Trump “not backing down” on trade war. TRANSCRIPT: 03/05/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Ruth Marcus, Evan McMullin, Robert Costa, Annie Linskey, Steven Brill

Date: March 5, 2018
Guest: Ruth Marcus, Evan McMullin, Robert Costa, Annie Linskey, Steven Brill

to jail. You know what, Mr. Mueller, if he wants to send me to jail, he
can send me 20 jail. And then I`ll laugh about it and make a bigger
spectacle than I am on your TV show right now.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We`ll stay on the story.

That does it for “the Beat.” As always, thanks for watching. “Hardball”
starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Screw loose. Let`s play “Hardball.”

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

A campaign to Donald Trump said again today that Trump knew about the June
meeting at Trump tower with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The little known witness in the special counsel`s Russia probe is speaking
out today. And in the process revealing new details about the
investigation into Donald Trump and his campaign.

After being questioned by the special counsel last month, former Trump
campaign adviser Sam Nunberg today confirm that he has now received a
subpoena to turn over documents as well as to testify before a grand jury
this Friday.

However, in a series of interviews on multiple cable networks today,
Nunberg made clear that he intends to defy that subpoena, a move that will
inevitably set up legal showdown he is likely to win. But Nunberg is now
telling all about his experience in the hot seat with Robert Mueller`s
prosecutors. And he says he believes that the special counsel has already
got the goods on Trump.

Early today, Nunberg said the President might have done something wrong
during the election. Here is how he expanded on that with Ari Melber just
moments ago.


in something with his business.

MELBER: With his business?

NUNBERG: Yes. Did they ask you about the way he run his business?

NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business. And by the way, I have no
idea what he did. And he may not have done anything and I could be wrong.

MELBER: You felt they were asking you more about potential crimes related
to Trump organization more than the Trump campaign?

NUNBERG: That`s what I felt, yes.


MATTHEWS: Well, above all Nunberg was adamant on saying that he would not
comply with Robert Mueller`s subpoena which was issue bade federal grand
jury. The subpoena which was obtained by NBC News shows that investigators
want emails, text messages, work papers, telephone logs and other documents
going back to November 1st, 2015. The subpoena covers all communications
and other materials relating the President Trump and nine of his
associates, all of whom have been under scrutiny in the unfolding federal

Despite the potential legal repercussions, Nunberg said multiple times
today he will refuse to comply. As one of the President`s earliest
political advisers, Sam worked alongside Roger Stone, a self-proclaimed
dirty trickster who is known to peddle in the dark arts of American
politics. Stone is also under scrutiny in the Russia probe.

Well, starting in 2014, Nunberg worked with Trump through the official
launch of the campaign in June of 2015. However, he was fired in August of
that year just days before Roger Stone himself was fired.

Well today, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked
about Nunberg`s suggestion, the special counsel has something on the
President. Here is what she said.


moments ago I think he, meaning the President may have done something
during the election, but I don`t know that for sure. Your reaction.

definitely doesn`t know that for sure because he is incorrect. As we have
said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, reacting to that late today, Nunberg took a shot across
the bow at the White House, attacking Sarah Sanders by name. Here is


NUNBERG: Sarah should shut up. She is a terrible communications. By the
way, her Presidential – the person she defends every day, he is a 35
percent approval rating. She should shut her mouth.

MELBER: Let me ask you the important question.


MELBER: Do you understand –?

NUNBERG: And I`m warning her by the way to shut her mouth.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Julia Ainsley, national security
and justice reporter for NBC News. Paul Butler is former U.S. attorney and
MSNBC legal analyst and Eli Stokols, of course, is MSNBC political analyst,
Joyce Vance is a former U.S. attorney. She is with us also. Thank you

Well, there you had a taste of Harry, the night, meaning, a taste of Roy
Cohn in the night. That shut up that whole sort of manner of talking, the
sort of street corner manner, and then saying they have got something on
Trump, but I`m not going to talk about it. I`m going ignore the subpoena.
Put it all together, Julia.

mean, this is definitely one of the big characters, you know, in what he
portrayed today that is really grabbing a lot of headlines. But I think at
the end of the day, Sam Nunberg, it`s not about defending Trump at all. He
is really throwing Trump under the bus. He is saying he doesn`t want to
comply with the subpoena right here because it`s too much work. That he
doesn`t want to hand over everything, all of his communications on these
ten people. That`s not really how one usually deals with the justice

And he is sort of turning this into him against them. Like they are a
political opponent and not the justice department. And at the end of the
day, it really seems to be more about saving his mentor, Roger Stone than
it is about Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what it sounded like. Nunberg said he believes
Mueller`s investigation, investigators are using him to build a case
against Roger Stone. And he said that he was offered immunity if he gives
the prosecutor something.


NUNBERG: They are trying to set up a perjury stone against Roger Stone,
and I`m not going to have them. Roger is my mentor. Roger is like family
to me. And I`m not going to do it. I`m not going to do it. And Roger did
not talk. Roger may have lied about it –

MELBER: Are you basing that view trying to use you to get to Roger based
on a theory or based on the question they asked you?

NUNBERG: Based on the questions they asked me. I had no idea in advance
what they wanted for the grand jury. But what they did tell me was I
wasn`t going to be a subject or a target, and I was going to get the same
kind of immunity. But they wanted something.


MATTHEWS: Joyce, I think we heard here the honor among thieves, if you
will? The ability to be quite proud about loyalty as a value but not
truth. And there you have his best friend saying he may lie because that`s
OK, but he is not going give up Trump. Tell me about what the prosecutors
are going – given the fact they got this Nunberg guy here saying I`m loyal
to Roger. Roger he says is loyal to Trump. How are they going unravel all
of this and use them against each other back to Trump?

important thing that we know about the rule of law is that witnesses don`t
get to decide who they will testify against. So if special counsel`s
investigation wants this testimony, they will get it one way or the other.
And Nunberg inviting Mueller to put him in jail seems like an invitation
that Mueller will be capable and likely to take him up on. You can`t let
witnesses run amok and decide when they will and won`t testify.

MATTHEWS: Well, Nunberg also laughed off the prospect at his refusal to
comply with the subpoena would land him in jail. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If a witness refuses, then I do think they face
contempt of court and possible jail.

MELBER: And contempt of court as Mr. Nunberg and I were discussing earlier
can bring jail.

NUNBERG: I`m not going to jail. Come on, Ari. You think I`m going to


MATTHEWS: What is this, judgment by Nunberg? I mean, this is -
(INAUDIBLE). How does this guy – he is a little bit like Carter Page.
They all seem a little screwy. (INAUDIBLE). They don`t seem like the
normal professionals you deal with in Washington. They admit that their
best friends and the hero of their life is a liar, can lie, but not give
away his other guy? It`s mob talk.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So fast forward into the trial.
Robert Mueller, if anyone actually goes to trial, he is going to have a
hard time with witnesses because all of his witnesses so far have either
plead guilty to lying which makes them bad witnesses or they are kind of
crazy like Carter Page and Nunberg.

So Mr. Nunberg, if your lawyer is listening, your lawyer needs to call you
and talk to you. Because, I mean, no lawyer wants to see a client self-
destruct like this. He is so going to jail. What you do as a prosecutor,
a guy doesn`t show up or says he is not going to talk, you ask the United
States Marshall, you first, you ask the judge to hold him into contempt.
The judge says yes, United States marshal marches him right off to the
federal penitentiary and he sit there`s until he gets with the program.

MATTHEWS: You know, Eli, you and I worked on this. We are working the
story. It`s all about potentially down the road did the President do
something criminal, could he be impeach? And let`s face it, that`s
somewhere in the background. And now we have this guy, this witness who is
refusing to be a witness, but every say - run on three TV show, the full
(INAUDIBLE). The Ivory (ph) shows he can talk of that. He says Trump knew
about the June meeting with his family members, meeting with the Russians
to get dirt on Hillary. Admitting collusion I would think or certainly
close to collusion. And he just spits it right out there. I mean I think
that`s still the story that we`re working here.

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And he says he wants to protect
Roger Stone, his mentor. And he is not doing Roger Stone any favors
blurting out he may have lied about it. Stone hasn`t talked to the special
counsel. He has only talked to Congress. But telling the special counsel,
signaling that hey, all these things that Roger Stone has said before may
have been untruthful, coming from someone who claims to talk to Roger Stone
more than a dozen times a day, not all that helpful to Roger Stone.
Helpful to the special counsel and people in that office.

And I just think Sam Nunberg, I mean, this is a guy, all reporters have
talked to, anybody covering Trump, we have all talked to him dozens of
times. And you take what he says with a grain of salt. He is not in the
inner circle, OK. Everything he hears is second or third hand from this
White house. He is close with Steve Bannon –.

MATTHEWS: Is he a Kato Kalin (ph) type? He don`t care what he does.

STOKOLS: He has people compared today in the full Nunberg, if you want to
call that to the O.J. chase and watching this sort of thing that you are
just stunned to see going on for hours and hours.

MATTHEWS: He is not that shy. As I mentioned, Nunberg also said that
Donald Trump knew about that infamous meeting with Russians at Trump tower
in June of 2016. Let`s watch him sort of give it away here.


Trump says that President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting. Do
you think that`s true?


TAPPER: You don`t think that`s true?

NUNBERG: No. You know it`s not true. He talked about it the week before.
And I don`t know why he did this. All he had to say was, yes, we met with
the Russians. The Russians offered us something, and we thought they had
something. And that was it. I don`t know why he went around trying to
hide it.


MATTHEWS: Paul, just a minute. I want to get to the law here. If he did
agree to meet, that`s a fact of law, a question of law. And he did
(INAUDIBLE), send people, he had agents doing it, get some dirt on Hillary,
get it from a foreign operative, is that a crime?

BUTLER: Well, so it depends on whether it`s a thing of value. You can
talk about financial campaign contribution. You could talk if there is an
agreement to hack emails or to strategically coordinate the release of
those emails. Then all that of is a crime. It`s conspiracy to defraud the
United States of America.

And this guy, Sam Nunberg, again, this is another sign that special counsel
Mueller is shifting his focus from obstruction to collusion with Trump as
the target. So this guy is allegedly the kind of whisper for Roger Stone.
Roger Stone`s directly implicated in collusion. He exchanged emails with

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, in another interview today, Nunberg also discussed
Carter Page, the foreign policy adviser in the Trump campaign who has been
under scrutiny as well for his Moscow trips during and after the campaign.
Here is what Nunberg said when asked whether he had ever corresponded with


NUNBERG: He asked me about communications with Carter Page. Do you think
I would communicate with Carter Page? Carter Page is a scumbag.

TAPPER: OK. So the answer is no. You would not communicate with Carter

NUNBERG: So the answer is, no. And Carter Page was colluding with the

TAPPER: So Carter Page was including with the Russians, you think?

NUNBERG: Yes, I believe Carter Page was colluding with the Russians.


MATTHEWS: He is talking. He is singing like a songbird about everybody,
not saying a good word about anybody.

AINSLEY: Here is a thing, Chris. If he didn`t want to go before the green
jury, he could actually before the grand jury and just not say anything.
He could plead the fifth. He is taking a far more legally damning route by
going public with this.

MATTHEWS: Is he afraid of, you know, bad language in the emails, stuff
that is embarrassing personally he may have said? That`s what he seems to
be getting at, just personally embarrassing conversation.

AINSLEY: If that was the case, he could go before them and plead the
fifth. He has that right to do.

MATTHEWS: On a documentary.

AINSLEY: On the documents, yes. He could plead the fifth before the grand
jury. The documents he would eventually need to give up. But the thing is
here, he instead decided to take this route where he wants to not talk to
the grand jury, but talk to everybody else in town (INAUDIBLE).

MATTHEWS: Joyce, let`s go to that point of law and that question about
that. Paul is shaking his head, yes. So I assumed you can`t. You can
always take the fifth. But do you need any grounds for it like personal
embarrassment? I thought you had to defend yourself against incriminating
yourself. That`s the fifth amendment. Do you have to point to a crime you
might be guilty of to claim the fifth?

VANCE: You do. And the way it works in the grand jury is when a witness
takes the fifth amendment, there will often be that little colloquy with
prosecutors what the crime is. But in this case Nunberg, if he is to be
believed said he was offered immunity by prosecutors. That means he would
no longer have a fifth amendment privilege to assert. And he would have to
respond to questions or face being held in contempt of court and held until
he decided to answer questions down the road. So that won`t work for him

MATTHEWS: Paul, let`s talk about the way he went to. We have talked about
this for weeks, months now, how a smart prosecutor like Mueller will work
his way up to the tree. He will work one person to get to the other person
to get to the other person and work his way. Why is he going in the crazy
world now? Why is he going into the Roger Stone, Carter Page, Sam Nunberg
crowd? These aren`t considered serious people in terms of government or
even politics, but they are willing to do stuff that`s off the grid.

BUTLER: So what does it mean, Chris? Now we know his target is President
Donald Trump. So he is getting in touch with people who are in Trump
world, close to him. And he is hanging out with crazies. He is talking to
people who are crazy, who happen to have pertinent information, again,
about collusion.


STOKOLS: I mean, Sam said in the interview with Ari, he said well, the
interview with Mueller, they were asking – or the special counsel
attorneys, they were really not asking about the campaign stuff. They were
mostly asking about his businesses.

Well, Sam was there the years before he was a Presidential candidate. He
wasn`t on the campaign. So just because they weren`t asking him about the
campaign doesn`t mean they`re not interested but it does tell you they`re
looking at other stuff.

MATTHEWS: How long has Sam Nunberg, the guy who is a center of all these
craziness today, attached in any way to Trump?

STOKOLS: A few years going back to around –.

AINSLEY: 2011.


MATTHEWS: I mean, Roger goes back to the 20th century.


MATTHEWS: We had a town meeting and there he was sitting next to Melania.
He was there just tagging along.

Anyway, speaking about the subpoena in his interview earlier in MSNBC,
Nunberg specifically denied finding any damaging emails that he was worried
about, saying he had not even looked at the emails, his emails after being
contacted by the prosecutors. Let`s watch this defense of sorts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sam, did you find an email in the last 24 hours that
made you worried? An email you didn`t want to hand over?

NUNBERG: Not at all. Did somebody just feed you that question by the way
into your ear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It`s a question I came up with off the top of my

NUNBERG: It`s a very good question. No I did not. I did not at all. In
fact, you know what I did, Katie, I did not go over any of my emails since
I have been contacted by them.


MATTHEWS: That`s one way to win the heart of the person interviewing you.
Did somebody just give you the idea to ask the question?

Anyway, minutes later in that same interview Nunberg contradicted himself
saying he had gone over his emails within the last couple of hours.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has anybody at all contacted you in the last few
days, the last 24 hours to encourage you not to talk to the special

NUNBERG: I decided –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sorry, the grand jury.

NUNBERG: I decided a couple of hours, a couple hours ago, I decided this
when I was going over all my emails.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s do a little psychobabble, because sometimes the best
we can do in this crazy world. We now know that this guy has a lot of
stuff to say against the President if he gets called into a witness box or
before the Congress next year in an impeachment hearing. It`s all coming
out of this guy.

Why is he afraid to answer honestly the subpoena to produce his emails?
What`s your bet? Because this is a big – he is facing a contempt. And,
you know, we know people have spent months in prison, serious over here and
over here in Arlington, wherever, Alexandria, if I visited somebody over
there, a journalist, pretty well-known journalist who was over there. And
you sit there for months in prison garb, eating prison food in a cold cell
because you won`t abide by a subpoena.

AINSLEY: Yes, that`s right. So I mean, just kind of based on what he is
saying here, he seems to be protecting Roger Stone. It could be that Roger
Stone doesn`t want information that could come out in these emails. It
could be that he –.

MATTHEWS: But he says they already have Stone`s emails with him, he

AINSLEY: Yes, that`s true. But he somehow doesn`t want to cooperate
because he says that there could be a perjury case against Roger Stone. I
will say another thing that is interesting, because I think that`s a tough
question to answer is that we have heard at the White House today, and I
know certainly in our offices at NBC, everybody had these interviews up on
full volume. But the one person who was not watching this today was Robert
Mueller. And we checked in at the special counsel`s office. This is sort
of a sideshow to them. They of course want the guy to come.

MATTHEWS: Let`s not kid yourselves. They will be asking for the video

AINSLEY: But I think he was doing a public dance here. And they want to
(INAUDIBLE) comment.

MATTHEWS: It will be on You Tube.

BUTLER: If Nunberg is saying that Stone lied, I mean, that`s more leverage
that he can use against Stone. So this about Nunberg to Stone to the
President of the United States.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s not squealing rather than anything else.

STOKOLS: Some people say I don`t think Nunberg knows who he is deal with.
Trump sued him. Trump is bluffing. Mueller is not a bluffer. But you can
look at this in another way in that Sam Nunberg realizes that he is under
immense pressure here, doesn`t know what to do and that`s what generated
this sort of public freak-out today.


MELBER: Thank you Julia Ainsley, Paul Butler, Eli Stokols and Joyce Vance.

Coming up, as the Russia probe inches closer to Trump, Trump is once again
blaming President Obama saying he did not to stop Russian interference in
2016. And of course that`s just another effort by Trump to distract,
especially now that we know his own state department was given $120 million
to stop Russian meddle, and then spent zero. They are not doing nothing,
we as a country because of Trump isn`t doing anything right now.

Plus, the chaos inside the White House is being described as pure madness.
Even Trump`s allies say negotiating with him is like a pinball machine.
And now Trump is joking about being President for life.

And how to guard against fake news in the age of Trump? There is so much
have been out there. And tonight, we are going to find out about a new
effort under way to help you weed out the wheat from the chaff, as we say
in the bible.

Finally, let me finish with last night`s academy awards. This is
“Hardball,” where the action.


MATTHEWS: The 2018 primary season kicks off tomorrow, and there are signs
that things are looking up for Democrats, even in places you might not

Democrats are seeing record early vote numbers ahead in tomorrow`s Texas
primary. That`s Tuesday. In the top 15 counties in that state, the
Democratic early vote has jumped 105 percent when compared to the last
midterm elections back in 2014.

On Republican side, they have only seen a 15 percent uptick. Well, that
translates to nearly 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans casting early
ballots. We will see how this picks up.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As special counsel Robert Mueller zeros in on President Trump and his
allies` connections to Russia, the former Soviet republic`s brazen assault
on our democracy goes unpunished.

Instead, President Trump continues to cast blame on the Obama
administration for not doing enough on Russia. This morning, he tweeted:
“Why did the Obama administration start an investigation into the Trump
campaign with zero proof of wrongdoing long before the election in
November? Wanted to discredit so crooked Hillary would win?
Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate. Plus, Obama did nothing about
Russia meddling.”

That`s all the tweet.

Meanwhile, Trump`s only national security officials say they haven`t been
directed to stop Russian meddling.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Have you been directed to do so, given
the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant
consequences you recognize already?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think our adversaries think right now? If
you do a cyber-attack on America, what`s going to happen to them?

ROGERS: So, basically, I would say right now they do not think that much
will happen to them. Our adversaries have not seen our response in
sufficient detail to change their behavior.


MATTHEWS: When asked what steps the administration has taken, here is what
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to say:


they announced through the State Department that $40 million is being given
to the Global Engagement Center to begin providing immediate support to
private and public partners that expose and counter Russian and Chinese
propaganda and misinformation.


MATTHEWS: However, according to “The New York Times,” the State Department
has yet to spend any of the $120 million allocated to counter foreign
meddling in our elections.

“As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the government – in
department`s Global Engagement Center, which has been tasked with
countering Moscow`s disinformation campaign, speaks Russian. And a
department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer
experts needed to track the Russian efforts.”

This is a tough one.

For more, I`m joined right now by Evan McMullin, former CIA operative, and
Ruth Marcus, who knows everything, columnist and deputy editorial page
editor for “The Washington Post.”

Ruth, I want to go – maybe I will start with you.

RUTH MARCUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: That`s kind of high bar for poor Evan




MATTHEWS: Evan, because I think it`s fascinating. We had this thing
struck us in 2016. Here we are going into 2018.

Usually, you know, you fool me once, fool me twice, that whole thing.
We`re letting it happen.

MCMULLIN: Absolutely.

So why are we letting it happen? I think the answer lies with the
president. He is our commander in chief. He has the authority to respond
to Russia in a way that would punish them and deter them. But he isn`t.
And so there is some conflict there. There is some reason why he isn`t.

MATTHEWS: Give me that. Come on. You`re a political guy. You ran for
president. Tell me why he is not doing it, because there is a reason. We
know the reason.


MCMULLIN: Well, the reason could be that there`s – that he has done
something wrong in the past that Putin is aware of, and Putin holds that
over him.

Or it could be – and this is actually what I sense is part of it as well -
- that, look, the president, like other politicians in Europe who are
supported by Putin, they want the help. They want the Russian help. And
so they`re not going to push against it or counteract it.

MATTHEWS: These are the right-wing people? Or which crowd likes this?

MCMULLIN: Well, right now, it`s far right. In the past, it`s been the far
last. Sometimes, now it`s in the far left too. But these are the extremes
that Russia tries to promote. Right now, they`re with Trump.

I don`t think he wants to stop it. I think he wants the help. And that`s
why he isn`t. But I also think Putin knows something about Trump and his
activities, whether it`s business activities or some other action or
activity he was involved, in that was compromising to Trump.

And he has that and he holds it over Trump. That`s not an uncommon thing.
It`s actually very common, especially among leaders that Putin supports.
That`s what the situation is. And it`s unfortunate.

So we`re left without a commander in chief who is going to deter future

MATTHEWS: Ruth, you – we have all sort of figured out Putin. He is a
bully. He is a tyrant. He fits the old order, pre-World War II order,
where every bully country bullies other countries, until some bully bullies
them back again. That`s a world war.

But what`s Trump`s motive? If he recognizes the threat from Russia, he has
recognized there was one in 2016, or nefariously, he doesn`t want to ruffle
the feathers of a guy who has got stuff on him? Where are you on that?

MARCUS: So, I don`t know what his motive is.

It could be something nefarious, as Evan suggests. It could be something
as less nefarious as he just feels threatened. He feels like the
legitimacy of his election is threatened if he allows any possibility that
Russian meddling existed and therefore could have affected the outcome.

My position on this is, I don`t care what the reason is, because he is
guilty of dereliction of duty. Whatever happened in 2016, whatever that
says about his election, he is the president now. He`s got a country to
protect in 2018 and 2020.

What is he doing about it? He is tweeting about 2016 and Obama? Come on.
Let`s have a Security Council meeting. Let`s have a serious effort to make
sure this doesn`t happen. We haven`t seen that. That`s the outrage.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jane Mayer of “The New Yorker” magazine is also out with
an extended profile of Christopher Steele now, the former British
intelligence officer who compiled of course the Trump dossier.

She reports that in his interview with Mueller`s investigators, Steele is
believed to have shared information from a senior Russian official about
President Trump`s search for a secretary of state just before the election
in November of 2016.

“The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But what he heard was astonishing.
People were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump`s initial
choice for secretary of state, Mitt Romney.”

Furthermore, Steele reportedly learned that – quote – “The Kremlin
through unspecified channels had asked Trump to appoint someone who would
be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions and who would cooperate on
security issues of interest to Russia.”

Well, I don`t know how far to go with this, Evan. But if we had a
blackballing situation in Moscow, where the president was thinking, or the
president-elect was, oh, thinking Romney is sort of pretty good, he is not
my best friend, but he is competent, he speaks other languages, he has been
around the world, he is a smart guy, but I`m not going to do it because the
Russkies said I can`t do it, I mean, that`s pretty frightening.

MCMULLIN: Well, it is pretty frightening.

But this is my point here, is that I think we have to get past this idea
that the president is just irresponsible or he is offended by accusations
that the Russians helped him get elected, and it wasn`t his win, it wasn`t
because he was…


MATTHEWS: Are you putting down Ruth`s theory here?


MARCUS: We have to get to beyond it.


MATTHEWS: That was a slap shot.

MCMULLIN: No, no, no.


MARCUS: I`m just sticking with the evidence we know so far.


MATTHEWS: We know he can`t say the word Russia within his Cabinet, because
it`s like you can`t say that word here.

MARCUS: Right. It sets him off. We know it sets him off.

MCMULLIN: Yes, Ruth`s view is the most accepted view. I fully acknowledge

All I`m saying is, this is what happens in every country. When Putin
intervenes, he chooses a candidate. He promotes extremist movements that
are anti-democratic. Those leaders that he promotes, that he supports,
they`re responsive to his – this is how it works.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re the spy here. You`re the spy.


MATTHEWS: We have a spook here, so let`s ask him what he knows.

Do you think he is knowing what`s going on tonight with this guy Sam
Nunberg? Because he knows there`s a guy out there blabbing away about
these things with the Russians, with he and Roger Stone, all their
connections over there, and who was at Trump Tower and who knew about it.

Is he getting that stuff in real time, Putin?

MCMULLIN: No, I don`t think so.

MATTHEWS: It`s late at night.

MCMULLIN: There are a lot of people involved here. Many of them are crazy
or incompetent. Like, I don`t think there is so much control.

MARCUS: Can I ask a question, since we`re playing ask the spy?

My question is, wouldn`t the smart play for Putin and the Russians now in
2018, if they wanted to meddle in the election, be to meddle on behalf of
Democrats, so that you could set up a Democratic House and have an
impeachment scenario? Because then you just have the chaos that they`re
looking for.


MATTHEWS: That sounds like – Nixon did that.

MCMULLIN: Perhaps. Perhaps. But then you get more sanctions to Moscow.


MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, Nixon had – was trying to get – I used to listen to
the tapes. Nixon tried to get his crowd of henchmen to break into the
Republican headquarters and make it look like a Democratic job.

Anyway, thank you, Evan McMullin, Mr. Spymaster, and Ruth Marcus.


MATTHEWS: General information from her.


MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump is reportedly being driven to madness
by cable news coverage. He is so erratic that some are comparing his
negotiating tactics to that of a pinball machine.

And against this backdrop, Trump is joking about being president for life?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



trade war. Thank you.

QUESTION: No trade war.

TRUMP: I don`t think so. I don`t think you`re going have a trade war.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump stunned even some of his own aides last week, announcing
new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He defended his proposal with
tough talk, saying: “Trade wars are good and easy to win.”

While Trump insists he is not backing down, his tariffs are causing turmoil
for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were left in the dark prior to the

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan told NBC News: “We are extremely
worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White
House to not advance with this plan. Well, the new tax reform law has
boosted the economy, and we certainly don`t want to jeopardize those

That`s the House talking.

It`s not the first time in recent weeks Trump has teased taking action
counter to Republican orthodoxy. He did that with guns and with the
dreamers. However, he ultimately backed off in both cases.

Anyway, “The Washington Post” reports lawmakers have learned to expect the
unexpected from this president. New York Representative Peter King said of
Trump`s negotiating style: “It`s a zigzagging, something like a pinball

Well, over the weekend “The Post” also reported Trump`s quick change
policies on trade and guns are fueled by the scandals roiling the White
House and Trump`s ominous moods.

According to “The Post”: “Trump`s friends are increasingly concerned about
his well-being, worried that the president`s obsession with cable
commentary and perceived slights is taking a toll on the 71-year-old.
`Pure madness,` lamented one exasperated ally.”

Well, given all that, it can sometimes be a challenge to defend Trump. And
that was certainly the case this weekend, especially with one stunning

We will be back with that incredible piece of tape and the HARDBALL
Roundtable after this break.



CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: So, this is going to happen this
week for sure, the way he said it, 25 percent, 10 percent?

WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: Whatever his final decision is, is
what will happen.

TODD: Meaning this isn`t a done deal?

ROSS: I didn`t say that. I just said, what he has said, he has said. If
he says something different, it will be something different.

I have no reason to think he is going to change.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross covering himself, trying to explain
President Trump`s position after his tariff announcement last week, maybe
sure if it changes, he`s still with him. And it comes as “The Washington
Post” quotes a Trump ally who describes the scene inside the White House as
pure madness. By the way, what kind of ally says it`s pure madness? There
is something wacky here.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable: Robert Costa, who knows this guy,
national political reporter for “The Washington Post”, Annie Linskey,
national political reporter for “The Boston Globe”, and Geoffrey Bennett,
he`s, of course, correspondent for NBC.

Thank you all. Let`s just do this. I had a little time with the
president, not just chatting with him and Melania, and, you know, I guess
all politicians are good at chatting and charm. And he is as good as
anybody. I didn`t sense in any sweat.

Let me go to you, Geoff. You were there the other night, weren`t you?

GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: At the what, the Gridiron Dinner?


BENNETT: No, I wasn`t there.

MATTHEWS: Well, who? And Annie was there.


MATTHEWS: Well, just tell me, he put on a show. His speech was good for
about five or ten minutes and then it was bad and it was OK at the end. It
looks like –

LINSKEY: It was a very surprising speech. I mean, it`s not the kind of
speech I`ve ever heard from him before. You automatically think back to
the Al Hunt dinner where his jokes didn`t go over well. But he –

MATTHEWS: Al Smith, please? Al Hunt –

LINSKEY: Al Hunt – oh my goodness, you`re right. Al Smith dinner. And
this speech, he made some very edgy remarks.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it wasn`t funny and charming. But he was – it started off
with the funny thing. I can do self deprecation. I`m the best there is at
self-deprecation. He`s very good, because he worked in that.

But you can tell when a person, I was watching him up at the podium. He
was starting to go to his notes and people came up and talked to him and
say he wasn`t getting – he wasn`t as prepared as much as he should have
been. But he didn`t look shook. Your view?

you to look at President Trump and say he may seem unrattled, but that
doesn`t tell you everything behind the scenes because the same day –

MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen him rattled?

COSTA: He – personally and temperamentally, he can be very thin-skinned
with attacks. And so, if he sees a crowd number he doesn`t like reported,
if he sees an attack on Twitter, then you saw earlier on the day on the
Gridiron, he was going off on the media on Twitter. Then he comes in, puts
the performance at the Gridiron dinner.

His aides tell me he is so unpredictable. Sometimes he`ll come down from
the residence in the morning and he`ll be in a mood and they`ll have
meetings and he`ll be in great spirits all day. Everything is cool, even
if the Russia investigation has all these indictments and everything else.
Other days he`ll come down after watching a few shows in the morning and
he`ll be erupting all day.

MATTHEWS: Well, you pointed out there are five stories in “The New York
times” recently, all on the front page, all against him. Now, you know,
nurture, nature, right? Part of who he is. The other part of him is, what
he`s put up, in the legitimate criticism of the guy is so strong. How does
he take it? He deserves it. But taking it is another question.

Geoff, you go in there?

BENNETT: The question is how does he compartmentalize?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Bill Clinton has his own trouble, created his own problem
but could give a speech for an hour and a half even when they had the wrong
stuff on the teleprompter. Remember that one?


BENNETT: Well, here, you made the point, you didn`t see the president
sweat, but that`s certainly not the case of his aides. And I think the way
that this whole tariff issue has unfolded is a case study of the level of
the sort of disorder and dysfunction –

MATTHEWS: I agree.

BENNETT: – within the West Wing.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

BENNETT: And it wasn`t the president`s decision to announce the tariffs.
It wasn`t at all motivated by policy. It was because he was seething after
the news of Hope Hicks leaving.

MATTHEWS: He was spitballing.


BENNETT: He was seething and looking for a fight and he settled on tariff
tariffs. As a result of that off-the-cuff comment, you have White House
policy – U.S. policy being created.

MATTHEWS: OK. Supposed he has to pull back on tariffs, create a lot of
exceptions. You don`t remember in Pennsylvania and Ohio that he tried, and
he`ll be the only president whoever tried to look out for the steel guys.

BENNETT: And people close to him say that`s why he is pushing this trade
issue is because of the House seat up for grabs.

MATTHEWS: The 18th.

COSTA: Republican lawmakers tell me they don`t know what is going on here
because they just passed a tax cut. And they say they`re going to run
traditional Republicans in some of the swing districts. Now, the president
is going out on a limb on trade and saying –

MATTHEWS: It`s Democratic policy, protectionism. This is the kind of
stuff Democrats in Pennsylvania, people like Bob Casey have been fighting
for going back to John Den of Western Pennsylvania. I`ve heard this all my
life. We heard some of this guy depend – Leo Gerard of the Steelworkers,
somebody has to look out for us, the price trigger mechanism, all that
stuff from over the years going back to Jimmy Carter. We have to help the
steel industry.

Finally, a guy comes on, I`m going to help you guys. It could be B.S., I
don`t know. But what do you think of the politics? Isn`t it a sure

LINSKEY: It really feels to me like brainstorming.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

LINSKEY: All of these issues, I mean, whether it`s guns, whether it`s
DACA, it`s like, here is an idea. Let`s just throw this out and see how it

MATTHEWS: The average person is tired of we know better economics because
people with their advanced degrees in economics and law degrees say the
people up there working up there in steel don`t know what they`re talking

LINSKEY: He ends up – every time he ends up in the same place, which is
the follow the Republican orthodoxy. I mean, he has always been –

MATTHEWS: You think he`ll pull back free trade?

LINSKEY: I mean, that has – if you look at his pattern, he says things
that are surprising but he ends up in the same place, which is Republican
orthodoxy. I mean, he has always –

MATTHEWS: He can come back to free trade.

LINSKEY: I mean, that has – if you look at his pattern, for saying things
that are surprising, he ends up in the same place.

BENNETT: And here`s the thing, just as we`re speculating here about what
the president may not or may do, so are White House officials we talked to
today. They have no idea what is going to happen.

MATTHEWS: We`ve got to go.

The roundtable is stay with us. Up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable for Monday night.

Robert, tell me something I don`t know.

COSTA: You got to think back to Nunberg. He was Bannon before Bannon. I
knew him in 2011, 2012, 2013. He was the who came up with the populism,
the nationalism, the outsider run for Trump.


COSTA: He`s out there today. He is saying wild statements publicly. But
if you knew him back then, he was the one telling Trump way back when to
run as an outsider, run on immigration.

LINSKEY: That`s good.

MATTHEWS: Smarter than he looks. Go ahead.

LINSKEY: So, changing gears for a second. I was looking at some – I
wrote a story for “The Globe” in today`s paper, looking at – Trump came in
with the promise he was going to cut government. He tried to cut 19
agencies that he laid, and a year later, we found out they`re all ticking
along and it looks like they`ll continue for the next certainly year,
likely two years. It`s much harder than it appears.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s more complicated.


BENNETT: Comedian Jon Stewart joined New York lawmakers today to protest a
White House plan that would reorganize the health care fund for 9/11 first
responders. So, white House officials today more or less dismissed their
concerns. But New York lawmakers and the bipartisan basis make a point
that this is a program that is actually working and shouldn`t be tinkered

MATTHEWS: It`s to take care of the 9/11 responders.


MATTHEWS: Well, good for that case.

Robert Costa, Annie Linskey, Geoff Bennett.

Up next, fighting fake news. One veteran journalist has come up with a new
way to combat disinformation in the age of Trump.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



back there. Look. Fake news.

It was fake news. It was a totally phony story. Thank you very much. It
was made up.

It`s totally fake news. It`s just fake. It`s fake. It`s made-up stuff.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump loves to call the media fake news when they report
something he doesn`t like. The term also refers to disinformation that is
spread online like this made-up story about Hillary Clinton posted on a
fake news Website.

According to a Dartmouth study in the weeks surrounding the 2016 election,
over 27 percent of adults visited an article on a pro-Trump or a pro-
Clinton site that has been identified as a fake news hub. It`s a problem
that will continue to affect our elections, and it`s one that journalist
Steven Brill is attempting to address before the 2018 midterms with his new
company “Newsguard”. He is planning on hiring journalists to evaluate
7,500 Websites for accuracy and transparency. The goal is to have those
ratings appear when people search for news on Facebook or Google, if those
platforms allow.

I`m joined right now by Steven Brill, co-founder of “Newsguard”.

Steve, you were going to make enemies with this, because the very people
you`re trying to protect us from are going to go to war with you. The
people that do spew propaganda want to spew it and they want to confuse us
into believing it`s news.

STEVEN BRILL, CO-FOUNDER, “NEWSGUARD”: Well, I`m used to doing some
controversial stuff. But I actually, I will think this is going to be less
controversial than it seems. The basic thing we`re doing is applying basic
common sense to solve a problem that the algorithms are unable to solve,
which is to say that there`s a real newspaper called “The Denver Post” and
then there`s a fake news site called “The Denver Guardian”, which I think
was the site that posted some of the stuff you just referred to.

So, we`re going to have human beings, people who are trained as
journalists, read the sites and just rate the sites green, yellow or red,
the overwhelming majority likely to give the green rating. We`re not going
to rate individual articles. We`re not going to be terribly nuanced about
it. But fake is fake, and real is real.

And what we`re going to so is warn people with a red dot that something
they`re about to read or about to share is probably not reliable and they
can click on that rating and read a “Newsguard” nutrition label which will
be a 200 or 300 or 400 word description of who the site is, whose behind
it, how is it financed, what`s their reputation. And those nutrition
labels will talk about, you know, the history of “The Baltimore Sun” or the
history of MSNBC, what their approach is, who their people are, and the
history of “The Denver Guardian”.

MATTHEWS: What`s to stop people just Googling stuff, if you put somebody`s
name like Steve Brill down, everything that is written about you no matter
how notorious the site will show up. How do you get somebody to
discriminate that process?

BRILL: Well, it is show up in the search under that – the search that
pops up may have, you know, ten different headlines and articles. Nine of
which will be green and one of which will be red. And that won`t stop
people from reading the red. But they`ll know that they maybe should take
it with a grain of salt.

We`re not trying to block anything. We`re not trying to censor anything.
What we`re trying do is apply common sense from journalists just to arm
people with more information about what they`re reading, just the way they
used to have that information if they walked into a magazine store, or went
to a newsstand and they could see those brands, and they could tell the
difference between the “Philadelphia Inquirer” and “The National Enquirer”.

MATTHEWS: I hope they can always tell that difference. Thank you very

By the way, I always tell people, go to an edited newspaper. I worked for
a newspaper for years, 15 years. And the great thing about editors is,
it`s Friday night, it`s 6:30, you get the call, I`ve got a couple of
questions, you call them back, they say good story. Somebody has got to
check the facts.

And I`ll tell you, a great newspaper can do it. And people that don`t want
to do it shouldn`t be around. Anyway, I hope you can clarify that and
separate this wheat from the chaff as they say in the bible.

BRILL: That`s what we`re doing, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Good luck with that, Steve.

BRILL: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish tonight with last night`s Academy
Awards. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with last night`s Academy Awards.

I have the same reaction every year. It`s how I identify with the writers,
the people with the talent to make all those movie magics possible. These
are the people I look up to.

I have to admit, the movie – the mood up for best picture this year, the
movie I`ve been watching over and over is “Darkest Hour” about Winston
Churchill in World War II. We owe that movie, by the way, to the writers
because some of the best scenes in that movie never happened like his
visit, Churchill`s visit to the London subway when he heard the regular
working people the city showed their passion to stand up against Hitler.

That scene, I think the heart of the movie showed Winston Churchill at his
best. So I wonder where we`ll find the person to take on President Trump
in 2020, that person of talent. Yes, we have many candidates out there
said to be attractive.

But who has the talent? Who has aversion to what worked before, who has
FDR`s talent for inspiring confidence a worry panic-stricken country, the
depths of the Great Depression or Reagan`s talent for making the country
simply feel good about itself again, or Barack Obama`s talent for believing
in American exceptionalism? That is a country in which a story like Obama
is possible.

Well, I saw a lot of talent, from Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans on
Saturday night at the Gridiron Dinner. Let me put it on the record. He is
the best candidate for 2020 so far should he enter the race. He shows the
right stuff to take on Donald Trump. I think Trump saw it himself Saturday
night as he watched and listened to Landrieu.

Landrieu was strong and consistent and most of all downright impressive,
describing the kind of accountability a person leading a city has to show.
He showed me for one that governing can be the best qualification for
someone promising to govern. And that in 2018 going on `20 is talent.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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