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

Guests: Susan Page, Michael Shear; Jeff Weaver, Megan Murphy, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, John Feehery

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 6, 2016 Guest: Susan Page, Michael Shear; Jeff Weaver, Megan Murphy, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, John Feehery


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, tonight, Hillary Clinton is on the precipice of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, and President Obama is ready to join her in the fight against Donald Trump. After beating Bernie Sanders in yesterday`s primary in Puerto Rico, Clinton now needs just 19 delegates to reach the magic number, which she is expected to when New Jersey reports its results early Tuesday evening. That`s tomorrow.

Clinton`s latest fund-raising e-mail says Clinton is just minutes away from become the first ever woman to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. However, California, which votes tomorrow, constitutes the last big prize of the Democratic primary calendar, and neither candidate is taking that state for granted.

The looming question which overshadows the entire Democratic race at this point is what will Bernie do after California votes on Tuesday night? In a move that could pressure Sanders to unite behind Clinton after California, "The New York Times" reported late this morning that, quote, "President Obama is now ready to aggressively campaign for Hillary Clinton starting with a formal endorsement of her candidacy as early as this week."

NBC`s Andrea Mitchell further reports that President Obama spoke to Bernie Sanders this weekend to try and mediate a truce and avoid conflict at the convention this summer.

Today, Secretary Clinton appeared confident that she would soon prevail over Sanders, but she stopped short of calling for him to concede.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After tomorrow, I will have more than three million votes more than Bernie Sanders. I`ll have a substantial lead in pledged delegates. Superdelegates have always followed the will of the voters. I expect them to do the same this time.

QUESTION: Do you think he should concede, as you did...

CLINTON: Well, we`ll wait. We`ll wait and find out. Actually, tomorrow is eight years to the day after I withdrew and endorsed then Senator Obama. I thought it was the right thing to do. No matter what differences we had in our long campaign, they paled in comparison the differences we had with the Republicans.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the reporter at "The New York Times" who wrote that piece on the president`s likely endorsement, Michael Shear, as well as NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, who will join us in just a minutes, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of "USA Today."

Susan, you`re having the year of your career, by the way. It`s unbelievable. But you, sir, are the man of the hour. Let`s ask this. I`ll ask it directly. Your story is saying that president wants to endorse as early as this week. Is that a way to muscle Sanders out of the race, to get that word out through you? Why would they put it out that the president wants to endorse, except to muscle the guy out of the race?

MICHAEL SHEAR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think part of it is just an acknowledgement of reality. And it goes to what Senator Clinton just said, which is that -- that everyone in the White House and in the Hillary Clinton campaign understand that the numbers are she`s going to lock this up as of tomorrow. And so I think...

MATTHEWS: Why is the -- he`s like a guy at a rodeo waiting to get out of that -- you know, the chute (INAUDIBLE) he`s bucking. He`s dying to get into this rodeo.

SHEAR: (INAUDIBLE) enough. He is so eager to get into this fight. And I think they have been trying to -- they said -- even today at the White House, they were saying, Look, we don`t want to do anything until -- until this is over. But the truth is...


MATTHEWS: You said as early as this week in your reporting. The president`s ready to move this week and endorse Hillary Clinton.

SHEAR: And I think that from what -- what our reporting says -- and to be clear, they didn`t specifically say it was going to happen this week. They said that it could happen as early as this week. And everything points to the fact that as of tomorrow, she will have...


MATTHEWS: ... assuming they put that out for a reason. Let me go to Andrea Mitchell right now. Andrea, this whole question about the president`s role -- what message did he send to Senator Sanders in addition to putting out the word today that he`s ready to -- he`s bucking in that chute. He wants to endorse Hillary. What way is he saying that to Sanders people, and to Sanders himself on the phone?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, my understanding is that it was a pretty blunt but an understanding call. He doesn`t want to muscle him, if you will. He knows how hard it is to lose. But the reality is the reality. The math is the math. It`s not going to change. And there`s a need for party unity.

And clearly, he`s letting him know, giving him a heads up that he is going to endorse her, and sooner rather than later. And apparently, there was quite a somber reaction because Sanders was with his wife, his children, his grandchildren. He was going Santa Monica Pier to the amusement park, to the rides in the middle of many campaign stops -- and this was on Sunday -- and took the call, and then it was a pretty tough reaction.

It`s very hard to lose these races, as Hillary Clinton knows, I think, better than anyone. And she was closer to Barack Obama eight years ago in delegates than Bernie Sanders is.

Now, obviously, there will be a big psychological impact on everyone, both sides of the game, if Sanders wins California, and he very well may do that. And that will make it a lot harder to persuade him to go to back to Burlington, think if over, talk to his advisers, particularly his wife, Jane, and decide how to take it from there.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Susan. Can you tell me who`s fighting to save -- to basically say, OK, Wednesday morning, we have a meeting up in Vermont. We basically say it`s over. We`ll just figure out how to do it the best possible way, or people who say, No, we`re going to fight the next month, more than a month, right to Philadelphia, the convention. We`re going to take it to a roll call. We`re going to fight on every front and try to win this nomination still.

Who are the players on both sides of that fight?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": I think we know that Tad Devine, who`s a very experienced figure and has been in these battles before, is saying, You`ve lost the nomination. You`ve had incredible fight, bigger than we ever thought. There are other -- there`s impact you can have, but you`re not going to be the nominee.

But I think that`s a hard message for Bernie Sanders and for Jane Sanders and maybe for Jeff Weaver, who I think...


MATTHEWS: Hold on. You`ve introduced him well.


MATTHEWS: ... Michael Shear and Andrea Mitchell and Susan Page are all sticking with us.

We`re joined right now by Sanders`s campaign manager, Jeff -- Jeff Weaver, can you -- do you have really the ability to -- thanks for coming on, always. Do you have the ability to...


MATTHEWS: Well, I know, but -- you have to have the last word. Well, here`s your chance. Is this campaign reaching a point of decision come the morning after the California fight?

WEAVER: Well, this campaign is and always has been driven by Bernie Sanders. So, obviously, I and other people in the campaign will do whatever the senator wants to do. And at this point, he has said he wants to take the fight all the way to the convention in Philadelphia. And if that`s his decision, we`re -- I`m all in.

MATTHEWS: What`s the role of the president here in this regard? As you see it, from the campaign, from the senator`s point of view, what`s the role of President Obama here?

WEAVER: Well, I think President Obama has a great role to play in this whole process. He is obviously, you know, the -- you know, pending the nominee in the party, the highest voice in the party. He`s certainly taken on Trump in recent days, I think effectively. So President Obama I think will be a huge voice in this race going forward.

MATTHEWS: But what about his voice saying he`s for Hillary?

WEAVER: Well, obviously, the president has been very even-handed throughout this process. And that`s been greatly appreciated. The president, obviously, does what the president wants to do, just like Bernie Sanders does what he wants to do and Hillary Clinton does what she wants to do. So obviously, the president is certainly his own man, and he will decide when he wants to do what he wants to do.

MATTHEWS: Can you help us on the phone call this weekend? Did he say he`s still even-handed, he`s still rooting for both candidates, equally, or he`s told the senator, your boss, your candidate that he`s decided he`s going to have to eventually support Hillary at this, that he`s made his call? Which way was it on the phone call?

WEAVER: Well, I`ll tell you what I tell everybody else, Chris. I`m not a big one to repeat phone calls or meeting details. So I`m certainly not going to repeat what may or may not have gone on in a call with the president or to even confirm there was a call to (ph) the president.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look -- hold on there -- let`s take a look at what Senator Sander has said himself about the future of his campaign over the last three days. On Saturday, Senator Sanders predicted a contested convention, which is what Jeff Weaver just said, in Philadelphia. Let`s watch that.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the nominating process, no candidate will have enough pledged delegates to call the campaign a victory. They will be dependent upon super-delegates. In other words, the Democratic national convention will be a contested convention.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, Senator Sanders suggested that there would be something of an assessment period -- that was his phrase -- after the California primary. That would be Wednesday morning. Here`s what he said when asked if he`d back Clinton after the primaries.


SANDERS: Let me just talk you to after the primary here in California, where we hope to win. Let`s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation.


MATTHEWS: Well, this comes as "The Wall Street Journal" today reports that the campaign is divided over its future. "A split is emerging inside the Bernie Sanders campaign over whether the senator should stand down after Tuesday`s election contest" -- that`s tomorrow`s" -- and unite behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The debate within the campaign indicates that Mr. Sanders`s next move isn`t settled."

So Jeff, is that fair reporting, or is it just something you`d rather not talk about? I mean, can you give us any kind of reaction?

WEAVER: Well, I have to -- I have to -- I`m laughing, Chris, because this is -- there`s a -- there this whole theme in the media now. And we`re -- I`m getting calls about it and Tad Devine`s getting calls about it, the great campaign split within the Sanders organization.

He and I were sitting together in a hotel lobby a couple hours ago, laughing about it. I can`t think of a substantive issue on which he and I have had a disagreement over the entire campaign. And so we both think it`s entirely -- it`s just laughable. It`s something that one media person concocted and everybody else is repeating. But it`s very, very funny.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Susan. Is there a perceived split between the people who are -- Tad Divine`s long-time Democratic consultant. Bernie Sanders is a long-time independent. There is a sort of natural structural difference between people who have a future in the Democratic Party and those who are always going to be independents.

PAGE: You know, I think that`s right. It doesn`t mean that there`s some kind of bitter divide. It means they have a different perspective on things. And you know that some of the arguments you would traditionally make at this point to Bernie Sanders do not apply. (INAUDIBLE) doesn`t plan to run for -- for president again.

He`s not actually a Democrat. He`s always been an independent. He doesn`t need Hillary Clinton`s help in retiring his campaign debt. So you have to make other arguments to Bernie Sanders if you`re going to persuade him that it`s time to stand down, and that is one role Barack Obama can play.

And for one -- one thing to keep in mind. This is important to Barack Obama not only because he wants to -- a Democrat to be elected. That`s important to his own legacy. Why is Ronald Reagan such a consequential president? Because he got, in effect, a third term...


PAGE: ... when George H.W. Bush...


MATTHEWS: ... your reporting this weekend. This morning -- can you move forward from where you were at 10:30 this morning, that Barack Obama is in that chute, bucking like a Brahma bull, wanting to get into this fight on behalf of Hillary Clinton, waiting for this thing to be over with, the intramural fight?

SHEAR: Well, I think what you can`t underestimate is what Andrea said a couple of minutes ago, which is that the thing that we couldn`t get either the White House or the Clinton campaign to -- to -- to give us a final answer on is how this is going to happen. It`s going to happen. The question is how it`s going to happen, and that really is still up in the air because they don`t know the outcome of California.

If Bernie wins California, it makes it much harder and it probably draws...


SHEAR: And if he doesn`t, if Hillary Clinton wins both New Jersey and California, I think that the sense we got is...


MATTHEWS: Michael, there`s nothing wrong with waiting for returns, and I`m sure Jeff would agree.

Let me go to Andrea Mitchell on this. Can you report further on the reaction of the Sanders campaign to that call from the president?

MITCHELL: Well, I know Jeff would be a much better source on this, but -- excuse me...

MATTHEWS: If he were a reporter, he would be, but...


MATTHEWS: ... he`s not a reporter, he works for the Sanders campaign.

MITCHELL: I know. I think it was very -- very glum (ph), is what we`ve been told.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK, let me go back to Jeff on our -- our little sidebar discussion here. We had Tad on last night, Tad Devine, the other -- sort of the regular Democrat. You`re the independent. But both...


WEAVER: ... Democrats, thank you.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, fine. I can never get it straight. Independent/Democrat/democratic socialist, whatever it is.

Let me ask you about the -- about the tax returns because you said on the show the last time you were on, you thought that Donald Trump certainly should show his returns because it`s suspicious that he hasn`t done so. You also said you`d give me a date when Senator Sanders would release his tax returns over the last several decades. Do you have a date yet?

WEAVER: I don`t Chris, but I think we should follow the example, perhaps, of yourself when your wife was running for the Congress...

MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.

WEAVER: ... in Maryland recently. She -- you guys didn`t release any tax returns. So I don`t really think you want to be in a position of talking about tax returns.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if we did release tax returns. Did we?

WEAVER: No, I don`t believe you did.

MATTHEWS: I had nothing to do with the campaign, but I will check. I will check. I`d be glad to check.

WEAVER: Please do.

MATTHEWS: Michael -- but you know, that was certainly strange because I wasn`t involved in that campaign, and you know it, at all, Jeffrey, at all. At all.


MATTHEWS: Yes, but I wasn`t involved. I`m just like -- you know, I`m not even Jane Sanders here.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Shear, for that. I will give it some thought. I don`t have any answer to it now because I wasn`t involved. Anyway, thank you, Michael Shear.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Andrea Mitchell and Susan Page. And thank you, Jeff -- well, no thank you, Jeff Weaver.

Anyway, coming up -- the fight for the unity of the Democratic Party. After Hillary Clinton locks up the nomination, will Bernie Sanders listen to the voice of Democrats who are calling for unity, or will he make good on his promise to fight to the convention? And we`ll talk to two Democratic members of the Senate, one`s a Sanders supporter and one who supports Clinton.

Plus, Republicans are running for Donald -- from Donald Trump after his racial comments about that judge in the Trump University fraud case, and now Trump is ordering his surrogates to get out and defend him and keep criticizing that judge. Anyway, that seems to be going on.

And on the eve of the climactic night of the primary calendar, the HARDBALL roundtable`s here to tell me something I don`t know about the presidential campaign.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the true story of Muhammad Ali.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: I`m hitting the road for election day tomorrow. I`ll be at Santa Monica Pier, out there on the pier, you know, where the ferris wheel is, as Californians cast their ballots. Starting at 6:00 PM, I`ll join Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow, of course, for complete coverage of the primaries tomorrow.

And for those of you who will be in the LA area, come join us out there. It`s wide open spaces along the beach.

And we`ll be right back.



CLINTON: I am, as you rightly point out, on the path to not only have a very big lead in the popular vote but a very significant lead in the pledged delegates. And so we`ll take stock about where we are tomorrow. I`m going to do everything I can to unify the Democratic Party, and I certainly am going to be reaching out to Senator Sanders and hope he will joining me in that because we`ve got to be unified going into the convention and coming out of the convention to take on Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Hillary Clinton says she wants the Democratic Party to unify after tomorrow night`s contests, and she expects Bernie Sanders to do his part in that. But Sanders has vowed to take his fight all the way to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and actually contest the nomination on the roll call.

And today, Sanders remained defiant in that tone.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I win tomorrow in California, if we do very well -- and I don`t know that we will, we may -- if we do well in the other states, if there are superdelegates out there who say, You know what? Looking at the objective evidence of polling, looking at the objective evidence of who has the strongest grass roots campaign and can bring out the larger voter turnout, which I think is crucial for November -- if some of those superdelegates begin to think that it`s Bernie Sanders, I think that that is not an insignificant thing.


MATTHEWS: Well, in regards to what happens tomorrow night, of course, is Sanders at all close to ending his quest for the Democratic nomination? The question`s still out there, no matter what happens in California.

Joining me right now are two United States senators. Senator Chris Murphy is a Democrat from Connecticut who backs Hillary Clinton and Senator Jeff Merkley is a Democrat from Oregon who is supporting Bernie Sanders.

So Senator Merkley, you know what is going on more than Senator Murphy does, because you`ve got access to the candidate who has to make the decision. All this talk about a period of assessment on Wednesday morning by the Sanders campaign, what does it mean? If he comes off of a squeaker, winning -- beating Hillary Clinton in California, does that mean he goes all the way to Philly and has a roll call on Wednesday in the convention and fighting it right till end?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, certainly, he said he`s going to go back to Vermont and assess. That`s what we would expect after the completion of the primaries. He`s going to be looking at the outcome Tuesday, but he`s also going to look at the big issues he`s championed in this campaign and the best way to take those issues forward.

MATTHEWS: What did that mean? I`m sorry.

MERKLEY: That means --

MATTHEWS: Will he fight this to the roll call?

MERKLEY: Well, that`s why he`s going to Vermont. If should -- should Clinton have as mathematically --


MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to report probably tomorrow night -- everybody knows this -- some time after New Jersey, that Secretary Clinton has the requisite combination of superdelegates and pledged delegates, won delegates in the primaries and the caucuses, to be the nominee.

That`s the game.

MERKLEY: So, when that happens...

MATTHEWS: So, what else is there to do? Once the game is over, what else are you doing?

MERKLEY: No, because this campaign is about a mission of saying that there are big issues, global warming, cash in politics, living wage jobs that we have to advance in a passionate and aggressive fashion.

And I think that way that the campaigns carry on a discussion after Tuesday is going to be about how you bring the party together and about how, in doing so, we position ourselves to aggressively take on those goals that have resonated so effectively in the grassroots.


So you`re continuing the moral cause, the issues cause, while recognizing that Hillary Clinton has won the nomination?

MERKLEY: In my mind, once a candidate has a majority of the regular delegates and a majority of the vote, that speaks for itself in terms of the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Have you told that to the senator`s campaign?

MERKLEY: Well, I think he has probably heard that from a few people.

MATTHEWS: It`s so fascinating, because it`s almost like one of those -- I`m not knocking them -- one of those cartoon figures that goes off the cliff, but keeps going. As long as they don`t look down, they don`t go down.

It`s like Sanders says, I`m here. I`m still a candidate. These superdelegates could change their mind. They could go with me now.

It`s all technically true. And he seems to want to live in that universe, where it is technically possible for him to sweep the superdelegates and win the nomination.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Listen, Bernie is a friend of both of ours.

And I think you have to put yourself in his position for a moment. What he has constructed here is really a phenomenon. And it`s a question of whether this phenomenon in the end has a lasting impact on the Democratic Party.

And I think that`s the question that he is going to have to wrestle with. I think part of his brain tells him that, if he sticks it out, that the platform at the committee can better reflect his beliefs.

But then there is also this worry that all of these voters that he`s mobilized, if he stays in perhaps too long, won`t stay engaged and be helpful in the general election. So, listen, I think he`s in a difficult position here. And he`s just trying to figure out how he can take this movement and make it as real as possible.

MATTHEWS: But how about the human nature part of it? The guy is almost 75. He has got crowds around him like he will never have again the rest of his life.

Just human nature says, wouldn`t you like to go out before some incredible barnstorming crowd of 10,000 people tomorrow night and have them all in love with you? How does he walk away from that? I`m just trying to figure this out human-wise.

MERKLEY: Well, I think that`s where this conversation about bringing the party together and accentuating the effort to take on these issues.

We must have a convention where we discuss a national minimum wage increasing substantially. We have got to a pivot off fossil fuels and the issue of fracking. We have got to...

MATTHEWS: What are the demands of the Bernie people? Do you want a $15 minimum wage commitment in the Democratic plank?

MERKLEY: Would I like to see that? Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Do you want to see a federal ban...


MERKLEY: What I care may not matter a whole lot.

MATTHEWS: Do you want a federal ban committed to by the Democratic Party on fracking?

MERKLEY: Would I? Yes, indeed.

MATTHEWS: What do you think will be the negotiating...


MATTHEWS: There are a lot of things, health care as a right, free state university college tuition. This is all serious proposals made by Trump. And everybody knows -- I`m sorry -- by Sanders.

And everybody knows where he stands.


MATTHEWS: Is he going to get this?

MURPHY: Right, but this isn`t a point of division between the Clinton supporters and the Sanders supporters. Right?

You have got plenty of Clinton supporters who are going to want to see a commitment to a $15 minimum wage. You`re going to see a lot of Clinton supporters who want to see more progressive policies on Social Security preservation.

So, I don`t necessarily think that all these issues are going to line up with Bernie Sanders supporters on one side and Clinton supporters on the other side.

MATTHEWS: Do you think compromise is here?


MATTHEWS: But the Sanders people are so rabid, so gung-ho, do you think they know what compromise looks like and they can deal -- like, suppose she says $15 an hour over the next 10 years, or she says debt-free, we are going to have work study programs guaranteed at every university.

We will have different ways you can afford college. I`m not going to give it to you. The government is not going to pay for college tuition, there is not any money there.

MERKLEY: But there are ways to work for it.

There are types of conversations that I think should take place. Compromise will take place, because we`re unified. We`re completely unified over the fact that Donald Trump is a charlatan. He ran a scam university. He stripped working people of their money. And his campaign is a scam on a larger scale.

He has never woken up one day in his life and had a concern for working people. He had a chance to give jobs to Americans. He imported them -- he imported workers from overseas instead.


MERKLEY: So, Bernie Sanders absolutely committed making sure that Donald Trump is not president.

MATTHEWS: Do you think the Democratic Party should change its name to what Sanders likes, Democratic Socialist...


MERKLEY: I think Democratic Party sound -- is a beautiful name.

MATTHEWS: Are you a Democrat?

MERKLEY: I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Are you a socialist?

MERKLEY: I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Are you a socialist?

MERKLEY: I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Are you a socialist?

MERKLEY: Well, you can call me whatever you want.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking you. Why is this so tricky?

MERKLEY: Well, because if socialism means that we have affordable health care for every American...

MATTHEWS: Just tell me how do you define it. No, you define it your way. Are you a socialist?

MERKLEY: I`m a Democrat. I`m a Democrat. The Democratic Party stands for a system that works for working people. And that`s what I stand for.

MATTHEWS: So, you don`t want to answer it. You don`t want to answer I.

MERKLEY: Well, I have answered it. You asked what I am. I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: But you`re not a socialist?

MERKLEY: I`m not a socialist, unless you call everyone an American socialist who receives Social Security.


MATTHEWS: I know what you mean. I know what you mean. I know it.

It just seems sort of tricky, because Bernie is very happy with that name socialist. And other people are not.

MURPHY: Listen, don`t underestimate, as Jeff said...

MATTHEWS: Because the Republicans will throw this at you come the general election. If it weren`t for Trump, and they had a Republican candidate, they would be throwing the hammer at you on this, and sickle.

MURPHY: Just back to Jeff`s point, don`t underestimate the ability of Donald Trump to unify this party.

You will come out of convention with some Bernie people upset that they didn`t get everything in that platform that they wanted. You will get some socialists that show up to that convention upset that the party doesn`t reflect their foundational beliefs.


MURPHY: But Donald Trump will do a pretty fantastic job at unifying the party.

MATTHEWS: How did Nixon get elected president, if that`s true, the Democrats unite all the time?

MURPHY: How did Nixon get elected?

MATTHEWS: How did he get elected? Because he did get elected after the `68 debacle.

MURPHY: Yes. Well, Donald Trump is not Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon is not Donald Trump.

This is a very different character.

MATTHEWS: He`s worse.

MURPHY: Yes. This is a fundamental shift in the Republican Party that even they don`t know what to do with.

MERKLEY: I don`t think we have had Richard Nixon attack an American judge because they have Mexican ancestry.

And I just want to know, for Donald Trump, when you have a chance to ask him, because he`s German, if he was a judge, would he rule himself out of any issue involving someone of a German background?

His position is absurd. It is being condemned and rejected throughout the Republican Party, not only the Democratic Party. We`re going to come together and make sure the Democratic nominee is president.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe if somebody would call Germans rapists. Who knows what people...


MURPHY: Well, Richard Nixon was quietly racist behind closed doors, had the good sense not to say it out loud. Donald Trump is amazing, in that he is proudly racist in many ways.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m not going to defend Nixon here.

MURPHY: Read, listen to the tapes.

MATTHEWS: He made comments about Italian-Americans, too.



MATTHEWS: A lot of different people, and Jewish-Americans. He was tough on a lot of people.

Thank you, Senator Murphy.

MERKLEY: Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS: And a Democrat, Jeff Merkley, Democrat and proud thereof.

Up next, a candidate without a campaign, that is how some Republican operatives are describing Donald Trump these moments. And they worry his bare-bones operation could spell defeat this November. He doesn`t want to grow, apparently, as an institutional candidate.

And, later, Trump`s call to his supporters urging them to ratchet up the criticism of the judge just mentioned in the Trump University case, the man who comes from a Mexican ancestry that Trump doesn`t trust.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

Authorities in Ohio say the mother of a toddler who fell into a gorilla enclosure last month will not be charged. A gorilla inside the exhibit was shot dead after it dragged the boy through a moat.

Florida`s governor has declared a state of emergency for areas in the path of Tropical Storm Colin.

And the Playboy Mansion is reportedly under contract to be sold to a neighbor. The property was listed for $200 million. The deal would allow Playboy founder Hugh Hefner to remain at the home for the rest of his life -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

And as we inch closer to a general election, is the presumptive Republican nominee a man without a campaign?

According to a new NBC report, Republicans working to elect Donald Trump describe a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that is prisoner to Trump`s momentary whims.

Well, a source close to the campaign says, "Bottom line, you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants." That`s a quote.

Trump today tweeted: "I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good. Flexible. Save money. And number one," whatever that is.

Joining me right now is NBC`s Katy Tur, who reported that story, and Republican strategist John Feehery.

Katy, you know, the press needs information. The press needs to be able to report. And when you`re assigned, as you are and others are, your colleagues, to cover a campaign, you need to be able to get some meat on the bones every day.

Does Trump understand that or what? Does he know that your job is to get stuff you can use to put on the air every night?

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think he understands that. I don`t think it`s something that he likes.

I think he fundamentally believes that he`s not getting fair treatment in the press on a day-to-day basis. the campaign doesn`t feel it`s necessary to speak to reporters, as most other campaigns do. You usually get an idea or a sense of what they`re talking points are during the day or what strategy they have or what they`re looking forward to or how they`re trying to spin a message or a positive message that they`re trying to get out there.

You don`t get that from the Donald Trump campaign, because they assume, unless they like you personally as a reporter and feel that you have been positively treating them, they assume that you are not going to use that information in a beneficial way to them, so they shut you out entirely.

Does that mean you have no access to the campaign? Not at all. People still talk you to on background quite a bit. But this campaign in particular, Chris, has a very tight center, has a very tight control around the candidate, and there are certain aides within that campaign group, ones that have been there forever, who are less apt to talk to reporters because they don`t want to cede any control.

MATTHEWS: You know, John, you know, in a way, that is old-time politics- related journalism. One newspaper is on your side, you feed them like mad.


MATTHEWS: In the past, it was "The Globe" in Boston. You skip "The Herald."

FEEHERY: Right. I do that all the time. Right.


MATTHEWS: That`s the way you did it. And it seems like Trump has gone back to the old, you are either with me or against me. There`s no such thing as an independent modern professional journalist out there. We`re just going to go with our people and screw the others, stiff them.

FEEHERY: Well, the thing about Trump is, he has really revolutionized the new campaigns with Twitter. He is on Twitter all the time. Very authentic.

The problem is, he doesn`t have a professional campaign staff with, for us, is jarring. In many ways, the fact that he`s not a professional politician is a good thing. It says -- it just shows off authenticity.

But it is also a bad thing, because he can`t keep a consistent message and he can`t keep on offense. He is all over the place. And that -- undisciplined is killing him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s the problem. He is trying to use, it seems to me, his campaign, Katy, to defend his position with regard to the judge that he`s going after, who he says the judge, because of his Mexican heritage and background and his family, that he`s going to be against him, biased against him in this case involving Trump U.

Here`s the tricky part. Even in an ideal surrogate setup, why should a surrogate go in and defend him on Trump U.? That`s a private matter.

TUR: Well, that is a private matter to Donald Trump, but it`s become a campaign issue, because he talks about it at these rallies nonstop. And he talks about it at interviews.

So, in the Donald Trump campaign world, even if it is a private matter, it is something that is relevant to his campaign, because he is constantly bringing it up. He talks about himself...


TUR: ... certainly a lot more than he talks about his full-fledged policy proposals.

And what he is doing right now -- and we confirmed this Bloomberg report about a source to that conversation between Donald Trump and surrogates -- he`s trying to tell them to help him put out this fire that has been created around him with these Judge Curiel comments.

And he`s asking them to defend him on it, saying that he believes he`s not being treated fairly, and here are the reasons why.

And we`re going to find out if these surrogates come out and do actually do that, defend Trump on comments that are widely being called racist right now, including by some in the Republican Party, at the very worst. The very best, many Republican leadership -- leaders just trying to distance themselves from this.

And we`re also going to see if the Bloomberg report that Donald Trump is asking them to call out TV reporters by name and to push back on them pretty hard and aggressively, saying that they`re actually the racist ones for asking Donald Trump about whether his comments are racist, we`re going to find out if that happens. It will be interesting.

MATTHEWS: OK. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Let`s get back to English here. Let`s get back to English.

How do you call people who are sensitive, reasonably sensitive, reasonable people about somebody being targeted as biased because they`re Mexican -- of Mexican-American background? You can argue about that. But how do you turn that around to the person who is sensitive to ethnic prejudice is guilty of ethnic prejudice? How does that work? How is Donald Trump a victim of racism?

TUR: I`m not sure how he would lay it out.

But I do believe, from experience in the campaign, and from speaking to people, that one of their biggest talking points, you know, in the talking point spectrum of Donald Trump, is this anti-political correctness. They don`t want to be politically correct at all.

And this is another instance where I think the campaign believes that they are being forced to be politically correct, and they don`t believe they should be.


One of the oldest rules -- John, you and I, being old pros, know this. When you`re in a hole, stop digging.


MATTHEWS: He is in a hole. He`s not getting -- Katy knows this. You can`t find anybody who agrees with him. No matter how his thinking goes -- you know, I call them all rapists. Obviously, they resent that.

No matter how his -- I mean people of Mexican heritage. No matter how he sells it, nobody wants to put -- take the position I agree with him that judge should be suspected of bias in this case because he`s Mexican- American. You cannot win that argument.

FEEHERY: No, you can`t.

MATTHEWS: It`s unwinnable on its face.

FEEHERY: He`s going to stop digging and he`s going to start a fire somewhere else and have -- he`s always been good at shifting attention to something else.

He`s not good this time.


MATTHEWS: They want to get off it.

FEEHERY: I think he feels injured. And I also think he thinks that this Trump University is actually really bad for his campaign. And the further it goes into it, the worse it is for him.


MATTHEWS: Because it hurts the little people. It hurts the people.

FEEHERY: It hurts the little people. That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you so much.

Katy Tur, there is not always a solution. Sometimes, you take your losses.

John Feehery, thank you. Katy, as always, thank you for that great reporting.

Much more on the troubles facing Trump coming up right now. Republicans are condemning his comments about the judge in the Trump University case. They`re actually condemning him. They`re not just not agreeing. They`re going after him. And that is people like Newt Gingrich, who is number one on Chris Cillizza`s list of probable V.P. nominees for Trump.

Anyway, you are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



INTERVIEWER: Why did you refer to his ethnicity, Donald?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, because his heritage is Mexican.


TRUMP: Well, because I want to build a wall. I`m getting along great I think with Hispanics, but I want to build a wall.

INTERVIEWER: Yes. But some of the numbers don`t indicate that. Do you think you have to dial it back?

TRUMP: Look, I have to be what I have to be.

INTERVIEWER: If he were a Muslim judge, would you also feel like they wouldn`t be able to treat you fairly because of that policy of yours?

TRUMP: It`s possibly, yes. Yes, that would be possible, absolutely.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: When you`re in a hole, stop digging.

Anyway, Donald Trump faced a flood of criticism this weekend for his comments, including from several Republicans.

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire told NBC, "His comments are offensive and wrong and he should retract them." This is about the judge in the Trump U case. Yet, she still plans to support him.

Susan Collins of Maine called it, quote, "absolutely unacceptable." "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page wrote today, apart from his racist implications, Mr. Trump is also indulging in the left`s habit of attributing motivations of everyone and everything to race, class, gender and sexual orientation."

Well, Senator Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan among others also rejected Trump`s comments.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I couldn`t disagree more with that statement like that.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It`s a reasoning I don`t relate to. I completely disagree with that thinking don`t think he is behind that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s offensive. It really is. And this week, it was a whole new level.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think it`s wrong. He needs to stop saying that. I don`t think it reflects well on the Republican Party. I don`t think it reflects well on us a nation.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. I think it`s inexcusable.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump double down again today.


TRUMP: As far as Newt is concerned, I saw Newt. I was surprised that Newt -- I thought it was inappropriate. All I`m trying to do is figure out why I`m being treating so unfairly by a judge.


MATTHEWS: According to NBC News, quote, "Trump rebuffed efforts by campaign staff, donors and party officials to back off the claim this weekend. Per sources, telling them he will -- he was unwilling to look like he had caved to pressure."

Well, Hugh Hewitt is the host of "The Hugh Hewitt Show" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Megan Murphy is Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg News, and Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont and a Hillary Clinton supporter and former DNC chair and everything else in the world.

You know, I guess Trump takes this personal. He may have some money involved in this Trump U case. But he`s not backing off. I think it`s a big mistake.

But your thoughts?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIR: I think it is a mistake. This is why I think Hillary is going to most likely be the next president. So Hillary on Thursday gave a great speech. What you have to do with Trump is smack them hard because he`s a bully and the president has to be strong. That`s what Hillary has to show. And pivot and talk about policy.

The problem with Trump is people like this about Trump, the average person. This is how he got the nomination. But he has absolutely no background or knowledge about policy whatsoever. The closer we get to the election, the more that matters.

MATTHEWS: Megan, this thought about -- you know, this country has been taught to a couple generations, a couple centuries to stay off the ethnic, when you judge people. Don`t judge a person by their background, their race or like ethnicity better than race, it`s generalized. And when you say well we know where he stands, even if there is the complication of Trump having bashed Mexican Americans as rapists and everything else, still, it doesn`t work.

When you see like guys like Mitch McConnell and Newt jumping around playing Mr. Liberal, you know something is wrong with Trump politically.

MEGAN MURPHY, BLOOMBERG NEWS: But, you know, we have to put this in the context of where we are. We have this extraordinary call this afternoon that Trump has with his own supporters telling them not only go out there and defend me, but attack the journalist who`s may be questioning these comments as possibly racially motivated, et cetera.

MATTHEWS: Racially motivated. What does that mean?

MURPHY: Well, it`s -- it`s very hard to parse the language of what he means.

MATTHEWS: All the people we listed on this program as having a problem with him in the Republican Party are Caucasian. And they`re attacking him. They`re attacking another -- OK. Whatever.


MATTHEWS: I mean, Hispanic.

It`s not like, it`s just like -- I don`t get the word racist and how it applies to people who criticize him.

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You may know the Irish saying, when everyone says you are drunk, you better sit down. And that is so applicable here. The only question -- two questions, will there be a mutiny? And the second is, if there is a mutiny, does it spread or does we have him overboard?

There were three people on this call, Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida. She has a future. Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, she wants to do future things. And Scott Brown, former senator. You have senator, governor, attorney general.

MATTHEWS: They were on the phone with Trump.

HEWITT: They were on the phone with Trump when Trump said, no, attack the judge. I don`t think Donald Trump understands that.

MURPHY: But they also said, you have to have a message. Jan Brewer did call them out. We`re being told different things by different people. It`s a symbol of a dysfunction that`s going on there right now.

MATTHEWS: Kind of like the governor.

Suppose this campaign and the Democratic side comes to some sort of a resolution the next couple weeks, people tell me who stud I didn`t think polls that the polls in the "New York Times" today with Charles Blow`s column, they`re all about two or three points separating Trump and Hillary. Many people tell me the minute that he pulls out of the race because suspended, whatever you call it, that she`s going to be up by eight or so.

Is that going to change Trump`s realization that what he`s doing now isn`t working? But I think he`s probably saying to himself, hey, I`m within the margin of error with Hillary Clinton. Who these people to tell me to change my tune? He`s got to change his tune if he`s out eight.

DEAN: The reason Trump is where he is, is because he`s not a politician. The reason he`s going to lose is because he`s not a politician. Politics really actually is a skill. And it does help to be good at it if you`re in a higher office, no matter what party at. And Trump is terrible at politics.

MATTHEWS: People don`t like politicians either.

DEAN: Yes, but they do understand what I means to be president. And Trump is just -- Hillary is right. He`s not qualified to be president.

He has captured the imagination. He blew 16 people out of the race. Some are quite qualified.

MATTHEWS: Reagan caught telling a joke he shouldn`t have told. He said his defense was, I was just offering it as an example of one of the jokes making the rounds.

DEAN: Oh, God.

MATTHEWS: See that? It was absolutely defensible. Of course everybody doesn`t make up their own jokes. They hear a joke, pass it on.

He said I was giving it as an exhibit. He was telling a joke he heard. It was a weird spin that people think that is what politicians do. That`s what politicians do.

DEAN: Reagan is a very accomplished politician.

MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s what they do. They come up with spin and B.S. and get out of trouble. Trump doesn`t know how to do that, right?

DEAN: Well, that`s certainly one way of looking at it.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable sticking us with. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. I actually do learn things here. This is HARDBALL -- roundtable, coming u -- the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: As I said, I`ll be on to the famous Santa Monica pier tomorrow, starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. That will be -- I`ll be on the sun actually as Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and I bring you the coverage of the primaries, including the grand prize of California.

And even if you don`t join us in person, follow us online, actually, you can join us in person. Come out and visit us out there at the pier and follow HARDBALL on Instagram if you can or Twitter, and like HARDBALL on Facebook for behind-the-scenes look at HARDBALL as we hit the road.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Hugh, tell me something I don`t know. I hear it`s really big.

HEWITT: Rising on the Trump chart for vice president, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Even he`s up for re-election, Republican governor appointed him, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, two terms in the Senate, ten years in the House, works with everyone, very calm. Very thorough.

MATTHEWS: Trump/Burr.

HEWITT: Trump/Burr.

MATTHEWS: That`s the bumper sticker.


THOMPSON: On that call today with supporters, Trump did say double down on my comments about the judge, but he also said make sure people are focused on the website called 98percentapproval, that`s where he`s trying to show supposedly 98 percent of people who went to Trump U approved of it because he`s got quotes so far is not getting much traction.

MATTHEWS: Is he running for the president of Trump U than president of the United States?

THOMPSON: Trump profits.

DEAN: This won`t be a big surprise. There are talks by grownup in the Sanders campaign and grownups in the Clinton campaign on how to land the airplane and get this thing done.


DEAN: That`s the big question.

MATTHEWS: ETA? Can you give us an ETA.

DEAN: I can`t give you an answer.

MATTHEWS: How about hose tax returns?

Anyway, thank you, Hugh Hewitt, Megan Murphy, and Howard Dean.

When we return, let me finish with the true story of Muhammad Ali. It`s very different than this candy cane that`s been being passed around. This guy meant something and believed in something and he made enemies.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

There`s a lot of warm and fuzzy stuff going around about Muhammad Ali. You`d think he was Mr. Popularity back in the 1960s -- back when he announced his conversion to Islam, back when he resisted the Vietnam draft, back when he said he didn`t have a quarrel with the Viet Cong.

Well, that would be wrong. When Ali gave up -- gave up what he called his slave name, Cassius Marcellus Clay, it actually was his slave name, it was the name of his grandfather who was a slave. When Ali resisted the draft, he paid a serious price. He had his license suspended, even his draft card revoked so he couldn`t fight overseas, lost more than three years of his prime fighting career.

He wasn`t that popular those years, standing out there and saying you were Muslim back then, saying you were going to fight the draft, were not easy positions to take in this country at that time. When Ali got back in the ring in March of `71, he had to face the toughest beating of his career at the hands of champion Joe Frazier and after that loss, he managed to pull off the victory of his career. In "The Rumble in the Jungle", he had to take three rounds of constant heavyweight pounding from a younger, bigger, stronger, more aggressive George Foreman.

Rope a dope may sound funny. Those punches Muhammad Ali took were hardly laced with humor.

Remember the man who just died surrounded by warmth and popularity didn`t build his life cuddling up to it. He made his life being Muhammad Ali, being the man he wanted to be, insisted on being, and certainly caught the world`s attention.

I remember the month I spent living in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem, wandering through the old walled city, I kept seeing Muhammad`s picture on the walls of the shops. It was the same in Egypt, strolling through the streets of Cairo, the kids would come up to me and say, do you know John Wayne? And then, do you know Muhammad Ali? Don`t say nothing bad about Muhammad Ali.

Well, they knew they had a hero in the conflict which was very real and going on right here in America. I think it`s good to remember the way things really were because it says something more important about this country than that we had a popular heavyweight fighter everyone thought was nice.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.