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Controversial prime-time address. TRANSCRIPT: 1/8/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Leon Panetta, Jerrold Nadler, John Kasich, Ayesha Rascoe

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 8, 2019 Guest: Hakeem Jeffries, Leon Panetta, Jerrold Nadler, John Kasich, Ayesha Rascoe


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Two hours from now President Trump will address the country in prime time from the oval office for the first time in his presidency. It is the power of the bully pulpit on steroids, the ability to communicate directly with the American people without the filter of critics or fact checkers.

And tonight, President Trump wants split (ph) the full gravity of his office to sway the American people on what he says is a national security crisis at our border with Mexico and make political case for building a wall.

The Presidential primetime address has come to be used to brief the country in moments of major national crisis, epitomized, of course, by President Kennedy`s somber address to a frighten nation during the Cuban missile crisis.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere.


MATTHEWS: And while the use of the oval office itself has declined, recent presidents have continued the primetime tradition.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just two hours ago allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. Earlier today I ordered America`s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature and we responded with the best of America.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I can report to the American people and the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.


MATTHEWS: But this president, Donald Trump, now finds himself in a crisis of his own making. As the partial government shutdown is now on in its 18th day amid Trump`s standoff between congressional Democrats on one side and hard-right agitators like Rush Limbaugh on the other, tonight`s speech is the latest gambit for a President looking for a way out.

"The Washington Post" reports the address could lay the groundwork for declaring a national emergency writing, Trump hopes to use his bully pulpit to convince voters that the situation at the border is dangerous enough to necessitate construction of the wall.

I`m joined right now by Leon Panetta who served as chief of staff to President Clinton and a CIA director and defense secretary under President Obama.

Does this seem justified to you, this discussion if not invocation, discussion of a national emergency over a political fight over whether to build a wall, Mr. Secretary?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, as your program began, we saw past Presidents use that very powerful forum in the oval office to address the American people either on major policy decisions or major crisis. In this instance, I think the President is using this moment to try to bail himself out of a political crisis and I don`t think it`s going to work. I think it`s a misuse of the power of the presidency, to try to basically get himself out of a political boxes that he created. And it`s not going to work.

MATTHEWS: You know my brother was at Holy Cross back at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and the President`s address was so powerful and the moment of a possible nuclear war so terrified that the confession lines were long up there. People fearing the end of the earth.

I don`t know. You are at Santa Clara. I mean, I imagine that your memory of the Kennedy incident was searing.

PANETTA: I will never forget that moment because I was in ROTC, had just gotten my commission and expected to be called up any moment. And when you listen on the Presidents of the United States at that time, there was a real sense that we were on the brink of war.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the politics. The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is tough as nails. She is not going to negotiate Trump over a dollar. She said building of a wall would be an immorality.

On the other side, the president faces a second war front, Rush Limbaugh is out there saying he will bring down the Trump constituency, bring it down to nothing, if the President doesn`t build this wall.

Is this simply the alternative to either of those word? He can`t beat Nancy Pelosi. He can`t beat Rush Limbaugh. So he is going to exploit this unusual power of a President to expand his or her power simply by making a statement. We are in big trouble right now. That`s what it looks like he is going to do.

PANETTA: Well, look, you and I both know there is no justification for closing the federal government. There just isn`t. Whether it is war or crisis, there`s no reason we ought to be closing parts of the federal government the way we are.

This President, obviously is taking the blame for that. He asked to take the blame for it. Said he was proud to shut the government down. And now he is trying to argue that somehow the crisis on the border justifies that he keeps the government shut. And the reality is most people understand that if you have got a crisis, then you ought to put the government back to work, especially homeland security, which is closed right now. This is the agency that`s responsible for border security. Why in God`s name would you keep the government shut down if in fact there`s a crisis?

So, you know, his arguments are oxy morons. They are contradictions and they are not working and tonight it`s not going to work either.

MATTHEWS: I`m so glad we got to hear your voice tonight.

Former secretary of defense, Leon Panetta. Thank you, sir.

President Trump`s surrogates have been arguing there`s an emergency out there at the border. And here`s vice president Pence early today.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to terrorists, we have seen more than 4,000 known or suspected terrorists attempt to come into our country through various means, but on the southern border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But let me stop you on that. Because that is a misleading claim that`s been fact checked as I believe you are aware because that number is for ports of entry including airports.

PENCE: Well, and that is what I was saying. It is from all ports of entry. But on the southern border last year alone 3,000 special interest aliens were apprehended trying to come into our country.


MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC actually, here`s a fact check. Nearly every immigrant from a country outside the western hemisphere is classified as a special interest alien, does not mean they are include on terrorist data bases. In other words, if somebody from India or Pakistan or someone in the eastern part of the world had come here from Asia or somewhere or Europe or Europe, they would be considered special situation there, but not a terrorist watch list person. This is an abuse of the Presidential power over information.

Anyway, joining us right now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post." Julia Ainsley, national security and justice reporter for NBC.

And Julia, I want to talk to you. Explain the point of the President`s using these numbers, these fear numbers.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: OK. So it will be really interesting to see whether or not he even uses numbers tonight. He may just want to stay away from them because that has been undercutting his argument so much.

But first, we heard 4,000 known or suspected terrorists at the border. We can now just say that is not true. Even the White House is has said Sarah Sanders shouldn`t have said that on Friday. And in fact, we, in our NBC fact check, found that there are only six migrants who came through the southern border in the first half of 2018 who were on one of those watch lists.

When you talk about special interest aliens, yes, it is immigrants from outside the western hemisphere who happen to be on the southern border. But it is also - they are also on flagged as a special interest alien because of their travel patterns. But it`s a much lower bar the known (ph) suspected terrorists and being a known or suspected terrorists who are on those watch list is much lower than being arrested.

I spoke to someone today who said we are actually missing the forests or the trees when we get caught up on his definitions and numbers because really most important number is zero. Zero immigrants at the southern border have been arrested in recent history on terrorism related charges. So if he tries to conflate any of that tonight, just remember that one point.

MATTHEWS: Robert, you know the President pretty well. You deal with him all the time on a civilized basis, but here`s the question. Hasn`t he got rid, fired all the people in the oval office, everyone in his circle who questioned him on these crazy numbers? In other words, I think of people like the secretary of defense the recent, secretary Jim Mattis, people like that who gave him the actual figures and information about what`s happening in reality, they are all gone.

The way I`m hearing it, nobody in the oval office now says Mr. President, you got to start straightening out those numbers. So in other words, have we any confidence that he has a fact checker of his own?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Sometimes the truth is standing right in front of you if you are a reporter. And if you look at that picture of vice president Pence briefing reporters on Monday at the White House sitting next to him is a hardline conservative and rust vote, the acting director of the office of management and budget, you have secretary Nielsen echoing the vice president, all reiterating this idea of a crisis at the border, echoing the President.


COSTA: That`s the message coming out. And if there`s anyone inside raising their hand in descent, they are certainly not making it public and it`s been hard to figure out who actually, if anyone is really quarrelling with the President at this time.

MATTHEWS: You know, Robert, I just got back from trip to Cuba. I agreed to go there because the Castro brothers released out of officially power. But I have to tell you that is exactly what they did down there. There must be some document about the number of teachers leaving the country. And unless you quote from that document and the federal - the government document down there, you get in big trouble. You have to quote the number. This is what it sounds like when you tell me they are all quoting the same numbers.

COSTA: At this time, part of the reason they are quoting the same numbers is they have to set a predicate for possible executive action. If they take executive action and call a national emergency on the border and try to start building a wall with the army core of engineer, what`s going to happen? Immediately challenged in court. So the White House counsel`s office has been talking to officials inside saying there needs to be steps taken to explain the emergency situation if you are going to call an emergency.

MATTHEWS: Well, last week, President Trump says that past presidents told him they agree with him on the need for a border wall. All of those four Presidents now living denied it. And here`s vice president Pence responding to that denial today.


PENCE: Well, you -- I know the President has said that was his impression from previous administrations, previous presidents. I know I have seen clips of previous presidents talking about the importance of border security, the importance of addressing the issue of illegal immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) from telling the President, though, right.

PENCE: Look. You know, honestly, the American people want us to address this issue.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not really answering the question, Julia, because you and I were to brief off the record. But I have to tell you from the point of view of the people being briefed, the reporters, there was a lot of skepticism about these numbers. That`s not breaking ground rules. People just didn`t -- they said you have a credibility problem here.

AINSLEY: Well, sure. So, there`s a credibility problem on the three prongs that they are trying to use as a basis for the (INAUDIBLE). And Robert is absolutely right. They are trying to use tonight to defend whatever they push forward, whether that`s a prolonged government shutdown or whether that is a national emergency and they have tracked three different approaches. And so far all of them have hit a wall. I try not to use that word.


AINSLEY: So basically --.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have anybody back - and by the way, isn`t that -- Robert, isn`t that bothering the President, a lot of things bothering him right now, that he can`t find anybody on television, like right here, saying what he is saying? He is having a hard time finding backers these days.

COSTA: Because in part, the data doesn`t support the argument at this time. Border apprehensions over the last decade have actually gone down if you look at the "Washington Post" fact checker. And the Republicans have held power, Chris, for two years. And it`s only now at the dawn of divided government that they are choosing to describe a crisis atmosphere. Of course they describe crisis-like moments at the border over the last two years. But this is a political standoff as much as it is about anything else about national security.

MATTHEWS: Whose idea was this talk of national emergency where they go all the way with that tonight and they just talk around it, Robert? Is it Bill Shine? Is it some in communications? Is it Jared Kushner? Who said it`s time to basically shoot the moon? We can`t beat Nancy Pelosi in the Congress, we can`t beat Rush Limbaugh and those people over there on the far right on television. So what are we going to do? We got to go somewhere else. Let`s go to the national emergency route. Who came up with that gambit?

COSTA: So often in this White House, Chris, we are looking for the person whispering in the President`s ear but then you realize that the person who comes up with a lot of these ideas is actually President Trump himself. Cornered politically, doesn`t have an out in a prolonged government shutdown, trying to still signal to his base he can get something. This is the option on the table. If he doesn`t want to cave, this is what he started to pursue, at least, in terms of an idea over the past week.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I have said, I want to ask you again, Joy. Is anybody in the White House able to stand up to the President and said these numbers are wacko?

AINSLEY: They will use the numbers they want to use. The only numbers that were really false was saying that 4,000 came across the southwest border. They are suspected. Now, they are kind of just piecing together the numbers they want.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Because the essential argument of why we have a national crisis. If that`s not true, if we don`t have terrorists raising a border right now, then we are not in a national crisis.

AINSLEY: You and I can know that. They are trying to make the case that we ire in an unprecedented territory. People I have spoken to say that is not true.

MATTHEWS: I will say the problem of the President. And he can`t win the political fight because he has a tough opponent now named Nancy Pelosi and he has people on the right of him he is afraid of.

Robert Costa and Julia Ainsley, thank you both.

Up next is Republican support for the Trump operation shutting down? Are they shutting down his shutdown?

And the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. congressman Jerry Nadler is coming here. He called the President`s threat to declare a national emergency dangerous and he called the President`s behavior on this point like that of a tyrant. We are going to hear a lot from him, from Jerry Nadler.

He joins me to discuss that and the latest developments in the Russia probe including the big mistake made by Paul Manafort`s lawyers today and the court found that shed all kinds of light on the case. They didn`t redact what they thought they did.

This is HARDBALL" where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Yesterday, House Democratic caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries tweeted that there is a national emergency in America, it is called individual one, (INAUDIBLE), of course, is the term used to refer to President Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen`s court papers.

Anyway, U.S. congressman Hakeem Jeffries joins us right now.

The President has said and in fact we are facing a national crisis, maybe a national emergency, he might announce that. He may demand expansive powers outside the normal constitutional role of a President. What to you make of it?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There is no national emergency at the border. It is all made up. It is presidential fiction. And it`s part of Donald Trump`s efforts to find a lifeline to get out of this reckless shutdown that he has caused and now is holding the American people hostage.

The number of apprehensions at the borders right now is at one of its lowest levels in about two decades. The United States Congress in a bipartisan way over the last 10 or so years has significantly increased funding for border security, significantly increased the number of personnel who are at our border and we are willing to do more, we are just not willing to acquiesce to a government shutdown and pay a $5 billion ransom though for Veneval (ph) border wall that will not be effective.

MATTHEWS: The American people are going to watch him tonight, less than two hours from now, without a filter, no fact checkers, the President tonight is just pushing his line. What do you want to warn them about as they watch him?

JEFFRIES: Well, we are concerned that he is going to try to fool the American people into doing something that would really be extra- constitutional in terms of making a declaration in order to fulfill a political promise. This is what it`s all about, Chris, at the end of the day. He promised that he was going to build a border wall and that Mexico was going to pay for it. It`s clear that the great deal-maker has failed to convince Mexico to pay for it.

For the last two years, Republicans had control of the House, the Senate, and the presidency yet no border wall. So now, because of Trump`s inability to successfully deliver on that political promise, he`s going to stand before the American people and make up the notion that there`s a national emergency.

MATTHEWS: Suppose he demands expanded powers tonight, you`re in leadership now, what can you do about it? What will you do about it?

JEFFRIES: We`ll, I think we`ll be in conversation to make sure that every available legal avenue, to make sure that this is decided in the courts. As per Article III of the United States Constitution, when there`s a dispute between the executive and the legislative branch, and I would expect that this winds up in the courts. The judges will decide he does not have this ability to unilaterally declare a national emergency and then spend billions of dollars on something he cannot get done through the normal legislative process.

MATTHEWS: Can you enjoin him, can you stop the president of the United States from shifting those billions of dollars from defense to a wall? Can you stop him in the act?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think the likelihood is you will see movement for injunctive relief but ultimately, a federal district court and perhaps D.C. Circuit and ultimately, perhaps the Supreme Court will have to make that decision.

MATTHEWS: Are you behind Nancy Pelosi`s position that is -- that building a wall is an immorality?

JEFFRIES: I strongly stand behind Nancy Pelosi`s position as it relates to how she`s characterized the situation that we find ourselves in. It`s immoral, it`s impractical, and it`s not feasible.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about American tradition and the prime-time address.

I`m older than you. I remember -- I don`t remember Truman and the coal strike but I can sure remember, as Leon Panetta did -- or does -- Kennedy coming before the country and saying, we may be at nuclear war in a couple hours. That grabbed our attention, and it should have.

What`s the president got in terms of gravitas, in terms of the situation? Is there any smidgen of justification for him to use the prime-time address on what is basically a partisan issue?

JEFFRIES: None at all.

The office has gravitas, as it should. But this particular occupant of that office has abandoned that, with all of the chaos, crisis and confusion that he has subjected the American people to unnecessarily during the last two years.

It`s unfortunate that he is going to try to utilize the opportunity to deliver an address from this hallowed office in order to appeal once again to his narrow base amongst the American people.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, a man on the rise, I must say, a person of great interest to me politically.

I think you`re one of the future leaders of our Congress. Thank you, sir.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Flanked now by fellow Democratic lawmakers at the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday, U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York warned the president not to usurp the authority of Congress, usurp it, by declaring a national emergency to fund his wall.

Here he is.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I expect the president to lie to the American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people, and his spokespeople continue lying to the American people.

And we would certainly oppose any attempt by the president to make himself a king and a tyrant by saying that he can appropriate money without Congress. That is perhaps the most dangerous thing he is talking about since he became president.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not known whether the president will make that declaration official tonight at 9:00, but he is reportedly laying the groundwork for doing just that, demanding expansive powers.

As the House Judiciary Committee -- Jerry Nadler just then, he oversees the committee responsible, of course, for drafting articles of impeachment, should they be drafted, which serves as the ultimate safeguard, of course, under our Constitution against abuses of presidential power.

And last night on this show, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California said, if the president declares an emergency to build his wall, it could be an impeachable offense.


MATTHEWS: For a president to arbitrarily take billions of dollars which has been earmarked for national defense and shift it over to a wall, is that an impeachable offense, impeachable offense? Would that be an article?

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, it could be, if his advisers told him this is illegal, and he went ahead and did it, and then put our military personnel at risk of following an illegal order and committing federal crimes.

That`s a pretty significant obligation of the president, to protect our military folks as well.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, who has just returned from the southern border.

Mr. Chairman, what do you make of what Mr. Lieu said? What`s your view about a president who uses a national emergency declaration to grab power?

NADLER: Well, I think it`s very wrong. It is an abuse of power to try to grab power, for the president to try to circumvent Congress` power of the purse.

But, equally, it is in the service of a lie. The president is lying to the American people about a national emergency. There is no emergency at the border. The illegal crossings are way down, by all accounts.

I was at the border yesterday, and along with a number of colleagues. We went to the Alamogordo border station. There was nobody. There was nobody there. They are not being inundated. The only people coming to the border at the South -- in the South are people who want political asylum.

And that has nothing to do with a wall. These people are coming up and saying, here I am. Give me -- give me asylum.

So it`s in the service of a lie. And the president shouldn`t -- must not be permitted to declare a false emergency and try to circumvent the power of Congress.

MATTHEWS: Would this be a high crime if he does so?

NADLER: It might.

But the real issue is that we cannot be permitted to happen -- we cannot permit it to happen. I think the courts will likely throw it out quickly. But, again, it`s entirely a lie, only to get his diminishing band of followers and true believers to be frightened and to stay aboard.

MATTHEWS: I will go back to the question I put to Mr. Jeffries, your colleague from New York.

Can the Congress, through the courts, enjoin the president, stop him from taking $4 billion from national defense and building a wall with it? Can you stop him in the act?

NADLER: I think the odds are very high that it can be stopped in court.

I think a lot of people have standing to sue, the governors, the local mayors, landowners whose land would be seized.

MATTHEWS: Does Congress have standing?

NADLER: I think the House would have standing. I`m not sure. But I think we would have standing.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. An honor to have you on, Jerry Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Anyway, meanwhile, on the Mueller front -- I have one more question.

Lawyers for Paul Manafort have responded to the special counsel`s allegations that he broke his plea agreement by lying to investigators. However, in that filing, the lawyers for Manafort failed to adequately redact this sensitive portions of that document.

Those sections show that prosecutors have alleged that Manafort lied about his contacts with a Russian business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who has been linked to Russian intelligence.

Specifically, prosecutors say that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik that related to the 2016 presidential campaign. It also says that Manafort conceded that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion, discussions that appear to have taken place during the presidential campaign.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. What do you make of that? This is right in the midst. It`s right in the middle of our politics. Manafort is doing business and talking about things like polling in the presidential election. It just seems like it`s so intermingled, the whole thing.

NADLER: Well, I agree.

This is more evidence of the -- of the intermingling of the Trump campaign and the Russian government efforts to help the Trump campaign. This is more evidence of that. And it seems quite clear. The president keeps saying, no collusion, but there obviously was collusion.

And the question is how high that collusion went and whether the president was part of a criminal conspiracy. There was clearly a criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people of an honest election. The question is, was the president part of that conspiracy, as obviously his associates and his campaign people were?

And that`s why -- to get the answer that question is why we have to protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation, who knows a lot more than we do at this point.


NADLER: We have to protect that against White House interference, so that we can get to the bottom of this and find out exactly to what extent the president was or was not involved in what was clearly a criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people.

MATTHEWS: We were getting a lot of intimation and good reporting -- we thought it was good reporting -- that that report from Mueller, the big one, was going to come as -- perhaps as soon as February.

Do you have any intimation in that direction or otherwise?

NADLER: I do not.

I watch MSNBC to try to figure out when the report is going to come.



NADLER: But I don`t really know.

I mean, there are indications always. But, again, our course is clear. We have to protect the Mueller investigation from the attempts by the administration to interfere with it. And we have to see where the -- where the facts lead, and then act on that.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, thank you, sir.

Up next: Is Republican support for Trump`s shutdown eroding? It seems to be cracking a bit around the edges, don`t you think? Anyway, the White House is reportedly scrambling to stem party defections, as the upside to this fight deteriorates daily for the president.

This is not a war of attrition he is winning.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what`s going to happen over the next few days. QUESTION: So, you don`t need congressional approval to build the wall?

TRUMP: No, we can use a -- absolutely, we can call a national emergency, because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, we can do it.


MATTHEWS: Absolutely.

Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Before Donald Trump, the Republican Party stood for small government and less federal intervention in our lives. A declaration of national emergency by the Republican president, this one, would seem to upend that notion, don`t you think?

Some Republicans now see that declaration as a better alternative, however, to the ongoing shutdown.

Politico`s reporting that support among congressional Republicans for the shutdown, however, is now eroding, with 15 to 25 moderate House members expressing a desire to vote with Democrats to open up the U.S. government again.

Politico`s also reporting that the president`s P.R. strategy is so problematic that Republicans are going to break with decades-old Republican orthodoxy to support a potential emergency declaration over the wall in order to save face.

I`m joined right now by the outgoing Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich.

Governor, whether I have been on your side or not, I have known what your side was. I have known it all these years. I know it`s less government, more individual freedom. That has been the Reagan doctrine going back to Lincoln.

And yet the only thing people have against Lincoln was using emergency powers to get rid of habeas corpus and start arresting people without judicial reason.

And here`s a president talking about expanding his power to take $4 billion away from the Defense Department and building a wall with it. What do you make of that use of presidential power in the context of Republican thinking?


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Yes, I don`t think that`s what is going to happen here. I could be wrong. I don`t -- they don`t send me missives from the White House to tell me what they`re going to do.

But I think, tonight, if the president is smart, he will figure out a way not to lock himself in. Chris, look, you and I have seen many shutdowns. I was involved in one in `95 and `96. And what it gets down to is both sides have to say there`s a willingness to reach some kind of an agreement.

And right now everybody`s trying to calculate what the politics is. And think about this. I have heard your previous guests talk about no emergency at the border. OK. Well, there may not be, unless you`re a kid sleeping in one of those shelters, living on the -- sleeping on the floor with a sheet of plastic over you, the reports these kids are getting sick.

I mean, moms are upset. They`re down there. They see their kids getting sick. The fact of the matter is, let`s get this -- let`s get this resolved, and let`s do comprehensive border security -- the comprehensive immigration reform. Let`s have a guest-worker program.

And, Chris, we have got to invest security and economic programs for our neighbors. We got -- we don`t -- we have got to get those countries stabilized and we have to work with them. I mean, that`s we have got to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, but I don`t hear that from this administration.

KASICH: No, I know. I know. I know.


MATTHEWS: I don`t hear stopping illegal hiring and having a guest-worker program. I don`t hear anything about people who have been here 30 years and are really Americans now and letting them become official Americans.

There`s no openness to that kind of a compromise from these guys.


Well, you know what? They`re going to lose some Republicans, right? They`re going to lose Republicans, because the vote is going to be, do you want to open up part of the government? I mean, of course you`re going to vote to do that. They can`t sustain that.

So I think, if the president was smart, he would stop putting himself in a corner. It makes no sense, because, at the end, there`s going to be a deal. I don`t know what it will look like. I don`t know that they will ever call it a wall. Maybe they will say, we will spend some more money, we will let the experts decide how we can have border security, because I have got to tell you this.

People want the border to be protected.


KASICH: But that`s not good enough. We can`t solve all these problems right at the border.

A lot of those problems emanate in places farther away from the border.


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk turkey.

This president has got Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, as tough as nails.


KASICH: She is.

MATTHEWS: She`s one of the toughest people I have ever seen in politics. She says it`s an immorality, it`s an immorality to build this wall.

Where`s the negotiating from -- Rush Limbaugh and his pals in the world of FOX say, if this president doesn`t build that wall, he`s finished politically. That`s the situation the right and the left have put this president in. And now he`s trying to shoot the moon with this so-called national declaration thing.

KASICH: I don`t think that`s going to happen. And that`s no way to fix this problem.

And I can remember when Bill Clinton was up at the White House saying we`re going to -- the Republicans are taking away money for the environment and education. We were up there saying, you have got a phony budget. You`re going to bankrupt the country.

But we figured out a way. And some of them came to me in my office. And we said, OK, here`s the parameters for how we can get something done. Guess what happened? We got a balanced budget, we paid down debt, the economy was growing.

So all these people locking themselves in -- and the president has got to get off this -- the wall thing and it`s got to be this. You can`t -- it doesn`t -- life doesn`t work that way, not just politics, life.


MATTHEWS: Governor, when will the Republicans be given an alternative that takes them back to the idea of small government, individual responsibility and individual freedom, and not big government takeovers of land and eminent domain and all that stuff?

KASICH: Yes, I agree. Yes.

MATTHEWS: When are we going back to that? Well, you?

KASICH: I don`t know.

I could tell you this, though. If the Republican Party doesn`t wake up, OK -- now, the Democrats are way out to the left right now, but if the Republicans don`t wake up -- they haven`t had a new idea since Jack Kemp and John Kasich.

And you know what? The fact is, if you don`t have ideas in politics, you can`t make it, Chris. You know that.



KASICH: And so they have been burying their heads in the sand.

MATTHEWS: I love New Hampshire. And you`re going there. I swear you`re going to be in New Hampshire next year. Anyway, just a bet. I think I`m going to see the name Kasich and New Hampshire tied up together. Just a thought.

KASICH: Good. I mean, you -- that`s a prediction on your part. You thought Alabama was going to beat Clemson last night.

MATTHEWS: No, I didn`t. I was probably rooting for Clemson.

KASICH: I don`t know what`s going to happen in the future.


MATTHEWS: All I care about is the Eagles anyway.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Ohio Governor John Kasich, thank you.

KASICH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Eagles up against New Orleans.

Up next, more on tonight`s high-stakes gamble for President Trump. Will America buy -- that`s the word -- his message that there`s an emergency on our border?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When President Trump speaks tonight at 9:00 Eastern from the Oval Office, he`ll use the bully pulpit, I`d say on steroids, to make his case for this emergency on the border. His critics say he`s using the gravitas of his office to lend urgency to an ongoing, regular CHRIS, long-time partisan issue.

Well, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Ayesha Rascoe, White House reporter for National Public Radio, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and Howard Fineman of NBC News.

Howard, I want you to start on this. This is an historic question. I`m a bit older than you, not lot and I do remember the Cuban missile crisis and to me that`s the gold standard for when the American president has to talk to the American people, has to scared them somewhat, and say this is really frightening business and you`ve got to know about it.

Does this mean anywhere near that level?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: No. You know the old phrase, history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce. This is a farce of a national emergency. And it`s being done for political purposes. The political purposes are to shore up the president`s base, to take attention away from whatever Bob Mueller`s doing today.


FINEMAN: To try to gain the initiative with Democrats after he`s painted himself into a negotiating corner and so forth. And that`s what it -- if anything, he`s laying a predicate, I guess for the idea he will declare a national emergency and his proof for why there`s a national emergency is going to be that he had a speech about how there was a national emergency.

MATTHEWS: Ayesha, let`s get back to the initial thought before the national big explosion into this national emergency declaration. Is this all about getting his number from around 40 to around 48? Is this to move up the thing we`ve been dealing with now for two years, always up to 40, up to 40 something and back again to 40 and up to something high 40 and down to 40? Is that what this is about?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I don`t think this is about expanding. I think it`s making sure what he has doesn`t go away. For whatever reason, he seems to be really concerned if he`s thought of not keeping this promise, even though the promise was that the wall --

MATTHEWS: Political capital preservation.

RASCOE: He is concerned that his base will turn on him and say you promised us a wall. We don`t have a wall.

MATTHEWS: So, he`s a dittohead. The president of the United States is a dittohead. He`s doing literally what Rush Limbaugh calls his people those who ditto everything he says.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I`m glad you brought up Rush Limbaugh, because I don`t think it`s about shoring up his base. I think it`s about keeping Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the others from criticizing him.

We`ve been down this road before. Remember when the Senate passed the bill and Democrats went along with the bill that gave him $25 million in exchange for Dreamers and he was going to go for it and it was scuttled? And so, now, here we are with the president literally painting himself in to a corner over a wall, which we learn was a rhetorical device to get him to talk about immigration.

He`s going to use the imminence of the Oval Office to --

MATTHEWS: This is what`s off in our country. Right now, in other words, because Rush Limbaugh can get 10 million people maybe on a good day to listen to him on fire. He`s a fireball in terms of what he is. But that`s 1/3 of 1 percent of this country.


MATTHEWS: What are we talking about?

CAPEHART: Well, he, again --

MATTHEWS: It`s not the majority of the American people.

CAPEHART: He`s not, and he`s never been about reaching out to the majority of the American people.


MATTHEWS: He makes zillions on 10 percent.

FINEMAN: That`s how being a media creation himself --

MATTHEWS: Ten million on --

FINEMAN: No, I`m talking about the president as a media creation himself, this is how he understands politics. He understands politics as tribal chieftains like Rush Limbaugh on the media.


FINEMAN: So, he hears that and he thinks it`s what politics is all about. And I`ll tell you something else --

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute.


MATTHEWS: John Wayne, who was the ultimate iconic figure in my generation, John Wayne was in every movie, the superstar, Mr. Tough Guy. He said giving away the Panama Canal to the Panamanians was a good thing and he had the guts to say it`s the smart move and the American thing to do, right?

Rush Limbaugh, if he had any guts, if he stood for anything besides audience, he would say let`s get this -- let`s move on here. This isn`t helping.

CAPEHART: Rush Limbaugh -- I`m sorry, John Wayne stood for something. He had conviction. He had things he believed in and as we`ve seen time and time again, this president --

MATTHEWS: Yes, three Latino wives, too. He may have been prejudice. Just kidding.

He really was very positive about what America stands for. A number of Republicans accuse President Obama of acting outside his legal authority for orders he issued from the Oval Office. Let`s watch the old guy going at it. Here they go.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: It`s an unbelievable overreach. A matter of tremendous import and it`s an affront to the legislative process.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: His actions violated the rule of law in the United States Constitution. You don`t have to take my word for it. We`ve got all kinds of law professors to say what he did was unlawful.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This administration has been the most lawless administration we`ve ever seen, and this president routinely disregards the law, disregards the Constitution, disregards the Congress.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We did not elect a dictator, we elected a president.


MATTHEWS: I think that was the previous president`s decision to prioritize prosecution of people in the country without documents. That wasn`t frightening.

RASCOE: Well, and now, you have someone saying he`ll declare a national emergency and he doesn`t need Congress to use these funds. And so, the question is, will Republicans balk at that and it seems like, to a certain extent, they have started saying that that is a bridge too far, maybe a wall too far. They cannot -- he cannot do the national emergency powers. They want security at the border but they don`t want that.

But if President Trump basically says I`m calling your bluff, Republicans. Are you really going to come out against me, I don`t know what happens there.


FINEMAN: I think that you raised a very good point. I`m interested not so much in what the president says, although that`s interesting as matter of theater if nothing else, as to what people like Mitch McConnell have to say about this. Well, no, seriously, will Republican senators who have some concern for their own ability to appropriate funds --


FINEMAN: -- say, wait a minute, we`re not down with you doing it this authoritarian matter, we`re not down with that? I think the silence is going to be thundering from them later on tonight. I bet you.

MATTHEWS: Last thing (ph), I thought it was interesting that somebody in the White House without identifying themselves said we have no idea how this is going to end. What an honest statement. The roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


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

Ayesha, tell me something I don`t know.

RASCOE: So, in news that maybe big for 2020, today is the day that more than a million Florida residents who had felony convictions get their right to vote.

MATTHEWS: Who did that? Besides the beneficiaries, the --

RASCOE: Well, I think people have been -- activists have been working on this for years to get done and now it`s done.

MATTHEWS: Is this national momentum to get people who have paid their debt to society to be allowed to vote again?

RASCOE: I think so. You see a lot of these movements in other states.

MATTHEWS: Right. Thank you.


CAPEHART: So in Arizona, Mark Kelly is seriously looking at running --

MATTHEWS: Husband of --

CAPEHART: Husband of Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. He`s seriously considering running for Senate and that will make -- if he gets in the race, that will make three Democrats who are vying to run in 2020.

MATTHEWS: It looks more and more a bluish state, isn`t it?

CAPEHART: Right. And it`s a state that Donald Trump will need in 2020 if he wants reelection.



FINEMAN: Well, as long as we`re talking about politics and elections, I wanted to talk about recent studies that have shown if we thought the Russian interference was something bad in 2016, if we thought that the Democrats getting involved with Doug Jones down in Alabama was something, that`s nothing compared to what`s going to happen in 2020, according to the people who are starting this, because what`s getting involved now is not just people but machines.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are going to take over the battlefield of fake social media sites and the combat to attack each other. That`s where we`re headed.


FINEMAN: But the problem is it`s difficult for journalism to keep up with it.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ayesha Rascoe, Jonathan Capehart, and Howard Fineman. I always say you got it to make your own stew when it comes to news. You got to figure it out yourself.

When we return, let me finish tonight with that missing link in that long Trump wall.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the missing link in the Trump wall. The link is the number one reason why the people cross the U.S./Mexican border without legal authority. It`s the reason people all over the world cross borders between poor countries and wealthy countries. The reason is a better life. That`s the main reason you see people and whole families racing across from Mexico, to enter a country where they expect to get a job and build a life.

President Trump never talks about this reality. He talks about the criminal gang MS-13, about drug smuggling, about terrorism, all legitimate and vital concerns, but he doesn`t talk about the overwhelming reason people violate our immigration laws to enter our country. Yet, if voters want to stop the flow of immigrants coming here illegally through whatever means, the primary target should be illegal hiring, the exploitation of recently arrived undocumented workers.

I said it conditionally. If you truly want to stop illegal immigration, kill the magnet that`s driving it. Will the president address any of this tonight, or even speak a word about the reality of what drives illegal immigration? Will he suggest a punishment for those American employers who drive it? Will he?

Well, if he doesn`t, you have to ask yourself why? Is it to protect those Americans who subsist on cheap labor you can get from people whose main job is avoiding detection from the government, or is it more personal on Trump`s part?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.