Show: HARDBALL Date: April 4, 2018 Guest: David Jolly, Annie Linskey, Jose Aristimuno, John Brabender
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That is our show. I will see you back here live 6:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.
HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mueller time. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
New information delivered by the special counsel to the President`s legal team is fueling intense speculation now about Donald Trump`s legal exposure in the Russian probe. According to a report late last night in the "Washington Post," special counsel Robert Mueller informed President Trump`s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the President. But does not consider him a criminal target at this point. Instead, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation.
As legal experts say, there can be a fine line however between a subject and a target of an investigation. While a target is at immediate risk of being indicted, a subject is someone whose conduct is clearly under investigation. So saying Trump is not a target makes sense for two potential reasons. One, Robert Mueller isn`t ready to indict him or two, Mueller doesn`t believe he can indict a President while in office. It does not say he is not investigating any Trump either for purposes of triggering or supporting impeachment or for indicting him as a criminal.
Well, this development contradicts the President`s claim in January that he is not under investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has been no collusion. There has been no crime. And in theory, everybody tells me I`m not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don`t know, but I`m not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the news that the President`s not a target of the probe comes amid the ongoing negotiations to get the President to testify before Mueller`s prosecutors. And it sparked a new debate inside Trump`s inner circle.
According to "Washington Post," the President and some of his allies seized on the special counsel`s word as an insurance that trump`s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets. And expressed concern the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put the President in legal peril. As Republican congressman Trey Gowdy warn this had morning, this news should not come as a relief to the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if you were his attorney, you would not say, you wouldn`t have a sigh of relief?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), TEXAS: Heavens no. I will have a sigh of relief when the investigation is over. And even then, maybe not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, investigative reporter for NBC News, Robert Costa, co-author of that story in the "Washington Post" we just reported and is an MSNBC political analyst and Mieke Eoyang is vice President of national security program at Third Way and Joy Vance is a former U.S. attorney and MSNBC contributor.
Let`s start with a subjective view of Trump. What`s Trump think? What struck things, Robert?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: His whole camp is divided. The President wants to do the interview. He is telling his lawyers, he is telling White House officials he wants to sit down because he thinks it will quicken the whole process. But a lot of people around the President are saying do not sit down with the special counsel.
MATTHEWS: Could this be a fly trap this whole thing.
COSTA: Mueller is trying to get the President to sit down. That`s why he had a conversation --.
MATTHEWS: OK. You are not a target. Come see me.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: It would be unethical, though, for them to lie about that for federal prosecutors. They have an obligation to tell the truth.
MATTHEWS: Well. They are immediately ready to indict, yes. But nobody claims that yet, do they?
DILANIAN: No. And in fact, you know, they don`t have to tell them exactly what they have. But if he was a target, they would have to tell him.
COSTA: And they got a lot of open questions. We have reported that the Mueller team wants to find out the President`s intent on key decisions he made while President such as firing James Comey.
MATTHEWS: Mieke, you are here. I`m sorry.
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY: I am.
MATTHEWS: I mean, I want all the opinions here about the first question which I raised initially. What`s the President`s mindset now that he has told he is not a target? Does that mean he is frisky now? He is ready to go before the prosecutor and enjoy himself?
EOYANG: I don`t know that he is ready to do that, but it does calm him down. He is very clearly someone when he feels like he is a target or the investigation is getting closer to him, he gets antsy about wanting to end this investigation and fire Mueller.
EOYANG: And he is someone who clings to any shred of good news that he can to find comfort about and say, no. It is not.
MATTHEWS: I think that`s well, said.
Let me go to Joyce for the expertise on the legal question. It seems like Trump is constantly being pandered to by his lawyers with all kinds of great news. This will be over by Thanksgiving. This will be over by Christmas. This will be over by next week. And now he gets more reason. And life is looking good. I`m not a target. What do you make of this thinking?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. And you know, it is really interesting because we know that this reporting comes to us not from anybody on Mueller`s team. They have been completely quiet. So this obviously comes from folks on the President`s side of the equation. And you have to wonder, is this something of an effort by his team to continue to pander to him as they did by saying the investigation would be over at thanksgiving, end of the year, early this year.
We don`t really have any way of knowing for certain that this is what Mueller`s team believes. But it`s likely that the President is not a target simply because of the long-standing legal tradition and policy at DOJ that a sitting President can`t be indicted.
So Trump really is in a lose/lose situation. Either he goes in and talks to Mueller and exposes himself to risk or he doesn`t go in and talk. And then there`s a heavy political cost to be paid.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Robert Costa. What`s your source? Just kidding. You are not going to tell us. But let me ask you --.
COSTA: In the story we source it to people familiar with the discussions between Mueller.
MATTHEWS: That could be the prosecutors or the President`s lawyers.
COSTA: Well, I`m not making the kind of statement with all respect about sourcing that she just made.
MATTHEWS: Interpret that.
COSTA: What I`m saying is we have talked to people familiar with these discussions and we will leave it there.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask about the way that they interpret it. There`s two ways to interpret the fact that the President is not a target right now. One is he is not a target. They don`t have enough evidence right now to bring a case against him right now either on collusion or obstruction or as possible laundering, money laundering.
But the other interpretation is you can`t indict a President. Which way do they think this is flowing right now?
COSTA: The other part of the story --.
MATTHEWS: No. Which of those two do they think is going on here? Why weren`t they targeted yet?
COSTA: Well, they are told that they are going to get a report that the Mueller team is working on a report about the President`s conduct. So that means there could be something going to Rod Rosenstein at the department of justice that you could eventually go to Congress. You know, I don`t want to get too far ahead of the process. We have reported. They are working on a document. And where that document goes --.
MATTHEWS: You already moved the sun down, so what do you think? You are reporting and other reporting at "the Post" is that Mueller is going to come out with a series of reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
MATTHEWS: The first one will be the low hanging fruit of obstruction.
COSTA: Possible obstruction, correct.
MATTHEWS: And then deliver those to Congress and would Congress be expected to begin impeachment proceedings when it gets all the reports or the first one.
COSTA: They are trying to get the document out well ahead of the midterm election so it doesn`t become politicized. But if (INAUDIBLE) in the sense that they are pretty much done that whole process on the possible obstruction of justice, we are told by our sources. The Russian interference part, that is ongoing. That could take months if not a year or more.
MATTHEWS: Well, Jerry Nadler is a ranking Democrat on the House judiciary committee. He is sitting over there as constitutional expert with about 60 votes already for impeachment. And black caucus members, other progressives out there who are already there and already to do this thing, right.
MATTHEWS: So tell us how they are going to receive these reports that we now hear are coming from Mueller starting with the obstruction.
DILANIAN: Yes. The problem with obstruction of justice is that, as Robert says, it is a crime of intent. So unless there is some really shocking evidence that we haven`t seen or heard about to date, it`s going to be really difficult I think to prove that, you know, to the sufficiency that would rise to the level of impeachment, right. Because so far, we have seen where he is told, you know, asked for investigations, asked Comey to drop the investigation.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. You know, if he fires Comey -- let me go back to Joyce. We know he fired Comey. We know he tried to protect Michael Flynn with Comey. We know all these. It`s all public now. If that`s all they have got, then it opens the question was he obstructing justice in such a public way using his constitutional powers publicly. Is that impeachable?
VANCE: And that`s a good question. Typically.
MATTHEWS: And it`s to you.
MATTHEWS: Right now, it`s to you.
VANCE: Yes. In obstruction, you can be charged with in criminal courts. But how Congress deems an impeachable act is very different. It has left up to their sound discretion. What we have seen so far from this Congress is that they have not been impressed with the publicly available information about the President`s conduct. There has been no outrage. There has been no calls to bring the President to heel or hold him accountable.
So the issue we will have is whether Mueller`s report if it reaches Congress through Rod Rosenstein`s office, whether that will contain additional facts that will sufficiently agitate this Congress or a future one after the November elections and cause them to take actions against the President. Still up in the air depending on the facts.
That`s well said.
So Mieke, and that is the question I think is out there, it`s pending right now. Because if you figure the Democrats pick up 40 seats if they have a good year and they come in with a substantial majority over 218, that would allow a couple conservatives or more is not to go with them but still to be able to get to 218. But do they -- does it make sense that they could impeach a President and take him to trial in the Senate on just obstruction or do they need to have some collusion, something to do with actually working, conspiring with the Russians.
EOYANG: So I don`t think it is necessary that is the underlying issue is actually a crime here. Remember, the last time we impeached a President, it was about lying about something that was actually not a crime at all. And so, in the political realm, it`s this question of like what is the truthfulness of the President. Can you trust him? Is it he abusing his office in a way that loses him.
MATTHEWS: But did you think the last impeachment was abusing the constitutional authority of the House of Representatives? Most people do.
EOYANG: I do.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s talk about what legitimately would look like an impeachable offense.
EOYANG: So what we are talking out here is not trying to cover up an affair but trying to cover up and prevent people from getting to the bottom of whether or not a hostile foreign power was trying to influence our election. That is a very different and much more serious matter that goes to the heart of our democracy.
MATTHEWS: Just remember that in the Nixon case, Nixon, we have never been able to prove that he called for the Watergate break-in. But I did a lot of the reporting on that later on, a lot of it. And he ordered the break- in of the Brookings Institution, it`s all on tape, he ordered the break of the Republican headquarters so that he could say that the Democrats who did it, you know. And his pattern was clear.
DILANIAN: And he ordered the cover-up, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I know. I will get back to you. You want to do the hot hand here. Is cover-up enough? Is obstruction enough? Or do you have to get this through the House of representative of the either party? Do you have to have evidence of participation in the conspiracy to work with the Russians to get elected President?
DILANIAN: Or with Nixon you had him actually ordering agencies of the federal government to quash investigation, right. We haven`t seen that with Donald Trump. If we see proof of that, it could be enough.
MATTHEWS: Did they?
COSTA: What has Mueller done so far? So much of what this investigation has been done has been about lying to federal investigators. That`s why the Trump people are so anxious at this moment. They don`t want the President sitting down. They know Bob Mueller is reaching out to them in a calm ways. And I have just got to figure out the intent. But they don`t want to put the President in a position where he makes one lie when he is sitting there.
MATTHEWS: I think I`m with you on that. Anyway. It`s called, what`s it called, perjury baiting?
Anyway. According to "Washington Post," your paper, the President`s privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview, the people said. He has repeatedly told allies. He is not a target of the probe and believes an interview will help him put the matter behind him, friends said. I love that reference. Well, on multiple occasions since last June, President Trump has said he is willing to testify under oath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you still like to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller, sir?
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would?
TRUMP: I would liking to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
TRUMP: I`m looking forward to it actually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would do it under oath.
TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of.
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: However, the President`s lawyers have expressed concern that the President may be at risk of committing perjury as trump attorney Ty Cobb said in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And do you think there is any danger for the President in that encounter?
TY COBB, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: You know, I would hope that a fair- minded office of special counsel would approach it inch a dutiful way consistent with precedent and it wouldn`t be a mere perjury trap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you.
Joyce, you know, back in and I do remember all this Watergate stuff. I remember. We were buffs of Watergate in those days back in the `70s. A lot of those guy who got in trouble, you may not like people like John Erlichman and Haldeman and the rest but they didn`t think they were criminals until they were informed by counsel you just obstructed the law. You were in violation. You are exposed to criminal time -- long time in prison for what you have already done. Is it possible to Trump needs to be disabused of his innocence, that has be taught, you know, buddy, Mr. President in, all due respect, you have been breaking the law here? Does he need to know that before he testifies?
VANCE: You know, I don`t think that that`s where this President`s conduct is. There is a reason people try to cover up for an investigation. There`s a reason people try to commit the crime of obstruction. And that`s because they have something to hide.
Asking Jim Comey to go easy on his buddy, trying to cover up the real reason that the Trump tower meeting was held in June of 2016 with Russians, those are strong indicia that the President had something here to hide. So this interview is not a perjury trap. It`s just a concern that he there really is something that is there there.
MATTHEWS: Well, said. You know what I have thought from that early on? That Trump sometime got the word about the time during the transition. There`s something called the Logan act. You are not allowed to negotiate with foreign powers when you are not in office. And he began to get concerned, hey, I have been doing stuff like that and began to cover it up and began to worry about what Flynn knew and what Manafort knew and Gates knew and began to behave in a way that he has obstructed justice because he is afraid that he broke the Logan act which hasn`t been enforced since what the flood under Noah. I mean, when did this they ever enforce that law. But I think, could that explain his behavior?
DILANIAN: It could.
MATTHEWS: he is afraid of indictment for the Logan Act.
DILANIAN: It`s possible. Look. There was an orchestrated campaign to sort of undermine Obama`s foreign policy with the Russians and others. But I think we need to step back and realize here that the sad state of affairs we are in, this President has been under investigation that we know about since last June. This isn`t a new notion that he is the subject of the investigation.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK.
DILANIAN: He is relieved that he is the target. You know, Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor said that`s like the difference between getting hit by a bus and getting hit by a car, you know. You could survive maybe a hit by a car being the subject. Target you will definitely be indicted. But it I not reason to celebrate.
MATTHEWS: Robert, please answer my question. Are they afraid of having violated the law?
COSTA: My whole thing is listen to that, with all respect. You can`t speculate. He has got to report it out. Report it out. We don`t know. Can`t speculate.
MATTHEWS: That`s your job. Keep it up.
COSTA: We will.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Robert. Great reporting. We are feeding off you all the time. The "Washington Post," "New York Times" have doing fabulous work, of course.
Ken Dilanian, of course, Joyce Vance, thank you. And Mieke Eoyang, thank you for coming on tonight.
Coming up, President Trump says no one has been tougher on Russia than he has been. But the outgoing national security advisor doesn`t seem to agree. H.R. McMaster is taking a parting shot at the President saying, I can`t believe he is saying, he hasn`t done enough to counter the menace from Moscow. He just did it. Everybody tells the truth on their way out of office in this town. I mean it. Unbelievable. Charlie Dent, we got Corker, just say you are leaving. You might get truth out of these guys.
Plus, Trump`s trade war over China. As it happening, it is going to hurt a lot of people in red states, places where the Republican Party. That place where they need to win in November. That they need to win this November. Maybe that`s why the President`s new economic adviser is already backing off the tariff trade. Larry Kudlow is a little aware politically of the trouble coming.
And Trump`s border war, he is back to fear-mongering and ginning up a crisis to protect his rear guard and shore up his political base meaning Ann Coulter. He is talking it about sending the military down to the border. Is that smart group will do any good?
Finally, let me finish tonight with the courage of Bobby Kennedy 50 years ago when he had to tell an African-American audience in Indianapolis that happens reverend Martin Luther King had just been killed. What a moment in history.
And just moments ago, in Memphis and across the country bells were tolling, there they are, for Dr. King. They rung 39 times each for the short years of his life.
MATTHEWS: Well, the White House released a statement today reiterating the administration`s pledge to defeat ISIS over in Syria. It comes one day after President Trump signaled his desire to remove troops from Syria. Figure that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We have almost completed that task. I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. So it`s time. It`s time. We were very successful against is. We will be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it`s time to come back home. And we are thinking about that very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I according to NBC News, President Trump reluctantly agreed in a meeting with his national security team on Tuesday to keep U.S. troops in Syria for an undetermined period of time with the goal of defeating ISIS. There you go.
A senior administration official tells NBC that Trump wasn`t thrilled about it to say the least. Defense secretary Mattis and other top officials made the case the fight against ISIS was almost finished but the pulling out now would pose too great a risk. This is complicated. He wants to pull them out. He want put them back in. What is it? No more stupid wars or more stupid wars?
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to be able to get along with Russia. Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Now, maybe we will and maybe we won`t. And probably nobody`s been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s dancing, isn`t he?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump yesterday giving himself credit for being tough on Russia. Tough, him?
A few hours later, in his last public remarks as the president`s national security adviser, however, H.R. McMaster, the guy that was pushed out, seemed to offer a different message, McMaster.
Let`s watch a very different tone from President Trump and then his outgoing adviser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want to be able to get along with Russia. Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Now, maybe we will and maybe we won`t. And probably nobody`s been tougher to Russia than Donald Trump.
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions. And we have failed to impose sufficient costs.
TRUMP: Nobody`s been tougher on Russia than I have. And you can -- and I know you`re nodding yes, because everyone agrees when they think about it.
MCMASTER: Mr. Putin might also then consider how the Russian people`s aspirations connect his own population to us, despite the Kremlin`s efforts to sow dissension abroad and repress freedom at home.
TRUMP: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.
MCMASTER: We might all help Mr. Putin understand his grave error. We might show him the beaches of Normandy, where lingering craters and bullet holes demonstrate the West`s will to sacrifice to preserve our freedom.
TRUMP: I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And if I did, that would be a great thing and there`s also a great possibility that that won`t happen. Who knows?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and author of the number one bestseller in the country, "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump," and Evelyn Farkas, senior fellow at The Atlantic Council -- we just saw that -- and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Both are MSNBC contributors. We`re lucky for that.
I just made the wise guy comment that the only way you get truth out of people is on their way out the door.
And in comes H.R. McMaster, David, saying, we haven`t done anything about it. We have been playing patty-cake with Russia. It`s not just that tried to undermine the thing we`re proudest of in this country, which is our democracy and try to humiliate us in the world to bring to us down their lousy level in terms of phony democracy, but they`re out there poisoning people in countries -- in your book, you talk about how they put radioactive material in somebody`s tea, British national.
Then more recently, they do it. They do it in our face. And then we kiss back. We throw more kisses back at them and then Trump says I have been tough on them.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I hate the term intervention or meddling in our election. It was an attack.
This was as information cyber-warfare attack. And so when Donald Trump gets out there and says no one`s been tougher, as we talk about in the book, the first thing they did when Trump came into office was try to weaken the sanctions -- and they weren`t even that strong -- that Obama imposed on Putin for attacking us.
So what message does that send? Has Donald Trump said anything publicly critical of Putin or this attack? No. What message does that send? We have another election coming up. And in the book we talk about something that wasn`t given a lot of attention at the time.
We focus on how they attacked the presidential election. They also attacked Democratic congressional candidates. And they showed how easily they could influence those elections.
So there`s nothing tough. And it`s too bad McMaster only now raises this issue, now that he has no power to do anything.
MATTHEWS: Evelyn, I have just seen "Darkest Hour" the fifth time. I will probably see...
MATTHEWS: And one thing Churchill says in it -- and Churchill had his flaws, but one thing he said was you don`t win a fight against the bad guy when your head`s in his mouth.
EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: When your head is in the tiger`s mouth.
MATTHEWS: In the tiger`s mouth.
And here`s Trump trying to charm, charm.
FARKAS: A tiger.
MATTHEWS: How do you charm this guy? Look at him.
MATTHEWS: You don`t charm a guy like Putin. And charm him after he`s dumped all over us and tried to humiliate us before the world and really has done lasting damage to our system.
FARKAS: Yes. Yes.
First of all, Putin has basically started waging an undeclared war. And what H.R. said yesterday at The Atlantic Council, my think tank, was he said starting in 2007 with the cyber-attack on Estonia, then 2008, when the Russians invaded Georgia, they`re still there occupying 20 percent of the territory, and then on and on, we have now I think it`s up to 16 attempted assassinations in the U.K. alone, and then all the other things that the Russians have done.
And they have all been under this threshold whereby we didn`t feel like they merited military response or even, frankly speaking, a unified political response.
MATTHEWS: But not plausible deniability. They haven`t really denied it.
Does anybody plausibly accept their denial?
FARKAS: It`s not plausible, but they do deny. They deny every single time.
MATTHEWS: But not any -- not an act of war like Pearl Harbor. That`s all.
I mean, what they do is, it`s below the threshold. And then the other thing is that for those people for whom it`s convenient to cooperate with Russia because they have business dealings, energy dealings, and those people can include heads of state, they have the ability to deny because the Russians are so vociferously denying it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Trump`s desire for a relationship with Putin goes back years. In 2013, five years, he tweeted: "Do you think Putin will be going to the Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow? If so, will he become my new best friend?"
That`s in your book. What is this bromance, these -- it`s not just blowing kisses. It`s this I want to be best friends with -- but if you take a look at Putin, he`s probably the last guy you want to be friends with. What`s charming about that guy?
CORN: Yes. On one level, it`s inexplicable. When he was in Miss Universe in November 2013, we report in the book, he was obsessed with the idea of meeting Putin, of Putin coming to the Miss Universe contest.
He kept saying, is he coming? When am I going to talk to him?
I think there are two things here. One is he knew, to do business and make money in Moscow, which he was trying to do you then, he was trying to do during the campaign, you can`t do that without Putin`s approval.
He flatters him for that. But also I think there`s a psychological aspirational affinity that he has with him this guy.
MATTHEWS: OK, Evelyn is shaking her head.
FARKAS: Yes, I agree.
MATTHEWS: What`s the psychological affinity between him and Putin?
FARKAS: I think he likes the Russian business culture. Frankly speaking, it`s very macho. You have the women.
MATTHEWS: Riding around on a horse with your shirt off, looking like Mr. Tough Guy, is that what he likes? I want to know.
CORN: Well, we don`t want to see him doing that.
FARKAS: Well, we don`t want to see him do that.
No, I don`t think that`s the part, although there is a P.R. aspect that he understands very well. Right? The TV -- Putin doesn`t do that in private. He does it in front of the cameras.
Donald Trump understands that perfectly. This guy speaks his language. The beautiful women. The machismo. The kind of fake machismo, frankly speaker. He likes that. He likes that in Erdogan. He likes that in Duterte.
In Duterte, it`s pretty out there in terms of how dark it is, because he`s bragged about murder.
MATTHEWS: Evelyn, you`re the expert on this. But it means we have stepped over the most important thing. Ever since World War II, the great powers of the world, Britain, France, the United States, China, all, have said we`re going to try to live with the rest of the world and treat little countries as important.
Little countries like Swaziland get to be in the U.N. We`re not going to trample on countries anymore. But he seems to want to take back. He wants to go back to the age where the big tough guys push the little skinny kids around on the playground. Right? That`s what Putin wants.
Does Trump want that?
FARKAS: This is exactly the problem, because we have seen, since Donald Trump has come into office -- actually even before that on the campaign trail -- he`s been attacking the international system, all of the institutions that have made us safe since the end of the Second World War.
MATTHEWS: Like NATO.
FARKAS: Like NATO.
MATTHEWS: The U.N.
FARKAS: Like the U.N.
FARKAS: You name it. He doesn`t like the European Union either. That`s a little newer one, but...
CORN: But, in this way, Trump is helping Putin, because Putin`s grand plan, we talk about this in the book, is to sort of undercut liberal Western democracies and the whole notion of communal governmental global interaction.
And so Putin`s against that. So he doesn`t want people here to think that our democracies are legitimate here and in the E.U. And then here comes Trump kind of saying the same thing.
And why do you think Putin wanted Trump to get elected? It`s pretty obvious.
MATTHEWS: I know. "Russian Roulette," hell of a book.
CORN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Great title too. I love the cover. It looks like a Russian war poster.
Anyway, thank you. You got Jared on the cover there. So strange.
Anyway, thank you, David Corn, my friend. And thank you, Evelyn Farkas, for your expertise.
FARKAS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to need you a lot, Evelyn, because there`s so much of this Russian stuff, crapola.
FARKAS: I`m here for you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President is itching for a trade war with China. Well, he`s got one. If he goes through with it, it will hurt the very people that sent him to the White House, the farmers and people like that getting hurt badly if this thing goes through. And that could spell trouble with Republicans heading into these November elections this year.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump promised to hit China hard over their unfair trade practices. Well, last night, his administration delivered on that promise, unveiling $50 billion in potential trade tariffs on Chinese goods, like televisions from there and aircraft parts and batteries.
Well, hours later, China retaliated, proposing $50 billion worth in tariffs on U.S. goods, like soybeans, beef and tobacco.
Well, those measures could hurt the very states that sent Trump to the White House, it turns out. Soybeans are our second largest export to China and are primarily grown in key states that voted for Trump, like Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio.
The threat of a trade war poses a grave threat to the rural voters that backed President Trump, in other words, by a 26-point margin over Hillary Clinton.
Robert Leonard, for example, a news director from rural Iowa, had this warning for President Trump in "The New York Times." "If he tanks the rural economy, he and his legacy are in deep trouble."
For more, I`m joined by former Republican Congressman from Florida Dave Jolly.
Congressman, I look at the numbers on the stock market, which is a pretty crude measure, but it tells you. It started under Trump around 20000, rose up to 26000 over the first year, which is a very good year for him, not as good as Obama, but a very good year. And now it`s down by 2,000. He`s lost a third of what he gained over a whole year in just a matter of weeks.
This trade thing that is out there is not helping his overall success rate.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: No, you`re exactly right.
We`re seeing a couple different things. We`re seeing Donald Trump`s personality on full display, somebody who never contemplates second- and third-order effects, who often acts out of retribution, not out of some type of coherent policy.
We`re seeing the economic fallout, the increased volatility in the markets, the risk of prices going up, of about 200,000 job losses, based on Moody`s estimate. And we`re seeing the political fallout, as you mentioned, in very key states across the Farm Belt and the Rust Belt.
Chris, you`re talking about a key primary state in Iowa, one that President Trump lost, and now has to go into a primary in 2020. You`re talking about a swing state of Ohio, where he only won with 51 percent. President Obama had won it twice as well. It`s fully in play in the general election.
MATTHEWS: Dave, this is an old argument I have lived with 40 or 50 years. Coming from Pennsylvania, I know about the steel industry and its vulnerability.
And I always knew that we could take on some trade partners on this issue, but there would be a terrible backfire. We would pay with the stuff we buy at the store, the clothing we buy, the just basic stuff we buy, a lot of it made cheaply in Asia. We admit that.
But we would be involved in costing ourselves more than we gained. Why didn`t Trump know this? Why didn`t he know there would be costs and consequences in what the -- one thing you have got to give the Chinese credit for, they are smart as hell and tough as hell, and they know what they do.
And if we cost them $50 billion in tariffs, they`re going to slap $50 billion in tariffs on us within hours, which is what they have done.
And, look, where they`re outplaying us is, they`re not only extracting an economic cost. They extracting a political cost at large with the president, but also within the Republican...
MATTHEWS: Do they think they targeted these?
JOLLY: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Soy sauce and stuff, the Chinese like -- use a lot of soy in their foods. But the idea of knowing that -- that`s where you go, go screw the Iowa voters, were they that smart?
JOLLY: Of course.
And, also, internally within the party hitting Kentucky with Mitch McConnell and Wisconsin with Paul Ryan, because Donald Trump still has the opportunity to pull back from this. These have not been implemented, so they`re hitting where it hurts.
But, Chris, listen, I was on the Hill during NAFTA. I lived through the fallout and the angst. What Donald Trump is doing is he is moving the U.S. economy in a method that really takes decades to see the full effect.
I don`t think what he`s contemplated is the pain comes first. The disruption comes first. There is not time before 2020 for all the benefits to come in, nor is he showing clarity of leadership. Right?
If he was out there saying, we are bringing back a steel industry in the U.S., and I`m putting my entire presidency behind it to create jobs in Pennsylvania and the Rust Belt, he might be able to win this politically.
But all he is seeing and all he`s communicating is the disruption that we`re about to live through.
MATTHEWS: I think you have read the prince. I think you know Machiavelli, sir. That`s exactly the message of Machiavelli.
MATTHEWS: Change does not sell immediately.
JOLLY: It doesn`t.
MATTHEWS: It always disrupts and hurts people who know how good it was before and don`t like the new, because the new hasn`t given them any benefits yet.
JOLLY: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Former U.S. Congressman David Jolly.
JOLLY: Good to be with you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump continues to fearmonger about the border, of course, saying Democrats want illegal immigrants to pour into our country.
It`s a message tailor-made for his supporters. Is that what it`s all about, stirring up the base and protecting his rear guard and worrying about Ann Coulter, Ann Coulter, the two words that explain most of this?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws. We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States. We`re going to be able to do something about that hopefully soon.
We don`t have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release. And people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For days now, President Trump has seemed fixated on border security down on the southern border, fanning fears about an army of illegal immigrants marching toward and over our border.
Well, yesterday, Trump added a new element to his tough talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have very bad laws for our border. And we are going to be doing some things. I`ve been speaking with General Mattis. We`re going to be do things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we`re going to be guarding our border with the military. That`s a big step. We really haven`t done that before, certainly not very much before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump continued his rhetoric today, writing on Twitter, our border laws are very weak while those of Mexico and Canada are very strong. Congress must change this these Obama era and other laws now! The Democrats stand in our way. They want people to pour into our country unchecked. Crime. We will be taking strong action today.
Well, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said today that the president instructed her department to work with the Pentagon in deploying the National Guard to the southwest border to assist the border patrol. Nielsen was also asked if there were little considerations at work here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think the president is frustrated. He has been very clear that he wants to secure our border. He`s been very clear that he wants to do that in a bipartisan way with Congress. I think what you`re seeing is the president taking his job very seriously in terms of securing our border and doing everything we can without Congress to do just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But according to at least some inside the White House, that`s only partially the case. That`s coming up next with the HARDBALL roundtable. Lots of politics coming back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The White House announced today that President Trump will issue a proclamation to send National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the president is frustrated by the inability to secure the border through bipartisan legislation.
However, "The Washington Post" reports there may be another consideration at play, writing: One adviser who speaks often to Trump said that the president has been concerned about his political base since he signed into law last month a spending bill that did not fund the wall or some of his other immigration plans. And he was carefully monitoring recent criticism particularly on FOX News.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable for that. Annie Linskey, national political reporter for "The Boston Globe", Jose Aristimuno is Democratic strategist and a former deputy press secretary for the DNC, and John Brabender is a Republican strategist, as we know.
John, you --
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: As we know? What does that mean? Sorry.
MATTHEWS: I`m trying to point out your familiarity here. All positive.
I think what got -- look, I collected the latest numbers on illegal immigration across the border. About 100,000 people escape or get past the border guard. It hasn`t gone -- it`s gone down over years. It`s not like it was about 600,000 a few years ago. It`s about 100,000.
Basically small town coming in every year if you will. So, what`s next pussy cat? Why is all of a sudden Trump going crazy?
BRABENDER: Well, let`s talk about two things --
MATTHEWS: Is it because Ann Coulter delivered an interview with Frank Bruni of "The New York Times" in which she basically warned him, you`re losing the base if you don`t put that wall up? That wall she said. Not something like it, not more barbed wire, not more soldiers. The wall.
BRABENDER: Let`s be clear on a couple of things.
First of all, we`re all like, oh my gosh, he`s sending the National Guard. I believe it was President Obama who did that in 2010. So, there`s a precedent for this and President Bush I believe did it, as well.
MATHEWS: I know.
BRABENDER: So, number one --
MATTHEWS: What`s their duty when they get there? What do them do with their rifles? They put their rifles aside. They don`t act like military people down there.
BRABENDER: This whole idea that he`s playing to the base I find amazing because, first of all, he talked about this during the entire campaign. He won in states like Wisconsin which hadn`t voted for a Republican for president since 1984. Michigan and Pennsylvania since 1988.
MATTHEWS: What`s your point?
BRABENDER: My point is we now are seeing that the Democrats are claiming his base evidently are Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking to the guy
MATTHEWS: Lou Barletta who`s running for senator in Pennsylvania on the immigration issue?
BRABENDER: Working families in Pennsylvania care a lot about this issue.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I`m saying.
BRABENDER: This president got elected because he`s the first one in a long time with the resolve to do something about it.
MATTHEWS: Why did he buckle on the bill and the spending bill?
BRABENDER: Why --
MATTHEWS: Let me go to a straight reporter here. Why did he buckle? Why did he assign -- I know congressman and people like Pelosi and the rest all want to go on their codels. We know what all that was about. They`ve got to get out of town.
ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Why did he sign a bill without anything in the wall in it? He could have gone DACA and said you guys can have DACA, I`ll take the wall. Why didn`t he go with the deal like that?
LINSKEY: I think that`s a good question. But I think that you saw the momentum for that bill. I mean, I think at that point, Trump wanted a win. That`s what that was.
Remember the brinksmanship we have become used to with these budgets. Finally in sight, there was this win. And there`s a lot of momentum for that.
And then, you know, once you get the win and make the compromise, that`s when you start seeing the blowback. And as you know with this president, he doesn`t always think two steps ahead.
MATTHEWS: Jose, give me your thoughts on the whole question of the wall, the federal troops going down there now. I don`t know what soldiers do with the rifles because it`s not about shooting guys or people crossing the border. No Americans are going to go along with that, or hardly anybody.
JOSE ARISTIMUNO, FORMER DNC DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Right.
MATTHEWS: So, what are we talking about troops on the border? What`s it mean?
ARISTIMUNO: This is the reality. The National Guard, if they`re being directed by the federal government, they cannot do anything. They cannot arrest anybody. So, it`s a waste of time.
MATTHEWS: Under the law.
ARISTIMUNO: Under the law, right. This is the law. So, it`s a waste of money.
The reality of the matter is that the president is upset because he`s not getting money for wall, right, first and foremost. Mexico is not going to pay for it. If there ever is going to be a wall, the Americans are going to pay for it.
So, and, by the way, Chris, a majority of Americans don`t want the wall. So, he`s doing this for pure optics. He wants to play to the base. This is the truth.
MATTHEWS: His people want the wall.
BRABENDER: I want to know who his base is, though. I mean, I just want the Democrats to acknowledge his base includes a lot of Democrats in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Do we agree with that, that that`s part of his base?
MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to use that in 2020 if he runs again.
BRABENDER: That`s who voted for him. That`s who won the election. So, you can`t say that`s not part of his base.
The second thing is, I`m finding it amazing that you`re saying this was a terrible idea. Where was everybody saying this was a terrible idea when President Obama did it?
LINSKEY: There`s no cry for it. I mean, I think that`s the difference here. You haven`t had Republican governors and there are three of those border state governors are Republican governors. There hasn`t been a hue and cry for it, because to Chris`s point, the immigration numbers have improved vastly under this president.
BRABENDER: Why are they improving under the president do you think?
LINSKEY: Because his rhetoric has been so tough --
BRABENDER: And if he shows some action behind that rhetoric, they`re going to improve even more.
MATTHEWS: OK, the roundtable is sticking with us. This, by the way, will be the negotiating discussing this 100 years from now, it`s like the Middle East.
I wish -- I hate politicians today. They never cut deals. They never reach a compromise because they love the argument. They love the issue. I`m sorry on both sides.
It`s good politics and it`s cheap labor. And even some religions like to have it.
Anyway, up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Annie, tell me something I don`t know.
LINSKEY: So, I`ve been interested as we were discussing earlier, Trump`s poll numbers and his base. He has had good news in that regard. Rasmussen poll showed him having --
LINSKEY: Fifty -- 51 even.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that? Do you believe Rasmussen ever?
LINSKEY: When you look more closely at it, his hard-core support, people who like him strongly that number hasn`t moved at all. And so, I think, you know, it`s not as much good news as he makes it out to be.
MATTHEWS: He`s holding on and wants to knock the head off the guy had runs against him.
LINSKEY: Or the woman.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Jose?
ARISTIMUNO: Chris, two quick points. There`s presidential elections in Mexico coming up July 1st. So, this whole anti-immigrant sentiment from the president is going to have a lot of implications coming up with the new president from Mexico.
And then one more thing I want to add --
MATTHEWS: Can he win again?
ARISTIMUNO: They could, they could. It`s going to be a close call. And then the other thing is --
MATTHEWS: Conservative party. Yes.
ARISTIMUNO: Talking about the wall, too, instead of building a wall with Mexico, why don`t we build a cyber wall with Russia.
MATTHEWS: What a politician you are, Jose. Thank you.
BRABENDER: OK, I`m taking a shot at John Oliver, if you don`t mind.
You know, Karen Pence and Charlotte Pence, the daughter and wife of the vice president, wrote a back called Marlon Bundo, about the rabbit, the vice president thing. John Oliver tried to steal it and write the same topic the day before. Their book is now outselling his and it`s going to good causes fighting sex trafficking and also helping children with art therapy.
MATTHEWS: John Oliver is something else.
Thank you, Annie Linskey of the Boston area, "Boston Globe", and Jose Aristimuno and John Brabender. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this night in history.
On April 4th, 50 years ago this evening, New York Senator Robert Kennedy campaigning for president was scheduled to address a rally in Indianapolis. The rally was set for the Broadway part of the city, a low income African- American neighborhood.
As I write in "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit", the Indianapolis police warned Kennedy not to go into that area that night. They canceled the promised police escort for him because word had come from Memphis that Martin Luther King had just been killed. Knowing the possible danger and the tenderness of the moment, Kennedy felt he still needed to go ahead.
Do they know? He asked the man standing with him on a flatbed truck. Had the people he`s about to address gotten the word? They hadn`t. And so he began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY (D-NY), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I have some very sad news for all of you and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens. And people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King has shot and was killed tonight in Memphis.
For those of you who are black, and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust, of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed. But he was killed by a white man.
But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It took courage for Kennedy to do what he did that night. And just two months later, he would be gunned down also in a political crime, killed in a country where there`s too much of the violence he and Dr. King spent their public lives fighting to end.
That`s HARDBALL for now tonight, April 4th, 2018.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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