CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump`s bad numbers. Let`s play HARDBALL. Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington with new polls showing his Democratic rivals well Positioned to make him a one-term president, President Trump is wrapping up the third summer of his presidency by lashing out in all directions as he watches one of his biggest priorities, the border wall, at a standstill and the economy perhaps unable to sustain its extraordinary pace.
What seems to be unsettling the president are the poll numbers. With the election 14 months away, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump trailing each of the top four Democratic candidates by double-digits. Look at these numbers. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads him by 16. Senator Bernie Sanders is up by 14, Senator Elizabeth Warren by 12, Senator Kamala Harris up by 11.
Meanwhile, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, beset by low poll numbers, announced late today she is leaving the presidential competition.
But the president does not get more than 40 percent in these polls. In any of the matchups with the Democratic frontrunners, 40 percent is his top. Trump has held an approval rating in the low 40s in most polls and the real clear politics average has him at about 43.
Now, Trump has been counting on the reasonable prospect that once the Democratic nominee is actually selected at the convention next summer, his position will be strengthened, that he will look better in comparison.
But those new numbers out now, the matchup numbers, may explain why in recent days we have seen the president attacking everyone that he thinks has done him wrong, lobbing attacks at the Mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico as the island braces for Hurricane Dorian, attacking Fox News, which used to be his favorite channel, but now he says it isn`t working for us anymore, and, of course, his default target, the media.
With the new poll numbers putting him back up against the wall, the president is reverting to his standard playbook and crowd cheering hits like build the wall. Well, The Washington Post reports that the president is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election, that he has directed aides to fast track billions of dollars worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules. What the president is telling aides, he would pardon, that`s is word, them should they have to break law to get that wall built.
Well, The Washington Post adds, the president has told senior aides that a failure to deliver on the signature progress of his 2016 campaign would be a letdown to his supporters and an embarrassing defeat. That`s how he sees it. The president is denying that he offered pardons, Tweeting it was made up by The Washington Post only in order to demean and disparage, fake news.
For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Jason Johnson, Politics Editor at The Root, Katie Rogers, White House Correspondent for The New York Times.
Congresswoman, I love politicians who tell me they don`t read polls, and yet everybody reads polls, everybody pays for them, everybody acts on them. This president seems to be acting on these polls. They`re staring at -- scaring the bejesus out of him. He seems to think he could lose to Kamala Harris, to lose to the socialist, the self-described socialist, Bernie Sanders, he loses to all. Do you believe he is in that deep water right now, just the numbers? Do you believe them?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think that he believes those numbers, and I think that he`s showing paranoid symptoms. And it`s becoming very worrisome. Probably the best poll number in terms of him recognizing he`s in trouble is that now polls show that the public believes the economy is not helping them, 37 percent, and is helping them, 31 percent.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. You are distorting that number. Congresswoman, you`re distorting the number. 61 percent of the new poll you`re quoting say the economy is in excellent shape right now. 61 percent say it`s excellent. And down below the 60, 30 some of them, it`s getting better than excellent. And you`re saying, you give me the 37 percent at the wrong end of the fact there. The big fact is they do like the economy.
SPEIER: Well, the statistics I just saw showed that the question that was asked relative is the economy working for you, it was 37 percent, no, 31 percent yes. So maybe we`re talking about two different polls, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I guess we are. But the latest poll we got was at 61 percent. And my question would you think that Trump`s in trouble because people think the economy is not working for them? Is that right?
SPEIER: No. I think he`s in trouble because of his actions. I think the deeper he goes -- now that he`s actually said that Fox News isn`t working for him, I mean, that is probably the most real comment he`s made. And it shows that he`s lashing out at everything, even his beloved Fox News. So I think it`s more his behavior than it is anything else.
MATTHEWS: Robert, you`re a student of this guy. What do you think? Do you think these numbers are real to him, the matchup numbers, the numbers that show him losing to Bernie, Warren, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden big time, all of them?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: They take seriously inside of the White House and they face a possible threat from a strong Democratic nominee in 2020. And so they`re looking at things like executive action on the border wall to try to get that base activated o the Republican side, knowing that they face a real tough outcome in Congress this fall. Speaker Pelosi may not bring the USMCA to a vote and then not get anything than that (ph).
MATTHEWS: The NAFTA substitute. Why doesn`t he blame it on the Democrats, Katie? They don`t want the help him on the wall. They don`t want to help him on detention centers. They don`t want to help on any of this stuff.
KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think the media might be an easier foil for him right now. I mean, it`s just what he has always relied on. We`re not giving him favorable coverage on his border wall, on all of the wins in the economy. I think he is lashing out because he really feel -- inside The White House, the spin is - -
MATTHEWS: Do you think he gets a good press?
ROGERS: Do I think he gets good press?
MATTHEWS: A good press, like what you say, a good press?
ROGERS: I think he would say he does not get good press. I think he often gets fair press. I think he gets aggressive press. But he hits right back, and I think that invites more scrutiny on him.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Jason? Because he is obviously an unhappy man right now and he`s unhappy because, I think, the polls are roughly accurate. They generally are. The size of these polls, the one we had yesterday, was 17,500 people being surveyed. These are strong evidences of a problem.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Look, the political scientists need to pay attention to that number, because that`s huge when you`ve got that many people that you`re actually polling.
But here is what`s dangerous. The real campaign season doesn`t start until actually after Labor Day. So if you`re doing this bad on the polls already, it`s one thing when you`re losing to sort of the generic Democrat. But at this point, Joe Biden is at 100 percent name recognition, so is Bernie Sanders. If you could lose to Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris this early on, when there are still people who don`t know them, that is a very bad sign.
Should he be worried? No. We`ve still got a long time to go. But should he be concerned about his presidency is being viewed going into the holiday season? Yes, he should.
MATTHEWS: You`re a hard man to read, Jason. Who do you think is going to win the election next year?
JOHNSON: I have no idea who is going to win the election next year.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re laughing in a way that`s some sort of ironic brilliance there.
Anyway, President Trump`s re-election campaign is using division as a vote gatherer, as always. In a campaign email responding to Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez`s call to abolish the Electoral College, the campaign email says, this is our country, not theirs. The language is very similar to Trump`s racist attacks on Cortez and the three other Democratic women of color, Congresswoman Tlaib and, of course, Pressley and Omar.
Last month, when he suggested they should go back to the countries they originally came from, all four are U.S. citizens, and three of them, by the way, were born here in the U.S.
Congresswoman, let me ask about the way he goes after people. I mean, it seems to me that when he goes after Puerto Rico, he is blaming Puerto Rico today because they may have a hurricane coming in, Dorian, as if it`s their fault. That must be aimed at people that just don`t like people from Puerto Rico. I don`t get the attitude otherwise. Your thoughts?
SPEIER: Well, he`s blaming mother nature too. He has to deflect always what he should be taking responsibility for. He makes his bad news. When he goes on and says that Vladimir Putin should be brought back into the G7, and then he starts talking about Doral, and once again, he is pimping on behalf of himself or on behalf of Vladimir Putin.
And American have got to ask the question --
MATTHEWS: You`re amazing. You`re amazing. How do you just do that?
SPEIER: Why is he president?
MATTHEWS: You just said he is pimping on behalf of Doral and he is pimping on behalf of Vladimir Putin. I`m sorry. It`s just regular American English you`re using there. But I haven`t heard anybody say that. I mean, I`m just amazed by this.
Go ahead and explain that for people who are not familiar with the normal language of the people. But pimping, you think he is out there hawking his goods, trying to make a buck?
SPEIER: Well, of course he is. He is talking about his country club.
Now, I think he knows that the G7 isn`t going to come to his country club, but he is promoting it to the American public and he is trying to garner more money for himself. I mean, that is the one thing you can`t do. That`s the conflict of interest that he engages in on a regular basis.
Members of Congress can`t solicit people to come to their law firm while they`re a member of Congress. We can`t even have a second job. But he has his real estate developments and he is constantly promoting them.
Every time he goes to Mar-a-Lago, it`s $3 million of taxpayer funds.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the word. We won`t have the word pimping again. I just used. But this thing about Russia, I have to tell you, he looks like he is working for Vladimir. He even -- when everybody in the whole world is watching him, watching him under a microscope, looking for evidence that they got the dossier on or they got something on him, that he is out there working for him to get into the G7. What is the motive, the passion that explains this president`s seemingly priority to get the Moscow crowd and all the oligarchs into the G7? Why is he doing it?
SPEIER: I think his tax returns may give us the answer. That`s the only way I can explain it. The truth is that during his campaign, his campaign operatives met with Russian operatives at least 34 times. His campaign chair met with the GRU operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, handed over a polling data. There were over 250 contacts with Russia. That is not normal.
And I think the American public needs to recognize that there is something really smelling about what goes on between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Robert Costa?
COSTA: Congresswoman, with all this you just laid out, is it time for Democrats to pressure Speaker Pelosi to move forward with articles of impeachment?
SPEIER: Yes, yes.
COSTA: So you don`t hold out to try to do a deal on USMCA move forward now? That`s what you`re saying?
SPEIER: I`m sorry? Move forward now, absolutely.
I think the American people need to have it fully flushed out before the judiciary committee. But you look at volume one that talks about the interrelationship of the Russian operatives and the Trump campaign specifically. And then you look at volume two where there were ten instances where Bob Mueller found there had been obstruction of justice but for the fact that the Justice Department had this guideline that you can`t have a seated president be indicted.
I mean, those are impeachable offenses. And it`s incumbent on us to take action.
MATTHEWS: congresswoman, I think Robert is into something there with the questioning. I thought impeachment was dead. I just thought the clock has ran out. And now I get the sense it may be coming back alive. Do you think there will be a resolution by the House of Representatives to begin impeachment hearings this fall? Will there be a resolution by the House?
SPEIER: I think that there will be an inquiry that will be started by the committee. You don`t need an actual resolution by the House based on votes that have already been taken. So the inquiry will begin. I think that you will have the committee meeting, and going through much of the evidence.
And I am one of those that believe we should actually bring to it the floor for a vote. When the most risky members, the members who won in districts in which Trump had large wins, when they can come out in favor of impeachment, I think this discussion that somehow marginal Dems need to be protected is not as relevant. I never thought it was relevant, frankly. I mean, we have an obligation.
And there is such a reckless person in the White House. He is alienating all of our allies. He has corrupting tendencies. He violates the law, and we sit here on our hands? I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think, Jason, what the congresswoman is saying, they`re going to try to continue the inquiry without having an resolution, but I think they`re going to need a resolution for people to think it`s serious.
JOHNSON: Bring it to the table. Do a vote.
MATTHEWS: You have to get 218 votes to begin the resolution like they did against Clinton even.
JOHNSON: And see, here is the thing, Chris, this falls into what we`re just talking about. If you`ve got not to say that these polls are going to stay solid for the next year, but if you have Democrats with this much of a lead, heading on the president of the United States, there`s a notion that, oh, gosh, we can`t do it because it`s going to cost us seats, it`s not true. Either put forward and go through with the impeachment process or don`t. People don`t want to hear about inquiries anymore.
MATTHEWS: But they`re still afraid, Katie, of the word, acquittal. They`re afraid if it goes to the Senate, even if it clears the House with 218 impeachment, articles of impeachment, and then goes to the Senate and the Senate doesn`t get its two-thirds, Trump will say, I`ve been acquitted and he`ll dance before the American people like the winner.
ROGERS: I think if one thing the president has signaled in the past few months is that he`s almost dared the Democrats to go forward. One thing that this has --
MATTHEWS: Does he want it?
ROGERS: I think he appreciates the infighting among the Democrats on the impeachment question, for sure. And I think he invites the political battle that will follow. And I don`t know if --
JONSON: When has Trump not declared himself the winner? He always says he is winning. He always says he is winning.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, congresswoman, so much to come on, Jackie Speier of California, thank you for coming on tonight. Robert Costa, Jason Johnson, Katie Rogers, thank you all.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Joe Biden says, we told you so, because the new polls are out showing a much different story than an earlier one, that outlier poll that showed him, really, in a tie with the rest of the top frontrunners. Well, even that polls report at that outlying poll is now admitting it was an outlier.
And President Trump now goes before Republicans who have planned to challenge them for his party. He is going after them, calling them the three stooges. That`s useful. And worse, does he feel threatened? I don`t think so. But there they are. They got their nickname. One of the president`s challengers, by the way, is going to join here. They guy there, he is going to challenge him, right there. Walsh is going to join us.
Up next, the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Dorian is moving toward north of Puerto Rico now in the Virgin Islands bringing heavy rain and wind, and apparently heading for Florida. Right now it`s Category 1.
On its current track, it could reach the east coast of Florida by Sunday or Monday possibly as a Category 3 by then.
We`re back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The field of Democratic presidential candidates got a little bit smaller tonight. As I said, having failed to qualify for the third presidential debate, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced today the end of her campaign. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Hey, everyone. I wanted you to hear it from me first that after more than eight incredible months, I`m ending my presidential campaign.
I know this isn`t the result we wanted. We wanted to win this race, but it`s important to know when it`s not your time.
Our work is not done, and we have a clear mission in front of us. We have to defeat President Trump, flip the Senate and elect women up and down the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she now joins California Congressman Eric Swalwell, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, and Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, who have also dropped out so far.
By the way, in front-runner news tonight, which is bigger news, two new polls, as I said, show former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of his rivals by double digits now, solidifying his lead and front-runner status, after an outlier survey on Monday. We showed you Monday that he was in a three- way tie with Bernie and Elizabeth.
Well, according to "USA Today"/Suffolk University poll, which surveyed 1,000 registered voters, 32 percent of likely Democratic voters say they`re for Biden. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren comes in 14 percent, well behind 32, followed by Bernie at 12, Bernie Sanders at 12.
So, in that particular poll, with a pretty good survey, a pretty good universe, big number for -- now we have a new poll out now, the Quinnipiac poll, another one out today, surveyed 1,400 registered voters, also shows Biden at 32 among Democratic voters and independents who lean Democratic.
Warren in this race is up better, 19 points, and Sanders at 15 this time in this poll.
Well, yesterday, the vice president sat down with a dozen African-American reporters, and he addressed his strong support among African-American voters, telling reporters: "People know me, or at least they think they know me. After all this time, they have to think they have a sense of what my character is and who I am, warts and all. That doesn`t mean it will stay that way. In 2008, I got blown out in Iowa and all of the sudden everything changed. Same thing could happen again."
Well, that`s pretty humble.
I`m joined right now by Neera Tanden, president and CEO of Center for American Progress and former senior adviser to President Obama.
You`re all that.
MATTHEWS: And Tim Miller is former communications director for Jeb Bush`s 2016 campaign and a contributor to The Bulwark.
Well, that`s impressive.
Let me go to Neera. I know you better, so I want to ask you about this.
MATTHEWS: There is something in the water, at least going through into the fall. We haven`t gotten to the Equinox yet or whatever, but into the fall, there seems to be something sticking there.
What is it for Biden? Why is he holding on that one-third?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think, actually, the issue for the president is that he has weathered a fair amount of negative press.
He`s had two debates, the first one very tough. The second one, he performed well -- or performed better. And I think the truth is that he still is doing pretty well against Trump. And, also, Trump hasn`t figured out a way...
MATTHEWS: I think he`s 16-point spread against him right now.
TANDEN: He does -- now, they`re all doing pretty well against Trump, but he does the best against Trump.
And, also, I think, really importantly, Trump has not figured out a way to take him down. And I think all of those things together, a lot of Democrats are very comfortable with him. They do -- Democrats do like the vice president.
TANDEN: Those things make him a very comfortable and strong choice for a lot of base Democratic voters.
MATTHEWS: Tim, I was thinking about this, like I often do right on the show.
And it`s hard to call a golfer a socialist. It doesn`t seem to work in terms of like sort of the picture, the image. He is sort of a regular middle-class guy from the burbs who has made a decent income, has a nice family, has some troubles, like a lot of families do.
He seems like America, like in the way that Trump would look at it. You know what I`m saying? Like, Trump doesn`t see this guy as them, like he does other people, minorities, which he clearly sees as them.
How does he knock a guy that seems like he would be playing on the same golf course as him? Does he call him them?
TIM MILLER, FORMER JEB BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, there might be some socialist -- yes, there might be some socialist golfers. None are coming straight to mind here in the studio.
MILLER: But, yes, I -- look, I think what your point is, what you`re getting at is, I think there is this conventional wisdom that has congealed on the left in D.C. that, like, to beat Trump, you have to beat him at his game, which is this maximizing of turnout game.
But, actually, Biden appeals to -- even though we`re in very partisan, polarized times, there is still an election-deciding amount of voters who voted for Obama and then Trump, or Romney and then Hillary.
Biden appeals to those people. And Trump has a hard time, like you`re saying, of demonizing him. And I think that electability is what is one of the things, not the only thing, that is doing him well in the Democratic primary.
MATTHEWS: I think he just talks about him being sleepy, slow, sleepy Joe.
TANDEN: Yes, so I think the idea -- I think the fact that the best he can come up with, the best that Trump can come up with against Joe Biden is sleepy Joe, and I think most people think that`s just pathetic.
Like, compared to all the names he has come up with...
TANDEN: ... he just really hasn`t been able to take down Joe Biden, like he has other people.
And I just -- and Biden feels very comfortable going right at Trump.
MATTHEWS: How do you feel about Biden? When -- you`re kind of a live person. I think I am too, a type A.
TANDEN: I am only kind of a live person? I am actually a live person.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he is slow? Do you think he is slow on the uptake? Do he is a little nothing comes to mind kind of person? Do you think he is?
TANDEN: Joe Biden?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m just asking you.
I mean, this is the thing that I think is odd about it, which is, Twitter and the media hyperfocus his, like, gaffes and words he gets wrong.
The assuring thing to Democrats is the guy was vice president of the United States for eight years and didn`t humiliate us on the world stage on an hourly basis.
So, whereas people -- like, so many people cringe at his gaffes, most Democrats think, you know, the guy, I would take him in a heartbeat over this guy.
MATTHEWS: Well, in what may be another troubling sign for President Trump, the new Quinnipiac poll shows that Trump`s disapproval numbers swamp his approval numbers on a number of issues, including his handling of foreign policy, immigration, trade, guns, race relations.
More Americans disapprove of the job he is doing on those issues than approve of him. Additionally, 62 percent of voters say that President Trump is doing more to divide the country as president. Only 30 percent saying he`s doing more to unite.
I don`t know who those 30 percent are.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- to Tim.
What are the 30 percent of American people he`s -- because even the ones that like him don`t want to be united with the other side. They don`t like the them. That`s why he is talking to them that way.
MILLER: I think he is uniting -- he is uniting them among each other, I think, making them feel closer with their fellow brethren.
MILLER: Look, this is the thing when you look at under these numbers. It`s the economy that`s holding Trump up.
That is the one issue where voters are looking at him positively. It`s the economy. And it`s -- as it was in 2016, voters who don`t like either party, but like him a little bit better.
That`s pretty shaky ground, both on where it seems like we might be going economically.
MATTHEWS: Well, it depends. The economy may have peaked. The economy could slow down next year.
MILLER: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: That doesn`t mean disaster. It doesn`t mean disaster.
MILLER: Yes. I think both of those are shaky areas for the president.
MATTHEWS: I know. Al Gore lost in 2000 because the economy was starting to come down. It wasn`t in bad shape. It just wasn`t like it was before.
MATTHEWS: By the way, do you think bread and circuses is still a way to run a country, like the Roman emperors did? Give them the bread, give them the economy, and then put on a show?
Because this guy seems to think that the circus is just as important as the bread, don`t you think, Tim?
MILLER: Well, this -- look, the circus is critical to him, right, because he`s losing when people are focusing on all these various issues. This is what he is so good at.
He is so good at manipulating all you guys in the media and changing the subject. It`s how he gets off of his bad news cycles. And, really, it`s - - and he`s done a good job of baiting the left into participating into his circus. It`s tough not to.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re right. You`re so smart, Tim.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you, could you not report that this guy is acting like an 8-year-old, saying, I want to buy Greenland?
I mean, how do you -- or I want you to go to my Doral, as the congresswoman said, pimping out his golf course? I mean, how do you ignore that stuff?
My thought to you.
MILLER: You can`t ignore it.
But, look, there are things that get ignored. Just today, on your guys` network, as I was watching coming in, there`s this story on the deferred treatment for medical -- for life-threatening medical for immigrants.
And people aren`t talking about that, because they`re talking about Greenland. That is a real problem. It`s a hard challenge. Trump makes it tough. But he`s making it work for him.
TANDEN: But so the thing I would say about the circus, though, is a circus for an evening might be fun, a circus for a day.
TANDEN: A circus for a month.
I think one of the challenges Trump really has is, a never-ending circus for four years is exhausting. And there are...
MATTHEWS: I think that`s the new word. That`s the new word. That`s the word we`re hearing.
TANDEN: And so people are exhausted. And people are tired.
TANDEN: And they`re -- and I think this is an issue for Biden, actually. It goes to this.
People are like, I could just not pay attention to the news for a day with Joe Biden. It would be...
MATTHEWS: Thank you. I think that...
MATTHEWS: Tim, we will have back. We will have you back, brother.
MILLER: All right, thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You`re good.
MILLER: We will see you, man.
MATTHEWS: You`re good, except we have to do it this way, the way we do it, not the way you want to do it. But there is a way. You can do it. Try it some time.
MILLER: That`s fine.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Neera, who knows this business, knows it all.
Thank you, Tim Miller, from the low-energy campaign. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: But you have got a lot of energy. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Ouch. Anyway, thank you.
TANDEN: Oh, my God. Wow.
MILLER: That`s rude.
TANDEN: Hard negative.
MATTHEWS: Well, at least he wasn`t pimping anybody out.
Anyway, up next: U.S. intelligence officials are sounding the alarm in advance of the 2020 election, warning that voter registration databases are vulnerable to what are called ransomware cyberattacks -- another thing to worry about at night.
How at risk is our election process? And is anything being done to combat the threat of this ransom stuff, of stealing stuff, and then say, I will give it back to you or fix it if you pay me?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): In your investigation, did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election, or did you find evidence that suggests they will try to do this again?
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: It wasn`t a single attempt. They`re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, special counsel Robert Mueller during testimony last month on Russian efforts to interfere in our elections.
Mueller`s report detailed the disturbing attempt of cyber-efforts in 2016 to infiltrate our political system through disinformation.
Meanwhile, local governments across our country have been under siege by a different type of cyberattack. It`s called ransomware, ransomware, attacks that hold computer systems hostage, crippling them until the system`s owner pay some money.
And just last week, authorities in Texas acknowledged that computer systems in 22 small towns were targeted by a coordinated attack on local government agencies. It followed similar attacks on municipalities across the country in recent years.
Back in May, Baltimore was hit with a ransomware attack that brought its computer systems to a halt. A similar attack in March of 2018 hobbled Atlanta`s municipal government systems.
But it`s not just big cities targeted. In June, Riviera Beach, Florida, population 35,000, paid hackers nearly $600,000 to regain control of their computer systems in that town.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors said at least 170 county, city, and state government systems have been victimized by ransomware attacks since 2013.
And now the U.S. government is warning that foreign hackers from Russia to China could use ransomware to wreak havoc on the 2020 elections here.
Are we prepared for it? This is big stuff. Stick with us. It`s coming up next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Department of Homeland Security is starting a new effort to combat Russian interference in next year`s elections. Reuters reports that U.S. officials fear foreign hackers may turn to ransomware.
The U.S. government plans to launch a program in roughly one month that narrowly focuses on protecting voter registration databases and systems ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Intelligence officials are concerned that foreign hackers in 2020 not only will target the databases, but attempt to manipulate, disrupt or destroy the data itself, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The director of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, Christopher Krebs, told Reuters: "Recent history has shown state and county governments and those who support them are targets for ransomware attacks. That is why they`re working alongside election officials and their private sector partners to help protect their databases and respond to possible ransomware attacks."
For more, I`m joined by Clint Watts, MSNBC national security analyst, David Salvo, deputy director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Thank you much, Clint.
I guess the first question is, what is ransomware?
CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, ransomware is a type of malware that is sent usually via e-mail. It`s sent out to a work force, say, a company or a state or local government.
And when they click on, it actually encrypts or destroys, essentially prevents access to the data on that system, unless you pay a ransom to usually whoever the hackers are. Typically, it`s via digital currency like Bitcoin.
If you pay that ransom, they will then decrypt oftentimes that information. But, sometimes, you even pay the ransom, and they don`t decrypt it anyways.
And so it has actually crippled many state and local governments. And that`s because they have older I.T. infrastructure. They also have many vulnerabilities.
And in the case of these voter data rolls, you`re looking at agencies that are going back and forth, clicking back and forth between the public and these data rolls, trying to get people registered to vote. That gives them just ample number of opportunities to click just one time on ransomware, so that it could actually cripple those systems.
MATTHEWS: David, my worry, like anybody who has been through 2000, the election of 2000, and what happened in Florida with the recount --
DAVID SALVO, ALLIANCE FOR SECURING DEMOCRACY DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: -- that we don`t have a situation where one of the states can`t be defend on.
SALVO: And it almost happened in 2016 when Florida county -- two Florida counties had their electoral infrastructure breached by Russian military intelligence. So, this is the real concern. There are over 10,000 electoral jurisdictions across the country. Some of them don`t even have dedicated I.T. staff.
So you have all these vulnerabilities from antiquated voting machines to the software that Clinton was talking about, the voter registration databases online that are antiquated, to paper -- absence of paper ballots meant to audit and electronic tallies. All it takes is one county to have -- to be breached.
MATTHEWS: There is always somebody out there to make a buck, Clint. Somebody could imagine this as a TV fictional but frightening account of what could happen in an election. Are there bad guys out there that have the capability technically to hold a state`s database ransom, in other words, saying, you want an honest election, you`re going to have to pay for one?
WATTS: Yes, that`s exactly the case. We`ve been worried about state actors, principally Russia, but really this is ransomware that is spread all over the Internet. And through social media we`ve seen essentially discussions about how this ransom ware could be purchased or how it can be acquired.
It really means any actor that wants to block up the election system, really jam it up, whether it`s a couple of days before or maybe even on election day could do enormous damage and hold it hostage, and it might be very difficult to attribute who actually is behind it ultimately. Going through that process could take weeks or months. And on election day, as we know, the thing that is most important is that people have confidence that their vote counted and that everybody`s vote got to count.
Just think what would happen in 2020 if on election day, we could not actually tally the votes from certain jurisdictions.
MATTHEWS: I worry about it.
WATTS: That would be devastating for our country.
MATTHEWS: 2000 was enough for me.
Anyway, speaking of bad guys out there, despite Robert Mueller`s warnings, one man has stifled Congress from enacting any new election security measures. That`s Senate majority leader, you know it, Mitch McConnell.
"The New York Times" reports the one main roadblock now in June, noting McConnell has told colleagues in recent months that he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term. That means of course through next year.
In July, just one day after Mueller told the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was laying the groundwork to interfere as I sit here, McConnell blocked two security bills, including one requiring the use of paper ballots by states and counties as a backup, prompting critics to label him, well, Moscow Mitch. I think that was our friend Joe Scarborough.
Clint, again, starting with you what, do we do if we don`t have paper? That`s my fear all the time. And even with paper ballots, if we have screwed up registration lists and people come up and show up at 7:30 in the morning or 8:00 in the morning to vote, and their name is not on the list and the poor volunteer working there has no idea how to record their vote, what happens then?
WATTS: Yes, it is just baffling. I think there is bipartisan support for beefing up these election systems. And they need hundreds of millions more.
And the other problem is the previous money that went through was distributed evenly. But problem isn`t even across all states. There are certain states that have severe weaknesses that don`t have these verifiable audit trails or paper ballot backups. They are probably not going to be able to get there by 2020.
The other problem is when you look at the Mueller report, it lays out all these deficiencies, right, when you go through the back parts of it. Here`s what happens in different states. That`s a blue print for an attacker. If you know where those vulnerabilities are, it actually tells you how you can target the U.S. election if we don`t do something about it.
So I don`t understand. Senator McConnell says it`s about protecting state and local elections, but I really think that`s not the issue at all.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, David, are we worse off or better off than we were four years ago, 20 years ago?
SALVO: I`d say we`re better off in the sense there is recognition in the threat. I mean, the president may not acknowledge it, but members of his cabinet do, and members of his administration are actually working, the Department of Homeland Security is working with state and local governments to try to shore up some of these vulnerabilities.
On the other hand, we`re so focused on, you know, 2016 and President Trump that we have myopia when we think about this issue. This is a long-term challenge. This is going to outlast President Trump ultimately.
MATTHEWS: This is why we`re talking about it.
SALVO: That`s why we`re talking about it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
SALVO: That`s exactly what the Russia --
MATTHEWS: David Salvo, thank you so much. Clinton Watts, as always, thank you, sir.
Up next, Trump setting his sights on the three likely Republican primary challenges. He is calling them the Three Stooges. So, he`s got the nickname down. But one of those challengers, former U.S. congressman from Illinois, Joe Walsh, joins me live here. He is already in the room.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With a total of three Republicans, three, a trio about to challenge President Trump for the nomination, he`s expanded his attacks beyond his usual Democratic targets.
Last night, he went after what he calls the Three Stooges running against me. That`s what he called them, referring to his Republican primary opponents, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, as well as former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who hasn`t quite yet officially announced running but is going to run apparently.
The president described Walsh as a one-time bad congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide and then failed in radio. Actually, I think he failed after he got into this race. "The New York Times" points out Walsh says he is running because Trump is unfit to be president, but that some, this is "The Times" talking, some say the same could be said about Walsh himself who has controversial comments and who supported Trump until recently.
Republican presidential candidate and former Illinois congressman, Joe Walsh, sits before me.
JOE WALSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris, good to be with you.
MATTHEWS: So, thank you.
I think we have a similar religious background. So I`m going to make a religious reference to you.
MATTHEWS: Describe your experience when you were thrown off your horse biblically on the road to Damascus. What was it like when you said, I can no longer be a Trumpee? What was it like?
MATTHEWS: No, what was it -- what was it that did it?
WALSH: Oh, Helsinki.
MATTHEWS: When people quit drinking, when people quit cigarettes, they can always tell you what it was.
WALSH: Helsinki, July 2018, when Trump stood in front of the world, Chris, and said, I believe that guy Putin and not my own people.
You talk about my tweets. I tweeted something that day. I accused him of treason.
It was one of the most -- you`re a better student of politics than I am. It was probably the most disloyal thing I`ve ever seen a president do. From that moment on, I said to myself, Chris, I cannot support this president. He puts his own interests in front of the country`s interest at every turn, and that was the ultimate.
MATTHEWS: But you -- I don`t even like the word -- you were a true believer.
MATTHEWS: Yes, because you fell for the birther thing. You were out there selling --
WALSH: No, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: Where did you think Trump -- I`m sorry. Where did you think Obama was born?
MATTHEWS: Why did you say you thought he was born somewhere else?
WALSH: Never did. Never did. I never -- Chris, I never was part of the whole birther thing. I stepped in it a couple of times and tweeted Obama is a Muslim, for which I am profoundly sorry. Stupid things to do.
MATTHEWS: What? You never talked -- you never discredited -- you never disputed his birth certificate?
WALSH: No, no, no. I was never part of the birther movement, never ever. I -- that`s Obama.
Now, I didn`t love Trump and I didn`t like Trump, I just didn`t like Hillary. I mean, I voted for Trump in 2016, but I didn`t love him. I didn`t like him.
And then, Chris, every month that went by, almost every word out of this president`s mouth is a lie. I don`t care what your politics are.
MATTHEWS: So when this birther thing started, what was your position?
WALSH: I ignored it. I thought it was silly. He was born in America.
MATTHEWS: Why do you call him a Muslim when he said he`s a Christian? He went to Reverend Wright`s church and took a lot of heat for going to Reverend Wright`s church.
WALSH: Yes. A terrible thing to say.
MATTHEWS: Then how can you -- why do you say he`s a Muslim?
WALSH: You know what?
MATTHEWS: Because of his name?
WALSH: No, no, none of that. I let my disgust with Obama`s policies get ahead of me. And I stepped over the line. And I`ve apologized for that, Chris.
And you know what? I`ve apologized for the fact that I helped -- I think that I helped us get to Trump.
MATTHEWS: Why did you tweet Obama never -- I`m hearing this in my ear.
MATTEHWS: He never let a voter feel his birth certificate.
WALSH: You know what? That might have been a slight crack, a slight joke.
MATTHEWS: Why did you do it?
WALSH: Maybe just to be a smart ass. Chris, I`ve sent out --
MATTHEWS: Why would people want Obama to be an illegitimate, illegal immigrant basically? Why is that important to the right? Just answer to that question.
Why is it important to the right to suck up this nonsensical theory that to be blunt, that white woman from Kansas who is living in Hawaii at the time goes to East Africa to have her baby so that 35 years later, he would be unconstitutional to become president and then say he was actually born and have birth announcements at the hospital in Honolulu?
MATTHEWS: Why would a woman do that?
WALSH: Agree. It makes no sense, Chris. And that`s why I was never part of the birther movement. It makes no sense.
But to your question, why do people on the right believe that?
MATTHEWS: Why do they want to believe that?
WALSH: Because I think they`re afraid. They`re afraid of people --
MATTHEWS: Of a black president?
WALSH: Of people who look race, creed, whatever, people who look different than them.
WALSH: I think there is that element on the right. I`ve been in conservative talk radio for six years. I hear that. Not from a majority - -
MATTHEWS: Why does your crowd, when it was your crowd, never gave Obama credit for the fact that he is a great father? You can tell.
MATTHEWS: You can certainly tell he is a great husband, the way he respects his wife.
MATTHEWS: He has never done anything wrong in that regard. You never hear a whiff of it.
WALSH: Yes, absolutely. Solid man.
MATTHEWS: He didn`t go out and try to make a killing and make a bundle.
MATTHEWS: He basically went (ph) for his community, you can make fun of him being an organizer, but it was for the people.
MATTHEWS: He did everything right.
Why does the Republican Party, they don`t have to genuflect to the guy, just say, you know, I got to hand it to him, he`s been a good husband, a good father, a good citizen?
MATTHEWS: Why won`t they give him that? Is it because he is black?
WALSH: No, no.
MATTHEWS: Why won`t they do that?
WALSH: That may be part of it for some people, Chris. I think for most of us on the right, myself included who opposed Obama, it was because of his policies.
MATTHEWS: That`s fair enough, if that`s it.
WALSH: Oh, no, but I think there is an element, Chris, on the right where it`s -- is he Muslim? He`s got a funny name. He`s black.
MATTHEWS: He`s (ph) incredibly well-educated.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, and I think they`re envious. Where can you -- I`m a political student, as you were nice to say.
WALSH: You are.
MATTHEWS: Name a state where you can win a primary.
WALSH: New Hampshire, Iowa. Here`s the thing. My campaign slogan is: Be brave.
I think this president is a child. I think he is unfit for office. I think, Chris, most Republicans privately agree with what I say publicly. They`re afraid to say it.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me give you an expert (ph) advice. Can I give you a lot of advice?
MATTHEWS: Do a lot radio. Thank you, Joe Walsh.
MATTHEWS: You`re good on radio.
WALSH: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I can tell how good you are.
Up next -- you`re insistent. Up next, is a new Trump tweet bashing Fox News give us a hint? This is a big close for tonight. What`s he up to if he loses this election? He had a plan last time. It`s the same plan this time.
It has something to do with what we`re doing right now -- a government in exile on the air. That`s where I think it`s coming.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: I try to avoid being a media critic. It`s always seemed bad form for someone who is in the media to be acting as critics of those they`re competing with.
But I have to make an exemption tonight based on Trump`s tweet earlier today.
Quote: The new Fox News is letting millions of great people down. We have to start looking for a new news outlet. Fox isn`t working for us anymore.
Did you like that last line? Fox isn`t working for us anymore.
Well, that`s an implicit assertion from the president of the United States that Fox News Channel has been working for Trump all these prior months.
And don`t ignore that other sugar plum: We have the start looking for a new news outlet. Is Trump suggesting he start his own news outlet, something along the lines of starting a Trump news channel?
And do not take this lightly. In October of 2016, just before Trump`s surprising election, "The Financial Times" report that Jared Kushner had informally approached one of the media industry`s top deal makers about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the election in November. Well, the assumption then was that Trump was going to lose the election in 2016.
Opening up a new network will be plan B, of course. He will become the broadcast voice of the opposition, his network effectively the Trump White House in exile.
Well, now with new poll numbers showing a bleak outlook for Trump in 2020, his stream of consciousness style speaking has him considering the old consolation prize he ended up needing to add last time. A television network his very own in which he Donald Trump could report his declarations not as part of the news, but the news itself.
Can you imagine Trump as a news director putting out hot stories like Obama`s true birthplace on the coast of East Africa, or how Ted Cruz`s father killed President Kennedy, or that he Donald Trump has the largest crowds and the largest hands in the whole world? I think we`ve just defined fake news.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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