Show: HARDBALL Date: May 4, 2018 Guest: Kim Wehle, Jerrold Nadler, Erica Werner, Adolfo Franco
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Stormy outlook. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Trump now says Rudy Giuliani didn`t have his facts straight. This week we learned for the first time, of course, that the hush money paid to film star Stormy Daniels came directly from President Trump. The stunning admission of the President`s personal involvement with that paint was made by Rudy Giuliani, the President`s new lawyer.
Today, however, President Trump was had clean-up mode suggesting Giuliani is still quote "learning the subject matter."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how is Rudy doing?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ll tell you what, Rudy is a great guy but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He is working hard. He`s learning the subject matter. And he`s going to be issuing a statement, too. But he is a great guy. He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight. He is a great guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: At joint base Andrews, the President was asked to clarify all that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: We are not changing any story. All I`m tell you is that this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch-hunts all the time, that`s all you want to talk about. I will tell you this. When Rudy made the statements, Rudy`s great. But Rudy had just starred and he wasn`t totally familiar where -- you know, with everything. And Rudy, we love Rudy. He is a special guy. What he really understands is that this is a witch-hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani who was hired on April 19th actually issued a statement a few hours later.
He wrote, there is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President`s family. It would have been done in any event whether he was a candidate or not. My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President`s knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters.
Clear? Well, the mayor was trying to clean up this movement where he all but admitted that the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels was made to avoid an election eve scandal. Here he goes then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So to make it go away, they made this payment.
GIULIANI: Cohen didn`t ask even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the correction today caps off an antagonistic two-day television debut of the former mayor on behalf of the President, something that according to "the Washington Post" both Trump and Rudy had agreed to do.
For more, I`m joined by Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief with the "Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, Annie Linskey, national political reporter with the "Boston Globe" and Caroline Polisi, a federal and white collar criminal defense attorney.
Thank you all for this. And I think it is a great Friday night because stuff still happening. I always love it when things are still happening as we go to press here at night.
Phil Rucker, you know, what happened was Rudy blew everybody`s socks off by saying after weeks of denying it that the money came from Trump. But he never say Trump directed. He said, simply came out of this sort of (INAUDIBLE), this retention fee that Michael Cohen had access to and he could pay it off month to month without having to tell the Rudy -- telling the President he had gotten the money.
Also, he got in trouble by saying this was to avoid an election eve disaster for the candidate. Well, he said it on "FOX & Friends" yesterday morning. Today, he says it had nothing to do with an election.
Two things he is now saying. Trump still didn`t direct the money but he paid it. And also it wasn`t to do with the election, but with the Trump brand and his relationship with his family.
PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: Which is difficult to square because everything we know about Donald Trump is that he is a penny pinchers. He controls all of his money. He is a micromanager of the bills for his building.
MATTHEWS: When he pays the bills.
RUCKER: So it`s surprising that $130,000 would just somehow leave his bank account and him not note about it or question where the money was going. But that`s the argument the lawyers are making tonight.
And then the other issue with the political motivation, that`s to try to clean up what Rudy Giuliani had said about Michael Cohen making that payment to try to help Trump in the election. He is now trying to claim it wasn`t that.
MATTHEWS: Caroline, when you retain an attorney, I want to thing facts that makes no sense, but you retain somebody (INAUDIBLE) to handle your legal business so he available or she is available. But when they have an expense like staples, paper, email, I mean, some expense they have to do, not email. Maybe envelopes, they expense that to the client.
Now, we are to believe that having the expense $130,000, he didn`t expense. He simply paid it out of his own money. He swallowed it. This is not how lawyers operate. Yes, I pick up all expenses including payoff relationships. I would never charge you that. Of course, he charged Trump the money. Of course, Trump had to agree to pay it. This is ridiculous. Your thoughts.
CAROLINE POLISI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That`s right, Chris. I think that you have to look at Giuliani`s written statement today when he said my references to timing are in no way sort of indicative of the President`s knowledge. He is trying to maintain a level of plausible deniability. At the same time, he tried to expull (ph) pay Cohen for, you know, saying that he was in fact repaid for that loan. But also on President Trump`s part, he is trying to have it both ways whereas he was saying he simultaneously repaid the payment while not knowing the specific and how he did it as you mentioned was through this sort of slush fund, this $35,000 a month retainer fee that Michael Cohen could use to just indiscriminately pay anybody apparently who had, you know, negative or damaging information on Mr. Trump prior to the election.
So again it, goes to the federal election law violation. He is trying to sort of in an effort to get himself out of issues, he is just sort of muddying the waters and making more issues for him.
MATTHEWS: You know, in a weird way, Annie, and I don`t want to get off collar here but it`s so weird. If Trump is telling the truth which no one here believes that he pays this fixer to fix all problems and gives them a sum of money. In other words, what happens if you get in more trouble than $130,000? Suppose there`s four or five women at a time and you get like a bubble of cause. Is this guy supposed to cover that or does it have to come out of this $35,000 a month.
ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE: This is part of his argument, Chris, is that, you know, (INAUDIBLE) comes of the Giuliani argument is hey, look, this happens all the time. This has nothing to doing with an election. We are constantly paying people off.
MATTHEWS: So there`s always a woman in question who is pounding them for money or else, right. This is ridiculous. This is he saying that he is a sleaze. And I got to cover up for his sleaze. And that`s the defense. That I normally -- I normally have to pay for his messes.
LINSKEY: It`s hugely problematic because in order to prove it, in order to prove that`s true, that would mean that we are going to see a series of women or other situations trotted out to establish the pattern. So it`s not really a pattern that you really want to be arguing.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the point here what a lot of people think is the second story here. Why did Trump change his story this Wednesday night? Why did Rudy get trotted out to say it really came from the President? The president actually paid the money. Taking the heat off of Mr. Cohen because the "National Inquirer" had ran the negative piece attack him. And everybody thought, including Cohen, that President is out to get me. They are trying to soften up this guy.
Anyway, tell me about this. Was this an attempt to take it the heat off Cohen so that Cohen will not turn state`s evidence against the President?
RUCKER: Potentially. But I think more than at this, it`s an attempt by Giuliani to get this campaign finance violation issue off the table to establish once and for all this wasn`t a campaign finance issue and Giuliani was not successful in articulating that message very clearly in his many media interviews. He`s all over the map. It caused a lot of agitation at the White House.
MATTHEWS: OK. With the agitate (ph) -- I think they realize this fearful, Caroline, fearful of what Michael Cohen who has to save this keyster (ph) right now against multiple charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, campaign violations. He is a youngish guy. He doesn`t want to go 30 to 40 years somewhere unpleasant where you maybe get to lift weights if you are lucky, that is it. And doing all that for Donald Trump rather than simply telling Donald Trump, you abused me. I`m going to have to get even.
POLISI: Yes. I mean, certainly by all accounts I had to believe after Giuliani came out on "FOX & Friends" and previously on Hannity, I had to believe that this was part of a larger strategy. Of course, we now know that this was just a strategy between Trump and Giuliani unbeknownst to sort of the rest of his legal team, the rest of the communications team in the White House.
But I had to believe that it was an effort to get in front of the bad facts that they knew were coming out in the wake of this raid on Michael Cohen`s home, office and hotel room. They know that, you know, there are going to be some bad things that come out there and they wanted to perhaps get ahead of it from a PR standpoint. I mean, it didn`t work out. But yes, absolutely, they may be sort of giving an olive branch here to Michael Cohen to expull pay him at least from, you know, the campaign finance aspect of it.
Who knows what other trouble he may be in in the southern district of New York in terms of other issues? But at least on that issue, maybe it`s something that they could do to sort of take the heat off of him in the hopes he won`t flip.
MATTHEWS: Did you see the movie "City Hall" with Al Pacino?
POLISI: No, I haven`t.
MATTHEWS: He`s a guy who dealt with the somewhat shady (INAUDIBLE) from Brooklyn. He was the shady -- I know the guy`s name (INAUDIBLE). But the fact is they basically said he was a singer in the movie. And that guy looks like a singer. In the end, they are going to press you, you look at 30 or 40 years in jail and you are going to talk.
LINSKEY: He already -- I mean, I believe it was this network that reported today that he has been -- Cohen has been talking to people and saying no, this isn`t what happened at all. I have a different side of the story to tell. So it seems like if this was intended as an olive branch to Cohen and I`m not sure it was, I think there`s a much easier way to do that by maybe, you know, having the President say something like Cohen, a great guy. But if in this was an olive branch, it`s unclear to me that it really worked.
MATTHEWS: We will know big time.
Today we learned Cohen`s thoughts on what Giuliani has said. Here`s what he told Donny Deutsch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNY DEUTSCH, CNBC TALKS SHOW HOST: I spoke with Michael Cohen yesterday. He said Giuliani doesn`t know what he`s talking about. He also said that look, there are two people that know exactly what happened. Myself and the President. And you will be hearing my side of the story. And he was obviously very frustrated of what had come out yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Phil, let`s take this back to why it matters. We heard weeks ago the President faces more terror from this Stormy Daniels case potentially than he faces from the main line investigation by Robert Mueller. The argument being I think isn`t that he had this relationship that he is embarrassed by, potentially at person would be embarrassed by it but the fact this guy has so much on him. And that all -- so much has been collected by the FBI when they went into the offices of Michael Cohen that all this could be used to squeeze Cohen and the President would be the one who has to pay for it.
RUCKER: Yes. Cohen is the vault for Donald Trump. He is the keeper of all these secrets, all these arrangements, all these financial deals going back a decade. His personal attorney and fixer. He would get him out of trouble. And Trump is worried about what he might tell federal investigators.
And the other reason it`s so concerning for Trump and for the White House is they don`t know the full truth. With the Mueller investigation, they have a good sense of what happened on the campaign and what didn`t. They have a very good sense of what Trump did as President to possibly obstruct justice or not. They have no idea what Michael Cohen has on Trump. And that`s why they are so concerned.
MATTHEWS: Well, Annie, it could be Russia which is always the vein here you want to get to. You want to get to the Russia collusion issue because that is the one issue, if you can show the President colluded with the Russians to get elected President, even a bunch of Republicans might well join a conviction of getting the President out of office.
LINSKEY: Yes. That is a terrifying aspect. To Phil`s point, which I think is spot on, I mean, it is unclear that, you know, and Sarah made it very clear yesterday that nobody really did know any of the details about the Stormy Daniels situation. So the fact that there could be multiple, you know, concepts like this flowing from Cohen, you know, is very, very scary because they don`t know what they are dealing with. It`s an unknown unknown.
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Caroline.
Caroline, can you tell us about what the possibility is of squeezing Michael Cohen with all this stuff he knows and all the collateral information? Everything he has got in that bundle of stuff that`s now in control of the federal investigators from the southern district of New York? What -- how would they squeeze somebody like that?
POLISI: Well, as you said, we know this was a referral from Robert Mueller`s office, the special counsel`s officer. He didn`t think that was sort in his ambit to prosecute. So he referred it to the southern district of New York. And of course, they are moving forward with that criminal investigation. Now, that doesn`t mean that the prosecutors and investigators in the southern district can`t share whatever information they may find in that investigation with the special counsel`s office. And the special counsel could then use that information really as leverage.
I mean, you know, I hate to use the word threat, but you know, the threat of a criminal indictment in other arenas, you know, having to do with, you know, banking fraud, wire fraud, what have you, maybe nothing to do with Russia could potentially incite Michael Cohen to sort of open his eyes and say look, do I want to go to jail for potentially a long period of time or do I want to provide substantial assistance? And that`s what the prosecutors are looking for, substantial assistance in the bigger Russia probe. And I think it`s a very strong likelihood he would do so.
MATTHEWS: Is Robert Mueller basically already walked into a candy store and he looks at all the different candies. You know, he has got M&Ms, he has got Hershey bars and he has got three musketeers. He is looking at every one and said any one of them, well, Manafort, Paul Manafort, Papadopoulos, I don`t know, Roger Stone who, knows, this guy Michael Cohen, all these people have stuff to tell me about the guy I`m trying to go after here to figure out whether he did anything wrong. Isn`t it like that for him? Does he have the opportunity now to just pick one of these he wants to go into and say great, this looks really tasty? I`m going to bring this guy down with this one. It looks like that is Mueller`s situation. Here we are in May of 2018. And that`s what he`s looking at, the candy store.
POLISI: Potentially. But you know, prosecutors for the special counsel has got really break over the calls today in the Manafort case. Basically, the judge came down very hard on them saying the only reason that they were prosecuting Manafort for these other crimes was exactly as you stated, Chris.
MATTHEWS: But that says in the mandate anything that arises in this case they can prosecute.
POLISI: I agree with you. But the fact --
MATTHEWS: But more importantly, it says here any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. That judge, that 78-year-old judge, who was a Reagan appointment ought to read the mandate before he rules on this case. I think he is out to lunch.
POLISI: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to learn more.
Anyway, I`m tough on the guy I don`t even know. But I got to tell you, when he didn`t even read the mandate language, it`s pretty wide.
Anyway, thank you.
POLISI: Once it`s un-redacted, we will see.
MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you.
By the way, I want hear from all these candy companies for my product placement tonight.
Thank you, Phil Rucker, Annie Linskey, and Caroline Polisi.
Coming up, Trump says he wants to sit down with Robert Mueller but the truth is, he doesn`t want to sit down with him. He knows an interview with Mueller would open himself to new legal peril beyond belief and rather tried to win in the court of law. He narrowly (ph) wants to fight in the court of public opinion. He wants to make it look like he is willing to talk but never sit anywhere near the special counsel. Let me at him. Let me at him and everybody grabs him. Let me at him. I want to get that. Let me at him. Now, he doesn`t want to get out.
Plus, the man who would oversee the impeachment in the House, New York congressman Jerry Nadler of New York joins us tonight. I want to know what his definition of impeachable crime is. What would it take for Congress to begin did the impeachment process against this President?
And the Trump and Rudy show, as I said, with these two drive in the car, Chief of staff John Kelly`s relegated to the back seat. And with the story changing almost daily, who knows where this car is heading.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like there. He hasn`t lately.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, amid all the other headlines today, President Trump also made news on North Korea. Here is Trump earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We are having very substantive talks with North Korea. And a lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages and I think you`re going to see very good things. As I said yesterday, stay tuned. I think you are going to be seeing very, very good things. And also, the trip is being scheduled. We now have a date and we have a location. We will be announcing it soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We have a date and we have a location. In addition to teasing a date and location, President Trump also said the summit would be happening very soon.
Well, President Trump also announced late today that he will welcome the South Korean President to the White House later this month prior to his meeting with Kim Jong-un. Apparently it`s after this month.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have all these investigators. They`re Democrats.
In all fairness, Bob Mueller worked for Obama for eight years. I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me, in fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers they never speak on anything.
I have to find that we`re going to be treated fairly, because everybody sees it now. And it is a pure witch-hunt. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love the gestures. "Override my lawyers."
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump today suggesting Robert Mueller`s team wouldn`t treat him fairly. He also claimed all of Mueller`s investigators are Democrats, neglected to mention that Mueller is a registered Republican and was originally appointed FBI director by George W. Bush, who was certainly a Republican.
It`s part of an aggressive new strategy to discredit Mueller, of course. I think it`s an old strategy.
According to Politico, Trump and his team see the challenge as more political than legal. That`s sure -- quote -- "They`re banking that the lead Russian investigator will follow longstanding Justice Department practice that a sitting president can`t be indicted, and that the only real threat to Trump`s survival as president is impeachment. Trump`s plan is to forcefully challenge Mueller in the arena he knows best, not the courtroom, but the media, with a public campaign aimed at the special counsel`s credibility, especially among Republican voters and GOP members of Congress."
Well, that sounds very smart.
For more, I`m joined by "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin. She`s next to me. And former assistant attorney, U.S. attorney Kim Wehle.
Thank you both for joining us.
And I think you should just assess that, surmise that Trump is not going to sit around and out-lawyer anybody. He`s just going to say, which side are you on, to the American people? Are you on my side or these bunch of these geeks trying to bring me down?
I think that`s what he`s up to.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Listen, impeachment is a political process. So there`s some sense to that.
The problem is twofold. First of all, eventually, he is going to sit down and talk to Mueller. He can do it the easy way and sit down for a voluntary interview or he can do it the hard way.
MATTHEWS: Or else what?
RUBIN: He gets a subpoena.
MATTHEWS: Or else what?
Suppose he says, I`m going to ignore the subpoena?
RUBIN: At that point, I think the political dynamic shifts. If he`s going to refuse to respond to a subpoena -- he can litigate it.
But if, at the end of the day, a court orders him to go and testify, which they will --
MATTHEWS: So, you think the Supreme Court 5-4 with Anthony Kennedy joining the...
RUBIN: I think it will be bigger than that. I do not think John Roberts is going to let him get away with that. I think it`s going to much more in balance than people think. This is not going to be a party vote, as it were.
MATTHEWS: Is that because of the precedent of Bill Clinton, where he had to testify?
RUBIN: Yes, and because, if you remember in Nixon, 8-0.
They do this when they`re going to --
MATTHEWS: With the documents. Exactly.
RUBIN: Exactly. They`re going to assert the entire strength of the court.
And, listen, the judiciary is under attack by this president. And they have an institutional responsibility and an institutional ethic to defend that.
MATTHEWS: Well, Gorsuch is not going to vote, is he, that way?
RUBIN: Who knows. But, listen, I think they have at least six votes.
MATTHEWS: You agree, Kim?
RUBIN: But I think Gorsuch would vote...
MATTHEWS: You think in the end he has to testify? Do you believe that?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I think in the end there is going to be a subpoena. The question is whether he can negotiate testifying without being oath.
WEHLE: Because then he would avoid perjury.
But I don`t think that is doable. I don`t Mueller would go for that. So, then we`re talking subpoena. Then we`re talking maybe we`re not going to comply with a subpoena. Then we have a court order to compel. We have a contempt decision by a court if he refuses.
And then we have got this president, who believes Article 2 authority is somehow superior to the other branches of government, saying, it`s a fake court. I`m not going to comply with that.
MATTHEWS: This is fascinating, because this is a real constitutional crisis.
WEHLE: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: In other words, the court doesn`t have an army. Trump has an army. He is commander in chief. So, says, I`m staying here, and some judge in his robe is going to come over and grab him?
WEHLE: Well, let me tell you, how is this enforced?
Susan McDougal, Whitewater, I worked on -- the Marshals Service -- the United States Marshals Service goes and actually takes the person and puts them in custody. President Trump`s in charge of the Marshals Service. So, then we have people...
MATTHEWS: You`re with me on this. If he`s willing to push this all the way and say, my people will back me, because if he does believe they are going to try to -- well, I don`t know.
I don`t think they`re going to get -- conviction is a long way off. It takes 67 U.S. senators. And that`s always a hard thing to get.
RUBIN: I think if we`re down to that, if we`re down to him defying a court order and ordering the Marshals off the White House lawn, at that point, I think we`re in impeachment territory. And even Republicans...
MATTHEWS: You`re so establishment.
RUBIN: I know.
MATTHEWS: You are part of the, what do they call it, the deep state.
RUBIN: The deep state. You better believe it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, President Trump tried to discredit Mueller`s investigators today, calling them angry Democrats. This is what he`s up to. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to talk to the people in charge, if they can prove that it`s a fair situation. The problem we have is that you have 13 people, they`re all Democrats, and they`re real Democrats, they`re angry Democrats, and that`s not a fair situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there we saw what was set up in this piece, this segment, that he`s not talking to jurors. He`s talking to the American people and he`s got 40-some percent who will stick with him through "Access Hollywood" and every stumble that`s come along and said, we`re still with this guy, because he says he`s pro-life. He`s with us on a couple issues and he`s anti-establishment.
Therefore, no matter what this guy does, we`re with him.
How many people do you think are like that? You write opinion. Is it 30 percent?
RUBIN: I think about 30, 35 percent, absolutely.
The problem is that we`re going to get a new Congress. I think we`re going to even get a new Senate I think. And eventually he can`t run out the clock anymore.
MATTHEWS: How many Republican senators will join the roughly 50 Democrats? We don`t know what is going to happen in the election.
MATTHEWS: Let`s say 50. That takes another 17.
RUBIN: Depends what he does.
MATTHEWS: Can you get 17 Republicans to vote to throw this guy out of office under any circumstance?
RUBIN: It depends what he does.
If he is in there literally refusing to respond to a subpoena that the Supreme Court...
MATTHEWS: Have you watched the toadies in the United States Senate?
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. But have you watched these people?
RUBIN: It`s hard to imagine. It is.
MATTHEWS: They go -- Simon says. They do -- everything he wants, they`re now for. Protectionism. They were the party of free trade before Trump came along. They`re now for big deficits. They used to be running against deficits for fiscal responsibility for 100 years.
Whatever Trump says, they do.
WEHLE: Listen, Chris, also, I`m a constitutional law professor. I think we have got two of the three branches that are really broken right now. We have a legislative branch that is not doing their job to actually oversee is the executive branch.
And with the exception of the Justice Department...
MATTHEWS: They don`t do anything, except what he tells them to do.
Well, this idea -- it`s all about checks and balances. Nobody is the boss of all three branches. And this is what`s getting distorted here. And this is really something that Trump is misleading the American public, not just the 30 percent, anyone else who wants to pay attention to this.
MATTHEWS: If he believes he`s turned Mueller into a skunk before the American people, like he`s trying to do Comey -- by the way, he`s already got Rudy doing that job.
RUBIN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Turned them into skunks, into awful people that just smell and are awful, we don`t like these beings, if he keeps doing that, he may believe that he can get away it. That`s the key thing, that he believes it, that he can challenge the authority of the Supreme Court.
RUBIN: He may believe it.
And that`s why when it -- if it does get to the court, it is so important for the conservative justices to put their foot down. And it`s at that point -- if you have a Supreme Court...
MATTHEWS: You`re being normative here.
RUBIN: Yes, I am.
MATTHEWS: You`re using the word should here implicitly.
RUBIN: Right. They should.
Now, do I think that they will get some of those conservative justices? Yes.
WEHLE: They will get Gorsuch. They will get Gorsuch.
RUBIN: They will get Gorsuch. I think they will even get Alito, maybe not Thomas, maybe not everybody.
But I think they are going to get a very strong majority. And at that point, I do not think it is sustainable. And we do have elections. This will all get resolved one way or another. And then 2020 comes along. And if he`s really in that posture that he`s keeping...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me get back and check you, my friend, my colleague.
Did you think Hillary would win the election?
RUBIN: I sure did. Everybody did.
MATTHEWS: See? So, that`s how smart you are.
RUBIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What we all think here -- and I thought she would win, too.
We all think in the deep state, in the citadel of Washington, in the deep state, may not be political reality that Trump`s looking at. And I agree he may have to do it, because Nixon -- the big difference between him and Richard Nixon -- you could hate Nixon all you want.
I`m not a Nixon hater. I know the evilness of the stuff he did. But I got to tell you something. He did have a sense of shame.
RUBIN: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And this guy has none.
MATTHEWS: Jennifer Rubin, thank you, as always. Kim Wehle, thank you for your expertise tonight.
Up next: He`s the man who would oversee impeachment proceedings in the House. We`re talking to the guy himself, Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York. He`s here. What`s his idea of an impeachable offense, generally speaking, and what`s his standard for even holding hearings when he perhaps is chairman of the Judiciary next year, which will decide the issue?
We are going to ask him. And he`s coming up next live.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will impeach him, the people said, but he hasn`t done anything wrong. Oh, that doesn`t matter. We will impeach the president.
So, I don`t think we`re going to have a lot of happy people if that happens. I think it`s going to be a little bit tough. We got to win the House. And you know what? We`re going to win anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump last week telling his supporters that if Democrats take over the House, they will try to impeach him. It`s part of a larger strategy, of course, as I mentioned earlier, to make the debate over the Russia probe political, not legal.
As former White House strategist Steve Bannon told Politico: "This is political. At some point in time, the American people are going to weigh in on this. The legal process is going to attune itself to the political process. They are inextricably linked."
So, what would need to happen for politicians to seriously consider impeachment?
I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, who represents the 10th District of New York. It includes the West Side of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. There it is, a very interesting district.
Congressman Nadler is the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that would potentially initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.
Mr. Nadler, thank you so much for coming on.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I was thinking, and thinking about which situation you`re facing, of the great Peter Rodino back in 1974, who handled it masterfully.
People never had a higher opinion, I think, in our lives of the Congress than they were in the way that the House handled the question of Richard Nixon`s impeachment.
Tell me how your general thoughts are about what`s going on now, the way President Trump is talking about how the Democrats are out to impeach him.
NADLER: Well, I think, first of all, the president is making that up out of whole cloth, as he makes up so many other things out of whole cloth.
What`s going on now is that the Congress is failing in its duty. We have a system of separation of powers, and the Congress is supposed to keep the executive in check, and vice versa. And the Congress is not keeping the executive in check.
We are not exercising our checks and balances power. We`re not holding the administration accountable. We are not holding hearings going into all the things that they`re doing that we ought to be doing. We ought to be holding those hearings and holding the administration accountable.
And if I`m the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which is to say, if the Democrats should win the House in January, that`s what we will do. We will start holding hearings on the behavior of the administration, on what they`re doing, on their adherence to law, on what, if any legal changes we should make to promote the rule of law.
And we will see where it goes from there.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the House Republicans have been doing anything like that? I have looked at the case of Nunes, chairman of Intelligence. They look to be rubber stamps for anything the president wants to say or do on the issue of this whole Russian probe.
NADLER: Well, no, the Republicans in the House have been extremely -- by and large, have been supremely irresponsible.
Nunes has been a complete lackey for the White House. And more to the point, they have refused to hold any hearings. Instead, they have participated in trashing the special counsel and trying to distract attention from what`s going on and trying to come up with a phony -- phony nonsense.
Now, one interesting thing about the special counsel has been the president and Republicans, some of them can say whatever they want, it`s terrible, he`s doing a terrible job. It`s all Democrats, they said.
Well, first of all, he`s a Republican. His superior is Republican. But, more to the point, we don`t really know what they`re doing. There have been no leaks. All we know is that certain number of people have indicted, certain have pleaded guilty, and we know court filings.
NADLER: We will find out how good or bad a job -- I think good -- but how they`re doing when they bring prosecutions, when he issues a report, presumably later this year or next year.
MATTHEWS: What is the relationship between a report that comes out, say, it`s on obstruction of justice, it`s done piecemeal by Robert Mueller sometime maybe late this -- well, spring is almost up, but let`s say by this summer.
He comes out with a report that talks about the president`s obstruction of justice in this case. What would -- what does that say to the House? Is there a natural order of things where the House takes up that report, holds hearings on it, or what?
NADLER: Well, first of all, the statute under which Ken Starr operated mandated that the special prosecutor issue a report to Congress.
The statute under which Mueller operates mandates that he issue a report to the attorney general, in this case, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. It`s possible that he won`t release that report to Congress or to the American people.
I think that that report should be released. And I think we would make sure -- we would have the tools to make sure it would be. And then we`d have to see what was in it. And then presumably we would hold hearings and call witnesses to see how reliable that report was, how strong it was...
NADLER: -- and what else we should know before we decided what actions, if any, to take.
MATTHEWS: You`re a constitutional lawyer, as well as an elected official for all these years.
What do you make of this fight that may be coming more immediately where the president may decide he will not accept a court decision that he has to testify to Mueller? What would happen?
NADLER: Well, if -- well, he can appeal any such court decision.
But if, ultimately, at the end of the appeals, he is instructed to testify, he must do so. He cannot simply defy the court. That`s what Richard Nixon -- at the end of the day, Richard Nixon decided he had to obey the court order. The president must obey the court order.
MATTHEWS: Or else.
NADLER: Or else.
MATTHEWS: What happens? What happens?
NADLER: Well --
MATTHEWS: We have never been in that situation where -- see, Nixon was an institutionalist.
NADLER: Actually, we were in that situation.
MATTHEWS: Nixon did what he was told to do.
Go ahead. I`m sorry.
NADLER: We were in that situation once, I believe, with Andrew Jackson, who said, John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.
But it`s a long time ago. I think, in today`s world, if a president absolutely refused to obey a court order, then we would have to consider impeachment.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Nadler, God be with you. You have got a challenge facing you.
NADLER: But that -- but I would hope and trust it would never come to that, even with this president.
MATTHEWS: Well, it may come to it.
Thank you so much, Jerry Nadler, U.S. congressman from the West Side of New York and part of Brooklyn, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable is here to talk about the Trump and Trudy show -- well, Rudy show, I should say. The president and his lawyer are taking turns at the wheel, of course, and everyone else, including the White House staff, is just along for ride right now.
Look at these two guys. They`re in cahoots.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have hatched a plan to reveal that Trump reimbursed his personal fixer Michael Cohen for that hush money payment. But they certainly left the White House staff out of the loop. "The Daily Beast" reports that Giuliani`s interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday night sent White House staff scrambling.
Quote: Was he supposed to do that?, one blind sided White House official said. It adds, one senior Trump aide bluntly assessed Rudy pulls a Trump, denoting an extremely public undercutting of official strategy and messaging. Well, that sounds formal.
The disconnect was evident yesterday as press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders struggled to field reporter questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When did you specifically know that the president repaid Mr. Cohen for the $130,000? You personally?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The first awareness I had was during the interview last night.
REPORTER: How are the American people to trust or believe what is said here or what is said by the president?
SANDERS: We give the very best information that we have at the time.
REPORTER: Why can`t you just answer yes or no whether you were in the dark. I think it`s a fairly simple.
SANDERS: It`s a fairly simple answer I`ve given you several times now. I give you the best information I have and I`m going to continue to do my best to do that every single day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to "The Washington Post", while Rudy had a strategy, the White House counsel had no idea, neither the chief of staff nor the White House lawyer overseeing the handling of the Russia investigation. "The Post" adds they watched agog as Giuliani freestyled about the president`s legal troubles and unveiled an explosive new fact.
Rudy Giuliani`s correction today underscores how the ever changing narrative could create even bigger problems for the prez, the president.
That`s next with the HARDBALL roundtable. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEW: Back to HARDBALL.
President Trump said Rudy Giuliani didn`t have the facts straight when the he revealed Trump repaid his personal attorney for that payment to Stormy Daniels. Giuliani now says it was -- it was to resolve a personal allegation not to avoid an election eve scandal, as he certainly suggested.
"The New York Times" Peter Baker writes that this is the latest example of a president losing control of his narrative writing, the past few days have offered a head-spinning series of revelations that conflicted with the version of events Mr. Trump and his associates had previously provided. Baker adds, the shifting statements also illustrated historically why some of the president`s lawyers have urged him not to submit to an interview by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.
Erica Werner is a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post," Adolfo Franco is a Republican strategist and RNC surrogate. And Jason Johnson is a politics editor and he is the editor at theroot.com and an MSNBC political contributor.
Adolfo, for the defense, what do you make of this Rudy thing?
ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We`ll start with me.
MATTHEWS: Why not? Because you`re fun. And the fact of the matter is, you`ve got to be in the barrel again tonight. What is this about? Are they roughing their way to the truth here?
I think the president is still denying two key factors. One, he didn`t order the payment of the hush money for the woman he was involved with, and two, it had nothing to do with an election. He claims both of them right now.
FRANCO: Well, a couple things. First of all, it had nothing to do with the election. No, it doesn`t matter.
MATTHEWS: Why did he say it.
FRANCO: I`ll tell you why it doesn`t have to do with the election. I think Rudy Giuliani got this part of it right. This is a person who has been looking out for the president. I don`t know when Mrs. Daniels, let`s just call her that, most people know her as Stormy Daniels, was pressing the president for payment supposedly on this agreement. It could have been actually --
MATTHEWS: Ten days before the election.
FRANCO: Mr. Cohen has nothing to do with the campaign. He wasn`t formally part of the campaign. On top of this all of this, very quickly, "The Wall Street Journal" when you read a piece by Bradley Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, he says even if this payment is made, there`s not an FEC violation on this.
At the end of the day --
MATTHEWS: Why did they throw Edwards before the court on that issue?
FRANCO: It was a completely different situation that was not -- it was not -- those were funds implicated during the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Why? Hush up an affair.
FRANCO: There is nothing.
MATTHEWS: It`s exactly the same thing.
FRANCO: It was not the same thing in any shape way or form. It was not the same thing. This is a person who are had something to doing with 10, 12 years ago who has zero credibility, Stormy Daniels.
MATTHEWS: Oh, really?
MATTHEWS: You think she made it up?
FRANCO: She signed something she said that she never had an affair.
MATTHEWS: Do you think she made it up.
FRANCO: I don`t know whether she made it up or not. I think the president is right. You get rid of these people as nuisances.
MATTHEWS: I like the former friend of Trump that said everybody in America believes he had the relationship, everybody in the world believes he made the payment and ordered the payment because nobody that`s a lawyer is allowed to write checks for 130,000 bucks without somebody saying you better do it.
ERICA WERNER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, whatever Giuliani was attempting to do Wednesday night which was interpreted giving him too much credit as perhaps he was trying to get ahead of some facts that would come out anyway how from Michael Cohen.
MATTHEWS: Would you go on national television after dinner? I worked in the house where these guys all got in trouble. You know what I`m saying. Wine is served in the house dining room. And they go on and have to go back and take the words down.
Don`t go to dinner first if you`re going on national television.
JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: There`s no way, there`s no way that anyone doesn`t believe that this had to do with campaigns. And Rudy knew that. That`s why he said it.
Look, when you`re running for office is, I don`t care if it`s local school board, right? Your husband, your wife, your kids, your neighbors, your pastor, everybody is involved in the campaign. You can`t say that Cohen had nothing to do with the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Back to what I`m curious about. Why they do this as a two-some? How come they didn`t share this with Kelly, with McGahn, the lawyer, the new lawyer Emmet Flood?
WERNER: That`s how Trump rolls. He prizes personal loyalty and we know that John Kelly is not on his good side lately. We don`t know what kind of relationship he has with these other lawyers, each of them. Giuliani, although I guess they aren`t very close, seems to be someone that he feels he can trust although the process of throwing him under the bus seemed to somewhat begin today when he said he`s been on the job a day. He`s still learning.
MATTHEWS: Rudy is loving the spotlight.
FRANCO: Why would you bring in, I`m a lawyer. I wouldn`t bring in the non-lawyers into the legal strategy and discussions.
JOHNSON: He`s a lawyer.
FRANCO: John Kelly`s role, I`m talking about John Kelly`s role. You`re asking why it is, we were talking about stove-piping earlier. The information and the discussion and the strategy --
MATTHEWS: OK, I`m going to get Adolfo to agree with me. I think he wanted a street fight.
MATTHEWS: Rudy is good at a street fight. He wanted to bring two guys from the boroughs, not Manhattan, the boroughs, that`s in Queens or whatever, they went in with a certain attitude towards it the establishment and the "New York Times." Let`s have a fight.
JOHNSON: Right. Rudy is pugnacious. Rudy reflects the kind of attitude that Donald Trump wants to have. And, plus, you know, Giuliani, just like Chris Christie, can set a land speed for how quickly they backtrack whenever they say thing Trump doesn`t like. Whether or not threw talked about it, whether he had his facts wrong, he knows Giuliani is going to remain loyal to him and that Jew will do whatever it is Trump wants him to do even if he changes his mind unlike John Kelly.
FRANCO: And you know what? This is nice Washington talk on a Friday night. I thought this was about the Russian interference in the election.
This is why this panel, this is why Donald Trump will win re-election. This is why Donald Trump will be fine after the midterms. I`m dead serious.
FRANCO: Judge Ellis got it right with all due respect, unfettered -- unfettered authority is a dangerous thing.
MATTHEWS: You used to do this to me all time. Jesse Jackson, I know what you`re pulling rights now. You`re knocking down the fourth wall.
FRANCO: I`m not.
MATTHEWS: You know what they do? They always say, well, we`re talking particulars here. Talk about the general issue. They say let`s talk to particulars.
You`re trying to change the topic. I know what you`re up to. I pull you down. It`s torture down there.
MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Erica, you`re up, tell me something I don`t know.
WERNER: Chris, remember the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that the president almost vetoed before he signed it in March, then he was going to ask Congress to cut $30 billion to $60 billion from it? Well, the White House has totally backed off that strategy. Instead, they`re going to ask for maybe $11 billion from totally different programs and Congress still might not go for that.
MATTHEWS: It`s the party of fiscal responsibility.
FRANCO: Well, that`s because the economy is booming.
Very quickly --
MATTHEWS: I knew you do this.
FRANCO: No, I tell you, we just got the best --
MATTHEWS: What`s the unemployment rate?
FRANCO: The unemployment rate is the lowest in 47 years.
MATTHEWS: What is it?
FRANCO: 4.1 percent.
MATTHEWS: It`s 3.9.
FRANCO: No, 4 -- well, maybe it`s even better news. Let me tell you quickly, let me tell you --
MATTHEWS: What was that?
FRANCO: Let me tell you what the biggest, the best news we`ve gotten.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me hear it. This is news.
FRANCO: Nancy Pelosi announcing that she is going to run for leadership. No, wait. We just.
MATTHES: The next speaker. She`s the next speaker.
Go ahead, Jason.
JOHNSON: We all remember Wendy Davis became famous for doing a long filibuster and she ended up losing. We got a new Wendy Davis who actually won. Margie Bright Matthews, African-American, one of the only three senators in South Carolina, led a long filibuster in South Carolina, killing an abortion bill in a red, red state that got sent back to the committee. Huge victory for Democrats.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, thank you so much. Erica Werner, Jason Johnson, and Adolfo Franco. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch" Thursday, May 4th, 2018.
We end this week with this cacophony from the White House, voices correcting voices who directed that $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Was it Trump`s fixer Michael Cohen who fixed the problem? Or did he get the OK from Trump? Did they pay the money to keep her quiet so he could win the presidential election or because Trump was quite understandably concerned about his marriage and protecting his brand?
Trump wants to us believe his fixer, Michael Cohen, made the decision on his own to pay off Stormy Daniels to fix the problem on his own that Cohen didn`t pay the money to keep Daniels from storming TV networks and newspapers with her story the week before the election and Cohen made that payment as standard opening procedure to protect the Trump marriage and Trump brand.
In any case, the purpose of all there is to protect Trump from having to admit he ordered the hush money. This is what Trump wants to us believe, his fixer fixed the problem. He did it as a business expense. He never okayed it himself. It had nothing to do with his presidential campaign, even though this all happened within days of the election. Got it?
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.
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