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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 4/28/2016

Guests: Jay Newton-Small, Richard Haass, Nayyera Haq, Josh Gerstein, John Stanton, Anne Gearan

Show: HARDBALL Date: April 28, 2016 Guest: Jay Newton-Small, Richard Haass, Nayyera Haq, Josh Gerstein, John Stanton, Anne Gearan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump at the gates.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Has Donald Trump already broken through the gates? Are the citizens of the Republican establishment getting ready to cheer the advancing rebel army? This is what it looks like tonight here in Washington. Donald Trump is well on his way to the nomination, with Ted Cruz and his allies having just five days left to stop him. What was once a "stop Trump" movement, in fact, now seems more like a movement to accept Trump.

Today, former speaker of the House John Boehner used strong language against Trump`s rival, Ted Cruz, however, calling him -- well, you listen.


QUESTION: How about Ted Cruz?



BOEHNER: In Washington, I have Democrat friends and I have Republican friends. I get along with almost everybody. But I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.



MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what he`s saying on the record. "Lucifer in the flesh," the former speaker said of Ted Cruz.

With Boehner now blasting Cruz, the list of Trump supporters on Capitol Hill continues to grow. The latest today, Pennsylvania congressman Bill Shuster, who says, "Donald is a private sector business leader who knows what it takes to get things done. And that is something that Washington desperately needs. It`s time for our party to unite behind Donald Trump and focus our time and energy on defeating Hillary Clinton."

So is the Republican Party now grudgingly accepting Donald Trump? Robert Costa is national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst. Michael Steele is former chair of the RNC and an MSNBC political analyst. And Jay Newton-Small is a Washington correspondent for "Time" magazine."

Let me go to you, Robert. You`re in South Bend, your academic home out there. I`m looking at the list here. Trump`s got three governors -- they`re pretty right-wing guys, Rick Scott, Paul LePage up in Maine, Chris Christie -- well, he`s not right-wing but he`s his buddy now -- and about a dozen Congress people and Senator Jeff Sessions.

Has the -- has the gate broken yet? Are they into the -- into the fort, the Trump people?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The gate`s certainly broken with many parts of the Republican establishment. At Trump`s foreign policy speech yesterday in Washington -- I was there, and I saw many pillars of the conservative establishment walking up to Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, Trump`s top lieutenant, and trying to just exchange some pleasantries and get to know them.

That`s the scene right now, especially among the Washington GOP elite. They see on the horizon a Trump nomination.

MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, former chair of the party, is it over?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It`s -- yes, it was over for a while now in many respects because Trump was able to establish momentum that no one else could break. And as long as he could sustain it, despite the hiccups in Wisconsin, starting with Iowa, he was able to continue with his message sometimes off beat, sometimes written out of -- you know, getting himself in trouble. But still, there was a consistency to him that kept his core base with him.

And all he had to do was add to it, which is what he`s done in big ways in the polls last week and going into Indiana.

MATTHEWS: Well, this -- this Baghdad Bob performance this week by Cruz and his people -- you know, like the fall of Baghdad was not really recognized by the spokesman for the government over there -- you know, I don`t see Cruz -- I think Cruz -- this marriage of the week he`s coming up with -- for a couple days, he`s married to Kasich. Now he`s married to Carly Fiorina. It looks so pathetic.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME": I mean, really, Cruz is just trying anything he can cycle to cycle to stop the inevitable -- the stories that Donald Trump`s sewn it up, he`s got it in the bag and (INAUDIBLE) voters in the remaining states just automatically go to Trump, right, if there`s no more race and everybody votes for Trump and there really is no more race, right?

So cycle by cycle, he`s just fighting tooth and nail to make sure that we have -- we -- nobody is saying that Trump has got it, right? We...


NEWTON-SMALL: This exact story is his worst nightmare.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s just been fragged, if you will, to use a Vietnam expression, by a fellow member of the establishment because Cruz out there in front for the establishment -- well, anyway, he was called Lucifer today by the former speaker, John Boehner.

He responded to that Lucifer charge. He said it was really an insult -- oh, I love this -- to all conservatives. Let`s watch.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Boehner had some interesting comments last night. He actually did abbreviate what he said. He was a little bit more...


CRUZ: ... expressive. He allowed his inner Trump to come out. I`ve never worked with John Boehner. Truth of the matter is, I don`t know the man. I`ve met John Boehner two or three times in my life. If I have said 50 words in my life to John Boehner, I`d be surprised, and every one of them has consisted of pleasantries -- Good to see you, Mr. Speaker.

When John Boehner calls me Lucifer, he`s not directing that at me. He`s directing it at you.

What Boehner is angry with is the American people holding him accountable.


MATTHEWS: You want a display, Robert Costa, of narcissism, political narcissism -- there`s a guy saying the speaker of the House all those years, elected by every member of the House in the Republican and serving as head of that party (INAUDIBLE) doesn`t know him. And therefore, there`s something not to be taken seriously about the guy. He -- Boehner doesn`t know -- I`m sorry -- doesn`t know Ted Cruz. Therefore, he`s a nobody.

What a weirdly revelatory comment about the psychology or the psyche of Ted Cruz to say, My biggest putdown of somebody is I haven`t met them.

COSTA: The success of Donald Trump in Washington is not so much just about the inroads Trump`s making with Manafort. It`s about the limitations of Senator Cruz because as much as Cruz associates tell me his fight now by picking a VP, it reminds them a lot of Reagan in `76.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

COSTA: What Reagan had in `76 was two gubernatorial terms in California. He had the experience in `64 with Goldwater. Cruz has only been in the Senate since January 2013 and he doesn`t have the deep relationships that could serve him in a conservative insurgency at this time.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Congressman Peter King, no friend of Cruz`s either, said Boehner didn`t go far enough in calling him Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan. Well, here he is.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I fully agree with John Boehner. And maybe he gives Lucifer a bad name by comparing him to Ted Cruz. Listen, what John Boehner was most concerned about was Ted Cruz perpetrated a fraud and a hoax when he brought about the shutdown of the government on some kind of a vague promise that he was going to be able to take "Obama care" out of the budget or to end "Obama care."

Ted Cruz knew it would never work, that it was never going to work, but he went ahead and did it anyway, shut down the government, cost the government money, served no purpose whatsoever other than to boost his name identification.


MATTHEWS: You know, Jay, they used to say Democrats in disarray because it`s alliterative, first of all, Democrats in disarray. But now the Republicans have got the -- the former Speaker of the House going after the guy who`s supposedly front man, chief shield for the establishment against Trump -- that`s Ted Cruz -- trashing the guy as Beelzebub, as Satan himself!


MATTHEWS: And then the other guy one-upping and saying this is a bad way of treating Lucifer.

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, clearly, Speaker Boehner blames Ted Cruz for his loss -- I mean, for his loss of his speakership because it was Ted Cruz sitting in Tortilla Coast, coaxing the Freedom Caucus...

MATTHEWS: That`s a restaurant on Capitol Hill.

NEWTON-SMALL: ... which is a restaurant on Capitol Hill -- coaxing the Freedom Caucus to rebel against Boehner, to shut down the government, to kick him out of office. And so he -- I mean, he personally caused enormous amounts of headaches for John Boehner. So he may not know John Boehner, but John Boehner knows him rather well, at least (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, John Boehner`s probably -- having run a bar over the years, probably knows how to kick a guy out.


COSTA: Get him out of here!


STEELE: ... got a little taste of how he would do it, you know, with that comment. But this is the funny part. You know, "The Washington Post" reported today they found a little bit ironic that Ted Cruz would say that because Ted Cruz was John Boehner`s lawyer back in 2006. So you can`t tell me that you never talked to the man and...

MATTHEWS: He was his actual lawyer?

STEELE: Yes. It was reported today. This -- everybody -- it was hysterical over the Internet...

MATTHEWS: So this is a lie.


STEELE: Wait a minute. You were the guys lawyer and you never talked to him?

MATTHEWS: OK. There`s a lot of -- look, it`s hard to come up with a lead tonight because it is, in fact, Trump has broken through the gates, but it`s also -- there`s hells-a-poppin` thing going on in the Republican establishment, where you have the former speaker calling the guy -- calling him Lucifer (INAUDIBLE) Satan, and then the other guy jumping in, saying you`re making -- you`re being unfair to Satan.

Anyway, Trump today said Cruz` selection of Carly Fiorina as a running mate wasn`t going to help him. Now, this is the other part of the three-ring circus tonight.

Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So now he`s got to recover. What does he do to recover? He gets Carly Fiorina. Now, Carly -- she`s very nice. Everything`s fine.


TRUMP: Carly got out. She had no standing. I mean, it was -- she had the one good debate on the children`s stage, not on our stage. She was on the children`s. So remember, she didn`t debate against me.

He now goes out and gets Carly, who left the race because she had no votes! She had nothing! And that`s OK. She`s a nice woman. But it`s not going to help. It`s not going to help.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the toned-down, Robert, toned-down Donald Trump, Nice woman, not bad, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But the other day he was saying no traction, no resonance, nobody`s reacting to her, nothing was happening, and now he`s saying nice things. even though he`s attaching her to a loser.


MATTHEWS: ... is this going after the woman`s card? I mean, he`s trying to find a way to say women -- he came up with a number the other day, 70 percent of women don`t like Hillary Clinton. I don`t know where he got that number from. We can`t find it. And he`s also -- it doesn`t exist. And he`s also trying to trash the desperation of Ted Cruz for coming up with this running mate of his now.

COSTA: Speaking to the Trump campaigning today, Trump allies, they don`t actually feel worried about Fiorina because -- I asked them about California, said she`s run for Senate in California. Doesn`t she bring a network? But their view is he doesn`t really bring a deep root in California to help him in that -- help Cruz in that primary.

The other thing with Fiorina -- you thought maybe Cruz could pick moderate, would pick a wild card pick, but he went with an outsider, a businesswoman who underscores Cruz`s ideological appeal. And that`s really Cruz`s core argument. So they don`t see an expansion of the Cruz pitch with the Fiorina selection.

MATTHEWS: Where does Fiorina vote?

COSTA: I believe she lives in northern Virginia at the moment. I don`t know her official residency.

MATTHEWS: I believe she votes in northern Virginia. I don`t think this is going to be a real claim on the California voter, having gotten beat out of there and then skipped town.

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, it`s for six years now she`s been...


MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t say that she`s a strong Californian. Anyway -- maybe he didn`t know that.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think it was bad call by Ted Cruz in this regard.

Said hello to everybody at Notre Dame.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Robert Costa. Thank you, Michael Steel and Jay Newton-Small of "Time."

Coming up -- what does Donald Trump really mean when he says his foreign policy will put America first? He`s pushing nationalism, of course, and Trump`s saying our country`s getting shoved around and he`s going to shove back.

Plus, is this the year of the outsider? If so, why is Hillary Clinton not only surviving but thriving? And how will she do against Donald Trump?

And the HARDBALL roundtable tonight`s going to be with us tonight. They`re going to ask me to tell them something -- tell me something I don`t know about this presidential race.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the words of that former Speaker of the House, John Boehner that`s now wafting through the air, words about the devil and Lucifer.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Secretary of State John Kerry got emotional during a speech Wednesday night at the LBJ presidential library. He was discussing his time as a naval officer in the Vietnam war and later as a protester against that war. Kerry choked back tears as he recalled his famous anti-war testimony in front of Congress in 1971.

Let`s watch.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: In 1971, when I testified against the war in Vietnam for the Senate, I spoke of the determination of veterans to undertake one last mission so that in 30 years, when our brothers went down the street without a leg or an arm and people asked why, we`d be able to say Vietnam and not mean a bitter -- not mean a bitter memory but mean instead the place where America turned, and that we helped it in the turning.



We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump is promising what he called a rational new approach to U.S. foreign policy that puts America first. A key tenet of his vision is to refrain from the kind of nation- building that got us so deep into Iraq. And here`s Trump himself explaining how American foreign policy has, as he put it, veered off course.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western democracy. We tore up what institutions they had, and then were surprised at what we unleashed.

We`re getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s wider vision, if you will, is his willingness to disengage with foreign countries if he cannot get what he wants from them, whether it`s walking away from a deal or avoiding getting into an entanglement to begin with.

But Reuters reports today that the theme of Trump`s speech yesterday, "America first," is alarming allies abroad. Quote, "Trump`s rhetoric raised alarm in allied countries that still rely on the superpower for defense" -- that`s us -- "particularly the phrase `America` first, used in the 1930s by isolationist that sought to keep the U.S. out of World War II."

Well, Trump`s speech has also earned praise -- earned praise from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker. Corker, who has declined endorsing a candidate so far, today said he`s more open to backing Trump.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: You know, I might change my mind, but the fact is, I`ve been meticulous about not trying to choose sides. I am the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. A speech was given. I liked it. And I want to hear more about it.


MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Relations. (sic) Richard, thanks for coming on now.

What do you -- what would you say would be -- if you had to write an AP, Associated Press, lead on what Trump is saying is his foreign policy?

RICHARD HAASS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS PRES.: Well, I think the principal tenet of it, Chris, is one of economic nationalism. And I think you also have -- and you just played this clip -- a suspicion or a discomfort with the kinds of transformational nation-building that, essentially, we`ve been carrying out for the best part of the last 15 years.

So essentially, it`s a more narrow vision of the U.S. role in the world and probably recalibrating the balance between what we do overseas and what we do at home slightly more in favor of the latter.

MATTHEWS: Let me follow that up here. Trump yesterday called for more unpredictability when dealing with our enemies, but he declined when pushed on the "TODAY" show to give any more details of his plan to fight ISIS. Here he is on his unpredictable threat.


TRUMP: Well, one of the tenets of my speech yesterday -- and it`s gotten great reviews, as you know, from many, many people. One of the tenets was unpredictability. We want...

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST: Yes, but people are casting votes.

TRUMP: ... to be unpredictable.

GUTHRIE: And so they should know whether or not a vote for you means a massive military presence in the Middle East.

TRUMP: But Savannah, if I get elected president, I don`t want ISIS to know what I`m going to do.

GUTHRIE: What about the American voter?

TRUMP: I don`t like the idea -- the enemy is watching every move we say. Everything we do militarily, we announce what we`re doing and they prepare for it. And I don`t want that.


MATTHEWS: You know, Richard, you know foreign policy, and one of the -- there`s some resonance here from the old Nixon days. He believed in the "mad bomber" theory -- Make them wonder I`m a little off, you know? I might do something really crazy.

In my interview with Mr. Trump about a month ago, I said, Would you take nuclear weapons off the table in the Middle East? He said no. and I said, How about Europe? He said no, it`s on the table.

That caused some laughing in the audience because where would you use nuclear weapons in fighting a terrorist gang embedded in Europe somewhere? Where would you bomb them and not kill thousands of other people in the immediate area.

What do you make of unpredictability as a foreign policy tool?

HAASS: It`s a double-edged sword, at best. On occasion, for sure, it can keep an adversary or would-be adversary off balance. They don`t quite know what you might do. Say, North Korea, there might be case for American unpredictability, whether we would or would not be prepared, say, to tolerate North Korea putting nuclear warheads on missiles that could reach the United States.

But on the other side, we got to be -- we have to be really careful about unpredictability because so many countries in the world depend on us being predictable, particularly our allies, whether it`s in Europe or Asia or the Middle East. They`ve got to have a fairly firm conviction that the United States will make good on what it`s pledged. Otherwise, they`ll either accommodate the most powerful country in the neighborhood or they`ll decide to take their security into their own hands. Neither one is something we want to see.

MATTHEWS: Would you -- is this -- it was at the former Nixon Center he did the speech.

And it`s been said that this was -- and I looked at the names of the people. They seem to be in the realist category. Is that what you would put this speech, as opposed to neoconservative?

HAASS: Well, it clearly is not neoconservative.

Again, he distanced himself significantly both from George W. Bush as well as from Barack Obama. There`s no -- for example, no sympathy whatsoever for what we did in Iraq in 2003 or what we did in Libya more recently.

I still think though the core is economic nationalism, the suspicion of trade, opposition to immigration, more transactional approach to allies, but, yes, an element of realism. I thought it was interesting that he echoed John Quincy Adams, the idea we would not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy in the case of Mr. Trump. I think he called enemies to pick a fight with.

Elements of realism, but I still think the core is much more economic nationalism.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s great having you on. Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, thanks for coming on.

HAASS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Nayyera Haq, who is a former State Department spokesman.

What do you make -- I jumped yesterday on this charge against Hillary Clinton saying she went to sleep the night that Chris Stevens was getting killed and the other Americans over in Benghazi, just went to sleep and wouldn`t answer the phone, a total lie. Nobody has ever said that about Hillary Clinton. Never.

NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Absolutely not. He`s really just making a series of statements that sound good to him in the moment on their own.

Despite the fact we saw a scripted foreign policy speech that he read from a teleprompter, I don`t know this is any different than some of the comments he`s made in the past. These are individual attitudes and statements of personal belief that when put together don`t make a doctrine and they certainly don`t hold up against statements that he`s made even within the same speech or previously.

MATTHEWS: He wants to build up the U.S. military. It`s always a good thing. We like to know that we`re well-armed in this country, not just Second Amendment. We like to know we have the largest navy, the most ships, the most surface ships. We have everything.

And I certainly like to know our troops out there have everything they need. But at the same time, he`s pulling back. We`re building a bigger army not to use it.

HAQ: He said the cheapest investment you can make is in the U.S. military. But then at the same time, we should be retreating from NATO and all our strategic military allies.

It shows a frank lack of understanding of what the post-World War II order looks like. We could call it realist. We could call it isolationist. Frankly, I think that`s giving it way too much credit, because this was not a speech designed for foreign policy experts. It was a speech designed for the 64 percent of the Americans who don`t have a passport, have never been overseas. And, frankly, all they care about is how they feel about American power.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s founded on the idea you walk away from a deal.

Now, if you`re in real estate and you want to build a big building somewhere, and you don`t get the right deal with the people you have to buy the land from, or you can`t cut the deal with the unions or whatever, you can walk back and go look somewhere else for a deal.

You can`t walk away from England, France, NATO, the Arab countries on our side. You can`t walk away from Japan, South Korea. They exist. You can`t walk away from Mexico. And once you make one of these ultimatums on them, ultimatum, and you say you must build the wall and they so no, then where do you go?

If you say to Europe, you have to pay for more, and they say we can`t pay for more, then where do you go? We drop off Eastern Europe from NATO protection? We just say no more? I don`t understand how you walk away from the table in diplomatic terms, how you do that.

HAQ: He`s not looking at this in diplomatic terms.

Diplomatic terms require strategic long-term relationships, understanding what is going on, on the ground. He`s looking at this as an investment banker. Everything is transactional and in the moment. He even referenced the idea of getting the best deal possible. Unfortunately, we have allies and we have people that -- these are the ones you have and they are not ideal and they`re not perfect.

MATTHEWS: The president of Mexico will not build a wall keeping his people in. He would not last one minute in office. He`d be impeached. I think East Germans tried this once. Honecker did this. They put a wall up.

HAQ: And it certainly didn`t do anything to help.

MATTHEWS: And then your government is finished after that, because the minute anybody knows you`re keeping your people in by a wall and you`re paying for it, they know you`re the bad guy.

Anyway, that`s the absurdity of this bluff. This bluff is a bluff. And they are going to say Mr. Trump in Mexican and Spanish, I can`t do this. We will give you a nice try, a honeymoon as president, but we`re not building a damn wall.

HAQ: The scary part is he talks about unpredictability, as if that`s a great thing in foreign policy, international relations.

It`s actually the same thing as volatility. And volatility is terrible for markets and it`s terrible for how the world works. The last thing people want is a United States that they can`t predict or rely on.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you unpredictable. He starts challenging Putin, Putin takes his shirt off, gets on a horse, and loves it, because here is his chance to be macho man against our guy. And you have two of these guys out there acting like this.

HAQ: In the meantime, look at Putin`s country, right? He`s jailing gays.

MATTHEWS: I don`t want to imitate him in any way, especially the look of the guy.

Anyway, thank you, Nayyera Haq, for coming on here.

HAQ: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, what is political corruption? Great question. The Supreme Court takes up the bribery case of former Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, what this case could mean for him and politicians. Can you do favors for somebody and have them do a favor back? Or can they do a favor for you and do a favor back for them? What is corruption? What is legal? What isn`t? Are we going to leave it to the FBI to decide?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

The State Department says the Assad regime carried out the airstrike that killed 14 people at a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital in Syria.

Vice President Biden was in Iraq today, where he made a surprise visit. He met with government officials, including Prime Minister Abadi, to discuss the fight against ISIS.

Three people with ties to San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook have been arrested in connection with a marriage fraud conspiracy. Those in custody include his older brother and sister-in-law.

And President Obama says the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, is extreme, though not unique, because the U.S. has underinvested in basic infrastructure. The city has been struggling to cope with a contaminated water supply -- back to HARDBALL.


BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: As I said for the last 39 months that never during any time of my 38 years of public service I have done anything that would abuse the powers of my office.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was of course former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Wednesday, that`s yesterday, after the Supreme Court heard his appeal on his 2014 public corruption convictions. McDonnell was found guilty then of receiving gifts while in office from a wealthy Virginia businessman, including loans worth $150,000, vacations and luxury goods, including a watch.

A one-time Republican rising star, Governor McDonnell found surprisingly supportive statements from some of the court`s more liberal justices yesterday.

Politico correspondent Josh Gerstein was at the High Court.

Josh, give us a feel. When you`re hearing people, Steve Breyer, very much respected people, admired people on the liberal side of things saying things that suggest they`re not ready to uphold this decision by the lower court that this guy is guilty.

JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO: They weren`t excusing his conduct. And I don`t think they were even saying that he should be acquitted, but they were very concerned about what the prosecutors did here in this case, that they lumped together things that maybe could be considered the reason for a bribery prosecution, such as pressuring your subordinates to, say, do a study of a drug, which is what was talked about by this businessman with Bob McDonnell to what goes on around Washington in state capitals all the time, which is, you call me up.

You may say, hey, I just donated to your campaign. I`m having a problem with a government agency. I`m wondering if would you write a letter for me. And Breyer seemed very worried that if you make that kind of situation enough to launch a federal corruption investigation and prosecution, that that is going to be a big, big problem and that you`re giving federal prosecutors an incredible amount of power and indiscretion to pick off anyone they don`t like for whatever reason and say, let`s go to a jury and see how they feel about that.

MATTHEWS: What is a public act? I worked on the Hill all those years. You always have caseworker working in an office, a good one usually, a man or woman.

You have a problem with your Social Security disability. OK, a lot of people have complaints in that department. He will write a buck slip on it, send it over to the appropriate department, and maybe that guy is given 50 bucks, or -- get 50 bucks. Is that a violation of the law?

GERSTEIN: It`s not clear. That`s what the justices were debating.

It`s not clear what qualifies as a public act. McDonnell`s lawyers were saying arranging a meeting or referring to someone in another government agency with a letter saying will you look into this could never be enough to justify...


MATTHEWS: What about a guy who raises a lot of money, a bundler for a presidential candidate, raises a million bucks and gets an ambassadorship somewhere? That`s part of American tradition.


GERSTEIN: Right. And that`s why you saw White House counsels from Republican and Democratic presidents together in an amicus brief that Chief Justice Roberts raised immediately with the government.

As soon as the government`s lawyer stood up, he said what about this bipartisan brief of all these government officials on both sides of the aisle, including lawyers that advised all of our recent presidents saying how can you do this? How can this be the standard?

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re an expert. So, let`s go the other way. Let`s go the way looking for bad behavior. A guy got, what, a gold watch, $5,000 watch, and he wore it as a gift.

GERSTEIN: A Rolex. Yes.

MATTHEWS: A Rolex. Well, tell us about that. Where do you see the obvious limits where corruption looks like corruption?

GERSTEIN: Well, even if you talk about taking a meeting, it doesn`t necessarily seem like it would be corruption.

But Justice Kagan, Justice Ginsburg both as brought up, well, what if you`re the president`s scheduler and you have to arrange a bunch of events and somebody comes in and says, I will give you $10,000 if you put me on the president`s schedule next week? I`m not asking you to make any decision, not asking you to do anything, except just get me on his schedule...


MATTHEWS: That`s illegal, though? That is particularly illegal, isn`t it? Performing government services for money?

GERSTEIN: Well, McDonnell`s lawyer say, look, at least under federal law, that`s a gratuity related to your job. We don`t have to get into bribery and so forth.

MATTHEWS: You can`t accept a gratuity for doing your job.

GERSTEIN: But in some states, it`s not clearly illegal.

MATTHEWS: It isn`t?

GERSTEIN: Not necessarily. It might not be a bribe, because it`s not clear what a governmental act is.

MATTHEWS: But how would that government server put it on his income or her income tax?

GERSTEIN: Well, they probably are supposed to put it on their income tax. But look what happened with McDonnell. A lot of these gifts were not clearly illegal under Virginia law.

And part of the reason he may have gotten in trouble with the feds is, there was nothing to go after him on at the state level. And so the feds had to step in here and make the case.

MATTHEWS: Should states be allowed to be a little bit loosey-goosey?

GERSTEIN: Our system has traditionally allowed that. And the question is, do we allow federal prosecutors to pick up the slack?

MATTHEWS: Like Wisconsin vs. Louisiana, for example, just as an example.

GERSTEIN: Traditionally, they have been. But do we let federal prosecutors sort that out?

And the question the justices were wrestling with yesterday also is, do we let the justices sort this out? Shouldn`t Congress write that law?

MATTHEWS: You`re a great guest. You have raised all the right questions with a great analysis. I really appreciate it, because what a good mind you have for this. Thank you, Josh Gerstein.

Still ahead, we still don`t know what`s going to happen with McDonnell. He might get a retry. He might get off.

Inside out, by the way, what is going on around, Donald Trump reigns as the year`s top outsider, of course. But if this is the year of the outsider, why is Hillary Clinton doing so well in her fight against British? She`s not rolling it up like Trump, but she`s rolling it up. What`s going on? The roundtable is going to answer that question. They`re coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, by the way, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Anger and distress have led to many political casualties this year in the Republican Party`s establishment. But while the GOP embraces the year of the outsider, Democrats are rallying around insiders.

As "The Washington Post" says -- quote -- "Republicans seem certain to nominate a bomb-throwing insurgent in celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump, or, should he fall short, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, while Democrats are consolidating around a guardian of the status quo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."

But it`s not just Clinton. Democrats scored big victories in contested Senate primaries when establishment favorites like Ted Strickland in Ohio, Chris Van Hollen in Maryland and Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania defeated challengers to their left.

And Hillary says she wants to make these Democrats winners in the fall.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I also believe it`s important that we elect more Democrats. I would love to see the Senate go back to being Democratic, instead of having Republicans...

QUESTION: You don`t think he can do that?

CLINTON: ... who won`t do their constitutional obligation.

I`m committed to electing Democrats. I`m committed to raising money. I`m already helping to fund Democratic campaigns.


MATTHEWS: So, who has the winning formula for 2016, the insiders or the outsiders?

Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post." Anne Gearan is a political correspondent with "The Washington Post" and John Stanton is Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed.

Anne, tell me about this. Hillary Clinton is definitely sailing against the wind, as Ted Kennedy would say. She`s clearly the most establishment figure in this race on either side. And look at her roll them, four out of five this week.


And she`s doing it by being that establishment figure. She cleared the field early. She looked so formidable so early on that many other potential challengers, true outsiders, never felt...

MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s the big story. You mean Linc Chafee wasn`t a real threat to her?


GEARAN: And, in the end, Bernie Sanders, who is an outsider candidate, wasn`t a true threat to her. He was a representational threat to her. He showed what she isn`t. But he didn`t have the ground game, he didn`t have the Democratic connections, he didn`t have sort of the operation that allowed her to emerge from all these primaries.

MATTHEWS: John, why does it look like Hillary Clinton, who had all the baggage she had to tote from the `90s, from the `80s, all the history of the Clinton in politics, all that baggage, and she looks like she is going to carry it right across the finish line?


And I think the thing is, this is the last probably cycle that she could. If you look at this cycle sort of -- if you look at the Republicans going back to, say, 2009, right after the passage of Obamacare, that`s when their insurgency really started in earnest. The Tea Party came up. And that kind of blew up the party a little bit. You have all these new people come in and that has created this dynamic to Trump and Cruz were manipulating to amphetamine to the nomination.

Bernie kind of represents in a lot of ways the beginning of that in the Democratic Party. I mean, the fact that he`s bringing in these huge crowds of people, there`s a lot of energy there. But they`re not -- it`s still not big enough. No infrastructure to that. There`s not enough of it there for someone to really beat somebody like Hillary.

MATTHEWS: But you sense this is the beginning of something like we`re seeing on the right?

STANTON: I do. I think at some point, the Democratic Party is going to have to reckon with the fact for years it tried to sort of triangulate to the middle much to the disappointment of a lot of its base. And that is starting to show. I mean, if you look at Black Lives Matter, you look at some of the unions are getting more and more antsy about that kind of stuff.

And I think they`re going to have to deal with that and move back to the left as a party.

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to remind a few people here of the times when they did go to the left and they got their butt kicked. McGovern, Mondale -- Mondale did everything for the unions, totally, it didn`t work politically.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, THE WASHINGTON POST: But here`s where I disagree a little bit with what John said. Now, on the right, there was no one to counter the Tea Party. When you have what`s happening here on the left, Bernie Sanders and his political revolution that he wanted to lead, there was a bloc on that and that was the African-American vote.

They came out and voted for Hillary Clinton and put a stop to this political revolution that Bernie Sanders wanted to lead because I think the African-American vote, generally speaking, is looking at who is going to come after President Obama. The black vote is very protective of this president, of that family, and now, they`re thinking about his legacy. They can`t protect it if you go with Bernie Sanders.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I think the October surprise, I will brand it now this year, will be the important power of the cavalry charge, which will be the president coming in for Hillary Clinton. It`s not going to be about Bill or anybody else about Bernie. It`s going to be about this president whose numbers will be up around 55 by then, the economy holds, and he`s going to come in there like gangbusters to help Hillary protect his legacy and make sure that over next the four to eight years, someone is guarding the fort.

Anyway, if Hillary Clinton sounds like the leader of a party, Sanders sounds like he`s challenging it. Here he is today. This is Sanders campaigning in Oregon.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem we`re having now is not no my view that the Republicans are winning elections. The problem is that the Democrats are losing elections. The Democratic Party, up to now, has not been clear about which side they are on on the major issues facing this country.

The Democratic Party has to reach a fundamental conclusion. Are we on the side of working people or big money interests?


MATTHEWS: I wasn`t clear then. Not to cause trouble. Was he talking we Democrats or you Democrats?

STANTON: You Democrats, I think. You look back at, like, I`ll go back to the Tea Party example. This is the same kind of language that the people that started that movement, you know, Dick Armey and all those folks.

MATTHEWS: That was a great name, wasn`t it?



STANTON: Those are insiders in a lot of ways that stepped on the outside to create this movement. They were like pointing fingers back at their party. Ted Cruz is the best example.

MATTHEWS: That fight isn`t over. Did you notice Lucifer?


MATTHEWS: Talk about getting angry, Lucifer.

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, well, I mean, John Boehner is a free man now. He can --


MATTHEWS: Well, you`re a reporter and you hear these comments off the record.

What about this thing with Hillary Clinton? Hillary Clinton will probably have the nomination. Bernie Sanders will have to settle for some action on the platform without her having to admit she`s doing it for him and having a speech at the convention, a big powerful speech and it will be incredibly impressive, I think I`ll say. It will be a great speech. He`ll have an impact in history.

But what does Hillary do to consolidate?

GEARAN: Well, in the near-term, she`s got to continue to manage a primary. I mean, he`s no longer an active threat to taking the nomination away from her, but she has to start that activity of bringing his supporters in by not bashing him, by offering some inclusive policy ideas. By appearing to be the Democrat that, I think, Bernie Sanders was saying there she`s not. I mean, there`s --


MATTHEWS: Across the south there`s lots of African-Americans. Bernie dismissed them as conservatives. That was odd thing to call African- Americans conservatives. Some are, of course. And he was basically saying that the Democratic Party has written off the South. He`s going to reclaim a 50-state strategy.

I don`t know. Has he ever been down there?

CAPEHART: Clearly not, because the people who live down there didn`t vote for him.


CAPEHART: I didn`t hear "we Democrats" or "you Democrats" in that clip you showed. I heard not you but them. There is -- he is making a very clear distinction between the Democratic Party and him and the people who will are supporting him, and while there`s a lot of focus on what Hillary Clinton needs to do to unify the party and bring Bernie Sanders supporters to her side, Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders has an obligation and a duty to help reunite the party.

MATTHEWS: So, the people, these crowds he`s bringing out, 8,000 in Rhode Island and the big crowd in Oregon, he doesn`t want them to think of themselves as Democrats yet.

CAPEHART: Yes, I mean, and think of -- imagine what would have happened in 2008 if Hillary Clinton said no, Barack Obama has an obligation to convince my supporters to support him. They would have said she`s out of her mind. It`s out of -- Senator Sanders is out of his mind to demand that Hillary Clinton turn his supporters to support her.


GEARAN: Well, I mean, I think he has a point, though. I mean, he --

CAPEHART: He has a point.

GEARAN: Yes, I mean, he`s identifying exactly the weakness that we`re all talking around here, that, you know, he has something she doesn`t. He`s saying you need to show my people.

MATTHEWS: Just a small point here, Jeff Weaver, his guy, said a week or two ago, he`s a member of the Democratic Party. Now, he`s talking about it in objective terms.


MATTHEWS: I don`t think he is at home.

STANTON: The people coming to his rallies and the people speaking for essentially, they have felt this way for a long time. Like this is not a new phenomenon he`s created or ginning up from whole cloth, right? This is a sentiment that`s existed within the party for years and years, certainly since at least the Clinton administration where they feel like this moderation has left them behind and he`s gone --

GEARAN: And they`re not being listened.

STANTON: -- and they`re not being listened to.

MATTHEWS: There`s a lot of people like Sherrod Brown, a lot of people in the big cities, from poorer areas, who talk even though they`re on the left, they got 100 percent ADA ratings, they really do vote left, big government. They call themselves Democrats. They don`t have any problem. They don`t objectify and put it out there. They say, we Democrats.


MATTHEWS: So, I don`t buy this fact that if you want to really be left, you can`t be a Democrat.


MATTHEWS: There`s plenty of room in the party for that noise.

Anyway, the round table, I work for Tip O`Neill, OK? There was a left there, I got to tell you. It was there then, and it was a positive left.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, as Republicans inch closer to picking their presidential nominee, unfavorable opinions of the GOP itself are at their highest points since 1992. According to the new national survey from the Pew Research Center, only 33 percent of the public, that`s all of us, have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, with 62 percent holding an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

Republicans themselves are largely to blame for the party`s decline in popularity. Catch this -- only 68 percent of the Republicans view their party positively, down from 79 percent last fall.

We`ll be right back. That`s terrible.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

John Stanton, tell me something I don`t know.

STANTON: Well, if you had any hopes the old boy network that runs Washington had died off, it`s alive and well. We`ve seen this week with what`s been going on with former Speaker Hastert, right before that five former members including Tom DeLay, and former Congressman Doolittle, Congressman Ewing, all sent these letters to the judge extolling his virtues and his character and all that. And we actually talked --

MATTHEWS: Why do you think they do that?

STANTON: Because it`s the old boys` network. I mean, if you`re part -- once you get to be part of the rich old white guys that run the world club, you don`t ever get out, right? And Dennis Hastert is a great example. They told us Ewing and Doolittle basically tried to make the argument they should be trying to find these guys who they say tried to extort money from him, instead of bringing charges against Denny Hastert. And they stood by even after he admitted --

MATTHEWS: That`s the way the Cosby case began. When it first emerged is it was somebody trying to exploit him, right? That`s what people with power do, it`s somebody else trying to exploit them. Yes.


GEARAN: Well, Hillary Clinton has a little breathing room here and she`s going to use it to do a couple things, including focusing some campaign events on her own story, kind of, you know --

MATTHEWS: The narrative.

GEARAN: The narrative, right. And campaigning for down-ballot Democrats. We`ll start to see her doing that with and for them. She`s been giving them money as she said in the clip you played earlier. But she`s actually --


MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a couple of questions because you`re a good beat reporter?


MATTHEWS: Give me two or three names who could go as her lifeline, if she has a really tough questions she`s got to answer, or a tough group she`s got to meet with, who does she go to?

GEARAN: Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, her long-time policy adviser, and John Podesta, and Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS: They`re on the phone if she`s got a hard test to face?

GEARAN: Yes. I mean, Bill and Cheryl probably first. Jake and John after.

MATTHEWS: I love to know that stuff.


CAPEHART: Matea Gold in "The Washington Post" today reports that the candidate who has spent the most money by far this election season, even more than Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders, $166 million already.

MATTHEWS: Where`s he spend it mainly?

CAPEHART: Mainly television ads.

MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, because Trump has been a very economical campaign. Free media.

CAPEHART: Free media, from day one.

MATTHEWS: "MORNING JOE," "GMA," he shows up for the big spots and everybody`s watching and he doesn`t spend a nickel.

GEARAN: All that money that Sanders spent meant Clinton had to spend money she wasn`t intending to spend now. She could never match him on TV, but she had to spend a lot more than they thought they would.

MATTHEWS: Yes, somebody wants to ask Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers, how much money did you lose gambling? The answer, how much does Groucho have?


MATTHEWS: Because they split it up originally.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Capehart. Thank you, Anne Gearan and John Stanton.

When we return, let me finish with the words of the former Speaker of the House John Boehner wafting through the air now.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the words of Former House Speaker John Boehner that are wafting through the air.

"Lucifer in the flesh" -- that`s what he called Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Lucifer, the devil, Satan, Beelzebub, the very personage of evil, the leader of the underlife, the chief resident of hell, Lucifer.

What more or less can the recent speaker of the house speak of the man now shielding the Republican establishment from its grandest tormenter Donald Trump? That he is the very being of evil on this earth, Lucifer in the flesh.

Well, this comes after all these years of hellish behavior from the Tea Party, all these years stretching back to the election of 2010 when the Republican right erupted in this country, beginning its taunting, tormenting, and terrifying of the GOP establishment. And the man leading that torture is the man John Boehner just branded Beelzebub because it was Ted Cruz who raced over to the house to undermine the leadership there to make governing the House impossible, stymieing governing by the people`s house every hour of every day.

And this is the divide right now in the Republican Party, grossly put, it`s between those who believe in conservative government and those who believe in conservative opposition to government.

John Boehner is the angel with wings and sword. He`s Michael the Archangel in this picture. Cruz is the one in the tail and cloven hooves. Boehner, let`s agree, never looked this good.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.