Congress demolishes Trump's wall. TRANSCRIPT: 02/12/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Katie Hill, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joseph Moreno, Dan Nowicki, Robin Kelly, Matt Gorman

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 12, 2019 Guest: Katie Hill, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joseph Moreno, Dan Nowicki, Robin Kelly, Matt Gorman

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We will be back here as 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.

And coming up next, it is "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump`s wall, false. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

House and Senate negotiators have agreed to avoid a second shutdown of the federal government. They closed the bargain. They demolished funding for President Trump`s border wall. The bipartisan committee reached an agreement in principal just as Trump was about to take the stage last night in Texas to make a pitch for his signature campaign promise. It was clear today the President lost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Am I happy at first glance? I just to see it. The answer is no, I`m not. I`m not happy. I don`t think you are going to see a shutdown. I wouldn`t want to go through it, no. If you did have it, it`s the Democrat`s fault. But I don`t think it is going to happen. But this would be totally on the Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the tentative agreement includes just $1.4 billion for a border barrier. That is about 55 miles of new fencing, not a concrete wall. It is a fraction of the $5.7 billion the President was demanding to build about 200 miles of barriers. It`s also less than $1.6 billion in a Senate compromise before the government shutdown.

Well, Friday is the deadline for the deal to be approved by the House, the Senate and the President. When asked about it, President Trump signaled he might not support it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Sir, will you sign Congress`s border deal?

TRUMP: I have to study it. I`m not happy about it. It`s not doing the trick but I`m adding things to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But late tonight in a series of tweets, the President said he was looking over all aspects of the plan and added that regardless of wall money, it`s being built as we speak. The President has already taken a beating from his allies especially from the hard right in the media.

Last night, FOX News host Sean Hannity broke away from the President`s speech to slam this proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: By the way, on this new so-called compromise, I`m getting details. $1.3 billion? That`s not -- not even a wall or barrier? I`m going to tell this tonight and we will get back into this tomorrow. Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Another FOX host, Laura Ingraham also panned the deal. And Ann Coulter tweeted Trump talk as good game on the border wall but it is increasingly clear he is afraid to fight for it. Can this be his yellow new deal?

A white House official today told NBC News that even if Trump were to sign off quote "other options are on the table to build a more substantial barrier but not through a government shutdown."

On Capitol Hill, Senate leaders from both parties said it`s time to end this stalemate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I had recommended that it if it becomes what we think it is, I do recommend he sign it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The President should not make the same mistake he made a couple of months ago when there was a bipartisan agreement and he wouldn`t sign it and caused the shutdown. Please, Mr. President, no one got everything they wanted in this bill, but sign it and don`t cause a shutdown.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined by U.S. congressman Katie Hill, a Democrat from California, Robert Costa, national political reporter from the "Washington Post," Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS News Hour and Jason Johnson is politic editor at theroot.com.

Robert, is this stalling grad? Is this the first big defeat for this president? He could more defeats to come?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Depends on the audience.

Just talking to Senator Shelby at the capitol. He explained to the president this is the best you are going to get. The President is going to review the details, of course. People on the right wing, they don`t like it like Sean Hannity and others, members of the freedom caucus. They are not going to support it but the President has something in his back pocket, officials tell me, taking executive action, using an executive order to take federal funds from elsewhere and put them on the border. To him he is going to make the case if that is the way of going to brink.

MATTHEWS: But he decided not to go with the brink of another government shutdown and not to with an emergency declaration, right. So he is going to the more subtle way?

COSTA: He doesn`t have leverage anymore. White House officials privately acknowledged that. They know there are many votes in the Senate to keep the government open even if the President refuses to do so. They know that Senate Republicans will fight him on a national emergency. So in their eyes, they have to take this deal. Complain about it, fume about it on twitter, would sign it, then use executive power to say to the base, I`m doing all I can.

MATTHEWS: You know, congresswoman, this all begun I think when you are speaker. The speaker of the House said it`s an immortality to build a wall. The word "wall" became unacceptable. It seems like that`s when the victory began on your side.

REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: I mean, I think that the Speaker has done an incredible job of negotiating this whole process. And she really showed her leadership skills and how adept she is in handling this whole situation.

MATTHEWS: Why is a wall more offensive and more immoral than a fence?

HILL: You know, I do think that there has been a lot made of the semantics of the wall. And personally I think it`s going to be a relief to me to move beyond this and (INAUDIBLE), 55 miles some kind of barrier is - it is not the end of the world. It`s something that I think is, you know, it makes sense in certain parts. It`s an extension of what we already had. It is, you know, it is coming from experts of where it makes the most sense. And we are -- we have to recognize that we still only have the House of Representatives, right. We don`t have the Senate. We don`t have the presidency.

And to me this is we are definitely coming out on top in this arrangement. We have 1.375 going towards that compare to the 1.6 that he has in the deal that he shut down the government for. We got fewer beds for ICE overall. And I think this allows us to really set the stage for what is going to come next.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, what do you make of this? Because I think Democrats, the party left which was pushed him for basically a cap on the beds because they want less people being picked up here by ICE, in fact some want to get rid of ICE. They don`t want to anymore detentions unnecessary. They basically went along with this deal. Trump went along with less money than he could have - actually started with, with the Senate proposal in the beginning. So he lost, the left lost a little. The right in the form of this President lost a bit. What have we accomplished in this government shutdown for the American people? Anything?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: What we accomplished was how divided government is going to work. This idea that President Trump can shut down the government and get his way is now I think something that the President understands isn`t going to happen. And I think on the Democrats side, they realize that they also can`t completely hold the line and say the President can`t get anything that he wants because they also had to make a deal here.

I think when it comes to the wall, it is clear that Democrats said that they weren`t going to give any not $1 for the wall. And what we have is Democrats saying yes, we are going to give money for new fencing. The President is going to be able to call that a wall. Democrats are now having this conversation about whether or not there`s a difference concrete versus metal. Some of the sources I`m talking to say it is not a wall because that`s not concrete. That`s negotiating on President Trump`s terms and to arguments he wants to have whether or not - it is something as a wall because of the materials.

And then when it comes to the detention beds, even though the number looks like it might be smaller, you have this idea that the President can also stretch these funds out to get to the 52,000 beds he initially want if he wants to do that.

I have been hearing from conservative activists and liberal activists. They are both are angry. So that tells me that there is compromise here. And that it is a solid bill because everyone seems to have not gotten exactly what they wanted.

MATTHEWS: Well, today, President Trump repeatedly suggest that walls already being built. Figure one that out, but here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m happy with where we are going. I`m thrilled because we are supplementing things and moving things around and we are doing things that there fantastic and taking from far less, really from far less important areas and the bottom line is we are building a lot of wall right now. We are building a lot of wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We are building a lot of wall.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued Trump could get the rest of the money he needs for the wall by taking money from other areas or by taking more drastic action. Here`s Lindsey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As to the money for the barrier, if he can use it steel barriers, like he has been talking about, I would say that is overall a pretty good deal and he will make up the difference between 1.375 and 5.7 through executive actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Even with this deal, do you think he will still declare a national emergency?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Because it`s well short of what he needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jason, this guy, Lindsey Graham, has certainly signed up for the cattle drive all the way. He is not quitting. I never seen anybody more loyal than anybody since Sancho Ponzo (ph) or Tono (ph) or someone like that or I don`t know who, if we are going back to the cowboy movies.

But what in the world are we getting here? It looks to me like every time we have a government shutdown, when the American people get some more beds and 50 more feet of fencing.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, is this some pathetic country somewhere would be doing thing like this with the fight between the parliament and the President. It seems so -- I could give it a pallianau (ph) thing and Yamiche gave a little effort of (INAUDIBLE). I could do that and say oh, great, our government is back to compromise. This thing is really working because nobody is happy. Well, that includes the American people. Nobody is happy. Not just two sides in a fight in D.C. It looks like --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

JOHNSON: Yes. You know, this is sort of government by abuse, right? You make millions of people suffer and then you say look, what we accomplish after torturing you unnecessarily.

Look. The idea of a government shutdown as a negotiating tool has never been a good idea but it is now essentially broken. No one will ever be able to shut down the government again as a cogal for negotiation. The Republicans have no strength for it. The Democrats will never stand for it again and the end result is not the things that would have made a government shutdown ultimately valuable for either side which is something about DACA or comprehensive immigration reform.

But I also, Chris, think I think the bigger issue is this and this is something I think a lot of Democrats have learned and Republicans have quietly began to accept when I have had conversations in people sort off the record, is Trump did the worst thing possible. He didn`t just lose the battle. He empowered his enemies. He has made Nancy Pelosi more strong, more respected and more capable than she was before the shutdown. And that`s not something he is going to be able to stop.

MATTHEWS: I think that - I watched Nancy Pelosi. She showed up at some big event the other night, a concert or something. It is the kind of thing you show up at when you are winning and then apparently she has been seen at a lot of night spots in San Francisco lately. You always show your face a lot when you are winning. It just - it so interesting to me about - what he just there, momentum.

HILL: Yes. That`s exactly it. And it sets us up in a good position for what we want to do next. I do think that it really proved to everyone that a shutdown isn`t the way that you do this, right, and this isn`t a negotiating tactic that`s going to work. I think that it`s left the Republicans bruised moving to the next phase.

You know, whatever he tries to pull after this in terms of, you know, executive action, it`s clearly going to be a half measure. It is probably going to get stopped in court and it is certainly not going to be satisfactory to his base no matter what, so.

MATTHEWS: What I like Nancy Pelosi, she is a leader. And I work for a speaker. I know the limits of what - because it is really about personal authority, prestige. There is no power. You can`t fire a member of Congress. You can`t be the beat them in the primary. That`s not nice. Roosevelt couldn`t even do that.

But when she did that little thing in the state of union. You guys - OK. This is the whole monitor bivalent. But even now in the last few hours, it seems to me she was able to at least keep the people more aggressive in terms of the ICE and people like that, Ocasio (OAC) and the others. I mean, they have a point of view and she has to accommodate that. But she also has to get the government running again. I think she How does she do it?

HILL: I mean, she really never seizes to amaze me with that and how she controls the caucus. I mean, the people that she put on the negotiating group with appropriations clearly was very strategic and, you know, members of the congressional Hispanic caucus. And you know, that represents the whole spectrum of people in the Democratic caucus and, you know, it`s pretty brilliant. It is going to get a lot of people on board.

We will probably lose a few within the Democratic caucus, but I think we are going to get some Republicans and ultimately that will get you votes and that`s what Nancy is a pro at.

MATTHEWS: Ms. Lori David would say pretty, pretty good.

Anyway, and a tweet this morning, freedom caucus chair, Mark Meadows. The other end of the line criticized Democrats saying quote "is this the best they can do? It is obvious they have no interest in serious border security. At this point, it is clear Potus should take executive action. But several Republican senators warning against a second shutdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There is no way that the country should be put through another disastrous government shutdown. My hope is that the President will sign the bill into law.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: I hope we have this behind us. We don`t shut down for anything. This has reaffirmed my leaf that shutdowns are bad period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Robert on the President how he is going to deal now with the media on the right. I mean, Sean Hannity is a talented, talented host of a TV show. Ann coulter is amazing. She survived for years without really having a job just being able to write books that guys buy, I guess. They make him feel excited or (INAUDIBLE). But they do. They like her books. She is a good writer. And of course Laura Ingram has been around forever. She is great on television now. She is good on radio. But they are basically performing to a minority of people and they are good at it, the 10 or 20 percent or even less. And they are good at building an audience. But that`s not 50 percent of the country. Does the President know that? It`s not a leadership position be to in to follow their lead.

COSTA: Well, they will bring it back to Congress. You think about mark Meadows, the freedom caucus chairman, those voices on the right, they could be in the presidency or in the coming days. And this has Republicans on Capitol Hill nervous because they know the President is likely going to sign this deal based on their own conversations and mine with White House officials. But there`s a chance they worry that he could push its sign what is called the CR, a continuing resolution that doesn`t appropriate anything that just keeps the government open. And that could happen if the right puts that kind of pressure on him.

At this moment, the White House I think wants to move away and have a deal but there`s always that chance he says no deal, no appropriation, just keep the government open. I want to continue to negotiate.

MATTHEWS: But what would be his exit strategy if he did the CR route? Still the hard right and the media and show him the rest of the (INAUDIBLE). He wouldn`t be more comfortable then, would he?

COSTA: The argument from the right wing today has been if you do a CR, you keep the government open and don`t do these appropriations, you just put pressure on Democrats, in their view, for having more time on the clock for negotiations. But that is not going to hold water. Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats, the leaders in both parties today said sign the deal, Mr. President.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, finally.

JOHNSON: Yes. Look. The President is trapped. If he goes for an executive order, it`s going to get knocked down by the courts. We can see that by Roberts. He is not going to allow this sort of thing to happen. The Republicans in the Senate have absolutely no passion for this kind of bill. This is a huge "L" and a loss for Donald Trump. And he has got to figure out some other part to have a domestic agenda other than his wall or he is going to waste a ways of 20, the rest of 2019 and get picked apart by the Democrats wanting for president.

MATTHEWS: You are building a see-through John Roberts is better than mine. I know he supported -- opposed that measure in Louisiana which would have basically banned abortion in the state. I`m not sure he may owe the President one right now.

Anyway. U.S. Congressman - Congresswoman Katie Hill, thank you, of California.

Robert Costa of the "Washington Post."

Yamiche Alcindor, PBS News Hour.

Jason Johnson, the Root.

Coming up, 27 months after the election and Trump supporters are still chanting lock her up? They can`t get over it. Why is he still attacking Hillary Clinton when it`s his guys getting locked up?

Plus lift off in Arizona.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You nearly lost your life serving your country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what do you do when bad things happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Move ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to move ahead and try to make a difference in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s a great ad. Take a look at it.

Anyway, Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut and husband of former U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords, launches his bid for the U.S. Senate with a staring video. These are really nice video. Will Senator Kelly begun control`s biggest champion adding real legislation to the country`s usual thoughts and prayers as in the face of gun violence.

And my rally is bigger than yours. President trump`s thin skin`s response to Beto O`Rourke making fun of his name, too. And was last night`s Beto`s audition for a White House run? I bet it is.

We`ve got a lot to talk about tonight. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is that the real collusion was between Hillary and the Democrats and the other side with Russia.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: That`s where the collusion...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

TRUMP: That`s starting to make a lot more sense. But that`s where the collusion is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, of course, and his supporters last night in El Paso digressing into a familiar attack on his one-time political rival Hillary Clinton.

Under the circumstances, the president`s the last person to be calling for someone to be locked up. To date, 34 people been charged with crimes in the Mueller probe. Among them are Trump`s campaign chairman, his former national security adviser, his longest serving political adviser, his personal fixer. At least two of them, if not all, will serve time behind bars.

I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. And Joseph Moreno is a former federal prosecutor.

Let`s start with the politics and the congresswoman.

Why do you think Trump keeps going back to that old thing he does of trashing Hillary?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I think he`s turning fake news on himself.

He is the individual pre his inauguration that refused to accept 17 intelligence agencies who came together and said Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JACKSON LEE: They didn`t talk about Hillary Clinton. They talked about Russian interference.

For two years, we have sat dumbfounded by the Republican Congress that refused to investigate extensively the idea of this interference. And only through the firing of James Comey, the appointment of Mr. Mueller, who I know very well, that a special counsel was selected to investigate the obstruction of justice, which they then had the authority to do many other lines of investigation, which is what special counsels do.

And so there`s a pile-on, with five people indicted, convicted, 26 Russians, five -- three companies, Russian companies, and all the president can say is to push back and to bring back Hillary, because he has no defense for all of his close allies that are now headed to jail.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Joe, about this.

What do you -- what do you make of the Senate Intelligence Committee not really able to get closure here? I mean, they -- basically, the chair, who is, I think, OK -- the chairman is Burr from North Carolina -- he seems OK. He`s worked well with Mark Warner.

But he`s coming out with what he says is, what you see is what you get. Basically, you have got to see into it. You have got to intuit into it a high crime or misdemeanor. But I`m not saying it`s there, but it might be there.

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Chris, closure is desperately what this country needs.

And it`s disappointing that the Senate is speaking, when -- admitting at the same time, we`re not finished with our investigation. So one is, it`s inconclusive. There is evidence. You have to look. You have to look, whether it`s direct, whether it`s circumstantial. But at the end of the day, they`re not finished.

And I think ultimately we need them to get to an answer. We need to have the facts come to light, and we need to find what the special counsel has found in these past two years.

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, your committee, the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman, has now hired two new lawyers, attorneys, to help with their oversight responsibilities.

According to NBC, the issues they will be focused on, abuses of power, the rule of law, and obstruction of justice, could well produce threads that lawmakers could use to lay the groundwork for impeachment.

How do you see what your committee is doing now and how that might lead to an impeachment later this summer?

JACKSON LEE: Chris, we`re not rushing toward impeachment, and we`re not rushing away from it.

Attorney Eisen and Barry Berke, two outstanding lawyers. Of course, you know that Eisen was the ethics counsel for Mr. Obama. And, of course, Barry Berke is a well-renowned trial lawyer, well-known to defend white- collar crime.

We`re going to be meticulous. The question is that -- John Dowd, lawyer, just came out with a very confusing statement today that there`s nothing there, there`s nothing there, there.

But he doesn`t think that perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice is something? We`re going to follow the themes that have been laid out in the public arena, but also the materials that we have and we will be securing dealing with bad acts.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JACKSON LEE: And we will do our job.

And we, as the Judiciary Committee, under Article 1, of course, have the oversight responsibilities of the Department of Justice and over the breaking of the law of the highest office in the land. That is the president of the United States.

We do have authority under the impeachment provisions. It comes first through the House Judiciary Committee. We are the grand jury. The Senate, of course, is the trial. But we also have the right to investigate. And that`s what we`re going to be doing. And we`re not going to rush to judgment.

MATTHEWS: I see.

JACKSON LEE: And we have two outstanding professionals that are going to provide that basis for our investigation.

MATTHEWS: In the background of all that, Congresswoman, we have got most Americans now viewing special counsel Robert Mueller as more credible than President Trump, no surprise, but fact.

A new "Washington Post" poll shows that 56 percent of Americans say they`re more likely to believe Mueller`s version of the facts; 33 percent say they would believe Trump`s.

Now, let`s talk about that 33 percent, because we all know who that 33 percent -- they are the hard-core Trumpies. And my concern is, later this summer, the committee, the Judiciary, does a great job in the House, they bring up basically an indictment, based upon all the evidence they see, some of it circumstantial.

But a person seeing it says, it ain`t all coincidence. This stuff all fits together. The Russians wanted this. The Trump people were willing to give them back. They were working hand in glove. It`s clear.

But a third of the country says, I don`t see that.

What happens? Is it better to go through the impeachment process or better to wait for the election next year?

MORENO: Follow the evidence.

So, if there`s credible evidence, if there`s evidence that are of high crimes and misdemeanors, other wrongdoing, the House and the Senate are obligated. It`s their oversight role. We want them to do that. We want them to restore some semblance of confidence in our institutions.

So if the evidence is there, don`t take the path of least resistance.

MATTHEWS: That`s what you believe.

That`s what Barbara Jordan said in a speech I told her we watched, because she`s one of your, well, illustrious predecessors.

JACKSON LEE: My mentor, yes.

MATTHEWS: But she said basically, it`s the job of the House to find evidence, and if it looks like a case, bring it. It`s up to the Senate to be the judge.

JACKSON LEE: Absolutely.

Not only that. Impeachment is a political process. We would hope that, when we do a thorough investigation, there will be Democrats, Republicans sitting on that panel. We obviously want some Republican, one Republican, to see the merits...

MATTHEWS: In the House.

JACKSON LEE: In the House, because, obviously, during the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Democrats and Republicans voted on, in essence, the indictment.

MATTHEWS: We all watched it on television, before you were born. We all watched it every night. We all watched it.

JACKSON LEE: I`m so glad you said that.

So, it is our task. We`re in the majority. And it`s our task to lay the groundwork and begin the process. It is, as you said, if the evidence is there, we need to follow the evidence, and we need to investigate.

MATTHEWS: I want -- you were a colleague -- your colleague -- you lost a colleague this week out in Michigan.

JACKSON LEE: We did. We did.

And thank you for your kind words. I listened to you. You knew John Dingell. I am obviously wearing mourning colors, because two planeloads attempted to get to Detroit. There will be another ceremony here. And we were turned around because of the ice.

But, on the plane coming back, we prayed, because we were not able to get there. And then we were able to welcome him during the transition when his body came to the United States Capitol, and greeted his wife, Debbie Dingell.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE: And we will again have the opportunity to mourn him on Thursday.

But let me just say, as an African-American in particular, what a great fighter for civil rights and justice and, it was well-known, a friend of Barbara Jordan, and just a great fellow with a great sense of humor.

Everyone admired and loved John Dingell, the oldest and longest serving member of the United States Congress in the history of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, it`s nice to have a constituency that likes you, isn`t it?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, big John, we called him, John Dingell. What a guy. Anyway, I`m going to be at that mass with you on Thursday.

The congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you for coming from Houston, Texas.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS: One of the successors of Barbara Jordan.

And, Joseph Moreno, thank you sir, for joining us.

Up next: Former astronaut Mark Kelly says he`s ready for his next mission, to boldly seek -- sounds like "Star Trek" -- the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by John McCain.

More on Captain Kelly and his campaign announcement video, which is really good, actually, after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s an interesting Senate race shaping up out in Arizona. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly announced this morning he`s running for the late Senator John McCain`s seat in 2020.

Sitting next to him was, of course, his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK KELLY (D), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Nearly lost your life serving your country.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Yes.

M. KELLY: But what do you do when bad things happen?

GIFFORDS: Move ahead.

M. KELLY: I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer.

But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people`s lives.

So, please join us. Man the torpedoes full speed ahead.

GIFFORDS: Full speed ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Admiral Farragut.

Anyway, in 2011, Giffords was severely wounded when she was shot in the head by a mentally ill man who opened fire at one of her constituent events. She was being a congresswoman and meeting the voters, the constituents, when she was shot for being a congresswoman.

It left six dead and 13 injured, including herself, Giffords. And since then, Mark and Gabby have advocated for stronger gun safety regulations, like universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and prohibiting those on the no-fly list from buying a gun.

If Kelly wins the Democratic primary, he would likely be -- go head to head to head with Senator Martha McSally, who was appointed to the open Senate seat after losing her Senate race against Kyrsten Sinema. Isn`t that amazing, to having somebody sitting in there that lost?

Anyway, last year, McSally received an A rating, of course, from the NRA.

I`m joined right now by Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, co-chair of the House Gun Safety -- actually, Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Dan Nowicki, national politics editor with "The Arizona Republic."

I just want to talk to -- we will get to the big picture here, but I want to get to the -- is this -- tell me about Arizona. Is it a purple state now, the purple sage? Is it really that way in the middle politically?

DAN NOWICKI, "THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC": Well, I don`t know if it`s realigned.

Kyrsten Sinema was the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in about 30 years there. And she did it by kind of distancing yourself from some of the other Democrats. She ran as kind of a nonpartisan Democrat. She ran as a centrist, moderate, whereas Martha McSally kind of ran as a Trump Republican.

So she was able to beat more Martha McSally. Couldn`t really crack 50 percent. It`s very -- it was still a pretty close race. So I don`t know if there`s any realignment there. But, certainly, in the Trump era, there`s a lot of dynamics that are shifting around. And things are changing in Arizona.

MATTHEWS: And what does the ad that Mark Kelly`s put out tell you about what he thinks the state is made of politically? It sent a message to me.

NOWICKI: Right. Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: Well, I think Mark Kelly understands that there`s a -- Arizona has an independent streak. And that`s been reflected in its senators, including Jeff Flake, John McCain, Barry Goldwater. And I think he`s trying to tap into some of that.

Kyrsten Sinema did too. Sinema really kind of showed Democrats how to win statewide in Arizona. And I think the Democrats are feeling really good in Arizona. And I think they`re going to try to repeat that in 2020.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

REP. ROBIN KELLY (D), ILLINOIS: Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: You`re from Illinois, you`re leading this big fight for gun safety, against violence.

I mean, we have had all these school shootings. And every day they happen here, we start all over again, and we say thoughts and prayers. And all that`s fine, but no action.

KELLY: You`re definitely right.

And that`s why I don`t participate in the thoughts and prayers. I haven`t stood up and done the moment of silence for over two years now, because we stand up, we sit down, and we do nothing.

But, hopefully, HR-8 will be the beginning of doing something with the background check bill.

MATTHEWS: Do you think rural states like -- I always saw it as sort of a mixed bag as a rural state, but do they get it, that when kids get ahold of guns and gangs get a hold of them and people that are a little bit mentally unstable get ahold of guns, that people are going to get killed?

KELLY: I think some people get it. And I think more and more people are getting it.

And I`m saying that because some of the people that won, they weren`t afraid to talk about the need for gun violence prevention and laws around that.

MATTHEWS: What do you think is the chances of getting something done on background checks to start with?

KELLY: Well, I definitely think it`s going to pass the House. It`s been bipartisan for a long time. We just could not get Speaker Boehner, Speaker Ryan to even call the bill.

It will be tougher in the Senate. But I`m hoping all the advocacy, all the energy around this will -- they will take it over to the Senate and put the pressure on, frankly, the Republican senators.

MATTHEWS: Yes, there won`t be a cork in the bottle anymore.

Anyway, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida -- one year it`s been -- a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the more Americans want tougher gun laws, but don`t believe lawmakers can make it happen.

According to the new poll, more than half of Americans believe lawmakers should make it tougher for people to own guns, and 58 percent say they are not confident that our lawmakers will actually do something to improve the laws.

Hmm. Sounds like pessimism is reigning here.

KELLY: It does, but I think, because they have seen such a partisan divide, even though I always tell people we get along better than people think -- but I think they have seen what`s happened over the years.

But I think we can get some things done. I have legislation that asks the surgeon general to put out a report every year about the impact of gun violence. And I think that has a chance of passing in both the House and the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Dan, how about in Barry Goldwater country, John McCain country? Is gun ownership just the NRA way, or is there something more moderate from that they can win?

NOWICKI: Well, Arizona very much is a gun-friendly state, but, like I mentioned earlier, things are -- seem to be changing.

And Mark Kelly running as a moderate, centrist Democrat -- and the way he`s going to finesse the gun control message is sort of, we`re not going for your -- we`re not going to grab your guns. We`re not trying to undermine the Second Amendment, just commonsense regulations that are going to try to keep guns out of the wrong people.

Mark Kelly stresses his family owns guns. So he`s kind of presenting himself as a commonsense gun owner who just wants to fix some quirks in the law.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think he`s got the credentials. He`s not a gun hater. He just wants gun safety.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly. Thanks for coming out today.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS: And, Dan Nowicki, thank you from "The Arizona Republic," a great newspaper, by the way. It used to run my syndicated column years ago.

Up next: a tale of two rallies, a remarkable seen in El Paso last night, as Beto O`Rourke fact-checked Trump`s misleading statements in real time from across the street. This is -- well, this is mano a mano, don`t you think, Texas-style.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The image created by dueling allies in El Paso is a tableau of American politics in the 21st century. You have a more hopeful vision of America delivered by former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and a darker visions delivered by President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: We know that there is no bargain in which we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security. We know that we deserve and will lose both of them if we do. We stand for the best traditions and values of this country -- for our fellow humanity and who we are when we`re at our best and it`s El Paso, Texas.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a bad situation going on and we have stopped it. We are taking out thousands and thousands of people from MS-13. We`re bringing them the hell out of our country. Thousands.

(CHEERS)

But if we had proper border security including a powerful wall, we wouldn`t have to work so hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hyperaware of the optics, President Trump wasted little time taking on O`Rourke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The young man who`s got very little going for himself except he`s got a great first name, he is -- he challenged us. So, we have, let`s say, 35,000 people tonight and he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good.

(CHEERS)

In fact what I do -- what I would do is say, that maybe the end of his presidential bid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: With more Democrats declaring their intent to run in 2020, the president and his campaign staff have taken notice. Just last week, Trump told the "New York Times" that of the declared candidates, Kamala Harris had the best, quote, opening act, close quote, because she had better crowd, better enthusiasm.

O`Rourke`s events seemed to have touched a nerve with the president, not just with him, but also with his 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, who tweeted: It looks like Beto only has 900 guests at his so-called march. Tiny. We have 35,000 attendance, 8,000 inside and tens of thousands in the parking lot and streets.

But that`s not true. Stay tuned to hear just how far away from reality Donald Trump and his aides really were.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

During President Trump`s hour-long speech in El Paso last night, he went after Beto O`Rourke twice, claiming he could only get 15 people to his protest rally. The number gets smaller and smaller.

The president noted O`Rourke again during a post-rally interview that aired on Fox.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Very few people showed up to his rally and this place is packed with thousands and thousands outside. And I guess he challenged us to an event. So maybe this means he`s going to have to drop out because this was not a good situation for him. I don`t know why he did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC News and other sources, about 7,000 to 8,000 people attended O`Rourke`s rally, and not the 200 he`s talking about. While 6,500 were allowed in for Trump`s rally, several thousands more assembled outside. So, they`re pretty much even.

For more, I`m joined by Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, and Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist.

Look, the numbers are pretty competitive. We agree, right?

MATT GORMAN, FORMER NRCC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, I would say so.

MATTHEWS: What`s this about? Does he take on people he wants to run again or people he`s afraid of? Which is it? I can`t tell if he`s picking opponents?

GORMAN: He`s certainly elevating Beto, and I think that`s good for both of him, right? Beto wants to be seen as going one on one with Trump --

MATTHEWS: But it`s not good for John Delaney.

GORMAN: Certainly not. Certainly not good for Kamala or Cory or other people.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GORMAN: But Trump wants to elevate him. I think he thinks Warren and Beto are the most beatable out of the whole --

MATTHEWS: Really?

GORMAN: I think so.

MATTHEWS: Who`s he afraid of, buddy?

GORMAN: Kamala. I think -- and Klobuchar. I think it depends what lane.

MATTHEWS: What do you think? Looking at across the aisle here at Trump.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER & STRATEGIST: I think if you look at his reelect in a lot of -- from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Ohio, if you look at Trump`s reelect right now at historical low, I think almost -- I think the battle for the presidency, a lot of that is going to be played out in the Democratic primary because this is a historically unpopular president. I think you`re going to see a large field, so many people jumping in to this because the president doesn`t break 43 percent approval.

MATTHEWS: Everybody -- look, I`m thinking like a pol now, everybody must say to themselves whether you`re Bernie and you`ve done it before or you`re the youngest guy out like Buttigieg who say, anybody can beat Trump. Anybody can lose to Trump. You don`t know.

BELCHER: Well, you don`t know. But what I do know is that this president`s reelect and his approval numbers are pretty solidly in the low 40s.

MATTHEWS: But then he knocks the other guy`s head off.

BELCHER: But this is the other problem: 10 million more voters voted Democrat this past midterm than ever before. All of the sudden, those suburbs around Philadelphia that were once red, aren`t red anymore.

MATTHEWS: I know.

BELCHER: And that`s the fundamental problem. He has not broadened the Republican Party. Mitt Romney did a better job of broadening the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: You know what I was thinking, I`m hearing right now growing up in Philadelphia, this is the description, what happened to Frank Rizzo. Frank Rizzo reached a point where he got to get 87 percent of the white vote to win. Nobody`s going to get 87 percent of the white vote. He got 83 percent and lost.

If your core doesn`t really change, it`s the same old core, then you have to keep getting a bigger percentage. It doesn`t work. It isn`t big enough.

GORMAN: No, I mean, look, you mentioned Pennsylvania in 2018. It was a bloodbath for us. I mean, especially in those Philadelphia Pittsburgh suburbs, that`s going to be a problem.

I will say president Trump is good when he has an enemy, when he has an opponent. He makes it into a choice. Maybe we see those numbers rise a little bit, there`s no guarantee.

MATTHEWS: I think he wants Elizabeth right now. I think, I`ll say it, his word -- Indian word Pocahontas. He does it over and over again. He`s in love with it.

BELCHER: Be careful what you ask for and careful what you wish for.

MATTHEWS: You mean for him?

BELCHER: Yes, for him. I think Elizabeth Warren would -- she`s going to raise money. She`s going to take the fight to him. Clearly, she`s going to take the fight to him like no other.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`ll be no fun to fight her.

BELCHER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: No fun anyway.

BELCHER: Well, in Texas, President Trump debuted a few new slogans. One had a familiar ring to it. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want us to do this together. I really do believe my slogan. Stronger together.

TRUMP: We`re only getting stronger together.

CLINTON: We truly are stronger together.

TRUMP: Stronger together.

CLINTON: Stronger together.

TRUMP & CLINTON: Stronger together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton didn`t miss a chance. She weighed in this morning. President Trump and the Republican Party should now copy her health care, tax and voting rights. That`s pretty cool.

What do you think? Why would he say -- didn`t he know that was her slogan?

GORMAN: It`s not a particularly good one either.

MATTHEWS: It didn`t work.

GORMAN: It didn`t.

Look, "Make America Great Again" certainly seemed to stick. But, look, I think he needs to portray the Democrats as divisive. He needs to portray them as out of touch or, you know, angry if you will.

So, I think that`s part of the plan. I wouldn`t stick with it for the whole way. But I think that seems to be his overall goal.

MATTHEWS: OK. Bottom line, what`s a tougher threat to Trump? He personally comes in there with their face looking angry or mishappy, upbeat. I mean, does the politics -- we used to call the politics of joy with Hubert Humphrey. Would that work today or you have to show a little anger at this guy? Because I think a lot of base voters really don`t like Trump, and they want to see that in your eyes.

GORMAN: I think Democratic primary voters want anger, but the key is whether you have anger, whether you`re not, got to be authentic. You don`t have the healer be the fighter, don`t the fighter be the healer. I think people -- one thing about Trump, he`s authentic. Better or worse.

BELCHER: I agree with the authentic part. History doesn`t show angry candidates win primaries. And I`ll go back even further than that. There`s not a lot of American history that says angry candidates win American presidencies. I can disagree with Ronald Reagan all I want, as example. His belief and his exceptionalism of America stood out. Barack Obama had that same sort of Reaganesque, exceptional, America great thing.

That`s where the majority is. Now, you can talk about -- you can talk about 42, 43 percent. But if you want to win the majority, you better not be the angry candidate.

MATTHEWS: Cornell Belcher, thank you for your wisdom.

Thank you, Matt Gorman. Surprising unanimity of thought here, and analysis.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t need to agree with anything except you`re smart.

Up next, he`s smart. Up next -- every dog has his day. But not in this White House.

We`re back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I wonder if President Trump has just stepped in something. I`m talking about his observation in El Paso about why he`s the rare American president who doesn`t have a dog.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I wouldn`t mind having one, honestly, but I don`t have any time. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn? Would that be --

(CHEERS)

Right. Sort of not -- I don`t know, I don`t feel good. Feel as little phony to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A little phony having a dog.

Well, "The Washington Post" reported said it was the great Barbara Streisand who noticed this oddity about this president. She asked last fall, does the president not have a dog? He`s the first president in 120 years that doesn`t have a dog in the White House.

I thought back among the presidents. I knew about Franklin Roosevelt and Fala. It was his brilliant speech defending Fala against a cheap political attack that blew his 1944 rival out of the water.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself, but I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here in Washington, at along the Tidal Basin surround the Jefferson Memorial, there`s a bronze statue of the World War II president with the famous dog who may have won him his fourth term.

And then there was Checkers, the middle class pooch Nixon put before the public to defend his honor in the TV address known as the Checkers speech.

It turns out FDR and Fala, Dick Nixon and Checkers were not the only president-canine couples. Barbara Streisand had it totally right. According to "The Post", every president starting with William McKinley in 1897 has had a friend of the canine type living in the White House.

So, Donald Trump may have a real problem here. It`s been said in Washington that if you want a friend, get a dog. If President Trump ever takes that advise, he won`t know if the barking you hear from the White House is coming from him.

That`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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