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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 8/14/17 Trump failure to lead after Charlottesville

Guests: Catherine Rampell, Derrick Johnson, Carol Leonnig, Carrie Cordero, Karine Jean-Pierre, Michael German, Ginger Gibson, Astead Herndon

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 14, 2017 Guest: Catherine Rampell, Derrick Johnson, Carol Leonnig, Carrie Cordero, Karine Jean-Pierre, Michael German, Ginger Gibson, Astead Herndon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Silence is consent.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

There`s been an historic evil in this country. It`s an evil that began with slavery, of course, an institution that subjugated millions of human beings with whips and shackles until it ended in the blood of a civil war. It`s an evil that reemerged as the Ku Klux Klan, founded in the spirit of slavery, which terrorized the country in the decades after that war, nor was it limited to the South. A full half century after the Civil War`s end, the 1915 film "Birth of a Nation" found a national audience, stirring and refueling a resurgence of the Klan for decades thereafter.

Well, the events of this weekend in beautiful, historic Charlottesville, Virginia, show that the KKK may have been suppressed but not extinguished. We saw that the evil whose seeds were in slavery remains still in the American soil, still waiting for its moment to rise again.

Starting on Friday night, white supremacists, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right descended on Charlottesville to join in a weekend of provocation and violence that culminated with the death of 32- year-old Heather Heyer.

What came next may have matched the horror itself. For two days, the president of our country not only refused to condemn this rising up of America`s ancient evil by name but dared by his strategic silence to side with it. It`s the same man who built his national following on his original sin of charging the country`s first African-American president of being foreign born, therefore, in his telling, not constitutional.

Well, rather than hold them responsible, Trump instead blamed "many sides," drawing a moral equivalency between the white supremacists and the counter- protesters demonstrating against them. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides -- on many sides.


MATTHEWS: "On many sides."

While out on the campaign stage, of course, Donald Trump was quick, stunningly quick to land a verbal punch on any rival who dared provoke him. At the slightest challenge, Trump would pummel his opponent with invective, nicknames flying.

But where was this invective when the country`s history clamored for it, when this country, his country, was stricken again by the outbreak of the centuries` old curse? Where was the impulse to be an American?

And do not doubt that the haters heard that silence of Donald Trump this weekend. They heard what they expected of the man who planted the seeds of his presidential campaign on the charge that the election of an African- American president was just too much to bear, so it could not (sic) be true that the man we elected president was some form of impostor. In fact, hate groups made no secret of the fact they interpreted the president`s words this weekend as approval of their actions in Charlottesville.

So how many days does it take for an American president to condemn the indefensible? How many days does it take to call out while supremacists, Klan members and Nazis for the hatred they embrace and the violence they stand for?

Well, for this president, Donald J. Trump, the answer is two days. Bowing to the pressure today, the president finally said this.


TRUMP: Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.


MATTHEWS: Well, late today, the president blamed his critics saying, "I made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realized once again that the fake news media will never be satisfied. Truly bad people."

I`m joined right now by Eugene Robinson, columnist with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, Derrick Johnson -- he`s president of the NAACP, and Catherine Rampell is also a "Washington Post" columnist.

Mr. Johnson, please, your turn right now. Was this better late than never, as you see it, or too little, too late in what the president finally said today after all these days?

DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT: Well, words don`t matter in this case. Actions speak. This president should have made these comments during his campaign season. He set a tone that allowed for individuals to feel as if it`s OK to spout racial hatred, individuals who feel it`s OK to hold up Nazism in a way in which they murdered a woman this week. It wasn`t an African-American woman, it was a white woman, who was simply saying that all citizens of this country should be treated with respect, and racial hatred should not be tolerated.

So his words today only came after pressure. If he wanted to take real action, he really should take a look at the policies he is establishing dealing with affirmative action, the policies he`s establishing deal with voting, the fact that he has a white supremacist as his adviser. So his words mean little. His actions will speak loud.

MATTHEWS: Gene, let me talk to about how do we interpret what happened this weekend of silence?


MATTHEWS: In common law, I believe, silence is approval, but I don`t know how to read...


ROBINSON: ... the silence on Saturday was disgraceful, I thought. I mean, it`s not what, you know, you want to hear from the president of the United States. You want to hear the president come out forcefully in defense of American values, in defense of the better angels of our nature, in defense of what we aspire to be.

And this nonsense about "many sides" was, you know, a sop to the right wing, alt-right, white supremacists who formed, you know, part of his support base. I mean, let`s be honest. They supported him. They`ve been cheering him on in their march. They, after his remarks, applauded the remarks and say, Gee, he wasn`t -- he wasn`t bad on us, you know? We...

MATTHEWS: He`s with us.

ROBINSON: He`s still with us. You know, and -- and look, this -- what penalty is there in American politics to say, I hate Nazis, I don`t like Nazis. And yet he couldn`t bring himself to do that. But Donald Trump has played footsies -- footsy with racists for many years.

MATTHEWS: Somebody said today, Gene, that saying you don`t like Nazis is a layup.

ROBINSON: No, it is a layup. It is a...

MATTHEWS: There`s no challenge for it. You just say it.

ROBINSON: But he did -- look, he did lead the whole birther movement. He -- you know, I remembered this. I read it and looked at -- looked at it today. He put out a tweet in 2014 saying President Obama is doing such a bad job, we won`t have another black president for generations, right? And you know, clearly, that`s the way he was going to judge future presidents by the color of their skin. He -- you know...

MATTHEWS: Well, you won the Pulitzer...


MATTHEWS: When you got the Pulitzer, I remember the series of columns you wrote back in 2016 about the historic nature of the election of Barack Obama. And part of that historic election was the fire coming from Trump about birtherism. I mean, he was basically running even before he announced for president. We couldn`t possibly have an African-American president! It can`t be!

ROBINSON: Well, yes, right. I mean -- yes, in 20 -- he was -- he didn`t want to accept it. And it provided a sort of safe harbor for white voters who are anxious about demography, anxious about diversity, anxious about a country that they see changing. And rather than talk about those changes and embrace those changes, he went with rejection. And you know, was that political calculation or is that just the way the guy is?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I was wondering.

ROBINSON: I think it`s just the way the guy is.

MATTHEWS: Catherine, your -- your view as a columnist -- my hunch, by the way, was a lot of the little guys who do all the -- working class white people who were ready to go for Trump, they go, Well, if a rich man like that who says it, he -- it must be true. A really -- a billionaire, so- called billionaire, at least, says this is true, that Trump -- when he`s saying that Barack Obama was born in Africa and somehow`s an impostor, Oh, it must be true because he`s rich.

I thought there was a lot of that craziness in it. But let me ask you about the president`s behavior this weekend. Open-ended question. What do you make of it?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: Well, look, I think it was unbelievably cowardly for him to not condemn in the most vociferous terms possible this (INAUDIBLE) Nazis, as you put it. And it`s just utter cowardice.

The fact that he gave in today is too little, too late. I think it`s absolutely no coincidence, by the way, that today was also the day that we learned from Fox that Trump is thinking about pardoning Joe Arpaio.

I mean, to me, this is someone who has been convicted of refusing a court order to stop racial profiling, illegal racial profiling. To me, this is a signal, another signal to his base that racial animus is OK. And I think it is no coincidence that he`s putting out these signals on the very same day that he is coming out with more vehement condemnation of the terror that we saw this weekend in Charlottesville.

MATTHEWS: Well, after making that equivocal statement on Saturday, the president was asked specifically about the hate groups behind the demonstrations. Rather than use the opportunity to condemn them by name, he said nothing and left the room. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

QUESTION: Mr. President...


QUESTION: ... white nationalists...

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President?

QUESTION: Mr. President...

QUESTION: Have you denounced them strongly enough?


QUESTION: ... would you call that terrorism, sir?


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s an opportunity there, and he didn`t take it.

While his remarks were roundly criticized by leaders of all political stripes, the president received praise from at least one Nazi publication. Quote, "He didn`t attack us, he just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him."

Mr. Johnson, he`s making his views clear, I think, here about -- he doesn`t want to be caught by his right-wing, most right-wing supporters condemning any of their worst instincts.

JOHNSON: Well, this is the equivalent to Woodrow Wilson showing "Birth of a Nation" in the White House. He`s pandering to a -- the lower denomination of this nation is not the values that we should hold. If this is what it means to make America great again, it`s the 1950 versions of it, and (INAUDIBLE) not great during that time.

We have to decide, are we going to be an America that`s looking forward, that`s inclusive? And I call on his colleagues, his Republican Party colleagues, to denounce his actions. This is something that has been taking place for a while. We started with dog whistle politics. Now we are open and notorious (ph) with supporting individuals who espouse white supremacist notions. It should not be accepted in this America.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re so right about "Birth of a Nation." I just saw a documentary on it the other night, and it`s about -- you know, this guy, Griffith, D.W. Griffith, puts out a movie that glorifies the Ku Klux Klan, makes them the heroes of our time. And it goes out across the country and people -- white people all go see it and cheer it. This is 1915. I didn`t realize that Wilson had had the thing played in the White House. But it was outrageous.

And we`re seeing -- we don`t know the total reaction -- everyone on this show knows. We don`t know the total reaction of what happened in Charlottesville. We`re hearing the outcry against it. But what`s happening out in the country? We don`t know yet if they`re not picking up recruits.

Members of Trump`s own party, however, were quick to criticize the president for his omission in the days -- in the hours and days after his first statement. Here they go.


SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: When people have driven trucks through crowds in Europe, he`s called it radical Islamic terrorism. He should use this opportunity today to say this is terrorism, this is domestic terrorism, this is white nationalism, and it has to stop.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, I hope after he meets with Attorney General Sessions that he`ll say definitively that this was, in fact, a terrorist attack.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He missed an opportunity to be very explicit here. These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump and the White House. I don`t know why they believe that, but they don`t see me as a friend in the Senate. And I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he`s their friend.


MATTHEWS: Well, Lindsey is getting better every day. Anyway, Senator Orrin Hatch, tweeted, "We should call evil by its name." He`s the senator from Utah, of course. "My brother didn`t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home." Wow.

I have to say, Orrin Hatch -- I was in his first campaign on the other side.


MATTHEWS: He never ran on his brother. Good for him to bring it up again, bring it up today.

And Marco Rubio said, "It`s very important for the country to hear the president describe the events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists." Well said.

Back to you, Gene.


MATTHEWS: It is -- I did raise the ugly question that there are people out there saying, We -- you know, Let them speak. There are people out there, the guys with the crosses and everything.

ROBINSON: Well, yes, we`ll find out. We`ll find out, you know, whether this was, like, good for the white supremacists. I mean, who knows? They -- they...

MATTHEWS: "The Stormer" got a lot of publicity.

ROBINSON: Yes, they got...

MATTHEWS: The newspaper.

ROBINSON: ... a lot of publicity, and it raised their profile, I guess. You know...

MATTHEWS: Duke was there.

ROBINSON: Yes. David Duke was there. Even in his sort of make-up statement today, President Trump did not call this an act of terrorism. I just thought that was interesting because he`s so quick to label other things. Even some things that aren`t terrorism, he`s quick to label them terrorism. He didn`t -- he wouldn`t say that, although Jeff Sessions has. Takes a lot to make Jeff Sessions look like a Civil Rights hero.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`s (INAUDIBLE) Anyway, in reaction to Trump`s comments on Saturday, the CEO of pharmaceutic giant -- pharmaceutical giant Merck resigned from the president`s American Manufacturing Council today. In his statement, Kenneth Frazier said, "America`s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy."

Within minutes, President Trump, of course, responded with an attack on him, saying, quote -- on Twitter -- "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from president`s manufacturing council, he will have more time to lower ripoff drug prices." Well, that`s the usual Trump.

By the way, Catherine, that`s a great example of how quick Trump is on the retort when he doesn`t like somebody.

RAMPELL: Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: When somebody`s crushed him. But he had no...

RAMPELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: He had a real -- he had a real hesitation this weekend attacking the racists.

RAMPELL: Yes, I mean, look at the level of pique displayed in that tweet or in tweets condemning or comments condemning a gold star family or anyone else who has attacked him personally. There`s just no comparison. You know, as to a point that you were making earlier...

MATTHEWS: So what`s this with Russians and racists? They seem to be the two -- Russians and...

RAMPELL: Yes. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... racists seem to be the two groups...

RAMPELL: They`re the only good guys here.

MATTHEWS: ... that get affirmative action with him. What`s that about?

RAMPELL: Look, they`re the ones who have said nice things about Trump. And the only people that Trump shields seem to be his family members and people who have said nice things about him.

But as to the point that we were discussing earlier about the long-term consequences of the president normalizing racial animus in some respect, whether it`s Woodrow Wilson and "Birth of a Nation" or Trump -- I mean, one thing that really terrified me about the events this weekend is how many of the people there were young white men, not like old racist grandpas who you can sort of write off their bigotry as, Oh, well, no, no, that was -- they`re a product of their time.

These are young people who are going to be with us for a very long time who have seen someone who has embraced racial prejudice use that to pave his way to the White House and see him as a hero.

The lasting legacy of Trump is not only going to be the kinds of policies that are abhorrent that his administration is pursuing on many of these issues. It`s not just going to be the fact that he has disgraced himself on many levels. But it`s the fact that he has encouraged and emboldened a new generation of people to pursue racial bigotry, or at least to think that they can get away with it if they profess it openly.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Johnson, the NAACP, of course, made its name big-time in the `50s opposing de jure segregation in schools. I mean, you guys won the big fight, your legal action effort. Vernon -- who was it...


MATTHEWS: Thurgood Marshall, of course, Thurgood Marshall, heading legal defense fund. Today, I mean, this is de jure, I guess you`d have to call - - something political, something in the political water right now seems to be saying, at least from this guy walking up the stairs right now, I`m not going to war with the Nazis and the KKK, for some reason. What`s the NAACP going to do about that?

JOHNSON: Look, this, for me, this is more akin to that period (ph) we call redemption, where we finally had reconstruction and former Confederate soldiers, still frustrated, still suffering through economic insecurity, organized the Christian Knights of the KKK. They were allowed to have a reign of terror. And as a result of that, they committed coups d`estats all over the Southern landscape, mostly going unchecked by the federal government.

If we don`t have a strong federal government who understands that American values should be one of intolerance of racial hatred, we will have chaos. We will have individuals who will be targeted. This is not simply a black and white thing. Those individuals also said negative things about the Jewish community. The definition of whiteness only became something that expanded when it became politically expedient. For many years, Irish were not considered white.

These are individuals who are trying to relive a past that has gone. And as a result of that, it could be Latinos today, African-Americans tomorrow, and any other ethnic group they may choose later. We need a strong federal government with a leader of this country who understands that we are one America. And as a result of that, those who spout racial hatred will have the 1st Amendment right to do so, but if they act on it, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Johnson, please (ph) -- teaching us history, keep the teaching up because I do remember the election of 1876, when the Republicans, in order to keep the White House in their control, gave up on Reconstruction altogether.

Thank you so much, sir. Eugene Robinson, as always, sir. Derek Johnson, of course, of the NAACP, and Catherine Rampell.

Tonight, the president`s heading to New York City. Right now, demonstrators are gathered already near Trump Tower there on 5th Avenue, where he will be spending the night for the first time since becoming president. He`s due to arrive there at Trump Tower in about two hours. They`re all waiting for him.

Coming up, right-wing extremist groups are being energized by the Trump presidency. When we return, we`re going to talk to a former FBI agent who worked as an undercover white supremacist who says Trump`s words and actions are resonating with those hate groups. Do they see him as one of them?

Plus, new developments in the Russia investigation tonight. Special counsel Robert Mueller`s now zeroing in on the West Wing itself, seeking interviews with current and former White House officials, including the ousted chief of staff, Mr. Reince Priebus, is about to be interviewed.

And the HARDBALL roundtable on Trump failing the presidential leadership test this weekend. His condemnation of the far right racist (INAUDIBLE) in Virginia was two days late, and his new ad, by the way, blames everyone else for his problems.

Finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch." He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Defense Secretary James Mattis says if North Korea fires a missile at the United States or a U.S. territory, the situation could escalate into all-out war.

Mattis told reporters that if North Korea fires a missile at Guam or anywhere in the United States, it`s -- quote -- "game on" and U.S. forces would shoot it down. Mattis also said that if they fired at the United States, it would escalate into war very quickly.

North Korea`s state media, by the way, said late today that Kim Jong-un has previewed the plan to fire missiles at Guam.

Meanwhile, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the president of South Korea that the United States wants to resolve the standoff with North Korea using diplomacy and sanctions, and that the Pentagon was preparing military options only as a last resort.

We`re getting mixed signals here, aren`t we?

We will be right back.


DAVID DUKE, FORMER IMPERIAL WIZARD OF THE KU KLUX KLAN: This represents a turning point for the people of this country.

We are determined to take our country back. We`re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That`s what we believed in. That`s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he`s going to take our country back. And that`s what we got to do.


MATTHEWS: That`s Trump supporter David Duke.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke.

And nearly 48 hours after racist violence engulfed Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump called out white supremacist groups by name finally.

But Trump has a long and tumultuous history of engaging in high-profile, racially fraught battles. Donald Trump rose to political prominence of course in 2011 questioning then President Obama`s birthplace. Here he goes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why doesn`t he show his birth certificate? And you know what, I wish he would, because I think it`s a terrible pall that`s hanging over him. He should show his birth certificate.

If he has a birth certificate, he should release it.

All I want to do is see this guy`s birth certificate.

If he weren`t lying, why wouldn`t he just solve it? And I wish he would, because if he doesn`t, it`s one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in history, period.


MATTHEWS: I love Whoopi Goldberg`s language there, by the way, that said everything as she held back as far as possible from this guy.

Anyway, throughout the campaign, candidate Trump was subjected to harsh criticism for rhetoric that many called a dog whistle to white supremacists.


TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

I think Islam hates us. There`s something -- there`s something there that there`s a tremendous hatred there. There`s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it.

You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs. You get shot walking down the street. They`re worse -- I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.


MATTHEWS: Get the point?

And, yesterday, in the wake of Saturday`s attack, religious and civil rights leaders called on the president to fire White House adviser Steve Bannon, of course, also Sebastian Gorka, given their association with alt- right movements.

The president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told reporters -- quote -- "Supporters of white supremacists, vile extremism, racial bigotry and neo-Nazis should not serve in the White House or at any level of government." Well, I think we all agree on that, at least those watching.

Steve Bannon is the president`s chief strategist and the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a right-wing Web site that is popular with white supremacists.

For more, I`m joined by Michael German, what a great guest tonight, a former FBI special agent who worked undercover to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups. He`s currently with the NYU School of Law. And Karine Jean-Pierre is senior adviser and national spokesman for MoveOn.Org.

Thank you so much.

Mr. German, your expertise is called upon now by everybody. What did you learn when you were undercover with these white nationalist groups about how they listened to politicians?

MIKE GERMAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thanks for having me, Chris.

I learned a lot. I learned a lot about this movement. I learned how they look at our country. And they know their history very well and believe that this period since the civil rights movement is an aberration from what should be.

And they have been suppressed by that, but they have always been there. This is a persistent issue. And the idea of politicians appealing to them through dog whistles is nothing new. This concept of right-wing populism has been part of our political discourse for a long time. But it`s been muted.

MATTHEWS: Do they vote? Do they tend to vote? In other words, do they get the most right-wing candidate they can get and vote for what`s there, even if they don`t go the full route to their right-wing position? do they vote? Did David Duke vote for Trump? I mean, that kind of thing, does go on?

GERMAN: Sure. Of course it does.

And I think Trump was a candidate that was very different. This was no longer a dog whistle. This was a bullhorn that he was talking to these communities through when he made the types of comments that you showed at the beginning of this segment.

I think they realized this was going to be a very different presidential candidate, and were happy to publicly support him, when typically that would not be the way they reacted. And, in fact, if you look early, they were very skeptical of him being somebody who would support the causes and the policies they`re interested in.

And that`s what I find most troubling, not just the rhetoric, but that actual policies are being put in place that are discriminatory, that are having disparate impacts on Muslim communities, on Latino communities and communities of color across the country.

MATTHEWS: Karine, your thoughts about politicians who support through the subtlety of their language the dog whistles occasionally?


I agree with Michael. I think this was a bullhorn, what Donald Trump did for 18 months. But I would also argue that it went deeper than just his 2011 foray. Let`s not forget the Central Park 5. He falsely accused them of being guilty, asked for their execution.

We heard stories about the Trump Organization.

MATTHEWS: And they were all acquitted.

JEAN-PIERRE: They were all acquitted. They were teenaged boys when he asked for that, brown and black boys, when he did that.

Back in the `70s...

MATTHEWS: That`s when a young woman was raped in Central Park, and these guys were rounded up quickly and judged guilty.


JEAN-PIERRE: That`s exactly right.

And so -- and then back in the `70s, the Trump Organization being fined for racial discrimination. So, this is -- I think this is a long history. This didn`t start in 2011.

And I want to talk a little bit about his actions. His -- the Trump administration has actually changed some policies. The Countering Violent Extremist program that`s under the government, he actually has narrowed the scope, so now it doesn`t target white supremacist groups.

Now you have -- you have...


MATTHEWS: I remember that. You`re reminding me of that, yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. You have After Hate that was getting $400,000 to fight that. Now they no longer have that money.

And it`s a long list of groups that are now without funding.

MATTHEWS: Let`s give some merited applause now to Hillary Clinton.

During the campaign, she gave a speech slamming the radical fringe that she said was taking over the Republican Party, thanks to Trump. She had this warning.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.


MATTHEWS: Well, in the wake of her speech, candidate Trump came under intense pressure to condemn the alt-right movement himself, but refused.

In the book "Devil`s Bargain," his chief strategist Steve Bannon explained why -- quote -- "We polled the race stuff" -- that`s his phrase -- "and it doesn`t matter."

Michael, I have got to get back to you. I`m fascinated by what you overheard. Here -- I understand nationalism. Our country is in a world that has to compete. And we have to compete with the rest of the world. I understand nationalism. And I think we get involved in wars we shouldn`t get involved in it, are not in our national interests. I really believe that.

But how do you exclude African-Americans from America? African-Americans have been in this country, not exactly by their own volition, but here since the 14th, 15th century. They beat all of us, most of us, to put it lightly, white people by several hundred years.

My family came here in the 18th century. And I just wonder how -- and the other half in the 19th century. How do they explain their nationalism being anti-black? How does that work in their heads? GERMAN: Well, again, this is a long history. They see their history going back to European dominance, going back to the British Empire.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s not to America. It`s to Europe?


GERMAN: Oh, yes, certainly. Absolutely.

Right. I mean, we always talk before this as a domestic issue, but, of course, Nazism wasn`t invented here in the United States. This has been an ideology and a philosophy and in some cases a theology that has been around for a long time and justified slavery. It justified segregation in Jim Crow. It justified the anti-immigrant acts that targeted other groups.

And I think that`s -- it was very relieving to hear so many Republicans come out and strongly denounce the violence and strongly denounce Trump`s refusal to denounce the violence.

But, you know, when we talk about immigration, I would hope that they look at their own language and how they talk about other people and when they talk about terrorism and the way they talk about Muslim communities, that they would realize how much that rhetoric divides our society in ways that become dangerous and provide fuel for these hate groups that they live on.

MATTHEWS: I think they want division.

But thank you to your service for our country with that underground work you did. Michael German, thank you. And I know your beliefs are along the lines of opposing these groups.

Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you so much.

We will have much more on Charlottesville and Trump`s failure to show leadership later in the show.

And up next: new developments in the Russian probe. Robert Mueller`s investigations now -- investigators now want to talk to current and former Trump administration officials in the White House, including White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. He could be back in the news if he starts talking.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Anyway, President Trump remains under fire for his lack of response to the turmoil in Charlottesville, new reporting shows that the heat of the Russian investigation is not going away. In fact, it`s heating up.

"The Washington Post" reporting late today that Trump campaign e-mails show aides` repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings. "The Post" writes that, according to internal campaign e-mails in March of 2016, an adviser offered to set up a meeting between the campaign officials at that time and the Russian leadership.

"The Washington Post" report comes after "The New York Times" reporting Saturday that special counsel Robert Mueller is in talks to interview current and former West Wing officials, including ousted Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

According to "The Times": "Among the matters Mr. Mueller wants to ask the officials about is President Trump`s decision in May of last year to fire" -- oh, this year -- "to fire FBI Director James Comey."

I`m joined now by Carol Leonnig, national security reporter for "The Washington Post," who co-wrote today`s report, and Carrie Cordero, who is former senior associate general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Carrie, let me go to this question.

Why do you think -- what leaps to mind when you hear that the special counsel wants to interview Reince Priebus?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICIAL: Well, obviously, he`s looking to find out what people in the White House or people who were close to the president knew about a variety of the different aspects of his investigation.

So, on the collusion piece, the Russian collusion piece, he`s going to want to know what Reince Priebus and others who had access to the president knew during the campaign cycle. On the obstruction piece, he`s going to want to know what conversations took place and what they knew when they were in the White House, to the extent that the president or others around him took steps to obstruct the Russian collusion investigation.

MATTHEWS: When an FBI director or FBI agents sit down with you, special agents sit down with you, they can ask you anything they want? Can they say, what did you hear, hearsay or whatever? In other words, what was the scuttlebutt in the hallway? What were they talking about in the White House mess? When did you first hear about the Russian problem?

Of course, we all heard about it. What was the worry? What did you hear? And are you entitled to ask any question, even hearsay? What did you hear from anybody?

CORDERO: Sure. Well, so they can ask questions, anything that`s relevant to their investigation. Here`s what might be going on. Normally, in an investigation like this, what would happen is, the investigator, the prosecutor would do subpoenas, request documents, sort of get all of the written materials or electronic data in front of them first, and then go interview witnesses.

What might be happening in this place, because it would be so dramatic and unusual and under scrutiny to issue subpoenas and search warrants and things to people connected to the White House, is, they want to do some interviews first. Starting with somebody who`s no longer in the White House is a good place to start.

MATTHEWS: Because?

CORDERO: Because he`s going to provide leads. So, he might be able to give them more ideas about who they want to serve a subpoena to, who else they want to interview, what other documents and stuff they want...


MATTHEWS: Carrie, can you imagine that a chief of staff to the president wouldn`t know the president`s worries every day about exposure for what he might have said or ordered with regard to Russian collusion?

CORDERO: Depends on how many conversations he was in.

MATTHEWS: How could he not know?

CORDERO: Certainly, according to the reports, Reince Priebus was present for a lot.

That will bring in the issue of executive privilege, whether or not communications that took place between Reince Priebus or others and the president are able to be uncovered through the questions that the investigators are going to ask.


Let me go to Carol Leonnig about this whole -- we got a great story from you about this guy Papadopoulos. He`s a young staffer on foreign matters for Trump campaign.

He said: How about I set up a meeting with all the Russians?

Now, my view is, why so much Russian conversation? I have been saying from the beginning. Why Russia, Russia, Russia? Why is there always that the - - what`s the chicken-and-the-egg answer?

Were the Russians telling this young guy, we`d like to meet? Or did he come out of nowhere and say, you know, what about meeting the Russians? Well, why not the Argentineans? Why not the Cubans?

I mean, why are they always with the Russians?

CAROL LEONNIG, STAFF WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, Chris, I think that`s the huge takeaway from the little sneak peek that at "The Washington Post" have gotten into this trove of e-mails, it`s why the frequency of discussions about meeting with the Russians. Now, I want to keep in mind - -

MATTHEWS: Why would they want to meet with the Russians?

LEONNIG: Well, it looks at least in one instance we have clear evidence that a group, an NGO that`s tied to the Putin government, and to the Kremlin, that that group which was created by the Russian government, an NGO, a soft touch for -- if you will, the Kremlin, reached out to George Papadopoulos, this junior aide, and said, hey, we`re thinking, it would be cool to meet Mr. Trump and his team. We would happily host you. We think Putin might be willing to host Trump and his team.

MATTHEWS: Well, how does this affect the meetings in Moscow with Michael Flynn and Jill Stein even there, and the meetings in June of last year at Trump Tower?

LEONNIG: Well, some of these e-mails are stunning, because again the frequency. But remember, you have a couple instances where the senior campaign officials are going, this is a bad idea. Why are we considering this junior aide`s idea to go to Moscow? And like --

MATTHEWS: That was smart. Who was this person who blew the whistle and said, we`ve got to stop dealing with the Russians?

LEONNIG: Well, Paul Manafort, surprisingly enough, says, I don`t know if this is such a good idea. Let`s make clear that Donald Trump is not doing these meetings. We`re not going to go --

MATTHEWS: Well, he owed 17 million to the --

LEONNIG: Yes, that`s another story.

MATTHEWS: This is so messy. Great reporting. Thank you, Carol Leonnig, of "The Washington Post". Thank you, Carrie Cordero, for your expertise and what might be coming with Reince Priebus.

Up next, President Trump took two days to condemn the neo-Nazi`s response for the violence down in Charlottesville, that`s the KKK people, this weekend. Yet he reflexively attacks those he perceives as his enemies. And that`s raised big questions about his leadership.

The HARDBALL roundtable comes back next. You`re watching HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump didn`t speak out this weekend and condemn the white nationalists involved in the Charlottesville attack. But he did release an ad, a TV ad, that called journalists his enemies. Let`s watch it.


AD ANNOUNCER: Democrats instructing, the media attacking our president, career politicians standing in the way of success.

But President Trump`s plan is working. One million jobs created, more Americans working than ever before. Unemployment lowest since 2001. The stock market, all time record highs. The strongest military in decades.

The president`s enemies don`t want him to succeed, but Americans are saying, let President Trump do his job.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m Donald Trump and I approve this message.


MATTHEWS: He sure did, and when CNN reporter Jim Acosta pressed the president today on why he didn`t immediately denounce the hate groups in Charlottesville, he called the reporter fake news. Here he goes.


REPORTER: Mr. President, can you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?

TRUMP: They`ve been condemned. They have been condemned.

REPORTER: And why are we not having a press conference today? You said on Friday we`d have a press conference.

TRUMP: We had a press conference. We just had a press conference.

REPORTER: Can we ask you more questions then, sir?

TRUMP: That doesn`t bother me at all, but, you know, I like real news, not fake news. You`re fake news.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring in our HARDBALL roundtable tonight. Ginger Gibson -- you can`t stop laughing at some of this ridiculous stuff -- anyway, with "Reuters", Astead Herndon is with the "Boston Globe", and David Corn is with "Mother Jones".

Ginger, I don`t know what he`s up to, but he`s not having a good time. This is not working. I mean, I think his party has finally turned on him on this one. The Republican Party is after all, if you go way back, the Party of Lincoln, if you got to go way back. But it is in fact the Party of Lincoln. They`re not proud of this guy right now.

GINGER GIBSON, REPORTER, REUTERS: It`s been clear that Republicans are not happy with how he responded. Cory Gardner, you know, Orrin Hatch, deciding to come out very aggressively against it this --

MATTHEWS: Why do you think they -- let`s play basic life here, basic American life. Why would a politician who runs statewide, not with a right wing group of people, but across the board in some states, even Utah, really not want to be anywhere near this guy on this?

GIBSON: I mean, this is one of those things that becomes an attack ad in a campaign. And it becomes something that`s unsettling for people. There`s a quick and clear answer that people were expecting Trump to give, he didn`t give it, and when that happened, you don`t want to be the guy that gets accused of positioning yourself with --

MATTHEWS: Supporting by silence. Astead?

GIBSON: And I think we see people who feel that way.

ASTEAD HERNDON, REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: I mean, those are the political answers you would hope they would come out, because it`s the right thing to do. You know, this was a side where the one side was white supremacists and white nationalists doing violence, domestic act of terrorism. This wasn`t one that really had a question of politics. And we still --

MATTHEWS: Why did he blow the layup then? Because I put in basketball terms.

HERNDON: That`s the question for him. I mean, this is a shocking kind of -- it took him so long to denounce this, it`s shocking in a way. Someone died out there. Someone innocently died.

MATTHEWS: You`re right. Picture the car ramming into a crowd is terrorism. And that`s what we think of in the south of France or in Charlottesville.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: But, Chris, he didn`t blow the layup, because he wasn`t trying to score points. You know, Donald Trump is never shy or reluctant about calling out any insult or offense that fits his world.

MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t he say, I don`t like Nazis?

CORN: Because he`s playing to this base. When people tell him the right thing is to do this, he doesn`t want to do it, he has Steve Bannon by his side.

MATTHEWS: OK, explain.

CORN: Explain?

MATTHEWS: What`s the politics in not condemning Nazis?

CORN: White nationalists, the alt-right were all part of his electoral base. It`s a small part, but by not attacking them, he`s taking a stance against being politically correct, from their point of view. And so, you have Steve Bannon who wants to have a right wing conservative populism, with a racial or nationalistic approach. And so, attacking these people undercuts that message.

Donald Trump -- you ran the tape, he came to prominence as a birther. He played with -- didn`t just play with race, he used race during the campaign.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

CORN: He doesn`t want to be a traditional politician called upon to denounce racists, because he doesn`t care. If he cared about this, he would say something. He does not care.

MATTHEWS: So, Astead, clearly, he`s decided if he`s going to run for re- election, or survive even these four years, he`s decided to circle the wagons. It`s going to be a white person`s party, because this -- not only that, conservative white person`s party, even alt right. He`s basically saying, I don`t want minorities, I don`t want liberals, I don`t want anyone who cares about this country`s history with race. I`m willing to exclude 60 percent of the country here maybe.

HERNDON: I mean, when we talk about him playing to his base, we`re talking about the president who has largely only catered to a specific white population. And when you`re saying circle the wagons, that abdicates what he said on election night about being president to all Americans. We have previously seen presidents, even if they won with this small segment of the population, take the responsibility to comfort others.


HERNDON: And even in his statement today when he`s denouncing the KKK and Neo-Nazis, this was never a word to those non-white Americans who were specifically targeted by these groups and who he took two days to even come out and denounce. Where was his word to them?

GIBSON: We know that Donald Trump thinks that if something works to keep doing it. He thought that the way it worked on the campaign worked and why would he change now?

MATTHEWS: I like basic thinking. That`s part of it too. It got me here.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.

GIBSON: Republicans think they`re going to move to tax reform when they come back in September.

MATTHEWS: I thought --

GIBSON: And looking for an easy win might go be to just go to the personal income taxes but they`re going to face a fury of opposition if they try to make big changes to the personal income tax. They could find that it`s actually harder than the corporate tax they`ve been fighting over for the last six months.


HERNDON: One of the dog whistles you may have missed over the weekend came in Trump`s speech on Saturday. He said he wanted people to cherish our history, which white nationalists love. They thought it was a reference to the Confederate history and the Robert E. Lee statues and monuments that they`ve been fighting to preserve.

MATTHEWS: Good decoder there -- David.

CORN: Off what we talked about earlier, I ran into a prominent Washington Republican today and I said so, it looks like Trump is going to bring your party to a crunch point. He said to me, well, he`s still learning how to be president. I said really? He goes, yes, the problem is he has no values. I go, well, doesn`t that bother you? He goes, well, he`s just president.

So, this shows me that Washington Republicans are still hanging on tight despite the discomfort with his response this weekend.

MATTHEWS: So, this prominent Republican saw you coming and held his ground, right?

CORN: He wouldn`t give. They`re standing by Trump.

MATTHEWS: It`s Republican culture to go along. I`m afraid Ginger Rogers - - I`m sorry, Ginger Gibson.


MATTHEWS: I was watching old movies. Astead Herndon, thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, David Corn.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. Again, he`s not going to like tonight. I think the country will, though. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, August 14th, 2017.

It took a while, didn`t it? When white supremacists including the KKK and other groups held that torch march on Friday, we had a president but he didn`t say anything. When the car charged into that crowd down there in Charlottesville, we had a president, but he didn`t say much. He called it a display of hatred and bigotry on many sides -- many sides.

When we had a president with two days to think about it, and he said the right thing. Yes, he did. He said racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups.

But it would be better if we had a president who got it right on instinct, who called it as he saw it and called it as an American, who didn`t need 48 hours of the country telling him what to say.

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

"ALL IN" starts right now.


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