HARDBALL March 23, 2018 Guest: Ashley Parker, Michelle Goldberg, Ned Price, Yamiche Alcindor, Mieke Eoyang, Michael Avenatti, Delaney Tarr, Chris Grady, Sofie Whitney
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Hope and despair in Washington. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington where huge crowds will march tomorrow calling for action on gun violence. Later in the show, I will talk to three student organizers from Parkland, Florida.
In contrast to that inspiring message, we have to start with what has been perhaps within of the craziest 24 hours of the Trump White House so far, and that`s, of course, saying something.
The President ordered new tariffs on Chinese imports, sending the markets plunging yesterday and today and potentially sparking a trade war. He teased he would veto a congressional spending bill only to back down within hours. He reshuffled his legal team with a clear message for Robert Mueller. And most dire of all, he signaled a major shift on foreign policy with the hiring of John Bolton, one of the country`s most virulent war hawks.
The fanning 24 hours coincide with even more troubling news about the President. Last night a former "Playboy" model spoke out about what she said was a ten-month affair with Trump. On Sunday, we will hear from another woman alleging a sexual relationship, adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Last night, the attorney for Daniels sent out this cryptic tweet showing a disc inside a safe. He wrote, if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this worth?
Later in the show, that lawyer Michael Avenatti will join us here live on HARDBALL.
First though, about the last 24 hours. Trump removed his national security adviser replacing General H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, a war hawk on Iran and North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I mean, I think my views on the Iran deal reason laid out and what some would say are countless op- eds and speeches and appearances. I think my view is the same as the President`s which he is described as the worst deal in American diplomatic history.
North Korea has a playbook of phrases that they used depending on what their propaganda strategy is. I think that their history over decades is that they, like Iran, like others, use negotiations to buy time to conceal their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Just look at that guy and listen to him carefully. Meanwhile, President Trump this morning teased a potential government shutdown when he tweeted, I`m considering a veto of the omnibus spending bill. Well, he backed down this afternoon, reluctantly, he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, why did you are threaten veto if you knew you had to sign the bill.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you will figure it out in about 20 minutes after you look at it. I looked at it in a veto. I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto but because of the incredible gains that we have been able to make for the military, that over road any of our thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more on all of this, I`m joined by the PBS News Hour`s Yamiche Alcindor, former national security council spokesperson in the Obama administration, Ned Price, "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg and "Washington Post" White House reporter Ashley Parker. Thank you all.
Yamiche, let`s start with Bolton. I think we are going to talk more about him in the program in the second block. But I will tell you that was the shocker. And in terms of long-term impact, he may be the most fraught because he has a history.
Well, let`s go back to the axis of evil. They knocked off the first one under W. They got two more to go. That would be North Korea and Iran. So he has an agenda, this guy. It`s war. Your thoughts?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, there`s so many people that supported Donald Trump mainly because they didn`t want him to be an interventionist President. They didn`t want him to be getting into war with other countries. And here he goes and adds someone as a national security advisor who still thinks that the war in Iraq was a good idea, who has written articles about offensively attacking North Korea. And he had to actually make the promise he wouldn`t get America into war just to get the job. So that doesn`t bode well for where he is.
However, President Trump has not been someone who`s signaled he really wants to go to war. He is obviously had gotten into those back-and-forths with North Korea. But he hasn`t really said that he wants to be hawkish like John Bolton. But it`s really hard to understand whether or not John Bolton is going to completely switch gears to be Trump`s yes man.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump`s choice of John Bolton as his national security adviser is startling considering the issues Trump ran on as a candidate, as you said, Yamiche. It was an America-first platform critical of Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy. For his part, Bolton is a leading advocate for military intervention around the world and what they call on the neo-con right, regime change around the world. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Unlike my opponent, my foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy not destruction.
BOLTON: I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea.
TRUMP: Sometimes it seemed like there wasn`t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn`t want to invade, intervene in, or topple.
BOLTON: Our goal should be regime change in Iran.
TRUMP: Obviously the war in Iraq was a big fat mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have called for regime change in Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syria. In the first two countries, we have had regime change and obviously it has been -- I`d say a disaster, I think we agree.
BOLTON: No, I don`t agree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t agree with that.
Ashley, you don`t need an opinion on this, nobody does, the record. Trump ran against stupid wars, against the neocon agenda of going around, for a freedom agenda, whatever you want to call it, starting wars. They cost us trillions and trillions of dollars, killed hundreds of thousands of people and yet Trump seems to have learned the message, at least rhetorically, but then he brings Bolton in.
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You are right. They are certainly not ideologically aligned if you look at what both of them have said. What the President does like about him is Bolton`s tough talk. He likes someone who - and the President too, he is not much of an interventionist fight. He is someone who likes to taunt Kim Jong-un and speak roughly and brashly on twitter. He likes that about Bolton.
He also likes that he has seen Bolton on television defending him. And one thing I have heard from a lot of west wing aides is it`s less about ideology or policy with him. It is more about sort of personal chemistry and sense of connection. And the two men, at least now for a couple of weeks at least, seem to have that.
MATTHEWS: Michelle, I hate to go down to this "Variety" magazine way of looking at this, the picking people out of the green room at FOX, but that seems to be a pattern. I mean, Lawrence Kudlow, I mean, you go through the list now. He is just picking people he has seen on TV. And he likes the cut of their jib, despite their mustaches. Go ahead.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We have entered the worst-case scenario part of the Trump administration and in a way because it -- what is it, 15 months in. We have all sort of been frogs in a pot acculturating ourselves to ever escalating levels of insanity over the course of the last year and several months.
I think if that your key come out of the gate with this cabinet, with this kind of demented feedback loop with FOX News where he, you know, watches his TV, reacts to his TV, that takes people (INAUDIBLE) TV and puts him in his cabinet. It could have happened early in the administration, I think then it would been a lot more pushback and a lot more maybe panic among Republicans in Congress. Instead, people have gotten used to, like I said, more and more and more dysfunction.
And so we here in this dystopian situation where John Bolton, the last person in the world who should be anywhere near the national security bureaucracy. This President has -- he has dupes y s y dubious legitimacy at best, he doesn`t have popular support in the country. And we are stumbling toward an apocalyptic war that will kill millions of people, turn America into a pariah and our way of life. There is almost no way to talk about what a dangerous spot we are in without sounding insane. But I think that Republicans in Congress really are underreacting and letting us down and putting us in danger because they are so afraid of a mean tweet from Trump or the reaction of his inflamed base.
MATTHEWS: You know, Ned, we are not talking about bite-sized wars like we had under Bush Sr. invading grenadier or going out arresting Noriega. These are bite-sized wars. And then they have casualties, but not horrendous. You are talking about a real country, Iran. It`s a real country. Western style defense system for years that we built up by the west and us.
You go to war with Iran, you are going to war with a real country. North Korea is crazy. We don`t know what they will do. These are dangerous fronts (ph).
NED PRICE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chris, whether Donald Trump knows it or not, and I suspect he may not even know it, he is building a war cabinet. You have John Bolton as his incoming national security adviser. You have Mike Pompeo who he has picked as secretary of state. This is a war cabinet and a war cabinet will do one thing.
And unfortunately, Chris, we have to talk about these men, both of them are eager for conflict, as you said, with North Korea and Iran for -- over the course of years. But they are actually going to have opportunities in the coming weeks.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to Ashely`s point to that. Trump likes -- and I accept that interpretation, he likes tough talk, he likes guys on television, people on television who will speak in sort of macho way. But you know, these macho talk has a way of translating itself into reality. I mean, other countries hear you. Look at the history of World War I. Now we get into wars in the last century. Both sides talk tough and they are fighting.
PRICE: Then well, the challenge is Donald Trump has no core beliefs. He has no principles. And so he listens to the last person that talk to him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the constituency.
Working class people in the gritty states he won the election with. He didn`t win in fancy places. He won in Wisconsin, you know, Pittsburgh, in Indiana, he won in Michigan, you know, Pennsylvania. He won where working class people who have been voting for Roosevelt and Kennedy and everybody else since for decades voted for him because he seemed like a guy who cared about the working class and they fight our wars. The fight the wars.
They are the guys who enlist and women who enlist, spend their careers and get shot up and lose legs and get disfigured. And they are the ones who come home and their parents know it. So they voted for Trump. What are the reasons they voted for Trump. And now he brings Bolton?
Bolden is the hero of the "Weekly Standard," of the "Wall Street Journal" op-ed page. He is the guy who beats the drum for war every day and sort of laughs about it through his mustache. He sort of thinks it is fun.
Michelle, would you give us a sense of -- how about an oral portrait of who -- because people tell me he is not even a neo-con. Neo-cons will at least put the sugar in with the medicine and say oh, we are for freedom and all this, no. This guy is just a hawk.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I think that`s the difference is that neo-conservatives had also an ideology about if you are spreading democracy. John Bolton wants to change regimes. He doesn`t necessarily care what comes after it as long as they sort of accede to American unilateral power. And so, yes, he supports regime change in Iran, in North Korea and, you know, possibly in other places in the Middle East. He is really disdainful of alliances, of multilateral institutions and even people who defend him. I mean, if you read the defenses of him in some of the conservative publications, they say well, maybe we should give the hawks a chance, right? I don`t think anybody disputes the fact --
MATTHEWS: They only need one.
GOLDBERG: -- that we`re more likely to go to war with John Bolton in that position.
MATTHEWS: They only need one chance and they push the button.
Anyway. Today`s major drama at the White House was over. The President`s threat to blow up a spending bill. The continuing resolution he said he decided to sign the bill reluctantly. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There were a lot of things I`m unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn`t have had in this bill but we were in a sense forced if we want to build our military, we were forced to have. I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I`m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It`s only hours old. Some people don`t even know what -- $1.3 trillion. It`s the second-largest ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the President`s initial reluctance came as a surprise to everyone in Washington. Just yesterday, speaker Paul Ryan had this to say about where the President stood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, yes. The President supports this bill. There`s no two ways about it. On big bills, that`s typically what I do with the President, to walk him through, you know, the contours and the complexities of the legislation we passed. And yes he supports the bill no two ways about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, and Ashley, about a thousand years ago we had a President named Barack Obama, I think, it seems like a thousand years ago and he was no drama, Obama. This guy, did he create drama, this pearls of Pauline today, I might not sign it, I will sign it, blah, blah?
PARKER: Yes. It`s a great cliffhanger for a TV show, but he absolutely created it to give you a sense of the chaos. None of his aides knew what was coming. It was not just Paul Ryan. You had the vice President going out. You had Mick Mulvaney going out. Anyone who supported this bill the President humiliated and undermined by what he did this morning, by what he tweeted. And if you talk to west wing aides, they had no idea.
When the President said there was going to be a news conference on the bill early on, just moments up into the bill, they didn`t know if he was going to sign it, not sign it, rip it up, rant about it and then sign it, which is what he ultimately did. I mean, there was just no sense of where the president head was on this issue.
MATTHEWS: Another case to look, mom, no hands. Riding a bike with no hands. He does this all the time.
And what happened? Well, according to "Washington Post," your paper, people familiar with Trump`s thinking said the President was frustrated with the bill and the coverage it was receiving particularly on FOX News where critics took aim at the level of spending in the bill.
Michelle, here is another case - (INAUDIBLE) Ned with this. Another case of where he seems to be -- it`s all this shadow boxing and performance art like he is out in the street corner doing performance art just to keep us talking about his latest craziness.
PRICE: Well, to keep us talking about his latest craziness and to keep us from talking about the latest craziness surrounding him. Remember all of these stories --.
MATTHEWS: This is wag the dog?
PRICE: Well, look. You have to look at this through the context of the firing of McMaster, this crazy veto threat today and then, of course, the tariffs that were announced yesterday was it on China. All of this came in the atmosphere of --.
MATTHEWS: So a trade war and a war like war cabinet being installed so we won`t talk about Stormy?
PRICE: I wouldn`t put it past this President.
MATTHEWS: Come on. You are shaking your head, Ashley. That`s utter irresponsibility. Your response, though.
PARKER: I just don`t buy the theory the President is this master artist of distraction taking one awful scandal and replacing it with another. I think he does what he does --
MATTHEWS: He is just peripatetic?
MATTHEWS: Is that right, Michelle? Last word, peripatetic? How do you described this manic, go everywhere, hit as many buttons as possible in an hour? I mean, a trade war, government shut down, a war hawk, a new lawyer, fired his security guy everything in a matter of minutes, really. Your thoughts. What`s he up to create this crazy world?
GOLDBERG: I agree with Ashley. I think he is manic and impulsive. And I think very soon the bill is going to come due. I mean, we haven`t had to pay the price for having an unfit President yet. But you are starting to see it with the Dow, with the trade war. And I think we will start to see it with the really kind of plummeting place of America in the world pretty soon.
MATTHEWS: Well, I watched the Dow again today. It took another frightening drop. This is called -- I think it`s beyond correction like (INAUDIBLE) like to say. This is scary business. It`s a trade war.
Thank you Yamiche Alcindor, Ned Price, Michelle Goldberg and Ashley Parker.
Coming up, the war cabinet with the addition of John Bolton as national security advisor. President Trump is putting together a group of hawks that pushed for war with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. And that`s very much at odds with how candidate Trump campaigned. Please remember, he ran against stupid wars and those who pushed them.
Plus, a former "Playboy" model details the relationship she says she had with Donald Trump for ten months. And the lawyer for Stormy Daniels teases the world with what could be a bombshell in this case. He tweeted this picture of this disk in a safe saying, if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this thing worth? Michael Avenatti, the guy who is teasing us with this stuff, is coming to join us here live tonight in a few minutes.
And ahead of tomorrow`s march for our lives, three students who survived the massacre last month in Parkland, Florida are here to tell us what gun safety laws they want Washington to enact.
Finally, let me finish tonight with a thought about all these young people coming to Washington this weekend. A good sign? We will see.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Former Georgia governor and Senator Zell Miller died after a battle with Parkinson`s. Senator Miller served two terms as Georgia`s governor and went on to win a special election for the U.S. Senate. He famously crossed the party aisle in 2004, delivering a rousing keynote speech at the Republican national convention that year in support of then- President George W. Bush. And after that speech, he joined me for an interview that we won`t soon forget.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: If a Republican senator broke ranks -- sorry, a Republican senator broke ranks and came over and spoke for the Democrats, would you respect him?
ZELL MILLER (D), FORMER GEORGIA SENATOR: Yes.
MILLER: Of course I would. I have seen that happen from time to time. Look --
MATTHEWS: What did Jim Jeffords? Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties after getting elected --
MILLER: If you`re going to ask a question.
MATTHEWS: That`s a tough question. It will take a few words.
MILLER: Get out of my face. If you are going to ask a question, step back and let me answer. You know, I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel. Now that would be pretty good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Miller and I exchanged very friendly letters in recent years. I would say fairly recently, and I`m so glad we did.
He deserves our respect for his public service in government and his, of course, beloved U.S. marines. Zell Miller was 86 years old.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s appointment of John Bolton to the top national security post at the White House is a stunning reversal for a president who campaigned against foreign entanglements.
As undersecretary of state during the early years of the W. Bush administration, Bolton was a top cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, hyping the idea that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons.
Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Iraq, despite U.N. sanctions, maintains an aggressive program to rebuild the infrastructure for its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.
There`s no doubt that the program was clandestine, heavily camouflaged and has been going on at a considerable magnitude for at least five years.
We have very convincing evidence that Iraq maintains an extensive program for the production and weaponization of weapons of mass destruction.
It`s our strongest hope that by eliminating the regime and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction, which are functionally the same thing, that we give the people of Iraq an opportunity to live in freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, even though no weapons were ever found in Iraq, Bolton told "The Washington Examiner" in 2015: "I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct."
Well, however, Bolton`s predisposition toward intervention and his willingness to engage in protracted wars abroad is fundamentally at odds with the positions candidate Donald Trump took during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: The point that I want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started, is, there is no United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That was the wrong clip.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and co-author of the number one "New York Times" bestseller, "Russian Roulette." It hit the list this week. Mieke Eoyang is vice president for the National Security Program at Third Way.
Mieke, I`m going to let you start for a second, because I`m stunned. I`m not stunned, really, because I think Trump doesn`t know many people. I think it really comes down to -- it`s like Chauncey Gardiner in "Being There." He only knows things from television. I like to watch.
And he has seen Bolton. He doesn`t -- how do I get rid of H.R. McMaster? I guess I got to bring in Bolton in.
But Bolton is a 180 from him, 180 from what he campaigned on.
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That`s right. That`s right.
Bolton is interested in getting into all kinds of conflicts. He`s not interested in making deals, right? Trump says he`s a deal-maker. Bolton is not good actually at negotiations. He doesn`t actually know how to help the other side get to yes.
And so what you have here is a guy who has never met a conflict that he didn`t like.
MATTHEWS: Did you hear what he said about North Korea? Unless they agree to total nuclearization, they get rid of any nuclear thing they got, anything that looks like a nuclear weapon, no deal, walk out.
Well, what kind of a negotiation is that, David?
CORN: Well, it`s not.
MATTHEWS: It`s not.
CORN: He`s not good at negotiations. He`s not good at conveying intelligence, as you just saw. He lied like the others during the time.
And he`s also not good at running staff. The job of the national security adviser is sort of to be the traffic cop between the Defense Department and the State Department.
MATTHEWS: Honest broker.
CORN: And an honest broker.
And when he had a job in the Bush -- in the George W. Bush administration in terms of proliferation, he actually pushed aside or fired people who challenged his view. He claimed that Cuba was developing biological and chemical weapons to give to other countries. The analysts who said that`s not true, he shoved them aside.
Guess what? He was wrong. So, how is he going to do this job? He`s just going to tell Trump whatever he wants to hear, and Trump is famous for listening and caring about the last guy in the room.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to the seat of the hurricane here, Mieke. Why?
Why does a guy like Dick Cheney, dishonestly made up the idea they had nuclear weapons, just lied, why do they want these wars? Is it that they don`t like somebody because they don`t like the look of their face, so they don`t -- they just like knocking off weaker countries?
These are real countries they`re coming up against now. Iraq is one thing. Iran is a real country.
EOYANG: Oh, Iran...
MATTHEWS: These are serious military forces over there, sophisticated as hell country. You`re going to war with Iran, you`re going to war. Israel, I wonder, is the match for Iran right now.
Those countries are basically teetering in kind of a counter -- what do you -- balance of power over there in the Middle East. We go to war with them?
And because we went to war in Iraq, Iran`s hand is strengthened in the region, and we haven`t devastated their military like we did with Iraq for 10 years prior to going in.
So, they are quite capable. One of the problems with hawks like this is they are overly optimistic about the chances of success and how easy it is going to be. You will remember...
MATTHEWS: Why? What do they know about military life?
EOYANG: They don`t, actually. They don`t know much about it.
And they`re just -- they`re so confident and arrogant about their own judgments, that they dismiss any concerns.
MATTHEWS: Remember the great scene in all these Civil War movies? I know I`m an old movie buff, but "Gone With the Wind."
All these Southern guys, white guys with their big, chivalrous hats on and nice pretty gray uniform, we can`t wait to go to the Civil War? What? You got pretty good generals, but you don`t have any of the machinery of the North. Are you crazy? You`re going to beat the North in a war?
And I think it`s the same mentality. Oh, yes, because we`re going to win this war.
CORN: Well, Bolton did say at the time that we would not have to be in Iraq too long.
MATTHEWS: Of course.
CORN: So, wrong, wrong, wrong.
MATTHEWS: But the war will pay for itself.
CORN: And in 2009, we at "Mother Jones" got a tape saying that the only way to deal with the Iran nuclear program would be for Israel to have a nuclear strike, not just a war, but a nuclear strike on Iran.
CORN: That`s how far he goes. So, forget about even trying to talk...
MATTHEWS: Where does that lead to? What does that lead to if Israel does that against an Islamic country?
CORN: Well, I would say one easy term is apocalypse. I mean, this is where they`re at.
MATTHEWS: It`s one thing to support the Iraq War before it started, but when you look back at it and see what hell it was, $4 trillion of our treasury, all these dismembered Americans, they`re all over the place, these guys.
CORN: And hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
MATTHEWS: A hundred thousand dead people, and you say, oh, it looks good in the rear-view mirror?
EOYANG: No way.
MATTHEWS: That`s sick.
Anyway, even W., I think, wouldn`t do it again. I think W. knows he was hoodwinked by Cheney.
Anyway, thank you David Corn and Mieke Eoyang. Thank you. Great to have you on.
Up next -- and, by the way, congratulations.
CORN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Number one, it deserves it.
CORN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: A former Playboy model details her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And it`s happening just as the attorney for Stormy Daniels tweeted out this photo, there it is, teasing what may be a bombshell bit of evidence.
That`s attorney Michael Avenatti. He`s coming here right now.
And this is HARDBALL.
What a night. Very strange.
Where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump is under siege right now from three separate lawsuits filed by an adult film actor, a former Playboy model and a former contestant on his show "The Apprentice."
It doesn`t look like it`s about to let up. Last night, for example, former Playmate Karen McDougal broke her silence. In an interview with CNN, she said she had a 10-month extramarital relationship with Trump around the same time as adult film actor Stormy Daniels.
She was asked if she had any regrets. Here`s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY PLAYMATE: No regrets, except the fact that he was married.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to know?
MCDOUGAL: It`s a tough one.
COOPER: Or say to her?
MCDOUGAL: Yes. What can you say, except I`m sorry. I`m sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Around the same time McDougal`s interview aired last night, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, tweeted this cryptic picture with the following message, "If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how many is this worth?"
Keep your eye on that thing.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump denied the allegations.
For more, I`m joined by himself, Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels.
I think you`re a match for the president, sir. I have been watching you. I have never seen it done quite so -- now that I have warmed you up, I have to ask you about this DVD.
This is a picture, I assume, tape of her taking the lie detector test? Would that be a good yes?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: No, that would not be a good guess. I appreciate the compliment.
Let me tell you...
MATTHEWS: We`re getting close, though. What is it? What is it, a DVD? It is a DVD.
AVENATTI: Let me tell you this, Chris.
That DVD contains evidence of this relationship, and let me tell you why I sent the tweet. I sent the tweet as a warning shot to Michael Cohen and any other supporter of the president and to the president himself.
To the extent that they plan on disparaging my client, lying about what happened, or spinning facts that have no basis in reality after the "60 Minutes" interview, let that tweet be a warning to them. It`s time for the nonsense to end. They need to come clean about what happened. They need to come clean about the $130,000 payment. They need to come clean with the American people.
It`s just that simple.
MATTHEWS: So it`s a DVD. Some people thought it was a C.D., but thank you. Now, it involves pictures, moving pictures, I guess, something that - - who`s in the pictures, your client and the president together?
AVENATTI: Chris, I`m not going to answer any more questions about that media.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go back to this bodily threat, bodily harm. Was it a threat? Was it a kind of a Luca Brasi thing, your signature is on the table or your brains?
How vivid and how frightening was that bodily threat, the threat to bodily harm of your client?
AVENATTI: Well, I think the American people are certainly going to hear about that on Sunday. I know they are.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re here. And you said it was a threat of bodily harm. And I wondered, is it like -- was it delivered in person or on the phone?
AVENATTI: Chris, here`s what I will tell you.
The threat was delivered in person. My client is going to describe it in detail on Sunday. The American people are going to hear from her. They`re going to judge her credibility. It was very frightening to her.
And I think they`re going to come away with a firm understanding after that interview of exactly what happened here.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m getting the picture here.
Is it fair to assume, you can tell me right now, Michael, as the attorney, that the reason she signed the nondisclosure agreement was not just the money they offered, because the money was substantial, $130,000, but it was also against the danger of breaking the deal and having to pay millions and millions for each utterance that might have been seen in the courts as a violation of the deal?
Was the threat part of the reason she signed?
AVENATTI: I think absolutely.
When the president`s fixer exerts pressure on you to sign a document, you don`t ask a lot of questions. You do as you`re told. And I think the American people are going to learn from her on Sunday and thereafter of exactly what happened here.
And our position, Chris, has always been the same. We want the truth and the facts to be known to the American people, period.
MATTHEWS: Is this a basis for disbarment if this was a lawyer that made that threat, physical threat, to get someone to sign a contract?
AVENATTI: I`m not an ethics expert, but let me tell you that I would never do that.
MATTHEWS: But it was a lawyer that made the threat?
AVENATTI: Well, I`m not saying that it`s a lawyer that made the threat.
MATTHEWS: Well, you just accepted that argument, that recognition. I thought you just said that.
AVENATTI: I accepted your hypothetical, Chris. You`re a very skilled questioner. I accepted your hypothetical.
MATTHEWS: No, I think we have narrowed this down to this threat was made in person, this threat of bodily harm. We have narrowed it down to, it was an attorney. And you have got a copy of something on a DVD. Is that fair to put it all together like that? That`s your power play?
AVENATTI: No, I don`t think that`s fair, but, again, you`re a skilled questioner. I applaud you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, look, I think you`re doing a hell of a job here.
Let me ask you about the message. I don`t think you`re in this for money, and I don`t think -- to be fair, I don`t think your client is either at this point.
I think there`s something in this that`s big time. Is this power and abuse of power? Is this -- I mean, infidelity is not new on this planet. It`s been around since biblical times. We can read the Bible to know infidelity has been there.
It`s painful. It`s wrong. Most people think it`s wrong, but it occurs. And my question is, is that about -- is the evil here you`re trying to track down and punish infidelity? Or, beyond that, what is it, you get up in the morning, and you want to do it with this case?
AVENATTI: Chris, it has nothing do with infidelity.
I know people are interested in the salacious details, et cetera. Look, I get it. It`s much bigger than that. It`s about the cover-up. It`s about people in positions of power abusing that power, putting people that are less fortunate, that don`t have a many resources as they do under their thumb, threatening them, intimidating them, and engaging in thuggish tactics.
Those days as it relates to my client are over, and we`re going to get to the bottom of what happened here, and the American people are going to learn the truth, period.
MATTHEWS: To get that, will you depose Trump?
AVENATTI: If necessary, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the Trump position on this regard.
And I`m sure you can imagine his position. During the Profumo scandal in the 1960s in Britain, a really notorious case, Christine Keeler was one of the women involved in it, sex worker, I think it`s far to say, at the time, when one of the British guys who was the -- was actually the foreign minister at the time, he said it didn`t happen.
And her answer was, well, he would say that, wouldn`t he?
Isn`t the Trump response the normal response? No, it didn`t happen. How are we going to get Trump to admit it happened? How is that going to happen?
AVENATTI: Well, I think we have seen that in politics before. I`m a student of history.
We saw that ultimately with Bill Clinton. We saw it with Gary Hart and the monkey business. We saw it with John Edwards. We saw it with a number of politicians.
Sooner or later, they have got to come clean with the American people. And sooner or later, this president and Michael Cohen are going to have to come clean about this $130,000 payment, the threats and the intimidation and how they put this woman under their thumb.
MATTHEWS: You`re working pro bono. How long can you fight this case, because that`s a great advantage for your client, that you`re willing to pursue this case.
It costs money, implied money, even if you don`t take it out of your pocket. It`s money you`re losing fighting this case. You`re not doing something else to make money. How long can you -- do you promise your client you will fight this case?
AVENATTI: To the end. I`m a young man. I`m in for the long haul, period.
MATTHEWS: You`re something else.
Michael Avenatti, I would like to meet you sometime over dinner maybe. You`re something else.
AVENATTI: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
AVENATTI: Appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re going to be difficult to fight.
Up next, we`re going to meet three high school students from Parkland, Florida, in town for tomorrow`s big March for Our Lives.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIMITRI HOTH, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I stand before you here today to invite you, students and parents from across America, let us pray with our legs, let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough. America, we are your future. Why won`t you protect us?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Dimitry Hoth, a survivor at the Parkland, Florida school shooting, with a plea for our nation`s lawmakers.
Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are expected to converge, maybe 500,000 for tomorrow`s March for Our Lives, a movement led by student activist in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They`re demanding gun control legislation with a simple message -- never again.
Organizers say more than 800 events are planned worldwide tomorrow in conjunction with the main event in Washington.
Former Vice President Joe Biden offered some encouragement on Capitol Hill today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: These kids are going to change. They`re going to change the culture. They`re going to change the gun culture because they have no agenda. They have no special interest. And they`re really -- and they`re going to change their parents. They`re gong to change their parents` attitudes who maybe thought this wasn`t an issue that was of great consequence. But I think it`s going to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining us right now is Delaney Tarr, Chris Grady -- Chris has been on before -- and Sofie Whitney. They are all seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and founding members of the Never Again movement.
Well, I`m going to let you talk. Unusually, I`m going to step back because tomorrow`s your day and tonight is your day here.
Delaney? I love that first name, Delaney. You know, you`ve gone through a lot. What`s changed over your feelings since the horror of the day itself as it matured in your head, marinated in your head?
DELANEY TARR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I mean, I think the feelings bounce around a lot because it`s very much a roller coaster of emotions at all times. One moment, you can feel completely fine, but then the next, it just hits you like a brick wall.
MATTHEWS: Do you have images of the lost classmates?
TARR: Images of them --
MATTHEWS: Coming into your mind?
TARR: Oh, absolutely. Especially when we go to the school and we have to see the empty desks. But we take that pain and turn it into action and I think that`s what we`ve continue to do and the best thing we can keep doing.
MATTHEWS: Chris, what do you make of the history of gun laws in this country going back to the Second Amendment? I haven`t seen much change?
CHRIS GRADY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Yes. No, the Second Amendment is something, obviously, a lot of Americans hold dear. It`s in our founding documents but that doesn`t mean it can`t be a regulated amendment like all of the other ones are. So, we`re not trying to take away anybody`s Second Amendment rights, we`re just trying to stop these things from happening. We`re just trying to save kids` lives.
MATTHEWS: What would impress you that the Senate and Congress does and the president signs? What would make you say to yourself, you got the message?
Let me go to Sofie on that and give you a chance to relax.
Sophie, what would impress you and then everybody same answer, same question. What do you want to see in terms of action?
SOFIE WHITNEY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: As of right now, I would just like to see them present any gun bill or even say the word "gun" in anything.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Is it that bad? Delaney?
TARR: I mean, we do, we want them to say the word gun. We want them to address the issue directly because it feels a lot of the time like they`re stepping around the issue. That`s something you see a lot when it comes to the bureaucracy of our country.
MATTHEWS: Why are they afraid of the word "gun"? I`ll ask you a basic question. They say taxes and they cut taxes, they use words like that. You know, they`re not afraid of -- regulation, they love to say we`re getting rid of regulation.
GRADY: Well, I think it`s the gun culture. A lot of Americans are obsessed with their guns so a lot of politicians might not want to upset their own voters if they bring up that word. So, yes.
MATTHEWS: Well, the culture in the `60s, there was the Black Panthers. There`s a lot of street crimes, still is today. People of different communities have different attitudes, different times. Do you think your generation is different, Sofie?
WHITNEY: I just think that --
MATTHEWS: Because of the school shootings?
I mean, you guys all grew up in the shadow of Columbine. You haven`t had a waking conscious moment of your lives when you didn`t think about school shootings. This is sort of new, you know?
WHITNEY: We`ve grown up around these shootings and it`s kind of been normalized by society that oh, another school shooting happens. It`s become too normal and that`s not OK because people are dying and it can happen anywhere. It happened in one of the safest cities in Florida, in the country. And it`s just --
MATTHEWS: It looks so safe, your school.
WHITNEY: We all felt incredibly safe.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, today`s "Washington Post," author Paul Taylor writes: According to the most recent general social survey, just 18 percent of people between 18 and 24 say most people can be trusted. That`s less than half the share of older adults who felt that way in 2016 and the lowest number recorded in the half century this question has been asked. Two weeks ago, the president promised Congress would act on guns. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent weeks, I`ve met with the victims of school shootings including the courageous students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. In the aftermath of that terrible tragedy, we`re taking very strong action on things like even background checks, making them tougher. It`s never that easy but it`s moving along and a lot of great things are being done. We`re making it much tougher but a lot of things are happening right now as we speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Congress did take one small step. The omnibus spending bill signed into law today includes the Fix NICS Act which modestly improves the background check system for buying guns and allows federal research into gun violence, federal research.
This afternoon, in advance of tomorrow`s march, President Trump wrote idea today the department of justice will issue the rule banning bump stocks, we will ban all devices that could turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.
Let me ask you about that survey that says your generation and people older than you have less trust in their fellow persons. They just don`t buy -- they`re skeptical. Is that -- do you think that`s right?
TARR: I do think that`s true. We`ve seen a lot of disillusionment with the system because I think the more that we learn and the more we learn through social media and through the news and through our schooling and our education, the more realize that we`re not necessarily satisfied with the way things are. And I think that`s a pattern you see in many young people but with this growth of knowledge and this spread of knowledge, it`s definitely increased.
MATTHEWS: Lack of trust, Chris? Is that a generational thing? Cynicism, thinking everybody is out for themselves? That kind of thing?
GRADY: You know, it`s hard not to be cynical especially in the wake of events like this, but then you look is at heroes like Coach Feis and Coach Hixon who put their lives on the line to save kids` lives --
MATTHEWS: In your school?
GRADY: Yes, in my school. And, you know, you can`t become cynical because you`ll be tarnishing their legacy if you do. So --
WHITNEY: I agree.
MATTHEWS: Are you cynical?
WHITNEY: About a few things. But I feel like cynicism isn`t going to help us at this point when we`re trying to make this difference in a positive way. It`s going to hurt us and make us look insensitive to what happened.
MATTHEWS: Delaney Tarr, Chris Grady and Sofie Whitney are saying with us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re coming right back with the three students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A reminder, we`ll have all day coverage of the March for Our Lives tomorrow. Join me for a special hour at 3:00 Eastern and then again for a two-hour special, HARDBALL at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with three students from Parkland, Florida, in town for tomorrow`s big March for Our Lives, Delaney Tarr, Chris Grady and Sofie Whitney.
So, in that order, you`re sitting with President Trump, he`s not going to - - he`s in Mar-a-Lago this week, it`s not going to happen. But if you could sit across the table like this from him, what would you say?
TARR: I mean, I would thank him, obviously, for taking the time to talk to us but I`d let him know we`re here to compromise because we know that is a step -- a necessary step in the legislative process and that`s something we`re willing to do, but that he needs to listen to us, everyone needs to listen to us and we need to be heard and it doesn`t need to be half listened or just be told we`re being listened to. We need to actually see them taking our statements into consideration and to actually do something about it because we`re not going away.
GRADY: Yes. Piggybacking off of what she said. You know, compromise is the most important thing. He supports banning bump stocks but that`s just bread crumbs, we need more than just that if we`re going to stop things like this from happening.
MATTHEWS: You want a ban on assault rifles?
WHITNEY: I would tell him that he has the power -- he has the power to change things and he -- we`re going to be at his doorstep screaming and demanding action and if he can throw a curveball and he can listen to all of these constituents asking for this and he can make the difference.
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. It`s an honor to have you all here.
Delaney Tarr, Chris Grady and Sofie Whitney.
When we return, rather, when I return, let me finish with a thought about these young people coming here to Washington. It`s very impressive.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a thought about these young people coming to Washington.
On a totally different note, I like to say families planning trips here come and vacation in Washington because you already paid for this. I`m referring to the monuments and museums that are open to the public for free. They`re really wonderful opportunities to learn about our history as a country, our art and really take pride in a truly beautiful capital city.
But there`s also a right every American has to come to Washington on business, that business being our right as a citizen to petition the Congress, to say what we`ve got to say, to tell our representative what we want them to do and this Saturday, hundreds of thousands, maybe 500,000 high school kids will be here to both enjoy this city, though it`s a bit early, a bit cold for a senior class trip, and have their voices heard on a matter particularly close to them -- their safety, especially when they`re at school.
I think this is all great for the young people, great for the country to have its youth so enthusiastic to participate in strengthening our public dialogue. At least when it come and gone, the elected officials on Capitol Hill will know what this new generation has to say about guns and their rightful role in our society and also the rights of society with respect to guns. Let`s hope it matters.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
And a reminder to tune in for our coverage of the march for our lives tomorrow on in network. I`ll have a special hour at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, and then a two-hour edition on MSNBC`s HARDBALL at 7:00.
ALL IN, by the way, starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.