Trump calls gun reforms a "slippery slope." TRANSCRIPT: 8/20/10, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Susan Wild, Jon Meacham, Eli Stokols, Kristen Hawn, Aaron Blake,Fred Guttenberg, Ginger Gibson, Danielle Moodie-Mills

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks for watching The Beat.  We`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.  And "HARDBALL" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump`s religious test.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

President Trump delivered a stunning message to Jewish voters today, if you vote for Democrats, you`re stupid or, as he says it, disloyal.  He didn`t spell it exactly but that`s the extreme he`s going to to fire up partisan division around Congressman Rashida Tlaib.

Last week, the Michigan Democrat was banned from taking a trip to Israel before being granted permission to visit her grandmother on the West Bank.  And after declining to make the trip, Tlaib delivered an emotional press conference yesterday criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who denounced the Israel` travel restrictions.

It prompted a new round of attacks from the president who Tweeted today, sorry, I don`t buy Representative Tlaib`s tears.  I have watched her violence, craziness and most importantly words for far too long, now, tears?  She hates Israel and all Jewish people.  She`s an anti-Semite.  She and her three friends are the new face of the Democratic Party.  Live with it.  That`s Trump talking.

Trump then resumed his attack this afternoon offering this message to any voters who cast ballots for any Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S PRESIDENT:  I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty, all right?  Thank you very much, everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, as The Washington Post points out, now critics on both sides of the aisle immediately pointed out that Trump`s use of the word disloyalty is echoed anti-Semitic tropes, accusing Jews of dual loyalty or dual allegiance.

But this isn`t the first time the president has spoke to the Jewish voters in just this way.  Speaking to a Jewish Republicans earlier this year, Trump referred to Benjamin Netanyahu has your Prime Minister, even though he was talking to Republicans, actually talking to Republican Americans.  Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I stood with your Prime Minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  American Republicans, of course.  When he was a candidate in 2015, Trump also told a Jewish audience that he didn`t want their money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I know why you`re not going to support me, and you`re not going to support me because I don`t want your money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, Jon Meacham, NBC News Historian, Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman, and Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for The Los Angeles Times.

Congresswoman, it`s great to have you on tonight but not for this reason, obviously, dual loyalty, craziness, religious tests.  I mean, I`ve never heard -- and this sounds like Ed Koch in the bad old days of New York City with real tribal warfare of fire.  Here is the president saying the Jewish voters who vote about 70 percent Democrat, stop doing that because that would be disloyal to being, what, Jewish?  Your thoughts.

REP. SUSAN WILD (D-PA);  Well, that`s exactly the question, disloyal to whom or to what.  As a Democratic Jewish member of Congress, I am personally offended and I think most Jews in this country would be.  We separate our faith and our politics for the most part, and to suggest that they are one in the same I find to be offensive.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Jonathan, my friend, Jonathan Meacham, because this is history at work here.  Often, I find the older I get, the more I find history crashing into present time.  This is awful stuff.  This tells people, you must vote by identity, by religion, you must vote a certain way, your partisanship, your politics must be arrayed by your cultural background, blah, blah, blah, it`s a religious test.  He says you must vote a certain way, you vote for me, because there`s somebody on the Democratic left in Michigan, you may not agree with on Israeli government politics.

JONATHAN MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN:  Yes.  The first liberty of American life was religious liberty.  It`s one of our great contributions to western culture.  Madison and Jefferson, before they got to the Constitution or republic were arguing that, as Jefferson once put it, it doesn`t matter whether my neighbor worships one god or ten gods or 20 gods, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my neck.  And that insight that, in fact, we could have liberty of conscience and create a republic was uniquely American, partly because of the terrible experience, and this is in the 18th century.  We haven`t even gotten to the 20th to the century horrors about this.

  The insight was that the old world had been ridden (ph) with dispute, and chaos and bloodshed over religious struggles.  And the great project of America, however poorly realized in the beginning, the great project of America was that if you assented to the idea of the country that we`re all created equal, therefore, you could be in America.  It didn`t matter where you came from, it didn`t matter if you worshiped, it didn`t matter if you worshiped at all.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Michael, Trump did this to me one time.  He takes your religious background and he shoves it at you.  He says how can you be pro- choice?  Well, a lot of Catholics are pro-choice.  We have our own beliefs about life and we accept them and the teaching authority of our church, but when it comes to the Constitution, we accept it.  Life is complicated.

Trump thinks everybody does everything according to their identity.  You`re not allowed to have a opinion.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR:  Well, yes.  I mean, that`s largely how he sees the world and this is another play in it.  All I can say from this comment is abhorrent and disrespecting as it is, we need to just settle in, because this is just the warm up of what will be a series of narratives created by the president around particular interest groups.

You know, when you sit down and you say this about the Jewish community, then what about African-Americans, what about Hispanics, how they vote?

MATTHEWS:  He wants you -- right.  He wants you to vote against them.

STEELE:  Right.  He wants you to vote against them.

MATTHEWS:  And that`s the game he is playing.

STEELE:  But the Jewish vote should be voting Republican.  And so this, I think, is something in stark contrast to what we saw in 2016.  I think it`s going to be more personal and a little bit more in-depth.  It`s going to cut to your point, Chris, it`s going to cut a little closer to the bone for a lot of Americans when they have their religion shoved in their face and a litmus test of how they vote based on that religion.

MATTHEWS:  Eli, your thoughts about this.  I think it`s a front page top of the fault story tonight and tomorrow morning.  I think it`s a big story, Trump using religion politically.   Your thoughts.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:  Well, it`s a big story in the context of a president saying something maybe unwittingly that is anti-Semitic and -- yes.  But, I mean --

MATTHEWS:  Your Prime Minister?

STOKOLS:  But, you know, it`s also -- this is the Trump presidency, so it`s hard to gauge what`s a big story, because everybody has seen him make so many stereotypical statements that are offensive to a lot of groups, and he`ll say afterwards, well, you know, like loosen up, I`m just -- this is how people talk.

I don`t know what`s a big story anymore and what isn`t.  I say that as somebody who covers this administration every day.  But I do think that it`s clear what Michael is talking about, this is a guy who wants people to look at the Democratic Party and see these four very progressive women of color, he wants people to see them, he wants them to see them as militant.  He doesn`t want them to see Joe Biden or some of the people running for president.

So he is going to couch that in, look, I`m standing up against anti- Semitism because he`s ostensibly upset over Representative Omar`s anti- Semitism.  He doesn`t even seem to realize that he is attacking her in a way that is just as anti-Semitic.  He`s effectively doing the same thing, trafficking in the same sort of trope that he`s supposed to be upset about, and he`s saying look at this.

And so it`s just -- it confuses everything and it just makes everything incredibly tribal.  But he`s almost trying to protect himself from the charge that he`s stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment by saying, look, I`m just standing up against anti-Semitism.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, it`s so great to have you on, because I know every time you have a meeting up there in Allentown and wherever, New Tripoli, anywhere you`re up to, my brother lives up there, you`ve got to deal with the myriad of American backgrounds.  I mean, even in a place up there, there`s all kinds of backgrounds in the room when you meet, you`ve got to bring them together.  It`s called politics in America, unite people.

This guy seems to be looking for the wedges, let`s get the Jews over here and let`s get the people.  I don`t like the people said about -- these people have said about it.  Let`s get everybody fighting over four people on the Democratic left and let`s make that the fight because he can`t fight anywhere near the middle lines.  Your thoughts.

WILD:  And, you know, Chris, you mentioned the voters that I meet, and among them a number of American Jews.  And what I have found is, first and foremost, American Jews are American.

And like all voters, they have a wide variety of issues that they care tremendously about, whether it`s healthcare, education, jobs, making sure that their retirement is secure.  These are the issues that unite people across the country.

And our president has no business trying to divide people based upon their religion or politicizing people`s religion and trying to tell them that they have to vote in one way if they are of a certain religion.

And the other thing that I want to say is, being Jewish is very much a cultural issue.  It`s not just about religion.  And the president seems to fail to understand that.  It is about understanding the deep important issues that affect all people in the world, but particularly in this case, in the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Wild conspiracies seemed to find a home with this president, Jon.  I think it`s like market volatility.  As long as you got the people will take on (ph) who shot this, you know, Ted Cruz`s father had something to do with killing Kennedy, get it all up in the air, completely crazy, everybody afraid of everybody else.  Everybody is suspecting the other ethnic groups or religious groups or racial groups or whatever, everybody is mad with everybody, and Trump feels that in that crazy 52-card pickup world he wants to live in, he wins.  Explain, Jon, because he does think he can win with craziness around him.

MEACHAM:  Well, he did, and so that`s why --

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you`re right.  That`s a good point.

MEACHAM:  -- I think he continues to think -- I don`t think it`s much more complicated.  He believes in the kind of chaos theory that if we`re talking about this, he can point out, oh, my God, what are we now, the lame stream media, whatever we are today.  They`re talking about this.  They`re negative and then it gets lost in this kind of -- to go to Eli`s point, it gets lost in this mad chaos of the Trump era.

And I think what -- you know, I struggle with this all the time, and I think you do too.  At some point, you have to decide, do you always call him out on things?  And if you always call him out, are you somehow enabling?  Are we part of this abusive drama in the country right now?  And the answer is we have to.  Because the only way to see our way through this, it seems to me, is to continue to bear witness and to say this is not who we should be.

To some extent, it is who we are.  You know, this is a long debate.  People say this isn`t who we are.  Well, it kind of is, as you know, the country is not perfect.  The goal has always been a more perfect union.  But our greatest leaders and, you know, President Kennedy went to Houston as a candidate and talked about this.  Jefferson in the beginning said his statute for religious liberty was meant, as he put it, to comprehend within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the gentile, the Hindu, the Mohammedan and the infidel of every denomination.  He just listed it all out.  And he said, you have to have the freedom to do what you want to do here.  That`s what sets us apart.

And what the president is doing is instead of figuring out what sets us apart, he`s tearing us apart.

MATTHEWS:  Well, referring to recent press coverage of his unfavorable polling numbers, Trump today issued a cryptic Tweet threatening the media, threatening.  He said, the lame stream media is far beyond fake news.  They are treading in very dangerous territory.

Well, that remark referenced his Tweet yesterday saying, quote, despite all the fake news, my poll numbers are great.  Think what they would be if I got fair media coverage.

Eli, this whole thing, threatening media, there is sort of a totalitarian sound to that, what`s he going to do, and threatening Fox because they`ve got an honest poll.

STOKOLS:  Well, it`s authoritarian.  But, you know, this is what Trump has been doing all along.  There`s this fog machine and there`s all these ideas that he has.  I mean, everybody is out to get him.  So when something happens and it`s happening in plain sight, he explains it away by saying, the media is out to get me or the deep state, the FBI, the Justice Department, they are out to get me.

He is always the victim when something rises up in reaction to his behavior.  You know, he hires people who are doing things that need to be investigated with their investigations, and then he says, look, I told you, it`s the deep state.  He is lying and delivering all these false statements all the time.  The media is always in a fact-checking pose.  And then he points at us and says, see, they`re so negative, they`re out to get me.

So there`s the self-fulfilling prophecy aspect of this where a lot of his behaviors and actions are provoking these responses that he then explains as, see, everything is biased, and he paints everything with that brush whenever something --

MATTHEWS:  I like the fact that he can`t stand.  It`s you, Congresswoman.  You`re a congresswoman now because the voters elected you in the last election.  That`s a fact Trump doesn`t want to face.  All you new members from the suburbs around Philly, except for Bucks County, it was a sweep, as you know, and all women, I think, and you won because people wanted a change from Trump.  That`s a fact.  You are a fact.

WILD:  That`s exactly right.  And I think -- frankly, I think the president is trying very hard to be a distracter-in-chief.  He wants to distract us from the fact that last year, the House majority was created by a whole lot of people who were elected from districts like mine, frontline districts, very purple districts, and equal number of Democrats, Republicans, and healthy dose of independents thrown in, and that`s deeply concerning, I think, to the president.  And that`s why he is resorting to division politics.  I mean, he is literally trying to keep his head above water by dividing us as much as possible.

And I think Jon is absolutely right.  We have to call him out on this every single time because we can`t have a president who doesn`t recognize the role of the president to be a uniter.  And that`s what we really need.  And that`s -- and I will tell you that my Democratic caucus that I`m part of is very much united in many, many ways.  And the voters who voted us in last year care about issues that are important to every American person.  It doesn`t matter whether they`re Jewish or Christian or other.  It is -- you know, they are the issues that I mentioned before, healthcare, education, jobs.  Those are the things that we are focused on.  And all he wants to do is talk about things that will divide us.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Michael, there`s a long respected leader of what`s called Jewish Republicans, Matt Brooks.  I met him for a long time.  This guy has the job of helping get votes, Republican votes, in the community, which generally votes Democrats.

STEELE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  So where is he going to deal with this baby, this assault on religious identity and trying to claim you must vote your group?

STEELE:  You`ve already had an origin of the Republican Party, the Republican Jewish group come out and sort of backed the president up.  So you`re going to have some reinforcements that way.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Totality (ph) is the most general these days?

STEELE:  Well, yes, what else is he going to do?  What can he do?  The reality of it is Trump has consistently put the party in a position where it has to defend the indefensible.  To the point where it`s so weak-kneed now, it has no other choice but to stand right next to him and go, uh-huh, what he said.

And so the reality for us politically on the right, on the Republican side, going into next year`s election is that now you`ve got one more group, one more, you know, community of individuals that`s going to make that conversation much, much harder to get their vote for our candidate.

MATTHEWS:  All I hear is gunfire on 5th Avenue.  He keeps shooting people on 5th Avenue and he keeps getting away with it.

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Susan Wild, congratulations on representing the wonderful Allentown, New Tripoli and those wonderful places in Pennsylvania.  Jon Meacham, thank you so much.  Michael Steele, as always, Eli Stokols, sir, our great reporter here, we need one objective reporter here.

Coming up, Trump`s big problem with women voters, wait until you hear these numbers, they`re unbelievable.  A new poll shows women make a major shift from the president.

Plus, a report says Trump, oh, you`ll love this phrase, moving on from his concern about gun violence, moving on.  Isn`t that nice?  Families can`t move on when they have been victimized.  They can`t move on.  After calling for tougher background checks for a week or so, Trump is now parroting in the National Rifle Association`s talking points, calling, any tougher for gun law or background check a slippery slope.  What do you think he got that from?  Wayne?

Much more ahead.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You remember, in the last election, they said, Donald Trump will not do well with women. 

I said, really?  We did great with women.  We did great with women.  And I think we`re going to do better with women now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Maybe with a couple of them. 

I`m just kidding.  But he did not do well with -- that was President Trump bragging earlier this year about his support among women voters and how he expects it will even grow into stronger support in 2020. 

But, in fact -- and we have to always go in fact -- exit polls from last time show that Trump trailed Hillary Clinton among all women voters by 13 points. 

Well, here comes the really bad news.  The latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds a huge drop from that 13 percent deficit.  The president now trails women by 32 -- look at that -- 2-1 among registered -- this isn`t just adults, adult women.  This is registered, serious voters, when they were asked if they would vote for the president or an eventual Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is.

For more, I`m joined by Kristen Hawn, Democratic strategist, Aaron Blake, senior political reporter for "The Washington Post." 

Thank you so much, Kristen.

Let me ask you about this.  Why?  Does it click with you why? 

KRISTEN HAWN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  The number we`re talking was striking, the non-college-educated women, and it just plummeted in support for Trump. 

And I think it`s because they just relate, you know, on a more intimate level.  We`re talking about, you know, they`re particularly college-aged women with children, right?  So we saw in the midterms that women, college- educated and non-college-educated, you know, they, with children, just -- they were hearing the rhetoric and what Trump was saying and relating it to what was happening in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  But he was oafish before.  When he got elected not doing that badly among women, 13-point deficit among all among women, he had the "Access Hollywood," he had the affairs with the two women in show business, whatever you call it.  He was involved with them.  He paid them off. 

Everybody knew all this grossity.  We have watched him. 

And now was this a dam that was about to break?  It goes from 13-point deficit among women to 32 points, 2-1 loses among women.

AARON BLAKE, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Yes. 

And, obviously, when we look at one poll, we always want to say, does this show up in other polls?  I actually looked at a poll last week that was put up by FOX News that was a pretty bad one for the president, maybe his worst general election numbers of the early 2020 campaign cycle.

And I found that while maybe it was not as pronounced, it was very pronounced and specifically, not just among women, but among less educated women, women who did not have college degrees.  And that actually goes against the narrative a little bit. 

The idea is that his comments about the Squad and things like that maybe are going to alienate those suburban, more educated women voters, but the fact that this is now potentially alienating those less educated voters, those ones that are the working-class white voters...

MATTHEWS:  How so?  Why do you think?  Why do you think? 

BLAKE:  I think there are two possible explanations. 

One is that, in 2016, this was maybe easier for them to look past because it was a change election.  He was the change agent.  If they wanted to mix things up in Washington, he was the person they went to. 

So, that was one reason.  The other thing is, I think a lot of them perhaps thought that, once...

MATTHEWS:  They wanted the bull in the china shop. 

BLAKE:  Yes.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BLAKE:  And the other thing is, you know, if they -- maybe they thought, along with that, and that`s part and parcel of that is, maybe once he gets in office, some of this stuff starts to change. 

Now, obviously, it didn`t change in the first year, it didn`t change in the second year.  Now it`s even ratcheting up a little bit more. 

HAWN:  Yes. 

BLAKE:  And you wonder if, now that he`s no longer that change agent, if that`s going to start being a little bit more of a deal-breaker. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, suburban women will be critical, of course, voting in 2020. 

And, for some, the president`s turn to racial politics has them wavering in their support for him. 

Quote: "In more than three dozen interviews by the Associated Press with women in critical suburbs, nearly all expressed dismay or worse at Trump`s racially polarizing insults and what was often described as unpresidential treatment of people.  Even some who gave Trump credit for the economy or backed his crackdown on immigration acknowledged they were troubled or uncomfortable lining up behind him."

This is my experience growing up in the semi-suburbs around Philly.  People may have been part of white flight, they may have left the big cities because of social economic, because of the changes, racial changes, if you will, but they do not want to be called racist. 

They cannot -- they don`t tell their kids -- they don`t want to -- they talk to their kids that it`s an awful thing to use bad words.  It`s awful to think like that.  I don`t think they want to be known as supporting a racist candidate. 

HAWN:  Well, and it`s gotten worse and worse, right? 

And I think you talked about a dam breaking.  And I really think that that may be what`s happening here.  I mean, these numbers, like you said, the FOX News poll, "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll, and this poll all showed the same thing. 

And that was women who weren`t college-educated are -- their support of Trump is just falling...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, you`re Trump in the White House.  Maybe you`re not watching this show, but watching these numbers. 

Are there enough angry white guys?  I keep going back to that, because, if that`s all you got, you got to go find new ones because you didn`t have enough last time. 

BLAKE:  According to the same polls we`re talking about, the FOX News poll and "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll, it`s not even just women who are departing him. 

Also, if you look at non-college-educated white men, they`re still going for him stronger than any of these other groups, but not by nearly the same margins as in 2016, when it was about a 50-point margin. 

If he loses women to some degree, he needs to pick up that support with men.  And at least the polls that we`re seeing right now are not showing anywhere close to that. 

MATTHEWS:  So, his only way he wins is by declaring the Democratic Party just too far left.

BLAKE:  Or bringing his opponent down to his level. 

I mean, that`s what happened in 2016. 

HAWN:  Yes. 

BLAKE:  We talk about the 2016 election like it was some miracle.

It was actually pretty simple.  He brought Hillary Clinton down, so she was under popular as he was.  That`s going to be the name of the game in 2020.  If he doesn`t do that, he`s going to have a very...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But even that does -- even -- Kristen, I`m told that last time, people were -- if they didn`t like either candidate, Hillary or Trump, they would vote for Trump because he was the newbie.

HAWN:  Or stay home.

MATTHEWS:  Or stay home. 

This time around, people tell me that if they don`t like either one, the Democrat, whoever it is, man or woman, or whatever, they`re going to vote for the new one.  Same deal.

HAWN:  See, I`m -- I actually question that a little bit.

I mean, I get the logic there.  But I`m concerned that, OK, so this -- this poll is Trump against a generic Democrat.  So when you`re answering that question, you get to kind of, OK, who am I thinking about as a generic Democrat?

MATTHEWS:  You`re so true.

HAWN:  And so if we like somebody -- I have said this before on the show -- that is too far left, that does not reflect the electorate that we saw elect a Democratic House in November, last November, then we have a really great shot at losing those women. 

They stay home or they vote for Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Dukakis, as a generic Democrat, would have won.  John Kerry a generic Dem -- but as John Kerry and Dukakis, they didn`t win when people got to know them. 

BLAKE:  And to that point about how Trump won those people who didn`t like both candidates, the poll we were talking about, the FOX News poll last week, actually tested this question. 

And they found people who dislike both Joe Biden and Donald Trump went for Joe Biden by a 43-10 margin.

MATTHEWS:  That`s what I`m talking about.  That`s what I`m talking about. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, Trump has got a deeper hole to dig out of.

Thank you, Kristen Hawn.  You know your stuff. 

HAWN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Aaron.  Thanks for the reporting.

Up next:  President Trump`s reportedly losing interest in gun control -- big surprise -- just two weeks after the latest mass shootings. 

He doesn`t care about guns a week after the event itself, because that`s when the headlines change.  He`s moving on, as they say at the White House.  But what about the families of the victims?  They can`t move on.

I`m going to talk to one of those family members, one of the surviving family members.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Daily Beast reporting today that the president has lost interest in passing gun control measures in the wake of the mass shootings down there earlier this month.

According to the White House official -- quote -- this is from the White House -- "He`s started to move on.  If it were up to the president, he would do background checks today.  But that`s not how it works.  And he loses patience quickly."

That`s somebody speaking for the president. 

Here`s what the president himself had to say about background checks today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have very, very strong background checks right now.  But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don`t complete the whole circle.  And we`re looking at different things. 

And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem.  And I have said it 100 times.  It`s not the gun that pulls the trigger.  It`s the person that pulls the trigger. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And when they asked him -- when he was asked if he would support the background checks bill the Democratic House has already passed earlier this year, he brought up the fact that his supporters believe in this Second Amendment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We are in very meaningful discussions with the Democrats. 

And I think the Republicans are very unified.  We are very strong on our Second Amendment.  The Democrats are not strong at all in the Second Amendment.  I would say they`re weak on the Second Amendment.  And we have to be careful of that. 

The Democrats would, I believe -- I think they`d give up the Second Amendment.  And the people that -- a lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment.  And I am also.

And we have to be very careful about that.  They call it the slippery slope, and all of a sudden, everything gets taken away.  We`re not going to let that happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Slippery slope is, of course, an often repeated NRA talking point to explain why no gun control measures ever get accepted by them. 

Well, the president spoke with NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre on the phone this afternoon, according NBC News.

And I`m joined now by Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was killed in the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting.  He`s the founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime and Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety. 

Thank you, father, a father of a daughter.  I can`t imagine what you have been through and what you`re going to go through more. 

FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM:  Hi, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of this president and his move-on notions, that he`s lost interest?  It seems to be a pattern with him:  I will say all the right things for about a week.

GUTTENBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And then I will fly back into the loving arms of the NRA. 

GUTTENBERG:  Well, listen, when you look at the totality of what he said today, I do want to say first, I`m a Jewish person.  I`m loyal.  Some would say I`m smart.  And I will not vote for this president. 

And I hope all Jewish people join me in condemning what he did, because he incites violence.

And what he did today with his arguments against gun safety, that`s who he is.  He`s a liar.  OK?

When America was at its weakest, he said:  I`m listening.  I hear you.  I`m going to work with you. 

But give it a week or two, and he moves on.  He did the same thing after Parkland.  It`s who he is.  He`s a liar.  He can`t be taken seriously.  It is the reason why this current occupant of the White House cannot be dealt with on serious issues. 

We need to focus on McConnell.  If we want to get anything done on this issue, put the pressure on McConnell. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GUTTENBERG:  The current occupant of the White House is essentially irrelevant. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to the Daily Beast story, the president has promised to tackle background checks before, only to drop the idea once the mass shooting that precipitated his apparent interest faded from the news cycle. 

Here`s what he told parents of the Parkland victims a week after that horrible shooting down there. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We`re going to do something about this horrible situation that`s going on.  And we`re going to all figure it out together. 

So I want to listen.  And then, after I listen, we`re going to get things done. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Guttenberg, I think of the president as a flight risk.  Every time, he says all the right stuff and then splits town. 

It`s usually about a week to 10 days, he figures the American front page will be on this issue.  And the minute it seems to be off top of the fold, front page, he goes over, and, as I said, to the loving arms of Wayne LaPierre, reciting the stuff they have been putting out since dawn of mankind, the slippery slope.

GUTTENBERG:  He had them memorized, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Like we`re heading towards getting rid of guns?  We got more guns than people, a lot more guns than people.  We got so many semiautomatic rifles, assault rifles, you can`t even deal with them anymore. 

Your thoughts. 

GUTTENBERG:  You call it a flight risk.  I call it pathological. 

But that`s what he is.  He used the one argument that drives me crazy today.  And it`s the slippery slope.  It is the ultimate NRA talking point.  And, to me, slippery slope really depends on where you stand. 

Now, I`m going to give you my version of the slippery slope.  My daughter was born in 2003.  In 2004, the ban on assault weapons was lifted.  In 2005, the federal government put in place a law called PLCAA, which removed the ability to hold gun manufacturers accountable. 

And then, over the years since, you have had stand your ground laws and other laws that have made it easier for those who intend to kill to have weapons, and they`re doing it, to the point of the slippery slope now getting to 40,000 victims a year. 

That`s a slippery slope.  Wanting to do something about it, and wanting to defeat these people, and wanting to get Wayne LaPierre out of the president`s ear and back to the expensive ranch that the NRA was going to buy for him...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

GUTTENBERG:  ... is simply wanting to be responsible and fix this. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you feel like, as a victim, a father?  And what do you feel about the country?  Because it`s not just the NRA and the guys who grab the dues-paying money, but...

GUTTENBERG:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  ... the people that embrace this organization and embrace what they call -- they seem to love the Second Amendment more than any of the other amendments, I have noticed.

But why -- what do you think of these people? 

GUTTENBERG:  You know what?  Listen, I`m a supporter of the Second Amendment.  I have family members who own guns.  I have friends who own guns. 

This is not a Second Amendment issue.  Bullets don`t know if you love the Second Amendment or they don`t.  They don`t know if you`re Republican or Democrat.  They just know, if they hit you, they`re likely to kill you.

And so it`s a moronic argument that is intended to keep things the way they are.  And, on that, there`s no chance we can be OK with that.  People are dying. 

I have said it on other interviews, but while I`m sitting here talking to you, there`s someone learning they`re a victim of gun violence, there`s someone who just got done burying a victim of gun violence, and there`s somebody planning a funeral for a victim of gun violence. 

It`s not normal.  They`re wrong.  This is not a Second Amendment conversation.  This is about protecting our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And we can`t let these people win.

I`m optimistic.  If you look at Florida, the one person who ran statewide on gun safety was Nikki Fried.  She won.  And if you look across the country, we flipped the House on this issue.

And Mitch McConnell, get ready, because we`re going to flip the Senate on this issue as well.  You are about to be fired sir. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  It`s a great honor to have you on. 

And if I -- if you don`t mind me saying so, you`re doing everything for the memory of your daughter.  Thank you. 

GUTTENBERG:  Thank you.  I appreciate you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I mean that. 

GUTTENBERG:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  The stage for the -- I mean it.

Coming up:  The upcoming third Democratic debate is coming on.  We`re going to see how crowded that is.  We`re hoping it`s enough for one night.  We don`t want two nights anymore. 

And with Biden locking down the moderate lane, which candidate is best positioned to take over the progressive left lane? 

That`s the big -- that`s the big fight over there.  And we`re going to talk about it when we get back, Elizabeth vs. Bernie. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A new national poll out today by CNN shows former Vice President Joe Biden pulling well ahead of the Democratic field to double digits now.  Twenty- nine percent of Democrats say they will or do prefer the former vice president.  That`s a 7-point increase for Biden just since June. 

Well, late this afternoon, Biden was asked about his standing in the polls.  Here`s what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`ve said from the beginning, these polls will go up and they`ll go down.  I`ve got to come out here and I got to earn the support of these people.  I`ve got to let them know what I care about.  And this campaign should be about the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, support among voters for Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren remains unchanged since June with Sanders holding at 15 percent, warren at 14.  Too close to call there. 

Senator Kamala Harris`s support has changed.  Look at this, dropping 12 points to just 12.  She went from 17 in June.  What happened there?

Meanwhile, Julian Castro, former housing and urban development secretary, now said he was qualified now for next month`s Democratic debate, joining now other nine can -- there they are, the ten now that are going to be on the stage together. 

Two others, Tom Steyer and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii are on the cusp of qualifying, not there yet.  It was not certain that they`ll clear the bar by August 28th, which is the cutoff date.  That`s coming up soon. 

Next month`s debate could be the first time, by the way, if you like excitement.  Biden and Warren will be on the same stage together, of course, with Bernie as well. 

And Warren is making big strides in her efforts to take over the party`s left lane from Sanders.  She seems to be eating his lunch every day. 

That`s next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With five months until the Iowa caucuses, five months now, a new poll by Morning Consult shows Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck among very liberal voters, jazz people, liberal or very liberal.  They`re fighting for that left lane in the battle for the left plank or the left flank of the Democratic Party.

The two candidates are vying to become the progressive left alternative, of course, to the moderate Joe Biden, who seems to own that moderate lane. 

For more, I`m joined by Ginger Gibson, "Reuters" political correspondent, and Danielle Moodie-Mills, SiriusXM host. 

Thank you both.

Let me start with Ginger and go to Danielle. 

What do you see this race?  These numbers are fascinating.  Biden seems to have a default position somewhere around 30. 

Bernie and Elizabeth tends to be, and we call them by their first names.  We know them so well now.  We think we do.  They are sort of dividing up the anti-Biden vote or non-Biden vote.  If one drops out, look out Joe.  That`s my thinking. 

GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  I think this is really getting at to the heart of this Democratic primary debate process.  Do you want the guy that feels stable and safe or do you want something that feels revolutionary and new?  And really, Elizabeth Warren has gained the support by being sort of the nerdy candidate with all of the policies.  The challenge to her now is convincing people to vote for her who aren`t voting for just her policies, or maybe even they don`t care.

MATTHEWS:  Aren`t there enough progressive left people? 

GIBSON:  No, I don`t think there are.  I mean, look at the numbers, when you see that Joe Biden`s got 30 percent of the decided Democratic electorate, that means there aren`t enough people, and look at the CNN poll, the most interesting number in that poll was the division on age about whether they cared more about electability. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you explain that?  Younger people tend to be more ideological in their bearing.  Older people tend to be let`s see what happens, I want the one who`s going to win. 

GIBSON:  I think there`s also an idea there needs to be a return to calm.  I hear that so much when I talk to voters on the trail.  And I think, for them, it`s a short-term question, and for younger people it`s a long-term question. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Danielle, how much of this is we want a designated driver to get us home tonight, and that would be Joe Biden.  Designated driver, no excitement, he`s sober.  He`ll be at the wheel, and get us home.  We`ll be safe in our bed at night. 

How much of that is his appeal?

DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, SIRIUS XM PODCAST HOST:  I don`t know if it really is Joe Biden`s appeal or it`s the appeal of nostalgia that he`s trying to conjure up.  I have said this before, Joe Biden is like a comforter.  He`s like America`s safety blanket and everybody wants wrap themselves up in it because you have been beaten up and bruised by Donald Trump. 

But the reality is when you look at his policies and how -- and what he has to offer, he has to offer more of the same, and to your point. 

MATTHEWS:  More of the same of who? 

MOODIE-MILLS:  More of the same for the moderate, middle, I`m going to work across the aisle.  He said over the weekend there are an awful good amount of Republicans, and I`m asking him where, where are the good Republicans?  Because they haven`t stood up against Trump. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you`ve got a Senate that`s roughly 50/50 Democrat and Republican how else do you deal without dealing with the other side?  How else to get 60 votes?

MOODIE-MILLS:  Chris, Mitch McConnell is the Grim Reaper, he doesn`t want to deal.  He wants no deal. 

MATTHEWS:  So what do you do?  So, what`s the alternative?

MOODIE-MILLS:  You have to -- you have to -- we`ll find a way, and I`ve said this before, you have to find a way to work around Mitch McConnell.  If it looks like executive orders, if it looks like rallying people. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Executive orders you can accomplish these?  I`m serious, I`m with you.  I`m with you. 

MOODIE-MILLS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  How do you deal a whole new health care plan by executive order?  How do you do student loans by executive order? 

MOODIE-MILLS:  We have to do what Nancy Pelosi did when Nancy Pelosi had the energy and the stamina during the original health care fight.  We have to go to the people.  The people are the ones that have to be --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but you had Ted Kennedy and 60 Democrats.  I`m sorry, I`m going back to numbers.  They had 60 Democrats in the Senate including Ted Kennedy.  That`s how they got health care through.  They had the numbers.

The Democrats don`t have the numbers now.

MOODIE-MILLS:  We have to go through the -- you see people are organizing all around the world right now.  They are saying that they have had enough of these regimes and people need to be organized.  I just don`t think that Joe Biden conjures that kind of action that are going to get people into the streets. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, that`s your opinion. 

Anyway, the Biden campaign launched its first TV ad in Iowa.  The ad makes the case for Biden`s electability.  Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN CAMPAIGN AD ANNOUNCER:  The stakes are higher, the threats are more serious.  We have to beat Donald Trump.  And all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job.  No one is more qualified. 

Now, Joe Biden is running for president with a plan for America`s future.  To build on Obamacare, not scrap it.  To make a record investment in America`s schools.  To lead the world on climate.  To rebuild our alliances. 

Most of all, he`ll restore the soul of the nation battered by an erratic, vicious, bullying president. 

Strong, steady, stable leadership. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Just yesterday, Biden`s wife Jill, Dr. Jill Biden, made a similar pitch to voters up in New Hampshire. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN:  I know not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that but I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability and who`s going to win this race. 

A lot of the time I say, you know, polls, excuse me, polls don`t mean anything, polls don`t mean anything.  But if they`re consistent and they`re consistently saying the same thing, I think you can`t dismiss that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That`s amazingly not defensive.  It`s amazingly generous to the other way of thinking.  You may not like my husband`s health care plan, you may not like this or that, but you`ve got to take him. 

GIBSON:  I think that the Bidens collectively are making the argument that this is the best-case scenario, that he would bring best-case scenario. 

I was surprised with him at a fundraiser last night in northern Virginia.  He told the crowd, if it`s not me, I`ll fight for another person.  I mean, it`s really remarkable when someone is running for president.  I`m also OK if it isn`t me.

They`re trying to be pragmatic.  They think there`s a pragmatic piece of America that wants to see him. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Danielle, I`ve been seeing what looks like a winning success by Elizabeth Warren.  I see her moving relentlessly to the top.  I think she`s going to pass Bernie at some point, Bernie Sanders.  I think she`ll pass Trump at a certain point in Iowa.  I just see her going in that direction. 

Is that something you think will be good for the progressive side to see her to overtake Bernie? 

MOODIE-MILLS:  Absolutely.  I think Elizabeth Warren has been the only candidate in this race that has been on a steady incline since she`s announced.  She has a plan for everything, she`s offering people exactly what it is that they need. 

She`s looking at the full picture and she`s saying, we have to take on Wall Street, we have to adjust our health care plans, we have to understand the racial health care gap through the eyes of white supremacy.  We have to do these big, bold things. 

And she said, you know, in the last debate, why is it -- if you`re going to run for president, why are you going to tell me about all the things you can`t do.  She is a can-do candidate and she`s showing us that she can continually rise in the polls.  And I think that she`s going to over take Bernie Sanders.  She`s the progressive we need to be watching right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Ginger Gibson.  Thank you, Danielle Moodie- Mills, of course. 

Coming up next, what about Eric Garner in that case in New York?  What does it teach us now that I think it`s resolved about justice in America? 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Look at the front pages of today`s New York tabloids.  On the left is "The New York Daily News", look at the headline.  And on the right is the "New York Post".  Look at that headline. 

Both headlines believe it or not had the same story.  An officer`s firing from a police force that long pride itself as New York`s finest.  Well, the go (ph) of such cases of this is, of course, justice.  This might be as close as we`ll get to justice in this case.  It`s a measure of our system that both sides disagree about the outcome. 

Here`s what New York Police Commissioner James O`Neill said yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES O`NELL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER:  Today`s a day of reckoning but can also be a day of reconciliation.  We must move forward together as one city, determined to secure safety for all, safety for all New Yorkers and safety for every police officer working daily to protect all of us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here`s the daughter of the man who was killed, Emerald Snipes Garner. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMERALD SNIPES-GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER:  Eric Garner was killed five years ago.  It took five years for the officer to be fired. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let`s look at history.  We all read in school about the Boston massacre and the fair trial given to those British soldiers.  Well, the trial occurred because a man of conscience, John Adams, took the case as a soldier defense attorney and because the Boston jury did its duty to deliver a just, if complicated, verdict. 

And there we laid down the principle that all, including the most unpopular defendants, get a fair trial.  I have a simple rule in these cases that are fraught so much with history and loyalty and race.  And let`s be honest, real human conflict.  It`s to realize every case is different, the facts are different, the motives are different.  The human fact always present is different. 

The innocence or guilty of a defendant is unknown until the jury or the judge delivers a verdict.  And even when it comes, it is rarely received with joy as in this case of Eric Garner`s death, and Officer Daniel Pantaleo.  As we see in these two warring headlines there they are again judging by some as too harsh, by others as dreadfully too late in coming, but we have to try for justice.  And from the looks of this case, people truly tried. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END