Show: HARDBALL Date: June 6, 2018 Guest: Cynthia Alksne, Danny Cevallos, Rick Allen, Shermichael Singleton, Harry Belafonte
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Rudy calls it a frame-up. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
President Trump is being framed. That`s what his lawyer Rudy Giuliani says. The special counsel Bob Mueller and the U.S. justice department is building a dishonest case against the President.
Also today, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels is accusing Trump`s fixer Michael Cohen of corruptly getting Daniels to deny her sexual entanglement with Trump all together.
But we begin tonight with this continued Trump offensive against special counsel Robert Mueller. First, Trump made the baseless claim that the appointment of a special counsel itself is totally unconstitutional. And now Giuliani is making an equally outrageous claim saying that Mueller and his prosecutors are trying to frame the President.
Here`s Giuliani speaking in Israel today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: They are a group of 13 highly partisan Democrats that make up the Mueller team, excluding him. Are trying very, very hard to frame him. To get him in trouble when he hasn`t done anything wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, there`s no evidence to back up Giuliani`s claim.
Meanwhile, as Trump argues that he is above the law, he is showcasing the power of Presidential pardons. As "the Washington Post" reports, a White House official this week said Trump is obsessed with pardons, describing them as the President`s new favorite thing to talk about. And today Trump used that power to commute the life sentence of Alice Johnson doing so at the behest of celebrity socialite Kim Kardashian who he met just last week. Johnson was released from prison late today.
However. The grant of clemency to Johnson who had already served almost 22 years for a nonviolent drug offense could be a sign of things to come. And now a White House official tells NBC News dozens of pardons have been prepared for the President and he`s considering them, all apparently.
As "the Washington Post" notes to some outside advisers and critics, the pardons hold a broader symbolism of some of Trump`s former allies and aides face criminal charges or have already pleaded guilty to part of Mueller`s investigation.
Well, according to the reporting from (INAUDIBLE) and Trump`s attorneys discussed the prospect of a pardon last month or last summer rather with lawyers representing Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Something Trump`s lawyers have denied.
Joining me right now is Jonathan Lemire from, White House reporter for the "Associated Press" and an MSNBC political analyst, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer with "the Atlantic" and an MSNBC contributor and Cynthia Alksne is a former federal prosecutor.
I want to go down did the line there. Jonathan, it seems to me that the whole strategy on Trump`s part is to create a situation where nobody trusts the prosecution. There is no such thing as objective law or objective crime or any objective fact. And therefore, everybody should decide on everything by party line instinct. And now that means no one will ever get impeached let alone convicted. Because if everything is party line in this country, everybody just goes to their usual tribal connections, nothing is going to get done. That`s the Giuliani strategy. What do you make of that?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think that`s right. I think that Trump-Giuliani playbook is exactly as you said to turn Mueller and his investigators into political figures, not sort of nonpartisan above the fray lawmen. We are seeing a consistent effort on their part to undermine their credibility to sow doubt and to get out there ahead of whatever the special counsel will find.
If you paint it on partisan terms, you can suggest that Mueller`s findings are politically motivated and therefore, not credible. On that same note, we are expecting in a matter of days, perhaps as soon as tomorrow the department of justice`s inspector general report on James Comey, the former FBI director and his handling of the Hillary Clinton probe. Trump`s White House, his team and Giuliani, Giuliani told me just in the last couple days he fully expects that report to be very critical of Comey. Comey to which they will point to and say look, this is someone who the President was, a, right to fire and, b, isn`t trustworthy. Further undermining whatever testimony he is delivering against the President in Mueller`s case.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Natasha, framing. It`s all a frame-up. This seems like a crook in a 1930s gangster movie. It is all a frame-up.
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, this is a theory, a conspiracy theory that has been making its way around FOX News.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean conspiracy, theory? Like people believe it or they are selling something?
BERTRAND: I think people genuinely believe a lot of Trump supporters believe that because --.
MATTHEWS: No. The ones who are sowing it, do they believe it?
BERTRAND: Not necessarily. But it is a good talking point. And it is something that is helping to erode the credibility of the investigation among a certain segment of the population, among Trump supporters. But this is not a new strategy. This is just a strategy that the President has managed to -- he managed to find someone who is willing to help him along with it.
MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani will do anything for him, right?
BERTRAND: Rudy Giuliani has been an ally for a long time for the President, especially during the campaign. (INAUDIBLE) the campaign. He was a top surrogate. And these are two people the when put together, they are a very, very powerful force in trying to undermine this investigation, but of course, Trump has been going at this alone for better of part of years.
MATTHEWS: Let`s cut through it. You are being very objective here but you are being limiting I think in this argument. I will stay with you on this. It seems to me that there`s a whole troupe of reasonable Republicans whether it`s Ryan or it is Gowdy or any of these guys who are basic people who basically said they respect Robert Mueller. He is above the fray. They don`t treat him as some hack. And now Rudy is trying to bring him down to hack level over in Israel talking about this stuff. Anywhere he can get a clear shot at the guy. But the fact is this is not normal.
BERTRAND: No, it`s not.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Nixon went down because after Archibald Cox who was a known Kennedy ally. But Nixon didn`t run around saying this whole thing is a crime in itself. He never said the whole government is corrupt because he was in trouble.
BERTRAND: He didn`t have twitter either.
MATTHEWS: No, go ahead. I don`t want to lighten the burden of the immorality of this whole operation. These people are burning the credibility of the U.S. government to save their skins and it is not a light-hearted matter.
BERTRAND: And the only two people that have spoken out against it really in kind of deterring the conspiracy theories are Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy, both of whom, of course, are leaving Congress at the end of this year. So what we don`t see is enough Republicans and standing up and say no, Mueller is actually a very, very credible former FBI director.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it`s a new level of skunk behavior. Anyway, all of this comes after the President claimed near unlimited power effectively saying the law doesn`t apply to him because as he put it delightfully, I have the absolute right to pardon myself or Republicans have been the President`s claim. And many sent a clear signal this week that they would not support any attempt by the President to hold himself above the law by saying I can pardon myself no matter what I do. Let`s watch some of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, do you believe that the President has the power to pardon himself?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don`t know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn`t. And no one is above the law.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I don`t think the President needs any advice on pardoning himself. He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were President of the United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I`d hire a new lawyer.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I agree with those who say he needs new lawyers if that`s what they are telling him. That`s absurd. You can`t pardon yourself on this kind of thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So it`s nice to know at least there`s a residue of Republican lawmakers who have some respect whether it`s the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, the majority leader or the speaker of the House, a constitutional officer, third in line to the presidency or Gowdy or the rest of them. There are a number of them who would seem to take this seriously that this President is being judged fairly and any notion he can simply pop out in trial and say I`m free because I said so is an absurdity.
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don`t agree with that. I don`t think that Ryan was that clear.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s open to the idea of self-pardon?
ALKSNE: I don`t think he`s open to self-pardon but not he is also strong at all on all the other terrible things that Trump is doing to degrade and dehumanize our justice system. Sometimes he does a few words about it, but he is not strong at all. McCarthy about to take over is not strong at all. McConnell does almost nothing except periodically say a couple of comments.
They are not strong at all. I completely disagree with that. I think they are weak. It injures the system. And it`s going to continue to injure the system when he is gone.
MATTHEWS: Right. But can we stick to the (INAUDIBLE) where they might be willing to show some guts which is the part to self-pardoning question.
ALKSNE: Here is what I think. I think because they are weak on every other little thing, the day is going to come when we are going to have a constitutional crisis. And that may be the day that he fires Mueller and Sessions and Rosenstein. It may be the day he tries to pardon himself. But because they are so weak all along the road, he is -- they are forcing a constitutional crisis because they are not doing their job. And it`s inescapable. It`s offensive. And history will not treat them well.
MATTHEWS: Natasha, you are reporting on that. Do you think they are showing that kind of weakness?
BERTRAND: They have. I mean, like I said, the only people that have really shown a spine in all this are people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and now you see Paul Ryan making a slight comment about the President not being able to pardon himself, that it might be unconstitutional, that it might be worthy of impeachment. But that, of course, he is not running for reelection. So that does have a lot --.
MATTHEWS: He has joined the group of people that don`t have to face voters anymore.
MATTHEWS: Anyway. Jonathan, you`re reporting for the "Associated Press," the President is still angry with attorney general Jeff Sessions for recusing himself a year ago."
Quote "Trump has taken it to not even saying Sessions` name out loud while in the White House. According to the two officials, a practice several of his senior aides have adopted.
Apparently, they don`t speck the guy`s name. This comes after Trump publicly criticized Sessions on twitter yesterday saying the Russian witch- hunt hoax continues all because Jeff Sessions didn`t tell me he was going to recuse himself. I would have quickly picked someone else.
This is so old, Mr. President. So much time and money wasted. So many lives ruined. And Sessions knew better than most that there was no collusion. We already know based on the reported questions, the prosecutors want to ask the President, the Trump-Mueller is interested in Trump`s public criticism of Sessions as well as the pressured Trump put on Sessions to reverse his decision of recusal.
Jonathan, how do you explain the fact that the President keeps going over this old scab, ripping it off again and again? He let -- he named Sessions. Sessions recused himself. Those are facts. Why does he keep going over it and over it again? To what effect? Is it to get the guy to quit? That`s the only thing I can figure. What is it?
LEMIRE: It is -- in the President`s mind, Jeff Sessions committed the original sin, that he recused himself.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But why talk about over and over again?
LEMIRE: I think it is two-fold. I think one is simply the President can`t help himself. It is a fury. Yes, he rarely speak Sessions` name in the White House (INAUDIBLE). He was on air force one last week and got great news about the jobs report. And yet, in our reporting when an aide tried to mention the attorney general to him, he sent him out of the room and turned up the volume on his FOX TV set where he was watching FOX News.
MATTHEWS: His FOX TV set. I love it. His FOX TV set. Do they make their own brand now? Only one channel on it.
LEMIRE: In the President`s office it, might as well just have the one channel. But more than that, I think the he knows he really can`t fire Sessions for three reasons. One, that is a moment where some Republican senators have stuck up for their former colleague (INAUDIBLE). Mitch McConnell said, look, we won`t hold hearings for a replacement if you fire him.
Two, Sessions is still popular among Trump`s conservative base and the President is always leery about alienating them. And three, most importantly, it would attract a lot of attention from Robert Mueller and feed into the idea of obstruction. I do think people around the President believe he can`t fire him. But if Trump makes his life miserable, maybe he`ll quit.
I might mention the meeting today at FEMA, the President was there before the hurricane preparations. He went around the room and thanked all of his cabinet members and praised them except for Jeff Sessions he said hey, nice to see you.
MATTHEWS: Yes. This is like the old days with the Chinese, the PRC would doing out some old leader who is barely alive and haul around it. This is what we held the revolution against.
Anyway. Thank you, Jonathan Lemire. Thank you, Natasha Bertrand. And Cynthia, I was trying to give the people in the Republican side a little slack and you just cut if off.
ALKSNE: When they deserve praise, we will give it to them. Tell them buck up.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Coming up, Stormy Daniels says in a new lawsuit her old lawyer was a puppet for President Trump and his fixer Michael Cohen. This is a great story. The suit alleges that the twos attorneys were in cahoots. In other words, she never had a real lawyer, hatching a plan to have Daniels deny an affair with Trump on Sean Hannity`s show. And perhaps most damaging of all, Trump was in on it. This is good stuff, if you like mystery stories. That`s ahead.
Plus, Bill Clinton says his defensive interview about Monica Lewinsky wasn`t his finest hour. Good for him. The HARDBALL roundtable will tackle that along with Paul Ryan who is finally showing some backbone. I think. I dare say with Cynthia Alksne still here.
And Scott Pruitt who looks to be and yet more ethical trouble. Something to doing with chicken filet. It is a nice tangle going on. Tea and chicken for life.
And singer and civil rights activist Harry Bellefonte joins us tonight as we remember legacy of Robert F. Kennedy. Bobby died 50 years ago today, June 6th, 1968.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. It`s short and it is not sweet.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani also commented today on the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Giuliani said that Kim quote "got on his hands and knees and begged President Trump to move forward with the meeting after Trump abruptly cancelled in late May." Here`s Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Well, somehow North Korea after he canceled the summit because they insulted the vice President, they insulted his national security adviser, and they also said they were going to go to nuclear clear war against us. They were going to defeat us in a nuclear war. We said we are not going to have a summit under those circumstances. Well, Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani later suggested that a similar approach should be taken in negotiating a Mideast peace deal with the Palestinians. This is really great diplomacy, isn`t it? Make sure the other side is completely humiliated.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Adult film actor Stormy Daniels has filed an explosive new lawsuit. Daniels alleges her former attorney Keith Davidson who negotiated that $130,000 hush money payment, was acting as a quote "puppet for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen." The court filing includes alleged text messages between those two attorneys. The lawsuit claims the two men, those you just mentioned, hatched a plan for Daniels to go on FOX News, Sean Hannity`s show and deny she had a prior relationship with President Trump. In other words, deny the whole thing.
In one text Cohen wrote to Davidson I have her tentatively scheduled for Hannity tonight. Call me after your trial. Well, Cohen later wrote to Davidson the wise men all believe this story is dying and don`t think it`s smart for her to do any interviews. Let her do her thing but no interviews at all with anyone. Well, Davidson replayed 100 percent, to which Cohen responded thanks, pal. The complaint alleges that the wise man was a reference that included Trump. It also alleged that Trump knew of the plan to get her to appear on Hannity`s show.
NBC News has not independently verified the text. Stormy Daniel`s current attorney Michael Avenatti spoke with my colleague, however, Nicolle Wallace this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: If you look at these text messages, especially the exchange relating to Sean Hannity`s show, you see an absolute desperation on Michael Cohen`s part to try to get my client to go on Sean Hannity on the 17th of January. And if anybody believes that Michael Cohen is putting or attempting to put my client on Sean Hannity without the President`s knowledge, I have a bridge or perhaps other things to sell them because that just didn`t happen. It is clear from the text messages that the prior denials by Michael Cohen and the President and what the American people have been told is a bunch of nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, lawyers Michael Cohen and an attorney for the President did not respond with an immediate comment. Keith Davidson has previously told NBC News that he is cooperating with a federal investigation of Cohen.
In a statement his spokesman said this outrageously frivolous lawsuit is yet another desperate attempt by Michael Avenatti to continue his publicity tour.
I`m joined right now Danny Cevallos, MSNBC legal analyst, and Julia Ainsley, NBC`s national security and justice reporter.
This -- I don`t know. I think this is getting really something. To a person following this as a mystery story, it`s fascinating, because it says basically Michael Cohen, the renowned fixer of the president, is so good that he had this woman who had the affair apparently with or night -- one night, whatever, with the president, was willing to deny the whole thing as part of a deal.
And she was going to do a show, a prime-time show on FOX, on Hannity`s show, and the whole thing was really going to be rigged beautifully to get her paid off, the president left alone, everybody happy to an extent, but basically Trump being the winner.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s right.
And if you look at these texts, the ones that are included in the lawsuit, it doesn`t look like Cohen had to any work at all to get to Davidson to agree.
So, it looks like this is a relationship these two have had for a while.
MATTHEWS: Is that that lawyer`s M.O., to basically not go to court, to basically push a little bit, get some money up front and take the short money and walk?
AINSLEY: We have seen in other cases that women in Hollywood, particularly people who are Playboy Playmates, have gone to Keith Davidson when they have had an affair.
The same thing happened with Elliott Broidy. It happened with Karen McDougal, who also, as alleged, had an affair with Trump. He is someone who can kind of -- who can get money for these women. That`s why they go to them.
But then he also on the other hand has this very cozy relationship with Michael Cohen, where he`s really working against them to keep their stories quiet.
And as we see from this, he was taking all of his orders from Cohen here, saying, no worries, 100 percent she won`t go out and tell her story on "Hannity." And he was actually working to help a news cycle.
MATTHEWS: This is exactly -- I don`t know.
Danny, did you see "Spotlight" about the Catholic Church up in Boston and how they covered up? There was a lawyer up there whose job it was. He would fix these cases just like that to keep the priests out of the bad publicity, pay something to the kid and parents or whatever who were harmed by the priest, and everybody in the short-term is miserably happy with nothing.
But it was the political -- it was the legal game. This sounds like this guy Davidson did this for a living.
DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You could look at that way.
But, on the other hand, if you look at the allegations in the complaint, you have to realize that sometimes in settling cases, lawyers communicate with each other. And you have to allege facts that cross that line, that Davidson specifically crossed the line from going back and forth -- and maybe he was the demure one in the relationship -- but going back and forth with Cohen.
Or did he cross the line and breach his fiduciary duty, his duty of confidentiality, and his duty to maintain the secrets of his client? And then a second question beyond that is, what are the specific foreseeable damages that Stormy Daniels suffered as a result of these texts and this communication?
MATTHEWS: Well, in March of this year, Davidson, the previous lawyer for her, allegedly told Cohen, the new lawyer, that Daniels planned to file a lawsuit against him and Trump both to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement.
The lawsuit references text messages between Davidson and Cohen on march 2 to arrange a phone call. Davidson writes: "You calling? Cohen responded: "With FLOTUS. Give me a minute."
Anyway, let me get to the bigger political question. And, Danny, I want you to here, too.
Is this all to get Trump into a situation, if you`re Avenatti, to get Trump into a situation, like Bill Clinton and his lawyer Robert Bennett at that time was in with regard to Paula Jones, and all of a sudden the whole thing ends up being disastrous for the president, which he`s still talking out this week?
MATTHEWS: He had to pay off, what, $900 million -- $900,000 in that case and basically admitted.
AINSLEY: Yes, I think that these relationships can hurt people on both sides. They can hurt the person, the accuser who wants to come forward and have their story told, perhaps if it`s actually something that they feel wronged, more than just they want a payment, but they actually feel like they have been wronged, they have been somehow accosted, abused and they want to tell that story.
But then it can also hurt the person on the other side, the accused, where all of a sudden that person can be hit up for a large amount of money. And if the two lawyers are talking together, they can actually kind of work that person over for a very large sum, so that the lawyer you think you`re going to, someone you`re paying, someone you think you can trust, is actually talking to the defense and coming up with this very large number.
MATTHEWS: Well, Danny, I think if you`re watching the MeToo movement and you`re sensitive to these women who have been abused by people in stronger positions than them, maybe positions of authority, here`s the president looking like he was getting off scot-free after a relationship, at really no cost to him in terms of billions he has.
And yet she`s being short -- basically short-circuit by her attorney. It makes it look like she didn`t get a fair shake.
CEVALLOS: The optics are bad. And this may be a case where Davidson breached the rules of professional responsibility that bind us.
And that could give rise to a civil claim, just like the one in this complaint. But if you read the four corners of this complaint, one of the things you will notice is the absence of any specific damages suffered by Stormy Daniels, monetary, measurable damages.
Now, that may not matter if Avenatti`s ultimate goal is to set the administration on fire, get these people into deposition, under oath and see what happens.
By the way, last question. You`re the expert, Danny.
Would Robert Mueller and his troops be watching a case like this for an opportunity to get in some questions of their own, if it goes to deposition, if it goes to discovery?
CEVALLOS: They would not be permitted to attend the deposition and ask their own questions, but they would absolutely be interested in what is contained in a transcript.
Every answer to every question in a deposition is under oath and, therefore, a potential perjury trap. The DOJ uses lots of creative ways to discover information about defendants. And an existing civil case is one of those means of finding out information.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Cohen, have you ever negotiated a payoff of other women? Have you ever paid for an abortion? Have you ever paid for this or that?
Those questions are all relevant and acceptable in that kind of a process?
As a general rule, the scope of discovery in a deposition is anything reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. A lawyer who instructs his client to not answer a question at a deposition runs the risk of being hauled before a judge and explaining why he halted the questioning if no privilege was implicated.
MATTHEWS: OK. Bet on Avenatti.
Thank you so much, Danny Cevallos. And thank you, Julia Ainsley, as always. Great reporting.
Up next: Bill Clinton says his testy interview about Monica Lewinsky -- I said it`s still going on -- was not his finest hour, which I think was a great line by him, by the way, politically. The HARDBALL Roundtable is coming here to weigh in on that and other topics.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think Chairman Gowdy`s initial assessment is accurate. I think -- but we have some more digging to do.
I have seen no evidence to the contrary of -- of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made. But I want to make sure that we run every lead down and make sure that we get final answers to these questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Speaker Paul Ryan, of course, agreeing with Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who last week said there was no evidence backing Trump`s conspiracy theory that the FBI had planted a spy in his campaign.
Another Republican also rebuked Trump`s wild claim today. Congressman Tom Rooney, a top member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Politico: "What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none? You know what I`m saying? It`s like let`s create there thing to tweet about knowing it`s not true. Maybe it`s just to create more chaos, but it doesn`t really help the case."
I like this guy.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable, Yamiche Alcindor and an MSNBC political contributor. Shermichael Singleton is a Republican political consultant -- and they need them -- and Rick Allen is the author of "RFK: His Words For Our Time."
What do you make, down the line here, Paul Ryan starting to show some spine here?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: What it tells me...
MATTHEWS: Although Cynthia Alksne in the first segment says no. I think he`s showing something.
ALCINDOR: I think that it shows that retiring Republicans still feel free to criticize the president, but that everybody who wants to be around after 2018 still just can`t get at all close to being really critical of the president.
MATTHEWS: So that`s it.
MATTHEWS: You have to face the 86 percent Republican vote that supports Trump. You don`t mess with Trump.
ALCINDOR: I think they`re all terrified of Trump`s voters.
MATTHEWS: Shermichael, is that your surmise?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Especially not if you`re running for reelection. I would not advise any member of Congress...
MATTHEWS: To say the truth?
MATTHEWS: Never speak the truth?
SINGLETON: Chris, as a matter of politics, if you want to win an election right now, in the age of Donald Trump, you should probably keep your mouth silent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me push on this.
Suppose Trump says, as he has, I can pardon myself. What would you say?
SINGLETON: That`s an absurdity. I believe it was James Madison that argued...
MATTHEWS: Can a Republican running for reelection say, that`s an absurdity, I`m sorry, quoting Madison?
SINGLETON: Probably not, because they probably wouldn`t win. But I`m not running for office. So, I can say that.
MATTHEWS: Hey, Rick?
RICK ALLEN, AUTHOR, "RFK: HIS WORDS FOR OUR TIME": Robert Kennedy said there can be no meaningful politics which is ignorant of the facts.
And he also said moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Right now, moral courage across the street up on the Hill among Republicans is nonexistent.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seems you`re right.
ALLEN: It`s extraordinary.
We are calling as meaningful news that someone noticed that the emperor has no clothes.
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, former President Bill Clinton was given an opportunity to clarify comments he had made on NBC`s Craig Melvin -- with Craig about how he handled the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Well, on "The Late Show," Stephen Colbert asked the president, President Clinton, if he wanted a do-over. Here`s what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn`t my finest hour, but the important thing is, that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago.
And I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people. I meant it then. I meant it now. I have had to live with the consequences every day since.
And I still believe this MeToo movement is long overdue, necessary and should be supported.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
ALCINDOR: I think President Clinton is doing what President Trump doesn`t really do, which is that he`s admitting that he was wrong and that he probably could have worded that better.
MATTHEWS: You mean dropping the fact that he lost 16 million bucks on the deal? That was not a smart move.
ALCINDOR: Yes. Well, I think what he`s saying though is that he understands that what he said was problematic.
MATTHEWS: Look, he -- all people want is a little humility.
SINGLETON: Yes, but even now, he`s not very contrite, if you ask me.
Even now, he`s talking about, well, I was hurt, I went through a lot of things.
It`s not about you. This is a moment about what happened to Monica Lewinsky, about so many women across this country that are going through these issues. You should never violate someone`s personal autonomy.
Bill Clinton did. And he doesn`t seem to be apologetic now, and he surely wasn`t then. That`s my perspective.
ALLEN: Yes, I disagree.
I think he was honestly apologetic. He realizes that, before history, he`s going to be judged in part on his weaknesses. But cartoons like one- dimensional heroes. History tends to look for three-dimensional heroes, for the same kind of complexity in the human character that we see in our own lives and those around us.
And the issue for President Clinton is, is he going to be remembered for what he did accomplish, for putting AmeriCorps in communities all across the country, for an unprecedented creation of jobs, for the elimination of the federal deficit, or is he going to be remembered for his weakest moments?
SINGLETON: You surely judge him in his entirety, but I would argue that he needs to be more active. If he is truly apologetic, be more active speaking about the issues that are impacting women. Speak that truth to power.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a good debate.
Finally, the negative headlines continue for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. I would say.
"The Atlantic" reports that one of his top aides has resigned amid reports she spent much of her time on personal tasks. An EPA spokesperson declined to comment and told the reporter: "You have a great day. You`re a piece of trash."
MATTHEWS: There`s great press relations.
This comes a day after "The Washington Post" reported that Pruitt used his Cabinet position to try to get his wife a Chick-fil-A...
MATTHEWS: A Chick-fil-A franchise. On Monday, we learned that Pruitt had asked another aide to inquire about purchasing a used mattress from Trump Tower, a used mattress from Trump Tower.
What little tasks these people are given. Federal ethics rules prohibit supervisors from directing their subordinates from carrying out personal tasks.
Well, they do actually ask to carry out their tasks, but let`s move on from -- this is a weird thing. This guy keeps -- Pruitt is just radioactive.
ALCINDOR: Well, here`s the thing.
It`s going to -- people are going to continue to leak from the EPA, because his own staff have real issues with him. They have completely different things. In particular, they believe the EPA should actually be doing things and should be actually out regulating.
And Scott Pruitt does not believe that. He believes they should be pulling back regulations. So, we`re going to see a trickle, trickle, trickle every single week.
MATTHEWS: How about Joni Ernst, the senator from Iowa, saying he`s a swampy fellow? That`s a great line, to say he`s the swampy one.
SINGLETON: It is, but I agree with that. Remember drain the swamp? Is that reality? Is it rhetoric or reality?
And I think in the instance as it relates to Scott Pruitt, it`s all rhetoric. I don`t think the president really means it. And I think Republicans should be outraged, because it`s our duty to uphold the taxpayer dollar. And we`re not doing that.
MATTHEWS: I went to school, and I learned there are some people that get caught and some people will never get caught. This guy Pruitt keeps getting caught. He`s like Nixon. He just gets caught.
ALLEN: He can`t seem to avoid it.
We went from a president who said he came in to drain the swamp, and then what he does is insults the public sector, the hardworking people who do the work of the nation every day. And he regards his appointment as a license to loot the federal till.
ALCINDOR: But, remember, he`s getting a lot of stuff done at the EPA, which is part of the reason why he is able to keep his job.
MATTHEWS: A lot of nuance on the show tonight.
We will be right back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.
I don`t know about nuance. I`m getting a lot from you too, a lot of nuance here, a lot of three-dimensional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Here`s Robert Kennedy in line. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. We thank him after 50 years, because we can still feel the energy in the parade reaching across the convertible tops, in the shacks of Appalachia, in the depths of Watts, and yes, all the way to Soweto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
That was, of course, President Clinton earlier today in Arlington National Cemetery paying tribute to the Robert Kennedy.
Bobby Kennedy died 50 years ago today.
I`m back with the roundtable.
Rick Allen, this is a beautiful book you`ve done, "Robert F. Kennedy: His Words For Our Times". But you know what people want to hear is something brand-new. Give us a story about Bobby. We`re going to stop talking about tonight. You`re the last word.
RICK ALLEN, AUTHOR, "RFK: HIS WORDS FOR OUR TIMES": A great story that hasn`t been known, Marian Wright Edelman told me about it. That is when she was working with Dr. King shortly before his death to try to figure out how best to spotlight the problems of poverty in America, they had no idea how to carry that forward. She went to Robert Kennedy who said you have to bring poor people to Washington because it`s essential for our leaders to see the lives being led by the less fortunate among us.
And so, that concept for the poor people`s march is due in part to Robert Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: That`s pretty amazing to think that he had the foresight to know that he had to see people to make them real for the nation. I think that`s an idea that we see kind of repeated over and over again in a lot of protests I`ve covered you have to see African-American kids to care about them.
MATTHEWS: Right, Shermichael?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Life, you have to experience it.
SINGLETON: No, I agree. I think he was of a special breed of a politician, of a leader who recognizes that it`s selfless, it`s a selfless act and it`s about the people, particularly the least of these. I think that`s something that`s missing badly in our society right now.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We agree on that. A bipartisan sentiment from a bipartisan group. Thank you, Rick Allen. Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor and Shermichael Singleton.
Up next, singer and civil rights activist -- you`ve got to stick around. This is an amazing couple of minutes with Harry Belafonte. The guy`s 91 years old and he really has something to say tonight for all of us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We got further proof last night that 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the woman. According to "Bloomberg News", 43 of the 92 women running for the House or Senate seats last night advanced to the general election. The majority of those candidates are Democrats. Democrats are also emboldened by news out of Missouri where they flipped yet another Republican held state legislative state. This is the 42nd red to blue flip since Trump took office.
The party also managed to avoid disaster in California, where there were fears they would get shutout of three competitive House races. Well, thanks to the state`s two-primary system but they didn`t. Despite all that speculations, Democrats will be on the ballot in all those races come November.
California Republicans also have reason to celebrate. Republican John Cox earned a spot in that state`s governor`s race. It`s back to him, and the lieutenant governor. He`ll face Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A pivotal moment in Robert Kennedy`s path towards becoming an advocate for civil rights was a tense 1963 gathering of African-American intellectuals and artists where a young activist said he wouldn`t fight for America when the country has continued to deny us our rights. Bobby`s first reaction to that gathering was exasperation. But as I wrote in "Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit", Bobby eventually came around to the young activist point of view, noting that if I had gone through what he had gone through, I might feel differently about this country.
I spoke with civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte who was at that 1963 meeting.
MATTHEWS: Harry, it`s an honor to have you on. You look great. Thanks for coming over to HARDBALL tonight.
HARRY BELAFONTE, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND ENTERTAINER: A great pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy, we were wondering if he was going to make it, you know? And he did not in the ends. But you were with him in sort of his growth period.
BELAFONTE: When Bobby Kennedy became attorney general, many of us moaned of that fact because he had never displayed from our perspective a great concern for the plight of black people. As a matter of fact, he knew very little about our plight.
Not that he was indifferent. He just didn`t know. And I seized on that fact and told him that he would never have an easy time of it if he didn`t come to know more about the black cause.
That sparked in him a sense of astonishment because he felt that after all, John Kennedy had been doing such wonderful things and that there was not enough sense of appreciation from the black perspective for what John was doing. Yes, it`s true, we are most critical and in that sense, Bobby inherited the task of trying to mobilize us through the Kennedy administration.
When I asked him about why he felt -- why he felt he could administer the needs of this country politically when he knew so little about the people who were the most disturbed, and he pointed out that he didn`t agree with my point of view, that he thought that we were insensitive to the fact that his brother and he were sacrificing so much in our cause.
And I was struck by the fact he thought he was doing so much.
BELAFONTE: And when we in fact felt they were doing so little. Perhaps more than previous presidents had done, but except Abe Lincoln and Roosevelt.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but what changed him? Because he seemed to move in your direction.
BELAFONTE: I think what changed him was the fact that Dr. King instructed myself and others that our task was not to criticize the fact that he was not favorable to our cause, but to win him and to find his moral center and win him to our cause. And in this query, I looked at that with that query, I said that`s not going to be possible. This guy is too far afield of who we are and what we`re about.
MATTHEWS: Dr. King, I remember from your book, he talked about after Bobby was sort of beaten up by this young guy, Jerome Smith, that King said something to you because you quote it in the book saying maybe Bobby needed this. This is what he needed. So you were pushing him.
BELAFONTE: It was, as a matter of fact, what Bobby needed. He was ready - - after meeting with Bobby Kennedy, and finding a path of possibility, he invited us, a group of us to his home and in his home, he thought that he had been talking politics all the time, was talking to Dr. King. He was hearing the worst side of the black voice, the most challenging side of the black voice, and he invited a group of black people to come visit him, Lena Horne, James Baldwin --
BELAFONTE: Me. Clarence Jones, who was Dr. King`s attorney to come and just have what he thought was a social chat.
When we got there, we had a pleasant tit-a-tit and talking superficially. And in the midst of that exchange, Jerome Smith, in frustration and great anger, said, I`m out of here and Bobby was kind of, why? What do you mean?
And Jerome Smith said, you`re asking us to give you some information that could be used against the best interests of our cause. I`m here to tell you that we cannot be won over that easily. What do you want of us we`re not able to do.
And what he meant by that was he thought Bobby was looking for a way to get black voices to be more favorable to the Kennedy point of view on our issues than Dr. King had implied, because Jerome Smith and what Jerome felt, he imploded.
BELAFONTE: Bobby was quite angry and he thought that others of us in the room in the Mr. Jerome Smith`s attack would be defensive of him, would come to his defense and we didn`t. And he thought that that was a breach of friendship. And he threw us out -- he didn`t throw us out. We left his home. After that, he called. And he had reflected on the experience.
And what Dr. King had instructed us to do for me was touched the most sensitive moment in our capacity to win him over. He called and said, I think I may have been wrong on what Jerome Smith said because it was on the issue of Vietnam.
BELAFONTE: Jerome said that we`re asking him to go off and die for this country when his exact words were, I have nothing against the Vietnamese people. I think it`s a war that`s unrighteous, it`s unworthy. Bobby called, went back to him and he said, let`s talk.
In that conversation that we had, I told him, look, you have come from a place where you`re so uninformed that unless those of us who have the challenge by Dr. King winning to a moral center, find your moral center is what I`m working on. There`s somewhere in you that I must achieve and that is the better side of your moral sense. He took that critique rather not so lightly.
Anyway, from the conversation we had, Bobby was inspired to go South. When he went South, he began to discover a side of America that he did not know, did not know well. And he came back and said, I`ve been South.
I`ve begun -- as a matter of fact, there`s a picture of him where listening to the plight of black people from that perspective, he walked up to a black kid and reached for his cheek. And that to me was a moment of transformation. He was touched by what he saw.
BELAFONTE: And he was touched in a way that was most profound.
MATTHEWS: Harry Belafonte, you`re part of it. You`re part of history. You`re a young guy. You`re fantastic to come on the show tonight. Thank you, Harry Belafonte.
BELAFONTE: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Wednesday, June 6th, 2018.
We`re hearing that the president of the United States is wandering around the White House these days talking of pardons. It seems that he can`t get over this new power of which he`s gotten hold. It`s like Popeye discovering what he can do thanks to a can of spinach.
We have to wonder when he`ll test this miraculous new strength his, will he pardon those caught up in the Russian probe, just caught up in it, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn. Or go all the way and pardon his family members, his daughter, two sons, his son-in-law and how about himself? Why not? He says he can do it.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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