Show: HARDBALL Date: June 18, 2018 Guest: Tammy Baldwin, Joaquin Castro, Michael Caputo
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: HARDBALL starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: God’s children. Trump’s country. Let’s play HARDBALL.
Well, the images suggest those of concentration camps, families being cut apart. Children ripped from their parents. What country would do this? What good country would allow it? This is Donald Trump’s doing. What we are seeing is what he wanted people to see. When a desperate people in the other side of the border to see, wanted Americans to see and what Democrats to see so they would build his wall.
But is this a step too far? Donald Trump said he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Is separating kids from their parents what he had in mind? Is this proof of what he can get away with? Or is it beyond even what his people will swallow?
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Our father’s day weekend over it, President Trump and his administration came under intense criticism for the so-called zero tolerance immigration policy resulting in forced family separations. Much of the mounting public outcry was sparked by images like these.
Of small children looking on as U.S. border patrol officers detained their parents. Then there are the newly released recordings sobbing children at a detention facility. NBC news has not obtained the audio from a civil rights attorney who he said he received it from client. Let’s listen.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
MATTHEWS: NBC has not been able to independently authenticate that recording.
Well late today, DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen double down on the policy refusing to apologize. Instead, she insisted the administration would continue to prosecute all criminals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: DHS is no longer ignoring the law. We are enforcing the laws as they exist on the books. As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Despite the mounting pressure, the President is also pushed back against criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Immigration is the fault and all of the problems that we are having because we cannot get them to sign legislation. We cannot get them even to the negotiating table. And I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault. The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Seeking to deflect the President continuously laid blame at the feet of Democrats. But those comments contradict statements by his own attorney general and chief of staff who helped champion this policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: A big name of the game is deterrence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it’s a family separation stands as a tough deterrent?
KELLY: Could be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though they say that is cruel and heartless.
KELLY: Yes. I think cruel and heartless, I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KELLY: They are put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally to the United States. And this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or very long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to "The New York Times" Zero tolerance which the administration are proudly rolled out back in May is the brain child of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. Miller told "the New York Times" that rolling out the policy was a simple decision by the administration.
"Washington Post" is also reporting to the President saying political advantage in all of this. According to the White House officials, the President’s calculated that he will gain political leverage and congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate.
Joining me right now is NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, Peter Baker is chief White House correspondent from "the New York Times," Jennifer Rubin is opinion write from "the Washington Post" and NBC’s Jacob Soboroff is outside of one of the country’s largest immigration processing centers that in McAllen, Texas.
I want to start with Kristen. Kristen, it seems like they said in the cowboys movies, this administration is speaking with a forked tongue. Two different messages coming out at the same time. One is, this is our policy of zero tolerance and we believe in it. We have to separate. We have to put the parents on trial. And the other statement coming out from the secretary of homeland security was, oh, yes. And by the way, if you want to change this, go ahead and do it because we would like you to do that. We want to change the policy. We believe it. That makes no sense to a person listening.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that’s why this is such a growing crisis for this administration. You heard those two different messages on display in the briefing that was given by DHS secretary Nielsen and then Sarah Sanders who came to the podium just moments later who really stressed that the President hates this policy. Wants to see it changed. Is bothered by it.
Secretary Nielsen really dug in on the fact that this is a crisis that was created by past administrations. Is it a policy that this President is responsible for or not? I tried to press Kirstjen Nielsen on that very point and said look, the bottom line is this started when the attorney general announced that zero tolerance policy. If the President hates it, why doesn’t he pick up the phone and change it? She, of course, punted. She put the blame on Congress, Chris. But it’s becoming very difficult for them to explain this and to frankly be on the same page.
MATTHEWS: It looks to me, you know, covering politics all these years and looking at her, she did a very good job today of defending what can’t be defending. Basically, they want to change the policy but they are proud of it. Is she in detention? Is she on the line right here for her job?
WELKER: I think this is a critical test for her. We know that she was essentially picked by chief of staff John Kelly. Ultimately, President Trump got onboard with this. But there have been some tensions behind the scenes, some differences of approach.
At some point, the President has expressed that descent feel as though she is securing the border enough. And so, I think this is a critical test. That briefing was a critical test for her. Will she be able to keep this up? That’s a big question. He undoubtedly was watching that briefing today. And she faced a lot of tough questions, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Last question to you. And this is the one I want your answer. You are on television. You broadcast. You get the message across. I try to do the same thing. The President is very good at creating reality TV. He creates a world through television.
This is a television show that nobody wants to watch. No American wants to watch kids and hear them crying. Kids crying when they cry at church is fine. But these kids are crying because of policy, because their parents have been taken away from them. That’s why they are crying. How can the President defend what he knows is a lousy reality show?
WELKER: I think he is struggling to do it, Chris. I think you saw that when he surprised us and came out here on the north lawn on Friday and we peppered him with questions about this, the humanity of it. He got very upset and pointed the finger at Democrats. That’s his tactic right now, to point the finger at Democrats. It’s a tough argument to make though because, of course, there is his own zero tolerance policy.
I do think that we have seen President Trump dig in when it comes to having a fight. He rarely backs away from a tough fight, Chris. And we are watching that unfold right now even though as you rightfully point out, these images are not what Americans want to see. It is not what the President, it is not with the first lady wants to be watching. I think the question is will he add any point back away from this fight?
Just tonight, we learned that senator Ted Cruz is introducing emergency legislation. So the pressure is mounting on this President to do something. He knows that he does have the power to do it. The question is, will he?
MATTHEWS: Kristen, it is great watching you there. I love the back and forth. I think you hit them right on the head with the problem that contradicts in this policy. A policy they claim they invented and they want to get rid of it but they claim the Democrats for not getting rid of it. This is crazy talk.
Let me go to Jacob Soboroff who is down at the reality that exists down there, not just the TV show.
Jacob, tell us what you see down there, what we should know.
JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just also sing Kristen’s praises, Chris. She asked the question that we still don’t have an answer to which is where are the toddlers? Where are the girls?
We have been given access to two 100 facilities run by health and human services across the country where the separated child migrants are being held. And I have been in one of them. NBC’s got a source in another. We haven’t seen any girls or toddlers.
What we do know and what I would like to know, what the President would react if he got to see what I saw in that facility is that 1100 young kids have been separated from their family right here in the Rio Grande valley border patrol sector. And in this building right here at the McAllen processing center, there were 1200 people last night. That when you walk in there and there is talk of other cages or there are cages, what do you want to call them?
Let me tell you something right now. There are cages. They look like dog kennels. They are not just adults or families together. They are young children sitting in there. And increasing number of young children sitting in those cages because they were separated from their parents. And more are being separated every single day.
It makes you sick to look at. And I would like to know what the President would think if he was actually inside there? Will he feel the same way? The secretary of home land security said she has been down here and she has been inside the detention centers. I would like to know she -- and she has been here since the separation policy was put in place? And she talked to the border patrol agents who say they are stressed that even if they support this policy, they don’t have the resources to keep.
The four social workers that were in there last night having to deal with increasing number of children separated from parents because of this very policy. And it’s not a democratic policy. It’s a policy put into place by Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, look what they get together the policy of separating boys from girls and younger kids and the older kids. That is really concentrations camps stuff. And Sophie’s choice kind of thing. Is that decision made at the border, the Trump call that in from the bench? How that get -- who put that policy in? Letting you see the older boys, not the younger boys and not the girls. Who told them not to let you see the girls and younger boys? Who did that?
SOBOROFF: The shelters are controlled by the department of health and human services. And I actually do want to say, those facilities are run by professional, competent childcare professionals, licensed professionals, doctors in those facilities. Licensed caregivers in those facilities. By all accounts, health and human services is doing a good job, Chris, of taking care of these children. What has been dumped on their plate by this administration, the children coming out of this building is more kids than ever before. So there are 11,000 children currently in the care of health and human services.
Today, Kirstjen Nielsen said only about 1,000 of those have been separated from their parents. But if you extrapolate the rate at which these kids are coming out of this facility and going into that one, it will be 20,000 by August. Why don’t they want to show us yet where the girls are and where the toddlers are? What the toddlers’ care look like? People are genuinely concerned about these young children and just want to know that they are OK.
MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the heat down there. They put the kids in tents. And by the way, side question. What do the PR people, the public affairs people, tell you about the decision to let you see the older boys but not the other children? What are they tell you, sir, excuse for that?
SOBOROFF: That’s a good question, Chris. And I truly believe they want to get us in these places. They have not done it yet. They tell us we will get you in as soon as we open up one of the places for a tour. There is only a couple of them and they are bouncing around the country from one of threes to the other.
Tornillo, this tent city, I believe, will be next on the list for us. And we are going to try to get into that tent city, tent camp is really the accurate way to call it, where the overflow crowds are being held right now.
But, look, if I was them, I would make it a priority because the American people want to know. People are contacting me on social media every single day. Where are the girls? Where are the toddlers? It is something I’m hearing over and over. And if I was them, if I was standing behind that desk or if I was going around the country on the site surveys it would be the first thing I do to open up those facilities to show despite what the Trump administration is doing. It is out of the control on HHS. It is up to President Trump. Despite what he is doing, that these kids are well taken care of.
MATTHEWS: Well, they now know everything, thanks to your reporting. We now know that they are separating kids by age and gender for PR reasons, not for humane reasons.
Let me go to -- let me go to Peter on this one.
Peter, what do you make of the front page impact here? I get the sense this is one time where Trump has cut down his coalition to a smaller number. They may be against illegal immigration. But not this cutting edge stuff.
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. It is striking over the weekend you saw critical mass begin to build of criticism that wasn’t just from the left but also from the right. Obviously, Laura Bush, the former first lady, some senators like Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham and also "the New York Post" conservative editorial page. I think that was why you saw so many administration officials starting with the President himself out there today trying to push back, trying to defend themselves. They are on the defensive on immigration which is a position they are not used to being. And they are trying to get back on the offense.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they are going to pull back on this policy of zero tolerance which they basically put into effect without law? The law state the same. They went their direction. Will they change and give it up now that the heat is on?
BAKER: Well, it is an interesting question, you know. Any other administration probably would have done that by today just, you know, the national political course of things. That tape you played from Pro-Publica is obviously very powerful. The pictures that have come out of the region are very powerful. Normal political reaction would be to make the pictures and audio go away.
But that’s not the way this President generally reacts. He doesn’t like it to be pushed. He is using this, obviously, to push Congress to get legislation that he thinks is necessary to defend the border. But if it looks like a cynical ploy, that’s one more piece of criticism from people even in his own party.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Peter.
Let me go to Jennifer. God’s children. I open with that because they are God’s children. Every religion believes that. Kids are kids we get from God. They come to us. We are responsible for looking out for them. They don’t decide what country to live in. And we have to look out for them when they’re here. And yet this is Trump’s country. He keeps winning the PR wars. Will he win this one?
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don’t think so. I think speaking of religions, you have really every religious group out there, catholic bishops, reformed Jews, Methodists.
MATTHEWS: Even Franklin Graham, my favorite.
RUBIN: Yes, exactly. It is a big Trump supporter condemning this and really condemning Sessions for trying to quote scripture in defense of this.
I think Peter and the others are exactly right. I think the pictures and the sound are going to annoy at American’s hearts.
And listen. Ted Cruz doesn’t make compromise on policy issues like the immigration for not that he is doing it because Beto O’Rouke who he is running against for senate went down to the border, had film taken of him sitting with kids, talking to their parents and now he is scared so he is now introducing emergency legislation.
You had Ben Sasse who likes to write a lot of Facebook posts but doesn’t very do very much, saying this policy is wicked. Will he join some type of policy initiative? So I think you are going to see some movement in Congress and then Trump will try to take credit for it. But at this point, no one really cares who gets credit for it. The Republicans look awful and they should look awful.
MATTHEWS: I think mothers especially.
RUBIN: Yes. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: I think I just looked. You don’t have to be a genius to see the women like Laura Bush and Melania Trump are making some noise about this.
MATTHEWS: This is for real.
Thank you Kristen Welker with the great reporting. And great in the action fighting to get the truth in that press room.
Jacob Soboroff, you do this better than anybody, that on scene reporting. It is the best there is.
Peter Baker, I love the front page of "The New York Times" because of you.
Jennifer Rubin, my colleague here.
Coming up, we will get the politics of the President’s policy of separating kids from their parents doing it sneakily as we have said tonight. Trump and the Republicans are on the hook for a policy that roundly criticized as immoral separating boys from girls and older from younger so it looks good? No matter how hard the President tries hanging the blame on Democrats, he is doing it.
Plus, long time Trump associate Roger Stone now remembers, isn’t this cute, remembers having a meeting with a Russian pushing dirt on Hillary Clinton. The guy called himself Henry Greenberg. I just love this. Like a baseball player.
Anyways, Stone told the House intelligence committee he had zero contacts with Russians but now he remembers the meeting. Remember, what I told you years ago about rolling disclosure? How you remember it at the appropriate time. Well, this has set up by another Trump pal. Michael Caputo is going to join us tonight.
And the HARDBALL roundtable over what is happening at the border with Mexico.
And a statement from a defeated Republican member of Congress who says Trump lies, catch this phrase, all the time. And the party will pay the price, he says.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Supreme Court today punted on two cases involving partisan gerrymandering, putting offer a decision on whether the practice is even constitutional. The two cases one out of Wisconsin and one out of Maryland were instead settled on technical grounds. Both decisions were unanimous.
While the court failed to deliver a landmark ruling against gerrymandering, today’s decisions will have a practical impact come November. As "the Washington Post" points out, state legislative elections in Washington this year will be conducted using the map challenger said was overwhelmingly favoring Republicans. The Maryland congressional district will remain the same including the district that challenger said was drawn to elect a Democrat.
And we will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump is lashing out at critics of his administration’s policy of forced family separation. And, once again, he is falsely blaming Democrats, saying they could end the policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can do this very quickly if the Democrats come to the table. Everybody wants to do it. We want to do it more than they do. If they come to the table, instead of playing politics, we can do it very, very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, despite his attempts to deflect blame on to Democrats, the president is facing increasing pressure to end the policy, even from those within his own Republican Party.
In a statement today, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse wrote: "Family separation is wicked. It is harmful to kids and absolutely should not be the default U.S. policy. Americans are better than that."
That is from a Republican in Nebraska.
And late today, Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced he would introduce emergency legislation to keep families together after they cross the border.
Axios reports that, even as pressure increases on Trump to change the policy, "Sources say Trump views the issue as leverage and will try to get funding for a border wall or other concessions for a rollback of the policy."
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen rejected that notion and joined the president in pointing the finger at Congress. Here she is late today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It is clearly within their power to make the laws and change the laws. They should do so. The children are not being used as a pawn. We’re trying to protect the children, which is why I’m asking Congress to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I’m joined by Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin.
Senator, a couple things. It seems like the difference between the two parties -- and there is a difference -- is, they want to treat people who come across the border even as refugees as criminals. They want to put them on trial, separate from the kids, and treat them like they just stole a car or something, like regular criminals. That’s how they treat them, not as people seeking a better life.
I think Democrats have a more nuanced view of people coming into this country for a better life, and especially those trying to escape hell on earth where they came from.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: Exactly. Exactly.
And think about the fact that many, many of them are -- the murder capital of the world is one of the places where people are fleeing to come to our...
MATTHEWS: Is that Guatemala?
And, you know, where -- when small children risk losing their lives, unheard of violence, you can understand why people take this dangerous, dangerous trek. But that doesn’t mean, at the other end, they should be met with this despicable policy.
MATTHEWS: What would you do if you could write the law? Parents who cross the border without authorization, bringing children with them, what should we do?
BALDWIN: Keep them together.
MATTHEWS: And don’t put them on trial?
MATTHEWS: Don’t put them in jail?
BALDWIN: Well, wait. If they’re coming here for asylum or for refugee status, there is a hearing that will take place for them to be able to present evidence that they ought to be asylees and come into our country.
MATTHEWS: And their children can stay with them in that situation, in that process?
BALDWIN: Absolutely, they should. I mean, it’s just inhumane that they don’t.
I agree with those who are saying that the children are being used as pawns, pawns for a wall, pawns for whatever the president is seeking. And this is not the first time. I mean, think about, that was happening with the dreamers.
MATTHEWS: Is that what you hear, Senator?
BALDWIN: But it also happened with...
MATTHEWS: That he thinks he can get the wall by using these kids as like kidnapees, like holding on? We will keep these kids here until you agree to put a wall up?
BALDWIN: You know, certainly, he’s behaved like that before in the DREAM Act context.
BALDWIN: And even if you think about using children as pawns, think about the CHIP legislation that was held up long for -- for...
MATTHEWS: I know, for children’s health.
BALDWIN: Yes, but in a larger budget debate, where he was fighting for his wall.
This is something that the president and the president alone needs to change. He can do it tonight, if he’s listening.
MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen -- Kirstjen Nielsen said this today:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIELSEN: There has been much outcry, consternation and, frankly, misinformation from many in the press, in Congress and advocacy groups over the last few weeks that we at DHS are intentionally doing things that are un-humanitarian, that are cruel, immoral and disgraceful. We are doing none of those things. We are enforcing the laws passed by Congress.
It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press. They are very well taken care of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I’m joined right now by Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro.
This afternoon, he visited two facilities down in Brownsville, Texas, where some of the children are being held.
I don’t think it is the press vs. the president right now. I think it’s those cries from those kids. They want the daddy, their pappy.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, that’s right, Chris.
And we had an opportunity today to see the youngest victims of Donald Trump’s brutal policy of separating young kids from their families. We saw what was called an infant room.
And one of the young infants in that room is 8 months old. His name is Roger. And he had been separated from his family for over a month. And there was another girl that was about a year-old, and she had been separated from her parents also.
And these kids, their parents are nowhere to be found. And it was astonishing to listen to the secretary of homeland security basically deny reality. If you watched her today, she looked like a zombie, denying reality on behalf of the president.
There is a brutal policy, and it has to stop.
MATTHEWS: Well, she said two different things which clashed into each other.
One was, this is policy. We want to get tough. This is zero tolerance. The other one was, oh, if you want to change it, just do it. It’s up to Congress. We would like you to do that.
I mean, she wants you to change the policy she’s just invested in. It doesn’t make logical sense, whatever your emotions are on this thing.
CASTRO: The president has the absolute ability instantaneously to stop separating families.
So, he has the ability to do this on his own. He is using this as leverage, basically -- basically, engaging in state-sponsored child abuse, to use that as leverage to get Democrats and others in Congress to vote for a border wall.
He is treating these kids and behaving as though this is some kind of real estate deal, where you put pressure on the other person by raising rents or negotiating over square footage or something. And he’s doing that with the lives of kids.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something Jacob Soboroff just reported to us, that, apparently, they’re letting the press see the older boys, but not the younger boys or any of the young women or the girls.
Are you able to ask to see -- as a member of Congress, can ask you to see how they’re treating the young boys and how they’re treating the girls? Are you able to get through what they don’t let the press see?
CASTRO: Well, we did. And at one of the facilities, we did see some young girls. But, to be honest, their answer was still not very clear as to where all the girls are.
Now, that said, there are many contractors. This facility was run by Southwest Keys. There are many contractors that do this and there are many facilities. So, it’s also possible that many of the girls were not at these two facilities.
MATTHEWS: Sounds unlikely.
Thank you so much, Senator Tammy -- Tammy -- what is your -- Tammy Baldwin, of course. Thank you, sitting here. You missed the chance.
Joaquin Castro, for giving us that on-site report from down in Brownsville, thank you, sir.
Up next: Roger Stone -- you know him -- previously denied, of course, having met with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Now he and another Trump adviser, Michael Caputo, say they were in contact with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary.
They all meet with these guys who have dirt. Michael Caputo joins me after the break.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES": I want to ask you directly if you had contacts with Russians nationals during the campaign?
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, first of all, I appreciate your having me here today to clear this up.
The answer, Chris, is categorically no. I have no Russian clients. I was not in touch with anyone in Russia. I wasn’t talking to anybody I believe to be an intermediary for the Russians.
I reiterate again I have had no contacts or collusions with the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Roger Stone, of course, a former Trump political adviser, categorically denying that he had any contact with Russians during the 2016 campaign.
And now Roger Stone and another former campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, are reversing their accounts, saying that they did have contact with at least one Russian who was trying to sell them dirt on Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
According to Stone’s account to "The Washington Post," he met with a man who called himself Henry Greenberg, who offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in late May of 2016. However, Greenberg didn’t reveal the information he claimed to possess.
Caputo, who was working with the campaign at the time, says he spoke with Greenberg by phone and arranged a meeting for Stone. Text messages show that after the meeting Caputo asked Stone, "How crazy is the Russian?"
Stone said: "He wants big money for the info. Waste of time."
Caputo replied: "The Russian way. Anything at all interesting?"
And Stone said, "No."
Neither disclosed that meeting in their testimonies to the House Intelligence Committee. At the time, Caputo said he specifically told them he had no contact with any Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I spent my time in front of the committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone in the Trump campaign talking with Russians.
But I never was asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never seen spoke to anybody about Russia. I never heard the word Russia, and we did not use Russian dressing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, both Stone and Caputo say they had forgotten about the meeting for almost two years, until their memories were refreshed by text messages last night.
But they are also now claiming that they were set up, because court documents showed Greenberg said he had worked as an informant to the FBI.
"The Post" notes, however, that there is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone.
I’m joined right now by Michael Caputo, the former Trump campaign adviser at the center of the latest development.
Michael, thank you.
This -- if you were on a jury and someone said they forgot in the midst of this Russian thing we have been talking about every night here and everywhere else for the last couple years, and didn’t remember hearing from a guy who called himself Henry Greenberg, pretty much the name of an American baseball player, with a heavy Russian accent, and you forgot that you not only got the call, you forgot you told Roger Stone about the call, you forgot that you called Roger Stone after he had this meeting with the guy, you forgot all three incidents, forgot them all, under testimony, and only when memory was sort of picked by something that in terms of texts, that you remembered, do you think you would believe such a claim?
CAPUTO: Well, if I believed -- if I heard what you just said, I probably wouldn’t believe it, but you’re categorically incorrect on a couple of items.
Number one, this was about two minutes of my life in 2016. I forgot about it. And I recalled it in preparation for the meeting for the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 1 and the Mueller meeting on May 2.
MATTHEWS: That’s this year, two years later, two years later.
CAPUTO: Two years later, right.
And Mueller asked me the same question precisely that was asked of me at the House. In fact, the Mueller investigator seemed to be reading it from my testimony, from my House testimony. He said the exact same question, did any Russian ever offer you any information about Hillary Clinton, approximately?
And I revealed immediately, yes, a man named Henry Greenberg came to me and offered me negative information about Hillary Clinton, and yadda, yadda. And he was extremely disappointed that I answered it with full disclosure, which I had not done in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in July of 2017.
We then got into some back and forth on this issue, which made me believe very clearly that the Mueller team knew exactly what went on in that meeting.
And, after I left, I started an investigation, which is up now at democratdossier.org, and proved that Henry Greenberg is not his name. He has got four names. And he worked as an FBI informant for 17 years.
MATTHEWS: So, tell me exactly the moment when it clicked on you that you had had contact with this so-called self-identified Henry Greenberg, the Russian? When did it click on you, oh, yes?
When did that happen?
CAPUTO: While I was preparing for the House -- I’m sorry -- for the Senate and the...
MATTHEWS: Two years later?
CAPUTO: ... the Mueller investigation.
Probably about mid the second week or early third week of April, when I was preparing.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think it wasn’t jogged -- but in the midst of all the talk about the Russian influence on the 2016 election, it did not jog your memory, this memory, it did not come to the surface of your mind even in preparing for sworn testimony of the House Intelligence Committee?
MATTHEWS: It didn’t come -- it didn’t occur to you that that is something that had happened in your life?
CAPUTO: No, it didn’t. It didn’t at all.
First of all, it wasn’t the only approach.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe Roger Stone forgot it? Do you think Roger Stone forgot all those three incidents you had shared with him, the telling him about it, getting a reaction from him? Both you guys forgot it all?
In fact, Roger didn’t know until I reminded him, when I figured it out before my move to the Mueller team on May 2. So, Roger had the same inability to remember it.
For me, it was total of two minutes of my life. And we were not reminded by those texts. Those texts were presented to me after I disclosed the meeting, Chris.
CAPUTO: So that is categorically incorrect.
Those texts are texts from Roger’s telephone. Now, frankly, how they got ahold of Roger’s texts, I don’t know.
When you heard about the offer for $2 million you were going to get some dirt on Hillary Clinton, it was -- it made sense, because it was early in the campaign. Hillary was the favorite.
Why did you decide or Roger decide that it wasn’t worth the money, even if it would turn the election around, if there was some real dirt there, like money coming from Russia to Hillary or something like that?
MATTHEWS: I imagine that’s what they were selling, something to do with finance. What else could they be selling? Go ahead.
CAPUTO: According to "The Washington Post," this Henry Greenberg, actually, Henry Oknyansky, which is Henry, et cetera, et cetera, he’s got four different names. None of them are his birth name.
He told "The Washington Post" he was offering information from a Ukrainian friend who was employed by the Clinton Foundation and was fired and angry and had damning information.
MATTHEWS: I got you. That makes sense to me.
CAPUTO: That’s what he told "The Washington Post." I never heard this in the conversation.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I would find that alluring as well.
Do you think you broke the law or Roger broke the law?
CAPUTO: First of all, Chris, I didn’t hear any of this at all.
I didn’t hear anything about money being $2 million. If you read the text that ended the whole thing with me and Roger, it was about big money. That’s all I heard.
CAPUTO: I didn’t know about $2 million. I didn’t know about Ukraine.
And, as far as I know, nobody knew about Ukraine until Henry Greenberg talked to "The Washington Post" last week.
MATTHEWS: Was -- were you aware at the time that taking something from -- of value from another country would be illegal? Did you sense even now -- do you sense even now it would be illegal to take dirt, which has campaign value, from another country?
CAPUTO: Well, first of all, Henry Greenberg is an individual, not a nation. If he was representing any nation, he was representing the Federal Bureau of Investigations --
CAPUTO: -- because he worked for 17 years as an FBI informant.
But in addition, at the same time, it doesn’t matter if it is a French- Canadian who called me, a German who called me. At the time, late May, nobody’s antenna were up about Russia. I wouldn’t -- it wouldn’t have even crossed mind.
But if it were coming from a government, I would report it to the general counsel of the campaign immediately. But it wasn’t a government. It was a crack pot as far as Roger figured out. And we found out later after I got really interested in the questioning that proved that the Mueller investigation knew more about it than me, when I proved -- it’s up at democratdossier.org, the guy has been an FBI informant for 17 years.
MATTHEWS: I know that, you said that.
CAPUTO: Whether he was working on a lunch break that day when he met with Roger, we’re going to have to find out.
MATTHEWS: Well, we understand, he was no longer an agent for the FBI. But let me ask you about, how many --
CAPUTO: How do we know that? We don’t know that.
CAPUTO: We don’t know that. I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt because he filed an affidavit with INS court in California that he swore under oath that he was an FBI informant for 17 years.
But, Chris, he’s an illegal alien, only in this country on an FBI informant visa. Why is he still here?
MATTHEWS: But you and Roger have your own credibility problems here. I wouldn’t be shooting arrows at anyone else because whether you forget you had a Russian connection for two years, that’s astounding to people.
CAPUTO: With an FBI informant, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you’re making that argument now, but --
CAPUTO: With an FBI informant.
MATTHEWS: Why didn’t you bring it to our attention, the country’s attention two years ago? Even if it was an FBI information, shouldn’t the country have known that you were dealing with the Russians?
CAPUTO: We weren’t dealing with the Russians. We were dealing with a guy from Henry Greenberg from Russia.
MATTHEWS: You were connecting him up with Rogers. You were the intermediary to get him to Roger.
CAPUTO: Nobody got -- listen, Chris. Here’s the situation.
MATTHEWS: You got him on the phone with Roger.
CAPUTO: I know you’re fixed -- listen. I know you’re fixed on whether or not Roger and I were honest to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I know that’s where MSNBC is fixed right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the House Intelligence Committee is as well.
CAPUTO: We have no legal exposure.
CAPUTO: We have no criminal exposure because we fulfilled our commitment and our responsibility --
CAPUTO: -- to HPSCI (ph). That’s a fact.
But what I want to know is why you don’t care if an FBI informant --
MATTHEWS: I let you say it twice.
CAPUTO: -- who was a violent Russian criminal was sent into a white color investigation by James Comey? That’s the question we need answered.
MATTHEWS: You know why? Because this whole thing you’re coming out with at this convenient time two years later, the whole thing you’re doing smacks of something like John Dean and the Nixon cover-up. It smacks up, of bring you out information --
CAPUTO: Why is it convenient, Chris?
MATTHEWS: -- it is way late.
CAPUTO: Why is any of this convenient to me?
MATTHEWS: Two years late at your convenience. Because you’re going to make the case that you were used.
CAPUTO: Why is this convenient to me, Chris? Why is this convenient to me?
MATTHEWS: I let you make the statement twice.
CAPUTO: There’s nothing convenient about here.
MATTHEWS: You were saying you were set up. Because it’s part of a setup scenario.
CAPUTO: -- anything more than a glance.
MATTHEWS: You just gave it to me, you set up scenario twice. I know what you’re doing.
CAPUTO: I didn’t figure out -- can you -- we have a delay here apparently because I keep getting interrupted. I know that’s not your normal thing. So, what you would like me to answer now?
MATTHEWS: You already told me you remember all this two years late. Thank you, Michael Caputo. Good luck with your setup story.
CAPUTO: I hope you --
MATTHEWS: OK, Betsy, you heard that. It was so convenient. Two years later, they remember, they establish these new things. Obviously, him and Roger put this together. Their defense is now, well, they forgot, for the guy named Henry Greenberg called them and said, I’ve got some dirt on Hillary. He’s had a conversation with someone, said it was too much, shut down the deal, but they were dealing.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: In Caputo’s defense, it seems like they did forget. And the reason for that is he told the House Intelligence Committee he didn’t remember. But then, more importantly, they actually corrected the record at HPSCI, and that’s significant.
That said, this seems like it should have been a pretty memorable interaction. I mean, anyone coming to you who would later characterize --
MATTHEWS: OK. But two years later, they come back and they bring along this little kite spring. Oh, yes, by the way, it was all a setup. They didn’t even remember it for two years. But now, they remember it. It was a setup.
How did this clever memory -- not only came back to them, but they -- their defense of it came back to them.
WOODRUFF: Probably because of the spy gate story. People on the right have been pushing really hard for this notion. There is a web of informants and the FBI was engaging in ways that were very troubling and Orwellian, and this sort of other piece with that narrative.
MATTHEWS: And the fact they’re coming forward and Michael Caputo is very nice to come on the show to tell me it is part of a positive PR campaign.
Anyway, Betsy, thank you, Betsy Woodruff.
Up next, the HARDBALL roundtable weighs in on the battle right now at the border, the human fight down there about kids. Plus, a warning from a member of Congress. He says everyone in the party says that president Trump lies all the time. And that Republicans will pay the price for refusing to do something about it.
Well, you know, Joe Walsh, he said some other things over the years. You’re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Amid the growing uproar over the separation of children from their parents at the border, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen today continued to say that there’s no such policy. Let’s watch her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: It’s not a policy. Our policy at DHS is to do what we’re sworn to do which is to enforce the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let’s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable for that one.
Yamiche Alcindor is White House correspondent for "The PBS NewsHour" and MSNBC political contributor, Chris Wilson is a Republican pollster, and Jose Aristimuno is former deputy press secretary for the DNC and a Democratic strategist.
Jose, you’re up. So what do you think of this thing? These kids are apparently hiding the girls. They’re hiding the young boys. They’re showing some of the older boys. But they’re -- it sounds awful. The crying on the tapes are pretty brutal.
JOSE ARISTIMUNO, FORMER DNC DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is horrible, Chris. We’re talking about 2,000 children, some of them girls who have been separated from their family, literally, at the expense of President Trump trying to get his obsession, with his racist --
MATTHEWS: That picture is going to grab everybody. You see that picture of the kid in the red shirt.
ARISTIMUNO: It’s horrible.
MATTHEWS: That picture grabs you.
ARISTIMUNO: Enough. The president can literally pick up the phone, call DHS, call Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice and say, you know what? Stop the separations. We don’t need to use 2,000 children as literally negotiation chips to try to get this --
MATTHEWS: Some of the most liberal I’ve heard is Ted Cruz. I’m being sarcastic. Ted Cruz, he wants to change this policy.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Yes, he introduced legislation tonight to fix this. I think it is -- has a real opportunity for bipartisan support and it could have it fixed within a matter of a week. So, hopefully, we can see people come together.
MATTHEWS: Does that tell you the politics are not working in the president’s favor that conservative like Ted Cruz is to the right of him?
WILSON: I don’t think it’s an ideological issue, Chris. I think this is a matter of something just needs to be fixed.
MATTHEWS: You make my point, you make my point.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that this is a policy that’s both political and cultural. Remember that President Trump built his campaign on demonizing immigrants and I think that --
MATTHEWS: Rapists. He called them rapists.
ALCINDOR: And today, he called them thieves. So, there’s this idea that - -
MATTHEWS: They don’t look like rapists or thieves.
ALCINDOR: Yes, so this idea that people surrounding the president, including Stephen Miller and I would say Steve Bannon from the outside thought that they could put this policy in place and people would go one step further and say Mexicans are rapists and criminals and, by the way, we should also separate these families and what they’re seeing is that’s just not going to --
MATTHEWS: Chris, do you think Steve Miller is having a good day at the White House? Is the president patting him on the back? Good move there. Let’s make -- look at these kids.
Anyway, just minutes ago, Senator John McCain tweeted and called the policy of separating children an affront to the decency of the American people and contrary to the principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now.
Boy, that’s -- he’s in bad shape too.
Anyway, let’s talk about this -- about what happened with Joe Walsh, saying the president -- he says the members of the House where he served for a while all believed the president lies all the time. Hell of a statement, anyway. That’s -- they all believe he’s a liar. It’s an i statement by a former member.
ALCINDOR: I mean, I covered Capitol Hill. There are a lot of -- when you talk to Republicans off the record, a lot of you give you this link, we know that he kind of messes with the truth. We understand that that’s a lie. We can’t say it out loud because we’re scared of our district. I mean, he’s saying something that everyone in Capitol Hill in some ways know --
MATTHEWS: Can you say that, Chris?
WILSON: I’m a little uncomfortable with us making Joe Walsh the final arbiter of who’s the -- who tells the truth and who doesn’t. There’s a reason that Joe Walsh is no longer in Congress. And I think it’s making crazy statements like from a standpoint of a -- Joe Walsh doesn’t have any idea what Donald Trump says or who he is --
MATTHEWS: So, you don’t think the back room chatter --
WILSON: No, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about us using Joe Walsh as somehow --
WILSON: I doubt he has many friends left in Congress.
MATTHEWS: Does he have any credibility with the rank and file and Republican Caucus?
WILSON: I think he does for the most part, yes. It’s not a situation where if he shows up and comes to Congress and talks to them as he has recently, I mean, that is something that still means something. It’s important to them.
ALCINDOR: Yes. I mean, I think -- my reporting tells me that Republicans are very wary of this president. They don’t trust him. I think there’s this idea that he could force them into pushing to voting for a policy that he could then say he hates and that they don’t really have any sort of relationship with the president that makes them feel like they can trust him. That’s the reporting that I’ve gotten.
MATTHEWS: You know what I get a sense doing, I think the sense that it’s coming to a very divided state, more than we’re in right now. I don’t think there is going to be an easy ad adjudication of all this stuff with Russia, interference and the obstruction of justice charge. I don’t think it’s going to be simple where everybody will hear the same thing.
Jose? I think we’re going to have a fight that goes on. It won’t be settled by a simple vote of impeachment. It will just continue.
I think the president in this issue with the kids at the border, has found the sensitive, human piece of it that I think is going to change some sides but most of its ideological warfare.
ARISTIMUNO: I agree 100 percent, Chris. I mean, with the whole Russia investigation, this is going to go well until the midterms. This is going to be -- we’re going to continue to talk about this day after day.
But to your point, the president of the United States currently, president of the United States of America, we have to really just think about that for a second, lies on a daily basis, every single day.
MATTHEWS: Well, he gets to pardon on a daily basis.
ARISTIMUNO: It’s unbelievable.
MATTHEWS: Why does he pardon these guys like, he’s talking today -- here’s Rudy Giuliani today just throwing out the idea, oh, yes, he’ll pardon when the time comes. This is how I think the country is going to stay divided. You’ve got a smattering, a spray of pardons out there, the country will just be more divided.
ALCINDOR: I mean, the president has signaled through the parties he’s already done including Scooter Libby, that he’s open to pardoning on political reasons. But I’ll say this, remember, we always talk on this show about Democrats getting their message, how are they going to get it together? Kids being separated from their families could be the thing that gets Democrats to actually say, this is what we’re going to unite on, this is where we’re going to put slogans, that’s what we’re going to do. So, I think in some ways --
MATTHEWS: More than Parkland.
ALCINDOR: Yes, more than Parkland, I think in some ways.
MATTHEWS: They don’t have to fight the NRA on this baby.
Anyway, Yamiche Alcindor, who’s speaking wisely, Chris Wilson speaking conservatively, and Jose Aristimuno, thank you, sir. We’ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Well, this was a big weekend for our family. Caroline Elizabeth Matthews, our daughter, was awarded a graduate degree in business from Stanford University. It came within just weeks of her earning a graduate degree in public affairs from Harvard.
Caroline continues to overwhelm Kathleen and I with her achievements. We could not be more proud, obviously.
We’ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Monday, June 18th, 2018.
There’s a reality behind these pictures we’re seeing today. It is the Trump policy of treating people who enter our country without authorization as criminals, criminals who deserve to be put in jail. This leaves their children detained elsewhere.
But there’s a larger reality which everyone in the country fully understands. These families crossing into this country without authorization are desperate. Desperate human beings seeking a better life, and especially those seeking refuge from violence, any obstacle is cruel. That includes a national border.
The question we in America face is how to set a national immigration policy which by the fact of it is going to cause a certain amount of cruelty to limit that cruelty. As Albert Camus wrote, perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured, but we can reduce the number of tortured children. If you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?
That’s HARDBALL for now and it really is.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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