Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 6/19/17 Controversial Ad in GA Special Election

Guests: Shannon Pettypiece, Phil Rucker, Susan Page, Glenn Thrush, Cornell Belcher, John Brabender, Greg Bluestein

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 19, 2017 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Phil Rucker, Susan Page, Glenn Thrush, Cornell Belcher, John Brabender, Greg Bluestein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump`s mouthpiece.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump`s lawyer spent the last -- or the past 48 hours trying to convince the country the president didn`t say something he actually said. President Trump tweeted Friday, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director." According to the president`s lawyer, however, Jay Sekulow, the president is not under investigation. And today, he continued to push back against the reports from "The Washington Post," NBC News and others that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether President Trump obstructed justice.

According to Sekulow, that`s just a narrative being pushed by the media and James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: The only reason we`re talking about this is because of what? A leak from "The Washington Post." There was no indication...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s absolutely not true. That is not why I`m asking you about it.

SEKULOW: You didn`t let me finish my sentence!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: You didn`t let me finish!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry. Go ahead.

SEKULOW: And because James Comey raised it up in his testimony. He said, I`m sure the special counsel is going to do it. I wouldn`t exactly call James Comey a credible witness on this matter, period!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Sekulow appeared on multiple Sunday shows trying to push a simple narrative. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: The president is not under investigation by the special counsel. The president, as James Comey said in his testimony and as we know as of today -- the president has not been and is not under investigation.

I want to be very clear here and very direct. The president has not been and is not under investigation.

I want to be very clear about this. The president is not and has not been under investigation.

The president`s not under investigation, has not been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said, "I am being investigated" in a tweet. You`re saying that the president, when he said that, was not accurate.

SEKULOW: No, the president wasn`t -- it was 141 characters. There`s a limitation on Twitter, as we all know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, that`s a high-priced lawyer. Sekulow argued the tweet from President Trump was actually a response to "The Washington Post" report which quoted five sources saying the president was under investigation.

Unfortunately for Sekulow, that narrative seemed to come apart, it really did at one point, during an interview on FOX News on Sunday, when he acknowledged, in fact -- this is unbelievable television -- the president is, in fact, being investigated.

So on the same shows, a bunch of them (INAUDIBLE) on to say he`s not being investigated, listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: The president takes action based on numerous events, including recommendations from his attorney general and the deputy attorney general`s office. He takes the action that they also, by the way, recommended.

And now he`s being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel regulations reports still to the Department of Justice, not an independent counsel. So he`s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination!

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": You stated some facts. First of all, you`ve now said that he is being investigated, after saying that you...

SEKULOW: No!

WALLACE: You just said, sir...

SEKULOW: No, he`s not being investigated.

WALLACE: You just said that he`s being investigated.

SEKULOW: No, Chris, I said that the -- any -- let me be crystal clear so you completely understand. We have not received nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States, period!

WALLACE: Sir, you just said two times that he`s being investigated.

SEKULOW: No. The context of the tweet -- I just gave you the legal theory, Chris, of how the Constitution works. If, in fact, it was correct that the president was being investigated, he would be investigating for taking action that an agency told him to take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: If you believe that lawyer, you`re crazy. Sekulow later conceded he cannot read the mind of Mueller to know for sure whether Donald Trump is under investigation. But then this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: As a matter of law, does the president think that he can be indicted under the Constitution?

SEKULOW: The president -- I haven`t had that conversation with the president, but the president can`t be indicted under the Constitution for the activities alleged in something like this. Of course not.

WALLACE: Why is that?

SEKULOW: Because there`s not an investigation. And there`s...

WALLACE: Well, you don`t know whether there`s -- oh, boy, this is weird. You don`t know whether there`s an investigation. You just told us that.

SEKULOW: Chris...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by "USA Today`s" Susan Page, "The New York Times`s" Glenn Thrush and "The Washington Post`s" Philip Rucker.

So the -- I mean, (INAUDIBLE) I have never seen a guy -- I`ve heard of the "full Ginsburg," do five shows in one show. I`ve never heard a guy tell two absolutely 180-degree contradictory statements in a matter of a couple minutes with Chris Wallace there.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": But with only one of the series of interviews he did that morning. That`s another...

MATTHEWS: Well, why did he break out and say, yes, he`s being investigated, and said so twice?

PAGE: You got me.

MATTHEWS: Glenn, does it got you?

(LAUGHTER)

GLENN THRUSH, "NEW YORK TIMES": Let me make this perfectly clear...

MATTHEWS: Crystal clear!

THRUSH: Crystal clear.

MATTHEWS: He`s playing Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men." All I know is (INAUDIBLE)

THRUSH: Sean Spicer must have sat and watched that and been, like, I do much better than this!

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) better than that guy!

THRUSH: Spicer at least has his stock line, which is, you know, "The tweet speaks for itself."

MATTHEWS: Like (INAUDIBLE)

THRUSH: No, yes, well, that -- no he never -- doesn`t say that, but he`s - - the tweet speaks for itself, right.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of it, Phil?

PHIL RUCKER, "WASHINGTON POST": The fact of the matter is, Chris, is he is being investigated. The president is being investigated. That`s what my colleagues at "The Washington Post" have been reporting since last week. The special counsel is looking into this. Just because Sekulow and the legal team have not been given an official notice that he`s under investigation doesn`t mean that the special counsel...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go back to a few theories. I counted four reasons to try to figure out why this guy, Sekulow, was sicced out there as a mouthpiece for Trump and why he was told to say, even though he couldn`t stick to it, he`s not under investigation.

One, it`s possibly true, he`s not -- possibly. Everything`s possible. Look at the jury in the -- up there in Pennsylvania. Anything is possible.

Number two, he wants to just push back from it because it`s a better position to be in that you`re not being investigated, at least publicly, because it makes you look a little bit guilty.

Three, he`s trying to trigger some crazy reaction by the prosecutor`s office, something leaked to one of you guys or something, that will look (ph) them look overwrought or whatever -- I think the last one was Trump likes to hear a guy on television say he`s innocent. He just likes to hear that, and he paid a guy to say it.

PAGE: And you know, I think that...

MATTHEWS: You think he`s doing it just to fluff Trump.

PAGE: I think it was an audience of one. I think he was speaking to an audience of one.

MATTHEWS: That`s a lot of money to pay.

PAGE: Well, you know, I mean, if he`s not being investigated, why are all these lawyers are getting hired?

MATTHEWS: He`s lawyered up.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to get to that question. Why is he going to lawyering, rather than defending himself politically? Why is he going and turning -- is it because the bar`s so high for impeachment that if he can just stick to the law and ignore all the misbehavior, failure to be a president of the United States, as we expect him to be, if he can change the topic to terrible behavior as president, to, Can we put him in jail for this, he can win that argument.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, I mean, let`s not forget. Sekulow is the guy who came out last weekend, I think, and suggested that the president was thinking about firing Mueller as the special counsel, right? The problem is, and we saw this when Kasowitz gave his performance at the Press Club, which I was fortunate enough to attend, the line between lawyer and flack in this case is really thin, sometimes as to be nonexistent. And I think you saw something...

MATTHEWS: He sounded like a flack yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... saw something really interesting today that my paper reported that Kushner -- and Kushner and -- Kushner has essentially been the most canny in terms of getting out ahead of this. He is considering hiring Abbe Lowell, who you know quite well, as a potential criminal defense lawyer. Not saying there`ll be a criminal case brought, but I think...

MATTHEWS: Who wants to hire Abbe Lowell?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner is considering...

MATTHEWS: He`s already got Jamie Gorelick!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he`s considering -- he`s considering adding Lowell to the team or having him replace Gorelick. The bottom line here...

MATTHEWS: I think the guy should never have been approved. I think they should have stuck to the nepotism law in the beginning. The wouldn`t -- because a reason for nepotism laws, whether they`re still effective or not, is you avoid problems like this.

THRUSH: The other thing is I just don`t think -- and Phil can back me up on this. I don`t think there`s a sufficient enough appreciation, particularly at the mid level, mid and lower levels in the White House, what this investigation really means. I don`t think the president is necessarily taking it all that serious, in terms of his legal team.

RUCKER: And the president`s treating it like a political campaign. The approach from the lawyers is not a legal response, it`s a political response. It`s to discredit the special counsel and the integrity of the investigation, but it`s also to discredit the news media that are reporting details and news and scoops about the investigation by talking about anonymous sources.

MATTHEWS: What about -- what about Newt Gingrich, who always seems to come back like the Joker, back saying the president can`t be indicted for abuse of authority, abuse of office, or even obstruction of justice because for him to do it -- it`s like Nixon talking. If I do it, it`s legal.

PAGE: Well, the -- I think there is a legal debate, and the view of the Department of Justice before this administration was that you can`t indict the president because if there`s something the president`s done that is so terrible, the remedy is impeachment.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at it. Here`s Trump ally Newt Gingrich defending the president Friday, saying the mere fact that he is president means he cannot obstruct justice. Different -- this is different than saying he can`t be indicted.

PAGE: (INAUDIBLE) exactly.

MATTHEWS: Let`s see what he says, how he says it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The president of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States. If he wants to fire the FBI director, all he`s got to do is fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, back in 1998, Newt, when Newt Gingrich voted to impeach President Bill Clinton partly on charges of obstruction of justice, he had a very different take on the issue. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: What you have lived through for two-and-a-half long years is the most systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice cover-up and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history. And the time has come to say to the Democrats and to say to the president, Quit undermining the law in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Tim Russert, the great man himself -- and he was great -- he would always keep a manila folder here and wait well into the interview and just open it up and say, You said -- let`s take a look it, and it was going to the tapes.

And (INAUDIBLE) it doesn`t seem to matter anymore, guys. You can say that Newt is speaking, as they used to say in the cowboy movies, with a forked tongue. It doesn`t seem to matter. You can say a president can`t obstruct justice. He just said he could. But doesn`t anything hold true for more than a couple of minutes anymore?

PAGE: Well, it may be true that Newt Gingrich isn`t held to account for these conflicting statements, but the fact is we have a legal system that is to some degree impervious to this political debate. And I think that`s what a lot of people are counting on, that there`s going to be -- the special counsel is going to investigate. It`s going to find what it`s going to find, and we`ll see what it is. And some of this political debate is either irrelevant or even harmful to the president`s case. You know, there are cases where the president...

MATTHEWS: Will it matter in a court of justice and this House of Representatives if an impeachment proceeding begins in the House Judiciary Committee and they`re presented with this kind of evidence of dishonesty?

PAGE: Well...

MATTHEWS: Does it matter that Trump has been saying five different things on one subject?

PAGE: Well, something like the Lester Holt interview could rebound against the president`s interests because there he says that he was...

MATTHEWS: It was about Russia.

PAGE: He said the decision to fire Comey was about Russia.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) because that sounds like obstruction of justice. Yes?

THRUSH: Look who`s defending the president on air, people who are paid to do it. At the moment, we don`t have that many surrogates. Newt Gingrich, who appears to have just floated from the ether down in front of a camera to defend the president -- he`s hawking a Trump book. Newt Gingrich has, you could argue, a financial interest in allying himself with the president right now.

MATTHEWS: His wife has been appointed ambassador to the Vatican.

RUCKER: And the people who are paid...

MATTHEWS: This -- these are interesting sociometric overlays!

RUCKER: And the people paid to defend the president at the White House won`t even answer any questions about the Russia matter because they`re worried about their own legal exposure. They`re worried about saying something that`s not true and having it come back to bite them in the end.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch this. There`s some news out tonight. It keeps coming. Michael Flynn -- this comes from McClatchy News Service, and other news organizations. According to McClatchy, however, quote, "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to have failed to report a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia on behalf of a U.S./Russian business plan to build nuclear reactors there, according to a congressional letter issued today, Monday, requesting documents from the companies he allegedly represented."

This guy is a busy little bee, isn`t he, Flynn? And he`s so busy, he can`t even remember how many clients he`s got overseas, when the one thing you have to sign in any kind of national security document or check is how many foreign bosses do you have because it`s nice to know that when you put somebody in charge of our country`s security. Your thoughts?

PAGE: Well, my thought is...

MATTHEWS: I mean, he`s Turkey. He`s got the Saudis. He`s got the Russians.

PAGE: So if you don`t report all this, do you assume it will just never come out? Because a lot of other people know it, right? The companies know it. Your enemies know it. Your competitors know it...

MATTHEWS: Double-entry bookkeeping.

PAGE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It shows up. Glenn?

THRUSH: I don`t know when his birthday is, but I`m going to get him a day planner.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, you know, it`s a problem for Trump because the more this guy gets in deep with dishonesty and failure to file -- these are all felony charges...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the...

MATTHEWS: ... the deeper evidence he has to produce to save his butt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the biggest...

MATTHEWS: He`s got to come up with something that will really tell the prosecutors and the Congress, If I give you this, I can go home tonight and have dinner with my family. If not, I go to some horrible place like, you know, San Quentin for about two decades.

THRUSH: I would say it`s probably closer to Connecticut. But I mean...

MATTHEWS: No, maybe closer to somewhere in Pennsylvania, Lewisberg.

THRUSH: Look, I think the thing with Flynn -- and you hear this from the lawyers when they speak more candidly -- is people are worried that he`s already flipped for the congressional committees. And I think anyone who had interactions with Flynn -- and we should just point out my paper has reported Flynn was essentially hired by Jared and Ivanka, who asked him what job he wanted, and he said national security.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go through what`s left. I`ve been trying to -- people jump on me because they say I`m exonerating Trump. I`m just trying to get to the heart of this thing. Comey in his testimony the other day said, Well, the thing about dealing with -- with Flynn is separate from the Russia investigation. So I thought, Oh, my -- he`s not involved with the Russia investigation with possible collusion? And then he -- and then Trump said that Manafort was sort of a satellite out there, somebody you can throw from the bus or under the bus.

And I said, Well, who`s left? And I couldn`t think of anybody. It couldn`t be Carter what`s-his-name...

PAGE: Page.

THRUSH: Page.

MATTHEWS: ... because I didn`t think he was serious enough to do anything bad or good in life. That`s just my view of the guy. And I didn`t think it was going to be Roger Stone because he`s always sort of vaguely flying around any trouble area. But then I didn`t think of Kushner. And I think if there`s one guy the president would go down for, or defend to the last, it`s his son-in-law because of his daughter. And he gave him such a wide berth in terms of who he could talk to -- he`s now given him the Middle East maybe to cover himself.

Is there any -- where is the fertile area where there could have been collusion, through what person? To What person? Susan?

PAGE: Well, he may...

MATTHEWS: What`s left? I`m just -- people think I`m clearing the -- clearing -- what do you call it, clearing. I`m not clearing. I`m trying to find out where is the area that should be investigated now?

PAGE: But -- you mean in terms of Trump`s...

MATTHEWS: Yes, who was his surrogate to deal with the Russians?

THRUSH: I think the issue is -- you have a lot of disconnected threads here. The one thing we know is that the Russians really wanted to have an influence and they tried to exert influence. It`s clear that they had some interaction, certainly with Flynn, certainly with Manafort, perhaps with Stone. The question is...

MATTHEWS: Influence with...

THRUSH: Influence in terms of having relationships, meeting people, getting hookups. The question here...

MATTHEWS: Because they were paying their way.

THRUSH: Right. The one thing is we have two sides -- I view it as two sides of a bridge that are moving towards each other. You have the Russians attempting to reach, and then you have the questions about Kushner`s business dealings, and for instance, his financing of 666 Fifth Avenue, the Kushner Properties...

MATTHEWS: Where did that money come from?

THRUSH: The belief is through a number of banks, including a lot of Chinese investors. A lot of these are opaque questions. They could turn out to be innocuous questions.

MATTHEWS: But it was a critical need for him...

THRUSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... to get that financing.

THRUSH: But we have the Russian end, the Russian push end of this very well established. The question, I think -- the huge unanswered questions are in terms of the business relationships and in terms of the political motivations of people higher up the food chain than Roger Stone.

MATTHEWS: But doesn`t there have to be an overlay between the money and the politics and affecting U.S. policy -- in other words, abusing your office and your position politically to make money?

THRUSH: I think the facts that needs to establish that -- this is why what these congressional -- we had better make sure, and I`m sure everyone agrees, that these congressional investigations are -- really in a lot of ways are as fundamentally important as the FBI.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hope they get to the pay dirt. Thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Glenn Thrush. And thank you, Philip Rucker.

Coming up -- amid the swirl of the Russian investigation, why is rural America so far sticking with President Trump? It`s an interesting political question, don`t you think? And that`s ahead.

Plus, dirty tricks down in Georgia. Take a look at a new ad a Republican group is running ahead of tomorrow`s special congressional election down there. It exploits last week`s shooting that injured Congressman Steve Scalise. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won`t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you got it. That`s pretty dirty. We`ll have the latest on that race being watched nationally.

And Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote on health care, believe it or not, before the 4th of July break. That`s within in the next week. So -- so far, there`s no legislation, no committee hearings, no score from the Congressional Budget Office, but they want to do this fast. And Democrats have taken over the floor of the Senate in protest right now against the quickieness (ph) of this thing.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, as the investigation into Trump and Russia gets deeper and deeper into the White House, the president`s son-in-law and senior adviser -- there he is, Jared Kushner -- is heading to the Middle East to try to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Kushner will arrive in Israel Wednesday. He`ll meet Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then travel to Ramallah to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. A White House official told "The Journal" that no major breakthroughs are expected during the trip.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Despite his embattled presidency so far, President Trump has maintained residual strength from a core base of supporters who put him over the top of course last November in the Electoral College.

A report by Dan Balz in "The Washington Post" today reveals the depth of support for Trump among rural Americans, noting that -- quote -- "More sparsely populated areas of the country form the heart of Trump nation, and continue to provide majority support for a president who has faced near constant controversy and discord."

According to a new "Washington Post"/Kaiser Foundation poll, the widening political divide in this country falls largely along geographic lines. While the president is facing a net negative overall approval rating, a majority of Americans living in rural areas say they approve of the job he`s doing.

It`s the same people who Trump often referred to as the forgotten Americans on the campaign trail. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re fighting for every forgotten man, woman, and child of this nation. I`m asking you to dream big. We used to dream big.

I see you, I hear you, and I will never, ever let you down. I promise. We will never let you down.

I will be a voice for all of the forgotten Americans in this country. I will be your voice. I`m going to be your voice.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, among those who turned out for him last November, concern over Trump`s signature issue of immigration remains high. Six in 10 rural Trump voters say the immigrants are a burden on this country because they take jobs away from deserving Americans.

I`m joined right now by Republican strategist, John Brabender and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher.

It does seem to me, and much as I work with so many progressives I like them and I listen to their thoughts and I think about the same things, and yet I know from my own family there are people who like Trump, and we keep losing sight of them, especially on the East Coast, and the so-called Left Coast. We forget they`re there, but they`re there, and that the issues that drove them into Trump`s camp, illegal immigration, loss of manufacturing jobs and stupid-ass wars, are still there in their minds, plus some other issues like they -- the part I wasn`t ready for is the hatred of Hillary.

That seemed to be kept in their heads and in their mouths longer than I thought. So, only after, right near the election, I said, what`s wrong with that? And I would be hearing this, I hate Hillary, I hate Hillary. No exact reason. Just part of it, just that answer.

Is that all still there?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... saying I hate -- every couple weeks, Trump takes a cheap shot at Hillary, a late hit, if you will.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, it doesn`t hurt.

MATTHEWS: And he does it regularly enough for me to say, it doesn`t have anything to do with the conversation. So he says just to remind them, his voters, what side they`re on.

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, you say on the show a lot it was a binary choice, not just Donald Trump. And among...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There was only two choices.

BRABENDER: And among this group, it could not have been a bigger divide in the choices. Second of all...

MATTHEWS: You mean they might have voted for Joe Biden?

BRABENDER: They didn`t vote for Mitt Romney in the numbers they voted for Donald Trump, which I thought, in places like Ohio, if you look at the difference, they`re amazing. Where you have got to be careful, though, it`s not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... percent spread for Trump in those areas over Hillary.

BRABENDER: Right.

But it`s not geography, as much as it is culture. What they believe, what they care about is different. The second big difference, too, is how they get their news is different. They are much more reliant on local news, local newspapers.

MATTHEWS: But local news don`t cover national events.

BRABENDER: They do, but they don`t editorialize as much as...

MATTHEWS: Where do they do it? What pages do you have to look through? Most local pages are a combination of wire service copy. You know that. They can`t afford a national reporter in Washington. So, where do they get the news locally? Out of a newspaper?

BRABENDER: But they come up with the analysis themselves. They will get the news, but they`re not listening to talking heads all the time telling them what they should believe.

The problem this town...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re talking off your head right now, by the way. The talking head phrase always bothers me. Is there another part of your body you would like to talk out of?

Go ahead, Cornell.

BELCHER: This Kaiser poll, I think, is an important poll. And I think...

MATTHEWS: Do you believe what he just said about people locally in rural areas rely on their local newspaper, their local TV affiliate?

BELCHER: I do believe -- and I want to double down on his point about sort of culture and I want to go after sort of the Democrats` blind spot here.

Look, what this poll shows is that there`s not actually a lot of connection between the jobs and economic concerns and their support for Trump. This poll has found it and other polls have found it. It is a lot about culture when you look at how concerned they actually are about immigration, the changing face of America, and this assault on -- they feel, on Christianity. That`s what`s driving these conversations.

MATTHEWS: They want the America they grew up in.

BELCHER: And there`s a huge disconnect here with Democrats when Donald Trump says, I`m going to give you your country back, and Democrats say, I`m going to raise your wage, right? Democrats are disconnected from the cultural and aspirational element here.

And until we start having that conversation about what America has to look like coming into the future, Democrats will continue to struggle with rural Americans.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try something with you, both of you, because I think you will agree with this.

Hollywood, the news business is very careful about gender identity, about sexuality. We are very careful in the language we use, very careful of LGBT concerns generally.

Do you ever see that same sensitivity about white working-class people? I grew up in a country that made fun of those people. Archie Bunker was that guy. Hollywood greatly enjoyed making fun of this guy. He was probably Irish, but they didn`t say so. He lived in Queens.

BRABENDER: Yes, I was going to say that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, I think Hollywood made a point of enjoying that difference in a way that got to them. And they said, OK, do you want me to be Archie Bunker? I`m voting Republican this time. I will stick with you guys. Am I right or not?

BRABENDER: Yes, I think you ought to be careful to sort of equate them with Archie Bunker. I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Archie Bunker is a fictitious character.

BRABENDER: I understand that.

MATTHEWS: Who created him?

BRABENDER: But we lose the context within the Beltway what these real people are like.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They live in the country, as well as in...

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: OK. I will give you one really good stat from the poll that they released today; 64 percent of the rural voters said that the government programs that are there to help people either hurt them or do nothing; 64 percent said they`re more likely...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, a lot of people believe that welfare stunts your growth economically, because you begin to rely it on too much. Everybody -- a lot of people believe that, I think.

BELCHER: I think it`s an oversimplification, the Archie Bunker thing.

Look, I come from a generation of people who lived minstrels, right? So, my ears sort of perk up the idea that we`re making fun of rural Americans.

But we have to take their concerns about their fears about changing America...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Both can be true. Making fun of black people, having people with big white mouth, that kind of stuff, having black people play black people as minstrels, and white people playing -- that was awful.

BELCHER: I think Stepin Fetchit vs. Archie Bunker, I think there`s a world of difference between the two.

MATTHEWS: How so?

BELCHER: One is...

MATTHEWS: In terms of the person...

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: One is completely degrading of their intellect.

You can watch Archie Bunker and actually see some intellect there and some understanding there, as opposed to the degradation of black images that was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You beat me on that, because I have been watching these all my life. And let me tell you something. You watch a Hitchcock movie, the only black face are the Pullman cart guys.

And, sometimes, the movies, the only black face is the guy scared to death of the ghost. Right?

BELCHER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... don`t fail me, and all that stuff.

BELCHER: And that`s my point. It`s dehumanizing, right? The black male...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It is worse. You`re right. You`re right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But it still offends the person being targeted.

BRABENDER: Don`t forget, this is the same group that President Obama said, these are the group that`s clinging to their guns and their religion.

MATTHEWS: And Hillary said deplorables.

BRABENDER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And your guy said 47 percent.

BRABENDER: But they celebrate that. They celebrate their religion. They celebrate...

MATTHEWS: Of course. I go to church. I don`t like that stuff, putting down people who go to church, as if it`s some sort of...

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: And we shouldn`t.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: But, also, we spend -- we spend a lot of time talking about the concerns of rural voters. And we should be concerned about rural voters.

But also let`s understand that Hillary did not lose this election because of a growth in the rural vote.

MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s 26 percent increase.

BELCHER: Because she lost it -- if she performs with millennials the same percentages that Barack Obama performed, she wins all four of those states.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s an argument. That`s a good political argument, Cornell. I know your politics.

BELCHER: It`s math.

MATTHEWS: No, the other way is also true.

BELCHER: It`s the math. He has less of a percentage than Mitt Romney does...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why did he get such a better Republican vote than anyone else has got in the Republican column?

BELCHER: He is giving them exactly what they want. And that is their country back.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s right.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: His message was better. But Hillary is the quintessential of what they don`t like about Washington.

BELCHER: But he also did worse among better-educated white voters. So, it`s a wash. Yes. He did worse among better-educated -- especially better-educated younger white voters.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Look, Hillary is supposed to carry the suburbs of Philly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And she lost she only lost by 180 -- won by 180. I`m telling you, the numbers were off in the suburbs and in the rural areas. They were off.

BELCHER: It was off with -- yes, but she still wins if she holds the Obama coalition. If she performed -- take Michigan, for example.

MATTHEWS: You`re just making an argument here. You want that to be the coalition.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: If she gets what Barack Obama gets...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re trying to get more young people to vote. It`s a good cause. It`s not the reason why she lost.

BELCHER: Yes, it is.

BRABENDER: But Trump won Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Real states.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Yes, yes. And you know what he got in Florida? He got 49 percent. You know what Mitt Romney got in Florida? He got 49 percent and lost. It wasn`t about what he did. It was what Democrats did not do.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Those are some pretty big states to win.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Forty-nine percent is -- math is math.

MATTHEWS: The smart Democratic move is to get more votes next time.

Thank you, John Brabender. And thank you, Cornell Belcher. I think we can agree on that.

Up next -- get them where you can get them.

Up next: dirty tricks in Georgia, not this way, of course. Republicans must be getting desperate over tomorrow`s special election down there. Why else are we seeing an accusing -- an ad accusing Democrats of cheering last week`s shooting at that baseball practice?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Otto Warmbier, the American student released from a North Korean prison camp in a coma, has died. In a statement, President Trump condemned the brutality of the North Korean regime and offered his condolences to the family.

The United States is also condemning the deadly van attack near a London mosque targeting Muslim worshipers.

And sources say Paris police were the intended targets in a car attack today. The motorist was killed after plowing his vehicle into a police convoy heading down the Champs Elysees -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t it great, the communist North Koreans let the kid come home to die? What a terrible, terrible tragedy for that family, all the way through, a bad, bad government.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats are looking to put a big win on the board in tomorrow`s run-off for Georgia 6th Congressional District. The race pits political neophyte and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel and is already the most expensive congressional race in history.

A RealClearPolitics average, by the way, of most recent polls has Ossoff up at 49, Handel at 47, well within the margin of error. Republicans have held the 6th Congressional District for nearly 40 years, until Tom Price vacated the seat to become secretary of health and human services.

Anyway, the unprecedented nature of the race has become a proxy for the country`s political divide. An organization called Principle PAC, unlikely, which is supporting Karen Handel, released an ad linking Jon Ossoff to last week`s shooting in Virginia which left four wounded, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Let`s watch this terrible ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won`t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, both Handel and Ossoff have condemned the ad, but over the weekend, "The Washington Post" quoted the chairman of the Republican Party in Georgia`s 11th District as saying -- quote -- "I think the shooting is going to win the election for us, because moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism."

Well, he later apologized for making those remarks.

For the latest on what`s happening in Georgia, I`m joined by Greg Bluestein, who is a political reporter for "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," a great newspaper.

You know, in NBA basketball or in college basketball, it seems like you can tell the team that`s losing because they start to foul, anything to get the ball back. And I think that metaphor is rich here. Why would any ally of Handel put out an ad that`s so obviously unfair?

GREG BLUESTEIN, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Yes, probably to get attention and to get some fund-raising for that super PAC.

Both candidates and campaigns have disavowed that ad and said they have nothing to do with it, and both of them have called for it to be taken down, but it remains the talk of the town really in the 6th District.

The beginning of it with those jarring gunshots really gets your attention.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me, from an outsider, and just check me on this, that the only way that Handel can win, coming up from the pack of having gotten the plurality of the Republican side in the primary, the only way she can win is to have a tremendous upsurge of total voters, because you have to have voters who didn`t vote the first time around, because they almost gave it 50 percent to Ossoff.

So, is that what`s happening now? Are there a lot more voters to show up that could help Handel win?

BLUESTEIN: Yes, I mean, the big turnout, that`s the big question, is how much turnout will help Karen Handel?

Because we`re already looking at probably well above 200,000 voters, well above the April 18 round.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

BLUESTEIN: Yes, 140,000 voters have already cast ballots, which is by far the biggest in a special election.

MATTHEWS: Unbelievable.

BLUESTEIN: And Handel is really trying to just keep her base. If she can keep the GOP base, if she can get 90, 95 percent of that GOP base, she will win it.

Jon Ossoff is talking to two audiences. He`s talking to liberal Democrats and he`s talking to disaffected moderates and independents, who might otherwise vote for Republicans. But maybe they`re turned on by his message about both parties being corrupt and complicit.

MATTHEWS: How is his message of I`m not really an ideologue selling?

BLUESTEIN: Yes, it depends, because, as I said, it`s kind of a two-tone message.

To liberal Democrats, he`s still saying, I`m the guy who can stand up to Donald Trump. To more moderates, he`s saying, I`m the guy who can cut wasteful spending. So, that could be a path for other Democrats who are running in these fast-changing suburban districts now held by Republicans to win next year, or we could find out tomorrow that that is just not it.

MATTHEWS: I think I just saw you in the picture. You just showed up in our picture, by the way.

Anyway, I want to ask you a question. Are we going to get a simple count tomorrow night? Is it paper ballots? Is it some kind of machine that makes sense, that we will actually get a result tomorrow evening?

BLUESTEIN: I hope. But I have a feeling I will be working until 3:00 a.m. Wednesday, and my wife will kill me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, Greg Bluestein of the great newspaper "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution."

Up next: Republicans are pushing for a quick vote on health care this week or next, but, so far, everything they`re doing has been behind closed doors and now Democrats are on the floor of the Senate fighting back. They want to know what`s in this package.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better. And this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, of course, in his victory celebration for House Republicans after passing their health care bill last month. But fast forward this to last week, when the president called the bill, the bill he was bragging on there, mean in a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans. Anyway, a group of those Republicans are now working on their own version behind closed doors of a Senate health care overhaul. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it`s time to act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Our goal here is to move forward quickly. The status quo is unsustainable. We all know something has to be done. Something has to be done soon. And everybody is participating who wants to and the idea is to get enough votes to pass it. Unfortunately, it will have to be a Republicans-only exercise. But we`re working hard to get there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Reports say McConnell hopes to have a vote on the bill before the July 4th recess, which starts next week, but there`s no written text and no guarantee Republicans will have the 50 votes needed to pass anything.

Senate Democrats are preparing to go to war, starting tonight with an all- night talkathon. There you see Bernie Sanders making his case with the quote marks there on the Senate floor.

And here`s Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the floor today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The Republicans are writing their health care bill under the cover of darkness because they`re ashamed of it, plain and simple. But if Republicans won`t relent and debate their health care in the bill open for the American people to see, they shouldn`t expect business as usual in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Yamiche Alcindor is a national reporter for "The New York Times", Shannon Pettypiece is White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News", and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones".

In order, it takes 50 votes with the president to get something to the conference, with the House, to make this thing keep moving forward. They can only afford to lose two votes, right?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: We understand there`s two women, especially, Murkowski of Alaska and Collins of Maine. I`m sure different points of the map there who are having a problem with this. We also hear there`s two conservatives, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, ready to vote against it too, too. How do they get 50?

What`s McConnell up to except getting this behind him, even if it means losing? Getting it over with?

ALCINDOR: He wants to go on with something else. He wants to go up to a vote, because he wants to be able to put people on the record. And also, I think it`s hard to get to 50 votes because of the two people, you have these two outliers while the Republican Party is one party by name.

MATTHEWS: On either end.

ALCINDOR: Yes, on either end. So, you have this party that they`re the same party in name, but in reality, they have very different interests. And you have a lot of Republicans, I would say, who are also very scared about the Medicaid expansion part. You have a lot of people who are dealing with opioid crisis --

MATTHEWS: Because working poor people who are better than the poverty level, the ones that most people sort of identify, and really care about people, because they`re doing their best, but they`re not quite able to make it. They`re getting knocked off of health care?

ALCINDOR: Yes, and let`s not add to the fact that, of course, as you said, called it mean. So, we know -- they know that if this somehow turns against people and people start turning against this, the president will say, well, that was really Congress` bill and they didn`t do exactly what I said. So, the political capital is also something --

MATTHEWS: Shannon, make a call here. How many Republicans --

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: This is coming like they`re Vietnam. And even if you somehow thread the needle to get this through the Senate, then you`ve got to get it to the House. It`s such a quagmire they`re in and they want to get out of it so bad.

And I think to your point, McConnell, I mean, normally, you never take a bill to the House if you don`t have to votes, or to the floor. Maybe you`re going to take it to the floor, let it die, blame Obama for the rest of it and move on to tax reform which is what the Republicans want.

MATTHEWS: OK, David, you start. How many votes would a repeal vote get? Simple, straight repeal? We`re getting rid of this, what they consider socialism. It`s over with. But again, 30 votes in the Senate? How many would it get?.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Maybe the 30 to 40 range. It wouldn`t be majority.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but in other words, the bulk of the Republican Party is against health care. Is that fair?

CORN: Yes, your point is that this is not about policy, this is about politics. Can anyone here name what this bill will do? How this bill will make health care better for people? It`s all about getting rid of Obamacare, which means politically, it`s about serving the base. Because Mitch McConnell, he`s one of the leaders of the Republican Party, they control both houses. Trump`s in the White House.

MATTHEWS: OK, you made the point. What they really want is a vote on the record that says, then what I go back to Utah, or they go back to Wyoming and says, I voted to get rid of Obamacare.

CORN: But they don`t want to lose this vote, too.

MATTHEWS: They`re probably going to lose it.

ALCINDOR: But their problem -- but the part of this politics is people are going to remember who took away their health care. There`s not just this idea that you can just go out there and vote and say, OK, well --

MATTHEWS: But aren`t a good number of conservative states, is that still the smart move?

ALCINDOR: It`s still a smart move for some people who make --

MATTHEWS: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota.

ALCINDOR: They actually realize that they have now lost their health care because of their senator. They`re going to turn against the Republicans --

CORN: Yes, there are real-world ramifications of this.

MATTHEWS: Why is it so hard to get a bill together if they do want to save something like Obamacare?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You guys are making two points. Do you want to get rid of health care or fix it? What is it? Fix it or get rid of it?

ALCINDOR: I think they want to fix it.

MATTHEWS: Well, then, that`s explained. They don`t want to get rid of it.

PETTYPIECE: I think they want to repeal Obamacare.

MATTHEWS: They don`t want to fix it. Can you help me here? Fix it or repeal, what do they most want to do? She says --

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Repeal.

MATTHEWS: Huh?

CORN: They want to get rid of it, that`s number one priority.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m with you. I think -- I think this is very complicated for a party that`s normally -- some normal Republicans in it, and some abnormal Republicans. It`s very complicated.

Tonight`s talkathon, by the way, tensions flared between the two party leaders. No surprise there between Mitch and Chuck. Let`s take a look at the heated exchange on the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: Just renew my request for one other leader said, no, I get it. One more. Will we have time, more than ten hours, since this is a complicated bill, to review the bill? Will it be available to us and the public more than ten hours before we have to vote for it?

MCCONNELL: I think --

SCHUMER: Since our leader has said, our Republican leader, that there`ll be plenty of time for a process, where people can make amendments. You need time to prepare those amendments.

MCCONNELL: I think we`ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

SCHUMER: Will it be more than ten hours?

MCCONNELL: I think we`ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

SCHUMER: I rest my case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s not much time to review a sixth of the American economy to get it right.

PETTYPIECE: It`s got about -- and to meet this timeline that McConnell set out, they have until the end of the week in order to get a CBO score to vote on it by July 4th. If you`re so proud of your bill and what it`s going to do, bring it out, let`s debate it, let`s discuss it, defend it --

MATTHEWS: You`re making the talking point. They`re not proud of it. They want to get the thing passed or defeated, but over with.

CORN: And let`s have hearings --

MATTHEWS: They want it over with now, because this is holding them up and it will hold them up through the summer. It`s a mistrial, so far, to use a recent reference.

CORN: Well, you also have to have hearings to explain the bill and have a policy discussion about it. John McCain last week was asked by a reporter, what does this bill do? What problems will it solve? What are some of the substances in it?

And he said, well, this is about getting the freedom caucuses and moderates together. No, those are two different issues. They still can`t --

MATTHEWS: By the way, have the Democrats ever rushed something through? Just laughing, because it`s been done before. I remember stimulus packages who have stuff in there from D.C. and some of these notes them.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three people will tell me something I don`t know. News coming up here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, just a reminder, polls in that highly anticipated special election down in Georgia tomorrow night. That election closes at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. So, be sure to turn in tomorrow night to HARDBALL as the early returns start to come in. We might have something for you at 7:00 p.m. and we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable.

And Yamiche is the first to tell us and me something I don`t know.

ALCINDOR: So, six members of the presidential advisory council on HIV AIDS resigned recently. They basically said that they do not believe that President Trump is really focused on HIV policy and they`re not listening to them.

MATTHEWS: Did he pick them in the first place?

ALCINDOR: No, he did not pick them in the first place. This was something that was started in 1995 and it`s filled with like legal experts, doctors and stuff like that. So they`re not super partisan people, but they`re people that very frustrated with the health care.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Reagan wasn`t too good on HIV either.

PETTYPIECE: Big tech meeting at the White House today. There was a lot of big name CEOs, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos. But it`s getting harder and harder for the White House to bring in the CEOs as he gets increasingly testy and tense between the administration and --

MATTHEWS: Was Schwarzman there?

PETTYPIECE: No, he was not at this one.

MATTHEW: Just trying to keep up with these guys.

Yes, David?

CORN: Georgia sixth, we`re talking about it.

MATTHEWS: You want to make a prediction?

CORN: I`m not making a prediction.

MATTHEWS: Come on!

CORN: No, no, no, I have a relative down there who`s door knocking and she tells me that there`s still people who don`t know the election is tomorrow.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: They know there`s an election and there`s been $50 million in ads.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, you know the Germans -- OK, when the Germans left Paris in 1944 -- `45, there were people sunbathing along the sand. Not everybody`s into politics.

CORN: Yes. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s that about? Something to do with politics? Not everybody pays attention.

Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, Shannon Pettypiece and David Corn.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.

It`s so true.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, June 19th, 2017.

Donald Trump`s lawyer has drowned in his own talking points. He came on television yesterday to say that his client is not under investigation by special counsel Bob Mueller. He said it a number of times.

He also said on the same Sunday interview program that his client is, in fact, being investigated by special counsel Bob Mueller. He did. He said both things, 100 percent contradictory on the same program.

You know, this is a moment, a moment in history, nutty history. Remember the lawyer for Monica Lewinsky coming on all five Sunday interview programs the same weekend. We call that the full Ginsberg. What are we going to call this Sunday that Jay Sekulow came on TV to say two opposite things on the same Sunday, in fact, the same program?

This is a joke. The president of the United States has lawyered up to defend himself against the charge of collusion with the Russians which he could have quite easily dealt with in a single serious press interview, or a single serious interview. He could have put all of his cards on the table, everything he knew, that Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort had said to the Russians at his direction.

He could have sat down and done that. He chose not to. He`s chosen instead to build a wall between the country and the truth. He`s guarded that truth as if it were the golden Fort Knox which suggests that with all of his disclaimers and everything his mouth pieces have thrown at us, there is indeed gold behind that wall.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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