IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Alabama targets Roe V. Wade. TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Merika Coleman, John Barrett, Helene Cooper, EricSwalwell, Eddie Glaude, Noah Rothman

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That does it for me.  But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.  Tonight, Roe v. Wade, this country`s half century political anchor on abortion rights faces a major challenge.  The Alabama governor signed into law the farthest reaching effort in the country to end abortion rights this year, just did it this afternoon.  The new law has deliberately intended to set up a Supreme Court fight over Roe v. Wade.

The measure passed by the State Senate last night in a republican- controlled Senate down in Alabama would effectively ban abortion in Alabama at every stage of pregnancy.  it makes it a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison for a doctor to perform an abortion.  The only exception on the law in any stage of the pregnancy is for a case where the mother`s health is in serious risk.  It notably includes no exceptions in case of rape or incest, and after hours of impassioned debate, the bill passed, look at this, 25 to 6 in the State Senate down there in Alabama.

The bill`s sponsor in the House down the there was clear about its ultimate goal with the measure, what they are up to with this bill.


REP. TERRI COLLINS (D-AL):  My goal with this bill, and I think our overall goal, is to have Roe versus Wade turned over and that decisionability to be able to be sent back to the states.


MATTHEWS:  Well, upon signing the bill, Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged the bill`s intent.  Writing this bill closely resembles an abortion ban that has been part of Alabama law for over 100 years.  As today`s bill itself recognizes, that longstanding abortion law has been rendered unenforceable as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.  No matter what one`s personal view on abortion, we can recognize that at least for the short-term, this bill may similarly be unenforceable.

Emboldened by the current conservative five to four majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, opponents of abortion rights pursued aggressive measures nationwide.  And while Alabama`s outright ban would be the most restrictive, it`s far from the only legislation right now to decide to curb abortion rights this year.

By the way, lawmakers in Georgia and Ohio past into law Heartbeat Bills that would ban abortions as early as six weeks.  Kentucky and Mississippi passed similar measures earlier this year.  And meanwhile, three other states are considering measures to loosen restrictions on abortion.

I`m joined right now by Democratic Presidential Candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar.  Senator, what strikes me about this measure being pushed by the sponsor and the lower house down there in Alabama was not just to bring it back to the states, which a lot of people on the republican side said they just want it to be a state issue, they want to get rid of it.  This is a ban.  This is the most restrictive I`ve seen.  So your thoughts about what this says about the dangers to Roe v. Wade nationally.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN):  What they have done in Georgia and Alabama is dangerous, it is wrong and it is unconstitutional.  73 percent of Americans do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Think about that.

So why are they doing it?  One, they want to put politics with women`s health to impress their base, but, two, they want to set up a case to go to the Supreme Court.  And when you think about the facts here, abortions actually were at an all-time low during the Obama administration.  That`s the last study I could find that the CDC had done.

MATTHEWS:  Why is it low?

KLOBUCHAR:  Because contraception was made available, because we reduced the number of abortions, because of the fact that we funded Planned Parenthood where in their lifetime, one out of five women will visit at some point for cancer screenings, for birth control.  Think about that.

So we have literally reduced the number of abortions during the span of the Obama administration and this administration comes in, want to take away the funding for Planned Parenthood, thus and takes away women`s access to contraception and then at the same time, in a number of states across the country, republicans are trying to get rid of their right to choose.  It`s an outrage and the women of America and the men of America, the majority of them do not agree.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the politics in this.  I know you are running for president.  Maybe this isn`t the most politic thing to say, but seems stupid on their part, not just wrong, because if you have prohibition, if you actually had a regime in this country of a woman could not get a safe legal abortion and had to go overseas or whatever to get one, what would that -- wouldn`t that just destroy the Republican Party politically based upon your numbers?

KLOBUCHAR:  I believe that this is against their best interest politically, but they don`t care about that.  What they care about, it appears, is not women`s health or they wouldn`t be trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act and getting rid of the ban on kicking people off their insurance for pre-existing conditions or getting rid of this idea that we used to have that being a victim of domestic abuse was a pre-existing condition.  All of these things make no sense for the people of America.

But when you are trying to attract a certain base in their own party, you don`t seem to care about that.  And that`s what all of those men in the legislature in the State Senate, none of the women voted for, all of those men said today.

MATTHEWS:  You know, there`s a contradiction we`re going to get to right now with Donald Trump because he never understood this contradiction.  The pro-life movement, if you will call it that, anti-choice movement, if you will, basically says that the doctor should go to jail who performs a procedure and the woman is clean.  There is no problem even though she asked for the procedure, like any other mental (ph) procedures.  So it`s a weird way.  99 years in prison for the doctor, no mention of the woman.  This is just an inconsistency in their thinking.

Back in 2016, here`s the President trying to be president, then candidate Donald Trump who, had supported abortion rights in his life after about (INAUDIBLE) calls to ban abortion and how he would enforce it, how he would make it work.  Watch it.  Here`s Trump.


MATTHEWS:  Do you believe in punishment for abortion?  Yes or no, is it principle?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS:  For the woman?

TRUMP:  Yes.  There has to be some form.

MATTHEWS:  A fine or imprisonment for a young woman who finds herself pregnant?

TRUMP:  It will have to be determined, and it hasn`t been determined.

MATTHEWS:  What about the young man or is he not responsible for an abortion?

TRUMP:  It hasn`t -- different feelings, different people.  I would say no.


MATTHEWS:  Well, later, that same day, the Trump campaign walked back in his comments in that statement saying, if Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts have held this legislation or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.

This afternoon, by the way, a White House spokesman put out a statement on the Alabama Abortion Bill that didn`t even mention the legislation, instead saying, unlike radical Democrats who have cheered a legislation allowing a baby to be ripped from the mother`s womb moments from birth, President Trump is protecting our most innocent and vulnerable, defending the dignity of life, and called on Congress to prohibit late term abortions.

So there you saw the conflict because the President never gave it five seconds thought.  Although he knows he`s a little slow there on what the responsibilities of the father would be.  I mean, I just thought that was fascinating.  Your thoughts?

KLOBUCHAR:  And I also think when you talk about innocence, they don`t have exceptions in here for rape, incest victims.  It`s unbelievable to me.

And the other thing I know --

MATTHEWS:  In Alabama?

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, in Alabama, in that piece of legislation.  The other thing I`d say is there are pro life people in this country where it is their personal belief and they have that personal belief and that is their right, but that doesn`t mean for a lot of them who have supported Democrats in the past, by the way, they don`t think that that personal belief means that it has to be applied to someone else.

So you have to remember, there are people who are pro-life that wouldn`t agree with this kind of legislation that they are passing right now.  And that`s why I think you see 73 percent of Americans do not believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.  And that is what they are messing with here.  It`s dangerous, they`re trying to send doctors to jail and they`re taking away a woman`s right to make a decision about her own healthcare.

MATTHEWS:  So, Senator, you are happy with the way Roe v. Wade is now thanks to the Casey decision, you know, a new burden, you are happy with the law as practiced right now, Roe v. Wade?

KLOBUCHAR:  I am concerned.  I think some states have done a better job than others in terms of how they made contraception and reproductive choices available.  So what I would like to see is to make sure that any kind of right is cemented and that could be by court, that could be by legislation.  But right now, you have a situation where you are not even in that territory, Chris, because you`ve got a Republican Party that is basically trying to reverse Roe v. Wade for the sole purpose of banning abortion.  That is clear by these cases that they`re setting up and the bills they are passing.  So we have got to look at this as the reality.

They have been trying to talk about all kinds of nuances of this.  But the reality is what we saw today with that bill that was signed into law in Alabama that takes away completely a woman`s right to choose.  This is no longer nuances about third term or what they are trying to say.  No, no, no.  They are banning it, they did it in Georgia effectively with the six weeks and they did it in Alabama.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota running for president.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  In addition to Senator Klobuchar, many other 2020 democratic candidates were quick to denounce the Alabama bill today on Twitter, calling it unconstitutional and an attack on women.  And some spoke about forcefully about the need to fight challenges to abortion rights generally.  Here it goes.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA):  Let us all agree that women`s healthcare is under attack and we will not stand for it.  We will not stand for it.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA):  They are trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  That`s wrong and we will fight back.  We will fight back.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY):  It`s nothing short of an attack on women`s basic human rights and civil rights and something that women of America are going to have to fight against with everything they`ve got.


MATTHEWS:  Right now, I`m going to bring in Alabama Democratic State Senate Merika Coleman, Elise Jordan, of course, contributor Time Magazine, and John Barrett is Professor of Constitutional Law at St. John School of Law.

Representative, thank you for this.  What was the -- what are they up to down in Alabama, the republicans?

REP. MERIKA COLEMAN (D-AL):  Well, they are up to destroying the State of Alabama and destroying the country, actually trying to take women`s rights away from us.  And it`s so unfortunate when you live in a state where we are at the bottom of the list for everything that`s good and at the top for everything that`s bad.  Here is a slap in the face to the women of Alabama and women of the country that these legislators, these republican legislators, these men want to take away our rights to be able to choose what`s best for our own healthcare, for our bodies, for our own families and with our own doctors.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think they are thinking about?  I mean, do they really want to make this a culture war fight or really win it?  I mean, do they want prohibition, outlaw, so a girl or a woman gets pregnant and decide they don`t want to carry the term, and that person has no rights, they must leave Alabama and go to New York, go to Louisiana?  What do they actually think would happen?

COLEMAN:  Well, if they leave Alabama, they could be subject to prosecution also.  So the goal of the sponsor of this bill is to actually take this all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  That is her goal.  She said it over and over again.  But it`s really sad when you have a piece of legislation where even said that this went too far.  We have no exception for incest and rape.  That is unconscionable for not only in the State of Alabama and for country, that`s what I want people to know thus goes Alabama, thus goes the United States of America.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think they did this, Elise?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don`t think that the Republican Party in Alabama has been batting that great of an average lately.  You look at how they managed to lose the republican-held senate seat to Doug Jones.  And this is more par for the course.  I think that this issue, while, temporarily, it might make them feel good, dealing with the actual consequences of getting Roe v. Wade overturned, banning abortion in this country would not be politically palatable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s the question.  It`s like a guy in a bar, let me at them, let me at them, as he puts his arms back to be pulled back.  Do they want prohibition or do they just want to take the fight?

JORDAN:  The GOP, you could argue, has been pretty cynical over the years and has navigated the line of exploiting pro-life voters who are fed up now.  Because for so many years, they have been promised that Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned, and then, politically, the leadership would never go quite that far in the Trumpian era.  Do I think that the Republican Party`s leadership doesn`t have enough sense to navigate the line?

MATTHEWS:  Do they want to -- excuse me.  Do they want the win or do they want the fight?

JORDAN:  They want the fight.

MATTHEWS:  That`s what I think.  John, tell me about this.  What`s going to happen?  It seems to me the Governor signed it today, basically prohibition.  Is that effective down there or is it still --

JOHN BARRETT, PROFESSSOR, ST. JOHN`S SCHOOL OF LAW:  Well, I think the law has a six-month phase in.  So there is a start up period before it`s actually live.  And at that point, litigants will rush to court.  And under existing law, it is clear as a bell that this is unconstitutional, so they should get an injunction.  And then the state would appeal that to the circuit court and the injunction should be affirmed and then the state would petition the Supreme Court to review it.  That could take more than a year before it climbs the ladder.

MATTHEWS:  Does Roberts, Chief Justice John Roberts, would he (ph) pass to sort of avoid being hated?  I mean, it is, to some extent, a popularity (INAUDIBLE).  He doesn`t want to be this, he want to be known as the guy who brings down Roe?

BARRETT:  I think he is concerned about the court as an institution, and especially if something hits the court during an election year, as, of course, Obamacare did.

MATTHEWS:  He didn`t want to bring down Obamacare.

BARRETT:  He pulled the court back from that brink.  So I think he does have a unique concern, but he has been a vote against Roe vs. Wade and the whole women`s case decided in 2016.  He was one of the --

MATTHEWS:  Are Kavanaugh -- I want to be rough to this one, John.  Are Kavanaugh and Gorsuch owned by this president?  Do they have to vote against Roe v. Wade if they get a vote?

BARRETT:  I think they are independent jurists, but I think they have a jurist credential view that lines them up quite against Roe versus. Wade.

MATTHEWS:  So maybe Roberts.  So let me go to the Representative, thank you.  What do you think is going to happen down there?   I mean, you are obviously concerned that this is going to actually take effect, not just be bad politics or scary politics.

COLEMAN:  Right.  Well, I think that not only Alabama, but the southern states, they`re emboldened right now.  When we listen to the Kavanaugh hearings, of course, he did not tell us that he was going to protect Roe, so all of these things now are emboldened.  What we`re ultimately afraid of is that if this goes to the Supreme Court, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, you will have women having abortions in back alleys, in unsanitary areas.  And that`s the fear.  But at the end of the day, these men need to stay out our wombs and allow women to make the best decisions for themselves.  And we`re mad about it.  We`re going to continue to fight, even with the governor signing this bill today.  We`re going let people know across this country that we`re not going to stand for it.

And you want me to stay focused on the State of Alabama.  Don`t just come here for this issue.  We`ve got a lot of other issues that we need to talk about and make sure that the public gets actively engaged.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think?  I think we have to trust women to make this decision.  Thank you very much, Representative, for coming here.

COLEMAN:  Amen.  Amen.

MATTHEWS:  Representative Merika Coleman, on the losing side in the short run, but in the long run, you`ll be great.  Thank you so much, Elise Jordan, of course, and John Barrett of St. John`s University Law School here up in New York.

Coming up, war hawks in the Trump administration, this is my country, like John Bolton.  They`re pounding the drums down to get us into a war with Iran.  But a new report indicates our closest allies, like real smart allies in Europe, for example, and in the Arab world aren`t buying this hype.  In fact, some European officials think President Trump is being tricked into a path towards war by the John Bolton and the hawks around him all of a sudden.

Plus, has the grand old party become the party of Trump?  You betcha.  And why is Mitt Romney the only republican willing to standing up, on occasion, like a mosquito, actually, to the man in the White House?  Much more HARDBALL coming after the break.


REPORTER:  have you seen any threats by Iranian-backed groups in either Syria or Iraq against coalition forces?  Have you seen any threat indications?

MAJOR GENERAL CHRIS GHIKA, DEPUTY COMMANDER:  No.  There`s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.  We are aware of their presence clearly.  And if the threat level seems goes up, then we will raise our force protection measures accordingly.

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was British Major General Chris Ghika, the number two officer in the U.S.-led coalition over there fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. 

There he was briefing Pentagon reporters yesterday, and directly disputing what the Trump administration has been saying for the past 10 days about Iran. 

As "The New York Times" reports now, the rare public dispute highlights a central problem for the Trump administration, as it seeks to rally allies in global opinion against Iran. 

In other words, our allies are telling President Trump, we don`t believe you on the Iran threat.  And their concerns are not just with the president, but with the war hawks the president relies on in his administration. 

"The New York Times" adds: "Privately, several European officials described National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as pushing an unsuspecting Mr. Trump through a series of steps that could put the United States on a course to war before the president realizes it."

This comes as the State Department overnight ordered the departure of non- critical personnel from all posts in Iraq as a result of the -- quote -- "increased threat stream" the State Department is seeing.

For more, I`m joined by Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for "The New York Times."

Helene, it`s an honor to have you on. 

I look -- I`m on the outside here.

HELENE COOPER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Nice to see you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You`re the reporter.

But I tell you, I smell the same problem we had with Iraq.  Back then, we had an unsuspecting, probably not the most -- smartest guy in the world, W., running the country.  But the real people running the country were the war hawks in the Defense Department, the war hawks at the State Department, and, most importantly, in the vice president`s office.

And now they`re back.  Somehow to hell John Bolton got back in, national security adviser.  Isn`t he the one seen as pushing us into some kind of war situation with Iran, Bolton? 

COOPER:  Well, John Bolton, as you know, Chris, has been very much a hawk on Iran for all of his sort of professional career. 

He`s called for regime change in Iran.  He`s called for military strikes against Iran.  And he has very much been part of the -- sort of the conductor of this entire Trump administration strategy of churning up the pressure on Iran. 

He and Mike Pompeo were both in favor of pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, which they were both opposed to.  But they were also both prodding President Trump into declaring the Iran -- Iranian -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. 

They have also pushed this whole policy of the Americans saying to the Europeans, it`s either Iranian oil or it`s our market.  So -- and that has almost, in one -- in the voice of one European diplomat who talked to me a couple of days ago said, that`s almost sort of like declaring economic war on Tehran. 

So, Bolton -- Mr. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are both very much viewed as hawks in the Trump administration. 

MATTHEWS:  What about -- who voted for John Bolton?  Sheldon Adelson?  I mean, who put him in that job?  You`re laughing, but the fact is everybody thinks it was an ask from the neocon, the right-wing hawkish community on the Middle East, who wanted him in there.

And Trump buckled and put him in there.  And now he seems to be calling the shots.  Is that what the Europeans think, that that guy, John Bolton, is calling the shots, not Trump? 

COOPER:  I think -- I don`t know if I would go as far as to say that Bolton, Mr. Bolton is calling the shots. 

I mean, at the end of the day, President Trump is president.  Bolton has prodded the president into this position. 

MATTHEWS:  So was W.  But W. was president.

COOPER:  But I`m not entirely sure that Trump then goes and does it.

I think we may be looking at President Trump to put the brakes on this. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but W. was president too, but we all know it was the vice president and his neocon allies that pushed the war.  W. didn`t even think about that stuff. 

I am being too harsh.


COOPER:  But Trump is not necessarily a big interventionist.

So I`m not sure that he`s pulled -- he wants -- he`s the one who is pulling American troops out of Syria.  He wants to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. 


COOPER:  He`s not one of those people who`s very ambitious when it comes to putting American troops in harm`s way, particularly in the Middle East. 

So I`m going to be curious to see how this plays out, because I don`t think it`s in President Trump`s instincts, I don`t think it`s his natural instinct to go ahead to push for something like this. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it`s like he`s got a foot on the brake and he`s got one on the gas, and you wonder what`s going to win. 

Thank you.  You`re the best.  Helene Cooper, thank you, of "The New York Times."  Thanks for the reporting.  It`s our total guidance right now. 

COOPER:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We`re learning, by the way, tomorrow that, on Capitol Hill, some congressional leaders will be briefed by the administration on what they say are threats from Iran. 

I want to bring in U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California.  He is a 2020 presidential candidate and a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

The danger here -- and if you`re president of the United States, Congressman, you will have to deal with this -- is creating a situation that leads us into a war. 

If we get on a war footing, we pull our people, our personnel out of Baghdad, we pressure them on the Iranian Guard, we do all kinds of things economically to squeeze them, we bring in a carrier fleet, a strike force of bombers into the region, all of which we`re doing right now, it might give the people, even the moderates in Iran, the thought we want to go to war. 


This president and his team are spoiling for war with Iran.  We cannot let that happen.  And the way you treat Iran, who is an enemy and a bad actor, is, you have a nuclear deal with them, which we had and which this president tore up. 

I`m really concerned, though, about your reporting about the British, because the British are also in Iraq.  And a threat to us in Iraq is a threat to the British.  So either the threat is being inflated by the president`s advisers, or we`re not sharing it with the British.  Both of those would be a problem. 

But when you look at the other threats we face, why are we singling out Iran in a different way than, for example, North Korea?  The president tried to strike a nuclear deal with North Korea.  The only difference between Kim Jong-un and Rouhani in Iran is that Kim Jong-un sends the president love letters. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this, because you were around there -- you weren`t in the Congress, but you were certainly reading the newspapers and watched the run-up to the war in Iraq. 

The whole idea was to make it sound like we`re facing this horrible menace of a nuclear bomb over there, which Cheney said they got a nuclear bomb.  They got a bomb, not a program, a bomb.  They`re going to be dangerous. 

Then you heard all these idiots say how easy it was going to be, it was going to be a cakewalk to go in there, we`re going to get all the oil for free, the war is going to pay for itself. 

So it`s the old deal, make it look like you have to do it, and it`s going to be free and fun to do it. 

The other day, one of your colleagues from Arkansas said, this is going to be easy, one strike will be the last strike. 

They`re doing the same game they played before in getting us into the Iraq War. 

SWALWELL:  That`s right.

And 120,000 people, Chris, that`s not going to be Don Jr. and Eric going over to Iraq.  That`s going to be our service members, who a million of them served over in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 15 years.  And it`s taken its toll on our country. 

But we`re not powerless.  This is not 2003.  We have a Congress that will insist that the president tell us the time, the troops, the terrain, and the reason we have to go.

And so, first things first, the whole Congress should be briefed on what this threat is.  And we should also under -- he should also tell us why our allies are not with us right now, because we can`t go over there by ourselves.  This will be an endless, bloody, costly war for the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump recently said he gets good advice from his national security adviser, Bolton.

When it comes to Iran, Bolton has long called for regime change.  Of course, he made it clear in a 2012 interview on FOX it`s what he wants. 


QUESTION:  You said you`re prepared to take on the regime in Tehran.  How? 

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Well, I have thought for 10 years or more that we should have regime change in Tehran. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s one of those cute neocon words, regime change.  It means go to war, overthrow a government, take over the country, and sit there until they throw you out. 

He has even gone so far as saying a preemptive strike would be warranted.  Here he is 2015.  This is Bolton.


BOLTON:  The negotiations, whether they lead to an agreement or not, are not going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.  Just as Israel twice before has struck nuclear weapons programs in the hands of hostile states, I`m afraid, given the circumstances, that`s the only real option open to us now. 


MATTHEWS:  This character has been pushing for war and to take over Iran, a real country, by the way, not something created by Winston Churchill.  It`s a real country.  And they`re very modern and very smart. 

And they have a really state-of-the-art military since 1998, since the Iraqi Liberation Act, so-called.

Why is he in this administration?  Helene Cooper says this president has instincts against war.  Why is he there? 

SWALWELL:  Well, it`s because John Bolton has never seen a diplomatic solution that he didn`t want to bomb.

And I wouldn`t say the president is a noninterventionist.  The president is just somebody who acts on what is most convenient for him.  Today, that could be peace with North Korea.  Tomorrow, that could be a nuclear war in Iran. 

This guy has no core operating principles, and that should terrify everybody.  But, again, these are not John Bolton`s kids or the president`s kids who are going to have to fight this war.  And this is not Iraq.  This is a country of 80 million people.  And we do not want to occupy or even try to engage with a country like this if there`s a diplomatic solution in sight. 

We had that solution.  We took them from three months of having a nuclear weapon to over a year.  And if you want to deal with their terrorism around the world, the way they treat Israel, the way that they`re acting in Syria, it`s better to have them far away from a nuclear weapon than allowing them to get closer. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he would fight a nuclear war with Iran to win reelection? 

SWALWELL:  I wouldn`t take anything off the table with this corrupt, childish president. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thanks so much, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell...

SWALWELL:  My pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  ... running for president in 2020. 

Up next:  Does the Keystone State hold the key to 2020?  History says yes.

Tomorrow night, by the way, I`m heading to a Pennsylvania county that voted for Trump in 2016, despite a long history of favoring Democratic candidates for president.

Stay with us for a sneak preview of our special live event tomorrow, talking to voters up in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  That is coming up next here on HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

I`m hosting a special edition of HARDBALL tomorrow night live from Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania.  We`re going there because that area, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, spoke with a very clear voice in the 2016 election.  That`s where it is up there on that map. 

After voting for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, it switched dramatically in 2016, giving a big majority vote to Republican Donald Trump.  What was that all about? 

Trump campaigned heavily in Pennsylvania, of course, promising to boost the economy and bring back coal jobs in some cases. 

NBC`s Cal Perry went to Wilkes-Barre ahead of us to talk to Trump voters about whether the president has lived up to his promises. 

Let`s listen. 


CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The small mining community of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is moving beyond coal, providing jobs to those working and relying on what has largely become a dying industry. 

ROBERT HUGHES, EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA COALITION FOR ABANDONED MINE RECLAMATION:  You have got operators here that you`re seeing go by with the trucks and the guys with the loaders here that are pushing the material, are very similar jobs to what`s happening in the coal industry. 

And if there was a transition from coal into reclamation, this is it. 

PERRY:  More than 180,000 acres are left to be reclaimed statewide, 55 acres here at this site. 

(on camera):  Donald Trump promised coal jobs would come back to Pennsylvania, but they`re not underground in mines.  We found them here on the surface, where the land is being reclaimed and converted for future business use. 

(voice-over):  Projects like this one may help lessen the blow for former coal workers. 

HANK ZIELINSKI, NORTHAMPTON GENERATING COMPANY:  Right now, we`re saying a layoff situation going on in the coal fields.  We need experience people to do these remediation projects, rather than displacing somebody, keeping them busy, cleaning up what our great grandfathers did.

PERRY:  Because this area swung so wildly, from reliably Democrat to Trump, it`s time to look at lessons learned for the local party leadership. 

JOHN PEKAROVSKY, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR, LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA:  I think it`s just having a presence.  There are many theories as to why it turned in the 2016 election.  My theory is, is because Hillary Clinton really didn`t have a strong presence here. 

Donald Trump visited the area many times, built up a lot of enthusiasm.  And I think Hillary just took it for granted that this was her home ground and didn`t spend a lot of time here.  And I think you need to do that. 

PERRY:  Pennsylvania being union country, we call it a small quorum, three Democrats, members of the local machinists union, and a Trump supporter, who was grabbing a drink after work. 

BRIAN FEAGLE, MACHINISTS UNION:  Young kids coming up nowadays, they`re not going to want to work in mines.  I would never tell a kid, you want to go out to work in a coal mine, OK?  That was just something he threw at people.  It was a promise.  OK?

And people bought it. 

PERRY (on camera):  Well, some people in the union voted for Trump.  Does that explain sort of what happened?  I mean, how big of a part is that, and will it factor in two years from now? 

FEAGLE:  Well, the biggest part of it was, a lot of people that were union in our plant that voted for Trump told us the reason they voted for Trump was because of the promises he made, OK? 

And they thought, because he came off as a -- not a politician, he was going to be truthful and he would fulfill his promises. 

I have watched his rallies.  And you said you were at them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was at that, yes.

FEAGLE:  And he stated he was bringing manufacturing back in the state of Pennsylvania. 


FEAGLE:  He hasn`t -- in 2.5 years, he has brought zero manufacturing back in this area.  He`s only brought low-income warehousing into this area. 

PERRY (voice-over):  Interstate 81, which runs south from Scranton through these hills, is now dotted, with warehouses built on former coal mining sites. 

Major companies use this area partly because non-union labor is so cheap. 

FEAGLE:  The problem with these warehouses is, they`re paying 8 to 12 bucks an hour.  They`re bringing in temporary workers.

PERRY (on camera):  What`s minimum wage in Pennsylvania?

FEAGLE:  Seven-seventy-five?  That`s awful.

And these warehouses right now, there`s ads in the paper every day, because they can`t keep employees.  They can`t get enough, because people don`t want to go and work for $8 an hour.  They can`t sustain a family on that. 

PERRY:  I`m going to say, cheers.  And I really, really appreciate you guys. 

FEAGLE:  No problem, man.  I`m just getting warmed up.

PERRY:  Thank you very much, guys.  I really appreciate it. 


MATTHEWS:  Cal Perry joins us right now from Luzerne County. 

Cal, thanks.  Great reporting. 

We`re going to -- you have talked to a lot of Republicans as well.  What`s the mix of sentiment up there?  I`m looking at the polls.  I it looks like it`s going to be a close race again next year. 

PERRY:  Yes.

No, it`s fascinating to look at both sides.  On the Republican side, you have this urge to keep the promise of two years ago that Donald Trump is not a politician.  That plays huge here.  We heard yesterday people saying, look, I know a politician is lying because they`re talking.

And that matters to the Republican voters here, the Trump supporters here.  The other thing is the 401(k) factor.  In that lunch that we had with folks, the Republican supporter, the Donald Trump supporter, turned to those Democrats, those union members, and said, how is your 401(k) doing?  And they said, it`s doing pretty well. 

And people here, as you know, Chris, they work hard.  And after 30 years in the factory, your 401(k) matters.  And for Trump supporters, it`s about Trump staying on message, flogging the economy here in Pennsylvania, making that the issue, and not letting Democrats distract.

For Democrats that we speak to, the choice of the candidate is going to be paramount.  We heard from the party chair, who talked about elderly voters.  Those are your go-to voters.  Those are your reliable voters. 

Well, elderly voters in Pennsylvania don`t like radical change.  So a more moderate Democrat, that`s what people are hoping for to unseat Trump, when you talk to Democrats here.

MATTHEWS:  How much did you pick up of attitude, of people feeling that the Democrats in Washington, maybe Hillary Clinton included, the Democratic establishment, looked down their noses at them, ignored them? 

PERRY:  Oh, that`s everything. 

Hillary didn`t come here, is what you hear people say, even though she`s from here.  Pennsylvania is something that is discarded, is disregarded.  People here feel disrespected by Washington.  They feel disrespected by the way they`re spoken to. 

The Mueller report did not come up yesterday in our conversation in that pizza parlor, but, boy, those 401(k) and the economy did.  And, again, we`re talking about labor.  We`re talking about these factories.  We`re talking about lost manufacturing jobs.  We`re talking about transitioning from coal. 

So when you`re talking about getting lectured from Washington, it does not play here.  And Republicans know, and especially those Trump supporters, they know in those rallies, in these rallies in Pennsylvania, they know how to play to that crowd.  And they know that that message still plays, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I will be trying to pick up on what you picked up on wholesale.  And, by the way, I hope I do as good a job as you did. 

Thanks so much, Cal Perry of NBC News.

PERRY:  You got it, Chris.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Again, please join us for "The Deciders."  That`s what it`s about, tomorrow night live at 7:00 p.m. from Luzerne County. 

This is the kind of place in the country, not the big cities, not the usual, predictable places.  You can`t predict this place.  That`s what the story is, whether it`s going to go for Trump or against him, and who they`re going to feel comfortable with. 

A big announcement here, by the way.  Be sure to tune in on June 3.  We`ve got another HARDBALL special event, a live town hall with presidential Pete Buttigieg from Fresno.  I don`t know why it`s Fresno, but it`s a long trip.  It`s going to be worth it.  We`re going to have him for the whole hour in early June. 

And up next, by the way, what do you do with a judge who called Barack Obama an un-American imposter?  If you are Donald Trump, you put him up for promotion, of course.  But what if you are a Trump critic like say, Mitt Romney who gets to vote on that promotion?  Romney is showing stuff here.  We never know when it`s going to come, but once in a while, you see a little bit of life from this guy, a little bit of strength. 

HARDBALL back after this.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The GOP is the now GOTP, the grand old Trump party, leaving Republicans as obsequious bystanders in a party fully defined now by President Trump`s whims.  In the wake of the release of the Mueller report, for example, congressional Republicans circled the wagons around their leader. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ignoring the findings of the report declared case closed. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  The special counsel`s finding is clear: case closed.  Case closed.  This ought to be good news for everyone.  But my Democratic colleagues seemed to be publicly working through the five stages of grief. 


MATTHEWS:  Last weekend, Senator Lindsey Graham sided with the president`s family over the institution he serves in saying Donald Trump Jr. should not even apply or comply with the subpoena from the Senate. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  If I were Donald Trump, Jr.`s lawyer, I would tell them you don`t need to go back to this environment anymore.  You have been there for hours and hours and hours, and nothing being alleged here changes the outcome of the Mueller investigation.  I would call it a day. 


MATTHEWS:  However, there remains a lone, dissenting voice of the night.  Tune in after the break to find out who that is.  Somebody who`s willing to stand up within the Republican ranks against the boss. 

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney, the lone ranger among Republicans these days, broke with his party and the president to oppose a federal judge`s nomination.  The judge was under fire for past comments about immigrants, LGBT issues and President Obama.  In June of 2011, in fact, during a political event, this nominee for judge, called then-President Obama an un- American imposter. 

Shortly after that vote, Senator Romney told reporters he made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama: And as the Republican nominee for president, I just couldn`t subscribe to that in a federal judge.  This was not a matter of qualifications or politics.  This was something specifically to that issue as a former nominee of our party. 

The judge in question was confirmed 49-46.  It sounds like a party line vote and enjoins more than 90 conservative federal judges that Republicans pushed through at break neck speed.

For more, I`m joined by Eddie Glaude, professor at Princeton University, and Noah Rothman is associate editor of "Commentary Magazine".

Eddie, thank you.  I want to go to you, Professor, and that`s this -- what`s more interesting?  The fact that Romney, who has a history of having some character occasionally and also some kowtowing to Trump, decides to show character on an issue of character. 

EDDIE GLAUDE, CHAIRMAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, CENTER FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES:  Well, I think it`s a good thing.  I think it`s important that Romney in this instance exemplifies a kind of backbone, some backbone here.  But I was really interested in this is not about politics or qualifications.  So, it`s an instance of incivility on the part of the judge, but the same guy who called immigrants maggots, this is the same guy who at his judiciary hearing wouldn`t say that Brown v. Board of Education was a correct decision.  This is the same guy on politics and qualifications seemed woefully unqualified to sit on the bench and who didn`t -- who doesn`t, rather. 

MATTHEWS:  This is that guy.  That guy that wouldn`t say Roe (INAUDIBLE) --

GAUDE:  Exactly.  And so, to not say --

MATTHEWS:  Brown versus Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas, wasn`t a good call. 

GAUDE:  So, is that he called President Obama an un-American imposter. 

MATTHEWS:  What was that about?  Birtherism?

GAUDE:  Yes, you know, perhaps.  Birtherism and all of the stuff that`s underneath it.  But that was the line in the sand? 

MATTHEWS:  But, see, the imposter line goes to the crazy part of Trump.  The really -- not just evil, but the crazy part that believed that somehow he didn`t go to those schools is one of those phantom cases. 

Noah, this is really strange belief system here, to believe that Barack Obama is not really Barack Obama.  He didn`t go to Columbia.  He didn`t go to Yale or Harvard Law.  He somehow was registered under some fictitious identity thing. 

That`s what Trump would say.  Remember, nobody knew him in school? 


MATTHEWS:  What did that mean?  Mystery --

ROTHMAN:  I don`t know if we`ve ever solved that mystery.  It`s truly suspect.  These -- the statements on his part and -- 

MATTHEWS:  He had 49 votes. 

ROTHMAN:  Yes, that`s unfortunate, but it`s -- it`s not the first time that Republicans have come out against Donald Trump`s nominees, judicial nominees.  Tom Scott scuttled Tom Farr who was similarly suspect in racial terms. 

Wendy Vitter for nomination, she has been suspect by the -- NAACP opposed to her nomination, and Susan Collins voted against her.  The Republicans have scuttled the nominations of Herman Cain and Steven Moore just last week off the top of my head. 

So, this president really is a little weaker --

MATTHEWS:  You don`t see what I see.  I see a party that had been known for principles, fiscal responsibility, international alliances, certainly, toughness in foreign policy, generally, all through the Cold War, and a kind of consistency, boring consistency, and this president seems whatever he says he wants, they go along with it. 

ROTHMAN:  To an extent. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me, why are they, all of a sudden, fishing for troubled waters in Iran? 

ROTHMAN:  Well, I do actually have to disagree with you because a lot of the Iranian threat assessments.  I mean, we talk about that -- 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we should be engaged in the regime change, according to Bolton?

ROTHMAN:  Well, the administration`s position is that this regime is illegitimate, that threat to national security should be removed.

MATTHEWS:  So, we should overthrow?

ROTHMAN:  Not necessarily.  Now, anybody who -- quoting that "New York Times" piece, there`s another quoting the administration officials saying our objective here is to apply economic pressure to catalyze a revolution from below, not to occupy the country because that would be a disaster.  Our strategy here is to avoid strikes --

MATTHEWS:  Why are we talking about 120,000 troops? 

ROTHMAN:  That`s a contingency plan.  Contingency plan in the event -- 

MATTHEWS:  No, it sounds like a prepositioning plan. 

ROTHMAN:  It also sounds like an eventuality you would need to plan for if the intelligence assessments are accurate.

MATTHEWS:  Like Desert Shield.  Desert Shield, we put the troops in Saudi and then we launched the attack. 

ROTHMAN:  It`s an insufficient footprint. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you like to see us attack Iran? 

ROTHMAN:  No, I would not.  I think it derails the administration`s strategy. 

MATTHEWS:  Eddie, I think there is a lockstep out of the administration`s - - this frightens me. 

GLAUDE:  Oh, absolutely.  Look, I want to make clear, I don`t make a hard distinction, Chris, between Trumpism and the Republican Party.  I think what Trump has done is activated a dimension of the Republican Party that was already there. 

So, I think --

MATTHEWS:  Describe that.  What is that dimension? 

GLAUDE:  That dimension has everything to do with the Tea Party, has everything to do with that wave of focal, in some ways resided in that space within the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlottesville? 

GLAUDE:  Exactly.  Not only Charlottesville, but it has something to do with small government.  It has something to do with social programs.  It has something do with kind of --

MATTHEWS:  Which Charlottesville?  The Nazis, the neo-Nazis or Robert E. Lee fans or both? 

GLAUDE:  They kind of shade into one another.  They`re distinguishable, but they`re not necessarily the same.  So, I want to suggest that what we`ve seen is the metastasizing of this particular dimension of the Republican Party and the leaders have been dancing with these folks for a long time.  It`s metastasized, it`s taking over the party, and then throw up Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you think he picked a judge like this because of those characteristics? 

GLAUDE:  I think so. 

ROTHMAN:  I think it`s a poor vetting mistake, frankly.  And the notion that the Republican Party has capitulated entirely to Trump is betrayed by the wall.  They yessed the wall to death for two years. 

MATTHEWS:  What do about the word maggots if that was used?

ROTHMAN:  It`s discrediting. 

MATTHEWS:  It has been confirmed. 

ROTHMAN:  It is a disgrace.  Let`s get this clear --

MATTHEWS:  Was he picked because of words like that? 

ROTHMAN:  I don`t believe so.  I don`t know that his rhetoric is commensurate with his record because I can`t speak to his record.  But the rhetoric alone should be disqualifying, the fact that you generated some Republican votes against it suggests that the Republican Party has not been entirely taken over --

GLAUDE:  Some Republican votes? 

ROTHMAN:  Yes, some Republican votes.  Well, unfortunately one.  Mitt Romney gets special annuities because of his particular position as, A, somebody from Utah, and, B, the former Republican nominee.  And there should have been more. 

But to suggest however that this is indicative of a Republican Party`s values is I think is betrayed by the last two years. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you like Trump? 

ROTHMAN:  No, I do not.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

ROTHMAN:  But I`m not willing to jettison Republican Party either as a --

MATTHEWS:  Would you vote for him next time? 

ROTHMAN:  No, I haven`t voted for him before, and I don`t vote for him -- since I don`t advocate for candidates, I advocate for outcomes.  And an outcome --

MATTHEWS:  But if you have to vote.

ROTHMAN:  -- a healthy Republican Party is the best outcome. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you don`t mind me asking how you`re going to vote?

ROTHMAN:  I don`t know how I`m going to vote.  Probably won`t.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

GLAUDE:  Well, I definitely not for Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  I like that clarity here.

Thank you, Eddie Glaude.  And thank you, Noah Rothman.

Up next, tomorrow night, we`re taking the show on the road to northeastern Pennsylvania and find out what made the blue state turn red and where it`s heading in 2020. 

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow night on HARDBALL, we`ll find out why the blue state of Pennsylvania elected Donald Trump in 2016.  We`ll be up in Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, a county that spoke with a clear voice in the 2016 election, voting heavily for Trump after voting for Obama twice.  We`ll talk to voters about what makes the issues and attitudes, where it worked in 2016, and what`s going on heading into 2020. 

We`re calling the show "The Deciders" because if history serves, the people you`ll be hearing from will be just that.  You don`t want to miss it.  And if the presidential candidates, including Trump, really want to win, they don`t want to miss it either. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.