IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Democratic candidates go head to head. TRANSCRIPT: 9/13/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Ron Reagan, Jaime Harrison, Susan Page, Michael Steel, DavidFahrenthold

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  She makes her debut appearance on The Beat.  We also have opening arguments with Neal Katyal, so a lot to get to that we will be excited about.

So I hope you have a great weekend and I hope you`re going to rejoin us.  Come back Monday at 6:00 A.M. Eastern.

But don`t go anywhere right now because HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The joker is wild.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

Well, two events last night, 1,200 miles apart showcased the dramatic difference between the Democrats and Donald Trump.  In Houston, the top ten Democrats met for their third debate jousting to become their party`s candidate in 2020.

Meanwhile Republican members of Congress met in Baltimore to hear from their party`s unchallenged leader.  It was a battle for America`s attention from a president who can`t stand a moment from the spotlight.

And true to form, Trump unloaded a series of attacks on the Democratic field.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hit Pocahontas way too early.  I thought she was gone.  She`s emerged from the ashes.  And now, it looks like she could beat Sleepy Joe.  He`s fallen asleep.  He has no idea what the hell he`s doing or saying.

And here is Sleepily Joe, what, where am I?  Just sign here, Sleepy Joe.  Just sign here.

Crazy Bernie, he is a crazy guy.

I think it was Buttigieg, they said think of it as boot and edge, edge, because nobody can pronounce this guy`s name.


MATTHEWS:  Well, actually, that is the way to pronounce it.

Anyway, the Democrats sharing the stage in Texas may have differed on the issues but they were unified in their purpose, of course.  They all trained their sights on the man we just heard from, Trump.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Houston, we have a problem.  We have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show.

MAYOR PETE BUTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, when I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and said he`d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping.  I`d like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.

FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have a white supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There`s enormous, enormous opportunity once we get rid of Donald Trump.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.


MATTHEWS:  Well, while the Democrats start to earn the support of rank and file voters, Trump spoke as a president who has the Republican Party already in his clutches.


TRUMP:  I go to audiences, I was joking one time recently.  I walked up to him and I said, listen, I don`t have to make a very long speech.  You really have to elect me, whether you like me or not, it makes no difference because our country will go to hell if any of these people get in.  It will go to hell.

But I said, you know, I was joking but I`m really not joking.  You have no choice.


MATTHEWS:  He sounds like Louie XIV or XVI.  As The New York Times put it, intended as counterprogramming, the president`s speech last night hit virtually everyone of his usual political lines as he careened between prepared remarks, ad-libbed attacks and boasts about his record.

At times, Trump`s address felt like an act from an old Borscht Belt (ph) performance, even using wind turbines as setup material.


TRUMP:  Try dropping a windmill someplace close to your house, try selling your house.  They make noise, they kill all the birds.  The energy is intermittent.  You happen to be watching the Democrat debate and the wind isn`t blowing, you`re not going to see -- Charlie, what the hell happened to this debate?  He says, darling, the wind isn`t blowing.  The goddamn windmill stopped.  That windmill stopped.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump complaint here, his latest complaint is about energy-efficient light bulbs.


TRUMP:  The bulb that we`re being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, the light`s no good.  I always look orange.  And so do you.  The light is the worst.


MATTHEWS:  Mr. President, actually some would say it`s not the light bulbs.

And while Trump has criticized Baltimore as a rat and rodent-infested mess, the only rat that was apparent during his visit last night in Baltimore was an inflatable one, there it is, meant to look like him, aAmong the many demonstrators who gathered to protest the president`s appearance.  That`s pretty well-done there.

I`m joined right now by Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief of USA Today, Jamie Harrison, Associate Chairman of the DNC and a Democratic candidate for the United States in South Carolina.  Sir, I love men in the arena and women as well.  Michael Steel is a former spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner, Ron Reagan, there you are, he`s the author and (INAUDIBLE).

You`ve got the smirk.  I can`t resist the smirk.  I`ve got to ask you about Trump and his joker.  It was just like Jack Nicholson.  He can`t stand somebody else on television.  Here can`t stand people watching the Democratic debate.  So here he is careening from light bulbs to wind turbines.  There wasn`t a topic last night he didn`t find something to fight about.  Your thoughts about Trump`s interruption of our lives again.  Your thoughts.

RON REAGAN, AUTHOR:  Well, you know, Donald Trump sees this presidency obviously as a reality television show, and that`s how he relates to all of this.  How am I doing in the ratings?  How are the polls?  Are people applauding?  Am I getting laughs here?

But the whole thing is beginning to spiral downward in a very alarming sort of way.  Again, we can laugh about his behavior, but the fact of the matter is he`s sitting in the Oval Office and that makes his behavior a very scary thing.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it reminded me Borscht Belt, these old comedians with one line after another, a lot of these snappers one after another, like take my wife, please, those (INAUDIBLE) lines.  It was like that last night, take my presidency, please.  Your thoughts, Jaime.

JAIME HARRISON, DNC ASSOCIATE CHAIRMAN:  Well, listen, I hope there aren`t a lot of people going to a lot of these speeches because I know they`re losing brain cells.  I mean, you have a president who is talking about light bulbs.  And it`s just -- Chris, it just doesn`t make any sense.

MATTHEWS:  It makes them yellow.

HARRISON:  I guess it makes them yellow.  But in the end, he`s going to be red because he`s going to lose the election.

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, I`ve been corrected.  It is orange.  He insisted it.

HARRISON:  Well, in the end, he`s going to be red because he`s going to be very upset when he loses this election.  He`s not talking about the issues that people are dealing with right now.  The people that are rubberstamping his election, like my Senator Lindsey Graham, are not focused on the issues that people are dealing with right now.

MATTHEWS:  There`s setup material on that on everything he does.  It isn`t just jokes.  All the jokes with the expensive -- anybody concerned about energy, anybody concerned about climate change, they`re sort of against modernism, against reality, against facts, and his audience has to laugh at all that.  We don`t like these new light bulbs, we don`t like wind.  Why wouldn`t you like wind and saving the planet?  What is his problem?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY:  He`s been anti-wind from the beginning.  Just to be clear, this is not a change of position.  He was against wind turbines even in the 2016 election.

Well, here`s what I think was interesting about his speech last night.  This is the argument he`s going to make against whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination, which it is dangerous to elect these Democrats.  These are socialists.  These people will take your country away.  And that is an argument that worked for him in 2016.  So I think Democrats have to be careful to be aware of it.

And, you know, the other thing, he makes this argument with a lot of energy.  You know, he spoke for 78 minutes last night.  What candidate goes out -- what president goes out and speaks to a crowd for 78 minutes?

MATTHEWS:  Could he wear out a Biden?

PAGE:  I think --

MATTHEWS:  On a platform, could he wear him out?

PAGE:  I think he could wear out a candidate, Biden or other candidates as well.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Castro used to go -- Fidel Castro would go four hours at a time.  So it`s not a test how liberal or conservative you are, it`s just if you can talk a lot.

But he does have this obsession with the moment.  The thing about this president is, I used to say to people, think about radios every two hours has to refresh.  This guy refreshes his act every minute.  He wants to own every minute, including last night.

MICHAEL STEEL, FMR. SPOKESMAN FOR HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER:  He wants to win the news cycle every single time.  And I think the way to think about it is he`s never polled above 50 percent.  He cannot win this presidential election.  Democrats can lose it.  And he`s going to be out there -- whatever candidate you guys nominate, he will be out there saying, this candidate will take your healthcare, take your guns, raise your taxes, wreck the economy.  I`m the only thing standing between you and --

MATTHEWS:  Well, he got some help last night from Beto, didn`t he?  We`re going to confiscate all the AR-15s --

STEEL:  He got help from Beto.  He got help from Bernie Sanders.  He got help from every --

MATTHEWS:  Fawning over the president from the Republican retreat in Baltimore yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy invoked the name of Ronald Reagan as he praised the current president.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  The Republicans have never been more united.  Don`t take my word.  Take for the members on the stage.  Actually, look at the polling itself with this president.  No president, not even Ronald Reagan had as much support within the party as President Trump has.


MATTHEWS:  But not everyone is as united behind the president, McCarthy is claiming there.  Senator Mitt Romney, for example, the party`s nominee in 2012 told CNN the other day, I`m not planning on endorsing in the presidential race at this stage.  I`m not planning on endorsing in the primary or in the general.

Ron, let me ask you about this guy.  I`m not sure the loyalty behind this president, which is sort of lemming-like and mechanistic and regimental, is something to brag about.  There`s something non--intellectual about these people.  They don`t praise Reagan.  They follow him in a kind of way that doesn`t suggest individual thinking or anything.  It`s just we`re afraid to buck this guy because the people at home are much more right wing than any officeholder in the party, it seems.

REAGAN:  You meant praise Trump not Reagan?


REAGAN:  Yes.  There`s no genuine affection for this guy and throughout most of the party.  He may have his base, he may have his cult-like base among the public and electorate, but elected officials are wise to him for the most part.  They know that he`s a reckless, erratic, dangerous individual but, you know, they got their tax cut.  And if they cross him, they know what happens to him when they go back and get primaried.

MATTHEWS:  What makes Lindsey Graham, for example, who`s the classic toadie?  No, really, it`s your state.  I didn`t create these people.  What makes his tail wag when the name Trump is mentioned?  What makes him run around after him like he loves him?  I mean, he doesn`t love him.  I know Lindsey.  Lindsey is a good guy in many ways, but why are they all behaving like him today, Ron?

REAGAN:  Oh, me.  I`m sorry.


REAGAN:  Yes.  It`s surviving (ph).  We went to South Carolina.  No, but I think it`s survival for them.  The bottom line is they need to get re- elected and they need him to get re-elected.  They can`t afford to have him tweeting to their base as well as his some bad stuff about them and next thing you know they don`t win the Republican primary and they never get into office again.  That`s the real bottom line.

MATTHEWS:  Jaime, you`re going to run if you win the nomination.  You`re going to be running against this guy in, Lindsey Graham, South Carolina.

HARRISON:  I`m running against him now.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  You`re running against him now.  What is his reason?  Why does his tail wag whenever the name Trump shows up?  He`s embarrassing.

HARRISON:  Listen, the most important thing to Lindsey Graham is Lindsey Graham.  He wants to be relevant.  He said it so in his own words in a The New York Times article recently.  Two objective, getting re-elected and being relevant.  If there was a gang that won in the United States Senate, Lindsey Graham would want to be that person in that gang.  He wants to be relevant and Donald Trump makes him relevant.

I call him the world`s most powerful golf caddy because that is what he is.  It is --

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  I`ve got another theory.  Those southern Democrats, the old grandees, the bore buds (ph) who were around forever, their dream was to get appointed when the other guy died, serve until they died and then some are trying to transform in death into some building, like the Richard Russell building.  That`s what their dream was, never to leave the Senate, ever.  Isn`t that what Lindsey wants?  Help me.

HARRISON:  The Senate allows Lindsey to be relevant, to be on television every night.  But in the end of the day, Chris, it`s not about the people in South Carolina.  This is a guy -- and you tell me whether you think that (INAUDIBLE) would have ever done this.

Hurricane Dorian coming up the coast, coming up Florida, targeted towards South Carolina, we evacuate Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Charleston.  Where is Lindsey Graham?  Is he in Charleston putting sand in bags?  Is he on phone with the governor?  No, he`s in Montenegro palling around and smiling with --

MATTHEWS:  That was a campaign commercial right here.  Thank you.  You will never take a (INAUDIBLE) if you`re elected to the Senate.  You will never go on foreign trips.  You will never go one of these trips.

HARRISON:  It`s not about that.  If you got a hurricane -- you saw what the hurricane did to Bahamas.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Thank you, thank you.  My guests are sticking with me.

Coming up, after the Democrats` big night, who`s leading and who`s bleeding?  And what about that cheap shot from Julian Castro?  Here it is.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Barack Obama`s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered.  He wanted every single person in this country covered.  My plan would do that, your plan would not.

BIDEN:  They do not have to buy in.  The do not have to buy in.

CASTRO:  You just said that.  You just said that two minutes ago.  You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.  You said they`d have to buy in.  Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?  Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?


MATTHEWS:  An attempt to show dementia on the part of the leading Democratic candidate, Julian Castro caught himself looking incompetent.  We`re going to show you that in the tapes when we come back.  He was wrong in this case.  Vice President Biden was correct.  He did not say what he accused him of.

Plus, Trump`s corruption in plain sight right now.  We`re all learning right now the Air Force crews who have stayed at Trump`s Scottish resort dozens of times in recent years.  He promised he wouldn`t profit from the American presidency, he is.

We`ve got much more coming on that front.  Stay with us.



BIDEN:  I know that the senator says she`s for Bernie.  Well, I`m for Barack.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We all owe a huge debt to President Obama.

KLOBUCHAR:  What I favor is something that what Barack Obama wanted to do from the very beginning.

HARRIS:  I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us this far.

CASTRO:  And, of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to President Barack Obama.

BIDEN:  I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad and indifferent.  That`s where I stand.


MATTHEWS:  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was the Democratic candidates last night, of course, making a point of embracing the Obama legacy.  That was nice to hear.

And while the storyline heading into last night`s debate centered on Joe Biden sharing the stage for the first time with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, it wasn`t the battle between the moderate and the progressive wings of the party that brought the most contentious moment of the night.  That came when former HUD Secretary Julian Castro took a shot, a nasty one, at the former vice president, falsely accusing Biden of saying his healthcare plan wouldn`t automatically enroll people in its is public option and hinting that Biden was old and forgetful.  He was charging him with short-term memory loss and dementia.

Let`s face it and let`s watch.


CASTRO:  You just said that.  You just said that two minutes ago.  You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.  You said they`d have to buy in.  Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?  Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?

I mean, I can`t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in.  And now, you`re saying they don`t have to buy in.  You`re forgetting that.

BIDEN:  I said anyone, like a grandmother who has no money, you`re automatically enrolled.

CASTRO:  We need a healthcare system that automatically enrolls people regardless of whether they choose opt in or not.  If you lose your job, for instance, his healthcare plan would not automatically enroll.  You would have to opt in.  My healthcare would.  That`s a big difference.

I am fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you`re not.

BIDEN:  I`ll be surprised at him.


MATTHEWS:  A short time ago, Secretary Castro told my colleague, Chuck Todd, it was a disagreement over healthcare policy and not Biden`s age, he says.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  You repeated the word, forget, so many times that a lot of people thought this was a planned hit and that this was --

CASTRO:  It was not.  Look, I respect Vice President Biden.  I`ve known Vice President Biden now for years, of course, served in the Obama administration with him.  I think that, in many ways, he`s a good candidate.  That`s going to be up for the voters to decide.  What I was pointing out was that he had denied saying the words buy in, even though he did say the words buy in. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Susan on this.

I think everybody heard what they saw, and they heard him use the word forget again and again, short-term memory loss.  He was going after him, saying, you don`t remember what you just said. 

PAGE:  That`s right. 

There are legitimate questions you can raise about Joe Biden and his vigor and his age and his tendency towards gaffes.  That is not inappropriate.  But this was an inappropriate hit.  This came across as mean-spirited and pre-cooked and toxic. 

And I do not think that Julian Castro is going to be the either the nominee or a member of Joe Biden`s Cabinet if he...



PAGE:  ... the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Was he gunning for vice president under Elizabeth Warren?

That`s what I think he was doing.

PAGE:  I think he is a 1 percent candidate who thought, I have got to do something to shake this up, or I`m not going to be relevant at all going forward. 

And that`s -- it seems to me that is probably the calculation he was making. 

MATTHEWS:  Alexi McCammond was sitting pretty much there the last night at 7:00.  And she said, there`s going to be a hit directly from Julian Castro on the vice president.  It`s all planned.  It`s going to happen.

So somebody leaked the fact he was planning to do that.

PAGE:  You know, this will stun you, but a lot of the lines last night were devised before they got on stage.

MATTHEWS:  You`re smiling.


PAGE:  I just think that is how it works.


MATTHEWS:  Houston, we have a problem?  Like, Houston, we have a problem? 

PAGE:  You might possibly have drafted some of those lines in the past.



MATTHEWS:  I knew how to do them. 

Anyway, let me go to Mike.

Leaders and bleeders.  Julian Castro is bleeding.  Who lead -- who won last night, to use the crude phrase in the game of politics?  Because it is somewhat a game.  Who won? 

PAGE:  So I think Biden wasn`t perfect, but he was good enough.

MATTHEWS:  Did he save himself for the next fight?

PAGE:  I think he did, yes. 

And I think Elizabeth Warren continued to do exactly what has brought her success so far, which is make her progressive case, but get above -- stay above the fray. 

MATTHEWS:  She was untouched last night.

Anyway, former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke got a lot of attention on the issue of gun control, defending his mandatory assault weapon buyback program.  Watch this.  This is going to have a short-term reaction among Democrats, and you bet -- and he will be the poster boy by next summer for the NRA. 

But let`s watch. 


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If the high-impact, high velocity-round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

When we see that being used against children -- and, in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren`t enough ambulances to get to them in time.

Hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.


O`ROURKE:  We`re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.



MATTHEWS:  Did you see those people in the first row literally jumping up and down?  It was amazing. 

In response to that comment by Beto O`Rourke, Briscoe Cain, a Texas state representative, tweeted: "My AR-15 is ready for you, Robert Francis," using Beto`s legal first and middle name.  Ready for you.

O`Rourke responded with a tweet of his own, saying: "This is a death threat, Representative.  Clearly, you shouldn`t own an AR-15.  And neither should anyone else."

Apparently, he has turned it over to the FBI, this thing, Beto O`Rourke did.

But let`s get back to Beto O`Rourke, because he`s an active political figure on the national stage.

STEEL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Talking about confiscating, mandatory buybacks of AR-15s.  There`s 10 million of them in the country right now. 

STEEL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s that going to be politically?  What will that mean by next summer? 

STEEL:  Well, I think it means that Beto O`Rourke is not running for Senate and -- or anything else in Texas anytime soon.  I think it means that the - - he is reinvigorating the gun rights lobby.  He`s reinvigorating Republican and other fears people in rural areas` fears that Democrats are not in favor of commonsense, steady gun reform.

They`re in favor -- they`re going to come, break down your door and take your gun.  And that is a real fear on a part of a lot of people.  And he just made that a lot more legitimate. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron, your thinking about, is this beyond where the country is right now in terms of gun safety? 

REAGAN:  I think the problem I have with that -- and I agree with what was just said -- this plays into the Republican NRA meme of Democrats coming, kicking down your door and taking your gun away. 

I think the problem for me with Beto O`Rourke`s proposition here about the buyback that`s mandatory, so it will be a confiscation, eventually, is that it`s not part of a larger comprehensive anti-gun violence strategy. 

It sort of -- it seems like sort of a one-off thing.  Well, we`re going to take your AR-15s away. 

Well, I got news for you.  You can take all the AR-15s away, and that might be a good thing, but it won`t stop mass shootings.  So unless you embed this in a larger comprehensive sort of program, I think you`re missing the boat.

MATTHEWS:  Right, like going after those multi-ammo magazines, 30 or 40 bullets in each one.

Anyway, this is one moment that reminded a lot of people about human being behavior.  Here`s Mayor Pete Buttigieg last night when he was asked to talk about resilience in life.

Here he is talking about his personal experience as a gay man coming out, as we say, saying what he is, overwhelming his setbacks that came his way and ones he thought were going to come this way.  It`s very powerful. 

Let`s sit and watch Pete Buttigieg.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life.  And I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out. 

I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently it was an election year in my socially conservative community.

What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with 80 percent of the vote. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Jaime, rare moment of, well, human reality? 

HARRISON:  Yes, it was a great moment for Pete. 

And it was one of those moments where I constantly try to remind Democrats, not only those running for president, but also on the down-ballot, that Democrats win when we`re hopeful and we`re aspirational, when we talk to people about where they are, and relate to them on that level. 

Bill Clinton was a master at doing that.  Barack Obama was very good at doing that as well. 

And the key for us, the key for the nominee of our party, the key for folks like me running for the United States Senate, is to go into these communities, rural communities and urban communities, and talk to people where they are, talk to their hearts, because, when people vote, they`re not just voting with this.  They`re voting with this and this.

It the heartness and the guts.  And that`s what we have to be.

MATTHEWS:  That`s what LBJ said about civil rights.  You got to go to the heart on that. 

HARRISON:  Exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  You got to go to the deep values of the country. 

Thank you so much, Susan Page, as always, front-page Susan.  rMDNM_

Jaime Harrison, thank you.  Good luck in your race down there... 


MATTHEWS:  ... against that tail-wagger down there.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, and Michael Steel, thank you, sir. 

And, Ron Reagan, we wait for you.  Every time we hear you`re coming on, we`re excited about it.  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  No, really.  You`re one of the stars of this show. 

Anyway, up next:  The sentence is handed down against actress Felicity Huffman, but not a really nasty sentence, a couple of days.  This is about the college admissions scandal. 

We`re going to learn about sort of this kind of crime and how it gets paid for.  Not extensively or expensively.  Fourteen days for all this?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Felicity Huffman, remember her, star of "Desperate Housewives"?  Well, she was sentenced today to 14 days in prison for her role in the college admission cheating scandal.

Huffman and 13 other parents pleaded guilty to bribery and mail fraud charges.  She initially faced up to 20 years in prison, but received a more -- well, more lenient sense, two weeks, because of her guilty plea.

In a statement today, Huffman said: "I accept the court`s decision today without reservation. I have always been prepared to accept whatever punishment the judge imposed.  I broke the law.  I have admitted that.  And I pleaded guilty to this crime.  There are no excuses or justifications for my actions, period."

Well, 50 people, also included "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin, were indicted back in March of this year in a massive FBI investigation, which revealed that paid parents -- or parents paid millions of dollars in bribes to get their children into elite universities. 

Part of the scheme involved cheating on standardized exams, like the ACT, and falsely designating some kids as athletes to get preferential treatment at various -- because -- even if they weren`t athletes at all and had nothing to do with those sports. 

In Huffman`s case, she paid $15,000 to have a college counselor correct answers on her daughter`s SAT test, resulting in a higher score.

For more, I`m joined by Katie Phang, MSNBC legal contributor, Tom Winter, NBC News correspondent.

Tom, in this case, what did she pay the test moderator to do to get her kid`s numbers up?  What did he actually do for the money? 

TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  Well, essentially, Chris, it was -- it was kind of two things, one, that she would be able to have her daughter take the test with no time limit whatsoever. 

So there was no -- as we know from taking the college boards, you have a certain amount of time to complete certain portions of the test.  She would be able to take as much time as she wanted.  In addition to that, what she pleaded guilty to and what we saw in the charging documents is that the person who proctored the test, basically the instructor for the test, went back and was able to correct some of her daughter`s answers.

It led to an approximately 400-point increase on her college boards, so not an insignificant increase.  And on top of that, her daughter had a significant amount of time to get it right in the first place.  So, that was...


WINTER:  ... scheme.

MATTHEWS:  How does a proctor get to squirrel away themselves with a test, somebody`s test, and change enough for the answers to get four points up? 

In other words, do they know the answers because they`re smart?  Or do they have a guidebook which has all the right answers?  And how do you cheat?  I`m just curious about technically how you do this thing, this scam.

WINTER:  Well, I think what was -- what came across in the initial charging documents in several instances -- and it wasn`t just for Felicity Huffman`s daughter who was able to get some of these benefits. 

But according to the charging documents, Chris, basically, you have people that are -- that are educators. These are not people that are just off the street.  God knows it`s not myself, but it would be people that are educators, that are professors, that are involved in the school -- in the schools and schooling system. 

So they would presumably have that higher level of knowledge to be able to correct these answers and jack up the scores. 

MATTHEWS:  Katie, what do you make of two weeks, 14 days?  Is that jail time in a real prison?  What kind of a situation will this defendant, this convicted person, have to face?

Real -- what will the situation be for two weeks? 

KATIE PHANG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  So Felicity Huffman is not going to be doing hard time in a maximum security federal prison.

But two weeks is a lot of time for somebody who is an otherwise glamorous Hollywood actress.  You know, 14 days doesn`t sound like a lot, but for any defendant who`s looking down the barrel of having to go to jail, that is day for day. 

We do not expect Felicity Huffman to get any good time served, as you have heard before.  She will do those 14 days.  But, frankly, Chris, by the time she actually gets into the federal prison system, basically gets acclimated to it, she will be out of the system. 

So you look at her, you see that she gave $15,000 in order to get her daughter to test better with that proctor`s assistance.  But if I were somebody like Lori Loughlin, who gave $500,000 with her husband for her two daughters to get into USC, I would be whipping out those prayer candles tonight, because she has decided to plead not guilty, take the risk of going to trial against the biggest law firm in the world, which is the federal government. 

And so she`s looking at significant jail time, if Felicity Huffman only got 14 days. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you both.

I will start with Tom.  I will give you a chance to think about it, Katie, because it`s a tough question. 

Will this serve as a real deterrent?  Will this stop parents who`ve got the wrong values and the wrong, well, crazy ambition without the right values, instead of teaching their kids along the way from the time they`re teachable from the time they`re first grade on to 12th grade, when they`re getting ready for college?

They think about buying them in.  Is this going to teach better values?  Will it scare the bad guys? 

WINTER:  Well, I think it`s two things, one, that you can get caught, right, because that`s a big part of this. 

I mean, I think everybody here thought, well, you just pay this guy, and this guy pays somebody else, and everybody`s kind of wink in on it, and you can get into the school of your choice, or at least have a better opportunity. 

And I think the fact, when people get caught doing wrong things, and they are people in positions of power or influence or celebrity, that`s always a little bit of a wakeup call.


WINTER:  And the fact that Felicity Huffman -- I mean, she got a pretty good deal here.  Four to 10 months is what she agreed to in her plea agreement.  Prosecutors asked for even lower than that.  They went beyond their obligations, arguing for only a month.

And now she`s going to do 14 days.  I wouldn`t want to do 14 days.  And I think a lot of people that are watching us tonight, Chris, wouldn`t want to do 14 days in a federal prison either.  So I think it is a little bit of a wakeup call. 

And I think, to Katie`s point, if you`re Lori Loughlin, you`re sitting -- you`re sitting at home and you`re watching this.  She paid a lot more money, $500,000, along with her husband.  She`s looking at significantly more jail time, even if she pleads out. 

I think that some folks here are going to be watching this pretty closely and realize that this honest services fraud or wire fraud is something that can really bite you. 

MATTHEWS:  Katie, good deterrent here, good deterrent by this?

PHANG:  It is a send-a-message sentence, Chris, and that`s exactly what the federal judge said she wanted to do in this case. 

To Tom`s point, though, in normally in these types of cases, where you have this type of -- a lot of people involved in the fraud, what happened in to this specific situation, I want to serve as a reminder, is that the head of this, Rick Singer, the actual mastermind of his, he was cooperating with the feds.

He wore wires. He actually wore -- everything was bugged.  I mean, this is how he actually drew that huge net to bring in all of these parents.  And so, in this particular investigation, this Operation Varsity Blues, it actually went from the very top in terms of cooperation, which made it easier to snag people like Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, exactly those people. 

So, yes, it is a deterrent.  But I don`t really know if it`s going to stop people from the obvious, which is giving the millions of dollars for a hall or a building named after you for your kid to get into school. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s going to help the reputation of USC, because all this money being spent to get into Southern Cal is amazing. 

Thank you so much, Katie Phang.  Thank you, Tom Winter.

Georgetown`s different.  We already knew that was a great school. 

Up next:  Donald Trump made campaign promises that he would not focus on his businesses if he became president, but, more and more, it looks like he`s cashing in. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump said during his presidential campaign that he wouldn`t even think about his business once he became president.  But, lately, he hasn`t missed an opportunity to promote his properties. 


DONALD TRUMP SR., PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It`s a great business, but I`m going to have nothing to do with it. 

With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings.  We call them bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views.  We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants.

And the ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best.

Such an unbelievable amount of work to be done.  The last thing I care about is my company. 

I love the U.K.  I own great property in the U.K.  I love the U.K.  I have no idea how my property is doing, because I don`t care.  But I own Turnberry and I own in Aberdeen and I own in Ireland, as you know.

I would not even think about this business.  It would be so insignificant to me compared to making our country great again.

People like my product.  What can I tell you?  Can`t help it. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s the same guy. 

Well, this week, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both spoke at events at Trump`s hotel here in D.C.

As "The Washington Post"`s David Fahrenthold points out, the speeches suggest that Trump and his Cabinet are not shying away from events that drive revenue to the president`s company, even after multiple stories have brought new scrutiny to the blurring of lines between Trump`s business and his presidency. 

Well, those stories include the president floating the idea of holding next year`s G7 at his resort in Miami, the vice president staying at Trump`s Doonbeg resort, hours away from his meetings in Dublin, and Attorney General Barr booking a ballroom at Trump`s D.C. hotel for his holiday party. 

And, as a supporter of Trump`s told "The New York Times": "We want to do everything we can to make him successful.  If that means having dinner or staying in his hotel, we`re going to do so" -- close quote. 

Well, Fahrenthold tweeted today that the president lately -- quote -- "seems more willing to ignore a bedrock promise of his presidency, that he would never use his power to help his business.  And his aides seem less afraid of looking like they`re helping."

And some close to the president are treating the entire situation as a joke. 

That`s up next.  You`re watching HARDBALL. 



DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  They talk about, someone bought a cheeseburger at the Trump Hotel.  It`s asinine. 

And you have seen that.  You have seen where the emoluments suits have gone.  They`re just trying.  The amount of incoming he`s taken, but, really, the family and the business, anything in a desperate attempt to stop him. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Donald Trump, well, Jr. downplaying concerns over whether his father is profiting off his presidency. 

Well, meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington today, where he mocked "The Washington Post"`s reporting on Trump`s conflicts of interest. 


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  I look around, this is such a beautiful hotel.  The guy who owns it must -- going to be successful somewhere along the way. 


POMPEO:  That was for "The Washington Post," in case they`re in the back. 



MATTHEWS:  Isn`t that funny? 

I`m joined right now by David Fahrenthold, who`s done most of the reporting that the secretary state was mentioning there, as a political reporter for "The Washington Post," and Howard Fineman, of course, who is an MSNBC news analyst. 

He made fun of you for catching them at this, as if it was a joke... 


MATTHEWS:  ... that the president is pumping up sales in his various properties while he`s president. 

FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, I`m just glad the secretary of state reads "The Washington Post." 


FAHRENTHOLD:  So, we had a story yesterday saying that Mike Pence, the vice president, and Secretary of State Pompeo spoke this week to events put on by a paying customer of their boss, Donald Trump. 

This nonprofit rented out the ballrooms of the Trump Hotel for -- which pays Trump privately.  Two public officials affiliated with Trump show up to boost their events. 

MATTHEWS:  The old -- was Caesar`s wife.  If you know you`re under scrutiny, if people are looking for misbehavior, but Trump seems to lately be expanding on it, and showing it off.

The kid coming on "FOX & Friends" saying, it`s a cheeseburger.  It`s not about cheese -- it`s $1,000 rooms.


First of all, he loves to brag about how he makes money in any conceivable way.  It doesn`t matter to him how he does it.  It`s money coming in.  That`s Donald Trump. 


FINEMAN:  And also, as you say, it has the political effect of allowing him to talk about that, as opposed to every other catastrophic, constitutional, legal, and political...

MATTHEWS:  It`s a deflection, yes.

FINEMAN:  ... event that he`s got going on all around him. 


FINEMAN:  He would rather talk about that, personally and politically.

MATTHEWS:  So, he`s like a boxer.  If you hit my arms, I can take it.  Just don`t hit me in the face. 

But, I mean, it`s like -- it`s amazing.  This is the -- considered less problem for him to be caught making money off the presidency than other problems. 

FINEMAN:  Well, it`s less until it isn`t. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, we will see.

President Trump told reporters last month that his team had chosen his Doral resort in Miami as the site for next year`s G7 summit after vetting 12 other sites.  Key line there.  Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP SR.:  My people looked at 12 sites, all good, but some were two hours from an airport.  Some were four hours from -- they were so far away. 

Some didn`t allow this or they didn`t allow that. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, David, you tweeted today, asking the public: "Has anybody else out there in the media, government, hospitality industry, anywhere, heard of any sites being vetted by this administration?  Trump said there were at least 12.  I`m trying to prove him right.  But, so far, I have come up short," you say.

FAHRENTHOLD:  Still come up short.

MATTHEWS:  He`s not -- he hasn`t checked out any other prospect.

FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, I don`t know that.

All I -- I`m just looking for evidence that he`s right, that he`s -- that he`s telling the truth.  And so I looked for other places that Trump had vetted.  I have been calling all the authorities in these states where they say they have vetted sites.

And I can only find one, Hawaii, where there seems to have been any inquiry made.  And that was where they called up and basically asked, could we have a conference in Oahu, an island that has Honolulu on it?  And Hawaii said, yes?

And that was it.  That was all they heard from them. 

Maybe there was vetting in other places.  I just haven`t found it.

MATTHEWS:  Was it his idea to go to Miami to Doral?

FAHRENTHOLD:  I don`t know yet.  I mean, that`s what I would like to know. 

Was there a real formal vetting process where they looked at all the parking and the combinations at all these places, and somebody else said, yes, Trump Doral was the best, or Donald Trump come in and say, throw out Hawaii, we`re doing it at my place?

MATTHEWS:  Here`s my question, Howard, always a big piercing question.

Why do the regular Joe guy, woman, man, who makes an average income, who struggles to pay bills, root for a guy who does this, who takes advantage of the presidency to make some money off it?

FINEMAN:  Well, you and I, Chris, we`re thinking of exactly the same guy.  We know who that guy is. 


FINEMAN:  He`s in the outer suburbs of the Pittsburgh area in Western PA.  He`s in Ohio.  He`s in Michigan.  He`s in Wisconsin. 

As long as he`s got a job, as long as he`s doing great in the so-called Trump economy, fine. 

But this strategy of Donald Trump`s, this propensity of Donald Trump can come back and bite him with some of those people the moment that economic situation for that person turns down a little.

 For example, the United Mine Workers are getting ready maybe to strike against General Motors.  What are those guys going to think when they think Donald Trump is using his influence to shovel money in, while they`re out on the street?

That could put a hitch in their desire to go to the polls for Trump in 2020. 


Well, meanwhile, Politico is reporting that the Air Force has had crews stay over at Trump`s Turnberry resort in Scotland up to 40 times since 2015, which started when Obama was president. 

But Politico notes that the figure does not indicate how many of the stays have occurred since Trump became president. 

Is this a good issue for anybody?  Is this an important question about having the Air Force use one of his sites? 

FAHRENTHOLD:  This is something that certainly that -- when you say that original appearance, right, Air Force crews staying in the president`s hotel, it sounds bad. 

But in this case, it`s a lot more complicated than that.  The arrangements that caused this, the Air Force crew stopping in that airport, that airport directing visiting people to Trump`s hotel, all that predates Trump`s presidency.

MATTHEWS:  But what about the growth?

FAHRENTHOLD:  Obama signed a contract in 2016 to bring more air crews there. 

So unless I know that Obama said the level was going to be X and Trump made it 2X, unless we know that Trump stepped into interfere, it looks like just a continuation of something Obama did.

MATTHEWS:  Do foreign potentates check into the Trump Tower -- Trump International Hotel in D.C. to win his favor?

FAHRENTHOLD:  They certainly check in there.  And they rent out the ballrooms for embassy events.

The only person I ever heard say -- foreign governments say, yes, I bought in here because I want to influence to Donald Trump, the Philippine ambassador last year.  They had a big gala.  And he said, look, I`m doing this because Trump`s a friend and I want to show that.

MATTHEWS:  It looks like baksheesh. 


MATTHEWS:  It looks like they`re paying for love.

FINEMAN:  Well, in the case of the Filipinos, it`s they`re proud.  It`s like Donald Trump is proud.  They`re proud.  They`re going to be out front about it.

MATTHEWS:  Expensive rooms.

FINEMAN:  And I can tell you, having had dinner at one of those places, they`re not doing it for the food. 

MATTHEWS:  The cuisine.


MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

I can say that I`m clean on having gone to Trump International. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you. 

Thank you, David Fahrenthold. 

FINEMAN:  I was just doing reporting.  Reporting.  Reporting.

MATTHEWS:  I hear it`s nice, but I`m not going there.

I know, Howard.  It`s on your expense account. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard Fireman.

David, congratulations to get the secretary of state to take a whack at you today. 

Up next:  I spoke to many of the Democratic candidates in the spin room last night, also known as the field hospital, after the debate.  We`re going to have some highlights of that next, if you missed it at 11:00 last night.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Last night, I was in the spin room at the Democratic debate down in Houston, Texas. 

I spoke to the presidential candidates about the issues and their own performances. 

Let`s listen up. 


MATTHEWS:  I think you were great tonight.

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I thought Klobuchar was good. 

I thought you both made a very strong opening appeal for unity and sort of a quiet admonition.  Let`s not go so far that, even if we win, we divide the country. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, I`m not out to scold anybody. 

But when I talk about plans that can bring us together, I`m not just talking about how we can win an election.  I`m talking about how we can govern the country.  We are dangerously divided, polarized as a nation.  And bold progressive reforms can be done one of two ways. 

We have got to do it in a way that actually brings people together.

MATTHEWS:  How do you stop the basic way things work in politics?  People with money get in the door. 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So that`s what my anti-corruption bill is all about.

The influence of money in Washington is huge.  And the point is, it`s just as you identify.  It`s campaign contributions, but it is so much more. 

So I have a bill that`s a big bill, biggest bill since Watergate.  And it goes after the influence of money in lots of places. 

MATTHEWS:  Most people thought there was another aspect to this, that you were suggesting a man of 76 years had lost the ability to remember what he had just said.

CASTRO:  That was not...

MATTHEWS:  Short-term memory loss, you were accusing him of.

CASTRO:  Not at all.  We were...

MATTHEWS:  It wasn`t what you were doing?

CASTRO:  Not at all.

MATTHEWS:  Because you rubbed -- you rubbed it in three or four times.  You kept saying, you don`t remember?  You don`t remember what you just said?

CASTRO:  We had a disagreement about whether he said the words buy in.

He did say the words buy in, when you go and look at the full transcript. 

Did you think your colleague from Texas, Julian Castro, do you think it was fair to suggest that Joe Biden has lost it? 


MATTHEWS:  That wasn`t fair? 

O`ROURKE:  No, I didn`t like that. 

MATTHEWS:  But you`re the only African-American in the top four or five? 


MATTHEWS:  And so you should be doing better. 

HARRIS:  I`m still introducing myself to the American people. 

You want to talk about...

MATTHEWS:  I`m urging you to be better.  I`m not knocking you, but I`m trying to figure out why it`s not happening. 


HARRIS:  But Chris, look, those of us who are in the top tier have been -- two of them run for president, one when many times.  The others have been on the national scene for quite some time. 

So if you want to believe the polls, though, you should also know that the polls have been very clear that, on a head-to-head match, I win against Donald Trump by a significant margin. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m a guy who lives in a -- I`m the only person in this race and the Senate that lives in a low- income black and brown community. 

And one thing, you come to my community -- and you come from a different background, but a working-class area -- you`re going to find more common...

MATTHEWS:  Northeast Philly.

BOOKER:  Yes, you`re going to find common cause.


BOOKER:  People don`t want a handout.  They want a fair shake.  They want a job that pays...


MATTHEWS:  So, you figured me out as working class.  Thank you. 

BOOKER:  Yes. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.