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Trump urging Mueller to "wrap up" probe. TRANSCRIPT: 05/11/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Ken Vogel, Clarence Page

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 11, 2018 Guest: Ken Vogel, Clarence Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It`s getting ugly. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

As the special counsel`s investigation reaches into new Russian territory, Trump`s allies are making a new effort to destroy it. We are watching Rudy Giuliani and vice President Mike Pence join the President now in calling for an end to the probe, as we mark the first year of the investigation.

And now, White House chief of staff John Kelly, General Kelly, is also speaking out, suggesting in an interview with NPR, that a year is long enough to conclude there`s nothing there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President keeps calling the Russian investigation a witch-hunt. Do you think it`s a witch-hunt against the President?

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: From what I read in the newspaper, something that has gone on this long without any real meat on the bone suggests to me that there is nothing there relative to our President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a cloud because of it hanging over this White House?

KELLY: Yes, you know, there may not be a cloud, but certainly the President is somewhat embarrassed, frankly.


MATTHEWS: Well, Kelly later explained on what he meant by embarrassed was distracted. That`s actually what he meant to say, not embarrassed, even though he said embarrassed.

Anyway, Mueller`s critics didn`t admit it was Trump`s own words, let`s face it, in part that put him in the crosshairs of this criminal investigation. It was one years ago today that Trump admitted to Lester Holt of NBC that he fired former FBI director James Comey precisely because the FBI was looking too closely at his connections to the Russia. He admitted this. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


MATTHEWS: This conversation between him and himself must have been interesting. Anyway, furthermore, we have seen every indication that Robert Mueller has moved forcefully in the year since he was appointed. His progress is best measured by the nearly 20 indictments, guilty pleas, or cooperation agreements he has secured in connection with the probe to date.

Recent history also shows that similar investigations have gone on significantly longer than this Russian probe. The shortest was the federal investigation of Watergate, which lasted a year and a half, ultimately forcing Richard Nixon from office.

The longest was the Iran contra investigation of the Reagan administration, which took six years to conclude. Ken Starr`s investigation of ml President Clinton took four years. And the investigation into the Valerie Plame affair under George Bush`s President took more than three years.

Meanwhile, things took an ugly turn after Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, challenged Rudy Giuliani to a debate on twitter this week.

Responding to Avenatti today, Giuliani told "Business Insider" quote "I don`t get involved with pimps."

He went on to say that the media loves to give him, that is Avenatti, room because he makes these roundabout charges and they turn out to be nothing. Giuliani added, I wouldn`t debate him because it wouldn`t be fair. I debate, like, really intelligent skilled people.

Well, joining me right now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," and MSNBC political analyst and author of the book, "Russian Roulette," which is doing great on the bestseller list. Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at "the Atlantic." Charlie Sykes is a contributing editor at "the Weekly Standard" and an MSNBC contributor. And Caroline Polisi is a federal criminal defense attorney.

So much to cover. Where so we start? Well, let`s start with this. I will start with pimp. Because I have to wonder how ugly with this team can get? Giuliani using words like a street talk like that against the guy -- another lawyer. These are two lawyers fighting about the law and whether it was broken and he resorts to street talk. What do you make of it? Why is he getting that ugly?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: You know, I think there is a certain and it sounds like a big word, Chris, a certain amount of derangement in how Rudy Giuliani has been reacting to politics, not just to this case, but in the last year or two.

I remember during the campaign, I went up to him and asked him about people at Trump rallies chanting "lock her up." He was a former federal prosecutor. He worked in the justice department. I said, what do you make of that? Is that the way that people should behave? He put his face inches from mine. He turned beet red and he started saying, she is guilty. She is guilty.

I really think, if you talk to people who used to work for him, they are all worried. They are worried a bit about Rudy Giuliani. He is not acting like the rational, reasonable person that some people thought he used to be.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take this around because the language thing is important in the debate and how you reduce the language. I have had Pat Moynihan said, they define deviancy downward. This talk is street trash talk, you would have to call it. Natasha?

NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: And look. I mean, just like how Kelly Sadler insulted John McCain, we see this kind of language trickle down from the President. And I think that one of the revealing comments that Rudy Giuliani made this week was to the "new York Times" Maggie Haberman which is that he really misses being on TV. He hadn`t been on TV in a while. He as kind of laying under the radar especially after the Trump campaign ended and he missed the attention. And that`s a big reason why he says and does these things.


BERTRAND: Yes. He craves it.

MATTHEWS: He admits that he uses words like that to get some attention. Well, he got it. He got the wrong kind of attention, I would say. Because he was America`s mayor not too long ago. Maybe too long ago. But this is the language -- I don`t know. It is mob movies. You hear this kind of talk. You hear it everywhere on the street, but don`t expect to hear it from the President`s lawyer. Excuse me, we keep forgetting that he is the President`s lawyer, one of his lawyers. The other guy is Michael Cohen. I don`t know what to make of this. Your thoughts?

CHARLIE SYKES, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It is like a mob -- it is like a mob movie. But you know, another indication that Natasha is absolutely right about all of this, this tone is set by the President who has dumbed down the level of language and the rhetoric and the tactics. It feels like we are on a sixth grade playground so often.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

SYKES: We knew that from the campaign.

MATTHEWS: In a pretty tough neighborhood, actually.

SYKES: It`s a very, very tough neighborhood. But look, Rudy Giuliani is not articulating any sort of a coherent legal strategy whatsoever. And what you see is basically, you know, a hint of how incoherent that legal strategy is. But also how they are going to treat this like a back-alley fight, broken bottles. They are playing it in the court of public opinion. And maybe just simply hoping to throw up so much mud, so much slime, that everybody doesn`t want to pay attention. They want to look away.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Caroline on this question before I get to the next question. Let me go to this one.

You know, they are making a big deal about the first anniversary of this investigation. The Republicans pushed whitewater, which led to Lewinsky for four years, and I never heard a Republican call the shot clock and say, it is 24 seconds. You have got to give it up. Nobody says that when you`re a Republican now. Four years was fine. They were going to follow Clinton to the grave if they could have gotten that far.

And now they say, a year is enough. Who says it`s enough, except Richard Nixon who said it about Watergate. Took a-year-and-half to get it. He wished it was only a year of Watergate. A year and a half it took to get him. Your thought about -- is there a shot clock, as they have in the NBA or in college basketball for investigators?


MATTHEWS: Is there a time limit?

POLISI: Certainly, I have never been involved in a federal criminal investigation that lasted under a year. We have seen 75 criminal charges here against 22 different defendants, five guilty pleas. By all accounts, Mueller and his team are working at a breakneck pace. I mean, it`s unlike anything like I have ever seen before.

The fact is, federal criminal investigations of this nature take a long time, Chris. Because they have to get things right, OK? They have to pore over documents, witness interviews, I mean, these things take time. And to say that, you know, we heard that quote, that there`s no meat on the bones, it`s absolutely ridiculous. We are, in fact, just getting to the meat on the bones right now.

So I think it`s a completely arbitrary cutoff date. Maybe, you know, there are some people in the American public that feel like this is dragging on too along, but that`s probably because they are not getting all the information from Mueller.

MATTHEWS: They want a solution. By the way, I would like to find out what happened, too. I want more information. I`m as excited as anybody to find out how this thing ends up.

Anyway, after saying that the President would decide whether to testify before Mueller`s prosecutors by next Thursday, Rudy Giuliani`s today is delaying that decision.

Quote "until after the President`s summit, he`s using that word now, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month, as Giuliani now tells the "Associated Press," I wouldn`t want to take his concentration off something far, far more important."

Now he sounds like Dickens there. Anyway. A far, far better thing than I have ever done.

Wait a minute, what is this about, they wanted to race, they want this thing to go faster, right, but they don`t want to decide if they want to testify until later. How can they end thing if they won`t end it?

CORN: And Trump is so busy that he won`t be playing golf or tweeting this weekend, I`m sure of that. He will be studying Korean history all weekend long. That`s what he will be doing according to --

MATTHEWS: Summit history. You are kidding. You are kidding.

CORN: Yes. I think this to do about whether Trump testifies or not is almost beside the point. He is not a reliable witness to even what he believed or said at any given time. He will not give Mueller any useful information. I think he can`t. And there`s so much that Mueller is getting, whether from Michael Cohen records or other testimony of things that we know nothing about, is going to be far more influential to possible indictments than anything coming from Donald Trump. It doesn`t matter if Trump testifies or not. But it gives --

MATTHEWS: You`re kidding me?

CORN: I`m not kidding.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you want answers like, did you ever talk to Paul Manafort about Russia? Did you ever talk to Michael Flynn about Russia? Did you ever talk to roger stone about Russia?

CORN: You have read depositions that he has given in the past.

MATTHEWS: Well, with I don`t think that will be credible.

CORN: It won`t be credible, but won`t give him any useful information.

MATTHEWS: Natasha, this issue about when he will or when he won`t or when he will think about it. I have a sense this might be the old north (INAUDIBLE) tactic of fight and talk at the same time. Lots of meetings and lots of talk while he says, well, he doesn`t have to agree to testify. He just doesn`t do it. It doesn`t happen.

BERTRAND: They are simply filibustering this as long as they possibly can.

MATTHEWS: Good word.

BERTRAND: But Mueller`s already is writing his obstruction report, right. We have already seen that report. He has already identified four areas in which the President has allegedly obstructed justice. And he`s writing that report and planning to release it by the summer, whether or not Trump testifies.

So ultimately, what David says is absolutely right. He doesn`t really need Trump`s side of the story to determine that he did obstruct justice and try to end the investigation into his campaign.

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, as we talk, more investigation, ABC News is reporting that Robert Mueller is probing right now that donations made to Trump`s inaugural committee by Americans with ties to foreign countries like Inrater. That includes donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Many of whom contributed large sums to the nonprofit fund-raising entity.

According to ABC, Mueller`s prosecutors have asked witnesses about Andrew Intrater, the cousin of Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg who has been at the center of the investigation of Michael Cohen. Intrater, who donated $250,000 to Trump`s inaugural committee in January of 2017 is alleged to have also routed payments to Cohen`s company totaling $500,000 beginning in that same.

Charlie Sykes, I mean, this smells. I mean, these cousins, you know, they are like nephews in the old papal court. They are actually sons and daughters. I mean, excuse me, does anybody not think these people are working for their cousins in Russia when they pour this money into the funds of the inaugural committee, to lavish excitement around Donald Trump, their guy.

SYKES: Yes, this is the most toxic, just most toxic part of the swamp when you think about it. And, you know, going back to this arbitrary one-year deadline, every single week we find a new aspect. We learn something else about all of these connections. And you know, David Corn`s book has documented all of this in great detail. What I find fascinating is that all of the strands, all of the tentacles of Trump world`s corruption appear to be coming together and that Robert Mueller has a picture. And we don`t know what he knows, but he`s going into all of this. Not just the conspiracy, not just the obstruction of justice, but things like money laundering and pay for play and the swampy influence peddling that went on. This is an extraordinary investigation. It is extraordinarily complex. And it`s moving actually really extraordinarily rapidly.

MATTHEWS: Caroline, as for you to conduct this segment, I wonder if there`s a wall somewhere in the special counsel`s operation here in D.C. somewhere, where there`s a big wall with people`s faces on it and all the lines drawn and arrows pointing from one to the other, trying to outline what they did when they did with the mob in the old days, the mafia throwing who is the capo, the bigger capo, and who is below him and who is the soldiers? And figuring it all out. Do you think they do it like that?

And secondly, those arrows pointing to the inaugural money through cousins, it`s illegal to pass money if you are a foreigner to an inaugural committee?

POLISI: It is illegal. I do think they certainly have a lot of tools at their disposal in terms of aggregating information and figuring out the connections. I would just say that, you know, prosecutors don`t believe in coincidences. Trust me, because I have tried to make that argument to them before. They just don`t believe in them. So we are seeing a lot of coincidences here. A lot of seemingly coordinated effort. So, obviously, you know, there`s a lot of smoke.

You are right, Chris. I mean, this is swampy. There`s no specific criminal behavior. That`s sort of out in the open as of yet. Because we know the federal bribery law, it`s pretty narrow, right. You have to have a real quid pro quo, a real formal action on the part of an elected official in return for the money. So far, we haven`t really seen that, but we are certainly getting close.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyone who doesn`t see the Russia connection to this administration refuses to see it.

Natasha Bertrand, David Corn, Charlie Sykes, and Caroline Polisi.

Coming up, the fear continues over that cruel remark mentioned earlier in the show tonight made yesterday by a White House aide about Senator John McCain. The White House refuses to apologize for that comment and McCain`s family is hitting back. But in a White House where anything goes, that awful kind of talk starts right -- don`t you think -- at the top where the fish rots.

Plus, conservative columnist George F. Willis says Donald Trump isn`t the worst person in the Trump administration, his vice President is. Coming up, George Will makes his case right here on HARDBALL.

And Trump might talk about draining the swamp, but his words may not mean much when you look at the actions of those closest to him, Michael Cohen, Scott Pruitt are two of the biggest swamp creatures in Trump`s orbit and that`s saying a lot.

And finally, let me finish tonight with a preview of coming events. This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: In addition to casting doubt on the Mueller probe, White House chief of staff general John Kelly also defended the administration`s hardline stance on immigration. General Kelly argued that undocumented immigrants don`t have the skills to assimilate to life in this country.


KELLY: The vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They are not criminals. They are not MS-13. But they are also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States. They are overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They are coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws.


MATTHEWS: Kelly`s not the only White House staffer stirring controversy. There is growing outrage over a Trump aide`s tasteless remark about Senator John McCain. And that`s coming up next.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The family of Senator John McCain is striking back now at the White House, after a Trump administration staffer reportedly made a tasteless remark about the senator`s ongoing battle with brain cancer. White House communications adviser Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain`s opposition of Trump`s pick for CIA director saying in a meeting quote "he is dying anyway."

Well, senator McCain`s wife fired back at Sadler tweeting, may I remind you that my husband has a family, seven children and five grandchildren. McCain`s daughter, Meghan, weighed in this morning on "the View."


MEGHAN MCCAIN, SEN. MCCAIN`S DAUGHTER: I don`t understand what kind of environment you are working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job. And that`s all I have to say about it.


MATTHEWS: Well, today press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does Kelly Sadler still work at the White House?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the White House not think that you need to condemn these remarks or comment --?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not just apologize to senator McCain?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of a leaked staff meeting.


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Elise Jordan, an MSNBC political analyst and former aide to President George W. Bush in his White House. And Malcom Nance who like McCain if a veteran of the United States Navy. He is also an MSNBC terrorism analyst. Thank you both.

Well, I was working at the White House, too, but let me ask you about this fish rots that hot from the top. What do you make of that kind of comment passing? One person obviously didn`t like it, because they ratted her out.

But does somebody having the comfort to make a -- to make a statement like that in a White House meeting, what do you make of that, Elise?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It all stems from the top, Chris. It starts at the top.

This is a president who has shown himself repeatedly to have an unparalleled ability to just unleash casual cruelty. You look at all of the numerous incidents, targeting a Gold Star family, attacking a woman, a war widow, whose husband had just died.

There is no limit. And so, of course, it`s unsurprising that this is the way that White House staffers behave, when Donald Trump is so consistently cruel himself.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm, what is it? Just tough guy talk? Is it meant -- do you think it was done in some context we`re missing? Because on the surface, it sounds awful. What do you think it meant?

Why would you say something like that? Is it like it shows that you`re just purposefully, publicly callous, and you want to seem that way? I don`t get it. Your thoughts?

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: No, this isn`t tough guy talk, OK?

For -- every member of the armed forces who has ever served understands the sacrifice that our prisoners of war have endured and have gone through. What we have here -- and, as you said, it`s a fish that`s rotting from the top.

This is Donald Trump`s spirit that he has imbued the White House with. This is what he expects to hear from his staff.

What upsets me the most -- I`m an old Navy chief. And old Navy chiefs, we recalibrate trouble and people with problems up and down the chain of command. When someone`s wrong, we tell them they`re wrong. What upsets me the most is that no one had the common sense or decency to tell her that this was wrong, they will never hear it again.

And, in fact, she should have been terminated on the spot.

MATTHEWS: Well, and let`s give a little prop here to FOX News, because they apparently bumped this guy, this Air Force officer who referred to Trump -- referred to John McCain as the songbird, and that guy apparently is not going to be on there again, Malcolm.

What do you make of that?

NANCE: Well, I think that`s great.

Charles Payne came out and made an apology today. He said that he didn`t actually hear it while the statement was being made. I will give him that on its face.

But, you know, General McInerney has had a history of troubled statements. He was a birther from the original school of birtherism. And to come out and say that, he himself was a combat veteran that flew missions in Vietnam. Those guys who went down over Hanoi and spent years and years in captivity need to -- they need to understand that was a completely different circumstance.

John McCain did not talk. John McCain resisted to his utmost and served with faith and honor and returned with honor. And so for -- granted, you can get rid of him as a guest, but this is a mind-set that has now imbued many Trump voters.

I hear veterans mimic this. And it`s disgraceful. It`s dishonorable and it really needs to stop.

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has repeatedly launched personal attacks against McCain.

Here`s what then candidate Trump had to say against the Vietnam War veteran back in 2015 after McCain accused him for firing up the crazies with some of his remarks about immigration.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a war hero. He`s a war hero.


TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.


MATTHEWS: Well, after the news of Sadler`s reported remark -- that`s the White House staffer who made the remark -- former Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement to NBC News, saying: "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday. Well, given this White House`s trail of disrespect towards John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule. She is the epitome of it."

That`s Biden talking.

Anyway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders today was asked if the tone of the White House comes from the very top.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, there is not a tone set here. We have a respect for all Americans. And that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, both in word and in action.


MATTHEWS: Why do you think, Elise, why do you think they`re standing so strong on this? It`s like a journalist saying, we`re sticking with our story.

Yes, they`re not doing anything to a little bit of -- maybe a wrist- slapping is in order, some sort of apology, something that shows at least that, as an institution, the White House doesn`t think the way this one staffer spoke.

JORDAN: Chris, I think that this -- the way the White House is behaving reflects the view that President Trump has of his prior remarks on John McCain. He won`t renounce what he said about John McCain not being a hero and that he liked his military -- his troops not captured.

I think that they are more -- they are more concerned about what President Trump would think if they came out and wagered a strong defense than doing and saying the right thing and apologizing and trying to move on from just a sorry chapter in the history of the White House, that this kind of comment is being condoned about a man whose service to our country and his commitment to our country is really, you know, among few in American history.

MATTHEWS: You know, Malcolm, I have been to -- I was over there a couple of years ago to Hanoi, and to see that statue, that ugly statue of McCain, where he was fished out of the water, beaten up, they beat him up like he was the worst person in the world. The Vietnamese got ahold of him over there, the North Vietnamese.

You know, he`s just never recovered obviously physically from what he endured. He was diving -- he was basically dive-bombing into the enemy capital when he was shot down. He wasn`t captured, like he put his hands up in the field somewhere. He was going on offense into the enemy`s heart when he got shot out of his airplane.

NANCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, I don`t understand how -- what Trump could possibly mean by he was just a captive, that`s all he is.

NANCE: Well, first off, that remark is disgusting, OK?

Donald Trump deferred the draft five times. He ran away from that war. So he doesn`t get the right to say that, president or not. John McCain went to that war. He is one of three generations of McCains that now have a warship named after him. I doubt there will ever be a warship named after Donald Trump.

But John McCain was not...

MATTHEWS: You don`t get warships named after you for dodging sexually transmitted diseases? Because that`s what he said was his Vietnam. I`m not making this up. This is the way Trump talks about this. His Vietnam was dodging venereal disease.


NANCE: Disgraceful.

But John McCain went down over Hanoi in an A-4 Skyhawk, the smallest strike jet that we had, went down inside a lake, was fished out, was frog-marched, paraded with a broken clavicle, and then beaten relentlessly and senseless for five years, refused to be allowed to go home on a medical discharge because he knew it would disgrace his family and be used as propaganda.

That man is an American hero. And we need to honor him. And, look, we know he`s in his twilight, and, as I like to say, Senator McCain, we have the watch. We should let him go on with respect.

But, you know, one last thing I would like to say. General Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, really needs to get sergeant major of the Marine Corps, mass chief petty officer of the Navy and top sergeant of the Air Force, and have a sit-down with the White House staff about honor and show them that the military won`t allow that kind of talk in the White House or out of it.

MATTHEWS: I`m so glad, sir, a couple million people heard you just say that. Somebody had to say it.

Thank you so much, Malcolm Nance.

And thank you, Elise Jordan, as always. You`re a great guest.

Coming up next: Columnist George F. Will says Trump is no longer America`s most repulsive, repulsive public figure. He`s here to tell us who he says is. Hint, hint, it`s Mike Pence.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it really is great, it is really great to be here with a friend of mine.


PENCE: The man Indiana voted overwhelmingly to make the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.


PENCE: I`m here today because I stand with President Trump.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Actually, Mike Pence didn`t always stand with Donald Trump. He reportedly contemplated a coup, by the way, after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out.

According to "The Atlantic": "Within hours of `The Post``s bombshell, Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump`s place as the party`s nominee."

I wonder if Trump knows that. He`s come a long way since then, of course. As vice president, Pence has served as Trump`s most fervent defender. Let`s watch him.


PENCE: Thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.

Thank you for your boundless faith in the American people.

President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.

I know I speak on behalf of the entire Cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say, congratulations and thank you. You have restored American credibility on the world stage. You have signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history. You have spurred an optimism in this country that`s setting records.

I`m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.

It`s the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve as vice president to President Trump. He`s a man of his word. He`s a man of action.



MATTHEWS: Syndicated columnist George F. Will labeled Pence the worst person in government, citing "his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness."

According to George Will, Pence "is the authentic voice of today`s lickspittle Republican Party. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not at all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying."


MATTHEWS: I`m joined by the author of those kind words, George F. Will.

The toadyism, why is he performing almost like he`s in a religious service and Trump is God? That`s how he`s -- this is all prayerful language.

GEORGE WILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, his persona is devout.


WILL: And he doesn`t laugh often, I think, as far as I can tell.


WILL: Being vice president is an inherently difficult thing.

You are a completely derivative figure. You are selected through particularly no energy of your own for that person`s purposes. Now, we have -- we began to see vice presidents treated well and seriously, I think, with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

And, since then, Cheney and the rest have been treated well.

MATTHEWS: I think Cheney treated -- will -- treated W. well.


WILL: That`s right.

But it`s because you are a derivative figure, and because you`re there to magnify and amplify the will of someone else, it`s an ambiguous position that requires, therefore, a kind of moral center to not overdo it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this, George, and see if this reminds you of our vice presidents, especially this one.


MATTHEWS: These are the lining up of the penguins in Antarctica. They just do. It`s just done by ritual. They don`t even know why they`re lining up. Apparently, it very inefficient, has no purpose, but that`s what they have done for generations of penguins.

Why is Cheney -- well, not Cheney in this case -- why is Pence so deliberate? Doesn`t Trump ever get, I`m embarrassed by it, Mike, lay off a little, pull it back a little bit?

WILL: Are you kidding?


WILL: No, Mr. Trump -- and Mr. Pence knew this when he signed on -- wants loyalty. And the loyalty has to be almost abject.

For that reason, I think Mr. Trump threw -- Mr. Pence threw a switch and said, I know what I`m signing on for, I`m going to do it.

That doesn`t make it anymore pleasant.

MATTHEWS: Well, here -- to make the point of your column, here are a few lowlights of Mike Pence`s tenure as vice president to date.

He flew to Indiana, only to walk out of a football game after several of the athletes knelt during the national anthem, having planned to do all along. It appeared to be a premeditated stunt, as said, according to an NBC reporter who was outside the stadium with Pence`s team.

A staffer said told that reporter that the vice president may depart the game early, may.

And President Trump quickly tweeted: "I asked Mike Pence to leave the stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country."

And last week, Pence went out of his way to praise former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court and later pardoned by President Trump. Pence called him, Arpaio, "a tireless supporter of strong borders and the rule of law."

And, just yesterday, Pence called for the end to the investigation of Russian collusion. Let`s watch that.


PENCE: What I think is that it`s been about a year since this investigation began.

Our administration has provided over a million documents. We have fully cooperated in it. And in the interest of the country, I think it`s time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.


MATTHEWS: I have a sense that, sometime in the future, the Democratic Party is going to have to pick a candidate to defeat Mike Pence. What do you think? Because he will be out there. He will have earned his right to the succession by this kind of toadying.

WILL: It depends on whether the country eventually gets tired of this particular act.

Mr. Trump is an entertainer. He came to us from television.


WILL: And he knows that things get stale.

Vaudeville was killed by television, because everyone in the country saw the acts all at once. You couldn`t take them from Grand Junction to Des Moines to Cheyenne.

The question is, does this ever lose its power to entertain? I suspect it will. I think another year from now is a very long time.

MATTHEWS: Who wins a national contest, Nikki Haley or Mike Pence, for the Republican nomination, should that day come?

WILL: Haley.


Thank you so much.

George Will has made news tonight. Nikki Haley will beat Mike Pence.

Up next: President Trump last night bragged to supporters about draining the swamp. Remember that? He`s still saying it. But Michael Cohen and Scott Pruitt are perfect examples of just how much the swamp has thrived under this presidency. We will get to that next with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m proposing a package of ethic reforms to make our government honest once again. It`s time to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C. and we`re going to do it.

We`re going end to the government corruption and we`re going to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C. We are going to drain the swamp of government corruption in Washington, D.C.

And we are going to keep our promises, all of the promises that we made.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Throughout the campaign for president and his first year in office, Donald Trump vowed to make Washington honest again by draining the swamp. Well, last night in Indiana, he said that he was fighting to deliver on that very promise.


TRUMP: Under my administration, we`re fighting against the lobbyists, the special interests, and the corrupt Washington politics.


MATTHEWS: Perhaps Trump hasn`t seen a newspaper on recently. On Tuesday, we found out his personal lawyer Michael Cohen was leveraging his role as Trump`s fixer by soliciting major Fortune 500 companies and promising access to this president. In the process, raking in as much as $2 million from corporate clients.

One of those companies, AT&T, today said hiring Cohen, the president`s lawyer, was a big mistake. And just last month, Mick Mulvaney, the president`s OMB director, told a room full of bankers that while he was in Congress, he only talked to lobbyists if they gave him campaign money. In other words, if they ponied up.

And finally, let`s not forget EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who`s currently the focus of nearly a dozen investigations by ethics watchdogs, federal regulators, and congressional committees.

So, does this administration still think that President Trump is out there draining the swamp? We`ll get do that next with the HARDBALL roundtable.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, Sarah Huckabee Sanders twisted herself today into a pretzel, trying to spin Michael Cohen`s business ties into an example of how the Trump administration has drained the swamp.


REPORTER: Does the president think it was a mistake for his lawyer to work with them?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think this further proves that the president is not going to be influenced by special interests. This is actually the definition of draining the swamp, something the president talked about repeatedly during the campaign and for anything beyond that, I would direct you to the president`s outside counsel.


MATTHEWS: For more, let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable.

Yamiche Alcindor, "PBS NewsHour" White House correspondent and MSNBC contributor. You`re also moderator, no, you`re not -- I`m sorry. You`re everything else.


MATTHEWS: That`s right.

Ken Vogel is "New York Times" political reporter, and Clarence Page, of course, is "Chicago Tribune" columnist.

So what do we make of this amazing, shameless claim by Trump that he`s cleaned up everything when he`s got this fixer out there with a shingle out, I can get you access to the president. He`s doing it like all the old guys, like all the people we all -- I`m not going to mention their names out, a lot of them are deceased. But I grew up at a time when people did this. They helped get a guy elected, the guy gets elected, they don`t want to work in the White House for 100 year, whatever, they want to stay outside and make millions. This isn`t new.

But Trump is claiming he`s different.

ALCINDOR: Well, I say two things. The first is if we want to include the White House perspective, is that they have all of these people that don`t have, quote/unquote, government experience running the White House. You think about people like Ben Carson. You think about people like Betsey DeVos. People said they didn`t have the right experience, so they consider that draining the swamp.

Sarah Sanders also said the reason why it wasn`t -- why it wasn`t effective or why they drained the swamp was because the lobbying and the money that they paid wasn`t effective, it didn`t change Trump`s mind, which is a pretty startling claim, because she`s saying, oh, it`s OK that Cohen took the money, because it didn`t really work.

MATTHEWS: So his ambassadors aren`t people who gave him money during the campaign. Give me a break.

Ken Vogel?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: There`s some of that. But, I mean, the difference between these past administrations that you talked about where there are insiders who do try to cash in is that Trump came to town with fewer connections to this type of establishment, K Street power structure --

MATTHEWS: But he had connections with people who hate being regulated.

VOGEL: True.

MATTHEWS: He has all of his friends who like guys like Scott Pruitt, because Pruitt doesn`t believe in the EPA, so make him head of the EPA. He doesn`t want any environmental regulation. Business is always going to cost him money and they`re always going to be against it. His job is to get rid of the regulation, so they love him. He`s the swamp creature.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: This is what happened -- you know, when you do get a businessman in the White House, maybe this is what happens. I mean, "ProPublica" counted over 180 various appointees who were former lobbyists and now they`re working in the agencies that they formally lobbied. There are even more who have gotten wavers so they can work outside and act as consultants inside the government. This is kind of business as usual these days, but this is Trump`s idea of draining the swamp.

MATTHEWS: If you talk to any businessperson, what they want is two things. They want lower taxes. This guy delivered. Gave them what they want. All kinds of reductions in cap gains everything and. He did what they wanted.

He delivered as a lobbyist himself. Trump was -- second, they all want to get rid of environmental regulations. They put Scott Pruitt in there.

Every top rich businessman in the world should be for Donald Trump. He`s their chief lobbyist. He doesn`t need to be lobbied. He`s one of them.

ALCINDOR: Well, I mean, in some ways -- but that`s also what the people voted for, right?

MATTHEWS: Do you think? Do you think the average guy in Scranton or Waukegan or wherever voted for lowered environmental regulation?

ALCINDOR: I think what they voted for was the idea that Trump would go in there and change things up and what they got was someone who has kind of objectively done things that rich people and businesspeople want. But I would say that I`ve talked to some voters who definitely were like, well, we need less regulations because my small business needs to function more freely.


VOGEL: Chris, the fact that --

MATTHEWS: I think they voted for him for rebuilding America, which I have yet to see, and no stupid wars, and I`m afraid there are more coming.

VOGEL: Well, there is certainly some of that. But the fact that as you suggested, there are very wealthy constituencies in the Republican Party that do care very deeply about slashing environmental regulations is one of the reasons why Scott Pruitt is still hanging on, despite all of these scandals, he is delivering on something that people in Scranton may not care about, but people in the donor circle do.

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to leave tonight on an upbeat note. Here it is, in an upcoming memoir, John McCain reveals his regrets about not picking former Connecticut Senator Joe Liebermann as his running mate. He`s a Democrat of some kind in 2008. He had obviously broken with the party in many ways.

In an exclusive interview today with NBC News, Sarah Palin, who was ultimately on that ticket with McCain said that hurt a bit. Let`s watch her.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I described it earlier as a gut punch. I will never disparage someone who has served our country and made a lot of sacrifices, as a vet now, and that`s how I look at him, as someone who served all those years. You know, he`s had a lot of respect for his maverick nature, you know, kind of he going rogue, wish he would have been going rogue more on the common sense conservative side of issues. But, no, I certainly, you know, have respect for many of the things that he`s accomplished.


MATTHEWS: Clarence, that was well done. I like that Sarah Palin right there.

PAGE: Even John McCain would like that Sarah Palin. It`s no secret that John McCain preferred John Liebermann. But he was being pressured from the right because conservatives didn`t trust McCain already, having Lieberman in their watered ideology down even more. So that was why Sarah Palin was perfect.

And many people point to that as a pivotal moment for the Republican Party, for the big victory for the far right, which we now see --

MATTHEWS: It was a hell of a movie, by the way, Game Changer. Woody Harrelson, playing our friend.

What do you think of that Sarah Palin? Showing some class.

ALCINDOR: I think she showed some class, and let`s remember that we`re in this moment where it`s almost like people rock bottom when it comes to joking about people that are likely, that are really sick.

MATTHEWS: If you are decently decent, you look pretty good right now.

ALCINDOR: I mean, it`s why people are also saying, look at George Bush, at the speeches, he`s not being racist, it`s so amazing he can have these speeches. And I think as a reporter, the war in Iraq and Katrina when you think of George Bush, but he`s having the renaissance where even Democrats are saying I miss the days of George Bush, which is something I would never have thought.

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting for him to totally disown Dick Cheney. That would be my day.

Ken, if anybody looks OK now looks pretty good compared to Trump.

VOGEL: There`s revisionary going on now. And it should be something of a warning for folks on both sides to not be so hyperbolic when you`re trying to deride someone in the opposition, because you sort of become the boy who cried wolf. If Bush was Hitler as some liberals said at the time, they are sort of running out of comparisons to use to criticize Trump. And I think it`s sort of showing.

MATTHEWS: In the 1972 Democratic convention, I was there, `72, he said to me, I said, what is the danger of villainizing (ph) Nixon? He said, well, the problem is to save a baby from fire and then he went to China.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.

And then he won the election.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable. Yamiche is up. Tell me something I don`t know.

ALCINDOR: The Federal Election Commission ruled that campaign funds can be used in some instances to pay for childcare. And this came from a case from a woman who was running for office who used to care for her child full-time on long island, and now, they`re saying the FCC saying, you can use some of your campaign funds to take care of your baby.

Hillary Clinton and other women wrote letters. So, it`s a big, it`s, you know, a really big --

MATTHEWS: It was a cause.

ALCINDOR: Yes. So, they are saying it`s a big victory for women. And, of course, a lot of women are running because some of them are really inspired or at least motivated by President Trump.

MATTHEWS: Sounds good. Ken?

VOGEL: Several of the companies that signed contracts or deals with Michael Cohen are trying to distance themselves from him, AT&T came out and said it was a mistake. But my sources tell me that both AT&T and Squire Patton Boggs which entered a strategic partnership with Cohen that paid $500,000 at the time after Trump was elected were sort of out there shopping for Trump connected lobbyists --


VOGEL: Who could they sign, because it makes sense. But it also shows it`s a systemic thing.

MATTEHWS: They hire a whole bouquets of lobbyists, from every little corner of way of reaching the president. They`ve got grabbed everybody they can. They`ve got so much money, it`s chicken feed what they pay these guys. A million is nothing to these corporations.


PAGE: Well, Chris, I was curious of Kanye West`s record sales. He coincidentally had two new singles coming out the same time he endorsed Donald Trump. I wonder what impact it would have.

MATTHEWS: Who is buying his new records? New clientele out there?

PAGE: I can only tell you how many and they`re not burning up the charts, neither one made the iTunes Top 50. And one made the Billboard hot 100. So it`s starting off slow, slower than usual for Kanye, so we`ll keep an eye on that. You can bring me back for follow-up.

MATTHEWS: I want to know more about.

Yamiche Alcindor, Ken Vogel, and Clarence Page.

When we return, let me finish tonight with the upcoming anniversary. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Earlier this week I was down at the University of Virginia to speak about my book "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit." This coming Monday, I`ll be doing the show from Florida, where I`m addressing the Forum Club in Palm Beach.

And the following Monday, I`ll be speaking to the New York Historical Society. This is all in preparation for the 50th anniversary this June 2nd of Robert Kennedy`s death and his historic funeral train passing from New York down to Arlington Cemetery, where he was buried alongside his brother, President Kennedy.

The inevitable question I`m asking is what would it have been like had he not been gunned down a half century ago? And my answer is, that American presidency is unlike this one, as humanly imaginable. Bobby Kennedy with all his heart, worked with all his heart to look out for the people society too often overlooked. He worked with all his heart to unite people, those who went to college and those who didn`t, working people and middle-class people of all kinds.

Look at the people along the train tracks that day, the African-Americans in grief, the people saluting from all backgrounds with such reverence. I hope that between now and June 6th, you get a copy of "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit," and discover for yourself the story of this man who earned such reverence and gave America such hope.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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