Show: Hardball with Chris Matthews Date: March 28, 2017 Guest: John Brabender, Jennifer Palmieri, Jennifer Jacobs, Jim Himes, Michael Allen, John Farrell
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The president`s man.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, says he`s not going anywhere. In spite of growing calls for him to step aside, he`ll remain at the helm of the investigation into Russia`s interference in our election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stay as chairman and run this investigation?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, why would I not? You guys need to go ask them why they`re -- you know why these things are being said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can this investigation continue with you as chairman?
NUNES: Why would it not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because...
NUNES: Aren`t I briefing you guys continuously and keeping you up to speed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re saying that it cannot run as you as chair...
NUNES: You got to go talk to them. That sounds like their problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Nunes has to answer for that secret visit to the White House. Later, he said it was out of duty that he raced to tell the president what he found, again, he says, at the White House itself.
He also stopped to hold a press conference, all this before ever having the ability to share the information with members of his own committee, which he still hasn`t done, by the way. He now says he won`t tell his committee where he got whatever he has and what he`s talking about.
Let`s not forget the stakes here. The Russians wanted Donald Trump elected in the first place. They broke into the Democrats` e-mail so they could hurt Hillary Clinton and help her opponent. As former vice president Dick Cheney said, in some quarters, this would be considered an act of war.
Well, what is the connection between Trump and Manafort and Stone and Michael Flynn and various other characters and what we still call without (ph) love (ph) from the Kremlin? Who paid who? Who got what? Who still owes who? Don`t we all want to know what role any American played in encouraging the Russians?
Well, these are some of the serious questions out there about the man at the center of this investigation, Devin Nunes. Is he interested in answering those questions? Anyway, last night, Nunes said the Democrats are just scared of what he called his "investigative skills."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: Well, I`m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I`m quite effective at getting to the bottom of things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Well, let`s hope so, Congressman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Speaker Paul Ryan said today he doesn`t want Nunes to recuse himself. However, a few Republicans are raising red flags about the actions of Chairman Nunes. Here were Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it was appropriate that he went to go view these so-called intelligence reports on White House grounds?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do. I`ve been around for quite a while, and I`ve never heard of any such thing.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think he put his objectivity in question at the very least. If he`s not willing to tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he`s lost his ability to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, keep in mind the treasure (ph) of information possibly being guarded here with those late-evening runs to the White House back and forth and mysterious cancellations of hearings, as well. The jewels being guarded here are the meetings, conversations, possibly deals between -- that may have been cut between the representatives of President Trump during the campaign or after and the people in the Kremlin looking out hour by hour for their interests in Russia.
For more, I`m joined by U.S. congressman Jim Himes from Connecticut. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Himes, do you think Chairman Nunes can get us an honest look at what role the Trump people played regarding the Russians during the last presidential campaign?
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think his actions in the last week or so have really called into question whether he could ever do that. I mean, you know, we had the open hearing canceled on the sort of flimsiest of pretexts. And now, of course, his behavior, which has mystified Republicans as much as Democrats has done two things. One, it`s raised questions about exactly what he`s up to. And we all know, you know, he was on the Trump transition team, and so there`s a question of divided loyalties.
And just as important, Chris, you know, investigations involve people willing to take risks and come forward. Maybe it`s intelligence officers. Maybe it`s whistleblowers who want to provide information. But if those whistleblowers, potential whistleblowers or intelligence officers are worried that the chairman of the committee may turn right around and take their testimony to the White House, which is one of the subjects of the investigation, they`re not going to come forward.
So there`s a whole bunch of reasons why this investigation is, at best, under a very dark cloud.
MATTHEWS: You`re investigating the White House and its role, and potential role in the last campaign, and yet the chairman of your committee sneaks down there in the evening -- he says weekly, he goes down there -- comes out, and then goes back down there the next morning with a report that he got from the White House.
Does that sound like a masquerade to you? Why would you go to the White House, pick up some unclear information, then race back down there the next day to very dramatically announce you`ve got something that might be of interest to them, and refuse to share that with either Democrats or Republicans on your committee. What makes sense of that? Try, if you will.
HIMES: Well, I`m with Lindsey Graham and John McCain. I`ve never seen anything like it.
And look, let`s take Chairman Nunes at his word. He has said that this has nothing to do with Russia, that he has no reason to believe that this collection was illegal. He has certain concerns about picking up Americans in surveillance. And by the way, that happens every single day.
So he sort of talked about these issues of, did the intelligence community handle these intercepts correctly? Hey, that`s exactly why the Intelligence Committee exists, to do that kind of oversight.
So the right thing to do, if this is, in fact, what he says it is, would have been to come back and say, Hey, guys, I found something that raises some questions. Let`s talk about it. Let`s look at what it is. And if we`ve got an agency to go hold accountable, let`s do it.
But instead, he`s done the very opposite of that, which, of course, you know, in the absence of fact and transparency, boy, does rumor ever rush to fill the vacuum.
MATTHEWS: Well, he said he wants to help the president because he felt the president was under pressure. What do you think of that?
HIMES: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: Everything he said is, I`m helping the president. He`s not investigating him, he`s helping him.
HIMES: You know, if I think way back to 5th grade civics, if I recall correctly, the role of the Congress is not to help the president, certainly not because he`s taking heat in the press. The role of the Congress is to serve as a check and a balance.
And one thing I know for sure is that our committee`s role is not to help the president. Our committee`s role is to do oversight of -- you know, of a very big and to some extent dangerous operation, and that has come to a screeching halt because meetings are being canceled. We have done no business this week. And so quite apart from the investigation, the critical oversight aspects of what this committee does are now in deep freeze.
MATTHEWS: Right now, are you more inclined to believe the president`s people had nothing to do with working with the Russians, talking to them during the campaign about the Russian effort to help them, or more inclined to believe there was something in conversations between the two?
MATTHEWS: Which way do you lean right now, given the information you have?
HIMES: Chris, I`ll tell you, as one of the investigators, I`m going to do the right thing and not trade in speculation and my own opinions. We`ve gotten a lot of evidence...
MATTHEWS: No, I`m talking about what you`ve heard. What you`ve heard, not what your opinion is. What have you heard?
HIMES: Here`s what I think. What I think is there are a huge number of questions about the bizarre number of contacts of the president`s people with Russia and the bizarre fact that, repeatedly, these people have, to put it nicely, misstated the nature of those contacts.
And now we have this behavior from the chairman, who I hasten to add is a friend of mine and who has really done a good job as chairman up until this point, that can`t really be explained, you know, in any reasonable way.
So let me put it this way, Chris. There is, obviously -- there are today far more questions than ever before about exactly what the heck is going on with this White House, why they`re acting as though they are guilty, rather than they are innocent, and how can we best get to the bottom of it.
MATTHEWS: Do you know anything about his former staffer who now works for Trump in the White House, that he may have been going to visit? Do you know anything about that, staff for Nunes?
HIMES: Only that he`s a former Intelligence Committee staffer who now works in the White House. And of course, there`s a lot of rumors flowing.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s his source? Is that his source?
HIMES: You know, again, Chris, I`m going to do the right thing here and not speculate. You know, we got to keep this on the up and up.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK.
HIMES: Could be, but who knows?
MATTHEWS: I didn`t know it was speculation. I thought you might know. Anyway, Chairman Nunes said today he won`t reveal the source of the information to the members of the Intelligence Committee. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you`re not going to tell the committee who your source is.
NUNES: We never talk about sources and methods. I wouldn`t expect you to do that, either. You guys are so infatuated with sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that? I mean, he talked to somebody at the White House and he treated him like a secret source. I mean, the president runs the White House. He`s talking to somebody at the White House, and he`s acting with all this cloak and dagger attitude about, I`ve got secret methods that I don`t give them away.
You`re at the White House! You get checked in. It`s all public record. You`re in the log books. You`re there. You say you go there weekly. The president knows you`re there. There`s no way he could not know you`re there.
What`s all this so-called -- the only person he tells everything to is the president, apparently.
HIMES: Well, two things. One, you know, the people who produce this intelligence, whether it`s NSA or CIA -- and I don`t know because I haven`t seen it yet...
MATTHEWS: Somebody at the White House.
HIMES: ... they work for the president. These people who do the intercepts work for the president. There`s an easy way for the guy who sits in the Oval Office to call the CIA and the NSA and say, Hey, what have you got? But you know, that has not happened. There`s been this congressional intermediary.
HIMES: But look, here`s the key thing. The chairman has promised to show all of us on the committee these intercepts, to go through them and to explain why he chose the path that he did. So the one thread we have to hang onto right now is Chairman Nunes`s promise to us to share this information and to pursue it. The moment he does that, maybe we can start clearing this all up.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. U.S. Congressman Himes, thank you very much for joining us from the Intelligence Committee.
HIMES: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, Congressman Nunes, the chair of the committee, defended his secretive run to the White House to meet that source he has there. Let`s watch Nunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: It`s actually pretty common. Probably at least once a week, if not more than that, we have to go to the executive branch in order to read classified intelligence.
So that could be the White House grounds. It could be the White House. It could be the Pentagon. It could be CIA. There`s a number of places we here go.
I`ve been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, former acting director of the CIA John McLaughlin had this reaction to the actions of Chairman Nunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING CIA DIR.: Let`s just make clear this is totally off-the-chart behavior. I mean, I`ve been the subject of congressional oversight for 30 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decades, right? Yes.
MCLAUGHLIN: Decades. And I`ve followed it very closely since leaving the government, and I can`t imagine this happening under any former leaders of the Intelligence Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what`s going on here? I mean...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s going on. Good question.
I`m joined right now by Michael Allen, who served as the majority staff director of the House Intelligence Committee under Congressman Mike Rogers, and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.
I guess we`re still at this whole question of this sort of merry-go-round. This chairman of the committee goes to the White House, maybe the EOB. We don`t know where he went -- the Executive Office Building. We don`t know.
He goes in there. He says he gets cleared in, but he won`t tell us how he got cleared in, won`t say what White House staffer got him in, won`t say what he got. Then he shows up at the White House the next morning to report on what he got from the White House. The whole thing looks like a masquerade.
MICHAEL ALLEN, FMR. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE STAFF DIR.: Look, it`s definitely extraordinary. It`s really hard to explain. Let`s just start with Nunes, as the chairman of the committee, has a right in law to view any classified information.
ALLEN: These types of sigint, this type of transcript is not the kind of thing that you can get out of the House Intelligence Committee. You can request it.
ALLEN: So I suspect he went down there to read the intelligence, write down the numbers. We`ve seen Nunes say in the news that he`s made requests of the NSA, and that`s what the congressman there is talking about, that he soon thinks that Nunes will be able to produce this information for the committee to view. But as far as the going back and forth, I think he realizes he made a mistake and that`s why...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me explain (ph) the conversation. You don`t have to speculate very far here, Michael. All you have to do is imagine. He asked for a meeting with the president and said, I got some hot stuff for you. This is going to help exonerate you, or at least muddy the water, as he put it.
It says that there was some surveillance done of your people, not during the campaign. There wasn`t any wiretaps. There wasn`t anything ordered by the former president, none of that. But there is this thing where there`s this some surveillance where some of your guys` names showed up or they were recognizable.
Trump would say, Well, where`d you get that from? He -- Oh, I got it from the EO, from the White House. Well, tell me where you got it. No, I got to keep -- that`s a secret.
The whole thing is opera buffo, or whatever. It`s just a big parody. There`s no way he had a conversation like that with the president. He can`t say, Your people told me, or, I got a mole in here. I got a former staffer working -- it`s an insane conversation.
And you know what, Michael? It didn`t happen. It didn`t happen.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I...
MATTHEWS: Somebody put together this whole masquerade that they would have -- because all Trump works for is keeping the news a little better than it would be otherwise for a couple days and he gets through the night. As Frank Sinatra would say, it`ll get you through the night.
Michael, I mean, this whole thing was just to muddy the water for a couple days and have us talk about it.
STEELE: I -- I...
MATTHEWS: Instead of talking about the investigation of his contacts with the Russians all during the campaign.
STEELE: I kind of come down on that because the behavior of the chairman is just so out of bounds for what anyone in that position has done in the past. And certainly, given the sensitivities that are involved here, I would think that you would be uber-cautious about contacts with the White House since you are purportedly investigating...
MATTHEWS: The White House.
STEELE: Yes, the White House, and the campaign attendant thereto. So...
MATTHEWS: But did you listen to (INAUDIBLE) excuse me for interrupting, but his defenses were so complicated and varied. First of all, I go down there every week and I go to a whistleblower. And apparently, the whistleblower doesn`t know the chairman of the Intelligence Committee is coming in through clearances every week. He doesn`t know that he`s being ratted out.
And that supervisor never blows the whistle on the whistleblower, never tells the president, Hey, you got a congressman, chair of the Intelligence Committee, coming in and out of this place every week or so...
MATTHEWS: ... getting information about you, Mr. President. And you don`t -- I mean, it doesn`t...
ALLEN: Well, to Michael`s point...
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t -- you can`t go in and out of the EOB without the president knowing about it. He`s the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. It doesn`t -- none of this holds water!
STEELE: But he has to reveal...
MATTHEWS: What are you -- you`re looking at me like I`m thinking here. This doesn`t make any sense!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it doesn`t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
STEELE: You made the point, though, that at some point, it all has to be revealed. He has to have this conversation in front of his committee at some point, I would think.
MATTHEWS: He says he won`t tell them his source. His source is in the White House, working for the president!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not a reporter!
MATTHEWS: I know, it`s not -- it`s not -- it`s just -- it is...
ALLEN: He`s treating it like a whistleblower and trying to protect this guy`s identity, whoever it is that may or may not...
MATTHEWS: Well, how can he do that?
ALLEN: It`s going to come out sooner or later.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s done!
MATTHEWS: There`s no way you don`t know this. I worked at the White House. You know how it works. You got to get cleared in. Someone has to escort you. Even if you`re cleared, they have to walk you to the room. You can`t just go wandering around!
ALLEN: I know. I know. It`s all going to get found out (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Well, it should be on the public -- by the way, the president knows all this. Everything we`re talking about, he`s laughing at because he knows exactly what Nunes did. He probably told him to do it. Nunes shows up, Go get some stuff. I got some stuff. Bring it in to me, and we`ll make it look good.
Anyway, Michael Allen, thank you.
MATTHEWS: You`re looking at me like I`m the Wizard of Oz here.
MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, thank you.
Coming up -- Trump can`t seem to stop deflecting issues back to his 2016 rival. His latest attempt says the Russia story is a hoax and the House Intelligence Committee shouldn`t be looking at his alleged ties to Russia, they should be looking at Clinton, the Clintons!
Plus, former vice president Dick Cheney -- pronounced Cheeney -- weighs in on Russia`s meddling in the election. He says, in some quarters -- I love the way he talks -- down certain dark hallways -- that`s so Cheney -- this would be considered an act of war. If he were president, it probably would be war! If anybody would know about that, it would be one of the architects of the Iraq war.
Also, the life of Richard Nixon holds even more significance now in the time of Donald Trump, from their policies to their strained relationship with the media. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD M. NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time for the great silent majority of America to stand up and be counted!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The silent majority is back, and we`re going to take the country back!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Word for word. When we show you later in the show, when we did the interview with Jack, we`re going to show you -- Farrell, who wrote this great book about Nixon -- the parallels are word for word between the trickster and the Trumpster. It never stops. Stick around for that.
And finally, let me finish tonight with a "Trump Watch" again. Not going to like it.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump may not have been able to repeal and replace "Obama care," but he`s dismantling his predecessor`s work to battle climate change. Today, Trump signed an executive order -- do you believe it? -- directing the EPA to roll back its Clean Power Plan. The 2015 rule required power plants to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The action I`m taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellows. Been a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes. And trump`s got another planet for us to live on.
Anyway, former vice president Al Gore voiced his disagreement with the president, saying, "No matter how discouraging this executive order may be, we must, we can, and we will resolve the climate crisis."
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When things get tough, President Trump deflects and often distracts. When news broke that his campaign was under investigation for ties to Russia, he accused President Obama of wiretapping him.
When Director James Comey publicly confirmed the FBI investigation, Nunes tried to shut the hearings down entirely. And now Trump is accusing the Clintons of their own shady dealings with Russia.
He tweeted: "Why isn`t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill and Hillary deal that allowed became big uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech money to Bill, the Hillary Russia reset, praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta-Russian company? Trump-Russia story is a hoax. #makeAmericagreatagain."
Well, it should be noted that PolitiFact, which checks on facts, has deemed all those statements by the Breitbart people misleading.
Anyway, the allegations come from a book "Clinton Cash" written by Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, which is co-founded by his honor Steve Bannon.
Anyway, at 7:16 this morning, President Trump then promoted a segment on Fox about John Podesta`s alleged ties to Russia. At 7:17, Mr. Schweizer appeared on air to peddle an old allegation he raised in August with Bannon while they were writing for Breitbart.
For more, I`m joined by Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary Clinton`s campaign, and Barack Obama, and John Brabender, a Republican strategist.
What do you make of all this, John? I know what we always do or see happen in politics. So`s your old man, I think it`s called. You just try to say the other side has got a problem too, so maybe you will shut the whole thing down.
What do you make of the charges here, if anything?
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think what people have to understand is that we`re now in an era where there`s no such thing as governance in Washington. We`re only in perpetual campaigns.
And what Donald Trump instinctively is doing is, when he is attacked, particularly when he believes it`s unfairly, he`s going back to the tried and true things that happened in the campaign. He forces it back to the other side, and people start to muddy the water, and then we move on to a new issue.
But let`s make no mistake about this. The reason this exists is that the Democrats don`t really care about Russia. They care about the 2018 elections. They don`t care about getting to the bottom of this. They only care about pinning it on Donald Trump, and that`s why we`re in the environment we`re in today.
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, do you care about the 2018 elections?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do care about the 2018 elections.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, then he`s got you. He`s got -- he`s figured you out.
PALMIERI: I care about 2018. I do care about Russia more. I do care about resolving what...
MATTHEWS: Do you think there`s a Russia connection?
PALMIERI: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Trump played ball with them?
PALMIERI: I do.
Well, I think that -- I do believe that, as somebody who lived through the campaign, I believe that, at some level, the campaign was coordinating with WikiLeaks, which our U.S. intelligence agencies tell us was Russia- directed, the timing of when e-mails were leaked and when they were leaked. I do believe it was just all too neatly packaged.
So, I think that they`re...
MATTHEWS: Why would they do that? Why would they play ball with Russia? Because Russia was helping them, or -- as simple as that?
PALMIERI: I think what people have to realize with Russia and -- because, you know, with Jared Kushner, for example, people are saying, is it really so bad he met with this sanctioned bank?
Is that they try to make it comfortable for the person, right? It`s not as if they come -- it`s not as if Kislyak comes to Jared Kushner and says, I want you to do a meeting that you should be uncomfortable with. They try to make it seem like it`s not a big deal.
And so here`s a case where WikiLeaks is helping the Russians, and their interests are allied with Donald Trump`s, and what`s the harm? And WikiLeaks and the Donald Trump campaign coordinated the timing of the e- mails.
But what is -- they try to make -- you feel like you have never crossed a line, where you`re actually undermining your...
PALMIERI: ... democracy.
MATTHEWS: How do you know? How did you learn this? Because I know this too.
PALMIERI: But I believe that.
MATTHEWS: How did you learn this?
PALMIERI: How did I learn...
MATTHEWS: About how they operate.
PALMIERI: Because I worked in Democratic White Houses for 12 years.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I did too.
Jen, that`s the way they do work. What they do is, they say is, could I -- they call up, a pro forma thing, can I have a press release you guys put out yesterday? Next thing they call is, you have been helpful to us in the past. I thought you would be able to help us with this.
PALMIERI: Yes. They want to make it seem like...
MATTHEWS: And all of a sudden, you feel like you`re trapped and they`re going to testify against you. This is what the reds do. These -- the East Germans used to do this. And I assume the Russians do it.
Do you think the Clintons -- the Trump people got involved in it that way? I`m trying to be nice here. Did they get suckered into this thing?
BRABENDER: Yes, but this whole -- this whole argument is sort of ridiculous, because we know the Russians...
MATTHEWS: No, it`s not. I`m telling you how it works.
BRABENDER: But we know the Russians tried to intervene.
BRABENDER: But they failed.
PALMIERI: How did they fail?
BRABENDER: The only thing that really came out is that the Clinton campaign colluded with the DNC to game the system against Bernie Sanders. If the Clinton campaign wouldn`t have done that, there wouldn`t even have been anything for the Russians to have leaked.
PALMIERI: I mean, among the things that they did was -- you know, was, for three solid weeks, have news be dominated that was about the contents of John Podesta`s e-mails, other...
PALMIERI: So they did do real damage there.
MATTHEWS: They had Podesta making unkind comments about the candidate. They had a lot of stuff they brought out. That was to create disruption.
PALMIERI: And it just -- every day, it blocked out the sun. Every day, that was what we were dealing with.
But it is -- but, again, we`re even now getting deflected by, like, the details of what occurred on the campaign trail, as opposed to what...
PALMIERI: ... tried to do, which was, like, a very damaging thing to our republic.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Brabender, because he knows what -- hey, John, you know how you disrupt another campaign.
No, you`re not going to smile your way from this. I know you know. So, what you do is, you go out and you rent -- no, you rent all the buses so the other team doesn`t get the buses that weekend, or you make robo-calls to the offices, so they can`t answer the phone because the phones are jammed up.
MATTHEWS: There`s all kinds of ways to screw up another campaign.
And the Russians found out the way to do it was to hack into the e-mail and have John Podesta or Palmieri defending here every day some crap that got out the door through a hacking operation. That`s good dirty tricks. You know that. Why do you -- you`re not denying that.
BRABENDER: I`m not arguing that the Russians -- I`m not arguing that the Russians very well may have tried that. What I`m saying is for them to be...
MATTHEWS: They did it.
PALMIERI: They didn`t try. They did it.
BRABENDER: But there was no rationale of why they had to coordinate this with the Trump people. In fact, if they were really smart, they`re the last person they`re going to coordinate this with.
MATTHEWS: We have the communications director of the Clinton campaign here.
PALMIERI: I mean, the Trump campaign was always ready to go right away with their statement of the day on whatever e-mail it was that had gotten leaked by WikiLeaks.
So, that was our experience in...
MATTHEWS: And Roger Stone knew all about Podesta two weeks ahead.
PALMIERI: Roger Stone was saying in August that it was going to be Podesta`s time in the barrel. He had other comments in August presaging some other leaks that WikiLeaks did.
So, there is a lot of reason to believe that there was collusion here.
BRABENDER: Jennifer, I have done a lot of campaigns too. And in a presidential race, both sides are dealing with something big on a weekly basis.
PALMIERI: Hey, John, never in our history, never in the history of our republic have you had another country, a semi-hostile state like Russia, try to interfere, to affect the outcome of our election, because they didn`t like Hillary Clinton, and they wanted Donald Trump as president.
BRABENDER: OK. Then let me ask you this. Do you think you lost the race because of the Russians` involvement?
MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.
PALMIERI: That doesn`t -- that doesn`t matter.
What matters is that the Russian government came in here with the intent of interfering in our elections, and they succeeded. And people are still not taking it seriously. This should be...
BRABENDER: I agree. That is what should be investigated.
PALMIERI: Yes. It should be investigated and, it should be investigated...
BRABENDER: But now they`re trying to pin this on the Trump people.
MATTHEWS: You know why they lost the race? They didn`t take my advice to pick Sherrod Brown, a real Rust Belt Democrat, as her running mate and run a real Rust Belt campaign.
Anyway, that`s just my thinking. I`m not always right. But I was right about that.
Anyway, thank you, John Brabender. Thank you, Jennifer Palmieri. You`re a tough one. Thank you.
Brabender, you know how the game is played. And I think Trump may have been involved.
Up next: As calls for the House Intelligence Committee chairman to recuse himself grow more intense, former Vice President Dick Cheney -- that`s how you pronounce it at home -- weighs in on the investigation, calling the Russian role in the 2016 campaign an act of war.
Just be glad Cheney is not calling the shots. We`d be at war with the Russians over this.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Speaker Paul Ryan says he doesn`t want House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Trump officials` role with the Russians. But he`s losing the confidence of Democrats and some Republicans.
Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think you put his objectivity in question, at the very least. If he is not willing to tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he lost his ability to lead.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s time for Devin Nunes to leave this investigation, let alone lead it. So, he should be gone.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, look, at this point, there`s really one thing that needs to happen to rescue this investigation, and that is that Chairman Nunes needs to recuse himself.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do. I have been around for quite a while, and I have never heard of any such thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Ohio Republican Michael Turner came to Nunes` defense, however, today on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What do you think about Chairman Nunes? Do you believe that he needs to recuse himself?
REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R), OHIO: Absolutely not. And, of course, the calls that you`re getting from just the Democratic side are there because they`re partisan calls. And the reason why these calls are being made is because Devin Nunes has come forward and said that the intercepted communications of the incoming Trump administration that were possibly reviewed by the Obama administration needs to be a serious issue that`s reviewed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Nunes said the investigation by his Intelligence Committee will continue, even though the committee has canceled all hearings for the rest of the week.
That includes the hearing scheduled for today, when former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was to testify. Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that the White House stood in the way of Yates` testimony or influenced Nunes` decision to cancel the hearing this week, actually today.
Let`s bring in our HARDBALL Roundtable.
Heidi Przybyla is a senior politics reporter for "USA Today" and an MSNBC political analyst. Eugene Robinson is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Jennifer Jacobs is White House reporter for Bloomberg News.
I want to go to Heidi first and just go through.
Where`s this stand? Is this just going to be a -- it`s just going to not get anywhere now? The question is moot? I mean, this guy says, I`m not telling you where I got all this information. I`m not telling you really what it is. I`m not sharing it with my fellow Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, but, at some point, I`ll share the information itself. I`ll just never give you any history of where it came from.
It doesn`t make sense.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they`re not only calling off hearings, but they`re calling off just regularly scheduled normal meetings.
So, yes, it`s kind of ground to a halt there. And I think what...
MATTHEWS: Well, could it be that the Comey testimony last week wasn`t what they want to be doing?
Like, that exposed that there`s an investigation in the first place, and I`m sure that the White House is not happy about any of this.
But what`s happening here, Chris -- and I can`t believe this isn`t getting more attention -- is, why was Nunes doing this in the first place? As someone who was a campaign surrogate, who was actually briefing Trump during the campaign on intel stuff, who was taking phone calls during the transition, he was one of a handful of people on the transition committee taking phone calls from foreign officials, fielding calls for Michael Flynn?
PRZYBYLA: This is all just kind of bringing to a head the fact that perhaps he shouldn`t have been -- he was compromised from the very beginning.
MATTHEWS: Gene, do you think me have been a little -- his skin may have started to crawl as he headed down to the White House and then changed car? He changes cars, heads down there, loses his staff. And then he meets with maybe a former staffer -- we don`t know who it is -- in the EOB.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe.
No, this is weird. Lindsey Graham at one point called it Inspector Clouseau.
ROBINSON: But no one has ever -- I was up on the Hill today, talked to somebody who had been on the Intel Committee at various times for a long time, over a long period.
Never heard anything like this. Never saw anything like this, a chairman sort of going out and, you know, gumshoeing, you know, doing his own investigation, bringing in this information, not saying where it came from, so it can`t be evaluated.
MATTHEWS: But his motive -- but then to give away his motive and say, I did it because the president looked like he was in the hot seat.
ROBINSON: Well, right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: And I wanted to help him out politically.
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t even claim a clean reason for doing this.
So, as long as he`s running the House Intel investigation, there is no House Intel investigation, I mean, basically.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.
And I think that`s the question, because there`s only three instrumentalities now that will get to the truth here, the FBI, the Senate Intelligence Committee, or the House. And now they don`t want -- any more testimony to come into the House committee.
Where are we going to get the truth? It would be nice to get this thing shut down in a couple weeks or months. It would be nice to find out if there was a Russian connection from the Trump end or not.
JENNIFER JACOBS, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: You`re exactly right. It`s going to be the Senate that`s going to have the focus next. And you have got some GOP Trump skeptics in the Senate that are going to have a free hand on this.
They will take the investigation where it leads. And, yes, Lindsey Graham...
MATTHEWS: Do you trust that committee?
JACOBS: Well, I think that`s where the focus is going to shift.
And there are enough people who are skeptical of Trump that will take it and take it where it leads.
PRZYBYLA: And that just may be the first shift, right?
PRZYBYLA: Because as more information continues to come out -- and this is just the beginning -- about Sessions needing to recuse himself, Nunes possibly needing to recuse himself, all of this feeds into this drumbeat of Democrats calling for an independent investigation.
OK, here is the former Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the -- well, the greatest hawk in history maybe, weighing in on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Listen to Dick Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think there`s a -- not any argument that at this stage that somehow the election of President Trump was not legitimate.
But there`s no question but what there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government and his organization to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes.
In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war. I think it`s the kind of conduct and activity we will see going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What quarters would that be? I`m just -- I mean, I -- act of war? I mean, Cheney was ready to, you know, head to the Sit Room.
ROBINSON: Well, someone else might have said a hostile act, say, but Cheney goes immediately to act of war, because that`s who he is, right?
MATTHEWS: This will elevate this among establishment Republican circles. Cheney...
ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely, it will.
Number one, no one doubts that Dick Cheney has intelligence sources and knows how to -- you know, he knows what the intelligence says. He might not tell you what it says, but...
MATTHEWS: You mean that second unit over at the Defense Department, the Scooter Libby operation?
ROBINSON: Exactly. Exactly.
ROBINSON: He`s convinced this did in fact take place. And I think he`s emphasizing that, in his view, it was a hostile act.
Now, how do you respond to a hostile act? Well, if it`s Russia, you would probably respond with more sanctions or something like that. You don`t roll the tanks.
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, I want to remind everybody here by my question to you. Suppose this had happened, and Hillary had won the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and it came out that she was getting help from the Russians and, in fact, there was even questions about whether she was responding to that help in various contexts.
Do you think there wouldn`t be something like a "Seven Days in May" going on right now? That`s what I think. The right wouldn`t have stood for this.
JACOBS: No, exactly.
And if Dick Cheney were in this administration, do you think there`s any doubt that he would be taking a more hard line on Russia at all? Absolutely not. MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: So, that`s the oddity of this. The Republicans don`t like Russians. They just don`t like them. And they don`t like them since the Cold War.
I forgave them for 20, 30 years, so I`m used to having different views of the Russians, because I liked Yeltsin. And I certainly liked Gorbachev. And I thought they really were changing and democratizing. Then they went back to this Russian nationalism thing they`re into.
And, of course, our president now likes that stuff.
PRZYBYLA: And Lindsey Graham and John McCain...
MATTHEWS: They don`t like it.
PRZYBYLA: ... are somewhat liberated to speak about it.
But you have to wonder, to your point, how many of these hawks, these traditional more Republican hawks, are just holding their tongues...
MATTHEWS: But they`re safe. You made that point.
PRZYBYLA: ... because they have been on that side for so many -- for a generation.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they -- let`s be talking about this. Let`s be talking about this. My English is dying here.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about honesty.
Do you think politicians like Lindsey Graham, veterans who are getting older, who have been around politics a long time, especially John McCain, honestly care whether the Trump people had something to do with the Russian involvement in this campaign?
ROBINSON: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: They honestly want to know and expose it.
MATTHEWS: It isn`t just a partisan game.
ROBINSON: They do. McCain...
JACOBS: They do.
And even, like, the newcomers -- you had Ben Sasse from Nebraska today was saying, remember here, this is Putin trying to undermine NATO.
I mean, he was saying, look at the larger picture here. This is serious.
MATTHEWS: That`s so true. They don`t like NATO, because NATO is one of the best things we`ve ever done.
HEIDI PRYZBYLA, USA TODAY: The smart ones know that they`ll be the next target.
MATTHEWS: They didn`t like the Marshall Plan either.
Up next, the round table is sticking with us. These three will tell me something I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Heidi, tell me something I don`t know.
PRYZBYLA: Chris, my colleague at "USA Today" has an exclusive report out today showing that as Trump expanded his real estate empire, he came -- was fronted or did business with a number of Russian very rich oligarchs who also had ties to organized crime. They were connected to money laundering or actual criminal organizations.
Now, the Trump folks did respond and said none of this was direct contact. It was all through third parties. But it does feed into this narrative about Trump claiming that he does haven`t any Russian ties when, in fact, by their own admission, there were deep ties.
MATTHEWS: First, politics, there`s always little keys over there. Something about Trump and Russia.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I talked to Nancy Pelosi today. So, if President Trump seriously wants to move on infrastructure in a way that`s not just basically a giveaway to developers or seriously wants to move on jobs, she`ll pick up the phone. But so far, nobody`s called.
MATTHEWS: So, they just want to have a tax break for somebody. They don`t -- by the way, I don`t understand privatizing highways like 95. How do you that?
ROBINSON: Democrats are not big on that.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know how that works.
ROBINSON: That`s not the call they want to get.
JACOBS: Tax reform. My Bloomberg colleague Justin Sink is reporting that Trump is going to be briefed on Thursday on various options for a way forward on tax reform. It will be various options, border adjustment tax. He`s going to have everyone present various ideas to him. They`re going to have a big powwow on that on Thursday at the White House. Gary Cohn, his economic adviser, is going to be one of the people leading that conversation.
MATTHEWS: You know, it would be so great to pick that, Gene, along the lines that you said, pick out like 20 or 50 targets around the United States. We`re going to rebuild. We`re going to rebuild L.A. airport. We`re going to rebuild LaGuardia. We`re going to rebuild Penn Station in New York. Things that people would be proud of as public places, you know?
MATTHEWS: And then at the end of the -- not Roman administration, I keep thinking of this as an imperial administration, that actually some landmarks left like there is in this city to what Roosevelt built.
Anyway, thank you, Heidi Przybyla, Gene Robinson and Jennifer Jacobs.
Up next, Richard Nixon has always been a fascinating figure. But interest in his presidency matters even more now in the era of Trump. The author of a brand-new book on the life of Nixon joins me to explain why.
You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Moments ago, President Trump spoke to senators from both parties at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Nobody ever told me that politics was going to be so much fun. But we`re doing well. It`s doing very well.
We just had a call, a long call from General Mattis. And John I know is very happy to hear that, but he knows better than anybody. We`re doing very well in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before. And the results are very, very good.
I just wanted to let everyone know. I have some very special friends in this room, especially -- I must tell you we have the Republicans, but I even have a couple of Democrats.
I said, you know, we had a dinner here about three weeks ago, and it was so beautiful. We have these incredible musicians from the Marine Corps and from the Army. Incredible actually. And I said, you know, I`d like to do something special. I`d like to ask the United States Senate with spouses to come and hear how good it was. It was just a beautiful evening.
And so here we are, and shockingly, it`s semi-bipartisan. A lot of people showed up that people weren`t expecting, which is a very good thing.
Which is a very, very good thing.
And I know that we`re all going to make a deal on health care. That`s such an easy one. So I have no doubt that that`s going to happen very quickly. I think it will actually.
I think it`s going to happen because we`ve all been promising -- Democrat, Republican, we`ve all been promising that to the American people. So, I think a lot of good things are going to happen there.
We`ll talk about infrastructure. We`re going to talk about fixing up our military, which we really need. There has been a depletion and we`re going to make it so good and so strong. And there`s been, I think, never been a time where we needed it so much.
And we`re going to be doing a great job. And hopefully it will start being bipartisan because everybody really wants the same thing. We want greatness for this country that we love. So, I think we`re going to have some very good relationships, right, Chuck? I see Chuck. Hello, Chuck.
And I really think that will happen. So, again, enjoy these incredible musicians. They are really something special. And I hope we`re going to do this many, many times together as a unit. Thank you all for being here.
Melania, thank you very much.
Our vice president, did we make the right decision with Pence? Right?
And, Karen, thank you very much. So nice.
Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was President Trump, of course, moments ago at the White House.
We`re going to see since the beginning of the 2016 campaign, I should say, pundits and historians have made frequent comparisons between President Richard Nixon and the current occupation of the White House Donald Trump. Through their respected campaigns and presidencies, Nixon and Trump adopted similar themes, both appeal to the silent majority of Americans, both called for law and order and both attacked the media for treating them unfairly. The rhetoric shows a striking resemblance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s time for the sigh leapt majority to stand up and be recounted.
TRUMP: But the silent majority is back. And we`re going to take the country back.
NIXON: We should hit hard on the issue of law and order and the issue of justice.
TRUMP: And I want everything to be law and order and justice and everything perfect.
NIXON: The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America.
TRUMP: This is a massive crime wave, that`s what`s going to happen. It`s not going to happen if I get elected.
NIXON: I have never we heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public life.
TRUMP: I have never seen more dishonest media than frankly the political media.
NIXON: When the opinion is expressed, label it so. But don`t mix the opinion in with reporting of the news.
TRUMP: Reading false newspaper articles and seeing false things on television -- I mean really, really biased reporting.
NIXON: When a commentator takes a bit of news and then with knowledge of what the facts are, distorts it, viciously, I have no respect for that individual.
TRUMP: I read stories that they write that are knowingly false. They`re knowingly false. They know it`s a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, furthermore, it is also clear the Russian scandal bears many of the hallmarks of Watergate, both were break-ins, if you will, of the Democratic National Committee. Both were encouraged by the Republican candidate for president. And both presidents try to bury this story after they were elected. The many parallels between them, Nixon and Trump, is another why Richard Nixon deserves a fresh look in the context of today`s political landscape.
In his new book, "Richard Nixon: The Life", author John Farrell showcases the arc of Nixon`s long career, exploring how his perseverance helped propel him to the White House, how his personal insecurities led to his ultimate downfall.
I`m joined now by the great author himself, John Farrell.
This is an amazing book. I`m got to write a blurb for it. Thank you.
And I have to tell you, it`s an amazing piece of work. What do you think?
I think -- I`ve always not -- let me put this way, I`ve never been a Nixon hater. He reminded me too much of my dad, in many ways -- a guy coming out of World War II, first middle class person in the family. I sympathize with this upward struggle, but I never, after years of watching him, I don`t believe him. I think he was imitating somebody else.
He imitated Eisenhower with his voice. He imitated other people. I didn`t think there really was a Richard Nixon.
JOHN FARRELL, AUTHOR, "RICHARD NIXON: THE LIFE": Jack Kennedy said that. Jack Kennedy said, you know, I have it easy, I just can be myself. Nixon has to be thinking who he is all the time. He had this grievous personality. The original title for the book is "Richard Nixon: An American Tragedy", because it really almost a Shakespearian or a classic great tragedy.
MATTHEWS: Well, from the beginning when he smeared his first congressional opponent and then he could have been beaten Helen Gahagan Douglas easily, but he had to roll up the score against him by calling her pink down to her underwear, this terrible, you know, calling her a fellow traveler. She was a liberal. She was a bit to the left, but she was no red. She certainly wasn`t even the Henry Wallace farther, not even that far.
MATTHEWS: Why did he -- he wrote up the score in `72, writing all the dirty tricks, why didn`t he satisfy himself with victory? Was he afraid of losing again?
FARRELL: Massively insecure, I think from his childhood, which was both financially insecure and emergency turbulent household. His father was a blowhard. His mother was a Quaker saint who retreated to her closet to pray. And as Nixon once famously said, my mother never said she loved me.
MATTHEWS: He lived in an iceberg and a tornado.
MATTHEWS: His father was always yelling and yelling. And his mother was cold.
FARRELL: The father used to leave small change around the house so when Nixon`s cousins would come to visit, he would test their honesty, to see if were to pick the coins up.
MATTHEWS: Let me say something positive why everybody should read this book. You know, we had a lot of presence in my lifetime.
MATTHEWS: Very few are interested. Even Reagan, a successful president politically, there`s no doubt about it, isn`t personally interesting. Nixon is. Kennedy is. Roosevelt was.
There is something about, what do you think it is that makes people want to know more? I pick on it. If I see newspaper comments, got Nixon, I read the whole column. If I see Kennedy, I read the whole column.
I`m not going to read a lot about Carter, I`m not going to read a lot other people, Jerry Ford, you know, even Obama is not that personally interesting, although a very successful president.
FARRELL: We had those three presidents in a row, JFK, LBJ and Richard Nixon, all of them were outrageous personalities.
FARRELL: And they had to fit themselves into a role and had difficulty doing it. And now, to read that, to go back 50 year later and read about them, and how they -- how they did that, to see the play all the way or to read your book on Kennedy, it`s just fascinating stuff. Being handed the chance to do a biography on Nixon, it`s just -- it`s a no-brainer.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that weird you get elected the president of the United States, the person that comes with you is yourself. The guy shows up in the Oval Office with you, nobody else, just you, it`s scary.
FARRELL: And in Nixon`s case, he talks and he talks and he talks, around we have it all on tape. You know. It`s just unbelievable.
FARRELL: He created a monster. He created a monster.
John Farrell, you write great books, "Richard Nixon: The Life." This is the Nixon book, great review in "The Washington Post" this week that said this is the Nixon book. So, if you have a catalogue, you know, with all the presidents, you have them on their shelf -- get this baby. Get it hard, too. Don`t go e-books. Get the real thing.
When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch tonight.
You are watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, March 28th, 2017.
Do you think the man in the White House is happy? How long do you think the thrill lasts? You know, the "I can`t believe I`m president" feeling. The "I can`t believe I`m living here in the White House" feeling. How long does that feeling overwhelm a person before they realize he or she brought themselves with them to the White House? You know the baggage, the thing that makes me a person -- makes a person me. That includes the quirks, the habits, the resentments, the fears, the weirdness.
I imagine in a few days, weeks at the most, a few president will find himself alone out there in the presidential mansion, alone to walk downstairs among the historic rooms, looking at the portraits, feeling the spirits perhaps left behind. Yet soon I imagine, the one spirit that a new arrival needs is the one that drove them there in the first place that troubling presence called the ego.
And there he is, causing trouble up at down, getting mad, tweeting, plugging into the world, unsure, whatever, with nothing, no one to get in the way and protect him from, you know, himself, that spirit that came in the door with him on inaugural day. I`m thinking of him, Donald Trump, up there in the White House, wondering what the "New York Times" has ready for him come 6:00 a.m. in the morning, up with the sun, you might say.
It`s about something he said or done or been. It`s about him, emanated from him, travel now back to meet him. All there is to do now, that`s if you are Mr. Donald Trump is hit that SOB with another tweet, right between the eyes.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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