Show: HARDBALL Date: June 5, 2018 Guest: Heather McGhee, Jimmy Kempski, Kerry Kennedy, Donte Stallworth, David Zirin, Barbara McQuade, Philip Bump
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Political football. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews still up in New York.
In most American cities it is the thing that unites people, the Sunday football game. Just four months ago, the Philadelphia Eagles brought the city of brotherly love together with their underdog super bowl win over the New England Patriots.
But today, President Trump again used football to sow division. He disinvited the Eagles from a planned White House celebration after learning that only a tiny handful of the team would actually attend. He also cited player who protest racial injustice by taking a knee or stay in the locker room during the national anthem. Trump called their protests disrespectful.
Instead of celebrating the Eagles, the White House today held an event celebrating at flag. Let`s watch the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)\
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to take this opportunity to be explain why young Americans stand for our national anthem. Maybe it`s about time that we understood. We stand to honor our military and to honor our country. Anton remember the fallen heroes who never made it back home. So we stand together for freedom. We stand together for patriotism. And we proudly stand for our glorious nation under God.
I want to thank you all for being here. This is a beautiful big celebration. Actually, to be honest, it`s even bigger than we had anticipated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For the record, an NFL source told NBC News that not a single Eagles player took a knee during the 2017 regular season. In fact, a source outside the White House with direct knowledge told NBC News the President called off the visit because fewer than ten people including players, coaches and trainers planned to attend.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders offer this had laughable defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If this wasn`t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn`t have planned to attend event and then backed out at the last minute. And if it want a political stunt and they wouldn`t have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew that the President was going to be overseas. And if this wasn`t a political stunt, they wouldn`t have waited until Monday well after a thousand of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, in a statement today, the NFL players association said quote "our union is disappointed in the decision by the White House. NFL players love their country, support our troops."
For that, the Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, a vocal advocate for social justice program went step further writing quote "it`s hard to meet with people who don`t agree with you and to have tough conversations about uncomfortable race related issues and make positive change. This is what my leagues and I have been facing for the past two years. Instead the decision was made to lie and paint the picture these players are anti-American, anti-flag and anti-military."
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney blasted the President and expressed pride in the home town players.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JIM KENNEY (D), PHILADELPHIA: Well, the Eagles are still world champions regardless where they are going today. I`m very proud of our team. I`m very proud of the Eagles organization for their involvement in the community. Donald Trump is meaningless to this whole process. It`s meaningless -- he`s meaningless to the city and the city`s success. He tries at every chance he gets to tear cities down and eventually he will be gone one way or the other and we will move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by Donte Stallworth, an 11-year veteran of the NFL who played for the Eagles, David Zirin, sports editor for "the Nation" and the author of "Game Over, how politics have turned the sports world upside down." And Jimmy Kempski who covers the Eagles Philly boys.
Let me start with Donte about this. First of all, I don`t get how Trump has managed to start a faux fight between football players, a lot of them African-Americans and military people, a lot of them African-Americans. I do not see the fight. The fight is over police treatment of people and how to display that point of view, that sentiment, that politics at a football game is not about a battle between people who fight for the country and people who fight on Sunday. I don`t understand it. But Trump has managed to mesh it together in that brilliant conflagration of this and then is pile of crap that this country is fighting over right now.
I don`t know how he does it. I went to a lot of football games in my life. The pledge of allegiance -- I`m sorry. The national anthem is for our love of country. It`s not about the military or the latest war or any of that stuff. It`s about love of the country.
Anyway, your thoughts, Donte. You are a player and you have been there.
DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER EAGLES PLAYER: Well, I think, you know, what the President has done in this case, just tough continue the disturbing pattern of the things that you know, he will talk about with professional athletes and black professional athletes in particular when he does like you said, the brilliant conflation between juxtaposing the military with the anthem and the flag and the players kneeling. And the players have said consistently from the very beginning that this is about inequities in policing and inequities in the criminal justice system.
And a lot of the players have done great work. He has called these players SOBs. He has talked down about the players, said they shouldn`t be the in country. And yet, when we have neo-Nazi marching in Charlottesville, it takes him 48 hours to come out with a statement. And after he does, they are very fine people. These are the people -- those are the probably people that should leave the country, not these men who are role models in their communities and role models in colleges that they went to and the cities of the college that they went to. These men have children looking up to them to them and for good reason. They have done a lot of great work and will continue to do so regardless of the NFL`s new anthem rule or the President continuing to spew his hatred and divisive rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: Jimmy, I want to talk about Philly first because I grew up there. I have never been there a while, but I have been to some games lately. And I have to tell you, you know, there`s nothing more inspiring in an American way to see a south Philly-Italian guy with an Allen Iverson jersey on. Because just saying normally day to day they may not get along too well but on football time or basketball night, they do get along. They route for the same team, they route for the players, the running backs, the quarterbacks together. It`s unity.
Sunday morning is not a time of unity in this country. We go to different churches, unfortunately. But Sunday afternoon, we get along and it`s true in Washington, D.C. and the Redskins. I see guys who are African-Americans get completely into the game, makeup, the whole routine, the whole Indian music everything. I got to tell you it`s a united thing. It is a united thing. And Trump has found the one area we all sort of agree on, cab drivers and riders, people that don`t normally like each other black to black, agree on sports and he says let`s fight.
He knows what he is doing. He wants white guys in jobbers on cold days with their faces all red and some, you know, Vikings game or green bay game. They want them to hate the players. This is what he wants, Trump. Am I wrong or right? I think I`m right. Your thinking. You are the expert.
JIMMY KEMPSKI, EAGLES WRITER, PHILLY VOICE: I agree. I covered the parade that they had after the super bowl. There were three million plus people I think that attended that. And it was all backgrounds, all kinds of races. And Donald Trump in my view has -- couldn`t care less about the national anthem. I mean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
KEMPSKI: This whole situation was kind of wrapping itself up. The NFL had, you know, put out over $80 million over the next seven years, that would go toward the education of police and the community and how they can better work together. These are things that Malcolm Jenkins who raised his fist during the national anthem before Eagles games. That was a big thing that he advocated for. So there was progress being made. And really there was no need for any (INAUDIBLE) of whatsoever from Donald Trump to kind of bully the owners into putting out a new policy in which the NFL can fine teams for players kneeling during the anthem and then in turn, the teams can fine the players. There`s no need for that whatsoever. Initially, that was going away, but he doesn`t want it to go away because, again, this is something that it`s something that his base has kind of embraced unfortunately and it`s something that you are going to see him continue to try to, like you said, divide people.
He thinks he`s got the white fans. Does he with this? Does he get them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The white fans are polarized.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to David on this.
David, you haven`t spoken yet. What do you make of Trump`s play to divide? I think he knows he would rather talk about your side or my side than he would am I guilty or not. Am I guilty or not is not the question he wants on collusion. He wants the issue to be are you on my side of the racial or ethnic divide or culture divide, (INAUDIBLE) or the other side. Your thoughts.
DAVIE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Yes. I mean, first of all, today is a day to celebrate the Eagles not because they won the super bowl but because this is the most socially conscious team that we have seen in sports in some time. Completely independently of Donald Trump. And what they were going to do today was actually going to make history.
You know, sports teams have been going to the White House since the Johnson administration, not Lyndon Johnson, Andrew Johnson. It goes back to 1865. And yet, you have never seen a team on political grounds. You know, 75 percent of the team it was looking like saying they weren`t going to show up. And they were clear about their reasons. And these are reasons that Donald Trump does not want to confront. He doesn`t want to have the discussion about the reasons they are putting forward. They are talking about Donald Trump`s racism what, Donte referred to with Charlottesville. They talk about his sexism as Tory Smith has. They talk about immigration. They talk about criminal justice.
These are the discussions they want to have. And Donald Trump won`t talk about those issues unless it`s to fan their flames. So what he does is he diverts the discussion. He diverts, he demonizes and he fills the rhetoric with deceit.
MATTHEWS: The first African-American President according to Donald Trump for a couple of years was an illegal immigrant, Donte. That`s how they portrait it. Then he starred saying well, he learned his anti-colonial, British attitudes from his father who he had never really met. I mean, the lies that Trump told about Barack Obama, the first African-American President to me is his original sin. And I don`t have any problem if somebody remembers it. And I think the players remembered. Your thoughts? What is it about the general attitude towards Trump that inspired players to say I`m not going down for the photo op?
STALLWORTH: Yes, I think you hit it perfectly. And the players have known this you know from, if not before he started his campaign with that type of rhetoric with the whole birther issue up until his campaign in the name of the number of things Dave just mentioned, the immigration, the misogyny, the racism, the dog whistling, it`s been happening for a very long time. You know, last season and the season before that. And obviously, it`s continuing now and up until today. And the cherry on top to me was that the President was singing the words to glad you bless America, didn`t know the words. God bless his heart. That`s the cherry of being, you know, a patriot today.
MATTHEWS: Jimmy, did you say something or is that David?
ZIRIN: That was me.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
ZIRIN: It was just stunning that he didn`t know the words to the anthem. I mean, to me it`s like a Hollywood screen writer would reject this. I mean, to God bless America that you stood up there and didn`t know it.
The other interesting thing that happened out there today was an intrepid Philadelphia reporter was asking the people there who conspicuously were not wearing any Philadelphia Eagles gear was asking them like hey, do you know who the quarterback was in the super bowl for the Eagles? Nobody knew. So today was basically a late lunch for congressional staffers.
MATTHEWS: Exactly, from the EOB or something coming across the street. I was thinking they don`t know who the birds are.
Anyway, this isn`t the first time Trump has used football for political theater. Last October, catch this performance, this little (INAUDIBLE). Vice President Mike Presence flew home to Indiana only to walk out of a football game after several athletes knelt during the anthem. He went out just to do this little show that appeared to be a premeditated stunt, I would say.
According to an NBC reporter there who was outside the stadium with the Pence team quote "a staffer told him it the vice President may depart the game early." You bet you he would. President Trump quickly tweeted I asked vice President Pence to leave the stadium if any players kneeled disrespecting our country.
Jimmy, this theater, using sports -- you know, one thing I love about America besides the million things that I did was that if a politician shows up at a sports stadium, he or she is always booed. It`s one of the great democratic places in the world. You can actually say what you think of these pals and it is fun. You know why? Because you feel like doing it. Nobody tells you to put your head out and blast and call account guy a bum. You feel like calling him a bum. And that`s what America is. It`s called freedom. Your thoughts, Jimmy.
KEMPSKI: Personally speaking, I mean, this is, you know, being on MSNBC is fun for a couple of days but this is probably something that`s going to drag on for the year with Trump being involved and now the Eagles probably being at the forefront of this issue. And normally, I`m onto TV to talk about who the Eagles slot corner is going to be or who are going to be starting a wide receiver. And instead I`m here talking about this. And it`s not that I don`t want to do this but it`s certainly something that sports is supposed to be fun and he is making it not fun.
MATTHEWS: I know. The guys that call can you up in the middle of the night, (INAUDIBLE) they go. Do you think Jimmy Rollins should get a five- year contract or three-year contract? I can`t believe the knowledge having the attitude they have.
Anyway, this isn`t the first that`s baseball. The first time Trump has yanked a White House invitation from a sports time over his bruised ego. Last September the NBA champion Golden State Warriors were disinvited after star point guard, the greatest three-pointer in history, Stephen Curry said he was opposed to going. In fact he said I`m not sure if I`m going to go. Now is enough for Trump. Trump wrote on twitter going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating. Therefore, invitation is withdrawn. Hesitation is too much for Trump. Tomorrow night, Curry`s Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in game three of the NBA finals.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Cleveland star, Lebron James who has been playing great, reacted to this latest controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYERS: It`s typical of him. I`m not surprised. You know, typical of him and I don`t know. I mean -- I mean I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants to invite anyway. So it won`t be Golden State or Cleveland going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Dave. I was thinking the guys in the NBA playoffs and probably the Stanley cup final are probably thinking about this right now. And they pick up the paper to relax and they go, I have got this big game tonight. But they are thinking, I guess we are not going to the White House. David?
ZIRIN: Yes. And I guarantee you are not going to see Donald Trump clap back at Lebron James because Lebron James has a large social media following. And he tends to only kick or punch down. After Lebron James said that, Steph Curry agreed with him. And it reminds me of something that a player on the Cavaliers Richard Jefferson said after the 2016 finals when they visited the Obama White House where he said it`s an honor to be the last NBA team to visit the White House.
MATTHEWS: You know what I see when I watch NBA playoffs this year, I see something that is missing at the White House among the best players, of course, nobility. I feel like when the presence of nobility, these guys. And that goes for Kevin and Klay and a whole bunch of them. They are all unbelievable great people.
Any way. Thank you, Donte Stallworth, for coming back again. David Zirin, thank you. And Jimmy Kempski of Philly.
Coming up, one reason President Trump would rather have a fight about football players is he`s feeling the heat on the Russia probe. He has got an intense of him. The pressure is mounting on Paul Manafort who could be the star witness for Mueller against him in the prosecution while Trump continues to exert vast almost minority call authority to shut down the whole thing. And now a judge ruled it can be deposed in the case of a former Apprentice contestant suing him for defamation. He may have to sit there for seven hours according to this judge. We are talking discovery. We are talking possible perjury. And that`s ahead.
Plus the HARDBALL roundtable tackles Trump`s distraction campaign, the outrage of what`s happening on the border of Mexico with kids being separated from their parent.
Plus Eric Trump says his dad`s life has become exponentially worse since becoming President. Well, boo who.
And America would be a different country if Bobby Kennedy had not been shot and killed 50 years ago. Carrie Kennedy, his daughter is coming on tonight.
Finally let me finish with Trump watch. He will not like tonight.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Kelly Sadler, the White House aide who cruelly mocked Senator John McCain, out of a job. White house press secretary Raj Shah issued a statement moments ago, just moments ago tonight saying Sadler is quote "no longer employed within the executive office of the President."
Well, nearly a month ago, Sadler, communications aide at the White House, said McCain`s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel did not matter because in her words, her words, McCain is dying anyway.
Sadler apologized in a phone call to the senator`s daughter Meghan McCain but never issued a public apology.
We will be back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After the president`s conspiracy theories about the Mueller probe flopped last month, President Trump`s desperation has been on full display now. And once again he`s airing grievances on his favorite medium, Twitter.
Yesterday, he made the baseless on Twitter that the appointment of a special counsel, the appointment of Robert Mueller itself is -- quote -- "totally unconstitutional," after claiming he had the absolute right to pardon himself for his potential crimes.
So, Mueller`s illegal, he can do anything he wants. That`s the Trump message.
It`s against that backdrop that "The Washington Post" is now reporting that -- quote -- "Private moves by Trump`s attorneys and advisers indicate that, despite the president`s public bravado, they are readying for a fraught legal confrontation. When it comes to preparation for Trump`s possible testimony, one source says the fledgling briefings have not gone very deep because of the president`s anger about the probe."
Meanwhile, we`re learning the president must now give sworn testimony in a separate civil suit. A judge today ruled that the president can be deposed in a connection with the defamation lawsuit filed by former apprentice contestant Summer Zervos.
Zervos alleges that Trump defamed her when he denied her allegations of improper sexual contact, which she says took places in 2007.
I`m joined right now by Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and MSNBC contributor.
Robert and Barbara, these are complicated times, in the sense that so much seems to be coming at Trump. You have got, it looks like, the book being thrown at Paul Manafort, in an attempt to make him a star witness against Trump. That -- the crowning achievement was to hit him for jury tampering today.
And then you have got the fact that Trump is out there sort of, almost like in the wild, saying, I can do anything. These guys are illegal. I can pardon myself.
He`s almost going manic in his claims of all-powerness. And it`s all happening at the same time.
How do you see it, Robert? Is this the reckoning we thought was coming, and it now seems to be coming?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a reckoning.
Based on my reporting, Chris, tonight, there`s an torrent of political and legal challenges that are confronting this president. Just got off the phone with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He said the president is sending a signal to everyone involved in the Mueller probe, tangled up in it, that if he can issue a pardon to somebody this week who is involved with celebrity or athletics or a former governor, he could certainly issue a pardon with regard to the Russia investigation.
They also are mounting this public war against Mueller`s credibility. And that`s the way most people around the president are talking to reporters about this whole experience, a political and legal war.
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, do you sense that the trouble is coming from their perspective? Does Trump go to bed at night thinking more about stuff than the NFL taking a knee? Is he thinking that they`re coming with the evidence?
COSTA: It`s not so much about -- the NFL issue is certainly an issue. But on policy...
MATTHEWS: I meant in the evidence on the probe, on the Russian probe, on obstruction, on his money laundering, all -- the whole mess.
COSTA: That is the central issue, because after the June 12 summit in Singapore, he has to make a choice. Will he sit down with Bob Mueller or not to do an interview?
And if he doesn`t, he faces a possible subpoena battle. And beyond that, he faces a report on his conduct that could be given to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Barbara on the legal question.
The latest one is a judge in Manhattan has just said that he has to sit down for discovery. He has to sit down to answer questions up to seven hours, apparently -- I don`t know where the number came from -- on the Summer Zervos case, which is a defamation suit against him, for saying he didn`t -- that she`s lying about the relationship they had.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, not surprising that that`s the decision in the case. Very consistent with the decision we saw in Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones case.
MATTHEWS: Right. Right. That`s the one that got him in trouble.
MCQUADE: It is.
And a sitting president can be required to sit for a deposition. Under oath, you have got to be very disciplined to answer questions truthfully in that setting.
And, as you said, Chris, that`s where Bill Clinton got into trouble, because you could end up finding yourself in a situation of committing perjury or obstruction of justice. And that could be grounds for impeachment.
So, in some ways, this may be just an as perilous to President Trump as the Mueller investigation.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about that case? Because if the president of the United States can be asked questions in discovery, like, were there any other cases where you paid off a woman you had a relationship with -- Can they ask that?
MCQUADE: Yes, I think so.
I don`t think they could get into things like, did you collude with Russia to throw the election? But I do think they could ask questions like that. There`s a theory in the rules of evidence that allows you to inquire into area of a common scheme or plan.
If you can show this is his M.O., he engages in sexual misconduct with women and then seeks to pay them off, that is ground -- fertile ground for asking questions.
So, I think that question could be asked. And if you were to lie in response to that question, he couldn`t be charged with a crime, because he`s a sitting president, but it could be grounds for impeachment.
MATTHEWS: Well, in a pair of tweets that appeared to come out of the blue on Sunday -- that`s two days ago -- the president commented on his indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Among other things, he said: "Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and with us for a short period of time. But we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him and he wouldn`t have been hired."
Well, now we`re learning that the special counsel in a court filing last night is accusing Manafort of witness tampering and is seeking to revoke his bail agreement.
They allege Manafort contacted two potential witnesses -- quote -- "in an effort to influence their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence."
It`s up now to the judge to decide whether Manafort will have to go to jail pending his trial, which could pressure Manafort to cooperate with investigators against the president.
Every time I look at Paul Manafort, he has this sort of stoic quality. And I do sympathize with the guy. I have met him a few times during the campaign. He walks into those courtrooms, into those courtrooms time after time. It`s got to wear on him.
At some point, he`s going to start showing disappointment, I think, and at some point he`s going to think about throwing the president under the bus.
Robert, how much do they think about that when they watch Manafort in these walks to and from the courtroom?
COSTA: Talking to people familiar with the federal probe, federal prosecutors, federal investigators want to break Manafort. He`s the rare person in this whole investigation who hasn`t pled guilty, if indicted, who has not -- chosen not to cooperate, will go to trial.
So, for the president, the Manafort trial hovers out there in the distance. Even if he`s not directly involved, it`s his former campaign chairman. And the federal investigators, they want people to cooperate. They want a cooperating witness.
MATTHEWS: Well, just common sense. Manafort spent a lifetime, or much of his career working with the East, with Ukraine, with Russia, with Moscow.
And he`s sitting there as the president`s campaign chairman for months.
Barbara, won`t -- it would seem to me that at some point during their months working together talking about how they can win this uphill election against Hillary Clinton and looking for dirt, that he would be one of the people in the conversation. That just seems logical.
MCQUADE: Certainly, he`s in a position to do that. Nobody knows exactly what Paul Manafort knows about whether he has evidence, but he was certainly in a position to have information.
And so if you`re Robert Mueller, you want to talk to him, because you want to find out what he knows.
MCQUADE: So, cooperation would be valuable.
But I think, in light of President Trump`s recent spate of pardons, Paul Manafort finds himself in a different position than most defendants, who always face that Hobson`s choice of, do I take my chances at trial, or should I cooperate with the government in hopes of reducing my potential...
MATTHEWS: If you`re a self-interested Paul Manafort, and you don`t have any conscience about relationship with Trump, what`s your best bet, betting for a pardon which releases you from any federal exposure, or hoping that the federal prosecutor in this case, Robert Mueller, will give you a break of a lifetime and excuse everything he`s piled up against you right now?
What`s a better bet?
MCQUADE: I don`t know if he will excuse everything, but certainly he could reduce his potential exposure by cooperating.
But I don`t know. In light of the recent spate of pardons, maybe if you`re Manafort you just take your chances that President Trump will have your back.
MATTHEWS: Go for the long ball.
Thank you Robert Costa. And thank you, Barbara McQuade.
Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable takes on Trump`s latest stunt involving the NFL, the controversy of what is happening at the border now with the kids being separated, and this latest grip about Eric Trump that he says his father`s life has been so exponentially worse since he has ran for president. Isn`t that a boo-hoo?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But if the White House supports the baker`s right of free speech, why doesn`t the White House support the players` right to free speech?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president doesn`t think that this is an issue simply of free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, NBC`s Peter Alexander with a great -- an apt question asking White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders why the president and the White House supported a baker`s First Amendment right in that case the other day to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple, while attacking athletes, NFL players, for exercising their First Amendment right to express themselves.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable, Heather McGhee, president of Demos Action and an MSNBC News contributor, Susan Del Percio, Republican strategist and an MSNBC political analyst. I never know the difference between analyst and contributor. And Phil Bump, political reporter for "The Washington Post."
Just "The Washington Post," that`s all you got to show.
Let`s talk about that interesting fight.
This 7-2 decision is an impressive decision. I`m not on the court. I just want to say, these are tough decisions. You made an interesting one, will make more down the road.
But it is about free expression. Everybody bakes a cake of a certain kind, puts things on top, considers it a bit of art, therefore creativity, therefore personal expression. But clearly the players taking a knee are expressing their First Amendment rights.
Why can`t the White House be consistent, according to Peter Alexander`s question? It was a great question.
It`s absolutely the right question.
HEATHER MCGHEE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s absolutely the right question.
Putting aside the details of the cake shop decision, which were really quite complex and actually much narrower than the question of free expression...
MATTHEWS: When you get Stephen Breyer on the conservative side, think a little.
MCGHEE: But this is Trump`s ideology. And it`s his political strategy. Right?
He was having a lot of bad news and he knows that to pick on wealthy black men and say that they`re the ones who don`t like the flag, that they don`t love this country just because they...
MATTHEWS: Well, they don`t like the guys who fight for the country. And I think, if you go back to the latest statistics, as many minorities fight for the country as white people do.
And it`s an absurdity...
MCGHEE: And certainly, as Donald Trump, Mr. Bone Spurs, who avoided the draft in every single way that he possibly could.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t even think that -- I don`t even -- Susan, I don`t really think -- look, we have -- most countries do this.
You play the national anthem for big social occasions whenever you get together. I never thought it was particularly directed at the people that were killed in battle or people who served in battle. It`s about love of country.
But Trump has now grabbed it into a social issue where you can get the black players against the dies who died for the country. He`s creating this mano a mano drama that isn`t implicit at all in what those players were doing.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And it`s fundamentally wrong to happen in the United States of America.
And here`s the bigger thing is, he created -- Heather was right. He created this because he did not like the turnout. This all comes down to crowd size. I think that`s what this president is about. It`s about the size of the crowd.
MATTHEWS: OK, speak to me, Republican. I like people to identify who they are politically.
I generally vote Democrat, I have made it clear, with some wild exceptions.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this.
DEL PERCIO: I`m a proud Republican. I don`t consider the president part of my party.
MATTHEWS: How about those guys -- we see them at football games. I always figure they`re Trump people. They got jobbers on. It`s freezing out. It`s up at a Vikings game or a Green Bay game.
They have got that attitude. They are tough. He thinks they`re his people. So, how do they think split on this issue, do you think? Trump thinks they`re his people. And I think he has a point.
DEL PERCIO: I think -- well, he may have a point, but where he`s making a fundamental mistake is, he`s doing this in light of the 2018 midterm elections.
Donald Trump, maybe his policies and his Twitter is on the ballot in some regard, but his name is not. This does not transfer. The people...
MATTHEWS: Look what he`s doing right now. He`s showing off like a pharisee in the temple his patriotism.
DEL PERCIO: Yes. I just wonder how many sports games that he`s attended, if we go back and find the footage, of how many times he didn`t stand up.
MATTHEWS: You mean think about somebody else?
Well, President Trump today blamed Democrats for an immigration policy his administration actually put in place. He tweeted: "Separating families at the border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats. Border security laws should be changed, but the Dems can`t get their act together. Start at the wall."
Anyway, according to FactCheck.com, the new separation policy is not a Democratic law, but rather a new zero tolerance policy put in place by the Trump administration. Prior to Trump, the policy was to hold families together until they could appear before a judge. That`s a different policy, isn`t it?
NBC News is reporting that the new policy has left border agents and child welfare workers struggling to find a place to house hundreds of those migrant kids who have been separated from their -- there`s an element here of "Sophie`s Choice."
There`s something about taking kids away. I was just watching the (INAUDIBLE) film, the Israeli film. And I was thinking separating kids from their parents, that`s what terrorists do.
PHILIP BUMP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right.
Well, I mean, this is an explicit decision that has been made by the administration for the purposes of deterrence. And this is something that has been said. It was said today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an interview. It was said in an interview with NPR by Chief of Staff John Kelly last month.
They are doing this because they want people to be afraid to come to the border with their children. That`s why it`s being done. That`s why they`re separating kids as young as 18 months from their families, which is -- I have a son who is 17 months old.
And the idea of having him taken away from me is jarring. And that`s the intent. What is being forgotten though is that people are not coming to the border simply because they want to visit San Antonio and see the river walks.
They`re coming to the border because they`re fleeing violence in Central America. They`re coming here because they`re seeking refuge. They`re refugees in many cases. And when they get to the border, they`re having their children taken away because Donald Trump is worried about a number of families coming to the border that has been increasing.
MATTHEWS: But he still believes this is a winner. Trump is on this basis deliberative and rational. He believes he wins on the anti-immigration issue. And he definitely believes it or he wouldn`t keep doing it in this awful way.
DEL PERCIO: Except in this particular case, you notice he doesn`t say he`s supporting the policy. He blames the Democrats for it.
He doesn`t actually come out and say that he`s really for this because let`s face it, Chris, with these children, some of them 5 years old sleeping next to grown men in shelters and stuff, there is going to be a horrific incident, and he will back away from it.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you. He sort of does the thing with DACA. Remember, he blamed the whole DACA situation on Democrats.
But he still fights the anti-immigrant fight and he claims the Democrats are for open borders, they have no sense of responsibility. He still thinks like the white guy he thinks is going to hate the black player. He still plays the racial divide.
MCGHEE: That`s right. That`s right.
MATTHEWS: Or ethnic divide.
MATTHEWS: I like the word ethnic better, because we`re all the same race. It sounds a little Pollyannish, but it actually is true.
MCGHEE: It`s actually, the human race, sure.
MATTHEWS: We`re ethnically different. We`re ethnically different.
MCGHEE: No, this is his core strategy. it`s divide and conquer.
And what we have found, we actually recently did research on this at Demos. We said, OK, we know what their playbook is. They are running -- Republicans are running hundreds of anti-immigrant ads across the country.
Is there some sort of populism that actually calls out that kind of race- baiting and can win? And what we found, that it does, because people understand that he`s trying to pit struggling families against each other and he`s picking their pockets. And that`s what is happening.
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, that`s why I love Bobby Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Eric Trump -- that`s one of the sons -- complained to "Westchester" magazine -- why he did this interview is beyond me -- that his father`s lifestyle has become -- quote -- "exponentially worse the minute he decided to run for president."
He also griped that his dad -- quote -- "didn`t need to do this, but he was immensely frustrated where the country was going."
A lot of people are frustrated today.
Anyway, the comments prompted a swift response on Twitter. Former Michigan Congressman, the craggy John Dingell, a great man, who in retirement has developed an acerbic Twitter presence, tweeted, "Buddy, imagine how the rest of us feel."
MATTHEWS: That is -- that is so John Dingell.
BUMP: It`s very John Dingell. Yes, I mean, it`s -- you know, I mean, I think the thing to remember is the audience to whom Eric Trump was speaking is "Westchester" magazine, right? This is tony suburban New Yorkers, right?
BUMP: So, the idea of public service to people of that sort of resources probably like oh, I would hate to have to do that, as well. He was sort of making the case imagine how difficult it must be that he has to step down from Trump Tower and do this sort of thing.
MATTHEWS: He flies back and forth to Mar-a-Lago on government planes.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Internet exists that everyone was going to see this photo op. There`s mo mention of house wonderful it is to serve our country. And that is deplorable.
MATTHEWS: None about public service in there, is there?
DEL PERCIO: None.
MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us.
Up next, these there will tell me something I don`t know. That`s the best part of the show sometimes when these people -- do you like that? You got to it now.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Heather, tell me something I don`t know.
HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT, DEMOS ACTION: There`s a recent report released by Matthew Desmond that in 2016, there were four evictions in America every single minute. This is an affordable housing crisis. This I think is the big sleeper issue that no politicians are talking about the way they should be.
DEL PERCIO: Well, in New York, there`s a congressional primary where the lead just came out in a poll that the leader Michael Grimm former congressman, former convicted felon and now has a ten-point lead.
MATTHEWS: I saw it. He`s the one that says, I`m going to break you like a boy, one of the strangest lines he ever to that reporter. Anyway, he`s leading. Says a lot about Staten Island.
DEL PERCIO: And Dan Donovan got the president`s endorsement.
MATTHEWS: But it tells you about attitude in Staten Island.
BUMP: President Trump has been reeling at the Mueller investigation for months. He`s recently seized upon this number, $16.7 million. That`s the cost of the investigation itself.
The interesting thing about that number is, however, each trip to Mar-a- Lago that he takes, Judicial Watch says costs $1 million. He`s been down there 17 times.
So, he`s spent more money traveling to Mar-a-Lago than the Mueller investigation cost.
MATTHEWS: That is a number we got to keep in mind. Yes, keep the investigation going, keep him in D.C.
Anyway, Heather McGhee, thank you, Susan Del Percio, and Philip Bump.
Up next, the legacy of Robert Kennedy 50 years later. Fifty years ago, he was dying. We`re going to be joined by the late senator`s daughter, Kerry Kennedy. She`s great.
Stick around for Kerry Kennedy. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is one of the most important primary nights of 2018. Polls close at the top of the hour in New Jersey, look at it there on the map. It`s just one of eight states there where voters are casting ballots today.
All eyes, of course, however on California. That state`s jungle primary where the top two candidates regardless of their party advance to the general election. You could have two Democrats, a Democrat and Republican. Democrats are hoping to make the bout in three Republican held districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. These would be key pickup opportunities in the Democrats` effort to take the House this November.
California voters are also holding a primary to see who will be about to replace Governor Jerry Brown. He`s now served four terms. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor, is well-positioned to in one of those slots. Republican businessman John Cox, and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of L.A., are battling for that second spot.
And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The fact is that all of us are involved in this great effort. And it`s a great effort not on behalf of the Democratic Party. It`s a great effort on behalf of the United States, on behalf of our own people, on behalf of mankind all around the globe and the next generation.
I would hope now that the California primary is finished, now that these primaries are over, that we could now concentrate on having a dialogue or a debate I hope between the vice president and perhaps myself on what direction we want to go in the United States.
So, my thanks to all of you and now it`s on to Chicago and let`s win there. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Bobby Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic presidential primary 50 years ago. Moments later, he was assassinated.
I`m joined right now by Kerry Kennedy, Bobby`s daughter and author of "Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope."
Kerry, thanks for coming on tonight. I just -- I don`t have any general -- I have a very general question. What do you feel right now? What do you think the country ought to hear from you about your dad?
KERRY KENNEDY, AUTHOR, "ROBERT F. KENNEDY: RIPPLES OF HOPE": Well, you know, when daddy ran for president, he said peace and justice and compassion towards those who is suffer. That`s what the United States should stand for and that`s what I do if I`m elected president of the United States.
Try and imagine a presidential candidate saying peace and justice and compassion towards those who suffer. But that`s what we need in our country today.
We need to heal the divisions and come together. We need to address the mass incarceration. We have to show compassion for those DACA students.
We have to, you know, work on indigenous rights and address the issues on Standing Rock, et cetera. All of these issues that he spoke about 50 years ago are still plaguing our country today. And we`ve got stop the gun violence.
MATTHEWS: You once talked to me, we were talking about your dad`s legacy and you said it was take the foot off the guy`s neck. It`s about the way there are people just being exploited. Talk about that image that you gave to me then.
KENNEDY: Well, you know, I mean, throughout his life, my father was really about stopping the bullies and he did that. But I think what`s really important about him, Chris, is his moral imagination, his ability to put himself into the shoes of the opposite person, also especially whether he saw that person as his enemy. That`s what saved us from nuclear annihilation during the Cuban missile crisis, his ability to see through Khrushchev`s war-like palaver and know that Khrushchev was facing his own industrial military complex that was pushing him to war.
And that`s also what allowed my father to talk to a crowd after Martin Luther king died, some of whom came with bicycle chains and Molotov cocktails ready to riot and to say to that crowd for those of you who are angry, I can say I know that feeling.
Imagine a politician standing before a group of people ready to riot and saying I understand your feelings. Incredible. But he got -- because of his ability to share his compassion and to -- and to say we need to come together as a country, that`s why Indianapolis didn`t burn that night when 125 other cities it across our country did.
MATTHEWS: You call him daddy. He`s your daddy. Everybody else thinks of him as Bobby or Robert Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, daddy.
Do you have a memory of him as your daddy? You were so young.
KENNEDY: Yes. Well, you know, I have a lot of the memories of him but my favorite memory is when we used to have battles. You know, I have seven brothers and three sisters. So, we had lots of battles as children.
And one time I was in a battle with my brother Michael. He was playing the Americans and I was the doomed Germans playing World War II.
KENNEDY: And he threw a magnolia pod at me and it hit me in the head and I went running up to my father`s office and he said, well, you go get Michael. I thought justice will be done. And in came Michael and daddy said, Michael, now you be quiet and Kerry, you tell what happened. I told the whole saga.
And then he said, now, Kerry, you be quiet and Michael tells what happened. And that was hard and irritating. But, you know, the truth came out.
And I think he -- you know, he believed that we have to have a system of justice in our country that everybody believes in. He believed that we all have to work on peace, not just something to pray for.
MATTHEWS: And I remember digging up when I was researching your dad, and when he was a kid, a real kid, he used to always says, that`s not fair, dad. That`s not fair.
He was always fighting for fairness when he was a kid. Then he was at your daddy.
Thank you, Kerry Kennedy, for that personal memory.
Anyway, we`ll be joined tomorrow night by singer and civil rights advocate Harry Bellefonte.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, June 5th, 2018.
Great leaders unite their people. Bad leaders divide them. The American people have faced a historic divide, we know it, we`ve lived it and no one denies it.
And while we are divided on Sunday mornings racially, attending different churches we are united on Sunday afternoons. We cheer at the same stadiums. We cheer the same players. We know real joy when they perform.
Victory as Jack Kennedy once said has 100 fathers. So, why we have to ask ourselves, is Donald Trump trying to tear this country apart on a day when we cheer together? When we root for the home team and all its players, when we truly become a chorus of hope, a unified crowd basking in athletic excitement.
We`ve heard the term political football. It`s on when you take a matter and try to exploit it politically. Donald Trump has now taken football itself and made it into a political football.
Nice work, Mr. President. Couldn`t have done it without you.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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