Trump ignored advisers’ warning on Purtin. TRANSCRIPT: 03/21/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Alexi McCammond, John Feehery, Susan Page; David Corn, Rebecca LeGrand, Randy Bryce

Date: March 21, 2018
Guest: Alexi McCammond, John Feehery, Susan Page; David Corn, Rebecca LeGrand, Randy Bryce

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much.

That does it for me. I will see you back here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: To Russia with love. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Stunning details of President Trump`s phone call yesterday with Russian
leader Vladimir Putin have once again stirred intrigue and outrage over
Trump`s apparent unwillingness to hold Putin accountable for anything.

“The Washington Post” was first to report last night that President Trump
did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers
Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his
reelection including a section in his briefing materials in all capital
letters, saying do not congratulate.

Well, that advice went ignored by the President. And as the President said
himself in the oval office just yesterday, he did congratulate Putin on his
recent election victory.


Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The
call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the
not too distant future.


MATTHEWS: Without a credible opposition candidate, of course, Vladimir
Putin won a fourth six-year term on Sunday with almost 77 percent of the
vote. What a joke.

However, as we saw in his previous elections, the vote was tainted.
Cameras at polling locations captured several instances of people stuffing
ballot boxes. Election observers have reported numerous allegations of
fraud and intimidation. And yesterday`s call with Putin comes after
Russia`s believed to have used an internationally banned nerve agent on a
former Russian spy on British soil.

Yet according to “the Washington Post,” Trump also chose not to heed
talking points from aides instructing him to condemn the recent poisoning.

Well, the news of Trump`s call with Putin elicited a sharp rebuke from
Senator John McCain of Arizona, who said in this statement, an American
President does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on
winning sham elections.

And Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa echoed that criticism calling Putin in
light of Russia`s use of chemical weapon, a criminal.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: What he has done in London, killing people
with nerve gas? That`s a criminal activity. I wouldn`t have a
conversation with a criminal.


MATTHEWS: Well, the most alarming reaction, however, came from former CIA
director John Brennan who said Mr. Trump`s behavior suggested the Russians
could have something, could have something on the President.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think he is afraid of the President
of Russia.


BRENNAN: Well, I think what speculate as to why that the Russians may have
something on him personally. That they could always roll out and make his
life more difficult. The Russians I think have had long experience with
Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something personal perhaps?

BRENNAN: Perhaps, perhaps.


MATTHEWS: So they have a hook in him.

Anyway, responding to the groundswell of criticism today, Trump responded.
The fake news media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him.
They are wrong. Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not
a bad thing.

Well, joining me right now is Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for
“the Washington Post” and MSNBC analyst. Susan Page is Washington bureau
chief for “USA Today.” And David Corn is Washington bureau chief for
“Mother Jones.” And catch this, to his credit, author of the hot new book,
number one now on “The New York Times” bestseller list, “Russian Roulette.”
Well, that`s something else for you, sir, my friends. Comrade. I`m just
kidding. We are all talking about the Russian.

Phil, I am amazed by this thing here. Absolutely amazed by this thing.
Trump is told do not congratulate. He does it. Why does he have national
security people at all? Why have anybody writing him his notes if he is
going to ignore it all and do exactly what they say not to do? Now
everybody knows he is out there cozies up to a dictator who won a sham

PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, it is just incredible reporting by my
colleagues Carol Leonnig and others. But look, the President was told not
to congratulate Putin on this election because it`s not a free election.
It`s not a fair election as the video that you just played showed.

MATTHEWS: This is like calling up guy after watching a wrestling match on
television, a professional wrestling match, and saying congratulations on
your victory.

RUCKER: Yes. Well, he –.

that at some point.

MATTHEWS: It`s a joke.

RUCKER: Well, he was urged to try to stand up to Putin a little bit and to
confront him on that poisoning attack in Britain. He chose a totally
different tack out of step with what the U.S. intelligence community and
his owned national security advisers were urging him to do. But he made
his own decision. He says what he want to say as President. We elected
him to do those calls.

MATTHEWS: OK. While you are on the hot seat here, what about the hook?
What about the hook? The Brennan charge? He has got something on him.
Nothing else explains it.

RUCKER: I don`t know. That`s what Mueller is looking into. He may have
something. They may have something on him. They may not. I don`t know
the answer to that. But Bob Mueller sure knows more.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think Brennan said it?

RUCKER: I don`t know. I mean, he was the CIA director for all these years
for the period in that election when they began looking into the Russian
interference in the election. So clearly he is saying it based on some
knowledge he has from his time at the CIA. But he obviously didn`t specify

MATTHEWS: David, what do you have on your book? What do you have on the
back they have something on Trump?

CORN: Well, we know and we go into this in the book that the first memo
that Christopher Steele sent in was that for five years or longer, the
Russians had tried to cooperate and cultivate Trump. And there is a lot of
attention paid to this one particular allegation, which you know, Steele in
the book says at best it`s 50-50. But we talked to other people who talk
about Trump going to Russia over previous years and engaging in personal
conduct that might lead to what they call Kompromat (ph). But even more
importantly, you know, –.

MATTHEWS: You say cultivated in a nice way, but that is not – blackmail.

CORN: Well, there are two ways to do it, you know. Steele talked about
dangling business deals in front of him, which they certainly did. That
proved to be correct. But having spent a year on this, we found that
Michael Isikoff, my co-author and I, again and again that Trump showed that
he was obsessively, you know, almost in love with Putin. It was important
that Putin come to Miss Universe. It`s important that he meets with Putin.
He kept calling him his best friends. He has an aspirational affiliation
with Putin. But at the same tile, a lot of this was to get business out of
Russia. And he formed this pattern that everybody around him finds

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, everybody that goes to Russia, at least the few
people I know who have been there know there is somebody waiting for you,
like the girl of your dreams you met on the subway platforms. You heard
these stories about spying and how it works, spy technique.

Doesn`t Trump know that anybody he meets is not by accident, Susan? That
there are no accidental relations or romances in Russia? They are all set
up by the old apparatus of the KGB.

about why President Trump as a candidate in office has been so friendly to
Vladimir Putin is a fundamental question we have been unable to answer. I
mean, the fact is we were asking that question at the Republican convention
when they changed the platform, the Republican platform in ways that were
friendly to Russia. And I think that we just don`t know whether it`s
because there is compromising personal material, whether there is financial
ties that we don`t know about, or whether he just likes strong men. I
mean, that he is in effect expressed admiration for those kind of men. But
let`s hope with the Russia investigation that we will answer that question.

MATTHEWS: Well, when asked yesterday on whether the vote was free and
fair, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it`s not our place to
criticize a foreign election. Here she goes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the White House believe that the election in
Russia was free and fair?

election, they were focused on our elections. We don`t get to dictate how
other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in
their country. And that`s not something that we can dictate to them how
they operate.


MATTHEWS: Actually, in World War II we went to war against the dictators.
And we called them that all through the war. The dictators against

Anyway, that position you just heard from Sarah Sanders is not only at odds
with long-standing U.S. policy, it also contradicts this administration`s
own message towards other repressive regimes like Venezuela. President
Trump has had no problem criticizing allied leaders and their countries as
well. And so their figures around the world would hurt it. He has even
threatened to end the NATO alliance. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I always thought America was like this great leader. What she has
done in Germany is insane. It`s insane. They are having all sorts of

When I was in Asia, I spoke to a couple the countries about it, and they
looked like this. You know what this is? That means they know they are
getting away with murder and they got to start helping us out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are President and he is the British prime minister.

TRUMP: It looks like we are not going to have a very good relationship.

The Pope is being told that Donald Trump is not a nice person. For a
religious leader to question a person`s faith is disgraceful.

I will tell you about NATO. It`s obsolete and we are paying too much
money. Either they pay up, including for past deficiencies, or they have
to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.


MATTHEWS: OK. I`m Roman Catholic, but I do notice something here. When
he attacked the Pope, it`s like Jesus in the biblical books, you know,
talking. I say unto thee, you know. He even puts the hand up like that.

Anyway, let`s come back to one possible explanation of why he is always
cooing with Vladimir Putin.

From the beginning, when I was more optimistic about this guy around the
edges, I admit around the edges, I thought maybe he will pull the grand
deal, the grand slam. No more messing around with Bashar Assad and all
these games playing. We are going to end this thing. We are going to cut
a great east-west deals and the northern country, the ones that worry about
Islamic terrorism. We are going to get something done because these two
guys are going to do it together and kill all the old alliances to do it.
Now, I guess that`s not still a reasonable expectation with this guy is up

RUCKER: I mean, we are 14 months in and that hasn`t happened, right?
There is no grand bargain here with Russia. What we do know is –.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Syria under Bashar al-Assad is still there. There
has been no deal to bring him down.

RUCKER: But what we do know is what the U.S. intelligence chiefs testified
to Congress in the last few weeks which is that Putin or Russia under
Putin`s command is continuing to try to influence our election. It`s a
threat for the 2018 midterm elections.

MATTHEWS: Does he know this? Trump knows this.

RUCKER: He watches TV. He hears these briefings from his advisers. He
should know it.

MATTHEWS: Well, the story about the President`s conversation rattled the
White House, especially because the leak, and it is a leak, of sensitive
details surrounding the call came within hours. In other words, within
hours of the President talking to Putin, everybody knew that his briefers
said don`t do that, and they all knew it officially.

A White House official told NBC News that this story is accurate. That
means someone leaked the President`s briefing papers, leaking such
information is a fireable offense and likely illegal. And now the
“Associated Press” reports that the White House is conducting an internal
investigation. Additionally, Trump has told confidantes that he believes
the leak was meant to embarrass and undermine him, said White House
officials and outside advisers.

The President suggests it was done, here it comes, ready? The deep state,
they said. Well, minutes ago, the “Washington Post” further reported that
President Trump`s senior advisers were thrown when he told Russian
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that he expected to meet with him soon
as briefings before they call on Moscow included no mention of a possible
meeting. And aides have not been instructed (INAUDIBLE).

Susan, I want to talk – we were talking before we got on the air. I am
appalled that two or three people that might have seen a memo headed to the
President. You have to be pretty high up to get the paper. That he is
about to read about what he is supposed to say to other major world leader,
Putin. And within hours, no loyalty to him. It wasn`t a deep state. It
was somebody who had access to hiss paper.

PAGE: Well, they both saw the briefing paper beforehand, right, and they
knew afterwards that he had not done.

MATTHEWS: That is a lot information.

PAGE: That is a lot of information. It`s very closely held information.
And for the White House, and actually for even those who are not President
Trump`s allies particularly, this is as important as the leak itself. The
fact that the leak took place, this is a leakiest White House in history.

MATTHEWS: But who would know what he said on the phone to Putin except
somebody in the room listening on the phone?

PAGE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have a party line. Nobody else is listening.

CORN: Well, there may be a memo written after the fact.

MATTHEWS: By whom?

CORN: By people who were there listening.

MATTHEWS: In the room?

CORN: In the room.

PAGE: But even that`s closely held.

CORN: That`s very closely held.

I`m still, you know, the fact that he said to Putin, well, I will see you
soon, this is a guy who for years loves the idea of meeting with Putin.
And every time they get together, he doesn`t talk about the election. And
when he met with him for the first time as President in November 2017.

MATTHEWS: There is Putin there.

CORN: He then came on air force one and said, you know, if he tells me he
didn`t do anything. You got to take him at his word. He really seems
sincere. He loves Putin. He wants to meet with him. He wants to be his

MATTHEWS: Why? Why the love affair?

CORN: He identifies with strong men, not just with Putin. And he has
always wanted to be big in Russia. And I think he sees the presidency as a
stepping stone, as a way the get big in Russia or something else, because
he is not exacting from his own set of priorities. It seems
psychologically driven and a pattern he developed when he wanted the make

Remember, when he ran for President, he had a secret deal with Russia while
running for President without telling anybody.

MATTHEWS: You know, my wife and I sit and look at all the national
geographic. All interesting places in the world. And of all the places,
what I least want to visit is his country. And where the people I least
want to meet him.

I do not understand this bromance, whatever the hell it is. It is scary
there is something there. I think John -

CORN: Brennan?

MATTHEWS: John Brennan has something up his sleeve. He is the chief

Anyway. Thank you, Phil Rucker. Thank you, Susan Page. It is good to
have you back. We missed you the last couple of weeks. David Corn, thank
you. Congrats again. Number one “New York Times`” list, “Russian
Roulette.” What a title.

Coming up, the legal tidal wave looming over President Trump. The
President is facing lawsuit now from an “Apprentice” contestant, an adult
film star, a former playboy playmate. And that`s on top of the Russia
investigation being led by Mueller. With all these scandals in play, which
one poses the biggest threat nearest the President? I want know which one
can get to this guy, penetrate all his legal defenses the soonest?

Plus once upon time a time U.S. congressman Paul Ryan promised to stand up
to Donald Trump.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: If I see episodes where conservatism is
being disfigured, if I see ideas and comments that mislead the people as to
who we are as Republicans, I`m going to speak out on those.


MATTHEWS: BS. But these days Ryan just goes away with what Trump says.
So will voters hold him accountable this November? We are going to speak
to Randy Bryce, that`s the Democrat, one of them, who is looking to
challenge him for reelection to the House trying to knock off Paul Ryan.

And as the Republican Party lost his moral (INAUDIBLE), Republicans don`t
seem to mind Trump`s trouble with women, his coziness with Putin or his
threats to fire Mueller. All that is fine as long as he is on their team.

Finally, let me finish with a look at our two political parties today. How
far left are the Democrats? How far right are the Republicans? Great new
statistics from the Pew foundation.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, that was a close one. Seven-term congressman Dan Lipinski
last night survived barely a fierce challenge from the left, winning the
Democratic primary out in Illinois`s third congressional district.
Lipinski, a pro-life Democrat, narrowly defeated his progressive challenger
Marie Newman, 51-49. That`s a close primary. His win comes despite an
intense pushed by progressive groups and some Democratic members of
Congress from Illinois to oust Lipinski from the reliably Democratic
district he represents.

After last night`s victory, Congressman Lipinski is all but assured right
now an eighth term in Congress as Republican judges, catch this is a
holocaust denier who has been disavowed by the Republican Party.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump is facing three separate lawsuits now filed by an adult
film star, a former playboy model, and a former “Apprentice” contestant.
This trifecta, if you will, of third (ph) allegation leaves the President
legally exposed and in even more political jeopardy.

In Los Angeles, Karen McDougal, a former playboy model fought a lawsuit
seeking to end a confidentiality agreement with the parent company of the
“National Enquirer.” She joins Stormy Daniels who is also suing to get out
of her nondisclosure agreement.

Meanwhile, in New York, a judge ruled that Summer Zervos, a former
contestant on “the Apprentice” can proceed with a defamation lawsuit
against the President.

During the campaign, she along with more than a dozen other women accused
the President of unwanted sexual advances.

In her complaint, Zervos says of the president, knowingly – she says the
president “knowingly, intentionally and maliciously threw each and every
one of these women under the bus with conscious disregard of the impact
that repeatedly calling them liars would have upon their lives and

Well, the White House has denied all the allegations.

Well, looming over all this is the Russian investigation, of course. In a
pair of tweets this morning, the president ramped up his attacks on special
counsel Mueller. Trump cited law professor Alan Dershowitz arguing that
Mueller show never have been appointed in the first place.

For more, I`m joined by Maya Harris, an MSNBC political and legal analyst,
and Rebecca LeGrand, a defense attorney here in Washington.

Thank you both for your expertise.

And I have to start.

Maya, I want to ask you, when you think about this from Trump`s
perspective, if you are enlightened, if you`re a good attorney, what`s his
biggest threat?

MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the biggest peril that Trump
faces in all of this, you know, stems from the fact that he is a
pathological liar and the potential for perjury.

And to that extent of the three cases that the women have brought, the
Summer Zervos case presents the most immediate threat, because the court
has just ruled that that defamation case can go forward, which opens him up
to the potential for discovery and a deposition, where he would have to
testify under oath, which is why I also think that the lawyers who are
representing him in the Mueller investigation are terrified for having, you
know, him sit down with Bob Mueller.

Because whether he sits down voluntarily for an interview, as you know,
lying to a federal investigator is a felony. Or if he sits down in front
of a grand jury, where he would be under oath as well.

And so I do think that is the greatest peril that he faces. With the
likelihood of appeals in Summer Zervos` case, which could extend the time
out for a deposition to actually happen, it`s very possible that the first
place that he will, you know, sit down and be interrogated in a way that
would open him up to the potential for perjury if he is not truthful might
be with Robert Mueller.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Zervos case. She has charged with him
– or sued him basically for defamation. And he has defamed her by – he`s
said all these terrible things about her.

To win the case, he has to deny any contact with her, any of the things
that she said is true, right?


Well, there are a couple of different ways he could win. Oddly, his best
chance of winning might be that he has defamed so many women, that it`s
actually a little difficult to pinpoint when he`s calling Summer Zervos –
or when he is calling Summer a liar vs. calling other people a liar.

But, yes, Summer will have to show that what she said was true, that
inappropriate contact with Donald Trump happened, and that when Donald
Trump stood up and said repeatedly, these women are liars, that woman is a
liar, when he said those things, he knew that was false, and he did it
intentionally to harm.

MATTHEWS: OK. And his defense, does he has to prove that he was telling
the truth, that he didn`t have an affair or he didn`t have any encounter of
that kind with her, he didn`t try to harass her, he didn`t try to do what
she described him doing?

LEGRAND: The burden is on the plaintiff. And he is the defendant. So,
the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that this happened.

But a jury would get to hear a lot of information and a lot of facts to
decide who is more credible.

MATTHEWS: Maya, we went through a number of these precedents. They`re all
a little different. Bill Clinton with regard to Paula Jones got into a
situation where he lied eventually. We all know that. We all heard it on
the tube in that discovery with that case that ended up taking him into the
Monica case, Monica Lewinsky case.

Do presidents have to face down in these depositions? Do they have to go
in the box, if you will, and answer questions under oath while they`re
president? Do they have to? Is that established as a precedent now that
he has to deal with, Trump?

HARRIS: That has been established as a precedent. And, in fact, that is
what the court, the judge in New York found in refusing, denying the motion
to dismiss that was brought in Summer Zervos` case. She went straight to
the Supreme Court case with – in the Paula Jones case and found that you
are not immune from a civil suit when you are engaged in purely personal,
private, unofficial conduct, and that you can be held to stand, you know,
for a trial in a civil suit.

And that`s exactly what has been found. His lawyers will appeal that.
They will work their way, I`m sure, through the New York courts and maybe
into the Supreme Court, which will push the timeline out for this.

But I think that her opinion is on very solid ground, given the precedent
in the Supreme Court decision in the Paula Jones case, although the fax
were somewhat different. It was federal court vs. state court. The lower
court judge has addressed that. And I think it will hold up on appeal.


MATTHEWS: Rebecca agrees.

Anyway, yesterday, Stormy Daniels tweeted about her case against the
president, saying: “People do care that he lied about it, had me bullied,
broke laws to cover it up, et cetera. And, P.S., I am not going anywhere.”

Well, that`s powerful.

Her lawyer Michael Avenatti had this warning for Mr. Cohen, the president`s
lawyer, and the president himself. Let`s watch.


three-dimensional chess and these guys are playing tic-tac-toe, quite
honestly. And they`re not even playing tic-tac-toe that well.

They have stepped into every trap we have laid in this case the last two
weeks. It`s remarkable.


MATTHEWS: Rebecca – we just met. I will call you Rebecca, but – excuse

But this guy, Avenatti, has struck me from the beginning as a killer. He
loves television. He is good at it. He is saying, I have got all these
other women I`m going to bring in. I have got all these cases coming to
me. They`re knocking on my door over the transom. It looks like this
thing is going to grow.

And his client, Stormy Daniels, says, I`m not going anywhere.


MATTHEWS: And she is a living person who knows how to make her case on
television. And we`re going to see it on “60 Minutes,” a piece of this.
It looks to me like they`re up against – Trump is up against Trump-likes
that know how to do this.

LEGRAND: Well, or better than the attorneys Trump hires.

Trump`s – the agreement that Trump or Trump`s agents had Stormy Daniels
sign, it is not even spelled right. They didn`t even spell disparagement
right in the title. So…

MATTHEWS: Why did they put a place for him to sign on this, and then not
have him sign? It seems to me either you don`t put his name on it, you

LEGRAND: Sloppy.

MATTHEWS: … call him David Dennison, and then say you`re not going to
silent. So you have an incomplete document that the other side can use at
will to get out of it.

What`s this about?

LEGRAND: The agreement is – yes, it`s a terribly sloppy agreement,
frankly. And Stormy Daniels` attorney is right to be excited about this

And I think what the Trump team must know is likely to happen here is the
Band-Aid is going to get ripped off, because he`s eventually going to find
out that the NDA…


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that, Maya.

When you put down a bill, even a contract that is signed, delivered and
signed by everybody, fine, but when it says you mention one aspect of this
on some television show that nobody watched or some – something on a Web
site, if you do it once, it`s a million dollars.

If you do it in the second sentence, it`s another million dollars. Then
the third sentence is another. Isn`t that so big a penalty box that it
won`t be enforced? I mean, I just wonder. Nobody has that kind of cash.
Hardly anybody does, certainly not some adult actress or whatever.

Wouldn`t that be thrown out by a judge saying, this is ridiculous, a
million dollars for every time they burp any information about this thing?

I`m asking.


MATTHEWS: It`s a lot of money.

HARRIS: Well, Chris, you have actually hit – yes, you have hit on
something. Yes, absolutely.

And you have hit on something that actually her lawyer has raised and she
has raised in her case, which is the fairness of that liquidated damages
provision, because, basically, she has in exchange for $130,000 signed on
to an agreement that subjects her to a penalty of $1 million for every time
that she violates this.

And, of course, the president in the notice of removal that they did to
federal court has already suggested that she has violated it at least 20
times, which would be $20 million. And so the question is, is that fair or
is it unconscionable? And if it`s unconscionable, it could be deemed

MATTHEWS: I can`t see a regular jury of normal people agreeing to that
kind of a payout.

Anyway, thank you, Maya Harris and Rebecca LeGrand.

Up next: House Speaker Ryan Paul Ryan was supposed to act as a check,
remember that, on President Trump`s worst impulses, but, instead, he has
been one of President Trump`s biggest boosters. They`re all toadies.

So, why will voters – why don`t they hold this accountable out in
Wisconsin? Democrat Randy Bryce is going to answer that question. He is
looking to challenge Ryan this November. He is going to join us right here

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, it`s no secret that he
and I have had our difference of opinions. It`s no secret that I have
shared my opinion about his tweets and the rest.

But what I see is a president who is fighting for the things that I`m
fighting for. I see a president who is fighting for an agenda that will
make a positive difference in people`s lives.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, House Speaker Paul Ryan last year, last year, noting
that, despite his differences with the president, President Trump, they`re
fighting for the same agenda.

Well, despite Ryan`s claims during the election that he would stand up for
Republican values, the speaker has done his best to not directly go after
the president.

This was his response last summer, for example, when reports were floating
around that President Trump might get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
and replace him with someone who would fire special counsel Robert Mueller:


RYAN: It`s up to the president to decide what his personnel decisions is
and any possible fallout that comes from that.


MATTHEWS: Personnel decisions.

Here is what he said after President Trump said there were fine people on
both sides in that Charlottesville rally situation:


RYAN: He made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more
confusing. And I do think he could have done better. It is very, very
important that we not make this a partisan food-fight.


MATTHEWS: And he entirely avoided this question about President Trump`s


QUESTION: What is the difference between his case and the case of
President Trump, who was also accused by a number of women and also denied

RYAN: I think that Roy Moore, I don`t know if – I`m focused on Congress.


MATTHEWS: Not much of an answer there.

Anyway, but Ryan doesn`t shy away from praising the president when it
benefits him. Here is Ryan last night, just last night.


RYAN: Since taking office, Donald Trump has held true to what he said he
was going to do on the campaign trail. Go figure. Here is a man who ran
for office, said what he was going to do, and is doing it.


RYAN: He promised the forgotten men and women of this country that they`d
be forgotten no longer, and that is the mantra that has guided him every
single day in the White House.


MATTHEWS: Will this defense by Ryan of the president hurt Congressman Ryan
in the midterm elections coming up in November.

I`m joined right now by Randy Bryce, one of the Democrats hoping to run
against Ryan in Wisconsin`s 1st District. Election forecaster Larry Sabato
recently moved that seat from safe Republican to only like Republican.

What do you make when watch him? I have never been – I know all the great
press. Nobody get better press than – I have never been impressed by what
he has done.


MATTHEWS: He talks about the president the way the president talks about
Putin. It`s cozying up to. It`s toady behavior. And he never seems to do


MATTHEWS: Well, tell me about your pitch against him. How are you going
to beat him? You have got about three minutes here.

BRYCE: Well, we have seen what happens with 20 years of Paul Ryan being in
Washington, D.C.

The policies that he`s been passing aren`t doing anything to help the
people of our district. He has been cozying up to billionaires, lobbyists,
special interests, and things like this tax scam, where he`s talking about
now he wants – he`s saying we can`t afford Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid, after just giving $1.5 trillion to people that don`t need $1.5

MATTHEWS: He is going after Medicare and Social Security.

What does he want to do? I have always thought he didn`t like those
programs. Ryan is – he is an ideologue. He doesn`t like that stuff.

BRYCE: Well, no. And these are the things that helped him to get him to
where he is. And now he wants to cut it for everybody else.

These are things that..

MATTHEWS: Like what? What has he benefited from personally?

BRYCE: Well, his father passed away, and he used Social Security to get
through college.


BRYCE: And now these things, he wants to take away from everybody else,
without giving them any credit for his success.

MATTHEWS: Wow. He got survivor`s benefits.

And I always thought that was a good argument for Democrats this year,
because the Republicans, led by him, are going further than Trump even.
They really want to get rid of these programs that have been around since
Roosevelt, and certainly since Johnson, that every middle-class and
working-class family depends on.

BRYCE: Right.

And we need to have something in place, and that is a permanent solution.
But these are things that people rely on while they – when they have hard
times in life. And that`s why the past 20 years, I have been struggling,
and Paul Ryan doesn`t know what struggle.

That`s why I`m running to make life easier for not just the people of the
1st District, but for everybody around the country that…


MATTHEWS: Yes. The late governor of Pennsylvania said, when you get old
and sick, all you have got is your family, God and your health insurance.

BRYCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think Ryan understands that.

BRYCE: No. No, absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you he never stands up to Trump and all his

BRYCE: Well, he did stand up to him once. And that was when it seemed
like his donors were going to be under attack, when Donald Trump called
about issuing tariffs, which I don`t think are – that`s not a bad idea.

But I don`t think Donald Trump is the one to trust to be able to enact some
kind of tariffs to help protect our…


MATTHEWS: What is your profession?

BRYCE: I`m a union ironworker.

MATTHEWS: Good work.

BRYCE: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Randy Bryce, union ironworker.

Up next: Has the Republican Party lost its moral compass? They don`t seem
to mind tabloid headlines swirling around this guy. By the way, if
anything like this had anything to do with Barack Obama, they would have
gone after him hammer and tong.

Or this ongoing lovefest with Vladimir Putin, that doesn`t seem to bother
them either. Weren`t they against Moscow before?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



The Republican Party appears to have lost its moral compass in the age of
Trump. It was once the union of the old conservative party and the small
government warriors that stood for fiscal restraint, traditional family
values, strong foreign policy and an emphasis on law and order.

Let`s listen.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: We Republicans have been blessed with
grassroots supporters who are committed to the ideals of individual
freedom, family values, free enterprise, and a strong America.

willing to fight for freedom, free markets, and traditional moral values
with everything we`ve got.


MATTHEWS: Well, now that President Trump is being sued by an adult film
actor, most congressional Republicans would like to avoid discussing the
president`s moral values. Here is Speaker Ryan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`m not even – I haven`t put
– I haven`t put a second of thought into this. Not on my radar screen.


MATTHEWS: Well, then, there is Russia. Republicans like Speaker John
Boehner used to speak out forcibly against the Kremlin. Compare that to
Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy`s reaction to Trump`s
congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin.


JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Instead of downplaying Russia`s
disregard for Democratic values and human rights, we should call on them
and call them out on it publicly, forcefully, and frequently. The United
States should insist that Russia reset its own oil policies.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think the president – I mean, I don`t
read too much into it. I think the president was being polite. I think
the president knows that Mr. Putin, with all due respect, is a thug.

I think with people and presidents, you have to watch what they do, not
necessarily what they say.


MATTHEWS: Well, here is House Speaker Newt Gingrich defending independent
counsel Ken Starr`s investigation of President Bill Clinton.


NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: We are a nation under the rule
of law. And no person, including the president is above the law. There is
something profoundly demeaning and destructive to have the White House
systematically undermining an officer of the department of justice.


MATTHEWS: Well, put that in your library.

Anyway, now the party of law and order has remained virtually silent as
President Trump as attacked the credibility of special counsel Robert
Mueller. And one of the few exceptions has been, of course, Arizona
Republican Senator Jeff Flake. He wrote on Twitter: We are begging the
president not to fire the special counsel. Our only constitutional remedy
is after the fact, through impeachment.

But Senator Flake, of course, is leaving the Senate after this term. And
the rest of his party is whistling past the graveyard.

That`s coming up next with the HARDBALL round table.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s recent attacks on Robert Mueller have ratcheted up
concerns that he could try to fire the special counsel. Bipartisan
legislation to prevent such a move has languished in Congress for months.
On Tuesday, members of the Republican congressional leadership weighed in
on that matter.


RYAN: I received assurances that his firing is not even under
consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this
country. We have a justice system, and no one is above that justice

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, I just don`t think it`s
necessary. I don`t think Bob Mueller is going anywhere.


MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.

Alexi McCammond is political reporter for “Axios”, George F. Will, of
course, is a columnist with “The Washington Post”, John Feehery is a
Republican strategist.

Now that we know everybody`s baseball card, here we go. The fact is, what
about – not about the mulligans and all that, but is the fact that 84
percent of rank and file Republicans self-identified voters like Trump
explains everything here?

because they identify more as Trump supporters than the Republican, with
the Republican Party.

Democrats I talked to on the Hill complain all the time about how
Republicans in private will say something critical of Trump. But in
public, they say something that is positive or at most neutral.

But my question is what has changed since the 2016 election? He told us
that Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers. Republicans barely
said anything.

He said so many things. He was caught on tape grabbing –

MATTHEWS: So, what`s your point?

MCCAMMOND: That why should we expect him to change now. Since he was
running, he wasn`t even president, congressional Republicans haven`t been
standing up to him.

MATTHEWS: George, if Barack Obama had been accused of the things that
Trump has, just without going into all the details, I don`t think he would
have suffered, would have benefitted from mulligans. I don`t think anybody
would be issuing mulligans.

Your thoughts?

list. Start with protectionism. Republicans are supposed to be opposed to
big bossy government.


WILL: Government does not get bigger or bossier than when it tells the
Americans what they can buy and in what quantities and at what price. The
Republicans exist to speak the truth about entitlement programs. But
they`re going to be silent on that. They`re running a trillion dollar
deficit with the economy at full employment and synchronized with world
growth of about 3 percent right now.

MATTHEWS: Where is Paul Ryan who is an ideologue and Ayn Rand
conservative. Where is he on all this?

WILL: Well, he`s decided that it`s not going to happen. Therefore,
they`re all down to the “but Gorsuch” reply. This goes wrong, that goes
wrong, but Gorsuch. That`s –

MATTHEWS: That justifies it all.

WILL: That`s supposed to annul a lot of sins.

MATTHEWS: Including the mulligan.

WILL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You know, John, we`re just talking about the Churchill movie,
“Darkest Hours.” And I have to tell you, I always remember that Churchill
quit the Tories back in the first part of – in the early part of the 20th
century over trade. He was free trader. And they would go very hard on

So, how does your party drop all these – the beliefs they had for modern
times about free trade?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that the Republican Party
reflects the will of its voters. Its voters have shifted on issues like
free trade.

MATTHEWS: Have they shifted their thinking or their loyalties?

FEEHERY: They`ve shifted on their thinking. I think the party really does
reflect where the voters are. And the voters have seen free trade. And
most of them like free trade. But a lot of them have real concerns about

And if you see the hollowing out of Ohio, I mean, free trade has actually
done something with the steel industry and that is not all that positive.

So, I do think you can have these beliefs that you cling on to, but you
have to understand the politics is different. And politics, when you`re
talking about defending Trump.

I remember when we tried to impeach Bill Clinton over his infidelities, his
lying in the Oval Office. And you know what? The voters didn`t care.
They didn`t care because the economy was going strong.

I`m not saying what Donald Trump did was great. But you look at the lives
of Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy, could he survive under this kind of
scrutiny with these times?

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

Dick Cheney, by the way, went out and said deficits don`t matter anymore,

WILL: Yes. He said we`re going to improve the deficits, they don`t
matter. And they don`t matter politically. The country does not care at
all about deficits.

MATTHEWS: But what about our president? We had Reagan proved that
deficits don`t matter. And they don`t matter politically. The country
doesn`t care at deficit, which had a president, Barack Obama who led an
exemplary life, a great father. In fact, I thought he was too good a
family man. He was home every night instead of hanging out with
politicians, which could have helped him more.

But he did everything right, did nothing wrong in his life, no problem of
that, thinks marital or whatever, or any thinking. He never got any credit
from conservatives for that. They never said, well, at least, he`s a good
family man. They couldn`t even give him that.

Yet Trump is running around like Sinatra and nobody seems to care.

FEEHERY: I don`t think that`s true. I think Republicans gave him plenty
of credit for being a good family man. I know I certainly did. I thought

MATTHEWS: You`re a regular guy. You`re a good guy. I don`t think I read
many columns that say conservative columnists –

FEEHERY: I think conservatives didn`t like him because they didn`t like
his economic policies and didn`t like his social policies. But as a
father, they never condemned him for that.

MATTHEWS: There is no condemnation for Trump and his endless mulligans.

MCCAMMOND: Right. A Republican operative told me today and this is the
argument we hear all the time is that Republicans in Congress want to
focus, they don`t want to focus on the crisis of the day. They want to
focus things that will help them move the agenda forward. But at some
point, when these scandals and controversies are mounting, how it can
ignore – especially when the president of the United States is suing a
private citizen for $20 million who is accusing him of an extramarital
affair. That`s unprecedented and it`s not normal.

WILL: What agenda are they trying to move forward? They want $2 trillion
deficits during full employment? What agenda in foreign policy?

I mean, here they are – it`s one thing to say we`re not going to do
Wilsonian spreading of democracy at the point of a bayonet. It is another
thing to call up a thug and a killer who, of course, he praised during the
campaign on MORNING JOE for being a thug and a killer, but at least he`s
strong. It`s one thing to go from Wilsonianism to that? My goodness.


MCCAMMOND: I think they`re afraid of Trump and they`re afraid of his base
which is shifting, as you just said. They don`t want to lose those base
voters and if they`re shifting, to be more in line with Trump.

MATTHEWS: Is there anything – is there a red line anymore? I do think
there might be. I don`t think I ever thought necessarily about these red
lines, a new term that came up when we`re talking about Bashar Assad and
his use of nuclear. But the new term is red line.

Is there a red line where the Republican base will say, you fire Mueller?
I don`t think that`s a red line.

FEEHERY: I don`t think so either. Listen, I think it would be a
tremendous mistake for him to fire Mueller. I don`t think he`s going to do
that. But it would be a tremendous mistake.

But the Republican base is now the Trump base. They like this guy because
he`s politically incorrect. They want someone politically incorrect. He
is for the free market. He is also someone who`s cut their taxes and
growing the economy. That`s what they like.

WILL: He`s demonstrably not for the free market.


MATTHEWS: I want to ask – let me ask you a bottom line political
question. Is there any chance that the Senate, which is going to remain
roughly balanced I think after this, somewhere in the 40 yard lines. That
they`ll ever convict this president or remove him from office under any

FEEHERY: Well, it`s hard to predict the future. I think that you can`t
rule anything out. I mean, it could happen, but I don`t think it will




MCCAMMOND: I think it would be incredibly difficult.

MATTHEWS: So, two-thirds is a rough number and I think 2018 is going to be
a challenge for the House.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will
tell me something I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Alexi, tell me something I don`t know.

MCCAMMOND: I reported today for Axios about a small group called Country
Forward that over the last nine months is quietly putting in $1 million
behind Dan Lipinski`s race in Illinois.

MATTHEWS: Against him?

MCCAMMOND: No, for him.


MCCAMMOND: And so, their whole things to save moderate Democrats and
Republicans from progressive challenges.

MATTHEWS: Score one for them.

MCCAMMOND: It`s the first of dozens of races they`re getting involved in.


WILL: It`s improbable but possible that there will be a competitive Senate
race in Mississippi because Mississippi is demographically more favorable
to the Democrats than Alabama was.

FEEHERY: So, I was at the big NRCC dinner last night. Donald Trump and
the Republicans raised $32 million. And I`ll tell you, Trump was beloved
in that big hall. They like the guy.

MATTHEWS: And that`s something that I don`t know. But now I do.

Thank you, Alexi McCammond, and George F. Will, and John Feehery.

When we return, let me finish with a look at our two political parties as
they stand today. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a look at our two political parties

First, the Democrats. Put any interpretation you like to it, but the
number of Democrats who call themselves liberal has grown dramatically.
Ten years ago, 28 percent did. Today, a much larger chunk, 46 percent do.

The share of Democrats who call themselves moderates has shrunk meanwhile
from 44 percent a decade ago, down to 37 percent.

Yet something else jumps out of the new Pew Research Center poll.
Democrats are nowhere near as ideological as Republicans are. Sixty-eight
percent of Republicans, more than two-thirds, call themselves conservatives
compared to the 46 percent, less than half of Democrats who call themselves
liberals. And while there are still a decent number of Democrats, 15
percent, who freely call themselves conservatives, only 4 percent of
Republicans confess to being liberals.

So, Republicans have more conservatives than Democrats have liberals, which
makes the GOP more ideological, more to the right than Democrats are to the

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.


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