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Trump calls on G7 nations to reinstate Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 06/08/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Dana Milbank, Shannon Pettypiece

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 8, 2018 Guest: Dana Milbank, Shannon Pettypiece

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Rolling seven. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.

Once again, President Trump is out there defending Russia while snubbing America`s closest allies. Departing today for the G7 economic summit up in Canada, the President called for Russia, for Russia to rejoin the group of seven. The international organization comprised of the world`s leading economies. He wants Russia back in.

Russia used to be a member of the G7 but their invasion of Ukraine and subsequent occupation of Crimea got them ejected back in 2014. Well, today, speaking over the noise of his helicopter at the White House, Trump said that the G7 countries should allow Russia to be readmitted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend and it`s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. It should be a part of it.

You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. And in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We got a world to run.

NBC News reports that the President`s comments on Russia were not planned and caught some White House officials off guard. At the same time that Trump seems to be advancing Russia`s interests, his tough talk on trade is alienating America`s usual allies at the G7.

Yesterday, Trump publicly lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emanuel Macron saying please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers.

And when it comes to the UK`s prime minister, Theresa May quote "the telegraph is reporting Trump will not hold formal talks with her according to the telegraph."

Allies to the President say, quote "Trump has grown frustrated with Theresa May`s school mistress tone." And as expressed annoyance to Mrs. May`s frequent demands.

And now an advisor to Trudeau told the New Yorker magazine the goal of the G7 summit has become to get allies together to try to contain the amount of damage Trump is doing. Well, President Trump is also expected to cut short his time with the G7 summit to travel to Singapore in advance of his meeting with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un next week.

For more I`m joined by "USA Today" Washington bureau Susan Page, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief and MSNBC contributor David Corn and "Weekly Standard" contributor editor and MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes.

Well, OK, Susan, this is a cartoon. I mean he is always been accused of being in cahoots with Russia and now is in cahoots with Russia. He is out there acting like Moscow`s guy in Quebec this weekend.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: And bring Russia back without addressing any of the things that got Russia kicked out.

MATTHEWS: Grabbing Crimea.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Wasn`t that part of the Republican platform as adjusted by the Trump people?

PAGE: Yes, that was then.

MATTHEWS: OK. All right.

PAGE: But this is pretty remarkable because what he is going to now is basically a G6 summit plus the United States. And since they started holding these in 1975, we have never had a situation where we are so at odds with our traditional allies.

MATTHEWS: Well, look at this. French President Macron responded to Trump`s trade threats yesterday saying that the U.S. is also at risk of being kicked out of G7. Quote "the American President may not mind being isolated but neither do we mind signing a six-country agreement if need be."

As Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said today, this is exactly the kind of chaos and instability that Vladimir Putin was hoping for when he intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. Let`s watch Chris Murphy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Listen, you can now see why the President -- why the Russian government cared so much about getting Donald Trump elected. I think that Putin is getting exactly what he wanted. He has paid no substantial price for interfering in our election. He has not moved one inch inside Crimea or Ukraine and he is now being let back into the club. And so the message coming from last week and this week seems to be that if you are a friend of the United States, you get treated really shabby. If you are an enemy of the United States, you get top class treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is weird. It`s like we hear the Republican members of the Congress are afraid to challenge Trump. Trump is afraid to challenge Russia. He is always backing away. He is like -- like Trump, he acts like vice President Pence acts towards him towards Russia.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: I don`t think he is afraid. I don`t think he cares that Russia attacked the United States in 2016. We say meddled, intervened. It was an information warfare attack. And he doesn`t give a darn about maintaining relationships or more importantly values with our allies. It seems to me that he wants not a G7 but really a G2, him and Putin.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But it`s him.

MATTHEWS: Another unfortunate phrase.

CORN: He has this affinity this psychological affinity for Putin to talk about him joining the G7 putting aside Crimea after what he did to the United States. Something, a basic fact that he has not recognized or talked about in public. And you know, there are a lot of ways you can run the world without letting Putin in the door and giving him a seat at the table to reward his bad behavior in Ukraine, United States and Syria and elsewhere. And he is just outright oblivious to that. I think he really wants it to be he and Putin rule the world together. That`s not fear. It`s a dark bromance.

MATTHEWS: You know, Charlie, back in the first gulf war, I have to give credit to certainly Jimmy Baker, the U.S. secretary of state and the first George Bush President because they were able to be put together a world coalition the Chinese, checkbook power so-called even Japan and the Germans. They paid for the money to pay for the war. They got the Arab league. They got everybody on our side.

This guy, President Trump seems to only want to go into the fight with his fists out there and nobody else on his side in the fight. He doesn`t want any allies as we go to Singapore. And we are going to need them. And these sanctions we nail against the North Koreans are going to have to be backed up by the world or else they are useless. Why doesn`t he want allies going to Singapore? He is making enemies.

CHARLIE SYKES, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, several things jump out at me. You know, first of all, a reminder, what a lousy negotiator Donald Trump is despite the image, the fact that he would give up something this valuable to Vladimir Putin and getting nothing in return, that he would give it to him for free.

The second thing that strikes me is just the hubris of all of this with all the questions about his ties to Vladimir Putin, all of the questions about whether he has beholden to Russia, the fact that he would sort of go out there and say you know what, I don`t care what anybody says, I`m going to destabilize this alliance. I`m going to alienate our closest friends. And I`m going to apiece Vladimir Putin on the world stage.

You know, think about that that here is a guy who is acting like he`s -- he`s bulletproof that he doesn`t need any allies, he doesn`t need any of that coalition to do what he wants to do. It really is, even by Trumpian standards, an extraordinary moment.

MATTHEWS: You know, this is what they said of John Foster Dulles under Eisenhower. He was the bull that carried the China shop around with him. Anyway, this isn`t the first time Trump has supported Russia`s occupation of Crimea.

Back in 2016, not in many years ago, Trump denied having any involvement in changing the Republican platform to reflect a softer position toward Russia on Ukraine. However, he still defended the platform change saying that the people of Crimea preferred to be part of Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?

TRUMP: I wasn`t involved in that.

You know, the people of Crimea from what I have heard would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that same summer, Trump also said he would consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia.

Susan, I don`t know, returning to the scene of the crime, I`m trying to find out why he keeps going backing to this love with Russia. And by the way, I was watching the pictures. I know this is superficial, but I`m watching what`s got to be the prettiest G7 in history.

The part of Canada, overlooking the St. Lawrence I guess was extraordinary today. Everybody looked like they were great. Everybody looked like they were part of a happy party getting together, a coalition of the world, Japanese, everybody there. And we are the odd guy out with the bull in the China shop.

CORN: But you know, in a way this is quite consistent with I think President Trump`s view of the world from the start which does not respect traditional alliances the way previous Presidents said has a kind of America first America alone quality. Doesn`t want free trade in the same way previous Presidents wanted about. So, in a way --.

MATTHEWS: Why is it? Is this a psychological condition?

PAGE: Well, I don`t know how to explain his attitude toward Russia. I think that inexplicable. But I think his attitude toward America is a kind of (INAUDIBLE) America. I think that is his view of the world.

MATTHEWS: Look at these guys (INAUDIBLE). Look at these guys. This as interesting bromance going on here. He is not doing that with any of our allies from the west.

CORN: Well, that`s interesting.

MATTHEWS: He is in cahoots, it looks like, with this guy.

CORN: It`s not just Putin. Putin is the number one guy. But with the Chinese President, with the North Korean dictator.

MATTHEWS: He likes bullies.

PAGE: He seems to want to make friends with these people more than maintain the existing relationships where even if we have trade disputes and policies, we share values. There`s a liberal western democracies and Japan, we share a set of values in a world that`s increasingly polarized and where these values are under attack. He has no regard for that and feels drawn to the people who would attack these values whether it`s Putin or China or a dictator like Kim Jong-un. And that also is explicable. I mean, there has to be some --.

MATTHEWS: It is inexplicable by once. He likes bullies. He wants to be one of them. He want the world run by bullies not like the world has been run since World War II where you have countries we recognize, even little countries we recognized their rights not to be overrun. He doesn`t recognize that.

Let me go to Charlie on this. Your thoughts?

SYKES: Well you know, I agree with everything that`s been said here. But you know, part of there is how dangerous this is not just for the economy and the country and the alliance but also Trump himself. You know, when think about all the things that can go wrong if in fact you break up this alliance, you know, we are on the brink of a trade war, a tariff war.

All the kinds of things that might derail the economic bloom that he has obviously, you know, has been touting for some time. And not to mention, you know, you mentioned before, the destabilization of our ability to negotiate with the Chinese, with the North Koreans, with the Iranians. All after that is in play. So he is destroying something that he doesn`t appreciate, he doesn`t understand and he doesn`t appear to care about the consequences of all of these things that he is doing.

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Mr. Trump said he doesn`t need to prepare very much for the summit with Kim because as he put it, it`s about attitude. Well, he is showing a lot of attitude. And today, he told reporters he has been preparing all his life for the meeting in Singapore. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you serious about really not needing to prepare for the summit?

TRUMP: I didn`t say that. I said I have been preparing all my life. I always believe in preparation but I have been preparing all my life. You know these one-week preparations, they don`t work. Just ask Hillary what happened to her in the debates. So I have been preparing for this all my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What, is he going to hump over Kim Jong-un like he did in the debate with Hillary? Is he going to hump over like a helicopter? I don`t know what he means.

PAGE: You know, the trouble is you can bluster your way through a real estate negotiation, maybe I haven`t done that. But maybe you can. When it comes to --

MATTHEWS: I`m sure you have decided not to buy a house. That`s how you do it. I`m not buying the house.

PAGE: Nuclear weapons do seem something that have a lot of details involved with them. And you know, the North Koreans are going to come in meticulously prepared for what kind of deal they want to strike. And you worry that the President will in there and not be able to kind of make a smart deal because he won`t understand all the details.

CORN: No.

MATTHEWS: They want to keep their missiles and grab South Korea. How does he win?

CORN: Well, you know, when Reagan was in office, he wanted to be appointed a special ambassador to solve the cold war. He said he could figure it out and within an hour have an arms deal with the Russians and everything would move on. This was 30 years ago. So I do believe he thinks that he thinks he has been preparing for this this whole life. But as Susan said, usually, these things are resolved before the summit begins. A lot of technical details, monitoring, verification, none of that has happened. And if you get to any of these issues he can`t talk about a single one of them.

MATTHEWS: We will see and we are going to see Monday, starting Monday.

We thank you, Susan Page.

Thank you, Charlie Sykes who are on the road to Singapore.

David, thank you, David Corn.

Coming up, special counsel Robert Mueller is turning up the heat on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. This guy is facing decades of prison. Manafort has been hit with another indictment now, this one for obstruction and conspiracy charges for tampering with witnesses. The new indictments come just hours after President Trump insisted once again he has the absolute right to pardon himself. We will get to that next.

Plus, Mitt Romney makes a bold prediction. Romney says Trump will win reelection 2020. Well, will he win in Utah? And after years of mocking the guy, Trump now says Romney is a straight shooter. That`s what`s it takes to be his friend.

Anyway, the HARDBALL round table is here to make sense of Trump`s obsession with helping Russia.

The latest trouble for Scott Pruitt and what might be a big gift for Democrats this November over the issue of Obamacare.

And finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like this one.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump today was asked about the arrest of a former Senate staffer charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It`s very interesting that they caught a leaker and a very important -- it`s a very important leaker. So it`s very interesting. So I`m a very big believer in freedom of the press. But I`m also a believer that you cannot leak classified information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Senate staffer at the center of the case, James Wolfe was charged with lying in the FBI when he denied having contacts with three reporters. But he wasn`t charged with leaking classified information. The prosecutors in that case also secretly seized a year`s worth of phone and email records belonging to a "New York Times" reporter.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There was breaking news today in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller filed new criminal charges against Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and also one of his long-time business associates. According to the new court documents, prosecutors accuse the two of witness tampering.

The federal prosecutors have asked that a federal judge revoke or revise Manafort`s release, his parole. President Trump was asked if he was considering a pardon for Mr. Manafort. Here`s what the President said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe you are above the law?

TRUMP: No, no, no, I`m not above the law. I never want anybody to be above the law. But the pardons are a very positive thing for a President. I think you see the way I`m using them. And yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself. But I will never have to do it because I didn`t do anything wrong. And everybody knows it. There`s been no collusion. There`s been no obstruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here`s what he said about Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?

TRUMP: I haven`t even -- I haven`t even thought about it. I haven`t even thought -- I haven`t thought about any of it. It`s far too early to be thinking about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: They haven`t been convicted of anything. There`s nothing to pardon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, why would he be talking about pardoning himself then?

Anyway, Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of "the Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor and Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC analyst.

Let`s start with the law here for a second. Have you adjudicated the issue of pardoning yourself yet? Where you are on that one, Paul?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I would love to. I will pardon you for obstruction and you for collusion.

RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you very much. No collusion. Just to let you know.

BUTLER: That`s right. So the President has extraordinary power pardon authority. It comes from the divine right of kings which is why Trump loves it so much.

I don`t think he could pardon himself. Again, it`s not an issue that the Supreme Court has ever considered. If you look at the structure of the Constitution, it`s all about no one being above the law.

Impeachment is a process to get rid of a high official, but the Constitution specifically says, after impeachment, that person can be indicted, can be charged with a crime.

MATTHEWS: So, therefore, pardoning yourself would be a relevant thing to a guy, a president who wants to avoid being convicted after he leaves office?

MARCUS: Well, it`s -- by implication, you shouldn`t be able to be pardon yourself if you could be subject to criminal prosecution after you leave office.

BUTLER: Exactly, because then anybody who was impeached would just, OK, I will pardon myself.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, you can commit any crime you would wish, including someone, technically, on Fifth Avenue.

MARCUS: Right. And why wouldn`t every president just pardon her and her self on day one in office, executive order, I pardon myself on anything I might do?

MATTHEWS: Of anything I do while I`m here.

MARCUS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And it`s like giving yourself a Nobel Peace Prize coming in the door.

(LAUGHTER)

MARCUS: You know, if he could do that too. That part`s not in the Constitution.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Manafort.

I am stunned by his stoic nature. We watch him doing these walks back and forth to the courthouse over and over time, each time carrying a heavier burden of a potential sanction, of imprisonment.

And these things to -- what is it adding up to, 30 or 40 years this guy is facing? And his choice, do I trust Trump for a pardon? Do I trust special counsel Mueller if he will give me a break? That`s a hell of a choice.

BUTLER: Robert Mueller is going in on Paul Manafort.

Man, this is, look, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, failure to register, and now obstruction of justice. Even just with the failure to register, we see how aggressive Mueller is being.

Only seven people have been charged with that crime in the last 40 years. So, again, it`s all about squeezing Manafort. Here, this is when we understand that Robert Mueller knows a whole lot more than we do.

Rick Gates, Manafort`s guy, is cooperating with Mueller.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUTLER: I think he`s got to have told Mueller something. Mueller really wants Manafort to strike a deal, to cooperate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s the $64,000 question.

Is this because he needs Manafort to nail him on collusion, that this is his big star witness that he knows -- because, after all, Manafort has all these relations with Ukraine and all this. If he worked for Trump, as he did for all those months as his top guy, Trump would have talked to him about all this.

He wouldn`t have been outside the loop. And that`s why if I were the prosecutor, I would say, you know what, this guy right here we`re looking at was part of the whole thing from the beginning. All those months, we were talking about a Russian collusion potentially. If I get him, I get the story.

MARCUS: Maybe.

We don`t know yet what the Manafort has. We do know that he is taking what was a very bad hand, because there`s a lot of very easily proven money crimes, you know, you have got to file the bank statements, things like that. He`s taking that very weak hand, or a good hand for Mueller, and made it that much worse with these witness tampering allegations.

MATTHEWS: But wouldn`t you be Manafort and common sense say, I wouldn`t be in any of this trouble now, the government would not have come after me for all that I have done in the past if I hadn`t hooked up with Trump?

BUTLER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to unhook myself with Trump.

Paul?

BUTLER: Dude is 70 years old. Many of these are 20-year felonies.

Mueller`s obviously very eager to cut a deal. Why doesn`t he do what Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page has done and make a deal? Again, this is the time to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s more on the new indictments.

Manafort and his longtime associate with Russian intelligence ties, Konstantin Kilimnik, have been charged with two new counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct. Both are accused of knowingly and intentionally attempting to corruptly persuade another person with intent to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.

Sounds like tampering, witness tampering.

BUTLER: It sounds also like special counsel Mueller has a bad attitude about witness tampering, about trying to interfere with their process.

(CROSSTALK)

MARCUS: He`s not the only one.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: Yes. Judges too. Judges take that more seriously than a lot of prosecutors.

And so what that means is sometimes we think what if there`s only evidence of obstruction, not evidence of collusion?

MARCUS: Right. Only evidence of obstruction.

BUTLER: Only -- yes. Again, and there`s been a question about what Mueller would do.

I think this sends a signal that he would actually bring a case if it`s just obstruction.

MATTHEWS: OK.

On the other side of the pillow, the other side of the fight, this is, of course, Stormy Daniels. Why do you think Rudy is going out there so far on a limb trashing this woman?

President Trump told reporters that he`s considering -- just a minute. President Trump also asked by reporters if he supported Rudy Giuliani`s recent comments that women like stormy Daniels who work in pornographic films don`t deserve respect, here`s what Trump said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But Rudy is Rudy. But Rudy is doing a very good job, actually. Doing a very good job.

QUESTION: Is being a porn star respectable work? He said it`s not.

TRUMP: He said what?

QUESTION: He said that being a porn star is not respectable work.

TRUMP: I`m not going to disagree with him on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, in other words, a porn star is not to be believed.

Anyway -- how about a president?

Anyway, according "The New York Times," the president has frequently instructed his lawyer on what to say about topics related to Mrs. Clifford -- Ms. Clifford -- and the special counsel investigation.

Recently, Rudy`s comments have earned rebukes from both the first lady and the secretary of state. It should also be noted that President Trump has made brief cameos in three Playboy movies, not that that is the most relevant thing in the world.

MARCUS: It should also be noted that whether or not President Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels or had a sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels, we certainly saw him with a -- in a very happy picture with Stormy Daniels.

MATTHEWS: Does anybody on the planet not believe her?

MARCUS: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Everybody believes her.

MARCUS: I`m told by Rudy Giuliani that the first lady doesn`t believe her.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but we don`t believe...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because her first lady`s press secretary said he`s never talked to her about such a thing.

MARCUS: But this notion that the president...

MATTHEWS: OK, why is Rudy doing this?

Paul, why is Rudy doing this, making up conversations he had with the first lady he never had with her? Why is he trashing this woman? He`s getting down into the muck here.

BUTLER: He`s a TV lawyer. And in some ways, it`s working. His job is to attack the prosecutor. You don`t have a defense, you go after the prosecutor. And, again...

MARCUS: He`s not even representing the president in the Stormy Daniels case.

MATTHEWS: Yes, oh, by the way.

BUTLER: It`s true.

But, again, when you look at how a lot of folks are responding to the investigation now, they`re buying this line, it`s time to wrap it up, it`s political. Again, ultimately this is going to be a political decision. It`s impeachment, and that`s his base.

MATTHEWS: If you want to keep your credibility, Mr. Mayor, stop saying things that nobody believes, that this thing didn`t happen.

Anyway, President Trump told reporters that he`s considering granting an posthumous pardon to Muhammad Ali, who was convicted of draft evasion back in `67. Here`s the president on this topic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m thinking about Muhammad Ali. I`m thinking about that very seriously, and some others and some folks that having sentences that aren`t fair. But I am thinking about Muhammad Ali.

QUESTION: What will it take for you to fire...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: In fact, we`re doing right now recommendations on -- frankly, we`re doing recommendations on Muhammad Ali.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But here`s the thing. The Supreme Court overturned that conviction against Ali back in `71.

The Ali family lawyer said as much in a statement released to the president -- quote -- "We appreciate President Trump`s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision back in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed."

MARCUS: What I would like to understand about this is not just why he`s thinking about Muhammad Ali.

MATTHEWS: You know why. He`s popular.

MARCUS: Well, but here`s the thing.

He has a problem with current NFL players who are protesting violence against black men by taking a knee, not respecting, according to president, the anthem. But he doesn`t have -- but he`s considering pardoning Muhammad Ali, who didn`t want to serve his country, for better or for worse, during the war.

So, put those two thoughts together.

BUTLER: Because if...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think he ever did what you just did. I don`t think he ever did the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think Trump says, now, let me see, am I being consistent here? I don`t think he did that.

Paul.

BUTLER: If you pardon 50 people or talk about it every day, by the time you get around to pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen and Roger Stone, it won`t be a big deal.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: But, sometimes, you can do the right thing for the wrong reason.

And so this pardon of Mrs. Johnson this weekend, who had this crazy long sentence for a nonviolent drug crime, that was the right thing to do. It shouldn`t take Kim Kardashian to make him.

MATTHEWS: That`s what he wants, though. See, he`s setting up the standard. I do the right thing on pardons and I`m going to keep doing it when it affects my case.

BUTLER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Ruth Marcus. And thank you, Paul Butler.

Up next: President Trump`s called Mitt Romney a failure, poor, and even mocked the way Romney walks. He says he walks like a penguin. But now that Romney is predicting Trump will win in 2020, Trump loves him. That`s how it works.

And that`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let me put it very plainly.

If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished. His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe.

He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president, and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to make of that.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Mitt Romney warning Americans back in 2016 of the dangers of electing Donald Trump president, but now in the midst of his Utah Senate race, where he needs Republicans, Romney`s changed his colors.

According to Politico, he told a group of Republican donors last night that -- quote -- "I think President Trump will be renominated by our party, my party, easily, and I think he will be reelected solidly, I think that not just because of the strong economy and because people are increasingly seeing rising wages, but I think it`s also true because I think our Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought."

Here`s how Trump responded to that little joy this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, we`re doing well. Look, Mitt`s a straight shooter.

Whether people love him or don`t love him, Mitt...

QUESTION: Well, he called you a con man last time.

TRUMP: Mitt Romney is a straight shooter. And, yes, he had some very nice things to say. I appreciate that. That`s good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined by Dana Milbank, a columnist with "The Washington Post."

It`s like the way I -- whether you like him or you not -- a little shot right there.

But there he was at Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah saying how awful this guy is. And here he is now lavishing praise upon him.

DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think the problem is, Mitt Romney is a principled man trapped in the body of a very timid politician.

MATTHEWS: Oh.

MILBANK: Look, he`s got a primary June 26. He wasn`t expecting to have a primary, but he`s got an opponent who is hugging Trump, who is surgically attaching himself to Donald Trump.

He`s way ahead in the polls. He should win it. But he`s so timid, he doesn`t want to take chances. He saw what happened to Martha Roby in Alabama this week. He`s a politician.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t he a symbol? I had hopes for him a few weeks ago, because he said something I liked, that he would be the -- sort of take on the role that John McCain has been playing, being the leader of the reasonable Republican Party against Trump.

Looks like he`s not ready for the role yet.

MILBANK: I have been hopeful of that. I believe I used the word savior. That seems to have been a bit premature.

MATTHEWS: So, we have both been flummoxed by this guy.

MILBANK: Well, it doesn`t mean -- what Romney said today doesn`t mean that what he`s going to say tomorrow.

Now, I suspect, when June 26 primary is in his rear-view mirror, he will go back to the Hinckley Institute.

MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney have frequently traded insults in the past. These are real personal things, too, by the way. These are not political lines. These are personal. Let`s watch them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There`s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. He`s playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.

TRUMP: Mitt is a failed candidate. He failed.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He failed horribly. That was a race that absolutely should have been won. I don`t know what happened to him.

ROMNEY: He creates scapegoats in Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

TRUMP: Poor Mitt Romney. Poor Mitt. I mean, I have a sore that`s worth more money than is he.

ROMNEY: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

TRUMP: And he walks like a penguin onto the stage. You never seen him? Like a penguin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what to say. I mean, it`s funny, because I have never heard a politician say another guy walks like a penguin, even if he does.

MILBANK: And he does kind of walk a little bit like a penguin.

MATTHEWS: Charlie Chaplin walked like a penguin.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know.

What about -- I can`t keep up with this stuff. I mean, the guy -- one guy calls him a crook. The other guy -- and now they`re buddies again for the...

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: Well, look, Romney shot at Trump and missed. And now he doesn`t have the power in this relationship.

Trump has a lot of power. With one tweet, he can make Mitt Romney`s life miserable.

MATTHEWS: I remember back when Romney -- back not 1,000 years ago -- everybody forgets -- six years ago, 2012, Romney is running for president.

He goes out and kowtows to Trump out in Vegas. Remember that scene? Or am I making things up? No, this is the reality of politics now with these two guys.

MILBANK: Well, of course.

Romney in the first place was sort of the original flip-flopper before the situation. But you have to understand the stranglehold Donald Trump has over Republicans right now. You`re with him, or you`re out of there, like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, anyway, Romney has a pattern of using Trump when he needs politically. Here`s Trump endorsing Romney back in 2012. I was talking about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It`s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney.

Governor Romney, go out and get them. You can do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How can you believe in politics when you watch this crapola?

Anyway, Dana, you`re the best.

You don`t need to be a satirist to do this. This is walking, talking satirist.

MILBANK: Just read what they say.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable tries to make sense of Trump`s obsession with helping Moscow.

Today, right now, up in Canada, he`s Moscow`s man up in Quebec. What`s he owe Russia? Plus, the -- well, that`s an open question.

Plus: The Trump Justice Department cracks down on Obamacare, but could that be a gift to Democrats? Apparently, Democrats and voters who vote -- want to vote this fall like Obamacare.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In calling for Russia`s reinstatement to the Group of Seven, President Trump offered his own history, well, of sorts. Let`s listen to the president.

(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It used to be the g-because Russia was in it. And now Russia is not in it. Now, I love our country. I have been Russia`s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I think Putin is probably going, man, I wish Hillary won because you see what I do.

(END VIDO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. His most recent embrace of Russian interests obviously suggests otherwise.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable, Geoff Bennett, White House correspondent for NBC News, Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for "Bloomberg", and Jeremy Peters is a reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor.

OK. Explain, why is he so Russia`s man up in Quebec today? He`s carrying their water again even though everybody`s watching him carrying their water.

GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it`s a huge concession to Russia absent any sort of reciprocity. It`s really hard to know -- the one thing we know it has been Vladimir Putin`s goal for decades to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its allies. Whether by design or by accident, the president is bringing that into fruition.

And it`s not as if he hasn`t been warned. When he floated in idea of a summit between him and Putin, there are people in the White House who warned him against it, and yet the president has this is warm rhetorical embrace of Vladimir Putin.

MATTHEWS: How can you be head of the free world if nobody`s following you, Shannon?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: He seems to like his adversaries more than his friends, like our reporting indicates the same thing, that he has been told by the national security and foreign policy establishment in his own administration do not do a summit in Austria with Putin. Yet, he does it anyway.

His lawyers warn him, do not do an interview with Mueller. He wants to anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

PETTYPIECE: He`s meeting with the North Koreans to see the handshake and that warmth between him and North Korean delegation. He is closer appearing to his adversaries than his allies at this point.

MATTHEWS: You know, either he`s dealing with Russia in plain sight and he dealt with them during the election and they did stuff for him to trash Hillary, gave him all the dirt on her and all that stuff. Now, he`s paying it back so openly. What`s going on?

JEREMY PETERS, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it`s much more base than that. And Shannon raises a good point. He`s acting out. He`s doing exactly what everyone is telling him not to do because they`re telling him not to do it. We`ve seen this with him time and time again.

The whole Charlottesville eruption both sides when he said very fine people or something, I think that that ultimately had more to do with people saying, Trump won`t condemn these folks.

MATTHEWS: Was he trying to get people to attack him because that helps him politically when the media attacks him, when normal people attack him as abnormal, he seems to benefit?

BENNETT: Yes, I mean, that`s certainly the case. But, look, I mean, this whole G-7 issue is sort of a symptom of the larger issue here which is the U.S. realignment to allies. The West has been imploring the president to stay in the Iran deal, to stay in the climate accord.

MATTHEWS: These people -- look, Macron is a popular figure in this country and Justin Trudeau is. Maybe they`re young attractive leaders --

PETTYPIECE: Well, maybe not among the Trump supporters.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think they like him?

PETTYPIECE: I think they like Putin for being strong and for standing up to -- you know, I mean, I think they might like Putin better than they like Trudeau.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s about at home, that`s healthcare because it matters to more voters than a lot of this stuff.

Jeremy, what do you think? What do you think about the fact that our polling is showing the NBC that among the issues voters cite, they cite Obamacare as their top issue?

PETERS: I think that`s going to change in a couple of weeks. I just -- I don`t think --

MATTHEWS: Well, look at that, 22, it`s not a huge lead. It`s just number one.

PETERS: Yes, it`s number one and number one is always economy and jobs, always. I think this is --

MATTHEWS: But that isn`t economy and jobs. It`s health care.

PETERS: It is health care, but that`s related to economy and jobs, too, right? So, I don`t know. I don`t think that this election is going to be litigated over Obamacare. I really don`t.

I think it`s going to be driven over impulses of -- you know, are you satisfied with the direction of this country or you are not? Health care plays into that, of course, but it`s ultimately going to be about what do you want to do. Do you want a change in November after this or do you think we`re just fine?

MATTHEWS: But we both -- you and I worked for large organizations that give you health care as part of your package. People that don`t have it, it would seem to be very important.

PETERS: But what`s the Republicans` plan to fix it? So, I mean, both parties -- the problem is the parties aren`t talking about issues right now, Chris. They`re not. They`re talking whether or not Donald Trump is the worst president in history or whether or not he`s the greatest president in history.

(CROSSTALK)

PETTYPIECE: I was going to say I covered health care for ten years. Every two years everyone told me, this is the health care election, this is the health care election. The one time it when there was a Tea Party resurgence, it was about getting rid of health care and blocking people from having health care.

So despite the fact that health care of is eating peopling people`s paychecks, I think it is complicated. And I think it is easier --

MATTHEWS: Well, despite the fact that health care is at the top of our issue list in our polling, on Thursday, the Justice Department told a federal government it considers key provisions of Affordable Care Act, Obamacare unconstitutional and the Justice Department would no longer defend crucial provisions of the Affordable Care Act that protect consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.

Now, there is a phrase that worked on the center left and left, people do care about being able to buy health care even though they`ve got some health problems.

BENNETT: Well, that`s right. And the Republicans --

MATTHEWS: Real people.

BENNETT: Republicans are attacking the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act which is there prohibition against targeting people with pre- existing conditions. I will add, though, in covering more Trump rallies across the country, talking to Trump supporters, the thing they say they care about the most is health care, interestingly enough.

MATTHEWS: How are they going to get from him?

BENNETT: Well, that`s the question. But Democrats think this is a winning issue, because Chuck Schumer already said they`re going to spend August, if they have to stay behind, as they will, they`re going to spend August on health care.

MATTHEWS: We`ll see. He`s not calling the shots in the Senate, by the way.

Finally, the scandals around embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt keep piling up. Among the ones just this week, ordering a staffer to get a used mattress from a Trump hotel, a used mattress. Trying to get a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife, having his security detail fetch his favorite moisturizing lotion.

And despite all that, President Trump still a fan at least for now. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA. I mean, we`re setting records outside he`s being attacked very viciously by the president. And I`m not saying that he`s blameless, but we`ll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m not saying he`s blameless. By the way, he`s doing a good job inside that building, but he`s ordering his moisturizer inside that building, all these other stupid things. The guy has got radioactivity all around him.

PETERS: Absolutely. And, you know, if this were a different situation with fewer cabinet defections and firings and exits, you would probably see Scott Pruitt gone. But what`s going on here, the key words that Trump said right there, were that he is being attacked by the press. That is what Trump is responding to.

Trump just like with Roy Moore in Alabama, the reason that Trump supported Roy Moore wasn`t because he thought that, you know, Roy Moore would be a great senator. It`s because he identified with persecution that he believed Roy Moore was suffering.

And he sees a fellow persecuted soul in Scott Pruitt.

BENNETT: Here`s the thing, though, remember, two months ago, White House officials would say if there`s one more controversy, that`s the end of the line for Scott Pruitt. That was six or seven scandals ago.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s all they want to do. Business people you talk to care about two things. They want lower taxes on themselves and they want deregulation. That`s all they talk about when you get them with them.

The roundtable is sticking with us. And next, these three will tell me what I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Congratulations to the hometown Washington, D.C. Capitals. They won their first ever Stanley Cup last night, 3-2, beating the Vegas Golden Knights four games to one. And for the Caps, the next stop would be the White House.

Here`s President Trump on that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they want to be here, it`s the greatest place on earth. I`m here. If they don`t want to be here, I don`t want them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think Trump loves the fact there`s three Russians on the team. This week Trump -- who was it Trump rescinded, Trump did, his invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House this week after most of the team`s players said they didn`t want to come and meet Trump.

Today, he said he`s not inviting the eventual NBA champions either, either Golden State Warriors or the Cleveland Cavaliers. They`ve said, by the way, they don`t want the invitation.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Geoff, tell me something I don`t know. It`s Friday.

BENNETT: It`s Friday. Well, at least three top flight attorneys turned down the Trump administration requests to serve as number three at the Justice Department. This person would be at the center of a firestorm if Donald Trump fires Rod Rosenstein. I`m told these folks don`t think it`s worth the risk to their careers.

MATTHEWS: And they`d be ready to play the role.

BENNETT: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Shannon?

PETTYPIECE: I`ve been on Trump/Mueller interview watch for months now it seems. I just talked to Giuliani last night. He said he is leaning pretty far against doing an interview at this point. They`re preparing for a subpoena fight. So, that could be our next show at the Supreme Court.

PETERS: So the Trump pardons that he keeps issuing and floating today it was Muhammad Ali. There is a certain method to that even though it seems a little bit crazy. He`s trying to rile up black voters because he knows in certain states like Missouri, Claire McCaskill, a Democrat is not popular at all with black votes. And so, he`s doing what he does best, trolling.

PETTYPIECE: And Kim Kardashian was an example of that, but he admitted.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Geoff Bennett, Shannon Pettypiece, not all good news for the world. Jeremy Peters.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. It will be interesting for him, too. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Friday, June 8th, 2018.

I wish our president Godspeed on his way to Singapore along with a warning. North Korea does not want what we want. They want South Korea, have wanted it since they invaded and nearly overrun that country in June of 1950.

And to reach that goal going forward, they want the United States to end its strategic alliance with the South removing our 32,000 troops from the 38th Parallel. The president should not be taken in by Kim Jong-un`s talk of writing a peace treaty between North and South Korea. That peace treaty will have one clear purpose, to remove the justification for our keeping those 32,000 troops now in the way of another invasion from the North.

The danger is that the president will agree to removing our troops in exchange for a promise from North Korea to kill its nuclear weapons program. Such a promise, of course, is worthless. The only real step by the North would be to declare the number of weapons they have and stay where they are and allow them to be inspected.

President Reagan said trust but verify. Without verification, there`s flow reason to believe a word Kim Jong-un says.

A final warning: we need to be specific what we agree to do. If we agree to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, we need to specify that does not mean removing our troops and it does mean ending our strategic alliance with South Korea. We remove our nuclear weapons from South Korea under the first President Bush. It`s time for Kim Jong-un to do the same with his weapons under President Trump.

What matters is not the smiles or words of next week or the cheerfulness of the occasion, it`s the reality that arises from it. Will we be safer or not? We`ve had Munich, we`ve head Yalta, let`s not let Singapore join that list.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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