Show: HARDBALL Date: May 30, 2018 Guest: Dana Milbank, Shawna Thomas, Caroline Polisi, Eric Swalwell, Sinbad
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump bashes Disney. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
A day after ABC fired its top rated star, Roseanne Barr, President Trump expressed his outrage, not at Roseanne who said a racist tweet about a senior Obama adviser, but at ABC.
Trump tweeted Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know ABC does not tolerate comments like those made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called Donald J. Trump for the horrible statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn`t get account call.
Well, that was the president of the United States tweeting. To follow up, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later cited several examples of ABC personalities criticizing Trump.
Meanwhile, Roseanne spent the day tweeting out a bizarre series of messages suggesting she was a victim of a political double standard, attacking some of her former co-stars and blaming the medication Ambien.
Barr quote -- wrote "guys, I did something unforgivable. So do not defend me. It was 2:00 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting" and quote "not giving excuses about what I tweeted but I have done weird stuff while on Ambien." Barr later deleted those tweets.
The company that makes Ambien responded racism is not a known side effect.
Later in the day, Barr grew more defense of I am not a racist. I never was and never will be. One stupid joke and a lifetime of fighting for civil rights for all minorities against network studios at the expense of my nervous system, family wealth will never be taken from me. She later added, you guys make me feel like fighting back. I will examine all my options carefully and get back to you. And she wrote I am tired of being smeared over stupid mistakes.
For more I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, sitting here, White House correspondent for the PBS News hour and an MSNBC contributor, Mike Eric Dyson, the author of "What Truth Sounds Like, RFK, James Baldwin and our unfinished conversation about race in America," a beautifully written book and actor and comedian Sinbad. Thank you for joining us.
I want to start with Michael. Michael, I love your book. It`s about the conversation. What is this whole thing with this triad and Roseanne Barr who are did the bad thing here, ABC that fired her for doing the bad thing and President Obama who like he did with Charlottesville -- President Trump like he did with Charlottesville seems to be taking sides against ABC and for Roseanne? That`s the way it sounds to everybody.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE: Well, we have got a bigoted chief and racist in residence. That`s what it is. He has unleashed some of the most horrendous viewpoints bigotries and racism in this country. He has legitimated them. He has validated them. He said look, it`s OK. Come out of the closet, stand up and speak straight forwardly and tell the world what you believe and you will be defended by political bluster. And notice in his tweet, he said nothing about the horrendous statement that Roseanne Barr herself admitted initially was unforgivable. He said nothing about that.
MATTHEWS: Explain why he didn`t do it? Why do you think he didn`t do it?
DYSON: Because he wants to have it both ways. He wants to certify and validate the quiet bigots who are afraid to stand up and speak out. And at the same time, he wants to get at the other side for its bigotry and for its dumping on him. So he has able both to exonerate those people who believe what Roseanne believes and then to validate their anger at a Bob Iger and the left.
So it is brilliant ploy but it`s cynical. Because it doesn`t play to the better angels of our nature. This is not Bobby Kennedy. This is not Jack Kennedy. This is not even Barack Obama. This is the base cesspool bigotry of American society. This is the underbelly of our worst instincts amplified by a man who continues to tweet bigotry day in and day out. He has turned this nation into a psyche commode into which he dumps all of his nasty beliefs.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Sinbad here, comedian as well as an actor. I`m asking you about her defense is it was a bad joke calling or saying that Valerie Jarrett is the daughter of an animal and a terrorist. That was just a joke. What do you make of it?
SINBAD, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: You know, we can`t hide as artists behind bad jokes. I mean, we tell bad jokes. Bad jokes mean you don`t get a laugh. I mean, first, she said once you put ape and black woman together, first they called Michelle Obama ape. It was on a regular basis. We all know they have called us apes throughout our lives and (INAUDIBLE) and it is happens. So that`s -- you can`t hide behind that. As a matter of fact, I have more respect if you stand with it.
I used to drive around with Roseanne. Roseanne was my friend. We drove. When Roseanne first came to Hollywood, she asked me to find her a black female manager. And then as time goes on, these kind of tweets come out, I`m like this. I don`t know what you are coming from, I don`t know what are you trying to say, but it`s not what you used to do.
So when I say bad joke -- don`t say bad joke, we can`t behind a bad joke. If you said it, you said it and go with it. It`s not a bad joke. It`s racist.
MATTHEWS: Why is the President -- Yamiche, you suffer this President. I think he is doing what he did in Charlottesville. Good on both sides, he refused utterly to come out against the white supremacists and here he is refusing to offend his 20 percent of the country which I think has these attitudes. I`m just guessing about 20 percent. I think like the birtherism stuff, like the all that crap. And he doesn`t want to offend them.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, there`s a long narrative of President Trump playing the victim. And here is President Trump playing the victim yet again and using Roseanne Barr`s tweet -- racist tweet to then say you know what? I`m the really problem here. It is all about -- the problem is really with me and how I have been treated. But I think when we go back --.
MATTHEWS: He is a narcissist and a racist.
ALCINDOR: You said that, not me. I`m a reporter. I think that the other thing here though is that President Trump has obviously had a problem with race, right. Like I don`t have to tick off all the things that he has done. But Charlottesville is just the start of it. When you talk to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, people who have known him for decades. There`s the Central Park Five and the fact that he never apologized for saying they should get the death penalty. So he does not do this. He does not apologizing.
MATTHEWS: Even though the DNA cleared them.
ALCINDOR: They have been, obviously, would exonerated with DNA. But the point is that President Trump doesn`t apologize for anything. We have talked about this on your show.
MATTHEWS: Why is Roseanne Barr now part of his I refuse to an r apologize gig.
ALCINDOR: Well, Roseanne is trying to act like Donald Trump except everyone [that tries to act like Donald Trump realize that they are not Donald Trump. Ask the governor of Missouri who had to reign yesterday. You try to double down and try to kind of live through the scandals and then you realize that no one but Donald Trump can be Teflon the way he is.
MATTHEWS: OK. According to "Washington Post" today, one of the tweets Barr said -- Roseanne Barr but later deleted. She wrote I`m sorry for my tweet and I will also defend myself as well as talk to my followers. What does she got? A religious thing, my followers. So go away if you don`t like it. I will handle my sadness the way I want to. I`m tired of being attacked and belittle more than other comedians who have said worse.
She also quoted FOX News commentator Herman Kaine, the 999 guys, saying even though the show was a ratings success, forces within ABC didn`t like the fact that her conservative defense of certain things was so popular.
Why did the President of the United States -- I know, you are an academic, Michael. Tell me about this. I have been looking out the phrase. I remember from man for all seasons about Thomas Moore, is silence consent? Throughout much of today, the President didn`t say anything about this, and he jumped into it both feet taking basically her side against ABC. Why did he take this crap, if you will, into the White House with him? It`s now in the White House as of tonight, this issue.
DYSON: It is. Silence is not only consent. Silence is complicity. There`s an active agency of wrongdoing here. The President is siding with Roseanne fully and her initial responses before her admission about Ambien and whatever other drug she was taken, as I have said earlier, she is taking Bigatol. And the symptom of that is, you know, uncontrollable racist talk. The reality here is, that yes, she has taken -- he has taken it into the White House but he -- this is what got him to the White House.
What we don`t want to confirm, what we don`t want to admit is that as you say, 20 percent at least of American voter who voted for this man believe what he believes. Think that black people have taken over, brown people are in our midst. The racist lawyers, and you people speaking Spanish.
So we got border problems. We got boundary problems. We got problems with people who are trans. And so all the others are ganging up on us. It`s like a horror show to whiteness. And so, they feel now that these people are attacking them and their big chief defender is in the White House speaking boldly and bravely for them and not recognizing a, he doesn`t care about you. And just like with Roseann, you think she cares about the 200 people who lost their jobs?
If you are concerned about others and those who are on your side, those people lost their jobs. This is what Donald Trump is not telling the truth to his followers and the people who vote for him that you are undermining the economic stability of that group.
MATTHEWS: Michael, I don`t understand the intellectual argument either way on this that somehow black people are taking over America. They were here before 90 percent of us were here, white guys, just to be tribal about it. Everybody knows.
Let`s go to -- it is for Sinbad. Everybody knows American history that most African-Americans came here, the senate of slaves going back to the 1700s at least and it was all here before most of us European Americans if you want to use that is phrase got here.
DYSON: You know what gore vid dal said, we live in the United States of amnesia. People deliberately forget that. Look. The south lost a war but they won the battle of memory. And so, now they are really telling America that hey, things are bad, things are worse, black people are taking over. And we know that we have been doing all the -- how do we get called lazy and we did all the labor.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to -- give Sinbad a chance, because the shot is, I guess this -- I honestly psychologically and politically and commercially do not understand. Why did she commit suicide to make a racist point? Sinbad, this was a highly expensive tweet.
MATTHEWS: She is finished now. Her comeback is gone. All the people working on that show are gone. ABC is going to lose a lot of money, they could have made and would have walked into their pockets. It was a money machine that show. There`s no logic to this. There was a logic to Hitler. He wanted to rule the world. What do you get out of this?
SINBAD: There`s no logic to what Donald Trump -- Donald Trump is not a logical man.
MATTHEWS: He got elected.
SINBAD: It worked for him because a lot illogical people, a lot of racists came out in America. He said what a lot of people had to hide. Remember, it used to be they put the hood on your head. Now, he told the Klan, take the hood off. You just run around with a sheet on.
So what is happening right now is Roseanne didn`t lose much. She will still it be rich. Roseanne have her money. People in the show will lose their money. So I think like what (INAUDIBLE) is saying is people are allowed to speak now. They think no harm will come to them. They think they are like Donald Trump and they are like Teflon.
Now look at it. ABC took a big shot when they put Roseanne on the air. We know that she is very popular. We know she said some things before that`s really out there. So when they put her on the air, that was a chance you were always taking. That`s why they put the clause in the contract, you get fired, the show will get cancelled if you said something that offended the community. Well, that`s what they were hoping.
They were hoping they could have this hit show, you could have this controversy, and nothing would happen. Well, it`s a time bomb. You put a time bomb in a room with a timer, eventually it goes off. And that`s what happened.
MATTHEWS: Well, she has done this number before, this animal motherhood thing where she said Susan Rice, another prominent African-American woman was the daughter of apes, if you will. And my question is, I want to be careful about this. I watch like you and I did. We watched together the rise of Trump. The first thing he said out of his mouth was the President of the United States was a legal immigrant, basically. From east Africa, some weird theory that a white woman from Kansas went over to Africa and have the kid and named him Barack Hussein Obama with the idea that 35 years later he would be become President. It was crazy talk.
And then he then start to go after Mexicans and saying they are all rapists and do that and went after the judge. Then he went after every Muslim and saying that they are all terrorists. He gradually developed this tribalism (ph) development of support using all those code words and everything else, right? But Roseanne has got nothing out of this but paying hell.
ALCINDOR: Well, that`s kind of what Sinbad was talking about, is this idea that everyone thinks they are Donald Trump. All these Republicans think they can it be Donald Trump. They think that they can kind be crass and get away with things. And Roseanne saw Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: So he is e`s the Peter Pan of this whole thing? He`s leading people into this.
ALCINDOR: I think that he is someone who is absolutely a unicorn (INAUDIBLE). And I want to say really quickly. She picked on Valerie Jarrett. That is someone who an educated black woman who --.
ALCINDOR: Spent eight years in the White House. So she picked also on someone who maybe she didn`t realize with someone who had the power to take her down.
MATTHEWS: She did the same thing with highly educated Susan Rice.
ALCINDOR: Yes. No, it is completely true. But I think had she said this about someone who is maybe a black farmer, a black middle class person, someone who worked at Ford, maybe ABCs would have thought differently. Who knows? But I think that the fact that it is Valerie Jarrett --.
MATTHEWS: I thought that Valerie was very good about that. She said I can defend myself. I have peeps.
ALCINDOR: Yes. She said I`m on a position, I can defend myself. A lot the of African-Americans can`t do that.
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m glad we had this great discussion and even an awful race to have.
Sinbad, it is great to have you on the show, sir. Thank you.
SINBAD: Thank you, man.
MATTHEWS: Michael, the book is beautifully written. I read a lot as you know. You`re an academic. You know how to write, brother. That is really beautifully done. I love your description of the James Baldwin meeting where they gave hell to Bobby Kennedy. He thought he was going in there to get the Nobel Peace prize for these people. They shoved it at him. And it was the best thing ever have to him because two or three months later, he got his brother go on television with the civil rights speech. It worked.
DYSON: Yes. Well, thank you.
MATTHEWS: And tonight works, I hope.
Yamiche, thank you so much. And thank you, Michael. Thank you Sinbad.
Coming up, new reporting that Trump pushed again for attorney general Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal and take control of the rush investigation himself. Trump already thinks he has a right to pick the jury. That`s his 40 percent. And now he thinks he has the right to pick the prosecutor. Isn`t that cute?
Plus, cracks in the armor. The Republican congressman who oversaw that infamous Benghazi investigation says the FBI`s use of an informant for the Trump campaign was not only appropriate but routine. Trey Gowdy says the FBI did exactly what they should have done, despite the conspiracy theories that Trump`s out there pounding away at.
And Trump said a whole lot of things last night in Nashville that just aren`t true. His people believe, however, the falsehoods he was selling. But the question was, does he believe this stuff?
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like this one.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: This is an amazing story. More than eight months after hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, we are learning the storm was far more devastating in human terms than previously thought. Local authorities originally estimated that just 16 people were killed by Maria. At that time, President Trump told Puerto Rican officials that they should be proud that the death toll wasn`t higher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody`s ever seen anything like this, what is your death count as of this moment, 17?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen.
TRUMP: Sixteen people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together, 16 versus literally thousands of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t get this. The governor said 16. The official death toll was revised up to 64 killed.
But a new study published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" now estimates that 4600 people died during hurricane Maria in its estimate, 4600 compared to 16 or 64. That`s more than twice the number of people killed as a result of hurricane Katrina. More information is expected in the coming weeks when George Washington University releases its own analysis. This is an awful story and a crazy one.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Not only does President Trump think he can pick this jury as Rudy Giuliani suggested over the weekend, and there is an appeal to the public, Trump people, but it now appears he is trying to pick his prosecutor, as well.
The "New York Times" is reporting now that President Trump intervened with attorney general Jeff Sessions just two days after Sessions announced he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russian investigation.
In a confrontation then in Mar-a-Lago in March of last year, the President asked Sessions to take back his recusal. Mr. Trump who told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request Mr. Sessions refused. According to report, the confrontation is being investigated by the special counsel which suggests the construction - - the obstruction probe is wider than we knew.
Amid these revelations, the President again expressed regrets about making Sessions AG saying that he wishes had he picked someone else to serve in that place.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani told NBC News he is conducting a Q&A session with the President this week to prepare for his potential testimony -- this is blather from Rudy -- before Trump`s -- prosecutors.
Anyway, this comes as Mueller moves forward with sentencing in the case of Richard Pinedo, who pleaded guilty to identify fraud in February. He joins cooperating witness George Papadopoulos, whose sentence is expected to proceed this summer.
And we have some late-breaking news related to the obstruction investigation. "The New York Times" has tonight reported deputy attorney - - or Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote a memo documenting the details of James Comey`s firing from the FBI in May of last year.
According to a brand-new "Times" report tonight: "McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Most significantly, in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail. He said the president" -- that would be Trump -- "had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo firing Comey."
I`m joined right now by Caroline Polisi, criminal defense attorney, and Betsy Woodruff, political reporter with The Daily Beast and MSNBC contributor.
Well, Caroline, I want to start with you and this law here. Now we find out that the president wanted to fire Comey on the grounds that he was concerned about the aggressive Russian probe. In other words, he did it to protect himself to obstruct justice. This is clearly, clearly, it seems to me, close to the smoking gun of obstruction.
CAROLINE POLISI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if you`re talking about the question to ask Sessions to go back on his recusal, I don`t know if that`s going to be the smoking gun.
MATTHEWS: No, I`m talking about the smoking gun that we now found out that McCabe is saying that Rosenstein was told by Trump, the president of the United States, that he wanted Comey fired because of the Russia probe.
POLISI: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: The very thing he`s being probed on, he wanted stopped. That`s called obstruction.
POLISI: Right. Well, I think it does highlight the precarious nature that Rosenstein has been in throughout the duration of this case.
Of course, he wrote the now largely considered pretextual memorandum of saying that he was recommending the firing of James Comey because of the way he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal. We know that`s not true.
We know that President Trump then went on Lester Holt right thereafter saying that it was because of the Russia thing. The question is, Rosenstein may very well be a witness in this investigation. And people have known that for a while now, but I think that the feeling was that he was better than whatever potential alternative there may be.
But now I think with this news we may be seeing that he very well may have to recuse himself from this position as well. It is a bombshell.
MATTHEWS: Well, again, as I like to say, I`m not a lawyer, Betsy, but I do know what common sense tells me now. Obstructing justice in an attempt to use your position to prevent you -- the regular wheels of justice to turn against you.
And so decide things like, I`m going to get rid of Comey, and then you tell Rosenstein, who oversees this matter, who is deputy A.G., and you say the reason I want to get rid of Comey is he`s investigating me on the Russia probe.
I think that`s obstruction.
BETSY WOODRUFF, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There`s a really deep and rich irony here.
According to this "New York Times" story, the conversation that the president had with Rod Rosenstein, they cite one source briefed on that conversation, essentially said the president told Rosenstein, I want you to say in your letter about the firing of Comey that I`m not under investigation.
The irony, of course, is that now the president is under investigation, and everything that he did, everything that he said that related to the Comey firing, that related to the pressure that he put on Rosenstein to fire Comey, is now part of the investigation and is now causing trouble for him.
Imagine the scripting right now, Caroline, of a report from Robert Mueller. It may come out before the fall. It may come out at any time. We don`t know. We have to rely on Rudy Giuliani to tell us what`s coming. I know, it`s absurd.
Suppose it says that the president tried to get his A.G., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to take him back into the action and take over the Russian probe because he didn`t like the way it was being handled. So, he wanted to pick the prosecutor in this case. He didn`t want anybody recusing himself.
And then you find out he fired Comey mainly because he didn`t like the Russian probe itself. And I don`t know how this doesn`t become blatantly obstructionist.
POLISI: Well, it is a really remarkable ask on the part of Trump to take back that recusal. I don`t think there was a single person out there that could fault Jeff Sessions for his recusal.
He, by all accounts, followed Department of Justice guidelines on sort of the parameters for that recusal. He was told by career prosecutors in the Justice Department that because he misstated about his contacts with Russians, given that information, he needed -- he really needed to recuse himself from the entirety of this investigation.
Even I think Elizabeth Warren praised him for his actions, which, you know, was quite shocking, by all accounts. So I agree that, you know, this could be part of a larger piece of the puzzle when Mueller looks at an obstructionist view.
POLISI: You start with the oath of loyalty he asked from Comey, the seeing if he could let the Flynn thing go, and then of course the firing of James Comey.
Look, when you talk about criminal investigations, you always have to go to a state of mind. This gets further and further into the president`s state of mind at the time. He`s doing everything he can to, you know, throw sand in the eyes of any investigators in this instance.
Well, Caroline, you say piece of the puzzle. I was thinking of the old Polaroid thing where you would buy the print and it would gradually come to you as you watch it. It would come into appearance.
MATTHEWS: This is coming into appearance as obstruction.
In an interview with "The New York Times" in July of last year, the president said explicitly that Sessions should not have recused himself and that he wouldn`t have appointed him in the first place if he had known he would. Here he goes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.
QUESTION: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he wanted -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
QUESTION: He gave you no heads up at all?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: However, it was obvious to many from day one that Sessions, as a former Trump adviser during the election, would not be able to oversee any investigation of the president`s campaign, because he was part of it.
The code of federal regulations on recusal makes clear that no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation.
Again, Betsy, you don`t have to be a lawyer to understand that. It says you can`t investigate yourself.
WOODRUFF: It`s pretty simple. It`s extremely straightforward.
MATTHEWS: But Trump wants to do it. He wants Roy Cohn back. He talks about how much he -- he`s so fond of the idea, the alluring idea of having a crook like Cohn as your A.G. That`s what he wants.
WOODRUFF: One thing Trump said about Roy Cohn once -- and I will have to paraphrase here -- is all I can tell you about him is that he`s done cruel things to people in protection of me.
Trump wants someone who is going to be a fighter. He wants somebody who would be willing to try to break the rules.
MATTHEWS: He wants a fixer.
WOODRUFF: Exactly. That`s what he was looking for.
MATTHEWS: Well, he has one.
WOODRUFF: But, in Sessions, he got the polar opposite.
MATTHEWS: Well, sort of a Beckett sort of figure. He created somebody that was going to challenge him.
In another development today, Michael Avenatti -- he`s amazing -- the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, said that Michael Cohen`s attorney today confirmed in court that Cohen kept tape recordings of his phone calls.
He also said on MSNBC that those recordings captured conversations between Cohen and now President Donald J. Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I have every reason to believe, Ari, that these recordings that were seized by the FBI which Michael Cohen and his attorneys have a copy of include recordings between Michael Cohen and the president of the United States, as well as others.
I know for a fact that Donald Trump is on at least one of these recordings, Ari. I`m going to get into...
ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: How do you know that?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to get into details how I know that, Ari.
MELBER: But you -- would you say that in court?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this comes as NBC News reports that prosecutors in that Cohen -- Michael Cohen case are also piecing together shredded documents that were seized in the FBI`s raid.
Back to you, Caroline. I have to ask you about -- under the recording law, I have got to keep up with this, refresh myself. New York, is that one person has to agree to it or both parties in recording telephone conversations?
POLISI: I believe it`s a single state, meaning only one person has to.
MATTHEWS: So, Michael Cohen was taping conversations with the now president of the United States. To what purpose would a lawyer want to tape his client?
POLISI: It`s beyond me.
I think everybody has been pointing out that that is sort of bad practice when it comes to just being an attorney. I will say that I was in that courtroom today in the Southern District of New York. And Judge Wood, Judge Kimba Wood, really took Michael Avenatti to task.
He certainly did not say that he believed that President Trump was on those recordings. I know that thereafter he went up to the podium after to sort of give a press statement.
He`s dubbing these the Trump tapes. But by all indications, the only thing he said in court that day was that they were recordings of Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen pertaining to this issue around the $130,000 hush money payment to his client, Stephanie Clifford, who is obviously Stormy Daniels.
So I don`t know why all of a sudden Michael Avenatti is stating that he knows definitively that Trump is on one side of those tapes at this point, when he wouldn`t say it in court today.
MATTHEWS: Well, like a lot of people watching this case, I`m looking at Michael Cohen`s face as he walks in and out of court. I see sadness in his face. And that is a sign in great literature like Hemingway that he`s about to turn.
Sadness is an indicator of someone about to turn. They`re very sad about their predicament. They feel sorry for themselves and that justifies a switch in loyalty.
Anyway, the president should worry about Michael Cohen.
Caroline Polisi, thank you. Betsy Woodruff.
POLISI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy dismantles the president`s latest conspiracy theory, saying the FBI acted appropriately in investigating the Trump campaign.
Why do these guys only speak the truth when they`re on the way out of business, like Gowdy and Charlie Dent and all the rest of them? They tell us everything they know on the way out the door. Don`t let the door hit you behind you.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So how do you like the fact they had people infiltrating our campaign? Can you imagine? Can you imagine?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump last night in Nashville once again repeating his charge that the intelligence community of this country infiltrated his presidential campaign.
Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, however, a Trump supporter who famously ran those notorious Benghazi hearings, is now publicly debunking that presidential claim.
Last night, Congressman Gowdy told FOX News that the FBI was justified in its uses of informant, as an informant, to investigate the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was President Trump himself who said, number one, I didn`t collude with Russia, but if anyone connected with my campaign did, I want the FBI to find that out.
It looks to me like the FBI was doing what President Trump said I want you to do, find it out. I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, South Carolina Congressman Gowdy is one of several lawmakers who met with top Justice Department and intelligence officials just six days ago to review those classified materials about the FBI`s use of a confidential source.
And this morning, Congressman Gowdy went a step further in dismantling President Trump`s claim of spying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Was there a spy?
GOWDY: That is not a term I have ever used in the criminal justice system. Undercover informant, confidential informant, those are all words I`m familiar with. I have never heard the term spy used.
QUESTION: So, when the president says spy gate, there is not a -- there was no spy inserted into the campaign? Have you seen any evidence of that?
GOWDY: I have not. That`s an espionage term. That`s not a law enforcement term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Besides propaganda, what value to truth is Trump`s constant claim of some spying that went on to uncover his Russian connections, if there are connections to be found?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Zero, Chris.
And good evening.
And the question here is, how many lies from the president does America have to keep ringing up until we realize that the cost is our rule of law?
And great that Trey Gowdy has come out and said that there was no spying, but why can`t Paul Ryan say it? Why can`t Mitch McConnell say it? Why can`t Devin Nunes say it? And as long as they`re not willing to say it, they are accomplices in the president`s efforts to just torch the rule of law in our country.
It`s time for them to say it.
MATTHEWS: You have -- I think you`re a normal person. You strike me as a person who gets along with people, regardless of their politics.
MATTHEWS: I once -- somebody once said recently, Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, said, don`t let your politics decide who your friends are. Fair enough. Some people can live like that, across the aisle.
When you talk to Republicans, do they admit to you that they`re basically gagged because of their fear of this president, until they quit, that they don`t talk until they quit?
SWALWELL: Hey, Chris, my mom and dad are both Republicans. My brothers are cops. They`re Republicans. My wife is a Hoosier. And they`re all Republicans.
I have worked well with Republicans. And I wrote a bill after the interference campaign that some Republicans signed on to have an independent commission.
And I remember one Republican on the Intelligence Committee telling me that this person had gone against President Trump when he was a candidate and can`t afford now to stick their neck out because it might be lopped off.
SWALWELL: And that`s what I have heard, is it`s either fear, or there are some of them who just see a president who is willing to dismantle health care and give tax cuts away to the wealthiest, and why not look the other way and allow him to do this?
But it`s -- a lot of it is fear.
MATTHEWS: Their loyalty to the truth ends when it comes to Trump?
SWALWELL: Yes. Yes. It`s a tradeoff.
It`s that, you know what? And we saw this with Mitt Romney yesterday, Chris. Mitt Romney said, I like the guy`s tax policies, but I don`t think he`s a role model for my grandkids.
Well, the test in America should be, if the president of the United States is not a role model for your kids or your grandkids, then something`s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Are you surprised that Trey Gowdy coming out after overseeing that 11-hours hearing on going after Hillary, Hillary Clinton, on so-called Benghazi horrors, whatever she was supposed to have done or not done there?
And then he`s come out now. He was sort of the other side of the argument. And now he`s come out and said, you know what? All this malarkey, to use a Biden term, all this malarkey about spying is just that.
I`m amazed at his 180 here. Are you?
SWALWELL: Not entirely, Chris.
I have worked with Trey behind the scenes pretty well. He was a prosecutor. I was a prosecutor. And I think, if you`re wired that way, at some point, you have to just call a spade a spade and you follow the evidence. And I think if there was some evidence that there was wrongdoing, he certainly would speak up.
But there`s -- and I have seen a lot of the evidence in this case that launched the investigation. They did everything you would want them to do. And, actually, if they didn`t launch an investigation, that would have been a problem.
And if the judge didn`t sign off on the FISA application to look into Carter Page, that would have been a problem. So I think he`s being a prosecutor here.
MATTHEWS: Keep at it, Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
SWALWELL: Yes, will do. Thanks.
Up next: President Trump made a barrage of false statements at last night`s rally in Nashville, from saying that Nancy Pelosi loves MS-13. Really? To claiming Mexico will pay for the wall. Really?
Trump peddles so much nonsense that it`s worth asking, does he himself believe this stuff?
And next week marks the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy`s assassination. This coming Sunday here on MSNBC, I`m hosting a documentary that takes a look at RFK`s extraordinary life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Fifty years after his assassination, what can we learn from Robert Kennedy?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, U.S. SENATOR: That we replace the hatred and the distrust that now exists in the United States with compassion and with understanding.
"HEADLINERS," Sunday at 9:00, on MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will be right back. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
President Trump held a rally last night as I said in Nashville. As NBC`s First Read points out, it was full of, quote, false, misleading and dishonest claims. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has never been an administration and even some of our enemies are begrudgingly admitting this that has done what we`ve done in the first year and a half. Wages for the first time in many, many years are finally going up.
We passed the largest tax cuts and reform in American history.
The MS-13 lover, Nancy Pelosi. She loves MS-13. Can you imagine?
In the end, Mexico`s going to pay for the wall. I`m just telling you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last night, the president of Mexico responded to that last claim tweeting President Trump -- no, Mexico will never pay for a wall, not now, not ever it, sincerely Mexico. Parentheses, all of us.
While many have called Trump`s falsehoods lies, "Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank thinks we should use a different term. He`s sitting right here with some other people.
That`s coming up next with the HARDBALL roundtable.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
"Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank writes that Trump`s not a lawyer. He`s a madman, noting that calling him a liar lets him off easy. A liar by definition, he writes, knows he`s not telling the truth. Trump`s behavior is worse. With each day, it becomes more obvious he can`t distinguish between fact and fantasy. It`s an illness and it`s spreading.
Well, let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Dana Milbank, he wrote the article just mentioned, is a columnist for the "Washington Post". Shawna Thomas is the Washington bureau chief at "Vice News", and Eli Stokols is the White House reporter for the "Los Angeles Times", good for him, and MSNBC political analyst as well.
So, in any order, how -- I`m sort of in terms of having grown up, don`t call somebody a liar because that ends the conversation. That`s my view. But, factually, how do you deal with Trump? Factually?
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, I don`t -- I don`t think necessarily that he is lying. So to lie you have to know what the truth is and then say something other than that.
MATHEWS: Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Is that a lie? Does he believe that?
MILBANK: Well, things like that or Nancy Pelosi --
MATTHEWS: I have people collecting it out in Hawaii and they`re coming backing with some interesting stuff.
MILBANK: Nancy Pelosi loves MS-13, and you can -- some of these things are tangential. They`re just sort of silly on their face.
What strikes me most about Trump is he will lie about things easily disproven.
MATTHEWS: I have the biggest crowd of my inaugural than anybody.
MILBANK: For example, or he will say it was sunny during his inaugural address. We all were there. We know it was raining. Or he`ll say things, like, my net worth varies depending how I`m feeling. It doesn`t vary depending on how you were feeling.
So, it leads to you believe there has to be something else going on here. He says it so convincingly. I talked to some psychological experts on this, brain experts on this. And they think it is indeed a phenomenon where he`s so good at this, he`s convinced himself that whatever`s coming out of his mouth --
MATTHEWS: I know politicians like that, but he`s the worst.
Shawna, it seems to me that this is -- that the needle doesn`t move an inch if you tell his supporters that he lies. It doesn`t move. They have an attitude they like in him.
He`s resentful. They`re resentful. As long as they`re in -- there`s sync on that. They don`t like the establishment. They don`t like liberals and minorities in some cases.
They don`t care how unfactual he is. They don`t care if he makes it up.
SHAWNA THOMAS, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: I`m not sure it`s that they don`t.
MATTHEWS: They don`t move in the polling?
THOMAS: Well, no, but I think some of this -- I think some of his supporters have one world view and they have a bubble with which they get their information. And some of that, a few of them it`s President Trump`s twitter feed. Some of it is seeing president Trump give these speeches like he did and FOX News and MSNBC and everyone else taking it.
Some of them, it`s just that if they`re only watching, let`s say, FOX News, for instance, and you`re getting one point of view on it and you are inclined to believe the president is telling the truth, then you believe he`s telling the truth and you don`t necessarily like go out and look for anything else.
But he is -- I do think he lies sometimes. I think saying Nancy Pelosi is a lover of MS-13. Nancy Pelosi -- no one loves MS-13.
MATTHEWS: Eli, we get back here, I have a theory that people do this. You know, Ari was talking about it tonight earlier in the evening. You do it to troll just to bother the other side.
Like when FOX News says fair and balanced, well, they know they can claim it, but they know that`s basically screwing the mainstream media and say, we`re fair and balanced. They don`t pretend to be balanced. They`re very conservative. But they say fair and balanced, just to stick it.
I wonder if Trump says these things they`re going to pay for the wall and all this stuff, he knows it just drives liberals and critics crazy.
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What you`re talking about is a slogan for a TV network. But Trump, if he`s good at anything, he knows he`s doing this, is branding. Last week, it was, oh, everybody`s calling it spygate now. He just --
MATTHEWS: No, they`re not.
STOKOLS: He says things over and over and over again, and it starts to sink in. He knows what he`s doing in that case. Now, as Dana writes, maybe sometimes he doesn`t actually know that he`s lying, but what`s clear from watching him and seeing the volume of falsehoods or lies, or whatever you want to -- however you want to label them, what`s clear from all of that, is that he doesn`t care to know whether what he`s saying is accurate or not.
MATTHEWS: Not checking it out. By the way, Reagan is the case of that, too -- Reagan would never get any deeper in anything he thought would help him. While there`s no evidence to support the president`s claim of spying going on, there is evidence that his messaging campaign is working, at least among his core supporters.
NBC`s Vaughn Hillyard caught up with some of them at Trump`s rally last night. Let`s listen to how they`re absorbing this information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC REPORTER: Do you believe the president that there was a spy planted in his campaign?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
HILLYARD: Do you believe that there`s a deep state working against this administration?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, absolutely. Yes.
HILLYARD: That concerns you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a big concern.
HILLYARD: Do you trust the CIA and the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.
HILLYARD: The Justice Department?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope.
HILLYARD: Jeff Sessions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope.
HILLYARD: Rod Rosenstein.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope.
I don`t trust the government whatsoever.
HILLYARD: When the president says that there is a spy within his campaign, do you believe him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
HILLYARD: Do you trust the CIA and the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at the top, not at the top.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn`t trust Brennan, Clapper, all of them trying to take him down. Yes, I think there`s a deep state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re ready, aren`t they? They`re absorbing it. They`re taking notes and they`re mimicking what he says.
MILBANK: That is the echo chamber right there and Shawna was --
MATTHEWS: You were at a Trump rally.
MILBANK: Yes, well, of course, and that`s what you`d expect there. But there is a real phenomenon, there`s a scientific phenomenon. It`s called emotional adaptation. And that`s why the perfusion of the lies have been or the untruths have been increasing and the idea is almost sort of the proverbial frog getting boiled.
As they creep up there, you don`t realize it but you become more accepting of the next lie that comes around. It`s like if somebody`s wearing strong perfume, you get used to it.
MATTHEWS: Do you know what they`re thinking of you right now when you do this about them? Can you imagine Trump people watching a little beard, intellectualism and you`re talking about how they`re a little bit nuts?
MATTHEWS: Emotional -- what`s it called?
MILBANK: It`s called emotional adaptation. It`s something that we all do. The president is doing -- this is how human beings adapt --
MILBANK: -- the more these things are told, the more acceptable they become to us.
THOMAS: But these conversations themselves play into that. It plays into this idea that the elite media doesn`t understand us, and that we are basically -- you know, that they`re against president Trump. So he -- what he is saying is right, what they are saying is wrong.
But there is something about this that is politics. He`s creating a political reality himself, right? And he`s doing it in a way we`ve never seen before because sometimes he does just tell falsehoods.
THOMAS: But that political reality is kind of what he needs to be able to win again.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with everybody, including Eli.
The roundtable is sticking with us. And next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Dana, tell me something I don`t know.
MILBANK: Well, there was a lot of argument who would benefit from the tax cuts. We got some important data out today from the Commerce Department. Corporate earnings up 8 percent in the first quarter. Consumer spending, everybody else, up 1 percent, the lowest in five years.
MATTHEWS: OK, Shawna.
THOMAS: "Vice News" tonight is covering a candidate in California`s 25th district, a woman who we are seeing she is actually having a harder time winning other women in her primary than she would have thought. It`s kind of interesting to see how women are supporting women.
MATTHEWS: I thought women were voting for women this year.
THOMAS: They are. But in this specific anecdote, it`s harder for her to get women against her male sort of Democratic --
MATTHEWS: They need to know more about this.
THOMAS: Yes, this is a much longer thing.
STOKOLS: Real quick, Melania Trump has been seen publicly in 20 days since going with the president out to Andrews to welcome home the Americans who are being held in North Korea.
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you?
STOKOLS: Well, it doesn`t tell -- we don`t know. But there`s a lot of rumor and controversy swirling around this. Today, she did something that her husband does a lot. She tweeted and she blamed the media for stirring things up, said she`s home, doing just fine. She`s with her family feeling great.
But still haven`t seen her in 20 days.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Dana Milbank, Shawna Thomas, and Eli Stokols, with some really interesting stuff.
We`ll return and I`m going to come back with a finish tonight on Trump Watch.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, May 30th, 2018.
American presidents speak for the country. It`s important that they speak as Americans. When white supremacists protested the removal of Confederate statues down in Charlottesville, President Trump said there were good people in that crowd. When the Disney Corporation fired Roseanne Barr yesterday for saying a prominent American woman was the daughter of apes, Trump attacks Disney.
Why is the president determine to side with the forces of racial hatred? What is it in him that makes Donald Trump side, to use Winston Churchill`s phrase, with the fire against the fire brigade?
Well, obviously, in keeping it as simple as humanly possible, Trump wants to be seen on that side. He wants a certain number of Americans to believe that on the topic of minorities in this country, he stands on the other side.
This isn`t new. President Trump gained the White House by appealing to people who held the nastiest racial and ethic attitudes, believing that President Obama had snuck into the country, that Mexicans are rapists and that Muslims are by nature dangerous.
It`s not a surprise that he would again take it out, not on Roseanne and what she said, but on what the Disney Corporation did because of what she said. This is Donald Trump. It`s time we got used to it and acted accordingly.
This is HARDBALL for now. That`s for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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