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Separated families may not be reunited. TRANSCRIPT: 06/21/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Shelby Holliday, Mara Gay, Tom Reed, Anna Eshoo, Aaron Blake, Efren Olivares

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 21, 2018 Guest: Shelby Holliday, Mara Gay, Tom Reed, Anna Eshoo, Aaron Blake, Efren Olivares

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Trump caves and the blame game begins. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Katy Tur in for Chris Matthews.

President Trump spent the day lashing out at Democrats and the Mexican government in an effort to save face after his reversal on separating families at the border. Buckling to pressure, the President signed an executive order yesterday putting him -- putting a temporary end to a crisis entirely created by his own administration.

Shortly thereafter the President who according to reports is worried about looking weak to his supporters returned to his hawkish immigration talking points.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Mexico, by the way, is doing nothing for us. Nothing. You have a 2,000 journey through Mexico and they walk through Mexico like it is walking through Central Park. One of the reasons I`m being tough because they do nothing for us at the border. They encourage people frankly to walk through Mexico and go into the United States.


TUR: In the end, it wasn`t international outrage, Republican pushback or calls by religious leaders that swayed the President. It was these images, the bad optics of small children crying that the President could not get away from.

According to "Axios," President Trump experienced an overdose of the outrage and media frenzy. None of the White House messaging seemed to be helping. So he decided mostly on his own rather than the urging of advisers that some action was required to change the narrative. The new "Time" magazine cover shows just how bad things look for the White House.

Also today, first lady Melania Trump made an unannounced trip to the U.S./Mexican border visiting a children`s shelter and reportedly telling detainees good luck.

By signing the executive order yesterday, President Trump pushed pause on a crisis he created and then struggled to contain. "The Washington Post" counted 14 different positions the administration has taken on the zero tolerance policy. Let`s watch just some of them.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border. If you cross the border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It`s that simple.

TRUMP: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That`s their law. You can`t do it through an executive order.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry and not break across the border unlawfully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President has promised the American people he is going to secure our border. We don`t like the policy here either.

TRUMP: By the way, today I signed an executive order. We are going to keep families together.


TUR: Well, the separation of families is currently on hold, the crisis with these children is far from over. Roughly 2400 kids under the age of 12 still remain in makeshift detention facilities and shelters. Many of them are toddlers and infants.

The executive order contained no language how these children will be reunited. Additionally, any future families would still be detained as they await criminal prosecution and deportation, potentially indefinitely.

For more I`m joined by Jacob Soboroff, MSNBC correspondent just back from Texas, Jonathan Lemire, "Associated Press`" White House report and an MSNBC political analyst, Susan Page, "USA today" Washington bureau chief and Efren Olivares, lawyer with the Texas civil rights project.

I want to get to the detainment centers and kids in a moment. But first, I do want to talk about politics. The President last night at his rally in Minnesota only talked about the executive order for a very short period of time, maybe a couple sentences. If he was produced of it, if he was excited by it, if he had wanted to do it, he would have bragged about it, Jonathan, for that entire rally. Instead he bragged how tough he is, how tough is he on immigration. It feels like this is something that he had no desire to do.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, you are exactly right. It was one brief passing mention of the executive order and then he spent the rest of it almost trying to reprove his hawkish immigration bona fides. That he was out there in the warm embrace of his supporters at this rally. And you and I both well know how much he gets a charge out of that back among his people where everything he says they cheer and they are going to scream it when he says that, you know, makes fun of a cable network or Hillary Clinton, they are going to spring back the old lock her up chants.

But on immigration, which is certainly the truss of this last night, among his other grievances, that he was talking about -- he revived some of the rhetoric from his very first campaign kickoff then Trump tower three years ago this week talking about how Mexico doesn`t send its best people suggesting that he really wanted again, like I said, I have been tough on the border this way. He suggested the Democrats are more interested in the rights of illegal immigrants have rather than American citizens.

And that is part of what makes this President so frustrated is as this is crisis unfolded. Up until yesterday, he thought this was good for the Republicans and good for the White House. He thinks being tough on immigration is a winner going into the midterms this year and says, hey, that`s how I won the White House. That`s why I think our party can do well this November. But the story got the better of him. Those images overwhelmed him and he had to cave much to his dismay.

TUR: Susan, he got a lot of push back in 2016 from everybody in the Republican Party, all the Democrats, pundits, columnists, you name it, a lot of people in America, as well. He didn`t win the popular vote. But he still won and he still survived a lot of these scandals that nobody thought he would be able to be survive. He survived and thrived frankly off the Muslim ban. He thrived by creating this division. Was he wrong to believe this would work for him?


TUR: Very stark political terms, not in any moral terms, just stark political terms.

PAGE: Absolutely. And you know, Charlottesville, too. There have been controversy after controversy where the conventional wisdom is this is the end, this goes too far. Proven wrong over and over again. I think there is some feeling that the idea of these thousands of kids taken from their parents for parts unknown. And in some secrecy, the administration is being -- is not being transparent where they are, how they are being treated or how they will be reunited and in some cases I think though don`t have any idea how the policy is going to unfold.

But in other cases they realize that what we keep calling the optics of this are just really devastating. And they are not devastating I think for some of the President`s core supporters who are very much supporting the zero tolerance for illegal immigrants but for swing voters for suburban voters, for mothers everywhere, I mean, I think there are a lot of voter who look at this and say, you know, this is not who we are. This is not who we are. This cannot stand. And that is why you saw this very grudging concession, I think you could tell in the President`s comments today just how unhappy he was if he had to reverse himself on this.

TUR: Attorney general Jeff Sessions appeared on Christian broadcast network today. He said he didn`t anticipate is the public backlash to the zero tolerance policy. And never intended to separate migrant children from their parents. Here that is.


SESSIONS: It hasn`t been good. And American people don`t like the idea that we are separating families. We never really intended to do that. What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they have committed. I think it`s the right thing. We will work our way through it. And try to do it in the most compassionate way possible.


TUR: The body language right there and the way that Jeff Sessions was even speaking is a lot different than we normally see him when he gets on stage or a podium and HE smiles through whatever policy he is announcing or whatever defense he is giving. That was certainly different in that interview. It`s also not what the administration originally said was the point of the zero tolerance policy. Let`s watch that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering this a deterrent?

SESSIONS: Yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry.

TRUMP: We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are department of homeland security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that.


TUR: So in the beginning it was always about the turn. It is always this idea that we are going to separate families so families know not to come over the border. Also, by the way, it`s humanitarian because they shouldn`t be making this dangerous journey.

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m just flabbergasted listening to Jeff Sessions. It is the first time I him say that, excuse me while I pick my chin up off the floor. Because we know that he announced this policy. We know that he wanted to separate children from their parents all along. It is the deterrent. We know that this administration knew that the deterrent that was put into place in 1994 under the Clinton administration resulted in more people dying in the desert.

We know deterrence doesn`t work. We that it has this terrible unintended consequences. He knew he was going to take children away from their families. So look, this is one of the most scarring things I have seen with my own two eyes. It is the most hurting I have ever seen in my entire life.

I hope that those images are plastered across Washington, D.C. for a really long time to come, including for everybody in this administration that has something to do with it and pretended like they didn`t.

TUR: This is according to the reporting out there was bad optics for the President. The President who came out and said that Ivanka told him, daddy this looks bad.

You were there.


TUR: Tell us how bad it actually is, not how bad it looks.

SOBOROFF: It just blows my mind that we are even talking about it in terms of optics. We are talking about little children sitting on the floor in cages on mattresses with Mylar blankets with somebody in a watch tower for a security contracting company that is usually reserved for military bases or other stuff like that, sitting there and watching over them like they`re in a prison daycare.

It`s not optics. It`s inhumane. And the he fact that -- the fact that this could come from an administration or from any administration that claims to care about kids and to claim to care about Americans, it just blows my mind.

TUR: Efren, the President sign this executive order, does that mean the crisis is over?

EFREN OLIVARES, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: No, it`s not order, far from it. In fact, some things have gotten worse because now we are thinking indefinite detention of families. And here on the ground this morning we interviewed 17 parents separated from their children. They don`t know where their children are and what conditions they are being held or when or if they are going to see them again. And there`s no plan in the executive order. It`s, you know, silent on anything about reuniting these 2400 children with their parents.

TUR: How complicated, how difficult is it to reunite these families? I was talking to an intercept reporter today who spoke to a woman who she considers to be one of the lucky ones who made it out, had a credible threat assessment essentially saying that she could go further with her asylum claim. She was let out of the detention center and she was able to pick up her 5-year-old or 6-year-old son that same day. Is that going to be the standard? Will that has happen for everybody?

OLIVARES: It will certainly not happen for everybody because we have many cases in which the parents are detained at immigration facility in New York, Seattle, other parts of Texas while the children are in shelters with ORR in south Texas and Georgia and many other parts of the country. And the two systems ORR shelter system where the children are and the ICE detention facility system are not designed to communicate with each other so that that`s causing in part this chaos in addition to the zero tolerance policy which is a root of the problem.

SOBOROFF: And not only that, we don`t know if there are any of these parents who have already been deported. If your parent has been deported and you are a child who was sitting in a detention center and now in an HHS shelter and your parent is back in El Salvador or Honduras or Guatemala, you may never see your parent again if they don`t have the resources to comeback and contact to.

TUR: What about the babies who can`t say this is my mom, this is my dad, here is her name, here`s my phone number.

SOBOROFF: And what if you are one of those children or one of those babies that was taken into custody in that DHS facility in the interim in between when this executive order was signed and when the policy was put into place? It just -- these people are left in limbo. They are hanging in the balance because of two months of politics basically.

TUR: As I mentioned a little earlier, first lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to Texas today. But as she tried to maybe clean up the mess her husband made, she created a new controversy wearing a jacket with the phase, I don`t really care, do you. Her spokesperson told reporters quote "there was no hidden message. I hope this isn`t what the media is going to choose to focus on. It was however something her husband focused on. He tweeted, I don`t really care, do you, written on the back of her jacket refers to the fake news media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are and she truly no longer cares.

John, what`s happening here?

LEMIRE: First of all there`s the President directly contradicting account first lady`s chief spokeswoman in terms of the explanation with this jacket is. It is puzzling. Ii mean, that jacket caught reporters and photographers` attention as she boarded the plane at Andrews air force base, you know, when on her way to Texas. You know, it became a bit of a stir online when she was there is meeting these children. She was not wearing the jacket while was in there touring the facilities and meeting the workers there and the children there.

But then full well knowing it had become a bit of a flap, she put it back on. When she landed in D.C. a few hours later, mind you 85 and humid in Washington, not jacket weather.

TUR: Is it a message to the media or is it a message to somebody else?

LEMIRE: Well, Donald Trump is suggesting it`s a message to the media. I think that there are other possible conclusions. Perhaps it`s even a message to critics elsewhere, perhaps to her husband. We don`t know. We can only go on what they are telling us. But it is a puzzling choice for what is certainly, for this administration, what should have, could have been a good news story this becomes a distraction.

TUR: We had no intention of covering this tonight. This was not in the rundown. We were not going to talk about it until the President tweeted about it and again made it a bigger story and made us wonder what exactly was going on there.

Susan though, going back to Melania and her visit today and the intention of it, is this a PR strategy by the White House? Is it good cop, bad cop or was she going there on her own accord? And I ask that because the good will that might have been created by that was immediately stepped on by the President coming out and just spitting anger and lies at where this policy and this law initially came from for 30 some minutes at the White House.

PAGE: You know, the first lady`s spokespeople say that it was on her initiative that the President was aware. She was going to make this trip but it was not at his instruction. And I think given her behavior in the past, she has been pretty reluctant to be a tool of the administration and of the PR machine at the White House. So I assume that`s correct that this was a decision she made.

I think she might have had an audience of one mind and that audience of one would be the President, her husband, saying this is something I care about. Her focus down there was not on people coming over the border or gangs. It was on what is happening to these children, are they being taken care of. So I think that was a deliberate message. And I agree that the jacket I`m sure it means something because we know she is a really careful dresser. She is a great dresser. I`m sure it wasn`t coincidental when she put on that jacket. But I hope that she will wear some additional clothing that explains what that (INAUDIBLE) or who she aimed at that.

TUR: Maybe my name is tagged. That explains what exactly what is going on.

Jacob, you wanted to add one thing.

SOBOROFF: Just really briefly. I don`t care about the jacket, but what I do care about is there were two shelters she was supposed to go to today, one was the HHS, the center that she went to. The other was the detention center where the kids are in cages on the floor. She did end up going there. And we heard it was because of inclement weather and it was flooding.

I just want to say I got out of the context and I was able to make it here to New York City. The fact she didn`t go to the shelter where the kids are on the floor in cages is very disappointing to me. I have seen it with my own eyes. I wish she would have had the opportunity to see it.

TUR: I haven`t seen it with my own eyes. Is there anything you want to convey to me that I might not have seen in the coverage we have been doing now for the past three days?

SOBOROFF: It is the most -- it is the most unexpected horrific thing that I`ve ever seen and I never would have thought I would see in the United States of America see little kids sitting by themselves in a prison playground.

TUR: Jacob Soboroff, Jonathan Lemire, Susan Page, and Efren Olivares, thank you very much.

And a program note, Jacob will be reporting on the border crisis on "Dateline" this Sunday. The dividing line airs at 7:00 eastern on NBC.

Coming up another embarrassing defeat for the party that controls Washington. With Republicans struggling to find votes for an immigration bill. How much damage was caused by the self-anointed dealmaker in chief because right now, it looks like Trump can`t get his own house in order?

Plus, is Trump`s fixer ready to flip?

Michael Cohen is reportedly fuming that Trump isn`t helping pay his legal bills. And now there`s a new sign that he has fed up with the President.

And how much of a role did Melania play in the President`s about face on immigration? The HARDBALL roundtable tackles that and some stunning new reporting on Donald Trump Jr. They will also tell me three things I don`t know.

This is hardball where the action is.


TUR: Donald Trump`s national security adviser John Bolton is heading to Moscow next week to set the groundwork for a potential meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin in July. The possibility of a meeting was floated when the two spoke by phone in March.

And we will be right back.



REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So, I actually think we`re advancing the cause even if something doesn`t necessarily pass. And I think these are the seeds that are going to be planted for an ultimate solution, whether they get through today or they get through tomorrow or the day of that.


TUR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Speaker Paul Ryan trying to lower expectations as his party faced another test of whether they can actually govern.

The House was supposed to vote on two competing immigration bills to address the fate of DACA recipients and keep migrant families together at the border.

The more conservative bill failed to pass this afternoon, and Republican leadership postponed a vote on their compromise bill until next week.

But President Trump seemed to drop a bomb on negotiations this morning, suggesting on Twitter that passing any bill is a waste of time.

Trump wrote: "What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills, when you need nine votes by Democrats in the Senate? And the Dems are only looking to obstruct, which they feel is good for them for the midterms. Republicans must get rid of the stupid filibuster rule. It is killing you!"

I`m joined now by New York Republican Congressman Tom Reed.

Congressman, what`s going on with the president? Is he helping you pass immigration?

REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Well, you know, obviously, the president is sending a message. We need to fix this.

And I agree with him. I think Congress...


TUR: He just said, why bother, why bother do anything? The Democrats won`t help you.

That was him just saying throw in the towel.

REED: Well, let`s be honest. You need 60 votes in the Senate to fix that. That will require 10 Democrats to come over and work with Republicans to get this done.

But we can do our job in the House, and we need to do our job in the House.

TUR: What are the chances right now that this compromise immigration bill actually does get passed? The vote has already been delayed another week.

REED: Well, obviously, that`s not a good signal. I accept that.

But there`s going to be work being done over the weekend. And I think we should act on this. I signed the discharge petition to force the debate on immigration. I know these kids need relief. These families, I agree, need to have relief today. And we should fix this for longer-term solutions for everyone there involved.

TUR: The Democrats have said that they do want to come to a compromise. They want a bill. They just don`t want to give the president all of his concessions.

They also want to make sure that families aren`t getting separated and that there`s likely some protections for DACA. Are there not things that Republicans and Democrats can find middle ground on? I ask about the president`s tweet, because it seems to say that, even if you`re looking to compromise, don`t bother.

REED: No, absolutely.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, the group that we represent, Republicans and Democrats, had a proposal. And we coupled -- there are Democrats that understand our border is not working, not keeping us secure, not functioning.

So, if you can solve the border security problem with these kids, both these families and these dreamers, that is a winning combination. They want to be there. I do believe there is an opportunity to negotiate a compromise here if this bill doesn`t pass next week, but we are going to continue to work at it.

We have an opportunity to get it done. We need it done for the people back home.

TUR: Has the president been helpful? And I ask that because we heard the other day in that meeting with Republican lawmakers that he trashed Mark Sanford. He said, "I want to congratulate him on running a great race" and basically -- and went on to say that he was a nasty guy, and trashed him.

Congressman Labrador came out afterwards and said that this was not helpful, that Donald Trump "needs to understand that he may have actually - - that may have actually lost him votes at this meeting. The reason he was there was to emphasize he had our backs, and I think a different message was sent that day."

Doesn`t he have a point, that this is the message Donald Trump sent, I don`t have your back if you dare criticize me?

REED: Well, you know, politics is a people business.

But, at the end of the day, we need to do policy that helps people. And I think most members can set aside any type of petty personal difference or personal affront they may have, so long as we`re legislating and fixing problems for the people back home.

And I think that is what this problem represents. We need to solve this for the people that are involved, because they`re the ones that are being held hostage by the inability of us in Congress, as well as in both chambers, to come to a solution that addresses these issues.

TUR: Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York.

Tom, thank you very much. Congressman, thank you very much.

REED: Thank you so much, Katy.

TUR: And even as Republicans struggle with their own immigration legislation, President Trump continues to pin the blame on Democrats.

This morning, he lashed out at party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Twitter, accusing them of being responsible for the nation`s immigration problems and in favor of open borders.

The president doubled down on that charge again this afternoon.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Loopholes in our immigration laws all supported by extremists open-border Democrats -- and that`s what they are.

If you look at Nancy Pelosi, and you look at Chuck Schumer, you will see tapes where they wanted to have borders. They needed borders for security just a short while ago. Now, all of a sudden, they`re big open-border people. It`s a whole big con job. In the meantime, people are suffering because of the Democrats.


TUR: California Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo joins me now.

So, what do you think of what the president said? Do the Democrats just want open borders and want to obstruct?

REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: I think what he said is pathetic, because he is a master of diversion. Something goes wrong, he diverts, and he blames someone else for something.

It`s so undignified. It`s so undignified. There have always been disagreements between the parties, between who is in the White House and who may be in the Senate, who may be in the House.

But we have never fallen to this low place. And I think this is where Donald Trump has taken us. So, I think it`s pathetic. It`s sad for the country. It`s sad for the country.

TUR: If you strip away the language, there are people out there who will say, why didn`t this get done, why didn`t immigration get done while Barack Obama was president?

Why did that not happen? Looking back...

ESHOO: Well, we were on our way to. We were on our way to.

TUR: And you were on your way to, and it didn`t get solved. But I want to ask the specific question.


ESHOO: I know, but there`s something...


TUR: Hold on. Let me ask the question.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done -- you would have wanted your party to do differently, anything at all?

ESHOO: Well, I think that the biggest mistake was on the part of the speaker, when he wouldn`t allow the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate had written and passed to be brought to the floor of the House.

We should be able to vote. Would it pass? Some would vote aye, some would vote nay, but we should have the opportunity to vote. And it was not brought to the floor of the House. And it all went downhill after that. It all went downhill after that.

And, today, you be saw where the majority can`t even pass their own bill. And the other bill is delayed. So, we`re getting nowhere fast. We have a crisis now in our country. We`re disgraced in the world community because of what`s taking place, the crisis with children being separated from their families, and an executive order last night that reunites families in jail.

How is that for the United States of America?

TUR: Are you favor...

ESHOO: I can`t believe that this is my country.

TUR: Are you in favor of the compromise bill?

ESHOO: No, I`m not, because it does nothing about the separation of families.

It doesn`t speak to these almost 2,500 children, how they`re going to be reunited with their families. Some experts say they may never see them again. So, that`s not legislation that`s becoming of the values of this great country.

I think it`s sad. And I don`t think it`s anywhere near the best that we should be doing. And it does -- it will take 20 years for someone that has DACA status to ever have a pathway to citizenship.

Come on. The president`s said a con game? Come on.

TUR: Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.

Congresswoman, thank you very much.

ESHOO: Thank you.

TUR: And up next: There are new indications that Trump`s longtime attorney Michael Cohen may be ready to flip. It certainly seems like the president`s fixer is looking for a life preserver of his own.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


TUR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Even though Michael Cohen hasn`t been charged with a crime, there`s been a steady drumbeat of reporting suggesting he may be ready to flip on the president.

More recently -- most recently, Cohen quit his post at the RNC and, in doing so, broke ranks with the president over immigration.

According to ABC News, Cohen wrote in his resignation letter that, "While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."

This comes after "The Wall Street Journal" reported that Cohen has told friends he is frustrated that the president hasn`t offered to pay his legal fees and that he feels Mr. Trump owes him after his years of loyalty.

A friend of Cohen`s spelled it out more explicitly to CNN, saying that, "If they want information on Trump, he`s willing to give it."

I`m joined now by Aaron Blake, senior political reporter with "The Washington Post."

Aaron, welcome.

Let`s start -- first start with this new reporting from "The Washington Post," that "The National Enquirer" sent over articles to Michael Cohen during the campaign for his approval before they posted them? AARON BLAKE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, this is big because it speaks to the relationship between the two sides.

Of course, it`s always been known that the president and the publisher of "The National Enquirer," David Pecker, have had a close personal relationship over the years.

The question, though, has really been whether there were special favors that were offered, especially as pertains to the magazine stories specifically about Karen McDougal, whether there was any advance notice provided, whether Michael Cohen was involved in these things.

"The Washington Post" tonight is reporting that there were instances after the president was inaugurated in which "The National Enquirer" did share digital copies of stories that it was going to run about the president, with Michael Cohen in some cases taking cues from him about things that should be in that article, and then running with them before they would go to print.

The magazine denies this. They say that this is not their practice. They have said that there was no wrongdoing involved, there was no involvement with Michael Cohen as far as killing the Karen McDougal story.

But this certainly raises questions about just how tight that relationship has been, not just after the inauguration, but, of course, before it as well.

TUR: And whether Donald Trump has a propaganda arm, a true propaganda arm.

Let`s talk about Michael Cohen and whether or not he`s ready to flip. There are sources that are telling "The Wall Street Journal" that he`s willing to cooperate with prosecutors. But here`s thing.

From all the conversations I have had with my sources and Michael Cohen, he hasn`t yet had a conversation with the SDNY. It would be extraordinarily premature to talk about any sort of deal being made before that happened.

Usually, you wait until a client is indicted to find out what they are charged with and then what they would be willing to trade in return.

Why would these stories be floated out there then? What`s the other reason?

BLAKE: Yes, I think that you make a good point. The timing of this is pretty remarkable, because we haven`t gotten to that point in this process.

I think it`s really interesting that this came just a few days after Michael Cohen had reportedly hired a new lawyer, somebody who used to work with the Southern District of New York, which, of course, is the office that is investigating Michael Cohen.

The fact that we saw basically three stories coming out over the course of a day from "The Wall Street Journal," CNN and then this resignation from the RNC, I think it`s pretty unmistakable, the fact that word is being put out that Michael Cohen feels somewhat neglected, he wants a show of support.

"The Wall Street Journal" says that he wants funding for his legal case to take place here. Currently, the RNC is funding some of his case when it comes to the Russia investigation, but not his own personal case.

You know, the fact that all of these came out shortly after hiring a new lawyer who was already rumored might be part of putting together some kind of a deal, I think it`s all kind of an unmistakable signal that at least they want to float this trial balloon, at least they want to send a signal that perhaps Michael Cohen is not feeling particularly loved right now by the president.

Of course, the question is whether or not that`s actually a precursor to flipping or just something of a warning shot, something of a signal just trying to get the White House to maybe play ball with them a little bit and send some signals potentially about a pardon, maybe about funding his legal case.

We just don`t know at this point, but the timing of all these is extremely conspicuous.

TUR: We will have to wait and see.

Thank you, Aaron Blake of "The Washington Post."

BLAKE: Thank you.

TUR: And up next: Culture wars are now a defining feature of the political landscape, thanks to President Trump. Is this a winning approach for the Republican Party? That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



Trump`s rhetoric on immigration played a central role in this week`s coverage of the children separated from their parents at the border, most notably when he tweeted that Democrats want illegal immigrants no matter how bad they may be to pour into and infest our country. Pay attention to that word.

Trump has long taken advantage of the culture wars. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`re drug traffickers. They`re human traffickers. They`re coyotes. I mean, we`re getting some real beauties.

I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides. I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don`t have any doubt about it either but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I`ll go a step further. The people that went to school with him, they never saw him. They don`t know who he is. It`s crazy.

You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn`t be playing. You shouldn`t be there. Maybe you shouldn`t be in the country.


TUR: Phil Rucker writes in "The Washington Post" that Trump is calculating that by playing to people`s fears and anxieties he can maximize turnout among hard-core supporters to counter balance evident enthusiasm on the Democratic side. Fueling Trump`s approach, advisers say, is an unremitting fear of his own that his base could abandon him if he`s deemed too weak on immigration.

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable: Shelby Holliday is the business and politics reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", Mara Gay is a member of "The New York Times" editorial board, and Susan del Percio is a Republican strategist and an MSNBC political analyst.

Why is it, Susan, that the through line for all of Donald Trump`s darkest moments, all of his most controversial moments all have to do with race?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Because he thinks that that`s a group that will come to the polls for him no matter what. And it is about race and those comments are racist. And he believes he -- I mean, he did this with saying he didn`t know David Duke, the former head of the KKK.

TUR: Is he banking on -- I`m going to say this delicately, is he banking on racism in his voters, that his voters are racists?

DEL PERCIO: Yes. Yes, yes, absolutely. But here`s the problem with his strategy. First of all, he`s not on the ballot. So his -- he does not transfer on to other candidates. People don`t come out for other candidates because of Donald Trump.

And what he`s -- when he does this, even if the base does come out for him, it increases the turnout much more for Democrats. So, yes, you keep the base an extras 5 percent but the Democrats are turning an extra 12 percent. So, it`s a losing strategy.

TUR: The terms he`s using when he goes out and talks about immigration, we just played some of them a moment ago, but terms like infest.

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, that`s actually extremely scary. That`s how you dehumanize a group before you go after them. Anybody who studied history knows that and that`s what makes it so terrifying because one of the things that you do to set the stage for oppressing people and victimizing them is to dehumanize them because it becomes easier to mistreat them. And it becomes I think harder for other Americans in this case to empathize with them because they`re not like us, right? It`s an othering.

And I just want to say to Susan`s point, she`s absolutely right, but, you know, racism is not under the purview solely of the Republican Party. I think the really insidious thing that the Republicans have done not just with Donald Trump but for years, I mean in some ways this is the end game, the apex of race-baiting in the Republican Party under Trump, but this has been going on for a long time. But what the Republicans have done is use race I think which is already there to get votes and to divide us for years.

DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s to keep the votes they have and get every last one because instead of expanding the party, they`re just relying on getting every last person out there.

TUR: Let`s talk about that because before Donald Trump was elected, there was talk of expanding the party, trying to appeal to younger people, to a more diverse crowd.


TUR: I mean, that was the GOP strategy. So, why are -- why are leaders of the GOP sitting quietly in the shadows when Donald Trump goes out and says these things?

HOLLIDAY: You know, that I can`t answer but I do know that everyone`s jaw just dropped on election night when Republicans took the House, took the Senate, Donald Trump had this big victory. I think people really did truly believe that Donald Trump helped the Republican Party that night more than anyone could have imagined.

I will never forget being in Pennsylvania before the election and speaking to people, there was one man in particular who said, I`ve never voted in my life and I`m going to the polls with bells and whistles and my Donald Trump flag. Those are the kind of people that show up at rallies.

You know, last night, President Trump just had one of the worst weeks of his presidency and people are lining up to get into his rallies. So, it`s very hard to judge how this will impact elections but I do think turnout, yes, is definitely important for the president.

TUR: He got a really big crowd last night.

HOLLIDAY: Huge crowd.

DEL PERCIO: Those are the hard-core. Those are the people who will show up for him if he does shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Those are the hardest core people. You`re never going to change their minds.

GAY: They`re still chanting build the wall.

TUR: Lock her up.

DEL PERCIO: And they still -- here`s the funny part. They still believe oh, so Mexico will pay for it. I like hearing him say it. They get charged off of just his rhetoric more than anything else. Policies they don`t care as much.

GAY: Yes, it`s emotional, it`s cultural, it`s tribal. There`s nothing about it that`s intellectual. Will as though there`s a fever in the country among his supporters.

TUR: The roundtable is going to stay with us.

Up next, "GQ" takes a deep dive into Donald Trump Jr.`s struggle to get out of President Trump`s shadow. You`re watching HARDBALL.


TUR: EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has been plagued by controversies. The seemingly endless list involved Chick-fil-A franchises, the acquisition of a used Trump Hotel mattress, seriously, a particularly fancy lotion offered to guests at the Ritz-Carlton, as well. Today, we have yet another documents obtained by "The Intercept" show that Pruitt spent more than $4.6 million of public money on security that includes more than $2,700 spent on tactical pants and tactical polos. Apparently that type of getup does not come cheap.

We`ll be right back with more HARDBALL and the roundtable. Stay with us.


TUR: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In a profile in "GQ" on Donald Trump Jr., Julia Ioffe writes that all he ever wanted to do was to make his dad proud. She adds Donald Trump was never keen on bequeathing his name to anybody. It was Ivana who wanted to call their newborn son Donald Jr. You can`t do that, Trump is quoted as saying in Ivana`s memoir, "Raising Trump". What if he`s a loser?

Julia notes that Trump Jr.`s once private desires to win his father`s approval now come packaged as angry tweets and memes tearing down his dad`s opponents.

We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

What do you make of that, Susan?

DEL PERCIO: I think it`s basically true. I think this is a young man who always wanted to get his father`s approval. If you read the story from when he was a child, when he didn`t hate his father, he sought his approval. That`s what we saw when he worked on the campaign whether it was even holding that Russia meeting. It was to try and get something to give to his dad, like I got this for you, dad.

TUR: I`ve heard that from folks who know Don Jr., that they believe that this was something Don Jr. would have done anything to make his dad happy and proud and impressed, and that there was very little -- they doubted that if anything came out of that meeting that he would not have gone up to his father immediately, the fact they even had the meeting they doubt that he wouldn`t have told his dad about it.

HOLLIDAY: Right. And I think now the question and certainly when I`m reading the article, that pops into your mind, is he doing something now perhaps covering up what happened at this meeting to also help his father. If you look back at some of the transcripts and timelines surrounding the Trump Tower meeting response in 2017, there were a lot of messages between Donald Trump Jr.`s lawyer and the Russians involved as well as the Rob Goldstone, the British man who was connected to the Russians and it just -- the way that the response came out, the way that we are continuing to learn more about this meeting makes you wonder, is he covering something up to help his father.

He just wants approval. He just wants to help him. And it --

TUR: He`s covered up.


HOLLIDAY: The Russia investigation, is that what he`s doing.

TUR: During election, there was one moment where Donald Trump Jr. gave a speech at the RNC. And a lot of people liked it and they talked about his own political future.

A few days later, at a press conference, the same one where Donald Trump said, Russia, if you`re listening, find the e-mails. He was asked, what about Don Jr.`s future? Could he mayor?

And he immediately dismissed, I mean, in a way that was striking even to me at the time, no, he would never do that. No, he can`t do that.

Mara, take it away.

GAY: Hard to say if that`s because of something he did or just because his father had it out for --

TUR: Donald Trump doesn`t want to share the limelight.

GAY: That`s right. I mean, that piece was extraordinary. It was enough to almost make you feel sorry for Don Jr. But, you know, honestly, a lot of people have tough childhoods. And not everybody grows up and, you know, engages in some of the complicity and bigoted behavior and really ugliness and vitriol he has.

And I think some of the details in that piece were just kind of brutal and gives you a sense of what the family is like.

TUR: The roundtable is staying with us.

Up next, these will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.


TUR: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Shelby, tell me something I don`t know.

HOLLIDAY: There is an old settlement that could really sink Donald Trump`s new attempt to keep families together. It`s called the Flores agreement that governs how children are supposed to be cared for when they cross the border illegally. A lot of legal experts are telling me this could cause the administration some huge problems.

TUR: I`ve heard that too.


GAY: Sure.

HOLLIDAY: You knew it.

TUR: That`s why I cover this.

GAY: So, ICE has been actually conducting checkpoint stops on the northern border as it turns out. Some local Maine newspapers have been writing about checkpoints in kind of in the middle of nowhere in Maine. And it just gives you a sense of the scope of the agency.

DEL PERCIO: Totally switching it up, Jared Kushner we know he`s in charge of solving Middle East peace. Well, the administration`s proposal, peace proposal is out in about two or three weeks they suspect. And this is like do-or-die for Jared. He`s got to deliver this because he can`t take another ding from the president.

TUR: So, what`s he going to do?

DEL PERCIO: We`ll see. It depends on how it comes out.

TUR: The Flores settlement, the thing I heard about it was you can only keep children in detainment for so long regardless of whether or not they`re with their family, 20 days. There will be a hard point at which somebody is going to sue and it will go to the courts and Donald Trump will either have to push forward with that lawsuit or roll it back and say, you know, listen, my hands are tied.

HOLLIDAY: An Obama lawyer bet me $75,000 that he would not be successful.

TUR: Seventy-five thousand, wow.

Shelby Holliday, Mara Gay, Susan del Percio, ladies, thank you very much.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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