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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 9/18/17 Mueller investigating social media

Guests: Chris Smith, Ted Johnson, Ken Vogel, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alexi McCammond, Phil Rucker, Astead Herndon

Show: HARDBALL Date: September 18, 2017 Guest: Chris Smith, Ted Johnson, Ken Vogel, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alexi McCammond, Phil Rucker, Astead Herndon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Caught on camera.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

In an exclusive report in today`s "New York Times," we learned that the pressure of the Mueller probe is fueling new divisions among the president`s own legal team. Two of the president`s lawyers, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, we recently overheard discussing an ongoing debate between Trump lawyers inside the West Wing, a debate over how many documents they should actually provide the special counsel, Mueller.

Anyway, the scoop comes from "New York Times" reporter Ken Vogel, who actually captured this photograph of the lawyers at lunch last week. It shows Ty Cobb and John Dowd casually and loudly -- loudly -- discussing details of the Russia investigation at BLT Steak here in Washington while he sat at the next table. That`s Ken Vogel, was watching them and listening to them.

Anyway, that Washington, D.C., restaurant, by the way, you can see here is a block from the White House. You can see it on the map there. It`s right next door also to "The New York Times" Washington bureau, an inconvenient location for a secret conversation, I must say.

Anyway, as Vogel describes it, the debate over legal strategy has pitted Cobb against White House counsel Don McGahn. According to the report in "The Times" today, Cobb appears more willing to cooperate with Mueller`s investigators. Quote, "Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the e- mails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation. But Cobb is butting heads with McGahn, who has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House," according to them. "Most notably, Cobb was heard saying that McGahn had a couple documents locked in a safe that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to." Fascinating stuff.

Meanwhile, NBC News reports that Trump`s long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will appear for an closed-door interview tomorrow before staffers with the Senate Intelligence Committee. He`ll likely be asked about the president`s proposed Trump Tower for Moscow. That was his business plan.

In a minute, we`ll be joined by Ken Vogel, who broke that story for "The New York Times," and here with me right now is Heidi Przybyla, White House reporter for "USA Today."

Now, what this tells me, when you simply find out that two guys at lunch over steaks a block from the White House are arguing about whether to give the guy the -- Mueller what he wants or don`t give it him, the different points of view, talking about it out loud, you`d have to believe that this guy, Ty Cobb, although it`s the name of a baseball (INAUDIBLE) Philadelphia A`s about 100 years ago -- this guy, Ty Cobb, with the weird handlebar mustache -- this guy must think if you follow the logic that Trump`s clean. Why else would he be saying, Give them all the documents, where the guy in the White House, who may know more, says, No don`t give him everything. You got to be careful here.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You read into the story. That`s exactly what he said, too, which is just so odd.

Can I just back up for a second here and say how completely comedically incompetent this is to be doing this in an open air restaurant blocks from the White House, blocks from "The New York Times" and to be saying things like that, Oh, we have documents locked in safe, like, within shot (ph) of a very actually well known "New York Times" reporter who covers Russia.

But yes, I think that he probably wouldn`t have said that, wouldn`t have said that he thinks there`s to the Trump Tower meeting itself, but he didn`t say there was nothing to the broader investigation. He also said there was documents he didn`t have access to because of this tension within the White House.

And what we`re seeing here is that while this may be kind of, like, a humorous Keystone Kops type of thing that happened, the more troubling thing is that the type of tensions that have marked this White House are now infecting this legal team.

They can`t afford to have that happen, Chris. They are up against a 17-man bruiser army in Bob Mueller. And what you`re seeing here is that same type of infighting that`s plagued the other divisions of the White House.

MATTHEWS: But it reminds me, like so many aspects of this case, of Watergate because you`ve got one counsel -- oh, wait, we got Ken Vogel. We got to go right now to Ken Vogel, the star of this story. Mr. Candid Camera himself. Ken, thank you for joining us.

Tell us about the optics. You`re sitting there at the restaurant. You realize that two of the kingpins of the president`s legal defense team are next to you. Tell us more.

KEN VOGEL, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, so I actually was sitting there with a source and having lunch and kind of trying to pay attention a little bit to what these folks were saying, but obviously, I`m in conversation with the source. The source gets up to leave. Dinner is -- lunch is over, rather. And he`s, like, Are you coming? I said, You know what? I`ll just sit here for a little bit and have a few more iced teas.

And of course, I was able to pick up all this conversation about these incredibly sensitive issues related to the legal strategy in the Russia probe just by sitting there and these folks kind of having this rather indiscreet conversation.

MATTHEWS: Well, you report that the uncertainty has grown to the point now that White House -- the White House officials privately expressed, as you heard them, fear that colleagues may be wearing a wire to surreptitiously record conversations.

This is getting scary. The people in the White House, according to your reporting, are actually afraid somebody talking to them is really trying to work a little leverage with the special counsel by wiring them and giving them some dirt.

VOGEL: Yes, that`s right. And of course, you have competing imperatives here. You have folks who are ostensibly on the same side. That is they are all being looked at to some extent by Mueller and his prosecutors. But by the same token, they also are, you know, in different places in the investigation. So what`s good for Paul Manafort might not necessarily be good for Jared Kushner or for Mike Flynn. And the same thing could be said for the lawyers who are representing members of the Trump family and the president himself and the White House counsel.

So what we have here is a disagreement over tactical issues, that is, the production of documents, but it`s also spilled over into sort of personality issues. And you have a deep distrust and suspicion among some of these folks to the point where we understood and we actually overheard Ty Cobb saying that he believes that some of the lawyers on his team might be spies for Don McGahn, the White House counsel. Obviously, that doesn`t suggest a comity and sort of smooth interactions among the legal teams.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make that, that -- let`s get back to that (INAUDIBLE) restaurant. Now, you were sitting at the next booth, apparently, the next table. How did you take that picture of these two lawyers for Trump without them noticing?

VOGEL: Well...

MATTHEWS: It`s a pretty close shot, it looks like.

VOGEL: Yes. I mean, I was on my phone, where I was actually taking notes on the phone while pretending to kind of be, you know, surfing the Internet or whatever so to not attract attention. But I did kind of hold the phone out at an angle and just tapped the camera in a way that I captured this photo.

And the goal was both to document this but also because I didn`t recognize John Dowd, the second lawyer. Of course, Ty Cobb is incredibly recognizable because of the giant handlebar mustache, but John Dowd, an equally important figure in this, not necessarily as immediately identifiable. So I sent that photo to my colleagues at "The New York Times" and asked them, Who is this guy who appears to be from this conversation part of the legal team?

And they said, Oh, that`s John Dowd, the president`s outside lead attorney. Kind of put two and two together there and realized, Oh, my goodness, I`m getting a real glimpse of what`s happening on the legal team in real time.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about substance here a little bit. I -- I -- by the way, congratulations. These guys, these tough guys like Dowd -- he`s one of the great flacking lawyers I`ve ever heard of -- Trump`s always right, Donald Trump`s always innocent, Trump`s always wonderful, blah, blah, blah. I mean, he`s a classic lawyer.

And he -- and the -- and the -- and the idea that he didn`t have to be bugged -- I can hear -- what happens to -- I want to get back to Heidi in second. But what happened when Trump heard that his two top hard-nosed lawyers were -- not bugged. You know, nobody wiretapped them. They just sat next to them and listened to them. He must say, Where have you guys been going to law school? What are you doing? What did Trump say when he found out about your reporting?

PRZYBYLA: Well, we don`t know about Trump per se. But we do know that John Kelly, the chief of staff, and Don McGahn, the White House counsel, were incredibly displeased, to put it mildly.

They called Ty Cobb in on Friday and basically read him the riot act, saying, You can`t be talking about this incredibly sensitive information in such an obviously public context, the concern here being not just potentially tipping their hand through the press to what their strategy is and tipping their hand to Mueller, but also a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.

MATTHEWS: Heidi (INAUDIBLE) talking about the potential here of telling us something we don`t know, which is one lawyer obviously wants them to give them a bunch of paper, to Mueller, turn over a lot of documents, limited hangout, as they said in the Watergate days, a little bit of hangout. The other guy says stonewall, which suggests to me, as we were talking with -- with Heidi, that one guy, on lawyer in this case, thinks there`s nothing to hide of any danger to the president. The other one says there is something here we don`t want the public to know. We don`t want the prosecutor to know.

PRZYBYLA: Yes, and they also...

MATTHEWS: There`s a difference of opinion...


MATTHEWS: Is it possible that Ty Cobb doesn`t know the trouble Trump may be in?

PRZYBYLA: That`s certainly possible. I mean, he was referring to information that he didn`t even have, documents that he didn`t have that he suggested that he wanted to produce to Mueller. He referred specifically to two documents that were in a safe. Now, we don`t know what those documents say, where they originated.

But certainly, the context of the conversation would suggest that Cobb wanted to produce these documents and that McGahn did not. Now, McGahn`s allies, the folks who we`ve talked to, say that McGahn is -- feels that his sort of role in this is not just to help shift the investigation away from Trump, but rather to represent the sort of institution of the presidency.

And he is concerned that by producing documents without a thorough review of whether they might be, potentially could have presidential privilege apply to them and be withheld as a result, or at least redacted as a result, that he could be encumbering not just the Trump administration in the future and its ability to assert privilege in, you know, this investigation or subsequent investigations, but even could be hamstringing future presidents...

MATTHEWS: This is the first time...

VOGEL: ... by potentially...

MATTHEWS: I`m a little bit incredulous. OK, I`m a little bit incredulous. I`ve never heard anybody in the Trump administration worry about the institution, never worry about future presidents. I am -- I don`t believe that. Do you believe that...

VOGEL: Well, it`s also true...

MATTHEWS: ... that Don McGahn is worried about the future of the American presidency and he`s working for Trump?

PRZYBYLA: Can we just point out here that...

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s hard to believe.

PRZYBYLA: ... Don McGahn -- there`s another factor here at play, and that is that Don McGahn is the lawyer who`s been with Trump throughout this entire episode. Don McGahn is the person, for instance, who Sally Yates, the former acting AG, went to and warned the administration about Michael Flynn, that Michael Flynn was misleading people. He was lying. He was lying to the vice president.

Don McGahn was also potentially privy to a number of incidents, including the drafting of that Comey firing letter, including the explanation of Don, Junior`s, Trump Tower meeting. And so there`s another factor at play here, which is that Don McGahn himself could very well become a witness in this investigation.


MATTHEWS: By the way, Ken, I got to give you credit for a new story you contributed to that`s breaking right now in "The New York Times," that Mueller`s prosecutors told Mr. Manafort, Paul Manafort, they plan to indict him, according to two people close to -- are we that close to action here, an indictment of Paul Manafort, the first -- first victim of this -- of this scandal?

VOGEL: Well, I would certainly not be surprised if Paul Manafort got indicted. I don`t know about the timeframe. But you see a number of people who are closer to Manafort who have been called before the grand jury and testified, including his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

But there are other folks who we understand who are in that inner circle with Manafort, who did that work that is being scrutinized for the Ukrainian Party of Regions, the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine who have not yet been reached out to. We`re talking about folks like Rick Gates (ph), Manafort`s number two in Ukraine. So until they get called before the grand jury or at least subpoenaed, I would be surprised if we saw an indictment.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about -- what about Manafort in your report?

VOGEL: Yes, I mean, Manafort is in the crosshairs. There`s absolutely no doubt. And I think that even moreso that these prosecutors will face pressure to indict someone, and if they can`t get the sort of big prize of this, that is collusion with the Russians, between the Russians and the Trump campaign, someone like Paul Manafort or Mike Flynn is likely to take the fall.

MATTHEWS: Given everything we know -- you first Heidi, then Ken. We`ve all talked, a lot of us on the air on this network about the power of this prosecution team. It`s been enhanced again today. A top woman in terms of money laundering has just been brought into the case, a very top person. You put them up against this sort of gang that can`t shoot straight, I`m wondering after looking at this latest disaster, Trump may be saying, I`m on the losing team here. I got problems.

PRZYBYLA: Look, the one thing they want to avoid is looking like they`re trying to stonewall, looking like they`re not being cooperative. And what did they do with this, with this story? I mean, the one thing -- the one big takeaway here that we have is that you have one lawyer accusing the other lawyer trying to essentially conceal things actually physically in...


MATTHEWS: Now everybody knows there`s a safe.

VOGEL: That`s going to pour fuel and motivate Mueller maybe possibly to issue subpoenas, which then makes the White House looks like what? It`s trying to stonewall.

MATTHEWS: Let me go in -- Ken, last question. What happens if they subpoena the safe and everything in -- everything that`s in it? Could they do it?

VOGEL: I mean, that`s -- very well could happen. In fact, our understanding is that what`s happening now is this preliminary stages of document production, and that what Cobb wants to do is get out ahead of it, to show the cooperation and to avoid the subpoena. But if Don McGahn gets his way and carries the day in this argument and they`re not producing things that are sufficient to satisfy Mueller, then I think we could very well see subpoenas, and not just for documents in the safe but for a wide array of documents.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Ken Vogel and Heidi Przybyla. Stand by, but (INAUDIBLE) right now. I`m joined right now by Democratic senator of Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Whitehouse, thank you for waiting for this.

What do you make these of these two developments, this "Candid Camera," if you will, situation with the president`s two lawyers arguing about whether to release the information they know the prosecutor wants?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, it sounds like Paul Manafort got a target notice...


WHITEHOUSE: ... along with the search warrant. So that would be how he was told that they were looking to indict him. That`s part of the federal procedure. But it`s the first time we`ve heard that, so that`s an interesting new fact. And this Keystone Kops conversation of the lawyers in a public place obviously doesn`t look too great.

And I would add a third piece to what`s happened in the past week, which is the three torpedoes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders shot at James Comey, which opened up an entirely new avenue in the case for Mueller. There`s a statute, 1504 in the obstruction of justice statutes, that talks about attempts to influence grand jurors.


WHITEHOUSE: So the question of Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, Who asked you to do that, who told you to do that? And then once you know who it is, you look to their motivation. And if their motivation was to poison the reputation of Jim Comey with grand jurors, you`ve got another count in the indictment.

MATTHEWS: What about the president doing the very same thing regarding Comey, trashing him again and again before, during an after his firing?

WHITEHOUSE: It`s the same thing. If you can prove that the intent in doing so was to try to either intimidate him, witness intimidation, or tarnish his opinion in the eyes of the grand jury, influence the grand jury and the action or decision they`re making, those are counts of an indictment.

And I don`t know why this White House hasn`t stopped this stuff. But it really looks like every time they turn around, they`re sending up another invitation to Mueller to run this down and see if he can add a count.

MATTHEWS: Do you know what room they have the safe in? I`m serious!


MATTHEWS: You got to start thinking about -- you got to start -- you got to start zeroing in on this little item of interest, the fact that McGahn, the president`s...

WHITEHOUSE: Didn`t Abscam start with a safe?

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, the president wants to keep -- the president`s lawyer is saying, Don`t open the safe. The guy on the outside, Ty Cobb, says open it. Where are you?

WHITEHOUSE: I think that there -- there probably are genuine equities to protect the presidency of the United States against having to dish out too many documents. I fully agree with you that the notion that this White House cares about any of that is laughable. So there`s at least a reasonable case to be made that that is a pretext, in which case what`s left is, We just don`t want you to see the documents. And that`s not a good place for this White House to be. That looks like coverup, that looks like obstruction, that looks like stonewalling.

MATTHEWS: It`s always great to have you on, even in this dangerous area for the presidency, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. I want to thank Ken Vogel, congratulate him, Heidi Przybyla, who`s now White House correspondent. Right?


MATTHEWS: Pretty big stuff.

Anyway, coming up -- we`ll see you in the gallery there. We`ll see you out there talking to Sarah.

Coming up, special counsel Robert Mueller is poring over Facebook records - - this is exciting stuff -- and the accounts (ph) of Russian operatives trying to influence the 2016 election. They`re going in to Facebook. They want to find out who`s paying for these ads, the money trail again, following the money.

And one big question for investigators -- did these Russian operatives get help from Jared Kushner, or someone else inside? Was somebody leading them to where to hit, the micro analysis of the campaign, the micro campaigning we`re so familiar with? Who was telling the Russkies, if you will, how to find out the voters they needed to identify in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? How`d they know exactly where to send their message? Who on our side, in America, was telling them? It`s like "The Americans."

Plus, politics was front and center at last night`s Emmy awards, as we`ve all heard. It was a big night for women and minorities, of course. But what`s so funny about ex-White House -- well, we`ll see Sean Spicer joking around. I`m with him, get out there, make a fool of yourself. You`ve earned it.

And another day, another nickname for Trump. He`s calling Kim Jong-un "rocket man." Very funny to say it, but what`s the impact over there? You know, wars started by name calling -- (INAUDIBLE) "Lyin` Ted," "Little Marco," "Crooked Hillary` -- OK, the stakes are higher now. It`s like Trump`s on the campaign trail, I guess he thinks, against North Korean dictators.

Anyway, finally, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch."

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: President Trump says he`s considering holding a military parade on the 4th of July, inspired by the Bastille Day celebration he saw in France earlier this year. Trump mentioned the idea during in a photo op with French president Macron earlier today. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do want to say that I was your guest at Bastille Day.

And it was one of the greatest parades I have ever seen. It was a tremendous thing. And to a large extent, because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I don`t know. We are going to have to try and top it. We are looking forward to doing that.

And I am speaking with General Kelly and with all of the people involved, and we will see if we can do it this year, but we certainly will be beginning to do that.


MATTHEWS: Kim Jong-un, he loves parades, too.

We will be right back.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We are requesting a lot more information from Facebook. And we have received some information, but there are a lot of unanswered questions.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff of California on the extent of Russia`s influence campaign on Facebook during the 2016 election.

We now know that a Russian campaign with Kremlin links bought $100,000 worth of ads on the site Facebook. "The Wall Street Journal" reported last week that the social media giant gave special counsel Mueller information, including -- quote -- "copies of ads and details about the accounts that bought them, the accounts that bought them, and the targeting criteria they used. Efforts to map the Russian propaganda effort in 2016 could lead investigators in one direction."

"Vanity Fair" reports that `probers are intrigued by the role of Jared Kushner, the now president`s son-in-law, who eagerly took credit for crafting the Trump campaign`s online efforts."

The article cites a November 2016 interview with "Forbes" magazine in which Kushner said: "I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook microtargeting."

Kushner has denied any collusion with Russia. And no evidence has yet emerged linking him to any Russian operation.

I`m joined by Chris Smith, who wrote the "Vanity Fair" report, and Clint Watts, former FBI special and an MSNBC national security analyst.

Clint, I want to ask you about this new report from "The New York Times" just breaking right now that the agents who did the search of Manafort`s home, I guess it was, his house, told him in passing he was going to be indicted.

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it sounds like this is the weakest link in the investigation from the Trump team, and they used this as an opportunity to sort of push Manafort in one direction or another.

I think they were probably looking for a way into the investigation to get some of that inside information. The other thing we got to remember is, the Manafort investigation seems to be the most advanced component of the whole Trump team.

Everything that we have heard in the past, even back to last winter, in 2016, we found that Manafort kept coming up in these stories and that he was being looked into both for his financial connections back to the Ukraine and for his dealings during the campaign.

So I`m not surprised that they pushed on him first. I`m really curious as to what his reaction was when that was brought up to him.

MATTHEWS: Well, when you`re told you`re going to be indicted, I think that sort of lights you up a bit, don`t you?


MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chris Smith on this other breaking story, which is Facebook.

What we do know? It seems to me that first we started hearing about Facebook and other Russian operations to tilt the election last year. We began to wonder now who are their insiders, as we always wonder, who helps them target, who`s their spotters, if you will, in the war, like, who is on the hillside telling us where to bombard on the Japanese-held island?

I think my father-in-law had that job for a while. And how do you do that? And who`s telling? And it doesn`t have to be Trump people. It could be -- I noticed one thing. There are people in America who are willing to work for the Russians, for money, Manafort among them, not for ideological partisan reason.


MATTHEWS: They are just ready with their hands out. These guys have money and they take it.

So what do we know about who would have been their spotters, in terms this, just the Facebook operation to target voters?

SMITH: Exactly.

We have known for months, reporters, investigators, that Facebook, Google, Twitter were pipelines for fake news, for anti-Clinton propaganda.

What these latest developments, Mueller subpoenaing Facebook, allows him to dig deeper into those channels, who paid for it, how sophisticated the targeting was. It should put to rest certainly Trump`s notion that it was a 400-pound teenager in his bedroom somewhere.


SMITH: And the history of the campaigns, you talk to investigators, you talk to people who have worked in Eastern Europe, yes, the Kremlin and their intermediaries pay for it and give the general directions, but in Moldova, in Montenegro, wherever they have tried to sway elections, they have local proxies.

They have people literally translating it into the vernacular, and targeting it in ways that they think are going to be effective. As you said, there is no direct connection between Kushner and the Russian propaganda, election meddling operation.

But there`s a real confluence of interests and of technology. Is it possible the Russians learned how to target African-American women in Michigan by watching lots and lots of MSNBC? Sure, that`s possible.

But when you have the Trump campaign proudly taking credit for slicing and dicing these swing voters -- Cambridge Analytica, the big data firm that they brought on board, claims to be able to develop psychographic profiles of voters. A lot of these people were playing in the same space. The Russians certainly are opportunists.

And in the chaos of the Trump campaign, could the Trump folks have brought them in or helped them unwittingly? Sure, that`s possible, too.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Clint for a general analysis.

Clint, we have got to trust you on a lot of this stuff because we don`t know it. But I watch "The Americans." I`m trying to catch up. I`m about three years behind now. I`m caught up the fourth years now.

WATTS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: But it does. And I talk to a guy who is a friend of mine says the top intelligence people believe that is a pretty accurate portrayal on how the Russians in the old Cold War days were able to recruit.

And also I`m wondering how the -- some day, somebody is going to write how brilliant the Trump campaign was able to find just enough votes in those four or five states, industrial votes, and just the right attitudes that they could tweak, the buttons they could push to influence people to say, you know, forget everything you care about Trump, the bad language, the bad attitude towards women, the lack of any preparation for the job, the stupidity of many of the things he says.

The only thing that matters in this race is send a message to the establishment. Somebody was able to do that. Maybe it was Trump. Did he get any help? What do we know? Did he get any help in his microtargeting of particular people who were subject to that attitude of anti- establishment, so sick of the regular party, Republicans in the primaries, Democrats in the generals, they were willing to say, no, no, I will try this new guy?

WATTS: Yes. In terms of microtargeting, it`s not complex. I could do microtargeting of Russia from my house if I wanted to.

MATTHEWS: Could a Russian do it?

WATTS: Yes, absolutely.

And I can tell you this. The Russians were in the U.S. audience base going well back into 2015. And they were focused on social issues, anti- government, race issues, going all the way into 2016.

I think the key thing to look at, though, is what the Russians did that no one else did. They hacked materials and released it out into the wild, so that a Kushner Digital Campaign or a Cambridge Analytica or any other political campaign was citing narratives that were ultimately set by WikiLeaks drops and DCLeaks drops.

If anyone cited Bernie Sanders got a raw deal, that was a narrative powered by the DNC leaks, which was conducted through Russian hacking. So all the nuclear fuel behind all of this influence in social media ultimately comes back to the Russian hand of hacking.

In terms of the microtargeting and a lot of these companies that think they can do all the psychographic stuff, I equate it to digital snake oil. I have seen these companies before and worked with them in counterterrorism space trying to undermine and doing countering violent extremism. And they could never really deliver on those things.

MATTHEWS: Well, if a pollster ever gets one of these elections right, he can live out for it, dine out on it for the next three years, and then he`s tested again, and he blows it, and he`s longer anybody`s expert.

But you`re right. Trump looks like the genius in this campaign. We figure he got some help. And of course we will see if that`s true next time, when he runs again, if he runs for reelection. We will see if he still has the hot hand and if he still has the Russian help perhaps.

Anyway, thank you, Chris Smith. Thank you, Clint Watts, as always.

Up next: President Trump may have been 3,000 miles away, but he took center stage at last night`s Emmy Awards, as sort of the target zone. It was a politically charged evening, as everybody knows by now, and one that celebrated positively women and diversity.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Is there anyone who could say how big the audience is?

Sean, do you know?


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world.


COLBERT: Wow. Well, that really soothes my fragile ego.


COLBERT: I can understand why he`d want one of these guys around.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, Sean Spicer`s surprise cameo was just the beginning of a politics- fueled Emmy night. Let`s watch it.


JOHN LITHGOW, ACTOR: I have to thank Winston Churchill. In these crazy times, his life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.


COLBERT: Unlike the presidency, the Emmys go to winner of the popular vote.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.


MATTHEWS: Well, it was also a big night for women and minorities, seriously, with timely topics, ranging from domestic abuse -- boy, did they handle that issue in "Big Little Lies," a great limited series -- the dystopian society, of course, of the great novel "The Handmaid`s Tale," to a black woman`s coming out story in "Master of None."

Let`s watch a bit.


REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: It`s been an incredible year for women in television. Can I just say, bring women to the front of their own stories and make them the hero of their own stories.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: We shone a light on domestic abuse.


KIDMAN: It is -- it is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know.

ELISABETH MOSS, ACTRESS: Margaret Atwood, oh, my gosh, thank you for what you did in 1985 and thank you for what you continue to do for all of us.


LENA WAITHE, WRITER/ACTRESS: Last, but certainly not, least my LGBQTIA family, I see each and every one of you.



MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by the editor of -- senior editor of "Variety" newspaper, Ted Johnson.

Ted, I thought it was something else. I thought that "The Handmaid`s Tale," which was sort of an avant-garde novel years ago, is mainstream. It wins for drama. "Big Little Lies," which was glamorous in many ways, but it really talked about spousal violence, with the bad guy the bad guy, and the woman sort of somehow, for societal reasons, unwilling to come out and say this is a frightening, dangerous marriage I`m stuck in.


I think what we`re seeing is the fruits of having all of these cable networks, all of these streaming networks, the broadcast networks.

MATTHEWS: That aren`t being censored like networks.


JOHNSON: No, not at all. And there`s a lot more freedom.


JOHNSON: And I think the broadcast networks, you will probably see more in response. "This Is Us" I think is in large part a response to the competition from streaming, this must-see TV or this binge watching.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of Spicer?

We have had a big dispute around here. I sort of am the view, if he`s a flack and wants to make fun of being a flack, how can you knock it? He`s making fun of his B.S. about crowd size. He`s making fun of himself there.

Go ahead.

JOHNSON: Well, yes.

Today, there`s all this pushback. I have heard the Emmys is getting a lot of flak for having him. Is it normalizing Trump? Is it normalizing what Spicer did?

The thing is, if Spicer wants a TV career, there`s going to be moments when he`s going to be questioned about what he said from that podium.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think he got away from it. He walked back, right back into it again.

By the way, good -- like, great for Stephen Colbert. There`s a good guy. I think of the line from -- Zero Mostel`s "The Front," where he says, I like when good happens to good people.

He`s a good guy, Stephen Colbert.


JOHNSON: Oh, sure, sure, yes. And that comes across. That comes across.

And there`s this whole idea, was the Emmys politicized? If it wasn`t, you would have wondered what happened. Stephen Colbert was the host.


Talk about the chorus line with the guys out there doing sort of the Rockettes number with the sort of mixed guys and women. You didn`t see that 20 years ago.

JOHNSON: No. No. It`s kind of expected now, though.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s wild.

Anyway, I think America speaks in different ways. And culture is one way you tell the truth, sometimes better than politics, don`t you think?

Thank you, Ted Johnson, from "Variety."

JOHNSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump is set to give his first big speech to the U.N. tomorrow, but he`s already engaging world leaders on Twitter.

This weekend, he unveiled his nickname. Isn`t this High School Harry stuff? High School Harry, Mr. President, that`s how you`re behaving, calling the North Korean dictator, who is a somewhat scary guy -- he has a nickname for the guy. It`s not little Marco or little un or -- un. It`s now Rocket Man, thanks to Elton John, I guess.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears. I`m going to ask him who his acting coach.

We have low energy Jeb Bush. Lying Ted and little Marco. Crazy Bernie, he`s a crazy man. And I was being hit by Pocahontas, that`s Elizabeth Warren.

And I said, Mitt cannot run. He choked like a dog and he walks like a penguin on stage. Did you ever see? Like a penguin.



That`s the president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, Donald Trump came up with a nickname for everyone of his political opponents. Now, he`s using that same high school number, actually, high school harry number with one of the most dangerous characters in the world, don`t we agree?

What could go wrong now? He`s made fun of them. What do you make of it? Anyway, yesterday morning, he tweeted this message about North Korea`s leader, the unstable Kim Jong-un: I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night, asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad.

Well, there aren`t long gas lines. A lot of other problems.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable. Alexi McCammond, who`s deputy news editor for "Axios", Philip Rucker, of course, is White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post". And Astead Herndon is national political reporter for "The Boston Globe".

Who`s the youngest here? Maybe you are, I don`t know. But I`m telling you, you must remember high school. High school was nickname country. You had to put up with the bruising personal genius of the bad guys who stood around and just thought of what`s wrong with you physically if they could find it and what`s wrong with anything about you and zoned in on it and made fun of you again and again and again until you felt miserable.

And now, they do it on texting. They do it on -- Donald Trump is one of them. He`s one of those people.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, DEPUTY NEWS EDITOR, AXIOS: It`s a juvenile distraction. Right, it`s a juvenile distraction. And it`s totally unhelpful for him to be coming up with nicknames --

MATTHEWS: What does he gain by calling information Elton John`s music title?


MATTHEWS: Who it helps with?

RUCKER: Well, I think that he thinks it helps communicate with the American people that he comes up with these visceral names that speak to an inherent weakness in his view of the other person. In this case, it`s Kim`s strength, which is the rocket arsenal, the missile arsenal is a weakness because he`s unstable. He`s firing them left and right. You know, he`s trying to exploit that somehow.

MATTHEWS: If someone had a suicide belt on, would you make fun of them personally, Astead? Would that be your strategy?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: I don`t think this is even about his strategy thinking towards North Korea. I think this is what he thinks his base wants from him. I think this --

MATTHEWS: Yes. So, it`s all about that?

HERNDON: Like we`ve seen throughout his presidency, it`s his core base of voters who pride themselves on being the politically incorrect, who enjoy the president being unconventional. And this is a nod to them. And that`s why he`s done it throughout the campaign.

MATTHEWS: But there`s another world out there that includes people with nuclear weapons. This isn`t Buffalo Bob and the peanut gallery. There`s another world out there besides serenading his feat.

RUCKER: He wants to entertain.

MATTHEWS: They want to be entertained?

RUCKER: He wants to entertain.

MATTHEWS: Do you think his people aren`t worried about Kim Jong-un a little bit?

RUCKER: They should be.

MCCAMMOND: Right. It`s just rhetoric, you know? It`s not reflected of his strategy. We should look at what Nikki Haley is saying, what Mattis is doing. Trump`s tweets are a juvenile distraction.

MATTHEWS: What about them? Are they more mature?

MCCAMMOND: Certainly, yes. And they have a harder line on the rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: I think Nikki Haley always looks more mature than the president.

Also on Sunday, the president retweeted a video from one of his supporters. The doctored video splicing together a shot at Trump hitting a golf ball and then the golf ball supposedly hitting Hillary Clinton in the back of the head, causing her to trip over. The video of Hillary Clinton is from 2011.

Among the people offended by that violent imagery was Senator Dianne Feinstein, another grown up in my book. She said in a statement today that the president`s Sunday morning tweet of a video depicting an attack on Hillary Clinton is appalling and disgusting. Every one of us should be offended by the vindictive and candidly dangerous messages the president sends to demean not only Secretary Clinton, but all women. Grow up and do your job.

She also called it unbecoming of the president of the United States, which I think was a bit redundant by the senator. Is it obviously unbecoming?

But this, Alexi, you`re the woman here, how do you take it the president teeing up on the person he beat in the campaign, making fun of his purported assault on her after having been this sort of goon over looking over her during the debates and what else he was doing?

MCCAMMOND: Right. The optics are certainly not great, and I was speaking with the Democratic aide on the Hill today who said that this is unprecedented and absurd.

MATTHEWS: Of course, it is.

MCCAMMOND: And I think that reflects, you know, a lot of Democrats thinking. And it had 33,000 responses on Twitter and so many of them are people saying, you know, it encourages violence against women and Trump is being a bully.

MATTHEWS: Is this to make up for his deal on DACA?

RUCKER: I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: The right wing, alt-right is behind him, OK, I think given that he`s (INAUDIBLE) --

RUCKER: I think he`s also bothered that Hillary is out there in the news right now, making headlines with her memoir out, "What Happened", is doing interviews.

MATTHEWS: That`s a cost, too.

RUCKER: Yes, it does. But he doesn`t like her being out there. He wants to try to create an opportunity that --

MATTHEWS: Oh, I see. He doesn`t want her to get her limited modified success. That is really shrewd because -- can`t he give her the book at least? He`s got the presidency. Yes.

HERNDON: I would be wary of thinking this is part of even the grand strategy. I mean, we have seen him retweet videos that are -- he sometimes thinks is funny. I mean, I did a story talking with some of these alt- right folks who are really deep into this Reddit Internet world and they think the president is one of them, not just because --

MATTHEWS: Oh, he is.

HERNDON: And not just because --

MATTHEWS: He`s one of those 400 pound people in their beds that he makes fun of, that had no real life outside the basement, he`s president of the United States. And does he get up in the morning and say, I like the pancakes this morning, looks like the kids do in the basement, mom, can I get pancakes? OK, you have the pancake.

Then he sits down, he`s president of the United States with an entire government behind him. He`s got the Republican Party behind him. He`s got the U.S. military and he`s got all this communications people and instead, they`re doing this.

MCCAMMOND: Right. It also sort of reflects John Kelly is maybe not running as tight of a ship has he wanted, you know?

MATTHEWS: He can`t control this guy.

MCCAMMOND: Right. He`s not --

MATTHEWS: So, Kelly has got to get up earlier to catch him tweeting.


MATTHEWS: Doesn`t your boss Elizabeth (INAUDIBLE) gets up 6:30 morning to catch "The New York Times" --

RUCKER: She`s not my boss.

MATTHEWS: You work with "Washington Post", same difference.

RUCKER: Marty Baron.

MATTHEWS: I hear you. Gets up at 6:30 in the morning first get it is "New York Times," not "The Post", and just read it is cover.

RUCKER: He reads "The Washington Post," too, by the way.

MATTHEWS: He reads the front page, stops at the fold and tweets.

RUCKER: And he reacts to TV news in the morning, too. "Fox and Friends", we know for sure. But also "MORNING JOE" on MSNBC, turns on CNN. He likes to see what the conversation was like.

MATTHEWS: Why does he watch (ph) the "MORNING JOE"? They don`t like each other so much.

RUCKER: He has a long complicated history with "MORNING JOE".

MATTHEWS: It`s complicated.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is getting a bit of attack from the left over her possible immigration deal with President Trump. Pelosi and other Democratic members of Congress were holding a conference in San Francisco very early today, calling for the DREAM Act to be passed when immigration activists walked in and interrupted the event.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORIT LEADER: They are our very VIPs, they`re our purpose, our very important people. I`m pleased to yield --



MATTHEWS: Well, today`s protesters take issues with the deal, saying that by merely, merely is a big word, focusing on DREAMers, the president and congressional leaders are leaving out the other 11 million people here in the country who entered illegally.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Alexi, tell me something I don`t know.

MCCAMMOND: So, Democrats know they can`t win back the House with Republicans drawing districts. A new Democratic super PAC Forward Majority is spending $100 million or hoping to raise $100 million for 12 states to help Democrats win back state legislature seats. So, one --

MATTHEWS: That will have to wait until 2022.

MCCAMMOND: Right, right, 2021, I believe. So, a Democratic fundraiser --

MATTHEWS: No, but they don`t have the races until 2022.

MCCAMMOND: Right, right. But a Democratic fund-raiser told me the money that Democrats spend on Jon Ossoff`s race could have been used to help Democrats win five congressional seats in Pennsylvania. So, we should --


MATTHEWS: Thank you. But it`s Monday morning quarterbacking. They were just listening object.

Go ahead.

RUCKER: So, Alabama, pay attention down there. You`ve got the Senate runoff special election in Alabama next Tuesday. President Trump is heading down there later this week. And the important thing there to look for --

MATTHEWS: Moore or Strange.

RUCKER: Well, Trump is endorsing Strange, the incumbent senator, but Moore is getting the backing of Steve Bannon, of Sarah Palin, of other key members of the Trump coalition.

MATTHEWS: Moore`s going to win.

RUCKER: We`ll see. He`s ahead in the polls.


HERNDON: Speaking of Trump`s prowess and branding, dictionaries have been struggling to keep up with all these new words he`s adding into the English dictionary. The Oxford University press lexicographer has identified 50 new Trump associated words, including Trumper Tantrum and Trumptastrophe (ph).

MATTHEWS: Oh my god! I haven`t heard those but they`re in the book now. Alexi McCammond, thank you very much. Phil Rucker, as always. Astead Herndon, as always.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". I think you`ll like this one, tonight. He probably won`t. But he could learn from it, as always, he always can. He can always learn from "Trump Watch".

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, September 18th, 2017.

I love when actor John Lithgow said at the Emmys last night. He was speaking about Winston Churchill, the great World War II leader who played at a later age in a TV series "The Crown".

In these crazy times, Lithgow said, his life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really looks like.

He didn`t have to say or have to do anything else, we all know what he`s talking about, but haven`t quite said it yet.

The one sure thing Donald Trump has done, and this must be clear to all, right, left and center, is lower the bar for human decency. Those who voted for him sought and yet approved it, didn`t they? They made him president.

When you were young, didn`t your parents tell you not to make fun of someone else`s appearance? Wasn`t that one of the basics? Wasn`t it as basics as the catechism?

When you were growing up, didn`t your parents tell you not to use bad words about people who looked different from you? That you weren`t supposed to call people from Mexico rapists even though you didn`t know what that means? Weren`t you told not to hurt people and encourage others to hurt people?

Trump`s out there all the time running people out of his rallies, encouraging the police to rough them up. It`s all part of his act, doing what you were taught not to do, let`s face it, is the heart of his act.

Where`s the courage in that? Where`s the leadership in what he does? Where`s the Winston Churchill in Donald Trump?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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