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Trump under fire for defending Saudi rulers. TRANSCRIPT: 10/18/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Elena Schneider, Donna Brazile, John Brabender, Loretta Lynch, Judith Browne-Dianis, LaTosha Brown, Ben Rhodes

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 18, 2018 Guest: Elena Schneider, Donna Brazile, John Brabender, Loretta Lynch, Judith Browne-Dianis, LaTosha Brown, Ben Rhodes

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A killing in Istanbul. Let`s play HARDBALL.>

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

It`s been over two weeks since Turkish officials saw a Saudi hit squad tortured and, say, and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And it has been roughly a week since Turkish authorities said they have an audio recording and video showing the gruesome death.

Tonight NBC News is reporting that U.S. intelligence agency is investigating the killing of Khashoggi of Khashoggi believe it`s inconceivable that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman had no knowledge of it. And the Saudi Arabian royal government vehemently denies all of this.

Despite all of that mounting evidence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said today that the U.S. would give the Saudis more time to come up with an explanation. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so we, do, have a complete understanding of facts surrounding that, which point we can make decisions how, if it the united states should respond to the incidents surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And late today, President Trump en route to a campaign event, finally acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Jamal Khashoggi is dead?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It certainly looks that way to me. It`s very sad. Certainly looks that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When it came to the crown prince`s involvement, however, "the New York Times" notes that the President was uncharacteristically guarded and disciplined. Declining repeated requests to discuss the chain of events that led to Mr. Khashoggi`s disappearance or the crown prince`s role.

According to the "Washington Post" the Trump administration is working with the Saudi royal family to find a quote "mutually agreement explanation for the death of Khashoggi that will avoid implicating crown prince Mohammad bin Salman." "The New York Times" is also reporting that Jared Kushner, the President`s son-in-law, has been urging the President to stand by the crown prince, arguing that the outrage will pass.

Sadly, while Khashoggi`s voice may have been permanently silenced, his words live on in the last column he wrote for the "Washington Post." In that column he wrote almost prophetically that quote "Arab governments have been giving free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. The Arab world is facing its own version of an iron curtain imposed not by external actors but domestic forces vying for power."

For more, I`m joined by, right now, by Heidi Pryzbyla, NBC News national political correspondent. Robert Costa, "Washington Post" national political reporter. Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor.

Thank you, all. I want to start with Robert.

What is the President up to in this strange, disciplined silence of his?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: He continues to get intelligence report as pressure on the administration to back away from the Saudi kingdom. You have the secretary of the treasury removing himself from that conference next week. But you still have an administration, a President, reluctant to take action on human rights. Wanting to preserve that relationship. Seeing it in purely transactional terms.

MATTHEWS: Why does he feel that he has to either condemn the action, or take sides and defending it? Why doesn`t he just say this was horrible, this is terrible, and then deal with the transactional aspects of our economic and oil relationships as they have been with some sort of tweaking? Why does he feel he have to be on their side so much? I mean, this idea that somehow they are innocent seems to be indefensible to say that, join in the cover-up? Why would he want to do that?

COSTA: Part of the President`s caution, Chris, is because he is not getting any pressure from his own party, which controls Congress. Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, they are standing by him.

Usually, the Republican Party pretty hawkish on human rights, on traditional mainstream foreign policy, GOP types would urge action. Not so much right now. You have Senator Bob Corker and others, Senator Lindsey Graham saying a few words. But it is Trump in command. That tells you so much about the Republican Party and foreign policy today.

MATTHEWS: Well, over the past two years, President Trump has railed against other traditional allies of the U.S. over a range of issues from defense to trade. Let`s watch him about other people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is your biggest competitor, the biggest foe, globally right now?

TRUMP: Well, I think we have a lot of foes. Think the European Union is a foe. What they do to us in trade.

Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. So you tell me, is that appropriate? I mean, by keep complaining about this from the time I got in, it should have never been allowed to have happened. But Germany is totally controlled by Russia.

Canada has treated us very badly.

So I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Fran frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wonderful. However, when it comes to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the royal family over there in Saudi Arabia, the President`s support has been unequivocal. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are going to leave nothing uncovered. With that being said, the king firmly denied any knowledge of it.

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

TRUMP: No, they are just - they are great, very talented people. They are not investigating themselves. These are all talented people. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Ben Rhodes, thank you. Once upon a time, meaning not too many years ago, this country had moral authority in the world. We tried to position ourselves as the bad guy, believed in press freedoms and human rights generally, going back to Jimmy Carter, going back to Roosevelt. We tried to be the country that was for the good guys and looked out for the underdogs a lot of the time.

This seems to be a clear-cut case we defend a journalist who apparently was killed, according to the President, was killed but seem like we are taking the side of the victim here and his interests against the killer.

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, Chris. I mean, we have become essentially the Trump administration a co-conspirator in the cover-up. I mean, at this point, a normal administration, not just Obama, but any traditional American administration, would be working with those very same allies that you showed Trump criticizing. The European Union, Canada, to figure out what are the consequences that we`re going to impose on Saudi Arabia?

Let`s face it, we don`t need to know much more than we already know. The man went into the Saudi consulate and never came out. Decisions like this, to send hit squads into other countries to kill journalists, do not get made in the Saudi system without Mohammad bin Salman, power behind the throne, knowing about that.

So what we are seeing here, Chris, is really the continuation of a profound realignment of American foreign policy under Donald Trump where we longer speak up for democracy and human rights. We no longer speak up for journalists. Instead, we call them the enemy of the state. And we are giving a green light not just to this Saudi regime, but to any regime around the world who wants to harm dissidents, harm journalists. Because the most powerful democracy in the world is no longer on their side. And I think we can`t imagine the message that that`s sending to people and governments around the world and just how much that`s shifting the workings of the global order that the United States has led since the end of World War II.

MATTHEWS: Ben, you were the spokesman for foreign policy for the previous government -- previous administration, White House. DO you really believe, I`m not going to put words in your mouth, but I think I just heard them, that the signal was sent by this President to the world and to the bad guys of the world including the Saudi family that we hate journalists to the point where whatever you are going to do with them is fine with us.

RHODES: Well, look, we have been saying for many months that we are concerned that the rhetoric that he uses at home against journalists could have a chilling effect abroad, particularly with governments who are willing to do horrific things to squelch dissent.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RHODES: The Saudis undertook this operation knowing that it wouldn`t just silence Jamal Khashoggi. It was so brazen that they want the message to go out to any Saudi journalist or dissident in any country in the world that this could happen to you. The chilling thing is the Saudis might not mind the attention this is getting because it`s getting that message across. And if you take that and on top of that, you have a U.S. president who seems more concerned at protecting Mohammad bin Salman and protecting the Saudi government after this action, then that message is only come pounded. And there are plenty of other governments around the world who would do harm to journalists, who would do harm to dissidents who will take comfort in the fact that the United States is no longer figuring out what consequences we can impose on a country like Saudi Arabia after they do this, we are figuring out how to get them through this.

MATTHEWS: Well, Heidi, I don`t mind going to general quarters on this meaning where I usually go. I think it has to do with his family, I think it has to do with Jared, his son-in-law. He has been sort his vice roy (ph) when it comes to dealings with the Arab world. I think he feels that somehow he is in bed with this royal family over there, that his sort of Romanoff phony family and their family seen to be locked together. Jared and this crown prince, and his crown prince, seem to be in bed together politically.

HEIDI PRYZBYLA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you raised the exact question. And the answer is don`t know. And why don`t we know? Because he has never, unlike every president before him, prior, you know, going back to Nixon, actually disclosed his financial interests.

From what we do know, the Saudis have definitely invested in him. From what we do know, during the campaign, he opened at least eight companies in Saudi Arabia. So is this because of some kind of a direct financial connection or this is just part of a broader pattern of affinity that he has shown toward these types of autocratic leaders?

MATTHEWS: That`s the word I`m interested in. They see, the Saudi royal family, especially this young prince, princely prince, seems to think of Jared as something like him in the United States, the son-in-law. The crown prince. They seem to have built that relationship as if it`s two royal families interlocking, if you will. Hooking up, if you will. And it seems to me this President looks at it the same way in reverse.

PRYZBYLA: Well, you can definitely draw a line back to the fact that the very first visit by a foreign visit by this President was to Saudi Arabia and the fingerprints of Jared Kushner on that. And now the question is, I think --

MATTHEWS: Look, there they are together.

PRYZBYLA: We have already seen --

MATTHEWS: Buddies.

PRYZBYLA: We have already seen that this is not going to be an investigation. They have already had too much time. They have had Pompeo come over there and not make demands, for example, listening to the tape and whatnot. And so the question, has the United States already allowed the crown prince to argue a plausible deniability that no matter what comes out of this investigation, he didn`t know about it. They have already had one of the executioners killed -- alleged executioners killed in a car crash. There`s your --

MATTHEWS: Which executioner?

PRYZBYLA: One of the men who allegedly took part in the execution of Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a car accident now.

MATTHEWS: When was this?

PRYZBYLA: Just within the past day.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Robert, you report -- you wanted to jump in here, Robert Costa.

COSTA: Put aside for a moment this Romanoff`s illusion you are making. Because based on my conversations with White House officials, Chris, it`s really about Pompeo, the secretary of state, playing his own chess game in the Middle East thinking you got to go after Iran, Saudi Arabia is crucial, how the U.S. is positioning himself with Iran. The President with his transactional view of foreign policy, all about money, the arms deals, the oil.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COSTA: Jared, with respect to Mr. Kushner, based on conversations with White House officials, more of a side player here. Partly because he seems a little bit hot, a little bit hot because of his relationship with Mohammad bin Salman.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But what about this -- I know, he may be covering up for this or leading the cover-up because isn`t the son-in-law, Jared, the one who is supposed to put this grand treaty together, something like the old green line with some changes, but doesn`t protect the Arab rights in Jerusalem? And aren`t they looking for the Saudis to underwrite that deal? Wasn`t that the plan led by the crown prince?

COSTA: That was the plan. But actions speak louder than any kind of plan. Who went to Saudi Arabia? Who has gone to Turkey? It is the secretary of state, not Jared Kushner.

MATTHEWS: OK. Why didn`t the secretary of state ask to hear the recordings that the Turkish government and its official newspapers have been putting out with all the hard, I mean, really horrifying details about the torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi? Why didn`t he ask if he could listen to that tape while he was there?

COSTA: That`s why the midterms matter because Congress needs to ask these kind of tough questions. Maybe under subpoena or invite the secretary of state to Capitol Hill. Senator Corker is asking questions but a lot of republicans right now aren`t asking the questions you are asking.

MATTHEWS: They are sitting here talking about sports or something. I don`t know what they are having such a great time about. This is this week. And the aftermath of an unbelievable torture and murder, a dismemberment, and this guy is the chief suspect and Pompeo is having, I don`t know, tea with the guy. I don`t know what`s going on.

Anyway. Thank you, Heidi Pryzbyla.

Thank you for your great reporting, Robert.

And Ben Rhodes, thank you.

Coming up, voting in America is a constitutional right, but that right is under assault. Former attorney general Loretta Lynch is coming to me right here to talk about that next.

Plus, the Trump fact with only 19 days to go until the midterm elections, President Trump hits the campaign trail for rallies in three close senate races -- Montana, Arizona, and Nevada. He knows where to go. And all very close states in the battle for the senate. But will Trump`s big presence nationwide hurt overall?

And the man in charge of the Russia investigation speaks out in a rare interview. Rod Rosenstein defends the integrity of the Mueller investigation and his role in overseeing it. Why is he speaking out now right before the election? Could it be that Mueller is about to report right after the election?

Finally, let me finish tonight with why it is so important for you, the person looking at me right now, to vote. You have to vote. It`s your constitutional right and I would say duty, especially if you know what`s going on, as you do.

And this is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: With only 19 days to go now, everyone is laser focused on the midterm elections, but underneath that surface, some Democrats already have their sights set on 2020. President Trump has made it clear he plans on running for reelection and has mused about something he calls his dream opponents, including Joe Biden, John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg. While most Democrats avoid the topic, one potential 2020 candidate is clearly testing the waters. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: I was thinking the other day, because I`m considering running in 2020, that I`ve always had the accent over my "A" in my name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

CASTRO: That I bet if I did that on the sign that that would be the first time that anybody has run for President with the accent and accent over a letter --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. So let`s talk about that little nugget that you just slipped in there. I will be running -- on Tuesday, I will be running for President of the United States.

CASTRO: I did not say that word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think you would do differently in going up against Donald Trump?

CASTRO: Well, I would say two things that first of all, if I decided to run, I don`t think that you are going to beat Donald Trump by trying to be Donald Trump. It`s the folks who have been hopeful and optimistic and painted a strong vision for the future that, especially as Democrats, have prevailed. You think about in the modern era, Kennedy or Carter when he ran, represented a break from scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: right.

CASTRO: Or Clinton when he ran or, of course, maybe the best example, Barack Obama in 2008.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Voting in this country is every citizen`s right, of course, not a privilege like getting a driver`s license. It`s a right. And that principle was clear in the 15th amendment ratified after the civil war that quote "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Nearly 100 years later the franchise was reinforced by the voting rights act intended to ensure equal access to the polls. That was in 1965. Today, however, that right is again under assault. Rather than expand access to the polls, many in Republican-controlled state and local governments are trying to restrict it by making it harder to register, passing voter I.D. laws, and closing polling locations.

Here`s how former Vice President Joe Biden summed it up early today:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you believe that voter suppression is under way?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely.

Somewhere on the order of 77 in the last couple years pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures to restrict the right to vote.

We should -- we should have automatic registration. There is no -- no evidence, in all those studies done, of widespread voter fraud, of that being a central problem in American electoral process. It`s just not true.

QUESTION: In Georgia, it`s reported more than 53,000 voter registration applications are on hold.

BIDEN: That`s right. And 70 percent of those are African-Americans. Surprise, surprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, a few seeking to disenfranchise voters have readily admitted their true intentions. Some have been surprisingly honest.

Back in 2012, just six years ago, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania House, Mike Turzai, made it clear that voter I.D. was intended to suppress the vote for then President Obama.

Here he goes:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TURZAI (R), PENNSYLVANIA STATEHOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Voter I.D., which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Pretty clear.

And in 2013, Pennsylvania`s Republican Party chair, Robert Gleason, admitted that voter I.D. cut into President Obama`s margins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you think all the attention drawn to voter I.D. affected last year`s elections?

ROBERT GLEASON, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: Yes, I think a little bit. I think we probably had a better election.

Think about this. We cut Obama by 5 percent, which was big. A lot of people cited that. He won, he beat McCain by 10 percent, and he beat Romney by 5 percent. I think that probably voter I.D. had a -- helped a bit in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who served under President Obama.

General, it`s great to you on, just an honor generally.

But there you saw it. And, amazingly, these Republican pop up out the grass and say, yes, we do it to screw the African-American voter, help our side.

LORETTA LYNCH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They just say it.

LYNCH: Yes, yes. And it`s nothing new. That`s the thing.

I`m glad you started with the 15th Amendment, because this is an historical issue. It`s a current issue. And just -- it`s only history because it happened to somebody else, not because it could never happen again. That`s what`s happening now.

You see the transfer of power when people begin to vote, when their voices are heard. We see people not wanting to have that happen.

You saw from the time of the Voting Rights Act African-American registration and turnout increasing slowly, because we had to bring lawsuits.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LYNCH: This was still not an automatic thing. It was not an easy thing.

And by 2010, `11, `12, `13, you had almost parity. And that`s when things began to change. Once Shelby County was decided and pre-clearance was moved away, states went right back to their old systems.

MATTHEWS: But in a lot of these states, Deep South places, where you had a large African-American population, going back to the cotton culture -- and these whites were afraid that the blacks would take over local government.

But you see in these big states like Pennsylvania, the blacks are not going to take over state government. They are going to have to have really good candidates to do it. It seems like they just do it for partisan reasons. They just say, we`re going to screw this group of voters.

I will just get you some water here.

LYNCH: I`m good.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you all right?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They just seem to be doing it for pure -- the race is the key, because African-Americans tend these days to be Republicans -- be Democrats.

But this new pattern just seems to be blatantly partisan. Just thinking about it. Look at -- look at what is going on. Tell me what you think is going on in Georgia right now.

LYNCH: Well, look, what`s happening in Georgia is similar to what you just played in Pennsylvania.

There`s an exciting candidate for governor. And she`s coming close. She`s gotten statewide appeal because of her previous work in the state legislature. So, she`s a known quantity. She`s already crossed that barrier of appealing to people from all sides.

But the issue is always registration and turnout. And I think, there, her opponent has also said that if she can get people to turn out and register, she`s got a great shot. This has always been about power.

MATTHEWS: But he`s the guy in charge of registration.

LYNCH: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: He`s the secretary of state. And he`s setting these rules and purging voters and pulling like 50,000-some off the list and saying, these are conditional now, and their -- and the applications will be in doubt.

LYNCH: They will be. They will be.

This has always been about power. It`s always been about who gets to control the life of this country and who gets to determine how we all live our lives. That`s what it`s always been about. And so the more people you have coming into the electorate, the more you dilute the current power structure.

That`s why it`s not just in the South. That`s why it`s not just in it rural areas. That`s why it is, in fact, anywhere you have people who do not like the demographic changes that we are seeing in this country.

MATTHEWS: OK.

What I worry about -- and we even played this on the story, because we have obviously a big proportion of African-American viewers. And I`m proud of that as hell. I just wonder sometimes if we scare people by saying, well, I don`t want to go down to the polling booth, because they`re going to want to cause trouble down there. I don`t want trouble, blah, blah, blah.

I can understand that. I don`t want that intimidation factor. How do you tell a person to go out there? This is one time of your life to be pushy. Don`t let anybody get in your way. You have a right to vote.

LYNCH: This is absolutely the time to be pushy. This is not just a right. It is a birthright.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LYNCH: This is something that every American is entitled to, by virtue of being here and by being a citizen.

And, frankly, the people who in power who have taken an oath to uphold this Constitution set themselves up and try to restrict it is really disgraceful. And that`s the real problem that we`re seeing here as well.

So, you`re right. To say that you don`t want to intimidate people is great, but, look, these laws are designed to intimidate. Restricting early voting is designed to intimidate. The voter I.D. laws are designed to scare people away from the process.

MATTHEWS: What about long lines? That`s a subtle one.

LYNCH: That`s a subtle one.

MATTHEWS: You hear about four-hour lines already in some of these early voting situations. They just get an African-American neighborhood, and, OK, let`s limit the number of booths here. Let`s slow everything down.

LYNCH: Limit the numbers of booths.

And also they will threaten to close the polls, so that you fear that your vote won`t be counted, that you actually can`t get into the voting booth.

So -- but I got to tell you, you know, people, particularly minority people in this country, have been through a lot worse. We can get to -- we can stand on a line. We can sign up and register to vote. So these are intimidation tactics.

They`re really designed to suppress interest and get people not to even get started.

MATTHEWS: Sing it loud.

When I grew up in Philadelphia, and later on, when I got -- as a young adult, Frank Rizzo had made his message pretty clear to African-Americans up there. They didn`t like him. They outvoted white people. They got out there, because they had a stake in this guy.

LYNCH: And that could -- that could happen again. That could happen again.

Not just minorities, though. You look at the impact of the voter suppression tactics going on in this country, it`s primarily minorities, people who have traditionally have been disenfranchised. It`s also young people, because you look at what`s happening on college campuses and the way in which the college vote is also being suppressed.

MATTHEWS: General, look at the camera, and tell people what to do this voting season. Go on. Make your pitch.

LYNCH: Listen, you have got to come out, and you can`t be intimidated.

This is not just our country. It`s our right. It`s our birthright. So, what I want everyone to do is find a way to get to the registration area, to the polling area. Make your voice heard.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. It`s an honor to have you on, General.

LYNCH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

By the way, that was former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Up next: a closer look at some of the states where voting rights are now under attack, like Georgia. State officials shouldn`t get to choose, by the way, who gets to vote. The voters get to decide who runs the country, not the other way around. But some are trying very hard to do that, to do just that, pick the voters they like.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Less than three weeks to go until the elections, voting rights remain under attack in a lot of states. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a North Dakota state voter I.D. law which could negatively affect the state`s Native American voters.

And, in Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor -- hmm -- put tens of thousands of voter registrations on hold, which is his term, which the Associated Press found disproportionately affects African-American voters.

And on Monday, in Jefferson County, Georgia, dozens of African-American senior citizens headed to the polls on the first day of one -- of in-person early voting were ordered off the bus.

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reported the decision came directly from County Administrator Adam Brett, who told the outlet: "Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party."

How scary.

I`m joined by Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, an old friend of the show, Jason Johnson, politics editor of TheRoot.com, and LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Votes Matter. She was on that bus in Georgia.

LaTosha, what do you think was up that day? They got all those voters off the bus. Why did that happen? Who did it? LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTES MATTER: You know, it was the county administrator, but I think it speaks to, particularly when we are talking about rural communities, how there are folks who have unchecked power and have had power so long, that they feel like they have the right to make decisions, to use their power in an abusive way to make the -- have the right to make decisions for other people that actually interferes into their vote.

So, the county administrator actually made the call to tell the director of the center that the people of the bus had to get off. And that`s -- quite frankly, he made a unilateral decision based on the fact that he didn`t know who the people were.

Well, we had spent two hours with that community, so, at the end of the day, the people had made that decision. That was not his call.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, you know -- well, you know the history. We will get to it in a minute. But it seems to me that I have spent most of my life understanding polling operations in politics. You go to the voters in their homes. You go to their community centers. You go to their churches. You pull them out. You get to the poll, that so your side wins. That`s what politics is all about, pulling, getting people to the voting booths.

Did this person, this administrator of the county, did this person, Adam, know, Adam Brett, did he know that the people on the bus were African- American? Did he know that they potentially were going to vote Democrat? What was his motive?

BROWN: Absolutely.

He actually says, if you look in this statement, and when we went to talk to him, because we actually went back to talk to him on -- yesterday. What he said was that because our -- the organizer that was in the community that we were working with happened to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, that he felt that this was a partisan event.

It wasn`t a partisan event. She happened to be -- while she was a Democrat and connected with other pieces, that -- once again, that was not his call. That was certainly an issue of voter suppression, because who is he to make a choice for other grown able-bodied adults of where they are to go and who they are to associate with?

MATTHEWS: LaTosha, you strike me as a very aggressive person, which I applaud.

Should people who get in these situations next time, when they feel that there`s some muscle coming at them from authority figures, that they really wonder should they be more pushy than your people were? Should they just say, damn it, out of our face, we`re going? Is that possible in these situations, to confront power?

BROWN: I think you have to have a delicate balance, because in many of these rural communities, their positions of power is very interconnected in terms of the politics and the economics.

So , oftentimes, people who have the political power also have the economic power. And there`s usually repercussions, particularly in rural communities.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWN: So, I think you have to walk a delicate balance. And we knew that, which is why we didn`t push it at the time.

We knew that we were going to resolve it. And, since that time, just to report, many of those voters, many of those seniors have already voted.

MATTHEWS: Good.

BROWN: And so there was a delicate balance in being able to make sure that you do no harm. First, you do no harm, that, one, that we recognize to figure out what was happening, but also give the opportunity that we are recognizing that, in these rural communities, there can be repercussions.

So, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t understand, but you`re telling me. You`re telling me. You know what I don`t know.

You`re teaching me.

BROWN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Because, you know, a white guy like me isn`t used to that treatment. I haven`t been bothered about voting in my whole life. Nobody`s ever got in my face. Nobody has ever stopped me.

But you have been there. And you know that they can get even, right?

BROWN: Absolutely.

And I think that`s why it`s really important for us to recognize that there is a spectrum of voter suppression. Oftentimes, people will question where that was voter suppression or not because it didn`t look like a poll tax or it doesn`t look like we`re asking how many jelly beans.

But there`s a spectrum of voter suppression tactics. And, actually, anything that interferes from a person`s choice to be able to go freely to vote, that in itself meets the very definition of voter suppression.

MATTHEWS: It seems like, Judith, there is a spectrum -- there`s not just a spectrum, but there`s a line all the way back to the days of -- in Reconstruction, when the Republican Party sold that out in 1876, and went back to Jim Crow, where they have come up with reading this in Greek or the number of jelly beans in this bowl, or all these incredible, crappy ways to screw a person.

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Right, or laws like they have in Florida, where you can`t vote if you had a -- you were convicted of a felony, put into the Florida Constitution in 1868.

And so, yes, there`s a spectrum. And what`s happening in Georgia is that that legislature, the secretary of state, and local officials, what they`re trying to do is make it harder to get on the rolls, harder to vote, but easier to get off.

So, we`re seeing everything from difficulty from registering to kicking people off the rolls. But, then as LaTosha said, the things that are in the middle, the intimidation that happens when police are at the polling place, where poll workers are turning people away and not giving them their rights...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: That`s right.

BROWNE-DIANIS: ... then these acts of intimidation that are subtle.

MATTHEWS: What about this exact match thing?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: Where if you have a hyphen between -- say you get married. My wife is Cunningham-Matthews, but she left out the hyphen. It`s two names, a middle name and a last name.

If you go by the middle and the last name as your formal surname...

JOHNSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and you don`t have it in some form, right, not in your checkbook or somewhere, they can deny you to vote.

JOHNSON: They will knock you off. And here`s the worst part. And they won`t tell you, right? So you don`t know until you show up in the voting booth.

And we have talked about the fact that how many marbles are in a jar, how many bubbles come out of a bar of soap? Exact match...

MATTHEWS: Is that true?

JOHNSON: Yes, these were actually true things that were actually done during Jim Crow.

Basically saying, if you write your own name wrong in our opinion -- that`s a literacy test. You have literally got literacy tests going on in Georgia. But that`s not just all. You have these larger bureaucratic problems, in Arizona, where the Department of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, during this Blasey Ford thing, we`re all over the place on that one. I called her Dr. Ford. Some women, more feminists would say, you have got to say Blasey Ford, even though there`s no hyphen.

We still haven`t figured that one out.

BROWNE-DIANIS: I`m Judith Browne-Dianis.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNE-DIANIS: Every time I go to the polls, there`s confusion about which name to look it up under.

And if you`re -- if I`m in Georgia, forget about it.

MATTHEWS: Tell me what you prefer, just to get that straight.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Dianis.

MATTHEWS: One word. OK, one word.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about where this thing -- what do you tell -- what do you tell -- because this is your expertise.

What do you tell people who come in the Deep South areas where there`s trouble -- there could be trouble anywhere -- when you get to the polls and somebody starts messing with you, what do you tell them to do at that moment?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You have waited in line.

BROWNE-DIANIS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: You get to the place. The person there -- they always have glasses with chains holding their glasses, very local and traditional.

That person -- there seems to be a problem with your name here.

What do you say?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, we tell them, do not leave.

JOHNSON: Right.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Number one, you keep asking. Ask the judge at the place, the election judge.

But, ultimately, there`s a ballot of last resort. And that`s called a provisional ballot. We don`t want you to use it first, because it`s the one that gets counted last. But we do want you to fight for that right.

You can also call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which is the election protection line.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s all right to raise a modest stink.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNE-DIANIS: That`s right. That`s right.

JOHNSON: Yes.

BROWNE-DIANIS: And start talking.

And then poll workers make mistakes also.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: And bring every single piece of documentation that you can.

At my old university, when they tried to keep college kids from voting with student I.D.s, the university provided all the kids with an energy bill from how much they paid in tuition to pay the bills, so they could prove where they live.

Bring your documentation. Bring your I.D.s. Bring your driver`s license and bring other people. That is how you fight this voter suppression.

A lot of this comes from the fact...

BROWNE-DIANIS: That`s right.

JOHNSON: ... that you have voting organizations and the DMV sort of almost working together to keep you from voting.

If you have your documents, you can fight for it.

MATTHEWS: This is not the Department of Motor Vehicles.

JOHNSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s not -- it`s not a privilege. It`s a right. Push.

Thank you, Judith Browne-Dianis. Thank you, Jason Johnson.

And it`s nice to meet you, LaTosha Brown. Go for it.

Up next -- I think you already are.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Trump is hitting the road again for midterm campaign blitzing across three battleground states.

He`s smart, actually. He has figured out three states where it`s really close, Montana, Arizona, and Nevada.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Back to HARDBALL.

With 19 days now until the midterms, President Trump is hitting the road again for a campaign swing this time out west. He`s going to hold three back-to-back rallies in states like, well, Montana, followed by Arizona, then Nevada.

He`s smart. He`s going to where it`s close. Each state is a highly competitive race for the Senate, all part of our HARDBALL ten, in fact, they could help determine, well, they will, determine who wins this Senate control come November.

In Montana, the "Real Clear Politics" average right now has incumbent Jon Tester with a three-point lead, that ain`t much for an incumbent, over Matt Rosendale. In Arizona, the average shows a tied race now, dead tie between McSally and Sinema. In Nevada, the average has incumbent Dean Heller with a two-point edge every Jacky Rosen. That`s another too close.

Let`s bring tonight`s roundtable, Elena Schneider is a campaign reporter for "Politico", Donna Brazile is former chair of the DNC, and co-author of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics." And John Brabender is a Republican strategist. Actually, he actually is a Republican strategist.

Because some of the people who come on these shows drove a car for somebody five years ago and they become their strategist. You`re not. You`re a true Democratic strategist.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR: I am.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this race, is there any shift in the wind this week, once we`ve gotten past the Kavanaugh week, is it going back to what it was, normally? Is there a norm, a direction heading into the next 2 1/2 weeks?

ELENA SCHNEIDER, CAMPAIGN REPORTER, POLITICO: I think John and I were talking before, is the bump going to hold? And we don`t know that yet. We don`t have the data yet. But I think that as of right now, there`s a sense it might be a sugar high and Democrats could not be -- literally could not be more excited to vote in November. It`s unclear though --

MATTHEWS: You think the Dems still have the rush in their direction?

SCHNEIDER: At this point, yes. We`ll wait and see when more data comes back.

MATTHEWS: Donna, thank you for coming on.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Donald Trump decided to be the biggest face in a midterm election since Richard Nixon in `74.

BRAZILE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: We`re going back before that to probably FDR. I`ve never seen a bigger presence. Is that good for the D`s or good for the R`s?

BRAZILE: That is good for the Democrats and here`s why. He`s very unpopular. He`s underwater with independents. He not excites his base on the right, but he also excites the base on the left. I think Donald Trump is trying to go up against a historical tide that often spells doom for the party in power. So, he`s going to the states like Montana where he carried by 20 points to try to rally the faithful.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, OK, John, I think it`s a red state/blue state thing. I think the blue states will go blue, the red states will double down on Trump. What do you think?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it`s different in the House than the Senate. First of all, I would disagree with you. I think this is similar to how 1994 was two years into President Clinton. At least from the Republican --

MATTHEWS: That`s a great Republican era.

BRABENDER: As far as motivating people. I see Democrats wake up every day, turn on their TV, they see Donald Trump and they`re motivated.

Here`s the interesting thing, though. The House, we`re going to lose seats. There`s no doubt. It matters how many.

In the Senate, we can actually pick up seats because we have states like Indiana and West Virginia which are --

MATTHEWS: Don`t tell me Joe Donnelly`s going to lose.

BRABENDER: I tell you what --

MATTHEWS: Don`t break my heart.

BRABENDER: If I make one prediction of a race that`s tightened the most since the Kavanaugh vote, would tell you it was Indiana.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I think he`s got a chance. Anyway, what do you think is going on? Do you buy that? Democrats win the House, Republicans win the Senate?

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely, there are two different --

MATTHEWS: Absolutely, just like that. I like that. Just absolutely. OK.

SCHNEIDER: At this point, there are two different maps going on right now. Democrats have the edge in it the House. Republicans have the edge in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: OK, I say 30 to 40 in the House, Democrats. What do you say, 30?

BRABENDER: I agree with that. I`d say in the Senate that the Republicans pick up two seats.

MATTHEWS: You might be right.

What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: I say 35 in the House.

MATTHEWS: Good call.

BRAZILE: I think it`s going to be a race to the finish line in the senate. But Democrats are going to pick up at least 10 gubernatorial seats.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think?

SCHNEIDER: As of right now --

MATTHEWS: You know, you`re a reporter.

SCHNEIDER: As of right now, Democrats flip the House, Republicans --

MATTHEWS: How much in the House? How much a win?

SCHNEIDER: I think --

MATTHEWS: Twenty nine is average?

SCHNEIDER: I`d say somewhere around the average.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`re getting into low 30 as our average here today. Anyway, I think, pick up one or two in the Senate, Republicans.

Finally, with so much focus on the midterm elections we can`t forget that special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation is still looming over the Trump administration. In a very, very rare interview with "The Wall Street Journal" today, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended his role in overseeing the Mueller probe. In fact, he`s the overseer of this thing.

Rosenstein said, I committed, I would ensure the investigation was appropriate and independent and reached the right result. Whatever it may be, I believe I have been faithful to that.

Well, in Rosenstein`s interview with the "A.P." this week, Trump again actually denied any wrongdoing, saying, we have a witch hunt now going on. I handle it very well and there was no collusion.

Donna, you`re first. What`s going on with Rosenstein, is he fighting for his job?

BRAZILE: No, I think he`s making a similar statement he did this summer when they released that long list of indictments. He`s trying to tell the American people that, you know what, this investigation is fair. It`s thorough. And the person who`s conducting it is a man of integrity.

I think he`s just trying to lay the groundwork for what we`re going to hear right after the election.

MATTHEWS: When is the Giuliani report coming out? That`s going -- no, really. He`s going to write a report matching Mueller`s, we`re told.

BRABENDER: What Rudy is there for is to editorialize on whatever report comes. Seriously, say, look, from a former prosecutor --

MATTHEWS: He`s hiding out to --

BRABENDER: This interview was suspect in the sense that has you know, house committees have been trying to get him to come in and speak. Doesn`t do that. All of a sudden now he`s granted interviews which is not what somebody from the Justice Department in the middle of an investigation --

MATTHEWS: Pelosi said at Harvard yesterday, she`s going to protect that document when it comes over, it`s going to matter.

BRAZILE: She`s doing the right thing because this goes to the heart of our democracy. It goes to what we need to learn from 2016. The special counsel has kept his lips closed. His mouth closed. We need to know what is happening.

MATTHEWS: Well, we all want to be there when the titanic hits the iceberg.

BRAZILE: Amen.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: With 19 days now to go to the midterm elections, about two and a half weeks, MSNBC wants to know what you`re thinking, are you excited about potential change in this election, the opinions on the candidates running? I`m sure you do.

If you have something to say about the midterms share it with us on, look at this title, electionconfessions.com. Like there`s something wrong with you. Check out what other voters are saying too. Electionconfessions.com.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Elena, tell me something I don`t know.

SCHNEIDER: President Donald Trump this morning tweeted his endorsement of Virginia Congressman Dave Brat. He shocked the political world in 2014 when he took out Eric Cantor in that primary. It may happen to him again. He`s now running against Abigail Spanberger who raised $3.5 million last quarter. And I`ve heard from Republican sources that his polling was really dangerous over the summer and this is a really a race to watch.

MATTHEWS: Who`s more vulnerable, him or Comstock?

SCHNEIDER: Comstock just based on the numbers, though.

MATTHEWS: Donna?

BRAZILE: Nancy Pelosi, there`s a lot of talk about Nancy Pelosi and her future. But here`s one thing I want people need to know, Nancy Pelosi has raised a whopping $121 million for the Democrats. That`s almost half the money the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has brought in to date. She`s not only recruited a diverse set of candidates, but she`s raising money and she`s back in her team.

MATTHEWS: Should she be reelected?

BRAZILE: I believe so. But that`s my view. I`m not a member. I don`t have a vote.

My boss, ex-boss, as you see, Eleanor Holmes Norton, I will hope that she will support Nancy Pelosi.

MATTHEWS: She votes in caucus, right?

BRAZILE: She votes in caucus.

MATTHEWS: John?

BRABENDER: We heard Donald Trump said people would get tired of us winning. And the problem is, among Republicans that`s coming true. After Kavanaugh actually became a Supreme Court justice, we saw the peak happen and drop a little bit with enthusiasm. We`re looking at early numbers of early voting, absentee ballots and so forth, the Republicans have to get energized over something, because winning is --

MATTHEWS: Name one Republican Senate candidate who`s going to win in the entire Rust Belt that got Trump elected. Name one. All the way from --

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Here`s what you have to understand.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BRABENDER: Just because you voted for Trump doesn`t mean you`re pro- Republican.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, thank you. The Midwest is going the other way this time.

Thank you, Elena Schneider, Donna Brazile, and John Brabender, a very courageous guy.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a call to vote.

A couple points on that. One, get prepared if you`re going to be out of town on Election Day, like I will be up in New York to join the MSNBC team up there. You should find out when you can vote early or vote absentee. The important thing is not to let the day slip through your fingers because you didn`t get ready yourself.

The second point I want to make is to remember how bad you`ve felt those times when you didn`t get to vote, either because you find yourself trapped on Election Day with too much to do or found yourself having to go out of town and hadn`t voted beforehand. There are few things easier to do than vote and few things as important.

If you have any doubt about that, remember the election of 2016, it was only a few votes in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that decided the election in the electoral college. That made Donald Trump president.

Look, I`ve been had -- long had the assumption around here that people who watch HARDBALL faithfully are voters. I do believe that people watching right now are voters. They`re not the kind of people who take their vote for granted, for the basic reason they don`t take their being American for granted. Not at all.

Why get yourself involved in the issues as we do here and cover here if you`re not going to vote come Election Day? Why you care about the people campaigning to run this country if you don`t participate in deciding which of those people is going to get to do it? That`s basic stuff.

And this is HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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