Show: HARDBALL Date: March 1, 2018 Guest: Amy Klobuchar, Ayesha Rascoe, Simone Pathe, Winston Duke
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: That is our show. Thanks for watching. You can find me again tomorrow 6:00 p.m. eastern on "the Beat."
"Hardball" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A President alone. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
The President is more isolated than ever and the White House is dealing with so many headlines over the past day, it`s hard to know where to begin. According to "Axios," sources close to President Trump say he is in a bad place, mad as hell about the internal chaos around him and the sense that thing around him are unraveling.
Yesterday`s news that a communications director Hope Hicks was stepping down came as a shock to people in and out of the White House. According to NBC News, Hicks only informed President Trump of her decision to resign earlier yesterday. And it came a day after she acknowledged to members of the House intelligence committee she sometimes tells white lies for the President.
But it`s one of many level five storms facing the White House right now. The President`s family is reportedly fighting with his chief of staff according to "Axios," Jared, Ivanka and Don Junior let it be known to friends they are furious with Kelly and his allies.
Adding gasoline to that fire, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci piled on this morning against the man who fired him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The morale inside the White House, you`re a great reporter, you have got great reporters on staff, the morale is terrible. Reason why the morale is terrible is that the rule by fear intimidation does not work in a civilian environment. So here we are. It`s messed up. It will be up to the President to figure out if he wants to fix it or not. If he doesn`t --.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the question is whether or not the President is contributing to the turmoil.
SCARAMUCCI: I predict more departures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You predict more departures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Kushner has been weakened in recent days by a number of troubling headlines like this one from the "New York Times." The Times cites three people familiar with a White House meeting, catch this one, between Kushner and the founder of a private equity firm in the White House. Later that firm lent nearly $200 billion to Kushner`s family`s real estate company after meeting in the White House. The day before the White House reported officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was naive and being tricked in conversations with foreign officials.
As if all that wasn`t enough, the President is also publicly and privately feuding with his attorney general. According to the "Times," behind the scenes Trump has derisively referred to Sessions as, catch this, Mr. Magoo. That`s what he calls his attorney general, Mr. Magoo. And he has told associates that he has hired the best of lawyers for his entire life but is stuck with Sessions who is not defending him and he is not sufficiently loyal. This the President complaining about his attorney general.
On top of all that, another step shake-up might be coming. My colleague Nicolle Wallace reported today that the White House is preparing to replace national security advisor H.R. McMaster as early as next month. Well, no wonder that President`s chief of staff John Kelly cracked this joke today at a department of homeland security event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I would just open by saying I have almost no right to be up here on the stage. I mean, I was in the department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have every right to be here.
KELLY: And I miss every one of you every day. I went -- the last thing I wanted to do is walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security. But I did something wrong and God punished me I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, historian Douglas Brinkley told the "Washington Post" Trump is a lone wolf President in a sequestered White House. It`s just raining bad news on President. He is in a corner and there is no easy exit.
For more I`m joined by "Washington Post" opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, and "Washington Post" White House reporter Ashley Parker, all are MSNBC contributors.
Ashley, tell us about the chaos if you can paint a picture of the chaos you have described in the White House right now.
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, you laid out a pretty good litany of chaos in your introduction. But it`s incredibly chaotic and turbulent right now. And in a lot of ways, it sort of harkens back and feels like the early days of this administration where no one knew what the President was going to say or what he was going to do or what mood of his might dictate actual policy. Remember chief of staff John Kelly came in and sort of put processes in place and implemented discipline and put an end to all of that. But now he is exactly right, feuding with the President`s family, feuding with the President and seems to have especially in this last week sort of lost control. And you are seeing things like the President going back and forth and taking every position on guns as we saw this week and doing what he did on tariffs today that his own team didn`t even know about. So it is incredibly chaotic.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Eugene on this. Because this seems like a President who is notorious for not measuring the consequences of his decision is now so distracted and most people would be able to consider like on the tariff thing today, you know. And now he has got a chief of staff who is basically putting his family members in the corner.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Restricting them.
MATTHEWS: Can`t get them near any kind of secret information. And he has a director of communications who in the middle of all this mishanga`s, this complete craziness says Mr. President, I`m leaving.
ROBINSON: Yes. I mean, it is you know, look. You couldn`t make this stuff up. This is -- the thing to understand is that this has never been an administration like any of us would recognize. It`s not like - it is like the court of henry VIII or something like that. I mean, you know, you have got family members in there, you have got intrigue, you have got, you know, metaphoric assassinations going on. Seriously.
MATTHEWS: I think Henry had seven wives.
ROBINSON: Seriously. I mean, during -- at the beginning of the administration, you know, they would have a meeting of the inner circle and then they would all five or six of them rush to their offices to leak to reporters about their version of the meeting so they could damage their enemies. And you know, and we are kind of back to that, that sort of weird arrangement.
Hope Hicks is gone. The family members are being marginalized. Keith Schiller, his bodyguard is gone. The people he is really comfortable with are no longer the people closest to him in making decisions. And actually, they should not be because they are not qualified to make those decisions.
MATTHEWS: But that`s a point. That`s the rub.
ROBINSON: They make him comfortable. And so Kelly is trying to make it norm.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s explain the sit-com. You can get in, Jennifer here.
So he is upstairs at night. And the only people allowed upstairs are the people that are not allowed to have top secret information.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right.
MATTHEWS: So he has got to hang with Jared who he has got to put up with his son-in-law. He loves his daughter obviously. They are not in any action. Don Junior senior still playing Fredo. He is (INAUDIBLE) in this thing.
MATTHEWS: At the same time, the guy is calling the shots, doesn`t come upstairs. He is downstairs cracking the whip and they are upstairs complaining about him. Yet, the father, you know, father knows best here, gave that guy that job.
MATTHEWS: So how do they explain and they can`t get anything done.
RUBIN: No, they can`t. And it`s at this point that everything comes apart at the seams. Because he trusts no one. He listens to none. And as a result, he just wings it that lots of Presidents can wing it. Bill Clinton could wing it because he was a really smart guy and knew all the stuff. To some extent Barack Obama though who is always super prepared could wing it. This guy can`t wing it because he doesn`t know anything about anything. So he gets frustrated.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s get back to that. I think that`s great, Jennifer.
You know, yesterday, I watched on guns, Ashley. And I thought he was trying to do the right thing. I mean, he knows the kids, the young people are the big voice in this country right now that everyone`s listening to the young people. They are very articulate and they are very passionate and they are not politicians. They are not lefties or rightists. They actually seem like students, the real thing. And the teachers look like real teachers. And they are trying to figure out how to make school safe because of the horror that isn`t going away.
So Trump is acting like he has never heard of the gun rights movement. He has never been out west and he has never been in Appalachia. He doesn`t know what will West Virginia really is and he is throwing out the stuff. OK, you have got to be 21. And you see the terror in the faces of people like Manchin. My God, he is talking about people down in the holler. They are not going to go for this.
They like their kid. They want to teach the kids how to use guns. They don`t want to tell they can`t have them. And by the way, 18 is grown-up down there. So I mean, I got the sense he doesn`t know a lot about stuff. And when he gets into a world of not knowing his stuff like the culture of Pennsylvania and the middle of this country and leadership of his own party, he is in trouble now. Because I don`t think he is going to be to deliver on this gun safety issue really at all, it looks like. Maybe just a minimal scraps he gets from the, what it`s called, the fixed nicks thing that the NRA is pushing. Your thoughts?
PARKER: He may now be able to delivery but I will say the President has a very visceral and quite accurate sense where his base is on this particular shooting issue. My understanding is that he was actually understandably deeply moved by what actually happened to these young people, and he also understands sort of intuitively the way they are harnessing television and social media, not too similar to what he does and that is sort of compelled him to action.
The final thing I will note, though, is when the President sort of moves more towards the left or even to the center, and talks about bipartisanship which we saw him do on immigration. So far at least at the end of the day, he always gets pulled back to the safe place of where his base is.
MATTHEWS: Yes. On that point, while you are on, and I think he is willing to screw the dreamers by putting in all the poison pills like migration and all that stuff, they call it chain migration, family reunification. But I don`t think he was accepting yesterday of any poison pills yesterday when Scalis tried to throw in the right to carry across the border.
RUBIN: Right. Brushed back.
ROBINSON: No, no, no. It will never happen.
MATTHEWS: So there is a little difference.
As I mentioned the President today announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports beginning next week. The target, of course, is China. But it also have hitting allies like Canada they make steel, too. The news hit the stock market with the Dow plummeting hundreds of points today. Decision was not popular among world of President`s advisor. According to "Axios," Gary Cohn, James Mattis, Steven Mnuchin and Rex Tillerson have been arguing strenuously against these tariffs.
Anyway, the roll out not surprisingly was as chaotic as everything else in the White House. Bloomberg report that Trump`s statement followed hours of confusion. Staffers in the White House scrambled Thursday morning to explain what was happening with the expected tariff announcement. Ducking in and out of the offices in the west wing as had he saw the information about the President`s plan.
Where do we go? I get, Ashley, back to you on this one. The tariff is big business. And it didn`t seem to have the kind of smooth rollout that usually politicians prepare for such big moves.
PARKER: It had no roll out. What actually happened was the "Washington Post" broke this story late last night. And when they broke, when we broke it, some of the President`s own aides, including those involved in trade negotiations had no idea that this was coming or what he was going to do. They frantically tried to talk to him this morning. They thought them had talked him out of it. And then he went ahead and announced tariffs. So no, there was no rollout.
MATTHEWS: OK. Today`s tariff drama highlights a bigger problem in the White House, of course. "The Washington Post`s" Josh Darcy tweeted today, a White House person who is often understated about drama in the building just texted me to say that thing were wild, changing, by seemingly the minute. And that no one knows what Trump is going to announce on a number of issues. And last night former White House adviser Omarosa Manigault, we know her made a similar point. Let`s watch her in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it about the tweets that specifically haunt you?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: You know, he announced major policy issues on twitter for someone who is in communications like Hope and myself, you know, that`s not a place you want to find out at 5:00 in the morning about something that would impact so many people`s lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also said leaving the White House felt like freed from a plantation.
MANIGAULT: You know, the White House that I worked in that Trump administration was -- it was troubling. And it was -- it was very difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to say. These people were thrown out the backdoor of the White House. Now Hope quit and Scaramucci is getting even. They are not leaving, Gene. They are staying nearby to criticize.
ROBINSON: Exactly. They will never go away and we`ll be hearing from them.
MATTHEWS: Though the mooch is on the trail I can tell.
ROBINSON: I mean, look at this tariff thing. This is like policy without a policy process or that disregards what policy process has gone on. Could Gary Cohn and his economic advisers don`t do it and he does it.
MATTHEWS: You know, you want to help our steel industry. (INAUDIBLE). We have been trying everything for years to help the steel industry. But carmakers rely on cheap steel. So they want competition.
MATTHEWS: They want the cheapest steel they can get so they can sell the car at the best price.
MATTHEWS: When you say you`re going to put a tariff on steel, you are raising the price of steel.
RUBIN: Exactly. And that`s why you have groups at the business roundtable and his business groups who had been with him who loved the tax reform suddenly saying, what are you doing Mr. President? So they flipped out. People like Gary Cohn said, you know, he was there to get the, you know, sort of traditional business economics there.
MATTHEWS: He wanted credit for the tax cut and then leave.
RUBIN: And now he has this disaster. And by the way, this is also a national security disaster. And that`s why Mattis and why Tillerson were so opposed to this.
MATTHEWS: Republicans have never for a long time going back to (INAUDIBLE), have not been a tariff party and now they are. That`s another thing about the Republican Party. They`re now a tariff party.
Thank you, Gene Robinson, Jennifer Rubin and Ashley Parker.
Coming up, explosive new reporting in the Russia investigation. NBC News is reporting tonight that special counsel Robert Mueller is preparing another set of indictments this time against the Russian hackers themselves. And his goal is to flush out Americans, guess who, who may have helped those Russians. That`s ahead.
Plus guns, President Trump may not want oppose this students and teachers of Parkland but his Republican colleagues are still afraid of the gun rights people and that shouldn`t surprise anyone who has seen Trump`s act before. (INAUDIBLE).
Anyway, we will watch this. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Russian President Vladimir Putin today vowed to make the world listen by unveiling a new generation of nuclear weapons. Putin used his annual state of the nation address to tout what he calls an invisible -- invincible intercontinental ballistic missile one he says will render missile defense systems useless. This latest missile is said to have a longer range making it capable of reaching nearly any target in the world as if the (INAUDIBLE). Putin`s speech was accompanied by a video animation showing a missile hurtling toward, guess where, here.
In an exclusive interview, NBC`s Megyn Kelly asked President Putin whether or not these new weapons are ready for use right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: For the record right now, do you have a workable ICBM that is powered by nukes that you have tested successfully?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA`S PRESIDENT (through translator): All of those tests were successful. It`s just each of these weapon systems is at a different stage of readiness. One of them is already on combat duty. It`s with troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
Last month, we saw the special counsel, that was in February, indict numerous Russian nationals for waging an information war on social media. Now, Robert Mueller appears to be going after the Russians behind the hacking of the DNC and other targets.
In an exclusive report, multiple current and former government officials tell NBC News that quote "special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election."
The possible indictment which sources say could come within weeks or months is expected to be similar to the conspiracy and fraud charges filed two weeks ago against those 13 Russian who engaged in a covert social media campaign to influence the 2016 election.
Most importantly, a government official says, an indictment would send a signal both to Russia and to any American who may have participated in the scheme. Well, it`s unknown whether any Americans will be charged. This comes after NBC News reported yesterday that Mueller is asking witnesses very pointed questions about whether Trump had advance knowledge about Russia`s hacking or about the content of the hacked materials.
I`m joined right now by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who is also a former prosecutor, Julia Ainsley is a national security reporter and co- author of that report for NBC News, and Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. attorney an MSNBC contributor.
We will have to start with the reporter. Julia, I want to ask you this then the senator will jump in right now. This story shows that we`re really getting into the crime of the hacking, now the hacking. It was the social media. Crimes were committed. Now the next step is to show if any Americans like Trump or Trump`s people were playing ball with them, because that would be a conspiracy.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Right.
So, this is really the heart of the matter. A lot of the indictments we have seen have sort of been tangents. And if you look at the one that came out just last month that focused just on the social media operation, a lot of people said, well, what about the hacking? What about what had such a huge influence on this election, which was the leaked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from John Podesta`s account.
Those were really damaging.
MATTHEWS: Which embarrassed the Democrats.
AINSLEY: Yes, embarrassed the Democrats and a lot of people say really hurt Hillary Clinton`s chances.
This -- now we know that Mueller has very sensitive information that has been gathered by the intelligence community that shows why we have been able to point to Russia, why their fingerprints are on those hacks and on those leaks, and with that information, he`s now going to be looking at whether or not the Trump campaign was involved in the either collection of or dissemination of or coordinating the timing of those e-mails.
Senator, you`re the politician here. I study politics. So do you, Julia.
We always wondered who were the people on the ground giving the Russians the smart savvy of how do you screw up the internal politics of Hillary Clinton? How do put out stuff that makes Palmieri look bad, that makes Podesta look bad, that makes them all angry with each other, makes them all fighting with each other?
They seem to know how to stir things up.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, that`s what we`re going to find out, to see if Director Mueller finds people that...
MATTHEWS: Their spotters.
KLOBUCHAR: ... are meeting, that Russia was working with.
But it`s beyond that for me. When this happened back then, this was a crime. I remember I kept thinking this was like an online Watergate break- in, right? They went in, they stole information. And then they put it out there at key times.
And so for me, number one, if he does do these indictments against Russians, against anyone else, it shows that this is a crime and people are going to get in trouble when they do this, because I`m very focused, Chris, not only on figuring out what just happened and how we got here, and what Russia did to us, but also how we stop it from happening in the future.
And that`s going to mean protecting our election infrastructure, and it`s also going to mean serious prosecutions of people that do this kind of thing in the future.
MATTHEWS: Or who take the dirt and use it. How about that?
KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. Right.
MATTHEWS: Let me go Barbara McQuade on the law here.
What do you see developing here as the special counsel`s investigation proceeds through the social media, through the hacking, and we`re told in the pointed questions -- I mentioned this a moment ago -- that are going to the witnesses here, the people being interviewed, questioned, that it shows that Mueller knows an awful lot and is trying to know all, I guess?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it would not be surprising at all to see an indictment that charges under the very same theory we saw with the prior Russia indictment, conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing our fair administration of elections.
The same theory could be used in a computer hacking case. I think the really interesting part in the great reporting today is that Robert Mueller`s asking questions about what was President Trump`s knowledge and involvement in the dissemination of these e-mails?
Because you could charge -- in addition to the Russians who did the hacking, you could add a layer on of any Americans who either conspired with them to do that or who aided and abetted. And to aid and abet, all it is required to show is that someone encouraged the commission of the crime and intended to do so.
MATTHEWS: Well, we know that, don`t we? Don`t we know that Trump said, come on, get me more e-mails, Julia?
MATTHEWS: That was on television.
AINSLEY: He did that publicly.
We want to know what he obviously did behind the scenes as well. But this is why it`s an ace in Mueller`s hand. He wants to use this not to be able to get Russians and put them in jail. That`s not going to happen. They`re not going to extradite Russians.
He wants to be able to show people on the Trump campaign and people perhaps who are still in the White House that he knows exactly what they did and to use this information to pressure them to cooperate.
MATTHEWS: Well, this new report comes amid a staggering amount of news relating to the special counsel`s Russia probe over the last 36 hours, and none of it has been good for President Trump.
Three of those stories revealed new details about what Mueller is investigating and each line of the inquiry. It`s possible collusion, obstruction of justice and financial impropriety relating to Russia.
NBC News reported that Mueller is probing witnesses with questions that suggest Trump may have known of the Russian-hacked e-mails before they were made public. "The Washington Post" reported that Trump`s attempts to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions are now a focal point in a possible pattern of obstruction.
And CNN reported that Trump`s financial ties to Russia are a key line of inquiry to find out if the president is compromised by the Kremlin. Those reports have one thing in common. They`re all sourced in some way to people familiar with the questions that Mueller is asking of his witnesses.
One person who has been inside the special counsel`s witness room, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, told MSNBC yesterday that Mueller`s team seems to know a lot more than the witnesses they`re questioning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: What I would say one is, the taxpayer is getting their money`s worth. They were highly professional.
QUESTION: Mueller`s investigators.
NUNBERG: Mueller`s investigators.
They didn`t call me in just to check a box. Everything they asked me, it was backed up. I can`t get into -- I don`t want to get into and give away their investigation. What I would say is, it wasn`t a waste of my time or their time.
This was like a white-shoe law firm going in. OK, I sat in there. They asked me questions. They had charts out. They had specific things they wanted to know. They had follow-ups.
QUESTION: Did you leave with the impression that they knew more than a lot of the witnesses they see?
NUNBERG: Yes, yes, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So, white-shoe lawyer is one with a lot of depth, with a lot of associates and a lot of brainpower.
Senator, let me ask you, it looks like they`re investigating collusion during the campaign, obstruction of the investigation itself and something to do with business involvement of Trump. It looks like three strikes, you`re out. They`re going for all three.
KLOBUCHAR: OK, that`s not exactly how the that law works, as you know. But I think...
MATTHEWS: Well, not the three strikes and you`re out. I`m talking about life and baseball. Go ahead.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, I see. I thought you were referring to the criminal law.
All right. So, I think you know for a lot of these things, you have to show intent. And I`m a former prosecutor. You wait until the evidence gets in.
But I will say this pattern you see when you brought up the Jeff Sessions issue and these reports that he is going after him...
MATTHEWS: Explain that one.
MATTHEWS: Giving that guy a hard time because he allowed Robert Mueller to be named as special counsel, is that obstruction?
It depends on the evidence that he has and if there`s intent that is shown. But you see the pattern here, where you start with Sally Yates and then the firing of Jim Comey and then the reports that his own counsel, Don McGahn, had to say, you know, I`m going to resign -- and this is the report -- if you go in and fire Mueller or fire Rosenstein.
So these were things that have been happening throughout the time. And you think -- you see time and time again these attempts to fire people, or Comey`s story, which was under oath, that he told before the Senate, where he talked about the fact that there he was in that dramatic way standing there when the president asked people to leave and then asked him if he would be loyal to him.
Those are the kinds of things that I`m sure the special counsel is looking at.
MATTHEWS: Well, to your point, Senator, the president called his attorney general disgraceful in a tweet just yesterday morning.
Jeff Sessions fought back with a rare public statement, defending own his integrity and honor. Then, in an apparent show of solidarity, Sessions had dinner with two of his highest-ranking Justice Department officials, including the person currently overseeing the special counsel`s probe itself, Rod Rosenstein.
Well, last month`s reporting by -- last night`s reporting by "The Washington Post" clearly established that the president`s past attempts to oust Sessions could represent obstruction, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn`t say whether the president might still try to fire him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does the president want to get rid of his attorney general?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I know of.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the relationship between the president and the attorney general? Does President Trump believe his attorney general is disgraceful.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, the president`s made his frustrations very clear. I don`t have anything else to add.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Julia, is he going to fire this guy or just let him twist slowly in the wind, as he`s been doing?
AINSLEY: We have been talking about this since July, Chris, I think, when I used to come on here and talk about this exact same thing.
What we know from people who have been close colleagues of Jeff Sessions for a long time is that he really sees this as his moment. This is probably the last position in politics he`s going to have. I don`t see an opening on the Alabama Senate seat coming up anytime soon.
He`s definitely long in years. So, he`s going to hold on to this as long as he can. And what I have heard is, he is not leaving until the president specifically asks him to do so. He`s not going to leave just because he`s under pressure.
KLOBUCHAR: And just from a Senate standpoint, he has a legal duty to do his job.
KLOBUCHAR: And you can`t fire someone just because you don`t like the fact that they have -- that an investigation is going on of your administration.
MATTHEWS: Barbara, last question.
What would happen if the president just says, the hell with this, I`m not happy, I`m going to pardon all my family members, I`m going to pardon everybody I care about and fire everybody else, just do it?
I mean, I sometimes think, McQuade, he just has had it with all this regular order stuff. Look what he said the other day. I`m going to go grab the guns of anybody I think is crazy. I`m going to go grab their guns just because I want to. We will talk about due process later.
He does have that part of him.
MCQUADE: Yes, he can be very impulsive, as we have seen.
And I`m sure there`s part of him that would love to do that. I think that there`s some peril in doing that, though. Number one, politically, I think he would have some questions to answer if he were to pardon everybody even before they`re charged or even after they`re charged.
I also think there`s also some legal risk in doing that, that, you know, again, he has this absolute right to pardon, but only if he`s doing it for a proper purpose. If he exercises his power with some improper purpose, that could itself be an allegation of obstruction of justice.
As Senator Klobuchar said, intent always matters here. So, I think there`s a lot of peril in fulfilling that impulse.
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t always consider the consequences of his actions.
Anyway, thank you, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Thank you, Julia Ainsley. Congratulations on that breaking story for all of us. And, Barbara McQuade, thank you for your expertise.
Up next: President Trump yesterday talked about action on gun control, but today he`s seeing obstruction from his own party. How does he look good on guns, on gun safety, with his own party willing to look so bad? He`s resorting to the same book he used on -- anyway, we will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yesterday`s White House meeting on guns left some Republicans confused, but Democrats downright giddy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you`re going to put concealed carry between states into this bill, we`re talking about a whole new ball game.
And, you know, I`m with you, but let it be a separate bill. You will never get this passed. If you add concealed carry to this, you will never get it passed. And if you could add what you have also -- and I think you can -- into the bill.
TRUMP: Can you do that? Joe, can you do that? Pat, can you add some of the things? You`re not going to agree with...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you help.
TRUMP: Well, no, I will help.
If you can add domestic violence paragraphs, pages into this bill, I`m all for it. I think it`s terrific, if you can do it. It can be done. That can be done, too.
Take the firearms first and then go to court. But take the guns first. Go through due process second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, throughout that amazing meeting, the president endorsed, among other things, universal background checks, raising the age limit up for buying -- up to 21 for buying guns, also stopping guns from getting to the mentally ill, all positions that are not popular, of course, with the National Rifle Association.
And this morning, the president seemed to backpedal, tweeted: "Many ideas, some good and some not so good, emerged from our bipartisan meeting on school safety yesterday at the White House. After many years, a bill should emerge. Respect Second Amendment."
And congressional Republicans, clearly confused by the president, began lowering expectations. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have seen this movie before. If it ends up like immigration, he`s done himself a lot of harm.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It crossed everybody`s mind, is this the Tuesday Trump or the Thursday Trump? It`s a Wednesday. So don`t know. We will see.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think this is more of what I would call a brainstorming session. And so we have got a lot of different ideas, but, as I said yesterday, it`s going to have to get 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I have some real questions and some real problems with some of the suggestions that have been made.
QUESTION: Do you think this president understands gun culture?
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I don`t know. I really don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think that`s a great question. And he doesn`t know either.
Anyway, despite congressional inaction, companies continue to heed the call, companies do, for change. Earlier today, Kroger supermarkets announced that it will raise the minimum age to purchase firearms and ammunition to 21. That`s any firearms and ammunition. It joins Wal-Mart and Dick`s Sporting Goods for that.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight, Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst, Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters White House correspondent, and rMDNM_Simone Pathe, Roll Call senior politics reporter.
So, anyone knows as much as anybody about this. I don`t think there is such a thing as an expert on Trump right now. I do think he was trying to get on the side of the students yesterday. He started out that way.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But like Senator Graham and talking to Senator Durbin about this, you have seen this before.
And it`s a show. He will usually start off with, quite frankly, the bipartisan sort of meet, right, the partisan -- but then the next day, he talks to his staff and other senators chime in. And let`s be clear. None of those things that he talked about that he wants the Democrats to put in that bill, Republicans are going to actually put in that bill.
There`s no way what he talked about he wants in that bill is going to be voted on, on the floor of the House.
MATTHEWS: Nothing in closing the gun show loopholes or anything like that, nothing like Manchin or anything like that?
BELCHER: Does the NRA -- is the NRA still against it?
MATTHEWS: Well, they are.
MATTHEWS: But they were once almost for it, from the reporting I have got.
Ayesha, it sounds like nothing or close to nothing.
AYESHA RASCOE, REUTERS: Well, I agree that it`s very unlikely that a lot of things that President Trump talked about are going to happen.
Or -- and it`s unclear whether he will continue to support it. But I do think that he might have been talking basically from his instincts yesterday. He grew up in New York, and, you know, when the crime was really heavy, `70s and `80s.
And I think that that kind of shaped him. He`s not hunting and all these things. And so I think he was talking his natural instincts when he was talking about guns and being tough on them.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I thought too.
SIMONE PATHE, ROLL CALL: Two interesting things the consider here.
One is that the president can talk all he wants about bucking the NRA, but is he going to give any cover to Republicans in Congress, who depend on the NRA?
MATTHEWS: Will he lead?
PATHE: That`s the big question.
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t sound like he wants to lead.
PATHE: Today, he caught members of his party off guard with the tariff news. Right? He`s trying to get them on board with guns. That`s not necessarily the best legislative strategy.
MATTHEWS: He`s sort of like talk among yourselves kind of a guy. See what you can come up with here.
But they have never come up with anything on their own, the Congress. And where was Mitch McConnell at that meeting? He wasn`t at that meeting. Where was Paul Ryan at the meeting? He was somewhere else saying, we`re not doing anything about guns.
They`re basically -- their leadership have their nose in the -- wet fingers in the air. They know which way the wind is blowing. And they`re not going to caught, it seems. It`s terrible. The president has to lead on this, like he has to lead on so many things he doesn`t want to.
BELCHER: But in the end, is Ryan going to put a bill on the floor that says, you know, ban AK -- these assault weapons. Is he going to put a bill on floor that makes guns stricter?
Seventy percent of the American public now say they want stricter gun laws. Right? That`s not even a Democrat issue anymore. When 70 percent of Americans say, we want stricter laws, that is bipartisan.
It will not see the -- until we change the House, it`s not going to see a vote.
RASCOE: And that`s the interesting thing about this, is that this is something where, if Trump stuck to his guns -- pardon the pun -- that it`s really popular.
A lot of these things that he`s talking about and that Democrats support, even though they`re not supported by Republicans, they`re really popular with much of the American population.
So he could do something that is really liked, if he really just stuck with what he`s been saying. But that remains to be...
MATTHEWS: The Manchin-Toomey bill, I`m told by the experts, went right up to the edge with the NRA. They weren`t going to go crazy over it.
They weren`t for it, but they weren`t going to crazy over it. That got one Republican vote, Toomey, in the whole U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: So, if you get anywhere near that red line with the NRA, you get nothing.
So, the question is, can Trump get anything more than nothing? Can he get something? Can he get the Toomey bill maybe with Manchin, something about closing the gun show loopholes, at least that?
PATHE: It doesn`t look like that is on the legislative agenda.
MATTHEWS: That`s -- well, that`s all they`re going to get. Then they get nothing. If they don`t get that, they don`t get anything.
They`re not going to get the...
PATHE: Remember, it is an election year. And so, both parties will tell you they have political peril.
MATTHEWS: OK. You seem sure of yourself on this one. Here`s the question: why did he set the seating plan yesterday? Why is he sitting next to the one woman, Dianne Feinstein, number one champion of getting rid of assault weapons who actually succeeded in getting rid of them back in the `90s?
MATTHEWS: Why did he put her next to him? She was giddy yesterday.
BELCHER: She was giddy, because she was getting a lot of what she would ask for, the president was in fact cheerleader for but we`ve seen this play again. It`s not going to happen. Gun laws in this country are not going to change until it becomes a voting issue. You know this, Chris, for suburban white women.
When suburban white women say this is a voting --
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it is for them.
BELCHER: For now it is, but it`s not the way it`s been for rural white men.
MATTHEWS: No, but they`re different crowds.
The roundtable is sticking with us, and up next, these two will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Cornell, tell me something I don`t know.
BELCHER: Sixty-nine percent, that`s the percentage above normal Democrats are voting in Texas in early voting. It`s tough to get 2 percent above normal voting, 69 percent is extraordinary. It`s unheard of.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ayesha?
AYESHA RASCOE, REUTERS: So, President Trump is continuing to say we`ve got to get tough on drug dealers. But Jared Kushner is leading the effort to help prisoners once they get out to have more job opportunities and my sources are telling me the White House is looking at proposals that would help churches and non-profits pardon prisoner who`s help them before and after release.
BELCHER: That`s a good thing.
PATHE: The media network of a member of Congress is about $500,000, that is five times the media net worth of an American household. You can read all about that in our "Roll Call`s" wealth of Congress that came out this week.
MATTHEWS: Five hundred thousand net worth. Thank you.
PATHE: That`s a minimum.
MATTHEWS: Some of these guys do live in English base. They`re not living that well.
MATTHEWS: Cornell Belcher, Ayesha Rascoe and Simone Pathe.
Up next, one of the stars of "Black Panther" coming here to talk about one of the big blockbuster ever and the cultural impact it`s had here in the country.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, it appears that Democrats are reclaiming their momentum heading into the 2018 midterm elections. A news "USA Today"/Suffolk University poll out today shows Democrats, catch this, leading Republicans 47-32 in the generic poll. That`s a 15-point edge over Republicans across the country.
In recent weeks, Republicans had narrowed the gap in the poll, pulling within 6.5 points of Democrats. But a spate of new polling shows Democrats gaining again.
The latest Real Clear Politics average now shows Democrats with a nine- point edge among all the polls heading into midterms.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The movie "Black Panther" is making history in many ways. The Marvel Studio`s film featuring a mostly black cast in a fantasy African country has smashed box office records. It`s made over $700 million worldwide and over $400 million here in the country. It`s become one of the largest domestic releases ever in just 13 days in the theaters, less than two weeks.
As my colleague Joy Reid wrote for NBC Think: Wakanda, the fictional African country where the movie is set, is an example what could have been for black Americans. It is beautiful, modern, powerful and filled with all the complexities the human treachery and weakness and strength and honor that modern societies must bear but which are rarely fleshed out up in one dimensional black movie characters.
Let`s watch a clip from "Black Panther."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I M`Baku, leader of the Jabari --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will accept your challenge, M`Baku.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glory to (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jabari. (INAUDIBLE)
Let the challenge begin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by actor Winston Duke who played M`Baku in that scene.
M`Baku, thank you. I mean, I should say Mr. Duke. Thank you very much.
WINSTON DUKE, ACTOR, "BLACK PANTHER": Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I want to hear from you. I don`t want to talk right now because you`re not only an actor, you`re part of history now. And what`s it like just personally to have been part of this epic?
DUKE: Well, I feel like I can speak to it just being an actor and I can speak to it being you know, a citizen of the Diaspora.
DUKE: As an actor, it was you know, after the last election and everything, it was really great respite to be part of something that felt like I was honoring narratives of people who looked like me. Put me back in a space of deep imagination and deep imagination that was beyond anything that could occur through legislation, deep imagination that, you know, proved to me some wonderful truths about humanity and allowed me to see a world that I haven`t had the benefit of seeing just in my life. And then as a citizen of the Diaspora, it kind of showed me that I`m from something more, and I got to tap into a history that felt very lost.
I got to tap into representations I should say of a history that felt quite distant. And it really helped me feel like no matter what things might be taken from me and people who look like me, I can still set myself free through my imagination. And that was something really deep and special.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, what is it I think about myth and the reality, of course, of Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. There are the evidence of earlier African civilizations. Of course, Zimbabwe is definitely one when you think about it. And to find what it would be like I guess one of our people, I mean, Joy Reid said it would be like, I think she was saying if it hadn`t been for colonialism from Europe, if there hadn`t been that Africa would have been born free without the colonial overlay. It would have been just Africa and what that represents to people.
DUKE: Yes, well, you know, growing up in a country like Trinidad and Tobago, you had the sense of what would my world be like, what would my world be like if I wasn`t, you know, burdened with some of the pain and problematic traumatic histories of colonialism and it allows you to see a world that looks like something that you`ve only dreamed about that you could have only seen in your imagination. So, it really made me get in touch with a sense of Wakanda being something that was deeply diasporadic and it was a diasporadic creation because we`ve always said, oh my god, if I could get back to Africa, I could be a king. Or I knew that we were kings or I knew that we were connected to something royal and majestic and strong.
And being a part of this and seeing it and I this I for a lot of other people across the world seeing it is kind of getting back in touch with that. Even in Trinidad, they had African beauty pageants associated with the premiere. They had drummers and dancers and all these things, and these are people have been disconnected from that culture and lineage and history and are finding it and performing it and it`s really something special.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to be right back with Winston Duke, one of the stars of the movie "Black Panther" in just a minute.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
We`ll be right back, sir.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Back with Winston Duke who plays M`Baku, the African senator in "Black Panther." What a movie.
Let me ask you now, we`ve got you trapped here, sir. What do you think? You mentioned this. So, you brought it up. The context of this movie coming in in the age of Trump. What`s the counter plan here? What`s the counter point part of it?
DUKE: Well, I feel this movie, while it`s still just a movie, I think it engages in some really great conversations. And it doesn`t give any answers to those within this conversation. It just asks questions and it asks what kind of citizen are you prepared to be through the actions of the characters and the story.
So, the characters are asking, are you prepared to follow your country no matter what? No matter what direction it`s going or are you going to hold your country accountable to live up to its ideals -- its ideals of equality and equity and, you know, everyone being equal. So that`s one thing you know. What kind of world do we create when we, you know, lock ourselves off from others or close our border to other people and not realize we`re part of a global economy and that we all are our brothers` keepers?
So, I think that`s -- I feel like it`s engaging and continuing a really necessary conversation and people find it refreshing that a comic book movie can do that, that a comic book film cannot just rely on being formulaic but it can challenge them to question their current life.
MATTHEWS: Sir, I thank you for coming on. Winston Duke in a great movie, one of the great movies ever. You`ll be part of it. Thank you, because I got that message you just described. Thank you so much.
Anyway, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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