ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us. We`ll be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bolton, you`re fired. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
From the outset, it was a marriage made in hell between a war hawk who pushed war in Iraq and lasted for one in Iran and an erratic president who promised no more stupid wars. It`s amazing that this hellish duo of National Security Adviser John Bolton and President Donald Trump stuck together this long. And last night, the marriage ended apparently because Donald Trump cannot stand to be challenged at least least of all by a cabal between the mustachioed Bolton and a poker-faced Mike Pence.
And now to the scary part. The National Security Adviser is supposed to set its country`s grand strategy in the world, how to deal with China, North Korea, Iran, he or she is supposed to be the architect of the grand plan of moving our country forward in the 21st century.
With Bolton getting kicked out the door so casually, so pathetically today, we have to wonder if we even have a strategy or is Donald Trump deciding each second what wild ticked-off impulse to go with, whether it`s to set another love letter to Pyongyang or to take one more shot in the cheek for his pal, Vladimir or send one odd duck signal Tehran and moulas (ph) who must wonder what God is up to in this country. John Bolton was Trump`s third national security adviser in less than three years.
On Twitter, President Trump wrote, I informed John Bolton last night that his services were no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions as did others in the administration, and therefore, I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.
Well, a short time later, of course, Bolton insisted it was his decision to leave. In a text message to NBC News, Bolton wrote, I offered to resign last night. He never asked for it directly or indirectly. I slept on it and resigned this morning.
Well, Bolton`s predecessors as national security advisers had similarly abrupt exits. Mike Flynn resigned after just 24 days and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia. H.R. McMaster was forced out in March of last year after disagreeing with the president on several of foreign policy issues. And today, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley echoed the president`s explanation for Bolton`s being gone all of a sudden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: John Bolton`s priorities and policies just don`t line up with the president`s. And any sitting president has the right to put someone in that position that can carry out his agenda. That became no longer tenable so the president made a change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But NBC News reports that Bolton`s status within the White House had been eroding. Bolton known as a fierce infighter had few loyal allies internally. He had clashed with many senior members of the administration at times, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
For more, I`m joined right now by Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Mieke Eoyang, Vice President for the National Security Program with the Third Way, and Charlie Sykes, Editor-in- Chief with The Bulwark. Thank you.
I want to start with Peter. I guess I`ll go back to what I started with tonight in my opening. I thought this was an odd marriage, a marriage made in hell to begin with featuring a war hawk who wanted to attack every country he didn`t like immediately and a guy who is somewhat feckless about what he really does believe but does say, I don`t like stupid wars like this guy stands for. Peter?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, that`s exactly right. If the president`s first national security team of Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster and those folks were seen as trying to restrain a bellicose president, here, you have the opposite. Here, you had a combative, as you say, hawkish conservative trying to restrain the president in the direction and then restraining him from making peace deals with North Korea or Iran or the Taliban. So it came out from a very different direction.
Either way, as we`ve now seen, the president doesn`t like it. He didn`t like being restrained or attempted to be restrained by Mr. Bolton. In fact, in private, he joked that with a barb (ph) kind of sense humor that John Bolton was going to get him into multiple wars.
So as you say, I think you`re right. From the very beginning, this was an unlikely partnership and the real question is how it lasted as long as it did.
MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve never figured this thing out to begin with. Was this a deal with (INAUDIBLE), Charlie? Was this some effort to pay off the neo-con hawks who helped him in the campaign? Why did he pick this guy with the mustache, this guy who just wants to go to war?
I mean, he wanted to go to war over Syria. He wanted to go to war in Libya. He`s always wanted to go to war whenever there`s a chance to get a fighting start because he won`t be a part of it. He`s a chicken hawk, if there ever was one. Your thoughts.
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE BULWARK: Well, don`t overthink because this is a president that is T.V.-centric and T.V.-focused. And so he watched John Bolton on television, liked his performances on television, and despite all of the differences, the differences in temperament, the differences in ideology, the differences in world view, he decided to pick him. And that`s what makes the whole thing so strange.
But, of course, the irony is that John Bolton actually did have a strategy. Donald Trump has no strategy. He has instincts and he has impulses. It was never going to work but you do wonder, again, whether or not there`s anyone in this White House or who in this administration who is going to be able to say no to the president, say no to ideas, like hosting the Taliban for a withdrawal surrender ceremony on the eve of 9/11. I mean, nothing says never forget than having the Taliban come to Camp David.
So at least on this particular issue, John Bolton tried to be the restraining voice and that`s what cost him his job.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Bolton is going to walk casually into that good night or he`s going to play like Omarosa or Mooch? What`s he up to? I don`t think he`s going to take it.
SYKES: Oh, no, he`s going to be much more Mooch than Mattis here. I mean, the fact that he was texting immediately, has every reporter on speed dial, he wants to make it very clear that he was not, in fact, fired.
And I think it`s interesting the president felt the need to fire and humiliate him rather than risk having him do what General Mattis did, which was write a letter and resign on principle after this foreign policy fiasco involving the Taliban. He wanted to, in a sense, pre-disgrace him and be able to characterize him as a disgruntled ex-employee.
MATTHEWS: So the smearing has already begun, right? Do you expect him to the Mooch and run around like Omarosa? And because the way Charlie describes Trump`s thinking, he makes him sound like a tadpole, someone who`s not even a person, an idiot.
I mean, I`ll be fair, Charlie. You described him as a guy who watches on television like that Peter Seller`s character in being there, I saw him on T.V., I guess I should make him my national security adviser because he agreed with me.
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY: Yes. Look, it`s very clear that he liked Bolton`s tough guy attitude but he didn`t like the policies that Bolton was pushing forward.
MATTHEWS: He knew them.
EOYANG: But he knew -- he did. He knew them going forward but he was taken in by that swagger.
Now, what`s really interesting about his to me is that there is no constituency anywhere in the Republican Party left for Bolton`s interventionism, right? The regular Republicans, the Bush Republicans rejected him when he came up for confirmation in that administration. Now, Trump is rejecting him. Bolton is a guy with a policy and no home to go to.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s tweet, he can go to American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Project, or whatever they call it, that he will have -- make a quarter (ph) in a year to just there and write op-eds.
EOYANG: But not if he`s hitting Trump every day on Fox News because they don`t like the disloyalty.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s tweet announcing Bolton`s resignation came less than an hour after the White House announced a briefing where Bolton was scheduled to appear alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. At that briefing, Pompeo spoke briefly about Bolton`s being gone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I would say this. The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. There`s a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States and he should have people he trusts and values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s how bad it is. At any given moment. at any given moment, he said, the president -- he`s secretary of state talking about a guy who is so impulsive, you`ve got to keep up with him every moment.
And then multiple reports out suggest the relation between Pompeo and Bolton had become strained. The Washington Post reports that Bolton`s relationship with Pompeo become increasingly tense in recent months with Bolton privately accusing Pompeo of spending too much time furthering his own political ambitions and Pompeo arguing that Bolton`s inflexibility and hard line views were corrosive.
The Associated Press reports, in recent months, tensions have risen between Bolton and Pompeo over influence in the president`s orbit and how to manage the president`s desire to negotiate with some of the world`s most unsavory actors.
Peter Baker, you`re the big thinker, you`re the big foot at The Times. So what`s this mean to the world? It`s not just a personnel, an H.R. issue. This guy can`t keep national security advisers. He`s got heading on to four now. Number four is coming up. The secretary of state is, what, two or three. The fact is he doesn`t seem to have an architecture that is fragile or even matters. If he fires people, it doesn`t seem to matter because there`s nothing to fire them from. There is no architecture or strategy to collapse in these cases.
BAKER: Yes, you`re right. Look, no president has had four national security advisers in his first three years in office, none. And I think you`re right. I mean, whether you like him or don`t like him, John Bolton had a set of principles and he was consistent in advocating them. He thought that it was unwise to make bad deals with the Taliban, with North Korea and Iran. He was more interventionist, obviously, than the president. And the president knew that when he hired him or at least should have known that. Everybody else knew that.
And so where is he going to go with his next pick? He`s looking at a number of possibilities, some of which may tell us wants to go. For instance, Steve Biegun is a special envoy to North Korea. If he were to pick Steve Biegun, another veteran of the George W. Bush administration, by the way, then that would signal that he really wants to pursue this diplomacy and see as Biegun as somebody who would actually help enable him on those kind of policies.
But you`re right to focus on Mike Pompeo. I was at that briefing today. I would say there are no tears shed. Mike Pompeo was grinning, seemed very happy, didn`t bother to disguise the fact that they had been rivals inside. They have a similar political outlook at times but they did approach President Trump differently. And Mike Pompeo now is the strongest person left standing in that national security team.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, I don`t think Pompeo said to stick there very long. He will not swear off running for the Senate next year in Kansas. And, Cleatly, he can win that seat. It`s a Republican seat. That`s pretty appetizing for a guy who wants a regular job and not stay on this buck board that could knock him off the back any time the president is tired of him.
SYKES: Yes. I mean, Mike Pompeo is smart enough to know that things are going well for him. But it generally ends badly in this administration, as you just look around, you know, what is the scenario.
But I would like to push back on one point that there`s no constituency for the kinds of things that John Bolton talks about. There is still a constituency for people who are very concerned about bad deals with the North Koreans, bad deals with the Russian, bad deals with the Iranians. And there`s a lot of anxiety about that. Now, it hasn`t been overt.
But if he becomes more outspoken and begins to warn against this -- the president`s, you know, pension for these flamboyant contentless appeasement summits, you will see that, in fact, that there are people, I think, on both sides of the aisle who are going to be listening to that.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is very disturbing administration again and again. Anyway, I love that comment by Pompeo. You have to keep the president happy every moment to keep your job.
Anyway, Bolton`s departure is not entirely surprising given some of President Trump`s recent comments about their differences. Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: John is a -- he has strong views on things but that`s okay. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn`t it? Nobody thought that was going to -- I`m the one that tempers him, but that`s okay. I have different sides. I mean, I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him.
I have two groups of people. I have doves and I have hawks.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: You have some serious hawks.
TRUMP: I have some hawks. Yes. John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him, he`d take on the world at one time, okay? But that doesn`t matter because I want both sides. You know, some people said, why did you put -- you know, I was against going into Iraq for years and years and before it ever happened. I was against going into Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see if that ever pans out to be true.
Let me go to Mieke. It seems to me this president runs his entire foreign policy on an impulse, whim, moment by moment, and he thinks he can charm people through his abilities to just personally get into a room with a guy like Kim Jong-un and charm a guy who`s obviously a neurotic, crazy person who shouldn`t have the job except through genetics, he got it because he inherited. This guy is ruling potentially weapons of mass destruction and he thinks he can charm the guy.
EOYANG: Well, he obviously --
MATTHEWS: The same with he wants to meet with Rouhani.
EOYANG: Exactly. Look, Trump seems much more at ease with autocratic leaders who rule in a high-handed manner and through fear than he does with our democratically elected allies. And that`s really problematic for American foreign policy.
MATTHEWS: Why does he resent Merkel and Macron and people like that and even Justin Trudeau? Why does he hate, it seems, people who look like they belong where they are?
EOYANG: Right. I mean, look, those are all leaders who reflect the will of their people and Trump is someone who became president after losing the popular vote. So he`s not actually liked by a majority of the people he governs over.
And so he`s relating better to autocrats and people who don`t really care what their public thinks, because if he actually care what the public thinks, he`d realize he`s very unpopular.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see if he gets defeated next year, if he enjoys being out of office as much as I think he will. I think he wants to leave the government in exile. He wants to spend two or three years holding rallies without any responsibility. What a perfect life for Donald Trump.
Thank you so much, Peter Baker, for the big thoughts as always, and thank you, Mieke Eoyang. Charlie Sykes, I love your wary -- very wary attitude about life. Anyway, thank you.
Coming up, spy games. A senior Russian official was secretly working for the CIA. Wait until you hear the story. It`s right out with the Americans. What he knew about Russia`s election meddling and why it suddenly became necessary to exfiltrate him from Russia to the U.S.
And the polls close about 16 minutes now in that closely watched special congressional election down in North Carolina. The poll showed tight race in a district President Trump won by 12 points, expecting to get the first results in this hour.
We`ve got much more to get to tonight here on HARDBALL. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Explosive new reporting today has revealed how U.S. intelligence managed to uncover the extent of Russia`s role in our 2016 election. This blew my mind.
The New York Times among several outlets reporting today that, for decades, the CIA had a valuable Russian source inside the Russian government whom they extracted from that country in 2017, exfiltrated, just like in the American T.V. show.
Most importantly, this Russian source was instrumental in confirming key details about the Kremlin`s election interference in our election. Number one, he gave us the information that Vladimir Putin himself ordered and orchestrated the whole thing. Number two, this source told us that Putin affirmatively favored Donald Trump`s election. So he was not just intervening, he was helping Trump. Number three, that Putin personally ordered the hacking of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee. All of this reporting we got from this one source, a Russian turncoat, basically.
The Times " reports that according to people familiar, this CIA informant was outside of Mr. Putin`s inner circle but saw Putin regularly and access to high level Kremlin decision-making. So this person was meeting in the same room with Putin telling us what Putin is up to, what a source they had at the CIA.
CNN reports that he could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader`s desk. He can take pictures of what it looked like to be in -- this is how close we got. This wasn`t made up by the intelligence agencies. They had a spy. They had somebody who was reporting from Russia on what was going on.
Trump is so out the lunch on this stuff. Well, this astounding revelation is a testament to the incredible reach of the CIA`s intelligence-gathering effort.
However, as "The Washington Post" reports, the CIA ultimately decided to exfiltrate the informant following mounting concerns that the individual could be discovered by the Russian government.
I`m joined right now by Shane Harris, intelligence and national security reporter at "The Washington Post," and David Corn, Washington bureau chief, of course, for "Mother Jones."
I`m going to go with Shane first.
This is staggering, because, for months now, almost three years now, Trump has been in a battle with the agencies, saying they make up all this like he does with the media. But it turns out they had a source right inside, very close to Vladimir Putin to find out the role he was playing directing the whole interference operation in 2016, Shane.
SHANE HARRIS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, that`s right. And that`s a source worth gold in the intelligence business, to have somebody that close that can give you the intentions and the decision-making processes of a senior leader and someone who the agency, the CIA, was running for more than 10 years.
So this long predates Donald Trump`s position in the White House. This is somebody who the CIA would have guarded very closely and who, we should remember, would have had to have proven a track record of credibility for the agency to give him as much weight as they apparently did when it came time to pin the 2016 election interference directly on Vladimir Putin as having directed it.
MATTHEWS: You know what I like about this revelation? David, you and I have talked so long about your great book about this whole thing, and -- "Russian Roulette" -- and the fact that this guy is a character of "The Americans."
He`s a Russian. We can imagine him. He has a Russian accent. He is a Russian person. And he was the one that was giving us the lead on tagging Putin with this whole cabal.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And remember there was lots of other intelligence. And we certainly saw in the real world that the Russian attack was occurring throughout 2016.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s cyber-information. We had that.
CORN: And we had a lot of that. There were a lot of intercepts.
There were -- after the election, the CIA or the national intelligence community collected phone conversations and interactions between Russian officials high-fiving each other.
So, there was a lot in there. But the intelligence community tends to be kind of conservative when it comes to coming up with big conclusions. So they knew this happened. The question was whether this was done by the intelligence operatives at a lower level, or whether it came from Putin himself.
And that -- before they could come up with that definitively, they wanted someone inside who would give them sort of a flesh and blood take on this.
MATTHEWS: How can Trump continue to deny this? Apparently...
CORN: Well, come on. You...
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, he just keeps denying it, that he got help to win.
CORN: Well, because he doesn`t care about truth or intelligence.
He was briefed as a candidate in August 2016 during the campaign that this attack was happening, they pinned it on Russia. And what did he say again and again? I don`t see any evidence of this.
You know, Shane, Mitch McConnell, who`s become a tool of this president -- and he also uses him for cover -- is now saying he won`t do anything on cybersecurity going into 2020 because it might offend the sensibilities of this president, because it makes it look like there was something like reality in 2016.
HARRIS: Yes, and that`s such a huge vulnerability right there that so clearly needs to be addressed.
And we should say too, outside the White House, portions of the government, the Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the National Security Agency, they are taking this threat of election interference very seriously.
And they`re doing what they can to try and particularly get states ready to make sure that we don`t see a repeat and they know how to be on defense from what we saw in 2016.
But when you have a president that consistently refuses to acknowledge what is the so clearly demonstrated reality now from so many different sources, that`s like a headwind that these agencies are facing.
So for all the hard work that they might try to do to get ready for 2020, when the guy at the top is not really acknowledging what even happened in 2016 and is reluctant to talk about it, it makes that work much harder.
MATTHEWS: Well, reports have pointed out that the CIA`s extraction of this Russian asset -- exfiltration -- took place some time after the president divulged highly classified Israeli intelligence to Russian diplomats during a meeting in the Oval Office in May of 2017.
So they may have pulled him out of Russia because they`re afraid that Trump`s talking about all this stuff might give him away. However, former intelligence officials told "The New York Times" that there was no public evidence that Trump directly endangered the source. And other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency`s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.
So they worried the press would uncover him. Additionally, CNN reports that the president was informed in advance of the extraction.
So there you go, David. The president knew that this guy was being pulled out, as our guy over there, whether he`s being paid or whatever his motivations, maybe just a change of heart.
MATTHEWS: How does Trump know all this and still deny the Russian role? Is that a dumb question?
CORN: Well, I`m not going to say that you have asked a dumb question, Chris Matthews, but we have seen time and again he doesn`t want to address this reality, because he believes it taints his presidency.
And you know what? It does.
MATTHEWS: But Vladimir Putin knows it all.
CORN: Well, Putin knows everything. But Trump doesn`t want to acknowledge that he was elected president with help from the Russians and that, during the campaign, he helped the Russians by denying they were doing this.
He basically amplified and echoed the Russian disinformation campaign. And so the question I have is, yes, we`re told that the CIA told Trump that they were exfiltrating this guy.
I want to know, how long before the operation did they tell him? Did they tell him 20 minutes beforehand?
MATTHEWS: So, he couldn`t screw it up?
CORN: I mean, remember, this came about at the time when Comey was fired, and people in the FBI and the Justice Department were that Trump was too close to Russia.
MATTHEWS: Shane, do you know the answer to the question why we pulled him out and what were the concerns that led us to pull him out of the country, our number one source over there, why we felt we had all we could get out of him without endangering his life?
HARRIS: Our understanding from our reporting is that, at the end of -- around fall of 2016 is when details start coming out, both from the Obama administration and official statements, but also from news reporting, that is very clearly pointing towards Putin as the director of this campaign.
And it`s becoming more evident, including explicit in some reports, that there was a source deep inside the Kremlin providing this information. And, as this gets out, our understanding is that people in the intelligence community became more and more concerned that Putin was basically going to start figuring out kind of who in the inner circles may have had access to him and where he had a mole.
And the decision was made to start to get that person out. My colleague Bob Woodward actually reported in his book "Fear" last year that the agency was very keen to get him out, but this individual was initially quite reluctant and didn`t want to come. And the agency had to lean on him to do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, he would endanger all his family members, extended family.
By the way, when you go to bed tonight, everybody watching, think about the fact of this Russian guy over there in Moscow telling us what`s going on, as the Russian leader of his country was screwing with our elections.
The one great prize we have is our democracy. And he told us what was up. What a person.
Thank you, Shane Harris. Thank you, David Corn.
Up next: As Democrats press for action on gun legislation, President Trump hunkered down today with Republican congressional leaders, guess who, Mitch McConnell, to plot strategy for doing absolutely nothing.
Well, the mayors of two cities hit by those mass shootings join me next. They`re going to talk about what it`s like on the ground in those places in our country, where the president`s not coming to help.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The polls have just closed in that special election down in North Carolina`s Ninth Congressional District, a district that President Trump won by 12 percentage points in 2016.
Well, tonight`s results could be a signal -- we`re all looking for signals -- of what`s to come in 2020.
NBC News has reported the race is too early to call right now at this point. The polls have just closed a half-hour ago. We will have the first results for you as soon as we can. Maybe in 15 minutes, we will know a sense of who`s going to win that one.
The winner will immediately jump into the congressional debate over gun control.
Back from the recess, Democrats are pressing Trump now and congressional Republicans like Mitch McConnell for doing something following a series of recent mass shootings we all went through.
The president remains silent about specific measures he might support. And again today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will not act until the president acts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): My members know the very simple fact that to make a law, you have to have a presidential signature.
And so we are -- we had a briefing at lunch from Eric Ueland from down at the White House. They are working on coming up with a proposal that the president will sign. Until that happens, all of this is theatrics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He said it.
Today, McConnell, along with other members of the Republican congressional leadership, met with the president. Gun violence was expected to be on the agenda. After the meeting, however, McConnell said he had no announcements to make.
That`s just now, brand-new news tonight.
Joining me right now are two Democratic mayors who have had to face mass shootings in reality in their cities, Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, of course, and Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh.
Mayor, thank you first.
What do you think of what`s going on? Are we going to have another one of these dry wells where nothing comes up?
MAYOR NAN WHALEY (D-DAYTON, OH.): Well, I mean, I think we come to Washington not expecting anything really different. This is the only place that the background check is actually partisan. Nowhere else in our communities it is.
But we still have to keep on pushing.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think the Republican leadership -- they control the U.S. Senate. Why won`t they bring up a measure without the president saying, I will give you cover first?
WHALEY: Look, I don`t pretend to understand the relationship between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.
I think it`s a big pass the buck back and forth. But people back in Dayton, all they see is nothing happening. And on the night of the vigil when they shouted down Governor Mike DeWine, they said to do something.
And so I don`t think people in Dayton and the 289 places that have had a mass shooting just this year are going to easily forget. We`re getting to a point where every single community has a mass shooting. So now it`s not like this idea where you can just say, oh, they`re going to forget, because then a week later another shooting happens.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Peduto, you know, I have been writing -- I wrote a letter to my congressman back in 1968, when Bobby Kennedy was shot, on gun issues.
MAYOR BILL PEDUTO (D-PITTSBURGH, PA.): Yes.
MATTHEWS: We have been trying to make this happen.
It seems like synagogues are attacked. Christian churches are attacked. Kids in first grade practically are attacked. Politicians are assassinated. Like in no other country in the world, we have had assassinations by gunfire.
And it seems like, every time, we say, well, this will do it.
PEDUTO: We were reminded today by Tom Cochran, who`s the director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, that this has been on the agenda, a bipartisan agenda, of the U.S. Conference of Mayors since 1968.
MATTHEWS: Why do mayors act and senators don`t?
PEDUTO: Because we are in the streets. Because we know the family members.
WHALEY: We see the blood. We see the bodies.
PEDUTO: Literally. And...
MATTHEWS: When a cop is shot, for example, you guys go the hospital and spend the night there.
PEDUTO: We -- not only with law enforcement, but many times with victims who are innocent and with their families as well.
So there`s a very, very real connect. In Washington, there`s a very real disconnect.
MATTHEWS: Who`s protecting these senators from the public who nine out of 10 cases say, do something on background checks?
PEDUTO: I don`t know who it is that`s protecting them.
But I can tell you, at least from a Pennsylvania perspective, that about -- well, after Sandy Hook, you saw, in the Eastern Philadelphia suburbs Republican areas that supported background checks.
MATTHEWS: Even Toomey.
PEDUTO: Even Senator Toomey.
PEDUTO: Senator Casey completely changed his position.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
PEDUTO: But, in Western Pennsylvania, the gun culture was still so strong that you didn`t see that.
After Tree of Life, you have started to see it in white suburban areas throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. And these aren`t the most affluent areas. These are the blue-collar...
MATTHEWS: What do those regular people want done on guns?
Because they do like hunting. They do like gun culture.
PEDUTO: And we don`t -- we`re not talking about taking away those guns.
What we`re talking about is, right now, there is a limited window in order to be able, as Nan said, to do something. But that something is two things. It`s universal background checks. And it`s red flag laws, which, when put together, will help law enforcement officials to be able to proactively stop a crime from happening, instead of just reporting and going after the bad guy.
MATTHEWS: Well, as I said last night on this show, this has been the president`s M.O., by the way, promise right after a shooting, a mass shooting, and then betray.
In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting, he calls for action, and then backs off whenever he thinks the coast is clear. He does it again and again and again. He`s doing it again. No announcements tonight.
Here he is after the mass shootings that took place in Dayton and Pittsburgh. Here he was right afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And 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.
I have had plenty of talks over the last two days. And I think something`s going to be come up with. We`re going to come up with something that`s going to be really very good, beyond anything that`s been done so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Every time there`s one of these mass shooting situations, they say, well, let`s not act now. It`s just politics.
And then, when it calms down, they say, don`t act now at all.
I mean, they have this catch-22, don`t act right after it happened -- right after it happens, and don`t act five weeks, six weeks later, and, therefore, don`t act.
WHALEY: Well, I think what you`re seeing, though, now, from the public is, the public is calling for action right away. And that`s really changed from Parkland moving forward.
So I think...
MATTHEWS: Who should be voted against?
WHALEY: Oh, anybody -- I mean, everybody should be held accountable on background checks. I think that`s an easy accountable -- we don`t need to make this complex.
Nine out of 10 Americans support it. And if nothing moves by 2020, people will be held accountable. And I do think there are senators that are vulnerable because of suburban areas that have moved in a huge amount this way.
So you can see this playing in the Colorado race, the Arizona race, and you will see it playing in Ohio and Pennsylvania as well.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Mitch McConnell`s position. He said it again on the air today: I will act when the president tells me he will sign it. Until then, I won`t do anything.
PEDUTO: Mayor Whaley and I are part of a delegation of over 10 mayors, Republican, Democrat, independents, representing 278 mayors, who`ve all signed on to supporting background checks, 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., from the reddest of the red to the bluest of the blue.
And Leader McConnell made it clear to us today when we went to visit him that that was exactly what his position was.
MATTHEWS: Did he -- did he seem embarrassed by this weakness of his?
PEDUTO: He did not. He seemed to make it a position of practicality when it is, in fact, a position of abdication.
PEDUTO: We created a legislative branch in this country, and we created leadership within that branch to lead, not to follow.
The U.S. Senate does not work for the president. If it did, this country would not have been able to survive this long.
MATTHEWS: You should be in the Senate. Thank you.
PEDUTO: No. I wouldn`t want to be.
MATTHEWS: No, you make sense and speak well.
PEDUTO: The fact is, is that, right now, there is this opportunity. This is what the American people want.
And, as Mayor Whaley said, the only place where this is political is in Washington, D.C.
MATTHEWS: Did it mind you that he was so petty as to not invite you to the Medal of Valor for the police officers?
WHALEY: I would expect nothing less from the president right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, you got less.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mayor Nan Whaley.
It`s always an honor to watch you on television. Actually, I love watching -- I think you`re such great spokespeople for your people and people of executive responsibility, which this president doesn`t always have.
Thank you, Mayor Peduto down in Pittsburgh, beautiful green city.
PEDUTO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: The polls have just closed in that special congressional election down in North Carolina. They closed at 7:00.
We will get the latest on the numbers. We`re going to tell you the numbers, we hope, in the next few minutes that will tell us who`s won.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The polls actually just closed at 7:30 tonight in that special election in North Carolina`s ninth congressional. There it is at the southwest corner. Right now, the race is too early to call.
President Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by 12 points in 2016. And last week some aides told politico if North Carolina`s 9th goes Democratic tonight, so goes the presidency next year, of course.
Well, yesterday, the president told reporters just the opposite.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don`t see it as a bellwether. They always ask that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the election redo, that`s what it is this time, was ordered after state officials discovered absentee ballots were tampered with last time in the 2018 results. The current Democratic candidate Dan McCready trailed his Republican challenger in that first election by 900 votes. Seemingly desperate to avoid a lost, President Trump held a rally yesterday for Republican candidate Dan Bishop, making a hard sell by turning up his toxic rhetoric. Here we go, the bad stuff.
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TRUMP: Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the American hating left, and it`s got to be. And, by the way, we`re building that wall and it`s going up very big. A lot of illegal voting going on out there, by the way. A lot of illegal voting.
With the support and encouragement of the McCready, sanctuary jurisdictions in North Carolina have released thousands of dangerous criminal aliens into your communities.
Our evangelicals are here tonight and they`re all over the place. And what we`ve done for them and for religion is so important. You know, the other side, I don`t think they`re big believers. They`re not big believers in religion.
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MATTHEWS: Un -- you just -- you can`t -- you can`t match that. What a horrendous display of ridiculousness.
Anyway, Trump`s tone at the rally, that campaign rally last night, is getting noticeably dark. Did you notice? Maybe he`s worried he could end up a one term president. He should.
And a new poll numbers out haven`t helped, and that`s next. We`re going to show the latest numbers on Trump just out today.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re awaiting the results as I said from that North Carolina ninth congressional district. Polls closed at 7:30. Numbers may start coming in any minute. You never know what poll numbers come in. I mean, the actual count is always tricky to go with.
Meanwhile, a new NBC or ABC/"Washington Post" polls show that President Trump is heading into the fall with his approval rating still precariously low. It`s down to 40 percent of registered voters, saying they approve of the job he`s doing. That`s sort of near the low. That`s two points above his low of 38 back in January, which is actually the low of his presidency. So, he`s a little bit bopping above his lowest level.
Trump didn`t like the news, of course, tweeting: One of the greatest and most powerful weapons used by the fake and corrupt news media is the phony polling information they put out. Many of these polls are fixed, or worked in such a way that a certain candidate will look better. Internal polling looks great, the best ever. Blah, blah, blah.
Late this afternoon, a new CNN poll shows that 6 in 10 of Americans however do not believe Trump deserves to get re-elected.
For more, I`m going to Heidi Przybyla, NBC News correspondent, and Eugene Robinson at "The Washington Post".
Everything he says is nothing`s on the level.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Everything he says is nothing is on the level. Judges, juries, don`t trust them, everybody is out for themselves. Everybody is playing a tribal game. Nobody is being fair.
Everybody about him -- elections are rigged. Polls are rigged. Newspapers are bought and sold and nothing is to be believed.
He wants to get into this I think the word is dystopian world where everything is awful and that somehow benefits the angry, resentful electorate that he`s cultivating.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The polls have long been something he`s teed up. I mean, this was part of his shtick even before the election when he was gearing up to say that the whole election was rigged. But the problem today in these numbers if you drill down is that he`s starting to lose in some important core demographic groups, including white working class women.
We started to see some of that slippage with his attacks.
MATTHEWS: What happened do you think there?
PRZYBYLA: Well, first, there were the attacks on the female congresswomen when we started to see the slippage, and then secondly, it is always about the economy. And especially so for this president because, Chris, you were out there in Iowa. I was out there in Iowa and during 2016 talking to farmers, talking to regular, you know, average men and women.
And the reason why they voted for didn`t love the way that he behaves on Twitter, they didn`t love the way that he bullies up from the pulpit, but they thought he`s a businessman and he -- everything he touches turns to gold.
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
PRZYBYLA: And he gets in there. He`s going to do that for us. And now, they`re seeing that, in fact, we could be headed into a recession, that he passed tax cuts that are cookie cutter from the conservative playbook benefitting the rich.
MATTHEWS: How could you pass a tax cut he just passed and argue that it`s good for the economy, when all that money is going somewhere?
ROBINSON: Exactly, exactly, exactly. It`s not -- you don`t see it. It didn`t come back into the economy. It certainly did filter down to people in the form of salaries, in the form of money to pay their, you know --
MATTHEWS: They`re all buybacks by corporate leaders.
MATTHEWS: He bought back stock.
ROBINSON: He bought back stock, and by the way, that trillion dollars that was supposed to be repatriated, remember? Whatever happened to that?
PRZYBYLA: And the trade war.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the toxic stuff last night. He was really going with all the dirt balls last night. Everybody`s -- every immigrant is like murderer, rapist, everybody is evil.
ROBINSON: It was like the greatest hits, you know?
MATTHEWS: And the Democratic Party is all bunch of socialists.
ROBINSON: Yes. Well, he wanted to push every button, every button he could possibly push to drive turn out in a special election, in a Trump plus-12 district, and he`s down there playing as if it`s, you know --
MATTHEWS: Wasn`t it risky to go down there, if he takes a loss down there?
PRZYBYLA: Of course, it is because he`s put his name on it.
ROBINSON: He wouldn`t have gone if he didn`t think he would win, but it is risky. I mean, that race was tied the last time.
MATTHEWS: He wants to be part of a narrow victory not part of a narrow loss, does he?
PRZYBYLA: No, but either way, it shouldn`t be that narrow.
ROBINSON: It`s a Trump plus 12 district.
MATTHEWS: A win is a win, though.
Let me -- according to "The Associated Press", Trump advisers worry that moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some of his incendiary policies and rhetoric would blame him, and in particular, his trade with China for slowing down the economy.
Now, if the economy really -- I know some of the press have been talking down the economy. Some of them just don`t like Trump. But how do you think people are getting a sense it`s slowing down? Where is it coming from? Is it sales? Is it -- what is it?
PRZYBYLA: I guess it`s sales. It`s uneven employment numbers and just the fact that we saw a sugar high off of the tax cuts --
PRZYBYLA: -- which has not extended into -- it has not led to wages, wage growth.
And if you remember, the way that the president sold this was as a middle class miracle. It was not supposed to be a corporate welfare miracle. It was to help middle class people and to increase their wages. And so, I think that`s where --
MATTHEWS: You know, I think --
ROBINSON: The Census Bureau came out with some new economic numbers today. And just parsing the numbers, it seems people are worried about salaries. They`re not feeling, you know, there`s GDP growth, but they`re not feeling it.
And they`re worried about health care because they`re paying more for their deductibles, for their -- you know, you name it. And as a matter of fact access, the number of insured or the number of uninsured went up this last year for the first time since the affordable care act.
MATTHEWS: So how does Trump get back to numbers that manage to squeak him back into office in 2016? He has to do something to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan. He has to hold, of course, North Carolina that we were talking about today.
He has to win on the numbers. There`s always going to be a lot of angry white guys out there, and some angry white women, but the numbers decide this thing.
MATTHEWS: There has to be enough to win with. What makes anybody think he was as big as he was three years ago? Nobody thinks that.
PRZYBYLA: He didn`t get a ton more votes in a lot of these states that Mitt Romney did or a other presidential candidates got. What happened was the Democratic vote was depressed.
PRZYBYLA: So -- well, I mean, some people say that it was a lot of the negative attacks on Hillary Clinton, others blame --
MATTHEWS: Is it Comey?
PRZYBYLA: -- Comey, the Clinton campaign certainly blames Comey. But there was a certainty in places like Detroit and places like Flint, in places like Milwaukee, the African-American vote in particular was depressed. In some states, there`s also -- they also blamed voting irregularities and access.
MATTHEWS: We had Stacey Abrams on last night. Have you seen her in action yet?
MATTHEWS: She`s something.
ROBINSON: She`s something.
MATTHEWS: She`s wonderful in terms of personality, look, everything, superficials, but then you realize, yes, law, you know her background is incredible.
MATTHEWS: And what she -- and a novelist. She`s written five novels. She`s everything, a renaissance person.
MATTHEWS: And you put her on the ticket with somebody, it looks to me like a smart move.
ROBINSON: Well, and it could happen, right? She`s available.
MATTHEWS: She said so with Biden.
PRZYBYLA: Other than she keeps saying no, right?
ROBINSON: She keeps saying no, I don`t want to run for Senate. She has not said no, I don`t want to run for vice president.
MATTHEWS: -- run for it. Just get a point almost, but then you`ve got to carry the ticket.
Steve -- let`s go to Steve Kornacki, my colleague, for what we know from North Carolina ninth.
Steve, there you are.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, so, interesting. A little bit of drama. North Carolina is one of these states, it reports its results extremely fast.
Why is that? More than half the voters tend to cast their votes early, some mail them in, a lot of them go to polling places. They vote days, they vote weeks ahead of time. And usually, by this point, we`ll have half the vote in in North Carolina or in a district.
So, why are there no votes reported yet from this ninth district race everybody is watching? Because there was a gas leak at a precinct in Mecklenburg County, Mecklenburg County, suburban Charlotte part of this district. In a single precinct there, there was a gas leak. They therefore extended.
The state board of elections has decided about 20 minutes ago to extend the polling time until 7:55 p.m. That`s about a minute ago. And they said after that, they believe they will begin releasing the results.
So, literally, we are expecting now based on the latest guidance we`ve gotten, that any minute now we`re going to start getting the results. I can tell you, when these results start coming in, what you`re going to be seeing -- and they should come in, once they start they`ll come in fast. And what you should be seeing are the early votes.
And the early votes tend to favor the Democrats. How much so I can tell you --
KORNACKI: -- in the 2018 mid-term last year, McCready won the early votes by five points. He lost the same day by seven.
So, keep that in mind as these numbers start to come in. And again, that should be any minute because the state board of elections told us, 7:55, they`ll shut that precinct down in Mecklenburg, and they`ll get to at a business of reporting these votes.
MATTHEWS: You know, I sort of -- my hunch is that Bishop will win by a couple points, but nothing like 12 points. That`s just my hunch. Trump wouldn`t go down there, unless he`s expected he`s going to win.
But my question to you is, why can`t we get it right? You know, we`ve had the problem in Florida. We`ve had the problem in different parts of the country. Why can`t we learn how to hold elections so we don`t have these irregularities is a wonderful code word for it, where we don`t get results on time?
KORNACKI: Yes. Well, hopefully, this one will be a truly, truly minor blip, unless there`s something we`re not understanding. It`s literally one precinct, literally one polling station. Again, I say Mecklenburg Country, we`re talking right here.
It`s not all of Mecklenburg. Mecklenburg County is massive. This is sort of a gerrymandered -- we talk about the gerrymandering that`s taken place in various states, this is a Republican -- traditionally more Republican friendly suburban part of Charlotte, suburbs immediately outside of it. It`s a third of the district, but a single precinct here.
But again, generally, North Carolina, compared to other states, very clean in reporting their election results.
KORNACKI: As I said, I`m kind of looking at this very few seconds, expecting it see some numbers pop up. By this point in 2018, this point in 2018, we had a pretty clear idea of what was going on. So, there`s just -- there`s one glitch at that polling station. But that -- it was at Mecklenburg County, by the way, that is going to be crucial the minute we get a result there.
And why because that portion of the district, it`s a microcosm of the story we`re telling nationally about American politics in the Trump age. This is suburban swath that Donald Trump won by three points in 2016. He got elected by winning this portion of the district by three points, 2018 in the midterm.
KORNACKI: The Democrat McCready carried it by 10.
MATTHEWS: How good a -- an indicator will this give us, advance indicator of 2020? If this were happening in 2020, this district voting in 2020, the ninth congressional, and it were going the way it`s going to go tonight, how much would it lead the state next year?
MATTHEWS: How would it lead it if it were next year?
KORNACKI: Yes. So, keep in mind, look, Trump won the district like we say by 12 points in 2016. So use that as a baseline in where`s the erosion for Trump, where`s the erosion for Republicans in 2018. That is major spot right there.
The Mecklenburg County portion of it, the suburban portion of this district that`s -- here we go, we`ve got our first results, Chris. Let me just interrupt this and see exactly where they`re from.
And I can tell you, McCready got a big batch in there early. And let`s get -- it is in. We got to get the counties up. OK. Here we go, oh, it`s in Robison County. So, here`s what I can tell you. This is the early vote in Robison County. McCready 63-37, the early vote in 2018 was 61-37.
So, we said McCready needs to be at or above his early vote level in 2018, he`s two points above in the early vote in Robison County.
KORNACKI: Which is the first we have coming in.
MATTHEWS: It looks to be a squeaker based on that. I mean, a squeaker. Maybe we`ll have to wait for Brian Williams at 11:00 to get this one. This can be really close.
Thank you, Steve. You`re the best.
KORNACKI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Heidi Przybyla. Thank you so much, and, Eugene Robinson.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. What an exciting night to find out which way North Carolina -- as goes the Tar Heel State, watch out.
"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