Show: HARDBALL Date: May 18, 2018 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Susan Del Percio, Greg Pittman; Shannon Watts; Joaquin Castro
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Only in America. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington or is it a good evening?
Yet another school shooting three months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida. This time it`s Santa Fe high school in Texas 30 miles southeast of Houston. It`s a common story now in America as is the absence of action by the country`s leaders. Intermittent gunfire across the country, political silence here in the capital.
This time ten people are dead, nine students and a teacher, another ten wounded. This time all hell broke loose before 7:30 a.m. local time. Several witnesses heard a fire alarm go off, then shots rang out.
DAKOTA SHRADER, STUDENT: Nobody thought it was a shooting. Everybody just thought it was, you know, normal procedure or practice fire drill. And next thing you know, we just hear so many three gunshots. A lot of explosions and all the teachers are telling us to run, run, go. Run.
I was scared for my life. Nobody should go through this. Nobody should be able to feel that in school. This is a place where we are supposed to feel safe. This is somewhere we come most of the week. Nobody should have to go through this and nobody should feel that pain.
DUSTIN SEVERIN, STUDENT: We heard more shots and the teachers scream to run. Everybody started to run. People were getting hit and everything. It`s crazy.
JOHN ROBINSON, STUDENT: I have heard someone that a guy came in in a trench coat and duffel bag and he had like a shotgun and he just started shooting people. I don`t know what else happened.
MATTHEWS: Officials said investigators also found explosive devices in the school and in surrounding campus areas. The suspected shooter, in custody, he is a 17-year-old who attended the school. He is being held without bond on capital murder charges and he is expected to make his first court appearance momentarily.
Texas governor Greg Abbott told reporters two types of weapons were used in the attack, a shotgun and a .38 revolver both owned legally by the suspect`s father. Abbott also said that one or two people of interest are being investigated by authorities in connection with the shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: We come together today as we deal with one of the most heinous attacks that we have ever seen in the history of Texas schools. It`s impossible to describe the magnitude of the evil of someone who would attack innocent children in a school.
We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families. It`s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again in the history of the state of Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas. He is a U.S. congressman from the area, Shannon Watts is founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Greg Pittman, a history teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Thank you all for coming here tonight, a grim night again.
Congressman, tell us what you know about the shooting by the 17-year-old in Texas.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: That area is a small town, probably about 13,000 people on the edge of rural and suburban. And it`s in between Houston and Galveston and fairly conservative area. But you know, just like any other place in America, have you students finishing off the school year, maybe just finished up with prom getting ready for graduation. And then they are confronted with this massacre and this tragedy today.
MATTHEWS: Do most people in the area, can you generalize and say whether or not they own shotguns? Have weapons in their homes?
CASTRO: Generally in Texas, you know, there are a lot of folks that hunt for sport. A lot of people do own either shotguns or handguns. So, you know, I`m sure Santa Fe is just like that.
MATTHEWS: What do you think should be done? Maybe this is a bad question, but it is certainly in people`s minds, if a kid grabs his father`s shotgun and his .38 we involver and heads out to shoot people, should the father be held accountable for the fact he left the gun sitting around the house.
CASTRO: That is a tough question. I think we need gun owners to be much more responsible. And I agreed with some of the comments made by the Texas leaders even though Texas state officials have done very little to stem gun violence, I agree that parents need to be more responsible in making sure that their guns are locked up and kept safe from their kids.
MATTHEWS: Well, the lieutenant governor is out there talking about his solution is to have one door rather than two doors to the school. Is that it? The single door policy? That`s going to deal with this issue? Do you think is it that serious?
CASTRO: Yes. I was really dumbfounded when I heard that comment by lieutenant governor Dan Patrick.
MATTHEWS: Let`s listen to it. We have got it here. Let everybody judge for themselves. Whether they think this is a serious response or not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been going on too long in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We are going to get backing to that. But let me go on to Shannon.
Shannon Watts, you are a founder of Mothers Demand Action. What action can we expect here? I mean, fairly, I don`t expect any action. I think we live in this country. It is a gun tooting country. We believe in the second amendment. It is for the constitution. We live with it. The way it`s interpreted by the Supreme Court I think is irresponsible. Here we are.
SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE: You know, we have seen significant change on the ground even just since Parkland. We have seen Republican governors sign sweeping gun reform into law. So we are seeing movement state by state. Red flag laws being passed. Laws that disarm domestic abusers, even states continuing to close the background check loophole.
Texas doesn`t have many of these laws. There have been 20 mass shootings in the state of Texas since 2009. Two just this week. And all we have seen Greg Abbott do is make it easier for dangerous people to get guns. I know everyone want to (INAUDIBLE) in Congress. But it really is on all of us in November to elect lawmakers that will vote the right way on this issue and that will act.
MATTHEWS: Well, just to make your point, all I hear is calls for open carry in saloons and restaurants, people want to walk through the malls with guns, toting guns openly. It always seems to be going in that direction, more guns in more places more openly.
WATTS: Well, you know, we have something no other developed nation has which is the gun lobby. And NRA lobbyists are always fighting for guns for anyone anywhere anytime, no questions asked. That`s how they continue to sell more guns. There`s $100 million loss in gun sales since Donald Trump was elected. And the NRA is trying to figure out how to make up for that losses in sales.
Part of it is to do things like arming teachers. If they armed just a fraction of America`s 3.6 million teachers, they could easily recoup the loss. And get ready to hear those talking points tomorrow morning.
MATTHEWS: Let`s see what the lieutenant governor of Texas where this happened today had to say. His name is Dan Patrick. He is a fierce gun control opponent. He offered his own solution to reduce gun violence in schools today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS: Maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and the exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at the people who come in one or two entrances. We are going to have to be creative. We are going to have to think out of the box because from what we know this dude walked in today with a long coat and a shotgun under his coat. It is 90 degrees. Had there been one single entrance possibly for every student, maybe he would have been stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Greg Pittman because you have been through this before, sir, as a teacher at a school that was hit hard by gun violence. What do you think of politicians who openly say their entire philosophy is answered in fewer doors? And somehow seriously, the guy shows up dressed like he is in the movie "the Matrix" with a long coat on. Well, you would think they would have noticed that behavior before and not have a law about it but common sense would have told them this is a troubled kid out to make a point. What -- I`m going to go back to this. What do you make of a politician, lieutenant governor of a state whose entire response to this is fewer doors?
GREG PITTMAN, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Again, I think Chris, one of the things here with that, that`s certainly might help in one way. But if we go back to the problem of the question of the guns. Back to the question you raised earlier. Here we have a 17-year-old that was able to obtain the father`s guns. Why did the father not have them locked up? Again, there is some responsibility borne by both the father, the mother, the parents here with this kid being able to access guns.
One of the big problems in our society is no one ever is responsible anymore. Our politicians aren`t responsible. They are not responsible to the people. The parents here aren`t responsible. Somebody needs to be responsible for some of the actions. And just the idea of limiting the doors that certainly may help. I know at Douglas, we`ve tried to limit, they have tried to reduce access points so they can better watch the students as they come in. They have gone to these clear bags. They have gone to these other things. But again, if they really want to get a gun in, you can still get a gun in. And that is not going to stop it. And the same thing here, not unless they search every single kid with everything they bring in.
It goes back I think to the access to be able to obtain the guns to begin with. It goes to raising the age I think to be able to obtain guns. How do these 17-year-olds, so many of these shooters, the shooter at our school was 19 who was able to legally buy the gun at that time. Florida has raised the age to 21. Many of these states need to raise the age to 21 or perhaps older. Very easy to get guns. We need to extend background checks which wouldn`t have prevented this. But again back to some responsibility of the parents or someone on controlling guns. Whose fault is this supposed to be? It can`t be no one`s fault.
Someone has to be responsible for this and I don`t understand why the parents are never responsible anymore. That`s one thing that we see at schools now, no one is responsible for anything. The only ones responsible are the teachers. The teachers are being asked to do everything. We can`t.
MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Abbott of Texas also said he plan to hold a roundtable around the state to discuss how to prevent further shootings in Texas. Here`s the governor of the state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBOTT: We will assemble all stakeholders to begin to work immediately on swift solutions to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. We want to hear from parents. We want to hear from students. We want to hear from educators. We want to hear from concerned citizens. We want to hear from those who hold the second amendment right in high esteem. We want to hear from everybody who has an interest in what has happened today so we can work together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, but congressman, it makes me convinced that politics is an acting profession. That was an act.
Mike, let me ask you this because this is the question. Everywhere in the world, there are countries that have violence, of course, but they don`t have school shootings. We seem to have a lot of them.
MATTHEWS: Every couple months it happens and every couple months somebody like the governor says we are going to have roundtables on it. We are going to talk about it and the pro-gun safety people like me, I guess, and the other people on the show say something, the pro-gun people say do nothing. And we go back and think about something else the next two days.
CASTRO: Yes. I mean, Chris, it is a shame that the United States Congress has not done anything, anything to protect our students from gun violence.
MATTHEWS: Do you feel the prevalence in your life?
CASTRO: Certainly in Texas.
MATTHEWS: If you go to vote for gun safety, you know they`re coming at you, right?
CASTRO: Sure. I have stood at polls and asked for people`s support and they have said they`re not going to because the NRA said they shouldn`t and have a list of approved candidates. But Greg Abbott there was basically lip syncing. That man has stood by while tragedy after tragedy has happened and has hurt Texans and he has done nothing.
And when they have those roundtables, I have the first suggestion for him. He should allow under Texas law local governments to take action into their own hands. Right now Texas state law doesn`t allow any local government to do anything about gun violence to make their own laws regarding any of this. He should free up local governments to do that especially if they are going to sit on their hands and do nothing.
MATTHEWS: Shannon, we are looking at the people here, the parents apparently recovering. Well, they are not going to recover from this violence because it`s a hell on earth situation. But what do you think is about America that has this headline now around the world, I mean, if you are in Tokyo right now where they don`t have this or London where they really don`t have this or Paris or anywhere in the world, South Africa, they don`t have this kind of stuff, you go what`s with America? What`s with us? Are there that many angry kids 17 years old angry at the kids in class who don`t treat them right and go out shooting at them? What combination of facts do we have that nobody else seems to have?
WATTS: Every nation is home to disgruntled teens, to bully teens. What we have that is different is easy access to guns in this country. If more guns and fewer gun laws made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world. Instead, we have the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation. And it isn`t letting up.
Ninety-six Americans are shot and killed in this country every day. And we talk about it when ten people are killed at a time. But the reality is there`s gun violence in communities all day long that isn`t being addressed or seen or even reported on the news and these families are suffering. And it is on our lawmakers to act. They could stop this. We know any states with strong gun laws they have much fewer gun deaths. And yet, these lawmakers are sitting on their hands.
MATTHEWS: Here we go. We are watching now the suspect be brought into court for the first time. This is the 17-year-old who is suspected of committing this horrible crime today in Texas. Santa Fe. Here he comes. Let`s watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slide him over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To his left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To his left.
MATTHEWS: We are watching the suspect in the school shooting down in Santa Fe, Texas, today where ten people were killed and ten others injured. Some of them also victims of shotgun violence and he is being brought in for the first time right now to face the court, to face a judge. This, of course, the first step in any kind of judicial proceeding. He is being brought before the system basically. Strange now, he is standing behind that partition in the doorway there. But let`s listen to this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apologize. I`m Judge Henry. Have you been charged with capital murder and charged with aggravated assault against a public servant. I`m denying your bond on both charges. You have the right to retain counsel. You have the right to remain silent to have an attorney present during interviews with attorneys representing the state. You have the right to interpret that interview anytime. You have the right to request the appointment of council if you are indigent. You have the right to (INAUDIBLE). You are not required to make a statement. Any statement made by you may it be used against you. Are you a citizen of the United States? Are you a citizen of the United States?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you requesting consideration for a court appointed attorney?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you out on bond for any other charge?
I`m going to ask you to sign the front pang which is just acknowledging I read you your rights this afternoon. You are not entering a plea today.
I`m going to have you sign the second time requesting consideration to be appointed the court appointed attorney.
And a third time saying that you keep your appointments and tell us if you change your address or phone number.
One more time right here please saying that you`re requesting that court appointed attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the next window. Over again. Go ahead and do it over again.
All right. Do you have any questions? All right. We are finished. They are going to work on the application later.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, you are a Texan. I mean, it`s not -- Texas isn`t responsible for this obviously. One person is perhaps the situation he faced at home had some role in it having access to the gun. Texans aren`t going to change, are they or anybody in this country? Doesn`t look like -- it sounds like we`ll be back here in a couple months with another one of these.
CASTRO: I think that as Shannon mentioned, I think things are changing. I think they are changing too slowly. But I think the public sentiment is changing in Texas also. Unfortunately, the politicians have not changed with the sentiment.
MATTHEWS: NRA still calls the shots?
CASTRO: They still have a lot of sway. But I think that`s waning also. I think they are losing power.
MATTHEWS: I got to Greg on this.
Greg, what were the reactions today of your students in Parkland who have been through this hell before up front?
PITTMAN: Again today, this afternoon, I was with my fourth period which is a class that I was with the day of the shooting at Douglas on February 14th. And all the kids were very upset about it. They wanted to watch. They wanted to see what was going on. Some were very quiet but they were very interested but also upset and it was bringing back you know some of the same feelings that we went through, the fire alarm goes off, everybody starts going out, starts the same kind of things that we did that same day and then so similar as to what we experienced. So again, kids were upset by it. Very much.
And the other thing I`ll throw out, not only that, but before this, our kids, our teachers, our school is suffering from PTSD. Even the people that weren`t in the building directly where the students were shot and teachers and others were killed. It has been a very slow process to get to where we are right now. We are definitely not healed. The school is not normal there. We have got this -- we joke or call it the new normal which is nowhere near what we used to be.
It`s very difficult. Three months out and then obviously this just kind of brings it all back to life again for us. And I can only sympathize with the community there and what they are going to experience because I understand what it`s like and it`s going to be a long difficult road and they`re going to need a lot of support. And so, certainly I`m sure we will try to help support but they will need support from all around the country because it`s not an easy thing to deal with.
Then you go back. I mean, it`s not like many other places that you are at some other random place. There is where the kids go to school. This is where we go to work. Why we don`t use that one building at school, we will go to the school. I mean, there -- and this. We have got three more years of kids before they graduate and the teachers obviously will still there be. So.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I want to thank you.
Greg, I don`t want to cut you off, but I want to tell you one thing, I`m so proud of the fact that your students have spoken out. And I hope they keep speaking out, because the one thing the gun lobby has going for it, and it has all these years--
PITTMAN: They will.
MATTHEWS: -- is, they`re obsessed. I think the people who want gun safety have to be equally obsessed. And that means relentless.
And thank you.
That seems to be true with your students.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, a great guy to come on the show. Thank you for coming on this grim -- by the way, you were going to come on anyway. But thank you for coming on despite this.
Shannon Watts, keep up the wonderful work. You`re a wonderful spokesperson. And we need you. We really do.
WATTS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And, Greg Pittman, again, sir, teachers are great.
Coming up next: the other big story of the day. President Trump and his allies are attacking the very investigation of Russian election meddling and coordination with Moscow by the Trump campaign. They didn`t like being investigated. Trump says it was wrong for the FBI to investigate his campaign, wrong for them to be looking for evidence of criminal activity.
What, is he crazy? They`re watching the investigators. They`re attacking the investigators now, worried that -- what the outcome of evidence is going to be. Of course they`re getting nervous.
Plus, Trump troubadour. Rudy Giuliani, tooting the same horn says, the investigation should end and that Trump deserves an apology. But thanks to videotape, we`re going to show you something tonight he said during the Clinton impeachment he doesn`t want you to remember. Back then, he said no president is above the law. What changed?
Meanwhile, Trump is uniting the right to defend him. He won`t apologize for mocking John McCain. He`s not -- he`s going after Planned Parenthood. He`s standing up against the NRA -- or with the NRA on the gun issue. He wants to circle the wagons.
Finally, Let Me Finish with Trump Watch.
You`re watching it. It`s HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump is indicating today that he`s willing to go to extreme new lengths to discredit the Russia probe. In his quest to change the question from how he was involved, President Trump appears to be willing to sacrifice the identity of a covert FBI informant who reportedly assisted in the investigation of the Trump campaign.
In a tweet today, Trump alleged that the FBI used the informant for political purposes -- quote -- "Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted for political purposes into my campaign for president. It took place very early on and long before the phony Russia hoax became a hot fake news story. If true, all-time biggest political scandal."
According to "The Washington Post," the informant in question is a U.S. citizen who has provided information over the years to both the FBI and the CIA and aided the Russia investigation both before and after Mueller`s appointment.
"The Washington Post" reports that the president has joined with his allies on Capitol Hill in a fight against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source in this case would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani also seized on the development to slam the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP`S LAWYER: This goes back 100 days before the election. They had spies in the Trump camp. I`m trying to figure out who was sitting next to me on the airplane.
This is a far worse crime and intrusion on democracy than a non-Russian conspiracy. And who is investigating it?
I hope that this is turned over for criminal referral. And I hope,for once, the Justice Department wakes up and investigates something other than, you know, empowering Mueller to do an illegitimate investigation. It is illegitimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Despite their faux outrage, it`s not clear how it was in any way wrong for the FBI to use an informant to get evidence in a crime or how blowing the cover of that informant would exonerate the president from allegations of collusion or obstruction of justice.
I`m joined right now by the co-author of that report in "The Washington Post," Phil Rucker, also a contributor. Malcolm Nance is an MSNBC national security intelligence analyst. And Shannon Pettypiece is a correspondent for Bloomberg.
I want to start, I think, with Phil. You have got the reporting.
You know, everybody knows, when you go to court in a criminal situation, the defendant to get off, which every defendant wants to, is get off, comes up with some theory, some wacky notion. Well, somebody told me to steal the car. Oh, I didn`t know I was stealing the car. Somebody told me to take it, some guy named Joe.
OK, you got to come up with something. That`s what Rudy sounds like, a hopeless case -- public defender defending a hopeless case with a Looney Tune argument that there`s something wrong with gathering evidence against a potential crime, which is what he is saying.
He calls informants spies in order to create some sort of alternative reality. Your thoughts? You`re reporting this thing.
PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there`s a clear effort here by President Trump on down, including his allies and including, importantly, attorney Rudy Giuliani, to discredit the Mueller probe by pointing to the origins of it, to try to say that this was somehow improperly started because of an informant who was passing along intelligence from inside of the campaign to help the FBI`s Russia investigation.
They feel like that`s wrongdoing, as Trump has said, a scandal bigger than Watergate. And they feel like if more information can become public about the beginning period of this FBI probe, if the documents that Congressman Devin Nunes is requesting from the Justice Department are made public, that that will give them sort of evidence or cause to move against the Mueller probe.
At this point, it seems more like a public relations offensive than anything that has any legal bearing.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
RUCKER: But we will have to see.
MATTHEWS: Malcolm, that`s what I think. I think this is faux. This outrage is faux, pretend. They know they`re caught. They`re about to be really nailed and so they`re coming up with all this bogus stuff about spies.
Even the use of the word spy is brilliant, because it gets in people`s heads wrongdoing, bad guys.
MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, it goes back to their belief that President Obama actually wiretapped Trump Towers.
This is fantasy baseball, but it`s going out to a very select audience. And he wants them to believe this. I mean, you know, the only equivalent that I can give you here, it`s like the head of the Gambino crime family complaining that there are witnesses from within his camp against him in a trial.
I mean, there`s nothing they can do here. But what they can do, which is very dangerous, is, it`s quite possible that they could informally get this person`s name, and then out them and discredit the FBI`s ability to have confidential informants.
MATTHEWS: Well, my question is, what`s wrong with an informant, Shannon? We found out the cigarette industry was putting all that nicotine into their products because we had an insider. Russell Crowe played him in the movies.
What is wrong with finding out what`s going on, on the inside of the Trump campaign, if that`s what you`re investigating?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: There isn`t necessarily anything wrong with it.
There`s an enormous amount we don`t know about this case, the origins of it, who the informant is. But if someone either voluntarily came to the FBI or it was someone who the FBI had been working with on a number of matters and brought them information, there is nothing wrong with that.
That is how investigations go. Now, but there is a lot we don`t know how this all came about. So, there could be things we find out later in process.
MATTHEWS: But if you end up finding out evidence that they colluded with the Russians, does it matter that you used an informant to find that out?
The important thing is, do you find evidence that shows collusion or not?
PETTYPIECE: And did you have grounds to seek that information or to obtain that information, of course, because we have a justice system where you can`t just wiretap anyone. You have to get a warrant.
But it does -- to Malcolm`s point, it is very reminiscent of this wiretapping argument. And the president tried to raise that as an issue. But there are many people who asked, well, why are your wires being tapped? Why is the FBI listening to your phones? Why is there an informant talking to the FBI? What is going on there?
MATTHEWS: Well, in his testimony just two days ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by President Trump , warned that the identities of covert intelligence sources must be protected in the interest of national security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we`re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and lives of their families.
And the day that we can`t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Malcolm, do you think they`re ready to push the guy into the public light and expose this person who may be very endangered because of this political play by the Trump people?
NANCE: Well, in my career, we have already lived through that happening with the exposure of Valerie Plame--
NANCE: -- a non-official cover clandestine service officer, who just -- and that outing destroyed an entire global intelligence collection network.
I think that this administration is definitely political enough to go out there and expose a confidential informant if it would help their case and damage the FBI.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems, according to "The Washington Post," Trump is strategizing with his allies on Capitol Hill -- quote -- "Congressman Mark Meadows has been conferring with Trump in three or more calls a week, communicating concerns that the Justice Department is hiding worrisome information about the elements of the probe."
And one former administrator told "The Post": "He sees allies in Congress as more credible surrogates than his own staff."
Phil, you`re a student of this thing here. It seems like they have got a lot of efforts out there to distract away from the upcoming delivery of evidence by Robert Mueller, that they seem to be saying, let`s -- Rudy`s out there attracting attention over to Stormy Daniels and that case.
The whole Stormy Daniels case itself is distracting attention. And now they`re trying to undermine. It seems like they have got a lot effort. Is this coordinated, all these efforts to undermine Mueller?
RUCKER: Absolutely, Chris.
This is a clear strategic shift for President Trump and his legal team in the last month or so since Rudy Giuliani has come on board. He`s on the offense. They`re trying to sort of muddy the waters to discredit this Mueller probe, as it reached its one-year anniversary yesterday, to take down the public confidence in the Russia investigation, so that when they get to the point where President Trump wants to call for it to end, even if -- he`s threatened to fire Mueller or to fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees it.
If something like that were to happen, there would be less public sort of trust in the operation. This is a very clear coordinated public campaign to really discredit Robert Mueller as he`s continuing his work in the investigation.
MATTHEWS: Shannon, do you see that too is as a reporter? Do you see this multifaceted effort to undermine?
PETTYPIECE: Yes, my reporting is completely in line with Phil`s.
You talk to people who are the president`s allies, his surrogates, they are absolutely trying to undercut the legitimacy of this investigation, so, regardless of what is found, a large section of the public will not believe or will have big doubts about it, because this will likely not end up, if there is anything here, as a legal court battle.
It will end up as an impeachment proceeding, again, if anything is found. And an impeachment proceeding, now you get into the court of public opinion. And that`s where these sort of things matter.
MATTHEWS: And it becomes, what side are you on?
Anyway, thank you, Phil Rucker. Thank you, Malcolm Nance, and, of course, Shannon Pettypiece.
Coming up: Trump`s troubadour, Rudy Giuliani, is back at it, this time saying it doesn`t if a candidate gets opposite research from a foreign source.
Well, actually, Mr. Mayor, if it comes from Russia or a foreign government, it is illegal. And get this. Rudy says Trump is owed an apology for this investigation.
He is really -- what does he want? What`s Rudy up to?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s been a month now since Donald Trump hired Rudy Giuliani as his personal lawyer and troubadour, if you will. Since then, Giuliani has embarked on a sustained media campaign to diffuse and divert attention from the facts of Robert Mueller`s investigation, which has secured so far five guilty pleas and 19 -- count them -- 19 indictments.
Giuliani is now calling for an end to the investigation on his own word, I guess, end it, he says, and an apology. He wants an apology to the president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: The whole investigation is totally illegitimate. How about what Jeff Sessions has done to him?
QUESTION: What has he done to him?
GIULIANI: What Jeff Sessions has done to him is stick him with a special counsel because he didn`t step up.
Long answer now I think equals you can`t indict.
QUESTION: You have said it should be wrapped up. Do you believe that it should be wrapped up overall or just as it pertains in any way to President Trump?
GIULIANI: No, I think it should be wrapped up completely. In fact, they should apologize to him for putting him through this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, modern-day Giuliani stands in stark contrast, of course, to a decidedly more muted version of the former mayor of New York who appeared on PBS during the 1998 Starr investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Under the criminal law, everybody should be treated the same.
QUESTION: And lying is a crime.
GIULIANI: And I know there are people that would say the president should be treated stricter. But I think the right answer is, the president should be treated -- as far as the criminal law is concerned, the president is a citizen.
The Watergate litigation resolved the fact that the president is not above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Ashley Parker, White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist.
Susan, I know this puts you in a box, but I enjoy doing that, so let`s done.
MATTHEWS: I like putting -- if people are going to be uncomfortable, let them be uncomfortable.
My question, I`m always sort of found that, what`s the right word, familiarity of Rudy Giuliani. I have always considered him somebody I know from growing up, guys like him. He`s a big city kid. I know him. I don`t dislike him in any personal way certainly. And I just wonder why he has changed to the guy who is willing now to say outrageous things, like, you can`t invite -- you can`t indict, you have to apologize to somebody, you can`t have an informant?
I mean, all these rules are gone in terms of defending his current client.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They are gone.
And, Chris, I`m so happy you showed that earlier video of Rudy in 1998, because that`s the Giuliani I worked for, that`s the administration I worked for.
And that`s what was when he led our city through one of the darkest times. I have no idea why he`s willing to sacrifice that legacy, if you will, for one of being the head P.R. guy to discredit the Justice Department.
The only thing is, is, I think he`s back in campaign mode. He liked the 2016 campaign. He liked being there with Donald Trump. He liked being on the attack.
And this is basically--
MATTHEWS: Yes. Is it the action?
DEL PERCIO: It`s the action. It`s the relevancy.
DEL PERCIO: And he is doing this again for Donald Trump.
It`s really an extension of the campaign. Let`s face it, in 2016, all Donald Trump did is discredit other people and his opponents. And that`s what Rudy Giuliani is trying to do right now, which is a shame.
MATTHEWS: You know, Ashley, I know you`re a straight reporter. I`m going to throw this one at you now. The question of Rudy why he changed, I`ve always bragged on Rudy in the old days during 9/11 because I said he did something we always treasure in a politician. He didn`t engage in rolling disclosure.
He would say we`ve got a couple cases of anthrax right now. He would give us the information as he had just been handed it. We love that in a politician. Tell us what you know now. Don`t wait three weeks and we find it out and you agree, we found it out, which is called rolling disclosure.
What do you sense when you talk to Rudy? What do you think he`s like now as an informant?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: In this moment, Giuliani is playing a role. He is playing the role of what President Trump has demanded which is that of a TV lawyer. So when you see him, it`s interesting to watch this probe and this defense go on because you have Mueller and his team who are building a legal defense and you have Giuliani who has made a choice and people can wonder as you did why he made this choice, but to basically be the aggressive PR apparatus for President Trump`s legal team.
And so, the choices he`s making are not the choices he would make or the things he would say as a federal prosecutor or as America`s mayor but they are the things you say when you`re prosecuting a case in the court of public opinion, more so than even building a legal case behind the scenes.
MATTHEWS: How they cooking this up together? Have you been able to figure out at "The Post", are they on the phone together? Are they conniving together? Are they like the Menendez brothers, if you will, they`re on these phones that are taped together somehow they find a way to connect without anybody knowing it? How do they do it, Ashley?
PARKER: They`re spending a lot of time together. Giuliani for instance, we know the other weekend he and President Trump spent about five hours at the president`s golf course in Virginia. They talked about the case, they talked about the strategy.
Giuliani told us at "The Post" they tried to eat healthy together. He had a Cobb salad. The president had a hamburger but without the bun. So, they`re spending a lot of time together --
MATTHEWS: That will last ten minutes. I don`t think I see any evidence of that.
Anyway, Susan del Percio, what do you -- is this the real Rudy or was the old guy the real guy?
DEL PERCIO: I think the old one was -- that`s the Rudy I know and that`s the Rudy I wish I was seeing right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the one that was in the history books until now. Thank you, Ashley Parker. Great reporting. "The Post" is amazing.
Susan del Percio, we have to talk about Rudy sometime.
DEL PERCIO: OK.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Trump is uniting the right on all fronts. Don`t you notice, he won`t apologize about the knock at John McCain? He`s taking on Planned Parenthood. And you can bet -- he`s not going to do anything about guns as long as the NRA is part of his camp.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL:
Facing a growing threat from Mueller`s investigation, of course, President Trump has been focused on uniting his right wing base on multiple fronts. This week alone, his White House refused to apologize even for that communication aide Kelly Sadler`s comments that John McCain`s vote doesn`t matter since he`s, quote, dying anyway.
Well, he opened up the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. His administration stood by its policy of separating children from their parents if their parents entered the country illegally and floated the idea, in fact, of housing those children at military bases.
And the Trump administration announced a proposal today that would ban organizations like Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for health services if they also perform abortions in the same facility.
Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor, Eli Stokols, MSNBC contributor, and Jonathan Capehart is an opinion writer for "The Washington Post", also an MSNBC -- they`re all both contributors.
Let me ask you about this circling the wagon. It just seems like on all fronts, I`m not going to compare it to a certain German leader once, hold the line on the eastern front, take all the casualties but hold the line. He`s doing that. He doesn`t give an inch on anything.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: He doesn`t give an inch, but I don`t think it`s actually out of weakness. I think it`s out of strength. He`s doing exactly what he said he was going to do. I`m not advocating these positions.
He`s doing exactly what he wants. Not out of the need toffee kowtow to his base but because his base is loving it and he is.
MATTHEWS: Eli, I`m going to try you on this. How come after the shooting in Parkland high school, down there in Parkland, Florida, he did budge. He budged in that meeting we all watched in the candidate room. He talked about, you know, all kinds of background checks and all this stuff.
He talked about let`s take a look at it. That`s who he was. Let`s take a look.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d rather have you come up with a strong, strong bill and really strong on background checks.
We`re talking about rules and regulations for purchasing. We`re talking about changing an age from 18 to 21. These other weapons that we talk about that some people don`t like, they`re allowed to buy them at 18. So, how does that make sense?
Take the guns first, go through due process second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, there he is a tough law and order marshal, like Marshal Earp or somebody, or Matt Dillon, and a couple days later, he hears from the NRA, he`s back to lying down for them.
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. So, there`s the zig and zag we`ve been accustomed to with Donald Trump. And yes, it is rife with contradictions, self-contradictions all the time. But he can be tough in that moment because he only lives in that one moment that, one interview, that one cabinet meeting.
And he`s trying to win the room. He`s trying to say what he thinks is the right thing in that moment. But ultimately, we know he`s not going to advocate for gun control. And he didn`t. And this is what he does.
And he realizes over time that there are no consequences really for saying one thing in one context, saying the opposite thing hours later, sometimes minutes later because, yes, we can play the clips and we can show him contradicting himself but the poll numbers don`t budge and --
MATTHEWS: Why don`t they budge, Jonathan? They go up a little bit.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They go up a little bit but they don`t budge because that 43 percent according to Gallup now and maybe like 40, 39, those people have been with him from the beginning.
MATTHEWS: There`s probably more, by the way, that don`t say it.
CAPEHART: Well, sure, there`s probably more. But I think Eli hit on the key thing.
He has never suffered any consequences for what he`s done. Josh Green wrote in his book on Bannon and Trump that Trump learned the lesson through the birther situation that he said all of these horrible things about the sitting president of the United States, denying his legitimacy and no one within the Republican establishment, no one on Capitol Hill, no one within the Republican firmament took him to task for it.
He has a quote in there from Reince Priebus on television just saying, well, you know, that`s his opinion. No big deal. And the lesson Trump learned from that was I can be as outrageous as I want and no one is going to hold me accountable. That is what`s happening here.
Eli is right. He plays to the room. In front of the people in front of him at that very moment and then all his people Steven Miller and all these other folks grab him and pull him back to where they want him.
He said on television, Chris, I want a bill of love to protect the DACA kids and then killed it.
MATTHEWS: You guys are great. Thank you. The roundtable is staying with us. Super roundtable.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents, ten years, what?
TRUMP: That I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Why? You take positions on everything else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. That was my HARDBALL best.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was my interview with President Trump when he was a campaigner back in `16 where he stirred up controversy, of course, and he did, saying he would punish women who had abortions.
We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable, Ruth, Eli and Jonathan.
Let`s start with a woman, because I think now that he`s out there again today punishing basically Planned Parenthood, even if the money doesn`t go to abortion services, it`s someday -- some of their money does. Therefore, it`s fungible and he wants to shut them down.
MARCUS: Right. And this is -- it was -- that was such a telling encounter with you during the campaign and it was illustrative of his having failed to think really deeply about the subject.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he penetrated that issue too much.
MARCUS: You pushed him and that was an interesting moment where actually the official base, said no, no, no, that`s not our position. We really don`t mean that at all. Here he is doing actually a form of what Ronald Reagan did many years ago in trying to go after Planned Parenthood.
The tragedy is, of course, if you go after Planned Parenthood, deny their funding or make them set up separate physical facilities to perform abortions you know what happens? Fewer women get birth control, more women get pregnant, more have abortions.
MATTHEWS: Is this an undue burden, by the way? Is this a constitutional issue? It looks like one to me. Webster and Casey, you can`t have an undue burden. This sounds like an undue burden.
STOKOLS: Yes, I`m not a constitutional law expert. I just think going back to what we were talking about watching that interview, that is Trump vamping. He`s trying to answer that question and get through it. He`s in the context of what`s the right answer fur my base.
But he hasn`t thought about these things deeply. And that is problematic not just on this issue but all the issues. This is a president who`s getting ready for a nuclear summit with North Korea. There are questions about his capacity to absorb information to, process what`s in the briefing materials. And just to think deeply about all the things that come across the president`s desk.
CAPEHART: The other problem with this to jump off of what Ruth was saying is that it`s not only, if you close down Planned Parenthood clinics, you`re not just stopping them from doing abortions if those clinics do abortion. In a lot of places, the Planned Parenthood clinic is the only place where people can get health care, period.
STOKOLS: I know, especially poor people.
By the way, Ruth Marcus, thank you, Eli Stokols, Jonathan Capehart. What a panel, what a round -- knights of the roundtable, and a lady at the roundtable.
When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Friday, May 18th, 2018.
I know how President Trump will react to this latest school shooting. He will react politically. He will do nothing. That is true now more than ever.
Trump is in a bunker right now. He needs his coalition to stand hard. He can`t afford the slightest sign of weakness or reasonableness. It`s the Trump right or wrong crowd he needs now, the people who don`t ask questions.
Have you noticed Trump`s rigid pattern of late? The more Robert Mueller tightens the web of truth around him, the harder Trump drills his troops. There can no giving an inch. Not on any front. Watch him this week, on whether a White House staffer should apologize for a nasty remark about John McCain, not an inch. She should say nothing.
On abortion rights, again, another hard line. There needs to be some form of punishment. On gun safety, not an inch. Even a hard right governor of Florida was willing to raise the age of gun buying to 21. Not Trump. Not an inch.
This May of 2018, we find ourselves led by a president so concerned with his political survival, he dare not consider the survival of our youth. But then again, it is consistent with how he operates, how he lives, for Donald J. Trump.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.
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