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DOJ watchdog to probe Trump campaign. TRANSCRIPT: 05/21/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Daniel Goldman, Nicole Hockley, Anita Kumar, Dana Milbank, Jon Wolfsthal

Show: HARDBALL Date: May 21, 2018 Guest: Daniel Goldman, Nicole Hockley, Anita Kumar, Dana Milbank, Jon Wolfsthal

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: More collusion. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

An explosive new report on the special counsel`s probe is revealed a mysterious additional lead in the investigation of potential collusion. "The New York Times" is now reporting that Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump officials met in addition to the Russians also with an emissary to two gulf Arab countries and an Israeli businessman to discuss how they could help his father win the 2016 election. As "the Times" notes, its first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign.

"The Times" reports quote "investigators have questioned numerous witnesses about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia."

The meeting in question which took place in Trump tower in August 3rd of 2016 was arranged by Erik Prince, a private security contractor and informal Trump adviser. Prince introduced Donald Trump Jr. and campaign aide Stephen Miller to George Nader, a Lebanese-American adviser to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Nader is now cooperating with investigators. Wow.

Also in the meeting was an Israeli social media specialist Joel Zemel who proposed his services to help the Trump campaign. By the way, this parallel (ph) the social media effort conducted by the Russians in the 2016 Presidential election.

As "The Times" reports, the plan involved using thousands of fake social media accounts to promote Mr. Trump`s candidacy on platforms like Facebook. It`s unclear what kind of help if any was ultimately provided. However, two people familiar with the meeting say the Trump campaign official did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.

An attorney to Mr. Zemel denied that his client was involved in the election. Donald Trump Jr.`s lawyers also released a statement saying the meeting that they pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform were marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.

I`m joined by Betsy Woodruff, report were the "Daily Beast" and an MSNBC analyst. Jennifer Rubin is a "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC contributor and Julia Ainsley is a national report were NBC News.

Thank you, all. Let`s start with Betsy. Tell us what we know about this additional information about Trump`s gathering or seeking or accepting or listening to advice from other countries about how to beat Hillary Clinton.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Look, this might be the closest piece of evidence yet to the possibility of there having been some sort of illegal activity involving the Trump campaign and people working for foreign governments.

The federal election campaign law, the statute that governs all campaigns in the United States makes it really clear that it is against the law to solicit help from foreign nationals on a campaign. I spoke with a campaign attorney earlier today who said that would also include soliciting help from foreign nationals through their emissaries, even if the emissaries themselves are U.S. citizens. So depending on what happened in that conversation, there could have been illegal activity.

MATTHEWS: Well, George Nader jumps to mind as the guy who was also involved in that meeting in the Seychelles. What is his role? He is one of these mystery guys that is sort of moving in and out, not sure what country they really are loyal to. You are shaking your head, Jennifer. These sort of transnational figures that seem to always be available for a hustle or something on the edge of the illegality here.

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You really don`t know who he is working for. Is he working in this capacity just for this Israeli company? Does he have some connection to the Russians? It seems awfully coincidental that he should also appear in the Seychelles.

But consider what this meeting means. Just like that meeting in Trump tower, which was in June a few months earlier, you have Don Jr., you have a senior member of the campaign, this case apparently Stephen Miller, the other incidents it was not only Paul Manafort, but the President`s son-in- law, sitting down with people who represent a foreign government, eagerly waiting to be told something that will help their candidate, in this case Donald Trump, because President of the United States.

Frankly, I think Donald Trump Jr. For exactly the reason that Betsy outlined is probably also stepped over the line, already stepped over the line in the Russia meeting because there he was eager to get the information. He started all by asking at the beginning of the meeting what do you got? That`s sort of solicitation, don`t you think?

So this not only makes clear that is there a pattern of doing, this but it may be some of the same characters who are involved in much of this.


RUBIN: These people do get recycled.

MATTHEWS: As I mentioned and you just did, Erik Prince and George Nader are best known for holding a secret meeting in January of 2017 with an oligarch in the Seychelles, a remote island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The reported purpose of was to establish a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and the kremlin itself. However, in his testimony before the House intelligence committee, prince omitted several facts about how that meeting came about.

Now it also appears Prince failed to disclose his August meeting in Trump tower to the committee as well involving the emirates and this Israeli guy. In that testimony, Prince described having only limited contact with Trump campaign officials. When asked to confirm that he had no other form of communications or contact with the campaign, he replied correct.

Well, furthermore, He said the only contact he had with Donald Trump Jr. was at a campaign event, and he ran into him a couple of times during the transition. Well, that does not appear to be accurate in light of what we are now learning.

Julia, this reminds me, every time we have one of these meetings we hear about with the foreign (INAUDIBLE), it`s a meeting of a company talking new business. Oh, we have got some new clients possibly here. So you got some new ringing the bell for new business. They seem to be having an open window or door even for anybody coming from some other country that might help them pull an upset against Hillary, because it look liked an upset coming then if it was going to be a win.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That`s right. I mean, and if we think back to this time and an excuse that we heard a lot is these are political novices. That`s something people loved about Trump as a candidate. He was a business guy. He wanted to talk to everybody. He didn`t understand all these very just kind of in the weeds federal election campaign rules that would have kept him from meeting with these people.

But from our reporting all the way back in December, Chris, we were told that the Trump campaign was actually briefed and warned. That Trump himself was briefed and warned about outside countries trying to intervene in his campaign, Russia and others. And so when you have that information that you are given as soon as you get the nomination, why then would your son and other people close to your campaign be soliciting this kind of advice from foreign countries?

We don`t know how far it went, if it was a list of options, what they decided to solicit, where it ended, but it is clear that they had this meeting. They looked like they were very much open to the idea, much in the same way that they were meeting with other people like the Russians in June of 2016. That this was somewhat of a commonplace, I mean. And that obviously as Betsy points out is against U.S. law. So they can`t plead ignorance in this case because as we pointed out, they were warned that other countries would be trying to do this very thing.

MATTHEWS: What was the secret? Where did the warning coming? Who gave it? And was it before or after they had already been meeting in June with the Trump tower crowd?

AINSLEY: So I was thinking about that. This would have been after the nomination. And we know that the convention was in July. So technically the Trump tower fees they could plead ignorance on that. But not in this case, not an August meeting that has been reported.

We understand that this would have come from the FBI, from people in the counter intelligence committee or community who would say look, we understand from our intelligence that there are efforts to get inside your election, and you need to be mindful of these. This is right around the time Paul Manafort quit.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Jennifer.

RUBIN: In this case, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. All you have to have for a violation of the campaign law is that you knowingly met with someone who is a foreigner and solicited or received help. That Donald Trump Jr. definitely did.

And he may be ignorant. He may be foolish, but he may also be a lawbreaker. And that`s the problem I think the Trump team is looking at. It`s no wonder that Donald Trump has been blowing up and going nuts over this. This is the collusion. And we have not just one instance in June in Trump tower with the Russians, but two more countries. How many more countries are we going to get to before this is over?

MATTHEWS: I can hear a conversation. Guess what, dad? I guess he calls him dad. Guess what, dad, I have got some dirt coming on Hillary. We could turn this election around. This could be the long ball. This could do it. I can`t imagine him not telling him that.

Let me get back to Betsy on this in terms of the whole thing. The Israeli expert on social media that was in this meeting that we are hearing about now, the new Trump tower meeting, apparently was outlaying out a plan very similar to the ones the Russians used in terms of these bogus sites, all kinds of -- hundreds of them where you can start putting out so much bad -- what`s it called? Kompromat on your opponent that there is no way to deny it getting into the public mainstream, into the bloodstream.

WOODRUFF: That`s right. And social media was incredibly a potent tool that people outside of the United States used to try to influence American elections, not just in terms of putting things on social media, not just in terms of pushing fake news stories or putting out, you know, memes or images that suggested Hillary Clinton was a criminal and needed to go to prison, but Russians actually use social media to organize real life in- person protests related to the campaign, and they used social media to organize protests during the transition. So social media as a tool is not just constrained to the internet. It actually also affects people`s real lives, where they go in their everyday business.

MATTHEWS: And they were stirring up our racial conflicts in this country too. They were taking advantage of them.

WOODRUFF: Exactly. That`s right. And so social media is a major vulnerability. That`s something that people in the intelligence community are trying to monitor more carefully. How is social media being used to try to influence American elections?

The other piece that is important of course is that we have another election coming up in six months. And we are just barely now starting to figure out the extent to which bad foreign actors may or may not have tried to infiltrate and undermine the American election system.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

WOODRUFF: This is just coming at a really vital point in the American political discourse.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about those November elections where the Senate is at stake of course and the entire House of Representatives.

Julia, what do you make of Rudy`s putting out the word that he is hopeful it will be over before what he calls the Comey period -- he has a phrase for it now. In other words, 11 days before the election that hurt Hillary. So let`s right from Trump`s lawyer Giuliani is now telling the "New York Times" when it comes to the investigation of potential obstruction of justice, that portion of the report from Mueller they hope to finish by September 1st. If Rudy is correct, it appears Mueller has lengthen his time table to complete the obstruction probe.

NBC News had previously reported in April, that`s a month ago, that Mueller was aiming to finish the report as early as May or as late as July. So it`s not imminent. It`s some time basically in the fall. And my question, let`s go to Julia on this. The question is, is he really -- who is calling this? Is Rudy talking him in to being done by September 1st, or is he honestly relaying news from Mueller that it`s going to be September 1st?

AINSLEY: Well, that`s a good question. When we look at this timeline, I want to go back to that story that you showed. When you said it was as early as May or late as July, that was at a really critical point when it looks like Trump was going to walk away from ever agreeing to a voluntary sit-down with Robert Mueller that was shortly after the Cohen raids. Trump was furious. He had just brought on Giuliani. Giuliani had promised to wrap it up soon, and Trump didn`t want to do an interview.

And so, at this point, those negotiations are starting to warm up again. We are starting to think that possibly they could agree to a limited set of questions and narrower scope. They are having the questions again. And so, with the prospect of an interview, that would push back the timeline. Because an interview isn`t just existing in a vacuum. After people would interview, the President -- first of all, they would have to prepare a lot. They would do the interview and then they would have to take that information and go chase it down elsewhere.

So now that that`s back on the table, it pushes off the timeline. As far as where Giuliani is getting his information we do know that there is often discourse between Trump`s legal team and Mueller`s team. But he could also be saying this because he wants to give his client a finite time. Betsy and I talk a lot about how, in this case, it seems like lawyers want to calm down their client at the pressure here because they don`t want him to mouth off.

MATTHEWS: I think it is carrot feeding.

Anyway, thank you, Betsy. We have to go. Jennifer, I`m sorry. We have to go.

Jennifer, thank you so much. Jennifer Rubin, Julia Ainsley and Betsy Woodruff.

Coming up, President Trump went on a twitter tirade this weekend demanding that the DOJ investigate whether his campaign was infiltrated or surveilled by the FBI. It is another diversionary tactic by the President. Fearing prosecution, he wants to attack the investigators for investigating.

Plus, in the wake of yet another school massacre, the NRA crowd is doing everything it can to divert attention away from guns. They want the discussion to be about school doors and abortion and Ritalin. Anything but guns.

And is Trump getting wise to North Korea? The President is reportedly concerned that next month`s a summit with Kim Jong-un could turn into a national embarrassment. In the time before Singapore, he needs to do some necessary homework, don`t you think?

Finally, let me finish tonight with a (INAUDIBLE) who took up the task of national conscience at such pivotal moments in our history.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: "Saturday Night Live" marked the first anniversary of the Mueller investigation by channeling the series finale of "the sopranos." Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To a great first year of the Russia investigation.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Circumstances that Robert Mueller?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, good news. You know that woman who is suing you for groping and defaming her? I found a guy who is willing to threaten her kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that sounds great, Michael. Am I the only one that sees that guy?


MATTHEWS: We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Frustrated by the special counsel`s investigation into possible campaign ties to Russia, President Trump spent this weekend throwing a twitter tantrum, lashing out against the FBI, the Obama administration, and his 2016 campaign rival Hillary Clinton. In a dramatic escalation, Trump demanded that the department of justice investigate the FBI and department of justice and whether they infiltrated or surveilled his campaign quote "for political purposes."

One legal expert called the move unprecedented and telling "New York Times" it seems to me that the recipient of such an order should resign and that we are heading for another Saturday night massacre.

The President`s order comes amid partisan accusations that the U.S. intelligence source helped gather evidence in the Russia investigation. But isn`t that how the FBI gathers information from informants?

Trump and his allies in Congress have used the reporting a as an excuse to bolster unsubstantiated claims that the FBI spied. That`s their favorite word on his campaign. Here is chief cheerleader and chairman of the intelligence committee Devin Nunes appearing on FOX yesterday.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If they ran a spy ring or an informant ring and they were paying people within the Trump campaign, if any of that is true, that is an absolute red line. We don`t know if there is one informant or more informants because there is so much out there now. It`s really getting tough to follow. And all we`re asking for is give us the documentation that you used to start this investigation.


MATTHEWS: OK. Despite those claims, the "Washington Post" report there`s is no evidence to indicate an intelligence source was embedded within the campaign, as the President suggested. The department of justice has asked the inspector general to expand on an ongoing review to include determining whether there was any impropriety in how the FBI conducted its investigation.

Well, late today the President met with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, FBI director Christopher Wray, and DNI director Dan Coates to address his concerns. His concerns.

Late this afternoon White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying White House chief of staff John Kelly will facilitate a meeting between FBI, department of justice and director of national information to review classified material they requested.

For more I`m joined by Robert Costa, national political reporter from "the Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst, and Daniel Goldman, former U.S. assistant district for the southern district of New York.

Bob -- Robert, all I see here is an attempt to deflect attention from the investigation which is moving forward, and they want to focus on what? And I don`t even know who the audience is. Isn`t the FBI supposed to investigate possible criminality? Isn`t it the job of the FBI to see if the Russians were involved in one of the campaigns?

And what is this spooky sort of intrigue they`re trying to create? Well, if they did, that is terrible. No, it doesn`t matter if they`re doing it if they`re doing their job.

This reminds me so much of how we got ran down, forced down that stupid rabbit hole of Iraq, setting up a false premise that, if they investigate it, they are doing something wrong. So let`s find if they`re investigating or not.

It look likes the old mental trick of the hard right, and now they`re doing it with this president. Your thoughts as a reporter?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: As a reporter, when you think back to the summer of 2016, when the DOJ and the FBI started a counterintelligence operation about the Trump campaign and Russian interference, they believed at that time that they had enough information to start that counterintelligence operation.

What they`re now agreeing to do, after consultations with President Trump and having this meeting today, is to figure out, what were some of the other discussions happening around the formation of this counterintelligence operation?


MATTHEWS: Why are they relevant to whether they were colluding with the Russians or not? If the question is, were they colluding, shouldn`t we want investigators to found out if that is the truth or not? Isn`t that what we do in America? We enforce the law?

Your thoughts?

COSTA: Exactly right. The FBI and DOJ believe they had cause to start a counterintelligence operation.

But they`re dealing with Congress, and the Constitution says Congress does have oversight. And some people think the congressional Republicans are overstretching here, pushing DOJ and FBI too much, pushing them around in a bullying way.

But then, when you talk to congressional Republicans, they say they`re doing their job. And that`s part of the tension here. And that`s what DOJ is trying to work with this White House. It`s very unusual to have these kind of meetings and demands from a president to investigate the investigation, complicated constitutional legal questions.

MATTHEWS: Dan, isn`t the criminal justice filled with people who committed crimes and say, I was railroaded, it was the prosecutors that were wrong here, not me, I didn`t kill this guy? Oh, if I did so, what? They still went after me in the wrong way, so let me off.

I mean, I don`t know. I just assume criminals always have an alternative theory that they`re innocent. And now in this case is to try to impeach the investigators for doing their job of investigating. I don`t even get why the crazy, wackiest far right or far anything would buy this as somehow a legitimate sort of obstacle to investigation going forward on whether this president and his team had something to do with foreign powers and winning the election.

I just think it`s still a great question we should want to get the answer to.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The defense of last resort for people who are usually very guilty is to scorch the earth and attack the prosecutor, attack the messenger.

And that is exactly what Trump`s team has been doing, particularly since Rudy Giuliani came on the scene. That is aided by the fact that, because Bob Mueller is running a very professional, confidential investigation, there is nothing coming from the other side.

So there is nothing to respond to these scorched-earth attacks, which are designed entirely to undermine the credibility of an ongoing investigation and seem, based on what -- the reporting that we read from Bob and others, seem to have very little basis in fact.

But there is no one to counter it. And so they`re able to sort of perpetuate this counternarrative in the ethersphere.

MATTHEWS: Why can`t the Justice Department people say, our job is to investigate? The FBI has been investigating people since the `30s. This is what we do. And if we think a foreign power is involved with one of our presidential campaign, damn it, that`s our job.

Why can you question that? Back to you, Robert, of the politics of this. Who, beyond the fringe, is buying this?

COSTA: Well, the president is buying it, and he runs the executive branch. So that`s really thrown this whole Justice Department a curveball in recent weeks, because they believe they have a right to pursue these things and protect their documents, and they`re trying to work with the administration by having this briefing.

John Kelly is going to participate in a briefing of lawmakers of highly classified material of how they use sources, secret sources for counterintelligence operations at home and abroad. But they know that, if they`re forced to release documents to Congress that they don`t feel comfortable releasing because it could put people in jeopardy or operations in jeopardy, that they may balk.

And that`s the crisis moment when you talk to people close to Justice that they`re trying to avoid.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought there was a chance that Sessions would get around this by saying, I`m looking for any impropriety in the investigations. I`m not looking for investigations, whether they took place or not, whether we were checking on whether they had Russian connections, but whether they did something wrong.

And I guess they`re not going to get away with it now because Kelly is going to give them everything. And now all they can do is now chew on everything they get ahold of now.

GOLDMAN: Well, there are a couple of things that are really problematic about this situation.

The first is that the president, who is the subject of an investigation, is convening a meeting with the people authorizing that investigation...


GOLDMAN: ... to determine whether or not the -- those who are running the investigation should turn over material related to that investigation to the president, the subject.

This is unheard of. And Rudy Giuliani is going on -- to the media in a variety of ways saying, we just want to know what the informant says.

That`s absurd. That`s outrageous. There is no investigation in this country where the subject of the investigation should get any evidence, documents, or witness statements related to that investigation before someone is charged, and certainly before they`re interviewed.

So that`s what the ask is here, which is really difficult to comprehend. I think Rod Rosenstein is trying to deflate and deflect a little bit, so that this issue doesn`t become the Saturday Night Massacre, and he remains there in case something even more egregious happens.

But I guess there is some compromise here, because Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee is not going to get the documents, but they are going to see them, which is problematic.

I`m just a former federal prosecutor, Chris, but you have been in politics for a long time. What legitimate oversight is there that they can point to in order to get this information about a confidential informant?

MATTHEWS: No, I think you`re right. Dan, I think you`re talking about micromanaging your own prosecution.

Robert, what do you -- you have got a good nose for this. What do you think is coming about after this meeting with General Kelly? If they sit down and are shown all these documents, it`s like showing Nixon. Should we look at the tapes or not, Mr. President Nixon? Should we look at the tapes or ignore them?

It`s like they`re getting a review on almost an adjudicative role. They can say, well, I don`t think you should be using that or you shouldn`t have looked at that or how did you get that or what was your tradecraft here?

It seems to be a very invasive process by people who are basically with the defense.

COSTA: And there are so many different overlapping agendas here.

Think about it. It didn`t get a lot of attention over the weekend. But when I spoke to Mayor Giuliani on Sunday, he said, the president won`t do an interview with Bob Mueller until this whole matter of the secret source and these documents with Congress is settled.

And so you have not only the White House and Don McGahn, the White House counsel and the chief of staff, John Kelly, negotiating with the Justice Department, but you have this element of the personal legal team and Mayor Giuliani also being in the president`s ear as he navigates these issues.

It makes it quite a firestorm, because there are so many different lines here, so many different people involved in trying to figure out how much is going to be revealed about the counterintelligence operation, about sourcing?


We could probably move this investigation along very fast, Mr. Mayor Giuliani, by giving the president`s tax returns to the prosecutor and get it over with. So, all the information we need to know about the president`s financial involvements overseas and especially with Russia, that would be useful to have.

GOLDMAN: I`m sure they have them.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe Giuliani should have pushed that a little faster.

Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa. And thank you, Daniel Goldman.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The NRA`s new president, Oliver North, the Oliver North, says that Ritalin, Ritalin, is to blame for the rise in school shootings.

The far right seems to think the gun violence debate has to do with something -- well, everything but guns, door, drugs, everything but having access to guns. Well, that`s what they deal with, isn`t it? Guns. That`s what they sell, isn`t it? Guns.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After last week`s deadly shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, gun advocates tried to cast blame on anything but guns.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas suggested shootings could be prevented by limiting the number of doors in schools. Let`s watch.


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.


MATTHEWS: Well, he continued to avoid blaming guns yesterday, when he attributed to school violence to American culture, including he mentioned abortions. Let`s watch that.


PATRICK: Should we be surprised in this nation? We have devalued life, whether it`s through abortion, whether it`s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games, which now outsell movies and music. It`s not about the guns. It`s about us.


MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, incoming NRA president Oliver North said that medications prescribed for attention-deficit disorders are the culprit here.

Let`s watch that.


OLIVER NORTH, INCOMING NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: The disease in this case isn`t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They have been drugged in many cases.

All we need to do is turn on a TV, go to a movie. If you look at what has happened to the young people, many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.


MATTHEWS: Well, as The Daily Beast points out, there is no evidence that Ritalin or any other drugs are to blame for any of the school shootings we have seen in recent years.

I`m joined right now by Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise. She lost her 6-year-old son at the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Nicole, thanks for joining us tonight.

And I don`t want to be sarcastic, but it just calls for that. What do you think of somebody who says it`s the number of doors? I don`t think if we had more doors in Sweden or Japan, they would have more shootings.

The -- I mean, I know it`s so hideous. The door numbers has something to do with -- if somebody is coming to the building carrying a gun, they`re going to find a way in somehow. And what -- there was one school, was it yours, where it was the front door that the shooter came in?

And I just don`t understand why people -- and this abortion. I`m sorry. Well, can argue about abortion for the rest of our lives, and we probably will, abortion rights. But it has really -- I don`t see the even tangential connection to a teenage kid going mad with a gun.

Your thoughts? You have lived through this.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, SANDY HOOK PROMISE: I think these are standard diversionary tactics, rather than dealing with the issue at hand, talking about every possible other cause of gun violence, other than the one thing that everything has in common, talking about violent video games or violent movies.

There are so many countries that have billions of impressions of violence every day, and they don`t have the same level of violence -- of gun violence that we do, because they don`t have the guns. And you know me, Chris. I`m not about taking all the guns away. I don`t think that`s a realistic solution for our country. However, I think for anyone to actively choose to maintain this blind spot and say it`s everything except the one thing that all shootings have in common, and that is the choice of weapon, that is the gun, and that is something that, in addition to looking at all these other issues, if that`s what we choose to do for, we need to look at the gun as well.

You can`t exclude it from the conversation.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go back to why they do this.

You think it`s just diversion? They are afraid to take -- they are not -- they don`t want to get into gun safety? It`s as simple as that?

HOCKLEY: I think that they want to talk about -- they want to blame anything except the choice of weapon.

This is about protecting Second Amendment rights, but in a very extreme way, by saying that the weapon of choice is not part of the problem.

It has to be part of the problem. It has to -- we have to look at the person, and we do have to look at their choice of weapon.

And in terms of Ritalin or other medications or drugs, there is no common thread that all shooters are on those sorts of medicines. There is no common thread that all shooters use violent video games or watch violent video -- movies all the time.

The only common thing is the guns. And we need to address that. And if they just choose to continue to force a blind eye on it, then they`re being disrespectful and disingenuous to this problem.

MATTHEWS: Well, a Santa Fe High School student said she wasn`t surprised by the shooting. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been happening everywhere. I felt -- I have always kind of felt like, eventually, it was going to happen here too.


MATTHEWS: You think there is a resignation in this country? It`s almost like seasonal weather or anything else that happens. It`s like car accidents, because you have highways that are busy with traffic, and people make mistakes.

People like -- have they just absorbed this as part of a every-couple-of month event?

HOCKLEY: This is -- that is so heartbreaking to think that any student is sitting in a classroom thinking, when am I next, when is my school going to be part of the next school shooting?

And you mentioned car safety. You know, we have so many deaths due to car safety, but it wasn`t just seat belts that solved it. It was a bunch of different problems. And that`s what -- we need to do better by our kids.

We have a problem. And by ignoring all the options, all the possible solutions, then it`s just -- it`s just heartbreaking. I know my child, my surviving son is about to go to high school for ninth grade in September.

And I keep thinking, is he going to be sitting there wondering, is this going to happen again to me?

This is not -- this is not the way we should be bringing up our children, for them to be sitting in a classroom, where they`re supposed to be learning, or they`re supposed to getting to know friends, where they`re supposed to be enjoying community. Instead, we`re teaching them how to run and hide from active shooters and to be in fear of their life every day.


HOCKLEY: That is -- we`re better than this.

MATTHEWS: Well, Charles Blow had a great column in "The New York Times" today. I don`t know if you saw it.

And, basically, it showed all the polls. He`s great on polls. And it showed there is an overwhelming support in this country for gun safety, for basically banning semiautomatic assault weapons, all kinds of stuff

It all makes sense. It all sounds like you talking. And yet I -- because you are a reasonable for safety person. And I don`t understand why reasonable people have so little power at the ballot box. They just don`t.

They`re not -- the NRA -- Oliver North, the fact that they would pick him, I mean, they...


MATTHEWS: They seem to be immune to justice, immune to it.

HOCKLEY: Well, I mean, every -- we look at all the youth activism that has come out after Parkland. People do need to register to vote and they need to get out and vote. It`s your responsibility to ensure your voice is heard and your vote counts, no matter what your opinion is on the subject.

If you don`t like what your politician is saying, vote them out and vote someone else in. But this is something that people don`t engage in, unfortunately, until it happens to them. And then it`s far too late.

And, sometimes, we see even people that are very pro-gun and very pro-gun rights, and when it happens to them, they still turn a blind eye. And that`s something I can`t really reconcile or understand.

MATTHEWS: Well, everything you said before and now is what the American people believe, according to all the polling. So keep speaking for America. The NRA does not speak for America.

Nicole Hockley, thank you.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Is President Trump getting wise to Kim Jong-un? He may be. He is reportedly worried about next month`s meeting with the North Korean dictator and has even begun asking aides if he should go along with it.

How about doing some homework?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it. You know what I want to do? I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world, not for even here. I want victory for the world, because that`s what we`re talking about. So, that`s the only prize I want.



That was President Trump just a week and a half ago saying everyone thinks he should get the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with North Korea. Well, now with his planned face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un just 22 days away, it seems the president may be getting wary.

"The New York Times" reports that Trump is increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea`s leader could turn into a political embarrassment. The report goes to add, Mr. Trump`s aides have grown concerned that the president has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much. The aides are also concerned about what kinds of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korean program.

All this comes as Trump prepares for a critical meeting tomorrow with South Korea`s President Moon in Washington.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL round table.

Anita Kumar is White House correspondent for "McClatchy", Dana Milbank is a columnist with "The Washington Post" and Jon Wolfsthal is the director of the nuclear crisis group and former special assistant to President Obama.

Let me ask Jon to start this. So, what about negotiating with somebody like a dictator? What precautions does any reasonable person have to take before you agree to sit down with somebody like Kim Jong-un?

JON WOLFSTHAL, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR CRISIS GROUP: Well, I think you have to make sure you know what you`re getting into before you say yes to a summit. I think what we`re see right now is President Trump recognizing he said yes very quickly. He has already given a big gift to Kim Jong-un by agreeing to sit down face-to-face, and now, he is not sure that Kim is serious about giving up his nuclear weapons. Surprise.

We`ve been working on this problem for 30 years, and nobody`s sure about which way the North Koreans are going to go.

So, what really has to happen now is the president and his team have to do the hard work, the preparation work, and the real questions about whether you can do all that work in the next 20 days.

MATTHEWS: We went into negotiations with North Korea with his grandfather in June of `51. We didn`t get anything resolved to Eisenhower, came into office of July of `53. They love sitting at the table at Panmunjom with us across the table. They love being seen by the world as equals of the United States. They could screw us to death by just saying, let`s meet tomorrow again. Let`s have another meeting of meetings.

The president of the United States is not going to park Air Force One over in Singapore for more than a day.

How do we avoid that problem of him saying oh, tomorrow, I`d like to offer my concessions, or next week or whatever, if you`ll do this or that? Isn`t he just going to play a lot of games with us?

WOLFSTHAL: I think that`s very likely, and the fact that the president front-loaded the summit creates greater risk that the United States is giving away something for nothing. I think there is still a chance that the summit may not happen. I think President Trump really does want to it happen.

MATTHEWS: Would you go?

WOLFSTHAL: I would advise the president to go at this point. I don`t think he can back out.


WOLFSTHAL: But once you`ve committed, the question is if you back out, who is going to take the blame?

This is not just about North Korea`s nuclear program. That`s complicated enough. This is also about keeping us in good relations with our close allies the South Koreans. President Moon has banked not just his whole presidency, but his whole career on reconciliation with North Korea.

And if the president backs out, he looks like he is the person to blame. So, the only way you can get out of this is if North Korea is made to look like they were never serious about denuclearization.

MATTHEWS: Anita and then Dana, you guys get in here.

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Sure. I mean, I guess the problem right now is that the expectations are really very, very high, right? He has said -- the president has said and the White House has said you have to have full denuclearization. And it`s -- he just set the bar so high that, you know, previous presidents have tried that and has failed.

So, the question is now what does he do when they say we`re not going to do that? You know, does he back out? Does he go there and come back empty- handed or with something that`s not a great deal?

He wants to go there and he wants a full win. And it`s going to be very hard to see now how he does that.

MATTHEWS: Dana, why did Bolton -- I`m no pal of Bolton`s, but why did this neocon guy -- I guess he is hawk. Let`s call him a hawk, we`re not going to be sophisticated about it. Why did he say we`re looking for Libya model?

Libya`s president Gadhafi ended up being physically mutilated after he was killed, after they found him in a pipeline somewhere.


MATTHEWS: You`re telling the fellow over there in North Korea that he is facing that? It look likes Bolton is trying to put the kibosh on this thing.

MILBANK: Right. Well, we could be cynical about it and say that indeed Bolton was trying to undermine the entire thing. But I think in most cases, the likeliest explanation is there was no thinking whatsoever, there was no strategic planning going on. There wasn`t any particular idea why Trump wanted to bring Bolton on board.

You know, this is sort of reality TV meets nuclear diplomacy right now. There was no end game in mind. The idea let`s make a splash and have this conference. Yes, I`ll have a Nobel Prize and the world will are celebrate. Then reality catches up, and you find out that, well, no, this guy we spoke of is open and honest just a couple of weeks ago is sort of heading back in the rocket man direction.

So, I doubt that John Bolton was necessarily blowing it up. I think it`s probably all random happenstance just based on what`s going to make a splash for the latest episode.

MATTHEWS: Anita, what`s his name, Trump, what`s his name, our president, made his name in hour formats. It`s called "The Apprentice." Real TV shows he was a master of putting on a dramatic show for an hour. It looked like it was real. This isn`t going to be an hour.

We`re all parenthetic and everything is in the news cycle. I would imagine Kim Jong-un is thinking, you know, where am I going to be in five years? He`s a young guy and he is not going to be thinking, let`s get this over with quick.

KUMAR: Right, I mean, you`re exactly right. He is supposed to be there for years to come, right? The president wants to go over there and have a quick win. But, you know, John could tell us more about this. The thing I`ve been hearing from a lot of people is that usually you don`t have two leaders meeting right away.

You usually work things out at lower level staff, people that we`re not really hearing about that aren`t in the public eye just quietly sort of negotiating on what a deal could be possibly. And then you send people that are a little bit higher up, and then you might have the leaders meet. And they don`t meet until they kind of know that there is going to be a deal that didn`t happen this time around.

WOLFSTHAL: Yes, I think that`s right. There is a lot of groundwork that has to happen for a successful summit, whether it`s, you know, the group of seven, the group of 20, presidential leaders, there are months if not years that go into delivering verified agreements that you can trust and that you can back up. Like the joint comprehensive plan of action that the Trump administration just tore up with Iran. We negotiated that for four years. So these things take time to do well.

I do want the take exception to one thing Dana said which is I don`t think Trump has a strategy. I don`t think he knows what he is doing. But John Bolton and Mike Pompeo know exactly what they`re doing.

MATTHEWS: That`s true.

WOLFSTHAL: John Bolton tore up the last agreement we had with North Korea back in 2002. He wants regime change. That`s why he likes the Libya model. That`s what he wanted in Iraq, and that`s what we really feared now or should fear that they`re gunning for in Iran.

MATTHEWS: Let Dana respond because I don`t know how you negotiate regime change with Kim Jong-un.

MILBANK: Exactly. I think it`s -- I think it`s Trump who has no strategic thinking who he is bringing on such as John Bolton, who very has this. I think Trump is entering this with all of the thought of he would if he were to be opening up Trump International Hotel in Pyongyang. That`s how much homework has been done here.

MATTHEWS: God help us with John Bolton over there.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, these three people tell us something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton spoke to graduates at Yale University this weekend. While she didn`t mention President Trump by name, Clinton did take a swipe at him, cracking a joke about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Let`s watch.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see looking out at you that you are following the tradition of over-the-top hats. So I brought a hat too. A Russian hat.


I mean, if you can`t beat `em, join `em.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back with the HARDBALL roundtable.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.

Anita, tell me something I don`t know.

KUMAR: Sure. The Trump administration talks a lot about merit-based immigration. But we reported today that it is part of the NAFTA negotiations which aren`t going so well that the Trump administration is actually looking at lowering the number of Canadians and Mexicans who can come that are professionals. So, these are nurses and scientists, and they want to lower the number of visas that are granted.


MILBANK: Well, when Republicans took over Congress in 2010, they promised a more open legislative process. And now, they are on course this week to become the most closed Congress in the history of the republic. Eighty- four closed rule debates so far, the most debates squelched in the history of the Republican. We still have seven months to go.

MATTHEWS: Closed debate means no amendment.


MILBANK: Exactly.

WOLFSTHAL: So, we`re very worried about North Korea`s nuclear weapons, and we should be. We`re trying to negotiate them away. The United States has 4,000 nuclear weapons. We`re worried that North Korea might have 20, and we`re going to spend, the United States is going to spend $1.7 trillion to modernize our nuclear forces over the next 30 years.

So, even if the summit doesn`t pan out, I think we have enough to deter North Korea.

MATTHEWS: Sounds like it. Anita Kumar, and Dana Milbank and Jon Wolfsthal.

When we return, let me finish tonight with a tribute. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with Richard Goodwin.

Few people know him or would have recognized his name or think of him as a celebrity, yet like few people in American history, he left his mark. It is well-noted that President Lyndon Johnson made history with his "We Shall Overcome" speech of 1965. It`s recognized as his greatest ever address.

It`s well noted that Senator Robert Kennedy made history a year later with his day of affirmation speech in Cape Town, South Africa. It is recognized as RFK`s greatest ever speech.

It`s well-noted that Senator Edmund Musky made history with his election eve address on national television in 1970. It`s recognized as Musky`s greatest ever speech.

It`s well noted that Vice President Al Gore moved the country with his speech conceding the 2000 presidential election. It`s recognized as Gore`s greatest ever speech.

Every one of these speeches was written by the same man, Richard Goodwin. Some people don`t appreciate fully the role played by such people as Goodwin. They write the speech, actually. It`s their words, their thoughts, their poetry, their vision that comprises what we hear, what becomes the language and thought. And poetry of our history is they who write for the country.

We know these speech writer, Ted Sorenson for Jack Kennedy, Peggy Noonan for Ronald Reagan and the Senior George W. Bush, and Jon Favreau for Barack Obama. Each was inspired by those for whom they wrote for.

And one of the greats who just left us is Richard Goodwin who took up the task of national conscience in such pivotal moments in our history and added so nobly to that history. Rest in peace. Thank God your words will survive you.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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