Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 6/21/17 Trump holds rally in Iowa
Date: June 21, 2017
Guest: Jeremy Peters, Richard Blumenthal, Tim Ryan, Jim Himes, Karoun
Demirjian, Jonathan Swan, Ginger Gibson, Toluse Olorunnipa, Jennifer Rubin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: See no evil.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
On Capitol Hill today, dramatic testimony about Russia`s interference in
the American election last year and warnings that they could do it again.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees both held hearings this
morning on Russia`s influence, and among the people testifying was former
Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson. And his was a dark
picture of a serious and continuing threat. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEH JOHNSON, FMR. DHS SECRETARY: In 2016, the Russian government, at the
direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyber attacks on our
nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain
BILL PRIESTAP, ASST. DIR., FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE DIV.: This was a – my
opinion – a well planned, well coordinated, multifaceted attack on our
election process and democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we prepared today to say publicly how many states
JEANETTE MANFRA, ACTING DIR. DHS NATIONAL PROTECTION AND PROGRAMS: We –
as of right now, we have evidence of 21 states, or election-related systems
in 21 states that were targeted.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Russia continues to engage in
exploitation of the U.S. elections process.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I`m deeply concerned about the danger
posed by future interference in our elections and attempts by Russia to
undermine confidence in our whole electoral system.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Fair to assume you were concerned, if not
worried, about `16 and `18 elections and all others going forward?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Testimony was a dramatic rebuke to a White House that has
consistently dismissed that threat. Yesterday, Sean Spicer said he
couldn`t even say that the president believes Russia was behind the plot.
Let`s Watch Spicer in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does President Trump believe that the Russian government
interfered in the 2016 elections?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think – I have not sat down
and talked to him about that specific thing. Obviously, we`ve been dealing
with a lot of other issues today. I`d be glad to touch base and…
QUESTION: Generally speaking, I mean, this conversation about Russian
interference in our elections, there`s 16 intelligence agencies that say
that they did. The former FBI director said that without a doubt, the
SPICER: I understand. I`ve seen the reports.
QUESTION: Does the president share those views?
SPICER: I have not sat down and asked him about the specific reaction to
them, so I`d be glad to touch base and get back to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has consistently hedged, of course, on the
question of Russian interference. He`s called it fake news and an excuse
by the Democrats, of course. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hacking was very
interesting. Once they hack, if you don`t catch them in the act, you`re
not going to catch them. They have no idea if it`s Russia or China or
somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. Personally, it
could be Russia. It – it – I don`t really think it is, but who knows? I
don`t know, either. They don`t know and I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept their opinion that Vladimir Putin ordered
the hack of the DNC, the attempted hack of the RNC?
TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get
hacked by other countries and other people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think it`s phony that they, the Russians,
tried to meddle in the election. You believe that…
TRUMP: That I don`t know.
TRUMP: If you don`t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it`s very hard to say
who did the hacking. With that being said, I`ll go along with Russia.
Could have been China. Could have been a lot of different groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s with the hedging? Joining me right now is NBC`s Ken
Dilanian, of course, U.S. Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut – he`s a
member of the Intelligence Committee – “The Washington Post`s” Karoun
Demirjian and Jonathan Swan of Axios.
I want to go to the congressman right now. And we have a commander-in-
chief – and that is part of the role of this president – who does not
acknowledge we were attacked. I`ve never heard of a country that`s been
attacked where the commander-in-chief says, Maybe. I mean, what kind of an
answer is that from – you`re supposed to have a guy like Churchill that
says, Damn it, we`re going to stop this, a little fire maybe. And you have
no fire from this guy except what`s he hiding? That`s all we ask. What`s
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, and look it`s a huge problem. I
mean, when we think about the response to the Russians – and the response
is really important. And quite frankly, President Obama, though he had
some measures to retaliate, they did not make an impression on Vladimir
Putin. When there`s ambiguity on the part of the United States president
about whether it even happened, the Russians are lapping that up, you know?
And so one of the things that needs to happen – and you know, of course,
the president is alone in his assessment. And by the way, you know, he`s
not wrong. It`s hard to attribute cyber attacks. It`s not easy. But we
do it, and we do it well, and there`s no question about this.
So one of the things that needs to happen is that he, as the president of
the United States and commander-in-chief, needs to join the effort of
countering what the Russians did. If he doesn`t do that, it`s happening
MATTHEWS: You know, Karoun, this is not an opinion question. You know, Do
you like lower taxes, higher taxes, do you want a little more socialism, a
little less socialism? And those opinions are honest opinions. This is
about fact. Is there? You know, is there evolution, or is it all –
(INAUDIBLE) did somebody make those dinosaur bones and make them up and
bury them in the ground and fake it for somebody? Is there no climate
change despite, you know, Kilimanjaro is melting and the seas around
Florida are rising all the time, the polar bears are looking for new places
to live? I mean, and now this.
It`s not a question of the president – it`s not a question of having an
opinion. It`s a question of him denying fact, of every one of our 17
intelligence agencies. Why does he deny it? What`s the politics of denial
about here? Because I haven`t quite figured it, except I have one theory,
deny everything, everything, and maybe your people back in the places that
they love you will think you`re strong.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, you`ve cited a bunch of
examples there as comparisons where a lot of people have chosen to ignore
evidence that points in one direction…
MATTHEWS: It`s all…
MATTHEWS: I don`t know where he is on evolution, but go ahead.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. Well, OK, but in this situation…
MATTHEWS: He hasn`t evolved.
DEMIRJIAN: The thing that`s really remarkable right now is that his
surrogates are saying that they`re not even discussing it with him. And
MATTHEWS: … by the way, Sean was supposed to check with the boss on
that. How many days do we have to wait for that?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, we may be waiting a lot longer because think
about it. We`re five months into his presidency right now, more than six
months since we started talking about this. If the president hasn`t said,
Yes, I believe the intelligence community`s assessment to this point, what
behooves (ph) him to say it now, experience because the idea of – today
was one of those unique days where we`re really just talking about the
Russian threat posed by hacking for future elections and (ph) would have
been done in the past.
Usually, when we talk about that, we`re also talking about these
allegations of collusion between the Trump surrogates and the Kremlin
MATTHEWS: Of course.
DEMIRJIAN: … which has been a reason for him to resist this. That is –
it is almost impossible these days to separate the two, except for
(INAUDIBLE) days like today, where we`re really focused on that future
Russian threat. And so if the president hasn`t gotten in lockstep with
pretty much everybody else in Washington by this point, I`m not holding my
MATTHEWS: … Christmas presents under the tree, you expect the kids to
come racing down in the morning to get the gifts, and if they don`t,
there`s something strange. He ran downstairs to get the gifts. Go ahead.
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Oh, it`s funny (ph), Chris. Like, anyone who spends
any time around the president, the people we talk to on a daily basis as
part of our reporting will tell you privately the president does not
believe that Russia was behind this, that he thinks the whole thing is fake
news, and he`s always sounding off about this.
So there`s no good answer for Sean Spicer because I`m sure, if Sean Spicer
is spending any time in the president`s vicinity, he`s hearing this. So I
mean, that`s just the incontrovertible fact. And James Comey said himself
that the only time Trump spoke to him about Russia was when he asked him to
lay off Flynn.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ken, I want you to handle (ph) this. Earlier this month,
James Comey did testify the president showed little interest in the cyber
attack. Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO: Did the president in any of those
interactions that you`ve shared with us today ask you what you should be
doing or what our government should be doing, or the intelligence
community, to protect America against Russian interference in our election
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t recall a conversation like that.
HEINRICH: Do you find it odd…
COMEY: Not with President Trump.
COMEY: I attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, the attorney general testified he never
received a briefing on Russia`s activities. Let`s watch him. This is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Do you believe the Russians interfered with
the 2016 elections?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It appears so. The intelligence
community seems to be united in that. But I have to tell you, Senator
King, I know nothing but what I`ve read in the paper. I`ve never received
any detailed briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was
alleged to have influenced the campaign…
KING: No, between the – you`ve received no briefing on the Russian active
measures in connection with the 2016 election.
SESSIONS: No. I don`t believe I ever did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ken, speculation from you, sir. Why would the president refuse
to even learn what`s available to him? He can bring anyone in this
country, in the world, really, into the Oval Office for information if he
wants it. The world`s ready to brief him. He doesn`t want to know. His
attorney general doesn`t want to know. What`s the reasonable speculation
about why they don`t want to know the Russians did what they did?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, look,
it`s clear that Donald Trump sees this as impugning his election victory.
But I want to talk to you, Chris, about the real world implications of his
refusal to come to grips with it. And the fact is, there is no political
leadership from the White House on this issue, and therefore, there has
been no response. And we learned today that we are still undecided and
unprepared for the next wave of Russians attacks that intelligence
officials tell us is coming in 2018.
MATTHEWS: Well – that`s a great question, Congressman. What does the
legislative body do if the executive body doesn`t want to do anything?
What can you do to protect us again – well, we got these special
elections. Probably, that was small potatoes for the – for the – what we
used to call the reds. I don`t think they`re involved in Georgia 6th, or
whatever it was. But I do think they have an interest in screwing it up
again next time, next – next fall.
HIMES: Yes, I know. And the frustrating thing here is that a good
response would start with the commander-in-chief saying, This happened,
this was a serious attack on our democracy. And by the way, that would
help the hearing. You know, nobody wants this hearing to be dragged out.
I`d much rather be focusing on things that are of much more immediate
concern to my constituents. I know the White House would like to not be
talking about this investigation. Sadly, the White House`s approach has
been exactly the opposite that would you expect it to be if there was
nothing to hide…
MATTHEWS: So what is he hiding?
HIMES: Well, I don`t know what he`s hiding…
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) you really don`t know. You`ve got – what do you
think it is? Is it something that his son-in-law said to the Russians
about sanctions? Was it some mixing of economic motive, personal economic
motive from the Trump-land with his government responsibilities during the
transition? What would it – was it something Flynn said to Kislyak? Was
it something said over a period of time by all the – Carter Page, the
whole rest of them? Manafort, was it his shenanigans?
HIMES: Yes, I…
MATTHEWS: Don`t you have a suspicion as to where this…
HIMES: I have my suspicions. But look, it`s really important – the
president`s not taking this seriously. It`s pretty important that
everybody else, including the investigators, take this seriously and
therefore not start speculating about where this may end up.
You and I both know that there are all kinds of questions. There were tons
of meetings that weren`t reported by pretty much everybody, Flynn,
Sessions, the attorney general, others. We have a long way to go on this,
and it would be – and it would be assisted and helped and it would move
much more rapidly if the president would get on board, acknowledge that it
happened, and then just say, Hey, nothing to hide here. We will help in
any way we can.
MATTHEWS: If you had Flynn ready to spill the beans tomorrow morning in
testimony, would you give him immunity?
MATTHEWS: No, tomorrow morning end this – you said you want this over
with. You get Flynn, you put the hot seat on – put him in the hot seat
and say, You`re going to jail for 20 years, or you tell the truth right now
about President Trump. Would you do that as a deal right now?
HIMES: Only if he`s got something to offer. Remember, if he…
MATTHEWS: You don`t think he`s got anything to offer?
HIMES: Well, you know…
MATTHEWS: Well, if he doesn`t…
MATTHEWS: … a lot of them are clean!
HIMES: You wouldn`t give him immunity…
MATTHEWS: If he`s clean – do you think he might be clean?
HIMES: I`m not saying that. I`m saying you wouldn`t give him immunity
unless you knew what he had to offer. So you don`t to come and say, I`ll
MATTHEWS: I just asked you, if you knew he was ready to spill the beans on
Trump, would you give it to him?
HIMES: Well, he offered that. He offered – he offered to testify in
exchange for immunity.
MATTHEWS: Would you give it to him?
HIMES: I haven`t heard what he has to offer, so I can`t make a judgment
MATTHEWS: But you were not – you won`t speculate if he`s – see, I just
want to move this forward, too, and if some people are ready to spin the –
people that are ready to sing, I`d like to hear them sing. I don`t care if
a guy goes to jail for five years. I want to know what the president did.
DEMIRJIAN: Well, that`s an option, but you do have to weigh what each
person might have to offer with what the next person up the pecking order
might have to offer and balance all those things. But to get back to your
other question about…
MATTHEWS: … careful.
DEMIRJIAN: Well – well…
MATTHEWS: But the problem – now everybody`s being so careful, you`re
being careful (INAUDIBLE) My question is, if you want it to move faster,
like you just said, let`s move it!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, that`s (INAUDIBLE) I`m getting a little tough here because I
do worry that everybody`s being so careful and special about this, what
we`re going to end up with is a lot of wasted time.
HIMES: Chris, this is really important.
MATTHEWS: He offered to…
MATTHEWS: He offered to talk months ago!
HIMES: We`re talking about the core of our democracy!
MATTHEWS: You think he`s flipped yet? Has he flipped?
HIMES: You have got to be careful…
MATTHEWS: OK, has Flynn flipped yet? Has he flipped?
HIMES: My guess is – now, remember, I don`t have any particular insight
into what`s happening with the FBI, but my guess is that Michael Flynn has
had a number of conversations with the Department of Justice investigators.
MATTHEWS: Jon, have you heard if he`s flipped yet?
SWAN: I have no idea, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ken, has he filled?
DILANIAN: I don`t have reporting on that, Chris, but I think
Representative Himes makes sense there.
MATTHEWS: Which is? Let me hear the sense again. I need – I need – I
DILANIAN: Which is that he`s had a number of conversations…
MATTHEWS: … sophistication from you guys.
DILANIAN: I mean, when your lawyer – when your lawyer issues a public
DILANIAN: … saying, “My client has a story to tell”…
MATTHEWS: We`re all being a little prissy around here!
DILANIAN: No, no. Well…
MATTHEWS: I`m just getting a little tired of it. Let`s go! What? What?
DILANIAN: No, I`m saying when your lawyer issues a statement saying, My
client has a story to tell, you can assume he`s negotiating…
DILANIAN: … with the Department of Justice (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: He has so many – the reason I bring this up is this guy Flynn
has so many charges coming, so much failure to report honestly on all the
forms. There`s Saudi Arabia now. There`s Turkey now. There`s Russia now.
And not one time in any incident has he been clear and honest in filling
out the forms, which each case carries a felony charge of about five years
against him! If I were him, I`d say, It`s time to sell what I got.
DILANIAN: That`s a point, but no offense to the congressman, it`s not
really the House`s call. If you really want to see Flynn face any
consequences, that`s more Mueller`s call at this point, which is why all
these deconfliction talks are happening between each of the committee heads
and the members. But just to…
MATTHEWS: … some rats. You know, John Dean was a good rat. And if you
get some rats, you own (ph) the movie (ph) a lot faster. Before we even
had the tapes, we had John Dean. Talk, somebody! And somebody`s got to
give this guy some rat food so he`ll start talking!
DILANIAN: Yes, but Chris, remember Oliver North…
DILANIAN: Oliver North was given immunity by Congress, and it screwed up
the prosecution and his conviction was overturned. That`s what they don`t
want to happen here, right?
DEMIRJIAN: Right. Right. Right. And in the meantime, I just wanted to
point out that there is something else the Congress is trying to do, which
is that the Senate just passed a sanctions bill, which is hugely, hugely
popular that is kind of dying on the footsteps of the House right now
because of technical problems. And so the question is, you know, are there
other things they can do to combat this – or to combat the threat going
down the line (ph) while they`re waiting…
MATTHEWS: Whenever governments with weaker…
SWAN: (INAUDIBLE) White House problem.
MATTHEWS: Governments with weaker constitutions have fallen by this
inaction, you know? The Greeks. The colonels (ph) just came in because
Greek democracy wasn`t working. At some point, our government has to begin
to perform. That is my major concern. It doesn`t seem to perform.
Anyway, thank you. Ken Dilanian, you`re such a grown-up, and I`m just
ridiculously crazy here.
DILANIAN: Not at all, Chris. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, U.S. Congressman Jim Himes – I`m being though on
everybody, especially Karoun. Thank you, Karoun Demirjian…
MATTHEWS: … putting up with me. Jonathan, you`re such an Australian
SWAN: Thank you, mate!
MATTHEWS: Coming up, much more on the…
MATTHEWS: You`ll pay for that! The Russian investigation, including a new
report that even though the CIA had blackmail concerns about Michael Flynn
when he was national security adviser, they still briefed him on top –
this is a (INAUDIBLE) Rachel had this late. It came in late from “The
Times” last night. We didn`t get it. We`re going to get it now. Why
would (INAUDIBLE) Pompeo, the head of the CIA, sit there and listen to
everything going to Flynn all the time they knew the guy was a bit
corrupted? Slightly. That`s ahead.
Plus, more with those – 130 members of Congress have signed on a lawsuit
against President Trump. We`ll see where that`s going. They say he`s
violating the United States Constitution. We`ll hear their case tonight
from Senator Blumenthal.
What`s next for the Democrats, by the way, after their devastating defeat
last night in Georgia? With all that hype about this guy`s going to win,
he lost. One Democratic congressman says his party`s brand is worse than
Trump`s. Democrats need to figure out how to win, by the way, in the age
of Trump. And so far, 0 for 4.
Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.”
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: This is a sad day. And in many ways,
this is a way to expose with a little bit of humor, to expose the absurdity
of this moment in time. It`s something that – right now, there are
literally Americans fearing what might be in this bill. For this all to be
happening in privacy and secrecy is absurd. So we didn`t get a bill here,
but what we got is a further affirmation that this is just a really
destructive process when it comes to workings of the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Democratic
senator Cory Booker of New Jersey yesterday after he went to the
Congressional Budget Office with a group of other Democrats to attempt to
see the Republican health care bill.
Well, while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle haven`t seen the bill yet,
NBC News has learned that Senate Republicans will be given, quote, “a
discussion draft” – isn`t that cute – tomorrow morning. That`s all
they`re going to get.
I`m joined right now by himself, Senator Cory Booker. Give us a sense of -
- as you guys meet in the – and women meet in the caucus, how you think
you can protect “Obama care” and perhaps improve upon it over the next
BOOKER: Well, it`s all going to come down to a handful of Republican
senators deciding not to go along with this. I`ve had conversations with
my colleagues. A lot of them think this process is wrong in and of itself.
And we`ve seen some of them defect before that`s allowed us to block
So again, this is a core American value. Our country is about life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Critical to life, essential to life,
is quality health care. And we know even before seeing this bill what the
intention here is, to be biggest gut of the social safety net that we`ve
seen in a lifetime or two with cuts to Medicaid. We know that they`re
trying to end Planned Parenthood and funding to Planned Parenthood.
BOOKER: There`s a lot of things that make this a toxic bill before we`ve
even seen it. And I think that`s going to really be the question is, Are
we going to be able to get a few Republicans to stand with us against
something that`s going to hurt blue states, red states, Republicans,
Democrats. It`s going to hurt America.
MATTHEWS: For them to so-called repeal and replace, which I think are
contradictory terms (INAUDIBLE) know what you think – they need 50 out of
52. I think that`s unlikely given the fact that a couple people on the
right like Rand Paul and a couple people on the moderate side like
Murkowsky and Collins are not on the team.
Let me ask you a follow-up question because I know you are a concerned
Democrat and a concerned social Democrat. What do we do to make sure that
Obama doesn`t – “Obama care” doesn`t die on the vine? I think one of the
bad outcomes of all of this is the Republicans will fail in the Senate.
Nothing will be done. But they`ll sit there and watch with great joy the
gradual dissolution of “Obama care” because of different problems it has in
How do you stop that from happening, that eventuality?
BOOKER: Well, Chris, let`s call it like it is. They`re not just sitting
back and watching it. Literally, the White House is trying to choke “Obama
care” dead and cause the so-called death spiral. If they were just
stepping back and doing what the law requires, enforcing the individual
mandate, doing common sense things like advertising – they pulled
advertising even – and funding it to the weight (ph) of the law – this –
this – we even saw Standard & Poor`s right before the Trump administration
began, Said, OK, these markets are strong.
What they`ve done in just a short few months is causing so much damage that
insurance companies, in light of all this uncertainty, lack of guarantees,
are beginning to pull out. And they`re causing some of the markets to see
some – some problems.
In fact, in New Jersey, I`m estimating that we are going to see some pretty
high increases in the individual market places. Now, remember, 80 plus-
percent of folks that are in those marketplaces get subsidies.
BOOKER: But we do have some problems.
And that`s, I think – I hope you`re right and this thing doesn`t get to 50
votes. But if it does, the next big fight is to get the Trump
administration to do no harm, to not kill Obamacare.
Remember, you promised we`re going to have dinner some night. We have to
have this sit-down dinner, you and I, and talk about all these issues off-
camera and learn about this challenge we face in this country, because
you`re a comer. People are talking about you, sir. They are.
And I want to learn ahead about you. A lot of talk about Cory Booker, OK?
BOOKER: I appreciate it.
BOOKER: Would you eat vegan?
MATTHEWS: Oh, no. But I will have a steak, and you can have your
potatoes. No, probably carrots.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
BOOKER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We will find some – we will find the right restaurant.
BOOKER: All right.
MATTHEWS: Up next: back to the Russian investigation and new information
that the CIA knew former national security – this is great – Michael
Flynn was a blackmail target and still gave him top-secret intelligence
briefings. They sat there, Pompeo and the rest of them, filling this guy
with information, even though he`s tainted.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Did you have any if indication, secondhand,
any sense at all, that the national security adviser might be vulnerable to
blackmail by the Russians? That is a yes-or-no question.
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It`s actually not a yes-or-no question,
Senator. I can`t answer yes or no. I regret that I`m unable to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That`s CIA Director Mike Pompeo last month refusing to say whether he was
aware that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was compromised
And now “The New York Times” reports overnight that people at the CIA and
other intelligence agencies knew Flynn could be a security risk – quote –
“Career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem. Yet
nearly every day, for three weeks, the new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, sat
in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation`s most
sensitive intelligence with Mr. Flynn listening.”
Well, it comes as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal said
this week that they wouldn`t be surprised if Flynn was cooperating with FBI
investigators already. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: All of the signals are
suggesting that he`s already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The likelihood of his
cooperation is very high, if not right now, at some point, very soon in the
future, because of the very, very heavy legal culpability and potential
penalty that he faces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Blumenthal is also looking into whether the
president has any financial links to Russia that may compromise his ability
to do his job, charging in a lawsuit that Trump has violated the
Constitution`s Emoluments Clause.
I`m joined right now by him, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut, a former federal prosecutor who sits on the Judiciary
Committee. And Jeremy Peters is a political reporter with “The New York
Senator, I have got so many questions for you. You are great to come on,
and I appreciate it.
First thing, what do you think? I know this is a question I put to the
earlier people. If could you get Flynn to talk about the president, and
what he knew and when he knew and what role he played in any possible
collusions with the Russians, wouldn`t you give him immunity, get that
information in the public record?
BLUMENTHAL: What I would do, rather than giving him immunity, is to work a
deal where his cooperation might mean no incarceration or limited
incarceration, but only – and this is the essential condition – that he
be completely truthful and forthcoming.
And I suspect that`s the give-and-take that is going on right now.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You think a threat of 15 years in federal prison might be
BLUMENTHAL: Well, it certainly would be for the ordinary, rational person,
especially if he thought that Donald Trump was failing to be truthful and
helpful to him.
And remember what he…
MATTHEWS: But he calls him up once in a while and sort of cuddles him
every once in a while. He says, how is it going? Trump is doing that to
keep the guy on board him.
BLUMENTHAL: What is key here, the reason why this question is so important
about the Russians and about obstruction of justice, is remember that Trump
demanded of Comey that he let Flynn go.
Why did he insist that Comey let Flynn go? And what did Flynn know about
that conversation before and after it took place?
MATTHEWS: You`re on the same avenue I`m on, that there`s something there.
BLUMENTHAL: And it involves the Russians, because, as “The Times”
reported, the CIA almost certainly, in fact, did know about Flynn being
susceptible to blackmail, and yet Flynn was permitted to stay in that room
in secret briefings for nearly three weeks.
MATTHEWS: Did you get that, Senator, from “The Times” or already knew it?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, I asked for Flynn`s security to be reviewed back in
December, before he was even hired.
There was enough on the record for the Trump administration to say, no,
Flynn does not belong in this administration and certainly he doesn`t
belong in a room where there was classified information being discussed.
MATTHEWS: Jeremy, tell us about that story, because that story ran
overnight. I missed it. Our colleague Rachel got it, Rachel Maddow, later
in her show. It was great.
I`m watching this thing where the president allowed, deliberately allowed,
what`s his name, Flynn, to sit in the room while they`re doing it – all
this latest, hottest intelligence coming in from Pompeo. And Pompeo sat
there and did it, all apparently know – apparently, Pompeo knew it. You
guys think so.
And all the time, they`re acting like this guy is clean, when they knew he
was susceptible to blackmail because of what he had been doing with the
JEREMY PETERS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, what my colleagues reported
here is troubling on a number of levels.
And there are two scenarios, neither of which should inspire a lot of
confidence among Americans in the nation`s intelligence-gathering
PETERS: One is that the CIA knew about Flynn and chose not to tell Pompeo
because they didn`t trust Pompeo because he was a brand-new CIA director.
That would explain – and so Pompeo didn`t know. So, he is giving these
briefings unaware that Flynn is compromised, potentially compromised.
PETERS: The second outcome or second scenario is that Flynn – did know
and he was giving these briefings any away in Flynn`s presence. And that
is equally troubling.
So I don`t think we`re looking at a scenario here where our intelligence
community comes off as terribly functional.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Jared Kushner, because he is so rich in
possibilities. He has the president`s love, apparently, through his wife
and his relationship with the president. He is the son-in-law.
The president pushed like mad to give him a prominent role inside the Oval
Office, inside the West Wing. And yet he`s now given him a portfolio to
solve this – you probably find a bit ludicrous – he`s going to solve the
Middle East problem.
He has the biggest portfolio, the biggest freedom to say anything. Well,
he doesn`t say much to us, but he has a lot of power. And he, it seems to
me, was able to talk to Kislyak. He was able to chat with those guys. He
was involved in all that.
And he`s one person I don`t think the president would ever throw under the
bus, which makes him very interesting. How do you see his security
clearance and everything else right now and how he should be treated by us?
BLUMENTHAL: I have asked today, as a matter of fact, Chris, along two of
my colleagues, Senator Franken and Hirono, and on the House side
Congressman Cummings, that his security clearance be reviewed, two reasons.
First of all, among others, that he had these clandestine conversations
with the head of the major bank in Russia who had ties to Putin and to the
intelligence community in Russia.
BLUMENTHAL: And, second, this effort to establish a back-channel using
Russian diplomatic facilities. So, those potential errors in judgment, not
to mention divulging confidential information, require a security clearance
review for him.
And I think that there`s an untold and unused term here, which is very
important to understand.
BLUMENTHAL: And that term is conspiracy, because if Flynn and others in
the White House in any way agreed or even cooperated, or even some of them
agreed and others cooperated, there could be a potential conspiracy charge
against any one of them or all of them.
MATTHEWS: Well, Jeremy, one thing that is important from your end, for
“The New York Times” and the other great papers of this country, is that
the public knew none of this.
They never knew that Jeremy was meeting – I`m sorry – that Jared was
meeting with the Russians, the top bank guy who was involved with sanction
and all. They never knew about Flynn and what he was doing.
This administration has told us nothing on the record. They complain about
leaks, but they have given us – everything we know has been rolling
disclosure, which is when you only admit things when they`re already out
there. And you guys broke all these stories.
And anybody who defends Trump has to defend the utter secrecy of everything
they have been doing. And I think that`s a very important role. The press
should be commended, don`t you think, Senator, for…
MATTHEWS: There`s so little that – Trump has never admitted all this
Russian shenanigans from day one, all the meetings with Carter Page and
Manafort and his son-in-law and Sessions, his attorney general, all these
people, and Flynn, all these Russian things going on all the time.
And the only reason we know about it is the press.
BLUMENTHAL: When the history of this era is written – and I mean this
very sincerely – just as in the Watergate era, the heroes will be our free
press and our independent judiciary.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
BLUMENTHAL: And the press has given us information that we need in
Congress to know where the corruption is and where there should be
When we filed our legal action against the Trump administration, we used
information divulged by the press.
MATTHEWS: You are a great guest, a great man for this country.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Did you hear that? Get that on tape.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
And thank you, Jeremy Peters of “The New York Times.”
Up next: What lessons do the Democrats need to learn after last night`s,
well, defeat in Georgia? Let`s call it what it is. It`s a defeat. They
need to figure out a way to win in the Trump era.
And we have got someone who has got some ideas on how to do that. That`s
coming up next.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
Police in Flint, Michigan, are investigating the stabbing of a police
officer at the airport there as a possible case of terrorism. The FBI says
the suspect, a 50-year-old man from Canada, used the Arabic phrase for “God
is great” during the attack. The victim, officer Jeff Neville, is in
stable condition after being stabbed in the neck.
President Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is in the Middle East trying
to jump-start the peace process. Kushner met earlier today with Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before meeting Palestinian leader Mahmoud
Abbas in the West Bank – back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Aren`t you happy that peace is at hand? Jared Kushner is in
charge of the Middle East peace effort.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Last night, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff to claim
victory in Georgia`s Sixth District down there. It was a special election.
With Ossoff`s loss, Democrats are now 0-4 in congressional races this year,
after sinking millions of dollars, $23 million actually, into that Georgia
race down there.
And Democrats hoped the Georgia race would be a statement on President
Trump`s popularity or unpopularity. But, last night, Karen Handel seemed
to throw out that notion right out the window.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: I need to also thank
Speaker Ryan and the House leadership and so many of the members across
this country who also united to help us hold the Sixth.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HANDEL: And a special thanks to the president of the United States of
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In fact, a super PAC affiliated with Speaker Ryan spent $7
million in Georgia on Handel`s behalf with a very clear message for
Georgians. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: The truth is, Nancy Pelosi`s friends are bankrolling Ossoff`s
campaign because Ossoff will rubber-stamp her liberal agenda.
NARRATOR: Nancy Pelosi`s liberal agenda put America $20 trillion in debt.
And Jon Ossoff is on her side.
WOMAN: There`s a reason Bay Area liberals have contributed more to Jon
Ossoff`s campaign than people in Georgia. He`s one of us.
MAN: Ossoff and Pelosi? That`s a dream team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Those are supposed to be hippies, I guess.
Anyway, Ossoff`s defeat has some Democrats seething.
U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts tweeted: “Ossoff race better
be a wakeup call for Democrats. Business as usual isn`t working. Time to
start rehashing – stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.”
Another congressman, Tim Ryan of Ohio, told “The New York Times” bluntly,
“Our brand is worse than Trump.”
U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan Speak joins me right now.
Speak up about that. Explain, because, look, I heard from a lot of
progressives, friends of mine. They were all hooting and hollering, we`re
going to win this thing in Georgia.
Look, I think – and I think – and I say this as no fan of the
president`s. He`s been underestimated. The people who vote for him don`t
admit it. They just go into that booth and vote for him – I`m going to
talk about it at the end of the show – over and over again.
They make that point. I`m not telling you how I`m voting, but I`m voting
for Trump. And everybody is always surprised by it.
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Yes.
And then in the four races, they get the Trump proxy. These were clearly
races Donald Trump against the Democrats. And we`re 0-4. And we need to
figure out the strategy.
And I think the national brand – Ossoff was a good candidate. Archie
Parnell in South Carolina, great candidate.
MATTHEWS: He was great.
RYAN: I spent a day with him on Saturday. He`s great.
MATTHEWS: He ran a good race, better than this guy maybe.
RYAN: Yes. I think so.
RYAN: And so two candidates, but you`re carrying the baggage of a toxic
national brand. And people in D.C. just aren`t getting it.
The Democratic Party hasn`t changed much in my life, although I think
Hillary Clinton probably went too far on abortion rights, I think, when she
talked about late term, she talked about funding. It just crossed that
sort of peace line that`s been there. OK, freedom, make a decision on
abortion. That`s your decision if you`re a decision, but late-term, little
requirements there of checking things out of a bit about life and will –
being in danger – and the kid being in danger.
Anyway, some Democrats are openly questioning Nancy Pelosi`s leadership.
And one of our – colleagues, Filemon Vela of Texas, told Politico, “I
think you would have to be an idiot to think we could lose (sic) the House
with Pelosi at the top. Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff
lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.”
Boy, that`s tough.
RYAN: Well, you want to put yourself in the best position to win.
And I think it starts with message, economic message, jobs, wages,
pensions, like that bread-and-butter stuff that average people were
MATTHEWS: Well, what has Nancy done that takes you away from the
Democratic base of issues, which are jobs and wages and basic stuff like
health care? Where has she taken you away from those issues?
RYAN: Well, I don`t even – I`m not saying that this is fair. I`m just
saying the perception in the world now is that Democrats are liberals,
elitists, from the coasts, don`t connect to working-class people.
MATTHEWS: What does San Francisco say to the person you`re trying to get?
Is it the gay culture? Is it out there? What is it, when they say San
Francisco, is it still hippies?
I used to work for the paper out there. It looks like a regular paper. I
mean, there were all kinds of people. But it wasn`t some different
cultural lifestyle in the newsroom. I can tell you that.
RYAN: Certain things become just symbols of certain –
MATTHEWS: What are you going to – are you going to run from a symbol?
RYAN: Well, I think this is what I`m saying. We have to rebrand. I mean,
if that`s what the brand is, right, wrong, indifferent, fair or not fair –
RYAN: – you need a new brand. Our brand needs to be –
MATTHEWS: Who would be a good leader for the Democratic Party in the
RYAN: I think we got –
MATTHEWS: I mean, I know you ran –
RYAN: A loaded question.
MATTHEWS: It`s you – it`s you that wants to take over.
RYAN: Well, you know, I think somebody young.
RYAN: I think Joe Crowley is a good leader.
MATTHEWS: You`re not going to (INAUDIBLE)
RYAN: Well, we`ve got a lot of internal politics. But the reality of it
is, I just want to win. I want to be in the majority. I want to – you
know, I mean, you look at the news member. They`ve never been in the
majority. There`s nothing like it.
MATTHEWS: I`ve got to tell you something, we`re about to have a race –
RYAN: There`s nothing like being in the majority.
MATTHEWS: You may have a point, but we`re about to see a race between
Biden and Bernie. I mean, you`re right. But you`ve got a point. I do
RYAN: I like her too.
MATTHEWS: In fact I think she has been stronger than Tip O`Neill. I
worked for him. She`s really good at disciplining the party and getting
the vote. And a lot of people like her. And so, I know about PR and
everything. The substance is very good though. Isn`t she good?
RYAN: She helped me get to where I was. I mean, I was there for the
health care. There`s not a better inside game player than Nancy Pelosi.
MATTHEWS: She`s a nice person, too.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable and what the Democrats need to
do right now to get back in the game.
You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Democratic Party`s loss in Georgia`s sixth congressional district last
night was just another gut-wrenching reminder that taking back control from
Republicans is still an uphill battle. As Democrats begun licking their
wounds, President Trump took a little victory lap, of course, and tweeted,
well, the special elections are over and those who want to make America
great again are 5-0. All the fake news, all the money spent, equal zero.
Well, the election brought some breathing space actually for Republicans,
but not for Democrats. The question is, what happens next?
For more, I`m joined right now by our roundtable tonight. Ginger Gibson,
right next to me, political correspondent for “Reuters”, Toluse Olorunnipa,
White House reporter from Bloomberg, and, of course, Jennifer Rubin, our
pal here, opinion writer and author of the “Washington Post,” “Right Turn
OK. Everybody here has a different point of view, in fact, I don`t even
know all your points of view, but it seems to me that there was a lot of
progressive hype about a guy that wasn`t running as a progressive, which is
another interesting twist to this. He was running on basically, well,
let`s get together and be normal or something. I don`t know what he was
So, you can argue if you`re on the left, like this morning, oh, well, he
should have been a real progressive. Or you can argue he was not a bad
candidate, not a good candidate. Or I will argue very strongly, there is a
hidden Trump vote, and every time you poll, you miss it. The polls are no
different than now right before the election, high 30s. They haven`t
Oh, we have him beat. No, you don`t.
Your thoughts, Ginger? Wide open, whatever you think. What did Democrats
learn from last night?
GINGER GIBSON, REUTERS: The Democrats are going to have to remember that
this was a seat held by Republicans. And I think we`ve seen this play
before in 2009 and 2010. Look at Republicans who didn`t pick up the
special elections of seats that were made vacant by Obama appointees and
then Republicans went on and won the midterms in 2010. I think you have to
remember this is one district in one state that went for Trump.
MATTHEWS: But, if it went for Ossoff, you would be saying how great a
victory it was, right?
GIBSON: But I think –
MATTHEWS: Come on, you`re smiling. I know you`re smiling because I know
how people play politics. If you lose, oh, no big thing. If you win, yay!
I mean, which is it?
GIBSON: It`s an anomaly if a Democrat wins that seat. It`s not an anomaly
if a Republican wins that seat. I think that`s the thing to remember.
MATTHEWS: OK, Scott – good example of your point, to make your point,
Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Kennedy country, he takes Teddy`s seat and
it goes back to Warren.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, BLOOMBERG: So, the Democrats are – and leadership are
saying that this is just one seat. This is a Republican seat. They didn`t
lose a seat. They just did not pick up the seat.
MATTHEWS: They`re 0-4.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, you`re hearing from leadership that they are working on
an economic message.
MATTHEWS: Where`s all this backlash against Trump? When are we going to
see evidence of it? Real evidence?
OLORUNNIPA: Well, they believe that the margin has shrunk.
MATTHEWS: Where is the back lash going to show itself in numbers?
OLORUNNIPA: Well, they believe the fact that the margin has shrunk means
that there is some backlash.
MATTHEWS: Do you know what the phrase is? No cigar.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. I`ll just talking here because I heard – I was
ready, we called our producers last night. It was about 50/50. They`re
pretty sophisticated that everybody that works here, and nobody knew. It
was a jump off.
But you know what? I knew, every show, leading with – I`m sorry,
everybody is loving this thing. It was a real win for this guy Ossoff who
didn`t even live in the district which I think is a little strange.
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, my husband has an expression,
scoreboard. Did you win? Did you lose?
MATTHEWS: We used to have a thing called scoreboard here.
RUBIN: Exactly. So, I think the Democrats have a problem. One, they
really didn`t drive home this message that one health care and on economics
that they could have. This guy was running on being polite, being nice. I
MATTHEWS: Cutting government waste.
RUBIN: And cutting government waste.
MATTHEWS: Nobody believes that.
RUBIN: I don`t think that`s a motivating issue for anybody.
MATTHEWS: Nobody is going to believe a Democrat is running on government -
RUBIN: Exactly, exactly. And so, I think, listen, in 18 months, they`re
either going to have Trump care which I think is going to be a disaster, or
they`re going to have nothing. So, they`re going to be able to run on the
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at Rahm Emanuel. He`s a tough guy. In an
article in “The Atlantic”, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed, a
smart neo liberal who were in charge of the Democratic takeover of the
House back in 2006 had some friendly advice for Democrats.
Democrats don`t have to make 2018 a referendum on Trump`s impeachment. If
they want to win the majority, they need to order to hold Trump
accountable, they`ll do much better making the election a referendum on
Make it politics again. I think everybody is hoping on the left. Oh,
there will be impeachment. The courts are going to take over. This is
going to be the emoluments clause, all this talk. Oh, wait a minute.
How do I get back? Cory Booker is a smart guy. He`s a very smart guy.
And yet, they think a lot of this is about just making fun of the
And maybe that will work in the short run. But where`s the chance to
improve Obamacare so that most Americans say great, let`s keep it?
GIBSON: I think that one thing is important for Democrats to remember is
that the thing that got the biggest cheer at Trump rallies was when he
said, I`m going to do something.
GIBSON: People want action. They don`t want –
MATTHEWS: Are they getting – are they getting it now?
GIBSON: And they`re not getting it from anybody.
MATTHEWS: Are you sure they`re not getting it from Trump?
GIBSON: They`re getting a little bit of it from Trump, or they`re getting
it from Congress and that`s just going to be on the ballot. Are they
passing bills? Can they fund the government come September?
MATTHEWS: I think little thing like the Cuba thing and getting that guy
back from North Korea, even though he died here, showed some action.
The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know. Be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump is taking his show on the road. Tonight,
he`s holding a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, another state he turned red
after years of voting for the Democrats and you can bet he`ll be crowing
about what he had there, keep going, tonight, about winning in Georgia.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with a HARDBALL roundtable.
Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.
GIBSON: In the first few months of the Trump administration, more than
$220,000 have been spent on advertising supporting the president.
GIBSON: That`s compared to the $9,000 that was spent supporting Obama in
his first few months in office.
OLORUNNIPA: OK. The Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi are trying to come up
with an economic message. They`re going to huddle over the next few
months. In September, they`re going to roll out that economic message and
they`re going to be able to roll with as they campaign in 2018.
MATTHEWS: Good. They need a positive message. Go ahead.
RUBIN: Paul Ryan gave a speech on taxes. The new thing is permanent tax
cuts. Well, in order to do that by reconciliation, they`re going to try to
stretch the budget window out to 20 and 30 years. This is the kind of
fiscal recklessness that Republicans like Paul Ryan (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: They can do that under reconciliation?
RUBIN: Well, they`re going to have to change the rules.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Ginger Gibson and Toluse Olorunnipa, and
And when we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. It`s a hot one
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 21st, 2017.
The defeat of the Democratic candidate in yesterday`s Georgia special
election in Georgia should be a yellow light to all those who think they`ve
got the Trump thing all figured out. I say this is one who believes each
day I arise, that the most important news has already happened. The
election of Donald Trump as president of the United States continues to hit
me as more stunning, more phenomenal in our world than anything that
So, please join me now and never forgetting the powerful, undeniable fact
that Trump won with a favorable rating in the Gallup poll of, get this, 35
percent – 35 percent. And for all the talk, all the luscious news that
he`s failing, that he`s finished, that he`s dying politically, that the
thing is over, that the storm has passed, Donald Trump`s current Gallup
approval number is 38 percent.
And how can this be? How can he win polls showing him at 35 percent? How
can he be now at 38 percent?
Well, the answer to the first question is, if you can handle it, is two
part. First, we elect presidents, obviously, by the Electoral College and
Trump was strong where he had to be, in those states that decided the
The second reason is that more people voted for him that told pollsters
they were going to vote for him. They may have been too embarrassed to
admit voting for Trump, but not embarrassed enough to avoid actually voting
And the answer to the second question, how can he now be at 38 percent?
Well, could it be that the Democratic Party hasn`t offered an alternative
yet. That they`ve been so intent to dump Trump and talk about it than they
haven`t (INAUDIBLE) trump him with better ideas like how to improve
Well, you figure out that one. I`m still struck with how Trump got his
allegiance in the first place and manages against all kinds of attack and
personal bad behavior to keep them.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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