IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump admin insists only congress can fix policy. TRANSCRIPT: 6/22/2018, Hardball

Guests: Sarah Ellison, David Hogg

Show: HARDBALL Date: June 22, 2018 Guest: Sarah Ellison, David Hogg

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Trump to Republicans, don`t even bother. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews here in New York.

The White House today struggled to get its message straight on immigration both at the border and on Capitol Hill. The President, of course, reversed course earlier in the week signing that executive order ending his administration`s policy on separating migrant children from their parents. But it`s still unclear how those children will be handled going forward.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the President back pedaled on a commitment to House Republicans that he would support their immigration legislation.

This morning Trump tweeting out Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more senators and congressmen and women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades-old problem. We can pass great legislation after the red wave.

Just two days ago the President reportedly promised House Republicans that he would support them 100 percent and vowed he would not leave them in the wilderness. But the President`s tweet risked stalling what little momentum that Republican legislation had. It is also a dramatic reversal for an administration that spent days demanding action from Congress.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President isn`t trying to kick the can down the road, he is actually trying to work with Congress.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be signing an executive order. We are also going to counting on Congress.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We look forward to, you know, Congress playing a big role in this. And a lot of things that need to be done can only be done by Congress.

TRUMP: We are also wanting to go through Congress. We will be going through Congress.


KORNACKI: And amid the political back and forth, the fate of roughly 2,300 children lost in a confusing labyrinth of bureaucracy remains unknown. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced military bases were being prepared to shelter as many as 20,000 migrant children.

And "Time" magazine reported the Navy is preparing plans to construct quote "temporary and austere detention camps for tens of thousands of immigrants."

Politically this is adding up to be one of the toughest weeks of Trump`s presidency. Today he tried to reclaim the narrative, sharing the stage with families who lost loved ones to crimes committed by people in the country illegally.


TRUMP: You hear the other side. You never hear this site. These are the families the media ignores. They don`t talk about them. Very unfair.


KORNACKI: For more I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the OBS House and an MSNBC political analyst, Bret Stephens, columnist for "the New York Times" and a political contributor, Raul Reyes, attorney and an contributor.

Yamiche, let me start with you. To the politics of immigration and the President, the messages he is sending. He had two bills there in the House Republicans were working on. One a hardline bill, one that`s designed to get a little more moderate support. The President this week was supposed to go there and rally support for the moderate bill. Instead he ends up putting out that message that says just don`t do anything, we need more votes. Then supposedly after that he called and tried to backtrack a little bit. At the end of the week, is there any push from the White House for any specific legislation on immigration?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, I talked to a White House source only a few minutes ago. And that person told me that the President still supports either one of the bills that the house is considering. That person said if they pass the hardline bill or compromise bill, the President will sign it.

The problem is that the President doesn`t believe that the bill can pass the Senate. They are complaining that Republicans have such a slim majority in the Senate. But they don`t feel like they can get that bill through, which means it can actually get to the President`s desk.

The President then -- because he is so frustrated, he is now tweeting out this is a waste of time. He is trying to make it a midterm issue. I`m told that the President, if the President wants these bills next week fail, that he wants a bill specifically on the Flores settlement which is the court case that strictly limits how immigrant families and immigrant children in particular are housed.

KORNACKI: Yes. And so Bret, one of the issues here is the Republican Party itself. The Republicans in the house, cannot seem to get on the same page on this. You have got this hardline measure and you got this compromise measure. From what I can tell the difference between them, in the compromise measure they have the wall, they have family detention and they have the path to citizenship for the dreamers. The hardline measure doesn`t have citizenship for the dreamers and does have reductions in legal immigration numbers. Can you see a way --?

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The compromise measure is terrible because it takes the United States in precisely the wrong direction. We have ab immigration problem in this country. We need a lot more immigration if we are going to continue to fund entitlements, we are going to continue to have a vibrant, diverse effective workforce, if we are not going to have Japanese-style stagnation.

KORNACKI: What`s the market for that message in the Republican Party?

STEPHENS: You know, as a matter of fact, I think at least until a few years ago back when I actually affiliated with Republicans, there were a lot of Republicans who understood the basic free market case, leaving aside the case for decency, the case for American values, the free market case, we are having a strong pro-immigration policy. And you will still find there are many Republicans in states that depend on immigration and do not want these kind of -- this kind of hardline position that has overtaken FOX News and the other organs of conservative nativism and extremism. So what you now have is a Republican Party sort of riven on its own ideology and own incompetence unable to arrive at what ought to be the proper conservative free market position which is a pro-immigration --.

KORNACKI: Did it feel to you like the base of the Republican Party, the voters, the folks who picked Trump in these primaries, is it even plausible they are going to land where you are talking about on this?

STEPHENS: Look, I think there is -- I don`t want to say silent majority, but there is perhaps a great many middle of the road conservatives who understand even if they want, you know, a more sort of legalized system, a more regular system, that immigration is fundamentally good for this country. My mother was a displaced person, a refugee to this country. My father came from Mexico. That represents millions of people who understand -- who understand that. But they don`t really have a voice in today`s Republican or conservative establishment because the moment you try to make the case for immigration, you have got some jerk yelling amnesty and open borders and globalist.

KORNACKI: The President`s tweet by the way also exacerbated challenges faced by Republicans on the Hill. Let`s take a look at the dramatically different reactions to what he had to say.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), CALIFORNIA: The President is saying let`s have a red wave, get more people elected to Congress who want to vote yes on a solution.

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CALIFORNIA: The longer this issue festers, I think it will have the reverse effect. Rather than creating a red wave, it may be part of what creates a blue wave.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile on the House floor Democrat Ted Lieu played an audio recording of crying migrant children to try to bring attention to the 2300 children still separated from their parents. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what reason, madam speaker?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is in breach of quorum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cite the rule, madam speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House prohibit to use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no rule says that I can`t play sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you trying to prevent the American people from listening to what it sounds like in a detention facility?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It prohibits the use of that device.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are babies and kids at the detention facility. Why do you not let the American people hear what they are saying?


KORNACKI: Raul, looking at the politics of this on Capitol Hill right now, what you see Ted Lieu talking about right there, the politics of family separation, every poll I have seen are toxic for Republicans.


KORNACKI: You can`t -- you find a split in the Republican Party and go outside the Republican Party and you find everybody else is looking at this largely and saying we want no part of this.

REYES: Right.

KORNACKI: So on that front, it seems clear where the politics fall. I`m wondering when you get beyond that question and say, OK, what do you now do with migrant families who are caught going across the border without documentation. What then, because the Republican compromise approach would call for -- what they`re trying to put in this law --

REYES: Whatever calling their compromise.

KORNACKI: Yes. What they are calling a compromise. We will put it that way. But I`m wondering is do you see grounds for compromise when they say, OK, keep families together that are caught going across the board. Keep them together in detention while the adults wait processing and while the adults await trial. Keep the family together, but they are in detention. Is that something -- is there going to be any buy-in on that from Democrats?

REYES: No, I do not think so because I think Democrats and many independents would regard that type of approach as giving into a hostage situation where the President is using these young people in the migrant camps, these families, as bargaining chips to achieve what he wants.

One thing that`s very problematic when we are talking about this situation is we have a certain segment of the electorate, majority of Republicans, who have bought into the completely false notion that we have a so-called illegal immigration crisis, which we do not. The President himself mentioned it, something like a 17-year low. Illegal apprehensions and entries have been at a steady decline since the years of 2008, 2009. All of the metrics show this is actually the best time for immigration reform. But the President has pushed this false narrative and now we are at a place -- this week is so unusual because the President for once on illegal immigration is very much on the defensive. And when you want to talk about policy and solutions, it`s very hard to compete against pictures, audio tapes and these very disturbing images that are out there and we`ll only see more now that more media is down at the border.

KORNACKI: Yes. And I take your point. And I agree with what the reaction has been. It is pretty clear.

REYES: Right.

KORNACKI: But this struck me this week, some of the polling on this. And I want to run this by the panel here, if we can put this up. The question here, as we said, when you poll the family separation, extremely unpopular. But when you poll the underlying policy, the Trump administration has forced this zero tolerance policy, when you ask this in the poll the idea arresting and jailing and holding them until trial. Anybody crossing the border illegally, you get pout of support for that, 46 to 37 percent.

Then we have a second question here in this same poll, (INAUDIBLE) same poll.

OK. You have got the families crossing illegally. What do you do? And that idea of family detention, you hold -- this is true among Democrats and Republicans. That has plurality support right now. And I imagine look, as this gets litigated in politics, these numbers will change and maybe the democratic position changes.

But Bret, I don`t know. When I looked at that, it surprised me and made me wonder maybe the politics of this, I think they are very clear on family separation. I`m not sure they are as clear when you move away from that.

STEPHENS: On part, because there has been such a poverty of alternatives. I mean, there is an issue of families coming over, sometimes at great risk to children, and people think, well, you know, there is a law and they are breaking it and you have to do something about it.

But where is the politician out there, first of all, saying why don`t we just open the doors much wider instead of building walls? Why are these people who are coming here just trying to build better lives for themselves and contribute to their communities here in the United States as well as back home? How are they in any sense a threat to us? And why aren`t we working cooperatively with Mexico and our partners in Central America.

You know, George W. Bush was doing that 10, 12 years ago to come up with solutions because we are not going to solve this problem longer term unless we are helping to turn Latin America into an area of prosperity, not destitution. So that ought to be a part of the mix. But these alternatives aren`t put to Americans. So obviously, you know, given the poverty of choices, they are choosing what they are choosing.

KORNACKI: What do you think of (INAUDIBLE)?

REYES: Well, I think look, just in the last ten days, I think all sorts of people in the public have received this crash course in immigration law. What is the Flores settlement? What is asylum? What legal rights to undocumented people have? That is only going to intensify as we go forward.

We haven`t heard a lot of talk about solutions because right now on solutions which do exist, as you mentioned, such as investing in Central America, because right now people are still processing all of this.

But I think the more coverage that goes on, people will realize, when we talk about detention, that is jail. And I think maybe if we have polls that say when they start getting -- bearing down and saying do you support putting mothers and babies in five years old and six years olds in jail indefinitely, perhaps overturning a law that mandates that they receive recreation and that they are allowed to be in licensed shelters, when you start getting down into the details, I think the polling will start to change. And the great weakness for the Republicans, especially right now at a time of record unemployment, where`s the policy argument to support this other than being against amnesty and saying that they broke the law, which asylum seekers are not, where is the policy that they can back this up with? They don`t have it and that`s their weakness, why they keep shifting explanations.

ALCINDOR: Can I talk a little bit about the reporting that I did today?

KORNACKI: Yes, please.

ALCINDOR: I just want to jump in and just say there`s also a poll from the Quinnipiac University that was released on Monday that showed 55 percent of Republicans actually supported separating families. And you think, OK, well, maybe they were asking the question differently.

I went down to Duluth, Minnesota, where the President had a rally and there were multiple people who told me these families deserve to be separated. These kids are being taught a lesson to break U.S. laws and they need to be taught the lesson that they can`t come here and that they are not welcome here. There are people who of course also think that the President`s narrative that there are families that are permanently quote-unquote "separated because of crimes that illegal immigrants or undocumented immigrants have done to those families, killing people, even though that`s a false claim in terms of the number of people that are killed by undocumented immigrants being very low, there are a lot of Americans who agree with the President`s stance, the original stance of actually putting these kids in detention camps. And I think that there`s a large group of people who really believe the President`s narrative and love the fact that he was talking about separating them as a deterrent.

KORNACKI: Yes, no, I think that`s fascinating. I looked at it just from the standpoint of, you know, hey, yes, a majority of Republicans support it but we are in this era where seems like every question is 90 percent Republicans over here, 90 percent of Democrats over here.

Here is one only 55 percent of Republicans but that`s actually worth keeping in mind that you still did have a significant chunk there of Republicans saying, yes, they are with the President on that even though the overall number was very slanted.

Yamiche Alcindor, thank you. Bret Stephens, Raul Reyes, Appreciate the time from all of you.

And coming up, a closer look at Donald Trump`s cozy relationship with "the National Enquirer." And it seems that Trump and his team were working as shadow editors of sorts during the 2016 campaign, signing off on stories before they went to printing, even pitching damaging articles about rivals.

Plus the President went on a tweet-storm this morning handing out a flurry of endorsements in the upcoming midterms, but tonight Trump`s message is getting stepped on. A blistering op-ed. A leading conservative says vote against the GOP this November.

And Melania Trump has dominated headlines this week but today a different first lady is speaking out. We are going to hear from Michelle Obama later in the show.

And finally the HARDBALL roundtable is going to be here to tell us three things we might not know.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


KORNACKI: So what do you call a Roseanne show with no Roseanne? Well, ABC is going to call it "the Connors." Less than a month after the Roseanne rebuilt was cancelled due to a racist tweet from its star, ABC now says that a spin-off is going to premiere this fall.

And meanwhile, Barr`s ex-husband Tom Arnold says he is teaming up with Donald Trump`s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen to quote "take down Trump."

More on that straight ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

New reporting on the Michael Cohen investigation has uncovered more about the strange relationship between Donald Trump and the sensationalist tabloid "the National Enquirer."

"The Washington Post" revealing that quote "during the Presidential campaign, "National Enquirer" executives sent digital copies of the tabloid`s articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump`s attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication.

While the Enquirer`s parent company, American Media, has denied the practice, Trump is known to be close with the company`s CEO, David Pecker.

The tabloid frequently attacks Trump`s opponents, often with unverified or specious headlines, many of them aimed at Hillary Clinton.

"The Post" also reports that -- quote -- "Trump suggested stories to Pecker on a regular basis and was particularly interested in stories about Clinton`s health."

However, "The Enquirer" is probably best remembered for printing unsubstantiated stories about Ted Cruz, including allegations of marital infidelity and the baseless claim that Cruz`s father worked with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Kennedy assassination.

Trump spread those stories to bash his Republican rival, all while claiming he had nothing to do with the tabloid behind the allegations.

Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had nothing to do with it. The campaign had absolutely nothing to do with it. He`s got a problem with "The National Enquirer." I have no control over "The National Enquirer." I didn`t even know about the story.

On the cover of "The National Enquirer" there is a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father.

What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It`s horrible.

But there was a picture on the front page of "The National Enquirer," which does have credibility.

It`s up to people to believe it or not to believe it. I`m not writing it myself. I`m not going out and doing the research.

I mean, if that was "The New York Times," they would have gotten Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting.


KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by the author of that report, Sarah Ellison from "The Washington Post," and John Podhoretz is the editor of "Commentary" magazine and an MSNBC contributor.

And, Sarah, let me just start with you just to sort of fill in some of the blanks. I think we gave you kind of the basics there, but take us through this relationship between the Trump campaign and "The Enquirer."

What did that look like behind the scenes? What did that result in for the world to see?

SARAH ELLISON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, we have known for a long time that Donald Trump and David Pecker, who is the CEO of American Media, are friendly and friends and they have communicated a lot over the years. That`s fine. People are allowed to have those kinds of friendships.

What we were specifically reporting on -- well, I guess the other thing that we actually know is that "The National Enquirer" gave a lot of very positive coverage to Donald Trump and a lot of very negative coverage to his opponents.

Why did that happen? How did that develop? That was one of the things that we were sort of interested in figuring out. And in my reporting, what I found when I was talking to people was that there were actual stories that were sent prior to publication over to Michael Cohen, with the express purpose of making sure that they were OK with him.

KORNACKI: Is this -- because we heard so much here in New York Donald Trump and gossip columnists in New York City.

ELLISON: Sure. Sure.

KORNACKI: Is this like a similar thing, where Trump, the celebrity, Trump, "The Apprentice" star, has a relationship with the celebrity tabloid and that just folds into the campaign? Is that kind of what happened here?

ELLISON: Well, I think that that`s one way to think about it, right? It`s totally acceptable for a celebrity or a reality star or someone who is a New York real estate developer to make lots of calls to gossip columnists and want to be a source for lots of information.

The rules change a little bit when you are a candidate. You still can talk to as many publications as you want. You can suggest stories. You can -- I mean, there`s nothing about that that`s problematic. The issue becomes one -- and this is sort of what the investigators are looking at, is -- is "The National Enquirer" sort of an extension of -- is it part of a campaign apparatus?

Is there a level of control that this politician or his campaign might have over this publication?

KORNACKI: And, John, let`s talk about the impact, if there is any.

I`m curious what you make of it, because what these stories -- use the Ted Cruz one as an example. "The National Enquirer" puts it out there and Donald Trump is able to get up on TV or at rallies and say, hey, did you see this? I have read this. People are talking about this story. It`s out there.

He can say, hey, "The National Enquirer" is credible. It gave him an excuse to talk about this in public. Do you think things like that ended up having an impact on the election?

JOHN PODHORETZ, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They might have had a minimal impact on the primaries. I don`t know what impact they had on the election.

The idea that "The National Enquirer" is beholden to the rules of proper journalistic conduct is a little preposterous. It is a publication that has for 50 years done nothing but violate every journalistic rule in the playbook.

And so the notion that it did not hold itself to a proper standard of, you know -- of mainstream conduct is something that I think everybody understood during 2016 who was paying attention.

I think more interestingly is what the relationship between Trump and "The Enquirer" shows in larger picture about how he got elected. Trump began his political life in this modern frame around 2010, 2011, at the tutelage of his consigliere, Roger Stone, who introduced him to Art Bell and Alex Jones of Infowars.

And he was deep involved -- deep into the World Wrestling Federation, into talk radio all over the country and what we might call -- and "The Enquirer," what we might call a kind of proletarian media that was almost entirely invisible to the mainstream media types like us.

And by the time he began running for office in 2015, he had built up a very large following among people who have gone totally ignored in the electoral process, and I think jump-started his way into the lead in the Republican primaries, precisely because he had been so carefully cultivating that world and that audience that we paid no attention to.

KORNACKI: I think it`s a fascinating point, right, because the average "National Enquirer" cover story does not make its way onto MSNBC, or CNN, "New York Times," any of these places.

And yet there every -- every day of the week, millions of Americans at the checkout line in the supermarket are at least seeing the cover, maybe picking it up, maybe buying it, who knows. There is an exposure there that you might not see through the coverage.

And it leads to another question, too, which is, you look at Donald Trump and just his history in New York, the stuff that`s been reported, the stuff that he`s bragged about in some cases, this is a guy who would be rich fodder for a tabloid like "The National Enquirer."


KORNACKI: And yet, in 2016, that`s not necessarily how the coverage read.

ELLISON: No, indeed not.

I mean, in terms of the small tragedy that "The National Enquirer" is passing up a very rich topic, they certainly are doing that with the Trump family and Donald Trump. He would be a perfect sort of person to be covering.

I do think the notion that this is a part of the world that MSNBC doesn`t pay any attention to, "The Washington Post" doesn`t really pay attention to, that it can pass sort of unnoticed, and yet it`s everywhere in parts of the country where people are developing their impressions, as they -- and they say, I don`t know. Hillary Clinton, it just seems like her health isn`t that great.

Or Ben Carson, I have just heard he isn`t that good a surgeon, or these kinds of things that, where did you hear that? I don`t know.

I do think there is a level -- we sort of scoff at "The National Enquirer," but I do think there is -- it`s a way of putting something into the ether.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, it is interesting.

Again, I know just from the newspaper -- from the checkout line at the grocery store, you will see these headlines about a celebrity you haven`t thought about in 20 years and the health they say is failing or something.

And it does. You do remember it, say, maybe I wonder if something is going on there.

Sarah Ellison, John Podhoretz, thank you both for taking a few minutes.

Up next: Survivors of the Parkland school shooting are turning their grief and outrage into activism. Chris Matthews sat down and talked with one of them, David Hogg, about their efforts in the lead-up to the 2018 elections.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After living through the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a group of students mobilized the gun control movement. With school out, the movement is still going strong with the teenagers currently on a Road to Change tour to get -- quote -- "young people educated, registered and motivated to vote."

That`s their mission, they say.

In his new book, "Never Again: A New Generation Draws the Line," student leader David Hogg writes that -- quote -- "We have always been taught that, as Americans, there is no problem that is out of our reach. Anything except for our problem with gun violence, like it`s an act of God or a natural disaster, something beyond our control that we are helpless to do anything about. What happened on Valentine`s Day 2018 was neither natural nor an act of God. What happened that day was manmade, which means that, as human beings, we have the capacity to do something about it. Our generation has the obligation to do something about it."

Those are David Hogg`s words there.

And, earlier this week, Chris Matthews sat down and spoke with him.

Here`s that conversation.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m joined right now by the author, Parkland High School graduate David Hogg.

David, thank you for joining us.

Tell us about your goals for the months ahead.

DAVID HOGG, AUTHOR, "NEVER AGAIN: A NEW GENERATION DRAWS THE LINE": So, our main goals for the months ahead first off is just getting morally just leaders elected, not just Democrats or Republicans, but people that actually empathize with students and understand that the people that are being lost every day, from the South Side of Chicago to Parkland, Florida, to Liberty City, are people.

They`re people just like you and me. They`re people that -- just like the people that we care about and they`re people that are lost. And it`s important for people to empathize with those children and those adults, because that`s part of the reason behind why my sister and I wrote this book.

It is to show people what`s going on in this country and how we can`t allow these things to continue to happen and how, even if these things haven`t affected you yet, don`t let them. Get out and vote. Vote for morally just leaders that are willing to vote for things like universal background checks, unlike our speaker of the House, who won`t even bring it to the floor.


HOGG: And work together, so that we can solve this problem as Americans, because we have...

MATTHEWS: Well, in your book, in your book, David -- and the book is called "Never Again" -- you talk about universal background checks, which you just said. You also talk about banning high-capacity magazines, ammunition and, of course, assault weapons, banning those.

How about the senators from your state? How about Rick Scott, who`s running for -- he`s the governor. And what about Marco Rubio? Where are they on these issues that you talk about in the book?

HOGG: Marco Rubio pretty much refuses to talk to me. And, in fact, that`s part of the reason why I`m wearing this price tag right now, which says $1.05.

The reasoning behind that is that`s the amount of money Marco Rubio has taken from the NRA divided by every student in our state. Many lawmakers - - not all of them -- in fact, many of them have been willing to sit down and talk with us, such as Senator Jeff Flake and Murkowski.

They have very -- they have actually been willing to listen, unlike my Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. But Bill Nelson has been able to sit down with us multiple times and asked how he can help. And that`s the best thing people can do, just simply ask how you can help.

MATTHEWS: What are you going to tell your voters -- and they are voters -- you`re 18 -- voters in Florida, for example, in the weeks and months ahead before November?

HOGG: I`m going to tell them, look, it doesn`t matter if they`re a Democrat or Republican. Just do your research into who their special interests are. And ask yourself, do you want those special interests to be governing you?

Because, at the end of the day, right now, it`s not our politicians that are governing us. It`s the corporate special interests that get them elected that are.

And that`s what allowed these things to continue and why what happened at our school on February 14 happened. If we had politicians that actually were willing to take action after Columbine, and the NRA didn`t block things like universal background checks, then these things wouldn`t continue to happen.

And understand we -- this is not anything against NRA members. We know that the NRA does teach some safety lessons and that they do advocate for safety, but there`s also a different part of the organization that advocates actively against things like universal background checks, not because they don`t support them, but because, when they have in the past, they have lost members to things like the Gun Owners of America.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the title of your book, "Never Again."

Of course, those of us who remember history, yourself included, I believe, know that never again is really a historic cry that we never have a Holocaust again, what happened in Europe in the 1940s, where six million Jews were killed and others were killed.

Is that too strong a title, do you think? Well, obviously not. In your case, you think it is. Why is your call just as vivid?

HOGG: We -- since the beginning of this, when we made the hashtag, we worked through that and we talked about it.

And I bring this up a lot, and I talk about this in the book specifically, how we don`t use that term lightly. And we understand that, of course. We just -- we don`t want these things to happen ever again either. And that`s the hashtag that we used in the beginning of it, and that`s been the trade -- part of the trademark of this movement.

MATTHEWS: Yes, strong language, strong message.

Good luck to you, sir, David Hogg, voter, author, graduate of Parkland High School, and advocate for gun control and gun safety. The book is "Never Again: A New Generation Draws the Line."


KORNACKI: Still ahead: Ever the optimist, President Trump now says Congress should stop wasting their time on immigration until more Republicans are elected in November.

So what are the chances that will actually happen, given that yet another leading conservative now out there warning Americans, saying they should vote against Republicans in November?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



TRUMP: If you want to create a humane, lawful system of immigration, then you need to retire the Democrats and elect Republicans to finally secure our borders. In the Senate, we need, unfortunately, 60 votes. We have 51 votes. We need Democrats. They will do anything to obstruct, anything to make it as uncomfortable as possible because they think it`s good politics. I actually think it`s bad politics. We will see very soon.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump appears to have given up on Congress passing an immigration bill, tweeting this morning that Republicans, he says, should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more senators and congressmen and women in November. He then tweeted out endorsements for Republican candidates Henry McMaster for governor of South Carolina, Martha Roby and Ron DeSantis down in Florida.

But late today, conservative columnist George Will wrote a stunning column when you consider his history in "The Washington Post" entitled: Vote against the GOP this November, referring to congressional Republicans as Trump`s poodles.

Will argues that, quote, in today`s GOP, which is the president`s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against the party`s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation`s honor while quarantining him. A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate`s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House. George Will there.

Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable, Zerlina Maxwell, the director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, Nan Hayworth, the former Republican congresswoman, also on the board of directors for the Independent Women`s Forum, and Nick Confessore, a political reporter with "The New York Times".

Stunning given George Will`s history. In the Trump era, he`s been very anti-Trump. But still -- he`s authored, Nan, I`m curious. I mean, his conservative credentials from Reagan, I remember, through Newt Gingrich days, Mr. Conservative as columnists go, does that critique of the Republican Party calling the Republican congressmen and women poodles of President Trump, you were a Republican member of Congress, does it resonate with you at all?

FORMER REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: Well, Mr. Will`s highly erudite general peevishness under the era of Trump is well known, so this doesn`t entirely surprise me. He`s extremely frustrated with the fact that Washington is mired in internecine battles.

He feels that -- and indeed, you know, President Trump has signed -- is on pace to sign more executive orders, potentially, than any president in recent history and that is a symptom, if you will, of the fact that Congress has not been able to pass legislation.

KORNACKI: He`s talking about something bigger there. You know, he`s talking about the subservient to Trump what he sees --


KORNACKI: That does not -- you`re not sure of that?

HAYWORTH: Steve, I`m really -- I`m not seeing that. Having been in the House Republican conference, I know many of the Republicans who are in the House now, many of them are very independently minded and almost all of them are seeking to represent their districts effectively. There are many, many districts across the country who wholeheartedly support President Trump`s agenda. And these members are adamant at times about certain things. Obviously, there are representatives from swing districts, many of whose residents do not support the president`s agenda.

But to propose that we vote Democrats and Democrats being the party of government would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire basically.

KORNACKI: So, let me ask Zerlina because I`m having some flashbacks for 2016, because there was a school of thought in 2016 campaign and I think folks in the Clinton campaign felt this way, that there was a type of Republican, a type of George Will-like Republican that would have that revulsion at Donald Trump and that would cause some erosion in the suburbs, in places like the suburbs of Philadelphia.


KORNACKI: I mean, the famous line from Chuck Schumer a couple of weeks before the election, that for every vote we lose in rural Pennsylvania that Trump wins over, we`re going to get two in the suburbs. I think he was thinking of George Will Republicans.

They didn`t really cross over in those numbers in 2016. Do you think it`s any different in 2018?

MAXWELL: I think that it`s -- he`s making a different argument than we were making. We were saying that Donald Trump and what he`s proposing is so repulsing to common decency that you would vote for a Democrat.

But just to quote Joy Reid, which we`ve talked about this a number of times and one of the things she says is that the argument that that Republican over there is a bad person is not a winning argument if you`re a Democrat running for office. And so, you have to offer something and also provide policy details so that people can support that.

George Will is making a different argument. He`s saying that this particular president and this particular Republican Party are morally bankrupt in this moment. We`re talking about babies in cages as if it`s just another political conversation, just another political debate. It is not.

And I think that George Will is, just like Steve Schmidt earlier this week, said that we have to take a stand in this moment as Americans, as decent humans, and draw a line and say, we are rejecting this essentially white nationalist policy that is putting brown families and their children in detention camps.


KORNACKI: Let me -- I want to get nick into this. We`ve got two very different sort of versions here of where the Republican Party is right now. Do you think anything about this week has changed the way any voter looks at the Republican Party?

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think absolutely. Look, I think George Will is singular and there aren`t that many George Will voters out there. He`s one person and he`s George Will. But for as long as I`ve seen anything happening in politics, he has been the epitome of a conservatism of ideas.

And Trump represents a conservatism of blood and soil. There are certain people who are going to look for something different attitudinally, but I actually think Trump has the better of this argument. I think most of the party is more like him. It is more a politics of revenge and not a politics of ideas.

It`s a politics against elites and against people that these voters feel have been looking down on them for years and years. And that is what powers that coalition. I`m not sure what`s happening on the border is going to change that much, but there are people, yes, in the suburbs and elsewhere who look at what`s happening in there and think it`s beyond our country to have it that way.

KORNACKI: And, Nan, just -- I`m curious, what`s -- we showed the numbers earlier. There`s a divide in the Republican Party on --


KORNACKI: We had this question of family separation. It was pretty unpopular overall, but in the Republican Party, there were two -- which of those camps were you in watching that this week?

HAYWORTH: Well, clearly, we don`t want to see children separated from families. We also know that the policy of separating children from accompanying adults is not unique to this administration.

MAXWELL: That`s not true.


MAXWELL: Jeh Johnson was on this network yesterday talking about -- yes, we were putting people in detention but we were not separating families. We were not separating babies and putting them in cages. That is something that is new.

Jacob Soboroff has also said that repeatedly on this network. He saw it with his own eyes.

HAYWORTH: The photographs that you see, Zerlina, is from 2013.


KORNACKI: Let`s -- OK -- I think we should say in 2014 and in the past in the Obama administration, there was no policy that led to the required separation of families. That`s a new thing. There were detention facilities --

ZERLINA: With unaccompanied people certainly.

KORNACKI: There`s facilities that showed conditions that have been denounced this week.

And so, I think there`s a legitimate, you know, grounds for debate and conversation around that. We should say, though, the specific policy here of family separation was the Trump folks. Hey, it grows out of being zero tolerance, which a lot of other folks say is unacceptable under any circumstances. That is a new thing at this moment.

The roundtable is staying with us. That`s a long way of be trying to get to the commercial break but the roundtable is staying with us. More with them.

And up next, former First Lady Michelle Obama, she is speaking out about her time in the White House. Why she says her family didn`t have the luxury to make mistakes.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: There was possibly another hint today that Michael Cohen may be willing to flip on the president. Yesterday, actor Tom Arnold tweeted a photograph of himself with Cohen, which Arnold says was from a meeting they had about a new TV show.

Cohen then retweeted that photo. And then in the interview with NBC News, Arnold recounted his conversation with Cohen like this. Quote, I say to Michael, guess what? We`re taking Trump down together. He`s so tired, he`s like OK, and his wife is like OK. Blank Trump.

Arnold later clarified that he does not speak for Cohen. However, here is what he said about Cohen on MSNBC when asked if he will flip.


TOM ARNOLD, ACTOR: Donald Trump does not care about him, he does not care about his family. And it`s over. Michael Cohen is going to take care of his family and his country first. That`s all you need to know. Think about that.


KORNACKI: That`s what Tom Arnold had to say. You can judge for yourself if you want to take that with a grain of salt.

We`ll be right back.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We also knew we didn`t have the luxury to make mistakes. When you are the first -- I mean, I lived my life as the first, the only one at the table, and Barack and I knew very early that we would be measured by a different yardstick. Making mistakes was not an option for us. Not that we didn`t make mistakes, but we had to be good. No, we had to be outstanding at everything we did.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was former First Lady Michelle Obama today on the responsibility she says she felt being part of the first black family in the White House.

Back with our roundtable now, Zerlina, Nan and Nick.

Zerlina, interesting the pressure she`s describing there.

MAXWELL: Yes, I think every black American can relate to what she`s talking about. I was the first and only in many instances in my education and also professional life, and so, I think she`s correct to say that as the first black family in the White House, they did have to be perfect.

She couldn`t say everything that probably she wanted to say or wear things that had messages on them. I think that, you know, the idea that Melania Trump and Michelle Obama are graded on the same level, I think that yesterday proves that that`s not true.

You know, Melania Trump wore a message on her jacket and it`s not really about the jacket. But if you don`t want people to talk about the message on your jacket, don`t wear a jacket with a message on it. That`s how you solve that problem.

I think to Michelle Obama`s point, they`re judged on two different standards and I think that she`s just speaking the truth right there in the clip.

KORNACKI: And in some ways too, Melania Trump is a first lady like we`ve never seen before. And also until yesterday, you hadn`t heard much from her recently either.

CONFESSORE: Look, she is not inhabiting the traditional first lady role. In some ways, it`s the president`s daughter who inhabits that role.

Look, she`s chosen not to play the traditional role. I think that`s actually great. The whole notion that the wife or the spouse of the president has to be some kind f a public helpmate is very outdated. I think if she wants to stay indoors and do her thing, she should.

KORNACKI: I remember --

MAXWELL: I agree. I agree.

KORNACKI: It`s funny because I remember in 2004, Howard Dean was running in `04 and his wife wasn`t even campaigning for a long time. He said, hey, she`s got her own life. She`s a doctor up there in Vermont.

And it ended up being so much pressure, she had to come on the campaign trail.

HAYWORTH: Absolutely.

Well, you know, I have to respect what Michelle Obama says about her experience because it was her experience. I do feel that Mrs. Trump is being judged often by a very harsh standard, the jacket message notwithstanding. The president obviously tweeted about it, said what she`s saying is she doesn`t care what the media say about her.

And there have been some pretty harsh and hostile things said about Melania Trump who I think I agree with you, Nick, I think she is a gracious person who is doing her best in a very difficult fish bowl.

KORNACKI: All right. Roundtable is staying with us. Up next, these three are going to tell me something I don`t know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Nick, tell me something I don`t know.

CONFESSORE: So, we all know Washington is full of men who talk too much, but it turns out that we also talk to each other too much. According to a new study, when male journalists are responding to somebody on Twitter, they are almost always responding to a different male reporter. With that, I will stop talking.

KORNACKI: Does that ring true?

MAXWELL: Yes. I mean, I see this with my own eyes. Obviously, you need data to back up your points but I think we can all do a better job in engaging women and their journalism and the things that they write and their ideas.

KORNACKI: All right. Interesting. You know, I -- Twitter, the whole etiquette is beyond -- retweet, comment on people, the whole thing scares the heck out of me.

Anyway, Nick Confessor, Zerlina Maxwell, Nan Hayworth.

That`s HARDBALL. Thank you all for being with us. Chris Matthews back here on Monday night.

And ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.