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DOJ breaks down Russian intrusions. TRANSCRIPT: 7/13/2018, Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Guests: David French, Joaquin Castro, Caroline Polisi, Bobby Ghosh, Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried

Show: HARDBALL Date: July 13, 2018 Guest: David French, Joaquin Castro, Caroline Polisi, Bobby Ghosh, Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for our show. Thanks for watching.

"HARDBALL" is up next.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Mueller indicts. Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

Tonight, 12 Kremlin officials with Russian military intelligence agency are facing charges in the United States. In the indictment filed today by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, those 12 defendants are accused of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States including charges of computer crimes, identity theft and money laundering.

The indictment contains the most compelling evidence to date linking the election hacking campaign to the Russian government. And it comes just days before President Trump is set to face to face with Vladimir Putin. The indictment also reveals the highly sophisticated methods the Kremlin used to target over 300 individuals affiliated with the Clinton campaign in the Democratic Party. Here is deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein today.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants hacked into computer networks and installed malicious software. It allowed them to spy on users and capture keystrokes, take screenshots and (INAUDIBLE) or remove data from those computers.

The conspirators created fictitious online personas including D.C. leaks and Guccifer 2.0. And they used those personas to release information including thousands of stolen emails and other documents. In an effort to conceal their connections to Russia, the defendants used a network of computers around the world and they paid for it using cryptocurrency.


KORNACKI: One detail in the indictment stands out in particular, it specifically mentioned the date of July 27th, 2016 saying quote "on or about July 27th, 2016, the conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts as at the domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton`s personal office."

Now, the timing of that effort may be significant here. July 27th, 2016 was the same day that Trump made this infamous statement soliciting Clinton`s personal emails from Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this. Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.


KORNACKI: Yes. The revelation suggests but does not confirm that Russian intelligence could have made new attempts to steal Clinton`s emails at the direction of Donald Trump. No Americans were named as co-conspirators in the indictment. It reveals that numerous Americans did communicate with Russian intelligence officers who were posing as the fictitious online person`s Guccifer 2.0 in D.C. leaks.

There is no allegation the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian agents. But it states that Russians shared stolen documents with a candidate from the U.S. Congress, a state lobbyist and a reporter. They also quote communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents including a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

The messages cited in the indictment indicate that person is former Trump advisor Roger Stone who has come under scrutiny in the special counsel`s probe.

According to a report from ABC News today, quote "at least seven people associated with long time Trump friend Roger Stone have been contacted by special counsel Robert Mueller though Stone has denied colluding with Russians."

Joining me now Ken Dilanian, national security reporter for NBC News. Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro sits on the House intelligence committee, David French is a senior writer at the "National Review" And Caroline Polisi, a criminal defense attorney.

Ken, let me start with you. Just in trying to shift through everything that is in this indictment, we singled it out there. This line there, and I want you to translate because the wording is a little confusing in this indictment. Domain hosted by a third party provider used by Clinton`s personal office.

The way this is being interpreted by the folks, I am reading, is saying that`s the day Trump said hey, Russia, I hope you go find those 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton. These ones supposedly scrap from her server. And if that language I just read is a reference to Russia trying to just do that. Is that what it is saying there?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: That`s what it sure looks like, Steve. And you know, I don`t think this is an accident that this date was mentioned in this indictment. There are a lot of dates that things happened where the Russian hackers are active and they didn`t list very many of them.

But this is one particular date, they listed. And I think Mueller did it for a reason. Because he knows that we would make this connection. He is not alleging that these Russian actors did this because Donald Trump asked them to. But I think a reasonable person can make that inference.

And it is really extraordinary. Because if you remember, Katy Tur, our owned Katy Tur, gave Donald Trump a chance after he said that to sort of take it back or to at least say he is kidding. He is engaging in hyperbole. But no, he embraced it. He said, absolutely. I would like the Russians if they can get the emails, that would be great or the Chinese, he said.

And in fact, you know, the idea that they more from trying to hack the DNC and the DCCC to trying to hack Hillary Clinton and her people, and they continue to do that. I think it looms very significant in this investigation, Steve.

KORNACKI: OK. Now, no Americans indicted here saying that there are is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew, and it mentioned here, knew they were talking to Russian agents but the speculation now is centering around Roger Stone. Take us through what is in here about Roger Stone. And do we have any sense what the next steps are they if there are any?

DILANIAN: Right. Well, so we have known for some time that the special counsel is calling Roger Stone`s friends to the grand jury and asking questions about his knowledge. And the text or the message is that were enumerated in this indictment today, the indictment -- as you said does not mention Roger Stone, but he had previously published this exchange that he had with Guccifer 2.0. And at the time he published it, he says I have never had any contact for the Russian intelligence (INAUDIBLE) because he doesn`t believe or at the time was contending that Guccifer 2.0 is not a Russian intelligence operative.

But this indictment makes it clear that that persona is a fake person created by Russian intelligence to leak the stolen emails. And so, now we have Roger Stone in contact with this persona.

There is nothing particularly incriminating that laid out in this indictment that Stone did or said, but it certainly refutes his denial that he engaged with the Russian. And we also know, you know, a couple of months ago, another story broke that he - and he said he remembered the contact with a Russian down in Florida who is offering him incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

So if there is nexus (ph), if there was - if there were members on the Trump campaign or Trump advisors who were participating with the Russians and coordinating, Roger Stone seemed like a likely person that investigators will be focusing on.

Again, no evidence yet. But that is where everybody is looking right now, Steve.

KORNACKI: OK. Now, the immediate next thing on the world stage, the next issue on the world stage coming out in this is, of course, that President Trump is set to meet with Vladimir Putin. There has been some calls from Democrats tonight. And I think John McCain even potentially for President Trump not to go forward with that meeting. The White House is not saying he will.

So Congressman Castro, with in mid, with the White House saying this meeting is going forward, with this indictment now detailing where Robert Mueller`s team believe is this is what Russia was doing in the United States in this presidential election in 2016, what message too you want President Trump to bring to Vladimir Putin? What message do you expect to bring to Vladimir Putin?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D) TEXAS: Well, given the news today and the indictments, President Trump should not go bow at the foot of Vladimir Putin. And for him to do so is a disgrace to the American people. Most is freshly because on the very day when he publicly called for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton`s emails, they actually listened to him and they did that.

So for him to go there knowing what all of us know now, it would be a disgrace.

KORNACKI: Caroline, from a lawyer`s perspective here, can you say he think that line, we are talking about, you know, the day that Trump say, go get those Hillary emails. Russia, if you are listening. this line in the indictment saying it looks like something like that happened that night for the first time. Do you believe that is something Mueller put it there intentionally? And from a prosecutor`s standpoint, what he has tried -- does he want us seeing if he if quoting it out there for us to see and notice.

CAROLINE POLISI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. I do definitely think he has out that in there intentionally. There is an old saying and people have been saying it all day today, that prosecutors do not believe in coincidence. So wouldn`t it be quite a big coincidence that, you know, unbeknownst to President Trump or then candidate Trump, you know, Guccifer 2.0. And these Russian operatives started the spearphishing campaign on the exact day that President Trump then candidate Trump told them to do so.

So I do think that there is more to this story. In the bigger picture here, this is just part two of a three part series. I think that the third part here is what if anything did Americans know. Now, Rod Rosenstein was very clear, not to go that far.

In a statement today that, you know, nobody is alleging does far that any Americans knew but I think that is logically specking, the next should have drop.

KORNACKI: And we mentioned that upcoming Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin. Again, the White House say it is still on. And you could make the argument that today`s indictment would give the President the evidence he needs to go into that meeting and hold Vladimir Putin tow account for Russian interference in the campaign.

Well, in advance to that meeting, Trump suggested he does not plan to confront Putin very strongly. This is what he had to say earlier today.


TRUMP: I know you will ask will we be talking about meddling. I will absolutely bring it up. I don`t think you will have any, I did it. I did it, you got me. There won`t be a Perry Mason here., I don`t think. But you will never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question.


KORNACKI: Putin, of course, has consistently denied hat there is any proof that Russia was responsible for the interference campaign. This is what he told Megyn Kelly last year.


MEGYN KELLY, ABC News: President Putin, you have repeatedly and passionately denied that Russia was behind the interference with our American election.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I haven`t seen even once any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election in the United States.


KORNACKI: And now, "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius is issuing an ominous warning ahead of Monday`s meeting.

Trump`s concessions is to Russia and his apparent inability to hold Putin Accountable prompted Ignatius to write that Russia should consider the possibility that Helsinki could someday become a symbolic name for appeasement like in Munich in 1938.

Quote "improving relations with Russia is a worthy goal so long as it doesn`t undermine security or reward bad behavior." David Ignatius there.

David French, let me bring you in. I read you have a new piece up on "National Review" saying the witches are real. The President has been calling this Mueller investigation a witch-hunt. You are certainly taking it seriously.

But let me ask you this because we talk so much about the President`s been making the case to his supporters, that hey, this is my enemies, this is Democrats, these are the Clinton diehards who just don`t want to respect what happened in 2016. Do you see anything in this indictment today in the news, in the coverage of it, that it is going to change house this sort of percolated on the right?

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, certainly not in the hardcore Trump base. Because, immediately the response was well, yet again, we see no collusion even though there were very interesting paragraphs in the indictment indicating that there was direct communication which unnamed individuals who went Guccifer 2.0 which broadcast that there were more shoes left to drop. But until you see some evidence that says that is screaming collusion, you are going to have a hardcore base that is going to be unfazed by any of this.

But I do think you had a lot of thoughtful conservatives out there who said I know, and it is becoming clear and clear that the intelligence agency assessment that the Putin regime tried to intervene of what was first to disruption operation became an operation attempting to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. It is increasingly clear, abundantly clear that Mueller needs to be free to do his work and let the chips fall where they may.

And I think one thing that is very key, because he focused on to actual Russian interference in our election here, he illustrated that he is doing his work competently and professionally and according to the core terms of his appointment. And that is a very important thing.

KORNACKI: And Congressman Castro, I`m just curious, have you a chance to talk to any of your Republican colleagues? Have you heard from them at all? Have you felt the temperature change there at all in response to this?

CASTRO: I haven`t, Steve. You know, we ended voting somewhere around 11:00 this morning and most of us have been on planes. I just got back home to Texas about an hour ago.

But in addition to the indictment and the fact the President should cancel this summit, it also speaks to the need for two very important things. First, greater election security. There isn`t a single federal law and I don`t think there is a state law, at least nobody has been able to point to one that sets any bar or minimum bar for cybersecurity protection for our voting systems. And we know that the Russians hacked into 20 something states voter registration systems. So there is got to be laws that are put into place. And greater cooperation among all levels of government.

The second part is that we have got to have the equivalent of a cyber NATO where nations come together and are able to act defensively when one of them is attacked. NATO accomplishes that when a country is physically intruded upon. But what is missing is that cyber component.

KORNACKI: And I just - we are hard after time here. But Carol, we have a lawyer here. And the question I have been dying to ask because I`m reading the coverage today so I might as well as ask with you sitting here.

We have been talking about this idea that Trump says, hey, Russia go get the emails then. Now we have not got the indictment. It looks like Russia turned around and tried to do that. People are using the term, collusion in plain sight. Collusion in public. We have been looking for the idea, was there a back channel? Was there a behind a scenes meeting? But what if this was a situation where the President said, that Russia heard that, or the candidate then said that, that Russia heard, Russia tried to do that. Certainly that looks terrible but is there a crime in that if that is what happened?

POLISI: There is not enough right there if those are literally the only facts. There is such a thing in the laws known as constructive knowledge. So if Trump knew something like if, for example, if he knew that day they were going to listen to him and he knew that he would be sending then message, then yes, that could go through a constructive knowledge of a knowingness that this is going to happen.

However, just as the facts that you laid out there, no. That unfortunately, that is not enough to get to a crime.

KORNACKI: All right. Caroline Polisi, Ken Dilanian, Congressman Joaquin Castro and David French, very busy panel here. Thank you all for being with us.

A very busy day and night certainly.

And coming up, President Trump`s wrecking ball diplomacy. They are calling it that. It continues to tear through Europe. Massive crowds also gathering for a protest in London. This, of course, just one day after leaving NATO`s allies uneasy with Trump`s go it alone threat.

And days before the President holds the big one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin. The White House says it is still on at this hour.

Plus, with the Mueller investigation ratcheting up in a big way, what do voters think of it? And of the President`s dismissal of it? I`m going to head over to the big board. We have got some fascinating numbers to look through there.

And much more on today`s top story on the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers on the eve of Trump Putin meeting. A meeting Democrats calling for the President to cancel. The HARDBALL round table weighs in on that.

And Rod Rosenstein`s stark warning to Congress the case should not get tried on television or in congressional hearings.

And finally, the roundtable tells us three things we may not know.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


KORNACKI: President Trump getting the royal treatment today in Britain meeting Queen Elizabeth for tea at Winsor castle. He is the 12th U.S. President to meet the queen. He is the first of with the history of making crude (ph) public comments about Princess Diana and Kate Middleton. As the visit was taking place tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of London carrying signs with messages like Trump not welcome and dump Trump.

Be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would give our relationship with the U.K., and now, especially after this two days with your prime minister, I would say the highest level of special.

Now, am I allowed to go -- am I allowed to go higher than that? I`m not sure, but it`s the highest level of special. They`re very special people. It`s a very special country.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump trying to mend fences after taking his wrecking ball diplomacy to the special relationship, as it`s known, between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Trump spent part of his second day in Britain trying to explain away his comments to the British tabloid "The Sun," trashing Prime Minister Theresa May`s handling of Brexit.


TRUMP: I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn`t agree. She didn`t listen to me.

QUESTION: What did you say?

TRUMP: She didn`t listen.

No, I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. But I told her how to do it. She wanted to go a different route.

QUESTION: So, you would be prepared to walk away if they didn`t give you the right terms?

TRUMP: Oh, absolutely.

I think what`s going on is very unfortunate.


KORNACKI: At their joint press conference this morning, President Trump try to walk back to those comments.


TRUMP: I didn`t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister.

And, unfortunately, there was a story that was done, which was, you know, generally fine, but it didn`t put in what I said about the prime minister.

Once the Brexit process is concluded, and perhaps the U.K. has left the E.U., I don`t know what they`re going to do, but whatever you do is OK with me. That`s your decision.


KORNACKI: The embarrassing diplomatic episode comes as thousands of demonstrators swarmed the streets of London to protest Trump`s visit, of course, days ahead of Trump`s face-to-face sit-down with Vladimir Putin on Monday.

For more, I`m joined by Beth Fouhy, senior politics editor for NBC News and MSNBC, and Bobby Ghosh, Bloomberg opinion editor and columnist.

Bobby, the other context for Trump and May is her government in England. These things can fall fast over there. It came into this week pretty unstable. So he goes over there, and he hits her in that interview where she`s most vulnerable in our her party, on Brexit.

Then he`s standing with her, and he acts like nothing ever happened.

Two questions. Where did she emerge politically this week? Her government, where does it emerge this week? And then the question of the U.S.-Britain relationship. Where does that emerge from this week?

BOBBY GHOSH, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Ironically, for sort of completely unexpected reasons, she might, just might come off looking slightly better, because she held her nerve.

She held -- she remained graceful, while he was his crude, bubbling, usual self.

Her government is very, very vulnerable. What we didn`t show is, he repeatedly praised, both in the "Sun" interview and in that press conference, he repeatedly praised her biggest rival within the party, Boris Johnson.

KORNACKI: Who had just quit, right?


GHOSH: Quit the party, leaving her in a crisis.

So he basically not only put poured petrol over the situation. He then put a match to it. So this is a very, very, very awkward moment for Theresa May. The Brits do respond well, if I can be presumptuous to speak for them, respond well to grace under fire.

And I think she gave a good account of herself, given how -- how awkward that situation is. That might win her a few brownie points just right there.

KORNACKI: And how does something like that, I wonder, Beth, play over here?

Because, on the one hand, we don`t see presidents go over to Britain and behave this way. On the other hand, Donald Trump did campaign for president basically saying, we`re getting ripped off by the entire world, we need to rethink all this.

The posture and the attitude he`s conveying here is something he talked about running for president.


And we have seen this many, many times, where he sort of lives in his own reality bubble. And he sort of seemed to think that Theresa May wouldn`t have read this article or listened to the audio before he had that dinner with her and then appeared with her at that press conference.

So he could say, well, what I said then, I didn`t really say. What I meant to say -- or he didn`t even have to say, I meant to say. What I said is this.

And, yes, we`re used to this with Donald Trump, that black is white and up is down. And he creates his own reality. And he`s very persuasive when he does so. So he perhaps can convince a few people that, well, maybe what he was claimed to have said in the magazine or in the article really doesn`t matter at all.

But to the point you make about sort of him doing things that presidents typically don`t do, he went over, he criticized their prime minister in her country. And then he criticized the press. He blamed the press for this mishap of communication, when, of course, there wasn`t any, our press, the American press, on foreign soil, again, something that presidents typically don`t do.

But because we`re so sort of numb and inured to everything that Donald Trump does, we just sort of said, well, there he goes again

KORNACKI: It was such a fascinating contrast, because you`re listening to the tape of that interview, or you`re reading it, and he was very confidently dissing her.

FOUHY: And he does that all the time.

KORNACKI: And then he gets face to face, and it`s a completely different attitude.

Let me shift gears, though,to this upcoming -- Trump and Putin, the sit- down. The White House is saying tonight it`s still on. You got Democrats out there saying it shouldn`t be.

Is this indictment, are these indictments today going to impact what Donald Trump does in that meeting, do you think?

GHOSH: Well, it ought to.

FOUHY: For sure.

GHOSH: By every rational, logical reckoning, it ought to. It gives him something to take to Putin and say, enough of these blanket denials, enough of saying, nyet, nyet, nyet. We have proof now your people were involved. What are you going to do about it?

But this is Donald Trump. And he has repeatedly shown, as you said, he`s capable of living in a bubble, a fact-free bubble. And so I suspect, if he -- if he says anything at all, the fact that it`s -- there are not going to be any aides in the room means that we won`t really hear very much about it.

It doesn`t look like he`s going to strike a combative pose with Vladimir Putin. So, if I were Putin, I wouldn`t be particularly worried with any of it.

KORNACKI: And Trump, on this subject, he defended his performance, arguing his behavior does not undermine the alliance, his behavior in Britain does not undermine the alliance ahead of that meeting with Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: Let me explain something.

We have left NATO with more money, with more unity, with more spirit than NATO probably has ever had. When you look at what we have done in terms of Russia, I guarantee, whoever it is in Russia, they`re saying, oh, gee, do we wish that Trump was not the victor in that election?

We have been far tougher on Russia than anybody, anybody.


KORNACKI: Well, Beth, Bobby said it a second ago. Right now, it sounds like the plan is one-on-one Trump.

You got Mark Warner, senator from Virginia, saying the president of the United States should not be one-on-one with Vladimir Putin. There needs to be another American in that room.

FOUHY: Right.

KORNACKI: But it looks like the plan is one-on-one.

Can he come out of that -- what can he come out of that room and say, in light of what we have tonight?

FOUHY: Right.

And that was controversial even before these indictments came down, that he would -- he would go to just have this meeting, just the two of them, with no note-taking, with no American to give witness to what was said.

Apparently, we`re told by the White House press office, that everything is as planned, and there`s not going to be any changes.

What I don`t quite understand, though, Steve, is with respect to sort of how he loves to appear with everyone, including with our allies in NATO, G7, very tough. You know, I`m the tough guy. I`m kind of the alpha male. I`m going to exploit weakness. I`m going to call it as I see it.

And yet he doesn`t want to appear tough at all in Russia. This would be a great opportunity for him, for a normal president, to go over there and say, as part of my image of like projecting strength, you`re never doing this again to us, Vladimir Putin. Cut it out. Knock it off.

This would be a huge P.R. win for him. But he just won`t. He won`t. He`s always so in the thrall of Vladimir Putin, always very concerned about how Vladimir Putin sees him. He talks about whether they`re friends or whether they like each other.

It`s a very sort of simpering, kind of -- sort of place of fear, as opposed to this projection of strength, which is so important to him in every other way.

KORNACKI: Bobby, in terms of NATO, in terms of Europe, obviously, relations there have been tested in other times since Donald Trump became president.

Did anything this week surprise our allies in terms of how this went down?

GHOSH: No, I don`t -- I don`t think they were surprised.

I think this was a moment of reckoning for them. I think this was a moment for our allies to recognize that -- there`s been a tendency outside of the United States, some in the U.S. too, but certainly outside the U.S., to think about Trump as it`s playacting. Surely, when it comes to the crunch, when it comes to the rubber meeting the road, surely, he -- this is all for the cameras, the reality is different. Behind the scenes, he will be much more sensible.

This was a moment for the European allies to face up to the facts that, with Trump, what you see is what you get. There is no second Trump. This is exactly who he is. And he is 100 percent authentic, however you feel about it.

So this was the moment, I think, for European leaders, for NATO allies to recognize that the guy is who he says he is, and even behind closed doors, that`s how he`s going to be.

KORNACKI: All right, Bobby Ghosh, Beth Fouhy, thank you both for joining us.

Up next: With the Mueller investigation ratcheting up in a big new way, what do voters think of it? And what do they think of the president`s dismissal of it? I`m going to head over to the Big Board next.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

And, again, the Mueller investigation ratcheting up today in a big way, those 12 indictments of Russian intelligence officials. And in that indictment, they`re really the most thorough documentation from the Mueller side so far in terms of what exactly Russia was up to.

Oh, it came up early -- what exactly Russia was up -- we want to show you some numbers over here at the Big Board, because, with the investigation, with all of the coverage of it ratcheting up right now, the possibility certainly that there is more to come here, we want to see where public opinion is on this and where it might be going, because there`s been broad support overall for the idea of having an investigation.

But we have been seeing some polarization start to set in too.

So, for instance, here you go, this basic question here. This was our most recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll asking the question, did Trump - - from what you have seen, do you think it`s likely Trump colluded with Russia or didn`t collude with Russia?

And you see a pretty even split there, 37-34, about 28 percent saying they don`t know. But that`s the sort of expectation going into this from folks.

When you break that down by party, this is what I mean about polarization. Overwhelmingly, from Democrats, 68-5, they think there`s collusion. Overwhelmingly, among Republicans, equally overwhelmingly, 7-69, they say there wasn`t.

So we start to see polarization. That`s one example.

There is also this. How about this question? Do you have confidence that the Mueller investigation is fair and impartial?

Remember, the president`s been out there saying, this is a witch-hunt. The president`s been out there calling for this thing to be wrapped up. Now, overall, there is a majority that they say they are confident this is a fair and impartial investigation.

But that number underneath it, that`s sitting there at four in 10. And a key question here is, as this thing plays out, is that going to tighten even more? Because, look, you can see the polarization setting in here.

Among Democrats, overwhelming confidence this is going to be a fair and impartial investigation, 77-18. At the flip side, more than 2-1 Republican, 63 percent of them saying they do not have confidence that Mueller is fair and impartial.

And among independents, you see it`s confidence there at a bare majority there, 50 percent. So, keep that one in mind.

And then how about this? How this Russia investigation, how the coverage of it, how that has played into public opinion. We took a poll, this NBC News poll, and asked that basic question we always ask. What`s Trump`s approval rating?

Do you approve or disapprove of his job? The number came in at 44 percent, his approval rating. But how about this? How about when you ask the question, do you follow the Russia investigation closely? Among those folks, Trump`s approval rating, it sits at 40 percent. I don`t follow the Russia investigation that closely, among those folks, his approval rating jumps to 52 percent.

So, all sorts of possibilities about what`s driving that. But there is a disconnect here. The folks following this closely, their opinion of him significantly lower than the folks who aren`t following all of this closely.

So, again, you`re seeing a real -- the question here, as we say, though, let`s see as this plays out. If it ratchets up more, does it get more polarized, or does somehow that polarization start to dissipate at all?

Coming up: After today`s indictment of those 12 Russian officials, Democrats, they are calling on the president to cancel his sit-down with Vladimir Putin. Senator John McCain, Republican, warning the meeting could only happen and should only happen if the president is ready to hold Putin accountable for the election meddling.

We will get into that with our Roundtable straight ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



TRUMP: I know you will ask, will we be talking about meddling? And I will absolutely bring that up. I don`t think you will have any, gee, I did it, I did it, you got me. There won`t be a Perry Mason here, I don`t think.

But you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump says he plans on bringing up election meddling during his meeting on Monday with Vladimir Putin.

But in light of today`s indictments, Democrats are calling for Trump to cancel that meeting if he`s not going to confront Putin. Let`s watch.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: If he and his team are not willing to make the subject of this indictment, of Russian interference, a top priority in the Helsinki meeting, then the meeting should be canceled.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I wouldn`t trust what he says there. Maybe they are plotting. They can certainly cancel any meeting without other Americans present.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If President Trump is unwilling to confront Vladimir Putin about this strong piece of evidence, he should cancel the meeting. He should tell Putin it`s unacceptable to do this, there`s going to be more penalties if they continues to do it and make sure that President Trump can report to the American people that he made that confrontation and attribution to Vladimir Putin. If he doesn`t do that, it makes us and our President look weak.


KORNACKI: And in a statement today Senator John McCain said, "If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward." The White House, though, said late today the meeting is still on.

Let`s bring in tonight HARDBALL round the table Philip Bump, political reporter for the Washington Post, Aisha Moodie-Mills a Democratic strategist, and Evan Siegfried a Republican strategist. Philip, let me start with you. He said, he`s going to bring it up, he immediately says don`t expect anything out of it. And I think among other things, that`s been the knock on the President in terms of how he`s addressed this in public.


KORNACKI: He`s never indicated he seems particularly bothered by that. Do you think this will force him in any way to change that?

BUMP: No. I mean, there`s nothing over the course about 18 months, which suggest that in any way Donald Trump will feel any pressure to put pressure on Vladimir Putin on this issue. We know the part of his hesitance is he thinks that the idea that Russia meddle on his behalf somehow under cuts his actual victory. He doesn`t want to do that simply. He doesn`t want to reinforce in that regard.

But also I feel like at this point, they`re just built intransigence too it. He just -- he hears everyone saying, you should do this thing and that makes him want to do it less. That`s sort of the nature of how we approach these things.

And I think it`s -- I mean quite honestly, like, yes, I understand the points that he made there but it`s a little bit like going to ExxonMobil with a new bit of climate data and saying, aha, now you have to stop selling oil. It`s like ExxonMobil is not going to stop selling oil, just because there`s new data that reinforces what we are already know. It`s exact same situation of President.

KORNACKI: Is there anything that he could say -- that the President could say coming out of this meeting that he could say in it? That would get Democrats say, OK, he -- I mean realistically, is there anything you could see him saying that would get Democrats saying, OK, he handle that all right?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well aside from being a partisan issue, let`s make this an American issue, right? The guy ran on poking out his chest and talking about how he was going to defend America and then how he was that guy and the only person who could go in and talk tough to the world on our behalf. And here he is acting like a little sheep. When the one person in the world has demonstrably done what he could to try to altar our democracy, literally, 12 people were indicted, because it has been proven that the Russians have been involved in something nefarious in the United States and it was a big deal.

And now, we were to see with this tough talk as an American, right? If he wants me to feel safe, right? If he wants me to feel like he`s got it, clearly he doesn`t have it. And I`m curious as to what happened to all the bravado (ph).

KORNACKI: The question -- and not the first time we`ve asked it, Evan, is Republican leaders in Congress. We have John McCain there saying, hey, he`s not willing to go in there and confront Putin, should be no meeting? I think I saw Ben Sasse today making a statement today, this is very serious. Is there going to be any change if Donald Trump has this meeting, if he doesn`t confront Putin, you know, in a different way than we`ve seen? Is there going to be any change in terms of how Republican leaders react to this?

EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it`s quite simple. The base has to change. If the base gets angry, then Republican --

KORNACKI: What would change that?

SIEGFRIED: I have no idea what will change the base, because they`re buying whatever is comes out of the President`s mouth. Even if it`s the fake news that -- my words were taken today and used against me in the sun against Theresa May.

It`s just absolutely frustrating. Let`s be honest, on January 20th 2017, Donald Trump put his hand on the Bible and sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. And he is going to go and have a love fest with Vladimir Putin and he`s going to say, oh, yes, I have to ask you about this. That`s probably what`s going to happen on the one on one. It`s like an abusive -- you`re in an abusive relationship and somebody is attacking you constantly and abusing you, and you say, well, we want to improve the relationship.

The first thing you have to do is stop the abuse and Russia is going to do it in 2018. They`re going to do it in 2020. And maybe it won`t benefit Republicans this time. But we need to have a President who stands up and does it. And the President is having a dereliction of duty moment, and it`s frustrating.

KORNACKI: And during the 2016 campaign, then candidate Trump made this plea to Russia from his derail Gulf Club in Florida.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this. Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


KORNACKI: And as we were talking about earlier, according to today`s indictment, this was the same day -- you just heard there -- July 27th, 2016 when Russian intelligence officers, quote, attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time, e-mail accounts used by Hillary Clinton`s personal office. The terms at their collusion in plain sight, collusion in public view, trying to figure out, so much attention on what was happening behind the scenes. If this ends up being, he said this, Russia heard it, Russia went and looked for it. If those dots end up being connected here, what does it mean for this investigation today?

BUMP: I mean, honestly, I want to take sort of a contrary position just sort of the conventional wisdom here, which is that I think that what you just saw, that link between what Donald Trump just said and what`s in the indictment, actually under cuts the idea that the Trump campaign had some secret back channel with Russia. If they have (INAUDIBLE) of Russia --

KORNACKI: Why say it in public.

BUMP: -- why say in public, right? But not only that, there`s also evidence in this indictment that actually shows how it is that Guccifer 2.0, this facade of the Russian Intelligence Services. How they actually made contact with WikiLeaks to share information.

That two we`ve seen according in the indictment, according to Robert Mueller`s team was done through a direct message over Twitter, right? So, if that`s the case, then maybe there wasn`t a conduit in the campaign that got the information from Russian and handed to WikiLeaks. The two -- there`s lot of questions about what the relationship between Donald Trump and his campaign were in Russia.

Those questions still exist. There`s still can be ways in which they work together. And I think the evidence that came out today doesn`t reinforce very strongly the idea that the two were working behind the scenes.

KORNACKI: All right, round table, staying with us.

Up next, after yesterdays contentious hearing on Capitol Hill for FBI agent Peter Strzok, Rod Rosenstein and what seem like a very pointed message for Congress. You`re watching Hardball.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to Hardball. A fiery hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday quickly escalated into a nine-hour shouting match in a partisan war over Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation. FBI agent Peter Strzok who was criticized for personal messages he sent during the campaign disparage then candidate Trump came under intense fire from Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees.

During today`s announcement, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and what seem like a very pointed message for Congress.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We do not file cases on television or in congressional hearings. We follow the rule of law, which means that we follow procedures and we reserve judgment. We complete our investigations and we evaluate all of the relevant evidence before we reach any conclusion.


KORNACKI: Aisha, how did you read what Rod Rosenstein was saying there? Would he going to say that no matter what or was that a reflection of what happened yesterday?

MOODIE-MILLS: I think he was going to say it no matter what because that`s the constant under tell, right? Like I think every time he has a chance to speak, he should double down on the fact that like we are trying to actually get justice here, guys. I know you want to have a partisan war.

I think the Republicans made themselves, look, absolutely ridiculous at that hearing. I mean the fact that they were having the yelling match, the fact that they were attacking this guy. And frankly, the fact that even though, you know, that no one is coming up with any real solutions on what to do to actually protect and safe guard America from these threats that are being investigated, to me, is just like, I can`t even believe that`s happening right now. I`m just shocked.

KORNACKI: And Evan, it speaks though I think to something that you were saying a minute ago about what you saw in that committee among other things yesterday is I think you saw a demonstration of a lot of the energy on the Republican base being channeled through Jim Jordan for some of the more aggressive members of that committee. That does seem to be where sort of the guts of the Republican bases right now.

SIEGFRIED: Yes, there`s this belief that it`s this witch hunt, et cetera. But you`d have Louie Gohmert, who`s basically far as gump without the morals good in hands or sanity going off and attacking Peter Strzok. Peter Strzok is no angle, lets be honest. And he made that into a side show that just didn`t work. I also think that Democrats were puffing their chests as well, China`s for political points with their base. I thought that Steve Cohen was absolutely out of line when he would try to make a murder of Peter Strzok by saying, you deserve the purple heart for this.

I mean, at the same time we really deserve to have Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle asking the real questions. OK. Why did you send this? Yes, it wasn`t appropriate to do that. And playing sort of investigators and prosecutors not politicians looking to send out a fund- raising e-mail and proved to their base that they`re tough.

KORNACKI: Well, and that`s an interesting point too. It seems or like there maybe should be a line tilt that you can draw between saying, OK, this idea that the bias that shown in this text turned up in the investigation, turned up in the actions of the FBI. Where is the evidence for that? And we haven`t seen any evidence for that. But then they turn around and say that Strzok should get a purple heart. And you can make an argument there in terms of the Mueller investigation. It`s probably for the best that Strzok is not continuing as a part of that just given the questions that could be raise.

BUMP: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the reason we (INAUDIBLE) Peter Strzok is because Robert Mueller`s fired him from his team in July of last year, because he found out about these texts, right? You know, it is -- there are certainly a case to be made that Peter Strzok is an example of how Mueller is going out of his way to ensure that he`s review is objective.

But again, the point here is Republicans want to reinforce President Trump`s key rhetorical point which is that the Mueller probe is bias against Trump. That`s what this is all about, right? And that`s -- what they were trying to do there is make Peter Strzok if nothing else an unsympathetic figure who people will dislike and therefore dislike more broadly the Mueller probe.

But I think something else happened yesterday that it hasn`t gone as much attention which is a Fox News poll came out. And the Fox News poll asked people how they felt about the Mueller investigation ask. If you can say Mueller either take your time and do the job that needs to be done or wrap it up already, which would you say? And 54% of Americans said take your time and do this thing right, which is a majority and it`s a higher percentage than the percentage that said they actually prove that the probe it`s missing. And so I think that that`s important to remember.

SIEGFRIED: There`s something a little bit ironic. This entire hearing was about whether or not biases could impact an investigation. And we saw a lot of biases impacting a congressional investigation from both sides of the aisle.

KORNACKI: All right, round table staying with us.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. That`s a very easy job. You`re watching Hardball.


KORNACKI: And we`re back with the Hardball round table. Philip, tell me something I don`t know.

BUMP: Here are the fruits of Robert Mueller`s witch hunt so far. Hundred and eight-seven criminal charges that are active, 23 counts that were dropped as part of a plea deal, 32 people in three businesses who`ve been needing to plea agreements or indictments, six guilty pleas from five defendants, 25 Russian nationals have been charged with crimes including 13 individuals going to be linked to Russia intelligence and four individuals working directly for or as advisors to Trump`s campaign in 2016.

KORNACKI: I definitely could not have given you those numbers off the top of my head. So I did not know that, Aisha.

MOODIE-MILLS: The Emmys just broke another glass ceiling, broke record for the number of diverse nominees again this year. Thirty-six people of color have been nominated for an Emmy. I think last year was 27.

KORNACKI: All right, and Evan.

SIEGFRIED: Well, the White House and the EPA are trying to suppress the Department of Defense report that says that at 126 military basis across the country, the water there, but the troops and their families are drinking are contaminated almost to the points of flint.

KORNACKI: Well, OK. That is a sobering note to end it on and of course we`ve got the Trump. Let me just -- we have 30 seconds here. Let me just ask one exit question on this, surprise question. Does anybody think there`s any chance that Trump backs out of the Putin meeting?



SIEGFRIED: Absolutely not. It`s going to be a love fest.

KORNACKI: OK. Right. Still schedule, the White House says it`s still on. Democrats will probably escalate the cause this weekend we expect. We`ll see if there`s any Republicans who joined them. Of course John McCain earlier coming out with a statement saying the President should call it off if he`s not ready to confront Vladimir Putin. We will see if there are any surprise additions to names of folks calling for that.

Until next time. Now, I`m going to say thank you to Philip Bump, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Evan Siegfried. That is "Hardball" for now. Thank you for being with us.

Chris Matthews will be back, Monday. And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



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