Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/18/17 Mueller investigating social media
Date: September 18, 2017
Guest: Chris Smith, Ted Johnson, Ken Vogel, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alexi
McCammond, Phil Rucker, Astead Herndon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Caught on camera.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
In an exclusive report in today`s “New York Times,” we learned that the
pressure of the Mueller probe is fueling new divisions among the
president`s own legal team. Two of the president`s lawyers, Ty Cobb and
John Dowd, we recently overheard discussing an ongoing debate between Trump
lawyers inside the West Wing, a debate over how many documents they should
actually provide the special counsel, Mueller.
Anyway, the scoop comes from “New York Times” reporter Ken Vogel, who
actually captured this photograph of the lawyers at lunch last week. It
shows Ty Cobb and John Dowd casually and loudly – loudly – discussing
details of the Russia investigation at BLT Steak here in Washington while
he sat at the next table. That`s Ken Vogel, was watching them and
listening to them.
Anyway, that Washington, D.C., restaurant, by the way, you can see here is
a block from the White House. You can see it on the map there. It`s right
next door also to “The New York Times” Washington bureau, an inconvenient
location for a secret conversation, I must say.
Anyway, as Vogel describes it, the debate over legal strategy has pitted
Cobb against White House counsel Don McGahn. According to the report in
“The Times” today, Cobb appears more willing to cooperate with Mueller`s
investigators. Quote, “Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the e-
mails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes
of quickly ending the investigation. But Cobb is butting heads with
McGahn, who has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken
the White House,” according to them. “Most notably, Cobb was heard saying
that McGahn had a couple documents locked in a safe that he seemed to
suggest he wanted access to.” Fascinating stuff.
Meanwhile, NBC News reports that Trump`s long-time personal attorney,
Michael Cohen, will appear for an closed-door interview tomorrow before
staffers with the Senate Intelligence Committee. He`ll likely be asked
about the president`s proposed Trump Tower for Moscow. That was his
In a minute, we`ll be joined by Ken Vogel, who broke that story for “The
New York Times,” and here with me right now is Heidi Przybyla, White House
reporter for “USA Today.”
Now, what this tells me, when you simply find out that two guys at lunch
over steaks a block from the White House are arguing about whether to give
the guy the – Mueller what he wants or don`t give it him, the different
points of view, talking about it out loud, you`d have to believe that this
guy, Ty Cobb, although it`s the name of a baseball (INAUDIBLE) Philadelphia
A`s about 100 years ago – this guy, Ty Cobb, with the weird handlebar
mustache – this guy must think if you follow the logic that Trump`s clean.
Why else would he be saying, Give them all the documents, where the guy in
the White House, who may know more, says, No don`t give him everything.
You got to be careful here.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, “USA TODAY,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You read into the
story. That`s exactly what he said, too, which is just so odd.
Can I just back up for a second here and say how completely comedically
incompetent this is to be doing this in an open air restaurant blocks from
the White House, blocks from “The New York Times” and to be saying things
like that, Oh, we have documents locked in safe, like, within shot (ph) of
a very actually well known “New York Times” reporter who covers Russia.
But yes, I think that he probably wouldn`t have said that, wouldn`t have
said that he thinks there`s to the Trump Tower meeting itself, but he
didn`t say there was nothing to the broader investigation. He also said
there was documents he didn`t have access to because of this tension within
the White House.
And what we`re seeing here is that while this may be kind of, like, a
humorous Keystone Kops type of thing that happened, the more troubling
thing is that the type of tensions that have marked this White House are
now infecting this legal team.
They can`t afford to have that happen, Chris. They are up against a 17-man
bruiser army in Bob Mueller. And what you`re seeing here is that same type
of infighting that`s plagued the other divisions of the White House.
MATTHEWS: But it reminds me, like so many aspects of this case, of
Watergate because you`ve got one counsel – oh, wait, we got Ken Vogel. We
got to go right now to Ken Vogel, the star of this story. Mr. Candid
Camera himself. Ken, thank you for joining us.
Tell us about the optics. You`re sitting there at the restaurant. You
realize that two of the kingpins of the president`s legal defense team are
next to you. Tell us more.
KEN VOGEL, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Yes, so I actually was sitting there with a
source and having lunch and kind of trying to pay attention a little bit to
what these folks were saying, but obviously, I`m in conversation with the
source. The source gets up to leave. Dinner is – lunch is over, rather.
And he`s, like, Are you coming? I said, You know what? I`ll just sit here
for a little bit and have a few more iced teas.
And of course, I was able to pick up all this conversation about these
incredibly sensitive issues related to the legal strategy in the Russia
probe just by sitting there and these folks kind of having this rather
MATTHEWS: Well, you report that the uncertainty has grown to the point now
that White House – the White House officials privately expressed, as you
heard them, fear that colleagues may be wearing a wire to surreptitiously
This is getting scary. The people in the White House, according to your
reporting, are actually afraid somebody talking to them is really trying to
work a little leverage with the special counsel by wiring them and giving
them some dirt.
VOGEL: Yes, that`s right. And of course, you have competing imperatives
here. You have folks who are ostensibly on the same side. That is they
are all being looked at to some extent by Mueller and his prosecutors. But
by the same token, they also are, you know, in different places in the
investigation. So what`s good for Paul Manafort might not necessarily be
good for Jared Kushner or for Mike Flynn. And the same thing could be said
for the lawyers who are representing members of the Trump family and the
president himself and the White House counsel.
So what we have here is a disagreement over tactical issues, that is, the
production of documents, but it`s also spilled over into sort of
personality issues. And you have a deep distrust and suspicion among some
of these folks to the point where we understood and we actually overheard
Ty Cobb saying that he believes that some of the lawyers on his team might
be spies for Don McGahn, the White House counsel. Obviously, that doesn`t
suggest a comity and sort of smooth interactions among the legal teams.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make that, that – let`s get back to that
(INAUDIBLE) restaurant. Now, you were sitting at the next booth,
apparently, the next table. How did you take that picture of these two
lawyers for Trump without them noticing?
MATTHEWS: It`s a pretty close shot, it looks like.
VOGEL: Yes. I mean, I was on my phone, where I was actually taking notes
on the phone while pretending to kind of be, you know, surfing the Internet
or whatever so to not attract attention. But I did kind of hold the phone
out at an angle and just tapped the camera in a way that I captured this
And the goal was both to document this but also because I didn`t recognize
John Dowd, the second lawyer. Of course, Ty Cobb is incredibly
recognizable because of the giant handlebar mustache, but John Dowd, an
equally important figure in this, not necessarily as immediately
identifiable. So I sent that photo to my colleagues at “The New York
Times” and asked them, Who is this guy who appears to be from this
conversation part of the legal team?
And they said, Oh, that`s John Dowd, the president`s outside lead attorney.
Kind of put two and two together there and realized, Oh, my goodness, I`m
getting a real glimpse of what`s happening on the legal team in real time.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about substance here a little bit. I – I –
by the way, congratulations. These guys, these tough guys like Dowd –
he`s one of the great flacking lawyers I`ve ever heard of – Trump`s always
right, Donald Trump`s always innocent, Trump`s always wonderful, blah,
blah, blah. I mean, he`s a classic lawyer.
And he – and the – and the – and the idea that he didn`t have to be
bugged – I can hear – what happens to – I want to get back to Heidi in
second. But what happened when Trump heard that his two top hard-nosed
lawyers were – not bugged. You know, nobody wiretapped them. They just
sat next to them and listened to them. He must say, Where have you guys
been going to law school? What are you doing? What did Trump say when he
found out about your reporting?
PRZYBYLA: Well, we don`t know about Trump per se. But we do know that
John Kelly, the chief of staff, and Don McGahn, the White House counsel,
were incredibly displeased, to put it mildly.
They called Ty Cobb in on Friday and basically read him the riot act,
saying, You can`t be talking about this incredibly sensitive information in
such an obviously public context, the concern here being not just
potentially tipping their hand through the press to what their strategy is
and tipping their hand to Mueller, but also a potential violation of
MATTHEWS: Heidi (INAUDIBLE) talking about the potential here of telling us
something we don`t know, which is one lawyer obviously wants them to give
them a bunch of paper, to Mueller, turn over a lot of documents, limited
hangout, as they said in the Watergate days, a little bit of hangout. The
other guy says stonewall, which suggests to me, as we were talking with –
with Heidi, that one guy, on lawyer in this case, thinks there`s nothing to
hide of any danger to the president. The other one says there is something
here we don`t want the public to know. We don`t want the prosecutor to
PRZYBYLA: Yes, and they also…
MATTHEWS: There`s a difference of opinion…
MATTHEWS: Is it possible that Ty Cobb doesn`t know the trouble Trump may
PRZYBYLA: That`s certainly possible. I mean, he was referring to
information that he didn`t even have, documents that he didn`t have that he
suggested that he wanted to produce to Mueller. He referred specifically
to two documents that were in a safe. Now, we don`t know what those
documents say, where they originated.
But certainly, the context of the conversation would suggest that Cobb
wanted to produce these documents and that McGahn did not. Now, McGahn`s
allies, the folks who we`ve talked to, say that McGahn is – feels that his
sort of role in this is not just to help shift the investigation away from
Trump, but rather to represent the sort of institution of the presidency.
And he is concerned that by producing documents without a thorough review
of whether they might be, potentially could have presidential privilege
apply to them and be withheld as a result, or at least redacted as a
result, that he could be encumbering not just the Trump administration in
the future and its ability to assert privilege in, you know, this
investigation or subsequent investigations, but even could be hamstringing
MATTHEWS: This is the first time…
VOGEL: … by potentially…
MATTHEWS: I`m a little bit incredulous. OK, I`m a little bit incredulous.
I`ve never heard anybody in the Trump administration worry about the
institution, never worry about future presidents. I am – I don`t believe
that. Do you believe that…
VOGEL: Well, it`s also true…
MATTHEWS: … that Don McGahn is worried about the future of the American
presidency and he`s working for Trump?
PRZYBYLA: Can we just point out here that…
MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s hard to believe.
PRZYBYLA: … Don McGahn – there`s another factor here at play, and that
is that Don McGahn is the lawyer who`s been with Trump throughout this
entire episode. Don McGahn is the person, for instance, who Sally Yates,
the former acting AG, went to and warned the administration about Michael
Flynn, that Michael Flynn was misleading people. He was lying. He was
lying to the vice president.
Don McGahn was also potentially privy to a number of incidents, including
the drafting of that Comey firing letter, including the explanation of Don,
Junior`s, Trump Tower meeting. And so there`s another factor at play here,
which is that Don McGahn himself could very well become a witness in this
MATTHEWS: By the way, Ken, I got to give you credit for a new story you
contributed to that`s breaking right now in “The New York Times,” that
Mueller`s prosecutors told Mr. Manafort, Paul Manafort, they plan to indict
him, according to two people close to – are we that close to action here,
an indictment of Paul Manafort, the first – first victim of this – of
VOGEL: Well, I would certainly not be surprised if Paul Manafort got
indicted. I don`t know about the timeframe. But you see a number of
people who are closer to Manafort who have been called before the grand
jury and testified, including his spokesman, Jason Maloni.
But there are other folks who we understand who are in that inner circle
with Manafort, who did that work that is being scrutinized for the
Ukrainian Party of Regions, the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine who
have not yet been reached out to. We`re talking about folks like Rick
Gates (ph), Manafort`s number two in Ukraine. So until they get called
before the grand jury or at least subpoenaed, I would be surprised if we
saw an indictment.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about – what about Manafort in your report?
VOGEL: Yes, I mean, Manafort is in the crosshairs. There`s absolutely no
doubt. And I think that even moreso that these prosecutors will face
pressure to indict someone, and if they can`t get the sort of big prize of
this, that is collusion with the Russians, between the Russians and the
Trump campaign, someone like Paul Manafort or Mike Flynn is likely to take
MATTHEWS: Given everything we know – you first Heidi, then Ken. We`ve
all talked, a lot of us on the air on this network about the power of this
prosecution team. It`s been enhanced again today. A top woman in terms of
money laundering has just been brought into the case, a very top person.
You put them up against this sort of gang that can`t shoot straight, I`m
wondering after looking at this latest disaster, Trump may be saying, I`m
on the losing team here. I got problems.
PRZYBYLA: Look, the one thing they want to avoid is looking like they`re
trying to stonewall, looking like they`re not being cooperative. And what
did they do with this, with this story? I mean, the one thing – the one
big takeaway here that we have is that you have one lawyer accusing the
other lawyer trying to essentially conceal things actually physically in…
MATTHEWS: Now everybody knows there`s a safe.
VOGEL: That`s going to pour fuel and motivate Mueller maybe possibly to
issue subpoenas, which then makes the White House looks like what? It`s
trying to stonewall.
MATTHEWS: Let me go in – Ken, last question. What happens if they
subpoena the safe and everything in – everything that`s in it? Could they
VOGEL: I mean, that`s – very well could happen. In fact, our
understanding is that what`s happening now is this preliminary stages of
document production, and that what Cobb wants to do is get out ahead of it,
to show the cooperation and to avoid the subpoena. But if Don McGahn gets
his way and carries the day in this argument and they`re not producing
things that are sufficient to satisfy Mueller, then I think we could very
well see subpoenas, and not just for documents in the safe but for a wide
array of documents.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Ken Vogel and Heidi Przybyla. Stand by,
but (INAUDIBLE) right now. I`m joined right now by Democratic senator of
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who sits on the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Senator Whitehouse, thank you for waiting for this.
What do you make these of these two developments, this “Candid Camera,” if
you will, situation with the president`s two lawyers arguing about whether
to release the information they know the prosecutor wants?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, it sounds like Paul
Manafort got a target notice…
WHITEHOUSE: … along with the search warrant. So that would be how he
was told that they were looking to indict him. That`s part of the federal
procedure. But it`s the first time we`ve heard that, so that`s an
interesting new fact. And this Keystone Kops conversation of the lawyers
in a public place obviously doesn`t look too great.
And I would add a third piece to what`s happened in the past week, which is
the three torpedoes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders shot at James Comey, which
opened up an entirely new avenue in the case for Mueller. There`s a
statute, 1504 in the obstruction of justice statutes, that talks about
attempts to influence grand jurors.
WHITEHOUSE: So the question of Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, Who asked you to
do that, who told you to do that? And then once you know who it is, you
look to their motivation. And if their motivation was to poison the
reputation of Jim Comey with grand jurors, you`ve got another count in the
MATTHEWS: What about the president doing the very same thing regarding
Comey, trashing him again and again before, during an after his firing?
WHITEHOUSE: It`s the same thing. If you can prove that the intent in
doing so was to try to either intimidate him, witness intimidation, or
tarnish his opinion in the eyes of the grand jury, influence the grand jury
and the action or decision they`re making, those are counts of an
And I don`t know why this White House hasn`t stopped this stuff. But it
really looks like every time they turn around, they`re sending up another
invitation to Mueller to run this down and see if he can add a count.
MATTHEWS: Do you know what room they have the safe in? I`m serious!
WHITEHOUSE: Maybe (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: You got to start thinking about – you got to start – you got
to start zeroing in on this little item of interest, the fact that McGahn,
WHITEHOUSE: Didn`t Abscam start with a safe?
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, the president wants to keep – the president`s lawyer
is saying, Don`t open the safe. The guy on the outside, Ty Cobb, says open
it. Where are you?
WHITEHOUSE: I think that there – there probably are genuine equities to
protect the presidency of the United States against having to dish out too
many documents. I fully agree with you that the notion that this White
House cares about any of that is laughable. So there`s at least a
reasonable case to be made that that is a pretext, in which case what`s
left is, We just don`t want you to see the documents. And that`s not a
good place for this White House to be. That looks like coverup, that looks
like obstruction, that looks like stonewalling.
MATTHEWS: It`s always great to have you on, even in this dangerous area
for the presidency, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. I want to
thank Ken Vogel, congratulate him, Heidi Przybyla, who`s now White House
MATTHEWS: Pretty big stuff.
Anyway, coming up – we`ll see you in the gallery there. We`ll see you out
there talking to Sarah.
Coming up, special counsel Robert Mueller is poring over Facebook records -
- this is exciting stuff – and the accounts (ph) of Russian operatives
trying to influence the 2016 election. They`re going in to Facebook. They
want to find out who`s paying for these ads, the money trail again,
following the money.
And one big question for investigators – did these Russian operatives get
help from Jared Kushner, or someone else inside? Was somebody leading them
to where to hit, the micro analysis of the campaign, the micro campaigning
we`re so familiar with? Who was telling the Russkies, if you will, how to
find out the voters they needed to identify in states like Michigan,
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? How`d they know exactly where to send their
message? Who on our side, in America, was telling them? It`s like “The
Plus, politics was front and center at last night`s Emmy awards, as we`ve
all heard. It was a big night for women and minorities, of course. But
what`s so funny about ex-White House – well, we`ll see Sean Spicer joking
around. I`m with him, get out there, make a fool of yourself. You`ve
And another day, another nickname for Trump. He`s calling Kim Jong-un
“rocket man.” Very funny to say it, but what`s the impact over there? You
know, wars started by name calling – (INAUDIBLE) “Lyin` Ted,” “Little
Marco,” “Crooked Hillary` – OK, the stakes are higher now. It`s like
Trump`s on the campaign trail, I guess he thinks, against North Korean
Anyway, finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch.”
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: President Trump says he`s considering holding a military parade
on the 4th of July, inspired by the Bastille Day celebration he saw in
France earlier this year. Trump mentioned the idea during in a photo op
with French president Macron earlier today. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do want to say that I was
your guest at Bastille Day.
And it was one of the greatest parades I have ever seen. It was a
tremendous thing. And to a large extent, because of what I witnessed, we
may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania
I don`t know. We are going to have to try and top it. We are looking
forward to doing that.
And I am speaking with General Kelly and with all of the people involved,
and we will see if we can do it this year, but we certainly will be
beginning to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kim Jong-un, he loves parades, too.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We are requesting a lot more information
from Facebook. And we have received some information, but there are a lot
of unanswered questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff of
California on the extent of Russia`s influence campaign on Facebook during
the 2016 election.
We now know that a Russian campaign with Kremlin links bought $100,000
worth of ads on the site Facebook. “The Wall Street Journal” reported last
week that the social media giant gave special counsel Mueller information,
including – quote – “copies of ads and details about the accounts that
bought them, the accounts that bought them, and the targeting criteria they
used. Efforts to map the Russian propaganda effort in 2016 could lead
investigators in one direction.”
“Vanity Fair” reports that `probers are intrigued by the role of Jared
Kushner, the now president`s son-in-law, who eagerly took credit for
crafting the Trump campaign`s online efforts.”
The article cites a November 2016 interview with “Forbes” magazine in which
Kushner said: “I called somebody who works for one of the technology
companies that I work with and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use
Kushner has denied any collusion with Russia. And no evidence has yet
emerged linking him to any Russian operation.
I`m joined by Chris Smith, who wrote the “Vanity Fair” report, and Clint
Watts, former FBI special and an MSNBC national security analyst.
Clint, I want to ask you about this new report from “The New York Times”
just breaking right now that the agents who did the search of Manafort`s
home, I guess it was, his house, told him in passing he was going to be
CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it sounds like this is
the weakest link in the investigation from the Trump team, and they used
this as an opportunity to sort of push Manafort in one direction or
I think they were probably looking for a way into the investigation to get
some of that inside information. The other thing we got to remember is,
the Manafort investigation seems to be the most advanced component of the
whole Trump team.
Everything that we have heard in the past, even back to last winter, in
2016, we found that Manafort kept coming up in these stories and that he
was being looked into both for his financial connections back to the
Ukraine and for his dealings during the campaign.
So I`m not surprised that they pushed on him first. I`m really curious as
to what his reaction was when that was brought up to him.
MATTHEWS: Well, when you`re told you`re going to be indicted, I think that
sort of lights you up a bit, don`t you?
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chris Smith on this other breaking story, which is
What we do know? It seems to me that first we started hearing about
Facebook and other Russian operations to tilt the election last year. We
began to wonder now who are their insiders, as we always wonder, who helps
them target, who`s their spotters, if you will, in the war, like, who is on
the hillside telling us where to bombard on the Japanese-held island?
I think my father-in-law had that job for a while. And how do you do that?
And who`s telling? And it doesn`t have to be Trump people. It could be –
I noticed one thing. There are people in America who are willing to work
for the Russians, for money, Manafort among them, not for ideological
CHRIS SMITH, “VANITY FAIR”: Exactly.
MATTHEWS: They are just ready with their hands out. These guys have money
and they take it.
So what do we know about who would have been their spotters, in terms this,
just the Facebook operation to target voters?
We have known for months, reporters, investigators, that Facebook, Google,
Twitter were pipelines for fake news, for anti-Clinton propaganda.
What these latest developments, Mueller subpoenaing Facebook, allows him to
dig deeper into those channels, who paid for it, how sophisticated the
targeting was. It should put to rest certainly Trump`s notion that it was
a 400-pound teenager in his bedroom somewhere.
SMITH: And the history of the campaigns, you talk to investigators, you
talk to people who have worked in Eastern Europe, yes, the Kremlin and
their intermediaries pay for it and give the general directions, but in
Moldova, in Montenegro, wherever they have tried to sway elections, they
have local proxies.
They have people literally translating it into the vernacular, and
targeting it in ways that they think are going to be effective. As you
said, there is no direct connection between Kushner and the Russian
propaganda, election meddling operation.
But there`s a real confluence of interests and of technology. Is it
possible the Russians learned how to target African-American women in
Michigan by watching lots and lots of MSNBC? Sure, that`s possible.
But when you have the Trump campaign proudly taking credit for slicing and
dicing these swing voters – Cambridge Analytica, the big data firm that
they brought on board, claims to be able to develop psychographic profiles
of voters. A lot of these people were playing in the same space. The
Russians certainly are opportunists.
And in the chaos of the Trump campaign, could the Trump folks have brought
them in or helped them unwittingly? Sure, that`s possible, too.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Clint for a general analysis.
Clint, we have got to trust you on a lot of this stuff because we don`t
know it. But I watch “The Americans.” I`m trying to catch up. I`m about
three years behind now. I`m caught up the fourth years now.
WATTS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: But it does. And I talk to a guy who is a friend of mine says
the top intelligence people believe that is a pretty accurate portrayal on
how the Russians in the old Cold War days were able to recruit.
And also I`m wondering how the – some day, somebody is going to write how
brilliant the Trump campaign was able to find just enough votes in those
four or five states, industrial votes, and just the right attitudes that
they could tweak, the buttons they could push to influence people to say,
you know, forget everything you care about Trump, the bad language, the bad
attitude towards women, the lack of any preparation for the job, the
stupidity of many of the things he says.
The only thing that matters in this race is send a message to the
establishment. Somebody was able to do that. Maybe it was Trump. Did he
get any help? What do we know? Did he get any help in his microtargeting
of particular people who were subject to that attitude of anti-
establishment, so sick of the regular party, Republicans in the primaries,
Democrats in the generals, they were willing to say, no, no, I will try
this new guy?
WATTS: Yes. In terms of microtargeting, it`s not complex. I could do
microtargeting of Russia from my house if I wanted to.
MATTHEWS: Could a Russian do it?
WATTS: Yes, absolutely.
And I can tell you this. The Russians were in the U.S. audience base going
well back into 2015. And they were focused on social issues, anti-
government, race issues, going all the way into 2016.
I think the key thing to look at, though, is what the Russians did that no
one else did. They hacked materials and released it out into the wild, so
that a Kushner Digital Campaign or a Cambridge Analytica or any other
political campaign was citing narratives that were ultimately set by
WikiLeaks drops and DCLeaks drops.
If anyone cited Bernie Sanders got a raw deal, that was a narrative powered
by the DNC leaks, which was conducted through Russian hacking. So all the
nuclear fuel behind all of this influence in social media ultimately comes
back to the Russian hand of hacking.
In terms of the microtargeting and a lot of these companies that think they
can do all the psychographic stuff, I equate it to digital snake oil. I
have seen these companies before and worked with them in counterterrorism
space trying to undermine and doing countering violent extremism. And they
could never really deliver on those things.
MATTHEWS: Well, if a pollster ever gets one of these elections right, he
can live out for it, dine out on it for the next three years, and then he`s
tested again, and he blows it, and he`s longer anybody`s expert.
But you`re right. Trump looks like the genius in this campaign. We figure
he got some help. And of course we will see if that`s true next time, when
he runs again, if he runs for reelection. We will see if he still has the
hot hand and if he still has the Russian help perhaps.
Anyway, thank you, Chris Smith. Thank you, Clint Watts, as always.
Up next: President Trump may have been 3,000 miles away, but he took
center stage at last night`s Emmy Awards, as sort of the target zone. It
was a politically charged evening, as everybody knows by now, and one that
celebrated positively women and diversity.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT”: Is there
anyone who could say how big the audience is?
Sean, do you know?
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This will be the largest
audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world.
COLBERT: Wow. Well, that really soothes my fragile ego.
COLBERT: I can understand why he`d want one of these guys around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, Sean Spicer`s surprise cameo was just the beginning of a politics-
fueled Emmy night. Let`s watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: I have to thank Winston Churchill. In these crazy
times, his life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership
in government really looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a
sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: Unlike the presidency, the Emmys go to winner of the popular
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it was also a big night for women and minorities,
seriously, with timely topics, ranging from domestic abuse – boy, did they
handle that issue in “Big Little Lies,” a great limited series – the
dystopian society, of course, of the great novel “The Handmaid`s Tale,” to
a black woman`s coming out story in “Master of None.”
Let`s watch a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: It`s been an incredible year for women in
television. Can I just say, bring women to the front of their own stories
and make them the hero of their own stories.
NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: We shone a light on domestic abuse.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KIDMAN: It is – it is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far
more than we allow ourselves to know.
ELISABETH MOSS, ACTRESS: Margaret Atwood, oh, my gosh, thank you for what
you did in 1985 and thank you for what you continue to do for all of us.
LENA WAITHE, WRITER/ACTRESS: Last, but certainly not, least my LGBQTIA
family, I see each and every one of you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the editor of – senior editor of
“Variety” newspaper, Ted Johnson.
Ted, I thought it was something else. I thought that “The Handmaid`s
Tale,” which was sort of an avant-garde novel years ago, is mainstream. It
wins for drama. “Big Little Lies,” which was glamorous in many ways, but
it really talked about spousal violence, with the bad guy the bad guy, and
the woman sort of somehow, for societal reasons, unwilling to come out and
say this is a frightening, dangerous marriage I`m stuck in.
TED JOHNSON, EDITOR AT LARGE, “VARIETY”: Yes.
I think what we`re seeing is the fruits of having all of these cable
networks, all of these streaming networks, the broadcast networks.
MATTHEWS: That aren`t being censored like networks.
JOHNSON: No, not at all. And there`s a lot more freedom.
JOHNSON: And I think the broadcast networks, you will probably see more in
response. “This Is Us” I think is in large part a response to the
competition from streaming, this must-see TV or this binge watching.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Spicer?
We have had a big dispute around here. I sort of am the view, if he`s a
flack and wants to make fun of being a flack, how can you knock it? He`s
making fun of his B.S. about crowd size. He`s making fun of himself there.
JOHNSON: Well, yes.
Today, there`s all this pushback. I have heard the Emmys is getting a lot
of flak for having him. Is it normalizing Trump? Is it normalizing what
The thing is, if Spicer wants a TV career, there`s going to be moments when
he`s going to be questioned about what he said from that podium.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he got away from it. He walked back, right back
into it again.
By the way, good – like, great for Stephen Colbert. There`s a good guy.
I think of the line from – Zero Mostel`s “The Front,” where he says, I
like when good happens to good people.
He`s a good guy, Stephen Colbert.
JOHNSON: Oh, sure, sure, yes. And that comes across. That comes across.
And there`s this whole idea, was the Emmys politicized? If it wasn`t, you
would have wondered what happened. Stephen Colbert was the host.
MATTHEWS: I know.
Talk about the chorus line with the guys out there doing sort of the
Rockettes number with the sort of mixed guys and women. You didn`t see
that 20 years ago.
JOHNSON: No. No. It`s kind of expected now, though.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s wild.
Anyway, I think America speaks in different ways. And culture is one way
you tell the truth, sometimes better than politics, don`t you think?
Thank you, Ted Johnson, from “Variety.”
JOHNSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump is set to give his first big speech to
the U.N. tomorrow, but he`s already engaging world leaders on Twitter.
This weekend, he unveiled his nickname. Isn`t this High School Harry
stuff? High School Harry, Mr. President, that`s how you`re behaving,
calling the North Korean dictator, who is a somewhat scary guy – he has a
nickname for the guy. It`s not little Marco or little un or – un. It`s
now Rocket Man, thanks to Elton John, I guess.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I noticed Chuck Schumer
yesterday with fake tears. I`m going to ask him who his acting coach.
We have low energy Jeb Bush. Lying Ted and little Marco. Crazy Bernie,
he`s a crazy man. And I was being hit by Pocahontas, that`s Elizabeth
And I said, Mitt cannot run. He choked like a dog and he walks like a
penguin on stage. Did you ever see? Like a penguin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Like a penguin.
That`s the president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen.
Anyway, Donald Trump came up with a nickname for everyone of his political
opponents. Now, he`s using that same high school number, actually, high
school harry number with one of the most dangerous characters in the world,
don`t we agree?
What could go wrong now? He`s made fun of them. What do you make of it?
Anyway, yesterday morning, he tweeted this message about North Korea`s
leader, the unstable Kim Jong-un: I spoke with President Moon of South
Korea last night, asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines
forming in North Korea. Too bad.
Well, there aren`t long gas lines. A lot of other problems.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Alexi McCammond, who`s deputy news
editor for “Axios”, Philip Rucker, of course, is White House bureau chief
for “The Washington Post”. And Astead Herndon is national political
reporter for “The Boston Globe”.
Who`s the youngest here? Maybe you are, I don`t know. But I`m telling
you, you must remember high school. High school was nickname country. You
had to put up with the bruising personal genius of the bad guys who stood
around and just thought of what`s wrong with you physically if they could
find it and what`s wrong with anything about you and zoned in on it and
made fun of you again and again and again until you felt miserable.
And now, they do it on texting. They do it on – Donald Trump is one of
them. He`s one of those people.
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, DEPUTY NEWS EDITOR, AXIOS: It`s a juvenile distraction.
Right, it`s a juvenile distraction. And it`s totally unhelpful for him to
be coming up with nicknames –
MATTHEWS: What does he gain by calling information Elton John`s music
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, it`s
branding. It got –
MATTHEWS: Who it helps with?
RUCKER: Well, I think that he thinks it helps communicate with the
American people that he comes up with these visceral names that speak to an
inherent weakness in his view of the other person. In this case, it`s
Kim`s strength, which is the rocket arsenal, the missile arsenal is a
weakness because he`s unstable. He`s firing them left and right. You
know, he`s trying to exploit that somehow.
MATTHEWS: If someone had a suicide belt on, would you make fun of them
personally, Astead? Would that be your strategy?
ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: I don`t think
this is even about his strategy thinking towards North Korea. I think this
is what he thinks his base wants from him. I think this –
MATTHEWS: Yes. So, it`s all about that?
HERNDON: Like we`ve seen throughout his presidency, it`s his core base of
voters who pride themselves on being the politically incorrect, who enjoy
the president being unconventional. And this is a nod to them. And that`s
why he`s done it throughout the campaign.
MATTHEWS: But there`s another world out there that includes people with
nuclear weapons. This isn`t Buffalo Bob and the peanut gallery. There`s
another world out there besides serenading his feat.
RUCKER: He wants to entertain.
MATTHEWS: They want to be entertained?
RUCKER: He wants to entertain.
MATTHEWS: Do you think his people aren`t worried about Kim Jong-un a
RUCKER: They should be.
MCCAMMOND: Right. It`s just rhetoric, you know? It`s not reflected of
his strategy. We should look at what Nikki Haley is saying, what Mattis is
doing. Trump`s tweets are a juvenile distraction.
MATTHEWS: What about them? Are they more mature?
MCCAMMOND: Certainly, yes. And they have a harder line on the rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: I think Nikki Haley always looks more mature than the president.
Also on Sunday, the president retweeted a video from one of his supporters.
The doctored video splicing together a shot at Trump hitting a golf ball
and then the golf ball supposedly hitting Hillary Clinton in the back of
the head, causing her to trip over. The video of Hillary Clinton is from
Among the people offended by that violent imagery was Senator Dianne
Feinstein, another grown up in my book. She said in a statement today that
the president`s Sunday morning tweet of a video depicting an attack on
Hillary Clinton is appalling and disgusting. Every one of us should be
offended by the vindictive and candidly dangerous messages the president
sends to demean not only Secretary Clinton, but all women. Grow up and do
She also called it unbecoming of the president of the United States, which
I think was a bit redundant by the senator. Is it obviously unbecoming?
But this, Alexi, you`re the woman here, how do you take it the president
teeing up on the person he beat in the campaign, making fun of his
purported assault on her after having been this sort of goon over looking
over her during the debates and what else he was doing?
MCCAMMOND: Right. The optics are certainly not great, and I was speaking
with the Democratic aide on the Hill today who said that this is
unprecedented and absurd.
MATTHEWS: Of course, it is.
MCCAMMOND: And I think that reflects, you know, a lot of Democrats
thinking. And it had 33,000 responses on Twitter and so many of them are
people saying, you know, it encourages violence against women and Trump is
being a bully.
MATTHEWS: Is this to make up for his deal on DACA?
RUCKER: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: The right wing, alt-right is behind him, OK, I think given that
he`s (INAUDIBLE) –
RUCKER: I think he`s also bothered that Hillary is out there in the news
right now, making headlines with her memoir out, “What Happened”, is doing
MATTHEWS: That`s a cost, too.
RUCKER: Yes, it does. But he doesn`t like her being out there. He wants
to try to create an opportunity that –
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. He doesn`t want her to get her limited modified
success. That is really shrewd because – can`t he give her the book at
least? He`s got the presidency. Yes.
HERNDON: I would be wary of thinking this is part of even the grand
strategy. I mean, we have seen him retweet videos that are – he sometimes
thinks is funny. I mean, I did a story talking with some of these alt-
right folks who are really deep into this Reddit Internet world and they
think the president is one of them, not just because –
MATTHEWS: Oh, he is.
HERNDON: And not just because –
MATTHEWS: He`s one of those 400 pound people in their beds that he makes
fun of, that had no real life outside the basement, he`s president of the
United States. And does he get up in the morning and say, I like the
pancakes this morning, looks like the kids do in the basement, mom, can I
get pancakes? OK, you have the pancake.
Then he sits down, he`s president of the United States with an entire
government behind him. He`s got the Republican Party behind him. He`s got
the U.S. military and he`s got all this communications people and instead,
they`re doing this.
MCCAMMOND: Right. It also sort of reflects John Kelly is maybe not
running as tight of a ship has he wanted, you know?
MATTHEWS: He can`t control this guy.
MCCAMMOND: Right. He`s not –
MATTHEWS: So, Kelly has got to get up earlier to catch him tweeting.
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t your boss Elizabeth (INAUDIBLE) gets up 6:30 morning to
catch “The New York Times” –
RUCKER: She`s not my boss.
MATTHEWS: You work with “Washington Post”, same difference.
RUCKER: Marty Baron.
MATTHEWS: I hear you. Gets up at 6:30 in the morning first get it is “New
York Times,” not “The Post”, and just read it is cover.
RUCKER: He reads “The Washington Post,” too, by the way.
MATTHEWS: He reads the front page, stops at the fold and tweets.
RUCKER: And he reacts to TV news in the morning, too. “Fox and Friends”,
we know for sure. But also “MORNING JOE” on MSNBC, turns on CNN. He likes
to see what the conversation was like.
MATTHEWS: Why does he watch (ph) the “MORNING JOE”? They don`t like each
other so much.
RUCKER: He has a long complicated history with “MORNING JOE”.
MATTHEWS: It`s complicated.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell
me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is getting a bit of
attack from the left over her possible immigration deal with President
Trump. Pelosi and other Democratic members of Congress were holding a
conference in San Francisco very early today, calling for the DREAM Act to
be passed when immigration activists walked in and interrupted the event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORIT LEADER: They are our very VIPs, they`re
our purpose, our very important people. I`m pleased to yield –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today`s protesters take issues with the deal, saying that
by merely, merely is a big word, focusing on DREAMers, the president and
congressional leaders are leaving out the other 11 million people here in
the country who entered illegally.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Alexi, tell me something I don`t know.
MCCAMMOND: So, Democrats know they can`t win back the House with
Republicans drawing districts. A new Democratic super PAC Forward Majority
is spending $100 million or hoping to raise $100 million for 12 states to
help Democrats win back state legislature seats. So, one –
MATTHEWS: That will have to wait until 2022.
MCCAMMOND: Right, right, 2021, I believe. So, a Democratic fundraiser –
MATTHEWS: No, but they don`t have the races until 2022.
MCCAMMOND: Right, right. But a Democratic fund-raiser told me the money
that Democrats spend on Jon Ossoff`s race could have been used to help
Democrats win five congressional seats in Pennsylvania. So, we should –
MATTHEWS: Thank you. But it`s Monday morning quarterbacking. They were
just listening object.
RUCKER: So, Alabama, pay attention down there. You`ve got the Senate
runoff special election in Alabama next Tuesday. President Trump is
heading down there later this week. And the important thing there to look
MATTHEWS: Moore or Strange.
RUCKER: Well, Trump is endorsing Strange, the incumbent senator, but Moore
is getting the backing of Steve Bannon, of Sarah Palin, of other key
members of the Trump coalition.
MATTHEWS: Moore`s going to win.
RUCKER: We`ll see. He`s ahead in the polls.
HERNDON: Speaking of Trump`s prowess and branding, dictionaries have been
struggling to keep up with all these new words he`s adding into the English
dictionary. The Oxford University press lexicographer has identified 50
new Trump associated words, including Trumper Tantrum and Trumptastrophe
MATTHEWS: Oh my god! I haven`t heard those but they`re in the book now.
Alexi McCammond, thank you very much. Phil Rucker, as always. Astead
Herndon, as always.
When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”. I think you`ll
like this one, tonight. He probably won`t. But he could learn from it, as
always, he always can. He can always learn from “Trump Watch”.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, September 18th, 2017.
I love when actor John Lithgow said at the Emmys last night. He was
speaking about Winston Churchill, the great World War II leader who played
at a later age in a TV series “The Crown”.
In these crazy times, Lithgow said, his life, even as an old man, reminds
us what courage and leadership in government really looks like.
He didn`t have to say or have to do anything else, we all know what he`s
talking about, but haven`t quite said it yet.
The one sure thing Donald Trump has done, and this must be clear to all,
right, left and center, is lower the bar for human decency. Those who
voted for him sought and yet approved it, didn`t they? They made him
When you were young, didn`t your parents tell you not to make fun of
someone else`s appearance? Wasn`t that one of the basics? Wasn`t it as
basics as the catechism?
When you were growing up, didn`t your parents tell you not to use bad words
about people who looked different from you? That you weren`t supposed to
call people from Mexico rapists even though you didn`t know what that
means? Weren`t you told not to hurt people and encourage others to hurt
Trump`s out there all the time running people out of his rallies,
encouraging the police to rough them up. It`s all part of his act, doing
what you were taught not to do, let`s face it, is the heart of his act.
Where`s the courage in that? Where`s the leadership in what he does?
Where`s the Winston Churchill in Donald Trump?
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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