Show: HARDBALL Date: July 27, 2017 Guest: Cornell Belcher, Dana Milbank, Richard Blumenthal, Annie Karni, Philip Rucker, Ayesha Rascoe
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Street fight.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
Tonight, we`re following a late-breaking explosive story emerging from a White House which now seems paralyzed by constant seething chaos. Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker" magazine just published an obscenity-laced interview with Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump`s new communications director, attacking Reince Priebus, leakers and the chief strategist of all, Steve Bannon.
After one week on the job, Scaramucci has made his presence known, vowing to conduct a Russian-style purge on behalf of the president, cleansing the White House of any and all leakers disloyal to the president`s agenda.
Scaramucci fired a clear warning shot in the "New Yorker" interview late today, saying, quote, "What I want to do is I want to expletive kill all the leakers. And I want to get the president`s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people."
His primary target, chief of staff Reince Priebus. Quote, "Reince is a" -- again expletive -- "paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac." Well, within the last hour, Scaramucci tweeted, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @RealDonaldTrump`s agenda."
Well, that`s hardly a clean-up. Separately, Scaramucci took aim at Priebus this morning, accusing him of leaking his financial disclosure forms to Politico, which reported his net worth and salary from his former hedge fund. Scaramucci tweeted, "In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info, which is a felony, I`ll be contacting FBI and Justice Department #swamp." He then referenced Reince Priebus at the end of that tweet.
Well, his reference to Priebus, which has now been deleted, was a bazooka across the bow, you might say. Scaramucci, by the way, who called in to CNN, publicly accused Priebus of deliberately leaking that report. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: What the president and I would like to tell everybody (INAUDIBLE) very, very good idea who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House. As you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down.
But I can tell you two fish that don`t stink, OK? And that`s me and the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, the rot, he`s suggesting, is coming from the chief of staff. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: When I put out a tweet and I put Reince`s name in the tweet, they`re all making the assumption that it`s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain that he`s not a leaker, let him do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Guilty until proven innocent. Anyway, the very public assault that (ph) one (ph) an accusation was further evidence of a stewing street brawl behind the scenes at the White House. Not much behind the scenes anymore, is it. Well, just last week, Priebus reportedly tried to block Trump`s hiring of the New York financier. Publicly, Scaramucci papered over these differences, telling reporters that he and Priebus were like brothers.
Well, today, it`s a very different story. By the way, brothers, he said, like Cain and Abel. You know how that went. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds. We have had differences. When I said we were brothers from the podium, that`s because we`re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don`t know if this is repairable or not. That will be up to the president. But he`s the chief of staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, of course, in the Bible, Cain murdered Abel. It`s unclear who survives this feud. I think, judging by the manner of Mr. Scaramucci, he sees himself as Cain.
Anyway, more (ph), I`m joined by MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, former RNC chair and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele, and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who is loving every moment of this.
MATTHEWS: You don`t have to do nothing! This is just joy.
Stephanie, I was watching this morning, and I have to tell, you are very good at this, so I`m going to let you lead this off. You know the dramatis personae here, this street brawl. It`s like the Jets and the Sharks of -- it`s not "West Wing," it`s "West Side Story."
This guy goes trumpeting (ph) into the White House, he calls out Priebus, the so-called -- I must say that so-called chief of staff, and says, I`m going to get you. You`re the chief leaker. Let`s stop kidding around here. He seems to have Trump behind him in this.
Why again, as in the case of Sessions, doesn`t Trump push the button?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: OK...
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he get rid of the people in front of (ph), in this case, Priebus? Why doesn`t he bring in Jack Palance here, you know, to do the shooting for him? I don`t get it. You explain.
RUHLE: This is perfect for Trump. But you said something earlier -- he started on the job a week ago. That`s not correct, and there`s an important point to make.
MATTHEWS: I know he`s not on -- I called the White House today to...
MATTHEWS: I know, Stephanie. I called the White House. He`s not -- he`s not financially on the books yet.
RUHLE: But this is what`s important. But this is what`s important. Anthony Scaramucci has one goal, to sell his company, Skybridge Capital. There`s one bidder for the company, and it is HNA, a Chinese conglomerate, meaning if this deal doesn`t go through, if they pass, look out below. There`s no one underneath him.
He`s selling the company for 180 million bucks so he himself will pocket $90 million. Then if he has a job in the White House, he transfers that to Treasuries, he gets the tax deferral. But he needs to get regulatory approval. Getting regulatory approval for a Chinese conglomerate to buy your company under this kind of scrutiny in this administration -- that ain`t easy. You know who runs the regulator? The Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin.
If Anthony Scaramucci shows up, puts on a show and pleases the president -- and I`m speaking to people inside the White House who say White House lawyers have their heads spinning. People in the White House are saying, What in the world is going on? You know who loves it? Trump. And that is exactly who Anthony...
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Wait a minute!
RUHLE: ... is performing for.
MATTHEWS: Let`s -- let`s short-end this thing. This is such a New York analysis. I want a D.C. political analysis, Stephanie. Why is this guy blowing his little bugle at Priebus? Why is he doing that? You didn`t tell me why.
RUHLE: OK, from the get-go...
MATTHEWS: What`s that got to do with his financial situation?
RUHLE: Anthony wanted a position with the White House from the get-go, and Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon didn`t want him there because the game is, be the last person to have Trump`s ear.
And you tell me. Who do you think Donald Trump likes to hang out with more, Reince Priebus from Wisconsin and the GOP or Anthony Scaramucci from New York, who name drops the president of the Yankees and likes the say that Trump Tower and Trump`s apartment are magnificent. That`s exactly Trump`s link (ph). Donald Trump loves...
MATTHEWS: OK, so what...
RUHLE: ... casting characters.
MATTHEWS: So why doesn`t he fire Priebus?
RUHLE: Scaramucci is the perfect character.
MATTHEWS: Why -- if he`s going to make Scaramucci, in effect, "the Mooch," the boss, the real chief of staff, why doesn`t he make of (ph) him (ph)? Why doesn`t he make the move?
RUHLE: OK, well, two things...
MATTHEWS: Dump Priebus, put in Scaramucci there.
RUHLE: Trump may, but as you know, Donald Trump doesn`t necessarily want to be the guy firing people. He loves to watch this drama play out. He loves that...
RUHLE: ... we`re not talking about Paul Manafort, Jared...
MATTHEWS: OK, that`s another argument.
RUHLE: ... and Don, Junior. But remember? Guess who went to work today? Robert Mueller. Doesn`t matter if we`re distracted. Robert Mueller was at work.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I say. Look...
RUHLE: And that`s what`s under Trump`s skin.
MATTHEWS: Stephanie, thank you for the set-up. I want to go to -- I want to go to Michael. It seems to me that this doesn`t stop -- Mueller is a special counsel. Every special counsel ends up prosecuting. They all do.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they all do!
MATTHEWS: And that`s why Trump has to fight him.
MATTHEWS: If it wasn`t -- if it was Archie Cox, he fired Archie Cox. Then he got Jaworski. He prosecute (ph) him, brought down Nixon. They brought in Lawrence -- Lawrence Walsh, who spent nine years going after -- after W`s father.
MATTHEWS: And then you had -- what`s his name? I`m sorry, Ken Starr.
STEELE: Ken Starr.
MATTHEWS: He went from Whitewater, which wasn`t anything, to Paula Jones, which was a lot of money, about a million dollars. And then he goes to good old Monica Lewinsky and nails the president.
So they don`t quit. They metastasize, these guys.
STEELE: They do.
MATTHEWS: They grow, they grow, they grow until they find some dirt, and then they light up and their career is made for them and they announce at a press conference, I caught the dirty dog. I got him. It`s over. They don`t ever say, I couldn`t find any way -- clean as a hound`s tooth. They never do that!
STEELE: No. Well, but you -- that`s exactly the point, which is why the administration, particularly the president, has been looking over his shoulder at what...
MATTHEWS: How`s the mooch help him fight and destroy Mueller?
STEELE: Well, the Mooch is -- the Mooch provides the entertainment, the bright shining object that everybody`s going to...
STEELE: Well, let me -- follow me here -- that everybody`s going to follow and talk about. Meanwhile, there are other predicates that are being laid with respect to the attorney general and -- and of course, the special counsel. And what is interesting is now the Senate is upping its game. You heard today Senator McCain and others talk about, Do not touch.
MATTHEWS: I know.
STEELE: Do not touch...
STEELE: ... Senator Graham -- do not touch the special prosecutor and do not touch the attorney general. So the president is trying to figure out which lane is going to get him to his ultimate goal, which is to remove both of those gentlemen at the end of the day.
MATTHEWS: Is that right, Cornell?
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But we -- but look, we -- we`re...
MATTHEWS: I mean, I`m not sure it is...
BELCHER: We`re destroying -- we`re destroying something larger here. And hey, look -- and -- and look, we chuckle at it, but the White House is now a locker room, right? You can`t even put on air what he said about Steve Bannon, right?
MATTHEWS: I know.
BELCHER: It was vulgar. It is -- it is -- it is hateful. It is -- it is -- it is self-important, right? These people are diminishing the White House, right? This sort of behavior should not be allowed in the White House, Democrat or Republican.
STEELE: Oh, no, absolutely. Absolutely.
BELCHER: I mean, this is not normal behavior.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at more of this -- this awful "New Yorker" interview. We shouldn`t be talking about it, according to my friend here. And I agree, it`s gross.
Scaramucci makes clear he`ll -- he`s do whatever it takes to weed out the leakers. He`s threatening to fire the entire communications department at the White House. Quote, "I fired one guy the" -- this is street corner talk. "I fired one guy the other day. I`ve got three or four people I`ll fire tomorrow." This is Scaramucci. "I`ll get to the person who leaked that to you." He`s talking to Ryan Lizza. "Reince Priebus -- if you want to leak something, he`ll be asked to resign very shortly."
This guy -- let me go back to Stephanie. He talks like Trump.
RUHLE: He does talk like Trump, and Trump likes it. Now, mind you, he says to Ryan Lizza, I fired a guy a couple of days ago. Yet he has said on the record to Chris Cuomo yesterday, Well, we let him resign. So he`s saying a few different things.
And then he put out a statement on Twitter saying, I use colorful language. I shouldn`t do that. I won`t going forward.
And here`s what`s amazing, though. Look at the tweet Anthony Scaramucci put out. Look at the responses. You`ve got Trump supporters in there saying, Speak truth. I love the passion. Right on, man.
So we can say all day long this is below the White House. This is despicable. It`s disgraceful. It doesn`t seem to rile the base. They only like it more. It`s extraordinary. It`s crushing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, Scaramucci also went into a vulgar tirade about the president`s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, accusing him -- we can`t even get near the language he used on this -- accusing him of serving his own self-interest and not that of the president`s, certainly not of the country`s.
"I`m not trying to build my own brand off the expletive strength of the president. I`m here to serve the" -- by the way, look it up if you want to get grossed out. His other words for Bannon are too graphic, as I said, even to put on the screen.
This whole little thing he did with Cuomo about this sort of fellow Italian-American thing...
MATTHEWS: We both know this expression about the fish rots from the top, and it (INAUDIBLE) It was all -- I`m sorry. I remember Dukakis pulled the same number 30, 40 years ago. I`ve got a memory! He used to say the fish rots (INAUDIBLE) So apparently, it is a Greco and Italian...
MATTHEWS: Everybody`s claiming this fish rots from the top. But it`s he means Reince Priebus...
STEELE: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... as the guy who stinks.
STEELE: Yes. That`s exactly what he means.
MATTHEWS: This is the president of the United States! This is the White House communications director who`s come in to clean up the swamp. And as Cornell says...
BELCHER: ... chief of staff! HE`s supposed to be in charge of the White House!
STEELE: But let`s be clear. Reince is...
MATTHEWS: This is all happening late this afternoon, this gross-out.
STEELE: But Reince was never the chief of staff. Can we stop that -- that particular...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get some personal history...
STEELE: Trust me.
STEELE: He did. God bless him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn`t a fair fight.
STEELE: It wasn`t a fair -- no, it was not a fair fight. So we can say that. But here`s the deal. From the very beginning, the president has been undermining the authority of the chief of staff by allowing others to come directly to him, to go around the chief of staff and to posit himself as the final -- the gate keeper of his own door.
And that from the very beginning has made it very difficult for the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to put in place the kind of structure to avoid the very thing that we`re sitting here talking about tonight, and that, unfortunately for him, will ultimately be his undoing.
MATTHEWS: He was the guy -- he -- that when President Trump was trying to make some sort of deal with Comey, he told Reince to get out of the room. Remember that?
MATTHEWS: Yes, Stephanie. I`m sorry. Jump in.
RUHLE: Keep in mind, though, President Trump is very frustrated with GOP leadership, that they haven`t fallen into line. And that`s how he sees Reince Priebus. Reince was put into that seat. Listen, he knows Republicans. He knows the GOP. He`s an outsider to Trump. And every time Trump looks at Reince Priebus, he sees Paul Ryan`s face, Reince Priebus, his bestie from Wisconsin. So he doesn`t like the sight of Reince, and Anthony`s doing his bidding for him.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about something that doesn`t mean anything (INAUDIBLE) except we love it. Usually around this time of night, Stephanie -- you know this. You`re in the biz. What we all like, especially when I go on the air at 7:00 Eastern -- it`s about 5:30, the news Gods give us something. Here`s "The New York Times," "Washington Post," Axios, somebody`s got some good story. Somebody in the White House is feeding this stuff out. It`s almost always negative towards the president.
What -- Stephanie, what is going on? Why are so many people in the White House -- I had a reporter sitting next to me the other night, and she laughed when I said, Has the leaking stopped? It hasn`t. It`s a Titanic in the White House. It leaks. It leaks. It leaks. I`ve never seen anything like it. They don`t have any loyalty to the president.
Why are these people -- and I`m no pal of what they`re doing there. But why would somebody take a political job at the White House and trash the guy who gave them the job? Who are they loyal to, if not the person that they took job from, the president in this case? Who are these people?
RUHLE: Because for many of them, they feel that the president also isn`t loyal to them. At any given day, he goes to that morning meeting and...
RUHLE: ... lash out at any of them.
RUHLE: And they can`t...
MATTHEWS: They should quit!
RUHLE: ... believe the insanity that`s in there.
MATTHEWS: They should quit.
BELCHER: No, they shouldn`t quit!
BELCHER: No, but Chris, they`re doing -- they`re doing -- they`re doing the country a service...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I see.
BELCHER: ... because a lot of what we`ve found out comes from leakers. Look, this is not normal behavior, and people -- look, working in the White House is an honor and a privilege. And I don`t question their patriotism. People -- because it`s a tough job, Chris. And these people...
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they`re leaking?
BELCHER: These people -- because what`s -- what we`re seeing in the White House is not normal, and they want to tell the story! We should be thankful.
MATTHEWS: So they`re good guys.
STEELE: Well, they`re -- well, they`re...
BELCHER: Yes. They are.
STEELE: Well, they may or may not be. There are agendas being served here.
MATTHEWS: What are these agendas...
STEELE: Well, the agendas relate to Capitol Hill. As you`ve just mentioned, Reince and his relationship with the speaker of the House is one of those relationships. And there are others within the White House. Remember, a lot of these folks, particularly below the senior level, come from the Hill. They worked for senators. They worked for congressmen. They`ve worked for various think tanks around town.
STEELE: So this association there to that part of Washington he doesn`t like is what he can`t seem to control.
STEELE: And besides, Chris, the leaking just isn`t out of the comm shop. So Scaramucci thinks -- you can fire everybody in the comm shop today. Trust me, there will be a leak out tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know.
RUHLE: Chris, also...
MATTHEWS: Sneak around the corner. They go in the bathroom. They go down the hall. They go hide with their little cell phones. And if you think they`re proud of that, you`re crazy. I don`t think...
RUHLE: But Chris, the leaking that they`re complaining about that has the president upset and Scaramucci upset -- none of this is confidential information.
RUHLE: So for Anthony Scaramucci to say, I`m calling the Department of Justice -- there was nothing classified. Classified? That`s what the president...
MATTHEWS: It`s not classified. I`m talking about...
RUHLE: ... told the Russians in the Oval Office. It`s the gossip.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking about the cheapness of ratting out your fellow workers and your boss behind the scenes.
BELCHER: But Chris, you`re not ratting them out if what he`s doing is abnormal and it`s hurting the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true, but they started this before. It`s not a good crew of people. I`m sorry.
BELCHER: Well, have you seen the president?
MATTHEWS: Cornell, you are working both sides of the street here! I`m saying -- all right, ratfinks for rats. I don`t care.
RUHLE: Chris, just think about this -- Jeff Sessions has never had so many friends in his life as he does today. People are getting behind Jeff Sessions because they`re saying, Please save the democracy.
BELCHER: (INAUDIBLE) likable guy.
RUHLE: Just put that in your pipe and smoke it.
MATTHEWS: He still needs a chief of staff and he doesn`t have one. By the way, someone loyal to him that people are afraid of. It may not be Scaramucci, but it`s somebody. Anyway, it`s not happening yet.
Thank you, Stephanie Ruhle, for that New York point of view, the business point of view which I find difficult to absorb, but I try. I`m learning.
RUHLE: (INAUDIBLE) say fascinating.
MATTHEWS: I`m learning. I can say (INAUDIBLE) well, you`re fascinating, but the numbers got me -- the China thing. (INAUDIBLE) too off shore for me. Thank you...
RUHLE: Don`t get confused. That`s the point.
MATTHEWS: You may be right. You often are.
RUHLE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Cornell Belcher.
Coming up, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says there will be holy hell to pay if President Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He`s the loudest of the bugle calls from the right right now, warning the president to stop messing with Sessions. And that`s ahead. That could be our big story tonight even as we speak.
Plus, Trump`s greatest fits. Just this week, he said he should be on Mount Rushmore. Almost said something else there. He got political at a Boy Scouts jamboree, and now the head of the Boy Scouts is forced to apologize for the president.
Anyway, the hostility between the White House and Congress is nearing an all-time high. Besides Jeff Sessions and the health care, there`s another big fight brewing between the two sides, Russian sanctions. Will Trump look to veto the sanctions to show Putin he`s got his back? It looks like he`s going to accept (ph) an override of the veto just to show he`s with Putin if everybody else is against him. We`ll get to that with the roundtable tonight.
Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like this one.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just learned this. In an earlier segment, we showed a graphic from Anthony Scaramucci`s interview with "The New Yorker" that included a word that was inappropriate for television. Our putting it on was inadvertent, and we apologize to any viewers who were offended, and they should be offended.
And we`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You have seen the president`s criticism of you. Do you think it`s fair?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it`s kind of hurtful, but the president of the United States is a strong leader. He is determined to move this country in the direction he believes it needs to go to make us great again, and he has had a lot of criticisms, and he`s steadfastly determined to get his job done.
And he wants all of us to do our jobs. And that`s what I intend to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Attorney General Jeff Sessions today way down south responding to President Trumps` criticism. He is in El Salvador today.
Anyway, "The Washington Post" reports -- quote -- "President Trump has discussed with confidants and advisers in recent days the possibility of installing a new attorney general through a recess appointment if Jeff Sessions leaves the job. But he has been warned not to move to push him out because of the political and legal ramifications."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders called that fake news.
Well, the president`s attack on Sessions has elicited warnings from Capitol Hill. Here`s a big one. Senator Chuck Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- or, actually, he was the chairman -- tweeted last night that the committee -- oh, it`s Grassley.
He`s the committee chair -- can`t consider confirming a new attorney general anytime soon. So, he`s not going to help with any transition -- quote -- "Everybody in D.C. should be warned that the agenda for the Judiciary Committee is set for the rest of 2017, judges first, sub-Cabinet second, A.G. no way."
And here was Senator Lindsey Graham today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.
I`m working on legislation that I will introduce next week with Republicans and some Democrats. I think you get all the Democrats. I hope I can get a good number of Republicans that will say the following. A special counsel cannot be fired when they were impaneled to investigate the president or his team unless you have judicial review of the firing, not just for Trump, but for any future president.
We need a check and balance here. And this is not draining the swamp. What he is interjecting is turning democracy upside down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He sits on the Judiciary Committee. Politico`s Annie Karni and "The Washington Post`s Phil Rucker. They`re all joining us right now.
Senator Blumenthal, I have been waiting for a Republican to stand up, man or woman, Southerner or Northerner, and act like a character out of "Advise and Consent" or "Profiles in Courage" and actually stand up for the Constitution and our American form of government.
I`m beginning to see a couple of them do that. I`m impressed. They`re standing up against this wild, sort of narcissistic manner of this president.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I have been talking to Senator Graham and a number of my Republican, as well as Democratic colleagues about exactly this topic, how to protect the integrity and independence of the special counsel.
And let me just say very bluntly, the president of the United States firing Bob Mueller would be a historic admission of guilt, without a scintilla of cause. To fire a special prosecutor whose appointment was acclaimed and whose career is beyond reproach, and who has engaged in absolutely nothing challengeable, would really be a historic admission of guilt.
And this investigation will go forward. The remarks that you heard from Senator Graham just now are a clear reflection of a growing sense on both sides of the aisle that there need to be efforts to protect the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice, most particularly the special prosecutor.
MATTHEWS: Well, you have been attorney general up in Connecticut of your state, elected a couple of times. But let me ask you about this.
If you`re Donald Trump, and if you`re Machiavellian -- and he is Machiavellian, and you`re thinking, if you look at the history of special counsels, independent -- independent prosecutors, going back to Jaworski, before that, Archibald Cox, and after that, of course, Lawrence Walsh and Ken Starr, they always end up prosecuting, or trying to.
If you`re Trump, aren`t you rightfully afraid of the fact that it will not be about Russia in the end, it will be about some business deal he made somewhere, because they will get access to his taxes, I think by court order. They will go looking for everything he`s done for 20 or 30 years, or his kids have done, and they will find something?
Now, doesn`t Trump have the political, I should say, sense to try to forestall that somehow? Or is there some way you can limit the power of a special counsel? Or should you limit the range and scope of a special counsel?
BLUMENTHAL: Our effort is to limit the power of the president to fire that special counsel, to protect against completely arbitrary and capricious firing, barring any proper historic governing, through perhaps some form of judicial review.
I have been in discussions with colleagues about exactly what the options are, how best to do it. But the point here, Chris, is -- and your point is well-taken -- that Donald Trump is unpredictable. But there are ways to prevent this kind of firing that would directly obstruct justice.
It would be not only an admission of guilt. It would be an obstruction of justice, in my view, to do it without any cause whatsoever.
MATTHEWS: Hold on for a minute. I want you to be back in a moment.
But, Annie, you first, then Phil.
Tell me, what is the best reporting right now about what Trump is up to, in terms of Mueller, getting to Mueller through firing Sessions or pushing him out?
ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: Well, on Sessions, my reporting is that he doesn`t actually want to get rid of him. He wants to mess with him. He wants him to know he`s angry. He wants to push him to start investigations that he cares about.
But we see Republicans from inside the administration and on the Hill defending Sessions. We don`t see that on Reince Priebus, by the way. We see zero voices standing up for Reince.
KARNI: But I don`t get the sense that this is going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Phil, does he want him out or in?
PHILIP RUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Sessions, he is very angry with him. But he`s been convinced over the last couple of days by a number of his advisers.
Almost all of them have been urging him to calm down, cool it off, to stop attacking Sessions, recognizing that this is a political problem for him, but also creates a potential legal problem.
MATTHEWS: But he knows -- I`m going to interrupt. He knows what they don`t. He knows what he`s done wrong the last 10 years or whatever. He knows what he`s done wrong the Russians. They don`t know how much trouble he`s in.
RUCKER: He insists to people privately, as well as obviously what he`s saying publicly, that he`s done nothing wrong. But he is very bothered by this Russia probe.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he bothered if he hasn`t done something?
RUCKER: He doesn`t want it going into his personal finances, which is what is happening.
RUCKER: There`s a lot there that Mueller is going to be looking into, and the president wants to stop it. He doesn`t like this going on.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the senator.
Is there still the sense that where he`s vulnerable to even a narrow investigation, the president, is, he doesn`t know for sure how far his people, including Michael Flynn and his son-in-law and his son and the others, have done in terms of playing footsie, whatever term you use for it, colluding with the Russians?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, he has to have questions about what they have done to conspire with the Russians.
MATTHEWS: Manafort, for example.
BLUMENTHAL: And, in fact, there was very dramatic testimony today, Chris, from a real expert on this issue, who indicated that anybody going to that meeting with the Russian foreign agents in early June 2016 had to know that this promise of information came from Vladimir Putin, that these two individuals, Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin, were agents of the Russian government, but as much as that knowledge must be troubling, also the prospect of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, who clearly have very deep exposure here, possibly seeking to make deals and tell the special counsel what they know about what Donald Trump has done.
And remember that these threats and intimidation started when the special counsel started delving into the president`s business dealings.
So, the concern about business dealings possibly with the Russians, as well as others abroad, has to be on his mind as well.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s start with that June 2016 e-mail that said basically what you said, Senator, that the Russians, the government was out to help Trump win and make sure Hillary Clinton did not win, once that information was in the pipeline with people like -- starting with Manafort and the rest of them, the son, the son-in-law, the daughter, all the people, including Flynn and Sessions, all the dramatis personae, all the characters that are in this Shakespearian play, all of them knew that, from that June date on, before that meeting, that Putin was on their side to help them win the election.
So, every meeting they had subsequent to that, wasn`t it collusion?
BLUMENTHAL: Very possibly part of a conspiracy to join the Russians in interfering in our democratic process.
And what the special counsel is doing now, very likely, is following the money, following the money.
BLUMENTHAL: And it is a modus operandi for the best prosecutor to follow the money.
But keep in mind also that on Robert Mueller`s mind also has to be, what did the president know and when did he know it? The president has said in that "New York Times" interview that he was aware of the e-mail promising that damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
He says he didn`t know about the meeting. But what did the president know, and when did he know it?
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
And thank you, Annie Karni. We will have more time next time. Philip Rucker, thank you.
Up next: Trump`s greatest fits. The head of the Boy Scouts apologizes for the president`s political speech at that jamboree. You should never talk politics before those boys.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, here`s what I do. I would ask whether or not you think I will someday be on Mount Rushmore.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: But -- no.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: But here`s the problem. If I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say, he believes he should be on Mount Rushmore.
TRUMP: So, I won`t say it. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That shtick is something, isn`t it? That was President Trump joking -- I don`t think he was joking -- about the prospect that his face might one day be added to Mount Rushmore.
Well, the president floated his latest grand delusion just one day after delivering a speech in front of -- well, this is a captive audience -- 40,000 Boy Scouts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I`m in front of the Boy Scouts?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
I go to Washington and I see all these politicians. And I see the swamp.
We ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or perhaps to the word sewer.
Secretary Tom Price is also here today.
Dr. Price, by the way, you going to get the votes? He`d better get them. He`d better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise, I will say, Tom, you`re fired.
As the Scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal -- we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.
By the way, just a question. Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, the head of the Boy Scouts across the country issued a letter apologizing for that performance -- quote -- "The political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree, that was never our intent."
He added, "It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies."
Good for him.
Well, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she hadn`t seen the apology.
Well, that`s clever. I haven`t seen it? You could have looked at it.
But said she was there and saw nothing but cheering from the crowd.
For more, I`m joined by Dana Milbank, political columnist for "The Washington Post."
I thought that was a fairly rotten thing, to use those kids that way, to use them as a studio audience. Those kids are great. I love the Boy Scouts. I made Life. I didn`t make Eagle.
I would have thought that odd if a president showed up and gave a political speech.
DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I only made Tenderfoot, but I know enough to...
MATTHEWS: Well, Tenderfoot is great.
MILBANK: I know enough that`s something we have never seen before.
And we say it all the time. And I love this notion that we`re six months into the term, and he is indeed joking perhaps, talking about Mount Rushmore.
But the quest to climb Mount Rushmore for him, I suspect, would end a bit like the book "Into Thin Air."
But, in better news, he`s already reached the very pinnacle of Mount Crazy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
Well, let me ask you about his performance lately, because he`s brought Scaramucci in to sort of imitate him. He is like Mini Me him.
I think it is getting water. And sometimes I think the purpose of Donald Trump is this moment. His entire purpose is this moment, whatever that moment is.
MILBANK: I think that`s right.
MATTHEWS: Can he have the crowd this moment?
MILBANK: Right. Can he have the crowd of 40,000 boys eating out of his hand and forgetting even who he is talking to?
MATTHEWS: This moment.
MILBANK: I think we forget. There`s just so much crazy going on all the time that we forget the sheer impact of it.
So, I just, top of my head...
MATTHEWS: Go for it. You`re here.
MILBANK: This all happened within the last week.
We have the White House communications director in this obscene interview saying the president`s chief strategist in the White House is doing something anatomically impossible to himself. He calls the chief of staff to the president a paranoid schizophrenic who committed a felony.
We have the president`s son-in-law throwing the president`s son under the bus in the Russia probe. We have the president attacking his own attorney general and, as we saw, threatening to fire his secretary of health and human services.
He kicks transgender people out of military, apparently without even consulting the Pentagon. He talks about his political conquest to the Boy Scouts and said he is going to get everybody to say merry Christmas again, even though it is now July.
MILBANK: And he meets with the Lebanese prime minister and seems to not have any idea what Hezbollah is.
So, I would say that I don`t think if it`s Rushmore he`s destined for, but...
MATTHEWS: I don`t think anybody has ever accused anybody of, don`t say merry Christmas to a fellow Christian. I have never seen that as a problem.
MATTHEWS: And if you do live in a more diverse environment, like I do here, you try to spread it around by happy holidays. Nobody ever got hurt by that.
MILBANK: No, they never did.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, you don`t tell your kids happy holidays. You say merry Christmas or happy Hanukkah or something.
It is still a free country, but it is gross-out week in Washington.
Thank you, Dana Milbank.
MILBANK: Merry Christmas.
MATTHEWS: And it finally has caught up to your satire. I don`t know how you could get a leg on this guy.
MILBANK: We can`t get ahead.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Congress overwhelmingly passed new sanctions against Russia, but the White House is suggesting, hint, hint, that President Trump will veto those sanctions.
Is Trump trying to signal Putin that he`s with him and not with us?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
When it comes President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, there`s new evidence today that Trump wants to, in the words of Tammy Wynette, stand by his man. Lawmakers are bracing for a showdown now with the administration after the White House signaled today that the president might veto new U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Well, that sanctions bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate this evening, 98-2 in the Senate. It passed the House on Tuesday with only three votes against it, 419 to 3. They`re both veto-proof. Meaning, they`re both guaranteed by any normal estimate of getting two-thirds plus one in both houses, which means the president will be overridden for the first time and that means big international news.
Nevertheless, Anthony Scaramucci said this morning that Trump may veto the bill anyway, saying the president will be tougher on Russia without the sanctions. Yes. Let`s watch it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: He is looking at the sanctions right now. He may decide to veto these sanctions and be --
SCARAMUCCI: -- tougher on the Russians than the Congress.
ANCHOR: Oh, so you think that if he vetoes it, it`s because he wants to be tougher than what they have in the sanctions bill?
SCARAMUCCI: He may sign -- he may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate even a tougher deal against the Russians.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think Chris Cuomo is right. The question, the logic of that. Anyway, the showdown over the sanctions comes as tensions between the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and the Trump White House had deepened this week over reports the president may try to replace his attorney general.
I`m joined right now in a middle of this ruckus by the HARDBALL roundtable. Jason Johnson, of course, is an MSNBC contributor and politics editor at "The Root", Ayesha Rascoe is the White House correspondent for "Reuters", and Jeremy Peters is political reporter at "The New York Times".
You just gave some news in the break here. Apparently, "The Times" is going to go verbatim, with the gross language, including the F word, we know what that`s going to be, that was used by Scaramucci in this diatribe with "The New Yorker" magazine. That`s rare.
JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, it is rare, but this is done in consultation with top editors and --
MATTHEWS: Why do you think your editors decided that the American people need to know verbatim language of this new White House communications director?
PETERS: Well, I read to you exactly what Cliff Levy, our deputy managing editor, said, he posted to Twitter. You can check it out on his Twitter feed if you want. But he says, you know, we concluded, this is the top editors, we concluded it was newsworthy that the Trump aide used such language and we didn`t want our readers to have to search elsewhere to find out what Scaramucci said. I think it was really that simple.
And honestly, it almost seems quaint looking back in the 1990s when we were having this big debate about whether "The Times" would publish the F word when discussing the Starr report. I mean, that`s how much the standards and norms have changed.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that great?
MATTHEWS: Daniel Patrick Moynihan was so wise in so many of these issues said we`ve defined the deviancy downward. You can use any language. I mean, I think it was tricky to decide how we would say it with expletive, and even we had a hard time, we actually made a mistake and showed it by accident. I mean by accident. We talked about for hours to figure out how to do this thing.
It is a weird world where the top spokesman for the White House, who is just taking office, not quite in office yet, decides to talk like the on the record to a major magazine, "New Yorker Magazine", knowing we`re hearing it, knowing the chief of staff who he is attacking, grossing out is hearing it. And the president of the United States is sort of keeping this romper room together or not.
What`s going on? Is this part of Trumpet`s effort -- Trumpet, that`s an interesting phrase.
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
MATTHEWS: Trump is trying to create so much mayhem and confusion, we can`t remember why we think he`s blowing it.
JOHNSON: This is par for the course, Chris. Like this is kind of language that Trump wants. This is -- this is what his base likes.
This shows he`s tough. This shows he`s different. He doesn`t care about norms. He doesn`t care about standards.
All of this is perfectly fine for this administration. It is only going to be a problem when Scaramucci becomes more famous than Trump and then he`s going to want to fire him.
MATTHEWS: We`ve seen.
JOHNSON: Yes, it`s going to happen when he gets his "SNL" character and everything else like that. But until now, he thinks this is fine. This is how this White House wants to communicate.
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: This does create a distraction, but I mean, it is a distraction from the messages that they`re trying on get through. I mea, tomorrow, they`re going to be going and talking about finding MS-13 and all these things. So, I mean, you know, these are messages that they claim they want to get out to the public.
MATTHEWS: You starting this though. We know the biggest story of the year is probably going to be Russia and it maybe next year as well. And the question of how much is Russia causing the president of the United States to tag along with their interests? To what extent are we really being driven as a country with the interest of another country? Because Putin seems to always get his way.
And now we have the president of the United States, through this new guy, Scaramucci, saying he`s probably going to veto a bill. In other words, he`s going to send a signal to the world that even though the U.S. Congress has just passed over his veto sanctions against the Russians and Putin, that he doesn`t believe in them. That`s a hell of a statement.
RASCOE: Well -- and he`s making the argument that he wants to be tougher on Russia. But if he wants to be tougher --
MATTHEWS: I can say B.S.
MATTHEWS: There`s an old term for that, Ayesha. It`s called loving something to death. Oh, that`s not even enough. I would do much more.
Let me ask you this about, Jeremy, the Russian vote, because everything else is going to be Russian, Russian, Russian. The fact that he now sticks his neck out and says, I don`t care if 419 members against 3 in a Republican House, and 98-2 in a Republican dominated Senate all believe he Russia is our adversary and I don`t.
PETERS: I think what I`m looking for, what we should be eyeing, is this the point where the Republican Congress really starts to break from President Trump? Are the cracks widening? Because so far, you`ve seen a Congress that has been highly deferential to the president. Every time he does something outrageous, they excuse it away and apologize for it.
MATTHEWS: It`s stopping.
PETERS: And it`s stopping. It`s stopping --
(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: He`s a Democrat, but we talked to him. What`s going on with Lindsey Graham who begins to look more and more like a character out of "Advise and Consent"? Really, a loyalist to the institution, you know, like Steve Cooley, the guy, the old Southern who actually did care about the Institution. He`s beginning to sound like the way a senator is supposed to sound. There`s a law and there`s a Constitution and we`ll enforce it.
JOHNSON: Lindsey Graham is sounding like what we think John McCain actually is. I mean, when he stands out there and says, look, if you get rid of Sessions, there will be heck to pay. There`s going to be a problem.
MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to be back in a minute. The roundtable is sticking with us. They`re going to tell me things I don`t know in just about a minute. And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, today, we learned the name and the publication date of Hillary Clinton`s book about the 2016 election. It`s called "What Happened" and it`s due out on September 12th. In an effort to sell the book, Clinton writers, quote: In the past, my reasons, for reasons I tried to explain, I`ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. And now, I`m letting my guard down.
Well, that`s a mixed metaphor. The book is billed as memoir, but also a cautionary tale about the forces Clinton says led to her defeat. The forces? The forces.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Jason, tell me something I don`t know.
JOHNSON: First, we had Brexit, then we had Demexit, then we have Calexit. The secretary of state of California has given the Free California Party the right to now get an amendment to remove California from the United States. It will be on the ballot next year if they can get enough signatures.
MATTHEWS: Oh my God. Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Ayesha, I`m sorry.
RASCOE: So the White House right now is full of Goldman Sachs alums. But Reuters reported on a 2004 letter that President Trump wrote to the treasury secretary at the time saying that big banks shouldn`t be allowed to merge. It`s bad for business. It`s bad for U.S. businesses.
So, it`s interesting how things have changed.
MATTHEWS: The former secretary of defense had a great joke the other night. He said, if they hire one more person in Goldman Sachs in the White House, there will be nobody to listen to Hillary Clinton`s speeches.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, go ahead, Jeremy.
PETERS: I wonder if that`s in the book.
So, in the Jeff Sessions/Donald Trump flap, a lot has been made of loyalty as an issue and that being the breaking point for Trump. That he was upset that Sessions had been disloyal to him.
My conversations with White House aides, that`s actually not the real issue. The real issue is strength, a characteristic that Donald Trump prizes even more than loyalty. He thinks that by recusing himself, Jeff Sessions looked weak. And so, therefore, I don`t think he can ever forgive him.
MATTHEWS: Wow. He also took away the try it quash the investigation which he wanted him to have.
Thank you, Jason Johnson. Thank you, Ayesha Rascoe. Take care. And Jeremy Peters.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. He`s watching it, too. I think.
Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, July 27th, 2017.
Overnight, the West Wing story has become West Side Story. We`re watching a White House that become hosts to the jets versus the sharks. The Jets are those with Trump from early on, maybe not from the very beginning but longer than the new arrivals. The sharks, led by Reince Priebus and the other Republican establishment types.
The head of the jets, of course, is Anthony Scaramucci. He`s the one out in the street now daring Priebus to meet him in a rumble. He is the one crooning, when you`re a jet, you`re a jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day. And all this street fighter talk is going on right now in such ritzy magazines as "The New Yorker" and that snappiest of addresses, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I can`t use the language Scaramucci used for "The New Yorker", words that just dripped out this afternoon. But what do you think of this talk coming from the White House communications director? Does it give you confidence that this team is ready to be there when a real crisis comes along?
What I worry about is not so much the grossness and the chaos and so much as the realization that it`s all filling the vacuum. The West Wing office space should be filled by people getting ready day after day to defend this country in a crisis and crises do come. We know that.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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