YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST: I mean, he can rap. He can dance. He can kick. What more do you want? You wonder what he`s going to do in the debate stage this week.
I`m going to see you back here tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. Eastern for "MORNING JOE FIRST LOOK." But, first, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The bucks stop here. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
Truth, fairness, unity, we Americans put a lot of stock in those words. Our country was built on them, in fact. Our system of government is found on the notion that average people can get beyond prejudice and tribe and unite as one people, e pluribus enum, out of many to one.
Well, today, we have a man in the White House who subvert these American convictions on an hourly basis. Donald Trump does not believe people are on the level. He believes they are connivers looking out for themselves and only themselves. He believes we are anything but united, instead a land of hateful tribes.
He relishes this bitter America seeing himself above it and its laws. You are not supposed to make money off of political office, Mr. President, at least of all the American presidency. There were loud warnings when Trump ran that we were going to see what`s happening right now, however.
The buttering up of the president by foreign potentates, grubbing up hotel rooms at Trump International here in D.C., the shameless stopovers at Trump golf courses and Palm Beach Resorts, even the presidential personal promotion of such destinations for the next G7 meeting, the vice presidential stops at Trump`s properties overseas. Do we honestly believe it will ever end?
Donald Trump is rubbing the country`s nose in his readiness to turn a nifty profit while we Americans pay for the gas. Truth, fairness, unity, where is Donald Trump`s name in those words?
Well, we learned last week that Congress is investigating now where president benefited from the vice president`s trip to Ireland, that`s because Mike Pence stayed at a Trump resort in the town of Doonbeg. It`s 175 miles from Dublin, where his official meetings were actually taking place.
His part of a much larger pattern, of course, as The New York Times reported this weekend, quote, patronizing his properties has become a routine part of doing business in the Trump era. In fact, one Republican in the country running for Congress in California said, when have you an event there or do something there, it signifies that you are supporting the president, and supporting what he is doing. In other words, if you go to one of his resorts, he likes you. It sends a clear message, the guy said.
Well, according to The New York Times` report, Federal Election Commission records show that since Trump became president, his properties have received over $5 million from political candidates or party organization. Well, that`s a hell of a jump from four years preceding the campaign when political spending at Trump`s properties amount to about $100,000. So it`s about 15-fold, what`s been going on here.
According to a group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, at least at least 90 members of the U.S. Congress, 250 Trump administration officials and more than 100 foreign officials have visited Trump properties.
And here`s how the president talked about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t need to have somebody take a room overnight at a hotel. Mike Pence, as an example, his family lives in Doonbeg, Ireland. And he`s actually told me that he`s stayed there many years ago, and the same, I bought it years ago. But he was there before I bought it, I believe he said, a long time ago.
But he was in Ireland. So he said, you know what I`ll do, I`ll see my family. I didn`t know about that. But I can say he has good taste.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s got good taste, sounded again (ph).
I am joined right now by David Cay Johnston, founder and Editor-in-Chief DCReport.org, org is always bigger than com, anyway, Natasha Bertrand, National Security Correspondent for Politico, and Jason Johnson, of course, Politics Editor at The Root.
I want to go to David on this because you know the guy`s M.O. He is shameless about selling, accepting, I mean, this is stuff you might see in Arabia or somewhere, where they pay back sheikhs in order to get, to charm or the help of some other government leader, you pay for everything with a big bribe. From the day this campaign ended and his presidency began, from that day, they`ve booked rooms at the Trump International in Washington and they did it all these months to show their love for this guy.
Now, the vice president doesn`t. All these Republican candidates do it. This idea of buying Trump by going into his hotels and Trump shamelessly promoting them for the next G7, we were all warned about this. We all talked about it before the inauguration. You can`t separate Trump Inc. from the Trump presidency and he isn`t making the slightest effort to do so. Your thoughts about what you saw coming.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Donald doesn`t have any blinders about ethics. They don`t exist to him. And this is also money- grubbing. And if Donald were actually a billionaire, he`d invite the G7 leaders to come and stay for free for the three or four days it takes to hold the G7 meeting at Doral. He needs the money because it`s all smoke and mirrors and it`s a con job.
And I`m sure we have not seen the full picture yet of what`s happening. The story that Natasha broke with a colleague is extraordinary in showing the absolute money-grubbing nature of Donald Trump and his family. And there`s, I`m sure, a lot more yet to be uncovered.
MATTHEWS: Well, Politico, as you said, David, reported that an increasing number of U.S. Air force planes have been stopping for layover in Scotland, with some crews spending the night at Trump`s Turnberry Resort. The Air Force said, they adhere to all guidance and procedures. But they have now ordered a probe into how they chose locations for overnight accommodations.
Natasha, tell us how this story fits in and what you`re reporting is about why are we spending U.S. money to buy gas and to stop at Trump places?
NATASHA BERTRAND, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: To buy fuel at a commercial airport, where it`s actually more expensive than if they were to refuel at U.S. military bases, which is usually what they do. They stay in U.S. military bases when they are traveling to the Middle East and back to the U.S., et cetera.
So this story, on a number of levels, is very odd and that is why we got someone who came to us with a story. They are frustrated that they had brought this to Congress and that there had been no movement on it. So they asked us to do some digging and to report on it, because members of the military and these crews that have been kind of rerouted to go through Prestwick Airport, which is close to Trump Turnberry are confused about why they`re not landing on U.S. military bases.
I mean, the explanation we`ve gotten from the military is that they have this contract with the airport and it`s just sometimes more convenient to go through there when there is not enough space, I guess, on Ramstein Air Base in Germany or in Spain, where there`s a U.S. military base.
But this particular crew that we reported on that went through this Prestwick Airport in March have never actually gone that route before. So we`re also seeing as a dramatic uptick, something like five fold since 2015 and the amount of planes that are stopping at this airport. And, of course, that airport is necessary for Trump Turnberry to survive.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seems, Jason, like the word is out. Spend some money at Trump world.
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And because the V.P. doing it, the Air Force is doing it, foreign leaders are doing it, members of Congress, people running for office are doing it, spend some money on Trump and he`ll like you.
JOHNSON: Yes, it`s all a kickback, right? But remember, Chris, we heard about this with Jared, we heard about this with Ivanka, with Kellyanne Conway promoting jewelry, Jared going over and supposedly selling visas. The whole family is basically running this pyramid scheme scam that you`ve got to kick things back to Donald Trump in order to be successful.
What I think is particularly disturbing about it is there is no benefit to it, right? Because it`s not like this guy will be loyal to you, it`s not like after you stay there, he`s going to be supportive of you politically, he`s going to keep doing what he wants to do. So people are putting money in his pocket, our taxpayer money, to get nothing back.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go back to, David. He is with us now. I want to know, David, how do you think Trump gets the word out? You know, in third world countries, I don`t want to knock third world countries, but the fact is there is so much backsheesh and dash (ph). It goes -- oh, we lost him again. Who is overseas? I`m going to go back to you.
I mean, I understood when you go to West Africa. It`s called dash (ph). In some places, it`s called baksheesh. It`s a bribe. But you have to give a little tip to get anything done. That`s how you make business.
We interviewed Yasser Arafat one time. It`s just nicely, I should say, suggested to you, and you buy a floor of rooms to stay in Ramallah, even though you want to stay back at the King David or somewhere, you buy the rooms because that`s the suggested way of getting the meeting to last and you do it. That`s third world stuff.
BERTRAND: One of the things that is alarming about what we discovered about the military spending money at Trump Turnberry is that it wasn`t necessarily -- I mean, it was alarming but it wasn`t all that surprising that people around Trump and in his cabinet and, you know, officials from different agencies were spending money at his resorts perhaps to curry favor. It`s not even surprising that foreign governments are doing it.
But to you learn that the military and federal money is actually being spent at his property is not only that but at this airport that`s kind of propping up this airport, which is necessary for Trump Turnberry`s survival, that, I think, really took this to a new level, because we expect the military to be completely apolitical.
MATTHEWS: Why would they be political? What do they get out of it, some field general or colonel or somebody? What would they get, a promotion out of this?
BERTRAND: We`re still trying to get to the bottom of their motivations and whether or not this is something that came from the top or whether it was crew members who decided to kind of land at this airport, which is unlikely, frankly. But, yes, it`s a good question.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
JOHNSON: And the presumption is that you can actually buy off this president. The presumption is that these things will actually work. And here`s --
MATTHEWS: Well, he has a good taste. He`s chuckling over this.
JOHNSON: He`s chuckling over it because he knows that they`re going to do this anyway. And the president, whenever he knows that a story like this is going to come out, he decides to distract. He decides -- because as bad as this is, it covers up the fact that we have been talking about it for a week now that the FEC has weakened now. So if there are investigations into how this could go into campaign funding, we can`t do so. He gets into fights with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.
This is all the things that President Trump does when he doesn`t want us investigating, the fact that he is ripping the American people off.
MATTHEWS: You think he started this fight with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen?
JOHNSON: In part, yes.
MATTHEWS: Okay. I`m not sure about the strategy of this guy. I know one thing, David. I want you to tell me about it. There`s a piece of paper the other day, a pictorial of the big great room, whatever they call it, at Trump International. I`ve never been there since he took -- I`ve been there when it was a post office. He -- the family Republicans just mill around over there, hang around over there in the Trump Tower, Trump International here at Washington, out on Pennsylvania Avenue, so they`ll be seen there by other Republicans. It`s sort of like a way of showing you`re -- it`s like wearing a MAGA hat, only it costs more. How does he (INAUDIBLE) you want to kiss my butt, here`s my butt. Do it. It`s almost like that.
JOHNSTON: He did that on inauguration day, when the Trump motorcade on its way to the White House stopped, it was in front of that hotel. The family went out and took a two-minute turn on the pavement. And that was the signal. You want something from Donald Trump, you will pay tribute. Here is my hotel. I don`t think anybody could miss that.
And by the way, the Pentagon did get something. They got $74 billion in increased funding, enough money to provide free college tuition for every student in America. So the Pentagon was happy because they got a lot more money.
MATTHEWS: Here is Trump again.
MATTHEWS: We`re getting new reporting just tonight on why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contradicted its own scientists last week, vis-A -vis, Alabama and his vulnerability to that hurricane. After Trump falsely claimed Alabama was likely to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama issued a correction saying, Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian. Well, that`s a factual statement by a public servant. Catch this.
And now The New York Times has revealed that the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday, fire them, after agency`s Birmingham office contradicted the president`s claim. That`s according to the three people familiar with his actions. He said, that threat led to an unusual unsigned statement issued by NOAA on Friday, quote, disavowing the office`s own position that Alabama was not at risk.
Well, late today, a commerce department spokesperson told NBC News, The New York Times story is false. Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about the hurricane.
Okay. Here we have a story which is backed up by three reporters denied by the flags, fair. Flags do that. They say it didn`t happen. But here we have the national -- one of these totally non-political agency of the government, like NASA, who`s -- or the Peace Corps or whatever, or Teach for America, they`re not supposed to be political. And they`re saying, Alabama was not threatened by Dorian. And now they had to come out and say, yes, it is threatened by Dorian, because the president wants to have his lie covered.
BERTRAND: I mean, when not even the weather is apolitical anymore. I mean, we know we are getting into really unchartered territory. I have to admit I wasn`t really following sharpie-gate that closely as we were reporting on this other story, but it is very clearly something that the president can`t let go because of his ego.
MATTHEWS: Well, the picture is in the paper where it shows the real design with the hurricane`s landing places and then a sharpie thing drawn around it.
JOHNSON: Yes. Look, if there is one group that should know when there is flooding and rain and hurricanes, it`s NOAA, right? And that`s their job to know it. It has a sort of underlying biblical reference. But the critical thing is this is a safety issue, right? You start telling people that a hurricane is coming, the storms are coming, they start picking up the --
MATTHEWS: Okay, why would he do it?
JOHNSON: Why would the president lie?
MATTHEWS: No. Why would he say that Alabama is threatened?
JOHNSON: Because he forgot.
MATTHEWS: No, no.
JOHNSON: I don`t think it was strategic.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on, he wanted to be able to say -- David, help me out here. I think Trump did it. I was watching Trump. My theory -- your theory first. Why did he say Trump say Alabama, a state he`s going to get in the next election probably -- it could be close to the Senate, but he`ll probably get it.
JOHNSTON: Well, I`m with Jason. I think he made a mistake and now he has to stand by them. What should disturb us is there is a message that`s been sent to every civil servant in this government. You only say what we tell you to say even if it`s a lie to risk your job. And to those people, don`t quit, make them fire you. Make an issue out of it. Tell the truth.
MATTHEWS: Easy for to you say, but a good moral advice, I got to tell you. But my theory is Trump wanted to argue that Alabama was threatened by this storm but that he somehow saved it from the storm. That`s what he wanted to do. Trump is unbelievable.
Anyway, thank you David Cay Johnston. Natasha Bertrand, congratulations on that story about the errant Air Force platoon that decided to stop and make Trump like them. Anyway -- and Jason Johnson, as always.
Coming up, Trump`s people are now talking about a family political dynasty. Remember when I said Romanoffs, they are now saying it. It`s going to last for decades, maybe Donald Trump Jr. He runs for president next, or even Ivanka, They`re now saying what some predicted they would, a family dynasty.
Meanwhile, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford joins us tonight, also a list of Republicans who want to make sure this Trump era ends next year. Sanford is running for president and joins me next.
Plus, Trump has attempted an Afghanistan peace summit at Camp David failed. Some say because of his ego, he thought it was a great idea to invite the Taliban, who basically supported 9/11 to come to Camp David just days after the anniversary, guess of what, 9/11.
And, Stacy Abrams, she`s celebrated around the country, what a successful person, who lost a narrow race for governor of Georgia, a tough place for a Democrat. She`s going to come tonight to talk about how the Democrats can -- national Democrats, a presidential candidate can carry Georgia. She`s going to give us her playbook for that. She is coming to us live to explain how the Peach State will become more Democrat.
We`ve got much more to get to tonight, what a show tonight. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump officially got a third primary challenger over this weekend as former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford announced his candidacy. Sanford joins former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and Former Illinois Congressman Joe Welsh in challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination.
The three face tough odds, of course, against the Trump machine. Well, according to a recent Gallup poll, the president has an approval rating among Republicans of 88 percent. That`s nine out of ten Republicans are marching down . The GOP is also working to make it as hard as possible for his challenger`s outright canceling Republican primaries and caucuses, do you believe this, in Arizona, Nevada, Kansas and Sanford`s own State of South Carolina. They just killed the primaries so there won`t be a primary challenge. That`s how they operate in a real democracy, the Republicans.
Anyway, the president took aim at Sanford at a tweet this targeting his personal life and calling his opponents the Three Stooges.
Despite that tweet, this afternoon, President Trump said he doesn`t even know his rivals, before going on to attack all three.
Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say this. They`re all at less than 1 percent. It`s a -- I guess it`s a publicity stunt.
I`m not looking to give them any credibility. They have no credibility. One was a person that voted for Obama, ran as a vice president four years ago, and was soundly defeated.
Another one got thrown out after one term in Congress, and he lost in a landslide. And the third one, Mr. Tallahassee Trail or Appalachian Trail - - he`s the Tallahassee Trail, right? The Tallahassee Trail is nice too, but I think he was the Appalachian Trail.
But he wasn`t on the Appalachian Trail. He was in Argentina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford joins us.
What is it like to be accused by Donald Trump, Governor, of having committed a publicity stunt? This is Trump. What do you make of that charge?
MARK SANFORD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think you make of it the same thing that I make of it, which is the same thing that a whole lot of folks make of it, which is why there is indeed a level of Trump fatigue.
I think it`s the exact reason that this congressional district that I used to represent here in Charleston went Democratic for the first time in about 50 years. It`s the reason that a whole lot of other seats have changed. It`s the reason a whole lot of Republicans are leaving the House of their own volition and deciding not to run again.
So, you know, he says what he says. That is the nature of politics. And I will say what I will say, which is, why aren`t we debating the fact that this president has been leading us down a debt trail that will have profound implications in the lives of our children, our grandchildren and, frankly, our lives as well?
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk a little dreamily here, Governor. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Some of the great heavyweight boxers of history, when heavyweight boxing was the biggest thing in our country, lost and never fought well again. Sonny Liston, once he was beaten, couldn`t win again. There are guys like that.
Is Trump one of those guys, that you can bring him down, and that`s the end of him? Can you bring him down?
SANFORD: I don`t know.
I mean, that`s for the voters to decide. It`s not a me thing. It`s a voter thing.
But I sincerely believe is that Trump is misguided on a whole list of issues. He`s off tonally with the voters that I talk to on a regular basis. He`s out of sync with, for instance, voters in South Carolina, given the implications of trade in our state, whether that is with the port in Charleston or the BMWs that are produced in Spartanburg.
I just, again, think that he has lost touch with the very voters, frankly, that sent him to office. They voted for a change. I don`t think it`s a change when the vice president goes and stays at a resort 180 miles from his destination and costs all of us more as taxpayers.
I don`t think it`s a change when he goes and solicits funds, as he did with a fancy Hamptons fund-raiser. I don`t think that`s draining the swamp.
I mean, I could go down a long list of things. But the biggest thing for me would be this notion that he said and people down here believed, which is, if you elect me, I will eliminate the debt in the eight years that I might be in office.
And, in fact, the reverse has happened. We see record levels in terms of debt, deficit, and spending.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, President Trump`s campaign manager is promising that Donald Trump and his family will leave a lasting imprint on the Republican Party.
At a California convention over the weekend, Brad Parscale said: "The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party."
Well, "The New York Times" reports a Trump campaign official later clarified: "Mr. Parscale was referring less to possibly candidacies in the future and more to activities such as political speeches and fund-raising."
Well, there is a distasteful reference there, I think, echoed to, it will last 1,000 years.
But I have been calling this crowd the Romanovs for years now. The Romanovs come into office, the Trumps. They give all the kids big jobs in the White House. They share all the booty together. They run the country as a family.
And now we`re getting the word from his campaign manager it ain`t going to end. What do you say to that?
SANFORD: I say, the voters decide. That is the beauty of the American system.
And I think that that claim is at odds with the history of our republic. If we, in fact, were to go that direction, it would have startling and horrifying implications in terms of the construct that the founding fathers laid out.
So, A, I don`t believe it`s true from a historical sense. And, B, I think it`s at odds with the voters at least that I talk to here in South Carolina and I have more recently talked to in New Hampshire or Iowa believe.
MATTHEWS: Well, one of his -- one the people he made fun of -- he made of her looks -- was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
She blasted some of her fellow Republicans today. In a series of tweets, Fiorina said: "When did so many Republicans decide that we should also pledge allegiance to the party and swear fidelity to President Trump? I have been called disloyal because I`m critical of Trump."
She went on to add: "Every elected official, including the president, is there to serve the citizenry, not the other way around. It`s not a citizen`s job to be loyal. It the official`s job to earn our loyalty. And when they cannot, we vote them out of office."
There is -- I hate to make reference to the 1940s, but there is with this president. He talks about fealty to the one person, the president of the United States. That`s a cult. That is not a political allegiance, to Trump.
MATTHEWS: And why is your party, nine out of 10, in line like lemmings for this guy? Please explain the culture of the Republican Party that allows this kind of loyalty to the one person who took over the party?
He didn`t come up through it. He took it over. And now they`re all loyal.
SANFORD: Well, yes. Yes.
I mean, I don`t think it`s lasting. I think you have blips. There`s a book from some time ago, "Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds."
And you can look through our history. We have had different blips of populism. Jon Meacham writes eloquently on that subject in his latest book.
But I think that this is a temporary phenomenon. It`s the very reason that I`m running. I mean, think about this. I`m a conservative Republican. I voted with the Trump...
MATTHEWS: Nine out of 10 right now, Governor, nine out of 10 right now.
SANFORD: I know.
I voted with him nine out of 10 times, and yet that wasn`t enough, because, to your point, it was a cult of personality. And if you weren`t, again, in his fold in terms of personal loyalty, not issue loyalty, it wasn`t enough.
SANFORD: So I don`t think it`s lasting.
And I think, again, that`s what this election will -- in part will be about.
MATTHEWS: Give me your -- Governor, I like you, actually. Here`s what I think.
It`s time now for you give us your Sunday punch against Ronald -- against Ronald Reagan -- your Sunday punch against Trump. What is it? What`s your biggest punch against this guy?
SANFORD: Just stay tuned. Stay tuned.
SANFORD: What? Come on, no.
MATTHEWS: This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: You`re afraid to take a shot at him? Take a shot.
SANFORD: I`m not going to take a shot right now.
No, we will -- there`s plenty of time for that. I`m a day into this.
MATTHEWS: OK. Come back when you got a shot. That`s what this show is for.
SANFORD: Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: Governor Sanford, thank you for coming on to announce your official entry into this race in the Republican Party against Donald Trump.
SANFORD: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Up next: President Trump`s grand plan to hold peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David collapsed in spectacular fashion over this weekend. And, today, Trump said it`s good to meet with bad people.
But at least one top Trump official totally disagrees. And that`s coming up next.
Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, over the weekend, President Trump abruptly called off secret peace talks at Camp David with Taliban leaders. The astounding news, delivered on twit -- tweeter, rather -- Twitter -- is a part of Trump`s high-stakes reality TV style of international diplomacy, of course, like he invited Russian President Putin to the White House after Russia attacked our democracy in 2016 or his meeting on the 38th Parallel with Kim Jong-un.
Almost immediately, President Trump faced backlash for his willingness to even host Islamic extremists at Camp David, a presidential retreat which has been the backdrop for major summit meetings, of course.
Well, President George W. Bush went to Camp David in the days after 9/11. And it was there that Bush said the military campaign in Afghanistan was actually first born.
Well, some said it was unseemly -- in fact, I think maybe blasphemous -- to host the Taliban on American soil only three days before the 18th anniversary of 9/11, which is coming up in a day. Trump pushed back today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, actually, in terms of advisers, I took my own advice. I like the idea of meeting. I have met with a lot of bad people and a lot of good people during the course of the last almost three years.
And I think meeting is a great thing.
There have been many very powerful meetings at Camp David having to do with enemies, real enemies, very big enemies, war. And I thought Camp David would be good. And I still do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to "The New York Times," the meeting divided the administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushing for a deal with the Afghan resistance, I guess they are, and the national security adviser, John Bolton, opposing meeting with the Taliban.
With the deal dead now, the Taliban has promised more bloodshed in Afghanistan.
For more, I`m joined by Jon Meacham, NBC News historian, and David Frum, senior editor at "The Atlantic."
David, I want to talk to you about this. What happened this weekend to stop this terrible meeting to happen?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The meeting was never going to happen.
This is a story about fantasy and envy, the president`s fantasy of being a great dealmaker and his envy of President Obama`s Peace Prize.
Here`s what seems to have happened. Zalmay Khalilzad, our former ambassador to Afghanistan, was running a process of negotiation with the Taliban to see if some arrangement could be reached.
About the 1st of September, he seems to have reached some kind of interim deal. What should have happened at that point is, it goes into the government, and different agencies look at it and say, do we like it? Can we live with it? Do we go forward? Do we stop?
Trump got the smell of this and thought, this is a done deal. Zalmay is about to get the credit. He`s going to get the Nobel Peace Prize.
MATTHEWS: How do you know this is his motive? How did you determine this?
FRUM: Well, I don`t know his motive, but I do know the timeline, which is, you have an interim agreement.
This is a moment where it goes into an agency process, not up to the president of the United States. But Trump swoops in, and he invites everyone to Camp David.
And the Taliban, these terrorist murderers, say, with mature wisdom, well, why don`t we have the meeting at the end of the process? But Trump -- and this is what "The New York Times" said about him -- he said: I want to make the deal. I don`t want to leave it to Khalilzad, because then he will get the credit. I want to make the deal.
Only, of course, he can`t make a deal.
MATTHEWS: He wanted to pop out there, and he can walk out with the leaders.
MATTHEWS: So, he would be Jimmy Carter.
FRUM: He wanted to be Carter without the work.
And so when the -- it becomes clear, the Taliban say we`re coming after the deal, not before, and there are a lot of problems with this interim arrangement.
At that point, as the fantasy of the Nobel begins to recede, Trump says: Well, in that case, you can`t fire me. I fire you.
FRUM: And he blows up the whole thing. And he does it on Twitter, probably damaging a process that needed to continue.
MATTHEWS: Jon Meacham, for a 1,000th time, I will now say it. I will say it 1,000 more times.
Imagine if Barack Obama had taken terrorists to meet with him, not blindfolded, just took them to the presidential retreat, to show them where everything was, show them the route signs, how to get in there, show where the gate was, show everything, the bowling alley, everything.
It`s unbelievable we`re letting the bad guys into our most secret place for the presidency, and without even blindfolds. I don`t get it. Your thoughts?
JON MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN: I think Camp David is close to hallowed ground, when you think about it in terms of diplomatic history.
This is where Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill went fishing together. This is where Jack Kennedy, as you know well, bravely reached out to Dwight Eisenhower after the Bay of Pigs and asked for help.
MEACHAM: It`s where, I mean, Nixon had Brezhnev come, and they almost died in a crazy car ride.
You have Jimmy Carter bringing peace between Egypt and Israel. You had George H.W. Bush, really, that was -- he was leaving Camp David on that Sunday after August 5, 1990, when he was -- right after the August 2 invasion.
And he was in the helicopter when he decided that this will not stand. He`d been on the phone all weekend with leaders around the world. And, of course, George W. Bush planning the response to the attacks.
So it`s -- once again, like you, for the 1,000th time, I will say this. Trump is running our government as if it`s a reality TV show. And these are different sets for him.
The problem is, this is our reality.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
In a tweet from January 2012, Donald Trump slammed President Obama for even speaking with the Taliban, writing: "While Barack Obama is slashing the military, he is also negotiating with our sworn enemy the Taliban, who facilitated 9/11."
Trump has no problem with this.
FRUM: Look, there`s nothing wrong...
MATTHEWS: He just says the opposite.
FRUM: There`s nothing wrong with negotiating with the Taliban at the level of the presidential special envoy, at the level of an assistant secretary.
What Trump insisted on doing -- and that is the fantasy element of all of this...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk policy for a minute, both of you.
We have been in there since 2002. What did we go in there to do, besides chase after al Qaeda and try to catch them, which we took a while to do? And we did finally catch the bad guy.
What good -- we caught it -- caught him in Pakistan, of course. But what we have been trying to do that we have now given up trying to do? What`s changed?
FRUM: What happened was -- and this is a classic thing in government -- when the original mission, catch bin Laden, failed, we responded to that by making the mission bigger.
If we had caught bin Laden in December of 2001, American troops wouldn`t be in Afghanistan now.
MATTHEWS: Could we have left politically without catching him, just left and said, oh, we tried to catch him, we couldn`t?
FRUM: We couldn`t, obviously not, because President Bush decided he couldn`t do that. President Obama decided he couldn`t do it.
What are you thinking about our campaign over there for all these years, our mission, all those guys killed?
Your thoughts, Jon?
It started as a counterterror campaign, as David says. It became counterinsurgency. And we don`t do counterinsurgency well. Very few people do. And one of the things that`s so important about this, I think, is, it is a kind of forever war, because terrorism is a forever problem. It`s a forever crisis, a forever threat.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
MEACHAM: And we have now reached -- this has lasted far longer than the American Revolution, or World War II, or Vietnam, almost by any calculation on Vietnam, close to it.
And so it`s a conundrum. And what it requires is thoughtful leadership that`s not about spectacle, but about substance. And even if you get to the substance, you may not get the right answer.
But we need better faith actors in positions of power making these decisions.
MATTHEWS: No great solution.
FRUM: We will eventually do a deal with the Taliban. That`s the answer. But it has to be run by someone who`s a dealmaker, not by someone....
MATTHEWS: How do we enforce it, though? I don`t know.
FRUM: Not by someone who wants to be a star, as the president does.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Jon Meacham and David Frum.
And I think, like Vietnam, those who stay rule.
Anyway, up next: President Trump is in North Carolina, trying to turn out Republican vote tonight for the -- tomorrow`s special congressional election, which could be close, even though it`s a Republican district.
And big show -- big show for us tonight. Stacey Abrams is going to join us live to share her new playbook on how to win in places like Georgia if you`re a Democrat.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Right now, President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in support of Republican Dan Bishop ahead of the North Carolina 9th district special congressional election, which is tomorrow. The special election is being held after the results of the midterm race between Democrat Dan McCready, who is running again, and Republican Mark Harris were declared invalid because of absentee ballot tampering that benefitted Harris. We all remember that mess.
And here was Trump just a minute or two ago, bashing the Democrat, of course.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Support for sanctuary citizens is disloyalty to American citizens and McCready wants sanctuary cities with all of their protections for people that are serious criminals. Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s Willy Horton stuff, isn`t it?
And according to "Politico", Trump`s team is worried that the seat will swing Democratic. They report, quote, some Trump advisers have privately acknowledged their fear that if North Carolina`s 9th district goes Democratic, so goes the presidency next November. They say both nightmare scenarios would largely be the president`s fault and point squarely to the controversy Trump stirred up this summer.
Well, "Politico" reports that a person close to the campaign said, if we can`t hang onto the 9th district, Trump might as well tell his campaign staff in Georgia, Florida and elsewhere to pack up and move on.
Well, up next, I`m going to talk to Stacey Abrams who think Democrats do have a chance of beating Trump in places like her own Georgia, if they just follow her playbook. And we`re going to hear that playbook in about a minute.
Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In 2018, last year, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams seemed very close to winning the governorship, losing to Republican Brian Kemp by only a notch, more than 1 percent, and setting a statewide record for total Democratic votes. And now, she is urging the Democratic Party nationally to not overlook Georgia to state a presidential candidate of the party can win down there in 2020.
In a campaign playbook released just today, her team writes: Building a strong, multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition with historic turnout levels, while making meaningful, marginal improvements on white voters` support levels put the Abrams for governor campaign on the doorstep of statewide victory, and puts Democrats in a strong position to break down that door in 2020. Adding, with a diverse, growing population and rapidly changing electorate, Georgia is not a future opportunity for Democrats, it`s a necessity right now.
I`m joined right now by Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic candidate in Georgia and founder of -- and chair of Fair Fight.
I never met you before, Madam. It`s an honor to meet you. You have the best press of anybody I know in politics. I want to know the secret to your greatness, but you -- you seem like a great person.
So let me ask you about it. Let me get -- I`m going right to the chase here tonight. This Thursday night, we`re going to have a real debate, all the top front runners of Democratic Party, all the way from Biden, to Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris, altogether on the same stage. These are the top potential candidates for president.
What would you like to hear them say this night in debate, when everyone is going to be watching, that would sell in Georgia?
STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT 2020 FOUNDER & CHAIR: Well, I think, number one, first of all, I want to say thank you for having me today. It`s an honor to be here.
And I want to hear what I have been talking about the last nine months, that the right to vote is under attack in the United States. And we need candidates who are not only prepared to talk about it but prepared to use this campaign to address it. And one of the best ways to address voter suppression is to ensure that we turn out as many voters as possible.
Voter suppression doesn`t go away because you increase voter turnout. But it does make it harder to thwart the will of the people when more, and I want that to be the mission of every candidate on that stage and I want them to start in Georgia.
MATTHEWS: To kill Reconstruction after the Civil War, the Klan and everybody else on the white side, the fight destroyed the ability of people to vote with literacy tests and all kind of votes, what they called it, you have to pay to vote and all that sort of thing.
What are techniques now used in places like Georgia to keep people from voting?
ABRAMS: Voter suppression has three pieces to it. One is being able to register and stay on the roles. And that`s why we`re seeing stories about people being purged from the rolls in Kentucky and in Ohio, something that happened in Georgia to an extraordinary degree in the last eight years.
The second is the ability to cast a ballot. That means that your absentee ballot actually arrives when you apply for it. It means that your precinct isn`t shut down the day before you get there.
ABRAMS: It means that you actually know that you have the right to vote. And then it`s making sure your ballot is counted. That`s why election security is such a critical issue. That`s why everyone is angry that the federal government, particularly the Senate, refuses to take action on election security. But it`s also making certain those absentee ballots when submitted get fairly counted, that they`re not discarded for things like signature mismatches.
Being able to cast a ballot, have the ballot counted and stay on the rolls, that`s voter suppression.
MATTHEWS: How do you win that fight? For example, how do you win the fight on the signature thing? I knew growing up in Philadelphia, I ran in a primary up there once, if your signature`s not exactly the same way as on the street list, they can challenge it. That`s the way the game plays, and the guy running against you will do that.
How do you fight that?
ABRAMS: Well, number one, we had federal --
MATTHEWS: On your petitions. I`m talking about on your petitions. You put in your petitions and they`re not exactly the same, they get challenged.
ABRAMS: Well, what we have found in Georgia and what happened in Florida is that the signature mismatch is not lawful. We had a federal court that struck down the discarding of ballots because of that reason. As I like to say, my signature doesn`t match from my signature doesn`t match from CVS to Kroger. My democratic right should not be eviscerated because someone watched "Forensic Files" and thinks that they can tell what my signature should be.
The right to vote in America should be sacrosanct for every eligible American. That`s why we`ve launched Fair Fight 2020. And that`s also why we introduced this playbook, because we want every state to be in competition but we want people to be able to understand that Georgia was not only ground zero for voter suppression, it`s only ground zero for opportunity. You can pick up two Senate seats, give 16 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee and we can flip the house -- the statehouse, as well as taking and adding another congressional seat. Those are extraordinary opportunities and Georgia is a place to fight voter suppression but also fight for Democratic votes.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s see the Democratic ticket next year going into November is Biden and Abrams, and that`s the ticket going into Georgia, just as an example. You know what I`m doing here. And that`s an example - -
ABRAMS: I see it.
MATTHEWS: I see what you`re doing.
How would you tell a voter who walks in a voting booth, they`ve been voting for years, in the same voting booth, same voting district, and they walk in and their name is not on the list and it`s been purged because they had the same name as a felon or something like that.
What do you tell that person to do at that moment?
ABRAMS: Well, number one we want FairFight2020.org so we can stop that from happening to begin with. We`re working in 20 battleground states, including Georgia, to make certain that people who are on the roll stay on the rolls, that they know what their rights are, and that they know what the remedies are. Technically, that person could file a provisional ballot but we want to make certain that before you even get to that step, that you have all the information and all the support you need.
And we know that in the 20 battleground states where we`ve launched FairFight2020.org, we can help make certain that local people have the information and the resources they need to fight back against voter suppression no matter what form it takes and no matter what state it`s in.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about population growth because I think that`s what the interesting piece. A lot of these northern districts like up in New York City where you saw AOC won against Crowell, that`s because the population changed. Do you see the same thing in the old Cambridge district that Tip O`Neill had, that Capuano had? That population HAS changed. So, Pressley could win, AOC could win.
Is there a changing population significant enough for Georgia that it could elect a Democrat for president?
ABRAMS: That population has not only change, the change has happened. We have watched this change happen over the last few electoral cycles. During my term as Democratic leader, I was able to block a Republican super majority every single cycle because of that demographic change.
But what our campaign demonstrated in 2018 is that you can concentrate on that change, you can cultivate those communities of color which comprised the largest portion of that change but you don`t have to sacrifice white votes to do so, that we are capable as Democrats of walking and chewing gum at the same time. That it requires early, significant investment. It requires talking to unlikely voters because unlikely voters typically don`t respond because we don`t show up until the last minute and we do a fairly poor job of communicating.
But if we treat those unlikely voters, that population change, the same way we treat swing voters, they will engage. And we proved it in Georgia, outperforming the last two presidential candidates to campaign in Georgia.
MATTHEWS: The honor is mine to have you on tonight. Thank you. It`s great to have you.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I hope you get elected to a really big office because you seem like a great leader. Thank you so much, Stacey Abrams , of the Peach State.
Up next, the gun background check on Donald Trump, how about doing a background check on him, on what he`s been saying about gun control all these years?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: On August 5th, five weeks ago, after the killing of 31 people in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump promised to push for a stronger background checks for gun buyers. Quote: Republicans and Democrats, he tweeted, must come together and get strong background checks.
But five weeks later, it`s crickets. Mitch McConnell says he will act on gun control when and if Donald Trump tells him to. Well, apparently Donald Trump hasn`t told him anything, hasn`t promised to sign anything, to do anything. It`s the Trump M.O. of promise and betrayal.
When feelings run hot after a mass shooting, Trump says the right words. When the heat is off and the national attention has shifted, he goes cold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can speak for all of the senators and congressmen and congresswomen, all of the people in this room that are involved in this decision, that we will act, we will do something. We will act.
My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.
It`s a terrible, terrible thing, what`s going on with hate in our country frankly and all over the world, and something has to be done. Something has to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And nothing will be done. As I said, first, a promise, and then, the betrayal. It`s like Lucy and the football. Every year, she promised to hold it for Charlie Brown to make his kickoff and every year she pulls it away and lets poor Charlie Brown fall on his butt.
In the case of gun safety, it`s Trump who promises to hold up a bill and then lets the whole country down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are talking about a lot of different things, but at the same time, we have to protect our Second Amendment very strongly. And we will always do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "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