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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript, 6/2/2016

Guests: Jeffrey Goldberg, Kim Ghattas, Susan Page, John Brabender, Jeremy Peters, Kellyanne Conway; Cornell Belcher, Laura Bassett, Amos Snead

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 2, 2016 Guest: Jeffrey Goldberg, Kim Ghattas, Susan Page, John Brabender, Jeremy Peters, Kellyanne Conway; Cornell Belcher, Laura Bassett, Amos Snead

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary`s verdict on Trump -- You`re fired.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, yesterday, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump a fraud who will scam the people of this country. Well, today, in a major speech on foreign policy, Secretary Clinton landed her most penetrating attacks on Trump yet, saying the Republican nominee is outright dangerous to America`s national security.


HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump`s ideas aren`t just different, they are dangerously incoherent. They`re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.


CLINTON: He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.


CLINTON: This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes because it`s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.



MATTHEWS: Well, throughout the speech, Secretary Clinton cited Trump`s own words to make the case that he`s all over the map and liable to do anything as president.

Here`s Clinton on Trump`s plan to defeat ISIS.


CLINTON: He actually said, and I quote, "Maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS." Oh, OK. Let a terrorist group have control of major country in the Middle East.

Then he said we should send tens of thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS. He also refused to rule out nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.

It`s clear he doesn`t have a clue what he`s talking about, so we can`t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he`s capable of doing any or all of them.


MATTHEWS: In response, Donald Trump tweeted simply, "Bad performance by crooked Hillary Clinton. Reading poorly from the teleprompter. She doesn`t even look presidential."

But the latest national poll by NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" shows that foreign policy is a vulnerability for Donald Trump. When asked which candidate would be better in handling foreign policy, 56 percent of voters picked Clinton, just 29 percent Trump, a real differential there.

Also today, House Speaker Paul Ryan came (INAUDIBLE) came around, actually -- that`s the right phrase for it -- to endorsing Donald Trump, saying, well, he`d vote for him. Here`s what he wrote today after 29 days of deliberation and numerous meetings with the candidate. Quote, "Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people`s lives. That`s why I`ll be voting for him this fall."

I`m joined right now by Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for "The Atlantic," the BBC`s Kim Ghattas, author of the best-selling book "The Secretary," as well as MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chair Michael Steele.

Well, Jeff, let me ask you about the speech. How powerful is it? How important was what she did today, Secretary Clinton?

JEFF GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": It was powerful. It was scathing. It was unbelievably scathing. I mean, we`re in early June, and she`s questioning the mental health of the presumptive Republican nominee. I can`t remember a campaign -- I don`t know where -- where do you go in October?

MATTHEWS: Well, all you can do is think of the Lou Schwartz (ph) ad back in 1964...

GOLDBERG: That`s the one.

MATTHEWS: ... of the world blowing up with the little girl dying.

GOLDBERG: She`s now doing the Goldwater playbook. I mean, she`s come a long way from...

MATTHEWS: Anti-Goldwater.


GOLDBERG: Yes, yes, the anti-Goldwater. Right.


GOLDBERG: And this is -- this is LBJ. This is saying, If you vote for this man, he will cause a nuclear war...

MATTHEWS: He`s got his finger...

GOLDBERG: ... because he`s not only thin-skinned, but mentally unstable himself. And so it was very powerful.

And what would be interesting to see is if Trump has a substantial response to this. What she didn`t do, obviously, was talk about her own record. And that`s, of course, a vulnerability.

MATTHEWS: Others could have given this speech. But...

GOLDBERG: Marco Rubio could have given it.

MATTHEWS: It was a general anti-Trump speech. And I just want to remind everybody who doesn`t remember the history, back in `64, with Barry Goldwater, who a lot of people liked, by the way, he wasn`t crazy, although they did send (ph) some shrinks in some stupid poll that proved he was nuts -- he said, Leave the field commanders (INAUDIBLE) responsible of when to use nuclear weapons.

In other words, leave in the hands of generals, or colonels, even, why you might need a nuclear weapon in this skirmish, so you (ph) ahead (ph) make that decision. That`s what gave the reputation of an itchy trigger finger.

Trump is now getting that same treatment from Hillary.

KIM GHATTAS, BBC: He is definitely getting that treatment. I think this was a very solid, strong speech on foreign policy. I think she showed that she is capable of engaging in a street fight, while at the same time appealing for cool heads all around.

But as we saw from those polls just there about the percentage of people who think that she would handle foreign policy better, she`s still only addressing an audience that is open to her message. She`s not addressing the Trump audience.

I know it`s difficult to peel voters away, but she has said that she wants to reach out to the moderate, thoughtful Republicans. And you can only do that if you connect the issues...


GHATTAS: ... of foreign policy with the economy and why America, as a world leader, is important for your jobs here at home. She...

MATTHEWS: Well, I agree...


MATTHEWS: I agree with Kim. And I think -- I think, Jeff, too, that she made a call today -- I`m now going to take on and try to bring in the right. I`m going to forget Bernie Sanders. This speech Bernie Sanders could have never given. It was not a left-wing speech. It wasn`t a dovish...


MATTHEWS: ... or non -- she was talking about intervention, basically, and the importance of it, of duty. Foreign policy duty is what she talked about.

STEELE: No, she was, and she did a remarkable job at it. I mean, I think...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Republicans going to go for this in the burbs?

STEELE: They`re going to pay attention to it. But that`s the question I have. How many people actually heard this speech? How many people actually absorbed it in real time as she was delivering it? That matters.

And I think -- you know, you make the point about, you know, doing it now versus October. That`s a big difference. You know, folks are focused on graduations. Folks are focused on a lot of different things.

Doesn`t take away from the speech. But what they now have to do, the Clinton team, is to go out and really drill it down, to your point, connect it to something real for those blue collar...


STEELE: ... suburban, conservative, moderate Republican voters, independent voters. I think she wants to do that. The question is, to your point, Jeff, she still has a lot of baggage that was not addressed in the speech on her own foreign policy shortcomings, and that`s going to be...

MATTHEWS: OK, I love this question because, you know, I was on the Carter plane writing speeches for him in `80 when we were losing to Reagan.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: But we were still trying to win. And Carter went out there and basically said, This campaign`s a decision between peace and war. Now, Jody Powell was the press secretary, said, Did he really say that? Because the idea was to hold that. You hold your conclusive summation against your opponent until some point near the end. You don`t say, This guy is not to be trusted with the nuclear football, this is frightening, because if you say that in June -- I`ll go back to you, Jeff.

If you say that in June, what do you say June, July, August, September, October, November? Do you keep saying that for six months, that this guy is frightening? Can you do that?

GOLDBERG: You know, I`m not sure that they`ve made that calculation yet. What they`ve known is that she`s been on the defensive, particularly on these issues related to Libya, related to Iraq. And they thought, You know what? Let`s just pivot. We`re going to go on offense. We`re going to turn this up.

I don`t -- if you`re the Hillary Clinton campaign right now, are you really thinking about your October foreign policy speech strategy, or are you saying, I got to get out of defense and start going on offense?

MATTHEWS: And Trump was hitting her on those issues.

GOLDBERG: And Trump was hitting her hard, and will continue...

MATTHEWS: And by the way, hitting her as interventionist.

GOLDBERG: Hitting her as interventionist.

GHATTAS: But I think, also, it`s about drowning him out with one speech and then another, all her surrogates on television today...

GOLDBERG: With insults...


GHATTAS: ... Twitter, but also with the facts.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s let her -- let`s do some more of this. By the way, Clinton, Secretary Clinton, slammed Trump today for saying he`d target the families of suspected terrorists, citing the bin Laden raid also by her (ph) as an example of how the fight against terrorism should be waged.


CLINTON: It matters when he says he`ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists. During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that`s what honor looks like!



MATTHEWS: Playing to her strength there. She was in the Sit Room. We all saw her when that went down.


STEELE: ... the question is, I don`t know how much sympathy there is out there among the American masses for that point. I mean, it`s a legitimate point to make, but you know, people in this country, when it comes to this issue of terrorism, see how this network has formed and how families protect these individuals and are very much a part of furthering the plot. And so I don`t know how much sympathy she`s -- it`s an honorable point to make, but I don`t know how much of a sympathy card it plays.

GOLDBERG: Well, she has to turn that one more notch, I think, and say, you know, doing that kind of thing, in addition to being against American values and against American military values, also creates more enemies. I mean, that`s the point that has to be hammered home. When Trump talks about Islam the way he talks about...

MATTHEWS: She said that.

GOLDBERG: She said it, but you know, that`s a point that has to keep coming again and again and again. But again, I don`t know if it has salience...

MATTHEWS: Well, is that too subtle? Does everybody think -- I mean, keeping Muslims out of country -- I don`t know how they`re going to check on religion. Nobody`s ever gotten to the point of actually studying this as a police.


MATTHEWS: What, do you check a person`s religion -- they say, I`m Sephardic, and they look...


MATTHEWS: I`m different. I`m Jewish. You can`t put me on a list. Or I`m Maronite Christian from Lebanon. I may look Arab because I am Arab, but I`m a Christian. Leave me alone. How do you do that at the airport? I`ve always wondered how that`s done.

Anyway, put that aside. Nobody`s made the argument we`ve had here, if you want to make the enemies of the entire Islamic world, a billion people -- if you want to make them enemies, make them persona non grata in this country. That`s one way to make them enemies, and then there`ll be a lot more people out to get us.

GHATTAS: And she made that argument. Unfortunately, she had a slight sort of strange construct to her face (ph) where she said, you know, Donald Trump wants to keep a billion Muslims out of America. I think would actually be misunderstood by most people. What she was trying to say is that you can`t just simply say, you know, there are all these people out there who could bring something to America. Some of them live here. But we don`t want...

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk politics now.

GHATTAS: (INAUDIBLE) in the country.

MATTHEWS: Who`s she talking to today? I -- you disagreed with me in the room, we were talking in the other room about -- I think she`s aiming at the intellectuals who write the op-ed pieces, who work in the editorial...

STEELE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... smart people who are a bit hawkish...


STEELE: This was not a blue collar man speech.

MATTHEWS: She`s not all the way hawkish, but she wasn`t talking to those people.

STEELE: This was not...

MATTHEWS: She was also talking to the international diplomatic community. I think the ambassadors from around the world, the editorial page editors around the country...

STEELE: This...

MATTHEWS: I think she was talking to them, saying, I`m the sane one.

STEELE: I agree with you. This was a -- this was a speech for the intelligentsia, for political elites. This was not for middle America. It was not for, you know, blue collar workers in the suburbs. It was not that kind of speech.

It was very highbrow and very -- but it was important. I don`t want to take away from that. But the audience was much more narrow than I think a lot of people try to project it out to be.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know why you do it in daytime, not at nighttime?

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: You put out the transcript. You have the whole afternoon for the op-ed writers and the editorial writers...

STEELE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... of "The New York Times," even, which will be...


STEELE: Because most folks are driving their buses and their cabs right now.

MATTHEWS: People are going to write...

STEELE: They`re not watching this speech.

MATTHEWS: People are going to write off this speech, write off of it. A lot of people are going to write about this.

GOLDBERG: I have to say I disagree a little bit there. I mean, these -- one of the -- one of the more subtle aspects of this is this is very much not a Barack Obama speech, either.


MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t Obama have given the speech?

GOLDBERG: Because Obama -- if you look at the patterns, Obama will always start a speech about foreign policy and national security by acknowledging American failings, American mistakes. This is a speech that could have been given before the Vietnam war. Obviously, it could have been given...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

GOLDBERG: ... before Iraq. You know, and so -- and so Barack Obama would have shaded this a lot more. And something that she signalled -- I`m not sure who she`s signaling to...

MATTHEWS: OK, you...


MATTHEWS: Help me with this new word.

GOLDBERG: ... Middle America.

MATTHEWS: OK, what do you mean by shaded? Just help me with that.


MATTHEWS: Throw shade on it? What do you mean?

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, no, no, no, no! It`s -- it`s -- it`s nuance that...


GOLDBERG: This was an unalloyed...

MATTHEWS: This was patriotic...

GOLDBERG: ... American patriotic...


MATTHEWS: ... good guys.

GOLDBERG: We`ve never done anything wrong.

MATTHEWS: We`re the good guys.

GOLDBERG: If you read -- if you just read speech, you`d think...


MATTHEWS: ... good old days.

GHATTAS: Going back to the point that I was making at the beginning and going to what Michael was just saying, this was not a speech for blue collar voters. This was a speech for, you know, people who think about foreign policy possibly on a daily basis, who are already thinking about these issues. The way...

GOLDBERG: I`m sure there are blue collar people that think about foreign policy.

GHATTAS: Sure. No disrespect.


MATTHEWS: ... military.

GHATTAS: They`re more worried about -- they`re more worried about their jobs. And what she did with this speech is, A, speak to military families, speak to the military, which was considering the location of where she was, but also starting the conversation about America`s role in the world, which is something that is on American voters` mind. And the way you connect it with jobs and the economy is say, You want a trade war with China? You know, the price of your iPad is going to go up.


MATTHEWS: In closing, Hillary Clinton asked voters to imagine Trump in the Situation Room of the White House. Listen to this.


CLINTON: Now, imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room...


STEELE: ... making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States.


STEELE: Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he`s angry but America`s entire arsenal.

Do we want him making those calls? I have a lot of faith that the American people will make the right decision. This is a country with a deep reservoir of common sense and national pride. And we`re all counting on that.



MATTHEWS: One thing I couldn`t miss was the number of flags, 17 flags. I mean, she is taking back the flag, which I love to see the Democrats do occasionally from the more super-patriotic aspect.

But how does she maintain that line of attack in debates? I know you said she doesn`t think that far head, doesn`t have to. But if she`s calling the guy dangerous, somebody like Gwen Ifill, somebody who`s a middle-of-the- road, I mean, straight reporter moderator, saying, Secretary Clinton, you called this man sitting next to you here dangerous. And she can`t say, Well, I just meant some of his policies are a little disturbing. No! She said he`s personally dangerous!

STEELE: Well, there are two things about that. One was, as a buddy of mine said when he heard that was, Well, didn`t she say the same thing about Barack Obama? Yes, I think that was kind of the Clinton line about Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well, because he would negotiate...

STEELE: Yes, that he couldn`t negotiate and all of that. So there is that aspect of it. You know, we`ve heard this before from Hillary Clinton about, you know, her superiority when it comes to matters of foreign policy.

But the other thing, though, is it does go to what you`re saying about, you know, taking the rhetoric now and transporting it to a presidential stage and a debate. It`s a very different situation. And that one-on-one, when it`s Hillary and Donald Trump and that question comes up from a moderator such as yourself, how she responds in that moment will matter 10 times more than what she said at this moment.

MATTHEWS: It is -- it is Lyndon Johnson...

STEELE: It is.

MATTHEWS: ... talking about Barry Goldwater.

STEELE: Very much so.

MATTHEWS: This person should not be considered for president. This person should...

STEELE: She`s got to maintain that throughout...


GHATTAS: Beyond attacking Donald Trump, I think what struck me at the end of her speech was the message of positiveness. This isn`t just about the politics of anger. This is the politics of positivity, and as Jeff was saying, you know, projecting the idea that America is powerful. We don`t need to make it great again. It is still great.

GOLDBERG: We`re also forgetting one thing. I think she was trying in the speech to goad him into saying something even more extreme. I think this was an attempt to humiliate him, to put down his intelligence, to put down his sanity, and to see where she can get with that. I think there`s something...

MATTHEWS: This is the week that he`s having a tough week...

STEELE: He`s having tough week.

MATTHEWS: ... because all the reporters and editors have now got a lot of time for research and enterprising pieces. They`re going after the university. They`re going after the lawsuits. They`re piling on this week. Hillary`s jumping on that pile. It`s a smart move, kick him when he`s down and see if he reacts.

GHATTAS: And if it sticks.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s going to read every word of this.

GOLDBERG: One tweet so far.

MATTHEWS: The tweet wasn`t strong. Crooked Hillary was reading a teleprompter badly. No, she read it very well, Donald.

Anyway, thank you, Jeffrey Goldberg, for coming on, Kim Ghattas, as always, Michael Steele.

Coming up -- Donald Trump`s like a street fighter who will fight anyone for a dollar. Well, today, we learned Trump`s been involved in 3,500 lawsuits over the past 30 years, an unprecedented number for a presidential candidate, of course. And now he`s facing more criticism for comments he made about the judge in the Trump University fraud case. Well, that`s ahead.

Plus, more big companies are declining to help pay for the Republican convention this summer in Cleveland. That comes after a slew of high- profile Republican elected officials have announced they`re simply staying away. Is Trump scaring off corporate America and members of his own party? Has the Trump brand become too toxic for the mainstream?

And Bernie Sanders`s campaign manager says Sanders has nothing to hide and will release his tax returns before the Democratic convention.. My question is, why has it been OK for Sanders to sit on his tax returns and not Donald Trump?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with that news we made here last night.

And this is HARDBALL, place for politics.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I win as president, this is a civil case. I could have settled this case numerous times, but I don`t want to settle cases when we`re right.

I don`t believe in it. And when you start settling cases, you know what happens? Everybody sues you, because you get known as a settler. One thing about me, I`m not known as a settler.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump is a street fighter, of course, and will fight anyone in the house for a dollar. He`s very often in a dispute of course and never backs down from a fight, as he just said.

And that`s exactly what a new exclusive report in "USA Today" reveals. The presumptive nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 lawsuits over the course of three decades, according to the report.

As "USA Today" notes -- quote -- "The sheer volume of lawsuits is unprecedented for a presidential nominee. No candidate of a major party has had anything approaching the number of Trump`s courtroom entanglements."

But Trump tweeted today: "Wow. `USA Today` did today`s cover story on my record in lawsuits. Verdict, 450 wins, 38 losses. Isn`t that what you want for your president?"

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and one of the authors of this report. And John Brabender is a Republican strategist.

Why the enterprise for something -- what is it -- a lot of work in digging this stuff up. What`s it meant to tell us about the candidate?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, we can`t look at his record in government because he hasn`t had government jobs.

So, we need to look at his record in business. And one of the primary tools he`s done in striking deals in negotiating and dealing in the business world is through the courts.

MATTHEWS: He sues.

PAGE: He`s quick to sue. He is often sued in turn. That`s one of the most substantive public records we have for Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: But what does it say about -- I have been in politics on this before. And I have always questioned whether you hold against someone that they have been sued. Is there something wrong with being sued?

PAGE: There`s nothing wrong with being sued and there`s nothing wrong with suing somebody. It`s part of our system.

But you look at, number one, the volume of cases. That is extraordinary, even for people who have businesses like Donald Trump. You also look at the kind of priorities he sets when he pursues suits. He`s very sensitive about his name, about his brand. And he`s willing to devote enormous resources to suits that do not involve much money. It`s costing him money to pursue these. He doesn`t give them up.

MATTHEWS: John Foster Dulles was once accused by Winston Churchill, a foreign policy -- a foreign -- a secretary of state in the `50s, of being a bull that carries its china shop around with it, that there`s always a fight with John Foster Dulles.

Trump looks like that guy, the bull that carries the china shop around with him so he can always be raging against the storm.


MATTHEWS: He likes to fight.

BRABENDER: ... some people -- some people find that endearing. I think they want that sort of backbone of a president.

MATTHEWS: Do you? Do you like that?


BRABENDER: I do in some cases.

I do think this, though. I think the story was very well done. I think it was very fair, but I think there`s a context that you have to look at it. The reason it`s unprecedented to have somebody running for president with this many lawsuits, because it`s unprecedented to have a candidate running for president who has 500 businesses, which is how many there were.

If you do the math, that`s only three lawsuits where he was sued per business, which, as a small business person, that`s not outrageous. I do think, however, it does go to the mind-set of Donald Trump, that he is not somebody that settles.

This is a guy who is going to go fight even if it`s going to cost him money. It`s going to be up to voters if they think that`s admirable or problematic.

MATTHEWS: Hillary said today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that we might find ourselves in a nuclear war because somebody gets under Donald Trump`s skin. Does this get that to that question of temperament or beyond? A hothead?

PAGE: It does go to the issue of temperament.

Well, temperament and also his instinct is never to compromise, to negotiate, to settle. It`s never that in these cases. It`s always to fight.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you have to as president?

PAGE: And the most successful presidents have had building coalitions as one of their skills.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But when we had Reagan as president, and we had the officer killed, a colonel I believe he was, Richardson, who was killed along the line in Berlin right on the DMZ.


BRABENDER: The history you learn at this show is remarkable.


MATTHEWS: And we had of course the problem we had with the plane that was shot down over China and we had the Korean airline shot down by the Russian army, Russian air force.

Reagan didn`t go to war over those things. He said we will issue a protest. We will get through it. We will go on to ending this damn Cold War.

Does Trump have that temperament to say I`m not going to let everything like that take me to war?

BRABENDER: Ah, and this is the critical factor. Nobody knows.

And it`s something Trump is going to have to prove in the coming months. And I think that`s a big problem for him. Clearly, there was a huge shift in the Clinton campaign if you looked at that speech today. Number one, if there was a national drinking game for every time she said Trump that we had something, all of us would be under the table and nobody would be going to work tomorrow.

I bet she said his name 30 times. Second of all, she`s decided that there`s two things. She`s going to hit him on women`s issues. If you notice, she said if we treated women in other countries like Donald Trump does here, we would be outraged.

Number two is she made the point that do we really want to take the risk of Donald Trump? On the other hand, I think Trump is going to say, look, we tried it your way. It`s been embarrassing. We`re getting sand kicked in our face. We`re going to try it my way.

And I think you see that in these lawsuits, that he`s not somebody that backs down.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, as part of the ongoing class action lawsuit against Trump University, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is handling the case, has emerged as a prime target of Trump`s.

Curiel ordered the release of court documents about the marketing practices of Trump University, and Trump unleashed a highly personal attack on the judge which has taken many by surprise.


TRUMP: It`s a disgrace the way, the federal court is acting, because it`s a simple lawsuit. But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He`s a hater.


TRUMP: His name is Gonzalo Curiel.


TRUMP: And he`s not doing the right thing. The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that`s fine.

This court system -- The judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace.


MATTHEWS: Well, Judge Curiel is prevented from responding directly to Trump, of course. He can`t get into this political screaming match.

But in an order unsealing the document, the judge said that Trump -- quote -- "had placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue."

He certainly had. Maybe that`s a good case study there. Trump sees a Hispanic name, a Spanish name, and makes an assumption that this guy doesn`t like his positions on the border, which is -- a pollster might make that judgment. But they would keep it to themselves and they would make sure they polled enough people to have some sound ground. They wouldn`t just do it person by person.

Polling can`t tell you how individuals think. They can make generalization about communities. But there`s Trump saying this guy doesn`t like me because of my position on the border.

PAGE: This guy who, by the way, was born in Indiana and served as a prosecutor in San Diego and went after drug cartels.


MATTHEWS: But Trump`s made this assumption he`s his enemy.

PAGE: And said that it matters, that it matters that his parents immigrated to this country.

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t this get to the problem of Trump, John?

BRABENDER: It`s a big problem.

MATTHEWS: Jumping to conclusions.


BRABENDER: First of all, none of us would be talking about this if he hadn`t responded that way.

So, now he`s taken a small problem and made it bigger. Second of all, I think the tone and tenor, whereas it serves him well in Republican primaries, to a small group of primary voters, it`s a paradox. It is what also makes his vulnerable to winning in a general election to those who aren`t sold on him yet.

And I think he has to be more sensitive to it. The final thing I would argue is this means that there`s people around him that aren`t saying what the heck are you doing, and you need people like that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it didn`t work at all because he can`t admit to his prejudices, which he uses in politics. He can`t be part of them so blatantly as he just was. I mean, he went after the guy`s name. That`s all he knew.


BRABENDER: Right. And he didn`t need to.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Susan Page, thank you. John Brabender.

Up next, toxic Trump? Big brands aren`t enthusiastic about his Republican Convention in Cleveland. How does he make himself more marketable to swing voters?

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

Three Fort Hood soldiers are dead, and six are missing after their truck was washed away by floodwaters in Central Texas. Three other soldiers were rescued.

A pilot with the Navy Blue Angel Squadron is dead after his plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Tennessee.

The pilot of an F-16 survived a crash earlier in Colorado. The plane went down after taking part in a flyover at the U.S. Air Force Academy`s commencement ceremony. President Obama, who spoke at the event, met with the pilot who ejected safely, shortly after the rash.

And Minnesota health officials say Prince died of an accidental overdose of a powerful painkiller. According to the CDC, the drug fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Many Republican leaders and some corporations are staying away from the Republican National Convention coming up in Cleveland this summer.

According to a report in "The New York Times" today, four of the five last Republican nominees, by the way, including Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush, will all be skipping the convention this year.

Republican senators who find themselves in tough reelection fights like John McCain, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, will also be no-shows.

The home state Senator Rob Portman from Ohio has yet to decide if he will even show up at the convention held in his state. And at least nine Republican governors are sending regrets or remain noncommittal, including the home state Governor John Kasich of Ohio, who has yet to even endorse the Republican nominee.

He may not even go from Columbus to Cleveland.

Anyway, "The New York Times" also reported that major corporations like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard are staying away, no branding there.

With such a public rebuke of their nominee`s convention, is the Trump brand creating toxicity in the Republican Party?

Jeremy Peters is a reporter with "The New York Times" and Kellyanne Conway is a Republican strategist.

Kellyanne, which hat do you want to wear here, Republican hat or analyst for public opinion and branding? Tell me which and then proceed.



CONWAY: And I would say that Donald Trump`s main audience is the rank and file voters and this entire -- this abstention, particularly from the corporate sponsors, Chris, plays right into his entire campaign narrative, which is, I don`t owe donors anything. I`m for the working class. I`m not for the donor class. If they want to support the convention, great. If not, I`m going to take my message right to those people on the floor.

And you`re going to have prime-time ratings like nobody has ever seen and you know it, including on your network. So, I think it plays into the entire -- his own brand.

MATTHEWS: I hope we do. Kellyanne, we do want high audiences.

CONWAY: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: We do want that.


MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about the other politicians who aren`t showing up.

Why wouldn`t a guy like Portman who is running for reelection -- he`s a solid senator from Ohio.

CONWAY: He is.

MATTHEWS: Probably will get reelected. Who knows. He`s in good shape.

Why wouldn`t he show up at a convention in his own state?

CONWAY: He may. He actually hasn`t said whether he will or won`t. He is in for reelection, so he will be campaigning in that state in and around Cleveland.

Some of these other senators are in tough reelection races. They were always going to be tough. Some of them rode in on the Tea Party wave in 2010 and now have switched the decaf. And they`re in a little bit of trouble in their home states. They need to stay there.

Even John McCain has got a tough primary race on his hands this time. And I think, if you`re an incumbent senator, and you`re running this time, sometimes, your time is best spent with the voters.


MATTHEWS: Your experience on that point, Kellyanne, in your experience, can -- I have read that senators really rise or fall, they rise or fall depending on be power of the national ticket.

Can you divorce yourself, if you`re John McCain out in Arizona, from what happens in every TV set in the country basically tuned to politics that night? Can you not be a Republican that night nationally by just not showing up at a convention?

CONWAY: That depends on what his messaging is at home, Chris.

But I think it`s not a good year for someone who`s been on the inside for 30-some years now. That`s the real problem for most of these incumbents, is that it doesn`t really matter what happens in one night in Cleveland, if you`re there or not there. It`s, are you seen as an insider or an outsider in this cycle?

MATTHEWS: I got you.

Jeremy, let`s go to the corporate stuff now. I did read about the PGA tournament down in -- what`s called?


MATTHEWS: Doral, that in that case it wasn`t about politics. Cadillac, the car company, just didn`t want to be down there competing with the brand of Trump.


PETERS: Everybody becomes about him.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about this toxicity thing we`re talking about here? How powerful is it?

PETERS: The toxicity extends not just to Republican delegates, to senators, to governors. It extends to corporations.

What corporation is going to want their logo on the Trump convention?

MATTHEWS: Even if you do both conventions?

PETERS: Even if you do both conventions.

I think the impression that is going to be left with people that you are somehow a corporation that supports Trump`s brand of divisive politics, it`s not something they are going to want, even if -- even if they`re giving money to the convention.


MATTHEWS: We grew up with the idea that PepsiCo was Republican because of Joan Crawford.

Kellyanne, you weren`t old enough to remember this, but there was this notion that certain brands were connected.

PETERS: But even -- but you know how cautious these corporations are. I don`t know that it necessarily has anything to do with whether or not consumers will make that connection in their heads, but corporations are exceedingly cautious about this kind of stuff.

CONWAY: Well, that part is true.

PETERS: And a number of them -- but a number of them just don`t want to have anything to do with it.

MATTHEWS: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: I think they`re exceedingly cautious.

They also are not used to be courted by the likes of Donald Trump. So, for example, Hillary Clinton, the ultimate politician, ultimate insider, former first lady, secretary of state, U.S. senator, now running for president for a second time, she and people associated with her have been to K Street lobbying the political arms of these corporations.

She has given -- she gave 92 speeches, got $21.5 million from corporate America. She is corporate America`s sweetheart. And so Donald Trump hasn`t gone to corporate America and lobbied them and asked for favors.

MATTHEWS: Did you memorize all that?


CONWAY: No, of course not.


MATTHEWS: Did you know? You just went through her resume.

CONWAY: You know better than that.

MATTHEWS: You mummified her. You mummified her. You made her so much a part of the establishment, you had her -- oh, it was unbelievable, what you did there. You made her like so tied in that she will never get untied.

CONWAY: It`s the South Jersey-Philly thing, Chris. You know how we are.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re good at it.

Thank you, Jeremy Peters. Thank you, Kellyanne, especially in your analytic moments tonight.

Anyway, up next, what`s she is waiting for? What is he waiting for? Why won`t Bernie Sanders release more than just one year of his tax returns? The roundtable is coming here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



Well, tax season is coming on for all of us, but so far, only one remaining candidate in the 2016 race for president has released her tax returns. That`s Hillary Clinton, of course. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have yet to do so.

And last night, I spoke with Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.


MATTHEWS: Why do you think Trump is holding out his tax returns? Everybody says he`s going to be under tremendous pressure. He`s going to be the nominee, obviously. Going into November against either candidate -- your candidate or the other one, Hillary Clinton -- he`s under incredible pressure to release his tax returns. He refuses to do it. He keeps saying, "I`m under audit", which nobody believes.

Why do you think he`s not doing that?

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t know. There`s been a lot of speculation obviously. Maybe he doesn`t make as much as he says he makes, or maybe he pays a much lower tax rate than people think he would otherwise should pay. There`s obviously something he`s trying to conceal and he ought to release his tax returns.

MATTHEWS: There`s obviously something he`s trying to conceal. So, why is your candidate not releasing his tax returns? What`s he trying to conceal?

WEAVER: Well, he did some of his tax returns.

MATTHEWS: One year, he`s been in public life for 27 years. Why has he never released --

WEAVER: And he`s got House and Senate ethics reports dating back from forever.

MATTHEWS: You just said that Trump is hiding something by not releasing his tax returns. What is your candidate hiding?

WEAVER: My candidate is not hiding anything.

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he release his tax returns? He`s released one, year. That`s it.

WEAVER: He has released some.

MATTHEWS: One year.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, joining me tonight`s roundtable is Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, Laura Bassett is political reporter with "The Huffington Post", and, of course, Republican strategist, Amos Snead, with us.

All you guys, OK. I am what I am, OK? I wanted to find out why he wouldn`t release the tax returns. I gave him a chance, I baited him, I said go after Trump for a while. After he chewed on Trump for a while, I said how about your guy?

And it is interesting. Nobody thinks Bernie Sanders is rich. He`s got some cash income coming in. But he`s been asked over and over again, he`s running as the blue perfect moderate progressive and all that. Why doesn`t he release his tax returns? What`s going on here?

And last night, I got a commitment from Jeff, he will do it before the convention at some date.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It just seems suspicious. I mean, everyone does it. You`re going to take a hit on this if you don`t do it.

MATTHEWS: But the press is giving Bernie --


BELCHER: Well, you didn`t. But they`re smart people. They have to be thinking there`s a bigger downside to whatever is in the tax returns than they are taking. So --

MATTHEWS: If it`s better than it looks, you show it. If it`s worse than it looks, you don`t.

BLECHER: It seems hypocritical. It does. It needs --

MATTHEWS: Notice how quick he was to chew all over Trump for not doing it?

BELCHER: Any time you say, my candidate has nothing to hide, you`re losing.


MATTHEWS: Laura Bassett --


MATTHEWS: What`s he hiding?

BASSETT: I think there`s a couple of things he could be hiding. I think he could may be a little bit nervous about scrutiny over the $200,000 severance package that his wife took from Burlington College after she saddled it with debt. And, obviously, the news just came out that the college is sinking. That`s going to look bad for both of them.

MATTHEWS: That`s going to be like one of those snakes with the big thing in it. He swallowed something really big, you know --

BASSETT: Right, and you see the (INAUDIBLE), yes.

It also could be it looks bad that he expensed or he wrote off business lunches, $9,000 worth of business lunches on his taxes for the one year he put out. The other years could look worse for him. Obviously, he`s made it central tenet of his campaign to criticize rich people for what they write off on their taxes, and it would be embarrassing for something to look bad like that for him.

AMOS SNEAD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think you bring up a good point. I mean, we know more about --

MATTHEWS: I`m just asking.

SNEAD: -- more about Donald Trump steaks than Bernie Sanders financial history.

MATTHEWS: Why has the press not done enterprising reporting on Sanders? They`re enterprising like hell on Trump. Fair enough, that`s -- he`s the front-runner. He`s going to win this thing, but Bernie`s in the fight.

I think the Republicans have left him alone because they want to fatten him up. That`s my thinking.


SNEAD: The whole time he`s kind of run in the shadows, behind the scenes and it`s worked. He`s still turning out all of these people at these rallies. I think the press has been giving him a pass. It will be curious to see what`s in there if it ever does come out.

BELCHER: And his opponent is also giving him pass, because Hillary, let`s be clear, they knew all this stuff as well. But they decided that it`s better strategy for them not to hit --

MATTHEWS: But they won`t attack him.

BELCHER: Not to take him. But let`s be clear, any other candidate, the press wouldn`t have to do the job because the campaign would be doing it.

MATTHEWS: OK, Cornell.

We`ll be right back. We`re going to come back and ask these people, well, tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: You can catch HARDBALL news and the show`s best moments all week long online. Follow us on Facebook and like HARDBALL on Twitter and Instagram. You`ll get the latest headlines, the week`s top videos and behind the scenes look at HARDBALL, 24/7.

And we`ll be right back.


MATHEWS: And, Cornell, tell me something I don`t know.

BELCHER: Well, I don`t know about this, but the superdelegates keep being part of the conversation, superdelegates to superdelegates. Well, people keep doing the math on the superdelegates, and even if Bernie Sanders were to take the superdelegates from where he`s won, he`s still behind. There is no plausible way or combination for him.

MATTHEWS: Why does he keep saying superdelegates -- he lost the primaries and the caucus delegates.

BELCHER: I don`t know, Chris.



BASSETT: So, Hillary Clinton`s campaign came out today and told "The Huffington Post" that she supports the death penalty for Dylann Roof, which is really interesting.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about the case.

BASSETT: So, he`s the Charleston shooter. He shot -- I believe killed nine people in a historically black church.

MATTHEWS: What`s her bar on the capital punishment issue? What`s her bar?

BASSETT: She says for the most heinous crimes, and, of course, unclear what that means except the Roof case is one. And it`s interesting because Bernie opposes the death penalty in all cases. So, this sort of draw --

MATTHEWS: This is where I have a problem. You know, when somebody goes into a Starbucks, ties up all the employees, working minimum wage, ties them in the basement and systematically executes them, this guy gets off? I mean, where do you draw the line?

Is that to be a federal case? There`s some horrible stuff goes on in this country --

BASSETT: Someone needs to ask her. It`s hard to say the most heinous crimes and not define what you mean by that.

MATTHEWS: I do think so.

SNEAD: Marco Rubio will coach his kids` football team next season because he`s not running for re-election. Wouldn`t it be more fun to coach a football team?


MATTHEWS: Are you a father?

SNEAD: I`m a father. Yes.

BELCHER: No football?

MATTHEWS: No, I`m sure he`s a good father.

Let me ask you -- I saw him at church one time, I am impressed with him personally. Let me ask you about this thing today, Hillary Clinton gave a masterpiece speech today, I think. I think it`s going to have an impact on the world community, everyone is going to -- all the diplomats in the world, all the foreign press is going to read and they go, hmm, pretty serious person running here.

It was a speech I wouldn`t have given. It was a little more pre-Vietnam, a little more in terms of U.S. intervention around the world unapologetic despite the mistakes she`s made with Iraq, Syria, in Libya. No apology for that, no Obama in there, no Vietnam, she didn`t experience that. Is that going to help her, that kind of a centrist speech?

BELCHER: It`s going to help with insiders. But you know this regular Americans are worried about their paychecks and their wages and their kids` education. You know, foreign policy candidates typically aren`t the ones who are elected. It has to be a part of her portfolio but most voters won`t pay attention to it at all.

MATTHEWS: She basically said Donald Trump doesn`t have the temperament, he`s a hothead, he can`t be trusted with the nuclear button. This is the stuff that LBJ, if you watch it all way, against Goldwater.

BASSETT: Right. Her gloves are really off today. I haven`t seen her like that before.

I think it actually is really going to help her, because it`s appealing to people`s sense of fear. She`s using the word terrorist. She`s saying can you imagine Trump in the situation room having to deal with this?

BELCHER: The narrative that he`s scary and crazy is helpful, but --

BASSETT: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: The trouble with this is, this is how we got into Iraq. Fear of nuclear war. I thought it was ridiculous, of course, Iraq was going to attack us with a nuclear weapon. But the neo sold us on it. Now, we are back again. We`ve got to elect somebody because of the fear of nuclear war.

SNEAD: I think, say what you will about the speech, I think she was also trying to get a reaction out of Donald Trump. So, I think it will be interesting to watch his Twitter feed over the next 12 to 24 hours to see if he takes the bait.

MATTHEWS: Well, he just called her crooked Hillary again today and said she was lousy reading the teleprompter. I mean, you didn`t have to do anything -- do you think he can reduce the importance of her speech by being so lazy basically and talking about it? This isn`t worth my trouble?

SNEAD: I think one tweet of Donald Trump can take the whole news cycle a different direction, he knows that, you know?

MATTHEWS: Who won the news battle today? Ryan coming out, Ryan --Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, the highest elected Republican in the country, coming out for Trump? Or Hillary gave a pretty good speech?

BELCHER: I think we`re talking more about Hillary. We`re talking about it right now about Hillary`s speech than Ryan. I mean, he`s supposed to come out for his nominee.



BASSETT: You know Ryan as speaker of the House is not going to want a Democratic president so I don`t think that was as surprising as Hillary`s speech.

MATTHEWS: Does anybody here really know Ryan? I don`t know him very well.

BASSETT: Personally?

MATTHEWS: Luke Russert probably knows about him.

Do you know him?

SNEAD: No, I work --

MATTHEWS: What`s the story on the guy?

SNEAD: Look, he did come out with --

MATTHEWS: Do you know him -- you know Paul Ryan. I think a lot of people in this city and American politics don`t really know the guy.

SNEAD: I would agree with that. He stays in his office. He`s not in D.C., he`s back home Sunday night with dinner with his family every weekend.

MATTHEWS: He sounds like Peter the hermit, ain`t he? He sounds like a guy --


MATTHEWS: That`s not a knock, he`s a saint.

OK. Thank you very much, Cornell Belcher. Thank you, Laura Bassett and Amos Snead.

When we return, let me finish with the news we made here last night. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me close tonight with the news made here last night. We had the campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders here. He committed to the senator releasing his tax returns from over the years. He did so after nailing Donald Trump for not doing the very same thing. So, the question arises and hangs up there, is why Sanders has not released his tax returns except for that one year of 2014.

So, here`s the back and forth from last night that sets up that question and campaign manager Jeff Weaver`s response and his commitment.


MATTHEWS: You said that Donald Trump would not release his tax returns because he was obviously trying to hide something. What is Senator Sanders hiding?

WEAVER: He`s hiding nothing. I think if you talk to anybody in the media who saw those tax returns from 2014, everybody thought there was going to be some big thing --

MATTHEWS: I never said there was.



MATTHEWS: I`m asking the question, live question right now. You just went after Trump for not releasing his returns. Why isn`t your guy doing it?

WEAVER: Yes, because Trump -- look, Trump`s a flimflam artist and a fraud. I think we`ve seen that with his university.

MATTHEWS: Flimflam is when you don`t adjust yourself to the question I asked. Why doesn`t your guy release the returns?

WEAVER: I think that he will.

MATTHEWS: Oh, he will?

WEAVER: Sure. He said he will.

MATTHEWS: Senator Sanders will release his tax returns during the course of this campaign?

WEAVER: He said he would.

MATTHEWS: Before the convention?

WEAVER: He said he would, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, can you give me a date?

WEAVER: I`d be happy to get you a date, Chris.


MATTHEWS: Mr. Weaver here last night said he`d be happy to give us a date when his candidate`s going to release his many years of tax returns. All I can say is if it`s a tough problem for Trump that he won`t release his returns, if it raises real questions about what he`s not ready to let us know, then it`s a real question for Senator Sanders. Hillary Clinton, a person not known for her love of putting out personal information, has met the usual standard on this. She and Bill Clinton have released their tax returns for decades. Why can`t Senator Sanders? Why doesn`t he do it before the Democratic convention?

If his commitment is real and we have to hope that it is, when will he deliver on it? Mr. Weaver promises to do it. Let`s wait and see what happens here.

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

ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.