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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 6/27/2017 Senate delays Health Care Bill as support falters

Guests: Al Franken, Tammy Duckworth, Brian Karem, Jonathan Swan, Shannon Pettypiece, Ayesha Rascoe, Michael Crowley

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 27, 2017 Guest: Al Franken, Tammy Duckworth, Brian Karem, Jonathan Swan, Shannon Pettypiece, Ayesha Rascoe, Michael Crowley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Trump retreats.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

A major setback for Republicans and for President Trump today. Senate Republicans cowered from a vote to overhaul the nation`s health care system. It came a day after the Congressional Budget Office said 22 million fewer Americans would be covered under the proposed bill, and at least six Republicans senators said they wouldn`t support it.

Well, today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters they were still working on getting legislation passed, but that the process was -- catch this word -- "complicated." Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We`re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place. We`ll continue to talk about it. It`s a very complicated subject. It`s a big, complicated subject. We`ve got a lot of discussions going on.

This is a big, complicated subject. If none of you have ever covered a big, complicated bill, they`re hard to pull together and hard to pass.

Look, legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well,the key word there is "complicated." Senator McConnell dismissed the notion of working with Democrats -- catch this -- even dismissed the idea of even talking compromise. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Will your ongoing discussions involve Democrats at all?

MCCONNELL: They`re not interested in participating in this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, speaking for the Democrats, Mitch McConnell. During the campaign, then candidate Trump promised a health care that quote, "take care of everybody" while also lowering expenses. Well, the reality of the Senate bill was far different. This afternoon, the president met with Senate Republicans to figure out where to go from here. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to talk and we`re going to see what we can do. We`re getting very close. But for the country, we have to have health care. And it can`t be "Obama care," which is melting down. The other side is saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was. This will be great if we get it done. And if we don`t get it done, it`s just going to be something that we`re not going to like, and that`s OK and I understand that very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Whatever that means.

Joining me right now is Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota. Senator, it sounds like he`s setting up plan B -- Nothing`s going to get passed. I`ll blame the Democrats.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Well, that may very well happen. Obviously, McConnell didn`t have the votes because, evidently, health care is complicated.

MATTHEWS: That was a flash.

FRANKEN: Well, Trump said that no one knew that until he learned it. And it is very complicated. But hat they did wasn`t very complicated. It was simply basically cutting -- it wasn`t a health care bill, it was a tax cut. So it was cutting Medicaid by about $800 billion and giving a big, big tax cut.

MATTHEWS: So the money that has been used to help finance this system from high-income people making money in investments, mainly...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... get rid of...

FRANKEN: They -- maybe they make it by making people laugh or something. They can do it -- they can do productive things.

MATTHEWS: Let me...

FRANKEN: I`m not going to disparage people who have been successful. But the point is, is that this was -- this was a cruel, mean bill. And that`s why -- and also, it was sort of incompetent, and that`s why the CBO scored it as 22 million people losing their health care. People hated this thing. I -- I`m...

MATTHEWS: Well, look at -- look at the president`s promises. During the campaign, Donald Trump promised the moon on health care, coverage for everybody, no cuts to Medicaid and lower costs for everyone. Let`s watch his promises.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re saying "Obama care"...

TRUMP: It`s got to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s got to go.

TRUMP: Repeal and replace with something terrific.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the terrific is?

TRUMP: The terrific will be plans that can be done by private companies.

We`re going to come up with plans, health care plans, that will be so good and so much less expensive both for the country and for the people and so much better.

She wants to knock the hell out of your Medicare and Medicaid. And I`m going to save them, OK? This is a little reversal for the Democrat- Republican, but I`m going to save them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In reality the Senate bill would lead to 22 fewer million Americans covered. Medicaid would be slashed, and out-of-pocket costs would rise for most people. That`s very definitely from what he promised in the campaign. His rhetoric on the campaign trail seemed to channel more Bernie Sanders, actually. Listen to the connection here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody. I don`t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody`s going to be taken care of much better than they`re taken care of now.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we do with the folks who fall through the cracks?

TRUMP: We`re going to take care of that through the Medicaid system. We`re going to take care of those people. We have no choice. We`re not going to let people die on the streets.

SANDERS: It is about ending the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every single year from preventable deaths!

TRUMP: You`ll have great health care at a fraction, a fraction of the cost. And it`ll be great.

SANDERS: When you pass a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, we can save middle class families thousands of dollars a year under health care costs!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to make of it. I mean, his promise was -- I mean, Roosevelt used to make fun of his opponents, saying they`re going to give you everything the Democrats do, and it won`t cost you a penny. He`s (INAUDIBLE) outdo Bernie. Everybody`s going to be insured.

And now he says, Well, you know, I`m going to make sure the rich don`t pay any more taxes, and I`m going to cut Medicaid.

FRANKEN: To be fair to him, this was before he knew it was complicated.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re kidding!

FRANKEN: I am, kind of. But here`s the thing, is that, yes, there are problems with ACA. They are the costs and the exchanges. We have to get a handle on that. And they have been doing everything they can to sabotage this.

And that`s what people need to know, that they have been -- for example, just the cost-sharing piece, which is -- helps keep the cost of the premiums down, the insurance companies have to submit their plans by the middle of next month. They need assurance that the cost-sharing will be there, and that`s when an insurance company gets a risk pool that`s higher than people though it would be.

They have been -- and -- and because he has been playing with this, he has been doing everything he can to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

We also need to get a handle on pharmaceuticals. We need Medicare Part D to be able to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies. We need to be able to import. You know, why -- we produce half the drugs in the world, half the pharmaceuticals, but they`re more expensive in our country than anywhere else.

MATTHEWS: Are people still going to Alaska? I mean, not to Alaska, Canada.

FRANKEN: People are still going to Canada. We should be able to reimport drugs from Canada, save money that way. There`s also, you know, these -- these name health care drugs, name pharmaceuticals. There`s a thing they do called pay for delay, where they pay a generic company not to come on the market with their drug so they can keep charging more to people.

If you go around Minnesota, you will hear from people that, one, they need Medicaid. And they need it in rural -- in the exact places where Donald Trump did well. They just hated this plan. And everyone in the United States will tell you that the cost of pharmaceuticals has spiked in the last three years, and we need to do something about that.

MATTHEWS: We need long-term care. You get it through Medicaid. Thank you.

FRANKEN: You bet. Always a pleasure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator Al Franken.

Joining me right now is Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois. Senator, thank you for joining us. And let me ask you about -- do you believe the Republican Party has a heart to do health care plan? I don`t know how -- they say repeal because they really want to get rid of the government`s role in health care, and then they say, We`re going to replace. Now, what is it? They want the government to have a role in health care or not? Have you figured out that, where the Republicans are?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: I can`t figure it out at all. And let me just answer your first question, and that is if you`re 50 to 65 years old, then you probably are going to think the Republicans don`t have a heart because you`re going to see your health insurance premiums rise and you`re going to be able to be charged as much as five times more than a young person. The average 55-year-old will go -- see their health insurance premiums go from about $6,000 a year to over $20,000. That -- there`s no heart in that.

MATTHEWS: What do you think the Republican plan is? Is it to lose and then blame the Democrats for the failure of "Obama care"? It seems to me they`re setting this up -- We tried really hard, and we didn`t get any help from the Democrats. Therefore, blame the Democrats. That seems to be the strategy that I see.

DUCKWORTH: I don`t know. I`m not in those Republican leadership meetings. But here`s what I`m afraid of. I`m afraid that during the 10-day break, they`re going on spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they`re going to buy off the Republicans who are saying that they`re against the -- the bill as it stands.

And you know what? The pharmaceuticals and the folks in the top .1 percent who are going to get a quarter-million-dollar tax cut, people who make more than $5 million -- they got a lot of money on their side. They`re going to figure out a way to buy off folks and get the votes that they need.

And that`s where the American public speaking up -- it`s working, your e- mails, your letters, showing up at those town halls. And we have to keep the pressure up and say, No, we`re not going to let you do this.

MATTHEWS: Well, as you saw, Senator Mitch McConnell there said Democrats weren`t interested in participating in talks about health care. His colleague, by the way, Senator Lisa Murkowski, totally disagreed. She was very impressive today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be a proponent of trying to work across the aisle to make some of those fixes, as opposed to saying, We got to start over?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Absolutely! The Congress of the United States, whether you`re a Republican and Democrat, in the House or in the Senate -- shouldn`t we all be working together on the problems that are -- are part and parcel of who we are as Americans?

So when did we get to the point where we said, No, we`re not going to talk to Democrats about a fix? We should be working with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the very impressive Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

What do you make of a deal at some point where the president comes back to your leadership and says to Chuck Schumer, OK, let`s have a powow. Let`s get together. Let`s try to do this. Would be agreeable to Democrats?

DUCKWORTH: Well, we`re willing to talk about making sure that we keep the premiums low. We`re willing to talk about making sure that people with pre-existing conditions are covered. But I`m not going to negotiate from a low point. I`m not going to negotiate from, you know, do we cut Medicaid by $800 billion or $600 billion?

MATTHEWS: I get you.

DUCKWORTH: That`s not acceptable.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well said. Thank you so much, Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Today, Speaker Paul Ryan said the stakes for Republicans couldn`t be higher. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich said if Republicans get health care wrong, they lose the House. Do you feel that there`s that much at stake?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think it`s -- it`s probably the most -- it`s the biggest signature issue we have. And it`s the biggest promise we`ve ever made in the modern era.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is the former chair of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. Michael, I just think the Republicans are doing something they don`t want to do. They would have never started a national health program.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No.

MATTHEWS: So they`re now trying to fix a program they would have never started. Is that fair?

STEELE: No, absolutely, that is fair.

MATTHEWS: They liked the system before "Obama care," which is nothing.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And now they`re pretending that they`d like to replace it, and they don`t have the heart in it.

STEELE: Well, replace it with the system they had before, and they -- but you can`t get back there.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s nothing.

STEELE: Well, there was something there. You could argue with, you know...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Medicaid for people below the poverty line.

STEELE: But I`m saying there were 30 million people, give or take a few, who did not have health care at the time.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEELE: That`s how this started. So there was a health care system in place. It wasn`t where "Obama care" eventually took it, for sure.

But here`s the problem. This is now in the bloodstream of this economy and of this country. You are not going to take this out of...

MATTHEWS: Do they know this?

STEELE: They do. And that`s the frustration that Lisa Murkowski and others have because they know. They see the writing on the wall here.

MATTHEWS: But they also have to -- your party also has people like -- like Rand Paul, who`s basically an abolitionist. Let`s get rid of it! Repeal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t care about the replace part! How can you both replace and repeal? Which is it?

STEELE: No. No, a guy like Rand Paul does -- does very much believe in the replace part, but he -- but he has to deal honestly. He wants to deal honestly. You cannot do anything, if you`re serious about repealing, unless you repeal. That`s his core argument. That`s the core argument of a lot of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The trouble is Trump has promised the moon. He said he was going to give everybody health care.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know he`s not a social democrat, but he sounded like Bernie.

STEELE: He did. And that`s where his heart is. And that`s what I think...

MATTHEWS: Do you think Donald Trump is a -- is a...

STEELE: Oh, absolutely!

MATTHEWS: ... a big believer in big health care for everybody?

STEELE: Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Really? Where do you get that from?

STEELE: Without a bout. I think it`s been a part of his ethos from the very beginning, to the extent that he even cares about health care...

MATTHEWS: Is he a Republican?

STEELE: No. We know that. Come on!

MATTHEWS: OK, I need to be educated...

STEELE: Stop it. Stop it.

MATTHEWS: ... more every day on this guy. He`s not a Republican...

STEELE: No, he is not -- he is not a Republican conservative who would make the kind of articulation for health care that a Paul Ryan or a Mitch McConnell or a Rand Paul would make.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you so much. Anyway, Michael Steele`s -- has just joined us.

Coming up, fireworks in the White House briefing room as a reporter fights back against the White House charges of "fake news."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KAREM, SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: We`re here to ask you questions.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right.

KAREM: You`re here to provide the answers. And what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, See? Once again, the president is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that reporter, Brian Karem, joins us next.

Plus, President Trump and his allies want the Russian investigation to go away, so now they`re doubling down on their strategy of blaming Obama. Well, that`s ahead.

And military officials and top members of Congress were blindsided by the Trump administration`s cryptic warning to Syria. Is Trump setting his own red line or is this wag the dog? (INAUDIBLE) subjects.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch."

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: What a difference a president makes. According to a new Pew poll, America`s standing in the world has plummeted under President Trump. The poll talked to people in 37 countries and found that just 22 percent had confidence that Trump will do the right thing on global affairs. That`s down from 64 percent under President Obama.

In fact, out of all those countries, only two gave Trump higher marks than Obama, Russia and Israel. Russians gave President Trump a 42-point edge over Obama.

And that is far from the only Russian-related news out today, of course. With the investigation still swirling about the Trump administration, the president`s men are looking for a fall guy, and they`ve settled on President Obama. And that`s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, during today`s White House press briefing, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got into a heated exchange with Brian Karem, the executive editor for the Sentinel newspapers, two local papers here that cover the suburban Washington area. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`ve been going on this Russia-Trump hoax for the better part of a year now with no evidence of anything. Things like the success at the VA barely get covered. They may get covered for an hour at a time, but this story gets covered day in, day out.

And I think America is, frankly, looking for something better. They`re looking for something more. And I think they deserve something better from our news media.

KAREM: Come on! You`re inflaming everybody right here, right now with those words. This administration has done that, as well. Why in the name of heavens -- any one of us, right, are replaceable. And any one of us, if we don`t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us.

S. SANDERS: I think -- I think...

KAREM: You have elected to serve for four years at least. There`s no option other than that.

S. SANDERS: I think...

KAREM: We`re here to ask you questions.

S. SANDERS: Right.

KAREM: You`re here to provide the answers. And what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, See? Once again, the president is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job!

S. SANDERS: Well, I just -- I disagree completely. First of all, I think if anything has been inflamed, it`s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media. And I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Brian Karem joins us right now.

Brian, thank you.

I was very impressed by that.

What got to you? What made you do it today? Because nobody else had done it before. It should have been done, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You finally did, because they turned that supposedly a service to the American people, with people paid by American taxpayers to give us answers to questions, which you have right. That`s what a briefing is supposed -- it is not supposed to be a P.R. campaign of trashing everybody who disagrees with the president.

Your thoughts.

BRIAN KAREM, THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: Well, I had listened to it.

Look, first of all, I have a healthy respect for Sarah and I have a healthy respect for Sean and a healthy respect for what they do.

MATTHEWS: Why? Why do you have that?

KAREM: Because it is a difficult job.

MATTHEWS: Explain.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you respect about what they do?

KAREM: I respect the fact that they have to face the likes of us every day. And I`m not the easiest person in the world to get along with. Just ask people who actually like me.

MATTHEWS: Are they truth-tellers? Are they truth-tellers?

KAREM: That`s why we`re here is to try and find out.

And there have been -- what got me -- when you ask about what got me rankled, it`s fact that they sit there and say we`re dishonest in the media and we`re being dishonest. Well, there`s consequences.

But I have yet to hear anyone from this administration even admit a mistake. And so it is a little hard to take, because the people in that room, I have a healthy respect for. I have been coming and going in this room since -- off and on since the Reagan administration.

And those people, I have held up as heroes, some of the people that were here. In addition, there are reporters who have given their lives to get news to the public. And to be just labeled as dishonest and fake media rankles me.

And I -- maybe I lost my temper at that moment. But it was long time coming. It was six months. I would like to see that taken off the -- and just taken off the table and let us talk about real issues. Let us ask our questions. Quit hitting us with fake media.

I mean, everyone, including Breitbart that is in there, has been respectful. They have asked tough questions. And the administration has not often been forthcoming with what I would say are factual answers.

So, yes, I`m a little concerned about it.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was interesting, because you were really -- let me try to interpret what you`re doing another way.

The reporters who sit in those chairs there in the Briefing Room at the White House have to sit there. They have to sit there because they have been assigned to that post, to that spot. And if somebody up there is just doing a P.R. campaign against them, they have got to sit there and be props, basically props, for the White House press secretary, to just use them and yell at them and treat them like high school kids or grade school kids that were disobedient or didn`t get their homework in on time.

And they have got to sit there. They`re being used as part of a P.R. campaign. So the people from the more right-wing reaches of the country who still believe in Trump, they`re watching them being paddled, basically, given time-out, if you will.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: Yes. And I`m tired of being paddled. And I don`t think that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think you`re right. Yes.

KAREM: I don`t like being paddled. I don`t like being spanked.

To me, the attitude that I get, as much as I get -- I get that from my children. And I say enough of that. Don`t pour water in my ear and tell me it`s raining. Just give me the facts.

(LAUGHTER)

KAREM: And I would very much like if could I get that out of this administration. And I...

MATTHEWS: Well, you made some noise. I`m telling you, you made some noise.

KAREM: Well, thank you.

MATTHEWS: In the regular, normal truth-telling media, you are going to be talked about tonight and tomorrow.

Thank you so much, Brian Karem, for coming on HARDBALL.

KAREM: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight.

Shannon Pettypiece is White House reporter for Bloomberg News. Jonathan Swan is national political reporter for Axios. And Ayesha Rascoe is White House correspondent for Reuters.

Ayesha, you`re down at the end of the table here.

Let`s talk about what`s going on today and the strategy coming out of White House. Now there is a special counsel, Robert Mueller. There`s the House committee, the Senate committee, both Intelligence Committees. There are the agencies of government, the FBI, all the -- all trying to figure out what was done by the Russians and what role did any Americans, including the Trump administration, play in it.

Listening to the president now, he acts as if none of that is reality. That`s not the reality he wants. He wants to take us another into showroom where he is going to talk about somehow Obama colluded with the Russians. And then Newt comes along like the troll under the bridge and says, oh, and let`s subpoena him to appear before Congress. Let`s double down.

It`s a crazy, wag the dog world they go to that has nothing to do with reality. And yet people are typing it up like it is news, the president said today, Newt Gingrich said today. It drives me crazy, like it is an authentic, objective reality. It`s not.

AYESHA RASCOE, REUTERS: Well, it is just kind of point at the next person. Point at -- and usually, for the Trump administration, it is Obama, it`s Clinton, it`s, I didn`t do it. They did it. It`s their fault. Look at them.

So, I mean, that`s kind of that...

MATTHEWS: But they didn`t actually say they colluded, except using the words, Jon. There`s no way Obama colluded. why would he have helped Trump win with the Russians` help? I mean, it doesn`t make any rational even argument.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Chris, you`re talking about it like there is some grand strategy behind this. This is Donald Trump trying to create diversions wherever he can.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

SWAN: There is literally nothing to this.

It`s his safe space, blaming Obama. He does it all the time. He even did it for Flynn. He said Obama gave Mike Flynn his security clearance as if this was sort of the thing that would change whole conversation. It never works. And the thing about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It works with Steve Doocy.

SWAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: It works with Newt Gingrich. They go, that`s right, like they`re being taught a lesson. Oh, now I understand the universe. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It is throwing red meat to the base is what I`m increasingly beginning to learn from the more people I talk to who know this president and communicate with him.

It is throwing red meat to the base. It is showing them, hey, I`m still the guy you voted for. I`m still the guy who went after Obama. I`m still the fighter. All those tweets that we say, oh, the establishment says stop doing them, he says, no, I`m going to show my base that I haven`t changed. I am still the fighter. I am still the guy going after Obama that you put here.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the thing that -- the other trick that has been used ever since W.`s days here in the White House was conflation, taking one issue like 9/11 and saying therefore we got to fight Iraq that had nothing to do with it, right?

And now they`re saying, well, President Obama said you can`t rig an American election, meaning you can`t cheat the count, the count on Election Day. Trump just throws that out today as saying, oh, in other words, you can`t interfere with our elections and our election campaigns.

That`s not what Obama said. He said you can`t screw with the count. He certainly knew you can screw with the P.R. and the campaigning and the hacking into and the fake news. That, we know.

RASCOE: The administration seems to be going kind of all over the place with that, where it`s -- are they saying that Russia didn`t have an effect? Maybe it wasn`t Russia at all.

MATTHEWS: Well, now he`s saying there was Russian interference and Obama helped him.

RASCOE: Oh, if it was Russia, then it`s Obama -- it was Russia. It was Obama helped them. So, they`re trying to having it all sorts of ways.

Did Russia have an effect? Oh, well, Obama said they couldn`t, so I then guess they didn`t have an effect. So, there are a lot of -- they`re just trying to play -- they`re playing different, all these different sides of it.

PETTYPIECE: It is almost like they want to be talking about Russia.

And everyone keeps saying, oh, why don`t you talk about your domestic agenda? Russia is a distraction. Well, what is your domestic agenda you`re going to talk about? This health care bill, where 22 million people lose insurance? Where is the wall? How is Mexico -- how it`s going getting Mexico to pay for the wall?

They don`t have a great domestic agenda to talk about. So, I`m not necessarily surprised when they seem to keep bringing Russia up themselves without even the news media having to bring it up first.

MATTHEWS: Well, the roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next: Trump`s retreat on health care. That`s the big news tonight.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

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

The European Commission fined Google a record $2.7 billion for violating antitrust rules. Regulators punished Google for unfairly favoring its own online shopping recommendations in its search results.

Hospitals, government officials -- offices, rather, and major multinational corporations across the globe were targeted today in another massive cyber- attack. The new strain of ransomware hit Europe and Ukraine before spreading to the United States. Cyber-experts say the latest attack is similar to an outbreak last month -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump thinks there`s at least one way to deal with Obamacare. Here`s what he said back in February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I have to tell you, it is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

I say to the Republicans, if you really want to do politically something good, don`t do anything. Sit back for a period of two years, because `17 is going to be a disaster. Let it be a disaster, because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room. But that`s not the fair thing to do for the people. Not the fair thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president revived that idea yesterday, tweeting: "Republican senators are working very hard to get there, with no help from the Democrats. Not easy. Perhaps just let OCare" -- OCare -- "crash and burn."

Well, tonight, nine Republican senators, nine, now oppose the Senate Republican bill.

We`re back with the roundtable, Shannon, Jonathan, and Ayesha.

So, nine, that`s seven short. They needed to have at least two of those. They didn`t get them. They`re seven short. What is this with everybody now dancing around saying, I wasn`t with that bill?

PETTYPIECE: I told you it was a bad idea. Shouldn`t have done that.

MATTHEWS: That number will grow.

PETTYPIECE: Right.

It`s an easy no at this point. They can all say, yes, it was a bad idea.

I feel like it is deja vu to the House bill. They will make a few tweaks, make a few amendments. All of them they will sort of hold their nose and swallow it in the end. That`s my prediction.

MATTHEWS: Who gets blamed? Obama got blamed for doing health care. Republicans got blamed for the war. There`s different years where people get blamed, `06, `10, usually two years in.

So two years in would be 2018. Will Trump be blamed and his party or will the Democrats be blamed if health care just sits there and dissipates, isn`t as good as it right now two years from now, because nobody did anything to fix it?

SWAN: I don`t see how anyone but the Republican Party gets blamed.

They control the House, the Senate and the White House. They promised for seven years to get rid of this. If they fail to do that -- oh, and, by the way, they voted also, all of them, to repeal in total. Now we know those votes were phony because they`re not willing to do that, a lot of them.

A lot of them are quite happy privately with Obamacare, particularly the moderates in the House. And if they don`t get this done, they`re going into 2018 with the single issue they campaigned on for the last seven years, can`t do it. We just couldn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: So it is going to be a boomerang?

RASCOE: Well, and that`s the thing. That`s what they have to decide.

MATTHEWS: It was an Australian reference.

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN: I liked it.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

RASCOE: That`s what they are going to have to decide over this July 4 recess. Like, what are they most afraid of? Are they afraid of passing a bill that`s not really popular? Are they afraid of not doing anything and then being blamed for that?

MATTHEWS: What is your bet? I`m betting they can`t get 50 votes. But I don`t know. I don`t know what they can do.

RASCOE: I think that they have a strong -- they have strong motivation to try to get something done.

As you said, they have been promising for seven years to do something. To not do anything, to go home and say, we didn`t do anything, that seems like a very heavy lift to try to explain.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Ayesha.

I think there`s a difference between conservatives, real conservatives in the Senate, who are Republicans, and people that are worried about their constituency, regular people, like Portman of Ohio, people that represent sort of regular states, if you will, Toomey in Pennsylvania.

They`re not right-wing states. They`re middle-of-the-road-ish. Those people, men and women, want to save their seats. The ideologues are a little more frisky. They are willing to take some chances, like Rand Paul is always doing.

How do you repeal, get rid of all the government`s role in health care, and at the same time bring in a whole new health care system which is just as good or better and covers more people? They`re inconsistent, those two impulses.

PETTYPIECE: And they`re in a quagmire that they can`t get themselves out of.

This is sort of like becoming their Vietnam. They just can`t get themselves out of it. The health care system so large, it`s so complex, so dysfunctional. And I covered health care for a decade.

(CROSSTALK)

PETTYPIECE: Yes, they own it now, and it is going to be impossible no matter what they do to fix the system.

MATTHEWS: Well, after a pro-Trump super PAC launched an ad campaign against Republican Senator Dean Heller for opposing the bill, Senator Mitch McConnell expressed his frustration to the White House.

According to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "The majority leader called the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, to complain the attacks were beyond stupid, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange on Saturday."

Then, late today, Politico reported that the group is pulling the ads.

What do you think of that, Jon, these ads against Heller like he is the bad guy because he won`t go long with a bill that is just going to ruin him out there? By the way, there are a lot of waitresses, a lot of croupiers, and a lot of people working out there, drivers, all kinds of people.

It is the one state where you meet all the labor union members. You meet them the whole time you`re there.

SWAN: He is the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate. And when the outside group, pro-Trump group announced that ad buy, I started to get calls from sources close to Mitch McConnell saying, what the heck are they thinking? This is insane. Why don`t you go after the Democrats? Why are you going after one of your own?

Also, they made the point that it doesn`t make McConnell`s negotiating any easier, because it looks Heller will be bullied. It actually gives him less room to negotiate. So they don`t think it`s smart tactically and they don`t think it`s smart looking towards 2018.

MATTHEWS: It will look like he got bullied back to a position he didn`t believe in, right, Ayesha?

RASCOE: Yes. Yes.

And then it`s -- but I guess what the super PAC was trying to say is that we`re not worried about protecting the Republicans. We`re worried about protecting America first. So, that`s why we`re going against Heller. We want to show you cannot stand against what we`re trying to do no matter what.

SWAN: Here`s the thing. Heller is not scared of Trump. There is literally nothing Trump can say to Heller that is going to move him. He has no leverage. That`s the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We will see. The roundtable is sticking with us.

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

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: We`re back with the roundtable.

Shannon, tell me something I don`t know.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: As of yesterday, it was two weeks since Trump said he would do a press conference to discuss his plan to defeat ISIS. In two weeks, still no press conference. Still no plan to defeat ISIS.

So, that`s what I`m asking the White House for. Where is that? When is that going to be? And maybe we`ll see it. Maybe we won`t.

MATTHEWS: How much does ISIS still control the territory it had, the mini- caliphate it had in Iraq and Syria? How much land -- what percentage they still have?

PETTYPIECE: I am not your ISIS expert.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. I think it`s much more. I think --

PETTYPIECE: A good question. Good question for them.

MATTHEWS: Jon?

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has completed his study into steel dumping into the U.S., a big issue in the U.S.-China relationship in particular.

There is now a very tense and quiet conversation going on in the White House. You could call it an argument. Nationalists like Steve Bannon wanted to put tariffs on the dumping, which would be a huge shot across to China. Moderates want something much softer.

And next week, I`m told this conversation is going to turn to aluminum. So, we`re actually starting to see some of these trade clashes really coming --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Dumping means selling below cost, right?

SWAN: Cheap.

MATTHEWS: Selling below cost.

SWAN: Putting cheap steel into the country below cost.

MATTHEWS: Ayesha?

AYESHA RASCOE, REUTERS: "Reuters" is reporting that Secretary Tillerson overrode request of some State Department officials and diplomats and took Iraq off of the world`s worst offenders for child soldiers today. And that has big implications because it is raising concerns again that the U.S. is not as concerned with human rights and it`s also raising concerns because that was a way to get some of these countries in line.

MATTHEWS: I haven`t figured out Tillerson yet. I think he is a pretty stubborn guy.

Anyway, thank you, Shannon Pettypiece, Jonathan Swan and Ayesha Rascoe.

Up next, Trump lambasted former President Obama for drawing a red line when it came to Syria. But did his administration just create a new red line of their own or is this I think a wag the dog, a distraction?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Alec Baldwin has made it official. He`s confirmed that he will reprise his Donald Trump impression for the upcoming season of "SNL". This one has already earned him plenty of laughs.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I don`t know Putin. I have never met Putin. What is even a Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m running to the store. Do you need anything?

BALDWIN: I`m good. Thanks, sweetie.

Google, what is ISIS?

I would like to start by answering the question on everyone`s mind: yes, this is real life. This is really happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Speaking of "SNL," tomorrow, Colin Jost and Michael Che, the host of "SNL" weekend update, will join me on the show. We`ll be coming to you live from the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival. And neither of them are new HARDBALL. We had a lot of fun with the weekend update hosts during last year`s Democratic and Republican conventions.

So, be sure to tune in tomorrow when we have them both back on the show. It was a lot of fun. It will be tomorrow night and we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I think you`ve noticed about me is, militarily, I don`t like to say where I`m going and what I`m doing. And I watched past administrations say, we will attack at such and such a day at such and such an hour. I`m not saying I`m doing anything one way or the other but I`m certainly not going to be telling you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump at a Rose Garden press conference back in April this year. But in a statement late last night, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced, announced -- that`s the key word -- that Syria seemed to be preparing a chemical attack, and issued a dire warning to Bashar al-Assad, one that potentially forecast military action. Exactly what the president said he wouldn`t do.

It said: If Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.

Well, according to NBC News, multiple U.S. defense, military and intelligence officials were caught off guard by the White House statement. Additionally, "The New York Times" reported that an official with U.S. Central Command, which overseas combat in the Middle East had, quote, no idea what the White House was referring to.

In fact, earlier today, a Pentagon spokesman seemed to provide back-up for the White House, telling reporters that active preparations for a chemical attack were being taken.

Anyway, today White House pushed back hard on accusations that they left the Pentagon or the State Department in the dark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you that leadership from the State Department, DOD, DNI, the CIA, as well as members of the administration within this building, were part of that process from the very beginning and fully aware.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Not true.

For more, I`m joined by the senior foreign affairs correspondent with "Politico", Michael Crowley.

Michael, is this wag the dog? When all of a sudden, when the president is under heat about his various problems, all of a sudden, he is talking about a red line in Syria?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Right. Chris, you know, you can only speculate about that. There`s no way to know for sure. One interesting thing is that it is not clear how powerful this intelligence is.

So, if you want to explore a question like that, I think you would say, what was the trigger for this statement? And even the statement made reference to something like possible or potential activity that would be consistent with preparations for a chemical strike. They`re not saying that they have it nailed to the wall. And the information that came out of the administration today was not overwhelming.

I mean, one example was that there was an airplane parked next on a building that had been associated with chemical weapons preparations previously. Now, I don`t mean to discount it entirely, but I will say that if you`re going on ask that question, that`s where would you start. What kind of intelligence are we dealing with here? And I would say it`s not -- to use the old phrase -- a slam-dunk.

MATTHEWS: Well, Maine Senator Angus King, the independent, was warned that the White House statement sent a dangerous message. Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: The end of the statement, it said something like, if they do this, they will pay a heavy price. That sounds like red line and it sounds like they`re preparing to take action. Of course, we know a month or so ago, they did take action with the strike on the airport.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this all seems pretty erratic, Michael. And I asked that because it seems like the reporting we`re getting is that the State Department and Defense Department, the Pentagon, didn`t even know about this imminent attack using chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

CROWLEY: Right, Chris. I think people are still trying to ferret that out. We`ve been reporting that today. There are indications that the senior leadership around the government did know about this but that a lot of the people, at the secondary levels did not.

And that`s a striking contrast to the way the Obama administration worked. I mean, the Obama administration ran its foreign policy, its national security process, you know, like a white shoe law firm, endless meetings, make sure everything is buttoned up.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: All the I`s are dotted and T`s are crossed.

The Trump administration is like a start-up. I mean, it`s like free- wheeling. They maybe have a meeting about it in the hallway, kind of improvised. A big contrast.

And there are people who say that`s a very dangerous way to run foreign policy, that you can make big mistakes that way if you haven`t run all the trams.

MATTHEWS: Well, this really scares me. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, backed up the White House, tweeting this morning, tweeting this morning, not just to Syria but to Russia and Iran.

Quote: Any further attacks to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad but also to Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.

Here`s a cabinet member, admittedly the U.N. ambassador, issuing almost a war threat to the Russians, threatening -- we have not gone to war with the Russians at any time. We were their allies in World War. We avoid all during the Cold War starting in `47, never to go war with Russia.

And here she is, not the commander-in-chief, just putting out a warning to Russia? I mean, this is brinksmanship. This is a little scary. And I wonder if they`re not doing this to offset all the clouds around the relationship between Russia during the campaign.

CROWLEY: Well, it`s hard to know the motive here. It`s absolutely consistent with, if you wanted to create a narrative, that you had a bad relationship with Russia, the Trump administration is doing a good job of that right now, heightening tensions with Russia.

The irony here, Chris, is if you remember during the campaign, Hillary Clinton was talking about having a tougher stand in Syria and Trump was saying, Hillary Clinton is going to start World War III with Russia in Syria. And now, you know, we are having these fast escalating tensions with Russia. And don`t forget, Iran -- there are people who think we`re stumbling toward a very dangerous confrontation with Iran.

You know, leaving this episode aside, we have been using military force in targeted ways hitting pro-Iranian forces that we thought were threatening our allies in Syria. And the Iranians are getting very upset about that.

So, this is happening on a lot of different levels, not just Russia, not just Assad, also Iran. You have all three of them at once. And it`s not clear that there`s a guiding policy here, Chris. That`s the really concerning thing for a lot of foreign policy critics (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does Trump know that one of the reasons he won the election is because people, whatever their thoughts on other subjects, thought he was against stupid wars like Iraq. And now, he is over there playing games with -- could get us into trouble with Iran, with Russia. I mean, you think that one thing he would want to do is avoid big wars. It`s just an American patriot of some sort.

Why would he want to start the war? I don`t get this brinksmanship, except to distract from his troubles politically and the fact that it looks like he is running an erratic White House. Michael, can you answer that?

CROWLEY: Well --

MATTHEWS: Is this a distraction from his troubles?

CROWLEY: Well, I think it is objectively true that it is a distraction from all the bad news about Russia, about the health care bill. I can`t speak to the motive. I can tell you that, you know, Steve Bannon and other advisers have been saying things on him like don`t get yourself into a war, you said you weren`t going to get into wars.

I think the other way he might be thinking about it, Chris, that would be consistent with this is he is remembering -- and remember, so many Republicans said this, that Obama wasn`t strong, he didn`t show strong American leadership. They were obsessed with the red line episode, thought that he really wimped out when it came to Syrian chemical weapons.

So, in Trump`s mind, he may be thinking, I`m doing the thing that Obama never did, right? I`m showing that America is tough, particularly on this one issue that I didn`t like the way Obama performed on.

But the danger is that this could spiral out of control. He could get embroiled in a conflict he doesn`t want. And that`s not good for anyone. But you`re right that in the short term, whatever the motive is, the objective fact is that it is a distraction from these other stories and happens to be convenient if we have some tension with Russia.

And, by the way, he may see Vladimir Putin at Hamburg at the G-20 Summit next week. That could be an awkward meeting. It might be a good story line for him if it is not a friendly sit-down. But they`re tough guys who are mad at each other over what`s happening in Syria. That could be a convenient narrative for the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, if he shots -- he kills one Russia in Syria, everything that has happened before in this administration will look petty compared to that. That would be horrendous.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Crowley.

CROWLEY: Very serious. Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, June 27, 2017.

Republicans had a lot of fun voting 60 some times on repeal Obamacare. They did it again and again, knowing that it wouldn`t pass the Senate, wouldn`t get to the president`s desk, wouldn`t be signed even if it got there.

Well, this ritual, this parade of nothing went on month after month, year after year during the last presidency. It went on for the very important reason that`s it was both fun for the Republicans and meaningless. It cost nothing but the politicians` time and it hurt no one.

Well, with Donald Trump in the White House waiting with his pen to sign whatever bill the Republican Senate majority sends him now, it will cost and it will hurt. Twenty-two million fewer Americans will be covered. People who have coverage will lose it.

People who have medical treatment now won`t have it. It will fail that most basic rule of medicine. It will do harm.

I think I see the Republicans` problem. They want to repeal Obamacare because repealing Obamacare has been a Republican and conservative battle cry since the program was enacted in 2010. But they also want to provide protections to people which Obamacare provided. They want to meet the standard that Obamacare is established, that the government must help people get health insurance.

But this is the rub. How do you get rid of the government`s commitment to help people get health insurance, and replace the means of meaning that same commitment? If you`re replacing, you`re not repealing. If you`re repealing, you`re not replacing.

Isn`t this the contradiction? Isn`t the failure over watching here a months-long effort to square a circle? If you have health care plan or you don`t. If you have one, you didn`t actually repeal one.

And when the last deal is cut and all the dust settles, either the people who wanted health care killed will be happy or the people who wanted it replaced with something that meets the same needs will be. It shouldn`t surprise us they will not be the same people.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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