Trump unleashes contentious tweetstorm. TRANSCRIPT: 2/19/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Chris Grady, Montel Williams, Joyce Vance, Ayesha Rascoe, Karine Jean-Pierre, John Brabender

Date: February 19, 2018
Guest: Chris Grady, Montel Williams, Joyce Vance, Ayesha Rascoe, Karine Jean-Pierre, John Brabender


NICK FONESCA, STUDENT PROTESTER: I`m 18. We have enough power to start
voting our legislators out of office if they don`t do what we know is right
for our people.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: We leave you at that, because it looks
like around the country, young people are leading this conversation.

That does it for “the Beat.” “Hardball” is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The AWOL President. Let`s play “Hardball.”

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.

Two major stories now, Russian interference and gun violence. The
President of the United States is AWOL. In his response to last week`s
school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead, President Trump
doesn`t mention the word “guns.” In his absence, a group of high school
students from that Florida town have taken the moral reins, giving a
youthful insistent voice to the country`s anger and frustration.

And then there is Russia. On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller
indicted 13 Russians on charges they interfered in our country`s election.
President Trump responded by declaring himself vindicated. Down in Mar-a-
Lago this weekend on reports the “New York Times” his mood began to darken
as it became clear to him that some television commentators were portraying
the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate.

Well then triggered wild twitter tirade by Trump himself, 14 tweets about
Russia over 48 hours. He attacked liddle, l-i-d-d-l-e, Adam Schiff saying
he has no control. He blamed his predecessor Barack Obama in several
tweets, including one this afternoon.

Quote “Obama was President up to and beyond the 2016 elections. So why
didn`t he do something about Russian meddling?”

And he said the only collusion was between Russia and crooked Hillary, as
he put it, something for which the evidence by the way is zero, nada. He
also said what is historically not true.

Quote “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” Whoa.

Well, the fact is he told “Time” magazine I don`t believe they interfered.
That became a laughingstock, a laughing point, not a talking point, a
laughing point. On multiple occasions, Trump threw mud at the conclusion
of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia meddled in the election.
Let`s watch him at it.


think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing
wrong with that statement. Nobody really nose.

You ever notice anything that goes wrong, they blame Russia. Russia did
it. They have no idea. We are being hacked because we are people that
don`t know what they`re doing.

What I said there is I believe he believes that. And that`s very important
for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia did
not meddle in the election.

No, Russia did not help me. OK? Russia. I call it the Russian hoax. One
of the great hoaxes. Actually, that`s the thing I was thinking about.
That`s the thing that the Democrats did best.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump also tweeted this weekend, if it was the goal of
Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S., then with
all the committee hearings, investigations and party hatred, they have
succeed beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in
Moscow,” those are his words. The President of the United States` words.

Anyway, then there was the predictable attack on the FBI, suggesting they
failed to act on the Florida school shooting because they were distracted
by the Russia investigation.

Trump quote “wrote very sad that the FBI missed all the many signals sent
out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are
spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump
campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all

By the way, one of the basics I would think is national defense. For all
his tweeting this weekend, you had the one person Trump never attacked, as
you might predict, was Vladimir Putin.

For more I`m joined by Axios national political reporter Jonathan Swan,
“Washington Post” opinion writer Jennifer Rubin and “Mother Jones”
Washington bureau chief David Corn.

So why the tirade? Why did he go wacko over the weekend with these tweets?
Somebody said it`s because he couldn`t play golf because the school horror
that would look bad, until today. So he was forced to go inside and watch
television. Excuse me, is this how the presidency works these days?

shock you to say that yes, the President does watch quite a bit of
television. And yes, he gets –

MATTHEWS: Even on sunny days in Florida?

SWAN: Even on sunny days in Florida. And he gets deeply, deeply irritated
when people – state the facts about this Russia investigation which is
that there was a concerted effort led by the Kremlin.

MATTHEWS: So he was watching MSNBC?

SWAN: You know, people like to say he only watches FOX, but he actually
toggles a lot. And I wouldn`t even be surprised if he is watching you,

MATTHEWS: No, I think he probably just smiles watching some of the
networks. Go ahead, Jennifer. But it is weird. A President of the United
States who has all the tools of communication resorts to tweeting in this
sort of – I don`t know how to describe it. It`s the way he does it.

about him. He looks upon this. He is watching TV because they are talking
about him. He wants to know what`s in it for him, as you point out. He
doesn`t make a statement that, you know. this is horrific. Look, these 13
people are running around the United States impersonating Americans. Look
what a horror this is.

MATTHEWS: And a good job of it too.

RUBIN: Yes, exactly. So he is (INAUDIBLE) on his reaction. His reaction
is no collusion. But listen, for the first time black and white, you had
the special prosecutor say the Russians weighed in to help Trump and to
disparage Hillary Clinton. It`s there in black.

MATTHEWS: Certainly starting in summer 2016 they did.

RUBIN: Correct.

MATTHEWS: They started when you were headed.

RUBIN: That`s exactly right.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David on this tough one.

Tom Friedman in his column is coming out tomorrow in the “Times” suggesting
either Trump is paranoid. He is jumping around going crazy this weekend
and is innocent or he is guilty as hell. He did collude. He did obstruct.
He may have money laundered and therefore he has right to try to dump on
every moment he can, every way he can on Mueller because Mueller is coming
at him with the truth or he is a little bit crazy. Which is it, as you
said, is he guilty or crazy?

mutually exclusive.

MATTHEWS: Explain that because that is a logic question.

CORN: No, no. Because he is an erratic, unstable, delusional narcissistic
person, period. Regardless of any action he took in regard to the Russian
meddling. In regards to the Russian meddling, the baseline that we already
know and have known for over a year-and-a-half now is that he continually
through the campaign said it wasn`t happening. What did that do? That was
giving cover to Putin. He made it easier for Putin to attack the United
States because he made it a political issue. He aided and abetted.

MATTHEWS: Wait – made what an issue? I`m sorry.

CORN: He made whether or not the U.S. was being attacked.


CORN: When people were out there saying – when even the U.S. government
said it in early October during the campaign, they put out a statement from
the intelligence committee. He kept saying, no, this is a hoax. He kept
getting his people to say this isn`t real. This is all politics. That
made it easier for Putin to get away wit. He aided and abetted.

MATTHEWS: What`s going on? I know they don`t have a free press like we do
and you can`t be critical over there of the leadership like we can be as we
are and enjoy doing it sometimes. How do the Russian citizens who do know
what`s going on, who read the papers, how do they understand that the
American President is out there day after day, minute by minute, tweeting
that they did not get involved in screwing around with our elections when
we all know they did? What do they think of us?

SWAN: I wouldn`t pretend to speak for the Russian citizenry.

MATTHEWS: But you can interpret them.

SWAN: I do think it`s telling that the Russian propaganda Russia today is
taking quotes by a White House spokesman and tweeting it, which is Hogan
Gidley, the White House spokesman saying that Russia has done far less to
damage and create chaos in the U.S. than the Democrats in the media. And
Russia today used that as part of their propaganda.

MATTHEWS: Russia today being their organization.

RUBIN: Right. Listen. They probably are saying - and again, I won`t
speak for them either, but the rest of the world certainly I can speak more
authoritatively I think for a westernize. Think this guy is a joke. Tough
national security people go to the Munich conference. They say don`t pay
attention to his tweets. They have the –.

MATTHEWS: McMaster says incontrovertible.

RUBIN: Right. And Trump goes nut others that one. With that`s another
tweet because he didn`t say and Trump was exonerated and there is no
collusion. So the rest of the world looks upon us with horror at this
point. And listen, they do depend on the United States. They give us a
lot of grief. But ultimately they are looking for the only superpower to
give them stability, to give them protection against enemies, and we are
not doing that.

MATTHEWS: Well, even went after – let`s hear what he said about McMaster.
Because McMaster, of course, was over there in Munich for this
international security conference. He is an active duty military officer.
And this is what he said about the meddling. This is what McMaster said.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are becoming more and more
adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion. And as you
can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really
incontrovertible and available in the public domain.


MATTHEWS: And this is the President`s Henry Kissinger, his top person.

Anyway, President Trump apparently didn`t appreciate his national security
adviser`s comment there which didn`t defend him strongly enough.

Trump tweeted general McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016
election were not impacted or changed by the Russians. He forgot to say

In reality, neither Mueller`s investigators nor the intelligence committee
has concluded the results of the election were not influenced by Russian
interference. That`s what they are investigating.

RUBIN: It`s impossible to say one way or the other. And that`s what must
be driving him insane. Because you cannot prove that people didn`t see
something or certain people weren`t discouraged from going to the polls for
Hillary Clinton or his people –.

MATTHEWS: Still, some of these guys are still working for Trump, these
senators and Congress people. It`s embarrassing. We know from the time we
are in civics class in grade school there is a separation of powers. There
is supposed to be a reaction. That Congress is supposed to challenge the
President. This guy is from Oklahoma on Sunday saying that this
investigation by Mueller is going to be over in days. Why would he say
something which will be disproven in days? Why are they so embarrassingly
toadyish to talk like this guy from Oklahoma?

SWAN: It is puzzling because we have seen the Trump`s lawyers give us
deadline after deadline. I mean –.

MATTHEWS: Yes. The guy with the handlebar mustache, Ty Cobb, keeps saying
it`s over tomorrow. He is like Baghdad Bob. We are winning the war.

SWAN: It was over by thanksgiving and then it was over by Christmas. Then
it was over by –.

MATTHEWS: Is this for Trump –.



CORN: You are talking about a political calculation that Republicans have
made to stand by him no matter what. But there is something more basic
than that. They all swear an oath to defend the constitution as the
President does. And here we have even McMaster admits it. But it`s been
known for a long time, an attack on American democracy. What is the
Republican response? Almost nothing. And of course nothing from Donald
Trump. So we can talk about how he sees and how he feels about it.

MATTHEWS: Your point is so good that is exactly what Trump doesn`t get is
civic responsibility. He doesn`t understand that a judge has got to be a
judge and a fair judge. He doesn`t work for somebody, the Mexican
government or anybody else he claims to work for. McMaster, his national
security adviser is in fact an officer in the United States army. And he
has to say the truth. And Trump doesn`t understand it. He doesn`t
understand when people have to do their jobs.

RUBIN: And it`s worse than not doing their job. They are actively, of
course, helping the Russians. Because when Nunes runs around defaming the
FBI and coming up with his half cocked conspiracy theories, that`s right
out of the Russian`s playbook.

MATTHEWS: A number of Republicans criticize Trump incendiary comments over
the FBI this weekend when he suggested that they missed the signals about
the Florida school shooter because they were spending too much time
wondering about the Russian investigation.

Well, here is governor John Kasich of Ohio and senator Tim Scott of South
Carolina speaking truth to power. Let`s watch.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I think it`s an absurd statement, OK, absurd.
The fact of the matter is the FBI apparently made a terrible mistake, and
people should be held accountable. But we need leadership out of the
executive. This is a great opportunity for common sense steps that can be

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will tell you that from my
perspective, that so many folks in the FBI are doing all that they can to
keep us safe. The reality is that they are two separate issues.


MATTHEWS: Jonathan?

SWAN: I mean, you can see - I mean.

MATTHEWS: There are people that just see the truth and come out and says
it. It`s what we – how we got rid of Nixon, you know? Sam Urban and you
know, (INAUDIBLE). These people did their jobs eventually.

SWAN: The much bigger point here is that Trump has turned Republican
voters against the FBI quite profoundly in the same way he has turned them
against the NFL. He has an uncanny ability to shift public opinion among
that group of voters. And we have seen it in the polling.

MATTHEWS: And we grew up believing certainly the Republican party believed
and everyone in the (INAUDIBLE) hoover was almost God. It`s true.

CORN: (INAUDIBLE). The party of Loren. And he campaigned on that.

RUBIN: How about Russia also?

CORN: But the bottom line, it`s all about how things affect him you talk,
you know, all about institutions don`t matter. Norms don`t matter. Rules,
laws don`t matter. It`s all about how it affects him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Last nighttime watching home front –

CORN: Homeland.

MATTHEWS: Homeland. All these people were booing the FBI. And he said
that`s what happened to this country, booing the FBI on the street corner,
right? You are going to keep correcting me?

CORN: Homeland, homeland. That`s all.

MATTHEWS: I never liked that word, homeland. It sounds the too much like
fatherland or motherland, a little too totalitarian.

Anyway, Jonathan Swan thank you, Jennifer Rubin and thank you, David Corn.

We will be right back with the Russia investigation in a moment.

But coming up, Trump is not just AWOL on Russia. He has been charged for
total inaction on guns. Have you notice head won`t say it? And leading
the charge, God help him, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
school. We are going to talk to one of the students and also talk to talk
show host Montel Williams, a gunowner himself who says we need new gun
safety laws.

Plus, in the wake of Mueller`s indictment propriety, what`s next for the
Russia investigation? Trump claims he is off the hook. Fat chance. But
that`s not what the indictment says. We are going to find where the probe
may be going next as Mueller may be on the verge for another flipping
another witness, Rick Gates.

And back to Trump`s twitter outburst with the round table. The Mueller
investigation is really getting under his skin, don`t you think?

And finally, let me finish with the time for the media, I believe, to
challenge the gunrunners.

This is “Hardball,” where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is exciting. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania today
issued a new congressional district map for the 2018 midterm elections, one
that is expected to be challenged of course by the Republican lawmakers in
the state. That said, if the latest map holds, and I think it will, it
will almost certainly improve Democrats` chances this coming November.

While Pennsylvania has become a key battleground state in statewide
elections, Republicans have consistently won 13 of the state`s 18 House
seats under the old congressional map. The next map I think is going to be
about probably 9-9, something like that. Today`s order is set to take
effect for the May 15th primary. It will not apply to next month`s special
election in Pennsylvania`s 18 district. That`s coming up soon.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball.”

As President Trump spent his weekend venting his Russia-related
frustrations on twitter, the friends and families of those 17 victims of
last week`s shooting, school shooting began the heart-wrenching task of
laying their loved ones to rest. And throughout this period of pain and
anguish, it is the young survivors who have been the most vocal advocates
for change. Let`s watch and listen to some of them.


students are going to have to die and have their blood spilled in American
classrooms just because politicians refuse to take action?

fight now, because you messed it up so badly that you left it to the kids.
And now it`s our job. And you can`t try to take that back from us.

going let the 17 bullets we just took take us down. If anything, we are
going to keep rung and we`re going to lead the rest of the nation behind


MATTHEWS: Well, the call to action has galvanized young people as you
heard there across the country. Here in Washington, D.C., local students
stage, they lye-in protest against violence right outside the White House.
There they are on the sidewalks at 1600 Pennsylvania. It`s not clear if
Republicans in Congress are truly willing to listen, however.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: The problem is not owning an AR-15,
it`s the person that owns it. Again, you are not going back to the how of
what particular weapon is chosen, it`s the what.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m not going to vote to ban an

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Any of the laws that they want passed would
not have presented this attack. That doesn`t mean we shouldn`t pass any
laws. And that doesn`t mean we shouldn`t pass these laws.

They support my agenda. I don`t support theirs.


MATTHEWS: The stones from Stoneman Douglas high school are not taking no
for an answer. They plan on bringing their movement to Washington D.C. on
March 24th for a major rally against school and gun violence. Smaller
rallies are also planned throughout our country. And while the White House
announced today that President Trump is open to strengthening background
checks, it`s unclear how much further he will go.

Well, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump was the NRA`s chosen
candidate. The gun lobby spent roughly 30 million bucks to support Trump
and defeat Hillary Clinton.

Let`s watch.


I am going to come through for you.


TRUMP: You have a true friend and champion in the White House. No longer
will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners.

We are going to protect our Second Amendment. We`re going to protect our
Second Amendment.

Oh, we`re going to keep our guns. Don`t worry about it.

We have got save our Second Amendment, because they are doing numbers to
your Second Amendment that are not good and are very unfair.


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Chris Grady. He is a senior at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School. And he joins us now from Parkland, Florida.

Hey, Chris, thank you for joining us tonight.

And what do you think when you get every morning now since Wednesday?
What`s the first thought and feeling that comes to you about realizing this
new world you live in?

morning, we`re all very motivated. Each day has been incredibly busy, but
we know we`re making a lot of progress. So…

MATTHEWS: Do you – do you think that you`re – you know what you`re up

GRADY: Can you repeat that, please?

MATTHEWS: Do you know what you`re up against, the power of the gun lobby,
the NRA? They want guns basically available to anyone, open carry in
Florida; 18-year-old, you can buy an AR-15, an assault rifle. They
basically want as free an availability as guns as possible in this
universe. More free than anywhere in the world.

They want to make it easy to get a gun and carry a gun and openly display
it. They are all the way with this thing. You`re up against that.

GRADY: Yes. You know, it`s absolutely disgusting how easy it is to
access, you know, these assault weapons.

No other country in the world, it`s just – it`s not easy like it is in
America. And, of course, America has constant mass shootings. It seems to
be like a daily thing now.

But, you know, we know what we`re up against. The NRA has consolidated a
lot of power. They have a lot of politicians in their back pocket. But as
long as politicians continue to get money from the NRA, we`re going to vote
them out. So, they`re going to get what`s coming to them.

MATTHEWS: Do you think politicians should have – like, when you`re on a
bowling team, you have the name of your sponsor on the back of your shirt,
so you know who paid for your team shirts and your bowling balls. Do you
think politicians – I`m serious here.

Do you think they ought to wear something on their back that says paid for
by the NRA? Just a thought.

GRADY: I believe – yes. No, they absolutely should. People should know
what they`re supporting and where they`re getting their money from.

A lot of American citizens might not know just how much money politicians
like Marco Rubio are getting from the NRA. And it`s absolutely disgusting.

MATTHEWS: When you go back to school next week – and I wish you the best
of luck, and Godspeed to all you guys, you kids everywhere in the country -
- are you going to be thinking about the strange noise you hear in the
hallway or the strange knock at the door?

Or how are you going to be anticipating the new world you live in where
this is possible? Now you know it`s possible, this kind of horror at your

GRADY: Well, you know, it`s never going to be the same, unfortunately.
But, you know, I`m – part of me is a looking forward to going back,
because I know I have to be there for my friends who are going to have
serious anxiety about going back.

So, I just got to be there for them.

MATTHEWS: I heard you want to go into the military. Which service are you
looking at?

GRADY: Army. I enlisted in the Army a few months back.

MATTHEWS: So you`re in?

GRADY: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: What service are you in? What kind of work are they going to
put you? Are you going into infantry?

GRADY: No. I`m going to be a 25 Bravo with Airborne, which is information

MATTHEWS: Good for you. You know what you`re doing, young man. Thank
you. Good luck with everything. And thank you for your service to come.

Chris Grady, thank you for coming on HARDBALL.

In a new opinion piece posted on NBC THINK, former talk show host and U.S.
Navy veteran Montel Williams writes: “Many of us would have done just about
anything to take on a piece of that pain for these kids. Continuing to do
nothing to help the next group of kids who will suffer in an inevitable
future shooting is an inexcusable moral failure.”

For more, I`m joined by himself, Montel Williams, who served for 22 years
in the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Montel, you are so right to talk about the next, the fire next time, as
James Baldwin called it. It`s coming. Isn`t it so predictable that
somebody is going to get an AR-15 and do the same thing in a matter of

MONTEL WILLIAMS, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: It`s absolutely ridiculous.

But I want to talk about that young man Chris there for a second. Chris,
listen to me. One of the things that his generation is going to do, what a
lot of these congressmen and senators today don`t recognize, 19 years ago,
3.9 million people were born in the United States.

That means that Chris has 3.9 million voters in two years; 3.9 million
voters make a difference in any election. So get this straight. If we
don`t want to listen to these children tonight, you will be listening to
them directly in two years when they vote.

And that young man, Chris, I can`t applaud him for any – look, I was the
president of my class, Chris, when I was in high school. Junior, senior
year, I was a student elected to the Board of Education. I was trying my
best to do as much as I could then.

And look at the leader I think I have become. Take a look at the leader
that Chris is going to become, especially after you add some military to
that. So…


MATTHEWS: How do you – but you know the asymmetry of this warfare, which
is the gun owner…

WILLIAMS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I have a brother like this. The Second Amendment people, that`s
what they think about. I`m not saying they`re crazy. That`s what they
think about.

Other people think about health care, education, foreign policy,
infrastructure, tax policy. They have a variety of interests. And they
will move on. Next week, we will be talking about immigration again and if
there is going to be a bill for the dreamers. We have a variety of

The gun owner has one. And that`s been their strength.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what, Chris? Last week, 78 – two weeks ago, 78
percent of gun owners stated unequivocally they wanted to have extensive
background checks.

Over 52 percent of them stated that they would agree with a list to show
all sales of weapons. And 48 percent of them said that they would agree to
make sure that people who were banned or on a list didn`t have an
opportunity to have a weapon. We`re not listening to gun owners.

MATTHEWS: So, why don`t they tell their leadership that? Why don`t they
send that in with their dues?


WILLIAMS: Because here is the problem, Chris. You know very well, there`s
a lot of people out here who are hiding behind the fact that they don`t
want to be looked at as the person who speaks out.

I don`t mind speaking out. I`m a gun owner. But I think it`s about time
that we stopped this madness. Back in 2012, I was involved in a high
school shooting with working with the kids after a shooting took place at
Chardon High School.


WILLIAMS: Two years later, I was at a football game with the Chardon kids
when a shooting took place at Marysville Pilchuck in Washington state.
Those kids called those kids there.

This is ridiculous that now, eight years later, we`re doing it again. It`s
going to happen again unless we take action. And I`m so proud of the fact
that these kids are stepping up. I wish more and more adults would applaud
these children, because at least at least they have the intestinal
fortitude that a lot of their parents don`t have in speaking out.

MATTHEWS: Well, the students who survived the shooting down there in
Florida were angered by the president`s tweet linking the FBI`s failure to
stop the school shooter to the Russian probe.

Well, today, after a brutal week of bad headlines, an anonymous White House
official told “The Washington Post” that the tragic shooting in Florida –
quote – “was it a distraction or a reprieve. A lot of people here felt
like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummelled.”

Isn`t it weird how the White House is using this as cover for their other
problems and misbehaviors?

WILLIAMS: The White House is hoping that, in 2020, that the same results
happen again.

This group will be three million strong, and they realize that these people
are laughing at them. They are ridiculing, making fun. They`re using them
as a stepping-stone for something politically. These three million kids
are going to speak out.

I`m going to be out there trying to push them to speak out and hope they
speak out, 3.9 million of them, Chris. That`s not something that a Russian
meddling can overcome, because I think, even if it affected 100,000 votes,
3.9 million, you will not stop.

MATTHEWS: OK. I hope everybody watching goes to our Web site and looks up
Montel Williams – called the THINK piece. It`s part of our THINK program
on our Web site.

Up next: “The L.A. Times” reports that another former Trump aide is ready
to flip, become a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe, this as some of
the president`s supporters are calling on him to pardon everyone who has
been indicted in the Russia investigation.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

While Friday`s indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies did
not charge any Americans in the conspiracy to interfere in the 2016
election, it left wide open the possibility of future charges against
potential co-conspirators.

As one former federal prosecutor told Reuters, if I was an American and I
did cooperate with Russians, I would be extremely frightened. Furthermore,
the indictment itself says those who were charged – quote – “conspired
with each other and persons known and unknown to the grand jury.”

In other words, the president and his campaign are not, as Trump has been
saying, off the hook when it comes to potential collusion charges. This
comes after CNN reported last week that former Trump adviser Rick Gates is
in the process of finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert
Mueller. Gates was indicted last October, along with his longtime business
partner Paul Manafort.

And like Manafort, Gates was charged with conspiracy to launder money and
making false statements in connection with his business dealings in

Now people familiar with the case tell “The Los Angeles Times” that Gates
is said to have told prosecutors that he would be willing to testify
against Manafort under that potential plea deal.

I`m joined right now by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney.

Joyce, I am fascinated by the way in which it looks like Robert Mueller is
proceeding. Let`s start with the fact that he brings out these Russian
indictments on Friday all by themselves. Somebody has said that is to
establish the underlying crime, and then from there he will go, if he has
it, to make a case against the Americans for colluding with this underlying
crime, and perhaps then going on to the obstruction charge, that there was
obstruction in prosecuting these charges.

How does this fit into a potential larger web of indictment, as you see it,

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: There is a lot of speculation about
what Mueller`s strategy was with dropping this indictment on a Friday.

I think it`s safe to say that Mueller indicted these 13 individuals and
three companies because he had evidence and facts that indicated that they
had violated federal law, that they had engaged in a conspiracy to defraud
the United States. And so he indicted them.

You can`t draw conclusions from an indictment. It doesn`t necessarily mean
Mueller is done. But for someone to think that there is nothing else
coming is a little bit like calling a ball game after the first inning.

There is nothing in this indictment that precludes further charges or
different charges by Mueller down the road.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Rick Gates.

And the degree of – I`m not usually on the side of Trump, but I just
wonder about overaggressiveness here. Could Mueller be up to basically
using Rick Gates to pressure Manafort with a long prison sentence on
something that has nothing to do with this past election in 2016, but just
something they can squeeze him with, and then they will get Manafort and
squeeze him to get to Trump?

Is that overaggressive prosecution to do this kind of domino effect?

VANCE: Even if that`s the case, it doesn`t seem unusually aggressive to

This president is plagued by the fact that he seems to have surrounded
himself with a number of people who have committed serious federal crimes.
And that makes them vulnerable to prosecution in their own right.

But it really looks like we will see this all come together as the case
progresses. Manafort and Gates are charged primarily with money laundering
funds that they received while they were pursuing work in Eastern Europe,
primarily involving Ukraine and Russia.

And, interestingly enough, Manafort was on board at the campaign when there
was that quick change to the Republican – the plank of the Republican


VANCE: … that discussed, you know, the approach for…


MATTHEWS: And it looked like a quid pro quo. It really did smell.

VANCE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this latest.

Politico is reporting today that President Donald Trump`s supporters are
issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the
investigation`s impact. However, the story notes that Trump`s lawyers and
aides insist it`s premature to discuss even the possibility of pardons.

My question is, it looks to me like you get into this stuff with “The
National Enquirer” stuff in New York and how people are paid to basically
not publish stories that are trouble for Trump. Is there state law
involved there?

In other words, could he pardoned from – pardon all these characters,
including himself, and still face state prosecution because of this kind of
stuff that is being picked up now?

VANCE: You know, even if this wasn`t a politically dangerous strategy,
something that clearly crosses everybody`s red line, it just, as a
practical matter, won`t work, because these people could be recharged in
the state system.

The pardon wouldn`t apply. The president can`t pardon people for crimes
that they commit that are state crimes.


VANCE: And, at the end of the day, these folks still have exposure.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. It`s great having your expertise, Joyce Vance,
for joining us tonight.

Up next: The HARDBALL Roundtable tackles Trump`s weekend on Twitter, this
crazy weekend he spent. He couldn`t play golf, so he tweeted. He spent
the past few days fuming about Russia, going after everyone, from his own
national security adviser to Oprah.

The one person he didn`t attack, you bet it, Vladimir Putin. Vlad the
Impaler, he won`t touch that guy.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



In his prolific Twitter tirade this weekend, President Trump railed against
the Russia investigation, casting blame on the FBI, President Obama too,
even members of his own administration like his national security adviser.
The only exceptions: Russia and Russia President Vladimir Putin.

“The Washington Post” reports that tweets came at a precarious time for the
president who is grappling with a number of scandals both professional and
personal. Report is Trump did not leave Mar-a-Lago until Sunday evening,
skipping his usual rounds of golf at his nearby course in what aides
described as a decision to show respect for the 17 people killed in the
school massacre. Instead, Trump spent his time watching television.

And all that TV watching led Trump to take yet another perceived adversary
on Oprah Winfrey. Trump wrote just watched the very insecure – one thing
she is not insecure – Oprah Winfrey who at one point I knew very well,
interview a panel of people on “60 Minutes”. The questions were biased and
slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and
defeated just like all the others.

Well, let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable on that. Ayesha Rascoe is
White House correspondent for “Reuters”, Karine Jean-Pierre is senior
advisor for, and John Brabender is a Republican strategist.

John, you first.



MATTHEWS: OK. Question, is Trump paranoid or guilty? Because if he is
guilty, he is not paranoid. And if he is paranoid, maybe he`s not guilty.

BRABENDER: Look, I do – despite –


BRABENDER: – I don`t always agree with, I do understand his frustration.
I mean, it did come out there where there was an indictment on the
Russians, and they said we have not found any collusion with these guys at
this point.

And so, that should be breaking news. That should be a big story. It
really wasn`t.


BRABENDER: And so I do think that rightfully the president was frustrated.
The problem is –

MATTHEWS: When you hit a single, they don`t announce you make it the

BRABENDER: Well, I don`t know, a lot of people would say that`s more than
a single. I think people have to understand. The president has built a TV
station under the Twitter umbrella.


BRABENDER: Incredible amounts of viewers. The problem is most TV
stations, they have editors and producers to make sure the right content
goes at the right time and said the right way. The president doesn`t have
any of, that and I think it hurts him.



day, the president is just very thin-skinned.

MATTHEWS: Is he guilty or crazy?

JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I think he`s thin-skinned.

MATTHEWS: You`re not answering my question.

JEAN-PIERRE: I think – I think –

MATTHEWS: Thoroughly inappropriately worried?

JEAN-PIERRE: I am concerned that he is in the Oval Office for sure. No,

MATTHEWS: I want an answer. Do you think he is guilty?

JEAN-PIERRE: I think he is crazy.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he is guilty?


MATTHEWS: What is he guilty of?

JEAN-PIERRE: I think he is guilty because he knows –

MATTHEWS: Of what? What did he do?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he is the one who can answer that, I think –

MATTHEWS: You said he is guilty. What is he guilty of?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think he feels that he – there is something that is
going to come out about Russia. Remember, there is money laundering. He
knows what the Trump Organization –

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right about that. Go ahead.

is crazy or guilty. I think as you were saying, I think that part of it is
he cannot stand anyone saying that he wasn`t the greatest candidate ever.
And the idea that Russians somehow pushed him over the edge is something
that he just cannot take. He wants everyone to think that he is greatest.

MATTHEWS: OK. Somebody said over the weekend, I like the metaphor. I
don`t agree with the politics. He said, if you ever hit a dog with a
rolled up newspaper, all you have to do is reach for the newspaper and the
dog runs, OK? He is that bat crazy about any mention of the word Russia
because he thinks somehow it`s going to say the Russians stole it for him.

RASCOE: Well, I think that`s the thing. He does not want anyone else to
take credit for what he feels is his great victory. Now, there may be
other things going on. The Mueller investigation is still going on. I
think that the White House did try to oversell ate little bit by saying
this proves no collusion. This is just one part of the investigation, and
it`s still ongoing.

MATTHEWS: So what are we going to do about guns?


MATTHEWS: I`m waiting for the Democrats to stick their heads up and
actually say anything. Anybody going to do anything?

JEAN-PIERRE: They should do something.

MATTHEWS: A number for the assault weapons ban. I`m very impressed. They
tend to be from the East Coast, the West Coast, Florida – sorry, not
Florida – some from Florida. And Hawaii. Hawaii is good on gun control

But the middle – get to the middle of the country, the only states that
support gun control are Minnesota and Illinois. The rest of the whole
heartland is against – that guy Lankford, did you watch that guy on “Meet
the Press” yesterday? Some of my friends in my neighborhood have AR-15s.
Well, I don`t know why they all have AR-15s.

RASCOE: Well, this is what I would say about guns. Is something going to
happen this year? It`s an election year. I don`t know I would bet on
that. But I think something –

MATTHEWS: Not even a background check?

RASCOE: Possibly. I think something cumulatively has happened. You look
at Newtown and say nothing happened after that. You look at all these
other shootings, nothing happened. But I think it builds on each other. I
think when you look at the history –

MATTHEWS: Last word.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, I was going to say, what you`re seeing from these young
people, these high school students in Florida is amazing.

MATTHEWS: But they don`t vote in the Senate.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, but these are the people who are going to be voting.

MATTHEWS: I hope, I hope. I just don`t see –


JEAN-PIERRE: Remember, they`re the largest – they`re becoming the largest
voting bloc.

MATTHEWS: There`s not a single Republican for gun control that I could
find in the United States Senate right now. Not one.

BRABENDER: Yes, on mental illness, they`re certainly talking about it.
And second of all, they keep coming back to the table –

MATTHEWS: Mental illness –

BRABENDER: – and saying when are we going to do something about the
violence that all these kids see in every movie and every game that they

MATTHEWS: Within two weeks I predict that Trump and company will be
calling for the death penalty for this kid. And they won`t be talking
mental illness anymore. That`s just a dodge this week.

This is a shell game. They talk mental illness when it comes to guns, but
when it comes to guilt, they`re going to say he is guilty and he ought to
be fried. You know they will.


MATTHEWS: You know your crowd will be saying, execute the guy. They won`t
be saying mental illness anymore.

BRABENDER: What would you like to have done with him?

MATTHEWS: I think he should be examined if he is mentally ill, you don`t
execute him.

BRABENDER: Well, I think any court, if he is mentally ill, probably won`t
execute him.

MATTHEWS: What do you think your cry will be from the right?



MATTHEWS: In other words, I`m just making the point that all this talk –

BRABENDER: I understand –

MATTHEWS: – all these crocodile tears about mental illness is only
(INAUDIBLE) against guns.


BRABENDER: – to parents and others that if he is not mentally insane and
he thought this out and he killed their children –

MATTHEWS: I know the difference.

BRABENDER: – then there should be execution.

MATTHEWS: Mentally, you know it was wrong to shoot these people. That`s
not a high bar. If he reaches that bar, he ought to be executed. That`s
the law in Florida.

BRABENDER: It was very carefully planned.

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure about capital punishment myself. I change on it a

Anyway, you`re sticking with you. You guys are all sticking with us, and
you`re watching HARDBALL, aren`t we? Yes.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable. And up next, in honor of Black
History Month, each one of our panelists, our roundtable will talk about
the African American figure that they most individually – most inspired
them. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

In honor of Black History Month now, we have asked each of our roundtable
people to tell us which African American figure inspired them personally.
We`re going to start with Ayesha and then go to Karine and then go to John.
Start away.

RASCOE: Well, my person is Toni Morrison. She was the first African
American to win a Nobel Prize for literature. She wrote two of my favorite
books, “Song of Solomon” and “Jazz.” I`ve read obviously a lot of her
other books, “The Bluest Eyes”, “Beloved”. But I just love her use of
language, her larger than life characters.

And she`d just really show me the importance of work. I would read her
books when I was younger. And they kind of transported me to another world
but a world that felt so familiar because our characters are African-
Americans. And you could see yourself, your family members, your community
in her stories.

MATTHEWS: That`s great. What did you think of her observation about Bill

RASCOE: Well, I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: He was the first black president. What did you make of that?

RASCOE: Well, I think that you can look at that politically in many ways.
He was embraced by the black community. And he did have he did use some of
that –

MATTHEWS: Was that a sort of hyperbole? Or apropos with –

RASCOE: Well, to a certain extent. But I think she is just an amazing

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you for doing that.


JEAN-PIERRE: I agree. She was a great writer.

Mine is Barbara Jordan.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I knew her! I`m old.

JEAN-PIERRE: That`s right.

I think she was a trail blazer, a political figure ahead of her time. She
was political genius. And “The Washington Post” once referred to her as
the first black woman everything. And there is so much truth to that,
because she was the first black woman that was elected to Congress from the
South. She was considered for VP, vice president candidate in 1976, of all
times in the time of racism and sexism.

Jimmy Carter`s campaign actually considered her, which was the same year
that she gave this amazing keynote speech.

MATTHEWS: It`s chilling.

JEAN-PIERRE: At the convention.

MATTHEWS: Chilling.

JEAN-PIERRE: Which is still known to be one of the top ten speeches of all
time. It was just phenomenal.


MATTHEWS: – Lincoln and everything.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right, and then Bill Clinton considered her for a Supreme
Court justice. I mean, there is so many kind of firsts for her when I
remember reading about her when I was a kid, I remember thinking who is
this powerhouse, this voice, this orator. And so, I really truly just kind
of fell in love with her story.

MATTHEWS: Sheila Jackson Lee today.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, that`s exactly right. And I think in the time that
we`re looking at with Russia and Trump, remember, she rose to prominence
during the Richard Nixon hearings for Watergate.

MATTHEWS: Her voice – I can hear her voice.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, such a strong voice.

MATTHEWS: John Brabender?

BRABENDER: Well, a little over a year ago, you did a nice story here on
people in American figures, the women that were centered on that, African
American that were hired.

MATTHEWS: “Hidden Figures”.

BRABENDER: “Hidden Figures” at NASA. And the lead was Katherine Johnson
who graduated from college at 18, was a mathematical genius, and was put in
a job to actually check the IBM computer`s accuracy to send John Glenn up
and make sure he got back alive. She ran into every barrier that African
Americans and women, and run into in the workplace, some even today.
Greatly underpaid.

But she ended up getting through the system, surviving, and showing what
she was really about. I just thought it was an incredibly inspiring story.

MATTHEWS: I think you agree with President Obama. He gave her the award

Thank you, Ayesha Rascoe. I`m so glad we`re doing this. Karine Jean-
Pierre and John Brabender.

When we return, let me finish tonight with a commendation I`m going toe

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a commendation.

Fifty years ago, our greatest broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite called
for a negotiated end to the Vietnam War. And here is some of what he said.

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders
both in Vietnam and Washington to have faith any longer in the silver
linings they find in the darkest clouds. For it seems now more certain
than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.
It is increasingly clear to this report they`re the only rational way out
then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who
lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.

Well, coming from Cronkite, the words came as a shocker. Here was the most
trusted man in America delivering a verdict on a conflict the United States
government was saying was winnable. President Lyndon Johnson knew its
power. If I`ve lost Cronkite, he said, clicking off the TV, I`ve lost
middle America.

I was wondering this weekend if people in the media today would or could
issue such a verdict on the killing fields that are now our schools. I say
that because the media, especially reporters for the local TV stations are
the people who cover such horrors up close and personal, just as Cronkite
earned his credibility on wire service report in World War II, it`s the
local news reporter who goes door to door, interviewing the schoolmates and
parents of those killed by today`s home front gun fire.

I know that news reporters are not supposed to take sides politically. But
truly, is there another side to the argument of whether an 18-year-old in
any emotional state should have access to an AR-15, a weapon perfect for
spraying human lives away in school corridors. It is the AR-15 that is the
weapon of choice of the school shooters, time and time again. Between now
and next time, the next one of these young killers will be shopping for his

The only question is whether we will stop him or not. The media can either
play its part or not. To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, that`s just the way
it is.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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