Trump says NK verification will be achieved. TRANSCRIPT: 06/12/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: June 12, 2018
Guest: Vivian Salama, Jon Wolfsthal, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Greatest show on earth. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
An American leader owes his country more than a 24/7 circus of tweets,
personal attacks and self-celebration. Don`t you think? Unfortunately,
the latest episode of Trump TV, what else can you call it is all sizzle and
no stake. Ask yourself, where is the beef in his meeting with the North
Korean despot? The answer is spoiler alert, Kim Jong-un agreed to let us
look for the bodies of American servicemen his regime has been hiding for a
three quarters of a century. That`s how it got here. How can you not love
a guy like that? What a sweetheart this guy, Kim, is. What a caring human
being. And then in cases, it`s apparently enough for Donald Trump.
Tonight Trump is flying home after a day of pageantry and theatrics in
Singapore. This afternoon, he tweeted got along great with Kim Jong-un who
wants to see wonderful things for his country. He also complimented this
dictator for his great personality and called Kim funny and very smart.
Also, dramatic shift, of course, from a year ago when Trump mocked him as
little rocket man and threatened his country with fire and fury. Trump
also praised the joint statement he signed with Kim Jong-un calling for new
relations between the two country and a commitment to complete
denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s a terrific
document. It`s a starter but it is a terrific document.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to get rid of all their nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: I think they will. I really believe that he will. I have gotten
to know him well in a short period of time.
Yes, sure. It is de-nuking. De-nuking. I mean, he is de-nuking the whole
place and he is going to start very quickly. I think he is going to start
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the joint statement from the two leaders seem to fell
short of the President`s own hype. As the “Associated Press” put it,
rather than a detailed statement filled with concrete restraints on the
north, the documents seemed to amount mostly to a restatement of long
assumed principles and an agreement to keep talking. North Korea has
promised denuclearization before going back to a 1994 agreed framework.
Pyongyang is staying with the United States back then.
At a press conference tonight, overnight, Trump was pressed on how the
United States would verify that North Korea follows through. Let`s watch.
TRUMP: We talk about the guarantees and we talk about unwavering
commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This
is the document that we just signed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you discuss with Chairman Kim methods to verify
either with the United States or international organizations that very
TRUMP: Yes, we did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a timetable in mind?
TRUMP: Yes, we did. It will it be verified. It will be verified.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will it be achieve, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Well, it is going to be achieve by having a lot of people there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wasn`t too long ago, though, that you said you defined
success of this meeting by North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: That`s what they`re doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say why you didn`t secure those details in this
TRUMP: Because there`s no time. I`m here one day. We are together for
many hours intensively, but the process is now going to take place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, for President Trump, a lot comes down to his newfound
trust in Kim Jong-un. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe that he wants to get it done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You trust him?
TRUMP: I do trust him, yes. Now, will I come back to you in a year and
you will be interviewing and I will say gee, I made a mistake. That`s
always possible. We are dealing at a very eye level. A lot of things can
change. A lot of things are possible. He trusts me. I believe, I really
do. I mean, he said openly and he said it to a couple of reporters that
were with him that he knows that no other President ever could have done
this. I mean, no other – he knows the Presidents. He knows who we had in
front of me. He said no other President could have done this. I think he
trust me and I trust him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, for more I`m joined by “New York Times” chief White House
correspondent Peter Baker. He is also an MSNBC contributor. Former
governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson who has negotiated with the North
Korean government before. “Daily Beast” columnist Gordon Chang and the
vice president for the national security program at Third Way, Mieke
Let`s start in this order. I want to start with Peter about the reporting
here. Do we have any evidence to answer what Major Garrett was asking
about? Do you have any evidence that there was a worked out plan for
verification of any kind or any kind of agreement along those lines?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No.
That has to be the product of many months of work. I mean, these are very
complicated process. The North Koreans have an estimated 141 different
sites as part of their nuclear program. You can`t just sort of walk in
there switch off a switch. This is going to be a very complicated
negotiation going forward.
First of all, to sort of arrange the logistics, how it works, what kind of
time frame it would be, what kind of declaration with North Korea give so
that we would have a baseline and know what we were talking about in the
first place. We have, you know, our intelligence on it. But they have
never made a declaration that the United States is considered to be
satisfying. And then you have to figure out how do you verify? How do you
actually know that they have done the things they are promising to do?
This is the beginning of the process, not the end.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any evidence that the North Korean people who are
subject entirely to government supervision as to what they have learned and
dictate, have they heard anything about denuclearization? Because I just
saw a wire thing that came out on their government news agency that never
mentions it. All it does is say we have agreed to withdraw our provocative
irritating exercises from the 38th parallel. Did they – has Kim told his
people he is going to denuclearize?
BAKER: It doesn`t sound like. At least not emphasizing that. The report
I just saw from there state television indicated they were emphasizing
there, you know, the meeting itself, the fantastic he had this meeting with
the American President that he was on a peer level in effect with the
American President and didn`t talk about denuclearization.
The truth is I don`t know that it matters that much. It`s not like he is
worried about popular support and suddenly, you know, they are going to
abandon if he gives up nuclear weapons. The point is, in fact, that he
could get more popular support if he has able to deliver some economic
benefits. That`s the tradeoff that Donald Trump is implicitly suggesting
He showed him a video what a future North Korea cook look like, modern and
hip and economically prosperous. That`s the deal here that he is trying to
get Kim Jong-un to buy into, a vision of a new North Korea that is more
like its southern neighbor.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Governor Richardson. And as governor, you have been
through this before, positively and sometimes unsuccessfully but you have
been great at the particulars of getting people out over there. Are we
safer now after yesterday?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, yes, we
are safer and that there`s a diffusion of tension in the Korean peninsula.
South Korea is on a program of bettering relations with North Korea. Japan
is still very jittery because they are susceptible to their missiles.
China is helpful on the sanctions but they are trying to keep – they are
We are a little better off in terms of tension, in terms of there`s a
movement towards normalization. The problem is that we got nothing in the
area of timeline specificity and any kind of inspection regime whatsoever.
The North Koreans obviously resisted. And you know, had the administration
asked me although Secretary Pompeo did call me once, I would have told
them. The North Koreans always want us to go firsts in negotiation. Then
maybe they will do something. Well, we went first. We made the mistake.
We said that we are going to stop some of the suspend some of the military
exercises with South Korea. I would have said, you know, do it
concurrently. Don`t give him something right away especially when on the
inspection issue on the nuclear, on the missile negotiations, they have
given us nothing.
So in 60 days, if they don`t an inspection regime, if they don`t have a
specific plan for freezing and destroying some of their nuclear weapons,
they have got maybe 60 or their missile sites or conventional weapons, you
know, I think they got the better of the deal.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mieke on this. Because what I was struck by is the
fact that after this three-quarters of a century, since the Korean War,
that still is the actual fighting stopped, we haven`t been able to get our
bodies back. I mean, it is the most minimal humane thing. Let us have our
bodies back of service people they killed in that war. And now, they say
we will let you go look for them about a million bucks a person. Maybe can
find somebody here. This is such a small and I would think even repellent
offer to us to say, yes, you can go look for the bodies.
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, THIRD WAY: Yes. It does nothing
to address the security threat to the United States as governor Richardson
said. We are not talking about the ballistic missiles that can hit the
United States. We are not talking about the nuclear weapons. And allowing
the United States to search for POWs and MIAs it`s important to us but many
other countries do that. And it`s not like we should have to pay for that
privilege. At the same time, when Trump says we are going to stop our
military exercises we are undermining our own military readiness for the
troops who are there now and their ability to interact with the South
Koreans in case of war.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump, as I said, delivered a major concessions
suspending joint military exercises with the South Koreans. He referred to
these exercises, he did, as provocative, the same word used by the North
Koreans. He is taking their side of the rhetorical war here. Let` watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talk about pulling troops out?
TRUMP: We didn`t discuss that, no. But we are not going to play the war
games. You know, I wanted to stop the war games. I thought they were very
provocative but I also think they are very expensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC, both the Pentagon and South Korea`s
military appeared to have been blindsided by Trump`s statement, his
concession there. And the “Associated Press” reported Trump`s own advisers
and urged him against halting the exercises.
“New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote Kim seems to have
completely out negotiated Trump. But it is scary that Trump doesn`t seem
to realize this. The cancellation of the military exercises will raise
questions among our allies such as Japan about America`s commitment to
Gordon, that`s the question. If I were Japanese person reading the papers
today, I would say wait a minute, we are not even working together to keep
ourselves in shape to defend ourselves against North Korea anymore. Why
did we stop practicing these alerts and these exercises?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: That would be a grave mistake
because our readiness depends on these exercises especially because we have
two separate militaries working together, you know. If we can`t deter
North Korea, we have got to defend South Korea and these exercises are
critical to that. And so, I hope that President Trump reverses that
decision because that is a mistake that is going to have problems with our
And Chris, you are absolutely right about the Japanese. You know, they are
looking at the United States as being a selfish power here negotiating to
protect itself and not protect its ally, Japan. And there was no mention
of the abductees, the Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea.
There was no mention of that in the joint statement. There should have
been. And I hope that there will be when they come up with a more
MATTHEWS: Peter, what is this word (INAUDIBLE) immediate 180s on the Trump
front where Mike Pence is out there telling people up on the hill that we
are not going to stop our exercises. What gives?
BAKER: Well, there was some confusion about that. Immediately after that,
there was a subsequent report saying, no, he didn`t say that. So I haven`t
gotten to the bottom of that. But it does indicate how ad hoc (ph) this
whole thing is, right.
You know, the President makes an agreement like that. Usually there is
some sort of preparation for. There is a roll out plan. There`s a way to
inform not only the allies who have finally seem to have been caught off
guard but your Republican allies on the hill as well. We take the stuff
very seriously. That doesn`t seem to have been as well organized as you
might have hoped it would. Certainly this confusion involving what the
vice President said up there indicates that.
But that`s sort of what the – that`s how he rolls, right. That`s – he is
a freewheeling kind of person. He is not somebody – he said he didn`t
need to prepare for this that he would, you know, it would basically go off
his gut. And that`s what we are seeing.
MATTHEWS: Well, during his press conference this morning, Donald Trump
spoke about Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was imprisoned
by North Korea and died shortly after returning home in a coma. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Otto Warmbier is a very special person and he will be for a long
time in my life. His parents are the good friends of mine. I think
without Otto, this would not have happened. I really think that Otto is
someone who did not die in vain. I told this to his parents, a special
young man. And I have to say special parents. Special people. Otto did
not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to Trump, the issue of human rights was
discussed briefly this summit. And Trump said he thinks Kim Jong-un is
committed to making change in his country. Let`s watch that part.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They will be doing things. And I think he wants to do things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder what would you say to the group of people who
have no ability whatsoever to hear or see this press conference, the
100,000 North Koreans kept in a network of gulags? Have you betrayed them
by legitimizing the regime in Pyongyang?
TRUMP: No. I think I have helped them because I think thinks were change.
Now at a certain point, I really believe he is going to do things about it.
I think they are one of the great winners today, that large group of people
that you are talking about. I think ultimately they are going to be one of
the great winners as a group.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, this is Orwellian. I mean, to talk about how they are
going to be better off in the gulags because of this friendly meeting down
to this date that he had with the Kim Jong-un, the dictator. And also,
it`s kind of a grotesquery, isn`t it, to say that somehow a guy who was
beaten up, his brain was basically beat up, it comes back barely alive and
somehow after the torturing of that guy that somehow led to this summit.
What does that mean? Morally speaking to say somehow he was, I don`t know
how to explain why Trump would say that. Your thoughts?
RICHARDSON: Well, I can`t understand why he is saying that. I was
involved in trying to get Otto Warmbier back, my foundation, but it was the
state department that ultimately did that.
You know, the North Koreans take American prisoners and they use them as
bargaining chips. But on the whole issue of human rights, it was not
discussed, it barely was discussed, not just the gulags but issues of
torture, issue, a lot of these people are starving. They don`t know the
how to you coexist. Their agriculture, there are many people are jobless.
If you are in the military, and you are members of the elite, yes, you are
taken care of.
But I think at the very least, if we are going to promise economic
assistance, prosperity investment, that has to be tied in like our foreign
assistance programs with improvements in human rights. Allow access to
amnesty international and human right watch, United Nations.
I mean, we don`t know how bad things are. I can tell you they are pretty
bad even though when I visited eight times. They keep an eye on you. They
don`t let you the do anything. I once tried to get into the subway. I
barely got in to see how people are. But it`s very restricted what you are
able to see, full access, unfettered access to determine how we can improve
the human rights situation and the life of these people. This is the
poorest nation on earth where a lot of people are starving.
MATTHEWS: Well, all you have to do anybody watch right now is watch any of
their parades. Watch anytime they come out in public. They look like they
are automatons. The people have to smile exactly in synchronization. They
have to behave totally according to what they are supposed to do in that
moment. They are freakishly controlled by their government as individual
people. There is no freedom in that country. You can see it every time we
get a picture of them in one of their parades.
Anyway. Thank you Peter Baker. Thank you Bill Richardson. Gordon Chang,
thank you and Mieke Eoyang.
Coming up, President Trump`s praise nor Kim Jong-un beats trading nuclear
threats, I guess. But is it too far over the top? He is praying to the
guy, practically. Trump called him talented. He said he trusts him. Even
said his country loves him. Is Trump helping to flatter this guy to a
deal? I think he is treated (ph) in the way he likes to be treated.
Plus new reporting how the President is trying to save himself for Russian
investigation. What does it say that Trump`s lawyers now are in cahoots
with the lawyers for other people caught up in the Mueller investigation?
I guess he believes in multilateralism when it comes to legal defense.
And the HARDBALL roundtable, why Trump spent part of the summit talking
about a real estate deals. He is going to bring sandals I goes North
Korea? And he is punching at Robert de Niro.
Well, finally let me finish with Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Five more states are holding primaries today including South
Carolina and Virginia where polls just closed.
In Virginia, all eyes are on the 10th district where Democrats are choosing
a challenger to take on vulnerable house Republican Barbara Comstock.
Hillary Clinton won that district by ten points in 2016. So Comstock is
seen as a key pickup opportunity for the Democrats.
Meanwhile, we are seeing early returns now in the race pitting three
Republican candidates vying for the chance to take on Virginia senator Tim
Kaine. He was, of course, Hillary`s running mate in 2016.
In South Carolina, Republican congressman and former governor Mark Sanford
is facing a strong primary challenge from a pro-Trump candidate. Today
Trump tweeted his support for Sanford`s opponent saying Sanford has been
very unhelpful to me in my campaign to make America great. He is MIA and
nothing but trouble. Well, Trump added he is better off in Argentina. Of
course, in 2009, Sanford famously claim he was hiking in the Appalachian
trail when in fact he was carrying on an extramarital affair in Argentina.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Following yesterday`s historic summit, President Trump is headed back to
Washington right now with a blossoming appreciation for North Korean
dictator Kim Jong-un.
While in Singapore, Trump heaped praises on the leader, calling him
talented and smart.
Let`s watch more of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is very talented.
Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is
able to run it and run it tough.
You would be very surprised, very smart, very good negotiator.
Really, he`s got a great personality. He`s a funny guy. He`s a very smart
guy. He`s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I`m surprised
by that, but he loves his people. I think he liked me and I like him. And
I understand the past. And nobody has to tell me he`s a rough guy. He has
to be a rough guy, or he has been a rough person.
But we got along very well.
His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, a lot of individualism, that guy.
This seems part of a pattern of this president, who praises autocratic
leaders and bad-mouths our democratic allies. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s a great honor and privilege, because he`s become a friend of
mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey. He`s running a very – a
very difficult part of the world. He`s involved very, very strongly. And,
frankly, he`s getting very high marks. And he`s also been working with the
We have a great friendship. As countries, I think we`re right now as close
as we have ever been.
We have had a great relationship. This has been very successful.
BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, “THE O`REILLY FACTOR”: He`s a killer, though.
Putin is a killer.
TRUMP: There`s a lot of killers. We have got a lot of killers. What, you
think our country`s so innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That sounds like Michael Corleone in “Godfather” one? You don`t
think senators kill people? How naive are you?
Anyway, for Trump, the Singapore summit was an opportunity to make history.
But for the North Korean leader, it was a public releases success,
cementing his Trump-backed legitimacy on the world stage.
For more, I`m joined by Jon Wolfsthal. He`s former special assistant to
President Obama. And Vivian Salama is a White House reporter for “The Wall
Both of you, why the praises? I can see, we got along OK. We all talk
about political communiques like that, constructive talks. You know the
He`s coming out like a kiss-butt. It`s outrageous, the way he talks about
him. This guy is a killer.
JON WOLFSTHAL, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR CRISIS GROUP: I only see two plausible
explanations. One I think is the more likely, is that Trump is jealous of
WOLFSTHAL: It`s a natural proclivity towards rough guys.
WOLFSTHAL: And he think that is respectable.
MATTHEWS: He wants to ride around on the horse with his shirt off like
MATTHEWS: Is that what he wants to do?
WOLFSTHAL: I think the other possibility here is that, look, Donald Trump
is a salesman, right?
WOLFSTHAL: He`s trying to get this – butter him up, and say, look, what
does it take to get you in this time-share today?
The video he showed was like a time-share, right? What do I do to get to
you sign on this line?
If he wins, if he gets the guy to sign and actually follow through, it`s a
MATTHEWS: OK. You`re an old commie like him. They`re communists. They
don`t believe in anything except the state.
VIVIAN SALAMA, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Right.
MATTHEWS: And he`s saying you have got to bring Sandals in here. You got
to make this a resort. You got use your beach property. You got some
great real estate here.
What does old commie – young commie say to that? What are you talking
about? Trump`s talking like some real estate developer, which is what he
SALAMA: Well, and he doesn`t really hide that, that he sees these
negotiations as part of this boardroom mentality where you have got to talk
tough. But you also have to kind of give…
MATTHEWS: Do you think Kim Jong-un wants to loosen up his country and turn
it into a resort town?
SALAMA: But many people are rightfully skeptical on it.
But, Chris, I`m actually sitting here because I`m still recovering from G7
coverage which I have just done for the last couple of days, where we are
still, to this day – even in Singapore, when he`s coming off of this
historic summit, the president is still trashing Justin Trudeau for
criticizing him after he left.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think? Why?
SALAMA: Because of the fact that he feels that Justin Trudeau was unjust
in his attack because he did it after the president left.
MATTHEWS: But they weren`t – those attacks weren`t really attacks. I
watched the whole thing. It wasn`t that tough.
SALAMA: And it wasn`t anything new either. It is not something that
Justin Trudeau hasn`t said before.
MATTHEWS: Well, while in Singapore ,the president was asked why he had
such high praise for Kim and harsh word for allies like Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau.
Let`s watch him explain that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What do you say to America`s allies who worry that you might be
jeopardizing our longtime alliances and who worry that you might be
treating our historic friends as enemies and our historic enemies as
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think it`s a very fair question.
I had a very good meeting with the G7. And I left the meeting. And I`ll
be honest. We are being taken advantage of by virtually every one of those
I have a good relationship with Justin Trudeau. I really did. Other than
he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an
airplane and I wasn`t watching. He learned, that`s going to cost a lot of
money for the people of Canada. He learned you can`t do that. You can`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You like that threat, Jon?
SALAMA: That is a serious threat.
MATTHEWS: You like the kind of threat?
WOLFSTHAL: No. It`s petty.
This is the president of the United States. We`re the most powerful
country in the world. And we`re treating our friends, the countries that
have fought and died with us to preserve liberty, and we`re treating them
like an extortion racket. It`s horrific.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about values.
I don`t want to get too squishy, but the fact is, we believe in values.
And the fact is, we like democracies. We like countries where they
actually get to pick their leaders, and dump them when they don`t like
You don`t like Jimmy Carter, we can get rid of them. We could rid of
George Sr., Bush. But we had the freedom to do that.
They don`t have the freedom to dump Kim Jong-un. He`s a third-generation
character who inherited a job and he`s probably got it for life. It`s
certainly not a democracy.
WOLFSTHAL: This is the debate we were having after the G7, when President
Trump, well, let`s let Russia back in.
First of all, the G7 is not just economic powers. They`re economic liberal
WOLFSTHAL: Russia`s a smaller economy than Brazil, than India, than almost
the Republic of Korea.
MATTHEWS: Why does Trump got them in?
WOLFSTHAL: Because he`s Putin`s ally. Either Putin has something on him.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the question I have.
Does he want – Vivian, does he want to be allies with North Korea?
Friends? It seems like that`s what he wanted. He was dating, with the
idea of marrying.
He clearly – and I`m not kidding. It`s a pretty good metaphor. He wasn`t
just saying I`m going to hang out with this guy for one day in Singapore.
He was talking up a relationship.
SALAMA: Yes. No, I mean…
MATTHEWS: How can you have a relationship with a dictator like that?
SALAMA: At least in the beginning he wants to see other people. But he`s
definitely on the track to date him exclusively. And he think that that`s
going to be his legacy.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at his friends he`s made, Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir
WOLFSTHAL: Trump doesn`t date exclusively. He likes to play around.
MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t like anybody who has been elected.
WOLFSTHAL: Look, it`s Putin, Xi, Kim now, Erdogan. And the people he`s
beating up are our closest friends and allies, the Germans, the British,
the French, the Canadians. Everything is upside down.
SALAMA: But, Chris, it`s really important to think that we`re going to
actually need these allies for a lot of the negotiations coming forward.
SALAMA: We`re talking about China tariffs moving forward. The deadline is
this Friday. Just to get China in compliance with some of the demands that
this administration is pushing, we actually need our allies to help us sort
of form that unified front to get China to comply.
MATTHEWS: I just remember Ronald Reagan, who was a Republican, who
believed we were sitting on a hill, and he believed we were a role model.
And he loved the fact – whatever you think of Reagan, he loved the fact it
was a democracy, it was a liberal democracy. People had rights and we got
along with the rest of the world. And Reagan always tried to get along
with the rest of the world, including communists.
But he did it the right way. He negotiated.
Anyway, thank you, Jon Wolfsthal and Vivian Salama.
Up next: President Trump`s lawyers are working with attorneys for other
people who have been caught up in Mueller probe. Is that a sign that
Trump`s legal team is worried? He`s actually using multilateral agreements
with the other people in trouble with Mueller to save himself.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There`s some recent developments now in the Mueller probe that have been
overshadowed in the wake of the president`s North Korean summit. But
they`re happening right now.
The Daily Beast is revealing that the president`s legal team has a joint
defense agreement now with the lawyers for other witnesses and defendants
in the investigation. That agreement allows the lawyers to share
information without violating attorney-client privilege, effectively
allowing them to pool their knowledge about the prosecution.
According to one source, for a while, the lawyers even had regular
conference calls with other lawyers to discuss the Mueller investigation.
While such agreements are fairly common, it suggests that Trump may be
familiar with the defense strategies of key witnesses and defendants,
including possibly Paul Manafort, who faces a bail hearing and arraignment
on new charges this Friday.
On Friday, we`re going to also learn whether Manafort, who now stands
accused of witness tampering, will have his bail agreement revoked, which
could land him in jail pending trial.
This is serious hardball.
I`m joined by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst
OK, let`s skip up to Manafort. I`m fascinated. It looks to me like he is
going inside, and he may not get out ever.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that that`s a strong possibility.
Prosecutors don`t like defendants who go out and try to tamper with
witnesses. Usually, judges don`t like that any more than prosecutors do.
He could easily find his bond revoked on Friday.
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s got Hobbesian choice now. He can either wait for a
pardon from Trump, who keeps teasing him with one – and there he is
stoically going in and out of court all day – courthouse – or he can wait
and think that Mueller might get him down to five years or something.
But the way Mueller is stacking up these charges, how can he let him off
free after all these charges he`s been throwing at him, including jury
tampering or witness tampering?
VANCE: It`s hard to know what kind of deal Mueller might be contemplating
giving to Manafort.
I think it`s unlikely, frankly, that he gets a deal where he doesn`t have
to do any time in prison. But depending on the information that he would
have to share that could make cases against other defendants, he might get
some consideration from the prosecution.
MATTHEWS: Do you think lawyers and public interest lawyers and public
defenders and ACLU people, do they think that they`re – that this guy
Mueller might be throwing the book at this guy in a hardball way that is
really over the top?
Basically, Manafort is being squeezed so hard because everybody thinks he`s
going to be the star witness against Trump, that he knows all about it. He
was chairman of the campaign. And, before that, he was chairman of the
convention. He must have – since he`s a Russian expert, he must have
talked Russia a lot with Trump.
There`s so much they`re trying to get out of this guy. But the way they`re
going after him is so hard, so tough. Is it fair?
VANCE: It`s a really good question.
We`re having a conversation about criminal justice reform in this country.
You know, we`re talking about whether people should be charged as heavily
as they have been and go to jail for as long.
But I would say, in Manafort`s case, the charges very clearly fit the
conduct. This is serious conduct. This is white-collar fraud involving
millions of dollars and involving foreign countries and our national
VANCE: So, if anyone should be treated this way, it`s Paul Manafort.
McClatchy is reporting now new connections between Russia and the NRA, the
National Rifle Association, which spent an unprecedented $30 million to
boost Trump`s campaign. That`s the NRA, $30 million in 2016.
According to photographs and an anonymous NRA source, several prominent
Russians, some in Putin`s inner circle, have been identified as having
contact with the NRA officials during did the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Those Russians hosted an NRA delegation for – quote – “a week of lavish
wining and dining in Moscow in December of `15.” According to McClatchy,
they include the Russian prime minister of defense, who was under U.S.
sanctions at the time, as well as Aleksandr Torshin, who famously spoke
with Donald Trump Jr. five months later at the NRA event in Kentucky.
OK, what`s the common interest of the NRA and Moscow?
VANCE: That`s the $80 million question here, whether there was a common
interest in getting Trump elected, then candidate Trump elected, and
whether Russian money was illegally funneled into the campaign using the
NRA as the cut-out.
MATTHEWS: Is that legal?
VANCE: That`s not legal. You can`t use foreign money in a U.S. election.
And you can`t use – we would call the NRA here a straw person, someone who
looks like they`re eligible to make the contribution. You can`t funnel
money through them if you`re a prohibited contributor.
So, it would be a conspiracy to contribute money, if the evidence lends
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the NRA? They have been selling themselves
since I can remember as the patriotic front in this country, that they care
about our country more than anybody and the Second Amendment.
Now, if they`re conspiring with the Russians, they don`t look too patriotic
VANCE: They don`t. And they, of course, have denied all of this. The NRA
reports that it has not yet been contacted by Mueller`s prosecutors to tell
their side of the story.
So, we will have to see how that plays out.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a hot one.
Thank you, Joyce Vance.
Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable weighs in on Trump diplomacy. Why was the
president talking real estate potential with the North Koreans? Is Sandals
going to Pyongyang?
Plus, fresh off his peace talks, President Trump goes after critic Robert
De Niro, calling the actor punch-drunk and very-low-I.Q.
Where does he get this stuff?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Wait until you get a load of this. After that historic summit in
Singapore, President Trump was asked about the future of North Korea,
should Kim Jong-un give up the country`s nuclear weapons. The president
made this sales pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As an example, they have
great beaches. You see that whenever they`re exploding their cannons into
the ocean, right? I said, boy, look at that beach. Wouldn`t that make a
And I explained and I said, you know, instead of doing that, you could have
the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate
perspective. You have South Korea, you have China and they own the land in
the middle. How bad is that, right? It`s great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, let`s bring in the roundtable. George F. Will is a
syndicated columnist and an MSNBC contributor. Anita Kumar is White House
correspondent for “McClatchy”, and Jason Johnson is politics editor from
theroot.com and an MSNBC contributor.
George, I thought I was listening to a real estate developer there.
GEORGE F. WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you were. He thinks North
Korea`s beaches are great, you should see Cuba. If Cuba had in 1959, 1960
decided to open itself up, it would be a tourist Mecca. It would be a very
WILL: It turns out the Castro brothers weren`t interested in that. They
had other goals for their dictatorship. The same is true with North Korea.
Mr. Trump is demonstrating the ultimate parochialism which is to believe
everyone wants what Americans want.
MATTHEWS: Anita, the proletarian in North Korea, I don`t know if they`re
ready to have their first Sandals opening or Club Med, I`m just guessing.
What do you think?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: I don`t know. But, you
know, he`s had the same message for the last few weeks, few months. But he
just didn`t say it quite this way. He keeps saying that if North Korea,
you know, goes through with this deal, that it`s going to be better for the
people there, that it`s going to be an economic engine.
We heard him say that over and over. He just hasn`t talked about the
condos and beaches and the developer stuff. But, you know, that`s what he
relates to. He came into office with no other experiences than being a
businessman. He likes talking like that.
MATTHEWS: Jason, this fellow we`re watching here with the president has
had many years, many years to think about whether he would have nuclear
weapons or condos.
JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: Yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: He`s chosen the nuclear weapons in every instance. I think as
of today, the North Koreans have heard nothing about denuclearization, from
what I can tell.
JOHNSON: Oh, probably not. And, you know, look, I don`t want to see what
kind of hotel service comes from prison camps and slave labor which is what
Kim Jong-un has in a lot of places.
And again, I think that the particularly disturbing part about this is, you
know, this president is like a walking emoluments clause violation. I
mean, he`s literally saying like hey –
MATTHEWS: You think he`s selling his hotels?
JOHNSON: Of course, he`s selling his hotels. He`s not talking about
MATTHEWS: It does sound like his pattern.
Anyway, Trump may have been fawning over Kim Jong-un, but he`s got a new
adversary in actor Robert de Niro. In Sunday`s Tony Awards night, de Niro
slammed Trump in a profanity-laced tirade, saying it`s no longer down with
Trump, it`s F Trump. And you can figure out what that word was.
Trump today punched back in Twitter, writing: Robert de Niro, a very low IQ
individual, has received too many shots to the head by real boxers in
movies. I watched him last night and truly believe he may be punch drunk.
I guess he doesn`t realize the economy is the best it`s ever been, with
unemployment being at an all-time high, and many companies pouring back
into our country. Wake up, punchy.
George, your comment on that?
WILL: Why are we commenting on this?
MATTHEWS: Because the president of the United States has spoken about one
of the leading actors of our time and they`re not being nice.
WILL: He`s a great actor and he probably as ignorant as broccoli about
everything outside the celebrity bubble in which he lives. He gets up in
front of a friendly audience and says what they like to hear.
WILL: Reaps the applause.
The president reflexively attacks him and four adults are sitting here and
talking about this.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s called trolling today, George, it`s when people want
us to get something to say about them.
KUMAR: The audience may have loved Robert de Niro.
MATTHEWS: Where were you on this, Anita? Do you think he have said that
about the president of the United States.
KUMAR: Should either of them said –
MATTHEWS: Or should he?
KUMAR: I don`t think either of them should have said it.
MATTHEWS: How about Robert de Niro?
KUMAR: That`s what I`m talking about.
MATTHEWS: Narrow it down, do you think Robert de Niro should have said
KUMAR: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You seem, what is this? I`m willing to say cultural part of
this country has got to maintain some nobility in these times so people can
know there`s an alternative to Trump in terms of values and you don`t go to
KUMAR: Both of their audiences love them.
JOHNSON: Civil discourse matters, right? And grown adults aren`t supposed
to get on stage and use cuss words, unless at a concert.
And more importantly, and this is what bothers me, did it get anybody
elected? Did it put money in anybody`s pocket? Did it any change any
policies? Did it stop Jeff Sessions?
MATTHEWS: I think it helps Trump.
JOHNSON: I mean, it helps Trump. It helps the resistance. But I just –
I don`t see why these temper tantrums on either side do any benefit to
anybody in America policy.
MATTHEWS: OK, finally, I was a guest on “The Late Show with Stephen
Colbert” last night. Here`s a clip from that show I think that will cause
a little excitement here. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I know you like the movie “Man for all Seasons.” And I love
that movie –
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Yes, sure.
MATTHEWS: – about Henry VIII and about Thomas Moore, the great Thomas
Moore who died for his religion. There`s a great scene when Henry VIII
beautifully played by Robert Shaw gets out of his boat and just watch how
COLBERT: I heard – I actually – I heard you like this. We pull this had
clip. Show imagine that Shaw is Trump.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MATTHEWS: That`s them. That`s the Republican Party.
COLBERT: Yes, he was a monster, Robert Bolt describes him as a monster who
none dared gainsay.
MATTHEWS: Well, today these guys are all like Mike Pence. They do exactly
what Trump does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, is that what we`re seeing with the Republican Party after
Trump met with Kim Jong-un, they`re all applauding him? George, you spoke
eloquently in your column about Mike Pence.
WILL: Well, today, about 85 percent of Republicans have very, very strong
approval of Donald Trump. That`s above the 75 percent that had the same
feeling for Ronald Reagan at this point in his presidency. This is a Trump
MATTHEWS: Yes, therefore, say no evil about the president.
KUMAR: We`ve said 10 or 20 times something was the breaking point and they
wouldn`t follow him and they are. That doesn`t mean they like it. They`re
just quietly might have the anxiety about it.
MATTHEWS: They`re getting (INAUDIBLE) like North Koreans dare I say
because they`re marching in step. They`re smiling when told to. They`re
applauding when told to. They`re not wearing those big hats but short of
that, they`re acting like North Koreans, Republicans.
JOHNSON: Oh, yes. Look, everybody is goose stepping with positions that
they did not like a week ago. They`re instep with this president.
But I will say this and this has always been the most important thing sort
from a political standpoint. All of this is about Trump. The guy has no
coattails. His behavior works well for him but it does not seem to trickle
down to the Republican Party as a whole.
Now, if he magically can take that 87 percent approval and actually start
moving some races and some –
MATTHEWS: All right. We`ll see tonight, when – he went after Mark
Sanford today. We`ll see if he can knock him off. It makes me like Mark
The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me
something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: There`s a special place in hell
for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President
Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on
Sunday, lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The insults
followed a fractious G-7 meeting and came amid a growing war of words over
trade with the United States, between us and Canada.
Well, today, Navarro said his language was inappropriate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAVARRO: My mission was to send a very strong signal of strength. The
problem is that in conveying that message, I used language that was
inappropriate and –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special place in hell for the prime minister.
NAVARRO: – basically lost the power of that message. I own that. That
was my mistake. Those were my words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
George, tell me something I don`t know.
WILL: Bill Weld, former two-term governor of Massachusetts, the 2016 vice
presidential candidate on the libertarian ticket is working very hard going
from state libertarian convention to another, he`ll be in New Orleans at
the national detention intending to make a serious run as the presidential
candidate of the libertarian party which will be in all 50 states.
MATTHEWS: Well, if it`s Bernie versus Trump, there`s an opening somewhere
in the middle.
WILL: That`s exactly what we think.
KUMAR: We posted a story a little bit a while ago about how the Trump
administration is looking into creating, erecting tent cities to deal with
the increase in the unaccompanied minors coming over the border. This is
something done before but not during the Trump administration. And they`re
looking at Texas right now. They`ll be at military installations.
JOHNSON: You may know, of course, is the Supreme Court recently ruled that
states can now get taxes off of gambling, with Murphy versus NCAA, which
you may not know is this may solve one of the biggest educational crisis we
have in America. A study just was done for a 25 cent charge on every $100
bet on the NFL in this country, you could actually pay every D1 athlete
from golf to football at every college in America.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a sports book on politics in elections?
JOHNSON: Oh, yes, just like Ladbrokes in the U.K.
MATTHEWS: Can we do it here?
JOHNSON: Yes, we can.
MATTHEWS: There`s going to be money to be made for us.
MATTHEWS: If the so-called experts like me, go make some money. I can`t
JOHNSON: You can do a free game show.
MATTHEWS: It crews up your commentary once you`ve got a bet down.
Anyway, thank you George F. Will, Anita Kumar and Jason Johnson.
When we return, let me finish tonight within Trump Watch. You`re watching
MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Tuesday, June 12th, 2018.
In my old political days, I remember a young candidate coming back from a
meeting with the Brooklyn political boss. He was over himself with how
well the meeting had gone, how thrilled he was with being in the presence
of this tough leader.
“What did he say?” his political consultant asked him. “Oh, he was great.
He could not have been more friendly. I can`t tell you how wonderful it
“What did he say?” his political adviser persisted. “Did he promise to
“It wasn`t exactly what he committed to. It was kind of how he said it.
He was wonderful.”
“What did he say? What did he actually promise to do?” the old pro kept at
it. “What did he say?”
Finally, the young candidate realized he`d been had. He didn`t say
Donald Trump has just come away from his big meeting with the North Korean
leader feeling great. What did he get from that boss? What did Kim Jong
actually say about getting rid of his nuclear weapons, about inspections to
make sure it`s done? The answer is he didn`t say anything.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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