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Live from Wilkes-Barre, PA. TRANSCRIPT: 5/16/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Eilish Hoban, Donna Kowalczyk, Dave Baloga, Tom Perez, CharlieSpano, Lou Barletta, Chris Snyder



CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  It`s hard to believe the first big event of the 2020 presidential campaign is just a month away now -- NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo`s presidential debate down in Miami. 

Well, I`m proud to say the national conversation begins tonight right here in northeastern Pennsylvania and the Democratic candidates and Donald Trump should be watching, because what people say here tonight is important to all Americans, Democrats and Republicans and those who don`t trust either party. 

History shows that the people in this room are the deciders.  If you want to win, you have to win here in Pennsylvania. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The state of Pennsylvania, we`re going to win so big. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pennsylvania in the Trump column, the apparent winner, and that makes the Trump the president-elect. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The crucial swing state of Pennsylvania, Republican red for the first time in years. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m here in Pennsylvania and the reason we are visiting these states is pretty simple.  Donald Trump won them 2-1/2 years ago.  We are not going to let him win them in 2020. 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Pennsylvania, she tells me, has the highest student loan debt burden in the country. 

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If I`m going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it`s going to happen here in Pennsylvania, in western Pennsylvania, in northeast Pennsylvania. 

TRUMP:  We love Wilkes-Barre.  Is that right?  We love Wilkes-Barre.  We love this area.  And we love the state of Pennsylvania and we are bringing it back. 




MATTHEWS:  Tonight, I`m live on the floor of the A. Rifkin Company in Luzerne County, a county that had voted Democratic for decades, including twice for Barack Obama.  But in 2016, this county went big for Donald Trump. 

So, where do things stand right now tonight? 

For the next hour, we`ll hear from the voters here in this room, both Democrats and Republicans, union members, small business owners, teachers, nurses, students and retirees.  Some support Trump, some don`t. 

We want to talk, argue, maybe we can get angry.  Not too much.  But ultimately, I`m here, like you, tonight, to listen and to learn.  At the end of the hour, we know where we stand, including perhaps places where we might actually agree. 

We begin, as many political discussions must, with the man who occupies the Oval Office, Donald Trump. 

Let`s start talking to the voters starting with Vito Deluca. 

Vito, thank you for joining us tonight.

You did something that I found what made everybody so interested in the Luzerne County.  You voted for Obama and then you voted for Donald Trump.  Explain that. 

VITO DELUCA, 2015 DEM. NOMINEE FOR LUZERNE COUNTY D.A.:  Well, I voted for Obama in 2012.  I didn`t vote for him in 2008.  But I did switch and I voted for Trump in `16. 

MATTHEWS:  What was it about?  What is it -- you didn`t like Hillary, you liked Trump, you didn`t like something about the Democrats, you liked something Trump?  What was it?

DELUCA:  For me, it was insider versus outsider.  I got the same feeling back in `92 with Ross Perot.  If I actually believed that an independent could pull it off, I probably would have supported Ross Perot back then. 

You know, I was tired of the same political message.  It certainly wasn`t an issue base thing for me.  I could tell you that, because I did not agree on so many things that I believe that Trump stood for.  But again, the insider versus outsider was a really big thing. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you like about an outsider?  I mean, why do you like a guy who never held government office at all before?  No foreign policy experience.  Nothing like that.  And you thought he`d be the best guy to run the country. 

DELUCA:  I really believed that he would -- he would put people in positions that could take care of those things.  I wanted someone who I believed would take a different approach to government and dealing with government, somebody who was not a lifetime politician. 

And I really believed that from the people I have spoken to in our area both through the campaign, as well as after when I tried to identify specific issues that they look to Trump to be able to satisfy for them.  In most cases, if it was more the fact that we want someone who is not part of the process already. 

MATTHEWS:  Donna, your thoughts of -- I want you to also talk about people like Vito, because about an eighth of the voters up here in this county switched.  They voted for Obama and then they voted Trump.  And what do you think about that and what do you think generally? 

DONNA SHANNON, GOLD STAR WIFE:  I truly think that the people in northeast Pennsylvania thought that the economic development and the jobs and employment and increase in salary would be their mina focus in the Trump presidency.  So, I think that`s basically why they voted for him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think the unemployment rate dropping up here to about 3.9?  It was 5.4 when he was running. 

SHANNON:  It has dropped because of (INAUDIBLE) wherein no one is bringing in any new development into the area.  It`s sad to say, we have teachers working in our schools that are in the classroom all day and going into a part-time job at night. 


Robert, what do you think about this?  I read somewhere because you did a preview here today that you didn`t like the Democrats.  You call them San Francisco Democrats.  Explain. 

ROBERT BRESNAHAN, NORTHEAST PENNSYLVANIA NATIVE:  I did.  I think the whole aurora of Hillary Clinton and her progressive left movement, they left the Blue Dog and the Reagan Democrats homeless.  And I think when Donald Trump came through on his campaign, he provided a refuge for that middle of the road voter and for the working blue collar person who sits at their family table and decides whether or not they`re going to pay for gas for their vehicle, or if they`re going to pay mortgage or taxes on their house. 

I think the idea of well -- wage-sustaining jobs that can provide for the families was a message that resonated and Donald Trump really struck home on it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump was smart in the campaign.  He never came out against Social Security, never came out against Medicare.  I think he went after Medicaid.  He has done a little bit of cutting Medicare lately. 

But what this social -- this San Francisco Democrat?  Explain the shot, because it`s a shot. 

BRESNAHAN:  I think it`s the whole idea of the Democratic Party moving further and further left.  I think, you know, one thing that I think is going to come up in the later part of this conversation is the idea of where a moderate candidate on the Democratic scale might be able to give Trump a solid run for his money, and I think out of all --

MATTHEWS:  You think somebody more closer to the center has a better shot? 

BRESNAHAN:  I think so.  I think both parties are moving further and further away from their centralist ideas.  And I think around here, it`s the whole concept behind the hardworking and the construction workers and the electrician and the truck drivers. 


BRESNAHAN:  And I think those are the fiscally conservative that really made up the majority and what`s swung Donald Trump`s election.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You voted for Trump.  Does he ever make you wince? 

BRESNAHAN:  All the time. 


BRESNAHAN:  It is -- yes, I mean -- 


BRESNAHAN:  I sit at home watching and I`m just like, oh, why did you -- why did you say that?  But at the same time, he has no filter.  He completely left political correctness out into the wind.


BRESNAHAN:  And I think that`s why our nitty-gritty, tough working, coal mining heritage, I think that`s why people resonated with him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Lynette (ph).


MATTHEWS:  What do you think?  We`re talking about what happened here.  Why did this state when -- I was telling everywhere.  I was Ireland, I was -- don`t worry, the blue wall.  Trump can`t win.  Can`t win, because of Pennsylvania.


MATTHEWS:  It`s not going to happen here.  And it did.  Why? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Because Donald Trump was somebody who came in, he was a business man, he was somebody who wasn`t a politician and he listened.  People felt like he was listening. 

And his economic message which is coming true more and more every day, I think that was one of the biggest things.  We carried this county by 29,000 votes.  And it wasn`t Republican-Democrat.  It was people coming together to support somebody. 

MATTHEWS:  Does this make you proud to be American? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely, absolutely. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  More and more every day. 

MATTHEWS:  More and more every day?


MATTHEWS:  I got a lot of people, like anybody -- Mike, where is Mike?  There`s another -- sir?  You have a thought on this subject?  Can you get a mike to this guy?

You first, sir.  I`m sorry.  We`re mixed up here.  Go ahead. 

What do you think about this Trump?  Because Trump carried this 57, 58 percent.  That`s a strong majority of Luzerne County.  A town that had not voted Republican since George Bush Sr. way back in the `80s and then before that, almost always Democrat. 

What happened? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Well, I mean, to me, Washington and both sides of the aisle is just -- they`re corrupt.  I don`t trust them at all anymore.

I mean, we wasted so many decades.  I mean, look at just what`s happening now, for example, OK?  You elected Trump and then the last 2-1/2 years, you know, the Democrats got the House back.  OK?  So, what do they do? 

They just go back and forth, blocking each other back and forth.  They haven`t done nothing for the American people in the last 2-1/2 years.  And if they want to block them for four years, until the next election --

MATTHEWS:  Where are you on it?  Do you think Trump played ball with the Russians in 2016?  Do you believe --


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Let me tell you something. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he played ball? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I`m not going to insult your IQs, OK?  But, if Trump --

MATTHEWS:  You`re not going to -- what`s that verb? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I`m not going to insult your IQs.  You`ve got to listen to this, right?  Just because of commercials and ads and you guys want to talk about the Russian did this, the Russians did that.  If the Russians went in computer-wise and changed everybody`s votes, OK, like we have done it in the history of the United States all the time, OK? 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Then, then --


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Then I would say, OK, I would say, yes, we got a problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are you on the other conspiracy theories?  Do you line with all of them?  I mean -- 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  What`s that?

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe the attack on 9/11 was really done by the terrorists, right? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That`s here -- I don`t know.  That`s kind of crazy. 

MATTHEWS:  You are not a truther, are you?  Do you think Obama was born in Kenya?  And how you far do you line -- do you buy this stuff? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I`m just saying.  Now, here you go --


MATTHEWS:  That`s great.  I guess you`re entitled to your views.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Unless you are in with the Saudis, I mean, who knows what went on then?  All I know is a tragedy, OK? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I`m with you.  I`m with your freedom, freedom of speech. 

Lou Barletta, are you with this guy or what?  I`m just kidding.


MATTHEWS:  I want to talk to Lou Barletta because he ran for the Senate here and he is a prominent member -- congressman for life if he stayed there.  You are from Hazleton -- the mayor of Hazleton.  The issue of -- we will get there later, but the issue of immigration, illegal immigration, was that a big part of the fact of Trump winning?  Because I think there`s -- you don`t think so?

FORMER REP. LOU BARLETTA (R-PA):  It was huge.  It was huge.


BARLETTA:  Especially here in northeastern Pennsylvania, in an area where you have hardworking coal miners, you know? 

MATTHEWS:  What does coal mining got to do with not liking illegal immigration?

BARLETTA:  It`s not that they don`t -- they like -- the point I`m making -- the point I`m making is folks here have a strong immigrant --


BARLETTA:  Yes, we actually do mine -- 


BARLETTA:  We actually do mine -- 


BARLETTA:  Have you been to General (ph). 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes, I have been in this area my whole life.  My grandfather was a miner. 

BARLETTA:  We are getting off on a different subject. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you first.  Congressman first, then you, sir.  You first. 

Why did you say immigration a big issue? 

BARLETTA:  So, because this is an area that has a strong immigrant background. 


BARLETTA:  They remember how their grandparents came.  They welcomed immigrants.  We still -- Hazleton has its sections where the Irish live, where the Italians live, all around the church.  The Slovaks. 

So, they recognize that this is a country of immigrants.  What they don`t understand is illegal immigration.  They don`t understand it.  They understand it oppresses the wages of the working people --

MATTHEWS:  Who do you trust to deal with this?  Sir, you`re next. 

Who do you trust with illegal immigration to slow it down if not stop it?  Who do you believe would do that?

BARLETTA:  I was upset with both Republicans and Democrats -- 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you trust?

BARLETTA:  I trust President Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go, let me go --


MATTHEWS:  Do you trust the Democrats? 

BARLETTA:  Excuse me.

MATTHEWS:  Do you trust the Democrats to stop illegal immigration? 

BARLETTA:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Tom Perez is here, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 


MATTHEWS:  Why should people who do care about illegal immigration, those who do care about it, want to stop or slow down at least, why should they trust the Democrats rather than Trump to deal with that situation if they want to deal with it? 

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN:  Well, listen, Chris, what we have known for decades is if you want to solve immigration challenges, you have to do so in a bipartisan way.  Ronald Reagan did it.  Bill Clinton did it, Barack Obama and the Republicans in the United States Senate did it together. 

And the challenge is we have a president who doesn`t want to solve the problem.  It is a wedge issue for him and he is using it to divide.  And in so doing, Chris, he is making us less safe. 

When you divert TSA agents from airports to the border, you know where the 9/11 folks came in?  They came in through the airports.


PEREZ:  So, what we should also (INAUDIBLE) is working with our allies. 


PEREZ:  When you insult your allies, it makes it harder to solve the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. 

Sir, we want to go back to your question about the job situation here and job security which is what I hear about.  Talk about it. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I`m a union member.  I`m a member of the International Brotherhood of -- 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I heard this gentleman talk about San Francisco Democrats.  I heard this gentleman talk about getting involved in Mueller.  It`s just gimmicks.  We`re getting involved in gimmicks.

This is what happened in 2016, was gimmicks. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  He came in, the Democrats, I`m a Democrat, I`m a lifelong Democrat.  My grandfather was a Democrat. 

They came in and sold us something on the Republican Party thinking they were for us.  Democrats -- Mr. Perez, the candidate has got to come here.  They have to talk about worker`s rights.  Right to work is a huge issue in Pennsylvania. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We can`t have candidates that are only concerned with social issues.  A social issue for me is the ability to go out and provide for my family. 

With justices now on the Supreme Court that because of the gimmicks used to get conservative nominees, Janus went through.  I as a union member don`t have as many rights now. 

I can have someone come in -- and no offense, Mr. Matthews -- you could come in to my halls, if right to work goes through federally, you can come in and be an electrician.  I don`t want to be a TV host.  I don`t think you`d want me running your show. 

MATTHEWS:  You can learn it faster than being an electrician. 


MATTHEWS:  Sit down for a second.  We`re going to go -- I want to have Vito respond to you.  We`re going to commercial and be right back.


DELUCA:  The way that I have seen this is Luzerne County specifically and that`s what we were here to talk about, how Luzerne County, a place with a 2-1 registered Democrat to Republican, how that situation could result in such a situation where the Republican wins.  This area in northeastern Pennsylvania, Luzerne County, I agree, obviously, with blue and hardworking people, honest people who have been beat down by the coal barons years and years ago who had the gas industry in recently, who have seen at least the public opinion did the same thing, and we also had a situation with corruption probe.  You know, 2016 was really the perfect storm for this to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I`m hearing two things and I`m listening.  I do listen.  I talk with my -- I listen with my tongue sometimes, but I listen. 

And I`m hearing a couple of things.  People want job security especially for their kids.  They want a place where jobs they can -- don`t have to go 300 miles away to get a job and they wanted to focus on the economy, not the social issues.  You made that point, Robert. 

Thank you so much, Vito.  Thank you, Donna and Robert.


MATTHEWS:  Up next, Donald Trump has been bragging about the economy (INAUDIBLE)

We got more from Luzerne County.  Stick with us. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  New economic numbers that show the economy is in great shape. 

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  America`s economy is not working for working people. 




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our country is doing well, never probably has done as well as it`s doing right now economically.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL live with "The Deciders."

The deciders, we`re calling them that in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, because this county went for Donald Trump in 2016, after decades of voting for Democrats, including twice for Obama.

Well, that was President Trump, by the way, and some of his Democratic challengers talking about the economy just now. 

Let`s face it.  Under normal circumstances, this strong economy, with a lower than 4 percent unemployment rate, would make an incumbent president like Trump a big favorite to win reelection.

But we will see.

Joining me right now is Eilish Hoban, Donna Kowalczyk, and Dave Baloga.

Thank you all for joining us. 

And I want to talk about the economy, because, obviously, the economy doesn`t raise -- rise everywhere at the same rate. 

You have a particular case.  It`s scary. 


MATTHEWS:  Eilish -- Eilish, was how much do you owe in student loans?

EILISH HOBAN, FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY GRADUATE:  I owe about $160,000 in student loans. 

I pay $2,100 a month in student loans.  I`m very lucky.  I have great parents who love me.

MATTHEWS:  Where did you go?  Where did you go?  Where did it cost this much?

HOBAN:  I went you to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. 


MATTHEWS:  Of course.


HOBAN:  So, expensive, one of the top fashion schools in the world.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s a great school.

HOBAN:  But I`m very lucky.  I have good parents who let me live with them.  I guess...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You got to pay $2,100 after taxes a month.  You got to come up with that.

HOBAN:  Yes.  Oh, I...

MATTHEWS:  So, how do you -- how do you manage $2,100 a month?

HOBAN:  I work three jobs.  So I work a full-time job just doing like billing work.  And then I waitress on the side.  And I also assistant coach swimming at Wilkes University.

MATTHEWS:  And you live at home?

HOBAN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s the big decision.  And, well...

HOBAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What does that say about what`s going on?  Because a lot of kids -- when I went to college -- I went to Holy Cross, which is a great college. 

It cost me $2,000 a year.  My parents paid half.  I borrowed $2,800 bucks at 3 percent.  It was a breeze.  It was a breeze to pay it off. 

DONNA KOWALCZYK, HAIR SALON OWNER:  I have two children that went to King`s.  They did get a lot of scholarships.

And one started off at $90,000 a year, and one at $50,000.  So, they have been very lucky.  And I think it depends on what course you take. 


KOWALCZYK:  I mean, one is computers and athletic training. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how do you -- how did vote for Trump? 

KOWALCZYK:  I was a lifelong Democrat. 

I liked the fact that he was a businessman.  I wanted to see job growth.  I wanted to see economic growth.  We have to take care of our own country before we can take care of others. 

MATTHEWS:  How`s it going? 

KOWALCZYK:  It`s going good.

MATTHEWS:  How is your bet going?  You like your bet?

KOWALCZYK:  I -- we`re doing very well. 

There`s buildings going up in the industrial park here.  There`s help wanted signs everywhere you look. 

MATTHEWS:  How`s the economy doing?  Does anybody think it`s getting a little better? 




MATTHEWS:  OK, show of hands.  Show of hands, it`s getting a little better.  Show of hands, it`s not getting better. 

Let me -- the unemployment -- look at -- I just checked all the rates.  Nationally, it`s about 3.6, which is incredibly low nationally, but a lot of the jobs don`t pay much, right?


MATTHEWS:  And it`s 3.9 here.  What did you think?  I have a -- did anybody here benefit from the tax cut? 


MATTHEWS:  Some did.  How many benefited from the tax cut? 

BALOGA:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s not much. 

Who did?  You did? 

BALOGA:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about the tax cut.  Why did you like the Trump tax cut? 

BALOGA:  I see the results of the tax cut in the employer where I work. 

They have been able to invest more in the building.  We have got the most substantial raise in our last contract that we ever got in...

MATTHEWS:  You`re a Teamster, right? 

BALOGA:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So, James Hoffa delivered, your international president, delivered for you, right? 



BALOGA:  I was the chief negotiator myself, actually, with my team.

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

BALOGA:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And you`re a union guy.

Why -- how can you be a union guy and a Republican?  Explain that.  I`m curious. 

BALOGA:  The Republican Party is more aligned with my personal moral values of being pro-life, wanting to have personal freedoms for many things.


BALOGA:  Legal immigration, because I see the impact, when the labor market is inundated with workers who are working under the table. 

It lowers the wages for the union workers.  It lowers the wages for the other people.  And there`s a ready underground labor market in many building trades.  And I have had many fellow union members come up to me and say, it`s hurting us very bad.  We can`t...


MATTHEWS:  How do you like this gig economy of Uber and Lyft and things like that?  Do you like that stuff?

BALOGA:  Around here, that really doesn`t do a lot. 


BALOGA:  There`s not a lot of taxi travel around here.

But I do know that people use them a lot when they`re actually...


BALOGA:  ... or somewhere like that.

MATTHEWS:  It`s huge in the cities.  It`s huge with kids.

BALOGA:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s huge with kids.

BALOGA:  I can see it`s going to hurt cities, economies with taxi drivers.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the medallion owners.  What about the guy who owns a medallion?

Go ahead, Claudette (ph), please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You spoke about freedom, sir. 

I will tell you, I served in the United States Army for 30 years. 


BALOGA:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And it was all about freedom.

And I came home, and I realized my community was not free.  We have more people in my community, which is -- I lived in Monroe County in the Poconos.  And we have more people going out of Monroe County into New York to -- for jobs because of cost of living here -- not because of cost of living, but because of the minimum wage, not sustainable living wages here in Monroe County or in Pennsylvania. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Seven -- $7.25 an hour is not sustainable living wages.

And people should not -- they work hard to build their homes.  And they cannot enjoy it, because they have to go outside of Monroe County or outside of my area.

BALOGA:  Why do they live in Monroe County and not live in New York City?  Because they can`t afford to live there. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They can`t afford it. 

BALOGA:  Exactly. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But, sir, if you...


BALOGA:  So, the high wages that they`re paying in New York City have helped contribute to the expensive lifestyle, the expensive cost of living in the cities.

That`s why people move out of the cities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But we talk about economic development. 

BALOGA:  The taxes...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There`s jobs -- there`s jobs in my area, but it`s minimum wage jobs. 

We are becoming the water park city.

BALOGA:  People need to get away from minimum wage jobs.  They need to find other skills.

They need to...


BALOGA:  They need -- they need to take...

MATTHEWS:  I want to get this...


BALOGA:  We can`t guarantee people their wages.  You have to earn your wages.


MATTHEWS:  What did you say about the minimum wage, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The last time they raised the minimum wage was 20 years ago in Pennsylvania.  Forty-two percent...

BALOGA:  I won`t argue that.  I`m a union member. 

That`s why I took a job in a factory, to be a union member, because it paid better wages. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to go to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don`t be a hypocrite!




BALOGA:  You need to earn more money by earning more skills. 


HOBAN:  That didn`t work for me.




MATTHEWS:  Let me this gentleman speak, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  First and foremost, I`m not red.  I`m not blue.  I`m red, white and blue. 




That`s what it boils down to.  I`m a veteran.  I`m a combat veteran.  I`m a disabled veteran.  I`m a union member. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m a union steward.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I will tell you the truth.  I did not vote in the last election, because neither party had the best interest for me, the American citizen.

We still want to do all this coal.  And we want to talk about immigration. 

Let`s talk about our roads, our schools, our economy, the VA.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The VA that is supposed to care of us, now you`re trying to outsource.

And then our unions. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let`s talk about that.

There was a $2 trillion infrastructure bill talked about two weeks ago.  It was real.  Pelosi went up -- even though she wants to get Trump out of there, basically -- let`s be honest about it -- she sat down with him.  They said, how about $2 trillion, a real bill?

The Republicans in the Senate met, and they decided to do nothing, squat. 

So, let me -- Tom, Tom Perez, will you stand up, Mr. Chairman?


MATTHEWS:  What are the Democrats going to do about infrastructure if they get back in there?

Because I think most people believe in work and security and we -- hey, I drove here last night from New York, OK?  There`s a few bumps.  OK?


MATTHEWS:  It`s real. 

Your thoughts? 

PEREZ:  Listen, Chris, I have been listening. 

And I want to thank all of you for your honesty, because I came here -- and, unfortunately, the RNC chair didn`t, even though she was invited -- because it`s important to listen and learn. 

And what we need and what I`m hearing right now is, this is a conversation about economic security and the dignity of work. 


PEREZ:  For Democrats, the dignity of work means you only work one job, not three jobs.


PEREZ:  The dignity of work, Chris, means that you have health care.

And in the last week, folks, if you want to know, the Democrats have your back. 


PEREZ:  In the last week, including today, there have been a total of eight bills...


PEREZ:  ... that have been passed or will be passed in the United States House of Representatives...

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Chairman...

PEREZ:  ... to make sure that, if you have a preexisting condition, you can keep your health care and to lower the cost of prescription drugs.


MATTHEWS:  OK, Mr. Chairman, thank you.  Mr. Chairman, thank you.



MATTHEWS:  We got to stop here.  I`m sorry.

Please come back for more, allow Lou Barletta equal time here.  This is about the people here, but also the big shots.

Anyway, Mr. Baloga, thank you so much. 

And thank you.  Thank you very much, Donna.

And good luck with the -- this incredible loan of yours.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, who do the voters here trust to deal with the border, President Trump or Democrats?

And what do they think of Trump`s promise to build a big, high wall?

Don`t go anywhere.  More "Deciders" after this.




TRUMP:  When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best.

We will build a great wall, and Mexico will pay for the wall. 


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I would take the wall down.

HARRIS:  A human rights abuse at the border.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are stronger because of our immigrant routs.

TRUMP:  Declaring a national emergency, because we`re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes. 

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We should decriminalize people who are crossing the border.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Comprehensive immigration reform. 

TRUMP:  If you want open borders, and if you want everybody to pour into our country, I would really have a great suggestion for you.  Vote Democrat.



MATTHEWS:  "The Deciders," the voters here, if history is any guide, will determine the results of the 2020 presidential election.

And this was a Democratic stronghold, as I said, for years, but, in 2016, it went big, 58 percent, for Trump. 

You just heard the president, President Trump, and some of his Democratic challengers talking about immigration. 

Let`s hear some of the voters now, Donna Cosmelo (ph), Chris Snyder, and Charlie Spano. 

Charlie, where are you on the wall?


MATTHEWS:  Build a wall.

SPANO:  Big and fast. 

MATTHEWS:  How high do you want it?

SPANO:  As high as it is necessary.

MATTHEWS:  The full length?  The full length of the border, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific?


SPANO:  As long as it`s feasible, without electronics or barbed wire or anything like that. 


Let me ask -- how many people...

SPANO:  Everywhere it`s feasible.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Lou Barletta on this, because I want to give Lou Barletta equal time with Tom Perez. 

SPANO:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Lou, Congressman, talk about your position on immigration, illegal immigration, what you would do to slow it down or whatever.  I don`t think anybody thinks you can stop it. 

And what do you think the other side is -- Democrats, are doing?  And then we will get some other views here. 

LOU BARLETTA (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Well, there`s only one way -- there`s only one way to solve the problem of illegal immigration.

And that`s to secure the border first.  If you don`t stop the flow of people coming into the country illegally, you`re not going to ever solve the problem. 

If you start talking about pathway to citizenship and what you`re going to do with the millions of people who are here illegally, you have just invited more people from around the world to come here before they secure the border. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.   

BARLETTA:  So I just don`t understand Democrats not wanting to agree that we must at least secure the border first, before we can have a broader discussion. 

MATTHEWS:  But how -- but here`s the problem. 


MATTHEWS:  How are you going to get the Democrats to go along with that?  Because the Democrats are not going to go along with secure the border only. 

BARLETTA:  Why?  But why?

MATTHEWS:  They have to have -- they have to represent the people that vote for them.

BARLETTA:  Well, they do.  They represent the people of the United States of America. 

And their -- their -- their national security, the national security, the women who are being molested...


BARLETTA:  ... the drug dealers that are coming...


BARLETTA:  That`s real. 

Listen, they can moan all they want.  They can moan all they want.  Unless it was your daughter -- you can moan all you want, but if it`s your daughter, then you have a different feeling.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Donna, what is your thinking?

OK.  Let`s go to Donna.  Let`s go to Donna Cosmelo (ph).

Your thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My thinking, I think we should have a wall. 

My grandparents came legally.  My grandfather came.  My grandmother had to wait two years.  They came.  I still have their passports from Italy. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris Snyder.

CHRIS SNYDER, UNION REPRESENTATIVE:  I think we should be focusing our attention on the wage disparities in this country and focus on infrastructure, not building walls. 



It seems to me that one reason why politics can drive you crazy, as a voter, is, you hear one party focusing on one issue, another party voting on another issue, and they don`t really get together and discuss the one issue. 

Where Democrats are very good -- we will get to it in the next segment -- about talking about health care.  They`re very good.  They talk about all the options, public option, Medicare for all, Obamacare.  They`re really trying to figure it out. 

I don`t hear the Democrats have a position on the wall, on illegal immigration.  I hear they`re very compassionate about people coming in here.  They`re very concerned about and very much against family separation.  But I never hear them say, this is how we would stop or slow down illegal immigration. 

Does anybody have confidence here that the Democrats will stop or slow down illegal immigration? 


MATTHEWS:  And isn`t that -- somebody does?  Who does? 

Go ahead.  What -- let`s hear your thinking about how the Democrats would stop the challenge -- many people see it as a challenge -- you may not -- of illegal immigration. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, the Democrats have already done this.

During the prior -- I`m an immigration attorney.  I have practiced immigration defense in this area for 13 years. 

And what I have seen with the prior administration was, they focused on a core group of immigrants.  And those would be the ones that were actually problems, any criminal issues.  There were enforcement priorities. 

If you were a recent border crosser, that you just came into the United States, you were an enforcement priority.  And then what they did to accomplish the end result of -- under the Obama administration, more immigrants were deported from the United States than under any other president`s administration in the history of the United States. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And they did this not because they were soft on illegal immigration, but they did this because they were targeted on it. 

They focused on getting...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... if you will, the bad hombres out.

MATTHEWS:  So, you have confidence -- answer my question.


MATTHEWS:  You have confidence that the Democratic Party, the elected officials, will slow or stop illegal immigration?  You are confident in that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, the issue is...

MATTHEWS:  No, I`m asking that question.


MATTHEWS:  Do you have confidence in their ability to stop or slow illegal immigration?  That`s all that I`m asking. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It`s going to take a bipartisan effort.

They`re not going to be able to do it by themselves.  And it`s not -- the issue with it is that it takes both sides, because it`s not an enforcement- only solution.  You need both sides.

MATTHEWS:  Do you personally believe we should stop illegal immigration?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think we`re a country of laws. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I think that we have to do something.

MATTHEWS:  OK, yes, let`s have another view.  I`m sorry.

Yes, Miss?  Go ahead.  Alison (ph), please? 

Your thoughts about -- the issue because I keep reading.  It`s an issue up here.  I talked to Congressman Cartwright, I talked to the other people.  It`s a big issue in this part of the state, illegal immigration. 

Your thoughts? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Well, I feel with the wall that it`s -- if people want to come to America, if you have a goal and you feel very important about it, you`re going to find a way to get into the country.  I don`t think a wall is going to stop you. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I agree with you.  I agree.

Let me ask you about this.  Others -- people talked about how under Reagan, the Democrats and the Republicans got together.  My old boss Tip O`Neill was part of it. 

They have an effective bill in `86.  It said, no more illegal hiring, but the people are gong to be brought in to this country, allowed to become citizens.  It was a good compromise. 

What -- guess what?  They only enforced the one part.  They never enforced the part about illegal hiring.  Does everybody here think people should be fined for hiring people illegally? 


MATTHEWS:  And nobody wants -- 


MATTHEWS:  That`s the answer.  People are going to get here if there is a job here.  That`s what I think. 

Thank you, Donna Castillo (ph).  Thank you.  Thank you, Chris Snyder.  Thank you, Charles Spano.


MATTHEWS:  Up next, the key issue both Democrats and Republicans say they have plans to tackle -- ending America`s opioid epidemic.  How is the crisis affecting voters here in Luzerne? 

More of "The Deciders" after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was a good kid.  He just happened to get involved with some issues with drugs as he got older.  He was involved in an accident after he graduated from high school.  He became involved with opioid medicine, pain killers, which -- that led to him not being able to get them and eventually he was using heroin and killed by fentanyl. 

You can`t assume these people are just people that are homeless and people that come from a certain socioeconomic background.  If you can`t believe or you don`t believe it can happen to you, you better think twice.  It`s tearing our families apart.  It`s breaking down the neighborhoods, and crime and violence.  It`s very revolting (ph).



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was George Simms (ph), a teacher here in Luzerne County who lost his son to opioid abuse.  In 2017, according to DEA, more than 5,000 people died of drug overdoes in Pennsylvania alone, a 64 percent increase since 2015.  How many people in this room know someone who has been affected by opioids? 

Look at this.  This is the untalked about story. 

Elaine, tell us -- you are a nurse.  Tell us about your experience with opioid addiction. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I`m a nurse and I`m still a nurse.  I was an ER nurse for 35 years and, of course, we call this the opioid crisis now.  Those of us who work in hospitals and emergency rooms know that opioids have been around forever and ever.  OK? 

It certainly has increased in the numbers that we see overdosing.  The drugs are stronger.  The drugs aren`t as pure.  They`re mixed with other things. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me how it works.  How`s a young person, other person get caught up into it?  Does it start with a prescription? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It can be either on the street, you know, with their peers or getting messed up with the wrong type of people, and trying the drugs.  These drugs are very addictive and before you know it, they`re hooked. 

MATTHEWS:  I hear heroin is cheap. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Heroin from what I understand -- I haven`t bought any lately - is -- 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  -- is cheap really compared to even some other street drugs like the pills and things that they buy.  And -- but that`s the thing, is that they don`t know what they`re getting.  It`s -- it can be mixed with other things. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s what I hear.  That`s what kills them. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We see them with fentanyl, with the fentanyl. 

MATTHEWS:  We`ll back with you in a minute.  Let`s pass it on to Dotty. 

Dotty, what do you hear?  What do you know?  Tell me (ph) your experience? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Well, I know --

MATTHEWS:  Stand up, please. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I know the drug crisis is an important issue.  But the thing I`m concerned about is health care because many --  


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  -- many, many people, they have -- they have no coverage and the Affordable Care Act is being dismantled every day.  We need either that to improve, that part or we need a national health care program. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, now, let`s got -- hold off there.  How many people here think the short-term solution that the Democrats get back in power is to fix Obamacare?


MATTHEWS:  How many people would like to see in addition that, a public option? 


MATTHEWS:  How many people would like to go all the way, I guess Bernie Sanders and a couple of others are saying a national health care plan called Medicare for all?  How many would like to see that? 


MATTHEWS:  Someone else?  Go ahead. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you think? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Well, I`ll get back to the opioid crisis.

MATTHEWS:  OK, go ahead.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I work in a recovery field.  I have been in the field for over 20 years.  I`m in recovery myself for 34 years. 

MATTHEWS:  What were you in? 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I have used everything there is to use.

MATTHEWS:  Pardon me?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I have used everything there is to use and I have been in recovery for 34 years. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you get out, to get into recovery? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I went to -- I went to a rehab and I went to a long-term rehab and I belong to Alcoholics Anonymous.

MATTHEWS:  Good for you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  And I have been doing it for 34 years. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you were in a program. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I am.  I think the answer right now is that you have to go after big pharma.

AUDIENCE:  Absolutely!  Yes!


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Big pharma is ruining --

MATTHEWS:  Are they overprescribing? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely.  We are seeing kids -- kids don`t start off with marijuana and beer anymore.  They start off with opioids.  Kids are dying. 

We had in Luzerne County, over 100 deaths last year.  In Lackawanna County, 105 deaths, all opiate-related. 

Fentanyl is being used -- fentanyl is coming in from China.  You can`t just build a wall.  It`s coming from China. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We have to stop what`s coming in to this country. 


MATTHEWS:  I need to know one thing and many people already know it.  A doctor -- a kid comes in or person comes in, has a broken leg and they give them some sort of narcotic.  And then they -- the person likes it.  They ask for -- they don`t want to reduce the dosage.  They find a way to keep the dosage up.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  They go to the streets.


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Then you end up in the streets and you end up buying in the streets.  They are prescribing -- OxyContin was designed for people terminally ill with cancer.  Now, they`ll give it to you for a broken arm.  They`ll give it to you for a sore back.  It`s time that the doctors pay more attention.

MATTHEWS:  OxyContin is really addictive, right? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  All this stuff is addictive.

I thank you for your recovery and good luck with it.  Keep it up.  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  We`ll be right back. 

Up next, we`re going to have some hot button issues.  We`re going around the room with the hottest issues we haven`t talked about.  Don`t go anywhere. 




MATTHEWS:  We`re live here in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  (INAUDIBLE)

Anyway, thank you to the voters in this key swing state and how they are going to vote right now in their heads.  Everybody is voting all the time.  We are thinking about it all the time. 

Let me go to Carly, 20 years old. 

And let`s talk about -- I thought Roe v. Wade was sort of settled for a while.  It`s been around since `73.  It says abortion is legal up until a certain viability age.  The last couple of months is more difficult to have an abortion unless you have a health issue with the mother. 

I thought we agreed to that as a compromise, apparently not, apparently not.  Where are we at?  How many people in this crowd would like to leave the law the way it is as interpreted by the Constitution? 


MATTHEWS:  Leave it the way it is?  How many would like to do what they are doing in Alabama, which is to make it almost impossible to have an abortion? 

OK.  How many would like to liberalize it?  Make it easier to have on in late term?  You`re with me.

Anyway, your thoughts?  You are pro-life.  Go ahead.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  So, I`m a pro-life Catholic woman.  And I don`t want to let religion be my basis for my argument. 

I would like to base it on facts.  So, two facts are that 18 days, a baby has a heartbeat.  At 10 weeks, a baby can feel pain.  I truly believe that right now, this is the civil rights issue of our time. 

You know, what you won`t hear in the mainstream media is that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will ban all abortions.  Well, that -- it`s up to the local and the state governments.  So, you know, that`s basically the basis of federalism, is giving all the power to the local and the state governments. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that`s the pro life position.  Anybody agree with it? 


MATTHEWS:  Who disagrees with it?  I want to have one other voice over here.  I see somebody over here.  You have expressed yourself facially.  So, here you go.  I want to hear the other view. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I totally disagree.  In the past before Roe versus Wade, women if they wanted an abortion for medical reasons or rape were basically put on a stand in front of a bunch of men to determine whether they were telling the truth or not. 

I fear that would happen again.  And as everyone -- it`s your own body and it`s your own business.  I can`t say whether I will or won`t have one.  If you don`t believe in abortion, don`t get one.  People don`t purposely get pregnant just to have abortions, so quit acting like people love having them. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, I promised, let me go -- I -- who else?  Where am I going?  Where am I going? 


Hi, Chris.  I`m Dr. Joyce (ph).  I`m a proud retired teacher.  I spent 38 years in the classroom. 


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Advise activities, and they actually paid me to do it.  Go figure. 

When I look around today and see the effect of Trump on education, though, it really makes me sad for the future.  Look who is running the Department of Education.  A woman who knows nothing about education, about kids. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, a person who is not here.  You make your point.


MATTHEWS:  So, you don`t -- you don`t like the secretary of education.  Who is that? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That`s Betsy DeVos. 



MATTHEWS:  OK, great.  Thank you.  We heard your voice. 


MATTHEWS:  I want to ask some -- I think we are all pro-education.  Let me -- let me ask a hot button issue just to cause trouble.  OK?  Ready?

Why am I going to Ann Marie?  I want to ask some questions.  OK?

One of the candidates for president said they think it`s a good idea that people be allowed to vote while they`re federal prisoners.  Does anybody agree with that?


MATTHEWS:  Anyone think it`s a good idea, to vote if you`re a prisoner?  Let me hear it.  When they get out, of course.  I`m with that, too. 

Let me ask you about some of these other issues.  Gun laws -- should we leave them the way they are? 


MATTHEWS:  What should we do?  Make them tougher? 


MATTHEWS:  Background checks? 


MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

Let me -- Charlottesville?  Is everybody -- anybody happy of what came out of the president`s mouth? 


MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you that one.

Capital punishment, keep it or get rid of it? 

AUDIENCE:  Keep it. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Get rid of it. 

MATTHEWS:  This town -- you know, get rid of it -- how many say get rid of capital punishment? 

How many say keep it? 

Not too much opinion there, anyway.

Let me ask you about this one, which is my favorite question.  Do you think the politicians in both parties, especially D.C., New York maybe, look down on you? 


MATTHEWS:  And how do you know that and how do you sense that?  How do you get that sense? 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Chris, I`ve got to tell you, the one thing that can bring Democrats and Republicans together is term limits.  These people hold on like they own the job. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, here we go.  That`s a good idea. 

Let me go out here.  They`re never going to vote for their own term limits.  But go ahead.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Let me tell you how I know my representative didn`t respect me.  That when I called his office in Washington, D.C., his staff hung up on me because I was pro-Affordable Care Act.  Your staff, Mr. Barletta. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn`t have a staff now. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  No, and actually he did.  And actually, he lost the last election.  I don`t know why he has an opinion here. 



MATTHEWS:  Lou Barletta, no, I have to get this.  Response? 

FORMER REP. LOU BARLETTA (R-PA):  Of course, I don`t know the situation.  I highly doubt anybody on my staff would hang up on someone. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That`s what we`re for here.

Thank you all, to our guests tonight, including Lou Barletta and Tom Perez and the audience.  A special thanks to A. Rifkin Company in Luzerne County.

I loved being here in Pennsylvania! 

That`s all for a special live HARDBALL in the Luzerne county.  Thanks, everybody here.  What a night. 

Chris Hayes coming up.