Show: HARDBALL Date: June 7, 2018 Guest: Kate Brower
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: From America`s mayor to Trump`s attack dog. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
If you`ve got a dog, a famous mobster once said, you don`t have to bark. As we meet tonight, Donald Trump the President of the United States, we have to remind ourselves, has got himself one nasty Rottweiler, his name Rudy Giuliani.
Having gotten New York and the country through 9/11, he`s no wings to get his fellow Manhattanite through a ground zero scandal. The Trump`s gang into bed with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here`s Rudy. I have got a better question. Was Donald Trump ever in bed with a porn star by the screen name of Stormy Daniels? Answer from Rudy, no. I know, Rudy says, because first lady Melania Trump says he wasn`t.
Well, when you are Donald Trump and you are facing the hangman this is how you fight and this is exactly how his lawyer fixer Rudy Giuliani is fighting. The former New York City mayor is legal council of the president is now attacking adult film star Stormy Daniels personally telling an audience over in Israel that she is not someone he respects because of her profession. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: I respect all human beings. I even have to respect, you know, criminals. But I`m sorry, I don`t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn`t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.
So Stormy, you want to bring a case, let me cross examine you. I don`t think there`s a slight suspicion that it`s true when you look at Stormy Daniels. I know Donald Trump. And look at his three wives, right? Beautiful women, classy women, women of great substance. Stormy Daniels?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, since he was hired in April, Rudy Giuliani has staged a bombastic PR campaign on behalf of his client, the President, trashing anyone who challenges him. Daniels, however, has proven to be a formidable and enduring adversary. Don`t you think? And given the opportunity to withdraw his comments, however, Giuliani declined.
Asked by NBC News if he was trying to undermine Daniels` credibility, Giuliani said I am not undermining her credibility. I`m pointing out that she has no credibility.
Well, the personal attack comes a day after Miss Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, filed another lawsuit against Michael Cohen. And this morning Avenatti, a frequent Trump antagonist, hit black at Giuliani. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Is this the message that we want to send to the world? Is this the message that we want to send to our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, that this is the way that we look at women, this is the way that we disrespect women? This is an absolute disgusting disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani also attacked special counsel Robert Mueller, of course, and former FBI director James Comey, of course. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: 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.
I`m very, very disappointed in Comey. Comey I think is the real villain of this whole thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, "the New York Times" recently reported that the President asked where his Roy Cohn was given Rudy Giuliani`s recent attacks like this. It seems like he has found him.
For more I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, director of Progressive Programming from Sirius XM radio and an MSNBC political analyst, Kim Wehle is a former assistant U.S. attorney, and Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "the L.A. Times" and an MSNBC political analyst.
I want to go to Zerlina on this. You know, I don`t know. I have been -- it was Mickey Cone (ph), the mobster, who said you if you have a dog, you don`t have to bark. Was that Rudy`s job to bark?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR, SIRIUS XM: I think so. I think that he is going on television and saying what President Trump really wants to say because as you know he has very infrequently commented about Stormy Daniels at all. You know, first, he said he didn`t pay her, then admitted that he did pay her.
And I think that this is textbook misogyny coming from Rudy Giuliani. He is attacking Stormy Daniels` credibility based on what she does and chooses to do as a profession. And that has nothing to do with whether she is telling the truth. And so, I think that it`s an ugly form of misogyny that we are seeing. It is completely dated and inappropriate in this context. And I think that, you know, Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti are a thorn in the President`s side and they will continue to be a thorn in the President`s side because clearly based on the facts as we know them, she is credible. Many of the things she has alleged and said have borne out to be true. And so, I think that the President, has been frustrated and Rudy Giuliani is expressing those frustrations on every television show he can possibly go on.
MATTHEWS: Kim Wehle, what do you make of the trust by profession if you`re a porn star, you`re not to be trusted. I have known a lot of politicians that lie frequently.
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, my understanding is she has her own production company. So -- and, you know, this is not a woman to be taken lightly.
But the question here from a legal perspective, most lawyers will talk about the law and the facts. And if they don`t have that, they are going on the attack. We don`t know the extent to which the President and his team is worried now about what Stormy Daniels might say relating to bigger issues if put under oath. Listen. You know, she filed a lawsuit about alleged contacts between Mr. Cohen who was a key to the Trump kingdom and her former lawyer, number one. Number two is --.
MATTHEWS: Is Rudy smart to deny the substance of the President having had this one-night stand or whatever you want to call it with Stormy? Why are they denying what we all believe happened and say that Melania told me so?
WEHLE: Well, again, it`s undermining her credibility. And also I think sending a message to other would be witnesses, women who might have complaints against Mr. Trump that listen, if you come out publicly, I`m going to bully you into silence. And we have seen this in other places. We have seen this with members of Congress. I mean, people are really cowed by being outed on twitter. And that is really a problem.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not sure what happened to this case because she looks pretty tough to me, Avenatti. As I mentioned during that appearance in Israel, Rudy Giuliani told that crowd that first lady Melania Trump believes President Trump`s denials in connection with Stormy Daniels. However -- apparent rebuke, I would say a strong one, the spokesperson for the first lady tells NBC News quote, you are going to love this.
Quote "I don`t believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani."
Eli, let`s talk politics here. He made a mistake, Giuliani, quoting the first lady on a question of marital infidelity which you should not talk to a first lady about, and it turns out the first lady is not backing him up.
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, his Roy Cohn impression, he is purporting to speak for all sorts of people, not just the first lady but also for the Mueller investigation saying that Mueller has said, oh, this will be over before the midterms by the end of the summer. That`s not true. He is just making it up.
And you know, he said that Kim Jong-un came back begging for summit. Today, secretary of state Mike Pompeo also rebuked Giuliani in the briefing room when he said I`m sorry, but Rudy, he may have been making a joke, I don`t know what he was saying.
MATTHEWS: Has Rudy lost it? Because -- I don`t mean lost, I mean lost in his political sense? Sometimes I think Bill Clinton loses occasionally in terms of political, you know, tonality.
Why would you on the eve of a probably a very important summit to put it lightly, trash the other side and say they came begging for this job for this chance to be with the President? It is only going to make it harder for the President to get a deal from the guy, Kim. Just common deal making.
WEHLE: Well, yes. I mean, maybe he wants to blow it up so he can say it was Kim Jong-un who actually did not come to the table because of --.
MATTHEWS: Who gave him license to kill?
WEHLE: It hasn`t been set up in a thoughtful diplomatic way.
MATTHEWS: Well, Rudy Giuliani took credit along with the President -- well, I had a great idea there. Can I see that again? I thought I was seeing something there. It took along with the President for bringing Kim Jong-un back to the negotiating table. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: We said we are not going to have a summit under those circumstances. Well Kim Jong-un got 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, Zerlina, I`m just going to get back to you because this is such a free-for-all. Rudy Giuliani, I don`t know why he picked that spot for all this. He is obviously trying to take advantage of the fact we moved the embassy under Trump`s tutelage or whatever. But the thing he got to ask about is he is lie, as Eli says, this guy is an expert on everything. He can do foreign policy. HE can do everything. He is speaking for Trump on everything now including his wife. He is speaking for his wife. He never talked to his wife according to the wife`s spokesperson. He never talked to the President how he wants to apparently blow up this summit next week. I don`t get it.
MAXWELL: I don`t get it either. I don`t know why Rudy Giuliani, the President`s lawyer on Russia is in Israel talking about North Korea. I`m completely confused about the entire thing. I don`t understand why he is answering questions like that and speaking as if he is in these briefings with the secretary of state and the President talking through and preparing for the meeting with Kim Jong-un. And I don`t understand why we are reporting out the things that Rudy Giuliani is saying as if they aren`t -- they actually happened, right. I think that Eli pointed out that he has been rebuked twice now first by Melania and also by Pompeo because he is getting facts wrong.
So I think that, you know, it`s important to quote him and to say like this is the President`s Russia lawyer talking on all these other issues. But I don`t think we should take what he is saying about North Korea seriously because he is not in those meetings.
MATTHEWS: Well, Zerlina, I can`t engage in prairie review here. I can`t decide whether I`m going to believe somebody before they talk, anyway. But somebody else will, here.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, to make your point, was asked about Rudy`s comments after the fact. And here is what the secretary of state said about the President`s lawyer who seems to be acting like secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Rudy doesn`t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation and this set of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Eli, it seems like he is going all over the place. He is breaking out of the rails. He is leaving his lane saying anything he wants to appeal with the audience but he is basically I think going back to one strategy of Trump`s. Divide the country between those who are for Trump and those hose are against him. And that can be minorities, the press, it can be anybody. But circle the wagons. And it seems to work.
STOKOLS: Right. He is coming outside the lines to use yet another, you know, trite idiom here. But I think talking about some of these other things, it does maybe undermine the points he is trying to make related to the legal case a little bit.
But I think what they are trying and what we are seeing on the whole is a political response to a criminal investigation. And why do you do that? Maybe because they don`t have a great fact set, so.
But it`s also something that in a country that is this divided when we are in an age of almost absolute tribalism right now, it is a response that might make sense. I think that does make the most sense for them because there are so many people who are just -- their minds are made up on what they think of the Russia probe. They either think the President colluded or anything. No amount of evidence will convince them that he did. And I think Rudy is just trying to borrow a page from Roy Cohn to go -- to ratchet it up, escalate, to street fight, to bully everybody into submission and to just make a muddle of the facts.
MATTHEWS: That`s what he wants. He wants the attorney general to be (INAUDIBLE). He wants Giuliani to be the role model for his attorney general. And Sessions won`t play that.
Anyway, Giuliani`s comments about Stormy Daniels echo familiar or similar attacks the President made during the campaign when more than a dozen women accused the then candidate of unwelcomed sexual advances. Let`s watch had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These events never ever happened and the people that said them fully understand you take a look at these people. You study these people. And you will understand also.
These people are horrible people. They are horrible, horrible liars.
I have no idea who these women are, I have no idea.
When you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said I don`t think so.
All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, if you are a Trump person, you are a Trump all the way. You are willing to go along with him trashing the looks of these women which are somehow being used as a way of denying he had an affair or night with them or whatever. He trashes them, denies their existence, denies any credibility on their part and he is President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEHLE: Yes. And I think the bigger picture these people don`t understand is this is how democracies actually start to crumble. You blow up the rule of law, ignore the rules of the game, and attack your opponents here including the justice department, Mueller, career prosecutors, the FBI. You incite violence with, you know, the kinds of language that he is using with respect to these people and then, you put in your own referees to decide how the game is played. And then at the end of the day, we don`t have a democracy by the people anymore. And I think the Trump camp that that Trump team, the people that think he is speaking some kind of truth need to step back and ask themselves what kind of future do we want for our children and grandchildren because it`s really on the line right now.
MATTHEWS: Zerlina Maxwell, Kim Wehle, thank you. Eli Stokols.
Coming up, Trump`s high stake gamble with North Korea is coming up this week. He says he doesn`t have a prayer. He doesn`t have to prepare he said. (INAUDIBLE) this nuclear summit. He says it`s all about attitude. Is that a recipe for success over in Singapore? It`s all about attitude or disaster?
Plus, another day and more bad headlines for the EPA administrator Mr. Scott Pruitt. Pruitt had to be told to stop eating his lunch at the White House mess. He is there too often. The heat just keep coming for this guy. He is the kind of guy as we knew in school that gets caught. And he gets caught pre couple days.
By the way, if you are not convinced how many vice President Mike Pence wants to be like his boss, you need to see this video. Watch how Trump puts his water bottle -- there he goes and pence does exactly the same thing within seconds. Robotically. There he goes again. Watch this.
Finally let me finish, that`s like a dog trick. We are going to finish tonight with Trump watch. He is not going to like tonight, I can tell you.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: President Trump took another shot today at retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Trump tweeted "how could Jeff Flake who is setting record low polling numbers in Arizona and was therefore humiliatingly forced out of his own Senate seat without even a fight think about running for office? Even a lower one again? Let`s face it, he`s a Flake."
Well, Senator Flake who is a frequent critic of this President has not ruled out a primary challenge to Trump for the presidency in 2020. Earlier today he responded to the President`s attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the reaction to the President going after you on twitter?
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: No reaction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going for a lower office, are you?
FLAKE: No, I hadn`t heard that. So, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you forced out of the seat because of how unpopular you are? That`s what he`s saying?
FLAKE: I have said many times, this is a tough party right now for a Republican like me. So it is tough to get through a primary if you agree with the President`s positions or condone his behavior. So I just can`t do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think, John, that we are going to -- we are going to have a great success. I don`t think it will be in one meeting. I think it will take longer than that. This has been going on many, many decades. And I really believe that Kim Jong-un wants to do something. I think he wants to see something incredible happen for the people of North Korea.
Normalizing relations is something I would hope to do when everything`s complete. We would certainly hope to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Facing one of the most challenging international negotiations in recent history, the commander-in-chief there is largely winging he says on his own. Today, he told reporters, as you seeing there, he doesn`t think he needs to prepare much because it`s all about attitude.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing to prepare for the summit with North Korea?
TRUMP: I think I`m very well prepared. I don`t think I have to prepare very much. It`s about attitude. It`s about willingness to get things done. But I think I have been preparing for the summit for a long time as has the other side. I think they have been preparing for a long time also. So this isn`t a question of preparation. It`s a question of whether or not people want it to happen. And we will know that very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not all.
According to Politico, National Security Adviser John Bolton has yet to convene even a Cabinet-level meeting to discuss the upcoming summit, which is coming next week.
The White House`s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation almost exclusively on his own, consulting little with his security team at all, outside of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Joining me right now is Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama. He is an MSNBC contributor now and author of big book -- there it is -- "The World As It Is." And Phil Rucker`s White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC -- there you are -- and MSNBC political analyst.
Look, both of you, go at this. I`m trying to figure this out, what even to think about. But Trump is sort of looking at this like a night of karaoke, like, I will do my best out there, whatever, and not that you`re ought to deal with the high stakes on a nuclear question about which probably he`s right, Kim Jong-un, and his people have been thinking about for years exactly what they`re willing to give and not give.
BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
And I think what they have been thinking is that they want to consolidate their nuclear deterrent and they want to get sanctions relief. And I got to tell you, Chris, I did the prep work for the opening to Cuba. And I must have met 20 times with the Cubans before we brought President Obama into that.
The whole first meeting, I think we barely got through the Bay of Pigs invasion. And the fact is, you have got to prepare for these things, especially with a country who you have had no contact with, because you`re coming in cold.
And my concern here is, they haven`t articulated what they`re trying to achieve, on what the timeline. And he doesn`t seem to want to do the preparation that needs Treasury people in the room for sanctions. They need technical people in to talk about the nuclear program.
It`s not clear to me he has an understanding of even what he`s trying to get out of the summit.
MATTHEWS: Well, as an American, I worry about the quicksand of these meetings.
Once you sit down at the chair, you got to get up and somebody`s got to say, nice try, buddy, but I`m out of here.
MATTHEWS: And last time about we went to Panmunjom, in 1951, we sat there for two years, two full years of blah, blah, blah.
RHODES: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: How does the president -- do you think he even has figured out what the time schedule is? We are going to try to get something on the table before we get in there and know what we`re even aiming after? Don`t you have to do that?
RHODES: Well, if I`m Kim Jong-un, here`s what I`m thinking, which is that Trump wants this to be a success. Right? He`s already trying to award himself the Nobel Prize. Right?
RHODES: And he could make some kind of empty commitment, and I will give up my nuclear weapons someday. And there`s no clear timeline. There`s no clear inspections regime.
And Trump will want to declare some type of victory here. And you could have a situation where really the status quo is codified by the fact that North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons, makes some empty gestures.
MATTHEWS: The media, the print media specially, Phil, is not going to go easy on this guy. I don`t think Trump is going to get away with any fast thing out there.
What do you think? The reporters covering him are going to be looking for, will there be inspections or won`t there be? And if not, nobody`s going to believe anything.
PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that`s exactly right. We`re going to be looking for, what are the details of this deal?
It`s going to be -- need to be more than a handshake and a big envelope, but some sort of plan here to denuclearize the peninsula. And Trump is going in having tremendous faith in sort of his charisma and ability to persuade Kim Jong-un under his powers in kind of a face-to-face conversation, the way you would in a real estate deal.
But, as Ben was explaining, these things are so much more complicated than that. There`s a lot of history here. There`s a lot of details regarding their nuclear arsenal. I think Secretary of State Pompeo has been trying to tutor the president on that over the last few weeks.
And it`s our understanding there have been some sessions to prepare him, but clearly he doesn`t think he needs the same level of preparation that other presidents have done.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the scorecard.
If -- I want to go with you, Phil. First, if he sits down and he realizes in a matter of an hour or two this isn`t going anywhere, that this is just P.R., photo-op nonsense, he`s been lured into a trap, if he gets up and says, no, nice try, Mr. Kim Jong-un, I`m walking out of here, goodbye, I will see you the next time you get serious, does that necessarily hate -- Trump, if he walks out?
Could he come out ahead by just saying, I tried, you cheated me into this situation, I`m walking? Can he do that? Can he still win if he sees nothing`s going to happen, Phil?
RUCKER: I think he...
RUCKER: Yes, yes. Sorry, I thought you were talking to Ben.
Yes, he could do that. He could certainly walk. In fact, he writes in "Art of the Deal" that, you have to sit down for a deal in real estate, you have got to be willing to get up and walk away. And he`s made it clear with this summit in Singapore that he will be willing to walk away if he feels like the deal is going badly.
And, frankly, I wouldn`t be surprised if he did because he`s such a showman. He loves the drama.
RUCKER: And if he got up and the whole summit in Singapore and it blew up, all it would do is create more drama and more negotiations over the next few months to have the second summit. And where will that be and what will happen there?
And it just builds suspense for an ultimate agreement.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump leaves now for the G7 summit up in Quebec City tomorrow. And he`s apparently not happy about that.
Phil, according your reporting, Trump has complained to aides about spending two days up in Canada for a summit of world leaders believing the rip is a distraction from his coming Singapore summit with un.
Anyway, the president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. Of course, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel largely because they disagree on some issues and many issues and have had an uneasy rapport, to put it lightly, as well as Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct.
And French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted today that the non-American members of G7 don`t mind signing a six-country agreement if need be.
Well, late this afternoon, Trump tweeted: "Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the United States massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The E.U. trade surplus with the United States is $151 billion and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow."
So, he`s going to this.
What do you make of this? I`m going to go to you on this.
RHODES: Look, the first time I remember going to a G7 -- it was a G8 back then, before we kicked Russia out -- but you feel a tremendous amount of pride at the fact that we are the leader of the free world. And these are our closest allies, our closest friends.
And these are the people that we would sit down and make a strategy for a summit with a North Korea. We would do that with them on Iran or on terrorism. And what concerns me, Chris, is they`re moving on without us.
And the role of the leader of the free world is essentially being vacated here, because essentially you have Europe, Japan, Canada. We`re taking actions against them with tariffs. That`s going to cause not just trade disruptions. Years from now, when we need their help in a national security crisis in a pinch, they`re going to remember that President Trump called them a national security threat when he imposed those tariffs.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we have used them when we have gone after -- in the first Gulf War in a worldwide alliance, thanks to...
RHODES: In the Afghan war, they fought with us in the mountains.
And the beaches of D-Day, the Canadians were there. And to call them a national security threat is really upending...
MATTHEWS: The Canadians were on...
MATTHEWS: ... beach.
And it`s upending kind of the liberal order that we have built since World War II.
MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.
In your new book -- I, of course, want to talk about the book -- you write about the last meeting between President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel.
"Obama told us that Merkel had talked to him about her looming decision on whether to seek another term, something that she now felt more obliged to do because of Brexit and Trump. At the end of our time in Germany, when Obama bade her farewell, a single tear appeared in her eye, something that none of us had ever seen before."
You quote Obama telling you, "Angela, she is all alone."
Does the world feel alone when Trump is here?
RHODES: Well, I think she is someone who stands for the same values that we have stood for, for so many years.
And the feeling that she had after Brexit and the Trump election was, she would no longer have...
MATTHEWS: Why does Trump hate her, or seem to not like her so much? She`s so successful.
RHODES: Well, she`s a tough woman. She is a pragmatist. She stands up for what she believes.
She`s not going to play games. She`s not going to flatter Trump. Angela Merkel is all business. And she doesn`t put up with a lot of B.S.
RHODES: And, frankly, I think that`s why you haven`t seen her kind of chase him in any way in the same way...
MATTHEWS: I think Americans would love to get a leader like her.
RHODES: Yes, she`s as tough as they come.
MATTHEWS: A strong leader that looks out for the country, German first, perhaps, in a sense, but very pro-European and very much world order.
RHODES: Yes. No, and took steps with us to save the global economy after the crisis.
MATTHEWS: You know what she is? She`s competent.
Anyway, thank you, Ben Rhodes. Good luck with the book, "The World As It Is," a beautiful looking -- well, I have been reading it. It`s a beautiful book.
And thank you, Phil Rucker. More time for you next time, but we had the author here.
Up next: He`s been one of President Trump`s most vocal critics. Former CIA Director John Brennan is going to walk into this room about his ongoing war against the Mueller -- well, Trump`s war with the Mueller investigation.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: As we have seen on a near daily basis, the president issued another round of attacks on the special counsel`s investigators today, saying, among other things, that: "There has never been a group of people in a case so biased or conflicted. It`s all Democrat, not democratic, attempt to -- problem about losing an election, an excuse."
He also tweeted: "When will people start saying thank you, Mr. President, for firing James Comey?"
Well, unfortunately, this is the kind of behavior we have come to expect from this president. And more troubling is that by claiming the right to pardon himself, which he`s done this week, and by declaring the Mueller probe unconstitutional, which he said this week, the president is attempting to put himself clearly above the law.
Considering Trump`s pretense to absolute power, it`s no surprise -- there it is -- this week`s issue of "TIME" magazine shows Donald Trump preening himself in front of a mirror that shows him as a king.
In a recent op-ed in "The Washington Post," former CIA Director John Brennan described how this president`s behavior is similar to that of an authoritarian ruler who will do anything to retain power.
He writes -- quote -- "Mr. Trump charts his every move according to a calculus of how it will personally help or hurt him. His strategy is to undercut real, potential and perceived opponents. His focus is to win at all costs, irrespective of truth, ethics, decency and many would argue the law."
I`m joined by himself, John Brennan, former director of the CIA and senior national analyst here for MSNBC.
You know so much, I don`t know where to begin, except you have studied dictatorships all around the world. What does this president have in common with them?
JOHN BRENNAN, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, a lot in terms of wanting to make sure that he alone makes all the decisions, that he suppresses any type of opposition, that he pursues policies that are going to ensure his continuation in power.
There are so many similarities between what I saw in authoritarian, autocratic leaders overseas and Mr. Trump that I never thought I would see it here in the United States. And that`s why I decided to write the op-ed. And I`m going to continue to speak out.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about truth, because that is how he doesn`t want this judged.
He wants -- are you with me or against me is his question. He doesn`t want to be, do you believe me or not? It`s, are you with me?
I have never seen a leader in this country who tells untruths all the time like him. Most of them do it to protect themselves when they`re in a pinch. But this seems to be the language of this president, saying things that aren`t true, like none of these women had anything to do with me, none of them. It`s all lies. Everything is lies.
And his people go, oh, OK, all right, OK. Everything`s a lie but me.
Well, unfortunately, I think our politicians have been used to hyperbole a bit too much. But he just totally deceives the American public in terms of his falsehoods and lies.
So, it`s not a question of embellishment. It`s a question of saying something that clearly had happened did not. And that`s his mantra. That`s always been his way of doing things, which is trying to say things over and over again to convince people of the perception is really the reality, while it`s not.
MATTHEWS: Why does he kiss Putin`s butt all the time?
Come on. You must have a theory, why he trashes everybody, everybody, both sides of the aisle, men and women, people of color, other people. He trashes everyone with impunity. He puts down everyone in the world, except Vladimir Putin. What`s he up to?
MATTHEWS: Has he got something on him?
BRENNAN: Well, this is a big question.
MATTHEWS: What`s your answer? What`s your answer? Has he got something on him?
BRENNAN: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You don`t?
BRENNAN: But I just know that Mr. Trump throughout the course of his business career has done some things that, as we all know, include intimidation, threatening others, and also putting people out of business.
So, I don`t know what he might have done...
MATTHEWS: Would Putin`s intel people, would his -- what do you call them - - would his guy have the stuff on Trump?
BRENNAN: You mean their intelligence folks?
MATTHEWS: Do they have the capability to track American political figures as they head towards the White House? Do they have the stuff on our guys?
BRENNAN: Well, unfortunately, I have very much grudging respect for Russian intelligence security services, looking what they did at the 2016 presidential election.
So, they have great capability, including here in the United States. We know that they make ample use of their cyber-capabilities to be able to gain access and insight into what somebody might be doing as way to maybe use it against them in a coercive matter.
So, who knows what the Russians might have? But I think the point is that Donald Trump has continued to carry out his responsibilities of president without the type of integrity, without the type of honesty and without the -- basically, the commitment of intellectual rigor that we really should expect of our presidents.
We`re dealing with a lot of challenges on the international stage, as well as the domestic stage. And as I said in the op-ed, I worked directly for four presidents. I didn`t agree with all their policies. But I think that they were always trying to do what was in the best interests of the American people.
Even George W. Bush, when he invaded Iraq, I think a lot of the critics both domestically and internationally thought he was overreaching. But he was trying to remove a dictator. But I think Mr. Trump calculates every move by how this is going to help or hurt Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk big picture.
And this is -- before Putin came long along and for a long time, the United States had one tremendous advantage in the world, beyond their military power. We were the good guys. We were the country -- we were the most generous country in the world. We generally wanted peace. We wanted allies. We had a lot of wonderful allies around the world, Europe and all kinds of allies, Australia and Canada.
We have all kinds of -- and Latin America. Good -- we are part of a really good guys alliance. And we`re a country and alliance of countries of democracies. And we believed, all of us, in limited government. All the countries I mentioned believed in the limited government and the rights of man and women against the power of government.
Since Trump`s come in, I think he`s begun somehow in some awful way to grow toward being like Putin, to being the kind of person Putin wants on his sleazy low level of world view, where they no longer have a moral advantage as the good guys.
It seems like that`s what he wanted, was this guy we`re looking at.
Yes, he relates to strongmen. He relates to authoritarian leaders, whether it be the Dutertes in Philippines.
MATTHEWS: Is this what they wanted when they messed with our elections, to get a guy like Trump in and then make Trump more like Putin?
BRENNAN: Well, I think they see that he is somebody who is going to be very transactional, they will be able to deal with him, that he`s not going to be driven by principles and the moral compass that the United States has basically led the free world for the last...
MATTHEWS: Just be another bully, a world of bullies.
BRENNAN: Yes. And that he`s not going to pay attention to the things like human rights and other things in terms of spreading democracy around the world.
And there`s a good piece in "The Financial Times" today.
MATTHEWS: Well, they got a sheep, didn`t they? They got a sheep.
BRENNAN: Well, exactly.
And this piece in "The Financial Times" says that the United States for many years has been the shepherd of the flock, of the G7 flock and others. Now the shepherd is no longer there.
MATTHEWS: And we`re the wolf.
And so they`re looking for, where is the United States? This America first, America first mantra...
MATTHEWS: Well, we will see this weekend like this.
What`s going to happen in Singapore? Anything good?
BRENNAN: I think I`m very much where Ben Rhodes was, that I think Kim Jong-un has played this masterfully.
He escalated in order to de-escalate, and so be able to have a plateau of military capability. But I don`t think he has any intention of giving up his nuclear stockpile.
I think he`s going to play this. Trump mentioned about possibly a second day in terms of a summit. Maybe he`s going to storm out the first day and then go back the second day and say that he got the North Koreans to make some concessions.
MATTHEWS: Sounds great.
BRENNAN: And I think he`s going to say that there is this process.
But I don`t think that we`re going to see a denuclearized North Korea.
MATTHEWS: You know what you have just described? The old way of Pennsylvania politics. Spend the first day of the campaign completely trashing your opponent, saying he`s no damn good, and the second half talking about the future of Pennsylvania.
BRENNAN: You`re right.
MATTHEWS: That`s what he`s doing, thanks to Kim Jong-un as part of the old Pennsylvania politics.
Thank you, former CIA Director John Brennan. It`s great to have you on.
BRENNAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: There`s plenty to get to with the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight, from another embarrassing headline -- you won`t believe it -- about Scott Pruitt. He keeps stepping in it. And ,by the way, he`s supposed to be against pollution.
And now the latest NBC polling ahead of the midterm elections looks very good for the Democrats to grab the House. It looks all good for them.
Plus, we know Vice President Pence likes to follow Trump`s lead, but this is ridiculous, a video showing Pence mimicking -- look -- like a robot, during a meeting yesterday has gone viral.
That`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL.
It`s so great.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There are new signs that the Democrats, yes, the Democratic Party, are well-positioned now heading into the fall midterm elections. Here`s the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, it shows Democrats with a ten- point -- that`s enough to win the House -- ten-point advantage over Republicans in what`s calls the generic congressional ballot which is who are you going to vote for.
Of those preferring a Democratically-controlled Congress, this even better, 54 percent say because they`re opposed to President Trump. They`re not voting for the Democratic program, they`re voting against Trump. And by a staggering 25-point margin, voters said they`re more likely to back a candidate who promises to be as a check on President Trump.
Well, the irony is that the same poll shows nearly two-thirds of voters are satisfied with the U.S. economy, which has continued to boom under Trump.
For more, I`m joined by HARDBALL roundtable. Michael Steele, of course, former RNC chairman and MSNBC political analyst, and Kate Brower, author of the great new book, it`s so beautifully written, "First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents and Pursuit of Power," and Sam Stein, politics editor of "The Daily Beast" and an MSNBC contributor.
OK. Let`s talk about there. I saw all good news there for the Dems. Your thoughts? Today`s numbers.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think that`s right. I think the generic has moved back towards them. It had been trending more towards Republicans the last couple weeks or so. But I think as we get into the summer months, it will be a little bit of fluctuation.
The hard line here, Chris, is, somewhere in that 10 to 12-point range for Democrats going into September October which is a problem for.
MATTHEWS: What do they need to win the House, six or seven or eight? Somewhere in there?
STEELE: Somewhere around eight, yes.
MATTHEWS: Yes, somewhere around eight.
Kate, the Democrats don`t have to do much just watch Trump in disgust. Literally.
KATE BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST IN LINE": I mean, every midterm, I mean, 2010, President Obama talked about getting a shellacking. In 2006, Bush said he got a thumping.
I mean, they -- even in totally normal White Houses, they usually have this. So, now it`s --
MATTHEWS: I agree with that.
Sam, follow up on that. The normal tendency of voters not to go back to the return window at the department store in the old days but to say let`s keep this guy under rein.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it`s also amplified in this case by the shock that many of the voters felt in 2016 to wake up to the election results, including some voters who maybe didn`t vote or cast ballots for the Republican ticket even though they were holding their nose about Trump and then under the idea that he wouldn`t win.
What I think is the most troubling though in these numbers for Republicans is precisely the economic number at the end. People actually think the country`s in a decent spot, they think it`s going well. They`re excited about the possibility of a nuclear deal in North Korea.
And even with all that context, for the Republican Party to have those type of generic congressional ballot numbers is very problematic because there`s not much room for growth.
STEIN: Things can get worse. I don`t know where you improve it from here if you`re Trump.
STEELE: Not only not enough room for growth but not enough to lay down the argument that you got a tax cut, right? You love that tax cut.
STEIN: Well, that tax cut is old news at this juncture.
MATTHEWS: We have more. We got to move on.
The negative -- the headlines continue, believe it or not, for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. On Tuesday, "The Washington Post" reported that Pruitt used his cabinet position to try to get his wife a click filet.
MATTHEWS: Chick-fil-A, I`m sorry, it`s not my favorite place.
MATTHEWS: Here`s what Pruitt had to say about that, about his Chick-fil-A move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself. I love, she loves, we love, Chick-fil-A is a franchise of faith, and it`s one of the best in the country. We need more of them in Tulsa. We need more of them across the country. So, anyway, it`s an exciting time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s not going to deal with conflict of interest. Anyway, he certainly needs a new place to eat. "Politico" reports today that Pruitt has been rebuked by the White House staff after having spent too many days over there for the cheap lunches at the mess, a restaurant open only to officials and cabinet members.
Quote: The message was clear. According to one person close to Pruitt, we love having Mr. Pruitt but it`s not meant for every day use.
In other words, stop coming every day.
"The Washington Post" also reported that Pruitt enlisted his full time security detail for things like picking up dry cleaning and taking him to buy his favorite moisturizing lotion. Isn`t that sweet? I don`t know what to say. I`ll say it 100 times, some people get caught. Some people never get caught. This guy gets caught every hour.
STEELE: But, you know, as long as Donald Trump doesn`t care, he`s good as gold. That`s the problem.
STEIN: Hold on, the best part about that video when he explained the Chick-fil-A is the very end where he goes, it`s exciting times.
It is definitely not exciting times for Scott Pruitt.
STEIN: These are miserable times.
MATTHEWS: Finally, one person who knows how to stay on President Trump`s good side is Vice President Mike Pence. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump has been making history since the first day of this administration.
I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet and of millions of Americans when I say congratulations and thank you. I`m deeply humbled as your vice president, to be able to be here.
It`s the greatest privilege of my life to be as vice president to President Trump. He`s a man of his word. He`s a man of action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Kate, you got this. Tell us -- it seems Pence may be taking his appreciation for Trump`s action in a new direction.
At yesterday`s FEMA event, Donald Trump remove a water bottle from the table, then pence did the exact same thing. Look at there. Oh, my god.
It`s not the only time Pence mirrored his boss. Video from a 2016 episode shows Trump waving to a crowd with Pence mimicking every wave.
It`s -- Kate, you`ve been writing about the vice president in your beautiful book "First in Line." Why does he have to be such a sycophant?
BROWER: Well, I interviewed Pence`s brother Greg, and he said --
MATTHEWS: You couldn`t get to Pence, could you?
BROWER: No, and I interviewed every living former vice president. I had two interviews, one was cancelled at the last minute because there`s no point in them talking honestly to a reporter, right, because if he looks good, Trump will be mad and if he looks bad, it`s bad for them.
But he said his father reminds him of -- Donald Trump reminds him of his father, his father was a big bully who occasionally whipped his kids with a belt, really tough guy.
MATTHEWS: Oh my god.
BROWER: And that was really surprising to me. And you know, they had these chaperoned lunches, too, that are really interesting, because, you know, normally, these are unstaffed lunches between presidents and vice presidents and his chief of staff and John Kelly`s sit in on their lunches to kind of keep the conversation on track.
MATTHEWS: Is this like the beer summit where they had to enlarge the group so the two can get along better?
BROWER: Yes, it`s really strange. I don`t know if it`s a to make sure if something comes up about the Russia investigation, there`s someone else there.
STEIN: It might it be because there are no more two oddly matched characters.
MATTHEWS: -- people having are marital difficulties always want to go on vacations with another couple to soften it up a little bit. I`ve been through these things, anyway, from the other end.
The roundtable is sticking with us. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, the HARDBALL roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, they`re going to tell me something I don`t know. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Kate, tell me something I don`t know. I know you got something.
BROWER: So, at the final decisive meeting at Bedminster Golf Club, the Trump elder children were all gathered around and Melania Trump was there, and they were deciding who Trump`s VP was going to be. He was considering, you know, Newt Gingrich, at one point, Chris Christie. And she insisted that he pick someone clean. And those were her words, clean, someone who doesn`t have any messy financial entanglements, rumors of affairs.
And so, in a way, I think that`s really surprising that he went with her advice and she had any political savvy at all to want to make sure that she knows her husband.
MATTHEWS: It was a smart move.
MATTHEWS: Good for her. She may be a little better person sometimes than the other end of that one.
Michael Steele, thank you. Kate Brower and Sam Stein.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, June 7th, 2018.
There`s a memorable scene in the great film "A Man For All Seasons" when King Henry VIII of England steps off his boat into a long slog of mud and seeing his embarrassing situation, his courtiers, all of them jump into the mud with him.
Welcome to the court of Donald Trump. What is it about those courtiers of his that makes them behave like those of King Henry`s, so ready to jump into the slop that Donald Trump seems to actually enjoy?
Look at the vice president. He used to be a somebody, got elected to the Congress of the United States all by himself, got elected governor of his home state of Indiana all by himself and now, he foppishly acts like a lap dog. I said acts like because he`s been a bigger boy than that.
Speaking of canines, why is Rudy Giuliani running around Israel saying stuff about Stormy Daniels? OK, she`s a porn actor. We know that. So, why is he rubbing it in, saying that she`s not to be believed because she is a porn star?
Sorry, I don`t get connection. We have known presidents, Democratic and Republican, that lied to us. Since when does office or education or job description separate the truth tellers from the liars? Tell us that, Rudy Giuliani?
And better question, I know why Trump wants you to do what you`re doing, but why are you, Rudy Giuliani, doing it? Trump`s going to move onto the next scandal, the next set of fixers and flacks to defend himself, and you`re going to get stuck with the stuff you`ve been saying and you`re going to have to explain it when this fiasco is long forgotten.
I liked you as mayor of New York. We thought you were a Jet from your last cigarette to your last dying day. What are you doing hanging with the sharks?
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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