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Trump says "we have to unify." TRANSCRIPT: 10/24/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Anita Kumar, Vivian Salama, John Feehery, Neera Tanden, Bob Vance Jr.,

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 24, 2018 Guest: Anita Kumar, Vivian Salama, John Feehery, Neera Tanden, Bob Vance Jr.,

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I'm Ari Melber and that's all the time we have tonight, but our continuing coverage continues with Chris Matthews right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, AMERICAN COMMENTATOR: Political terror - let's play HARDBALL. Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews in Washington.

Everyone assumes that I love politics - the contest of it, the personal drama, the real test of character, of courage that politics often demands, but there's one part of politics that I truly detest is the corrupting, corrosive, humanly destructive conceit that the ends justify the means, which means me to Donald Trump and what happened today.

To say there is no connection between what Trump has said about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, John Brennan, and CNN and the thinking of the person who sent those pipe bombs is fool hearty.

We're about to mark Halloween and one of our great traditions it is because it's all about saying boo. I'm giving someone a little fright so they can enjoy the moment of relief that follows, the realization, it wasn't real.

Sending pipe bombs isn't saying boo, its political terrorism. Saying that people are evil isn't saying you disagree with them, its saying we would be better off without them. The means don't justify the ends if the means are stirring up attempted pipe bombs. These are the people you're demeaning and as of tonight, NBC NEWS is reporting that explosive devices were sent to at least five public figures.

The similarity of the pipe bombs, as well as the packaging containing them, indict a carefully planned but ultimately, fortunately, unsuccessful endeavor. But it's the nature of the intended recipients that suggest this is an act of political terrorism and that's because the targets are a whose who of President Trump's enemies list.

The first bomb was found at a mailbox of billionaire activist George Soros on Monday, and today bombs went to the Obama's and the Clinton's in Washington and New York. They were intercepted by the Secret Service.

A bomb intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder went to a bogus return address landing in Florida at the office of U.S. Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

Meanwhile, a suspicious package sent to Congresswomen Maxine Waters was intercepted at a mail facility, but investigators have not confirmed its contents.

And a bomb addressed to former CIA director John Brennan was delivered to CNN's headquarters up in New York. CNN was covering the wave of suspicious packages when they were forced to evacuate their building. Here's what happened that moment this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are no longer suspicious packages. The FBI is saying that they rudimentary, but functional. That means they were explosive devices and to have projectiles and that's a - excuse me - that sounds like a firm alarm here. We'll keep you posted on that, but to have projectiles - that is a feature you'll often seen in bombs that terrorist use in Afghanistan, elsewhere.

ISIS has used that kind of before (ph).

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Yes, we're going to jump in there's a fire alarm here.

SCIUTTO: Fire alarm here, you might have had it in the background. We're going to find out what the latest is here.

HAWLOW: We'll be right back.

SCIUTTO: Here at CNN, we're going to be right back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Reacting to the news today, the President of CNN Jeff Zucker blasted the White House saying, QUOTE; there is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand that their words matter. Thus far, they have showed no comprehension of that.

While all of the intended recipients of the bombs have been on the receiving end of the Presidents attacks, Trump held his tongue today in addressing the developments, here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we speak, the packages are being inspected by top explosive experts and a major federal investigation is now underway. We will spare no resources or expense in this effort and I just want to tell you that in these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats the political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: As of today the FBI is still investigating and senior bomb technicians briefed on the case said the aspiring bomber had all the components necessary to set up a successful explosion, so it was a real bomb and tell me right now as Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says that they'll probably see a Republican strategist Malcolm Nance and MSNBC terrorist analyst. And Shannon Pettypiece is a White House Correspondent for Bloomberg news so I want to start with Malcolm on this. This is your line of country, Malcolm, and NBC has determined that this had all the makings of a bomb that could have killed people.

MALCOLM NANCE, AMERICAN AUTHOR: Well you're absolutely right. What we had happen today was what we would call a bombing campaign and let's not make any mistake - this is a terrorist bombing campaign. These were attempted murders of high ranking figures and apparently the target set was one particular political party. It remains to be seen what the motivation of the bomber actually was and the most important thing that can happen right now is this bomber needs to be tracked down.

He has not just the devices that he sent but he has a bomb factory somewhere which may be somewhere dangerous and he may be a threat to law enforcement like we saw in the bomber earlier this year who blew himself up when police tried to get him. But that's what we're up against right now, the attempted murder of senior political operatives, former government operatives in the United States.

MATTHEWS: You said there's a question mark still in your head about the motive. Isn't it politics?

NANCE: Well, apparently, you know, we have this saying, the target is the tactic. So when you look at the individuals that he tried to target, you know he selected these package bombs some of which were delivered by courier, one of which may have been delivered by hand himself and knowing that the bomb would go out and be screened by screening facilities, it tells us that he really wanted intimidation campaign. I say he, we don't know if it was he or she.

But he wanted an intimidation campaign that was really targeted at least half of this nation.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the Senator. Senator Blumenthal thank you for joining us. We seem to have you on too often on these occasions but we want you here. This is - what it is to me is apparently the definition of what happened here is the list of those intended targets. I mean George Soros, who goes to bed at night worrying about him except somebody on the right who knows he's on the left and don't like him because of it. Or who goes to bed worrying about Eric Holder who isn't even A.G. anymore. He's mad at him because he's on the progressive left and he wants to do things about voter suppression and they don't like that. Or it's Hillary, lock her up Hillary. These are the people they always dream of hurting. Your thoughts -- at least politically.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) CONNECTICUT: Make no mistake, the targets here were political. This act of terrorism, a terrorist attack was not only on those individuals and groups but also on our democracy and our constitution; a classic instance of political intimidation inciting fear, not just doing destruction to them, but potentially to innocent people who may been handling the mail and set off those bombs.

If the president is really serious about leading and unifying, he knows what not to say, what not to do including not condoning or supporting a congressman who body slams a member of the press, not condoning and supporting terrorist who kills people in Charlottesville, not supporting his rallying supporters tonight who yell "lock her up," and not encouraging them to go after members of the press. His trademarks have been bullying and intimidation and vitriol can breed violence.

MATTHEWS: Well just in the incidents of today, the bombing attempts, at a fundraiser today, Hillary Clinton, herself, spoke about the forces that are dividing this country. Let's listen to the former secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We are fine thanks to the men and women of the secret service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home. But it is a troubling time, isn't it? And it's a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together. Usually when people ask me how am I doing, which happens quite often. I say well, as a person, I'm great. As an American, I'm worried.

(END VIDEO)

MATTHEWS: However, the crowd gathering tonight for a Trump rally out in Wisconsin, seemed to ignore that call for bipartisanship and civility. Here is what they chanted when the Republican candidate for Senate mention Hillary Clinton's name just in passing.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She hired Hillary Clinton's attorney to cover it up.

CROWD CHANTS: Boo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She took you.

CROWD CHANTS: Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.

(END VIDEO)

MATTHEWS: Susan Del Percio, what do you make of that? That crowd didn't catch the mood change in the mood ring, the president was suggesting he would change today, they were going to be more civil and not be inciting to this kind of thing that happened this morning.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what the president said today. We don't know what he's going to say this evening. And Chris, something caught my attention that you said at the beginning of the hour when you said how much you love politics, but you know obviously what we see today is horrible for our nation. One of the reasons we probably love politics is because we've seen what good that it leads to. And not once have I ever heard Donald Trump say I was elected to serve. He also says I won. He doesn't know respect to the Oval Office. He doesn't know respect to the presidency. It's case in point almost daily with the words he chooses. And it isn't surprising that we see his crowd all riled up because that's what he wants. He called for unity, not once has this president sought to unify our country or any basic level.

MATTHEWS: Shannon, your thoughts about the way this is breaking today, these stories on the front pages tomorrow. The major papers will have the pictures of all the targets. Everyone will recognize the pattern. These people are the Democrats, basically, including John Brennan who has been critical of the president. People like George Soros are only really known to people on the progressive side or the people that don't like the progressive side; he's not well known as a figure. But the neatness of this package, including Eric Holder, is going to grab people and they're going to say, too much fire on the right has caused this with some character out there. We don't know how demented or not demented they are but they did this and those bombs might have gone off.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBURG NEWS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And this idea of calling for unity 12 days before the midterm election, it might sound good but that was not in the president's play book. The president's play book in these final two weeks was to divide as much as possible, was to stoke up his base to come back to these corner stone issues of immigration, of fear to drive out Republicans. That was what they were seeking in these final two weeks. They tried a positive message. That wasn't working so they had gone right to fear and painting this fear of if Democrats were elected, you are going to have terrorist streaming into your communities, you're going to have gangsters, you are going to have your safety put into jeopardy. That's the type of thing that makes people on both sides feel like we're in some sort of life or death situation.

MATTHEWS: Not to play Dick Tracy here Malcolm, but it's your line of country again(ph), but the person who put this list together and had figured out the addresses and everything, most have known the president has been claiming that George Soros, one of the targets here, has been paying for the caravan. Haven't you heard that? That's a late breaking thing and also that Eric Holder is now becoming a political partisan lately. This guy had a fresh list of the president's enemies.

NANCE: Well, you're absolutely right. And he had -- you know the terrorist has, in his head, his set of targets that he's going go to go after but something has to propagate that. Something has to infiltrate his information sphere in order to give him that set and that most likely based on the collective targets that we're seeing here came from the list of people that you always hear in extremist right wing rhetoric, right? The conspiracy theories about George Soros, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, which I'm rather surprised, but you know, it doesn't matter; once that list got into his head, he set forward on bloody murder and that meant that, you know, the secret service be dammed, he was going to attempt murder.

And that, as you saw at that rally today, should not have been what people were talking about. They shouldn't have been chanting, "lock her up," when we could have had the attempted murder of several prominent Americans in a situation had those devices gone off and killed or wounded secret service, U.S. postal personnel or any other person who was serving this nation. We could be in a much, much different situation.

MATTHEWS: You know, "lock her up" doesn't take a big jump to "blow her up." Anyway, President Trump has certainly fostered that climate of incivility just this month in criticizing Democratic opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, Trump described his political opponents, not as rivals but as evil people.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've been trying to destroy Judge Kavanaugh since the very first second he was announced.

They destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people.

(END VIDEO)

MATTHEWS: Now, who was disturbed by that word "evil?" The Ambassador at the United Nations, Nikki Haley who does impress me when she says, "we have to stop talking like that." Here she was at the Al Smith dinner in New York just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

NIKKI HALEY, AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: In our toxic political environment, I've heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil. In America, our political opponents are not evil.

(END VIDEO)

MATTHEWS: Senator, what do you make of the fact it took the U.N. Ambassador to call the president who appointed her, on that particular misuse of political rhetoric.

BLUMENTHAL: I was so impressed and moved by what Nikki Haley had to say and maybe the bar has been set so low that that kind of very self evident statement now impresses and moves us. But there really is an opportunity here for a kind of alarm bell or wake up call, whatever you want to call it.

A bipartisan movement to try to raise the civility of our disclose (ph), as na‹ve as it may sound, two weeks before an election, if there is a bipartisan call as Nikki Haley seemed to feel was possible, maybe we can make some progress in elevating our political rhetoric rather than inciting the kind of violence that all too often actually results.

MATTHEWS: You know, I will say something that some passionate people on the progressive side wont even agree with, but the ends don't justify the ends and winning is not everything. It is not everything. Trump believes it is he believes power is everything, winning is everything. Any way you get there is ok as long as you win and he teaches that to this country and in the worst (ph) most sort of way.

Anyway Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you, sir. Susan Del Percio (ph) and Malcolm Nance, thank you for your expertise, sir, and Shannon Pettypiece here with me.

Coming up, a closer at Trumps history of attacks on Democrats and the media, we'll also be talking to the son of a federal judge. His father was killed by a mail bomb in 1989. Is there any hope that we, as a country, can bring decency and civility back into our political and public discourse or are these - are those out of reach now in the age of Trump?

This is HARDBALL with the Access (ph).

(COMMERCIAL)

MATTHEWS: Leaders on both sides of the isle are condemning the attempted attacks today and house majority with (ph) Steve Scalise who almost died in a politically motivated shooting last year, tweeted, "violence and terror have no place in our politics or anywhere else in our society." Well good for him.

Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted, "those behind such reprehensible acts must be brought to justice, we can not tolerate any attempt to terrorize public figures." Notice he doesn't say a word against Trump.

House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted, "the goal of terrorist is to instill fear, we will not allow them to diminish our commitment to building a brighter future for communities across America."

And hers what the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio said, "to all public officials of all partisan affiliations, don't encourage violence. Don't encourage hatred, don't encourage attacks on media. So unfortunately this atmosphere of hatred is contributing to the choices people are making to turn it violence. There is no question about it."

MATTHEWS: We'll be right back.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, anger has been a central tenet of Donald Trump's campaign, as well as his presidency, of course. He has frequently channeled his supporters' rage toward people or groups that he sees as his political enemies, some of whom were targeted by today's bombs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Crooked CNN. CNN is so disgusting.

CNN is fake news. I don't take questions -- I don't take questions from CNN.

CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN.

You can have the biggest story about Hillary Clinton. I mean, look at what she's getting away with. But let's see if she gets away with it. Let's see.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: You know who the new leader is? Maxine Waters.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: very low I.Q.

It's become radical resistance. You ever see their signs? Resist. They say, what are you going to resist? I don't know.

They will go to a person holding a sign who gets paid by Soros or somebody, right? That's what happens.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: President Obama, along with Brennan and Clapper and the whole group that you see on TV now, probably getting paid a lot of money by your networks, they knew about Russia's attempt to interfere the election in September, and they totally buried it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, and moments ago, John Brennan, one of the intended targets of the bombs intercepted today, spoke about it for the first time. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's very important for an individual who is in the Oval Office today to say exactly that, that we need to come together as a country.

We need to unite. We may have differences, but this should be no reason whatsoever to resort to these types of acts of intimidation and potentially violence.

I sincerely wish that Donald Trump, though, would have said these things previously and regularly. I wish that he would have encouraged people from all different backgrounds and political affiliations to come together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, for more, I'm joined by Neera Tanden, president and CEO for the Center for American Progress, and John Feehery, a GOP strategist.

John, this is a problem, I think, because it looks to me like the target list here is the usual suspects of the president's harangues. The same list.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, thank God none of those bombs went off and people are safe. That that's the number one thing. Thank God that happened.

The second thing -- and I know it's fashionable to jump to conclusions. But I would rather not jump to conclusions, until we know precisely why the person who did this did this.

I remember when I was working in the Capitol, and we had anthrax.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FEEHERY: And there's all kinds of conclusions. We still don't know who did the anthrax thing.

But I also was working in the Capitol when we had a crazy man come in and shoot up our office when I worked for Tom DeLay. So being a public servant is a very difficult job. And it's been difficult and dangerous for a while.

I think that Trump did the right thing by speaking out. And I think he needs to continue to speak out in each rally, because I think this will become important for the country.

MATTHEWS: So, you don't see a pattern in this list?

FEEHERY: Of course you see a pattern for the list. But the question is, what was the motivation for the person? Someone unhinged, someone crazy? I think it was someone who's crazy.

I don't know why, what their motivation was. And I would like to get to the bottom of it before I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think the question is, where did they get their list from? And it seems they got it from the president.

FEEHERY: Well, we don't -- we don't know. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Well, that list is the president's list.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, do you not see a connection between all the people Donald Trump targets with his rhetoric, all the people he targets, and this, and everyone who's received a pipe bomb?

Two presidents, a former secretary of state, and then people like Maxine Waters, and John Brennan and George Soros, like, who would even know who those people are if it weren't for Donald Trump targeting them in his speeches day after day?

FEEHERY: Well, anybody -- anybody who watches television knows that.

TANDEN: Because Donald Trump attacks them. They get press attention because Donald Trump attacks them.

FEEHERY: OK.

TANDEN: I mean, we do have to get to the bottom of it, I agree.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Instead of jumping to conclusions, I would like to have an investigation and find out...

TANDEN: Why can't you -- why can't you condemn what the president's rhetoric has been?

FEEHERY: I...

TANDEN: Why can't you just say, his rhetoric has been wrong and it's dividing Americans?

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: I think -- I think rhetoric...

TANDEN: Please just do that.

FEEHERY: I think the rhetoric on both sides has been terrible.

TANDEN: On both sides?

FEEHERY: Kick them when they're down.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Which -- I'm sorry.

I have to say I take this kind of personally, because I know people who were targeted for murder today.

But I have to say the idea that you're going to both-sides is ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at...

TANDEN: There are not a whole group of Republicans who have been targeted for murder.

FEEHERY: Well, Steve Scalise was targeted for murder and almost killed, almost actually killed.

TANDEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: And that was terrible.

And no political leader spoke out, saying, let's go -- let's go call Steve Scalise a terrible monster. It was a terrible thing that happened, and everyone condemned it, including Democrats. And it's sad to me that you can't do the same now.

FEEHERY: I did condemn it.

MATTHEWS: Well, last week, President Obama -- President Trump attacked Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, and Maxine Waters for being part of the Democratic mob that's losing it. This is very recent news.

This is what the president said very recently. Let's listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Democrats don't like being called an angry mob, but really that's what they have become.

When you listen to Eric Holder talking about kicking...

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: When they go low, we kick them.

TRUMP: Or Hillary Clinton saying what she said, which was so horrible.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot be civil.

TRUMP: They just don't see it.

Maxine Waters constantly, day in and day out, ranting and raving.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: And you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome.

TRUMP: They're losing it, and they shouldn't be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, you two? Because it looked to me like that was tit for tat, but the president leading the song.

Go ahead. Your thoughts, Neera.

TANDEN: I guess the fact that we have a rally tonight where the president's supporters, after today, are chanting "Lock her up," and the politician stands in front of them and can't -- doesn't have the common decency to say stop to that group of people after what happened today.

MATTHEWS: You mean the candidate, the candidate running for Senate in Wisconsin.

TANDEN: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But what did you make of those comments by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and by Eric Holder that said, basically, get in there and -- you know, somebody who was on this show the other day -- or someone I was with said to me, when you fight with Trump on his own language, using that kind of language, pugilistic language, the tough guy, street corner language, you walk into what's called the insect light, that little thing that catches mosquitoes.

You walk into that, and you get into the same world he is, and you don't want to be in that world.

TANDEN: So, the argument...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I'm just asking you.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: I hear that argument. But the argument saying...

MATTHEWS: I'm asking what yours is.

TANDEN: I'm saying to you, the argument that, when your values are under attack, you need to defend them with everything you believe is different...

MATTHEWS: Is kick them?

TANDEN: ... is different from saying...

MATTHEWS: Is kicking defending values?

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: ... Maxine Waters is a low-I.Q. person with tons of people.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: Frankly, I have to say it's ridiculous that we're equating these.

MATTHEWS: I didn't if you if you were agreeing they were equal. I just ask, do you think it's smart on the Democrats to talk back to Trump that way? Is it?

TANDEN: I'm saying -- I just think the idea that we're talking about this at all when these things happen is kind of what Trump wants.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Go ahead.

FEEHERY: Well...

MATTHEWS: Well, it's not what we're talking -- we're talking about the bombings today, to be honest with you.

TANDEN: Absolutely, but you're equating this language or saying it's similar.

FEEHERY: My first boss was a guy named Bob Michel, who was a guy who said, we can disagree without being disagreeable.

I think the sad thing is, everyone is exceedingly disagreeable. And I think it's on both sides. I think Trump has been out of line on many, many occasions. I have said that on many occasions.

I think, on the other side, we have seen these mobs that go out. I think you shouldn't -- you should be able to eat in a restaurant with -- being shouted at, have your leftovers taken and thrown on the ground.

I mean, that kind of stuff is intimidation, and intimidation on both sides. And it's bad for democracy. And this got to -- we got to knock it off.

TANDEN: Sure. You know what? I agree.

Like, saying -- not being nice to people in a restaurant is bad. But the idea that we're actually in the same breath equating not being nice to a person in a restaurant and people getting pipe bombs sent to them is ridiculous...

FEEHERY: Or getting shot at a baseball field.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: ... and part of what is really upsetting.

But I guess we're all in a moral time here. We're all going to be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let's -- first of all, let me explain what I think is going on.

When you get into this kind of food fight, this personal name-calling and terrible -- mostly on the side of the present, him doing it, and then the other side jumps in and tries to match him, which never works -- little Marco should have taught us that.

And you get in that light. Then people out who aren't as mentally stable, or not as good people, they think, OK, it's OK to do this horrible thing of bombing.

I don't think it's the same. Nobody thinks it's that. You don't either.

It's that some people don't get the message. It's a food fight. It's not a gun fight. It's not a bombing fight.

TANDEN: I agree.

MATTHEWS: Neera Tanden, thank you. John Feehery.

Up next, we will talk to the son of a federal court judge whose father was assassinated by a mail bomb, one of three such assassinations in the 20th century.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN WHITAKER, FBI: Every single FBI agent in the Birmingham division will be working on this matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All Christmas leaves have been canceled for Birmingham FBI agents, as they work to solve the mystery of who killed Judge Robert Vance. He died instantly when he opened a package containing an explosive device delivered to his suburban home in the U.S. mail.

His wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was how NBC News described at the time the murder of Judge Robert S. Vance by a mail bomb on December 16, 1989. Vance, a federal appeals court judge for the 11th Circuit, became the third federal judge to be assassinated in the 20th century.

And just two days later, on December 18, a similar mail bomb killed Georgia civil rights lawyer Robert Robinson. There he is. Two other bombs were intercepted before they could hurt anyone.

Over the course of that investigation, the FBI tied the devices to one seen in 1972 built by a Walter Leroy Moody. Well, Moody was apprehended in 1990 and found guilty of several federal accounts. But it was his conviction by an Alabama state court for Judge Vance's murder in 1996 that led to his execution April of this year.

I'm joined right now by Judge Vance's son, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Bob Vance Jr.

Judge, thank you so much.

JUDGE BOB VANCE JR., ALABAMA CIRCUIT COURT: Hi, Chris. Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS: Well this is a -- fortunately, a rarity in our life, these pipe bombs.

This one apparently had all the elements necessary to blow up. For whatever reason, it didn't. Maybe it wasn't open. People could tell. The people who first saw these packages knew there was trouble there and took the preparations and -- to avoid any disaster.

Your thoughts, though, when you heard about this?

VANCE: Well, it took me back 30 years to my own father's death from the package bomb that he opened up in the comfort of our kitchen at our home in Birmingham. So it brought back a lot of bad memories from that day.

But I am so thankful that no one was hurt today with so many bombs that were mailed to so many people, and not one injury as a result of that. So we should really be thankful that there was no loss of life or any injuries.

MATTHEWS: I guess the element of terror in a mail bomb is, it goes right into your house.

VANCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And then, like your father's kitchen, right? You couldn't be more intimate. There is it right there inside blowing up in your face, literally.

VANCE: And it's so random, so senseless. You never anticipate or expect anything like that happening.

And certainly, in our case, there was never any real connection as to why Walter Moody picked my dad as to be a victim of this senseless act. And we may never know that.

So it's cowardice striking from afar like that. It's also so random and senseless that creates so much of the frustration.

MATTHEWS: I'm always impressed by the guts of prosecutors and judges doing their job, because there are always people out there that have a grievance.

VANCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And this case wasn't even grievance, was it? It just was random.

VANCE: That's right. That's right.

Judges, myself included, we always have in the back of our mind the thought that someone might not like decisions that we make. And we make decisions every single day. We recognize that there's the possibility of violence.

Now, thank God I have never had a real instance of violence. And all my brothers and sisters on the bench in Birmingham, where I work, we have never had a real incident like that.

But it's always back there. You always think about it.

MATTHEWS: Hey, Judge, it's so great to have you on.

And good to have you on in this weird day for you and, unfortunately, a bit of nostalgia of the worst possible kind.

VANCE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

I mean memory, not nostalgia.

Thank you, Judge Bob Vance Jr.

VANCE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: more on those suspicious packages. They're more than that. They are bombs, pipe bombs, sent to American political figures and the media. We're reporting on that today. It's going to be all over the papers tomorrow.

What's it going to take to return civility and decency to our political and public arenas? These were all targets of the president's rhetoric. Now they are, unfortunately and horribly, targets of a bomber.

You're watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump earlier today calling for unity. Tonight, the president is holding Make America Great Again rally in Wisconsin. His calls for unity stand in contrast to his divisive rhetoric about his political opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob.

Anybody that votes for a Democrat now is crazy when you look at what's coming up.

Remember Hillary's slogan. That was the worst slogan. She paid like a million dollars for somebody to make the slogan. Come together or something terrible. Come tighter, she's a great unifier, right. Great. Great unifier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let's bring in tonight's HARDBALL round table.

Anita Kumar is the White House correspondent, or the White House correspondent for "McClatchy". Vivian Salama is the White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal". And Jeremy Peters is politics reporter for "The New York Times".

Well, how's this going to run in the papers tomorrow is my question? My sense is it will be pictures of the targets. All the people that had bombs dropped at their door and everybody will make their own judgment and say this is the usual, rhetorical attack list, enemies list of the president.

ANITA KUMAR, WHIE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Oh, I think that the papers will say this is the president's attack list. I mean, it is. Maxine Waters, you know, all the people that he's targeted. There's no disputing that.

His comments today, we'll see what he says tonight. That will be really important. His comments today, he struck the right tone but he often strikes the right tone after mass shootings, after hurricanes and one hour later he goes back to his --

MATTHEWS: Is he going to wait an hour? I think he might wait until it's Wednesday -- he'll wait until Friday night to go back full steam ahead. I don't know. When he think it's safe to go on the rhetorical binge again.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I suspect his speech writers had to do a little rewrite for his speech tonight in Wisconsin because of the fact that obviously, this is a very sensitive issue.

MATTHEWS: You mean to say lock her up, it may sound like blow her up --

SALAMA: They are already starting with the lock her up chants. I was at his rally in Houston on Monday night, and the crowd started chanting CNN sucks over and over again. The president paused and he said, don't worry. I don't like them either.

All of these things, obviously, it's no coincidence that everybody is drawing a line back to the president's rhetoric or not. You know, are we going to say it's a coincidence or not, I don't know what the motivations or individuals were, but obviously the president's rhetoric --

MATTHEWS: I don't find it a mystery that everybody else does. This person, man, woman, whatever, whoever is mental state, whatever had a political agenda here. The fact they were up to date too. It was Soros, the guy putting together the caravan. I mean, this was up to date.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICS REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, as were the attacks on Eric Holder. Eric Holder who just a couple of weeks ago said you kick them. Hillary Clinton's line about civility, this all happened very recently. George Soros especially. I mean, the interesting thing here is the people who were on that enemies list exist at this dark intersection of the right wing conspiracy theory mongering and Donald Trump's hit list.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of. You have introduced your segue.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested today that a Democratic operative may have created this scenario to benefit the left in the midterm elections. Let's listen to Rushbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: So, what would you do? Democratic operative, best way to turn all of that around. How about a day like this? How about a day like this? Where you create a scenario where it looks like mobs are on both sides.

It looks like the Republicans have a mob too or at least there's some Republican sending bombs to decent, good, Democrats and media people. Former Democrat presidents and harmless people at CNN, wouldn't it serve your purpose if you're a Democrat operative to make it look like the Republicans are a bunch of insane lunatics?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That's the same kind of nonsense that says that the Democrats got behind, the Republicans got behind the caravan. Not everything is run by some political operative.

Your thoughts?

PETERS: He's veering into Alex Jones territory here who, by the way, said basically the same thing except I think Alex Jones says the media would back a truck up into the headquarters and blow themselves up so they could garner more sympathy. I mean, this is just really sick, twisted stuff.

And this notion that everything has to be tribal, that the media ecosystem around President Trump has to kick into overdrive behind him no matter what the offense I think is really taking our country and our discourse in such an unfortunate direction.

SALAMA: ultimately, we're distracting from a very, very serious potential, you know, crime here. These people have received, I mean, their lives were at risk today. And the fact we would distract that by any political discourse or conspiracy theories or whatever you want to call it is unfortunate. This is the time where we should be unifying.

MATTHEWS: It's a good FBI case. I think the FBI, this is made for them. This is tracing mail back to where it's initially mailed from, seeing if there's any surveillance cameras at that post office. This is where the feds know their business, I think.

KUMAR: Right. And I mean, I think, we're going to hear more about that. On the conspiracy theories, this always seems to come up, though, every single time, you know, in recent history. There was a conspiracy theory about Sandy Hook, the shooting, this seems to happen every single time.

MATTHEWS: The former CIA chief, John Brennan, spoke about need for unity. Let's listen to him, John Brennan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA CHIEF: He needs to rethink what he is doing and saying. He should not be beating the tom toms of anger and animosity and more. He should be trying to bring us together and heal us as a people, because the polarization that's taken place in this country over the last couple of years is really quite antithetical to what this country is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Brennan's my generation. He talks about the old cowboy movies and the tom toms.

What do you think, Vivian?

SALAMA: I mean, in general, yeah. This is something that has been coming up for a while. This is ultimately why the president has criticized John Brennan is because of the fact he's been so out spoken of his criticisms of the president, and this is sort of how the full circle happened is that John Brennan has condemned the way that President Trump leads the country and President Trump has since revoked his security clearance targeting him because of the fact he viewed him as a political opponent.

And that's what's so dangerous about --

MATTHEWS: The emotions of most Americans were concerned about the separation of families at the border. Then people concerned about the look of so many people coming rushing toward the country without paper or anything, just coming here.

And now, this one, I think there's so much emotional stuff going on, and now these bombings. How much can you digest as an American, much less as a voter?

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, Trump versus the media.

You're watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: One week before the election now, Beto O'Rourke will join me for the HARDBALL college tour on the campus of the University of Houston. That's next week on Tuesday 7:00 p.m., right here on MSNBC live. You won't want to miss it.

We'll be right back.

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MATTHEWS: We're back to HARDBALL.

Where the president frequently attacks the media, as you know, and connects them to the Democrats, of course, at his rallies. Let's watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The number one enabler of the Democrats is the fake news media right back there.

AUDIENCE: CNN sucks, CNN sucks, CNN sucks.

TRUMP: And they really do, they stoke the fires of resentment and chaos.

As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.

A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are, they are the enemy of the people.

These are really, really dishonest people, and they're bad people, and I really think they don't like our country. I really believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

I love America, but I hate to get into this match with him on that topic. What do you think, Anita? Is he going to stop?

KUMAR: I don't think he's going to stop. Here's why, it's been working, right, this is a good strategy --

MATTHEWS: Right. He's at 47 percent.

KUMAR: -- political strategy for him with his base. When you go to rallies, I've been to a Pence rally, I've been to a Don Trump Jr. rally, they talk all about the media. When you talk to supporters, that's one of the things they say is that we don't do -- we don't tell the truth.

MATTHEWS: Do they read newspapers or just listen to Fox? What is their source of news?

KUMAR: I feel like online, but maybe TV also. About a month or two ago this got no attention that someone was arrested for threatening the "Boston Globe" and calling them the enemy of the people.

SALAMA: I mean, at the rally again in Houston on Monday, but also at his rallies generally he took this pregnant pause when he mentioned the fake news media. I mean, it's become part of the shtick to get the crowd to really get riled up, to boo the media sitting there. It is part of the show that comes with these rallies. It's unfortunate because, of course, we do -- we are a major contributor to keeping this democracy going. We try to assert this --

MATTHEWS: Oh, that.

SALAMA: Oh, that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Jeremy --

PETERS: It's been part of his political appeal --

MATTHEWS: Do you get personal abuse, scared of these people, give you scary looks?

PETERS: Fortunately, I have not been ever intimidated or threatened by anybody in a physical sense, no. I've seen it happen, though, at a rally during the 2016 campaign, a reporter getting his laptop slammed down. But yes, it happens. Trump whips these crowds up into a frenzy.

And then he acts like that should be completely divorced from the reality of bombs being sent to news organizations and his political enemies. So, I think what's happened here, what Trump has exacerbated is this really alarming trend in American society and politics where if I disagree with you politically, you are a bad person. You're not just on the other side of the issue you're a horrible human being and you should be demonized and punished.

MATTHEWS: Parallel with the '30s, the last century, the words precede the action. The words precede the action.

Anita Kumar, Vivian Salama, and Jeremy Peters.

When we return, let me I'll finish tonight with "Trump Watch".

You're watching HARDBALL.

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MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Wednesday, October 24th, 2018.

I'm waiting like many of us are to watch how President Trump truly reacts to the events of today. I'm referring, of course, to the pipe bombs sent to the Clintons, the Obamas, CNN and other familiar targets.

I'm waiting to see how the president responds for the useful reason that we all of us know what happened and the question is what can be done to lessen the chances of it happening again, happening in a way where the mission of the sender of those pipe bombs isn't achieved. For that we'll truly create social havoc, and, yes, if it is imaginable, worse division in this country.

The thing to listen for is not what words of concern the president chooses, but words he stops using in the days that follow. Will Donald Trump learn that he has flown to close to the sun or not? Will he learn that there are dangers and collateral damage out there to be wrought when a president demonizes people, when e learn that there are dangers and collateral damage out there to be wrought when a president demonizes people, when he suggests with giddy delight that the world would be better off without them.

As I said, we will listen to the president at his coming rallies and we will learn if he has the interests of the country at heart or rather some other interests.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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