Show: HARDBALL Date: July 31, 2017 Guest: Matt Schlapp, Charlie Dent, Ken Vogel, Jennifer Rubin, Ruth Marcus, Clarence Page, Jim Warren, Phillip Rucker
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mooch, vamoose!
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Faced with a full-scale investigation by the House, the Senate and a special counsel over collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, President Trump has engaged in a series of Russian-style purges.
First, there was Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, axed. Then Chris Christie, the transition chief, axed. Then came Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who refused to enforce the president`s travel ban, axed. Then came James Comey, the FBI director, axed.
Then came Sean Spicer, the first White House spokesman, axed. Then came Reince Priebus, the presidential chief of staff, axed. Then came Anthony Scaramucci, axed.
With the regularity of the nightly news, President Trump is throwing bodies out of the White House at a rate that matches the Russian revolution. Who he doesn`t axe, he threatens. He threatens Republican senators who voted against him like Dean Heller of Nevada. He criticized John McCain of Arizona who he said was not a hero despite spending seven years as a tortured prisoner after being shot down over Hanoi. McCain gave him a "screw you" for that one by voting against the "Obama care" repeal.
Susan Collins of Maine -- her (ph), of course. I wonder, by the way, if he`s ready to give Russia, or actually giving Alaska back to Russia because of Murkowski. Trust has blame on everyone, axing them one after another, never accepting responsibility for himself.
The latest casualty, is, of course, Scaramucci. Scaramucci`s brief but spectacular flameout as communications director is historic. He served less than anyone else in that role ever. Ten days ago, after the announcement of his hire, Scaramucci said he would have a direct line of communication to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Your relationship with the chief of staff -- is he your boss, or do you report directly to the president?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I have no problem working for Reince. The president said I report to him directly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Directly. Anyway, not anymore. Last week, Scaramucci threatened to fire everybody in order to cut out the leaks in the White House. He got fired. He implied Reince Priebus was one of those leakers. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: What the president and I would like to tell everybody is I have a 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.
When I put out a tweet and 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: Well, then last Thursday afternoon, actually, "New Yorker" magazine published a highly vulgar interview with Scaramucci where he called Priebus a paranoid schizophrenic, among other things.
Today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president made the decision to remove Scaramucci after that interview. The president also wanted to give his new chief of staff, General John Kelly a clean start without Scaramucci. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president certainly felt that Anthony`s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position. And he didn`t want to burden General Kelly also with that line of succession, as I think we`ve made clear a few times over the course of the last couple of days to several of you individually. But General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House, and all staff will report to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by NBC`s Katy Tur, "The New York Times`s" Ken Vogel and "The Washington Post`s" Phil Rucker.
I want to start with Phil Rucker right here. This purging, one person after another -- anybody offends this guy is gone. And it looks like it`s not going to stop.
PHIL RUCKER, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and in this case, I don`t think it`s so much that Anthony Scaramucci offended the president, it`s that he offended General Kelly. General Kelly came in, as Sarah Sanders just said, with full authority from the president to make changes in that staff, to bring order to the West Wing, which has been chaotic for six straight months. And he wanted Scaramucci out, and so he`s gone.
MATTHEWS: Katy, I got a feeling that the leitmotif, if you want to be sophisticated about all this, the backdrop, isn`t just that there`s chaos. (INAUDIBLE) Trump likes chaos. I think he`s afraid.
I think Trump -- I think Peggy Noonan nailed him this week and he`s weak and he`s afraid. And what he`s afraid of is, of course, the Russia investigation. He`s afraid of Bob Mueller ultimately. And he`s trying to shape up his team so he can face him down sometime between now and when he fires the guy or gets him fired.
What do you think, Katy?
KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well, you know, listen, I think that whether Donald Trump decides to fire Robert Mueller is something that remains to be seen. It`s certainly a possibility. You can`t discount it when it comes to Donald Trump. He has the temperament of somebody who will get rid of somebody whenever he feels it is necessary.
We`ve seen that, as you just perfectly laid out with your introduction, Chris. But the question is now who`s going to be comms director and who`s also going to run DHS, which Secretary Kelly now no longer runs since he is the chief of staff. And do they move somebody from the Department of Justice over there? That`s a that`s rumor floating around right now, one that no one can confirm at the moment.
But if he decided to push out Attorney General Jeff Sessions at some point, what does that mean? Does that mean that the person who`s going to replace him would not have to recuse himself from the investigation? And does that mean that Robert Mueller would not be necessary? Is that what`s going on through Donald Trump`s head right now? That`s just very unclear.
TUR: But right now, I think the safest thing to say is nobody is safe in the Trump White House...
MATTHEWS: Including the president.
TUR: ... maybe John Kelly for the moment, but you just don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, and let me -- let me go -- let me go to Ken Vogel. You`re a "New York Times-er" now. Ken, congratulations to your new paper, amazing break, another scoop again, a huge scoop, getting Scaramucci off the -- off the -- out of the news early this afternoon.
I notice in life, my own experiences, when you`re scared, you get mad. Nobody likes to be scared by anybody. When you get scared from anybody, you turn against them because it bugs you to be scared. It`s true of men and women, as well. I think Trump is scared. I go with Peggy Noonan this weekend. He`s weak. He`s scared. I think all this going around purging people -- just like Kim Jong-un. What does he do? He knocks off all his relatives when he gets scared. When you get scared of your position, you start killing people around you. We don`t do that in this country. We fire them. Trump seems to know how to fire. That`s my argument.
It`s not that he doesn`t like chaos, he doesn`t like being threatened existentially by an investigation which he can`t seem to stop and that hasn`t stopped because of this weekend`s craziness. It goes on and on while we`re sitting here. Some of the best lawyers in the country are looking for dirt on Donald Trump in every direction. He knows it. He is scared. That`s what I think. Good ahead.
KEN VOGEL, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I mean, he`s very much fixated on the Russia investigation. There`s no doubt about that. You can look at his Twitter timeline to determine that. You can look at what`s going on in the White House with the constant meetings of his own legal team and legal teams for other staffers who are very much caught up in this Russia investigation.
That said, I do think this is, per the lead-up, the intro that you just played -- this is just the way that Donald Trump runs an organizations. He pits factions against one other. He`s sort of drawn to people who are likely to clash with other people...
MATTHEWS: He`s running out of factions, Ken.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at the number of people that -- Manafort was his campaign chief. Chris Christie was the chief head of his transition. He goes after the top people, the chief of staff. The word "chief" seems to mean, You`re fired next. Just a thought.
VOGEL: Yes, but I think what`s happening here -- I think what`s happening here is that Reince Priebus was very much -- there was an RNC faction and Trump had grown dissatisfied with it through the course of the sort of feuding with other factions, including Steve Bannon, including the New York faction, which includes Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Dina Powell.
VOGEL: And so the RNC faction...
VOGEL: What Scaramucci had (ph) to (ph) use (ph) almost -- I`ve heard this term used. I`m a little insensitive. But he was almost like a political suicide bomber. He went in, he blew out the RNC faction, and blew himself up in the process.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you`re right. Let me go back to Katy, who covers him all the time. I want -- you were great today again. I mean, "again" is what I mean. Mostly, you are great. I mean, the way you were going to about because you`re -- you -- you duked it out. You didn`t want to (INAUDIBLE) You play defense as a journalist with Trump the whole campaign. I watched it every night. And you`re on here talking about it.
So let`s talk about Trump. It seems to me that he`s getting rid of factions. I mean, there is no more RNC Republican institutionalists in the White House.
MATTHEWS: That`s gone.
MATTHEWS: His connection to the Republican Party (INAUDIBLE) we`ll talk about it tomorrow night. We`ve been talking about it with the producers. I think that`s gone. I think he`s only guy who used the Republican Party to get where he is, but he`s not really a Republican.
TUR: Yes, the connection that he had to the Republican Party was tenuous, at best. Many of the positions that he`s taken over the course of his campaign and now his administration are not Republican policies. He certainly hasn`t gone for Republican policies when it comes to health care. He`s turned back and forth when he`s needed to in order to try to get something done.
But he had his biggest link between himself and the -- the White House and the Congress was Reince Priebus, was this RNC faction that you just laid out. With them gone, what happens? Does Donald Trump go to the Democrats? Very unlikely. What he`s going to do probably is create his own path, his own Trumpian version of policy and administrative decisions.
But with John Kelly, the question is, is he going to be able to get anything done legislatively? Is he going to be able to manage Donald Trump, get him on message, get him away from his Twitter, get him to stop attacking other Republicans or attacking other members of Congress or private citizens, or whatever it is, enough for them to actually get something done with their agenda?
You know, he really cares about tax reform. Donald Trump says it over and over again. It was one of his main campaign issues. Is he going to be able to get in line enough to try and figure out a way to get Republicans on board with some version of tax reform? And from what it looks like right now, that`s posing to be more complicated, Chris, than health care was, and we all saw how that turned out.
MATTHEWS: Phil Rucker, I remember Pat Moynihan. In interviewed him about some of (INAUDIBLE) drinks with me. And he`s one of these guy`s who was trying to fight smoking. So he wraps his cigarette up with Band-Aids and marks it really hard to open up the pack. He still smoked, of course.
Donald Trump says, I don`t want to Twitter (INAUDIBLE) no, he isn`t. I don`t want to have factional fighting. No, he doesn`t. He likes Twittering. He`s got a -- you know, an itchy trigger -- Twitter finger, as somebody said today. He also loves factional fighting. Then he brings in this grown-up (INAUDIBLE) sort of stop that, when in fact, he likes both.
Why is there going to be any change in the White House as long as Trump`s president?
RUCKER: I don`t know that there will be with the president. As Katy was saying, look, General Kelly was named to this job on Friday. He woke up Saturday morning to an angry tweet storm from Donald Trump, throwing bombs at Capitol Hill, saying Senate, you know, leader Mitch McConnell, you need to change the rules. You guys...
MATTHEWS: ... he already has the rules, 50 votes.
MATTHEWS: He wants (INAUDIBLE)
RUCKER: So this is not going to change. What I think will change is there`ll be some more order and process and structure within the staff and at the White House to try to get things running a little more (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Ken, what do you think`ll be different under this new guy? I think we`ve still got Trump as president, still scared to death of Mueller and really nervous about it to the point of a little bit crazy.
VOGEL: Well, to what Phil said, there will be an effort to instill more order and discipline. Whether it will be successful or not, I think the track record shows that it`s all Donald Trump. Donald Trump sets the tone. If he wants to have people coming in and out of the Oval Office, which is one of the things that Kelly apparently has identified as problematic and is leading to this sort of chaos and lack of order, and one of the things that he`s identified to change -- if Donald Trump wants to have those people coming in, he`s going to do it. If he wants to tweet, he`s going to do it.
So John Kelly, very different approach from anything that we`ve seen thus far. He doesn`t want -- from what we`ve seen, he`s not going to adhere to the "let Trump be Trump" mantra that was the guiding principle, at least early in the campaign.
VOGEL: And that is very much not -- Trump being Trump...
TUR: You know, Chris...
VOGEL: ... is not a military regimented approach that we think that John Kelly seeks to import here.
TUR: Chris, he doesn`t have a militarily regimented approach, certainly not. But it is somewhat deferential when it comes to generals. That`s why you`ve seen him surround himself with different generals and former and retired generals within this administration.
That being said, getting a 71-year-old man to stop doing what he does every day...
TUR: ... is going to be a difficult task to undertake even for the most disciplined of generals. To see Donald Trump not tweet, you might go on for a little while where he gets off of the phone or only tweets things that are on message with the White House, but inevitably, every time we`ve seen this happen, and it`s happened a few times, he has reverted back when he`s felt like he is under siege.
Wait for another story about Russia to drop. Wait for a negative story to drop about Jared Kushner maybe, or Don, Junior, his son, or more information to come out...
TUR: ... that is not flattering to this president and he will pick up his phone. He`s done it time and time again.
MATTHEWS: OK (INAUDIBLE) families say it`s 10:00 o`clock at night upstairs at the White House. There`s no General Kelly around. The Romanovs are at dinner, OK? They`re sitting around, having dinner. You`ve got Jared there, the favorite son-in-law. You`ve got the favorite daughter. You`ve got -- Don, Junior, may be stopping by. They`re all sitting around, talking about what kind of job General Kelly is doing.
Do you think they`re not going to be able to overrule him and say, You know, he really doesn`t know politics like we do?
TUR: Well, that`s a good question. I mean, look at what Ivanka tweeted today. She said, I`m really excited to be working alongside General Kelly. That seems to say that she`s not going to working underneath him, not going to be reporting to him...
MATTHEWS: I think it says that.
TUR: ... like most of the staff is supposed to do. The staff is supposed to report to the chief of staff.
That being said, there is some feeling that maybe they`ll go through him. Maybe if they do have conversations with their father when it comes to policy, wherever those conversations may happen, that they will, hopefully, inform General Kelly about this at a later date, or at least get him in on the conversation. But ultimately, how do you run a White House when the top advisers, the two top advisers are two family members?
MATTHEWS: So you get up in the morning -- you get up at 6:30 in the morning. You`re a general. You hear the reveille (ph). You hear the bugle call. And it`s still -- it`s already too late, Katy, because you this better than -- it`s already too late. He`s read "The New York Times," Ken. He`s read "The New York Times." He came in at 6:30 physically. He`s already tweeted about it. And by the way, he`s already had the conversation with his family. And here you are coming in third, General Kelly, to try to find out what`s going on. It`s going to be an interesting job description, being general to this guy who`s never really been in the military.
Thank you so much, Katy Tur. Thank you, Ken Vogel of "The New York Times" and Phil Rucker of the competitive, very competitive rival "Washington Post."
Coming up, much more on John Kelly`s first day as White House chief of staff and the big move today to oust Anthony Scaramucci. Vamoose, Scaramooch, as communications director. Will Kelly stop the chaos that`s engulfed the White House? Will he change President Trump? What do you think?
Plus, saving "Obama care," as Trump pans his party for failing to repeal the ACA. Republicans and Democrats are joining together to try and fix it, do you think? We`ll see how that`s going tonight.
And reality bites. The list of American organizations who are pushing back against the president is growing. The Boy Scouts apologized themselves for his inappropriate speech. The military rejected his transgender ban. And now police groups are resisting the president`s call to -- boy, this is disgraceful -- to rough up suspects. That`s going to help community relations.
Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like it.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: What a difference a year makes. In 2016, when Donald Trump was in a heated primary battle with Ted Cruz -- remember him? -- he knocked the Texas senator for firing his communications director. Quote, "Ted Cruz does not have the right temperament to be president. Look at way he totally panicked in firing his director of communications. Bad."
And quote, "Wow, was Ted Cruz disloyal to his very capable director of communications. He used him as a scapegoat, fired him like a dog. Ted panicked."
What did Trump just do? Who did he just fire? I think it was his director of communications.
We`ll be right back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Overall, I think we`re doing incredibly well. The economy is doing incredibly well, and many other things. So we`re starting from a really good base. I predict that General Kelly will go down in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the great ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump, of course, today expressing high hopes for his incoming chief of staff, General John Kelly, after he was sworn in this morning.
The looming question, of course, is whether Kelly, a retired four-star general who served over 40 years in the U.S. military can instill order in an otherwise chaotic and sometimes weird White House.
As Peter Baker notes in "The New York Times," the challenge is that -- quote -- "At 71, Mr. Trump seems unlikely to discard a lifetime of operating habits and learn to stick to a plan and temper his self- destructive instincts."
Well, yet, despite the infighting, the endless leaks and turf wars that have plagued the West Wing to date, Trump today insists on Twitter that there is -- quote -- "no White House chaos."
Well, believe that, if you will.
That said, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today told reporters that Kelly will get to determine who gets access to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: When it comes to the people who have access to the president, will that conduit be narrowed down now? Will everything flow through Kelly or will some things still flow around the chief of staff?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As I just said, the president has given full authority to General Kelly, and he will make those determinations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the ouster of Anthony Scaramucci today is the first sign the president intends to give Kelly that authority he will need to run the West Wing.
And joining me right now are two experts, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Eugene Robinson, a columnist with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.
The inside guy, first, you. You know, I talked to somebody very...
MATTHEWS: ... in our country`s history who said, I will take the job of chief of staff, if they get the two kids out of there.
And that is going to be a challenge, because I do mean it`s the Romanovs. He goes home at night with his kids. They`re the people he really trusts, his son-in-law, and his daughter, and his son, and he does trust them more than he does any hireling.
Now, against that is the fact that the general, General Kelly, has apparently been wooed for this job in the reporting today since May, which tells me he has got leverage. He come in and said, if you really, really want me, Mr. President, I will serve my country in this new job if I get to have the job, like Jim Baker had it with Reagan. I get to fire. I get to hire.
Does he get that?
MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Kind of. Kind of.
MATTHEWS: You think he got that?
SCHLAPP: Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: He`s the boss?
SCHLAPP: But Jim Baker, remember, was one of three. He was the chief of staff. But he had to deal with Mike Deaver, the longtime friend, and Ed Meese.
MATTHEWS: But nobody was friend -- afraid of Deaver or Meese. They were afraid of Baker.
SCHLAPP: Baker, his -- the reason why he was successful is the man was damn competent. And he did a good job. And he earned the president`s trust.
And that`s the key. Too many of these people in the Trump White House think, I have the title, therefore, I have got the goods. And the president took them out for a test drive. And too many people in the West Wing have been found wanting. And I think these changes are good.
MATTHEWS: You have to come to work very early to be the president`s chief of staff, because he`s already done his worst damage by 6:30 in the morning.
When he gets "The New York Times," I hear, physical copy, maybe "The Post," physical copy, he goes to war. And he goes to war impulsively. And it is already done. The day`s news is over. He`s tweeted, itchy trigger finger.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what does he with that phone may undo what you spent the last week trying to build up to.
MATTHEWS: Transgender people, goodbye, by dawn, by sun-up.
ROBINSON: I know.
Look, it appears today as if he is giving General Kelly the kind of authority maybe that he would need. But I`m looking at my watch to see how long this lasts.
I`m oft school that Donald Trump, 70, 71 years old, used to working this way all his professional life, is probably not going to change a lot. Great. Let`s hope America succeeds.
MATTHEWS: Is the firing over?
MATTHEWS: Thank you. You`re an honest man.
MATTHEWS: No, you`re an honest man. There are more firings to come. This purging is going to go on and on.
SCHLAPP: There was an big RNC faction that Reince Priebus brought in.
And my guess is over time General Kelly and over a quick period of time is going to see if they should be on the team or not. The fact is, I actually think the president -- I think it is wrong -- I think what you guys are saying is actually wrong.
I think the president has looked at the last six months and realized they can do a lot better. Despite what he says in press conferences and everything else, I think he has higher expectations for his team.
And I think he feels like his agenda is being held hostage by this investigation.
MATTHEWS: Did you go through the hit list I started the show with?
SCHLAPP: Yes. I did.
MATTHEWS: That`s a lot of firings.
SCHLAPP: It is.
MATTHEWS: That`s a lot of firings.
And, by the way, I think that Senator Sessions may be moved over to, what do you think, Homeland Security, someplace where you could get somebody into Justice who will do the dirty work for him, getting rid of Mueller?
SCHLAPP: Or Jeff Sessions gets to build the wall. I guess it`s however you look at it. He might like that.
MATTHEWS: So, you`re with me on this, Matt. You realize this president is unstoppable when it comes to stopping this investigation?
SCHLAPP: No, no, let me tell you.
SCHLAPP: I will go fast. I will go fast.
I actually think there were a lot of people brought into the White House and the White House was set up in a way where it could not work functionally. And I actually think it is good that they`re making...
MATTHEWS: Well, who brought Sessions in?
SCHLAPP: I think the Cabinet has been great.
MATTHEWS: He should stay there? The president shouldn`t fire him?
SCHLAPP: Sessions should be in his Cabinet. And I hope they can work this out and he can stay.
ROBINSON: Already, just in six months, we have been in multiple situations where a situation is approaching, and the president is thinking about doing something, and everybody tells him it is a bad idea, and he knows it`s a bad idea, and he shouldn`t do it, and he does it anyway.
Firing Comey, he does it anyway. So, you really think...
MATTHEWS: I want to have some fun with today`s news, because everybody has got a theory about what happened to the Mooch, why he has vamoosed.
Here`s the story, the latest story.
Gene, you start now.
The latest story is the women around the president, in other words, decent folk, Melania, of course, his daughter, said this guy`s language is so vulgar, so awful -- and it was really almost unprintable, except "The New York Times" managed to get it in print last week about Bannon and the rest of it. We all know this.
MATTHEWS: The news that was fit to print was different last week in "The New York Times."
That they said, this is gross. It`s grossing you out. Your place in history, daddy, will be destroyed and tainted by this gross-out guy, Mr. Scaramucci.
So, that`s why he get rid of him.
Do you believe that?
ROBINSON: That may be a factor.
Here is another factor, something I personally think was important. Right after Scaramucci came in, the Breitbart story that was basically headlined, well, Trump show is over, now it is the Scaramucci show. I don`t think the president liked that at all.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he likes competing...
ROBINSON: And I think that came out of the Bannon faction.
SCHLAPP: And, actually, maybe it`s the opposite of what you all are saying, which is General Kelly came in and he had a conversation with Scaramucci, and basically Scaramucci wasn`t going to be able to be a one- man band. And he was able to get rid of him.
MATTHEWS: Last question to Matt Schlapp.
I believe that Trump decided that as long as Bob Mueller is there, which is the biggest story this year, no matter what else happens -- that Scaramucci will be forgotten in a week. It`s Trump fear of Mueller, because Mueller has proven already, like all great special prosecutors -- and I don`t mean this against Trump, necessarily.
I think he is smart to be scared. I don`t think he is paranoid. They are really coming for him. Special prosecutors are armed with unlimited scope, if they can follow any trail. If Ken Starr could travel from Whitewater, which was nothing, to Paula Jones, which was something, to what is her name in the White House...
MATTHEWS: Lewinsky, which was really trouble for the president.
This guy can go from here to the tax returns over to business dealings in Russia. He can go to possible money-laundering. He can go to everything with the Trump enterprise. And Trump doesn`t want a guy doing that, because that guy could be working harder than he is with better people.
And he has got to stop this thing. This is an existential threat to Trump.
Don`t you agree?
SCHLAPP: I don`t know if he has to stop...
MATTHEWS: You think it`s an existential threat, this investigation?
SCHLAPP: Any special counsel on a president is a threat.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Gene, any thought on this? I think history shows they do the job.
ROBINSON: I agree with you. I`m on record as saying I think he is going to try to fire Mueller. And we will see what happens.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. I don`t see how he can stop.
An existential threat, a phrase overused, by the way, often.
SCHLAPP: Sounds like John McLaughlin. I don`t know what is going on.
MATTHEWS: I know. It`s way overused, but in this case I think a threat to his existence as president.
MATTHEWS: He said be nice. I shouldn`t talk about -- anyway, thank you, Matt Schlapp, as always, an honest man often as he can be.
Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson, which is always.
Up next: President Trump threatens lawmakers, saying he will slash their benefits if they can`t send him a health care bill. But can Republicans and Democrats come together and actually pass legislation? We will see.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, President Trump is going after Congress and insurance companies following his party`s latest failure to repeal Obamacare.
This morning, the president wrote: "If Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, why shouldn`t it hurt the insurance companies and why would Congress not be paying what the public pays?"
Well, this comes after a series of tweets on Saturday with the president saying: "If a new health care bill isn`t approved quickly, bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of Congress will end very soon. And unless the Republican senators are total quitters, repeal and replace is not dead. Demand another vote before voting on any other bill," he says.
Anyway, today, more than 40 members of a bipartisan House group -- it`s a group called the Problem Solvers Caucus -- released a plan they say outlines five realistic solutions to help fix the Affordable Care Act. They hope the House will reconsider or consider the reforms after it returns from August recess. That`s in about three weeks.
Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. He joins me now.
Congressman, I have a lot of respect for you and your moderation and your attempt to sort of figure out something. But how do you do anything with John McCain saying, I`m not going to vote for whatever Trump is pushing, I`m not going to do it, making it pretty clear in a kind of screw-you thumbs down the other day, at 1:00 in the morning, actually?
And you also have Paul Ryan, your speaker, saying, I want to repeal, I don`t want to fix?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Chris, I`ll tell you what. Here is the answer.
We are trying to reshape the health care reform debate in this country. Forty-three of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, have a plan to stabilize the individual insurance market. There are things in here that the Republicans like. There are things in here that the Democrats like.
Basically, it`s five things. We`re going to make sure those cost-sharing reduction payments are brought under the appropriations process and that they are made, so that people who are people who need insurance can afford it with the subsidies. We also provide for a stabilization fund.
We reform the employer mandates, so we effectively repeal it for small businesses in this country. We repeal the medical device tax and we allow for some state innovation on the exchanges. That`s the plan.
MATTHEWS: Why would any Democrat vote for a plan that exempts people that hire less than 500 people, the barbershops, the beauty parlors, the local dinettes, the local small restaurants? They don`t have 500 employees. The independent bookstores don`t have 500 employees.
So, all those people who work in all those places are out of insurance. They don`t have health care. Why would a Democrat go for that?
DENT: Well, the law currently says that people under -- that if you`re an employer with more than 50 employees, you must provide insurance.
But we`re finding that this has been a hardship on many smaller employers. But what we find, though, people can still get their insurance on exchanges. We`re not touching the individual mandate. They can go into the exchanges and get their coverage if necessary.
But for a lot of small businesses, I will tell you, it has impeded growth. I have seen a lot of companies with fewer than 50 employees who said they`re not hiring. They`re not going to break the 50-person threshold because of the compliance costs associated with the employer mandate.
So, we`re not touching the individual mandate, but we are touching the employer mandate, which many Democrats acknowledge has been a hardship.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to get a vote on this, your plan?
DENT: Well, right now, we have to sell this to the leadership. I believe that the leadership should jump at this. There`s a lot here to like.
And I suspect some of the leadership...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, but you have a Republican Party that wants to repeal. And you want to fix. That`s a big difference. You want to fix it. They want to get rid of it.
DENT: Well, I`m making a case for partial repeal.
DENT: We repeal the medical device tax.
MATTHEWS: You`re laughing. You know you`re laughing. You`re playing with words.
It`s not partial repeal. They want to get rid of it.
DENT: I understand.
But I have said all along that we have overused that term repeal, replace. After the 2012 election, the dynamics have changed, because President Obama was in for four more years.
DENT: The law was going to bake in. So, we had to refine our -- we had to refine our approach, I felt.
Well, you`re great. You`re out of step with your party, though. Your party wants to repeal. You want to fix. And that`s a big difference. Maybe got to form a new political party for the suburbs, but we don`t have one right now.
But thank you. Keep working at it. I`m not sarcastic, and I`m not cynical. I would like to see a group like yours be in charge. I don`t think they are.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Allentown.
Up next: In the past week, President Trump has been publicly rebuked by the Boy Scouts, the military, and the police departments all across America. Are American institutions becoming part of the resistance? He has pushed too far with the groups that we really care about.
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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, last week, Anthony Scaramucci vowed to get Trump to be Trump. Well, today, he`s out of a job. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Anyway, President Trump, who has a history of demanding loyalty from his subordinates, has lately been experiencing some pushback from the unlikeliest of places, organizations like the Boy Scouts, police departments, even the military.
Well, reality is biting Donald Trump. On Friday, police officers across the country moved to distance themselves, as they should, from the president after he urged police to not be too nice with suspects. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough.
I said, please don`t be too nice.
TRUMP: Like, when you guys put someone in a car and you`re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over -- like, don`t hit their head, and they have just killed somebody, don`t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Macho, macho man.
Anyway, the police department in Suffolk County, New York, where Trump was speaking, pushed back, tweeting, "As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up prisoners."
Well, last -- just last week, the president`s own chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, was forced to clarify the president`s abrupt announcement banning transgender people from military service for now. There will be no modifications to the current policy towards transgender troops. That`s what the military says.
Anyway, the head of the Boy Scouts also issued an apology to the scouting community after President Trump turned an annual jamboree, (INAUDIBLE) into a personal political rally.
For more I`m joined by the roundtable, Jennifer Rubin, she`s columnist with "The Washington Post", Ruth Marcus is deputy editor and columnist also with "The Washington Post", and Clarence Page is with -- he`s a columnist with "The Chicago Tribune".
Let`s start with this Trump -- I don`t know how many chiefs of staff he`s going to have to have, but whatever he wants to do, he does. You know, remind me of Joe McCarthy going after the army, which was really his waterloo. You know, he found some dentist who was a communist party member, decided that was a big issue, that really brought him down.
And my question is, is anybody going to be able to stop him? And, by the way, why does he abuse the Boy Scouts? Why does he abuse a meeting with the police officers? And why does he abuse the army by making -- issuing dicta from the White House without checking with the chiefs of staff?
JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think you said it. He has this macho act that he puts and he thinks this endears him somehow or shows that he is tough. And the fact none of these groups appreciate this, none of these groups --
MATTHEWS: You mean he`s never actually personally been involved with a difficult, dangerous arrest?
RUBIN: Yes, exactly.
MATTHEWS: He`s had to (INAUDIBLE) a murderer in the streets of the middle of the night like a real police officer has to do?
MATTHEWS: Oh, I didn`t realize. He`s never done that.
Was he in the military, Ruth? I didn`t know that. He served as high- ranking. Was he a grunt? Did he have anything to do with the military? Was a Boy Scout even? I don`t think he knows that world --
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, they said he was joking today about throwing thugs in the back of the paddy wagon. Seemed funny to me.
MATTHEWS: What part seemed funny? Ha!
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: If I could speak as a veteran of both Army and the Boy Scouts --
MARCUS: Right. And the paddy wagon?
PAGE: And that, by the way, is an ethnic slur. That was -- but anyway --
MATTHEWS: That was an Irish slur, right. It`s a paddy wagon.
PAGE: That`s right. We don`t say that in Chicago.
But I can tell you that for a man who admires the military as much as he does, he has no discipline. And it seems to take him a while to understand that he has offended people.
But he wasn`t talking to those audiences. He was talking to his base, as he always is. Except today at ceremony to present Congressional Medal of Honor, I was proud of him. He stuck to the script. It was a beautiful piece that he read. You saw that? It was terrific.
MATTHEWS: He did. He read the script. Some speech writer deserves credit for it. We have to find the speechwriter.
PAGE: In each of those instances, he is using this group as, you know --
MATTHEWS: Studio audience.
MARCUS: Studio audience. So, you know, first, it`s the poor Boy Scouts. Then, those police officers who don`t know what to do.
MATTHEWS: But they were already laughing. When he thrown that head thing, in the car, I know it`s the police officers behind him were not laughing because they`ve been in situations like that and it is dangerous, they arrest somebody.
MARCUS: Right. And then the military and transgender issue in another way, he is holding everybody hostage. But America is a better person, better institution, a better country than Donald Trump is treating it as. And so, that`s why you have this reaction of --
MATTHEWS: How about this? We have a complicated issue like surgery perhaps or hormone treatment for people who are trans -- reassigning themselves. And that`s a tricky issue and some people -- you have to go case by case. He just come in and said they shouldn`t be here.
MATTHEWS: Who is this guy to talk like that?
RUBIN: He has no grasp of any level of detail. So, he hears a word, he grasps on to that, oh, I have to please these people, OK, just get rid of the transgender process. There`s no thought process. There`s no nuance. There`s no sort of care in what he is doing. I think part of the issue here is he is obviously failing.
MATTHEWS: What about Peggy Noonan on Saturday. I mean, she said he is basically weak. He is a whiner.
PAGE: That`s keyword, weak. I mean, he does not want to be associated with that word at all. I don`t want to be between Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd by the way, because --
MATTHEWS: Peggy is a conservative, but she`s her own conservative.
PAGE: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And she`s stuck into him, Ruth, this weekend, in a way that I`m sure he wasn`t ready for. And I`m sure he heard about it from his peeps.
MARCUS: You know, Donald Trump has this really un-airing instinct to be able to find the soft underbelly for anybody he knows where their vulnerabilities are. And Peggy did a great job of finding his vulnerability, being called a girly man like that. It`s not going to --
MATTHEWS: Reminding the men of their first wives. It was really -- another switch there.
Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three people, all geniuses, will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with our HARDBALL roundtable.
Jennifer, tell me something I don`t know.
RUBIN: Well, social conservatives think they`re in their heyday. In fact, they`re on a decline. They`re closing in on the ranks of social conservatives. They`re at 34 percent. Social liberals rather are at 34 percent. They`re old. They`re graying. They`re slowing dying off and they`re going to lose a place in the --
MATTHEWS: The conservatives are?
MARCUS: It was very telling when President Trump had dinner, of course, at President Trump`s hotel on Saturday night, with some top aides. One of the people who wasn`t there was his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Instead, he had deputy national security adviser, Dina Powell. He`s said not to be very happy with General McMaster.
MATTHEWS: Oh, good. Was he comped at the hotel? He paid the full bill?
MARCUS: I`m sure he paid the full bill.
PAGE: President Trump was bragging about the 2.6 percent growth rate and economy, saying this shows that his prediction was correct. His promise was correct. He`s on track for a 3 percent --
MATTHEWS: He said 4 percent. Is it three he promised?
PAGE: Well, three is what he promised. He says now 2.6. He got monthly mixed up with the annual. The annual growth rate is projected to be 2.0 by now --
MATTHEWS: I haven`t heard. But he likes the market more than he does the GDP.
Anyway, thank you, Jennifer Rubin, Ruth Marcus, and Clarence Page.
Up next, it seems like not a day goes by that we don`t get another bombshell piece of reporting from either "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times". Is President Trump unintentionally ushering in the print journalism? We`ve got three print people here to say, yes!
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Journalism under the Trump administration has been one breaking news story after another. In the latest edition of "Vanity Fair", Jim Warren, the chief media writer for the Poynter Institute writes about the fierce ongoing battle between reporters at "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post."
He writes: Call it the last newspaper war as two great survivors face off with the different strategies and different economic realities but the same audacity and impressive array of talent and two highly competitive leaders.
Keep going, I`m joined right now by Jim Warren, who wrote the piece.
Jim, what is it about Trump? I mean, this is a fastball but is right down the middle. Why is Trump selling newspapers?
JIM WARREN, CHIEF MEDIA WRITER, POYNTER INSTITUTE FOR MEDIA STUDIES: Well, because this is all crazy and every single day, you`ve got something that could never have possibly imagined. Every single day, we are looking at stories, right, and going, oh my gosh, he`s really topped himself now. And, you know, you`ve got this provocative entertainer who is absolutely red meat for us and is stunning us virtually every week and it started with the campaign whose outcome none of us foresaw.
And intelligently two papers, two war horses have decided to invest substantially in resources, a time that their competitors are heading south and so far, it`s paying off when it comes at eyeballs looking at their stuff.
MATTHEWS: Agreed. And just as we are talking about, "The Washington Post" is out tonight at this moment with breaking story right now, revealing it was President Trump himself who crafted that misleading statement to Donald Trump Jr. released earlier this month, the one saying that the campaign`s meeting with the Russians last year was about adoptions.
Well, "The Post`s" Philip Rucker broke that story and joins us now.
Phil, this suggests the president`s involved with a cover-up and possibly obstruction because he -- didn`t he know certainly by this year that that meeting was -- that came after word from the Russians in that e-mail that they were pushing for him to win the election. It wasn`t about adoptions. That meeting was about helping Trump win the election.
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you`re right about the meeting. And let`s just set the scene here. What happen is Trump is leaving the G20 summit in Germany and his advisors have been discussing how to handle this "New York Times" inquiry about the meeting and decided to be as fully transparent as possible, that it was in their interest to get the story out there.
But the president overruled them. He dictated a statement misleading at best. Some would argue it left a lot of important information out, and overruled his advisors on behalf of his son. And it`s an example of the president taking full control over the Russia scandal, becoming his own lawyer, his own strategist, his own publicist even, and in so doing, exposing himself to some danger, not only political danger, but potentially, legal dangers and that`s according to a number of advisers to the president that my colleagues and I have interviewed over the last few weeks.
MATTHEWS: And one last question, it seems to me that the was the second time we heard that Trump tried to double-down on this cover up if you will, where the other time he said, oh, adoptions, that`s what we talked about the other meeting. He was trying to give credibility to the idea of the adoptions by saying that`s all the Russians wanted to talk about.
RUCKER: That`s right. He wanted that to be the story line, but his advisers, the people working with him and the other people involved in this case really felt that it would be -- it would behoove them to get all the information out immediately. They knew that this would eventually surface and indeed it did.
What we ended up having, of course, were three days of changing statements until Donald Trump Jr., the president`s son, eventually released that e- mail which disclosed as we now know that the premise for this meeting was to share information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.
MATTHEWS: All right. Thanks for reporting this as fast as can you to us, as well as to your paper. Thank you, Phil Rucker.
RUCKER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Jim Warren. This is an example of what we do on this show almost every night. We`re lucky to come on at 7:00 Eastern.
I got to tell you, these stories post early. They don`t wait for midnight. They don`t embargo them. This is good for us to get the story well before it hits print tomorrow morning.
WARREN: Well, stop and think how you opened your show. You opened your show with a "New York Times" exclusive on Scaramucci getting the boot. I suspect it was largely handiwork of the relentless Maggie Haberman who was clearly so deep inside, so deep inside this guy`s head, she should be sending invoices as a shrink. I mean, she clearly understands the call (ph).
And now, at the end of the show, you`ve got this -- can you top this, in which they did seemingly exclusive by "The Washington Post." So, it`s pretty impressive, but it also comes against the backdrop of the Trump/Bannon attempt to essentially delegitimize the press and delegitimize notions of fairness and precision. So, they are fighting an uphill battle.
MATTHEWS: That`s coming in a September issue of "Vanity Fair". Jim Warren`s piece is online now. Great reporting.
I`m not always big on media reporters, but you`re about the best. Thank you so much, Jim Warren.
WARREN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. It`s going to be tough on him.
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MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, July 31st, 2017.
The firing of Anthony Scaramucci is the latest proof that the Trump White House is not in state of endless chaos. Well, that`s if you live in the bubble of B.S. that comes blowing at us from Trump world where up is down, nonsense is logical and craziness is normal. We just talked about the major newspapers of this country and their competition to unearth the true reality of this president. No wonder Trump is reading more and enjoying less. But thank God we have them.
Here`s Peggy Noonan, the best of Ronald Reagan speechwriters and her regular Saturday column, a must-read, I believe, in "The Wall Street Journal" this weekend. Quote: The president`s primary problem as leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It`s not that he is inexperienced, crude and outsider.
It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity. He`s not strong and self-controlled. Not cool and tough. Not low-key and determined.
He`s whiney, weepy and self pitying. He throws himself sobbing on the body politic. He`s a drama queen.
Half the president`s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. It`s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: nobody`s nice to me. Why don`t they appreciate me?
Well, then, yesterday`s "New York Times" front page lead really put the hammer to Trump, written by chief White House correspondent Peter Baker. It cites the firing of Reince Priebus and his replacement by General Kelly. Quote: The shakeup followed a week that saw the bombastic with me or against me president defied as never before by Washington and its institutions, including Republicans in Congress, his own attorney general, the uniformed military leadership, police officers and even the Boy Scouts.
While weakness is the real problem of the Trump presidency, he can`t lead the country because he can`t control himself.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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