FBI and the CIA.


CORN: There`s another agency involved here at least on our side, the NSA, the national security agency. And if something happened like that in the Turkish consulate, you can bet there are communications between the consulate and Riyadh back and forth, before and after, during, and even leading up to that. So therefore, for Trump to sort of act like he has no agency here, he can find out probably pretty good and would lies on the Turks who seem to want to get this out to some degree. I`m pretty confidence the United States, if it doesn`t already, can very quickly have a very clear idea. The bottom line is that he doesn`t really care.

MATTHEWS: No, he doesn`t want to know.

CORN: He doesn`t want to know. He wants to deal with MBS like he wants to do deals with Kim Jong-un. It doesn`t affect him directly so that means he doesn`t care.

MATTHEWS: Anyone who watches "Law and Order," and who does and watch it, anybody watches any crime show knows the police always want to get to the suspects quickly. They want to get there before the Menendez brothers were ever start corroborating the story. You want to get the fresh guilt on the record quickly. You don`t see, hey, guys, take a couple days to get your story together. We are going to give you plenty of space. Whoever gives suspects in that case of murder space to figure out their defense unless you want them off the hook?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: I will say this. I want to go back to what the President said about this journalist. One of the things he said was he wasn`t a U.S. citizen.

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean?

ALCINDOR: We are supposed to be the leader of the free world. We are supposed to be the leader of people who want press freedom. So even to the French journalist or British journalist, the President would say think that the American president would say journalists shouldn`t be getting killed in consulates. We can be doing this.

MATTHEWS: He is saying it`s not my job. He is saying it is now it is not my job. No, he is saying it is not my job to protect this. It is like don`t blame me if we lose the house this year. Trump had done all this crap lately. It is not my job to defect this.

ALCINDOR: There`s that interpretation. And the other thing I want to say is that this is the President who has complex business ties to all sorts of countries, including Saudi Arabia. As secretary Pompeo was waiting with Saudi Arabia, they deposited $100 million in the state department`s account to help with the fight in Syria. So what you have is the Saudis essentially giving money to America saying, hey, here is some stuff while we come up with our answer. Here is some money to keep you quite. I think that is pretty startling.

MATTHEWS: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The administration`s limp response to the disappearance of Khashoggi has led to criticism of the President`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been in charge of the administration`s Middle East`s deal. Critics have accused Kushner buying into the media of narrative that the crown prince is a modernizing influence to the gulf country.

A senior administration official told Yahoo! News that Kushner is playing a major role now in the response to this murder. And one former NSC official told Yahoo! that Kushner`s views of the prince have gone under an evolution. But that he initially had a naive understanding and did buy into this MBS, that`s his nickname.

When asked about his relationship with the prince prior to Khashoggi`s disappearance, Kushner told major Garrett in his new book that the prince was quote "taking on big, bold objectives. We have to give him space," here he is, space, to accomplish it. These places are going to become Jeffersonian democracies overnight or maybe ever.

David Ignatius, you are the best on this. Have we given the Saudis permission, too much space to do their own thing?

IGNATIUS: I think that there has been a desire to see Saudi Arabia as such a conservative country, the place that was in many ways sponsoring, sometimes funding extremism, move into a more modern phase. So Mohammad bin Salman, MBS, seemed to offer for a time the promise of modernization and change. He went after the religious establishment, allowed women to drive, et cetera. And then Kushner was part of that.

I reported over the weekend that Kushner called MBS and said we need you to come up with a culprit who is responsible for this killing. We need to have a process right away. And I think that`s illustrative of the way the U.S. is trying to help the Saudis get well here as opposed to trying to find the truth.

MATTHEWS: You know, I have watched the American public, especially the glossier media for years try to dress up people in that part of the world that you know so much about. You know, they play up the Assad family as modern in "Vogue" magazine and she`s so fashionable, the white phobia (ph), the queen. So fashionable, therefore, modern. They did the same thing with the Shah`s family. So fashionable and they are so modern.

But you know, organized crime isn`t out of date, David. You can be an organized criminal and murderer and still drive the right car. I mean, why do we always fall for the gloss?

IGNATIUS: Well, Chris, you raise a great question. I think Americans have, you know, wanted so badly for the Arab world, the Muslim world to move into modern western space, and sometimes we let those hopes blind us and we don`t see that these are police states. That`s the face of MBS that`s being revealed, the face that`s basically a dictator in Saudi Arabia, what amounts to authoritarian regime.

MATTHEWS: They don`t believe in freedom of the press to the point they might want to kill a reporter they don`t like.

CORN: But just don`t forget about the point that Yamiche phrased, the financial interests. Trump has a property in New York City --

MATTHEWS: You think he is doing this because of personal interest to say so?

CORN: I think he has a relationship with the Saudis and human rights don`t blame you that. He has a property in New York. It has lost money for the last two years. It`s making a profit at the beginning of this year because MBS booked a host of rooms in it. This affects how he sees the Saudi kingdom.

MATTHEWS: They always get rooms in his hotels.

CORN: Well, no.

ALCINDOR: You have to follow the money. And I also think you have to understand that this is a President who likes strong men who in that interview with CBS in "60 Minutes" when Leslie Stahl says, hey, you know, Kim Jong-un has some really human rights violations. He has some problems. He says, yes, but he really likes me. He is a really great guy and he`s nice to me. That tells you where the United States President lands on things like this.

MATTHEWS: You know, during the cold war when it was getting near the end we were looking for not excuses to keep it going and get it hot again. Ronald Reagan would see the shooting down of the Korean airlines over far eastern Russia or the killing of that colonel, Colonel Anderson in Berlin. Each one of those times he could have said that`s it, we are not going to deal with the Soviet Union at all, that`s it. But he didn`t come out there and say they are innocent. He didn`t do this. He didn`t participate in some cover-up. He attacked them but continued the relationship. I don`t know why Trump feels he has to help exonerate them given them this space. This new term, space, to come up with an alibi. That`s what he is doing.

Thank you, Yamiche.

Thank you, David Corn.

And David Ignatius, I notice how careful you are on this. I appreciate that because this is a, for you, on a frontlines in covering this, it is very tricky stuff. Thank you so much.

Coming up, President Trump seems to want it both ways. If Republicans win in November, it`s all thanks to him. If they lose, it`s not my job. He is actually saying if they lose the House, it`s not my job.

Plus the message coming from some Republicans in the midterm races. Be afraid. Isn`t that cool? Scare tactics. They are out there again, pushing that this time. They can`t sell the record or the tax cut, so they`re sowing fear.

And as we approach the midterms, the President wants all eyes on one person, him. In this media blitz that is out there, it`s going to help or hurt Republicans? I say it depends where you live.

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


MATTHEWS: Well, Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein who has been under fire by Republican opponents of the Mueller probe today gave a rare interview to the "Wall Street Journal." Defending his conduct in overseeing the investigation, Rosenstein said people are entitled to be frustrated. I can accept that, but at the end of the day the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence.

It comes at NBC reports the President`s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen today met with federal prosecutors at his lawyer`s office in New York.

And we will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With 20 days now to go before the midterms, rally, just 20 days, President Trump has been hitting the campaign trail hard for Republican candidates with a very persistent message.


TRUMP: A vote for Marsha is really a vote for me and everything that we stand for. It`s a vote for make America great again. That`s what it is.

A vote for Mike Brawn is a vote -- did you ever hear this before? Make America great again.

And a vote for Steve is a vote for me.

A vote for David is a vote for me.

A vote for Mike is a vote to make America great again. It`s very simple.

And a vote for Cindy is a vote for me and make America great again.


Get out in 2018 because you are voting for me in 2018.


You are voting for me.



Anyway, in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday -- that interview -- the president had a very different message all of a sudden.

Asked if he bears responsibility if Republicans lose the U.S. House of Representatives this fall, Trump said, "No, I think I`m helping people."

He went on to add: "I don`t believe anybody`s ever had this kind of an impact."

In a tweet today, Trump lashed out at the AP for their headline, calling the outlet fake news.

For more, I`m joined by Ed Goeas, a great Republican pollster and strategist, and Zerlina Maxwell, of course, director of progressive programming for SiriusXM Radio, which I listen to all the time in the car and at home.

Let`s -- let`s get to this, Ed.

Why is Trump saying not my job all of a sudden, don`t blame me if we lose by 30 or 40 seats?

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, I think that that is his tendency, to not take blame for anything.

But the bottom line is that the stage was set, if you would, as soon as he was elected president, that in off-year elections, in 18 of the last 20 off-year elections, the party of the White House has last members of Congress.

MATTHEWS: Twenty-nine. And I think it will be 30 or 40.

Let me go -- Zerlina, here`s my feeling. And this is a bit of a push for people to get out and vote. If you`re a woman concerned about all that`s been going on in the gender realities, starting with Harvey, all the way through, if you have concern about Trump`s mouth and what he says, the way he talks about women, I don`t know how you could not show up or vote Republican, if you`re one of them, because you only get -- I`m just asking you.

You only get one vote. It`s binary, yes or no. Do you like the way things are going or not? And if you do it, you say yes, and if you don`t, you say no. That`s the booth. That`s all you got in there. It`s not a multiple choice. You end up having to vote yes or no.

It seems that should help Democrats, because they`re the party that has taken on Trump, obviously.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM RADIO: Yes, I do think that that`s true.

I do think there is a little bit of nuance when you`re talking about the different demographics -- demographics of women. So, for example, in 2016, as you know, Chris, Donald Trump won 53 percent of white women, but he lost the majority of all women.

So that means that black and Latino women and AIP-identifying women are voting for Democrats. The majority of those groups are voting for Democrats. And normally that does impact the outcome of certain elections, which you saw that in Alabama with Doug Jones and you saw that in Virginia.

So I do think that there will be an impact. And certainly those groups are going to be the turnout machine that brings Democrats to victory in a lot of these swing districts, Chris. But I -- but I don`t know that it`s one magic bullet because of the majority of white women supporting Republicans historically.

Now, that may change, because, in the MeToo era, we`re in a whole -- in a whole new world.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I`m saying.

MAXWELL: Where women are standing up for themselves and telling their truths and speaking out. So this could be a tipping point in terms of the future of the gender gap in terms of how it falls, whether it falls on the Republican or Democratic side.

MATTHEWS: So let`s talk about Texas, the big race down there between Beto O`Rourke and, of course, Ted Cruz. That`s one race where the president`s now going in. He`s heading to use that on Monday, the president is, to campaign for Ted Cruz, a guy he has never really liked, against O`Rourke.

In a series of tweets, by the way, this morning, Trump called O`Rourke of fake -- a flake, rather -- that`s a new one for him -- and said Ted has long has had long and strong endorsement of his.

He does?

Anyway, in a debate last night, O`Rourke came out swinging at Cruz, using one of Trump`s very own 2016 nicknames. Let`s watch.


REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He`s going to make up positions and votes that I have never held or have ever taken. He`s dishonest. It`s why the president called him lying Ted, and it`s why the nickname stuck, because it`s true.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It`s clear Congressman O`Rourke`s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack. So if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that`s fine.

But John Adams famously said facts are stubborn things.


MATTHEWS: Well, he was ready for that.

GOEAS: He was ready for that.

MATTHEWS: He`s much taller, I noticed, than Cruz.


MATTHEWS: I`m not sure if it`ll make any difference, but he is.

Go ahead.

GOEAS: Well, and...


MATTHEWS: Is Trump now the new -- why -- I -- let me try something.

I think Cruz, who doesn`t like -- well, why would he like Trump? He said his father killed Kennedy. I mean, give me a break. He did.

So he invited him when he was in trouble two to three weeks ago. He was done in the polls. Now he`s up a bit in the polls. And I think he probably wished he didn`t invite him in. Just thinking.

GOEAS: But the real test here is, are you supporting Trump`s agenda?

There are lots of Republicans that don`t like his persona, but they like his policies.


GOEAS: There`s a large group of Republicans that like both.

But the bottom line is, is that Ted Cruz voted 91 percent with the Trump agenda. That`s going to make a connection between the two of them. And that`s recent history, as opposed to 2016.

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, but they`re used to be called the human factor. Let`s talk about the human factor.

Trump`s strong endorsement of Cruz this week is surprising, given the animosity between these two gentlemen in 2016. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I watched Ted Cruz this morning. Oh, I can`t listen. So dramatic. Oh. Oh. Can`t watch.

CRUZ: This man is a pathological liar.

TRUMP: Lyin` Ted comes in. And he holds the Bible up. And he holds it high. Right? He holds it high. And then he lies, he lies.

CRUZ: The man is utterly amoral. It -- morality does not exist for him.

TRUMP: His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being shot.

TRUMP: It`s not easy to tick me off. I don`t get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time.

Donald, you`re a sniveling coward. And leave Heidi the hell alone.


MATTHEWS: Oh, because he made fun of her looks. I mean, we know he`s done everything. He says father helped kill Kennedy, his wife isn`t good- looking, I mean, the personal.

You can`t get much -- personal than him call him a lying whatever, sack of whatever.

Zerlina, they`re in love now.


MATTHEWS: What do we make of that?

MAXWELL: It`s pretty hilarious to watch.

MATTHEWS: Lovebirds down in Texas.

MAXWELL: It`s really hilarious to watch that old tape.

It`s almost funny to watch Ted Cruz try to muster the anger to push back on Donald Trump, who successfully bullied all of the Republican candidates with nicknames throughout the primary.

But the bottom line is, it shows that Ted Cruz thinks he`s in a little bit of trouble, because if he didn`t need Donald Trump, he wouldn`t use Donald Trump to campaign for him, because I`m sure he does not want to need the help of someone who attacked his wife and said his father killed JFK, which are completely ridiculous things to do.

But, also, Ted Cruz has been propped up by dark money and the Koch brothers throughout the course, not just of his tenure, but also this campaign. So I do think that he feels the pinch, because you see Beto raising $38 million in a single quarter.

So there clearly is, you know, a lot of energy and organizing behind the Democratic Party right now. And we haven`t seen that in Texas in a really long time. And that`s been building over many election cycles. And, you know, it`s not comparable to a state like Virginia, Chris, but I was there in 2008.

And I remember seeing those polls leading into the election. That was a presidential, not a midterm, so very different. But I remember seeing those polls that had John McCain up seven, eight points leading in, and I think it was just a moment where you put your head down and you fight through the tape.

And so, in 2008, Barack Obama was able to win Virginia, the first Democrat to do so in 44 years. And so I think Beto has the momentum on his side because he`s the underdog. There`s a lot of energy there. People do not like Donald Trump. All the polling shows that people are going to vote against Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

MAXWELL: That`s the main reason why they`re making their choice for Democrats in this election. And so I think we don`t know what`s going to happen until all of the votes are cast, but certainly there is a message being sent that people are not happy with Ted Cruz.

MATTHEWS: Well said. You have lost that nuance you had a few minutes ago. I see that`s gone.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Zerlina Maxwell, Ed Goeas. I like a clear argument there.

Up next: Conservatives are trying to scare voters to the polls this November, the same old arguments on immigrants and Islamism and -- immigration and crime, the usual.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


At the risk of losing their majority in the U.S. House, Republicans have waged a fear-mongering campaign now to scare voters away from the Democrats.

Since at least August -- since August, some Republicans or their allies have gone so far as to portray Democrats as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

And that`s because, according to "The New York Times," Republicans have been only marginally successful in leveraging -- leveraging the usual tools available during an economic boom, like bragging about low unemployment, about tax cuts, about a new trade deal.

Instead, they`re resorted to negative ads like this:


NARRATOR: Ammar Campa-Najjar is working to infiltrate Congress. He has used three different names to hide his family`s ties to terrorism.

His grandfather masterminded the Munich Olympic massacre.

NARRATOR: Pureval`s lobbying firm made millions helping Libya reduce payments owed to families of Americans killed by Libyan terrorism.

Selling out Americans? Aftab Pureval can`t be trusted.

NARRATOR: So out of touch, Malinowski lobbied for terrorist rights, backed billions for Iran. Tom Malinowski has done enough damage in Washington.



In each of those ads, the Republican claims are overstated or outright false.

According to "The New York Times," California Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar has repeatedly denounced his grandfather`s actions at the Munich Olympics. And he`s a Christian, not a Muslim.

According to "The Washington Post," Ohio candidate Aftab Pureval was not involved in his law firm`s work settling terrorism-related lawsuits that had been filed against Libya.

And while New Jersey candidate Tom Malinowski lobbied for enemy combatants to have access to the courts, he was vindicated by the Supreme Court here, which ruled that detainees had a right to a hearing to challenge the basis for their detention.

Joining me right now is Michelle Goldberg, "New York Times" columnist, and David Jolly. He`s a former Republican congressman, no longer affiliated, by his own choice, with that party.

Let me go to Michelle Goldberg about this.

I know from Republicans that months ago, not a million years ago, they thought that the tax cut, a billion -- a trillion-and-a-half tax cut, which benefited everybody a little bit, some people an awful lot, rich people, would benefit them, that the deregulation would help them, that the overall economic climate, which has reduced the unemployment rate to down in the 3`s, would help them.

It doesn`t seem to, so they have resorted for sort of the negative usual scarecrows they put up.


Well, I think that it`s obvious that most people understand who the tax cut really benefited, right? Polls show that most people understand that the tax cut is -- the tax cut benefited corporations tremendously, and ordinary people so marginally that its benefits were erased by things like rising inflation and rising gas prices.

Inasmuch as they`re able to run on the economy, a lot of people -- it is true that -- now that there are a lot of people employed. But things are still very, very, very rough. People are still living paycheck to paycheck. And they`re still very worried about what I think they understand Republicans want to do to the social safety net.

So, Republicans are running the sort of campaign that has worked for them in the past. I mean, they have realized in the age of Trump that their economic policies are -- their traditional conservative economic policies are very unpopular, and that the way they motivate their base is through xenophobic terror.

MATTHEWS: Well, David, your erstwhile political party, the Republicans, according to Mitch McConnell now, are targeting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as the cause of our debts, of our deficit.

In other words, the three things that Trump was smart not to touch, they`re going after. Your thoughts?

That could help the Democrats.


Look, we know entitlement spending has to be reformed. It is one of the largest cost drivers to the federal budget. But you can`t have that conversation and ignore what has happened in terms of the trillion-dollar deficits that are being created by a tax bill that has largely been rigged to favor the rich and corporations, and has abandoned Main Street families.

So, Chris, they can`t sell that, so what they`re doing is, they are selling fear. And that is an act of desperation three weeks before an election.

Understand, having ads about national security are new. We saw that famously in `64 with the daisy ad. We saw it, frankly, in the Hillary Clinton-Obama race of `08, with Hillary and the 3:00 a.m. phone call, saying, I`m prepared to lead.

What is different in this environment is that they`re not selling messages of national security qualifications. They are selling pure fear. And in many cases, they`re doing so in a xenophobic lane that brings out these cultural wars that Republicans have figured out how to manipulate to win elections.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not just fear of terrorism that Republicans are out selling right now. It`s fear of immigration itself.

Last night on FOX, Laura Ingraham warned that, if Democrats take control the House, these -- they will replace American voters with immigrants. Here she goes.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Your views on immigration will have zero impact and zero influence on a House dominated by Democrats, who want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever increasing number of chain migrants.


MATTHEWS: Wow. What do you make of that, Michelle? That is pretty direct, pretty raw.

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, the -- one of the side effects of the nightmare of the Trump presidency is that FOX News has given itself increasingly to white nationalist propaganda.

That language of being replaced come straight out of the marchers in Charlottesville last year. Last year, Steve King, who`s probably the most openly white nationalist member of Congress, said, you can`t...

MATTHEWS: From Iowa, yes.

GOLDBERG: From Iowa.

You can`t renew this -- you can`t renew our culture with other people`s babies.

And, at that time, it was widely denounced. Everybody realized that that was too racist even for the modern Republican Party. A year later, that kind of language is just mainstream in what the Republican Party has become.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they have tested this, and that`s why they`re doing it, the anti-immigrant line? Do you think that`s why they`re doing it, Dave?

JOLLY: Oh, without question. Again, they know fear sells. And they are peddling this very disgusting fear when it comes to culture wars.

Listen, to the point that was made by the -- by the TV host, you know what, if we have greater voices of diversity in our country, whether they were born here, naturalized or immigrated here, good for us. That makes us a stronger nation and a better nation and a smarter nation.

And it makes us more equipped to address the problems that we face as a multicultural community and a multicultural country. It is why the demographics, both voting and culturally, are getting away from Republicans.

And instead of trying to expand their coalition of voters, they`re simply trying to energize those that are left within the tent. It`s shameful.

Go back to this national security conversation that we`re seeing replete in these TV ads. They are not attacking national security credentials. They are attacking patriotism, like we saw the attacks on Max Cleland in `02, a Vietnam warrior.

We are seeing these attacks that are, without question, dividing us culturally as a nation. And, at some point, we get to question the fitness of Republican decision-makers that make those decisions.

MATTHEWS: Well, I can see why you`re not a Republican anymore. You don`t talk like one.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle Goldberg. And thank you, David Jolly.

JOLLY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump`s inserting himself into these midterm elections in a huge way, but does that knife cut both ways? You bet it does. Could making the midterms all about Trump backfire on Republicans?

Depends where you live, I think.

But you`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Less than three weeks away from an election that will determine who controls Congress, both houses can split, but it is the man sitting in the White House who wants the attention drawn all to him.

In the first 17 days of this month, October, alone, this president has held eight rallies, conducted nine major interviews, and made himself available to answer questions on at least 22 other occasions. Donald Trump is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, he has four campaign rallies lined up over the next five days.

In one of his appearances today, Trump said this would only last through the midterms.


INTERVIEWER: Are you going to keep up this pace of media after the midterms or is this a run-up to the midterms?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Probably not. No, this is for the midterms. We want to win. We want to get the Republicans nominated and we want to get them elected.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the roundtable. Ayesha Rascoe, White House reporter for NPR, Katty Kay, Washington anchor for BBC News, Sam Stein, politics editor for "The Daily Beast."

He`s come back like a big marshmallow man in "Ghostbusters" at the end. He`s all over the place.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: I think Republicans are hoping that it doesn`t turn out like that, with President Trump, but that`s the issue --

MATTHEWS: Blowing out all that white stuff all over the place.

RASCOE: But the issue is, a lot of times his poll ratings, President Trump`s poll ratings will go up when he`s not as much in the news when people can think about other things.

MATTHEWS: Really? Why is he doing this?

RASCOE: Because he also thinks that he is his best messenger. He has this list of accomplishments that he wants to promote. The problem is you never know what he`s going to say and what controversy he can start off.

MATTHEWS: How can women not vote on Trump if he`s in their face? He says I`m the issue, me Donald Trump, doesn`t that make you, when you go to the polling booth, a guess a vote yes or no on Trump? That`s what he`s told me to do here.

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS WASHINGTON ANCHOR: He`s banking that his base is still with him. They still love him. They turn out of these rallies. He loves being at the rallies.

I mean, a lot of this is that he`s really enjoying himself. He`s loving talking to the press. But he`s trying to give it both ways. He`s saying that is vote for me, for Donald Trump, I`m effectively on your ballot and then saying, but hold on f we lose, it`s not my fault.

MATTHEWS: By the way, there`s no Comey report coming out before the election this time that hurt Hillary. It`s not like he`s got an easy break. There`s no opponent to Trump. It`s just Trump, take him or leave him.

SAM SMITH, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: I don`t know if he and Steve Bannon are talking still, but this is essentially what Steve Bannon had advertised to do about a month ago, which is say, listen, go -- the suburban women are gone. Don`t worry about them. They`re gone. They`re not going to vote for you.

MATTHEWS: You won`t get them.

SMITH: You won`t get them.

But what you could do is you can get those people who came out in 2016 who were not really politically active or maybe were old Democrats, and they voted for you. You can reactivate them by being out there all the time, literally nonstop campaigning from now until the election. And Trump, again, I don`t know if he`s talked to Bannon, but he`s followed that playbook to a T.

And what you`ve seen statistically is that it`s worked where the consolidation and the party is happening, the enthusiasm among Republicans has happened. Now, that could be related to a different factor, but it`s the play that they`re trying to do.

KAY: But you can oversaturate the market, right? I mean, the problem now is the cable channels aren`t running him. His "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday night is a ratings failure, too much Trump means you stop hearing from him on television and that can be a problem.

MATTHEWS: Stormy outrated him, what, 2 to 1.

KAY: Right.

STEIN: And the other thing is it`s good for the Senate where the states are rather more Trumpian, but it`s not necessarily good for the House where you do need those suburban mothers because those in the districts.

MATTHEWS: He`s not going to help in the House race but I think he`ll help the red states and the Senate races.

RASCOE: That seems to be where people are leaning. But the risk is that you could turn people off, and so if you have those people, no, he`s not going to get the suburban women, but there could be some Republican women who are, like, do I really want to go vote right now? I`m kind of --

MATTHEWS: OK, here`s where he may going to damage the Democrats, Tester in Montana. He might be able to push that the other way. I think Tester win normally.

STEIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: But with Trump in there, who knows?

Anyway, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, you know him, he`s raising the alarm about the national deficit and blaming it on entitlements otherwise known as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the three most popular programs which are the reason why most people vote Democrat. And I think the Republicans are insane to raise these three.

When I was in this business, I would have jumped with joy. They`re going after Social Security? They`re crazy people. Let`s watch Mitch.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: It`s very disturbing and it`s driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.


MATTHEWS: Well, the deficits have ballooned under the Republican control for the last two years and have reached a six-year high, climbing the $779 billion in 2018. For a party that once ran recently as 2010 and going after -- putting them as the party of fiscal responsibility, fewer Republicans are making that part of their campaigns.

Look, deficits are not going to get the Democrats but you go after those programs that affect every family, I think they`re nuts.

RASCOE: And President Trump has realized that. When he was asked about those by the "A.P." about Mitch McConnell saying this, he said, what? I hadn`t heard that. So, he`s already kind of like, I don`t know anything about entitlement reform.


STEIN: I watched the Senate debate a couple of nights ago, and what was fascinating was just the ideological turf in which it was played. Each candidate was saying, I protect preexisting conditions, protect Medicare, protect Social Security. None of it was deficit talk.

But Mitch McConnell spoke the truth. The Republicans do want to reform these entitlement programs, but from a political standpoint, it couldn`t have come at a worse time. Every Republican running for Congress right now is running on protect entitlements, the opposition wants to ruin them and then Mitch McConnell comes out and says, you know what, maybe we need to think about this tough stuff.

KAY: What did we learn from 2016, actually Trump supporters, Republican voters, don`t want those programs touched either. There`s a big gulf between the elite of the Republican Party in Washington that preaches reform and the voters who say, I like these programs.

MATTHEWS: You know what George Will said? He said Americans are conservative. They want to conservative the New Deal, and the Great Society.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And these three will tell me something I don`t know. We`re learning a lot here.

Republicans are going after Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let`s check in on the HARDBALL ten, the ten key states that will decide who controls the Senate come November.

In Tennessee, a new poll shows Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn leading former Governor Phil Bredesen just by three points. That`s a close one. As a Democrat, Bredesen has been trying to stake at his centrist course in that deeply conservative red state. Well, he doubled down on his support for Judge Kavanaugh saying it was the right decision. If I had the same information, I`d do it again.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table. Ayesha, tell me something I don`t know.

RASCOE: NPR is out with a new poll today focused on rural voters. And found that the biggest threat that they feel to their community is the opioid crisis, and that`s even more than economic concerns and that when you look at national polls, drug addiction is very low on their concerns. But for rural voters, it matters.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s out there, yes.

KAY: We got a big new report on the BBC. We heard a lot about Black Lives Matter, but a big number of disabled people are killed by police every year in America, up to half potentially --

MATTHEWS: Disabled? Why?

KAY: They are autistic and don`t understand the instructions. The deaf and they don`t hear the instructions. They could have schizophrenia. A hundred thirty or more already this year along had been shot by police now disabled.

MATTHEWS: So, when you see one behaving oddly --

KAY: Maybe their hand is twitching near their pockets and they`re autistic, think it causes a threat.

MATTHEWS: We`re near a homeless shelter right here, you know? Go ahead.

STEIN: It`s tough to follow those two, which are both horrifying, especially with Michael Avenatti, which is something you don`t know. He`s actually making serious concrete moves behind the scenes in preparation for this run that he`s been floating for president. He`s consulting with actual Democratic operatives, building out a website, purchasing voter data lists.

MATTHEWS: Sam Stein, you`re a serious man, why are you doing this? Why are you talking about the Avenatti presidential run?

STEIN: You wanted something you didn`t know. I try to give something -- fresh information.

MATTHEWS: OK, I appreciate your goal.

STEIN: I`m playing by the rules of the show, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to limit it to the real. But anyway, you really think he`s got a shot?

STEIN: I don`t -- I didn`t say that.


MATTHEWS: The point is, he`s running, you made a point, broken news here.

STEIN: I convinced you.

MATTHEWS: You made news.

Thank you, Ayesha Rascoe, Katty Kay and Sam Stein, who`s the early -- he`s watching this guy.

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


MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Wednesday, October 17th, 2018.

The president of the United States as you`ve heard has been defending the right of the Saudi crown prince to the presumption of innocence. Jamal Khashoggi, however, an American resident, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. His fiance waited outside. He never walked out.

We know this because the surveillance cameras show him going in but don`t show him coming out. Where does this establish an assumption of innocence on the part of the Saudi government into whose consulate Mr. Khashoggi walked into but never walked out? Where does this establish an assumption of innocence when according to Turkish officials, there were 15 Saudi agents waiting for Mr. Khashoggi on the other side of that door? Where are those 15 agents, including people close to the Saudi crown prince himself, at least one of whom has been photographed with the prince all around the world.

Well, the reports of what went on in the Istanbul consulate range from the horrific to the grotesque. The reports suggest that Mr. Khashoggi`s life ended in the most ghastly way, separated from people who valued him and cared about him. He can be sure the Saudis will end up with some cover story, a way to get someone at a low level to take the fall. Why is the president of our country, that has long taken the high ground in this world agreed to be an accessory to the fact of this horror? Why is this country`s chief of state helping so obsequiously, bending so low to serve the cover-up?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.