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Beto O'Rourke plays Hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 4/17/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Paul Butler, Jill Colvin, Mieke Eoyang, Beto O`Rourke, Ron Reagan,David Jolly

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  But don`t go anywhere right now, because while I`m done, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Witness tampering.  Let`s play HARDBALL

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.  Did Donald Trump have his personal lawyer try to shut up the top witness against him?  Did he try to silence Michael Flynn, his first National Security Chief, keep him from cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller?  Well, new information in the case former National Security Adviser Flynn is raising more questions tonight about Trump`s possible obstruction of justice.

The Washington Post has reported that the President`s former top lawyer, John Dowd, contacted Flynn in an attempt to influence his decision to cooperate with prosecutors.  It was one of several efforts by people close to the President to interfere in the investigation, according to the newly unsealed court filings.

In that filing, prosecutors say that Flynn informed the government of multiple incidences where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or the Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.

Additionally, Flynn even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication.  As NBC News notes, it`s also the first public acknowledgement that a person connected to Capitol Hill was suspected of engaging in an attempt to impede the investigation.  And while Flynn was one of the earliest witnesses to cooperate with investigators, he is still awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI about discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Well, yesterday, the judge overseeing Flynn`s case ordered prosecutors to publicly release a transcript of Flynn`s phone call with the ambassador from Russia as well as a full transcript of the voicemail from Trump`s lawyer.  Wow.

And now, The Washington Post reports that the lawyer who left that voicemail was John Dowd, then a private attorney for the President according to people familiar with the episode.

According to excerpts that the voicemail contained in the Mueller report itself, Dowd told Flynn`s lawyer, it wouldn`t surprise me if you had gone on to make a deal with the government.  If there is information that implicates the President, then we`ve got a national security issue.  So, you know, we need some kind of heads up.

When Flynn`s lawyer said he couldn`t share any information, Dowd said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn`s actions reflected hostility towards the President.

I`m joined by Jill Colvin, White House Reporter from the Associated Press, Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of the National Security in Third Way.

Paul, I want you to take this on.  If the President`s personal lawyer calls up a key witness who is cooperating with the government against him, and says the President is going to be seeing you as hostile to him now, and by the way, can you at least give us a heads up on how you`re going to screw us?  Is that obstruction?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  The answer is yes, that`s obstruction.  And if you don`t believe me, listen to Bill Barr, the Attorney General of the United States, who in his confirmation hearings said, if the President tries to suborn perjury or if he tries to influence a witness testimony, that`s obstruction, that`s an indictable offense.

MATTHEWS:  If saying that you are seen by the President as hostile if you cooperate, in other words, you are his enemy?

BUTLER:  Yes.  So this is -- again, all the President`s men is acting more like an organized crime family than like a presidential administration.  When mafia dons or gang bangers obstruct justice, they don`t do it in a smoking gun way.  They don`t say if you tell this lie, then I will do this for you.  They always talk in code.  And that`s exactly what Dowd was doing.  But the implication was clear.  He said that if Flynn told the truth, that would implicate national security.  You just want to go, Mr. Dowd, do you have no sense of decency?  How dare you use the prestige of the White House to try influence a criminal case?

MATTHEWS:  So how does this fit into the big story here?  Because it seems to me, here, you have one of the early witnesses against the President who was in deep legal trouble, we know that, for lying to the FBI and all, he was in big trouble and he was going to buy his way out by becoming a state`s witness against the President.  Then you find that the President`s lawyer calls up and says, you know, we might take this a hostile act if you keep cooperating.  And by the way, could you at least, on your way to the enemy camp, give us a heads up on what`s coming, what dirt you got on me.  (INAUDIBLE) your view about how does it fit in this whole crime story?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  I mean, what`s notable is that that call actually came the evening that we all learned that Flynn had decided to cooperate with Mueller`s team.  It was the day that they decided to break that cooperation agreement that he`d been in with Dowd, with the President`s lawyers.

I think the bigger question here though is what was Trump so afraid of?  What was Dowd -- what did they think that Flynn was going to tell authorities that they were so worried about?

MATTHEWS:  Well, all the communications with the Russians.

COLVIN:  I mean, we know that Flynn obviously was a key witness here.  He spoke to Mueller`s team for hours and hours, he cited, throughout the report, gave them a ton of information.  But there is still no -- it doesn`t seem like there`s any smoking gun that Flynn delivered.

MATTHEWS:  Mieke, hold on for second.  I want to go back to Paul on one point of the law.  Why didn`t Mueller prosecute Dowd for this if it was obstruction?

BUTLER:  Well, what he said in the report is that there were concerns about attorney-client privilege.  He was most interested in Trump.  And this is one of the ten episodes where he strongly suggests that Trump committed obstruction of justice.  So he had concerns about, again, attorney-client privilege and, again, if Mueller made one mistake, it was not to interview Donald Trump, because he said he had these concerns about Trump`s intent, but he couldn`t know and remember in those written statements.  Trump refused to talk about obstruction.  He only talked about collusion or conspiracy.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I wish Congress had more faith in their ability to hold a hearing, but I did on one hearing with Michael Flynn.  These are like mystery stories, except there`re certain people who -- there is no mystery.  They know everything.  Flynn knows what he heard from it out on the phone, he knows what he`s testified to, he know what dirt he had on the President.  It`s all his story.  Wouldn`t it be great if we had Hill hearing, we actually had a good prosecutor, a chief counsel who would just lead the guy with or person through the story?  We are guessing to some extent.

MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY:  No, it`s true.  And I think at this point, we really do need to hear from the witnesses themselves, because Attorney General Barr`s description of these things is very different from what Mueller found.  And in a lot of these instances, it matters how people felt about it.  What was the tone in the room?  What were people saying?  You can say one thing in a way that seems nice and one thing in a way that is obstruction.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about the President might see you as hostile?  Is there a nice way to say that?  I`m teasing.

EOYANG:  He`s a pretty tough guy.  He sees a lot of things as hostile.  But I think it`s really important that people get to the bottom of what the tone is and whether or not we hear this whole voicemail or Flynn comes testifies before Congress.  The American people need to hear it for themselves.

MATTHEWS:  And I thought we would hear that from Comey, you know, when he said, give Michael Flynn a break.  Do it him favor.  Let him off.  Was that an order or was that a nice suggestion for a good old boy?

BUTLER:  Well, Comey was the former head of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice as well as the former head of the FBI said that he interpreted that as obstruction.  He thinks that the President is guilty of obstruction.

Again, if you look at these series of events, it would be one thing if there were one or two instances, but there are 10, everything, from Trump firing Comey to Trump, again, inducing witnesses to lie.  This is the President of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  And it`s almost June, and I`m waiting here for Mueller.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, in a Tweet this morning, President Trump complained that he hadn`t been warned during the campaign that Michael Flynn was under counterintelligence investigation.  Here wrote, it now seems that General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge.  It would have been impossible for me to know this.  But if that was the case and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told that I could make chance, so I could make a change?  But just after the election, President Obama did warn Trump not to hire Flynn as his National Security Adviser.  We all remember that one.

Sally Yates, the prosecutor, later warned the administration that Flynn could be compromised by the Russians.  Did they give them adequate warning that Flynn was trouble?

COLVIN:  I mean, the way that these investigations work is if you are under investigation, you typically don`t tell the person you are under investigation and give them a heads up.

MATTHEWS:  But wouldn`t you warn a guy or a person who had somebody working for them they thought might be involved in espionage or counterintelligence?

COLVIN:  The President had so many warnings from the president, at that point still, president two days after the election where Obama sat down with Trump and said do not hire this guy.  You had Chris Christie who, at that time, was running the transition team, saying this is not a good guy.  And The New York Times even reported that Flynn was the one who actually came to Don McGahn in January and said, look, I`m under investigation for my Russian contacts.  They had tons of information even after we found out, the President found out by Sally Yates that Flynn had lied to the Vice President.  It still took him 18 days to fire him.

BUTLER:  But, remember, this was the same time that the FBI has concerns that the President himself might be a double agent.  So one reason they wouldn`t share information with Trump is because they don`t know if he`s on Russia`s or on the United States` side.

MATTHEWS:  Mieke, give us a narrative on this, because I think you`re good at this.  Give me a sense.  I mean, put their names together.  Trump becoming President of the United States, Flynn under investigation, his dealings -- he is sitting over there at a dinner party with Putin and getting paid a lot of money and talking to Kislyak on the phone about sanctions.  What`s the story here?  Beyond all the details and law breaking, what the hell was going on with the Trump campaign when they went into the White house?

EOYANG:  So, remember, Flynn started out as a very senior intelligence -- head of an intelligence agency in the United States.  He knew full well the threat that Russia represented and still he went to go sit with Putin after he left government in these dinners.  He was advising the President, a President who was very clear that he wanted to make nice with Russia, who was asking the Russians during the campaign to hack his opponent`s emails.

Now, you`re the FBI and you`re wondering how high up does this go?  Does it include the candidate?  We know that the campaign manager has been in league with Ukrainians who allied with the Russians.

MATTHEWS:  Paul Manafort?

EOYANG:  Manafort.  We don`t know -- does this go all the way to the top?  Is it just this guy?  And maybe this guy is not going to win.  All the polling shows this guy is not going to win and we`re not going to have to worry about this problem of a potential Russian agent controlling the United States military, the nuclear codes, everything in our country, and maybe this is going to be okay.  So they think, why don`t we just wait?

And then as soon as he is elected President, all alarm bells go off.  The President of the United States says to his successor, don`t hire this guy.  Sally Yates, the most senior person in the Justice Department, said, don`t hire this guy.  But at that point, if this does go all the way to the top, it`s too late and we don`t know what to do.  And now, we`re stuck with a president who is trying at every turn to shut down this investigation.

MATTHEWS:  Well done.  Thank you.

Attorney General William Barr today discussed his newly launched inquiry.  This is, by the way, grand distraction time into the Russian investigation itself.  And while he didn`t offer specifics, Barr did suggest -- they still suggest there was impropriety, raising the possibility that officials abused their power.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I have been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate.  And I`ve also found that some of the explanations I`ve gotten don`t hang together.  So, in a sense, I have more questions today than I did when I first started.  People have to find out what the government was doing during that period.  If we are worried about foreign influence for the very same reason, we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale.


MATTHEWS:  Barr doubled down in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying, government power was used to spy on American citizens.  There he goes again.  That comes as President Trump today Tweeted, my campaign for president was conclusively spied on.  Nothing like this has ever happened in American politics, a really bad situation.  Treason means long jail sentences.  Unbelievable.  I mean, this was treason.

Paul, your last thought.  I don`t know if you have time tonight.  But I`ll tell you, Mieke told -- I thought it was a great narrative of what was going on.  The government was worried about us being taken over by foreign influence, by the Russians, an adversary state, right up to the top perhaps, certainly up to the National Security Adviser and possibly to the winning candidate.  And this guy who comes in and says, no, the real story is they investigated.

BUTLER:  That`s ridiculous.  So Mueller found that were 251 contacts between the Russians and people in the Trump campaign.  One unfortunate consequence of there being no criminal charges in this case is that the next campaign will be totally open to more help from the Russians.  And the one thing that we do know is that the Russians are steady on their case.  It`s not just 2016, it`s not just the midterm elections, it`s 2020.  And, again, the Attorney General seems completely unconcerned about national security.  All he wants to do is to protect Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  Jill, do you think that`s going to be a chilling effect on our law enforcement people?

COLVIN:  We`ve already seen examples of where, for instance, the former Department of Homeland Security Secretary felt like Trump didn`t and was told that the President didn`t want to hear anything about election interference and felt constrained in looking into this.  We`re told that she still continued in her agency to try to do things.  But if you`ve got a president on top who just dismisses this and thinks that it`s Invalidating his whole presidency, what does that mean for us for 2020?

MATTHEWS:  It`s a great group.  Thank you for a Friday night.  We learned a lot tonight.  And it`s still chilling and it`s still happening.  There still an investigation and there`re still questions about whether these are impeachable offenses or not or whether anything is going to get done that should get done.  Thank you, Jill Colvin, Thank you, Paul Butler, as always, thank you, Mieke, a wonderful exposition, by the way.  I think we need to occasionally step back and see it all fits together.

Coming up, I go one-on-one with democratic presidential candidate Beto O`Rourke.  We`re going to have 20 minutes or so with him.  We`ll get get his reaction to our rousing Town Hall last night up in Luzerne County up in Wilkes-Barre, a county that went overwhelmingly for Trump in `16.  And the big question for democrats, how do they win those voters back.  I hope they were paying attention last night.  Maybe Trump should have been paying attention.

Plus, Roe v. Wade faces major challenges as more states move to ban abortion.  We`ve got much more to get to tonight.  Stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Last night, I was in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, of course, listening to voters about the issues that matter to them.  Anyway, the county which had voted democrat for decades when went big for Trump in 2016.

For many, the people in that room, it was bread and butter issues that most concerned them and they talked about feeling as though political leaders weren`t listening to them.  Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the politicians in both parties, especially D.C. and New York, maybe look down on you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m a democrat.  I`m a lifelong democrat.  My grandfather was a democrat.  They came in and sold us something in the Republican Party thinking that they were for us.  The democrats, Mr. Perez, the candidate has got to come here.  They have to talk about workers` rights.  Right to work is a huge issue in Pennsylvania.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s take that thought directly to one of the democrats running to be, the democratic presidential nominee this time.  I`m joined right now by former Texas Congressman and current 2020 presidential candidate, Beto O`Rourke.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.  I don`t know if that`s news to you or that is news to you, but last night was great because it was real people in a neighborhood that hasn`t gotten a lot of attention.  Did you get the message?

FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX):  Absolutely.  And I got that message during the senate campaign in Texas.  We went to a place called Archer City.  The last time a senate candidate from either party had shown up was 1948 when Congressman LBJ did.  Those places that are hard for democrats to contend in or hard get to geographically, we have literally written off only by showing up, listening to people and incorporating their stories and concerns into our solutions, do we have any hope of winning them.  And then we`ve got deliver immediately after that.

That`s what I`m doing in this campaign, going to those Obama-Trump counties, places in Iowa and ohio, in Ohio, listening to farmers and workers, being there with David Green in Lordstown, Ohio after that GM plant shut down, to be there and hear what that community is going through and make sure he is at the table in drawing up the solutions to make sure that jobs come back to that community.  So we`ve got to show up first or nothing else is possible.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s true.  You have got to show up.  And it`s not just geography, because I was hearing from those people, it wasn`t that just that Hillary Clinton didn`t campaign as much as Trump did in those parts of Pennsylvania, but they get the sense the Democratic Party, maybe both parties, are too snooty, that they`re concerned with the issues of the sophisticates, with people with money. 

They`re not focused enough on the issues of people that can`t think about anything but they need a job, and they need job security.  That`s all they can think about.  That`s what that guy had to say.  He didn`t -- I didn`t show you the whole bite, but he said, OK, my social issue, he said, is providing for my family.  So, focus on that. 

O`ROURKE:  Yes, I saw that. 

And I`m hearing the same thing across this country.  We were just listening to schoolteachers in Iowa, many of whom are having to work a second or third job or move out of state.  And it`s connected to what that gentleman told you in that town hall.

They have lost the ability to organize, bargain, use their leverage to get better wages and working conditions.  And you`re seeing a teacher shortage in Iowa.  You`re seeing folks working two and three jobs just to make ends meet, folks who have insurance unable to afford the co-pay or the premium or bridge the deductible. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

O`ROURKE:  If we don`t deliver on those bread-and-butter issues of being able to work a job and that one job be enough, be able to take time off to be with your family, or afford the medication that keeps you alive, so you`re well enough to work that job, then we`re not going to win. 

We have got to be there, talk about those issues, and then deliver on them.  On affordability for health care, Medicare for America is our proposal to do that, a minimum wage that is a living wage, winning that Fight for 15, paid family leave, and then elevating the power of unions.

There`s no way that you`re going to prioritize the worker without prioritizing the unions first.  And we have lost our way when we lost that ability to back those unions and make sure that there`s a right to organize and use that leverage to get better conditions and better wages. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s what the guy was talking about last night. 

Anyway, Congressman, take a look at this exchange, because you`re down there on the border.  You grew up down there.  You are represented down here in El Paso. 

Here`s this guy taking a lick at the Democrats at our town hall meeting last night about the failure to have a tough anti-illegal immigration policy.  Let`s watch. 


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



MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think?  That wasn`t fully projected there, what the noise was.

I went to both parties.  I -- took their licks against Trump.  But then I asked, where are the Democrats?  Do they have -- they don`t have a wall alternative. 

What`s the Democrat -- people do not believe the Democrats are serious about stopping or slowing down illegal immigration.  They just don`t believe it, I can tell you.  Your thoughts? 

O`ROURKE:  I`m serious about it. 

And here`s how we -- here`s how we meet that challenge.  You go to the places where people are leaving right now, the deadliest places on the planet.  And instead of cutting off all funding for those Northern Triangle countries, you invest in violence reduction, so no parent has to send their 3-year-old child on a 2,000-mile journey to be here.

No wall, no $30 billion that Trump wants to spend, no cages for kids, no militarization of the border is going to stop that issue.  Investing where the problem is and working with the partner countries in the region. 

And then, if you`re really serious about this, you rewrite our immigration laws, so that people can lawfully come here to work jobs that we are creating that no one is filling.  Folks can join their families.  They can get in a line that doesn`t stretch 20 or 25 years to come here. 

That`s -- that`s the way that we bring people out of the shadows, that we make our communities safer, that we get our laws in line with our values and the reality that we see on the ground. 

It will not happen through walls.  It will not happen with any of Donald Trump`s scare tactics and racism and his paranoia about people who come from other places.  It`s got to be a realistic program. 

And I will tell you, living in El Paso, one-half of the largest binational community, with Ciudad Juarez, this city of immigrants is one of the safest cities in the United States of America.  And it has been for 20 years running. 

There are solutions here that we can bring to the table to ensure that we address those very legitimate concerns that people have.  But it`s not going to be through walls. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, last night, we asked our audience about something somewhat related.  They were -- how they were personally affected by the opioid epidemic. 

Let`s take a look at how they responded to that. 


MATTHEWS:  How many people in this room know someone who`s been affected by opiates?  Look at this.  This is -- this is the un-talked-about story. 


MATTHEWS:  A lot of hands went up there. 

You can`t see it, but, Congressman, a lot of hands.  Almost every room -- I would say three-quarters of the room had a hand in the air, saying a family member, a close relative, or a neighbor has been hurt badly, perhaps killed, by opioids. 

O`ROURKE:  You know, I talked to the attorney general of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro.

And he and other attorneys general across the country are going to make sure that Purdue Pharma and the pharmaceutical corporations, who sold these opioids as miracle cures that were not addictive, though it turns out they knew something else, that there will be accountability and justice at the end of the day.

It`s the only way to ensure that we stop inflicting this problem going forward, and ensure that there`s real justice for what has happened, more than 70,000 overdose deaths, most of those opioid deaths.

Most of those began with a lawfully prescribed prescription.  We got to go to the root of the problem. 

But I also talked to the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, who`s ensuring in that state that, if you`re prescribed an opioid, you`re also prescribed automatically the opioid overdose -- overdose drug, so that you don`t have the shame of having to go into a pharmacy, get a prescription later.

There`s a solution right there being developed in Pennsylvania.  You see that in other parts of the country.  That needs to be reflected at the federal level in the urgency with which the next president meets this crisis.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think doctors are overprescribing?  Because that`s what that guy was talking about last night. 

O`ROURKE:  They are, and in some cases criminally so, in these factories that have prescribed opioids for profit and gain, without any regard for the welfare of those patients. 

But the origin of this goes back to those pharmaceutical corporations who use a massive marketing budget to sell this to folks.  So, this is not a criminal justice issue for the user.  The vast majority of those who are hooked on opioids right now began with a lawful prescription. 

This -- this is a public health issue, long-term treatment for those who need that care right now, no-judgment safe places, like you have in New Hampshire, in Manchester, these safe stations where you can walk into any fire station and get the help that you need right now, without being involved in the criminal justice system. 

But then there`s got to be accountability on the other side for those who created the problem in the first place, or else you`re just going to continue to have it going forward. 

MATTHEWS:  Another health issue is abortion rights, of course.

Do you accept Roe v. Wade as settled law, that`s it, leave it the way it is?

O`ROURKE:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 


O`ROURKE:  And, as president, I would make sure that our Department of Justice always sided with women when there`s ever a question about this.

I would make sure that my nominees to all the courts, including the highest in the land, understand that this is settled law.  And then I would work with colleagues in Congress to make sure that we pass a law that prevents any future Supreme Court from overturning Roe vs. Wade by enshrining that in settled law from Congress, signed by our administration. 

I think, if you do that, and then complement that by getting rid of the Hyde amendment, getting rid of the gag rule, making sure that women can access health care in this country, not only will we ensure access to a safe, legal abortion.  We will also make sure that the wider issues, these attacks on women, are stopped, and that we improve health care outcomes, especially in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis that is three times as deadly for women of color in this country. 

This is literally a life-or-death issue in the United States of America right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming in.  It`s great to have you on, on this Friday afternoon, Beto O`Rourke of Texas, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. 

Up next:  Missouri becomes the latest red state to advance restrictive anti-abortion legislation.  Is this going to go to the Supreme Court soon, or when?  This is getting hot again.

HARDBALL back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 Today, Missouri, the state, became the latest state to pass a restrictive anti-abortion law.  This afternoon, the Republican-led Missouri House passed a bill banning abortion after just eight weeks, although it includes exceptions for medical emergencies.  It includes no exceptions for case of rape or incest.

Well, doctors face between five and 15 years in prison for violating the ban, according to that law.  Republican Governor Mike Parson is likely to sign into law. 

It comes just two days after Alabama passed a law virtually banning all abortions last week.  Georgia, by the way, passed a ban after just six weeks -- a lot of people don`t even know they`re pregnant at that point -- joining several other states in passing strict anti-abortion laws this year. 

Missouri`s law would only go into effect if Roe vs. Wade is overturned.  But the Alabama law is deliberately intended to set up a Supreme Court fight over Roe. 

And last night, I asked some of the voters up in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, for their thoughts. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  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, that`s basically the basis of federalism, is giving all the power to the local and the state governments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I totally disagree.

In the past, before Roe vs. 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.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If you don`t believe in abortion, don`t get one.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by said Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, and David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida, who is no longer a Republican. 

Let me go to -- I have to start with a woman, obviously, because...


MATTHEWS:  And you`re also a prosecutor.  Both of you are trained lawyers.

So, I have always been suspicious of the people who want to outlaw abortion.  And, also, that young woman, perfectly within her rights, 20- year-old woman, saying it would just make it up to the states, that just delays the question.

The state is going to outlaw abortion.  That`s just a reality.


If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the reality is that the states can make their own rules.  And these states, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, Louisiana, they`re going to outlaw abortion. 

And what that means is, rich women will go to New York or California or Rhode Island, and poor women will either be injured in backroom abortions, or they will end up with babies that they can`t afford, don`t want, and then the state gives them no help in raising this child. 

So it really will just exacerbate rich vs. poor. 

MATTHEWS:  And who will be performing these procedures for people illegally?  Somebody who flunked out of medical school?  Who would be these people doing it?

ALKSNE:  Well, that`s the problem. 

I mean, if it`s outlawed -- if it`s outlawed, your average doctor with an insurance policy is not going to perform the abortion.  And so you`re left with somebody who isn`t a regular doctor.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, who is desperately -- yes.

ALKSNE:  Or -- but now the science is also changing. 

So, we have these what used to be called RU-486.  And that`s another option about where it may go.

But, ultimately, women will be injured and die, and children that are unwanted will be born.

MATTHEWS:  Dave, explain the politics of this, because I have a sense that politics is based on offering people something they don`t have. 

So, if you want to outlaw abortion, promise you will, because, right now, it is legal in most cases.  So, once you do outlaw it, though, you`re not satisfying anybody, because all then is the crisis situations that Cynthia has talked about.


MATTHEWS:  Right now, you will be faced with the horror stories -- and there are tragedies in human lives if it is outlawed. 

So then you`re not really that popular for having done what you have done. 

JOLLY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  What`s the -- is this one of those games in politics where you want the issue, not the solution, your solution? 

JOLLY:  Well, so, look, I think the politics of this have been decades in the making, frankly.

The pro-life movement, I think we`re going to find out, has really had a coordinated effort to change the law at these state capitals.  They`re not all being changed exactly the same.  They`re addressing the issue very differently to give the high court different grounds by which they might overturn Roe or Casey or figure out what the environment looks like in 2019, if you will.

MATTHEWS:  Do they want to live in a post-Roe world?

JOLLY:  The...

MATTHEWS:  No, do the Republicans want to live in a world where the Roe v. Wade case has been overturned, and it`s up to every state, everybody running for state legislature or every office in the country?  It`s always going to be an abortion fight?  Do they want that? 

JOLLY:  I think a good segment of Republicans do, yes. 

But I think, realistically, what a lot of pro-life Republicans and maybe pro-life Democrats, I don`t know, but the pro-life movement would consider a success is to have greater discretion at the state level and to have the viability test that was established in Casey to be reconsidered, right?

Is viability different in 2019 than it was in 1992 or 1973? 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

JOLLY:  To the pro-life movement, that would be a win. 

But, Chris, I`m of the mind-set, I don`t think the Alabama law gets upheld by the high court.  I think, in the end, the high court creates a more restrictive environment when it comes to reproductive health and abortion, but I don`t think it blanket holds up the Alabama law. 

ALKSNE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the Supreme Court here, because everybody talks about it in politics.  Everywhere I go talks about it, especially progressives.

They talk about the Supreme Court being a 5-4 Republican court now.  Is it your sense that Roberts, John Roberts -- he didn`t want to go down as the guy who got rid of Obamacare.

ALKSNE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  But do you think he wants to get out as the post-Roe court chief justice? 

ALKSNE:  No, I think -- I think things like the Alabama case and the Missouri law, I think those get struck down. 

It`s much more likely that he does something incremental, like the Louisiana case, which they may take up next year, or maybe even the Missouri case.

MATTHEWS:  How about tricks, like saying you have to have admission in big hospitals?

ALKSNE:  Right.  That`s the Louisiana case.  You have to have admitting privileges in a big hospital within 30 miles.

MATTHEWS:  So, goodbye, clinics.

ALKSNE:  Right, goodbye, clinics in Louisiana. 

They will have maybe one clinic in Louisiana if they do that.  There`s all kinds of little tricks, like oh, the hallways have to be six-feet-wide.  And none of the hallways are six-feet-wide.  And so...

MATTHEWS:  Really?

ALKSNE:  Yes, Virginia tried that. 

There`s all kinds of little tricks.  You`re going to have parental consent.  Oh, one parent isn`t enough.  You have to have two.  Oh, you have to have a waiting period. 

They`re just trick after trick after trick to incrementally kill your right to an abortion. 


And one of the -- this is a difficult subject for men especially to talk about, but I think birth control -- the funny -- the horrible thing is, the people who are against abortion rights are against birth control, too. 

ALKSNE:  And they`re against -- and they`re against the government helping to pay for these poor women to have birth control.

Or, if they end up with a child that they want or don`t want, they don`t want to help support these children as they come up in the system, either educationally or with Medicaid.  They don`t want Medicaid expansion. 


ALKSNE:  So they`re pro-life to a point, but only -- only on this issue.

MATTHEWS:  There is so much, I don`t think, dishonesty in this discussion. 

Anyway, thank you so much, Cynthia Alksne. 

ALKSNE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s great having you on as a prosecutor and as a woman.  I hate it when men have to talk about this. 

But we`re here, aren`t we, David?  And we`re just stuck with this topic. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s -- we should always defer, though, because it`s not our situation, generally speaking.  Ultimately, it should be everybody`s situation.

Anyway, up next:  The Trump administration now appears to be pumping the brakes on a confrontation with Iran.  Thank God they`re not completely following the lead of John Bolton, I hope, which leads to the question of who is actually dictating U.S. foreign policy.

More HARDBALL after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Talk about policy whiplash.  The president now reportedly wants to pump the brakes on a possible confrontation with Iran. 

According to "The New York Times," in a meeting in the Situation Room on Wednesday this week, the president told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want a war with Iran, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the conversation. 

This, of course, runs counter, don`t you think, to the objective of his national security adviser and neocon war hawk, John Bolton -- there he is - - who had gone so far as to ask the Pentagon to draw up plans that included sending up to 120,000 troops to that region?

In fact, "The New York Times" reported Mr. Bolton has quietly voiced frustration with the president, viewing him as unwilling to push for change in a region he has long seen as a quagmire.

Isn`t it -- it`s so sad that the president is not willing to go to war when John Bolton wants us to. 

Well, that frustration is a two-way street.  But, for the president, it`s also about perception. 

"The New York Times" adds: "Three officials said Mr. Trump is less frustrated with Mr. Bolton over his handling of Iran -- he favors the tougher measures as a warning to Iran -- than over the evolving narrative that his national security adviser, John Bolton, is leading the administration`s policy in the Middle East."

President Trump pushed back on those claims earlier today, calling it fake news. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They put out messages that I`m angry with my people.  I`m not angry with them.  I make my own decisions. 

But I`m angry with my people.  I`m not angry with my people.  I`m worse than they are.  They`re worse than me are (sic).  They`re more militant. 

Mike Pompeo is doing a great job.  Bolton is doing a great job.

Do you ever notice they never write the names of people anymore?  Everything is, "a source says." 

There is no source.  The person doesn`t exist.  The person is not alive. 






MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s the president of the United States, isn`t he?

Anyway, according to new reporting, this recent escalation in tension with Iran could have all started over a misunderstanding. 

We will back in a minute on that one. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As the Trump administration debates the next steps with how to deal with Iran, we are learning new details about what may have led to increased tensions between our two countries. 

According to "The Wall Street Journal" news pages: "Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran`s leaders believed the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information, people familiar with the matter said."

Well, "That could help explain why Iranian forces and their allies took action that has seen -- has seen as -- has been seen as threatening to U.S. forces over there, prompting a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region."

Former CIA Director John Brennan echoed those sentiments and fears, I think, earlier today.  Let`s watch. 


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  I think, when we look back over the last two years, and if we look at things through Iran`s eyes, we have to recognize that it`s been the United States that has been beating the drums of increased pressure that they could interpret as preparations for war.

The United States has reneged on its commitment for the joint comprehensive plan of action.  That`s the Iranian nuclear deal.  We have imposed additional sanctions on Iran.  And we have forced other countries to choose between the United States and Iran as far as whether or not they`re going to do any business with Iran. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by author Ron Reagan and Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post." 

Gene, every time I hear this drumbeat, I keep thinking about what we learned in grade school about World War I. 


MATTHEWS:  You have mobilization.  One side mobilized.  Next side, we`re at war.

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  And millions of people are dead. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

It`s very easy for signals to be misinterpreted and for aggression -- one side takes an aggressive move, the other side has to counter, and the next thing you know, you`re in a conflict.  You`re in a clash.  It`s very easy to have a clash.  It`s very easy to start a war, much easier to start one than to stop one. 

And so the fear isn`t so much that Donald Trump is sitting in the White House saying, boy, I really want a war with Iran.  It`s that he`s so insecure that any sort of tough-looking action by Iran, he will have -- he will feel that he has to counter.

And with John Bolton there sort of pushing him along, it`s -- that`s a scary thing to me. 

MATTHEWS:  I keep thinking, Ron, of Mussolini going to warn in Abyssinia.  I mean, why in the world, besides ego, are we even talking about this thing?  What is the war about fight at this point? 


Well, it may well ultimately come down to being about Trump`s reelection.  Trump doesn`t know much about much, but I think he probably knows that wars tend to help presidents in their reelection efforts. 

And do either -- do any of us here sitting here talking think that the Trump administration would be beyond cooking up a sort of Tonkin Gulf incident, if they -- Trump thought it was in his best interest to start military action in the Middle East to gin up his chances for reelection? 

I don`t think that he would have any qualms about that.  I think he sees this entirely through a personal lens.  I don`t think he has any real thoughts about Iran or Middle East policy at all.  It`s all about, how does this make me look, as Gene says, and will it help my reelection? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is the weird thing. 

Apparently, according to "New York Times" reporting, which has been pretty good on this, Trump`s big concern is not that we go to war, but that it look like John Bolton decided we go to war.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  In other words, he`s not the big shot Mussolini, the character he wants to be, which is, I`m the boss. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  He doesn`t want to look as if John Bolton is driving the bus.  He drives the bus.  He`s the only one who drives the bus. 

I`m not sure that his political calculation would be that getting into some big, messy war of the kind that he said we wouldn`t get into, that he said we would get out of, I don`t know if he -- if he actually thinks that would help him so much in terms of reelection.

But I do worry about the sort of escalation.  There is no plan here.  That`s the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know. 

REAGAN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the plan is to look tough.

ROBINSON:  You start to -- you come in, you decide to abrogate the Iran deal.  You decide that we`re going to put pressure on Iran.  So they do that.  And then what, toward what end? 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you both to close this weekend -- this week`s story about this question. 

We`re talking about abortion rights.  And it sounds like a totally different thing, but the politics are not that different.  I think a lot of the people who oppose abortion -- of course people oppose it, some people, on moral grounds, of course. 

But to play the issue as if you can out actually outlaw it -- You don`t actually want to actually get to the point of outlawing it.  You want to promise to outlaw it again and again and again, so that people will vote for you who think it`s morally wrong.  That makes sense. 

In this case, does he want to look tough, like we really hate the enemies of Israel, that hatred -- the enemies of us and all that, look really, really tough for the evangelicals, but don`t actually go to war with Iran?  You know what I mean, Ron?  You understand? 

REAGAN:  Yes.  No...

MATTHEWS:  It`s about posture.  It`s about pretending that you`re going to do something to get all the people who want to do something to root for you and vote for you in 2020. 

REAGAN:  Yes, to respond to Gene too, I don`t think that Trump has decided that going to war with Iran would be good for his reelection chances, but I think he`d like to keep his options open. 

And that`s why I think we`re being played here a little with all this talk about him being the reluctant warrior.  I think that`s the pose he likes to take here, because it`s the most useful to him at the moment. 

And I don`t think he knows whether he wants to do -- he will decide impulsively, in the moment. 

MATTHEWS:  But he was a reluctant warrior in the `60s, Ron.


REAGAN:  That`s true.  And those bone spurs are -- they`re still painful. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, you`re not going to have a concierge doctor from Madison Avenue getting you out of this one if it gets started.


ROBINSON:  No, you`re not.


ROBINSON:  And, look, underlying the policy, as we have seen it -- and they haven`t really enunciated a doctrine on Iran or something like that. 

But if you put together what they have done, what the end seems to be is, we`re going to put on these crippling sanctions that are going to destroy the Iranian economy.  And, somehow, that`s going to cause regime change or this drastic change in behavior. 

That never works.  That will never -- that will never work in Iran.  It has never worked anyplace else.  It hadn`t worked in Cuba for 60 years.  It`s not going to work. 

MATTHEWS:  And even the hawkish people who care about Israel -- I mean, I`m talking about the evangelicals too and the Bibi people -- the fact is, I was reading today, anybody who imagines a war scenario, where we`re fighting with Iran, well, immediately, Hezbollah is unleashed on Israel with, what, 100,000 missiles aimed at this little perfect -- this little country.

Who thinks that`s good?  I mean, I just want to follow these things.  Like people said, oh, I want to go to war with Iraq because that`s going to help the Middle East situation.  The road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad.  We heard all that crap.

In the end -- I`m talking like the president now -- in the end, it was a disaster, the whole thing.  We lost the one big buffer we had with Iran in Iraq. 

What good did that do anybody? 

REAGAN:  Well, and consider what will happen to Saudi Arabia if we go to war with Iran. 


REAGAN:  What`s going to happen between those two enemies?

MATTHEWS:  You guys know.  You guys know more, together, than the president, I`m afraid, and John Bolton.


MATTHEWS:  Boy, there`s a bad mix.

REAGAN:  Well, that`s not saying much.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan.  I love seeing you out there in Seattle.  I wish you were back here. 

Thanks, Gene, as always, Eugene Robinson of "The Post."

Up next:  I had a chance to listen to what really matters to voters up in Pennsylvania last night.  More on that.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  History shows that the people of Pennsylvania are the deciders.  If you want to win in 2020 nationally, you need to win Pennsylvania. 

I had the opportunity to sit down last night with the voters from one crucial part of the state.  Luzerne County has voted Democratic for decades, but, in 2016, that county went big for Trump. 

And we picked up some very powerful voter messages last night.  One, don`t ignore us.  Candidates should come up and listen to us in Luzerne County.

Two, put the focus on economic issues, especially that of economic security, finding jobs and keeping them.  Three, pay attention to the opioid crisis.  Four, leave Roe vs. Wade alone.  And, finally, don`t look down your noses at us.

It was a rousing hour of conversation and debate, one that the Democratic candidates, all of them, and also Donald Trump should watch, because what the voters talked about last night is important to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and other people. 

You can catch "The Deciders," by the way, tomorrow night -- there it is -- 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, Saturday night, right here on MSNBC.  You will hear the people, not just the politicians.


"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.