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WaPo: GOP refusing to challenge Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 06/14/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Julia Ainsley, Jacob Soboroff, Robert Costa, David Jolly, David Corn, Yamiche Alcindor

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 14, 2018 Guest: Julia Ainsley, Jacob Soboroff, Robert Costa, David Jolly, David Corn, Yamiche Alcindor

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And that does it for THE BEAT. We will be back at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The bare truth. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Is Donald Trump the new big bad bear of the Republican Party? Back in the time of Ronald Reagan, they said it was Russia we needed to fair, you know, those people over in Moscow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don`t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it`s vicious. And dangerous. Since no one can be sure who is right, isn`t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear?


MATTHEWS: Well, now the Republicans are afraid of a new big bad bear and he is right here in this country.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: A lot of them would vote for it if it came to a vote but no, no, no, gosh, we might poke the bear is the language I`ve been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The President might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment. We are going to do everything we can to block it.


MATTHEWS: Has it gotten this bad that the Republican Party is no longer driven by desire to protect the country from a foreign foe but to protect its own members from getting beaten by its own leader?

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

The transition of the Republican Party is now complete. Once the Party that championed cold warriors like Ronald Reagan is now the Party that blindly follows its own bear, Donald Trump. Throughout his presidency, Trump rebuffed Republican orthodoxy. He is also cozied up to the same autocratic leaders Republicans once repudiate.

Republicans are align (ph) to pledge allegiance to their leader or pay the price. "The New York Times" reports a Party that once championed free trade has now largely turned to protectionism under Mr. Trump. Sermons about inclusivity have been replaced with demagogic attacks on immigrants and black athletes. A trust but verify approach to foreign policy has given away to a seat of the pants style in which rogue regimes like North Korea are elevated and Democratic allies like Canada are belittled.

The President even seems to be telling the Moscow line on some of his foreign policy decisions. According to "the Wall Street Journal," Putin gave Trump the idea to stop joint military exercises with South Korea.

Well, the current chair of the Republican Party Ronna Romney McDaniel had a very stark warning to any Republican who dares to oppose the President.

She tweeted, complacency is our enemy. Anyone that does not embrace Donald Trump`s agenda of making America great again will be making a mistake."

Her tweet which cause some pushback was a reference to these comments she made on FOX.


RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Anyone who doesn`t embrace the Trump agenda and doesn`t recognize the issues that propelled us to victory in the White House is going to be making a mistake.


MATTHEWS: For more I`m joined Yamiche Alcindor, White House reporter for PBS News Hour and an MSNBC political analyst, David Corn, Washington bureau chief from "Mother Jones," David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida and Robert Costa, national political reporter from the "Washington Post," also an MSNBC political analyst.

David Jolly, I want to talk to you about your Republican Party. Is it still there? Is the big bad bear now the man you are afraid to poke? It used to be the Russians, it used to be our enemies, now it`s the leader of the Party who is so fearful or fear so much and say that that`s the number one goal of any elected official, do not mess or do not, as Bob Corker said, dare poke the bear.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: That`s right, Chris. Look. The GOP that we knew is dead. It`s over. This is the Party of Donald Trump. Not just because of shifts in policy. We see evolution of policies at times in both parties. But the tone of the Party has changed dramatically and the imprint of Trump has forever changed the Party.

Consider Reagan spoke to better angels. Bush 41 spoke to a thousand points of light. Bush 43 to compassionate conservatives -- conservatism.

Donald Trump ushered in tones of American carnage. And what a lot of people believe as mean-spirited bigotry. He has led his followers through gas lighting and through lies and as result he has broken the back of the mainstream GOP. It no longer exists.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Robert Costa on this. Because it seems to me the Republican Party used to be somewhat libertarian. A congressman falls in love with a woman from Buenos Aires and says he is on the Appalachian Trail hiking. And they say well, love is love. Love is blind. He might have made a fool of himself but he is going to be our congressman.

And then the guy did something really evil. He dared to challenge President Trump. He dared to do something that was weirdly unorthodox. What do you make of that? That`s the sin you can`t commit.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: At this point, no one is spoiling for a fight with President Trump in the 2020 primary race.

As a long-time reporter on the GOP, what`s surprising is this orthodoxy from President Reagan survived so long. Parties evolve. Parties sometimes die. And this populism has gripped elements of the Democratic Party and, of course, the Republican Party in recent years as different voters have struggled with the global economy.

MATTHEWS: But the Bushes pushed, the NAFTA, Trump was -- President Reagan was a free trader. He was a gut that believes in coalition building. George senior Bush was a giant in coalition building in the first gulf war. They used to be proud of their ability to assemble under James Baker, the secretary of state. Our allies. That was a proud aspect of the Republican Party. Now we are cashiering our allies. Robert?

COSTA: They are transactional, Chris. And this Republican Congress, they tell me they got the tax cut, they got the conservative judges on a different courts, including on the Supreme Court. And so, they are willing to have a transactional relationship with this outsider figure who has somehow taken over a Party that was traditional, that was conservative because that`s the only way they feel they can survive. They talk to their own voters in their states and districts and say the voters are with Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will see what is left when he is gone.

Anyway, President Trump commended Kim Jong-un as a tough guy as FOX News anchor Bret Baier pressed the President about human rights abuses under him. Let`s watch that exchange.


BRET BAEIR, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He is executing people.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don`t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have, if you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that`s one in 10,000 that can do that. So he is a very smart guy. A great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.

BAEIR: He`s still done some really bad things.

TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nation a lot of bad things were done.


MATTHEWS: And that`s godfather talk. And sure is the President is not sure on attitude toward the North Korean leader -- abusive tactics mimic something, he once said about Putin. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: He is running his country and at least he is a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.

TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean by that?

TRUMP: There`s a lot of killing going on the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity.


MATTHEWS: So thuggishness (ph) is OK as long as you are my pal.


MATTHEWS: This is frightening talk from an American President.

CORN: Yes. It is not just about a policy shift. This is about values. He is praising -- I mean, it`s OK to meet with your enemy. We try to do this all the time to negotiate arms deals. We don`t like the Iranian leaders but he meets with this guy who is a thuggish dictator who employs death camps, summary executions, mass forced starvation and he says hey, pretty good guy. He is doing this at 27. How old was Hitler when he took over the German government?

I mean, he seems to have no feeling for any sense of values, American values or any other. And the scary thing is he can talk this way and there`s not a single political appointee or aide in his administration who finds or takes offense with this and says I can`t work for a guy who praises a fellow who runs concentration camps and Republicans on the Hill except for Corker don`t have -- you don`t hear a peep out of them. This is about values. It is not about a change in policies.

MATTHEWS: I was amazed at this purging because I think FDR didn`t even defend our war time Joseph Stalin on the purges and that kind of stuff. This guy is now purging people in his own Party. Look at Mark Stanford. He punched him the other night and said you are out and it worked.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: But here is a thing. President Trump was always about a cultive personality. And the people aren`t scared about President Trump as much as they are scared as Robert said about his voters which are having massive amounts of people, millions of people who voted for Trump because they saw this string man, they saw this idea that someone who had a lot of money, who was successful. They weren`t talking about people that had Republican values or Republican policies.

I argue that the moment that he won that nomination is the moment the Republican Party knew that the Party that they knew was no longer there because President Trump is praising all these people. He doesn`t care about --.

MATTHEWS: You know. And there are people out there -- look, my father was one, there are people sort of regular not rich Republican who believed in small government, believed in lower taxes, didn`t like communists. These were true values. What happened to those people?

CORN: Anger.

MATTHEWS: You say it`s the Republican Party.

CORN: Anger has replaced values. It has replaced ideologies.

MATTHEWS: I think you are right. I think its resentment, well said.

Retiring Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is one of the few who dares to speak out against this President. Yesterday, he said the Republican Party was becoming a cultish thing. That`s c-u-l-. Let`s watch.


CORKER: Look. We are in a strange place. I mean, it`s almost you know, it`s becoming a cultish thing, isn`t it? And it`s not a good place for any Party to end up with a cult-like situation.


MATTHEWS: Well, the President`s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was asked about the senator`s comments. Here is what he had to say about Corker.


DONALD TRUMP JR., TRUMP`S SON: I think that`s ridiculous. I think, you know what? If it`s a cult it`s because they liking what my father`s doing.



Let me go back to David Jolly. You have been elected to serve in Congress by a Republican membership in the Tampa area. Those people down in Tampa, those Republicans have they gotten so angry as David Corn said that their anger and their resentment against the establishment in this country is so great it overrides all other beliefs, all other principles?

JOLLY: It is and those are the cultish elements. And the North Korea example is very informative. That this is a President who is historically incompetent when it comes to foreign affairs. But he is into the selling his base on his competence or the merits of the North Korea meeting. He is selling his base on his own strength. The fact that this is a President now that they can believe in, that is yes, a strong man but somebody that can stand up to dictators.

And notice the underlying element of this, as well. A President who retreats from his own peers at the G7 who cannot go toe to toe with people equally as competent and supporters of free democracy in a free world. Instead, he positions himself with a much weaker dictator on the world stage to show his base that he is a strong President. They are believing in his strength, not in his competency.

MATTHEWS: Is this some sort of real -- it`s not populism. It`s sort of no nothingness. Are his people so anti-foreign, anti-Canadian, anti-European that they will take his side against people who are pretty much our people, our friends over there?

JOLLY: You know, I think of what he has done.

MATTHEWS: Do they hate Angela Merkel? Do they hate Theresa May? Do they Justin Trudeau? Do they really despise those people enough to join the President bullying them around?

JOLLY: This is where we have to call President Trump a task for something as very shameful behavior. The elements of xenophobia, frankly, are racism and bigotry have existed in the Republican Party but we have seen past presidents shine (ph) those elements. Donald Trump has embraced those. It was part of his path to victory.

ALCINDOR: But also --.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, go ahead.

ALCINDOR: I was going to say when you are out talking to people, there is all this idea that when they heard America first they saw everybody that wasn`t American as an enemy. So I covered the G-7. It was in Canada. And it was shocking to see him basically talk all this trash about Justin Trudeau and then get on a plane and not be able to even sign a joint communique with our allies and then come out with a joint statement for North Korea. The people I talked to are eating it up. They are saying this what we wanted. This is what we voted for.

MATTHEWS: Robert, I think it was Popeye Doyle (ph) in the "French Connection 2:" who said I would be a lamp post in New York than the President of France. Is that the sentiment of our President today? He would rather be a lamp post in New York than President of France?

COSTA: Yes, that is his perspective.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. That`s a good answer. And I like your short and sweetness. Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: Maybe I should leave it there. But I mean, you can stitch this all together. OK, well, just saying. All right. I`ll leave it there then.

MATTHEWS: I love your yes, sir.

Let`s, go. Yamiche Alcindor, David Corn, David Jolly and the great Robert Costa, a man of few words. (INAUDIBLE) reveal.

Coming up, government watchdog reports find that FBI director James Comey made a serious error when he reopened the investigation on the Hillary Clinton`s emails just days before the election. Well, we knew that. Now it is official. And that`s a move that helped Hillary -- well, helped Trump win.

So why is Trump trying to play victim here? He won. He won because of the screw-up. And that`s ahead.

Plus, Republicans are feeling it the heat over Trump`s policy of separating children from their parents` at the border. That is being called inhumane, don`t you think? And now, Trump`s allies are even them are starting to pipe up against it.

And what if Barack Obama saluted a North Korea general. Didn`t he do it? I have seen him do it. The HARDBALL roundtable tackles that. And the cult of Trump and the latest from far right ringleader, he is something else, Stephen King. Well, he is the guy who famously said a lot of immigrants have calves the size of cantaloupes. Who is measuring their calves for smuggling drugs?

Anyway, finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like it.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Well, the New York attorney general today sued President Trump and his three oldest children alleging a present, a persistent pattern of illegal conduct at the family`s charitable foundation. Look at them. As "the Washington Post" first reported the lawsuit argues that Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit to pay off his business`s creditors to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events. Well, according to today`s filing the charity was coopted by Mr. Trump`s Presidential campaign and cites email traffic from Trump campaign staffers showing that they directed the foundation`s expenditures even though such charities are explicitly prohibited from engaging in political activities.

President Trump reacted on twitter blaming sleazy New York Democrats for bringing the lawsuit. He also said I won`t settle this case.

We will be right back.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.


SANDERS: You know?


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, Hillary Clinton`s 2016 primary opponent famously attempting to put the issue of the former secretary`s emails to rest. And now almost three years later, we may be a step closer to doing just that.

Today, the justice department concluded its internal review of the FBI`s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. And while it finds no evidence of political bias in the FBI`s prosecutorial decisions, it says that former director James Comey made a serious error of judgment when he sent a letter to Congress reopening investigation of Hillary`s email just days before the election. It also called Comey insubordinate for his decision to hold a press conference in July of 2016 without consulting the attorney general. It was there that Comey criticized Clinton despite he announced no charges would be brought. We all remember this. Let`s watch.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information.


MATTHEWS: Well, despite those criticisms, the report states that: "We found no evidence that Comey`s public statement announcing the FBI`s decision to close the investigation was the result of bias or an effort to influence the election."

Joining me right now is Julia Ainsley, national political reporter for NBC News. Cynthia Alksne is a former federal prosecutor. And Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, it seems the big takeaway from this report was -- and it was a voluminous report -- was, A, Comey was wrong to make that statement he did and the big announcement about Hillary`s situation on the e-mail in July and very wrong 11 days before the election, when he reopened the whole thing publicly.

Your thoughts?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I think there are two big takeaways. And that is certainly one of them. He should not have done either one of those things. He substituted his own judgment for department guidelines and principles which are designed to make sure that they don`t affect an election.

And, arguably, he certainly did affect the election. And, secondly...

MATTHEWS: On that point, do you think Hillary was right that 11 days out saying that the Anthony Weiner matter had opened the whole thing again had that close to -- had an effect on the results?

NADLER: Oh, it certainly had enough of an effect on the results. Whether it had enough of an effect that it changed the outcome, I think it`s probably true, but you can`t prove that.

But the second takeaway is that, contrary to what the Republicans were saying for a year-and-a-half before the election and to this day, there was no bias in the FBI. There was no bias in the Department of Justice. And they were trying to push the Department of Justice, as they`re trying to pressure the special prosecutor now, as they`re trying to taint the jury pool, the public, against whatever he says now.

And this is very important to say there was no political bias whatsoever.

MATTHEWS: What jumped out at me, because I`m like the people who watch this show. I`m a political person. I pay attention. I read all the papers, watch everything.

I know you were at the heart of it, coming from the New York media. You live in it every day. Do you think it`s believable because, this is in the report, that James Comey, the head of the FBI, did not note that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton`s top kick, was married to Anthony Weiner, the congressman in New York who got in all the trouble? Didn`t know they were together?

How can -- do you think that`s true?

NADLER: I don`t know whether it`s true or not, but stranger things have happened.

I don`t know what he reads or doesn`t read. And he may -- I don`t know.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you, Cynthia, it tells me he`s not a political guy, Comey. He may be incompetent on some things. He ain`t sitting there thinking political.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It`s the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I mean, come. Of course he knew.


MATTHEWS: Of course he knew?

ALKSNE: Of course he knew. It`s ridiculous.


JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know I don`t like to wager, but I do think that the reason we`re asking this question, it not just because it`s fun to play these games in Washington.


MATTHEWS: It is weird, because this is a New York tabloid story that never quit about Anthony Weiner. How many jokes did they make about him?

AINSLEY: I know. It`s true.

But I think the real reason why that matters is because of the delay. We found out from this report today that, as of September 29, 2016, they had enough information to subpoena those e-mails on Anthony Weiner`s computer. So, why did we not hear about that until October 28, when he told Congress?


MATTHEWS: Well, was there a agenda there, a special agent there who slowed it down to have a bigger impact on the election?

AINSLEY: Well, so that is what they investigated.

What they found is, there were a number of people who decided not to move forward. One of those was Comey. One of those was McCabe. They say political bias shouldn`t be involved in their decision. But another one was is Peter Strzok.

And as we saw from text messages today, it looks like he did have a political bias. And they couldn`t quite rule that out.

MATTHEWS: What did you make, Congressman, of this member -- special agent who said I`m going to stop Trump from being elected? Was that just bull talk or B.S.?

NADLER: Yes, I think it was. I think what those tapes prove is that Strzok and his girlfriend, Lisa Page, agreed with the majority of the American people who don`t like Donald Trump. And they`re entitled to their political opinions.


MATTHEWS: But when he said, we`re going to stop it, what do you make of that?

NADLER: I think that was rhetoric to his girlfriend.

MATTHEWS: What would you make of that legally?


MATTHEWS: Cynthia, wouldn`t you use that against some guy if he said I`m going to stop it and I`m a special agent?


ALKSNE: It`s totally appropriate for a special agent of the FBI who is supposed to be above reproach to be writing that.

It makes no sense. And we tell our children whatever you put in your e- mail, it`s not private. Nothing is private. And if you are working on an investigation this serious, you should not be saying that.


NADLER: But the I.G. specifically found that there was no evidence that any decision or action taken by any of the agents, Strzok, Page, anybody else, was affected by political bias.

MATTHEWS: Do you there that will stop Trump from tooting this?


NADLER: No, it won`t stop Trump, but, well, Trump lies about everything. So...


ALKSNE: But here`s the problem.

What this has done, it`s the Strzok and it`s Comey breaking all the rules. And it was a terrible thing that he did for the Department of Justice. And that`s the way I look at it, is as a prosecutor and as somebody who wants the justice system to appear fair.

And it does taint the whole justice system. Strzok has tainted it. Comey has tainted it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s my big question. And you guys are experts.

Why didn`t he, when he found out Anthony Weiner had some stuff it that was -- gotten on his -- they were sharing it. Husband and wife were sharing the same laptop at home, and some of the stuff he was picking up from Hillary on his laptop.

Why didn`t he just look at it, examine it, and then decide to make a statement then? They checked out this laptop in a couple of hours. Why did they have to make a big announcement, we`re looking at the laptop?

AINSLEY: So, he could have had -- he would have had the luxury of that if had he acted sooner.


AINSLEY: If he had acted in September, when he was notified about that, he would have had the luxury.

As we remember, there were thousands of e-mails people were going through. And a lot of the e-mails on Anthony Weiner`s computer were copies of things they already had. But they didn`t know that at the time. So, they didn`t know how long it was going to take.

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t they look at them before they talked?

AINSLEY: So, about October 28, they didn`t know quite how many they were have to go through.


ALKSNE: But they still got through it.


AINSLEY: But he didn`t have the luxury of time.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that`s where Hillary has a right to be angry.

Anyway, responding to the revelation that James Comey also used a personal e-mail account to conduct official FBI business, Hillary Clinton wrote in a tweet: "But my e-mails."

Congressman, you`re the political guy here. Do you think Hillary is right to say this was biased against her because she said -- even though the report said it wasn`t biased, do you think that the FBI acted in a definitely unpleasant way to Hillary here?

NADLER: I think the FBI conducted an honest investigation. I think that Comey, for reasons of his own personal public relations and for reasons of what he considered public relations of the FBI, violated the guidelines and improperly substituted his judgment for the rules, and thereby biased the election against Hillary.

MATTHEWS: We have got a report -- I read it in Politico today, Congressman -- that Mr. Mueller is not doing too well in the polls. This constant trashing of him by this president and his people out there on FOX and everywhere else is having an impact.

NADLER: Especially given the fact that he`s behaving properly and not answering it and not leaking.

The only thing we know about -- this investigation has been leak-proof. The only thing we know about the investigation is from court filings, who has been indicted, and what the indictments say, who has pleaded guilty, and any legal filings they make, period.

You have got one side, the president and all his allies, trashing Mueller, trashing the investigation, trashing the FBI, trying to taint the jury pool, as Giuliani quite directly said, and on the other side, a proper, professional investigation, saying nothing and answering nothing.

MATTHEWS: Yes. The good guys are not winning this public debate.

ALKSNE: Well, the one thing we know because of this report is that Mueller will be very cautious when he does his release. And it will -- if he can`t get it done by August 1, there won`t be a peep until after the election.

AINSLEY: I thought about that today.


MATTHEWS: Oh, the 2018 election?

ALKSNE: Oh, yes, absolutely.


MATTHEWS: Do you buy that, Congressman, that you are going to have a shutdown of any kind of...


NADLER: I don`t know that August 1 is the magic date, but yes.




The lessons learned from this, it is very probable that we could be in a similar situation. We have a president who will be -- his party going through midterms. He will be facing another election in 2020.

And there are countless investigations into him and his businesses, into his lawyer we saw today. And so it could be possible that you could be in this position again where federal investigators...


MATTHEWS: How about state investigators?

AINSLEY: Or the state investigators.


MATTHEWS: In New York City.


NADLER: I don`t think they`re bound by...


MATTHEWS: I don`t think they`re worried about the congressional schedule.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, U.S. Congressman Jerry Nadler, who -- the ranking Democrat in the House Judiciary Committee, he may be the most important guy in the country next year.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Julia Ainsley and Cynthia Alksne.

ALKSNE: If we lucky.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Republicans are under increasing pressure, due to Trump`s policy of separating families at the border. Now some leading conservatives are coming out are going to it, calling the practice disgraceful.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The Trump administration policy of separating children from parents who illegally cross the border is now facing opposition from some Republicans.

Here`s Oklahoma Senator James Lankford addressing the issue in a call to a constituent.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: What I`m making a request to the White House on is keep families together as much as we can possibly keep family together for as long as we can possibly keep them together.


MATTHEWS: Well, House Speaker Paul Ryan said today that he wanted the issue addressed through legislation.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We don`t want kids to be separated from their parents. I think I just made that really clear.


MATTHEWS: And NBC`s reporting that Texas Senator John Cornyn is planning on introducing a bill that will require that families be kept together while they are waiting for court proceedings.

And, today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Bible provides a justification for his policy. Let`s watch.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s how White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded:


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.

But the separation of illegal families -- alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refused to close. And these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade, and the president is simply enforcing them.


MATTHEWS: However, there`s no law that states that families must be separated at the border. It`s happening now because it`s a policy that the Trump administration initiated.

I`m joined right now by MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, who has been given access to the country`s largest facility for those children in Brownsville, Texas. He described the facility, a former Wal-Mart, as looking more like incarceration than temporary shelter.

Let`s go to you, sir. And my question to you is, what`s it like inside, Jacob? What`s it like inside there?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s pretty chilling to go in there, Chris.

I mean, again, they call it a shelter, but it feels more like a jail or a prison. And to hear the attorney general say that it`s not an unusual situation to separate children from their parents for a short period of time, I mean, that`s absolutely untrue.

It`s completely unusual. And it`s never been done before in this capacity. The reason there are now 30 percent of the kids inside that facility behind me, the old Wal-Mart, 30 percent of the 1,500 kids in there that have been separated from their families is because of a brand-new Trump administration policy to separate and prosecute, I should say, 100 percent of the people that enter the country illegally.

And that results in the separation. The only reason there`s an overcrowding crisis inside there -- and now in Tornillo, the port of entry near El Paso, they`re setting up a tent city, which we`re finding out just tonight -- is because there`s not enough space because of this new policy.

And so it`s completely disingenuous for the attorney general to say that it`s not new, and same thing goes for the press secretary, who stood up there today and said there`s nothing new about what they`re doing. This is new to the Trump administration. It has never been done in this way before.

MATTHEWS: I have said this before, Jacob, but it`s had a sort of "Sophie`s Choice" aspect to it from World War II and the Holocaust.

Pulling the kids out -- what are the kids like when they want to see their mom? What do they do? Do they ask to see, can I see my mom? And the guards say, no, you can`t? Is that what it`s like? Just -- kids want to see their parents.

SOBOROFF: Is the reality is, there is no seeing your mom or your dad or your family members when you`re inside here.

You have the opportunity to call your sponsor if you are an unaccompanied minor and you showed up here without your parents. But if your parents were separated from you at the border, your parents are in federal prison right now.

And the only way to get in touch with them is to have that federal penal institution get your parents on the phone, schedule a time to talk to you, and you don`t know when you are going to see them again. The average stay in here is 52 days.

And, Chris, again, it`s not unusual to have unaccompanied minors come into the United States. In 2014 and in 2016, we had big migrant crises, where you had a lot of unaccompanied minors. But this is a self-inflicted wound from the Trump administration, a crisis created artificially by separating these kids down at the border, creating the overcrowding situation crisis, separations that we`re seeing right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jeff Sessions said today that children in these facilities are treated well. Let`s watch him.


SESSIONS: This is HHS, Health and Human Services, something entirely different from the criminal justice system, to take care of these children in a good and decent and proper way.

They`re provided food and education in their native language, health and dental care.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s hot down there, isn`t it, Jacob? It`s hot.


MATTHEWS: And they`re talking about a tent city now with people really living in the environment of Texas in the summer.

SOBOROFF: What the attorney general said is not incorrect, but it`s not the issue. The issue is not whether or not licensed child care professionals can give good quality care inside this facility to the children that are inside there.

Somebody from the ACLU told me you could send these kids to a five-star hotel, and they would be traumatized for their entire life from being ripped away from their parents. He`s just deflecting.

It`s not about the quality of the care that is going on inside this facility, even though it`s child incarceration, even though they are only allowed outside two hours a day, and for the other 22 they`re inside the Wal-Mart.

Again, that is not new for what`s going on inside facilities like this and the other 99 of them in 17 states throughout the country. It is the fact that the Trump administration has chosen to put a large amount of kids, more than ever before. This place is as busy as it`s ever been, ever, because the Trump administration has chosen as a deterrent strategy to scare people into not coming by saying, we`re going to rip you apart from your kids.

We know that prevention through deterrence, it was the official Border Patrol policy in the `90s. All that did was result in more people crossing through more dangerous ways and dying in the desert or here in the brush in South Texas.

And that`s what you are going to see from a policy like this. People are going to stop declaring asylum and people are going to go into the country in more dangerous ways. And then it will become a true life-or-death humanitarian crisis, Chris.

That`s the next step in all this.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, NBC`s Jacob Soboroff. Amazing reporting.

Up next: Can you imagine if Obama did it? New footage shows President Trump saluting a North Korean general. The HARDBALL Roundtable weighs in on that picture, that pretty picture.

Plus, Rudy Giuliani is tamping down reports that Michael Cohen is about to flip. But everybody else thinks he`s about to flip.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump is shrugging off the human rights abuses of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un following his historic summit in Singapore. And now, Trump is stirring more controversy thanks to video released by North Korean state media.

In the North Korean state media video, President Trump goes in for a handshake with a North Korean general. The general raises his hand in a salute and Trump returns the salute. And then the two men shake hands again. Let`s have more of this.

Anyway, today , White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump saluted the general as a common courtesy to a military official. How did she know that?

Let`s compare that reaction to what we saw in 2012 when President Barack Obama was photographed appearing to bow to Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the -- maybe because he`s taller than the guy. Trump blasted Obama n Twitter writing: the amateur, first Barack Obama was caught bowing to the Saudi king but now the president of Mexico.

For more, I`m joined by the round table, Adrienne Elrod is a Democratic strategist and former senior aide for Hillary for America. And John Brabender is not a Hillary guy, he`s a Republican strategist. And Ayesha Rascoe, White House reporter for NPR.

OK. What do you make of this, Adrienne? Suppose Hillary had done a crisp salute.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean, can you imagine, Chris? It would been -- articles of impeachment would have been filed against her immediately. I mean, we probably would have had more articles of impeachment before that.

MATTHEWS: I remember when Jimmy Carter kissed Brezhnev. That was a bad day.

ELROD: Yes. No, I think that -- look, I think what you`re seeing here.

MATTHEWS: Here we go, we`re going to play this awhile. We`re going to keep playing this baby.

ELROD: It is a very dangerous trajectory. You`re seeing the president of the United States who has more respect for authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un than our closest Democratic allies.

MATTHEWS: Look at the happy father there, Kim, that young man, he`s smiling in glee. Hi, guys look, he`s saluting -- how do you know this guy doesn`t do the thumb screws or how do you know this isn`t the king torturer over there, and he`s the guy who knocks off his uncle and other jobs like that for Kim.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don`t know understand. Are you -- are you now worried that the president is too soft that --

MATTHEWS: I`m asking.

BRABENDER: I mean, look, I wouldn`t care if he would have done the Macarena with the entire North Korea army if this is going to lead to the denuclearization of North Korea. I think we`re at least have a real shot at it. I think he`s played this pretty smart and he deserves credit for that.

MATTHEWS: OK, he`s optimistic.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: I mean, this is something that the North Koreans will be able to use as propaganda for years to come. So, the White House is defending it saying it was a common courtesy. But this is something that if things don`t go well, North Korea has this and they will be able to show this over and over again.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t there a term for this in the Far East, kowtowing?

Anyway, meanwhile, President Trump`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani responded to speculation Wednesday that Trump`s long time attorney and personal fixer Michael Cohen could be close to cooperating with prosecutors.

Here`s what Rudy told Fox.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: He`s not cooperating nor do we care because the president did nothing wrong. We`re very comfortable if he cooperates there`s nothing he can cooperate about with regard to President Trump. I am absolutely certain of have from everything I know about that investigation. Michael Cohen, I think would tell you he`s got nothing incriminating with the president and really they should stop going after him. They`re torturing the guy. The reality is they`re trying to frighten him.


MATTHEWS: Bank fraud, mail fraud, the works. But I tell you, we all watch these perp walks, wherever you call them. We all watch Michael Cohen. We watch him walking past the cameras, knowing his own camera, looking very sad.


MATTHEWS: What`s up? Rudy says he`s in the corral. Everything is OK. I don`t think so.

ELROD: Well, look, I think that every time Rudy Giuliani opens his mouth and says something, half the time he`s wrong. So, I think the more analysis we do on everything that Rudy says pertaining to this investigation, it kind of takes us off the game. Emmett Flood is the one who`s behind the scenes, doing all the work.

MATTHEWS: Who is? Emmet Flood, the lawyer.

ELROD: Emmet Flood. Rudy is the attorney -- Rudy is the one out there spouting his mouth. Again, half the stuff --

MATTHEWS: Would you say that if Rudy were here?

ELROD: Of course I would.

MATTHEW: Just checking.

John Brabender?

BRABENDER: Look, I mean, everything keeps talking about, you know, he looks unhappy. Well, he did get raided. I mean, he has good reasons just like --


MATTHEWS: All his -- he`s recorded all these phone conversations and they`ve got all the recordings.

BRABENDER: So far --

MATTHEWS: Every time he had a woman to fix to keep quiet, this guy has it on tape somewhere, everything in his e-mail, all there. They`re looking through it.

BRABENDER: But, look, we have not seen one piece of evidence at all that any of this is related.

MATTHEWS: Because they`re holding it.

BRABENDER: Yes. Well, but we haven`t seen it.

MATTHEWS: You`re banking on making this straight, John Brabender, because you`ll be on again. You`re banking on Michael Cohen on being clean and having nothing on the president.

BRABENDER: But Rudy is also doing a good job saying no matter what comes out, we can`t trust anything anymore because of this FBI, and I think that`s a fair --

MATTHEWS: Because of this guy that said.

ELROD: The Mueller investigation is not leaking, so I feel like --

MATTHEWS: Keep trashing Mueller.

Go ahead.

RASCOE: That`s what I think -- that`s what Giuliani is saying these things is all about. The investigators know what they have on Michael Cohen and whether they have anything on the president, Giuliani I don`t know that he would even know. But I think he`s trying to make the case to the public there`s nothing happening. If you say it enough, you can make this case we`re innocent.

But, you know, people often do say they`re innocent but can still end up getting charged.

MATTHEWS: All I know is that if this guy`s done anything wrong and I think they did, Mueller is going to catch him. That`s what I`m sure.

They`ll be no walking away. He`s going to catch. This guy looks serious.

Finally, one of your favorites, Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King is under fire after retweeting a British political activist who has described himself as a Nazi sympathizer and an admirer of Adolf Hitler.

King retweeted the post. The screen shot of a Breitbart story on opposition to mass migration in Italy and commented; Europe is waking up. Will America in time?

Well, the "Huffington Post" reported late today that King said he didn`t realize he had retweeted a Nazi sympathizer, but wouldn`t commit to deleting the tweet. It`s certainly not the first time Mr. King`s far right views have sparked controversy. In 2013, he told Newsmax that most immigrants were drug mules.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: For everyone who is a valedictorian, there`s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and have calves the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.


MATTHEWS: John, what`s with the crowded cantaloupes? Wasn`t Dan Burton out there shooting cantaloupes to see if shot himself or not? What does this with cantaloupes? Does he measure the legs of these guys to see if they`re cantaloupe size? It is weird.

BRABENDER: Look, I`m going to be the first to say that he shouldn`t have retweeted. Even -- and if he didn`t know who he was retweeting, he shouldn`t have waited the entire day to discredit it.

MATTHEWS: Where do you put Steven King on the spectrum? Hitler being 10.

BRABENDER: Well, yes, I`m not going to get into that. I`ll let Steve King defend himself.

But the problem I have when this type of thing happens is it takes us off the real discussions that we need to have on illegal immigration and the reforms that need to happen that America wants to have happen. And this is -- this is something where we just get off message.

MATTHEWS: Ayesha, Stephen King just keeps doing it.

RASCOE: Well, I think that Republicans have to decide what message they want to send, and what`s important to them. Like is it important they stand up if someone retweets someone who is a Nazi sympathizer? Is that important for them to stand up for and to stop against? That`s something - -

MATTHEWS: Do you believe this guy king didn`t know he was retweeting this Nazi guy?

ELROD: Of course I don`t believe him. Look, the bottom line is, white nationalists are part of the Trump Republican Party coalition. That is the bottom line. That`s why you`re not seeing a lot of Republicans who have the courage to come out and criticize Steve King for his tweet.

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

You`re watching HARDBALL.



REPORTER: Scott Pruitt of EPA -- are you confident in him continuing, given all the ethics violations?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Frankly, I haven`t paid that close attention to it. I don`t know enough what Pruitt has or has not done to give you a good comment.


MATTHEWS: Well, Paul Ryan apparently hasn`t seen a newspaper in a few months. He may not want to the excellent on the myriad of controversy squaring around the EPA administrator.

But Pruitt is taking plenty of heat from other conservatives. "The National Review" says Pruitt should be canned. Arguing this is no way for any public official to treat taxpayers.

And last night, FOX News host Laura Ingraham tweeted that Pruitt`s bad judgment is hurting Trump and that he`s got to go.

Even Pruitt`s longtime ally, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, says that every day something new comes up and unless something drastically changes, it`s time for him to leave the job.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today was asked if the president still has confidence in Pruitt. Here`s what she had to say.


REPORTER: What is his status within the administration and does the president have confidence in him to remain as administrator?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly we have some areas of concern and some of these allegations, but I don`t have any personnel announcements at this point.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Adrienne, tell me something I don`t know.

ELROD: Democratic women are in full force. They want to run for office. In 2016, as a demonstration, 950 women contacted Emily`s List seeking support running for office. This year, it`s 36,000. Very exciting.

MATTHEWS: Nine hundred fifty to 36,000.


MATTHEWS: All the evidence is this is a big women`s year.


MATTHEWS: You, John.

BRABENDER: Shortly after President Trump was elected, U.S. Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania stood up and said he`s happy to lead the resistance. A new poll was released just a few hours ago that showed 56 percent of Pennsylvanians either aren`t voting for him or are undecided, showing that right now, he`s one of the weakest Democrat senators.

MATTHEWS: Is Barletta going to win?

BRABENDER: I think he`s going to --

MATTHEWS: Do you work with Lou Barletta?


MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get it on the table. Let`s get it on the table.

BRABENDER: The point is, this is going to be a battleground that`s going to go into 20 --

MATTHEWS: Because of you, you`re going to get Barletta. You personally will bring him across the finish line and beat Bob Casey.

BRABENDER: Do you want to make a contribution?



MATTHEWS: I might make a bet. But go ahead.

RASCOE: Quick statistic for you. So, President Trump has pardoned five people and issued two commutations at this point in his presidency compared to the past three presidents who at this point had issued zero pardons or commutations.

MATTHEWS: What`s your point?

RASCOE: So, he is different from other presidents. Instead of other presidents waited, he`s jumping right in.

MATTHEWS: Yes, a lot of them waited until the last second when nobody was looking.

RASCOE: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: OK, Marc Rich.

Anyway, thank you, Adrienne Elrod, John Brabender and Ayesha Rascoe.

When we return, let me finish tonight with "Trump Watch". It will be short and sweet tonight. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTEHWS: "Trump Watch", Thursday, June 14th, 2018.

Could it be that Donald Trump so recently a pro-choice big city Democrat joined the Republican Party in order to destroy it? Think of the principles that have been undergirding the party -- respect for the rugged individual, opposition to excessive government power, a cringing hostility toward federal deficits, hatred of communism and communists personally.

But here you have the new leader of the Republican Party operating in plain sight to destroy each and every one of these Republican principles, these pillars of the Grand Old Party itself. And what happens if someone in the party and the GOP tries to stop him? He`s accused of poking the bear. Wow.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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