Trump still fuming over AG recusal. TRANSCRIPT: 06/06/2018. Hardball with Chris Hayes
Date: June 6, 2018
Guest: Cynthia Alksne, Danny Cevallos, Rick Allen, Shermichael Singleton, Harry Belafonte
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Rudy calls it a frame-up. Let`s play
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Trump is being framed. That`s what his lawyer Rudy Giuliani
says. The special counsel Bob Mueller and the U.S. justice department is
building a dishonest case against the President.
Also today, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels is accusing Trump`s fixer Michael
Cohen of corruptly getting Daniels to deny her sexual entanglement with
Trump all together.
But we begin tonight with this continued Trump offensive against special
counsel Robert Mueller. First, Trump made the baseless claim that the
appointment of a special counsel itself is totally unconstitutional. And
now Giuliani is making an equally outrageous claim saying that Mueller and
his prosecutors are trying to frame the President.
Here`s Giuliani speaking in Israel today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: They are a group of 13 highly
partisan Democrats that make up the Mueller team, excluding him. Are
trying very, very hard to frame him. To get him in trouble when he hasn`t
done anything wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, there`s no evidence to back up Giuliani`s claim.
Meanwhile, as Trump argues that he is above the law, he is showcasing the
power of Presidential pardons. As “the Washington Post” reports, a White
House official this week said Trump is obsessed with pardons, describing
them as the President`s new favorite thing to talk about. And today Trump
used that power to commute the life sentence of Alice Johnson doing so at
the behest of celebrity socialite Kim Kardashian who he met just last week.
Johnson was released from prison late today.
However. The grant of clemency to Johnson who had already served almost 22
years for a nonviolent drug offense could be a sign of things to come. And
now a White House official tells NBC News dozens of pardons have been
prepared for the President and he`s considering them, all apparently.
As “the Washington Post” notes to some outside advisers and critics, the
pardons hold a broader symbolism of some of Trump`s former allies and aides
face criminal charges or have already pleaded guilty to part of Mueller`s
Well, according to the reporting from (INAUDIBLE) and Trump`s attorneys
discussed the prospect of a pardon last month or last summer rather with
lawyers representing Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Something Trump`s
lawyers have denied.
Joining me right now is Jonathan Lemire from, White House reporter for the
“Associated Press” and an MSNBC political analyst, Natasha Bertrand, staff
writer with “the Atlantic” and an MSNBC contributor and Cynthia Alksne is a
former federal prosecutor.
I want to go down did the line there. Jonathan, it seems to me that the
whole strategy on Trump`s part is to create a situation where nobody trusts
the prosecution. There is no such thing as objective law or objective
crime or any objective fact. And therefore, everybody should decide on
everything by party line instinct. And now that means no one will ever get
impeached let alone convicted. Because if everything is party line in this
country, everybody just goes to their usual tribal connections, nothing is
going to get done. That`s the Giuliani strategy. What do you make of
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think that`s
right. I think that Trump-Giuliani playbook is exactly as you said to turn
Mueller and his investigators into political figures, not sort of
nonpartisan above the fray lawmen. We are seeing a consistent effort on
their part to undermine their credibility to sow doubt and to get out there
ahead of whatever the special counsel will find.
If you paint it on partisan terms, you can suggest that Mueller`s findings
are politically motivated and therefore, not credible. On that same note,
we are expecting in a matter of days, perhaps as soon as tomorrow the
department of justice`s inspector general report on James Comey, the former
FBI director and his handling of the Hillary Clinton probe. Trump`s White
House, his team and Giuliani, Giuliani told me just in the last couple days
he fully expects that report to be very critical of Comey. Comey to which
they will point to and say look, this is someone who the President was, a,
right to fire and, b, isn`t trustworthy. Further undermining whatever
testimony he is delivering against the President in Mueller`s case.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Natasha, framing. It`s all a frame-up. This
seems like a crook in a 1930s gangster movie. It is all a frame-up.
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, this is a theory, a
conspiracy theory that has been making its way around FOX News.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean conspiracy, theory? Like people believe it or
they are selling something?
BERTRAND: I think people genuinely believe a lot of Trump supporters
believe that because –.
MATTHEWS: No. The ones who are sowing it, do they believe it?
BERTRAND: Not necessarily. But it is a good talking point. And it is
something that is helping to erode the credibility of the investigation
among a certain segment of the population, among Trump supporters. But
this is not a new strategy. This is just a strategy that the President has
managed to – he managed to find someone who is willing to help him along
MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani will do anything for him, right?
BERTRAND: Rudy Giuliani has been an ally for a long time for the
President, especially during the campaign. (INAUDIBLE) the campaign. He
was a top surrogate. And these are two people the when put together, they
are a very, very powerful force in trying to undermine this investigation,
but of course, Trump has been going at this alone for better of part of
MATTHEWS: Let`s cut through it. You are being very objective here but you
are being limiting I think in this argument. I will stay with you on this.
It seems to me that there`s a whole troupe of reasonable Republicans
whether it`s Ryan or it is Gowdy or any of these guys who are basic people
who basically said they respect Robert Mueller. He is above the fray.
They don`t treat him as some hack. And now Rudy is trying to bring him
down to hack level over in Israel talking about this stuff. Anywhere he
can get a clear shot at the guy. But the fact is this is not normal.
BERTRAND: No, it`s not.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Nixon went down because after Archibald Cox who was a
known Kennedy ally. But Nixon didn`t run around saying this whole thing is
a crime in itself. He never said the whole government is corrupt because
he was in trouble.
BERTRAND: He didn`t have twitter either.
MATTHEWS: No, go ahead. I don`t want to lighten the burden of the
immorality of this whole operation. These people are burning the
credibility of the U.S. government to save their skins and it is not a
BERTRAND: And the only two people that have spoken out against it really
in kind of deterring the conspiracy theories are Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy,
both of whom, of course, are leaving Congress at the end of this year. So
what we don`t see is enough Republicans and standing up and say no, Mueller
is actually a very, very credible former FBI director.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it`s a new level of skunk behavior. Anyway, all
of this comes after the President claimed near unlimited power effectively
saying the law doesn`t apply to him because as he put it delightfully, I
have the absolute right to pardon myself or Republicans have been the
President`s claim. And many sent a clear signal this week that they would
not support any attempt by the President to hold himself above the law by
saying I can pardon myself no matter what I do. Let`s watch some of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, do you believe that the President has
the power to pardon himself?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don`t know the technical answer to
that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn`t. And no
one is above the law.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I don`t think the President
needs any advice on pardoning himself. He obviously knows that would not
be something that he would or should do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were President of the United States and I had a
lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I`d hire a new lawyer.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I agree with those who say he needs new
lawyers if that`s what they are telling him. That`s absurd. You can`t
pardon yourself on this kind of thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So it`s nice to know at least there`s a residue of Republican
lawmakers who have some respect whether it`s the leader of the Republicans
in the Senate, the majority leader or the speaker of the House, a
constitutional officer, third in line to the presidency or Gowdy or the
rest of them. There are a number of them who would seem to take this
seriously that this President is being judged fairly and any notion he can
simply pop out in trial and say I`m free because I said so is an absurdity.
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don`t agree with that. I
don`t think that Ryan was that clear.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s open to the idea of self-pardon?
ALKSNE: I don`t think he`s open to self-pardon but not he is also strong
at all on all the other terrible things that Trump is doing to degrade and
dehumanize our justice system. Sometimes he does a few words about it, but
he is not strong at all. McCarthy about to take over is not strong at all.
McConnell does almost nothing except periodically say a couple of comments.
They are not strong at all. I completely disagree with that. I think they
are weak. It injures the system. And it`s going to continue to injure the
system when he is gone.
MATTHEWS: Right. But can we stick to the (INAUDIBLE) where they might be
willing to show some guts which is the part to self-pardoning question.
ALKSNE: Here is what I think. I think because they are weak on every
other little thing, the day is going to come when we are going to have a
constitutional crisis. And that may be the day that he fires Mueller and
Sessions and Rosenstein. It may be the day he tries to pardon himself.
But because they are so weak all along the road, he is – they are forcing
a constitutional crisis because they are not doing their job. And it`s
inescapable. It`s offensive. And history will not treat them well.
MATTHEWS: Natasha, you are reporting on that. Do you think they are
showing that kind of weakness?
BERTRAND: They have. I mean, like I said, the only people that have
really shown a spine in all this are people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and
now you see Paul Ryan making a slight comment about the President not being
able to pardon himself, that it might be unconstitutional, that it might be
worthy of impeachment. But that, of course, he is not running for
reelection. So that does have a lot –.
MATTHEWS: He has joined the group of people that don`t have to face voters
MATTHEWS: Anyway. Jonathan, you`re reporting for the “Associated Press,”
the President is still angry with attorney general Jeff Sessions for
recusing himself a year ago.”
Quote “Trump has taken it to not even saying Sessions` name out loud while
in the White House. According to the two officials, a practice several of
his senior aides have adopted.
Apparently, they don`t speck the guy`s name. This comes after Trump
publicly criticized Sessions on twitter yesterday saying the Russian witch-
hunt hoax continues all because Jeff Sessions didn`t tell me he was going
to recuse himself. I would have quickly picked someone else.
This is so old, Mr. President. So much time and money wasted. So many
lives ruined. And Sessions knew better than most that there was no
collusion. We already know based on the reported questions, the
prosecutors want to ask the President, the Trump-Mueller is interested in
Trump`s public criticism of Sessions as well as the pressured Trump put on
Sessions to reverse his decision of recusal.
Jonathan, how do you explain the fact that the President keeps going over
this old scab, ripping it off again and again? He let – he named
Sessions. Sessions recused himself. Those are facts. Why does he keep
going over it and over it again? To what effect? Is it to get the guy to
quit? That`s the only thing I can figure. What is it?
LEMIRE: It is – in the President`s mind, Jeff Sessions committed the
original sin, that he recused himself.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But why talk about over and over again?
LEMIRE: I think it is two-fold. I think one is simply the President can`t
help himself. It is a fury. Yes, he rarely speak Sessions` name in the
White House (INAUDIBLE). He was on air force one last week and got great
news about the jobs report. And yet, in our reporting when an aide tried
to mention the attorney general to him, he sent him out of the room and
turned up the volume on his FOX TV set where he was watching FOX News.
MATTHEWS: His FOX TV set. I love it. His FOX TV set. Do they make their
own brand now? Only one channel on it.
LEMIRE: In the President`s office it, might as well just have the one
channel. But more than that, I think the he knows he really can`t fire
Sessions for three reasons. One, that is a moment where some Republican
senators have stuck up for their former colleague (INAUDIBLE). Mitch
McConnell said, look, we won`t hold hearings for a replacement if you fire
Two, Sessions is still popular among Trump`s conservative base and the
President is always leery about alienating them. And three, most
importantly, it would attract a lot of attention from Robert Mueller and
feed into the idea of obstruction. I do think people around the President
believe he can`t fire him. But if Trump makes his life miserable, maybe
I might mention the meeting today at FEMA, the President was there before
the hurricane preparations. He went around the room and thanked all of his
cabinet members and praised them except for Jeff Sessions he said hey, nice
to see you.
MATTHEWS: Yes. This is like the old days with the Chinese, the PRC would
doing out some old leader who is barely alive and haul around it. This is
what we held the revolution against.
Anyway. Thank you, Jonathan Lemire. Thank you, Natasha Bertrand. And
Cynthia, I was trying to give the people in the Republican side a little
slack and you just cut if off.
ALKSNE: When they deserve praise, we will give it to them. Tell them buck
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Coming up, Stormy Daniels says in a new lawsuit her old lawyer was a puppet
for President Trump and his fixer Michael Cohen. This is a great story.
The suit alleges that the twos attorneys were in cahoots. In other words,
she never had a real lawyer, hatching a plan to have Daniels deny an affair
with Trump on Sean Hannity`s show. And perhaps most damaging of all, Trump
was in on it. This is good stuff, if you like mystery stories. That`s
Plus, Bill Clinton says his defensive interview about Monica Lewinsky
wasn`t his finest hour. Good for him. The HARDBALL roundtable will tackle
that along with Paul Ryan who is finally showing some backbone. I think.
I dare say with Cynthia Alksne still here.
And Scott Pruitt who looks to be and yet more ethical trouble. Something
to doing with chicken filet. It is a nice tangle going on. Tea and
chicken for life.
And singer and civil rights activist Harry Bellefonte joins us tonight as
we remember legacy of Robert F. Kennedy. Bobby died 50 years ago today,
June 6th, 1968.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. It`s short and it is not
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani also commented
today on the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Giuliani said that Kim quote “got on his hands and knees and begged
President Trump to move forward with the meeting after Trump abruptly
cancelled in late May.” Here`s Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Well, somehow North Korea after he canceled the summit because
they insulted the vice President, they insulted his national security
adviser, and they also said they were going to go to nuclear clear war
against us. They were going to defeat us in a nuclear war. We said we are
not going to have a summit under those circumstances. Well, Kim Jong-un
got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the
position you want to put him in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani later suggested that a similar approach should be
taken in negotiating a Mideast peace deal with the Palestinians. This is
really great diplomacy, isn`t it? Make sure the other side is completely
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Adult film actor Stormy Daniels has filed an explosive new lawsuit.
Daniels alleges her former attorney Keith Davidson who negotiated that
$130,000 hush money payment, was acting as a quote “puppet for Donald Trump
and Michael Cohen.” The court filing includes alleged text messages
between those two attorneys. The lawsuit claims the two men, those you
just mentioned, hatched a plan for Daniels to go on FOX News, Sean
Hannity`s show and deny she had a prior relationship with President Trump.
In other words, deny the whole thing.
In one text Cohen wrote to Davidson I have her tentatively scheduled for
Hannity tonight. Call me after your trial. Well, Cohen later wrote to
Davidson the wise men all believe this story is dying and don`t think it`s
smart for her to do any interviews. Let her do her thing but no interviews
at all with anyone. Well, Davidson replayed 100 percent, to which Cohen
responded thanks, pal. The complaint alleges that the wise man was a
reference that included Trump. It also alleged that Trump knew of the plan
to get her to appear on Hannity`s show.
NBC News has not independently verified the text. Stormy Daniel`s current
attorney Michael Avenatti spoke with my colleague, however, Nicolle Wallace
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: If you look at these text
messages, especially the exchange relating to Sean Hannity`s show, you see
an absolute desperation on Michael Cohen`s part to try to get my client to
go on Sean Hannity on the 17th of January. And if anybody believes that
Michael Cohen is putting or attempting to put my client on Sean Hannity
without the President`s knowledge, I have a bridge or perhaps other things
to sell them because that just didn`t happen. It is clear from the text
messages that the prior denials by Michael Cohen and the President and what
the American people have been told is a bunch of nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, lawyers Michael Cohen and an attorney for the President
did not respond with an immediate comment. Keith Davidson has previously
told NBC News that he is cooperating with a federal investigation of Cohen.
In a statement his spokesman said this outrageously frivolous lawsuit is
yet another desperate attempt by Michael Avenatti to continue his publicity
I`m joined right now Danny Cevallos, MSNBC legal analyst, and Julia
Ainsley, NBC`s national security and justice reporter.
This – I don`t know. I think this is getting really something. To a
person following this as a mystery story, it`s fascinating, because it says
basically Michael Cohen, the renowned fixer of the president, is so good
that he had this woman who had the affair apparently with or night – one
night, whatever, with the president, was willing to deny the whole thing as
part of a deal.
And she was going to do a show, a prime-time show on FOX, on Hannity`s
show, and the whole thing was really going to be rigged beautifully to get
her paid off, the president left alone, everybody happy to an extent, but
basically Trump being the winner.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s right.
And if you look at these texts, the ones that are included in the lawsuit,
it doesn`t look like Cohen had to any work at all to get to Davidson to
So, it looks like this is a relationship these two have had for a while.
MATTHEWS: Is that that lawyer`s M.O., to basically not go to court, to
basically push a little bit, get some money up front and take the short
money and walk?
AINSLEY: We have seen in other cases that women in Hollywood, particularly
people who are Playboy Playmates, have gone to Keith Davidson when they
have had an affair.
The same thing happened with Elliott Broidy. It happened with Karen
McDougal, who also, as alleged, had an affair with Trump. He is someone
who can kind of – who can get money for these women. That`s why they go
But then he also on the other hand has this very cozy relationship with
Michael Cohen, where he`s really working against them to keep their stories
And as we see from this, he was taking all of his orders from Cohen here,
saying, no worries, 100 percent she won`t go out and tell her story on
“Hannity.” And he was actually working to help a news cycle.
MATTHEWS: This is exactly – I don`t know.
Danny, did you see “Spotlight” about the Catholic Church up in Boston and
how they covered up? There was a lawyer up there whose job it was. He
would fix these cases just like that to keep the priests out of the bad
publicity, pay something to the kid and parents or whatever who were harmed
by the priest, and everybody in the short-term is miserably happy with
But it was the political – it was the legal game. This sounds like this
guy Davidson did this for a living.
DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You could look at that way.
But, on the other hand, if you look at the allegations in the complaint,
you have to realize that sometimes in settling cases, lawyers communicate
with each other. And you have to allege facts that cross that line, that
Davidson specifically crossed the line from going back and forth – and
maybe he was the demure one in the relationship – but going back and forth
Or did he cross the line and breach his fiduciary duty, his duty of
confidentiality, and his duty to maintain the secrets of his client? And
then a second question beyond that is, what are the specific foreseeable
damages that Stormy Daniels suffered as a result of these texts and this
MATTHEWS: Well, in March of this year, Davidson, the previous lawyer for
her, allegedly told Cohen, the new lawyer, that Daniels planned to file a
lawsuit against him and Trump both to invalidate the nondisclosure
The lawsuit references text messages between Davidson and Cohen on march 2
to arrange a phone call. Davidson writes: “You calling? Cohen responded:
“With FLOTUS. Give me a minute.”
Anyway, let me get to the bigger political question. And, Danny, I want
you to here, too.
Is this all to get Trump into a situation, if you`re Avenatti, to get Trump
into a situation, like Bill Clinton and his lawyer Robert Bennett at that
time was in with regard to Paula Jones, and all of a sudden the whole thing
ends up being disastrous for the president, which he`s still talking out
MATTHEWS: He had to pay off, what, $900 million – $900,000 in that case
and basically admitted.
AINSLEY: Yes, I think that these relationships can hurt people on both
sides. They can hurt the person, the accuser who wants to come forward and
have their story told, perhaps if it`s actually something that they feel
wronged, more than just they want a payment, but they actually feel like
they have been wronged, they have been somehow accosted, abused and they
want to tell that story.
But then it can also hurt the person on the other side, the accused, where
all of a sudden that person can be hit up for a large amount of money. And
if the two lawyers are talking together, they can actually kind of work
that person over for a very large sum, so that the lawyer you think you`re
going to, someone you`re paying, someone you think you can trust, is
actually talking to the defense and coming up with this very large number.
MATTHEWS: Well, Danny, I think if you`re watching the MeToo movement and
you`re sensitive to these women who have been abused by people in stronger
positions than them, maybe positions of authority, here`s the president
looking like he was getting off scot-free after a relationship, at really
no cost to him in terms of billions he has.
And yet she`s being short – basically short-circuit by her attorney. It
makes it look like she didn`t get a fair shake.
CEVALLOS: The optics are bad. And this may be a case where Davidson
breached the rules of professional responsibility that bind us.
And that could give rise to a civil claim, just like the one in this
complaint. But if you read the four corners of this complaint, one of the
things you will notice is the absence of any specific damages suffered by
Stormy Daniels, monetary, measurable damages.
Now, that may not matter if Avenatti`s ultimate goal is to set the
administration on fire, get these people into deposition, under oath and
see what happens.
By the way, last question. You`re the expert, Danny.
Would Robert Mueller and his troops be watching a case like this for an
opportunity to get in some questions of their own, if it goes to
deposition, if it goes to discovery?
CEVALLOS: They would not be permitted to attend the deposition and ask
their own questions, but they would absolutely be interested in what is
contained in a transcript.
Every answer to every question in a deposition is under oath and,
therefore, a potential perjury trap. The DOJ uses lots of creative ways to
discover information about defendants. And an existing civil case is one
of those means of finding out information.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Cohen, have you ever negotiated a payoff of other women?
Have you ever paid for an abortion? Have you ever paid for this or that?
Those questions are all relevant and acceptable in that kind of a process?
As a general rule, the scope of discovery in a deposition is anything
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. A
lawyer who instructs his client to not answer a question at a deposition
runs the risk of being hauled before a judge and explaining why he halted
the questioning if no privilege was implicated.
MATTHEWS: OK. Bet on Avenatti.
Thank you so much, Danny Cevallos. And thank you, Julia Ainsley, as
always. Great reporting.
Up next: Bill Clinton says his testy interview about Monica Lewinsky – I
said it`s still going on – was not his finest hour, which I think was a
great line by him, by the way, politically. The HARDBALL Roundtable is
coming here to weigh in on that and other topics.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think Chairman Gowdy`s
initial assessment is accurate. I think – but we have some more digging
I have seen no evidence to the contrary of – of the initial assessment
that Chairman Gowdy has made. But I want to make sure that we run every
lead down and make sure that we get final answers to these questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Speaker Paul Ryan, of course, agreeing with Trey Gowdy, the
chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who last week said there was no
evidence backing Trump`s conspiracy theory that the FBI had planted a spy
in his campaign.
Another Republican also rebuked Trump`s wild claim today. Congressman Tom
Rooney, a top member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Politico:
“What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when
there was none? You know what I`m saying? It`s like let`s create there
thing to tweet about knowing it`s not true. Maybe it`s just to create more
chaos, but it doesn`t really help the case.”
I like this guy.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable, Yamiche Alcindor and an
MSNBC political contributor. Shermichael Singleton is a Republican
political consultant – and they need them – and Rick Allen is the author
of “RFK: His Words For Our Time.”
What do you make, down the line here, Paul Ryan starting to show some spine
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: What it tells me…
MATTHEWS: Although Cynthia Alksne in the first segment says no. I think
he`s showing something.
ALCINDOR: I think that it shows that retiring Republicans still feel free
to criticize the president, but that everybody who wants to be around after
2018 still just can`t get at all close to being really critical of the
MATTHEWS: So that`s it.
MATTHEWS: You have to face the 86 percent Republican vote that supports
Trump. You don`t mess with Trump.
ALCINDOR: I think they`re all terrified of Trump`s voters.
MATTHEWS: Shermichael, is that your surmise?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Especially not if you`re
running for reelection. I would not advise any member of Congress…
MATTHEWS: To say the truth?
MATTHEWS: Never speak the truth?
SINGLETON: Chris, as a matter of politics, if you want to win an election
right now, in the age of Donald Trump, you should probably keep your mouth
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me push on this.
Suppose Trump says, as he has, I can pardon myself. What would you say?
SINGLETON: That`s an absurdity. I believe it was James Madison that
MATTHEWS: Can a Republican running for reelection say, that`s an
absurdity, I`m sorry, quoting Madison?
SINGLETON: Probably not, because they probably wouldn`t win. But I`m not
running for office. So, I can say that.
MATTHEWS: Hey, Rick?
RICK ALLEN, AUTHOR, “RFK: HIS WORDS FOR OUR TIME”: Robert Kennedy said
there can be no meaningful politics which is ignorant of the facts.
And he also said moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle
or great intelligence. Right now, moral courage across the street up on
the Hill among Republicans is nonexistent.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seems you`re right.
ALLEN: It`s extraordinary.
We are calling as meaningful news that someone noticed that the emperor has
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, former President Bill Clinton was given an
opportunity to clarify comments he had made on NBC`s Craig Melvin – with
Craig about how he handled the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Well, on “The Late Show,” Stephen Colbert asked the president, President
Clinton, if he wanted a do-over. Here`s what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT”)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn`t my finest
hour, but the important thing is, that was a very painful thing that
happened 20 years ago.
And I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the
American people. I meant it then. I meant it now. I have had to live
with the consequences every day since.
And I still believe this MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and
should be supported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
ALCINDOR: I think President Clinton is doing what President Trump doesn`t
really do, which is that he`s admitting that he was wrong and that he
probably could have worded that better.
MATTHEWS: You mean dropping the fact that he lost 16 million bucks on the
deal? That was not a smart move.
ALCINDOR: Yes. Well, I think what he`s saying though is that he
understands that what he said was problematic.
MATTHEWS: Look, he – all people want is a little humility.
SINGLETON: Yes, but even now, he`s not very contrite, if you ask me.
Even now, he`s talking about, well, I was hurt, I went through a lot of
It`s not about you. This is a moment about what happened to Monica
Lewinsky, about so many women across this country that are going through
these issues. You should never violate someone`s personal autonomy.
Bill Clinton did. And he doesn`t seem to be apologetic now, and he surely
wasn`t then. That`s my perspective.
ALLEN: Yes, I disagree.
I think he was honestly apologetic. He realizes that, before history, he`s
going to be judged in part on his weaknesses. But cartoons like one-
dimensional heroes. History tends to look for three-dimensional heroes,
for the same kind of complexity in the human character that we see in our
own lives and those around us.
And the issue for President Clinton is, is he going to be remembered for
what he did accomplish, for putting AmeriCorps in communities all across
the country, for an unprecedented creation of jobs, for the elimination of
the federal deficit, or is he going to be remembered for his weakest
SINGLETON: You surely judge him in his entirety, but I would argue that he
needs to be more active. If he is truly apologetic, be more active
speaking about the issues that are impacting women. Speak that truth to
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a good debate.
Finally, the negative headlines continue for EPA Administrator Scott
Pruitt. I would say.
“The Atlantic” reports that one of his top aides has resigned amid reports
she spent much of her time on personal tasks. An EPA spokesperson declined
to comment and told the reporter: “You have a great day. You`re a piece of
MATTHEWS: There`s great press relations.
This comes a day after “The Washington Post” reported that Pruitt used his
Cabinet position to try to get his wife a Chick-fil-A…
MATTHEWS: A Chick-fil-A franchise. On Monday, we learned that Pruitt had
asked another aide to inquire about purchasing a used mattress from Trump
Tower, a used mattress from Trump Tower.
What little tasks these people are given. Federal ethics rules prohibit
supervisors from directing their subordinates from carrying out personal
Well, they do actually ask to carry out their tasks, but let`s move on from
– this is a weird thing. This guy keeps – Pruitt is just radioactive.
ALCINDOR: Well, here`s the thing.
It`s going to – people are going to continue to leak from the EPA, because
his own staff have real issues with him. They have completely different
things. In particular, they believe the EPA should actually be doing
things and should be actually out regulating.
And Scott Pruitt does not believe that. He believes they should be pulling
back regulations. So, we`re going to see a trickle, trickle, trickle every
MATTHEWS: How about Joni Ernst, the senator from Iowa, saying he`s a
swampy fellow? That`s a great line, to say he`s the swampy one.
SINGLETON: It is, but I agree with that. Remember drain the swamp? Is
that reality? Is it rhetoric or reality?
And I think in the instance as it relates to Scott Pruitt, it`s all
rhetoric. I don`t think the president really means it. And I think
Republicans should be outraged, because it`s our duty to uphold the
taxpayer dollar. And we`re not doing that.
MATTHEWS: I went to school, and I learned there are some people that get
caught and some people will never get caught. This guy Pruitt keeps
getting caught. He`s like Nixon. He just gets caught.
ALLEN: He can`t seem to avoid it.
We went from a president who said he came in to drain the swamp, and then
what he does is insults the public sector, the hardworking people who do
the work of the nation every day. And he regards his appointment as a
license to loot the federal till.
ALCINDOR: But, remember, he`s getting a lot of stuff done at the EPA,
which is part of the reason why he is able to keep his job.
MATTHEWS: A lot of nuance on the show tonight.
We will be right back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.
I don`t know about nuance. I`m getting a lot from you too, a lot of nuance
here, a lot of three-dimensional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Here`s Robert Kennedy in line. To strive,
to seek, to find, and not to yield. We thank him after 50 years, because
we can still feel the energy in the parade reaching across the convertible
tops, in the shacks of Appalachia, in the depths of Watts, and yes, all the
way to Soweto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
That was, of course, President Clinton earlier today in Arlington National
Cemetery paying tribute to the Robert Kennedy.
Bobby Kennedy died 50 years ago today.
I`m back with the roundtable.
Rick Allen, this is a beautiful book you`ve done, “Robert F. Kennedy: His
Words For Our Times”. But you know what people want to hear is something
brand-new. Give us a story about Bobby. We`re going to stop talking about
tonight. You`re the last word.
RICK ALLEN, AUTHOR, “RFK: HIS WORDS FOR OUR TIMES”: A great story that
hasn`t been known, Marian Wright Edelman told me about it. That is when
she was working with Dr. King shortly before his death to try to figure out
how best to spotlight the problems of poverty in America, they had no idea
how to carry that forward. She went to Robert Kennedy who said you have to
bring poor people to Washington because it`s essential for our leaders to
see the lives being led by the less fortunate among us.
And so, that concept for the poor people`s march is due in part to Robert
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: That`s pretty
amazing to think that he had the foresight to know that he had to see
people to make them real for the nation. I think that`s an idea that we
see kind of repeated over and over again in a lot of protests I`ve covered
you have to see African-American kids to care about them.
MATTHEWS: Right, Shermichael?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Life, you have to experience it.
SINGLETON: No, I agree. I think he was of a special breed of a
politician, of a leader who recognizes that it`s selfless, it`s a selfless
act and it`s about the people, particularly the least of these. I think
that`s something that`s missing badly in our society right now.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We agree on that. A bipartisan sentiment from a
bipartisan group. Thank you, Rick Allen. Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor and
Up next, singer and civil rights activist – you`ve got to stick around.
This is an amazing couple of minutes with Harry Belafonte. The guy`s 91
years old and he really has something to say tonight for all of us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We got further proof last night that 2018 is shaping up to be
the year of the woman. According to “Bloomberg News”, 43 of the 92 women
running for the House or Senate seats last night advanced to the general
election. The majority of those candidates are Democrats. Democrats are
also emboldened by news out of Missouri where they flipped yet another
Republican held state legislative state. This is the 42nd red to blue flip
since Trump took office.
The party also managed to avoid disaster in California, where there were
fears they would get shutout of three competitive House races. Well,
thanks to the state`s two-primary system but they didn`t. Despite all that
speculations, Democrats will be on the ballot in all those races come
California Republicans also have reason to celebrate. Republican John Cox
earned a spot in that state`s governor`s race. It`s back to him, and the
lieutenant governor. He`ll face Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A pivotal moment in Robert Kennedy`s path towards becoming an advocate for
civil rights was a tense 1963 gathering of African-American intellectuals
and artists where a young activist said he wouldn`t fight for America when
the country has continued to deny us our rights. Bobby`s first reaction to
that gathering was exasperation. But as I wrote in “Bobby Kennedy: A
Raging Spirit”, Bobby eventually came around to the young activist point of
view, noting that if I had gone through what he had gone through, I might
feel differently about this country.
I spoke with civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte who was
at that 1963 meeting.
MATTHEWS: Harry, it`s an honor to have you on. You look great. Thanks
for coming over to HARDBALL tonight.
HARRY BELAFONTE, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND ENTERTAINER: A great pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy, we were wondering if he was
going to make it, you know? And he did not in the ends. But you were with
him in sort of his growth period.
BELAFONTE: When Bobby Kennedy became attorney general, many of us moaned
of that fact because he had never displayed from our perspective a great
concern for the plight of black people. As a matter of fact, he knew very
little about our plight.
Not that he was indifferent. He just didn`t know. And I seized on that
fact and told him that he would never have an easy time of it if he didn`t
come to know more about the black cause.
That sparked in him a sense of astonishment because he felt that after all,
John Kennedy had been doing such wonderful things and that there was not
enough sense of appreciation from the black perspective for what John was
doing. Yes, it`s true, we are most critical and in that sense, Bobby
inherited the task of trying to mobilize us through the Kennedy
When I asked him about why he felt – why he felt he could administer the
needs of this country politically when he knew so little about the people
who were the most disturbed, and he pointed out that he didn`t agree with
my point of view, that he thought that we were insensitive to the fact that
his brother and he were sacrificing so much in our cause.
And I was struck by the fact he thought he was doing so much.
BELAFONTE: And when we in fact felt they were doing so little. Perhaps
more than previous presidents had done, but except Abe Lincoln and
MATTHEWS: Yes, but what changed him? Because he seemed to move in your
BELAFONTE: I think what changed him was the fact that Dr. King instructed
myself and others that our task was not to criticize the fact that he was
not favorable to our cause, but to win him and to find his moral center and
win him to our cause. And in this query, I looked at that with that query,
I said that`s not going to be possible. This guy is too far afield of who
we are and what we`re about.
MATTHEWS: Dr. King, I remember from your book, he talked about after Bobby
was sort of beaten up by this young guy, Jerome Smith, that King said
something to you because you quote it in the book saying maybe Bobby needed
this. This is what he needed. So you were pushing him.
BELAFONTE: It was, as a matter of fact, what Bobby needed. He was ready -
- after meeting with Bobby Kennedy, and finding a path of possibility, he
invited us, a group of us to his home and in his home, he thought that he
had been talking politics all the time, was talking to Dr. King. He was
hearing the worst side of the black voice, the most challenging side of the
black voice, and he invited a group of black people to come visit him, Lena
Horne, James Baldwin –
BELAFONTE: Me. Clarence Jones, who was Dr. King`s attorney to come and
just have what he thought was a social chat.
When we got there, we had a pleasant tit-a-tit and talking superficially.
And in the midst of that exchange, Jerome Smith, in frustration and great
anger, said, I`m out of here and Bobby was kind of, why? What do you mean?
And Jerome Smith said, you`re asking us to give you some information that
could be used against the best interests of our cause. I`m here to tell
you that we cannot be won over that easily. What do you want of us we`re
not able to do.
And what he meant by that was he thought Bobby was looking for a way to get
black voices to be more favorable to the Kennedy point of view on our
issues than Dr. King had implied, because Jerome Smith and what Jerome
felt, he imploded.
BELAFONTE: Bobby was quite angry and he thought that others of us in the
room in the Mr. Jerome Smith`s attack would be defensive of him, would come
to his defense and we didn`t. And he thought that that was a breach of
friendship. And he threw us out – he didn`t throw us out. We left his
home. After that, he called. And he had reflected on the experience.
And what Dr. King had instructed us to do for me was touched the most
sensitive moment in our capacity to win him over. He called and said, I
think I may have been wrong on what Jerome Smith said because it was on the
issue of Vietnam.
BELAFONTE: Jerome said that we`re asking him to go off and die for this
country when his exact words were, I have nothing against the Vietnamese
people. I think it`s a war that`s unrighteous, it`s unworthy. Bobby
called, went back to him and he said, let`s talk.
In that conversation that we had, I told him, look, you have come from a
place where you`re so uninformed that unless those of us who have the
challenge by Dr. King winning to a moral center, find your moral center is
what I`m working on. There`s somewhere in you that I must achieve and that
is the better side of your moral sense. He took that critique rather not
Anyway, from the conversation we had, Bobby was inspired to go South. When
he went South, he began to discover a side of America that he did not know,
did not know well. And he came back and said, I`ve been South.
I`ve begun – as a matter of fact, there`s a picture of him where listening
to the plight of black people from that perspective, he walked up to a
black kid and reached for his cheek. And that to me was a moment of
transformation. He was touched by what he saw.
BELAFONTE: And he was touched in a way that was most profound.
MATTHEWS: Harry Belafonte, you`re part of it. You`re part of history.
You`re a young guy. You`re fantastic to come on the show tonight. Thank
you, Harry Belafonte.
BELAFONTE: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 6th, 2018.
We`re hearing that the president of the United States is wandering around
the White House these days talking of pardons. It seems that he can`t get
over this new power of which he`s gotten hold. It`s like Popeye
discovering what he can do thanks to a can of spinach.
We have to wonder when he`ll test this miraculous new strength his, will he
pardon those caught up in the Russian probe, just caught up in it, Paul
Manafort, Michael Flynn. Or go all the way and pardon his family members,
his daughter, two sons, his son-in-law and how about himself? Why not? He
says he can do it.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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