Show: HARDBALL Date: August 9, 2017 Guest: Glenn Thrush, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara McQuade, Alex Thompson
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Pre-dawn raid.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
Well, it is being called a dramatic escalation of the special counsel`s investigation of Russia in the campaign last year, in the Trump campaign. NBC News is reporting that the FBI executed a search warrant last month at the Virginia apartment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The surprise raid, which took place in the hours before dawn, came a day after Manafort met voluntarily with staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss that now infamous campaign meeting last summer with Russians linked to the Kremlin.
According to NBC`s sources, quote, "the search of Manafort`s residence is tied to the intense investigation into the former campaign chair`s business dealings and financial relationships both in the U.S. and abroad."
Specifically, investigators are looking at records tied to Manafort`s activities in Ukraine, Cyprus and other parts of the world. The raid took place just days after "The Wall Street Journal" reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is also probing whether Manafort engaged in possible money laundering. Today, Manafort`s spokesman confirmed that the raid took place, adding that, quote, "Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion, as well."
The use of a warrant in this case means that a judge would have determined there was probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed. "The Washington Post," which first reported the story this morning, says the warrant was wide-ranging and that it also indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge that they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all the records in response to a grand jury subpoena.
I`m joined now by Philip Rucker, White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst. He`s covering the president in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is on the Judiciary Committee, and Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. attorney.
There is a lot to sort through here. Philip Rucker with the president there, let me ask you this bottom line question here. This happened recently. We`re finding out about it now. Do we know if the president knew about this before today?
PHILIP RUCKER, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, that`s a great question. We don`t know. What we do know is that the day of this raid at the end of July, the president was tweeting his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and specifically pointed out that he thought Sessions should have gotten rid of the acting FBI director, McCabe, because of his family`s connection to the Clinton campaign.
KORNACKI: So in terms of Manafort now and what we`ve learned about this raid, about what Mueller`s team might be looking it, it looks like the reporting is pointing to his business activities, a lot of his business activities before he became part of the Trump campaign. Is there any indication if this touches on his role with the campaign at all, how it might touch on his role with the campaign?
RUCKER: Well, it may eventually touch on this role with the campaign. It`s important to remember he was not just an adviser to the campaign during the period of the summer, during the general election, he was the campaign chairman, the top, the number one official advising Donald Trump on his campaign as he assumed the Republican nomination and began the fight with Hillary Clinton.
But he also has a decorated career over many years as a highly paid political consultant abroad, including work for many years in Ukraine for a political party connected to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
And so you have to imagine that his work in Ukraine, his payments from that party overseas are a subject of what Mueller is trying get to the bottom of here.
KORNACKI: Yes. Senator Blumenthal, I`m curious. You know, you`re a former prosecutor, the attorney general there in Connecticut, before going to the U.S. Senate. What do you make of this news about this warrant being executed on the man who had been the chair of Donald Trump`s presidential campaign?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s a highly significant, even stunning development. This kind of pre-dawn raid, a search and seizure without any advance notice, is typical of the most serious criminal investigations, especially dealing with a target or a witness who is uncooperative or untrusted.
So it decimates the claim that Manafort has made consistently that he`s cooperating. It shows distrust for him.
And remember that, as Phil Rucker has pointed out so well, these business dealings are extremely important. We can thank the press, not the Trump administration, for revealing them because the Russian playbook is to engage people abroad in these kinds of compromising business dealings, and in Manafort`s case, millions of dollars worth that may have involved money laundering or foreign bribery. And so they are extremely significant, and so is this raid.
KORNACKI: Barbara McQuade, as a former -- as a former United States attorney, take us through, if you will, the process here. We`re talking about this warrant being obtained, apparently because Mueller`s team didn`t think they could trust, they could rely on Manafort to cooperate, that he wasn`t being cooperative. In terms of actually going out and getting this warrant, getting a judge to sign off on it, what do you have to prove as a prosecutor? What do you have to show? What did they establish here?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, the most significant thing about this, I think, is that to get a search warrant, you have to show probable cause. It is a much higher standard than is necessary to issue a grand jury subpoena, which can be done as long as there`s any likelihood that you would find relevant evidence.
Probable cause -- and you have to articulate what that crime is and you have to submit a detailed affidavit signed by an agent detailing all of the facts that show that there is probable cause to believe a crime is committed.
A judge has to agree with that and issue the warrant. You have to specify the items that you`re going to look for, and you also have to demonstrate the reason you believe that those items are to be found on the premises to be searched.
KORNACKI: And what do you make in terms of going after -- Mueller going after -- going after Manafort here this aggressively? This is sort of the first big name we`ve seen attached to what -- to what Mueller is doing.
My point of reference -- I think back to Ken Starr, Whitewater, in the `90s. It never went where he thought it was going to go, but he zoomed in on Webb Hubble there, Clinton associate from Arkansas. I think he indicted him three times. The theory he had was he could somehow use the leverage of an indictment to get Webb Hubble to flip. He zeroed in on him.
Is there a potential here that we`re seeing prosecutor zero in on Manafort in the same way?
MCQUADE: Well, certainly, you want to look and see if there are any co- conspirators in a case that you can flip, is the term -- you know, get leverage by showing that you can charge them with a crime, and in exchange for leniency, getting them to cooperate against maybe a bigger fish, so to speak, in this case perhaps one of the Trump family members, the Trump organization or President Trump himself.
KORNACKI: Well, in June, Manafort registered as a foreign agent for the work that performed to benefit the pro-Putin former government of Ukraine. According to "The New York Times," the filing serves as a retroactive admission that Mr. Manafort performed work in the United States on behalf of a foreign power without disclosing it at the time, as required by law. During the campaign, Manafort also vouched that his candidate, Donald Trump, had no financial ties to Russian oligarchs. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs.
PAUL MANAFORT, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: That`s what he said. That`s what I said. That`s obviously what our position is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: We do know, however, Trump publicly boasted about the Russian oligarchs he met during his 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really loved my weekend. I called it my weekend in Moscow. But I was with the top level people, both oligarchs and generals and top of the government people. I can`t go further than that. But I will tell you that I met the top people and the relationship was extraordinary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, senator Blumenthal, this investigation -- certainly, the reason this has gotten so much attention, this Mueller investigation -- it`s about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It`s about what the role -- what role Russian -- Russians and their government played in the United States presidential election last year.
Now, you`ve got headlines here about Manafort, about business dealings, about all of the money he was making, how he was making that money.
Where do you see -- do you see, I should say, potential connections between that element of it, the business dealings of Paul Manafort before he was Trump`s campaign chairman, and those questions that I think a lot of people are wondering about when it comes to the Trump campaign collusion, Russian involvement in the election? Could these be just two very separate things and Manafort happened to arouse suspicion from prosecutors at the wrong time?
BLUMENTHAL: They could always be separate, but remember that Manafort received literally millions of dollars in connection with his lobbying activities and his so-called consultancy with the former ousted Russian- backed Ukrainian leader. And that money almost certainly came from Russia, even though it may have been channeled through the Ukrainian government. So there`s that Russian connection between him and the -- potentially the campaign through him.
But most important, I think, is the fact that this raid shows there`s clear evidence of some criminal wrongdoing and that Manafort is connected to it. And it`s an investigation of collusion, potentially, between the Trump campaign and the Russian attack on our democratic institutions.
And as much as the judge had to be convinced that there`s probable cause, Barbara McQuade is absolutely right, Bob Mueller had to be convinced, as well. He is a very cautious and deliberate prosecutor who knew full well what the impact would be when this raid would come to light, as it would inevitably at some point, and that I think is a very important factor here.
KORNACKI: Yes, and Barbara, we keep seeing this term. This was a pre-dawn raid. The sun hadn`t come up yet. The federal agents showed up at the Manafort house. They charged inside. They took all the evidence they wanted. Obviously, that`s a very dramatic gesture, a very dramatic move in and of itself.
Take us through the thinking. From a prosecutor`s standpoint of executing a search warrant that way, that aggressively, there`s got to be some psychology involved there. Take us through what the thinking is.
MCQUADE: Well, the mere fact that they`re using a search warrant instead of a subpoena suggests to me that they don`t trust Paul Manafort to voluntarily produce the things they`re asking for.
And the pre-dawn reporting is very significant. Typically, a search warrant is to be executed during daylight hours, typically between the hours of 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM to respect the privacy interests of the person whose home is being searched. You typically need to get special permission to go at hours outside of that window.
And so it would suggest to me that Mueller and his team requested and demonstrated to this judge that there was a reason they needed to go before dawn, that perhaps they didn`t trust Manafort to still have the documents. Maybe they were concerned that he was going to destroy the documents.
KORNACKI: And Philip Rucker, as this cloud has sort of gathered around Manafort in the last few months, we`ve seen publicly, Trump folks around Trump have tried to sort of downplay the role he played in that campaign last year. Talk a little bit, if you will, about the role that Manafort played last year. Also, it`s been about a year now since Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign, stepped down as the chairman. Do we know anything about -- still in contact with Donald Trump, still in contact with Donald Trump`s circle? Do know if -- if there are still formal, informal contacts taking place there?
RUCKER: You know, it`s a great question. I actually don`t know if he`s been in touch at all personally with the president. But he was a key figure in this campaign, and he has a number of allies who remain key figures in the Trump world.
And I can tell you from my reporting with Trump sources earlier today, when that news alert went out from "The Washington Post" about Manafort`s house being raided -- apartment being raided, rather -- it`s had a chilling effect on a lot of sources in Trump world. They realize that this investigation is real and it`s serious and it`s criminal, dealing with criminal activity here for the FBI to conduct such a dramatic raid on the Manafort apartment.
KORNACKI: And Senator Blumenthal, if there is a next shoe to drop here, where are you looking?
BLUMENTHAL: I would be looking to potential plea agreements involving Manafort or Michael Flynn. They seem to be the most vulnerable right now.
But I also, unfortunately, would be looking to additional Trump threats. He`s called it a witch hunt and a hoax. He`s trying to draw red lines around financial dealings, other kinds of intimidation. And this raid redoubles my determination to support legislation that will protect the special counsel and that investigation. It reaffirms the reasons that I called for a special counsel with the powers to do what he has done in this raid.
KORNACKI: All right. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, Philip Rucker, Barbara McQuade, thank you to all of you for joining us. We appreciate that.
And coming up -- one day after Donald Trump promised "fire and fury" if North Korea continues to threaten the United States, a dramatic red line that North Korea has already crossed, the president has now taken to Twitter to boast of America`s nuclear might. We`ve never heard a president talk this way, and there is new reporting tonight Trump`s national security team was unaware it was coming.
Plus, Trump administration official likens North Korea to the Cuban missile crisis. Despite the heated rhetoric, can we find a diplomatic solution?
And the bizarre story of Trump`s so-called propaganda document, his top aides battling twice a day to deliver him a packet full of glowing headlines, photos and screen shots all of positive news coverage.
And finally, the HARDBALL roundtable is going to be here with three things you might not know tonight.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: In 1984, President Trump was profiled by "The New York Times Magazine," and he talked about his desire to negotiate nuclear disarmament. The profile reads, quote, "Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament. Let him negotiate arms agreements."
"The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried. But he believes that through years of making his views known and through supporting candidates who share his views, it could happen some day."
That was 1984. Now more than 30 years later, of course, Donald Trump is the man helping deal with a nuclear crisis.
More on that straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It was a dramatic threat leveled against North Korea yesterday by the president, and according to Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker in "The New York Times," it was, quote, "entirely improvised."
The president was in a bellicose mood, they write, according to a person who spoke with him before he made the statement. And "The Times" reports, he had not run the specific language by advisers before delivering the remarks.
The president`s spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said today, quote, "General Kelly and others on the NSC team were well aware of the tone of the statement of the president prior to delivery. The words were his own."
The president is showing no regrets. This morning, he retweeted a "Fox and Friends" post on his "fire and fury" language. In contrast, his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, gave a more diplomatic message today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the president -- what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand because he doesn`t seem to understand diplomatic language.
QUESTION: Do you have any advice for Americans (INAUDIBLE)
TILLERSON: I think Americans should sleep well at night. I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: A spokesperson for the State Department said the entire U.S. government is on the same page.
Meanwhile, today, North Korea`s military called President Trump`s fire and fury statement a load of nonsense. The statement added: "Only absolute force can work on him."
I`m joined by "The New York Times"` Glenn Thrush, and MSNBC national security analyst Evelyn Farkas.
Glenn, let me start with you.
Just trying to piece together what exactly happened behind the scenes in this administration yesterday before the president went out in public and made that comment about fire and fury.
So, the White House is saying the words were his own, but the tone was something that was discussed beforehand. How true is that? Do we know the extent of the discussions beforehand? Do we know if the tone that he meant with was strategic in terms of where the administration wanted to go?
GLENN THRUSH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the tone -- I think they wanted the tone set at like an eight, and he did like a 12.
So I think the amp was probably set up a little high for most people in the White House. Look, Steve, my inclination, when I heard fire and fury, I immediately thought of Donald Trump`s chief speechwriter, Steve Miller, right, who uses that kind of language all the time, kind of the death metal Slayer language approach to speechwriting, American carnage.
But I have been told by about a half-dozen folks in the White House, and people associated with the president, that while that language has been in the air for a while, and he`s been sort of talking about it behind the scenes, more importantly, he`s been really getting riled up, even before this "Washington Post" report, about not getting enough credit for this 15- 0 U.N. Security Council sanction that included China.
So, North Korea, as we have seen from the "Times" magazine clip in the way- back machine and also a 1999 interview the president gave with Tim Russert at NBC, that North Korea has been on his mind for quite some time, and he`s been stewing since that U.N. vote.
KORNACKI: Evelyn, let me ask you about this response, this latest response, I should say, coming from North Korea, coming from the military there talking about absolute force. Absolute force, they`re saying the only appropriate response to this yesterday.
Apparently, on state television, they were talking about going after Guam. So, the president delivers the statement yesterday. Now twice you have very provocative, very bellicose comments coming out of North Korea. What do you make of that?
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Nothing.
This is -- see, this is exactly how the North Koreans speak all the time. I have an online -- in Glenn`s paper, actually an opinion piece that went online today comparing North Korea the a yapping little dog, while the Doberman pinscher, which is the United States, stands by calmly trying to take -- ready to take the nuclear bone from the North Koreans` little yappy dog.
The North Koreans make a lot of noise. They use words like fire and fury. So, it is kind of funny. It almost sounds like the president was reading a lot of reports about what North Koreans might say, what they have said. His language absolutely mirrored back their language, and it is not appropriate for the United States.
We are the number one superpower, the strongest military, economic, political power in the world. We don`t need to brag. It just makes us look weak, actually, when we sound like North Korea.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you, though. What can the president do now? What do you think he will do? If he`s made this statement yesterday, North Korea now -- you`re saying this is par for the course for them. But, look, he sort of put a marker down yesterday. North Korea said this twice.
If this is what they keep up now, is Donald Trump going to just ignore this? Should he just ignore this? What is the appropriate reaction going forward, given what he said yesterday?
FARKAS: I think he needs to ignore the rhetoric, because the North Koreans, again, as I said before, this is what they do. They`re afraid that we are going to take some action. They have to prove that they`re taller than they are.
But the reality is that Donald Trump needs to articulate to the American people, to our allies, and then to China, Russia, and then of course, North Korea, a strategy. And they have the pieces in the making.
If they could bring them all together, we could actually end up deterring North Korea, containing them again. What does that mean? It means obviously clamp down. Use the pressure that we have with these new U.N. sanctions. That`s what he should have been talking about.
That`s what he is so proud of, rightfully. Second, we should continue to deter North Korea militarily using conventional weapons, but also, of course, we have the nuclear umbrella that we extend to South Korea and Japan and our own country.
Then, then we need to have diplomacy. And this is where we say clearly to the North Koreans, we are deterring you, so that you stop presenting a threat to the international community, which is what the U.N. sanctions are all about. North Korea is deemed a threat, not just to the United States and its allies, but to the world. So, stop presenting a threat to the world, and then we will sit down and talk to you.
So, at the minimum, they have to stop their tests right now of the missiles, and no more nuclear tests. And then we will start talking to you about a way forward.
And then, finally, one thing I think that we might try now with this new young leader is some kind of economic incentive. And I think the Chinese would probably go for that, because it would also be not only something that they have experience with, reforming economically, while keeping a political existing communist and controlled political system in place.
So, in essence, there is a lot that Donald Trump could have said that he didn`t say. And there`s certainly a path forward that the administration can and should take.
KORNACKI: Well, Defense Secretary Mattis put out strong statement today. He said, in part: "North Korea must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."
And, meanwhile, the president tweeted this warning today. He said: "My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before. Hopefully, we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world."
For the record, NBC News reports there`s no evidence the president has upgraded the nuclear arsenal. He did order a review of the country`s nuclear posture, and he has requested a big increase in nuclear spending. But -- quote -- "the arsenal" Trump is boasting about is the one maintained by President Barack Obama.
But this raises the response -- I just read there, Glenn Thrush, raises this question about the president, about his use of Twitter, about the potential that he can use Twitter to make statements that are not clear, that are not discussed, that are not in any way done in consultation with anybody else in the administration.
Do we know how that facet, how the White House, everybody else around Trump is dealing with that facet of this of situation? Because, obviously, it is one thing if he`s going off after somebody on cable news he doesn`t like. It is another thing if we`re dealing with a situation with a country going after nuclear capability to land a strike against the United States.
THRUSH: Steve, we`re talking about the most serious possible -- the most serious possible consequences here. I have kids. We`re all in this together. We don`t want to see this get out of control.
And when the president tweets something like that this morning, it really just questions his credibility. Now, we have seen him elide facts. We have seen him misstate things over and over and over again through his Twitter account.
But it is particularly jarring to see him addressing these issues with such broad global consequence on his private Twitter account. I have a threshold question here. When he`s talking about other countries, and he`s talking about a nuclear standoff, could he at least use the official POTUS account?
And could we at least have some curation of that to make sure that these facts, this assertion that he`s already upgraded our nuclear arsenal, when he hasn`t passed a single budget, Steve, that really undermines his credibility in this sort of argument.
And the one thing I would like to just add to this, the thing that we really are looking at, in terms of the active space, is the border between South Korea and North Korea. If the North Koreans are going to do something, and where the flash point is really going to take place, it is going to be like we saw a number of years ago, the sinking of the South Korean submarine, these provocative actions along the border.
Thus far, they have focused their ire toward Guam. They talked about launching four more missiles in the direction of Guam, as they have done in the Sea of Japan.
So, I think the things that we have to look for in terms of concrete metric for people out there is, what is the North`s relationship with the South? And, thus far, as heated as this confrontation has gotten, it hasn`t become a North vs. South thing quite yet.
KORNACKI: Glenn Thrush and Evelyn Farkas, I`m sorry, we`re too long in this segment. We have got to cut it short here. I appreciate you both coming on, though.
Up next: another alarming statement from the Trump White House. An administration official compares the current standoff to the Cuban Missile Crisis. But despite the public theater, what military actions are being discussed behind the scenes?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He`s saying don`t test America and don`t test Donald J. Trump.
We are not just a superpower. We were a superpower. We`re now a hyper- power. These are the trying times. Through the Cuban Missile Crisis, we stood behind JFK. This is analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We need to come together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, mimicking his boss` bellicose language this morning.
In the past 24 hours, we have seen a dramatic uptick in hostile rhetoric from the president and from some of his staff.
So, where does this lead to administration going forward?
For more, I`m joined by retired U.S. Army General Jack Jacobs, who is an MSNBC military analyst.
Colonel Jack, thanks for joining us.
Let me ask the question this way. In terms of the audiences for what Donald Trump said yesterday, even the audience for what Sebastian Gorka said there, for this kind of rhetoric you`re getting from this administration, there`s the North Korean regime itself.
There`s China, who the U.S. wants to be sort of partnering, wants to be taking a more active role in bringing North Korea to heel. Either of those two audiences, is there a scenario you can see where this kind of rhetoric would bring the United States closer to its goal, or just could bring the United States closer to its goal? COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: No, no. I think this is superficial stuff.
At the end of the day, the only way that North Korea perceives that it is going to prevent anybody from taking out the regime is by having nuclear weapons.
I don`t think they have any intention of using them. I think they`re not very much interested in getting into a fight with the United States. And we`re not interested in getting into a fight with them. At the end of the day, it is a way that they have of ensuring the continuation of this continuing criminal enterprise.
KORNACKI: But the idea of the North Korean regime is, look, if we have got these things, they`re not attacking us.
KORNACKI: They`re going to leave us...
JACOBS: And that`s all they`re interested in.
What they don`t want to have happen is for their regime to collapse and have the United States then come into the peninsula and coalesce both the North and the South.
By the way, they ought to rely on China. China doesn`t want that either. So, they`re -- it is whistling in the dark by them.
KORNACKI: So, it is sort of an existential issue for them, at least in their minds. Look, we`re really vulnerable if we don`t get these things, vs. we`re invulnerable if we do.
JACOBS: That`s exactly what they`re -- that`s exactly what they`re saying.
KORNACKI: So, short of military action, if it is that fundamental to the survival of the regime, short of military action, is there really any way to keep them from doing it?
JACOBS: Well, one way is to work with China and slowly inch toward a situation in which some coalition that includes China and the United States, maybe China and the United States and Russia, guarantees the continued existence of the regime. Let them carry on torturing their own people, but without nuclear weapons. They`re going to have to rely on that coalition.
KORNACKI: So, what is the next step then?
Here`s the way I`m looking at it, because Donald Trump, he likes the idea of sounding tough, of sounding resolute, the rhetoric we`re hearing here. North Korea now twice has basically, at least rhetorically, thumbed its nose at him.
Donald Trump, if they do this three, four more times, does he say something else? Does he do something else? What does he do in the face of that?
JACOBS: Well, I think he continues to say stuff.
At the end of the day, it doesn`t amount to much, because it is not having an impact on how we act. The problem with Donald Trump saying what he says is that each time he says something hyperbolic, every time, the very next time, his remarks become less and less significant.
At the end of the day, nobody is going to listen to him. It doesn`t matter whether or not North Korea listens to him. We don`t care about that. What is really important for the United States is whether or not our allies and our uncommitted nation-states listen to us. That`s the disadvantage.
It doesn`t matter what North Korea says or what they listen to at the end of the day. That doesn`t matter at all. What really matters is everybody else. And we`re making it much more difficult to deal with everybody else.
KORNACKI: All right, Colonel Jack Jacobs, military analyst, Medal of Honor recipient, thanks for taking a few minutes.
JACOBS: You bet.
KORNACKI: Up next: As federal investigators zero in on Paul Manafort, what is the political fallout for the Trump White House? Can it distance itself from the former Trump campaign chairman, something it has tried to do in the past?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even before today`s news about the FBI raid on Paul Manafort`s home, the White House had repeatedly sought to minimize the role he played in President Trump`s 2016 campaign.
His former press secretary, Sean Spicer, a few months ago:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: Even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign and then, obviously, there`s been a discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time. The way that this term associates gets thrown out, and again, we talk about this yesterday, you all put a gentleman who was employed by someone for five months and talk about a client that he had 10 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But today`s reporting once again raises scrutiny over Manafort`s ties to President Trump and his associates. One Democratic lawmaker, Ted Lieu, who has been an outspoken critic of the administration, he tweeted: Dear Donald Trump, sure doesn`t look like this Russia thing is a hoax. In case you forgot, Paul Manafort was your campaign chairman.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable. Republican strategist Elise Jordan is a "Time Magazine" contributor and an MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Capehart is an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post", and Alex Thompson is the policy and politics editor for "Vice News".
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Elise, news like this obviously reverberates in a lot of different ways. But one of them I think is a very practical way. When you`ve got news that somebody so big has been the subject of an FBI raid, people in the immediate political orbit of a political operation react in very particularly way. And something struck me about what Philip Rucker, "The Washington Post" reporter, said when we had him on. He said the news today he thinks has had a chill effect on his sources in the Trump administration.
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it makes everyone a little uneasy, the idea FBI agents coming in the morning and knocking on your window and coming in and raiding your house. This has been an ongoing issue for this White House and it is really affected lower level staffing who wants to get involved if they might end up having the hefty legal fees, even if they actually did nothing wrong.
So, you look at this and it is more of the drip, drip, drip. This Russia investigation is not going away any time soon.
KORNACKI: Yes. Jonathan, it`s not going away. An investigation like this where you have a special counsel, you have the latitude that he has. There are a lot of different possible directions it could go and we will see where this goes here. But just the indications we`re getting in terms of what it takes for prosecutors to get a warrant like this, the fact they would execute it in the manner they did certainly suggests that the scrutiny on Paul Manafort has reached a level we haven`t seen with anybody else in this and it raises I think the immediate possibility here of the best case, the best case scenario here for the Trump administration would be that just Paul Manafort, based on his business dealings is incredibly jammed up. And I think they just hope it doesn`t expand any further than that.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: It doesn`t spread, that contagion doesn`t spread. The only problem is, Mueller`s purview is, it goes -- he has a mandate to look everywhere. The idea that the contagion won`t spread I think is wishful thinking on the Trump administration`s part.
And they should feel a chilling effect on the White House that someone who wasn`t, Paul Manafort was not some guy who just did a little thing for the campaign, with some insignificant figure. This was as if John Podesta in the Hillary Clinton campaign had his home raided by the FBI for whatever investigation.
There should be a chilling effect in the White House. The administration should be worried, because not only do they not know where Mueller is going with all this. They don`t know how long or how quickly this will be resolved.
KORNACKI: And then, Alex, the X-factor in all this is how the president himself responds, because again, this is not something -- whatever happens here, this is not something that`s going to be wrapped up in the next day or two. This is a long process. You`ve got a major dramatic turn here now. Right now, the president has been dealing with this issue with North Korea. But this is president where President Trump and how he publicly responds to it, not just now but in the days, weeks, months ahead, that`s an issue, too.
ALEX THOMPSON, POLICY AND POLITICS EDITOR, VICE NEWS: Well, every single day that he hears the word Russia, he`s going to get angry and fumed about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He`s going to get angry and fumed about Robert Mueller. That temptation to try and fire either one of them is just going to grow over time.
And now that Congress is out and he has more times on his hands, perhaps with no legislation coming, maybe that eventually, you know, he`s going to decide to move on one or the other.
KORNACKI: Well, that was in -- at least we had Richard Blumenthal, senator from Connecticut, on at the top of the show. That was one of the things he was talking about this movement that even some Republicans there in the Senate have gotten behind or at least expressed some sympathy for the idea of making the special counsel unfireable by legislation.
JORDAN: Well, and President Trump did himself absolutely no favors today by his completely unhinged behavior against Mitch McConnell. Why is he trying to go out of his way to alienate someone who the senators in the caucus really like and they want to keep in his position? So, he`s just going out of his way to pick a fight with the Senate majority leader, on the eve of what could be nuclear holocaust with North Korea if the situation is not contained. So, it`s really just absolutely baffling behavior.
KORNACKI: And, Jonathan, I mean, again, this is one of those -- there are so many different pieces of this. I -- again, the headline today is so damning obviously for Paul Manafort and by extension, Trump world. We don`t know if this connects with the central thing everybody is wondering about, which is this issue of collusion, which is this issue of direct Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. But where are you looking now in terms of -- if there`s a next shoe to drop, where are you looking?
CAPEHART: So many shoes have dropped. I don`t even -- I don`t even know anymore. I`m no longer surprised by how low things can go.
Look, the pre-dawn raid is a pivot in the Mueller investigation. The -- you know, North Korea best not threaten the United States again is another pivot point in terms of Donald Trump`s foreign policy and how far he`s willing to go rhetorically, compared to where the actual people who would have to implement whatever it is he decides to do, how far they will go.
It`s telling that Secretary Tillerson on the plane basically walked back a whole lot, the bellicose language that the president used.
But, you know, I`m -- I -- in terms of where to look, Steve, I am rendered kind of speechless because I don`t know where it`s going to come from. I think we`ve all had moments over the last six months where it`s like I didn`t see that coming. There`s no way I could even possibly imagine this is coming.
So I think anyone who tries to predict what the future will hold and what the next pivot point would be, or what the next shoe would be, doesn`t really know what the next thing will be.
KORNACKI: And that`s -- and that`s one of the other questions I think we have right now. Maybe we`ll get some answers to this in the next few days. But did President Trump know this was coming? Had he received word through Paul Manafort that this had happened, that this raid went down? That`s another one of those unanswered questions. But maybe some light will be shining.
The roundtable is staying with us.
Up next, reporting on the sensitive documents that President Trump receives every morning. I`m not talking about top secret intelligence. I`m talking about folders filled with press coverage, even pictures of the president looking, quote, powerful.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: Well, Elise just brought this up in the round table a minute ago. At an event in Kentucky yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Trump`s lack of understanding of the legislative process, saying, quote: Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happened.
McConnell also said he was, quote, not a fan of the president`s tweeting. Perhaps it`s no surprise that President Trump responded today on Twitter saying, quote, Senator Mitch McConnell said I had excessive expectations. But I don`t think so. After seven years of hearing repeal and replace, why not done?
We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
"Vice News" is reporting that President Trump gets a folder full of positive news about himself twice a day. Noting that, quote, some in the White House ruefully refer to the packet as the propaganda document.
Alex Thompson wrote that report. He joins me again with the rest of the roundtable.
So, Alex, it is customary in politics, politicians get a big folder daily, regularly. It`s got all sorts of press clippings. But you`re saying they are giving Donald Trump and the folks around him specifically positive news. Who is delivering it? Is this an order for him? What`s going on here?
THOMPSON: So we know that former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer were the ones who tried deliver it. They want to be the bearer of the good news, and that folder included things like screen shots of cable news chyrons that are complimentary. They were just news stories, they were tweets that were printed out that were positive. And then if there wasn`t enough request news that day, because the news cycles are bad, then sometimes they would go back and ask for pictures of the president looking powerful.
KORNACKI: Is it something he ordered? Did he say, I want this folder every day? Is that --
THOMPSON: We actually aren`t sure about that. What my reporting suggests is that Spicer and Priebus took it upon themselves to start this process because they wanted to show the president that they were getting him good coverage. And I think there`s a long list of evidence to show that President Trump likes flattery. And that a way to get your agenda passed, to even show that you were doing a good job, is to show that people are complimenting him because of you.
KORNACKI: Elise, that is true. I`ve noticed that. I saw Steve Miller, his aide, was on TV the other day, talking about, one of the greatest orders of all time, Scaramucci and the three hours he was on the job and they had that press briefing, he talked how many times about he loved the president. It does seem there is this calculation.
There`s two things if you want to reach the president. Do it through the media and wrap in it in positive flattery.
JORDAN: It`s amazing. I spoke to a former colleague from the Bush White House today who was in the fresh office and I just wanted a refresher. What was the press clip package like that went to President Bush? It was the same that everyone got, so that everyone was well informed about what was being said in the news and what was happening in the news?
And I`m pretty sure that was probably the standard process in President Obama`s press shop. I doubt that they went out of their way to get attractive photos to add this press packet. But who knows? We should find out --
KORNACKI: I wonder --
CAPEHART: -- that did not happen.
KORNACKI: I wonder, too, Jonathan, this is a president who apparently spends a lot of time watching cable news, absorbing media coverage, like the rest of us do. Is this -- is there a thought that this is fooling? I mean, he sees the critical coverage that`s out there. He absorbs the critical coverage that`s out there.
Does he see this and think there`s some other press coverage he`s not seeing?
CAPEHART: Well, let`s look at it a different way. What does it say about a White House, and senior staffers in the White House, the chief of staff former, and White House press secretary former, who felt duty bounds and also, desirous of carrying around this propaganda document to the president of the United States to make him happy?
To me, that says a whole lot more than, you know, whatever else he`s doing. And to your point, people are communicating to the president of the United States through press. They`re trying to communicate with him and trying to buck him up and get their agendas through, at least messages through, by giving him flattering information. This is -- it`s a terrible way to run a White House and a terrible way to conduct a presidency.
KORNACKI: It`s -- I mean, we`ve not seen something like this, where maybe the best way to get the president`s attention isn`t through getting a meeting with him. It`s through going on cable news and talking directly to him through the camera.
The roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three are going to tell me something I don`t know.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
KORNACKI: All right. We`re back with our HARDBALL table.
Elise, tell me something I don`t know.
JORDAN: We need to tune in on Monday to Colbert`s show, because Anthony Scaramucci is going to make an appearance, his first time since leaving the White House.
KORNACKI: Scaramucci on Colbert.
KORNACKI: I will be watching that.
CAPEHART: So I`m going to tell you something you forgot. I have this saying: sometimes cheap is too expensive. Sometimes you really should pay for the things you want.
Paul Manafort worked for free. And now look at the world of hurt, pre-dawn raids and things like that, that`s now facing the Trump presidency.
KORNACKI: And he`s at the center of it right now.
THOMPSON: Well, for months, Trump has been retweeting news and tweets from accounts he doesn`t follow and they haven`t added him. And we think maybe that these tweets are ones that have been printed out in the propaganda document and that he`s like, I want that retweeted.
KORNACKI: So, that explains why some random person you`d have no other reason to know, he`s suddenly sharing with 36 million followers.
THOMPSON: It`s possible.
KORNACKI: It makes a lot of sense.
Elise Jordan, Jonathan Capehart, Alex Thompson, thanks to all of you for joining us.
That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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