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Gun reform rallies held in 50 states. TRANSCRIPT: 8/19/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Charlie Sykes; Ayesha Rasco, Barney Frank

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  -- tomorrow.

But don`t go anywhere.  "HARDBALL" is up next.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump, who says his whole life has been a bet, is gambling all his chips on a box office economy in 2020.  He`s out there now accusing his enemies of conspiring against him, amid mounting signs that the U.S. economy may be on shaky ground.

After a record ten years of economic growth, recent market volatility and a trade war with China have raised concerns about the possibility of a serious economic downturn.  Yet the president is dismissing those warnings and finding new targets to blame for the anxiety.

Earlier today, Trump attacked Democrats as well as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve he appointed, writing on Twitter, our economy is very strong, despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed, but the Democrats are trying to will the economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 election, very selfish.

Similarly, Trump accused the media last week of trying to crash the economy.  And now, The New York Times is reporting that in making those attacks, the president is, quote, lashing out at what he believes is a conspiracy of forces arrayed against him.

In private conversations with aides and allies, Trump is insisting that his critics are trying to take away what he sees as his calling card for re- election.

The Associated Press reports that the president is even wondering if the media and establishment figures are manipulating the data to make him look bad, according to two Republicans close to him.

This comes as a new survey today by the National Association for Business Economics finds that, quote, 74 percent of economists predict the next recession will hit by the end of `21, 2021, in other words, more than two years from now.  Yet Trump is downplaying the chances that an economic downturn is even possible.

Here`s how he responded yesterday when asked if his administration has a plan to deal with the potential recession should one occur.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  are you doing any planning, or are you going to be directing your administration to plan for the possibility of a recession?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I don`t see a recession.  I mean, the world is in a recession right now, and although that`s too big a statement.

Honestly, I`m prepared for everything.  I don`t think we`re having a recession.  We`re doing tremendously well.

Our consumers are rich.  I gave a tremendous tax cut.  They`re loaded up with money.


MATTHEWS:  Loaded up with money.  I love the way he talks, grossly conversational there.  Despite that rosy outlook, the Associated Press reported that, privately, Trump is growing increasingly worried the economy won`t look so good come election day.

I`m joined now by former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Ayesha Rasco, She`s White House Reporter for NPR, and Charlie Sykes, he`s Editor-in-Chief of The Bulwark.

Charlie, this president sees conspiracies out there.  I don`t know what he`s talking about, the Bureau of Labor statistics, the Congress Department run by his friend, Wilbur Ross, where are these phony numbers coming from?

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE BULWARK:  Well, Donald Trump always wants to have his own reality, right?  And, unfortunately, he knows that he owns the economy.  This is the strongest card that he has for re-election.  So how else is he going to explain all of this except that there are people who are plotting against him?  Don`t pay attention to what your eyes are telling you.  Listen to what I am saying.

But this is a very dangerous.  It is a dangerous situation for a president of the United States who insists on having his own alternative reality.

And, of course, you have the cognitive dissonance.  If there is no recession, why is he pressuring the Fed for 100 basis point rate cut?  Why are his staffers now talking about proposing a possible payroll tax cut?

So he hasn`t gotten his story straight yet, has he?

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ayesha, you know the story?  Is he inside aware that the economic news is real?

AYESHA RASCO, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR:  Well, I don`t know.  I would think that they would know that the economic news is real.  It`s coming from his own administration.  It`s coming from the federal government.

But what I think President Trump wants to try to do now is try to put the attention on someone else and say that if there is bad news, it`s not my fault, it`s Jay Powell`s fault, it`s the fault of the media, it`s the Democrats against me.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but is the fault for there being a real economic recession coming or somebody said there is one coming?  Because when unemployment starts to rise again, which it apparently will at some point, although it`s a lagging indicator, that`s real.

RASCO:  Yes, and that`s the issue.  Because you can`t talk your way out of that and you can`t just blame someone else if there are real economic problems.  It does seem like this administration is taking this seriously.

Now, I talked to a White House official who said they`re not considering a payroll tax cut right now, but they are considering pushing other tax cuts right now.  So that to me sounds like an administration that`s concerned about the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Frank, what do you think about this with Trump?  I didn`t know this was coming.  And all of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago, we hear some of these leading indicators of trouble.  And now, Trump has already got up the red flags, that there`s a problem, but he`s sort of denying the red flags or blaming them on somebody else.

FMR. REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA):  Yes.  And the somebody else, by the way, is not just Chairman Powell.  He has appointed several Fed governors.  He owns the Fed.  He`s appointed several people there.  Of course, it`s part of a pattern where Donald Trump claiming to be the great chief executive.

One of the things you want from an executive is to appoint good people.  By Donald Trump`s judgment, he has appointed incompetent people in law enforcement, the economy, national security and the foreign policy of the United States.  Those are all people he denounces having appointed.

I think what he`s doing is kind of tricky for him.  If you look at who is now talking in a way that suggests there`s weakness in the economy, number one is Donald Trump.  There is no way you would be banging away at your own appointees at the Federal Reserve substantially to reduce interest rates and maybe go back on a quantitative easing if you didn`t think that there was trouble coming.

Now he`s got this dilemma because he is, in fact, by banging away at the Fed, contributing to this notion, but he is taking out recession insurance.  I think it`s pretty clear that Trump is being warned that the rush that we got from his tax cut for the very rich is petering out and that things are going to start to turn down and he`s desperately trying to blame somebody else when the bad news comes.

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, here`s my question.  This was, you know, like an historic tax cut.  It was wrong -- wrong in its values, wrong in its distribution, everything is wrong about it, I don`t know, anybody, regular people who got anything out of it.  And most importantly, it had no macroeconomic juice to it.  Nothing really got going with the economy.  It wasn`t a supply side or any kind of tax cut that brought long-term.

And now, they`re whispering about a payroll tax, which basically, you know, we have an underfunded Medicare account, we have underfunded social security and all that stuff, but to just start playing around with a little cap pistol like that that has a short-term impact.  Temporary cut in payroll tax sounds like a band-aid.  What do you think?

SYKES:  Well, they tried to -- yes, it`s definitely a band-aid.  I mean, here`s the part of the problem is they fired all of the bullets that they would have.  We`ve had virtually zero interest rates for so long and the tax cut has created a trillion dollar year deficit.

So if the country does plunge into a recession, how is Congress and the president going to be able to deal with it?  Are they going to expand the deficit beyond $1 trillion?  Are they going to have a massive spending program, more tax cuts?  So this is part of the problem that their options are incredibly limited here.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Barney, that`s the same thing I keep thinking about when you have a trillion dollar deficit to start with, when you`ve got zero cost of money.  You have monetary policy which is what I will start with.

What`s left in your toolbox when you`re really facing a horror?

FRANK:  You`re right.  I mean, Trump retires the trophy as the uber Kingsian (ph) of all time.  He has done more to stimulate in the short-term the economy with fiscal deficits and tax cuts.

And here`s the problem.  One logical thing to do right now would be to begin to implement a good infrastructure program to provide employment, to provide employment to people who didn`t necessarily go to college, to increase the productivity.

The problem -- the fundamental problem is that he spent the infrastructure money on a he tax cut for the very rich.

The argument was that this would improve productivity.  They`ve gone away with that.  Remember, the argument was that if we get this tax cut for the corporations, then we will get 3 percent growth.  No one thinks that`s coming.  The question is that`s out of the window.

So the fundamental curse that this administration inflicted on itself was in the first year to take the money that should have gone for a sensible infrastructure program that could have been a bipartisan one, and put it into a tax cut for the rich which had a short-term effect but no long-term benefit.

MATTHEWS:  Ayesha, this strikes me all the time, the same way the former congressman puts it.  I think you only have a few tools in your chest.  You can cut spending, raise during an inflation, you get increase and cut taxes during a potential recession, you can work monetary policy to some extent to create more money, more money, well, actually if it`s going to be invested.

Right now, I`m hearing the country, the rich people are swilling, swirling with cash.  They don`t want to invest it.  They don`t believe in it.  They don`t believe in this rock `em sock `em economy of Trump`s.

And so what happened was the rich got all the money, they bought back stock at the corporate level.  They benefitted from it in terms of their own wealth because you buy back stock, you own more, right?  Everything worked out for them.

And now, we have a situation with no more tools facing perhaps economic trouble.

RASCO:  And that`s the fear, is what happens now if there is a recession, is President Trump, is this administration ready for it?  And this is not an administration that has been great with crises and usually it`s creating the crisis on the their own.

MATTHEWS:  The biggest thing he did, and I agree with the congressman, is betrayal, betrayal.  He promised two things as a candidate.  No more stupid wars and big rebuilding of America from New York, from lax in LAX, in L.A., all the way back to Penn Station in New York.  We`re going to rebuild this country.  It sounded great to me.

Meanwhile, the president is also taking aim at Fox News over Fox`s latest poll.  By the way, the Fox poll is a good poll.  We`ve always used it here.  It`s a good poll.  It`s been independent for years.  It`s solid.  And he didn`t like this number, Biden beating him by 12.

Among other things, the polls show Trump losing to Biden by 12 in a hypothetical matchup.  Here is how the president reacted to that fact yesterday.


TRUMP:  Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that.  Fox has changed.  And my worst polls have always been from Fox.  There`s something going on at Fox, I`ll tell you right now, and I`m not happy with it.

And I think Fox is making a big mistake because, you know, I`m the one who calls the shots on that -- on the really big debates.

I`m not happy with Fox.


MATTHEWS:  I`m going to take my ball and go home.  Did you just hear that?  If you don`t play ball with me and let me win in your poll, I`m not going to show up for your debate.  It was like the little rich kid.  I`m sorry, he once was that.  Your thoughts, Charlie?

SYKES:  Well, he obviously thinks that Fox News is a house organ of Trumpism.  So there`s that sense of betrayal.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it has been.  It`s been there.

SYKES:  I own you people.  Yes, you`re supposed to be for me.  Look, this is a president who doesn`t understand how the media operates.  He doesn`t understand how the news media operates, except as in the binary choice, you`re either for Trump or you`re against Trump.

And so he`s tried this before.  He`s tried threatening.  He`s tried bullying Fox.  And I suppose you can argue to a certain extent it has succeeded in the past.  But the poll is consistent with other polls.  And so, once again, we find the president insisting on an alternative reality and he`s insisting that his spear carriers always, you know, play from the same script as he wants them to.

MATTHEWS:  Spear carriers.  I just love the image, anyway, running along beside him, doing his work.

Polls, I keep telling people about polls.  Believe in polls because politicians believe in them.  They always say pay attention to them.

FRANK:  Sure they do.

MATTHEWS:  You don`t know if they`re always right.  But every local television --

FRANK:  They paid for them.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that`s right.  We believed in -- nothing is perfect.  But you know what, they`re not cheating.  There is no reason to have a cheating poll.  It doesn`t make sense.

RASCO:  But he doesn`t seem like he doesn`t believe them.  He says he doesn`t believe them.  But when you look at his actions over the past couple of days and the way that he`s Tweeting, he`s tweeting like someone that is concerned, right?  Like he --

MATTHEWS:  He thinks everything is a fix.

FRANK:  Chris, can I --

RASCO:  I think you got some with the argument --

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Congressman.  Go ahead, Barney.

FRAK:  Yes.  I want to raise a point here because this is part of his general attack on the media, and especially you remember this.  Years ago, under Reagan, the right wing argument was that there was a terrible act of censorship by the federal government called the fairness doctrine.  And it said on broadcast, radio and television, there had to be fairness, there had to be balance.  Not equal time for candidates, but that, in general, there had to be a balanced approach.

And the right wing said that was the worst example of censorship and basically you`ve got the FCC to repeal it.  They`re bringing it back.  This attack on the internet now is exactly an effort to bring back this fairness doctrine that they used to claim was the root of all evil.  They are the other ones who are now claiming that purely private entities have some obligation, the source of which they don`t tell us, to be fairer to them than they have been.  So it is an effort to dominate the media and intimidate them across the board.

MATTHEWS:  I`m the one that calls the shots.  That is a Trumpism.

Charlie, anyway, the president also said yesterday that he was still interested in buying Greenland despite word from Denmark, which owns it, it`s not for sale.  Here`s his comment.


TRUMP:  Well, Greenland, I don`t know, it got released somehow.  It`s just something we talked about.  Denmark essentially owns it.  We`re very good allies with Denmark.  We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world.  So the concept came up and I said, certainly, I`d be -- strategically it`s interesting and we`d be interested.  But we`ll talk to them a little bit.  It`s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.


MATTHEWS:  So this is the Greenland new deal?  I mean, really, I`m sorry, this is too weird.  One side wants to do something on climate --

SYKES:  I love this.

MATTHEWS:  Barney, go ahead.  Barney, you have a thought.  I can tell.

FRANK:  Yes.  I just want to mention, apparently, he has no problem with the idea of buying 50,000 human beings.  We are talking here not about buying dirt, we`re talking about buying a country full of people.

SYKES:  Yes.

FRANK:  And it is extraordinary that that apparently didn`t occur to him, that he`s talking about one of the great people auctions of all time.

SYKES:  Okay.  But this is going to be big next year.  This is going to be a litmus test for conservatives in the next year.

I mean, think about it.  I`m waiting for Donald Trump to stand up at one of his rallies and say, and we`re going to have Mexico pay for Greenland and then we`re going to get China to pay for relocating all of the immigrants to the frozen tundra.

And you can just sort of see Republicans say, this is what we need for in order to make America great again, something big, you know.

And, again, maybe he`s thinking small.  Go for Greenland.  Maybe they throw in Iceland.  I mean, you know -- and while we`re buying countries, why not Canada at some point?

But maybe this president, I don`t know, focus on problems that are actually right in front of him for a change.

MATTHEWS:  And maybe he still thinks it is a big one.

RANK:  Too many liberals in Canada for them.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Well, Barney, Bernie Sanders wants the Denmark economic model and this president wants to buy half the country.

Anyway, thank you, Barney Frank, thank you, Ayesha Rasco and Charlie Sykes.

Coming up, President Trump is firing blanks on gun control.


TRUMP:  I don`t want people to forget that this is a mental health problem.  We have very strong background checks right now.


MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s a mental health problem.  You`re right.

The president reversed to form proposing tougher background checks, then backing down.  Watch him, by the time the Senate and the House gets back, there will be nothing on the plate, except these mental health conditions that he is now all of a sudden concerned about after cutting the programs.

Plus, Republicans on Capitol Hill reportedly call Vice President Pence the bobble head for his solemn nodding and adoring gaze.  There he is, look at him nodding and gazing.  But others who were once allies are not so much his friends anymore.  It`s hard to be loyal to this guy.  How loyalty works in the Trump world, coming ahead.  Stay with us.



TRUMP:  People don`t realize we have very strong background checks right now.  You go in to buy a gun, you have to sign up.  There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years.  So I`ll have to see what it is.

But congress is meeting, bipartisan, a lot of people want to see something happen.  But just remember this, big mental problem and we do have a lot of background checks right now.


MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As we approach the midpoint in the five weeks between the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton and the return of Congress from a summer recess, President Trump`s support for expanded background checks appears to be fading.

Just ten days ago, he came out for a, quote, intelligent background checks before heading off on his two-week vacation at his New Jersey golf club. 

And here he was just two weeks ago:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Frankly, we need intelligent background checks, OK?  This isn`t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. 

I will tell you, I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday.  He`s totally on board.  We need meaningful background checks, so that sick people don`t get guns. 


MATTHEWS:  As we await Congress` return, however, the push for gun reform remains strong. 

Allies were held in -- rallies were held in over 50 states over this weekend calling on the president and Congress to take action on gun violence. 

A new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows overwhelming support for some reforms, including -- catch this -- 89 percent -- nine out of 10 Americans say they want background checks for all gun sales, because it makes common sense. 

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, and Kris Brown, president of Brady, one the nation`s leading organizations fighting gun violence.

Congressman, thank you for joining us. 

Put your money on this.  The House has passed a bill on background checks.  What are the chances Mitch McConnell will do background checks when they get back in September? 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

SWALWELL:  Zero chance.  Zero, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do they want to do nothing, when 90 percent of the country says -- nine out of 10 says do something at least on background checks?  What makes the Republican leader of the United States Senate think he can politically get away with doing nothing? 

SWALWELL:  It`s fear of losing his job.  It`s fear of the NRA dumping millions against them. 

And this president as well, he is also going to do zero, Chris.  I don`t know if you -- I know a lot of your viewers probably do -- own a dog, but this is how it works. 

When two owners tell a dog to do something, the dog usually does it.  The NRA is funded by the Russians.  President Trump is also funded by the NRA.  He`s got the Russians and the NRA, who don`t want him to do anything on this.  He`s not going to do anything. 

MATTHEWS:  But what about his rehearsals?

Because, you know, politicians like yourself understand timing.  And two weeks ago, Trump was, you know, bullish -- bearish -- bullish, rather.  He was going to do something on background checks. 

As time faded, as El Paso fades a bit in the hearts of some people, not everybody -- some people won`t forget it for a long time -- he says now the coast is getting clear. 

So, by September 9, when the Senate comes back, by then, it will be a little more faded.  And then he will come out for something minimal, like background -- like what he called it.  I will come out with a red flag thing about mental illness, but that`s all I`m going to do. 

Here is what President Trump had to say after last year`s horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that took the lives of 17. 


TRUMP:  And they have to be strong, the background checks.  Hey, look, I`m the biggest fan of the Second Amendment.  Many of you are.  I`m a big fan of the NRA, but I have met -- I had lunch with them, with Wayne and Chris and David on Sunday, and said, it`s time.  We got to stop this nonsense.  It`s time. 

You can buy a handgun.  You can`t buy one, and you have to wait until you`re 21.   But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18.  I think it`s something you have to think about. 

The police saw that he was a problem.  They didn`t take any guns away.  Now, that could have been policing.  I think they should have taken them away anyway, whether they had the right or not. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s how he talks right after a shooting. 

Of course, the president didn`t follow up on any of those actions. 

Instead, here is the president two months later speaking at the NRA:


TRUMP:  Your Second Amendment rights are under siege.  But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I`m your president. 

The one thing that has always stood between the American people and the elimination of our Second Amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights. 


MATTHEWS:  Kris, you`re fighting the good fight on gun safety. 

The president sounds like he`s doing the good fight right after the calamities, because we`re all in the same sort of situation emotionally. 

And then he gets up with that sort of beatific hand in the air, this oath- taking with the NRA.  It`s almost like the New testament.  Like this.  He literally puts his hand up like that, Jesus in the scriptural paintings. 


MATTHEWS:  He does that.  It`s a religious connection, because he knows those guys never change their tune. 

BROWN:  Mm-hmm.  That`s his belief, certainly.  And the NRA has demonstrated historically that they can be a powerful force. 

I don`t think he`s gotten the memo.  I mean, he talks about the fact that the NRA is not as powerful as it once was.  He must recognize that, in 2018, we have a gun violence prevention majority in the House of Representatives, not by accident.  All of the gun violence prevention groups outspent the NRA by 5-1. 

It is an organization in complete chaos.  And relying exclusively on the NRA for that support, I think, is a big problem, which is why some Republican lawmakers are looking at this and saying, maybe I need to rethink this, especially if I`m up for reelection in 2020. 

MATTHEWS:  So what`s Lindsey Graham going to do? 

We were talking before the show.  Lindsey Graham is a big pal of the president`s now.  Are they going to do anything when they get back, the senators?  Because you and the House have already done something on background checks.

BROWN:  Yes, the House has passed two different bills on background check expansion. 

And, actually, the issue there is, we do have loopholes in the law, just to be very clear.  President Trump talks about the fact that background checks are done right now, yes, three million a year. 

The problem is one in five guns sold today is sold with no background check at all.  The House passed a bill, very straightforward, to fix it.  McConnell has to raise it. 

Behind the scenes, Lindsey Graham is working on a bill, an extreme risk protection bill, that would actually ensure that law enforcement and family members are able to seek a temporary court order to remove guns from individuals at risk. 

MATTHEWS:  So, if you see somebody around the corner or down the street or a nephew that looks a little wide-eyed, a little crazy, where he has some sort of vendetta going on, right...

BROWN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... you could call that person`s name to who to get it -- kept him from buying a gun? 

BROWN:  What you need is, as a family member or law enforcement -- let`s look at California and how that system works, right, because now 18 states -- 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed these laws. 


BROWN:  In California, it says family members or law enforcement with evidence.  So you`re indicating this person has stated threats or they have posted things on the Internet. 


BROWN:  They go to a court, and they get an order to remove temporarily guns from that individual. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll just out, 55 percent of Americans say they`re very worried about another mass shooting or an attack by white nationalists. 

This comes as police stopped three mass shooting threats in the past week alone in Ohio, Florida and Connecticut, all involving white males. 

So they stopped three of these things.

BROWN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, let me ask you about this. 

There is no reason for an American to have a magazine with 30 or 40 or 50, whatever, bullets in it.  Nobody needs to go -- deer hunters do not carry that kind of -- well, they wouldn`t be really much of a hunter if they needed that many bullets. 

Why would anybody want these magazines?  Why should they be out there on the market? 

SWALWELL:  They shouldn`t be. 

And they`re only made to kill a large number of people. 

And, you know, I appreciate the interest by Senator Graham and red flag laws, but let me just say this, Chris.  It`s like pollution.  You can either deal with these issues downstream or stop them when they`re upstream. 

And the more that we prevent weapons from being -- even being made, like assault weapons, the more that we know about people when they go to the point of sale to get the weapon, the more that we`re able to require them to have a license and carry insurance, we can protect against downstream issues. 

Also, as a brother of two police officers, I don`t want to just put this all on red flags and not do anything about background checks and keep assault rifles out there, and expect the men and women of law enforcement to be the last line of defense, the only line of defense, against people who are dangerous who have firearms. 

MATTHEWS:  And I wonder about a person who has got wide eyes and they`re out to do some damage how long -- how many days they`re going to sit around while you go to court and go through all the paperwork. 

SWALWELL:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, what is it about California that is so good on gun safety?  I grew up in Pennsylvania, which is deer hunter country, obviously. 

Why is it that California is considered -- under Dianne Feinstein and people like you, why is it really good on gun safety, California, as a culture?  Why?

SWALWELL:  We have been rocked by gun violence. 

You know, there was the 101 California mass shooting.  Senator Feinstein came into office as mayor because one of her colleagues was murdered by a firearm. 

And so, you know, we have paid the price, but we didn`t just grieve.  We acted.  And we`re only as safe in California as the states around us.  And as long as Arizona has loose background checks, and Nevada allows the sale of assault weapons, they`re going to come into our state.

And so we need to ban them everywhere and have background checks everywhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks so much, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell and Kris Brown of the Brady organization.

Up next:  New NBC News polling shows just out President Trump getting credit for a healthy economy, but -- the biggest but in history -- but even the people giving him credit for the economy and don`t like him otherwise are not going to vote for him.  The economy will not sell with the voter. 

By the way, Steve Kornacki is going to -- my colleague is going to join us now to drill through some of the surprising disconnect.  This is a tough reelect for this guy we`re looking at. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A majority of registered voters now say they`d vote for whoever the Democrats nominate, anybody, over Trump in 2020, according to that new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll just out; 52 percent say they`d probably or definitely vote for the Democrat, whoever it is.  Only 40 percent say they`d probably or definitely vote for Trump. 

Pretty -- 52, that`s a big spread, 12 points. 

At the same time, during Trump`s presidency, a generic Republican candidate polled ahead of him by only four points.  So, even back in the toughest days -- times of Obama, he was nowhere in this situation. 

An even more startling number for the poll right now involves white women with no college degree, a demographic that backed Trump in 2016.  Women that didn`t go to college or finish college, 49 percent now say they`d support a Democrat, any Democrat; 43 say they`d vote for Trump again. 

In 2016, 61 percent of that group voted for Trump.  That was his -- that was the mother lode of votes right there. 

I`m joined right now by MSNBC national political correspondent Steve.

Is the -- would that be the most troubling thing if you were sitting in Trump`s corner right now?


I mean, look, if you break it down on that sort of race, gender, education line, right now, there really is one group that is still there with Trump strongly that was there with him in 2016, white men without a college degree. 

In our NBC News poll here, he`s winning them over this prospective Democrat by about 45 points.  But every other group to some degree is now with the Democrat in this matchup. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any crosstab to explain why the women have shifted and the men have stuck, the working guys, the working women? 


No, it`s just -- it`s a question there of, you know, is there something about Trump`s message that it`s not just blue-collar, it`s more specific to men?  I think we have been talking about that for a while. 

I think, look, the most significant thing to me, though, I think, is his ability to win ugly in 2016 is really being tested in these numbers. 


KORNACKI:  What I mean by that is, when you looked at the exit poll on Election Day in 2016, Hillary Clinton had a very negative -- her numbers were 55 percent negative.  Trump`s were 60. 

But the key for Trump was the voters who didn`t like Clinton or Trump broke for Trump by nearly 20 points.  What we`re seeing in this NBC poll is voters who don`t like Biden and don`t like Trump, they`re saying pretty overwhelmingly in our poll they`d go for the Democrat now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it`s so interesting, because it was -- we wanted to try something new in `16.  So, we don`t like either, so let`s go with somebody that might be better than we think, because we already know we don`t like the other one. 

This time around, same thing, right?  We know we don`t like Trump.  We might try -- the Democrat might be somebody we like.  We know we don`t like Trump. 

KORNACKI:  I think -- that`s the possibility that is raised here to me.  It`s that Trump message in 2016 you heard a little bit of:  What do you have to lose? 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

KORNACKI:  It`s the idea of the guy running as the outsider who is the detonate button on the system that everybody hates. 

MATTHEWS:  I am with you.  I am with you. 

That is to me the game of `16, blow this thing apart.  It`s terrible. 

Anyway, the new poll shows that 49 percent of our poll approve of Trump`s handling of the economy, but that alone doesn`t seem to be enough.  Among those who approve of his handling of the economy, but not his overall sort of show, nearly three-quarters say they would back a generic Democrat. 

So, it seems to me the economy, even if it does stay pretty swell, which is troubling now, they`re not going to vote for him just for that if they just don`t like the rest of -- they don`t like the tweeting, don`t like the bad behavior.  They`re not going to vote for this guy.  That`s stunning to me. 


I mean, the 49/46 approval rating on the economy, you would probably say, if that was his overall approval rating, he`s in solid shape heading into reelection, but, again, 43 percent.

One of the numbers in the poll that I think explains that, you say it`s the behavior as president.  Asked voters in this poll, how do you think Trump handled the El Paso and Dayton shooting? 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it`s terrible. 

KORNACKI:  It`s a majority disapproval. 

And we have seen that over and over again.  We saw that with the Pittsburgh synagogue.  We saw that with Charlottesville.  All these moments where other presidents, Democrat and Republican in the past, have risen to the moment, have brought people together, have used the bully pulpit in a unifying way, he has not done that so far. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about a question that is really going to be a test for you.  But I`m putting you on to be testing you, because you`re the best there is.  You are the best. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of people when they say, I will vote for a generic Democrat? 

Because they have a picture in their head, man or woman, somebody unhyphenated Democrat or whatever.  How do they know it`s not going to be George McGovern or it`s not going to be Mike Dukakis, who turned out to be terrible -- good people, terrible candidates?

How do they know what that generic means? 

KORNACKI:  Well, I think that`s the million-dollar question in politics right now.  What will voters see once whoever emerges from this Democratic race gets in the arena with Donald Trump in this media atmosphere we now live in, this tribalized atmosphere?  What do they look like after six months? 

Are the feelings towards that Democrat going to be as negative as they were towards Hillary Clinton on Election Day 2016?  Or do we find out that there was something at work in `16 that just can`t be replicated in 2020? 


And, by the way, speaking of tribalized, I have to tell you, I think I have never seen a candidate shake off a bad start as much as Elizabeth has, Elizabeth Warren.

The whole thing of Pocahontas and all that nonsense, the slurring and everything, it seems like even Trump`s impressed with that.  She just shook it off.  She went out there and gave herself to the public, gave proposal after proposal, totally transformed, out there every day campaigning, showing herself. 

And, finally, people say, I will make my own judgment about that candidate, Mr. Trump.  I will make my own judgment. 

Fascinating bit of campaigning by her.  It may well take her to the nomination.  I don`t know. 

Steve, as again, you`re the best. 

KORNACKI:  Hey, thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: tracing the roots of Donald Trump`s mafia boss-like obsession with loyalty, the capo.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



For President Trump, two things have remained constant throughout his public career.  You must always pledge allegiance to Trump and to his brand and be careful if you don`t. 


DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN:  I want somebody that`s loyal from the beginning, not somebody that`s loyal because they`re afraid.  You see, I`m so loyal to people -- maybe I`m loyal to a fault, but I`m so loyal to people that when somebody`s slightly disloyal to me, I look upon it as a great act of horror. 


MATTHEWS:  It has remained a guiding principle during his presidency, of course, which has only been surpassed by his commitment to revenge.  Something he foreshadowed years before his presidential bid. 


TRUMP:  You got to get even with people because even if you don`t come into contact with them, everyone else knows you`re a fighter.  And you`re not going to take crap.  And other people aren`t going to take advantage of you.  So, I think it`s really important if somebody screws you, screw them back in spades. 


MATTHEWS:  Anthony Scaramucci, the president`s short-lived communications director, is a current example.  Amid Scaramucci`s public break with his old boss, the president launched a withering attack, tweeting: Anthony Scaramucci is a highly unstable nut job who was with other candidates in the primary who got shellacked.  I barely knew him.  He was a mental wreck. 

Interesting enough in 2016, a Kansas congressman named Mike Pompeo issued similar warnings about a Trump presidency. 


MIKE POMPEO (R), THEN-KANSAS CONGRESSMAN:  You know, Donald Trump the other day said that, quote, if he tells a soldier to commit a war crime, the soldier will just go do it.  He said they`ll do as I tell them to do.  We`ve spent 7 1/2 years with an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution.  We don`t need four more years of that. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, now as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has become president Trump`s most loyal soldier.  One senior White House official tells "The New Yorker" magazine, quote: There will never be any daylight publicly between him and Trump.  He is among the most sycophantic and obsequies people around Trump.

But Pompeo pales in comparison to the master of Trump sycophancy.  The man who has taken public displays of loyalty to new heights, guess who he is?  That`s next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In Trump world where we live, unfortunately, the president demands complete loyalty.  Vice President Mike Pence has been the most successful at navigating the choppy loyalty waters using effusive compliments when necessary. 


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration. 

I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say, congratulations and thank you.  You`ve restored American credibility on the world stage.  You`ve signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.  You`ve spurred an optimism in this country that is setting records.  I`m deeply humbled as your vice president to be able to be here. 

It`s the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to President Trump.  He`s a man of his word.  He`s a man of action. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it appears to be paying off.  Yesterday, reports that Trump might swap Pence out for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.  The president told reporters he`s sticking with his guy. 


TRUMP:  I`m very happy with Mike Pence.  I think Mike Pence has been an outstanding V.P.  I think that he`s been incredible in terms of the love that a lot of people, especially if you look at the evangelicals and so many others. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Shannon Pettypiece, senior White House reporter for NBC News digital, and Robert Costa, White House -- well, national White House -- national -- "Post" national political reporter, as high as you can get at "The Post."

Is this the deal, what we just saw? 

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  You see a vice president who is very close to the president but he`s politically close.  He`s not always personally close.  He`s not golfing with the president on the weekend, but he`s thinking ahead to his political future. 

You talk to his confidants.  They said 2014.  They`re already competing against Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Haley.  They`re trying to position him adds the successor to President Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?  Who is doing this? 

COSTA:  Some of the top conservatives in the party. 

MATTHEWS:  They think Pence can win a general election. 

COSTA:  There is concern almost no one else in this Republican Party could win a general election.  Who else could win Wisconsin or a swing state? 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS DIGITAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, it`s going to be an interesting 2024 --


MATTHEWS:  I agree about Nikki.  I agree about Nikki.  If Elizabeth Warren or Kamala doesn`t win, I think she might be the first woman president.  I mean, I don`t know, I look at Nikki, I said, I think she`s figured it out.  She has the right sort of posture to win. 

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, and Pence is in an interesting spot at this point, because when you look at this administration, who is left standing?  The president has been through so many top advisers, so many cabinet secretaries and here you have the president, who he`s been through with the campaign, and there are a few other people left from the campaign days still left in the White House but not who are really sort of appear to the president.  Of course --

MATTHEWS:  Does he mind situational loyalty?  Does he mind loyalty of convenience?  Does it bother him it`s all transactional? 

That Pompeo will jump and do what he wants because Pompeo likes the job.  It`s the greatest job in the world, I might say.  I think secretary of state is the greatest job there is.  And he`s been given it.  So, obviously, he`s going to be loyal. 

COSTA:  He doesn`t think about things in deeply personal terms.  Everything for president Trump is transactional.  He knows a lot of the loyalty in the Republican Party is transactional.  He delivered a victory.  They`re going to deliver their loyalty. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Stephen Miller, speaking of loyalty, he`s senior adviser to the president.  He hasn`t turned 34 yet.  He`s also utilized flatly to ingratiate himself with Trump. 

Miller told "The Washington Post" that during the election, he experienced a jolt of electricity to my soul.  Everything I felt at the deepest levels of my heart were for now being expressed by a candidate for our nation`s highest office. 

I got a thrill up my leg for Obama.  So, this outdoes me.  This is a thunder bolt to his soul? 

PETTYPIECE:  Right.  You talk about people still left around this president, this is how you survive.  Loyalty.  You do not criticize the president publicly.  You can criticize him to his face in private --


MATTHEWS:  But Miller is more like an ideological leader of the president.  He`s not like a follower.  I don`t think he fits this mold. 

PETTYPIECE:  Well, and they see this president -- the vice president, Stephen Miller, as a way to carry out their own personal agenda, whether it`s immigration or the things the vice president has been able to accomplish when it comes to religious liberties or his own personal conservative agenda. 

COSTA:  When I first started as a reporter a decade ago in Washington, Stephen Miller was a press secretary for Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who was considered a gadfly of the gadflies. 

MATTHEWS:  He was 26.

COSTA:  Very young guy.


COSTA:  But he rode the wave of this raging nationalism inside the Republican Party, from the fringe now to the fore of politics. 

MATTHEWS:  But he believes it.

COSTA:  He`s a true believer.  An ideologue in an administration that`s often transactional. 

MATTHEWS:  Look, I think if they play it right, I don`t want to hear them do it, celebrate American citizenship.  Don`t knock anybody else.  Don`t make it into a negative.  Just how great it is to be an American, how it really -- it`s not just a piece of paper.  It really means something to you and build it up as a positive thing instead of just trashing Hispanics basically. 

Anyway, President Trump, who makes no bones -- by the way, blamed the Democrats for not supporting it.  Anyway, the president makes no bones about excessive viciousness of his attacks.  He tweeted about Scaramucci`s wife.  He goes after your family. 

He said his wife, Scaramucci`s, was driving his crazy.  Something about the marital, this court or whatever, he says what was happening, they`re getting divorced. 

Trump announcing all this stuff about somebody he doesn`t like now.  Just last week he lobbed an incredibly personal attack against Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who was granted access to the West Bank to visit her 90-year- old grandmother but declined because she didn`t like the restrictions put on her by the Israeli government. 

Quote: The only real winner here -- this is the president of the United States talking -- is Tlaib`s grandmother doesn`t have her daughter now. 

What kind of a shot is that? 

PETTYPIECE:  He made fun of a supporter at his rally for being overweight. 

MATTHEWS:  Fat shaming. 

PETTYPIECE:  Yes.  It`s just as you played in that clip before --

MATTHEWS:  The supporter apparently said fine. 

PETTYPIECE:  If someone screws you, screw them over tens times as hard.  That`s this -- people are attacking the president about his policies.  They don`t like his policies.  Well, he is attacking people about their personality, their personal character, the way they look, calling them sleepy, calling them Pocahontas, making fun of their appearance. 

That`s where he goes.  He goes down to the personal level. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s he going to do?  Pocahontas isn`t working anymore.  She`s climbing in the polls.  He seems like he`s a little afraid of her now. 

COSTA:  You see inside the administration real adjustments on the economy.  They`re trying to pressure the Federal Reserve to cut the interest rate.  They see on the left, it`s not just about a seasoned hand and Vice President Biden, economic populism just like it took hold in the Republican Party is taking hold in the Democratic Party to some extent. 

And Senator Warren is really gaining and I think the White House is paying attention. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they see -- she`s as good as he, not as good as him yet, but she is scary to him, I think, right? 

PETTYPIECE:  I think it`s split.  They know that she`s authentic.  She`s on message.  She`s on brand.  She`s a good debater, but they also think that her policies are too far to the left. 

MATTHEWS:  They can both be true.  Both are facts.

Anyway, thank you, Shannon Pettypiece.  Thank you, Robert Costa. 

Up next, a dangerous potential split in the Democratic Party in Massachusetts, the Bay State. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  "The New York Times" reported over the weekend that Congressman Joe Kennedy might go into a primary fight with Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.  Well, this would be an unusual situation, to put it lightly.  It would be a member of the Kennedy family engaging in an interparty fight with someone who has spent his career celebrating the Kennedys. 

It would be, if nothing out, a statement as former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank said, not in line with Joe Kennedy`s career to date.  So far, Kennedy has done everything right.  Two years in the Peace Corps, law school, local prosecutor, candidate for congressman, the seat came open. 

To go after Ed Markey would disregard the service of a progressive Democratic colleague who has spent his career advocating for the same causes.  An ally on so many good fights alongside the Kennedys. 

Senator Markey who I`ve known for years and liked a lot has spent his years in public service taking the side of the consumer against the big corporations and in a larger sense, humanity against those who make the most sometimes doing the worst. 

I`ve always been impressed as each year, another brilliant staffer leads service to go off to do well in the private sector, while the senator himself sticks on with his commitment to looking out for the little guy.  I would hate to see this commitment be threatened.  The Kennedys have built the most impressive record in American politics by championing the cause of the working families like Ed Markeys`, the son of a milk man, to turn around and run against someone who has spent his life in alliance with the Kennedys and their causes doesn`t seem right. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.