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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/4/17 Trumps political strategy: Fight back!

Guests: Margaret Carlson, Michael Schmidt, Toluse Olorunnipa, Denny Heck, Annie Linskey, Jonathan Swan

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 4, 2017 Guest: Margaret Carlson, Michael Schmidt, Toluse Olorunnipa, Denny Heck, Annie Linskey, Jonathan Swan


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The president begins his 17-day vacation tonight at his golf club in New Jersey, but he can`t get away from the expanding shadow of Robert Mueller`s Russian probe. While Trump is out on the links, Bob Mueller`s professionals are looking at the links connecting Trump to everything Russian, everything illegal.

NBC News reported today that Mueller`s making use of active grand juries now in multiple districts, including Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.

And last night at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia, President Trump tried rally his base against Mueller`s investigation. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They can`t beat us at the voting booths, so they`re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want! They`re trying to cheat you out on the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us!

I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one, which is what the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve. Democrat lawmakers will have to decide. They can continue their obsession with the Russian hopes or they can serve the interests of the American people!


MATTHEWS: Well, the president also mocked the investigation itself.


TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It`s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That`s all it is.

Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn`t win because of Russia. We won because of you.

Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?


MATTHEWS: Well, Russians might not have been in West Virginia, but they were certainly in Trump Tower last summer meeting with the president`s son and son-in-law after promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Those are facts.

The assessment of the U.s. Intelligence community concluded that Moscow, quote, "developed a clear preference to elect Donald Trump." And even President Trump`s own director of national intelligence said recently there`s no dissent inside intelligence agencies about what Russia did. The president can continue to dismiss the investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt, but cold-blooded Robert Mueller isn`t listening to it at all.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington. He sits on the Intelligence Committee. Axios national political reporter Jonathan Swan`s here with me, and also "The Boston Globe`s" national political reporter Annie Linskey.

Congressman, do you think Trump wants an honest investigation? He said so right there to his crowd.

REP. DENNY HECK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: So Chris, he can spin and he can mislead and he can lie all he wants in front of his adoring fans, or at a press podium, for that matter. But here`s something he can`t do. He cannot lie to the FBI, to the grand jury. Nor can his lawyers. Nor can his associates.

At the end of the day, what he says in his tweets and in these public utterances are completely irrelevant. This is about matters of law. That`s what Bob Mueller is about. That`s what the Senate Intelligence Committee is about. That`s what the House Intelligence Committee is about. And what he says in these environments and in these settings is irrelevant.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of his decision to not just deny his guilt, personal guilt in terms of collusion, or some financial entanglement he got involved with which would allow the Russians to -- to leverage him in office, but denying the fact that the Russians had anything to do with the election, any attempt to involve themselves in any meetings, when that`s all in the public record, testified to by his own people?

HECK: Sure. We`re back...


HECK: We`re back to the 3-D movie -- deception, deflection and distraction. Again, it`s not going to work. It`s not going to work with Robert Mueller.

Look, he`s done everything he can to try to intimidate Bob Mueller. He`s threatened to fire Jeff Sessions, or suggested he should leave. He has hinted that maybe Bob Mueller should not be there.

At the end of the day, I think what the president forgets -- Bob Mueller is a highly decorated Marine who served in Vietnam in combat, and then spent his entire career in law enforcement going after truly bad guys. Guess what, Mr. President? Bob Mueller does not intimidate.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s some more of the campaign by the president. This morning, Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway both took shots at Robert Mueller`s investigation. Let`s watch them in action.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the White House should be concerned about this grand jury?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Of course the White House should be concerned. I worry about the government having the kind of power -- and notice what Mueller`s doing. He`s changing the targets. He was supposedly going to look into Russian collusion. The articles this morning say, Gee, it looks like Russian collusion`s going to be hard to prove -- maybe because it didn`t happen.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Let me remind everyone what the president has said about this. It`s a witch hunt. It`s fake. Last night, I believe he called it a fabrication. And we know that the nature of these types of investigations become fishing expeditions, where you`re just throwing Jell-o up against the wall and hoping something will stick.


MATTHEWS: Well, the problem with that analogy, Annie, is that they throw the Jell-o against the wall because some of the Jell-o sticks.


MATTHEWS: That`s a bad analogy for Kellyanne to throw out. It`s there because -- by the way, Monica Lewinsky stuck. They went after Whitewater, went through Paula Jones (INAUDIBLE) she`s right.


MATTHEWS: But the Jell-o sticks.

LINSKEY: It does.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) problem for the president (INAUDIBLE)

LINSKEY: It can be very sticky, particularly concerning for this White House if Mueller does what Ken Starr did and expands his investigation beyond, you know, just Russia. I mean, the last thing that these guys really want to have happen is for people to be going -- you know, investigators to be looking into the financial dealings.

MATTHEWS: Well, they are apparently looking. According at our records at NBC, they`re looking at money transfers. They`re looking at any kind of business relationship between all the Trump gang, all the guys like Carter Page...


MATTHEWS: ... and Manafort and the rest of them. They`re looking at all the meetings that took care (ph) and all the Russians they`ve been dealing with. And they`re looking -- and I don`t think they`re stopping (INAUDIBLE) They`re probably looking back into the past.

LINSKEY: Right, and that`s where I think it gets to more dangerous ground. And that`s where you see this has really gotten under Trump`s skin. I mean, he just can`t -- he`s the one who keeps bringing this up over and over and over again. And so it`s something that he is just not really letting go. And I think he sees -- senses some danger there.

MATTHEWS: We talked about how -- it`s not the just the FBI director, Comey, who met with the president and felt that the president was trying to obstruct justice in all those -- at least he was intimating that. But kept contemporary records -- contemporaneous records and shared his accounts of meetings and telephone calls with the president with his top deputies. It`s on the record. There`s a lot of backup or (INAUDIBLE) information there.

And now I`m looking at what the president is trying to do. First, it was destroy Comey personally, make it him against Comey. Now he`s trying to go after Mueller personally and go after him. I get the feeling Mueller is leading an army. This isn`t one on one. I think Trump`s got a problem with trying to defame one person when a very professional army of attorneys are coming after him.

HECK: Absolutely, Chris. And let`s -- let`s remember that director Mueller has just hired Greg Andres to join that small army of people he has who are made of top-notch, top professional lawyers and professionals. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Andres, who was off on what can presumably only in a highly lucrative legal practice, was enticed to come back into public service. He`s a former high-ranking Department of Justice investigator, on the basis, again, presumably, that he thinks there`s something substantive that makes it worth his while and service to the nation to return to the Department of Justice.

MATTHEWS: And that`s exactly my thinking because, Jonathan, I keep looking at these guys, just the appearance of these attorneys. They all are incredibly professional in their manner. Mueller is always carrying that frightening attache case along with him, like, I`ve got the stuff in this box here. I mean, it always looks like that, not a hair out of place. The suit coats are always buttoned. The game faces are on. Not a look of a smile.

Worse yet for the president, not a look of sympathy. Neutral professionalism these guys have. It`s so neutral, so unsympathetic for guilt or innocence. They`re out there to get a job done. And if I were Trump, I`d be looking at the people, the regular people out -- I love these people applauding me. I wish it was those lawyers applauding me!

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Do you know who doesn`t have the buttons done up and the hair not out of place is Donald Trump`s legal team. It had to -- one of them...

MATTHEWS: Which one...


SWAN: I mean, Kasowitz had to leave after -- after going after -- you know, insane kind of e-mail rant at this stranger telling him...

MATTHEWS: And that one guy -- the TV lawyer --


MATTHEWS: How about the TV lawyer he`s got?

SWAN: I`m just...

MATTHEWS: Jay -- Jay whatshisname (INAUDIBLE) He`s always on television. Does he ever practice law?

SWAN: One of the problems that people -- advisers to the-- close to Trump have had is -- is he hasn`t hired the best lawyers.


SWAN: He just hasn`t. He doesn`t have the best people defending him. And he`s up against, as you said, a very formidable legal team.

LINSKEY: Well, he has very bad track record of paying his lawyers, which perhaps is why...

MATTHEWS: Annie, I love the way you think.

LINSKEY: ... he`s had difficult...

MATTHEWS: You`re so Boston. You know, I have to ask that to the congressman. If you`ve got bad business practices behind you, why do you think they`re going to end here? Trump does not have good relationships with the people that he owes. I mean, if you don`t pay them, they`re not your good friends anymore. And Trump is notorious in this regard.

HECK: I think one the of most bizarre things here is just as you just talked about, mainly comparing and contrasting the two legal teams. It`s not, of course, just President Trump`s legal team. It`s the legal team of all the people around him. They`ve all lawyered up now. And when you, in fact, compare that to Bob Mueller and the team he`s assembled -- and ask yourself this question. If you were in a legal circumstance where you needed legal representation, which of those teams would hire? Which of those teams would you pay? That`s a no-brainer. You`d pick the Bob Mueller team because they`re the pros.

MATTHEWS: And I look at the guys who, as you mentioned, want to do this for public service.

Anyway, at the campaign-style rally last night. President Trump revisited some of his old standards, the old golden oldies, if you will, including his call for prosecutors to go after -- (INAUDIBLE) going to say poor Hillary Clinton, but it is sort of yesterday`s news. The audience even broke out in a chant of "Lock her up" again, just like the old days. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision!


TRUMP: It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about. What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton`s 33,000 deleted e-mails!



MATTHEWS: OK, Annie, what I like about this is he says we shouldn`t have witch hunts. Then he says, Let`s go delving because we don`t know what`s in there and the 32 -- we`re not saying anything`s in there, so let`s see if there`s anything in there. That`s called a fishing expedition.

LINSKEY: Indeed. And the e-mails...

MATTHEWS: That`s the definition of on!

LINSKEY: (INAUDIBLE) were leaked, you know. Many of her e-mails or her campaign manager`s e-mails were leaked. But I actually think this is one of the more insidious things that Donald Trump does. In this country, we do not lock up our opponents, our political opponents.

MATTHEWS: We do in third world countries.

LINSKEY: In Caracas. That`s what happens in Caracas in Venezuela.

MATTHEWS: Well, and in Pakistan, they hang them.

LINSKEY: And in Pakistan they hang them.


LINSKEY: That`s even worse.

MATTHEWS: Bhutto. Go ahead.

LINSKEY: And here we just defeat them, and then they go off and they sit on the beach somewhere. And that`s exactly...

MATTHEWS: No, they teach in a good college.

LINSKEY: Or they teach somewhere.

MATTHEWS: A very good college (INAUDIBLE)

LINSKEY: So for Trump to be sort of attacking that norm...

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to that because that`s a very strong flavor (ph) when -- Congressman, you`re an elected official. And we respect elected officials here more than anybody. And the simple fact is because you are elected and you have -- you carry with you the decision of the people you represent.

There`s Trump out there saying that this isn`t a battle about truth or justice. It`s not a battle about guilt or innocence. It`s a battle about revisiting the election last year.

I have never heard anybody -- and I deal with a lot of progressives, with a lot of militants around here. And I never really heard anyone say Hillary Clinton lost this election because of the Russians. The question is whether the Russians tried to mess with our electoral process, tried on embarrass us, bring us down to their level of corrupt elections, and that`s the issue. It`s a national issue, not a partisan one, and he`s turning it entirely into, They screwed our people. You people in that audience in West Virginia, you`re the ones that lost here. And that`s not the way it`s played, even on the hardest -- at least the hardest stuff (ph) I come across. Your thoughts...


HECK: Well, but here`s the deal, Chris. He`s only got one play in his playbook, and it`s this deception-deflection thing. I mean, think about what we just went through on health care and the debate about the Affordable Care Act and whether to repeal it or whether to fix and repair it.

All he had was talking points, right? He never really entered the game. He never really put anything of substance on the table. He thought it was all about spin. It was all about appealing to people and sometimes, frankly, their more basic instincts.

And by analogy in this circumstance, he`s not dealing with the substance of what`s going on here. He thinks this is what matters. It`s a single play, and frankly, it is not just ham-handed, it`s incompetent.

Bob Mueller doesn`t care what he says at a rally in West Virginia. Bob Mueller cares about the law. That`s what he cares about. And he`s going to get at the truth, irrespective of what the president says on the campaign trail.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about, Congressman, while we have you, August 4th -- that where we are right now -- and how it is different than, say, a month or two ago. Now we have grand juries -- we`ll talk about that after the break here -- grand juries have been put into practice and they`re being activated in this case. Apparently, at least two or three, maybe more grand juries have been involved in this case.

Once you reach the stage of bringing evidence or seeking subpoenas from grand juries, are you at a stage then where if a president were to fire the special counsel, find some way to get rid of him, go after his, would that be obstruction at that point because there`s a case under way?

HECK: It would immediately induce a constitutional crisis if he were to take that step. And frankly, I don`t think he will, but if he does, it will induce a constitutional crisis. Again, I think part of all of this talk, all of this rumor, his stirring up this kind of discussion is because he`s trying to intimidate Bob Mueller. And already I`ve said my piece on that. Good luck on that, Mr. President.


MATTHEWS: He doesn`t look very confused (INAUDIBLE) man (ph). That is the -- that man has the best resume I`ve ever seen, including service as a Marine in Vietnam. This guy, if he`s not afraid of the VC or the North Vietnamese, I don`t think he`s afraid of Donald Trump. Just guessing.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state, and thank you, Jonathan Swan. You`ll get more time next time (INAUDIBLE)


MATTHEWS: But I have two other great guests, as well, and Annie Linskey...

SWAN: She`s better than me.


MATTHEWS: I like chivalry, especially in Friday afternoon. Thank you -- "Boston Globe," Annie Linskey.

LINSKEY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up, the news this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is making use of a grand jury in Washington, D.C., could mean the investigation is focusing on possible crimes that happened on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which is right here in D.C., things like obstruction of justice. And that should have Trump and his top aides in the White House, if they`re sane, very nervous.

Plus, Trump`s left for summer vacation. He`s leaving this afternoon. The Senate left yesterday. And after six months of total Republican control of this city, of this nation`s capital, they have no major accomplishments to show for it. Who`s to blame for that?

And General Kelly`s first week on the job as White House chief of staff, he hasn`t stopped the leaks and he can`t stop the tweeting. We`ll get to that with the roundtable tonight.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a "Trump Watch" -- well, it`ll be a good "off to your vacation " "Trump Watch" for the president. He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Before leaving for their August break yesterday, lawmakers took care of one important piece of business. The U.S. Senate unanimously agreed to hold pro forma sessions over the August recess, thereby blocking the president from making any recess appointments. The move comes amid concerns that the president might try and fire Attorney General Sessions and quickly appoint a successor without seeking Senate approval.

We`ll be right back.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The fact that he has now apparently or reportedly gone to a grand jury means he now needs the power of compulsion to get documents, to compel witnesses to testify. That is a necessary step to move forward to a potential prosecution. Doesn`t mean that he will prosecute, but this is part of the investigation very much moving forward.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California, on the news that a Washington grand jury, among others, are working in connection with the special counsel`s unfolding Trump-Russia investigation.

As the congressman said, grand juries give prosecutors the ability to subpoena documents and compel testimony from witnesses under the penalty of perjury. Well, in the end, the grand jury would ultimately decide there`s probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and whether indictments should be issued.

I`m joined right now two MSNBC legal contributors. Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor, and Jill Wine-Banks is the former Watergate assistant prosecutor.

Thank you both for joining us.

Let`s go to school on grand juries here. It seems to me -- a friend of mine just pointed this out.

Paul, you first.

If you go before a grand jury, you don`t bring a lawyer in the room with you. He or she has to stand out in the hallway. You come in alone. You either can tell the truth, which can get you in big trouble, you lie, you perjure yourself, or what? Or you don`t -- I don`t know what alternative there is.


MATTHEWS: You take the Fifth.

BUTLER: Which is what targets are advised to do.

So, people have asked, well, what if the president of the United States is subpoenaed? That`s when he has this difficult political vs. legal decision. Politically, he has got to testify. Legally, anybody who is the target takes the Fifth.

Prosecutors like me love the grand jury because the defense attorney is not there. She sits outside the room. It is like a big classroom, 23 people. As a prosecutor, you run the show.

MATTHEWS: Taking the Fifth doesn`t mean much to a person who is schooled in and know that is what all lawyers tell you to do, if you`re not running for office again.


MATTHEWS: But to the average person out there, they hear you take the Fifth, they go, what are they hiding?

BUTLER: Yes. And you look guilty, although you`re not.


MATTHEWS: I know you`re not legally guilty. It`s a constitutional right.

BUTLER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to that to Jill.

Your thoughts about that as a prosecutor in a public corruption case, which this really is, misuse of power, misuse of a candidate`s role vis-a-vis whatever they were doing with the Russians. They were meeting with them.

What does it tell you that they have gone to a grand jury, a series of grand juries, D.C., Alexandria? And, according to the reporting, I`m getting other locales as well for grand juries.

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It is exactly as Paul said.

It`s a discovery tool where you can bring in witnesses who have to testify, who might not have cooperated with the FBI or other federal agencies, the IRS, whoever is investigating the potential crimes.

It is also a way to get documents that people wouldn`t voluntarily produce. And, eventually, the grand jury then evaluates what evidence they have and determines whether a crime has been committed and who the person is who committed that crime.

It does not mean that there will be indictments, but it certainly is a step toward an indictment. It is something that people would worry before. Theoretically, if anybody takes the Fifth Amendment, because what happens in the grand jury room is secret, no one would know.

On the other hand, things seem to have a way of being found out. So, I don`t know. But it shouldn`t ever be disclosed that someone took the Fifth.

MATTHEWS: If I walk into the room and I`m Bob Mueller, he is an impressive-looking fellow with that attache case he carries around like a machine gun. He has always got it.

He walks into a jury of regular people, say, out in Virginia or here in D.C., and he says, I have got to look at the business dealings of this president of the United States or people like that, somehow identifies the people as public officials, and says, I want to find out what deals they may have had with Russia, and the only way I can do that is to see their tax returns for the last five years.

Do you think a D.C. jury, a grand jury, would be likely in most cases to say, whatever you need, counselor? What would they normally do on some request like that for a subpoena?

WINE-BANKS: I would say they absolutely would.

And he has very valid reasons for doing it. It can provide the motive for any conduct in this case. There`s obviously a close and loyal relationship between President Trump and the Russian government. And why is that? What is the connection?

Did it start during Miss Universe contest? Is there public funding from the Russian government of any Trump projects? We need more than his tax returns. We probably need to see all of his bank records and to find out a lot more about him to get to the bottom of what the motive for his conduct is.

And it may be evidence of criminal conduct, in and of itself. Maybe there`s money laundering. We don`t know what is going on.


MATTHEWS: I can understand why the president and his people around him, including his attorneys, are worried about a fishing expedition, because that`s the very thing that I think Mr. Mueller could be involved in, meaning, how do we know who Trump owes money to?

He may have borrowed $5 million, $10 million here to cover a deal, and then, all of a sudden, that person who owns that paper on him sells it to some oligarch, and some oligarch owns him for $10 million. This dirty world of Russia, where it is all moving around, and it is all kind of gangster-y, right, we don`t know who owns the president, if he`s borrowed any money from Russia.


And that`s why the special counsel has assembled this ace team of 16 of best prosecutors in the country, with the help of some of the best investigators. They`re very good at following the money, which is paper trails. So, they are going to subpoena e-mails, bank transactions, corporate records. If there`s something to be found, I`m confident that the special counsel will find it.

MATTHEWS: What would be the crime, Jill?

Just imagine that what I just said is true. Suppose he has -- people tell me about New York real estate, it`s backed up by Russian money. It`s like movies are backed up by Chinese money. We know how -- there`s not a whole lot of people in the United States that haven`t been frisked for money in terms of capital investment in whatever industry.

They`re all cleaned. So, you go overseas to get money, where there`s a lot of money because of trade relations. What happens if he does owe money in Russia? Is that impeachable? Is that indictable, the fact the president of the United States is owned to some extent by someone over there? Is that criminal?

WINE-BANKS: It`s two things.

It`s necessarily criminal. But it could be. It depends on if there`s a quid pro quo that has been expected. It is also politically devastating. So, we have a president whose tax returns we have never seen, whose financial obligations we have no knowledge of. And he doesn`t want them disclosed for political reasons, maybe for legal reasons, too, but certainly for political.

So you have to keep in mind that there`s not just a legal question here. We need to look at the political consequences of this.

MATTHEWS: And we`re looking through a glass darkly, Paul. We`re trying to figure this out from what we know.

What we know, according to the NBC reporting, which is very sound, I must say, they dug up the fact that there`s a D.C. jury here. Why a D.C. jury? Why wasn`t it enough for him to go to a Northern Virginia jury? What does a prosecutor, an investigator get by coming into the District of Columbia?

BUTLER: Because then you -- where the crime or potential crime occurred, the White House, is in the District of Columbia. The FBI building is in the District of Columbia.

Moreover, prosecutors often use the grand jury to try out a potential criminal case. So, you want jurors in the grand jury who are going to be like the petty jurors if there is a prosecution. So these D.C. jurors will hear the evidence.

MATTHEWS: This is a tough town on public officials, historically very tough.

BUTLER: It really is. It is.

MATTHEWS: You don`t want to go before a D.C. jury, a petty jury.

BUTLER: I have been in front of this grand jury many times in the District of Columbia. They ask tough questions. It is much more casual than a regular jury. They talk among themselves. They can ask questions of the witnesses.

MATTHEWS: But to go back to you, Jill, tell me what you think it means.

Paul says it has to do with the nature of the crime being investigated. If the locus of the crime, the location of it was the White House, for example, something to do with obstruction of justice once the president took office, in other words, post-January 20 of this year, it would be in D.C., or if it had something to do with the FBI.

Some people say it`s the traffic jam from here to the grand jury in Virginia. It is 10 miles of bad traffic, and that`s why Mr. Mueller wants to have a grand jury here.

Could it be that basic and convenient that he would do something like this?

WINE-BANKS: I don`t think it is for the convenience of the prosecutors.

But it also is true that a federal grand jury will take the evidence wherever it goes. And so, although they started out with one investigation, which was collusion with the Russian government, it quickly grew to obstruction of justice in the White House.

But now it`s grown to obstruction of justice or taking something of value from a foreign national, which is illegal, in New York. And I think that the grand jury could investigate all those things. But it may be that the Alexandria grand jury is expiring and they need a new grand jury. So, I don`t know what the scheduling is.

MATTHEWS: Could it also be that you have White House witnesses being called, and just for their convenience, they can walk across the street or down Pennsylvania Avenue six or seven blocks and be at the federal building, and they can`t complain about their time being misused? That could be it, too.

WINE-BANKS: It could be. It could be, yes.


Let`s get to the serious stuff here. Donald Trump acts like there`s some sort of red line, like there is with using chemical weapons in Syria, that somehow he`s going to hold Mueller too, like he can only do Russia stuff.

But if you read the mandate that Mueller is operating under, it is anything that arises, any matter that has arisen or does arise. So, it does include that sort of tributaries and archipelago thing that goes out into Monica, goes out into Paula Jones. Unfairly or not, he is getting audited.

BUTLER: Yes, that`s right.

So, there`s always mission creep with these special counsel investigations. As you said...

MATTHEWS: Jell-O, the Jell-O sticks.

BUTLER: Right. Clinton started out with a failed Whitewater real estate transaction, ended up with a stained blue dress.


BUTLER: But Jill is right. These are secret processes.

But I will bet Mueller doesn`t mind this leak, because now he`s kind of -- Trump has kind of boxed Mueller in. If Trump tries to fire the special counsel now, it is going to look like more evidence of obstruction of justice.

MATTHEWS: Because he said that`s what his problem is.

BUTLER: Yes, that`s right.

MATTHEWS: Like he did when he fired Comey and told the Russians, oh, I did it because of this Russia thing.

BUTLER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Trump has a funny way of eventually sort of letting the truth out.

BUTLER: He`s transparent.


MATTHEWS: If you listen to him long enough.

Paul Butler, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much coming on, both of you. Great expertise.

Up next: President Trump promised to drain the swamp, remember that, and get things done in D.C. here. But as he and the Congress begin their summer vacations, what do you have to show?

They don`t have much to show. They got Gorsuch in, but they got rid of the filibuster rule. Of course they got him in. They didn`t have the 60 votes, so they said 50 is enough.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical CEO notorious for hiking the price of a lifesaving medication, has been convicted of securities fraud. No sentencing date has been set.

And shocking video has been released of a violent crash in Michigan. It shows a pickup truck plowing through a bus stop. Everyone survived -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the special counsel probe into Russian interference election heats up still, President Trump has left the White House for a 17-day -- quote -- "working vacation" -- close quote -- at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Though the relocation is due to planned West Wing renovations, they say, the president has spent about 30 percent, or 59 days of his 196 days in office, visiting a property that he owns, also advertising it at the same time, of course.

On the campaign trail, he frequently criticized President Obama for taking vacations. Let`s watch that action.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to fight for every American in every last part of this nation.

We have -- we have a president who doesn`t fight. He goes out and plays golf all the time. If you love what you do, you don`t take vacations. You`re happy. I love working. I`m not a vacation guy, like Obama. He plays golf in Hawaii. He flies in a 747.

If you`re in the White House, who wants to take a vacation? You`re in the White House. What`s better than the White House? Why these vacations?

I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations, if I take them at all. There`s no time for vacation. We`re not going to be big on vacation.




MATTHEWS: It is ludicrous. I can`t stop laughing.

Howard and I have been through this so many times, the difference between his notion of reality before he was elected and his notion of reality now. Doesn`t he call, Howard, it`s a dump, like Bette Davis? It`s a dump.


MATTHEWS: Now, he said you can`t want to go anywhere once you`re in there.

Anyway, Howard Fineman, of course we all know, global editorial director for The Huffington Post and an MSNBC political analyst.

You have got the toughest job tonight. Explain what Trump doing nothing is going to do to his situation? He is hiding. What did he say, Joe Louis would say? They can run, but they can`t hide.

FINEMAN: Well, given what has happened to his popularity and the lack of success that he`s had so far, I`m not sure it can hurt him to get out of town for a while.

I think the more he`s been on the screen, the more he`s been an issue, the more he has been on Twitter, the more his overall approval rating has gone down.

Now, he is still firm, solid with the 32 or 33 percent of the American public who adores anything he does and they like him personally. But with everybody else, all the independents -- he`s lost the independents. He may as well go away for a while.

MATTHEWS: Did you notice any pattern? I thought I noticed a pattern. My memory may not serve me here.

I thought that his true north was better than his day to day. In other words, if he didn`t get in the news on any given day, he would do better.

FINEMAN: Yes, that`s what I`m saying, because, generally, he emphasizes the contentiousness of his approach to everything.

His problem has been, from the moment he stepped on the stage here officially, which was his inaugural, he`s been at war with everybody here. And while that`s great for his base, it is not good for the rest of the country, his popularity, or lack thereof, and it is not good for getting things done around here.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about this vacation thing.

Do presidents -- they all go on vacation and they all play golf, maybe with the exception of Jimmy Carter. And he didn`t get benefit from any of that. He didn`t get in the yacht.

His people, the regular people making regular incomes, make $40,000 a year or whatever, they`re making regular income, maybe a bit more, they identify with working regular people. And yet Trump is obviously a billionaire of some kind.

Does that bother them?


MATTHEWS: It seems like they like it, like they like Frank Sinatra being a billionaire.


He is their billionaire. That`s what they think.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well said.

FINEMAN: And having attended many, many Trump rallies, and having spent years covering people in the parts of the country that he won...


MATTHEWS: We`re looking at the lavish life of a president here.

FINEMAN: They think -- his supporters think, you know what? Yes, he`s a rich billionaire, but he`s our billionaire. And he is going to use all of his wiles and all of his skills and all of his deliberate business selfishness on our behalf.

Now, will they ever catch up with the fact, even though, for example, there were 200,000 jobs created in the last month, that real wages, especially of people in the mines and in the factories, have not gone up. Those wages have not gone up at all.

But that particular fact is not affecting their overall view of Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: When will that catch up to him?

FINEMAN: I don`t know. As long as the economy stays strong, which it is right now, I`m not sure it will.

But, right now, his doing that stuff at Bedminster, they`re all living the fantasy life through him.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, you`re right.

And, by the way, the members of the golf clubs of the United States are all better off than they were when he got elected.

FINEMAN: Well, that`s true. You`re not asking about those people.

MATTHEWS: The wealthy people have done really well.

FINEMAN: They have done fantastically. But even the working-class people who voted for Trump are with him right now.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman.


FINEMAN: Certainly.

MATTHEWS: Up next: General John Kelly has been tasked -- tasked and asked to bring discipline to the White House. But he hasn`t reined in the president just yet. Trump is still tweeting. And the leaking goes on, and still calling the Russian investigation a hoax.

Well, the Roundtable is going to weigh in on this. Has this guy Kelly got any control, after all, on either Trump or on the people that keep leaking on him?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Kelly, he will do a spectacular job I have no doubt as chief of staff.



That was President Trump, of course, on Monday touting his new chief of staff, John Kelly, General John Kelly. The retired four-star general tasked with reining in the general confusion that everyone knows plagues this White House. General Kelly faces the challenge of bringing military discipline not only to the White House but also to the president himself, the commander-in-chief.

And that said, "The New York Times" reports that Kelly, quote, will not try to change Mr. Trump`s Twitter or TV-watching habits. Adding that he wants to limit the posse of people urging Mr. Trump to tweet something they feel passionately about. Well, he ahs privately acknowledged that he cannot control the president and his authority would be undermined if he tried and failed.

Well, so far, in his first week of the job, Kelly hasn`t stopped the leaks. We know that. The president`s Twitter habit has continued unabated and now there`s word of more possible upheaval in the White House.

Well, "The Daily Caller" reports the three-star general, H.R. McMaster, may soon find himself on the chopping block. It quotes former national security officials as saying everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes. And one former official tells the outlet, I know that the president isn`t a big fan of what McMaster is doing. I don`t understand why he`s allowing a guy who is subverting his foreign policy at every turn to remain in place.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Margaret Carlson, columnist at "The Daily Beast", Michael Schmidt, reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor, Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for "Bloomberg".

So, Toluse, I want you to get this started. Let`s start with the top stuff that really matters -- leaks. OK, let`s start with that.

The president goes crazy over leaks. All presidents have, not just Nixon, they all go nuts because they think that somebody in the White House is working for the other side. They`re not sloppy, they`re not lazy, they`re energetically putting out stuff that`s going to hurt the guy, they`re smiling as he walks by in the West Wing hallways. They`re out to screw the president and he hasn`t been able to stop that.

TOLUSE OLORUUNNIPA, WHITE HOUS REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: And this week in particular, we saw one of the most significant leaks with transcripts of calls between President Trump and the leader of Mexico and the leader of Australia. Some of these pretty tough calls for the president.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever seen a leak like that before?

OLORUNNIPA: Never the full transcript. And we saw the president --

MATTHEWS: So, somebody`s physically got the transcript. Runs to "The Post" guy, "The Washington Post" and gets out of the building somewhere with his papers. I get the whole transcript for you, sir. And then he goes out and hands them, their verbatim conversation between the president and the Australian prime minster, and the president of Mexico in the most obnoxiously, you know, what -- undermining way. And he knows or she, whoever it is, knows they`re doing this. And the president knows that too.

OLORUNNIPA: And they know that it`s going to end up in "The Washington Post."

MATTHEWS: Front page, top of the fold, full spread.

OLORUNNIPA: And it shows that the president negotiating over the wall with the Mexican leader who`s basically saying, you know, this is all going to come out in the wash. You`re not going to have to pay for the wall. Just don`t say that to the press because I don`t want to be embarrassed. So, it shows Trump is not quite the tough negotiator when it comes to paying for - -

MATTHEWS: So, who`s -- you can`t deal here with trade craft because you guys will never tell me, but most people out there are going, if that`s a political appointment, the guy is a rat. He shouldn`t be working for a president if he`s a political appointment. If it`s a civil servant, the president must be looking for this guy right now.

I mean, this General Kelly must be on the beat saying who had access to that paper? What was the paper -- the custody trail? How did it go after he got approved, national security had a stamp on it? How did it go from there? I want to know every single person had their fingers on that and I want to start interrogating them. Isn`t that going on now?


MATTHEWS: You don`t want to talk about trade craft. You don`t want to talk about how you guys get this stuff.

SCHMIDT: Well, Sessions scolded everyone today about this. But going forward, I can`t imagine things will change because people knew yesterday that leaking this was against the law. But, politically, people are so motivated by this president to disclose things.

You`ve never seen the amount of leaks --

MATTHEWS: What`s the motivation?

SCHMIDT: People I think are very unnerved by the president and they`re willing to take the risk to put the things out there.


SCHMIDT: I think because they believe that there needs to be a lot more sunlight here. They believe the disclosures about Flynn which led to Flynn being fired. The disclosures about Sessions which led to him being recused are very important.

MATTHEWS: Why is it important? Not that I didn`t want those stories, but why is it important that we know the president hung up on the prime minister of Australia? Why does that help the republic?

SCHMIDT: I don`t think it is our job to say like, no, we shouldn`t go with this information that we know and we shouldn`t. Unless we`re really harming national security, I think our thought is, if we have information, then we have --

MATTHEWS: No, but the guy who put it out. I know you guys are reporters. You`re supposed to report the news. But why would a person working for the U.S. government who is employed by the White House think it`s their job to screw the president?

SCHMIDT: I`m not going to get into their motivation. I`m going to allow them to have --

MATTHEWS: Just asking.

SCHMIDT: I mean, my sense is that people --

MATTHEWS: I`m amazed.

SCHMIDT: That if you`re on the NSC and you`re an Obama holdover, you`re a career person.

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re doing what every reporter of the top papers now has done to me. Every time I raise the question of trade craft, how do you get this stuff in the White House, as it`s slowing down, is there`s less of a traffic than two weeks ago, you`re laughing. So, whatever is going on in this crazy titanic, the water is pouring in.

SCHMIDT: I just want to say, it is --

MATTHEWS: There is no limit to how much can get leaked.

SCHMIDT: I think people think it is a lot easier than it is. It is never as easy, at least for me, as it looks or it may look in the paper.

MATTHEWS: Why am I looking at the top of the fold and you or "The Washington Post" every day the and there`s a great story out of the White House that`s leaked?

SCHMIDT: I mean, I think what`s going on here is we`re putting in an enormous amount of resources to covering this story. It`s not as easy as you think it is.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s not zone defense. You know, man on man.

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: It`s not people doing leaking thinking that they`re -- it is a higher calling for them.

MATTHEWS: No, but if they`re political appointments, their higher calling was to go work for this guy.

CARLSON: General Kelly is probably there because of some of what`s been out in public and, Michael --

MATTHEWS: I just don`t understand leaking against somebody who appointed you. I don`t get it.

CARLSON: Well, there -- some people, there`s always a line when you leave a White House.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. I`m all for the truth getting out. I just thought -- sometimes you like the get something done but you don`t like the person who did it. I know that. Toluse?

CARLSON: Remember, you know, Sean Spicer --

OLORUNNIPA: This White House, there is also a lot of leaking as part of the palace intrigue, you know, undermining your opponent within the administration. Sometimes leaking something that will make someone else within the administration look bad and maybe allow to you get a leg up.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back to Margaret in a minute.

The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, they`ll tell me things I don`t.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Well, amid all the other news today, we also got a big jobs report. U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, more than analysts expected. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent. That`s actually a 16-year low.

And with this latest jobs report, President Trump has hit a milestone. More than a million jobs had been added to the U.S. economy during his time in office, just six months.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Margaret, take your time. Tell me something I don`t know. We`ve got some time today.

CARLSON: So, Chris, you remember the movie, "The Butler"? Enough to make you cry.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, about the White House.

CARLSON: Such a sacred duty, being an usher in the White House. You work your way up. A lot of military people hold job of chief usher. Well, Trump fired the chief usher of the White House and has put in place the clerk at the Trump Hotel here in Washington as the chief usher.

MATTHEWS: He`s allowed to do that?

CARLSON: Yes. Well, you know, you`re president. You`re allowed to --

MATTHEWS: I thought those jobs were protected.

CARLSON: No, they`re not civil service jobs. There are people who hold civil service jobs.

MATTHEWS: Will this person have the dignity of the office? Because those guys are always very dignified.

CARLSON: Which the clerks at the Trump Hotel?

MATTHEWS: No, the guys who are working for the White House.

CARLSON: No, no, I`m thinking, you oversee about 100 people. It`s a big job.

MATTHEWS: I know, grand people.


SCHMIDT: Despite the speculation about McMaster, the "Breitbart" story and stuff, he`s not going anywhere at least for the short term. The president --

MATTHEWS: Does Trump despise him?

SCHMIDT: I think the president thinks he may talk a little too much. He may go on a little too long in his briefings. But for now, he`s not going anywhere. He`s not going to go down.

MATTHEWS: OK, how are we going to deal with the problem? Trump won the election because of one thing. He said we`re going to get rid of stupid wars. That was a big part of his sales pitch.

The generals say, yes, we can deal with this situation in Afghanistan by sending more troops. But their answer was never with how to end it. We have to keep sending in perpetuity.

Any president is going to be told the same thing. If you want to survive in office, send more troops. Trump doesn`t want to hear that. That`s why he might send McMaster over there, maybe.

SCHMIDT: We`re 15 years in. And it`s interesting -- Afghanistan may give Trump an opportunity for a foreign policy if he can figure it out. I don`t know if the answer --

MATTHEWS: The generals say more troops.

Go ahead.

OLORUNNIPA: Chris, one way we would get to know more about President Trump`s Afghanistan policy is if he would do a press conference. It`s been 169 days since the last press conference. We thought he would do one today before going on vacation. He didn`t. He`s far behind President Obama who had five press conferences at this point.

MATTHEWS: You media people! Just kidding. It is an amazing statistic. He`s held that --


CARLSON: You`ll know General Kelly is successful if General McMaster stays.

MATTHEWS: Oh, interesting. I like that.

Margaret Carlson with a profound comment there, and, Michael Schmidt, and Toluse Olorunnipa.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re going to like it.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Friday, August 4th, 2017.

Last night, President Trump covered his departure from Washington with a barn-storming trip to West Virginia. It`s what politicians do when you`re about to head out of town, make a lot of noise. So, it seems like you`re still here.

It will no doubt work with supporters, the Trump people. Like everyone else, they appreciate an August vacation and certainly won`t hold it against their hero.

But they are not the key figures in the story now. The key figures are those attorneys working at the Justice Department under Bob Mueller, those attorneys with a mandate to look at any matter that might arise in these investigations.

Pay attention to the look on those people doing the investigating. Compared to those West Virginia folks hooting and hollering and cheering up a storm at the Trump event last night, caught up themselves in the hoopla.

Now, look at the folks coming at Trump right now. Ties tightened, suits buttoned, not a hair out of place, game faces on, not a hint of a smile of any emotion, neutrally unsympathetic.

Look out, Donald. I have a sense that these are not just professionals but the best of the breed. If they can find a case, they`re going to make and make it solid. They didn`t take up this matter to see it dribble off into the last paragraphs of the history books.

Trump can tell his people this is all fake. But this is not a phony war. It`s the real thing. He can drop all the confetti he can buy, hold rally after rally, from West Virginia to Wyoming, and in the end, what will count is not the cleverness of his name-calling or the wildness of his charges, but whether along the way, through all the deals and all the meetings he broke the law that rules me, you and Donald J. Trump.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.