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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/2/17 Senator warn Trump not to fire Mueller

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, John Lauro. Hadas Gold, Annie Karni, Sabrina Siddiqui

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 2, 2017 Guest: Richard Blumenthal, John Lauro. Hadas Gold, Annie Karni, Sabrina Siddiqui

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No wonder Trump`s scared.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

If you ever wonder why Donald Trump is afraid of special prosecutor Bob Mueller, listen to this. Mueller just added a 16th lawyer to his investigation into the Trump campaign`s possible collusion with Russia last year. According to Reuters, it`s a former Justice Department prosecutor. Greg Andres was deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, where he oversaw the fraud unit and managed the program that targeted illegal foreign bribery.

Meanwhile, the White House continues to face questions over shifting statements about Donald Trump, Jr.,and Jared Kushner`s meeting last summer a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Back in March, Donald, Junior, said he had no meetings with Russians where he was representing the campaign in any way. Well, then we found about that June 26th meeting at Trump Tower.

With the story breaking, Trump put out a statement saying, We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children, but (ph) left out the fact that the purpose of the meeting, from Trump`s perspective, was all about collecting damaging information about Hillary Clinton. It was what got the Trump family into that room in the first place.

Within a day, the statement from Don, Junior, was amended. He said he had a meeting with someone who, quote, "might have information helpful to the campaign." He added, "I was not told her name prior to the meeting."

Well, then his e-mails came out. It turns out that Don, Junior, was told he was meeting with someone described as the Russian government attorney. Well, that weekend, the president`s attorney, Jay Sekulow, insisted the president wasn`t involved in the drafting of his son`s first misleading statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Did the president get a heads-up on the statement? Did he sign off on the statement? Was he asked to read the statement before it was given to the "New York Times" on Air Force One?

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: No, I mean, I`m not -- I can`t say whether the president was told a statement was going to coming from his son on that. I don`t have that -- I didn`t have the conversation. And let me -- let me say this. The president -- but I do want to be clear. The president was not involved in the drafting of the statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the president was involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Can you clarify the degree to which the president weighed in?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn`t -- he certainly didn`t dictate. But you know, he -- like I said, he weighed in, offered a suggestion, like any father would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yes, like a helicopter dad. Anyway, all these shifting statements, all this disinformation provided by the president`s team. The big question for Robert Mueller, why all this disinformation?

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sits on the Judiciary Committee. Heidi Przybyla is senior political reporter for "USA Today" and John Lauro is a former federal prosecutor.

Senator, thank you for coming on tonight. It seems to me that in these hirings, these recruitment of these top criminal lawyers and prosecutors, that this is going to be one large investigation. It`s not going to be narrow. It`s going after Donald Trump`s business involvements with Russia, how it may have overlapped with his political campaign for president.

In fact, I get the sense it`s not even going to be limited to that. He`s going to ask for his tax returns. He`s going to try to give Donald Trump a full body frisk, and Trump doesn`t want anything like it.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The lens of this investigation has to be as wide as possible, and it must include financial dealings. We know from testimony before the Judiciary Committee, public testimony, that the Russian playbook is to engage individual officials from other countries in financial dealings. And so that issue is absolutely relevant to this investigation.

And the team that Robert Mueller had assembled, in fact, the latest included, are battle-tested, experienced prosecutors who have this kind of background in investigating foreign bribery, financial fraud, white collar crime, and following the money.

That`s the key, following the money and knowing what the facts may be behind the Trump team`s financial dealings, including his son-in-law and his son in dealings with Russia.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me that Bob Mueller, with his resume -- and this being perhaps the cap of his career -- is looking at all aspects of Trump`s possible misbehavior, criminality potentially. And it seems to me that if I were Mueller, I would not want to have case closed, say, in two or three years and say, This guy`s clean as a hound`s tooth, and then find out later there was something I missed.

Won`t -- just tell me as prosecutor yourself, Senator, what -- what is the tendency of a prosecutor, to make sure that nobody comes along later and says, You missed something.

BLUMENTHAL: He`s going to want to be as complete and comprehensive as possible, including financial dealings, the question of what did the president know and when did he know it about that June 9the meeting involving his son and son-in-law and his campaign manager, which was done with the promise of dirt, financial and other information, about Hillary Clinton.

Now, what`s important here is that the special counsel be protected from potential threats and intimidation that would try to close that investigation, or draw lines. In fact, the president has tried to draw a line at his financial dealings.

And that`s why a group of us, a bipartisan group, is seeking to enact protective safeguards that would prohibit any firing of that special counsel, Robert Mueller, without a check. In fact, to include a check and review by a judicial authority, for example, so as to safeguard the independence and integrity of the special prosecutor.

Those conversations are ongoing, led by my colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, and we hope that it will conclude in some kind of protection for the special prosecutor.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to let you go, but one last question. We`re getting into (INAUDIBLE) the new guy just hired, the new prosecutor, with experience with bribery cases. And now we know that Trump is very jealous about anyone looking at his tax returns. Should Bob Mueller, the special counsel, go to the courts and get a court order, basically, like a -- like -- what do you call it -- going into a house somewhere to go check on something? Can he -- if he goes to get his tax returns, do you think Trump will let him do that, or he`ll fire him, get him fired?

BLUMENTHAL: I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A search warrant, basically.

BLUMENTHAL: A warrant or a subpoena should be enforceable through the courts by the special counsel. No question that the courts should do it. And if Donald Trump really has nothing to hide, he`ll comply voluntarily. But there is no question...

MATTHEWS: Well, you say that with a straight face, and you know Donald Trump doesn`t want anybody seeing his tax returns. He`s been, you know, iconic about that. Nobody gets my tax returns, none of them.

BLUMENTHAL: There`s a likelihood that there will be a confrontation.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: And if there`s a confrontation and if there`s a threat to fire Bob Mueller, there will be a firestorm of opposition on both sides of the aisle here in the United States Congress, and that`s why we want to forestall that effort. And we`re doing on it a bipartisan basis, to adopt some protective measures so the independence and integrity of that special prosecutor will be safeguarded by some kind of judicial review that will check that effort, if it comes.

I hope it won`t come. And I agree with you, Chris, that we need to be realistic here, given what Donald Trump has done in the past.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Richard Blumenthal, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thank you for coming on -- the senator, of course, from Connecticut.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Let me to go John Lauro, who knows lot about this. Then we`ll get to Heidi -- jump in here.

John, tell me about bringing in a guy whose specialty has been in bribery cases. That immediately jumped to me as, My God, if you`re dealing with the Russians all these years and you`re Donald Trump, how many deals do you have to cook off the books to even deal with these terrible people?

JOHN LAURO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the reality is...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE)

LAURO: Yes, the reality is that Mueller has assembled an incredible group of skilled prosecutors who have tried many, many cases around the country. One of the advantages they have is over 3,000 federal laws that they can choose from. Literally, they can take any business dispute and turn it into a federal crime.

So it`s not unusual that Trump is very upset about these turn of events because you have an unlimited source of resources with the FBI. You have a prosecutor who has no limitations on what he can investigate. And frankly, I`m shocked that right now, the president`s legal team is virtually defenseless. Mueller is assembling one of the best criminal law firms in the country.

MATTHEWS: Heidi?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The senator didn`t mention that what he also learned this past week was the testimony, which was not paid attention to, by Bill Browder who was -- he was a client of Sergei Magnitsky. And what he told the panel was that the MO of the Russians is to court you and recruit you through shady financial deals. And then a lot of that money, since they can`t keep it in Russia, millions, billions is parked in the West.

MATTHEWS: Just (INAUDIBLE) condos?

PRZYBYLA: It`s parked in shady real estate deals. They`ve already caught at least one of them parking their money in high-end Manhattan real estate. So...

MATTHEWS: How does that hide dirty money? If they`ve got money that`s stolen or whatever, drug money, how do they get that -- then they go buy a condo. But they have to -- they bring in boxes of money, cartons? How do they physically give the...

PRZYBYLA: That`s a good question. I imagine...

MATTHEWS: ... the dirty currency?

PRZYBYLA: ... there are safeguards, you know, through the banking, financial system, red flags because they did apprehend in this one case this guy who was connected to Putin.

MATTHEWS: Back to you on that, John. What do you think Trump`s worrying about right now?

LAURO: Well, what...

MATTHEWS: When he sees Trump hiring -- when he sees -- when he sees Mueller going out and broadening his power base? I mean, these -- this is an incredible law firm he`s creating here, but just with one purpose, to get Trump.

LAURO: It`s a get Trump squad. He understands that. The reality is that Robert Mueller has unlimited resources, unlimited federal crimes to use and virtually no limits in terms of supervision. So he`s going to flyspeck every single transaction that Donald Trump and people around him, family members, have done in the last several years and go looking for a federal crime.

That`s extraordinary. And somebody who has a wide array of business dealings has to look at this and say, My lord, anything I`ve done in the past 10, 12, 15 years can be looked at in terms of a federal crime.

MATTHEWS: Heidi, you handle the politics of this thing and all the journalism. I think Trump is still quite capable of doing what he can to get rid of Mueller and make sure there`s no more Muellers after Mueller. There`s no more special counsels. And that means he got to get control again of the Justice Department.

PRZYBYLA: Given all of the lying -- and we will now at this point call it lying, given what we learned about this statement and his involvement in it going on -- it shows that he thinks that it is worth it. There`s something worth it there to be telling all these lies. So yes, it`s...

MATTHEWS: OK. And to cap off a weird day in Trump land, of course, President Trump, under political pressure like he`s never seen, signed a bill today actually imposing new sanctions on Russia. He signed it behind closed doors, of course, no press no cameras, no glory. The legislation had passed the Senate, by the way -- it is why he signed it -- 98 to 2, the House by 419 to 3.

In a signing statement put out, the president blasted the bill he just signed -- a little cozying up to Putin there -- Putin anyway. Quote, "The bill remains seriously flawed, particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch`s authority to negotiate. I built a truly great" -- he really said this. "I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected as president. I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress."

He always has to go back to that bragging. He said he signed it, quote, "for the sake of national unity." How sweet.

I want to thank Heidi Przybyla, as always, and John Lauro. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Coming up -- did the Trump White House try to shape perhaps the sleaziest fake news story of the year? And that`s saying something. Today, the administration`s pushing back on claims it had something to do with a totally bogus, totally untrue story about a slain DNC staffer and what looks like an effort to take the blame away from Russia for the DNC hacking.

Plus, fireworks in today`s White House press briefing. Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller gets into a combative exchange -- you`ll see -- with the press over the issue of immigration. Miller tore into one reporter, calling his comments ignorant and foolish. It gets worse.

And President Trump reportedly told his golf buddies that the White House is a real dump. How Bette Davis of him. Is that any way to talk about our house?

Anyway, finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like this one.

This HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: NBC News is reporting tonight that President Trump is become increasingly frustrated with his advisers working on a new strategy in Afghanistan. Things came to a head in a recent meeting two weeks ago in the White House, in which the president suggested firing our top military commander over there in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military`s been in Afghanistan, of course, since 2001 through three American presidents. There`s still more than 8,000 U.S. soldiers over there. And just today, two American troops were killed when their convoy came under attack.

I`m joined right now by NBC`s Carol Lee, who has the story. Carol, I guess Trump is frustrated with what we`re all frustrated with. He said no more stupid wars. We`ve been in Afghanistan since 2001. When are we ever going to get out?

CAROL LEE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That`s his frustration. That was President Obama`s frustration. And basically, what you`re seeing is someone, the president, who doesn`t like any of the options, partly because there are no good options in Afghanistan. And the challenges you can -- it`s significantly increase U.S. presence there at a high cost and (INAUDIBLE) peace (ph) stabilize Afghanistan, or you can completely withdraw. And if you were to do that, then Afghanistan turns into a haven for terrorism and all of the problems. The reasons why the U.S. went into Afghanistan resurface and...

MATTHEWS: So we can never have a permanent solution. We have to just stay.

LEE: Well, I think what the current commander in Afghanistan would like, his -- he`s -- you know, he said he could do more with several thousand more troops right now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If we stay.

LEE: If we -- if you -- if we continue to have a presence there, he`s -- he needs more troops.

MATTHEWS: Does anybody have a plan for getting out?

LEE: There is an option on the table for getting out. It is not the one that the president`s advisers are...

MATTHEWS: What made him so frustrated two weeks ago at that -- at that meeting in the Sit Room?

LEE: Well, I think, you know, one -- he had come from a meeting that he had with war veterans from the Afghanistan war, and he felt they were saying a couple of things to him about how NATO wasn`t contributing (INAUDIBLE) how the Chinese were getting all the money from the minerals there. And he`s looking around the table and felt like he wasn`t getting the options that he wanted. Why is the U.S. not getting more out of the minerals, while China is? And you know, why do we have to keep doing more?

And so he was frustrated that he was not getting -- hearing -- getting to a point where they can win the war. And at one point, he turned to Defense Secretary Mattis and said, you know, We`re losing. I gave you authority to win this war months ago. Why is this happening?

MATTHEWS: And what`s he going to do? Can you tell? Where is this going?

LEE: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: Firing the field commander.

LEE: They`re going to have a -- the president`s advisers are going to meet again tomorrow. The president`s not supposed to attend that meeting. But they would really like him to approve the strategy that they have all coalesced around. And the president just is still wanting more answers and changes and tweaks.

MATTHEWS: The daffy part may be -- you might call it daffy, I would -- about the president is although he seems to be against wars, he also seems to have a hunger for mineral wealth. He keeps talking about, We`ll get the oil, take it over and bring it home with us, as if we can just bring it home in a big, giant barrel.

LEE: Right!

MATTHEWS: And now we hear the mineral wealth in Afghanistan in another lure to staying in.

LEE: Yes, it`s -- it`s is complicated because in order for the U.S. businesses to go in there and -- and you know, and get the minerals, you have to have (ph) stabilization, stabilize the country in the way that the U.S. hasn`t been able to. And then it`s going to cost money. You have to have workers there. You have to have access to get the minerals out and ship them out in ports. And so it`s not as easy as it sounds.

MATTHEWS: Thanks, Carol. Great reporting.

Up next, did the Trump White House try on push one of the sleaziest fake news stories of the year? And was it an effort to take the blame away from Russia for their hacking of the DNC?

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In July of last year, a DNC staffer named Seth Rich was murdered in an apparent street robbery here in Washington. And some on the right began saying Rich, and not the Russians, was responsible for giving those WikiLeaks, those e-mails from the DNC.

Well, then in February this year, a Trump supporter, Ed Butowsky, hired a private eye named Rod Wheeler, supposedly to get to the truth, supposedly. Wheeler now says that he Butowsky was using him to connect Rich`s murder with the WikiLeaks e-mail dump. He is now suing in federal court, not just Butowsky, but FOX News, alleging they fabricated quotes that they attributed to him, to Wheeler.

He is alleging that FOX`s now retracted report was reviewed by President Trump himself before it was altered and published. In his lawsuit, Wheeler says that Butowsky told him that the quotes were included because that`s the way the president wanted the article.

Responding to questions about the allegations yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the White House was not involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president had no knowledge of the story and it`s completely untrue that he or -- the White House involvement in this story. And beyond that, this is ongoing litigation, and I would refer you to the actual parties involved, which aren`t the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, nice try.

However, Wheeler says he received a text message and a voice-mail from Butowsky saying -- quote -- "The president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately."

Well, FOX News has responded to this suit, as you expect, with the following statement. "The accusation that FOX News.com published Malia Zimmerman`s story to help detract from the coverage of the Russian collusion issue is completely erroneous. The retraction of this story is still being investigated internally. And we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman."

Well, joining me right now is Hadas Gold, media reporter for Politico, and Gabe Sherman, special correspondent with "Vanity Fair" and an MSNBC media analyst.

Gabe, start with this. Start from like a 101. Explain this, how horrible this indecency seems to be, to take someone who died in the streets of Washington in an apparent street crime -- that`s horrible -- and then on that, to try to smear the lost person, in the face of the parents, with a charge he had something to do with stealing DNC documents and putting them out and getting the Russians to take the blame for it, which is an absurd story.

But go ahead. Tell us the story.

GABE SHERMAN, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST: Yes, Chris.

Well, the allegations in this lawsuit are shocking and really shows what lengths possibly the Trump White House went to, to concoct a fake news story to distract from the Russia scandal.

Really, what this shows is that FOX News has become the media arm of the Trump White House. And Ed Butowsky, the wealthy Trump surrogate, financed this apparent fake news story that he then, as this lawsuit alleges, coached FOX News anchor Steve Doocy and others among them how to frame the story and push it out the FOX`s viewers.

So this really is an inside look, this lawsuit. The allegations within it provide an inside look into how a fake news story actually gets created.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Fabricated is a good word. They created it.

Is this Butowsky ever going to be brought to justice, forced to do a lie detector or forced to confront cross-examination so you can actually get some of the truth out of him? Somebody can make up a story. That`s the easiest thing. When you`re kids, you make up stories. It is called story telling.

But at some point, you have to be held to account when you`re maliciously perhaps smearing someone who is dead.

HADAS GOLD, POLITICO: Well, this lawsuit does allege that a lot of this was fabricated, that they fabricated Wheeler`s comments.

And, as you said, it was really a stunning lawsuit with all...

MATTHEWS: Who rewrote what Wheeler had actually said? Who came up with new quotes and put them on the air at FOX?

GOLD: Wheeler alleges that it is Butowsky and the reporter, Malia Zimmerman, are the ones who created it.

And, actually, in this lawsuit, Wheeler even has recordings of a phone conversation between himself and the FOX reporter where she seems to acknowledge that he did not actually say the quotes that were attributed to him in the story connecting Seth Rich...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How does somebody acknowledge that I`m not quoting you accurately? How does somebody do that?

GOLD: Well, she claims that they did quote him accurately on the other quotes that he had given her.

MATTHEWS: Oh. Well, that`s a defense.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Wheeler also said -- excuse me -- let me finish this -- said that he and Butowsky met with Sean Spicer, of course, the White House spokesman, in April of this year, and provided him with a copy of his investigative notes.

Yet, just one month later, Spicer denied having any knowledge of the story. Here`s Sean.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t -- I`m not aware of -- I -- generally, I don`t get updates on DNC, former DNC staffers. I`m not aware of that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Spicer now confirms to NBC News that the meeting did take place.

Gabe?

SHERMAN: Yes. I was going just to point that out, Chris.

That again is another instance in which this White House has been caught in an apparent lie. And their denials have now been completely debunked. And we know from this lawsuit that Ed Butowsky and Rod Wheeler met with Spicer, and they allegedly discussed the status of this fake news story and how it might benefit the Trump White House by distracting from the Russia scandal.

So, to me, as a reporter who is covering all these stories, it calls into question all of the other Trump White House denials. And if they`re being exposed on this detail, which other denials should we not be taking seriously?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well said.

Anyway, this suit also says Butowsky e-mailed FOX producers the night before the story aired, saying: "One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and steal e-mails and there was no collusion like Trump with the Russians."

And here`s how FOX reported the story the next morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: For a long time, on the Internet and elsewhere, he has been rumored to have been the one who gave WikiLeaks the DNC e-mails.

So, if that is true -- and we don`t know yet -- it looks like Russia didn`t give to it WikiLeaks. It was Seth Rich, perhaps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Seth Rich.

So, there they are. Look, I`m not a media critic. Gabe is a good one. But I`m -- and you guys know how to do this stuff, because to me they`re just rivals. I don`t like to dump on them.

But there is Doocy repeating the words that we know that came from this guy Butowsky. In other words, they fed -- they spoon-fed a story which was picked up verbatim, blaming this dead kid, this dead staffer, for what the Russians did, as per Butowsky`s demand.

GOLD: And what is unfortunate is that the story was ultimately retracted.

But once you have something on TV like that, obviously, it is hard to pull it back, but also the fact that we don`t know whether FOX News has done anything to discipline anybody internally for publishing the story.

MATTHEWS: Well, who fed that to Steve Doocy?

Let me go back to Gabe.

Who put that in his mouth?

SHERMAN: Well, really, what we know, Chris, is that Ed Butowsky e-mailed personally Steve Doocy.

MATTHEWS: Who is Ed Butowsky? Who is this guy willing to go whole hog in a lie? Why is he so committed to Donald Trump he is willing to put his whole being of dishonesty, all this behind a totally made-up, terrible, indecent attack on someone who died?

SHERMAN: Well, he is a wealthy Texas-based financial manager, and he`s also kind of a conservative gadfly. He is often on a talk radio show and he is very friendly in the FOX News world with other FOX News personalities.

So he`s been on the margins of Trump world since the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Oh, God. This is a terrible story. This is a terribly indecent story. This rivals the stuff in Joe McCarthy`s era.

Anyway, have you no decency?

Anyway, Hadas Gold, thank you. Gabe Sherman, great work here.

It`s just a terrible story.

Up next: Stephen Miller goes to war in the press room. Wait until you catch this show. This is a guy -- talk about id. This guy outrivals Trump with his id, his personality, unmasked by any kind of stoppage.

Anyway, the reporter calls -- he calls the reporter ignorant. And then what is the real reason behind his performance in the briefing? I have a theory. Trump is throwing red meat into the cage.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A school staff member was killed and another is missing after a natural gas explosion caused part of a building to collapse at a college prep school in Minneapolis. Seven adults were injured, three of them critically, in the blast at Minnehaha Academy. The private Christian school serves students from pre-K through 12th grade. Fire officials say contractors were doing work on the building at the time of the blast.

A heat wave is gripping some 15 million people in the Pacific Northwest, a region that historically has very mild summers. Meteorologists say temperatures in Portland, Oregon, could hit a record of 107 degrees Thursday. Only 15 percent of homes in Seattle have central air. Temperatures there are expected to climb near 100 degrees.

A big day on Wall Street. Apple`s surging stock helped ride the Dow above the psychologically important 22000 milestone for the first time ever -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and to some crazy, I must say.

Anyway, the Trump team is going back to basics today, tossing red meat to its conservative base. First, it was that complete ban on transgender people from serving in the military, complete ban, of course, then the reported plan to sue universities over affirmative action policies that may hurt white applicants.

Well, this afternoon, the issue was immigration, legal immigration.

Stephen Miller, President Trump`s senior adviser, briefed the press -- you could say briefed -- about the president`s support for Republican legislation that would tighten immigration, legal immigration, to the U.S.

Miller, who has a history of antagonizing the media, had a heated exchange with the CNN White House reporter. Catch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN: We`re in a (OFF-MIKE) period of immigration right now.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: The president wants to build a wall, and you want to bring about a sweeping change to immigration.

MILLER: Surely, Jim, you don`t actually think that a wall affects green card policy.

You couldn`t possibly believe that, do you? Actually, the -- the notion that you actually think immigration is at a historic lull, the foreign-born population in the United States today -- Jim, Jim...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: (OFF-MIKE) the new chief of staff on Monday talking about how border crossings...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Do you really -- I want to be serious, Jim.

Do you really at CNN not know the difference between green card policy and illegal immigration? You really don`t know that?

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: ... immigrant. He came to this country in 1962 right before the Cuban Missile Crisis and obtained a green card.

Yes, people who immigrate to this country can eventually -- people who immigrate to this country through -- not through Ellis Island...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Jim, as a factual question...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: ... and in other ways do obtain a green card at some point. They do it through a lot of hard work. And, yes, they may learn English as a second language later on in life, but this whole notion of, well, they could learn -- they have to learn English before they get to the United States, are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you have ever said. And for you, that`s still a really -- the notion that you think that this is a racist bill is so wrong...

ACOSTA: I didn`t say it was racist.

MILLER: ... and so insulting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: By the way, it seemed -- it certainly seems like Trump and the White House are trying to get back to basics. Politically, I mean.

For more, I am joined by our roundtable, Yamiche Alcindor of "The New York Times." She`s national political reporter and an MSNBC political analyst. Annie Karni, of course, White House reporter for Politico, and Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter for "The Guardian."

It looks to me like I`m looking at this lineup of excitement for the last two weeks. They`re going after reverse discrimination, so-called, at the university level. They`re talking about immigration now, legal immigration now. And what was that other one? Oh, about transgender people, affecting like 0.0000 percent of the population.

But it all says, we love you, Trump. You`re a real tough customer. You don`t like the people we don`t like.

rMD-BO_YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC ANALYST: One of the truest things that Stephen Miller said was that this is what people voted for and that this is what they were promising.

MATTHEWS: The red meat.

ALCINDOR: Exactly.

So, Stephen Miller -- today`s exchange was extraordinary, because Stephen Miller literally questioned whether or not the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty was something that was actually a mission of this country, whether or not we actually mean that we want to bring people`s poor and people`s weary.

So, what they`re doing really is saying, look, we`re going to go back to our basics and we`re going to give you exactly what you said. And, by the way, we`re not going to try to even hold our tongues and say that we`re trying to be egalitarian or trying to be fair here.

MATTHEWS: Go back to the -- it goes back to the beginning, Annie. Half this country spoke German, as well as English. German was a really big language. So, we weren`t all English speakers when we started.

ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: No.

But the fireworks in the briefing, the audience of this isn`t just Trump. It is an audience of a base that`s scared of immigrants and hates the media. And they see yelling with CNN and yelling with "The New York Times" and they think that it is going well. The show is the point.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Sabrina, I think he was playing to one audience, Mr. Trump. Trump loved that explosion of id. He just lost Scaramucci. He has got to figure that -- fill that hole.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Absolutely.

And think about the context here. In recent weeks, Trump spent a lot of time attacking Jeff Sessions. That`s who Stephen Miller actually worked for on Capitol Hill. And Jeff Sessions is the godfather of a lot of these anti-immigrant proposals that the White House has adopted.

He was also the architect of that first travel ban that got caught up in the courts. And so Ann Coulter, we know, was at the White House last week, according to "The New York Times," berating Trump for forgetting about the base. So a lot of these steps have in fact been taken to try and throw that red meat.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, we were talking before we went on tonight about the possibility that all of this stuff, the ignorant media, all this red meat - - if a person, a man or woman, watching, and they`re a Trump voter -- and they`re are a lot of them obviously.

They`re thinking, yes, that`s the guy I voted for. And he`s thinking, I have to keep that number up around 40. It is slipping a little bit, now, just a little. I have to keep that above -- if I`m going on get anything done.

ALCINDOR: Yes, but there`s a lot of talk about approval ratings with Trump, but at the end of the day, his base is sticking with him.

The people are saying, this is exactly the person that we want and these are exactly the policies. And I was talking to some experts today who said this is also not just Trump. The Republican Party, going back to Reagan, was about this idea that you have to challenge whether or not white people are being in some ways discriminated against, whether or not trying to reset, trying to pass civil rights issues and trying to really go after civil rights and justices, whether or not that is somehow hurting middle- class white Americans who are watching Trump and voting for Trump and saying, we want to be taken care of.

Some people really thought the country is going in a direction that`s leaving behind white people, essentially.

MATTHEWS: Well, the real argument with a lot of people I that these schools like Berkeley, the best schools in the country, best public schools, you`re graded based on your numbers in school, and a lot of the kids, Asian-American kids, a lot of kids are getting really good grades, and that`s why it`s getting harder to get in these schools.

SIDDIQUI: Well, yes, but I think one thing that is important to note about some of these policies is, we don`t know if they`re actually going to come to fruition.

Certainly, this immigration bill to reduce legal immigration by half does not have support even from a majority of Republicans in Congress. But of this does -- it doesn`t.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: In Congress.

SIDDIQUI: In Congress.

MATTHEWS: Actually, the people that are in the Trump world itself, though, they like this.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDDIQUI: But that`s what is important, is that this shows you how this White House thinks about some of these core issues, that very nationalist theme, the thematic kind of world view that propelled Trump to where he is, the Bannon-Miller wing really showing its influence at this moment.

MATTHEWS: OK, ignorant, ignorant, I mean, who else would he safely call ignorant? I don`t think that Trump would ever get on television and say to some ethnic group, you`re all ignorant. But he has no problem, Annie, saying the press is ignorant as a group.

(CROSSTALK)

KARNI: Can I just make one more point about what we were just talking about?

MATTHEWS: Sure.

KARNI: The base is not going to be enough.

His approval ratings are in the 30s. We see Republican senators more and more...

MATTHEWS: Oh, you think he`s...

(CROSSTALK)

KARNI: Well, we see Republican senators more and more being willing to speak out against him, to disagree with him, to say, we`re moving on from health care, to disagree with him about his position on Sessions.

They`re not scared of him more and more. That`s telling.

MATTHEWS: You brought up a topic. And I will bring it up, and you reporters will all say, I can`t take a vote.

If he escapes Mueller, which I think he`s going to have a hard time doing, if by next -- four years from now, when it comes time in 2020 to run for reelection, will he win?

ALCINDOR: I think he can completely win.

MATTHEWS: Annie, can he win?

KARNI: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Can he win a second term?

KARNI: Yes. There`s no good Democratic challenger.

SIDDIQUI: It depends on Democrats and whether they can find an effective messenger.

MATTHEWS: That`s my favorite question.

SIDDIQUI: I don`t think they know who their messenger is yet.

MATTHEWS: Two terms, one term, or no one term, no full term? We don`t know yet. It`s all possible.

This guy is an act we have never seen before. Anyway, I think Mueller -- I would bet on Mueller right now, though.

Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us. And I think Trump is betting on Mueller too. That`s why he wants to get rid of him.

Up next: President Trump has a new excuse for why he`s spending so much time at golf resorts. He says he thinks the White House is a real dump. Who is this guy, Bette Davis? This is a dump?

The Roundtable weighs in. We`re going to show Bette Davis, the way she says this is a dump.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rosa, you`re back all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is your foot?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fine. What a dump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: What a dump. That was, of course, the classic Bette Davis line. That was also Joseph Cotten in the background there, in the 1949 classic, "Beyond the Forest".

Well, it seems our president now, Donald Trump, is now echoing Bette Davis` famous line in that movie. According to an article that appeared in the "Sports Illustrated" and "Golf" magazine, Donald Trump reportedly told his Bedminster golf club buddies, quote: That White House is a real dump.

When asked about those comments, the White House did not issue an outright denial to NBC today, the White House staff writer. Instead, a spokesman said, quote: The president has been quoted on the record describing how proud he is to live in the White House and how incredibly luxurious it is. For an example in "The New York Times", quote, it`s a beautiful residence, it`s very elegant.

For more, I`m joined by again by our roundtable, Yamiche Alcindor, Annie Karni and Sabrina Siddiqui.

What do you make of this? I don`t think the American people like to hear the president dumping on the president`s house, after all, you know, it was OK for John Adams and ever since.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think as someone who spent a lot of time with the supporters, they realize that he`s a flashy billionaire who does -- who has a very high bar.

MATTHEWS: Five-star.

ALCINDOR: Yes, five star. So, in some ways, I don`t know how much this hurts him. They already knew that they were voting for someone who rode on his own plane.

MATTHEWS: I thought Trump was an anti-elitist candidate, Annie, against elitism.

ANNIE KARNI, POLITICS REPORTER, POLITICO: Doesn`t this quote, even some back ground and maybe it happened or not, ring totally true with what we think he thinks?

One of the most surprising things is that he hasn`t been back to Trump Tower penthouse, the apartment he adores, that`s gilded and has ivory things in it.

MATTHEWS: Never seen it.

KARNI: And, you know, on the record, we know he doesn`t like Air Force One as much as his private plane. We know he doesn`t like Camp David as much as Mar-a-Lago. Of course, he doesn`t like it as much as his own house. It`s not like a great thing to say, but the reason it is resonating is because it feels like it matches what we know about the president.

MATTHEWS: You know, look at all those people, la-di-da, Nancy Reagan took heat for new silverware, dinnerware, flatware I got to call them. And, of course, Jackie Kennedy ingloriously once said, it`s so hard to find good help in Washington. There are a lot of people looking for jobs at the White House. It`d just sound a little la-di-da, and here he is saying it`s not quite up to my standards.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Right. And with Trump, there`s always this exception where he gets away with making statements that are completely out of touch. He called it $2 million loan from his father, you know, a small sum and refers to himself as a self-made man.

But look, it was only in April that Trump told "Reuters" on the record that the presidency isn`t all that he thought it would be, that it`s not as easy as he thought. That he had so much going for him in his life before he took oath of office, and expressed sort of his disappointment with the realities of the job.

He often portrays himself being above the presidency. I think this does offer a window into how he views the office that he holds.

(CROSSTALK)

ALCINDOR: I think the people who voted for him kind of like this part of his personality and like the fact that he`s flashy. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Frank Sinatra.

KARNI: He tells it like it is.

MATTHEWS: I noticed now, I`m blind to gender, I`m evolved, with all three of you women.

And I want to ask you -- Annie has a piece about this. It seems to me that Kellyanne and a few others -- Ivanka, of course, because of blood -- are exempt from Trump`s sort of regular purges, firing, firing, firing. He has never said you`re fired to a woman so far.

KARNI: Yes. The story kind of looked at, you know, we just had a mass exodus of a lot of top male aides from the West Wing. I noticed that, you know, with these guys, the women are kind of quietly rising.

Sarah Sanders moved up because Sean Spicer moved out. Dina Powell is now a deputy national security adviser. She came in as adviser to Ivanka Trump. She was the number two pick for chief of staff. She lost that to John Kelly, but she`s on the short list. Kellyanne, Omarosa, Hope Hicks.

These people are, you know, they`re not -- as someone in my article said -- they`re not the drama queens of the administration. There`s a lot of reasons why women aren`t under the chopping block like men are.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Put this together with the "Access Hollywood" bus attitude.

KARNI: That -- well, that`s why it`s sort of interesting. It`s a little ironic that the women are surviving better in an administration of --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It is interesting.

Sabrina, your thoughts?

SIDDIQUI: I think there`s been a degree to which these women have not been as involved in some of the infighting, you know, the wings that we had with Priebus and Spicer versus Bannon, and Scaramucci coming into mix. I know there`s also, if you`re looking at loyalty, something that Trump values, something to be said for Hope Hicks, Kellyanne, having been early supporters. Priebus and Spicer also viewed with skepticism as belonging to establishment wing.

And, finally, just quickly say, he values the performance of someone like Kellyanne on television. It doesn`t matter what she might be saying, how inane or how, you know, misleading --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: The women are doing swan dives just like Scaramucci and this guy Miller -- Kellyanne, as you mentioned, has done some of these wild swan dive statements on the air, too.

ALCINDOR: But I think the one thing I`ll say is, one, there aren`t as many women in high profile positions for him to fire and, two, they aren`t really becoming part of story, where you see like there`s a president Bannon kind of thing out there. The Mooch was the thing out there. You`re not seeing people claiming that Hope Hicks is running the White House.

MATTHEWS: I think Hope Hicks will be press secretary someday and I think Nikki Haley is going to be secretary of state. Just betting by long shots. They`re not long shots.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.

And next, up next, the three will tell me something I don`t know. They`re already doing that.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, it seems as if President Trump`s own team is now rejecting his comments on police brutality. In a speech yesterday before black law enforcement officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the issue of police misconduct. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Just as I`m committed to defending law enforcement who lawfully have to use deadly force to defend themselves while engaged in their work, I will also use the powers of the office I`ve been entrusted with to hold any officer responsible who violates the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the White House staff maintains that the president was joking when he told officers to be rough on suspects.

We`ll be right back. He wasn`t joking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We are back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Yamiche, tell me something I don`t know.

ALCINDOR: James Comey is going to be writing a book that is going to be out next spring. He is going to be writing all about the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and also the investigation that Hillary Clinton`s e-mail. So, it`s going to be I think something that everyone in Washington is going to want the read.

MATTHEWS: Anthony Weiner will be a chapter.

Annie?

KARNI: I`ll stay on Yamiche`s book topic. The much anticipated Hillary Clinton "What Happened" (INAUDIBLE). She doesn`t just take the predictable shots at Comey. She has a lot to say about Bernie Sanders` behavior in the primary is what I`ve been told by people who have seen it.

MATTHEWS: Is she going to knock him out of the next race?

KARNI: We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

SIDDIQUI: I`ll bring us back to Stephen Miller who is attacking the elitist media. Stephen Miller is actually someone who is born to liberal leaning family in Santa Monica. And he went on to attend Duke University. He turned to conservatism when he read the 1994 book "Guns, Crime and Freedom" penned by Wayne LaPierre. While at Duke, he wrote for the paper there. That`s where he really made public his nationalist views, likening at one point multiculturalism to segregation.

MATTHEWS: OK. Anyway, I just love epiphanies.

Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, Annie Karni and Sabrina Siddiqui.

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

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MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, August 2nd, 2017.

I`m coming to the full realization why Donald Trump has decided to bring down the investigation of special counsel Bob Mueller. Mueller isn`t just investigating the Russian connection, he is investigating Donald Trump. He is not going to end his probing until he is convinced Trump has been totally legit in his business dealings, totally legit in his campaign for president, and totally legit in any relation between the two.

Mueller doesn`t mean to end his investigation until he is convinced Trump is clean on all counts. And the last thing Bob Mueller wants is to end his probe and then have someone else discover impropriety on Trump`s part. Again, Mueller can`t end this investigation until he is solid Trump is clean as a houndstooth. When do you think that will be?

Special counsels don`t narrow their scope of investigations. They broaden them. Archibald Cox was coming for Richard Nixon when he got fired. Leon Jaworski took up the hunt and finish the job. Lawrence Walsh went after Iran-gate for nine years before giving up on catching the first President Bush. Ken Starr hopped from Whitewater to Paula Jones, and from her to Monica Lewinsky.

They don`t take these jobs only so they can end up calling it quits and giving their guy the good housekeeping seal of approval. And somehow, I don`t think that`s what Donald Trump has been spending his adult life doing his darnedest to win.

Bottom line: Trump`s right to fear Bob Mueller. And the last thing Trump wants is a top to bottom audit, tax returns and all. Anyone who thinks that hasn`t been paying much attention.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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