Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 6/28/17 Trump has done little to stop next Election Hack

Guests: Colin Jost, Michael Che, Philip Rucker, Susan Page, Mark Warner, Shane Harris, Phil Rucker, Susan Page

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 28, 2017 Guest: Colin Jost, Michael Che, Philip Rucker, Susan Page, Mark Warner, Shane Harris, Phil Rucker, Susan Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Reality bites Donald Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Aspen, Colorado.

And after months of denying, sidestepping or otherwise downplaying Russia`s role in interfering in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump finally appears to accept the Kremlin`s involvement. The president`s about-face had little to do with protecting our country from a future attack, everything in this case to do with knocking his predecessor, Barack Obama.

On Monday, President Trump said without any basis that it was Obama who colluded or obstructed on Russia, not him. Well, until now the president had offered only limited recognition that Russia might be responsible despite the consensus of the intelligence community.

In January, Trump begrudgingly pointed to Russia -- and others -- as the culprit. But then he inexplicably defended the hacking because of the information it exposed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we get hacked by other countries and other people. We talk about the hacking. Hacking`s bad. And it shouldn`t be done. But look at the things that were hacked. Look at what was learned from that hacking!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, nearly four months later, the president again expressed his skepticism that Russia was to blame.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think it`s phony that they, the Russians, tried to meddle in the election. You believe that.

TRUMP: That I don`t know. I don`t...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: If you don`t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it`s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I`ll go along with Russia. Could have been China. Could have been a lot of different groups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s apparent concession agreement that Russia did meddle in our election comes as multiple foreign policy experts testified today before the Senate Intelligence Committee that all -- they all said they have no doubt at all that Russian president Vladimir Putin himself was personally behind the effort to subvert our election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any doubt that Russian interference is driven by Putin himself? Start with you, Ambassador Burns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ambassador?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same answer, no doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: None.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any doubt that Russian interference is or has happened in the U.S. and European elections?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has happened systematically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this comes amid new developments relating to the investigation. Trump`s former campaign chairman, remember him, Paul Manafort has retroactively now registered as a foreign agent for the work he performed to benefit the pro-Putin former government of Ukraine. According to the filing, his firm received -- catch this -- $17 million over two years between 2012 and 2014. So we`re talking major money here.

Furthermore, NBC News tonight confirms that the Senate Intelligence Committee will be granted access to those now infamous Comey memos which the former FBI director wrote after his meetings with President Trump. This is big-time.

I`m joined right now by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Senator Warner, thank you for joining us.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VIRGINIA: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: That`s to me a couple big news stories here that -- first of all, what do you make of the fact that President Trump is finally now saying -- although he`s using it to take a swat at his predecessor -- that Russia did get involved in interfering with our election, and number two, that there was American collusion?

WARNER: Well, first of all, this is grudgingly, months after all the intelligence agencies, every Senator, Democrat, Republican, that I know of, all of these international exerts, and frankly, foreign leaders like President Macron of France who have been strong against Putin.

So the fact that the president may have begrudgingly acknowledged it -- what I worry about is the fact that we`re not -- he and his administration is not doing anything to make us safer from the future Russian attacks. So why isn`t he supporting the 97-to-2 vote that came out of the Senate on stronger Russian sanctions?

Why isn`t there a more organized campaign, the way the French engaged, with the social media companies like Facebook and Twitter? And frankly, Facebook took down 30,000 fake accounts before the French elections. We need that same engagement with Facebook, Twitter and Google to make sure they`re working with us on fake news.

And third, why do we have 21 states that had their electoral systems at least attempted to be probed by Russia -- why isn`t there a more organized effort? And frankly, let`s make all those states come clean. Unfortunately, DHS may have contacted sometimes the election vendors, but they didn`t even contact the state election officials in some of those states that were attacked.

We do not have a whole of government response to this coordinated attack we had from Russia. And that bothers me. And it seems like it is the president who`s been so slow to acknowledge the existence of this attack and then taking it seriously.

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator, put it together. We have a president under investigation now by a special counsel for possible collusion with the Russians, and we have a president now in office who is showing no interest in catching the Russians in the act or in trying to punish them -- or prevent them from doing it again. How do you put that together? He won`t do anything about it now. He may have been involved with helping them during the election.

WARNER: Well, Chris, You can draw those conclusions. I`ve got to still work through the evidence. We`re now starting -- you know, as you acknowledged earlier, we`re going to get a chance to look at the Comey memos. Comey, who -- whether you like him or dislike him, this is a pretty solid law enforcement guy who felt so uncomfortable that the president might lie about the conversations that he had to create these memos, in effect, to protect himself for this kind of very event.

And we are now starting to talk to some of the more -- some of the figures that have been affiliated with the Trump campaign that may have had some of these contacts with Russians. I want to not prejudge those until we have those conversations. But boy, there`s a lot of smoke.

MATTHEWS: Will we get to see them, Senator, the memos, the public?

WARNER: I`m not sure. I think at this point, the committee will get a chance to take a look at them. We`ll have to cross that bridge in terms of public access later on.

MATTHEWS: Well, where are you on that? Should we get to see them?

WARNER: Listen, I think that Jim Comey wrote these memos in a way that we`re (ph) going to be unclassified. And if after appropriate review, there`s not classified information, then yes, I think that the public ought to get a chance to take a look at it. But that will be something that the committee will have to work through at an appropriate time.

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s inaction on Russia comes after he promised, by the way, back in the January -- this is Trump -- that he would deliver a full report on hacking defense within 90 days. Let`s watch what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Within 90 days, we will be coming up with a major report on hacking defense. How do we stop this new phenomena (sic), fairly new phenomena -- because the United States is hacked by everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that deadline he posed himself and put that down red line passed in April. And NBC News further reports that, quote, "The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking since then."

Senator, what do you make of the fact he promised to give us a 90-day report on efforts to defend ourselves against hacking and hasn`t done so?

WARNER: Well, I think this president made a lot of early stage promises. I think he was going to solve Middle East peace process. He was going to have "Obama care" repealed and replaced. He was going to have this hacking report. He was going to have a cyber-security report. I`m not sure any of those items have happened.

But what is important -- and this is why I`m engaging with the intelligence community -- we`ve got to learn lessons from 2016. We`ve got to learn lessons from the French elections, the Dutch elections. We had experts today testify that the Russians are -- have hacked into the Bundestag and are going to intervene and are currently intervening in the German elections.

We`ve got to make sure that we are prepared because we`ve got elections in 2018 across the country. Frankly, as you know, Chris, in 2017, we`ve got state elections in Virginia, and I`m worried that we`re not fully prepared.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Senator Mark Warner, ranking Democrat...

WARNER: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, investigative reporter with NBC News, and Shane Harris is a senior writer on national security at "The Wall Street Journal."

Gentlemen, in order, what do you make of the fact that we`re going to now see the memos. Ken?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, I think Senator Warner made clear we may not see the memos. They`re going to see the memos, and I think it`s really important -- you know, we heard James Comey`s story in public, and that`s one thing, but I`m -- I think they`re going to look very carefully through those memos to see what else is there that he didn`t talk about in terms of evidence of obstruction of justice, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he did say, thought -- do you think -- knowing the intelligence world, do you think there would be anything likely to be, quoted, "classified" in a memo a guy, an FBI director, jots down after he`s just had a somewhat suspicious meeting with the president, really a political note to himself more than anything? Would that normally be classified and unable to be transmitted to the public by the committee?

DILANIAN: Probably not much, although I believe James Comey did testify that some of his memos were classified and those he left for the FBI in proper channels...

MATTHEWS: OK.

DILANIAN: ... because there were some topics that he discussed that were classified. But most of it won`t be, Chris, and we -- hopefully, we`ll see them.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to -- let me go to Shane on this. What do you make of this $17 million invoice, basically, the money that -- that Manafort`s firm charged the pro-Russian party, political party of Ukraine? That seems like bringing in the macro money here. It starts to make sense that people making that kind of money were interested in general economic deals with the Russians.

SHANE HARRIS, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, he made a good business out of it, for sure. We know that. And I mean, it`s interesting that he`s filing this, of course, retroactively, which some people who are associated with President Trump have been doing, as well. And I saw that he was very quick to thank all the people at the Justice Department for being so helpful in making the filing.

It`s a very large amount of money, and this question of what exactly was the nature of Paul Manafort`s businesses -- business ties with Ukraine, and more importantly, back to the Kremlin. That is something that we know that investigators in the Senate and the House, the FBI have all been looking at. So it`s quite significant that he`s now coming out and putting a very large dollar number on that for the extent of that work, which is going to be so closely scrutinized.

MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Manafort is now the second Trump associate to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, following former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who filed last March -- or this March, rather. As "The New York Times" notes, the filing serves as a retroactive admission that Mr. Manafort performed work in the United States on behalf of a foreign power without disclosing it at the time as required by law.

Furthermore, Trump`s long-time former adviser, Roger Stone, is now scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed hearing next month.

Back to you, Ken. It seems like we`re getting now the interesting part of this investigation in the Senate Intelligence Committee meeting (ph), these dark figures like Roger Stone -- I mean, that`d be a strange time anywhere, to be in a meeting with him, but to have -- the things that you could ask Roger Stone would be almost unlimited, and what he`s been up to.

DILANIAN: Absolutely, but -- and the most important thing...

MATTHEWS: And he loves it. He loves being a mystery man.

DILANIAN: He loves it. He`s eating it up. And the most important thing, of course, is he already -- he admitted he had a back channel to Wikileaks and to some of these -- these Web sites that -- that had some of the hacked e-mails. And so, you know, I`m sure they`re going to ask him about that.

And in terms of Manafort and Flynn, you know, now registering retroactively, I think what this shows is that the Justice Department has leverage here. I mean, you know, to prove a crime, they would have to show that they intended to fail to disclose that they were foreign agents. But you know, you wouldn`t want to be in that situation, having to retroactively disclose. And it really suggests that these guys are in some legal jeopardy and that the FBI may have some inducement for them to cooperate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Sounds like that`s true. Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian, and thank you, Shane Harris.

Coming up -- do Republicans now see President Trump as somewhat less strong than they thought he was? They don`t seem to be afraid of this guy with regard to the health bill. That`s the talk behind the scenes among Republicans right now, who say the president is neither revered nor feared. Well, as Republican strategist John Weaver put it, when your approval ratings are low and you`re under FBI investigation, you don`t have a hammer.

Plus, the return on "Saturday Night Live`s" Colin Jost -- of Jost and Michael Che. They`re both joining me here on this show tonight. We had a lot of fun with their "Weekend Update" hosts at the conventions last summer. Remember that? Well, tonight, they`re back with us here on HARDBALL.

And President Trump likes to talk about fake news, so how does he explain the fake "Time" magazine cover he has hanging at his property? Doesn`t he get enough attention?

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

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Just a short time ago, we got this video in of protesters marching outside right now the U.S. Capitol. At least 2,000 people are out there now taking part in that demonstration against the Republican health care plan. They`re being joined, of course, by Democratic members of Congress, who are also out there rallying against plans to repeal "Obama care."

But at the end of the day, of course, Democratic resistance may be the least of President Trump`s worries. The word on Capitol Hill right now is that many Republicans no longer fear President Trump on the issue of health care.

That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is facing calls from critics within his own party to make significant changes to the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act before they head out for July 4th recess. McConnell`s hoping to have a revised version of that health care bill by Friday. He`s still trying. According to NBC News`s latest count, at least eight Republican senators, however, remain opposed to the Republican plan.

When it comes to the president`s help, "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" report that the majority leader and other Republicans are keeping President Trump at arm`s length. That`s interesting.

According to "The New York Times," Trump team`s heavy-handed tactics have been ineffective in the Senate and that has led Republican leadership to make it known that it would rather -- much rather negotiate with Mr. Pence, the VP.

Well, "The Washington Post" is are also reporting on Capitol Hill Trump is often not taken seriously. They`re exhausted at times, exasperated by his hopscotching from one subject to the next, and they have come to regard some of his threats as empty, including that crossing the president posing little danger. Republican consultant John Weaver told "The Post," quote, "When you have a 35 percent approval rating and you`re under FBI investigation, you don`t have a hammer.

Well, in an off-camera press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president`s has been very engaged in this process, as have multiple members of his administration. And he`s made a lot of calls directly to members. We`ve said before, I would never underestimate this president. If he`s committed to getting something done, he will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by the author of two of those articles, Glenn Thrush, of course, White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief at "The Washington Post." I`m also joined here in Aspen by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today."

So let`s talk about this, just the political sizing up right now. Glenn, tell me what you think. I don`t -- I don`t like projecting what`s going to happen two weeks from now with this president, but are you saying right now, or into the future, you see a weakness?

GLENN THRUSH, "NEW YORK TIMES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look. I think at the beginning of this negotiations, Chris, Mitch McConnell told Trump to back off in a polite way, to keep out of the business of sort of (ph) negotiating. This is a chamber full of, what is it, four people who he ran against and ridiculed? So he`s not widely loved.

I think the Senate is a totally different ball game than when he was able to sort of -- to strong-arm, finesse, overwhelm all these House members who love to be in the same frame with the president of the United States.

And here`s the other thing. We`re not exactly sure how this happened, but with his tacit approval or certainly his knowledge, a Trump-related super PAC was going to run some ads against Dean Heller, and that blew up big time.

And our sources, Jonathan Martin and my sources tell us that, in a very heated call last Saturday, Mr. McConnell called up Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and said that it was beyond stupid that they were doing that. And McConnell and Thom Tillis of North Carolina brought it up in yesterday`s meeting at the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, there is a phrase in politics. It is called breaking your pick. It`s when you try something and you fail and it sends the word forth that you`re weak and you`re not really useful to listen to anymore.

Is it that bad for Trump or is just about health care? Where is the weakness limited to? Or is it limited?

THRUSH: Look, here`s what -- I think it derives from the fact that he does not have a real vested interest in the details of the policy.

You have one of the three players in this who doesn`t have a stated policy objective. Now, it`s one thing to be flexible in terms of the way that the bill is written. It is another thing to really not have any position to stake out.

Today was really interesting. Trump was asked a detailed question during the pool spray about Medicaid. He brushed it off. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in that off-camera briefing was again asked, what are the no-fly zones for Trump on the Senate bill? What are his red lines?

And she totally punted. It doesn`t seem like the president and his people have any set principles in terms of what they really want out of this bill.

MATTHEWS: Well, Susan, let me ask you about this president. Do you have a sense that this is a permanent problem that has just now become obvious?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, I think the reality is that he is not into -- not only does he not have set principles on things like health care.

I don`t think he has the kind of depth of understanding on the details of about how these interlocking parts work that most of the senators do, because most of them have trying to deal with this issue for a couple years.

And that makes it, at this point of the process, where you`re doing a surgical operation to try to see what little things can you do to put together 50 votes, it makes Trump`s skills, which -- and he does have some skills as a negotiator -- it makes him irrelevant at this point.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

You know, Phil, LBJ, of course, the great manipulator of the Senate as a Senate leader and later as president, knew everybody`s button. He knew what everybody cared about, how to get them, how to work them.

That takes years to figure that out. You know what I mean? You have seen those pictures of him a foot from somebody`s face as he`s trying to talk them into doing something. Trump isn`t interested in that kind of micromanaging, it seems to me.

He probably has a little baseball card on each member that says this guy cares about what or doesn`t care about other stuff. How do you see him as a power man on Capitol Hill? Because if he can`t get stuff through the Congress, we`re talking a seriously weak president here down the road.

PHILIP RUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, he is not terribly effective.

And our reporting in the last couple of days has shown that the senators, the Republican senators, are not afraid of defying him. They feel like his threats are empty, that he doesn`t have the political standing out in the country and in their home states to really be a threat and a force to be reckoned with.

And that`s a problem for him. And Glenn was absolutely right about the substance and the knowledge of his argument. He is getting on the phone saying, I want a win. I want a victory. Help me get a win.

But he is not diving into the details. And, frankly, the senators are not really engaging with him on the details.

MATTHEWS: Well, mastering the art of the deal was always what he said. In fact, it was a central tenet of candidate Trump`s campaign. It was also one of the many reasons why Americans voted for him. Let`s face it. He talked about it often on the campaign trail.

Let`s watch a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will bring America to a new level. I will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like I do. Nobody -- I know everybody that I`m running against. Nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things I can do.

Don`t forget I have been in business. I have made a lot of money, which I`m going to do for the country now. I have been focused on jobs and money and deals. And that`s what I do. And that`s what the country needs.

It is supposed to be, you get along with Congress and you cajole and you go back and forth and everybody gets in a room and we end up with deals.

You`re supposed to gather people around and make great deals. I want to make great deals for my side of the equation. But ,otherwise, you are just going to have a stagnant country like do you right now. You have on negotiation. You have Washington is in total gridlock.

If I get elected president, I`m going to be in the White House a lot. I`m not leaving.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have deals to make. Who the hell wants to leave?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)`

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Susan and Glenn and Phil, people liked Muhammad Ali eventually. They eventually liked him because when he said he was going to knock out somebody in the sixth round, he did it.

And when Babe Ruth pointed to center field, he actually did hit a home run there. This guy does the Babe Ruth performance beforehand, the Muhammad Ali bragging beforehand, and doesn`t seem to have the ability to execute.

PAGE: And he`s at this point in his presidency without a major legislative victory.

MATTHEWS: Or -- what are the smaller legislative victories?

PAGE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: Well, he`s repealed a bunch of Obama regulations.

MATTHEWS: OK.

PAGE: So, he has done that.

But I think -- I would disagree that Republicans are ready to defy him. I think they`re ready to ignore him. But I think there continues to be a risk for Republicans in defying him, because the core of the Republican Party, the most enthusiastic members of the party are still backing Trump.

MATTHEWS: You mean voters.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Yes, voters.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

PAGE: So there is some danger in defying him. But I do think there`s an increased willingness to just look past him.

MATTHEWS: Well, some of President Trump`s Republican colleagues now on Capitol Hill were asked if President Trump had a complete grasp of the health care issue. Here`s what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you feel confident in his real understanding of this issue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I get the sense that this issue is maybe not the president`s wheelhouse, health care. I think he is much more focused on -- and like lot of people in Congress too. I`m not trying to be critical of the president.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence the president understands the details and the complexities in this bill?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don`t know whether he does or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Glenn.

Glenn, it looks line they`re not afraid of him, some of them, now. They`re starting to talk on camera about him, whether they like him or not.

THRUSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`re talking.

THRUSH: If you hear the comments Susan Collins made yesterday, that is really something you very seldom hear in terms of the tone.

And the body language in that meeting last night, Trump I think told a lot of people around him that he thought the meeting went really well. And I guess, in a superficial way, it did.

But Mitch McConnell is the one who is running the show, Chris. That`s entirely clear. Mitch told them to clear out. And Pence is the one who had the really serious meetings last night over at the Naval Observatory with four or five senators who are on the fence.

So Pence, they respect for a couple of reasons. First of all, he`s got the head of CMS, who understands the details of Medicaid very well, who worked for him in Indiana. And he has got Marc Short, who is arguably considered to be, at least on the Hill, Democrats and Republicans alike, as really just about the most competent member of the administration, who is Pence`s former chief of staff.

So this is really, in a lot of ways, Mike Pence`s negotiation, Mitch McConnell`s negotiation, the president, not quite as much.

MATTHEWS: The president again went after the press this morning. Here he is tweeting: "Some of the fake news media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in health care. Wrong. I know the subject well and want victory for us."

Anyway, Glenn, he accused you, by the way, of writing a fake story. He tweeted: "The failing" -- by the way, your paper is not failing at all.

"The failing `New York Times` write false story after false story about me. They don`t even call to verify the facts of story. A fake news joke."

Take that, Glenn Thrush.

THRUSH: Well, I tweeted back at him. I`m not sure he read.

But I spoke to a lot of people in his administration over the last two days. And we did run everything we had by the people that we were supposed to on his communication staff. He has got to check with his own people before making that kind of tweet.

MATTHEWS: Touche.

I thought it was great, talking about the thing I have noticed on Capitol Hill over the years. They use the phrase popping up. That`s when somebody who never liked you waits for you to get weak and then attacks you, popping up.

I noticed John McCain the other day popped up. Somebody said -- a reporter asked him, is this bill, the health bill, the Republican health care bill going to pass by Friday? He said, yes, if pigs could fly.

Anyway, Glenn Thrush, thank you, Philip Rucker and Susan Page.

Still ahead, "Saturday Night Live" plays HARDBALL. "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che join me live right in these chairs in Aspen, Colorado, in just a minute.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A brushfire burning in Burbank, California, is coming dangerously close to homes there. The flames have prompted evacuations, as firefighters work to contain this. A dangerous combination of heat, wind and dry conditions are fueling the fire. There are more than 20 wildfires burning in the West.

Forty protesters you can see here were arrested today on Capitol Hill. They were demonstrating against the Republican health care plan.

The Department of Homeland Security is tightening its protocol for screening laptops and electronic devices on all U.S.-bound international flights -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

COLIN JOST, ACTOR: I know I said this last week, but this week was crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

JOST: Obviously, Trump did not done yet. But let`s just say Mike Pence is definitely warming up in the bullpen.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL CHE, ACTOR: It was also reported in that same meeting that Trump revealed classified intelligence. Well, of course he did. He is just excited to let people know that he knows stuff.

Trump handles government secrets like my aunts handle church gossip.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: I bet everything he leaks to Russia starts with, Russia, girl, sit down.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL right now.

That was of course Colin Jost and Michael Che, co-anchors of "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live."

And President Trump has been the gift that keeps giving for the late-night show.

Last summer, the two of them joined me at the Republican and the Democratic Conventions. We discussed Donald Trump`s skills as a showman. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOST: I think even Trump -- people love joking about Trump even if they`re voting for him.

CHE: I think Trump likes joking about Trump.

JOST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Didn`t you buy my line I had about five minutes ago, my latest theory? I have a lot of them.

JOST: Which? We were up there.

MATTHEWS: The theory being Trump likes trouble. He likes noise.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Bad Blood. He likes enemies.

JOST: He likes ratings. He likes ratings. He set up Ted Cruz that you didn`t know what he was going to say, like a reality moment.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He liked the booing. He wanted the booing.

JOST: A master of theater. And then he showed up right at the moment there was the booing to get applause.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: When we come back, Colin Jost and Michael Che will join me here live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

These are boom times right now for comedy in the age of Donald Trump, many think.

"Saturday Night Live" wrapped its 42nd season just last month, giving the world Melissa McCarthy`s portrayal of Sean Spicer and of course Alec Baldwin as President Trump himself.

Let`s watch a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

CHE: Your staff has been insisting all week that you didn`t fire him because of his Russian investigation.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: No, I didn`t.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: Wait, what?

BALDWIN: I fired him because of Russia. I thought, he is investigating Russia. I don`t like that. I should fire him.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: And you`re just admitting that.

BALDWIN: Uh-huh.

CHE: But that`s obstruction of justice.

BALDWIN: Sure. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: Wait. So, did I get him? Is this all over?

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: Oh, no, I didn`t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s so true.

That portrait seems to have been -- particularly gotten under the skin consistent of the president of the United States.

Back in December, Donald Trump tweeted -- quote -- "Just tried watching `Saturday Night Live.` Unwatchable. Totally biased. Not funny."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: "And the Baldwin impersonation just can`t, just can`t get any worse. Sad."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He always get that last word in.

Anyway, in January, Trump wrote: "NBC News is bad, but `Saturday Night Live` is the worst of NBC. Not funny. Cast is terrible. Always a complete hit job. Really bad, bad television."

I`m joined right now by two of the guys, two of the perps he...

(CROSSTALK)

JOST: What a great intro.

MATTHEWS: On "Saturday Night Live," the co-anchors of "Weekend Update," Colin Jost and Michael Che.

First of all, my compliments to you on Lester. You got Lester down. It`s all the seriousness and professionalism.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But the thing you were doing there, the script was so today, because Trump in the last several days has admitted there was Russian intervention in the campaign, has said there was collusion. Of course, he says it was the other guy, it was Obama.

But he -- and we all -- and one of my producers said, but don`t count on him two weeks not saying he -- there wasn`t any Russian investigation.

As your guy was telling you in the ear in that sketch...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... it doesn`t matter what he says. It doesn`t matter to him what he says, because he will...

CHE: No.

MATTHEWS: It doesn`t relate.

CHE: I think everybody is kind of just accepted that he`s just tweeting as he gets it. So, as scary as that is, he is just saying -- he is just saying it as it comes to him.

MATTHEWS: It doesn`t matter a minute a later.

CHE: No.

JOST: That he`s accused of colluding with Russia and then what he does is to defend Russia. Like he`s like, there is -- it`s like if O.J. defended the idea of murder.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COLIN JOST, CO-ANCHOR, SNL`S "WEEKEND UPDATE": And like, did you murder somebody? No, I`m just saying, is that that bad?

MATTHEWS: Anybody would have done it.

(LAUGHTER)

JOST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this, the imitation -- I think the impressions are devastating. I think Melissa McCarthy, who comes up with that stuff? I mean, you guys -- I mean, Melissa McCarthy, you`ve got Kate McKinnon now doing Jeff Sessions.

CHE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is -- you`ve got to watch it. Do you know that they stay up Saturday night and watch this?

JOST: I don`t know if Jeff Sessions stayed up to watch it.

CHE: No.

JOST: When we talked to Kate about like, does she have a Jeff Sessions --

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch McCarthy.

JOSH: She was amazing. Oh, this is McCarthy --

MATTHEWS: Melissa McCarthy, let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I wanted to ask about the travel ban on Muslim.

MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: Yes, it`s not a ban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?

MCCARTHY: It`s not a bad. The travel ban is not a bad, which makes it not a ban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you just called it a ban.

MCCARTHY: Because I`m using your words. You said ban. You said ban. Now, I`m saying --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tweeted and I quote, if the ban were announced with a one-week notice --

MCCARTHY: Yes, exactly. You just said that. He`s quoting you. It`s your words. He is using your words when you used the words and he uses them back, it is circular using of the word and that`s from you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is a level of deeper than satire. This is so close the reality. I can see -- I can see Spicer or, what`s her name, Sanders, Huckabee Sanders talking like that.

JOST: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

JOST: This is like Glenn Thrush was just on too. He`s complained about the first one.

MATTHEWS: Bobby Moynihan.

JOST: They thought he was too big to play it. The next time we did it, we gave him the fat suit.

CHE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Stick it to Glenn Thrush.

JOST: Just for Glenn.

CHE: We made him fatter and fatter every time.

MATTHEWS: What`s next year? Are we looking forward -- are you guys come back -- when you come back, September?

CHE: Well, we`re going primetime in August.

MATTHEWS: Yes, tell us about that. You`re going to do like four events, right?

JOSH: Three to five, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thursday nights?

JOST: Thursday night, live, 9:00 p.m., starting August 10th, I think?

CHE: August 10th, yes, Thursday.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s a half-hour, an hour update?

JOST: Yes, and there will be some people back and stuff, some guests back.

CHE: Surprises.

JOST: Some surprises.

CHE: Maybe you.

JOST: Surprises given out.

MATTHEWS: Huh?

CHE: Maybe you.

JOST: Maybe we`ll see a Chris Matthews there.

MATTHEWS: I`m -- an it (ph) or a he? Ha! How much they doubted me for five years or something. I missed that.

CHE: You missed five years?

MATTHEWS: I missed the --

JOST: You missed Sarah.

MATTHEWS: She was always kind. She was never nasty. She was never nasty.

What do you think, this is over the country. You guys walk around the streets of New York where you live.

CHE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And people react to you, both sides. I was -- I told you before we were on tonight, that I was at a Barbra Streisand concert and she was surprise that had half the audience voted Republican that year. Republicans like her even though she`s a big lib. And you guys are pretty tough on Trump.

Do you hear from pro-Trump people who say I voted for Trump and you guys are funny?

JOST: Here`s what we hear on Sunday -- you know, we`ll do eight jokes about Trump and one joke about Hillary, on Sunday, three people will come up to me in New York City and be like, I love that joke you did about Hillary.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JOST: People want something on both sides. They don`t want it to be just like Trump, Trump, Trump. They want a sense that you`re hitting both.

MATTHEWS: So, even liberals like that.

CHE: Of course.

JOST: I don`t know if they were liberals. I do think even liberals like it.

MATTHEWS: Progressives or --

CHE: But I think even conservatives like Trump jokes. I mean, it`s funny. They`re funny people. Like it`s not -- no matter whether you agree or not, they`re funny. Like I love my parents but they`re funny.

MATTHEWS: I`ve been watching politics since I was a kid. And this is -- I said earlier today, the biggest news every morning is that Trump is president. You can open up your eyes and go, my God, Trump is president of the United States. It is still news.

JOST: It`s really insane. It seems like the whole country is going on in spite of that fact. You know, like things are actually OK. And like, the stock market is doing fine. It`s all like kind of in spite of it.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this guy? He didn`t just come alone. He came with an entourage. I mean, every time you look at a picture of going in the helicopter, there`s Ivanka walking along with him. Or there`s Jared walking along with him. It`s just -- it`s strange, it`s like a royal family.

CHE: Yes.

JOST: It`s like American Saudi.

MATTHEWS: Like they all got elected.

CHE: Well, he is not a politician. So I feel like he has the people that he trusts and it is usually his son-in-law and his daughter, unfortunately.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CHE: But it`s who makes him comfortable. I mean, when he did the show, he had his family with him.

JOST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: How was that? Before he was president, was he easier to take? How would you describe --

CHE: Oh, I loved him. He had a nickname for me, called me one of the good ones. No, I`m kidding. That`s not true.

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: But what if it was? It would be good (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

JOST: It is better. It`s like --

MATTHEWS: He thought you were voting for him, right?

CHE: He thought I was.

JOST: Like Sarah Palin came. Sarah Palin -- I liked talking to Sarah Palin. I just didn`t think she would be vice president. I thought she would be great as an aunt, but maybe not great as a vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

JOST: Yes, but same with Trump. You`re like, I can talk to this guy. You might not want him to be president. You could be like hang out --

MATTHEWS: When you gave him scripts and stuff, when you guys worked on sketches, I realized talking to you today, you guys -- besides performing, you do the sketches, you write the material. Was Trump like ready to go and play the part that you want him to do?

CHE: Oh, he was willing to do anything as long as involved a suit.

MATTHEWS: A suit?

JOST: Yes, he really wore a suit in basically every sketch. We think we were (ph) the most like custom-y show.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that --

JOST: And I really think he never -- he had a suit in almost everything.

MATTHEWS: He has this tie. He must special order his ties from somewhere. They`re really long and really big and he always has it open with stomach a little big, and he opens it up and he walks around like a strut really.

CHE: He`s got a brand. He is into branding, I found out.

MATTHEWS: And that`s the look.

CHE: That`s the look.

MATTHEWS: That`s the power look.

CHE: It worked. He won.

JOST: Yes.

CHE: I mean, what can you say about the guy that won?

JOST: It`s such a reaction, you know? People want it.

MATTHEWS: I like the supplication. Why you think is that --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back with "SNL`s" Colin Jost and Michael Che. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Trump has spent a large part of his presidency criticizing what he calls the fake news. But all the while, he`s had a phony magazine cover hanging up in his properties.

As "The Washington Post" reports, this is unbelievable. This fake issue of "Time" magazine has been hanging in at least five of President Trump`s clubs, his golf clubs.

The big headline reads Donald Trump, "The Apprentice" is a television smash. They`re phony.

Across the top it says, Trump is hitting on all fronts. Even TV.

Too bad the whole thing is made up. Of course, "Time" has already asked the Trump Organization to take down the phony "Time" magazine covers.

If ever there was a time you need "SNL," this is it. And "Weekend Update" hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che will be right back with us right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with Colin Jost and Michael Che of "Saturday Night Live`s" "Weekend Update", of course.

If you`ve watched Donald Trump for a while, you might have noticed a couple of things. A common theme to his pronunciations for example, pronouncements, rather. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re living through the greatest jobs theft in the history of the world.

The worst trade deal ever signed in the history of the world. Believe me.

There has never been a movement like that. What we`re doing in the history of this country. It is the single greatest political phenomena they`ve ever seen.

We`ve had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of presidents.

We have assembled one of the greatest cabinets in history. That I believe so strong.

We have done about as much as anybody ever in a short period of time for a presidency.

In history, nobody has gotten rid of so many regulations as the Trump administration.

Manufacturing confidence is at an all time high. Just came out, the highest level of confidence in the history of reports.

The auto industry was in. They left -- they said it was the best meeting they`ve ever had.

We had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you`ve ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, mom didn`t teach him humility. I mean, this is unbelievable.

CHE: Well, the greatest trade deal in the history of the world has got to be Manhattan, right?

(LAUGHTER)

CHE: Wasn`t that like 15 jelly beans or something like that? I don`t know. That`s got a pretty good trade deal.

JOST: Have you read "The Art of the Deal"?

MATTHEWS: No.

JOST: I read "The Art of the Deal" the other day. He conveys (ph) all his credit as his great deals. I read that every deal in it was a failed deal. Like the deals in it are, he made a deal for the USFL, which was supposed to be a rival to the NFL.

MATTHEWS: Where is that today?

JOST: Not great.

MATTHEWS: Right.

JOST: He made his casinos which all went bankrupt. The one deal the worked out was the ice skating rink in Central Park. The whole book --

MATTHEWS: What about Trump University?

JOST: Also ended up nothing great.

CHE: That was the greatest book deal in the history of the world.

JOST: That`s what it was.

CHE: Yes, it was good. It sold a lot.

JOST: Book sold, and like everyone was like, he`s great at deals. Look at ever deal, they`re all bad. It`s crazy. No one even looks at it and it`s like, these actually are bad deals.

MATTHEWS: People love him. I`ll ask you this. Why did he win?

JOST: People wanted -- I think people wanted a different -- a change. People wanted change. They didn`t see Hillary as change. We had a cool black president for eight years.

CHE: Easy.

JOST: Let`s get a white jerk to balance it out.

MATTHEWS: Turning over the pillow when -- to get the cold side?

JOST: Yes, really. I think they were like --

MATTHEWS: That was it?

JOST: This guy is Bob Cool (ph). And we don`t want that. We`ve got one guy who is action.

MATTHEWS: Now for something completely different.

JOST: You know, doesn`t think about it. Yes. I think they wanted that. There`s someone was so political, which is Obama. And they wanted someone that didn`t know how to do the job.

MATTHEWS: How come no one predicted it?

JOST: We predicted on Update.

CHE: I think we predicted it.

MATTHEWS: You had Michael Moore.

JOST: Look at the dates, we said, as soon as he got in, he`s going to win.

MATTHEWS: But you said it tongue in cheek.

JOST: No. We said it real, because we go around theory and we do stand up and we listened to people in the audience and they want something different.

CHE: We have the greatest audience in the history, I got to tell you that. Yes, it`s awesome.

MATTHEWS: So let me think. What do you make of the "TIME" magazine cover thing?

CHE: I like it.

JOST: I think he just wanted a clock. He thought it was a clock.

MATTHEWS: It`s the kind of thing you get in Six Flags or something, is it? When you get on, it`s like Universal Studios Tour.

JOST: Like when you`re (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

CHE: It`s horrible. It`s like, you know, it`s probably a Father`s Day gift. The world`s greatest dad. World`s greatest TV host.

MATTHEWS: Somebody`s having a birthday.

CHE: Oh, yes, you are.

JOST: I am.

MATTHEWS: And you`re getting to be 35 tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re going to be 35 tomorrow?

JOST: Yes, I`m 35.

CHE: Can you believe it?

JOST: It`s over.

MATTHEWS: You guys must pinch yourself to be on "Saturday Night Live".

CHE: Sometimes.

MATTHEWS: I watch it every night. These guys, and women, what they`re doing here is in the whole country, how many people watched? Ten million?

JOST: Yes, crazy.

MATTHEWS: Just watched, and you were like at the center -- I mean, John Lennon once said that New York is the center of the consciousness of the universe. On a Saturday night, you`re at the center of the consciousness. You got Alec Baldwin standing on the hallway, all these movie stars that come and just hang out, just to watch you guys. Steve Martin.

CHE: It never freaked me out until right now.

MATTHEWS: It`s a moment.

CHE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: We shared this moment.

Thank you, Michael.

JOST: It`s pretty scary.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael.

CHE: Thank you so much, Chris.

MATTHEWS: An amazing talent, a genius.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Colin Jost -- Colin Jost and Michael Che.

"Weekend Update" will be back with a series, primetime specials on NBC. Primetime. See what it did for the Jay Leno?

When we return, we`ll finish with tonight with Trump Watch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 28th, 2017.

Donald Trump has admitted that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election, the election that made him president. He has also claimed that Americans colluded with the Russians in their efforts to interfere in the election, and that again made him president.

Those are powerful admissions for an American president to make, even if his reasons for making them was to blame the 2016 Russian interference on his predecessor. They are powerful admissions because they confirm the investigation now underway by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. They explain the huge media interest in the Russian story, how could the American media not give strong coverage to the Russian government trying to undercut our democracy.

Well, a pair of news accounts out today bear witness to this story`s power. One, that Paul Manafort`s company was paid $17 million from a pro-Russian Ukraine political party and never disclosed it. Two, that former FBI Director James Comey`s memos which he wrote and filed after his meetings with Trump are headed to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

President Trump`s admission that there is something here to investigate is one statement that few Americans he will question.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END