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Mueller's subpoena threat sets off turmoil. TRANSCRIPT: 05/02/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: John Brabender, Annie Karni, Dana Milbank

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 2, 2018 Guest: John Brabender, Annie Karni, Dana Milbank

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We can tell you Arpaio was found to have basically broken the law and he admitted guilt by accepting that pardon. He also peddled a birther conspiracy against Barack Obama and would have been basically headed for jail except for the Trump pardon. That was, of course, Donald Trump`s first pardon. We wanted to get that note in there.

Our show is over. HARDBALL starts now.


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

Tonight, we are seeing an early indications of a constitutional showdown. Special counsel Robert Mueller told the President`s lawyers he could subpoena the President to testify. "The Washington Post" reports that Mueller`s warning came last month amid negotiations over whether President Trump would agree to speak to prosecutes voluntarily. When Trump`s lawyers said the President had no obligation to talk, Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined. He could issue a subpoena for the President to appear before a grand jury.

As "the Washington Post" notes, it was the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump`s legal team. Trump`s former lawyer, John Dowd, reportedly then told Mueller you are screwing with the work of the President of the United States.

Well, minutes ago, Trump quoted Dowd`s statement on twitter adding, with North Korea, China, the Mideast, and so much more, there`s not much time to be thinking about this especially since there was no Russian collusion.

Well, the standoff over the President`s testimony could provoke a constitutional showdown should the President refuse to comply with the subpoena. Refuse an order to testify. That would leave it to the Supreme Court to determine whether it`s constitutional to subpoena a President for his testimony. And more to the point, whether the President must comply with a subpoena. Amid this comes news of another shake-up to the President`s legal team. It was announced today the President`s hiring veteran attorney Emmitt Flood who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment. Flood will replace Ty Cobb who is retiring at the end of this month.

NBC News reports that the recruitment of Flood sends a clear signal that the team plans to rely more heavily on a legal strategy long advocated by current White House council Don McGahn to exert executive privilege more aggressively.

The man serving as Trump`s new lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also favors the more aggressive approach as he now decides whether the President should testify voluntarily or risk a subpoena. As Giuliani told "the Washington Post," some people have talked about a possible 12-hour interview. That`s not going to happen. I`ll tell you that. It would be max, max two to three hours around a narrow set of questions. That`s Giuliani`s rules.

Joining me right now is the reporter who broke the Giuliani -- spoke to Giuliani today, Robert Costa through "the Washington Post," an MSNBC political analyst as well and Julia Ansley is a national security reporter with NBC News and Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.

Robert, give me a sense of play, of the play the state of play of Rudy Giuliani on this question. Are we heading to a constitutional crisis? Are they willing to reject, ignore, whatever override a subpoena from Mueller? How tough are they going to be here?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they are going to be tough in the sense this is a more aggressive strategy. Right now, we are watching it play out around the President of the United States moving away from Ty Cobb who preached cooperation for months. Said to the President if you cooperate, if you don`t exert executive privilege that maybe the Mueller probe would end. After all those promises a lot of frustration inside of the White House and outside. And they are moving to Giuliani to try to be more aggressive in the negotiations with Mueller over an interview and Emmett Flood, a veteran lawyer who has seen as a combative force.

MATTHEWS: You know, I understand the President`s strength with regard to attitude politically. His attitude of anti-establishment, his tough guy, his (INAUDIBLE), it is all worked for him. But when it comes to the court ruling by the Supreme Court ultimately and when it comes standing up to Mueller who is also tough, what good is the attitude of a Giuliani do him? Just saying I`m going to be tough doesn`t mean you are going to end up being tough if the courts rule against you.

COSTA: And they are in this legal dance right now, Chris, about a Presidential interview. Whether it should happen or not, Giuliani tells me today that he wants a real narrow set of questions. The President wouldn`t sit down unless they get more information from Mueller about what he wants to ask.

Giuliani also told me the interview would only be two or three hours. There is no situation he envisions where the President sits down for 10 or 12 hours to talk to Bob Mueller. You see this negotiations because they don`t want to formally decline it yet, Chris, because they are not ready to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, at least not yet.

MATTHEWS: How can they limit the questions once they get in there?

Now, Rudy Giuliani can say I`m tough. We don`t want it talk about his business dealings from the past. I don`t want to talk about anything to do except really the Russian probe itself, whether there was collusion by the President and his people with the Russians. Can he narrow it that way? And can he trust Mueller tore stick to those questions once the President`s under oath, they can seems to me ask him anything they want.

COSTA: That`s right. These kind of agreements are always fluid in legal cases. Giuliani knows that the Mueller team wants to ask about possible obstruction of justice and they want to ask about Russia collusion. Those are the two main tracks of the investigation. They don`t want to see the questions go over what the President once called had his red line and start talking about his business dealings and all that.

But Chris, this is a sprawling probe, as you know. And a lot of these investigators tough prosecutors from the justice department. They don`t want to back down and be narrowed to any set of questions.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to this question, you and I have grown up, (INAUDIBLE) watching courtroom shows on TV. We have noticed that always the defense attorney says narrow your answer -- let me go -- by the way, to go to Paul on this.

A much better question for Paul. Most of the time we watch a defense attorney say narrow your answer, he says to his client. And he says keep the answer, one or two, yes or no. Did you go there? Were you there? No, I wasn`t. Did you hear? No, I didn`t. And it seems to me they are asking essay questions.

These 49 questions that got floated, they are all these how did you feel, what did you think, what were you planning, all this motive and purpose and everything and knowledge. Do you think anybody is going to let their client answer these essay questions, and just ask me a specific question, I will give you a specific answer. Don`t ask me what I was thinking. Your thoughts.


PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely not, Chris. So if the question is whether the President`s lawyer can trust Robert Mueller, the answer is yes. If the question is whether the President`s lawyer can trust President Trump, the answer is no. And so of course, they want open-ended questions, what were you thinking when you fired James Comey? What were you thinking when you asked those national intelligence officials if they could give Michael Flynn a brick.

They want the President to do what he does so well which is to ramble on and on and implicate himself even more which is why no responsible lawyer is going to let this President go in front of the grand jury and with Bob Mueller running the show. It would be a legal suicide mission for the President.

MATTHEWS: Julia, what do you think of the President`s defense on his tweet just moments ago? I`m too busy with matters important to us all to sit down for a couple hours with Mueller?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, I mean, that`s certainly preaching to his base which is what the President uses twitter to do. He wants to be able to communicate.

Look. This is all getting in the way of this, you know, Nobel Prize worthy work that I`m trying to do here. But I think the bottom line is, they are now in such final stages of this negotiation that, I mean, from what Robert`s reporting it sounds like Giuliani is at least acknowledging that they could do two to three hours. We were in a different place just a few weeks ago when they were angry about the Cohen raid and saying there was going to be no interview at all. And I think a big piece that got in them to that part is this threat of subpoena.

And the idea that we have been talking about all week, can he be subpoenaed, really, I mean, Mueller has the ability to throw that down. The question is whether or not the President will comply. And it seems to Giuliani, he is at a place now where he doesn`t want to be arguing over what they are going to comply with and seeing his client go before a grand jury. He wants to bring it back where he has more control. And he has more control if he can limit the time.


AINSLEY: If he talk to his client.

MATTHEWS: Clinton only talk aid couple hours at most as I recall.

AINSLEY: Yes. I mean, and if these are the questions he is really getting into, he could keep it at two to three hours. But we do know the President is long-winded. So that could drive the time up a little bit.

MATTHEWS: Robert -- go ahead, you first, Paul.

BUTLER: So Bill Clinton had a lot less exposure than President Trump who again, is with regard to obstruction of justice and from these 49 questions, Robert Mueller still thinks that there might be a collusion investigation that`s worth pursuing with regard to the President. So it`s a whole different ball game with President Trump than with President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Well, I would hope it`s a collusion or else he is not going to be successful.

By the way, Bill Clinton has got a huge IQ as we all know. And Bill Clinton was completely mouse trapped by the question about Monica Lewinsky. And fairly, he just -- if you look at the pictures, you can`t believe that would come up.

Robert, this is fascinating. You talked to Rudy Giuliani. Can you give me as part of your trade crop (ph), does he sound like he is the lawyer in charge?

COSTA: He is the lawyer in charge but he is also a Presidential confidante. You got Emmett Flood coming in who is a close friend of Don McGahn, the White House council. Much more litigation experience. You have different kinds of personalities on his legal team.

What`s important to watch in this tweet tonight that Julia referenced, the President is quoting his former lawyer John Dowd. Why is John Dowd so important? John Dowd was the chief voice in the President`s ear for months saying don`t do the interview. And who is the President tweeting tonight? John Dowd.

MATTHEWS: Sounds like he doesn`t want to do it, right?

AINSLEY: Yes. It sounds like he is reversing course again. He got rid of John Dowd. He wanted someone more aggressive like Giuliani. But now that Giuliani is leading closer to an interview, maybe it is going back the other way. I mean, I think there`s just a pattern of getting rid of people, getting rid of Ty Cobb who are telling him to exercise caution and he is instead bringing in people who are going to agree with him.

MATTHEWS: And (INAUDIBLE), I have to ask, what is he going to feel like being hog tied by a subpoena, being brought in suppose the Supreme Court votes 5-4, suppose Anthony Kennedy goes with the prosecution here and he is hog tied forced to come into court under subpoena. And then he is sort of treated like a defendant.

Anyway, with prosecutors closing in on the President, Trump`s allies on Capitol Hill are threatening to impeach deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein if he doesn`t turn over documents related to the ongoing investigation. President Trump today issued this very ominous threat against the justice department.

A rigged system. They don`t want to turn over documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such an equal justice? At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved.

Well, the tweet appears to be a response to Rosenstein when last night called those document requesting extortion, intended to threaten him and undermine the law of -- the rule of law. Here`s Rosenstein.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now that the department of justice is not going to be extorted. We are going to do what`s required by the rule of law. And any kind of threats with anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.


MATTHEWS: Paul, there`s always been this rear guard action on behalf of the President. Every time the prosecution gets close, his toadies on Capitol Hill come out with nuisance demands for documents and even to slow down the prosecution and send them and put them in the crossfire. What do you make of these attempts by people like meadows or the freedom caucus and toadies like Nunes? They are constantly throwing out efforts.

I mean, I know, I used to work with a minority party, the Democrats against Reagan. You are always trying to put up what looks like a counter point and equally powerful as the counter point as the point coming at you. I know the politics of this. What`s the legal status of these kinds of nuisance efforts by the Republicans?

BUTLER: Chris, the President and his boys are using this intimidation tactics, these threats, these bullying tactics like President Trump thinks he is back doing the shady real estate deals in Queens back in the 1980s.

And so Rod Rosenstein is letting him know that`s not how it works. So there`s no legal way that the President can fire Robert -- Rosenstein. So if that`s what he means by he is going to take things in own hands. Again, he is basically writing his own article of impeachment.

But the bet is, it`s only an article of impeachment if the Republican Congress at this point stands up and does its constitutional responsibility and again, that`s a political question.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Democratic Congress some next November.

Let`s go to a couple things. The power of his office. We got to go to Julia and then to Robert. Firing Rosenstein, pardoning some people, executive privilege or otherwise just avoiding any kind of testimony. He has got -- that`s what Trump seems to be threatening here, a whole fuselage of opportunities he has to crush the investigation.

AINSLEY: And he might not realize that by using some of these powers he is actually putting himself more in the way of an obstruction probe. If he tries to claim that he can dangle pardons in front of people like Michael Flynn, like Paul Manafort to protect themselves --.


AINSLEY: That`s interesting. That can then, we know that Robert Mueller is looking into the way he is using pardoning powers in the obstruction case. And then, of course, with, executive privilege, that wouldn`t protect him over things that didn`t happened -- that happened before the election like the Trump tower meeting.


AINSLEY: So he is trying to flex his muscles. He wants to intimidate people. But it is really backfiring when you have your department or deputy attorney general saying it is extortion. Someone feels they are being extorted. You are not supposed to go bang on their door. I think that --.

MATTHEWS: Robert, what do you think he means by -- it reminds me of the woman out in Nevada that time about second amendment things? I mean, he sounds like I have got this enormous array of weapons, don`t ask me to do it. Don`t ask me to come back. It is either, stop the car, kids. What do you think of it? What does he mean when he says I have got this array of weaponry?

COSTA: It`s clear that he is ready to make a move. I think -- you are a former house guy, Chris. Pay attention to Meadows, the North Carolina Republican. I just got a story out tonight. He is thinking through maybe bringing up a privilege motion. Don`t want to get this all (INAUDIBLE) about that for trying to force a vote in the House on Rosenstein on impeachment.

Think about the crisis. Forget about the constitution. It would be perhaps a constitutional crisis because it disrupts the Mueller probe, but a GOP crisis. Speaker Ryan, other Republicans maybe have to force to a deal with an impeachment move by these Trump allied members.

MATTHEWS: Wow, toadie (ph) time.

Anyway. Thank you, Robert Costa. Thank you, Julia Ainsley and, of course, Paul Butler.

Coming up, Trump said it was a disgrace these questions from Robert Mueller were leaked. Trouble is it has been alleged that his own lawyer put those questions together and released them to the public to "The New York Times."

And tonight, Trump`s anger is boiling over as the investigation gets closer to him and his family. We will get to that, too.

Plus, Trump`s long-time doctor says yesterday was Trump himself wrote that that the glowing report about his own health during the campaign saying he was -- anyway. And then the doctor told a reporter quote sweetheart, this is Watergate. The guy thinks he is Humphrey Bogart. And the self-styled party of law and order is embracing a trio of ex-convicts now. Look at their candidates. New York`s Michael Grim, Arizona`s Joe Arpaio and Don Blanket (ph) of West Virginia are all running for office and all three are taking a page to the Trump playbook, blaming their problems on President Obama and all three are felons.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. Felons for the GOP.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, some late breaking news from the "New York Times" tonight. Summer Zervos, the former "Apprentice" contestant who is accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault is seeking recordings from that show to prove he defamed her by calling her a liar about that. Attorneys for Zervos says subpoenas have been issued now for any video and audio recordings from "the Apprentice" where Trump is talking about her. Or talking about women in an appropriate manner.

In addition, the subpoena was issued to the Beverly Hills hotel where Zervos says Trump groped her in 2007. There she is. Zervos is one of the women who came forward during the 2016 campaign to accuse him of sexual misconduct.

We will be back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump yesterday called it disgraceful that a list of Robert Mueller`s potential questions for him was leaked to the media, 49 of them, in fact.

But, according to "Washington Post," the list was compiled by Trump`s own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, based on subjects provided by Mueller`s team. And, today, one attorney involved in the Mueller investigation told NBC News that the release of the questions to "The New York Times" was orchestrated by Trump allies to convince the president to support a strategy that was more aggressive and narrow in focus.

In other words, his own people put it out to teach him that he ought to stay narrowed on this investigation.

According to that same "Post" article: "Trump fumed when he saw the breadth of the questions that emerged out of the talks with Mueller`s team, according to two White House officials. The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said."

For more, I`m joined by Heidi Przybyla, national political correspondent for NBC News, and Annie Karni, White House reporter for Politico.

I guess same question to both of you.

It seems to me the way we have all tried to figure this thing out, that this was put out, that these 49 questions came out to "The New York Times" because somebody in Trump world wanted two goals. He wanted Trump to understand these are too wide-ranging, these questions, and, two, they want the Trump folks out there, the 40 some percent out there who like him, to say, oh, I can see that this guy Mueller is going too far wide, too far abroad in his questioning.

This isn`t about the Russian probe. This is about something like the Watergate or the Whitewater thing that went after Clinton and ended up finding Monica. They`re just looking for a crime.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And it did seem like the president with his tweets was part of that strategy, when he put out these very legalistic tweets about how this list violates his Article 2 powers in terms of hiring and firing personnel.

And then he follows that up and says, well, and under those circumstances, now I might have to take action. So, that sets him up to, one, in his mind, to have a stronger negotiating position in terms of narrowing the scope, and, two, to politically build the support to potentially even refuse to sit for the interview at all.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and say that this is not what the probe was supposed to be about. And I think most of his people will say this probe`s about Russia or it`s about nothing.

ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: Yes, I think Heidi`s right that the tweets are signals to the surrogates and the people who talk on his behalf signaling what to say.

One thing I would warn in general...


MATTHEWS: Well, who do you think...


MATTHEWS: ... these numbers -- these questions help? Certainly, the questions suggest a very wide scope of questioning, well beyond Russia.

KARNI: I think that the goal of releasing these questions might have been to try and convince Trump not to go in for an interview with Mueller.


MATTHEWS: Hasn`t he seen the questions himself?

KARNI: Well, he pays more attention to what he sees in the media.

MATTHEWS: You`re kidding.

KARNI: And to the reaction that it gets.

MATTHEWS: You mean only -- this is so interesting in terms of psychobabble.

In other words, the only way that people around Trump think they can educate him is to let the public know what they want him to know and then have him see what the public`s reaction to that is. And then he might pay attention.

KARNI: Not the only way, the best. The best way.


PRZYBYLA: That`s a well-known tactic we have seen his team do. But I will also point out...


MATTHEWS: You have seen them leak stuff to get it to Trump?

PRZYBYLA: Oh, absolutely.

But I will point out that his team also put Giuliani out there to say there`s no way Trump is going to sit for a 12-hour interview. Look at all these questions. Max two hours. And so you see the negotiating tactic here via Trump`s tweets and via Giuliani`s comments to the post. New team, new tactics.

MATTHEWS: But you agree that the purpose of this leak, whoever did it on the Trump side did it to try to bring the public in as allies of Trump?

KARNI: I do think that`s true. I would to like to make a caveat that we shouldn`t ascribe too much strategy to anything that happens in this White House.



MATTHEWS: Well, a strategy by one person, maybe not all of them.


MATTHEWS: For months, the president has been stewing over the breadth and length, as I said, of the Mueller investigation.

And according to "The Washington Post," Trump`s anger boiled over when federal prosecutors raided his personal lawyer Michael Trump`s (sic) office.

Sources close to the president tell "The Post" that: "Trump`s anger over the Cohen raids spilled into nearly every conversation in the days that followed and continues to be a sore point for the president. One confidant said Trump seems to talk about did 20 times a day. Other associates say they often stay silent in person or on the phone as he vents about the Cohen matter, knowing there`s little they can say."


PRZYBYLA: Well, this is the biggest indication ever since that moment that the investigation is taking on a life of its own. It`s also moving outside of Mueller`s jurisdiction.


PRZYBYLA: And who is Cohen? He has the keys to the Trump dynasty, all of the business information, the information on potential payoffs to additional women. So, of course, that is what is making...


MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn`t you? Wouldn`t you, Heidi, be a little bit scared or upset or angry if it turns out that the person coming at you has got allies in New York who are going to launch a flanking attack on you to your flank and hit you with Cohen, with all the stuff Cohen has got?

PRZYBYLA: Of course. And so that`s why it makes perfect sense.

MATTHEWS: This is like invading Cambodia if you`re Nixon. This is like, I got another way to get at you.

Anyway, Annie, you have been reporting about why the special counsel has not called on the president`s daughter Ivanka for an interview, despite her role in the campaign and in the administration.

One former federal prosecutor who reported to Mueller in the past told us - - told you -- I`m reading your own copy -- "Mueller would know that trying to interview Ivanka Trump would be like lighting a match, lighting a match to the highly combustible Donald Trump."

KARNI: So it`s the same reason you see Trump really losing it about Cohen being a target.

So I think that Mueller`s team is aware that you start to go after the family members, especially Ivanka Trump, calling them in to question them, Trump`s going to see this as now you`re harassing my family. He`s going to...


MATTHEWS: OK. Is Ivanka Trump a daughter only, or is she an operative for the president as well?

KARNI: She`s an operative for the president. And she`s been in the room at key moments in the Trump-Russia timeline. She was there when he made the decision to fire Comey. She was in Bedminster that weekend. She was on the plane home helping with the Don Jr. statement.

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t the smart move to interview Trump first, then after you got all you can out of him, you go to her and to Donald Jr.? Because they`re going to rat out everything if they`re asked -- right to the president.


MATTHEWS: They tell him everything that`s coming.


KARNI: Hope Hicks has been interviewed.


MATTHEWS: Yes, they have got their own lawyers.

PRZYBYLA: Her husband, Jared, may also be a subject.

KARNI: Jared has been interviewed.


MATTHEWS: The family people, unlike all the other people being interviewed and interrogated, cannot separate themselves from Trump, can they?

KARNI: Well, here`s the thing.

Like, either they`re saving the family for last because it`s the most delicate for a number of reasons, or there`s no really need to call in Ivanka, because they find out that every time she`s been in the room, there`s 10 other people in the room, and it`s just not worth the risk.

I don`t know what the reason is, but I...

MATTHEWS: It`s not worth the risk because?

KARNI: Of setting off Trump, of the perception that they`re harassing his family.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. I think they will to her, though.

Thank you, Heidi Przybyla and thank you, Annie Karni.

Because he does operate like the Romanovs. He uses his family for all kinds of political stuff and mayhem.

Up next: Trump`s longtime doctor already admitted it was Trump who wrote his own glowing health report. Wouldn`t you like to go to your doctor and have him say how well you are? And now he`s talking about Watergate. This guy -- and he also uses the term sweetheart.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you`re running for president, I think you have an obligation to be healthy. I just don`t think you can do the work if you`re not healthy. I don`t think you can represent the country properly if you`re not a healthy person.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In December 2015, President Trump tweeted that -- quote -- "As a presidential candidate, I have instructed my longtime doctor to issue within two weeks a full medical report. It will show perfection."

Anyway, later that month, Trump`s campaign released a statement from his doctor, Harold Bornstein, that concluded -- quote -- "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

But in a recent interview with NBC News, Dr. Bornstein revealed that Trump actually wrote that letter himself.


DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL PHYSICIAN: That letter that showed up in "The Times" about his health, he wrote himself. You know that.


BORNSTEIN: He wrote it himself. And me, from where I come from, the end of it was just black humor. It wasn`t meant to be a serious comment.


MATTHEWS: Well, the exaggerated tone continued into Trump`s presidency, when Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor at the time, couldn`t stop praising his health. That`s Trump`s health.

Let`s watch.


DR. RONNY JACKSON, PRESIDENTIAL PHYSICIAN: The president`s overall health is excellent. His cardiac health is excellent, because he has incredibly good genes. And it`s just the way God made him.

Hands down, there`s no question that he is -- he is in the excellent range. The president`s health is excellent because his overall health is excellent.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Dana Milbank, who is a columnist with "The Washington Post."

Dana, I don`t know what this is about, except you go to the doctor to tell you how healthy you are. That`s why you go to him. And then you write the prescription. Perfect.

DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Hey, I don`t know about you, but I always go to the doctor, and, you know, you have got to lose a little.


MATTHEWS: I`m afraid of my doctor.


MILBANK: Lose a few pounds. You got to do some more exercise.

I want one of these doctors. They can start a new practice of affirmation. You go to the doctor and he tells you that you`re doing extremely well.

But I have to say, I`m less -- watching this and watching these clips. I`m less worried about Trump than his doctors. They`re the ones who...


MILBANK: ... medical condition.

MATTHEWS: Well, when you see this doctor, you go -- think of all the doctors that are presented on television like in these ads that are always clean-shaven -- excuse me -- clean-shaven.

They look very upright in person. And this character, he looks more like a guy who writes novels down by the wharf somewhere. He doesn`t seem like a doctor, a medical doctor.

Anyway, according to CBS News, Dr. Bornstein declined an interview with one of their producers and then signed off: Sweetheart, this is Watergate. Goodbye."


MATTHEWS: He`s a Humphrey Bogart character.

MILBANK: Well, and, today, a reporter called are him from the Associated Press. And he said: "Oh, you`re a reporter? Go report on how your toilet bowl works."


MATTHEWS: Could you repeat that again?

MILBANK: He said, "Go report on how your toilet bowl works," he said to the Associated Press today.

So, he is not, shall we say, your typical doctor. But then we knew that when we got this report out saying he would be the most healthy president in history.

And what is more, he said that he did all these tests on Trump, and they were all positive.

Now, what doctor says all the tests are positive for heart disease, positive for cancer? I mean, no doctor would actually do that, which actually leads credence...

MATTHEWS: Well, positive is bad, isn`t it?

MILBANK: If you`re testing for something like cancer or heart disease or venereal disease.

But no doctor would actually do that, which led to the belief in the first place that it wasn`t written by him.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to the Hippocratic oath or whatever it is, do no harm.

But there`s also another one that says don`t talk about your client, your patient. He goes out and says, well, he came to me for hair restore, whatever, not Rogaine, but the other one.

And I go, why would he put that out? Because that immediately impeaches him as a doctor that can keep a secret, not that it`s the most important thing in the world or anything.

MILBANK: Well, and why would he actually come out now in saying this was dictated to me, I put this thing under my signature that wasn`t really mine?

Now he`s violated another tenet of medical ethics.

MATTHEWS: OK, put it together. Circle of associates, Michael Cohen, who I have been told was a lawyer -- not really a lawyer, but a fixer that Trump would go to for certain secretive things he wanted kept secret, fixed, rather, like these women charges against him, which all had some merit he has to deal with, pay money, too, that sort of thing.

What does it tell you that he always surrounds himself with these characters? You wonder, when Roy Cohn is going to show up?

MILBANK: Well, he did a little bit earlier in the show.


MILBANK: I do see them, the Michael Cohen, Bornstein, but even think of Sean Spicer.

In these various roles, you have people who -- it`s almost like a ventriloquist going out there and saying the words you know they were told to say by the president.

Why do they do it? Well, one, the president requires this...


MATTHEWS: Let`s throw in Nunes, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

MILBANK: You could throw in any number of people.

MATTHEWS: These toadies. Is that the only basis you can have a relationship with Trump, is as a toady?

MILBANK: Try to think of somebody who has had an association with Donald Trump, other than possibly Stormy Daniels, who has come out the better for this? They all get chewed up somewhere along the line.

MATTHEWS: Not because he planned it that way.

Thank you, Dana Milbank. I knew you could handle this one.


MATTHEWS: Up next: How did the Republican Party, the party that likes to think of itself or call itself the law and order party, find itself now three convicted felons running for office on the 2018 ballot listed as Republicans?

They have all served time as felons. And they`re all being put forth to the American people to represent them in the United States Congress.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



TRUMP: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.

In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.


MATTHEWS: You know, he does this Jesus kind of thing?

Look at the Bible stories, the hand in the air just like this. He always does the same thing when he`s preaching.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

The same Donald Trump who said he would be the law and order president now finds himself under the glare of Robert Mueller`s investigation.

According to "The Washington Post," Trump has created a new reality for Republicans. "In the era of President Trump, rMDNM_even time spent in prison now can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate`s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption."

Take West Virginia`s Senate candidate Don Blankenship, he`s called himself a political prisoner after spending a year behind bars for violating mine safety laws which led to the deaths of 29 miners.


DONA BLANKENSHIP (R-WV), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: They put me in jail because I did not stop the coal miners from telling each other that the inspectors had arrived. That`s not a law that`s on the books. That`s the law that the Obama prosecutors made up in preparation for the trial. It was clear from the beginning to the end that it was a fake prosecution.


MATTHEWS: Former New York Congressman Michael Grimm was convicted of felony tax fraud and running for his old seat from Staten Island. Grimm told "The Post" his situation was, quote, almost identical to what the president`s been going through. It`s not an accident he said that under the Obama administration, the Justice Department was used politically.

Out there in Arizona, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of failing to obey a court order to stop targeting illegal immigrants. He was pardoned by Trump last year and now he`s running for the Senate. "The Post" notes that Arpaio has compared his prosecution to Republican claims that the Obama administration improperly sought warrants to monitor officials connect to the Trump campaign.

Well, Vice President Mike Pence had some unexpected words about Arpaio last night. That`s coming up with the HARDBALL roundtable.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio`s Senate campaign out in Arizona got a boost from an unexpected source, Vice President Mike Pence. Arpaio was convicted of violating court orders to stop profiling illegal immigrants and then pardoned by President Trump last year.

Well, here`s what Vice President Pence had to say about him last night.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were going to be joined today by another favorite, a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong boarders and the rule of law, spent a lifetime in law enforcement, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I`m honored to have you here.



Well, let`s bring in the roundtable. John Brabender is a Republican strategist. Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster and MSNBC political analyst, and Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter for "The Boston Herald" and an MSNBC contributor.

OK. What do you think, John, of your party? You got sort of this --

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, let`s not --

MATTHEWS: Lenny Bruce said hire the, what do you call them, the ex-cons like Jesus did. That`s what he used to say.


BRABENDER: Here`s what we found. There are certain things that matter to voters and don`t. Bill Clinton has sex with an intern at the White House, people ended up not caring.

Barack Obama colludes with the Russians on missile defense, nobody seemed to care, right? Hillary Clinton gets rid of 40,000 e-mails, people care.

MATTHEWS: Colludes -- before you skate past that one, colludes with the Russians.

BRABENDER: Well, he was caught telling them secretly that he would be more going -- easy going on missile defense, once the election was over.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think --

BRABENDER: Why isn`t that collusion?

MATTHEWS: That`s in a different context.

BRABENDER: But I`m just saying, don`t -- this is about Republican and Democratic -- it`s wrong. It`s about politicians.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know where to start with that so I won`t. I think here`s the fundamental problem, right, the Republican brand --

MATTHEWS: Are you for hiring ex-cons? Now, really, I want a philosophical answer.

BELCHER: I think long-term, what`s problematic is the Republican brand has always been one that`s been the values first, right? And for that middle swathe of America that Democrats have had a hard time winning, it wasn`t because of economics, it was because of values. And I think long-term, when you have Pence and you have the Republican brand embracing this, in middle moderate swathe of America, it`s going to hurt them long-term.

And I think when you see them losing their values advantage, it`s going to hurt them in the middle swathe of America. That`s the serious problem with what`s going on with the Republican Party right now.

BRABENDER: But that means your party doesn`t have values first, is that -- I don`t understand. Shouldn`t every party have values first?

BELCHER: You know, it`s about who is the values brand and for the middle swathe of America -- I`m not going down the rabbit hole with you. For the middle swathe of America, they have seen Republicans more in line with their values. As they see them not in line with their values, that`s why we have districts have been breaking Republican by 20 points, not swinging the other way by 20 points.

MATTHEWS: Kimberly, what do you think of the idea of running ex-cons for Congress. Does it make sense?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, BOSTON HERALD: It`s the embrace of Trumpism. We`re seeing Mike Pence standing up and saying to somebody who had to be pardoned because he refused to stop racially profiling people against the law. But these are the laws that are not the rule of law. These aren`t the laws we need to embrace. It`s the laws they want to enforce, which is this tough crack down on illegal immigration.

There are a lot of people who are in the president`s core, who embrace that, who like that. They don`t care that he broke the law. They don`t care that Don Blankenship was convicted for his role in the deaths of these miners. He wants to stop illegal immigration and they`re going to back that. This is Trumpism. I don`t know how long it will last and whether the Republicans can survive that if they`re walking away from values that way.

MATTHEWS: That`s why I said in the interview today that it`s not about truth. They go to Trump for truth, they go for attitude. As long as he`s anti-establishment, as long as his anti-illegal immigrant, as long as he`s got his point of view, they`re with him.

BELCHER: As long as he`s a tribal warrior they are with him, in fact. He can do almost no wrong, as long as he continues to be the tribal champion, there`s no wrong he can do.

BRABENDER: But here`s where candidates make a mistaking.

MATTHEWS: They still have to blame Obama liking this guy?


MATTHEWS: They keep dragging Obama back onto the stage.

BRABENDER: People didn`t seem to care when he did that. I`m agreeing with you. But, look, the mistake some Republican candidates are making is that they think they are being Trump-like if they say something outrageous. We`re seeing that in West Virginia quite frankly with the Senate candidate there.

MATTHEWS: This guy Grimm, a real Long Island -- not Long Island -- Staten Island tough guy. Irish guy. I get the whole thing. Pugnacious, I`m going to go out there.

Then he says to this reporter you asked him the wrong question, he didn`t like the question, standing at the balcony over there in the House, he`s saying, I`m going to break you like a boy, whatever that means. How does that sell with the public? Maybe it works. I don`t know.

BELCHER: I think with certain elements of their base, it`s fine. But when you look at the revolt that`s going on among especially college-educated women and suburban women, it`s a problem. Again, it is an absolute problem.

MATTHEWS: OK, Hillary Clinton was accused of saying we`ll put the miners out of business. But this guy had a hand in the deaths of 29 miners. It would seem that would not be a selling point for either party.

ATKINS: I mean, he`s had a long history of really not embracing the rule of law.

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s the bad guy in Hillary`s book. I`ve been listening to it.

ATKINS: Right. But aside from the conviction, there was a case that went to the Supreme Court because he tried to bankroll the campaign of a judge that ruled against his company. I mean, there`s been a long history of being the opposite of the rule of law. So, the fact that now that`s what they`re standing for is literally --

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, he was bankrolling the judge against him.

ATKINS: West Virginia has elected judge. A judge ruled against his coal company in a key case. And so, he bankrolled the candidacy of the opponent of that judge.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I got you.

ATKINS: So, he -- how is that the rule of law?

BRABENDER: Another thing to Republicans, all this has become public. He`s gone from first in the polls to now last in the polls.

MATTHEWS: Blankenship?

BRABENDER: Blankenship.

MATTHEWS: I wouldn`t vote for him.

BRABENDER: So, let`s not make it sound like all the Republicans are unifying behind him.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever been in a coal mine?

BRABENDER: I`ve been --

MATTHEWS: When you`re down a coal mine, you want someone on your side down there.


MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next --

ATKINS: Yes, but he`s the one who`s calling himself Trumpier than Trump.

MATTHEWS: One of the weakest attempts in self defense. We call it yesterday, the Republican -- can we read this again? I`m sorry. I read this too soon. Can we go back over that? Can we go back over that?

Let`s talk about Don Blankenship. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Last week, Don Blankenship, we mentioned him, suggested Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have conflicts of interest with China because of his father-in-law. Last night`s Republican primary debate, Blankenship tried to defend the term he used to describe the father of McConnell`s wife who is, of course, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.


BLANKENSHIP: This idea that calling somebody a China person, I mean, I`m an American person. I don`t see this insinuation by the president that there`s something racist about saying a China person. Some people are Korean persons and some of them are African persons. It`s not any slander there.


MATTHEWS: Of course, China person is an attempt to refine Chinamen or China woman I suppose, a term that went out of acceptance backing about 60 years ago at least.

John Brabender, how is it going to sell in West Virginia, that term?

BRABENDER: No, of course, it`s perfectly fine. No, it`s not. It`s not. It`s ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: A hot potato.

BRABENDER: It was inappropriate. I think he should apologize.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s ignorant or prejudiced or play together audience?

BRABENDER: I`ve done a lot of work in West Virginia. These are very, very smart people who are going to be very sensitive to feeling like they`re being used and I think it`s going to backfire.

MATTHEWS: Used by him.

BRABENDER: Yes, in a sense, it`s degrading. They know it`s degrading. I think it`s going to hurt him in the polls.

ATKINS: He said he wants to be Trumpier than Trump. He sees a president who calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas and who says that there`s equivalence between those who fight against white supremacy and those who embrace it. So, perhaps he thinks that this play as well.

BELCHER: As the colored guy, I`ve got nothing on this.

MATTHEWS: OK, say you`re kidding, will you?

BELCHER: I`m kidding.

MATTHEWS: Some people don`t understand sarcasm. They don`t understand the reference.



MATTHEWS: You know, we have to be careful.

ATKINS: It`s not OK, America. Just to be clear, it`s not OK.

MATTHEWS: Irony is lost on television. I`ve learned 100 years ago. Irony is nothing.

Thank everybody from John Brabender, thank you. Cornell -- you, I`m sorry, Cornell Belcher, we got more time. See, this is what I`m not used to, extra time. So, these terms -- just so we learn the correct terminology, Chinese American? Can we work on that one? That`s not bad.

ATKINS: How about his name?

MATTHEWS: His father.

BRABENDER: Let me ask you, just the fact he`s trying to make it an issue in my mind is inappropriate.

MATTHEWS: He`s a very wealthy fellow. A wonderful person, Mitch McConnell`s wife. She`s American. I think she immigrated here in a very young, 8 years old.

BRABENDER: And incredibly talented and good at what she does.

MATTHEWS: There`s been a number of cabinet appointments and she`s filled them will. And her father is a very wealthy guy in Taiwan.

BELCHER: I don`t think it`s accident. I do think it`s dog whistle politics. I think it`s dog whistle politics. He`s being clever about it.

BRABENDER: But that`s why he`s fallen to last place. And I think you`ve got to give a lot of respect to the West Virginia voters who have seen through this.

BELCHER: They`re going to reject the term China person.

BRABENDER: I think they will.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. We`re dancing on eggs. Thank you, John Brabender and Cornell Belcher and Kimberly Atkins.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018.

A new poll shows that the public`s appetite for the Mueller probe is dropping. A healthy majority wants it to continue. But as I said, it`s dropping. A lot of this is easily explainable like anyone following a crime story or a jury trial. They are hungry for a verdict.

I certainly am. I want to know and believe we all have a right to know at some point whether Robert Mueller with all the legal power he`s recruited to this mission, with all his powers as a prosecutor has a case that candidate Donald trump colluded with the Russians in getting himself elected president.

My passion was stirred oddly on this matter by watching the final episode of "Homeland" this season. It is searing to see the Russians trying to undermine our cherished democracy. It is more searing to see an American politician helping them on that show, and then trying to cover it up for them.

If Trump did this, if he and his operatives opened themselves as helping hands or willing recipients of Moscow`s help, he doesn`t deserve to be president. If his people knew he was doing it enough of them would not have the vote for him to ensure that he wasn`t. I have enough faith in my fellow Americans` patriotism whatever their politics to believe that.

So, let`s push on. There`s no shot clock for getting the truth on this case. We need to know the truth. Did he or didn`t he? Let`s let the cards fall where they do.

If the Trump presidency is a house of cards, let it fall, too. We can argue about the points of law and business misdeeds of which Trump might be guilty. What I want to know with the majority of Americans have a right to know is whether he cheated to win by having the Russians even at the margins stack the deck.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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