Trump holds campaign rally in NC. TRANSCRIPT: 7/17/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Megan Twohey, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Laurence Leamer, MichaelSteele; Ben Rhodes; Donna Edwards; Jeremy Peters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The race race.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  President Trump is hitting the campaign trail tonight with his attacks on four democratic congresswomen.  At any moment, he`ll speak at a re-election rally, there we are, in North Carolina, this just a day after he was condemned by the U.S. House of Representatives for his racist Tweets about -- which were aimed at those very four women.

Well, leaving the White House a short time ago, he said he plans to keep the fight hot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I do think I`m winning the political fight.  I think I`m winning it by a lot.

REPORTER:  Why?

TRUMP:  I think that they are not espousing the views of our country, the four congresswomen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, The New York Times reports that Trump`s relentless assault on those four congresswomen who style themselves the squad is part of a calculated strategy.  Quote, President Trump and the republicans have sent the clearest signal yet that their approach to 2020 will be a racially divisive reprise of the strategy that helped Mr. Trump narrowly captured the White House in late 2016.

Well, late last night, he Tweeted, so great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today`s vote concerning statements I made about four democrat, that`s the way republicans say it, congresswomen.  He added, they are now the top most visible members of the House Democrats who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate.

Well, earlier today, Trump Tweeted, thank you to the vicious young socialist congresswomen, America will never buy your act.

In an interview this afternoon with The Daily Mail, Trump said he was not unhappy with the uproar over his racist attacks.  And later today, he was asked if he is relishing the fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I`m not relishing the fight.  I`m enjoying it because I have to get the word out to the American people.  It`s not a question of relishing.  They`re wrong.  They`re absolutely wrong.  That`s not where our country wants to be.  We`re not going to go and we`re not going to be a socialist country.  It`s not going happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Donna Edwards, former Maryland Democratic Congresswoman and Washington Post Contributing Columnist, Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman, Jeremy Peters, Politics Editor for The New York Times, and Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser for President Obama.  Thank you, all.  It`s a great quartet to try to figure this thing out.

Michael, is this strategy to say he is going to go to North Carolina and repeat all these attacks on these four women congresswomen, or did he just make a stupid mistake and he is trying to find some advantage in it?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN:  No, it`s not stupid.  It may be stupid but it`s not a stupid mistake in that sense that was like, oops, I didn`t mean to say that, but know this (ph), it`s so much a strategy that what Trump does in moments like this is it gives him an outlet to vent exactly what he feels and what he thinks about these women when he sees them.  They cause in him something that`s visceral, and he responds to that.

And he is using 1950s language, you know, communism and social -- no one is talking about this.  They all failed.  Communism doesn`t exist.

MATTHEWS:  Is this about ideology or ethnicity?

STEELE:  Oh, this is both.  That`s the beauty of it.  He intertwines them both.  It is about ideology because, to his base, it plays on an old narrative of how they look at people and how they think about philosophically and politically individuals who disagree with them or they disagree with.

But it`s also about race, because, now, he`s got these faces, these black faces that he can talk about in terms that he knows is going to spark a reaction.  He knows it.  This is a man of a certain age from a certain time.  He`s 70 plus years old from the 1950s.  So when he says, go back where you came from, he knows exactly what that triggers, he knows exactly what it means when he says it, and he knows how people are going to react to it.

MATTHEWS:  Ben, when you`re sitting around the White House wherever they meet to talk about this thing, do they think they see goldenness or just they`ve got to do some damage control?  What`s going on here with the Trumpees?

BEN RHODES, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Well, you know, it looks like when you watch Trump, he does something.  He lashes out.  And then they tell everybody it was a strategy.  That`s generally been the pattern throughout, that essentially he pops off on Twitter, he makes racist comments like this, he picks fight, and then they all explain to us why it`s such a smart strategy and why he is playing three-dimensional chess.  And, look, that is what he has done throughout.

But the fact of the matter is I was sitting in the White House back in 2011 when he launched the birther movement.  And when people failed to adequately call this out and people gave this a platform and people said it was racially tinged or it was divisive or it was a conspiracy theory without calling what it was, and he got away with it.  And he`s gotten away with it throughout.  And I do think people need to take a principled stand whatever the political prognosticators might say.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Donna, I`m older than you, and I`m older than everybody.  And I`ve got to tell you this.  I`ve been watching the Republican Party since the `40s.  It was Vito Marcantonio, the socialist up in the Bronx.  It was Bella Abzug, the woman with a hat in the west side of New York.  It was Tip O`Neill.  It was Teddy Kennedy.  There is always somebody vaguely ethnic from one of the coasts that they make into the worst -- Adam Clayton Powell, right?  They always find somebody to turn and say that`s the Democratic Party, and they seem to know how they do this.  It doesn`t work all the time, obviously.

FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD):  And I would argue that I think that it`s the only thing that Trump knows that can help him win.  It`s his playbook from 2016 that he is using in 2020.  I mean, this wasn`t new.  He knows that for those suburban -- not even suburban but white world voters that are his base that this is how they respond to that.  It`s what was described I think in a Washington Post piece yesterday as white identity politics.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

EDWARDS:  And he doubles down on that.

MATTHEWS:  I think you`re right.  I think that`s what it is, by the way.

EDWARDS:  I do.  And I think that he thinks that that works for him.  And, frankly, if he doesn`t have that, he ain`t got nothing when it comes to the 2020 election.

MATTHEWS:  I want to suggest something to Trump.  Not only is he wrong ethnic, I think he has bad instincts on ethnicity.  I think he does.  And sometimes big city tribal neighborhood versus neighborhood, but some, it`s just as nasty.

But he had an opportunity he blew last week.  Ayanna Pressley had come out and say black members of Congress should vote black, basically speak black, they couldn`t have an independent view of anything.  That was a perfect example to jump on it and say, identity politics, this is what`s wrong.  Instead he jumped on it and gave her a pass.  She was one of the victims then.  That`s a stupid mistake.

JEREMY PETERS, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, that shows you there is no strategy here.  This is all impulse.

MATTHEWS:  But you guys said it was strategy.

PETERS:  No, no, we didn`t say it was a strategy.  We said, his aides conceded that this was something that caught them off guard, and then they kind of, I guess, you know, retroactively explain why --

MATTHEWS:  So you fall into the mud and you roll around it say this feels good?  I mean, what kind of a stupid -- it`s a mistake and you`re calling it a victory.

PETERS:  What they`ve done is they`ve said, okay, now, we can kind of see a way this is good for him.  But republicans are also telling us this is a bad thing for him because what it`s done is unite a fractured Democratic Party that a week ago it was squabbling, where you had the squad versus Nancy Pelosi.  And now, you have them all united around the squad.

But also, I think you can`t overlook the fact that this is Trump picking his enemies.  So regardless of whether or not he intended to do this, what he has done is he is picking his opponents before the democrats can do that themselves.

MATTHEWS:  Three you have been in politics.  I want to ask you this.  Back in 2016, a million years ago, I think, -- I was thinking -- I knew -- we all messed up (ph) about the white anger, the white -- what it`s called -- white grievance, we know all the words now, white identity, as you mentioned, it`s a more frequent word, a current one.

And we all kept saying, you know, but there is not enough of them because there are a lot of minorities and a lot of sophisticated suburbanites that just are going to trounce these people.  Well, they didn`t trounce them, and the numbers were off.  So my question is, is Trump now off of the numbers?  Because it comes down to short numbers, 50,000 votes here, 20,000 votes here.  There are enough -- are there`re many angry people now as it were four years ago?  Are there enough white people to cover the bases for this guy?

STEELE:  I`m telling you, Chris, I still don`t trust the narrative out there that suddenly the system, the voting system is going to be overwhelmed by all of these minority female votes that are going to swamp what we saw in 2016.  I don`t trust it because I have an instinct about people, and people are not necessarily being truth and faithful to the cause, if you will.

Trump has a bedrock of support, no doubt.  But that support is there for him.  And so that white vote that Trump grabbed in 2016 was off the radar for 30 years, all right.  He tapped into that vote and pulled it out.  Yes, there were a lot of Dems who stayed home, and they could come back.  But don`t underestimate the possibility that more of that white vote is out there.

PETERS:  Well, that`s exactly what they`re doing at their campaign.

STEELE:  Exactly.

PETERS:  They are spending tens of millions of dollars trying to find new voters because Trump has not shrunk added to his coalition to Trump (ph).

MATTHEWS:  So he needs Mike Pence?

PETERS:  He needs Mike Pence.  But he also needs the white identity politics and white resentment.  So it`s both.  He needs the evangelicals.  They need more evangelicals to come out.  But they also need in rural areas across Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, conservatives to come out who would have voted for Trump last time but stayed home.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it`s numbers, Donna.  It`s all numbers.

EDWARDS:  It is.  But I would say, but 2018.  Because what happened in 2018, and they were midterm elections, but you had a huge surge in voter turnout, those white suburban college educated women turned -- and non- college women turned against Donald Trump.  And I think democrats --

STEELE:  They took 49 percent of the vote for republican-backed candidate or Trump-backed candidate in 2018.  The white educated female vote in `16 was 53 percent for Trump, 49 percent for Trump candidate in 2018.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to bed on this question.  I wonder if Trump is afraid that his candidate against him, the one that gets picked by the democrats next spring, isn`t going to be easily categorized.  First, it`s Elizabeth Warren who is from Oklahoma.  She doesn`t seem coastal, although she is working at Harvard or has worked at Harvard.  There is something about her that is a little rural to me.  She might be tough.  Biden might be hard to nail or peg as a leftist or whatever.  Are they afraid of that or is he just not sure who he`s going to face?  He doesn`t know if he can knock their block off.  Ben?

RHODES:  Yes.  I mean, Chris, you know, part of what you have to remember about 2016 is, yes, he ginned up a certain white identity vote that had been somewhat dormant.  But the fact there is a backlash to the Obama presidency that was manifested in the Tea Party in 2010.  And Obama still won a resounding re-election in 2012 because he did two things.  He motivated those young voters, minority voters, those women voters to turnout, and he ran a populist message against Mitt Romney.

And if you look at the democrats running, if you look at someone like Elizabeth Warren, you have to do two things.  You have to stand up to Trump.  You have to give that part of the democratic coalition a belief that you`re fighting for them, that you`re principled, that you`re giving them reason to turn out like they turned out in 2012 and 2018, and you have to go right at Trump and say, this guy said he was going stand up for you and only he did is stand up for his friends and a bunch of corporations.  The only thing he has to his name is $1 trillion tax bill that`s giveaway that`s in your expense.

And I think the reason Trump is picking these fights, let`s be clear, he has a Democratic House, he has no legislative agenda.  He has nothing to talk about when it comes to healthcare or the issues that Americans actually care about, right?  So the democrat has to do both.  And Elizabeth Warren has done a great job doing both.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mitt Romney gave you guys a break when he got caught by that bartender saying 47 percent.  That didn`t hurt either, because he wanted to be identified as an elitist, he just did it.

Anyway, meanwhile, the House voted tonight to kill a resolution on impeachment introduced by Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas citing the President`s racist comments about the four congresswomen, this very topic.  And this morning, Senator -- actually, Speaker Pelosi waited on that impending vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  We have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the President may have engaged in.  That is the serious path that we are on, not that Mr. Green is not serious, but we`ll deal with that on the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the move to start impeachment proceedings was defeated by a vote of 332 to 95 with 137 democrats joining republicans to block the effort to consider articles of impeachment this week.  Notably, the 95 democrats voting not to table the resolution is greater than the 86 democrats who publicly support impeachment.  Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler was among those voting against tabling the impeachment, which his spokesman said was because Nadler believed the House should have first sent it to his committee for consideration.

Well, President Trump reacting to the news after landing in North Carolina tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment, and that`s the end of it.  Let the democrats now go back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I`m afraid Friday the 13th is coming back on this guy.  Freddie Krueger is not dead.  I`m telling you, whatever you think of impeachment, it`s not going away.

But 95, Jeremy, is the high watermark.

PETERS:  Yes, it is.

MATTHEWS:  Of those who want to impeach.

PETERS:  I think the best description I`ve heard of this is that Nancy Pelosi and the democratic leadership for the most part know that they want a wounded Trump, not a martyred Trump.  An impeachment would give them a martyred Trump.

MATTHEWS:  And an acquitted Trump.

PETERS:  And an acquitted Trump, exactly, a Trump who`s still president.  And it just doesn`t make a whole lot of sense.

MATTHEWS:  How high will Nancy Pelosi let that number go, Donna?  You know she counts.  Will she corral a number of, say, 150 as long as it`s not 218?

EDWARDS:  Well, let me just say, if you look at the vote when Al Green put forward his last impeachment vote, it got 66 votes to move forward, this time, 95.  And there are, I think, 86, 87 democrats who are already on record of starting an impeachment proceeding.  And I think after the Mueller testimony next week, that number is bound to go higher.

MATTHEWS:  But is this a pre-defense by Nancy?  She`s saying, I`ll let you have all the joy of saying you want to impeach, but it ain`t going to happen.

EDWARDS:  Could she send any more signals that she doesn`t want to it happen?  But my fear I think is that, I think, for the base of the party and for all those activists out there, people that you want knocking on doors and being enthusiastic, you will dampen their enthusiasm by not going head-on at this president.  And besides that, it`s about the constitution.

MATTHEWS:  It`s your point, there should be impeachment?

EDWARDS:  I believe there should be impeachment.  How do you let this kind of lawlessness go?  And if Michael is right and say, heaven forbid, he does win re-election, democrats won`t be able to do a single thing with him because then he really will be able to say, you know what, the voters knew what they got, and I`m okay.

STEELE:  I think that --

EDWARDS:  Bad news.

STEELE:  I appreciate the will and the sentiment among democrats to impeach, but that is not the will nor the sentiment of the American people.  Nancy Pelosi knows that.  It is not a card she needs to play because the votes aren`t there for it outside of Capitol Hill, number one.

Number two, what`s the greater cause here?  Impeachment, as you noted, Jeremy, with no resolution in the Senate because he will not be --

MATTHEWS:  Not with two-thirds.

STEELE:  Not with two-thirds.  He will not be removed from office by the Senate, or leave it to the American people, make your case.  To your point about the turnout, if that base is really juiced and want Donald Trump out, their best way and the only way effectively to do it is at the ballot box, not through a process, a political process in the House where there is no resolution in the United States.

EDWARDS:  There has never been a resolution on impeachment in the United States Senate, not a single time that it`s been done.

STEELE:  In this environment --

MATTHEWS:  Andrew Johnson skated and so did Nixon.

Anyway, let me go to Ben Rhodes and his political calculation.  Sir, this is a tough one.  You`re a democratic campaign manager for whoever wins.  What`s the strategy to beat Trump?  Is it to try to get the base of minority voters out, try to get the cities just really up there in terms of hype, the big vote out, trying to work the women in the suburbs and hope your numbers will win, or to try to move to the center and get some of those blue collar democrats back home?

RHODES:  No.  I think you need to run with a clear message that can both motivate your base, but also, you know, peel off some of those people.  And the way to do it, Chris, I think, is by not taking the bait, not letting Trump dictate every single day.  Have your message.  Be disciplined to it.  It can be a strong progressive message.  It can talk about things that people care about, including racism, including issues like climate change that motivate young people.  But also, like Elizabeth Warren has been doing, talking about the way in which way Donald Trump has sold out the very same people he said he`d help.  I think as long as you`re disciplined and you run your campaign, not his, you have that chance to do both.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we should go back to the history books and look at Harry Truman in `48 and how he pulled the upset of the century.  He did just what you said.  You play your strengths on jobs and special -- the issues that people -- matter to people, especially working people, and you get those issues out front, and you basically tear the other guy apart.  You got to do both.  Thank you.

You don`t play it just soft.  It ain`t going to be defense.  I think you`re dead right.  Don`t play defense.  You got play offense and you got to sell what you got.  It`s what you do with what you got that counts.

Thank you, Donna Edwards.  Thank you, Michael Steele, Jeremy Peters and Ben Rhodes.

Coming up, the tail of the tape, a newly discovered video.  How did they find this stuff from Mar-a-Lago in 1992?  Look at these pictures, a sleazy here, shedding light on the relationship.  It looks pretty intimate there.  Look, look, look, pretty close between him and Epstein, and the accused sexual predator, Jeffrey Epstein.  What was really going on in Trump`s Great Gatsby days when he`s having those parties?

Plus, the House votes to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur in criminal contempt.  Is this another symbolic gesture by democrats or will they ever find a way to hold the Trump administration truly accountable?

And Trump`s schoolyard comebacks when he`s accused of something like racism, he tries to turn the tables, like on a schoolyard.  We`ll show you just some of the times Trump used that baby defense.

Much more ahead.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Last week, President Trump told reporters he was -- quote -- "not a fan of Jeffrey Epstein."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I haven`t spoken to him in probably 15 years or more.  I wasn`t a big fan of Jeffrey Epstein.  That, I can tell you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "I was not a big fan of Jeffrey Epstein.  That, I can tell you."

Well, newly unearthed NBC footage from 1992 shows you just how comfortable the two men were with each other.  The video comes from years before Epstein pled guilty to a state charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution. 

In the video, which you see here, Trump greets Epstein and two others at his Mar-a-Lago estate, escorting them into a party. 

And during that party, which was being filmed for a show about his life, Donald Trump appears to be talking to Epstein about the female guests. 

At one point, he appears to tell Epstein about one of the guests: "Look at her.  She is hot."

The video also shows Trump surrounded by women, of course.  And at one point, he grabs and touches one of them. 

Epstein`s arrest has renewed attention on the relationship of the two men.  According to press reports, the two had been friends for years, until a falling out roughly 15 years ago. 

Tomorrow, a New York judge will decide whether to grant Epstein`s bail request. 

For more, I`m joined by Megan Twohey, "New York Times" investigative reporter, and Laurence Leamer, author of "Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump`s Presidential Palace." 

Laurence, I want to start with you. 

What is the culture of Mar-a-Lago that would have this character in such celebrated position?  Why would this guy, before and after his arrest and that sort of wrist slap he got for 15 months, where he could go to work six days a week -- is he still part of the social circuitry down there? 

LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, "MAR-A-LAGO":  Well, in Trump`s Palm Beach, all that matters is how much money you have. 

And Epstein said he was a billionaire.  He probably wasn`t.  So, he -- and he was a player.  He loved young women.  And Trump admired that in him. 

So, that footage shows precisely why these two guys were close friends. 

MATTHEWS:  So he could go to a party and have a husband say to his wife, "I would like you to meet Jeffrey Epstein, you probably heard about him"?  It`s OK?

LEAMER:  Yes. 

I mean, Epstein flew down on Trump`s plane.  He showed up late one time, and Trump was upset with him.  Of course, he was close to him.  But you know better than I...

MATTHEWS:  How long ago was that? 

LEAMER:  About 1990. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

LEAMER:  But you know as well as I do that Trump -- whatever Trump says is the truth, that`s the truth. 

So, now he is not a friend.  But of course he was a close friend of his. 

MATTHEWS:  What was the nature of their relationship?  We`re seeing all this showing off of these cheerleaders.  Admittedly, they`re cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills and I think the Miami Dolphins. 

But that`s all part for the camera, I think.  But what do we make of their real -- their actual relationship, Megan? 

MEGAN TWOHEY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Right. 

So, there is evidence.  I mean, this isn`t the only party that Jeffrey Epstein attended at Mar-a-Lago.  There was a second party in 1992 that Epstein attended with Trump and a couple of business partners he had and a beauty -- like a beauty pageant competition and the beauty pageant contestants. 

That was actually a gathering in which one of the women has since alleged that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her there.  So there is allegations that both men have faced coming out of some of the socializing that they did in Palm Beach at the time. 

What we also know is that -- so, while they partied together and were seen together in the 1990s, in the early -- I think it was in the early 2000s, there was a young woman who was working at Mar-a-Lago who was recruited into Epstein`s home, with promises of becoming a masseuse and earning a lot of money.

And she is now one of his accusers, a woman who says that she was then sexually abused and sexually...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How old was she then, at the time?  Do you know?

TWOHEY:  So, she says that she -- she says that she was 16 at the time. 

And her allegation didn`t come out until 2009.  And when that allegation came out I think was the moment that Trump said, I need to remove my association with Epstein, and by many accounts was actually visibly very angry that there was an accusation that he had -- that Epstein had actually recruited a woman, a young girl out of Mar-a-Lago into his alleged sexual exploitation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, all the steamy atmosphere of that party that was going on there, I think some of it for the camera, with the cheerleaders, what is wrong -- I`m trying to figure out, what do we say here on a political show about Trump`s relationship with this guy, who`s clearly got, not legal jeopardy -- he deserves his legal jeopardy, all these cases where he was a predator with young women in some sex trafficking thing that was going on.

And what was Trump`s connection to it, besides he likes to hang out with sleaze balls with Roy Cohn?  He seems to like their company.  What do we know? 

TWOHEY:  Right. 

Well, what we know is that the -- as we understand it, there were rumors that had circulated about Epstein`s sexual predation for years, but it wasn`t until 2008 that he actually faced criminal charges. 

And so, for years and years, Epstein was able to draw cover for his alleged sort of misconduct and bad behavior through powerful connections, his wealth, his money, his powerful connections. 

But, you know, he had powerful connections that in the political realm from the Clintons.  He had powerful connection with Harvard in the academic setting.  He had powerful connections within sort of the British royalty with Prince Andrew.  So there were a lot of ways he was able to kind of create cover for his alleged misbehavior. 

And when these charges did come out, when the allegations did start to surface in the mid-2000s, he brought in these expensive high-powered attorneys like Alan Dershowitz, who kind of came in and minimized the charges, so that he was able to walk away...

MATTHEWS:  That`s for sure.

TWOHEY:  ... and tell people who knew him that he was guilty of nothing more than soliciting a prostitute. 

So I think that that all helped give him cover and his associates cover, those who did like to party with him, and those who -- Donald Trump himself has been quoted saying -- in 2002, saying, I -- that he liked Jeffrey Epstein and that they both liked the company of beautiful women. 

MATTHEWS:  Younger. 

TWOHEY:  In Epstein`s case, even recognizing that they were much younger. 

MATTHEWS:  It just seems wonderful that everyone has a right to a legal defense, Megan and Laurence. 

In the case of the very wealthy, you have a right to the dream team defending you, Ken Starr, Dershowitz, the works. 

Anyway, the 1992 the footage was shot by NBC for a Faith Daniels talk show called "A Closer Look," which profiled the then newly divorced Trump. 

During that episode, Faith Daniels and Trump described the circumstances of how he ended up on the show. 

Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "A CLOSER LOOK")

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know why I`m even on the show, except we want to give you good ratings.  I said to Faith...

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP:  I said to Faith...

FAITH DANIELS, HOST, "A CLOSER LOOK":  How generous, huh?

TRUMP:  ... we`re going to get you some major, major ratings.  And you are.  You`re going to get big ratings. 

DANIELS:  Tell the rest of the story, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP:  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  I saw you at the celebrity chef dinner here in New York. 

TRUMP:  I did.  And what a kiss. 

DANIELS:  You kissed me on the lips in front of the paparazzi.  And I said, that will cost you.  I`m booking you on the show. 

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP:  This was so good.  And it was so open and nice.  She is a fabulous woman. 

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  So open and nice

TRUMP:  And her husband -- her husband is a handsome devil. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, earlier this evening, we reached out to the White House to respond to this exchange.  And we`re waiting for a response. 

However, the unprompted kissing that Trump describes there to Faith Daniels in that clip resembles the behavior he later described in that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. 

Let`s listen for a refresher here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD")

TRUMP:  You know, I`m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them.  It`s like a magnet.  Just kiss.  I don`t even wait.  And when you`re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD":  Whatever you want.

TRUMP:  Grab `em by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  You can do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Laurence, you cover this stuff. 

LEAMER:  Not any longer.  I mean, it`s so disgusting on so many levels, isn`t it? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wonder this. 

Why is he still socially -- I have heard -- Miami Beach, from what I know about it -- or Palm Beach, rather, is a lot of people with money.  They get really dressed up at night.  They`re somewhat older. 

LEAMER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  They`re sort of a WASP crowd and a Jewish crowd, whatever.  But they`re all in common is money and showing up and looking well at nighttime and being somewhat classy in your demeanor. 

How does Trump fit into that? 

LEAMER:  Well, he -- it`s his world, meaning he can create the illusion of classiness as well. 

If you have got $200,000, you can join Mar-a-Lago too.  You can be one of them. 

MATTHEWS:  You can buy your way into class? 

LEAMER:  Yes, exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Wonderful. 

Thank you, Megan Twohey.  It`s great reporting, Megan.  Thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL tonight.

Laurence Leamer, as always, I have great respect for you, Laurence Leamer.

 Up next: the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between Congress and Trump, the House holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur -- Wilbur -- in criminal contempt for stonewalling Congress on the census controversy.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In a dramatic move late today, the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for withholding subpoenaed documents from the Oversight Committee. 

As NBC News points out, the vote marks -- quote -- "just the second time in American history that an American attorney general had been found in criminal contempt," the first being Eric Holder seven years ago. 

The subpoenaed documents that Barr and Ross withheld are about the administration`s failed effort to add a citizenship question to the census, and they could reveal the president`s ulterior motive perhaps in waging that census fight. 

According to "The New York Times," Democrats believe -- quote -- "that the administration`s long-stated rationale for collecting the data, to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, was merely a cover for a politically motivated attempt to eliminate noncitizens from population statistics used to allocate political representation, diminishing Democratic power."

Well, it comes after the Supreme Court rejected the administration`s argument that the citizenship question was necessary and that their justification seems to have been contrived."

I`m joined right now by Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who serves on the House Oversight Committee. 

Congresswoman, it`s great to have you on. 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL):  Thank you. Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  Can you figure out what the Trump people were up to in including that citizenship question?  What was their political dream here? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, it certainly wasn`t what Secretary Ross testified under oath, which was that the sole reason, he said, that they wanted the citizenship question on the census was to enforce the Voting Rights Act. 

And President Trump himself basically outed Secretary Ross as a liar last week, when he said publicly that the purpose was for partisan gerrymandering. 

And, you know, we had two Cabinet officials defy congressional -- bipartisan congressional subpoenas.  And they are -- the administration is not above the law. 

And so we have to use every tool at our disposal to be able to use the oversight authority that we have to get answers to the questions, because if this was really about partisan gerrymandering, if the documents that had been revealed, which we know have said that what the administration was really trying to do was to suppress Hispanic representation and make sure that brown people weren`t represented, the way they should be based on their numbers, then we had to do this. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

So the purpose was to scare people who have some people in the family or in the household who are undocumented not to participate, and thereby reduce the number of people being counted in that area?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Right. 

There is a reason, Chris, that it`s been 70 years since a citizenship question has been on a census.  And it`s -- I was at the hearing when we had Secretary Ross there.  And, very clearly, we pointed out that you don`t need a citizenship question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. 

You don`t need -- we have smaller surveys that they do where they include it now.  But the president himself said last week that it was partisan gerrymandering that was their real motive.  He outed his own Cabinet secretary. 

And you can`t -- we have been trying to get documents.  The Oversight Committee`s role is to make sure that we can get to the bottom of the motivations of the administration.  That`s why our founding fathers set up three branches of government. 

It`s our job in Congress to get answers to questions.  It`s the administration`s job to answer that. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  It`s legitimate, but Trump, the president, is telling Wilbur Ross, don`t participate.  Don`t answer their subpoena.  Don`t -- ignore them, basically. 

That`s an amazing statement.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, this contempt vote allows us to -- it`s a criminal contempt resolution.  And now it allows us to go to court and enforce our subpoena authority. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s great to have you on. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  I mean, that`s -- we have to get answers to this question. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s great to have you on, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you so much, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Thank you so much for coming on. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  President Trump is in North Carolina tonight, as we said, hoping to rally his base.  He has got a crowd there, possibly with fresh criticism aimed at those four women, the self-styled Squad, he seems to be going after.

Will making these women the face of the Democratic Party become a part of - - a staple of his campaign?  You betcha. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

You`re looking at live pictures right now at President Trump himself on stage in his campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina.  North Carolina, of course, he won narrowly in 2016. 

Well, President Trump just responded to tonight`s vote by the House to kill a resolution on impeachment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I`ve ever been involved in, the resolution, how stupid is that, on impeachment. 

I want to thank those Democrats because many of them voted for us.  The vote was a totally lopsided 332-95 to one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the president is looking to rally his base obviously the day after the house passed another resolution, condemning him for having legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.  Well, it appears President Trump is going to ignore that condemnation and continue to adjust what he is doing and got condemned for it. 

Two senior Trump campaign officials told NBC News that the president is expected to continue his attacks on the four congresswomen tonight in what they say is a preview of a 2020 strategy that is resonating with his base, they think.  Well, Trump tweeted this morning: Big rally tonight in Greenville, North Carolina.  I`ll talk also about people who love and hate our country, mostly love. 

As "The New York Times" reports, a major component of the president`s reelection strategy is to portray his opponents as not merely disliking him and his policies, but also disliking America itself.  And "The Washington Post" points out tonight`s rally, like all the others the president has held this year, have been in states he won in 2016, and he has no interest in toning down the incendiary rhetoric that has made him unpopular among black, Hispanic and female voters. 

In fact, Trump has reverted to his old go-to defense right out of a schoolyard playbook, and that`s next. 

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tonight, the president is holding his first rally since he launched his reelection campaign.  It comes just a day after, of course, the House condemned him for some of the same language he is putting on wild display tonight again. 

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

So, let`s talk turkey.  I know we have to talk morality because we have moral standards in our country, including here.  But why does Trump get the ride?  Why does he get people that probably go to church on Sunday, they teach their kids to use good manner, not to use racial slurs, or ethnic slurs, and yet they go -- they put the MAGA hat on and they applaud like crazy people for this guy? 

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER & STRATEGIST:  Catastrophe.  And I wrote about this in my book from two years.  It was catastrophe of the election of Barack Obama for a certain group of people was a catastrophe.  It was a changing of the guard.  I was the first time in our history where the vast, vast majority of white voters could vote one way and the country could go in a different way. 

MATTHEWS:  Did the whites vote against Obama? 

BELCHER:  Obama lost white voters in `08 and even larger in `12. 

MATTHEWS:  The crowd, by the way, we`re going get the tape in a minute is showing "send her back", in the spirit of Trump. 

BELCHER:  Well, this thing, so when you have a catastrophe, all rules and sort of norms go out.  So once upon a time, Donald Trump --

MATTHEWS:  You make it sound like the Palestinian attitude towards the founding of Israel, the catastrophe I think they called it.

BELCHER:  Well, for somebody, it`s a catastrophe.  Look, Donald Trump you know very well. Pat Buchanan ran for years.  Pat Buchanan couldn`t win a Republican nomination.  All of the sudden, now, my friends in the Republican Party is no longer Ronald Reagan`s Republican Party.  It`s Donald Trump`s party. 

MATTHEWS:  Who did it?  He did it?  He is a genius? 

BELCHER:  No, it`s a driving of the resentment.  And he has captured this resentment and this fear about the changing of America. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when the Republicans run in `48, they didn`t run anti- communists.  By `52, they learned to be smart about it.  They ran against communists, the whole ring. 

Who switched the Republican Party to being a tribalist party?  An ethnic tribalist party? 

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, the Republicans ultimately because the math is against them, right?  You can only build -- you can -- you have a base, and you try to build out from the base.  Trump has done nothing to build out from the base.  And --

MATTHEWS:  W. tried to.  W. tried to bring it.  He got about 35, 40 percent of Hispanic voters. 

TYLER:  He was pretty successful at it.  I think -- look, on both sides, politics parties have devolved into -- I liken it to team sports.  So, let`s say there is a bad call in a Super Bowl game, and everybody can look at the jumbotron, and we`ll call that truth.

Everybody can see that he stepped out of the bounds, it was a good call.  That`s the truth.  But to have half the stadium, that`s a bad call, because that means my team loses.  And the other half saying that`s a good call.  The truth, we`re in a post-truth politics world. 

MATTHEWS:  We don`t have a camera in politics that tells us what was the call? 

BELCHER:  You`re the camera.

TYLER:  Yes, that`s true.  The media is the camera.  But he is saying the media is corrupt and the referees are corrupt.  They`re not telling --

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, for the first time, all the major newspapers, they`re mostly owned I guess by Republicans.  Editorially, they`re probably more liberal.  But all these newspapers for the past two, three days have called him racist.  That`s the first time that`s happened. 

BELCHER:  And that`s I think a term for the best, because, look, we can`t go down this racial hole Trump is trying to take us down for his own personal benefit, because guess what?  America is not getting whiter.  You and I have going to have to get along and our children are really going to have to get along or we`re going lose the future to the rising Pacific countries, because we`re going to go down a rat`s hole. 

This is ultimately --

MATTHEWS:  How does this square with kids in their 20s and 30s today?  My kids are in their 30s now.  When they were at school, and they had an African-American teacher, they never told us.  It didn`t click with them as a significant fact. 

BELCHER:  Right, right. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s different than when I went to school, because we were all basically effectively segregated.  So now a kid who is now 25, 32, are they going to listen to Trump? 

BELCHER:  Well, they`re growing up in a more diverse world.  The millennials are the generation where America will become a majority minority country.  So they kind of have to get along. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take a look at this.  The Trump rally just now, you would hear, they used to yell "lock her up", meaning Hillary Clinton.  Tonight, there is a new one.  Let`s take a listen to the latest chant. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  These left wing ideologues see our nation as a force of evil.  The way they speak so badly of our country, they want to demolish our Constitution, weaken our military, eliminate the values that built this magnificent country. 

You have to look at some of their recent comments, which are never talked about.  When you see the four congresswomen, oh isn`t that lovely? 

(BOOS)

I`ll give you just a couple.  I`ve had pages and pages.  But we don`t want to bore you.  We don`t want to go too long. 

Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds. 

AUDIENCE:  Send her back!  Send her back!  Send her back!  Send her back!  Send her back! 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, the anti-Semitic thing, that is an aspect, but it`s not the main point of what these women have been saying at all.  That`s one case. 

BELCHER:  But it sort of paints them as evil, crazy doers. 

Look, I think it`s stark.  When you look at how that Reagan launched his reelection, it`s morning in America.  How W. -- you know, W. has talked about a more hopeful mark.  You know, Bill Clinton was a bridge to the 21st century. 

You had these Americans, whether they`re Democrat or Republican, launching their campaigns as sort of a hopeful bringing America together. 

This guy is launching his campaign by talking about how these people hate America.  It`s dramatically different. 

TYLER:  Warren Harding`s campaign -- 

MATTHEWS:  It showed in the cabinet, by the way.  Whatever you think of these guys, they did try to diversify their cabinets, W. and more recent Republicans, until this guy came along. 

Your thoughts?

TYLER:  After World War I, Warren Harding`s slogan was return to normalcy.  Maybe adopted by the Democrats. 

Look, he does -- this is the thing that he actually does best, right?  This roving -- I don`t know what you want to call --

MATTHEWS:  Troubadour. 

TYLER:  Yes, some show, right? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TYLER:  And he says these ridiculous things, because the one-offs aren`t working, right? 

So, Mr. Kim, tear down this curb, that didn`t work, right?  Build a wall, Mexico is going to pay for that, didn`t work.

We`re going to take China trade.  We don`t have any deal with China, that didn`t work. 

We`re going to redo NAFTA.  We don`t have a redone NAFTA.  Nothing has been passed or ratified.  That didn`t work.  So, this is all he has. 

BELCHER:  All he has is racism. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, he gets accused within the last week of being a rapist.  He says terrible things about ethnic groups.  The guy says anything he wants. 

He`s almost up to the level of I should shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.  It`s almost.

TYLER:  But it`s going to get worse.

MATTHEWS:  Why are they with him that strongly? 

BELCHER:  Because he is their tribal strongman.  And, listen, I don`t let Democrats off this either.  When Donald Trump stands up and says I`m going to give you back your country, we knew what he was doing.  And Democrats` response to that is, I`m going to raise the minimum wage. 

We have to speak to this tribalism, this growing tribalism in this country.  We`ve got to get an alternative to it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you, Cornell Belcher.  Thank you, Rick Tyler.

Up next, liberal justice John Paul Stevens died yesterday.  That man served 35 years in the U.S. Supreme Court, and Donald Trump has his eyes on two future conservative justices serving at least that long. 

You bet.  He gets back in there, two more justices.  You`re watching -- that will make it 7-2 conservative. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Our thoughts tonight about the death of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  Justice Stevens was 99 years old when he died yesterday.  Most justices, most people are not so fortunate, of course. 

Stevens was the third longest serving justice ever, retiring from the Supreme Court in 2010 after 35 years.  During his time on the bench, he was part of the more liberal branch of the court saying the two biggest mistakes made by the Supreme Court when he was there were Bush v. Gore and Citizens United.  We can agree on that. 

We should therefore consider the prospect of the court`s likely future.  That tells us the historic nature, by the way, of this 2020 presidential election coming.  If Donald Trump gets a second turn, he will get the chance to move the Supreme Court from its present 5-4 conservative to 7-2 conservative.  And just think how easily he and his partner Mitch McConnell could pull that off.  They could do that very swiftly, moving the court right ward, right ward enough to put a generations long lock on the Supreme Court, a move made easier by the current GOP habit of picking youngsters for the high court, getting them young enough to spend the shank of their career there.

Which brings us to the 2020 election and the need to pick a winner, especially for those who care about people`s rights and about fair elections.  We need justices that will reflect the will of the entire American population, not just those able to jump through the hops the Republicans have held out there, hoops especially challenging for the old and less educated. 

My point is basic, irreducible and undeniable.  The Republicans play for keeps.  You want to beat them, do the same.  And when it gets down to picking the person you want picking the next members of the Supreme Court, find yourself a winner. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 

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