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Trump Administration repeatedly "clarify". TRANSCRIPT: 7/19/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews

Guests: Mike Quigley; George F. Will

Show: HARDBALL Date: July 19, 2018 Guest: Mike Quigley; George F. Will

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Turn it up to 11 and say goodbye.

That is our show. Thanks for joining us on THE BEAT.

HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mr. Putin goes to Washington. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in San Francisco.

It has been a dizzying week for the Trump administration as countless officials continue to dispute the President inexplicable statements on Russia. But rather than get tougher on Vladimir Putin, President Trump is now rolling out the welcome mat.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced late today that the President intends to follow up his meeting in Helsinki with another round of talks with Putin this autumn in Washington.

Quote "President Trump asked John Bolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall. And those discussions are already under way."

But the announcement came minutes after director of national intelligence Dan Coats told Andrea Mitchell that he felt duty bound to speak out after the President sided with Putin over him and the U.S. intelligence community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: When you watch that, in Helsinki, what was your gut reaction watching him validate Vladimir Putin`s assessment over yours?

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, my thoughts there were that I believed that I needed to correct the record for that. And that this is the job I signed up for and that was my responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Coats is also one of many who have had to fact check the President when it comes to Russia. Over the past week, Trump has been at consistently odds with members of his own administration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say, this I don`t say any reason why it would be.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: My view has not changed which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election.

TRUMP: I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it has kept us apart. You would say that was a total witch-hunt.

WRAY: I do not believe special counsel Mueller is on a witch-hunt. I think it is a professional investigation conducted by a man who I have known to be a straight shooter.

TRUMP: He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that is an incredible offer.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The administration is not going to force people to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team.

TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish.

JON HUNTSMAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: The bigger picture, we need to hold Russia accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Russia still targeting the U.S.? Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thanks very much, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let`s go.

COATS: Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question and continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Well, despite his attempts to undo the damage done in Helsinki, the President has found it near impossible to hold Putin accountable for Russian aggression toward the United States.

To that point, the latest edition of "Time" magazine which was revealed today features an animated online cover ominously showing President Trump`s face morphing into that of President Putin. As the cover story states Trump`s puzzling affinity for Putin as yet to be explained. That is for sure.

Democratic congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois sits on the House intelligence committee. Steve Schmidt is a political strategist and MSNBC contributor and Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for PBS News Hour and an MSNBC contributor.

Let me go to congressman Quigley. It is not just that he is a Russian. It is not just that he is a former soviet. But Vladimir Putin is a cagey agent of his time. He has sworn in, duty bound spy. That is what he has done his whole career. That is what he is. He could do anything. Probably engage in torture. Personally has done it all and we are inviting him into the home of the President of the United States. What do you make of that protocol violence?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-I), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s scary. I now served on intel committee for about three and a half years, I have the greatest respect for the members of that community. Many of them have given their lives to keep us safe. And here we are attacking them. Since before he was President of the United States as candidate Trump attacking the intelligence community and defending and never attacking Mr. Putin. It is beyond description.

MATTHEWS: Steve, what would you make of a Democratic President or what do you think a lot of people on the Trump side, those who are lining up behind him again, four out of five Republicans backed him on his Helsinki behavior. What would they have done if Barack Obama had kowtowed to a soviet or Russian leader like this guy has, who suggest this subjecting American officials like our former ambassador McFaul to be dragged over to Moscow for interrogation with then on top of that, invite the leader of that former head of the KGB come to the White House for din-din. What do you think would have been the reaction from the solid Trump vice (ph) at that thought?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, President Obama if had he had done that, would have been impeached already for sure. The most mystifying thing about all of this is the utter complexity of the Republican majority and failing to stand up to a President who has distinguished himself with his singular dishonor.

He is the first American President in the history of the American republic who refuses to defend the country from the attack launched on it by a hostile foreign power at the order of the President of Russia. The Russian federation launched a cyberwar against the United States interfering on our election process. It is an attack on our sovereignty. This is what George Washington warned the country about in his farewell. It is remarkable to watch this play out this week and to see over on FOX, stay TV, all the excuse making, all the gymnastics that are going on trying to excuse Trump from this.

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, the President who was a candidate, as a candidate, promised to put America first. And I understood it. No more stupid wars. No more kowtowing. No more taking crap from everything. Why is he taking everything in the face from Putin, everything.

The attacks, the suggestion that they want McFaul, former ambassador, to come back there and be investigated by the KGB like his crowd. That is how they are. And then again invited to dinner at the White House what everyone of this dictators wants is to be treated like a human being at the highest level by our country. And now Trump is giving him exactly what Putin wants to be treated like he is human being which he is not. Your thoughts?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: Well, I was at that Helsinki summit and in the room when that press conference happened. And it wasn`t just that President Trump is treating President Putin as if he is a human being and someone who should be respected. In that regard he was really someone, he is allowing President Putin to be the host almost. Even though that the summit was happening in Finland, it almost could been happening in Russia because he spoke first. He was someone who clearly was -- had the body language you could tell that he was having a good time. President Putin was smiling all the while.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALCINDOR: And this was really about President Trump saying I am the rightful President of the United States and that I don`t owe Russia anything for my victory. Because this has become so personal for him. So it is the message has really been, America first. But really it is about Trump being first. And all the people that I talk to that today I was really talking to a lot of sources from the department of homeland security and former senior officials from the department of justice who deal with national security and all of them said the national intelligence community is really worried about what President Trump said to President Putin in that two-hour meeting. They are really worried that he made assurances with President Putin and gave away things that the U.S. doesn`t even know what happened yet. So I think this idea that the intelligence community in my reporting is really, really scared.

MATTHEWS: Steve, get the congressman -- I want to, Steve, about something because you are such a smart political guy. And I want to ask you that didn`t you get the sense watching Putin, he had the secondary characteristics of a guy who had a tortured and licensed job. He was -- had that smirk on his face. You know, as Yamiche said, he that attitude if I got this guy in my captivity, I am enjoying this. This is the kind of torture I like as a KGB expert.

SCHMIDT: Vladimir Putin is a KGB colonel. He was and always will be that. And I think the way that he would Donald Trump is the way that a conman looks at his mark. He saw somebody who was standing next to him that is clearly doing his bidding by design whether it is a sin of omission or commission, I can`t explain.

I don`t know what is in Donald Trump`s heart. I don`t know what is in his head. But there is a term the Russians use, it is useful idiot. And the President of the United States is a Russian useful idiot. He is four- square doing the bidding of a Russian autocrat. He is savaging the western alliance. He is weakening NATO. He is assaulting the European Union. The U.S. flag were global order, these are all the primary and fundamental strategic goals of the Russian federation to weaken NATO, to weaken the European Union, to weaken trust, faith and believe in democratic institution across the west. And the person more than any other human being on all the planet that is doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin to achieve those ends is the American President. It is an extraordinarily dangerous moment to ponder as we look at the events of this last week.

MATTHEWS: And now the tough question, congressman. Are you people going to let this guy, this KGB colonel, into the house chamber to address the House in a joint meeting. If Trump asks you to do that, the final straw, will you go along with it?

QUIGLEY: You know, I don`t think we will. But it is up to speaker Ryan. If today is any indication, I don`t hold out much hope. My amendment up today would have provided additional resources to battle and protect our election security. It failed on a party line vote. The same people, the same Republicans who tweeted out disagreeing with the President`s accuracies in Helsinki today voted against providing resources to prevent cyber hacking, provide training and equipment because our equipment is so old, it can`t even handle anti-hacking software.

We have 13 states that don`t even have a paper background. Against that backdrop, Mr. Coats talked about how they are coming after us again on election hacking. My Republican colleagues did nothing.

MATTHEWS: Well, it would be great if you introduce a resolution, even if it won`t get passed by the Republican majority. It would challenge them at least to say it is the will of the House that this man who oversaw an attempt to disrupt and discredit our electoral process, the essence of our Republican form of government will not speak in this house. That would be great.

Any chance of that happening? The Democrats pushing, Pelosi and the rest of you folks pushing, that resolution and forcing the Republicans say they either eat it or fight it.

QUIGLEY: I agree. We are going to continue to fight. Today was full throttle engagement with them. The Republicans sitting on their hands while the Democrats wanted to secure our country`s election infrastructure, chanting USA.

MATTHEWS: Well, I hope you challenge Mr. Ryan to show some guts and say no to the President. It is an embarrassment. He is coming here. It would be a worse embarrassment if we put him in the well of the House to speak to the country.

Meanwhile, in his most recent attempt to address the fall in over Helsinki, President Trump is claiming he has been tough on Russia. Believe it? Well, while trying to cast his predecessor. Barack Obama is being beholden to Russia. Remember that? I don`t. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look at the sanctions I have put on. Look at the diplomats I threw out. Look all of the things that I have done. Nobody else did what I have done. Obama didn`t do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy. Look at the statements he made when he thought the mics were turned off, OK. The stupid statement he made. Nobody does a big deal about that.

Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is a positive, not a negative. Now with that being said, if that doesn`t work out, I will be the worst enemy he has ever had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yamiche, the sanctions it seems that he came about under Obama and it was Trump`s people who kept talking during the campaign. That`s what this investigation is about, about reliving those sanctions in some sort of quid pro quo.

ALCINDOR: Well the President, the White House really does have that same kind of talking point when you ask them about the U.S. policy towards Russia. They will say we expelled people. We closed Russian consulate all over the country. So there is this idea that there is (INAUDIBLE). And the President said, he is not at all reduce any sanctions when it comes to Russia.

The bigger point is I was talking to the former U.S. representative to NATO. His name is Douglas Loot (ph). And he was saying that NATO allies, when they see what President Trump is acting, that they are going to start crafting workarounds for the United States because they will not trust the United States when it comes to -- when it is under President Trump.

So you have this idea that while he is saying that OK, I haven`t taken away sanctions or I haven`t done anything, he didn`t say the word sanctions in that press conference. Nowhere in that press conference did he say we are going to keep our sanctions strong. So this idea that even if the policy is strong for now, people including NATO allies Already looking at President Trump in saying we don`t trust that guy.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- Steve, tell me about Chris Wray, Christopher Wray. His conversation today with Lester Holt of NBC, it seemed to be that it is -- he talked about resigning. He was so concerned about Trump`s behavior.

SCHMIDT: Well, look. I think you see the remarkable video from the Aspen security conference with the national director of intelligence, Dan Coats, similarly surprised.

Look. At the end of the day, when you look at Donald Trump`s Putin fetish, when you look at the things that he did over the last ten-days. His attacks on the NATO allies. He is destabilizing that alliance. And lastly, the weakest performance by an American President, the head of state of the United States standing next to a foreign leader in the history of electronic recordings of this type of events.

We have never seen a weaker performance by a President of the United States standing next to any leader let alone one that has attacked the country, attacked the elections process. That is responsible for war crimes across the Middle East. The annexation of his neighboring states and his attempts to weaken liberal democracy all across the world. Not a single line of opposition to them.

It was gutless, it was weak, it was servile and it is unprecedented for an American President to show that type of weakness. And I think that when you look at why is he doing this, there are no good answers. And I think that increasingly, as we look forward, this President is becoming more unhinged. He is becoming more erratic. His behavior is becoming more alarming with each passing day. And though there are all sorts of people that are trying to excuse it away, the whole country just saw what they saw with their own eyes. And it is not good for this President, and certainly not good for the United States.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

U.S. congressman Quigley of Illinois, thank you, sir.

Thanks you Steve. And thank you, Yamiche Alcindor.

And coming up President Trump described it as an incredible offer handing over U.S. citizen including former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to Vladimir Putin and the KGB for questioning in exchange for interviews with Russians who have been indicted by Robert Mueller. The only thing canny (ph) about that is who unprecedented it would be to hand an American diplomat over to an enemy government led by the KGB.

Plus, White House secrecy, a former U.S. stenographer joins me live tonight talking how the Trump administration facing her and her colleagues out of the room during -- while, interesting events.

And Trump is back on the attack. Once again, labelling the media as the real enemy of the people. The HARDBALL roundtable weighs in on that.

Plus, Mike Huckabee doesn`t see what the big deals is with Russia interference in our election saying America tries it all the time. Thank you. Another America first who are knocking us and praising the soviets now called the Russians. And the line of attack. We will see what is going on.

Let me finish with Trump watch. I don`t think he will like this one either.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) today says he is not rolling on allowing the Kremlin to question former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul and other Americans. Reaction from Christopher Wray, the head of FBI, of course, is different. Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio now this including him, one of the Republicans going to do about it.

Right now, we have George F. Will is joining us.

George, thank you for this. What do you make of that, offering the former U.S. ambassador to the former KGB crowd to interrogate him.

GEORGE F. WILL, NEW YORK TIMES: I suspect of the specialist and (INAUDIBLE) from the Kremlins, let`s think of Vermont (ph) for self- preposterous that will either inject that out of hand or they will consider it or by doing so, he will demonstrate that he has no knowledge of his own government, let alone ours.

This whole episode demonstrates, Chris, the first principle of conservatism which there is no such thing as rock bottom. What he should have said when this offered was (INAUDIBLE), a, if I had the power to do, which I do not, b, I would not exercise that power. But I think probably, when then says it was an incredible offer by which he did not think it was credible, he meant it was stupendous. And then he said, he was going to consult with his advisors on this. This is something that you reject at facially preposterous.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder because, you know, on this program and others, we have wrestled with trying to figure out the motive. You know, the motive I thought for a while, I know I am being too generous, that there was a grand strategy that he was going to unite the north, the Russians and the American people and the Europeans against the south, the Islamic threat which the Soviet Union worried about for the time in the Russian revolution. Their soft underbelly. That there was some greatness in this, something about Syria, Israel and Iran that he is going to put it all together. And I guess, there is no evidence of that kind of forethought. And then you go to the dossier theory. It is all personal CYA, saving his own situation and then he goes something in the middle, they have something on him from something else.

Where`s your mind on why he is behaving in such a corrupt fashion, to be supporting a foe of this country down the line, to the point of talking about letting them interrogate our people, KGB types, talking about inviting him here to the White House, on top of all of this, and seeming to be in a total state of forgiveness?

What do you make of this?

WILL: Well, as I say, I think he has minimal regard for and minimal understanding of the rules of American government and the institutional facts of American government.

Remember, Chris, that, during one of the presidential debates among the Republican candidates, when Mr. Trump for some reason felt called upon to defend the conservatism of his sister, who`s a federal judge, he says, she has signed some of the same bills that Justice Alito has signed.

He thinks judges sign bills.

(LAUGHTER)

WILL: But he has -- I mean, this is -- we have a president who would flunk a sixth-grade civics exam. So he doesn`t quite understand the limits on presidential power and the limits imposed not by de jure matters, but by norms.

So he -- again, the people around Putin figured out how to spread another day or two of chaos. It`s like throwing a puppy into a kindergarten class.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a nice picture.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take -- and bring in Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Post."

Ruth, I would love your thoughts.

Same question, big question, because historians are going to be wondering at that. Maybe we will get a clue. Maybe they will be some smoking gun, a Perry Mason moment or something, where somebody admits it all. But we`re still trying to figure out, why would a president throw away our sovereignty?

RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I actually go back to our friend Ben Wittes` trademark phrase, malevolence layered within incompetence.

And I think what we have seen this week is some combination of the two of them.

I could not agree with George more, which I guess is turning us all into his form of conservatives these days on the rock bottom front, about the ignorance and naivete and lack of experience that`s been on display this week, and that as a piece of the explanation for what`s going on.

When Putin says to you, like the sort of KGB agent version of a used car salesman, hey, guy, I have got a great deal for you, so here`s how it`s going to work.

(LAUGHTER)

MARCUS: We interview your guys, and they interview -- you interview our guys.

If you have zero understanding of government, maybe that sounds like a good deal. If you have any understanding of government, it`s a mess.

And the thing that was amazing isn`t simply that the president snapped at it and called it an incredible deal, but that it took multiple hours out of this bizarro news -- press briefing that we had yesterday from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, where she laid it out there, left it open as a possibility, to say, no, we`re not doing that.

MATTHEWS: Well, George, you`re a historic conservative. I mean, you have known the whole history of the conservative movement, going back to Buckley, back to Goldwater, back to Taft.

There was something there called the -- as I recall, the Connally Reservation, which we -- sure, we will join these international organizations, but nobody`s going to take us from anywhere outside the United States to justice. No American is going to be brought before some tribunal.

And here`s Trump letting this out that we might actually let our people, including our top State Department officials, be facing Russian justice under a KGB colonel.

Your thoughts? How did this escape from the Republican or the conservative philosophy that we look out for our own?

WILL: Well, what Mr. Putin was doing was cleverly insinuating in a -- from yet another direction the problem of moral equivalence.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WILL: He said, well, you have Mr. Mueller, and he has due process, as you people understand it, and he has to go through courts, and he has to get indictments and grand juries and all the rest. And we have our own understanding, which is our legal system does what I tell it to do, but they`re just -- they`re both essentially the same.

It does seem to me that he has succeeded in causing a kind of chaos.

MATTHEWS: Well, the White House received swift and widespread condemnation for refusing to deny Putin`s request outright. And some of that criticism came from the president`s own allies.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: In General, would you -- would you ever envision a world in which you would allow suspects to be interviewed by Russia?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I never want to say never about anything, but it`s certainly not high on our list of investigative techniques.

TOM BOSSERT, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: It`s galling, really, because having seen the evidence especially that I have seen, no, there`s no investigative benefit to that.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: No, I cannot imagine any circumstances under which that would happen. It would be disastrous and absurd, and there`s no way he would do that.

Why would he? I mean, it just -- you don`t give our own people over to foreign governments. You just don`t do that. And he would never do it, ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s former campaign rivals also weighed in.

Hillary Clinton tweeted: "Ambassador McFaul is a patriot who has spent his career standing up for America. To see the White House even hesitate to defend a diplomat is deeply troubling."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tweeted: "Not dismissing this absurd request out of hand is an extraordinary sign of weakness by an American president."

George, it seems to me we do have some history in turning people over to rather difficult or actually frightening governments, where, in some case, it was somewhere in Eastern Europe or it was somewhere in South Asia.

If we went -- had a difficult prisoner from the war with terrorism, that we might turn over a prisoner to one of those governments, because they weren`t as -- well, they weren`t as dainty as we are.

What do you of think? That that`s a hell of a reference point for this thing.

WILL: It is. And it`s a national embarrassment that we, in fact, did some of those things.

But I think the secret of Mr. Trump`s behavior is that he really believes that international relations is conducted between people who become friends. And he thinks that, in some sense, Mr. Putin is or can be made into a friend of his.

You asked about the conservative pedigree of some of the criticism of him. A good conservative, the 19th century British foreign secretary and I guess prime minister, Lord Palmerston, said, nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests.

And it`s the confusion of friendship with interest here that is perhaps most dismaying.

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know what we got. I don`t think we got interests or friendship, as you`re implying.

Thank you, George F. Will. Thank you, Ruth Marcus.

Up next: A former White House stenographer is giving us a sneak peek inside the West Wings of the Obama and the Trump administrations, sharing some revelations actually about Trump`s relationship with the media that would be cause for alarm in any other administration.

But, again, we`re sadly just par for the course in the 2018 world. She joins us straight ahead.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: In his interview with Andrew Mitchell, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said he would not have advised the president to meet alone with Vladimir Putin, and that he does not know what happened there.

Do you believe it? He doesn`t yet know what Putin and the president talked about.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don`t know what happened in that meeting. I think, as time goes by -- and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting -- I think we will learn more. But that is the president`s prerogative.

If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that`s not my role. That`s not my job.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Is there a risk that Vladimir Putin could have recorded it?

COATS: That risk is always there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the director of national intelligence also spoke about Trump`s controversial decision to host Russian diplomats inside the Oval Office last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: Did you know beforehand that Kislyak and Lavrov, the ambassador and the foreign minister, were going into the Oval Office that day?

COATS: I did not.

MITCHELL: What was your reaction afterwards? We all learned about it from TASS.

COATS: Probably not the best thing to do.

But, no, I was not aware of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In that same interview, Coats was also caught unaware that the president had invited Vladimir Putin to the United States for another meeting this fall. He didn`t know that was coming.

What a -- what a team.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

And I said tremendous things. And, unfortunately, we tend to record stories now, so we have it for your enjoyment, if you would like it, but we record when we deal with reporters. It`s called fake news.

And we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, of course, last weekend in London denying that he criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May in a newspaper interview.

The newspaper had an audio recording, however, and Trump later apologized.

Well, even though President Trump said his administration tends to record his interviews with reporters to avoid situations like this, a former White House stenographer who worked under President Obama and briefly under President Trump said that is far from the truth.

In a "New York Times" op-ed, Beck Dorey-Stein writes: "We are faced with a president who didn`t want to be recorded. In the past, when a president spoke on the record with a reporter, his staff made sure to have a stenographer present, so there could be an official White House transcript, but -- just in case the reporter came out with an inaccurate quotation. But that was then, and this was the Trump era."

Joining me right now is the stenographer herself, Beck Dorey-Stein, author of the new book "From the Corner of the Oval," her memoir from working inside the White House.

Beck, it`s great to have you on. BECK DOREY-STEIN, AUTHOR, "FROM THE CORNER OF THE OVAL": Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS: And thank you for your service to the country.

I just want to ask you. When I worked at the White House years ago, back in the `70s, and all the way back to the Kennedy administration, which I studied, the White House communications office, which was an arm of the Army Signal Corps, took down everything the president said at major addresses, starting with the inauguration, also recorded major interviews like on "Meet the Press" or something like that.

But you`re talking about -- what was the role of you as stenographers in the Obama White House to start with?

DOREY-STEIN: Right thing.

So, you`re talking about WHCA, which records everything.

MATTHEWS: Right.

DOREY-STEIN: But the stenographer`s office actually records everything and then transcribes it and provides a transcript to the press office, the press, and also the presidential archive.

And so our job is not only to record it, but also provide a record, a written record of exactly what was said.

MATTHEWS: So, your material, your records go into the presidential documents, which are bound and saved for history.

DOREY-STEIN: Yes.

And it goes beyond any single administration.

MATTHEWS: So, how about the casual conversation with a reporter?

For example, he always -- Obama used to like to have liberal-minded reporters, columnists come in and have a nice chat about issues, people he thought would write favorably about him.

Tell me how he handled those situations.

DOREY-STEIN: So, those were done after-hours. Those were never done during the sitting president`s daytime workday.

And so what was so wild about covering President Trump was, especially when he had Bill O`Reilly, the first interview I covered, he actually pulled Bill O`Reilly out of the interview, and then spoke off the record with him in the Oval Office for an hour without a stenographer present.

Not having a stenographer present is pretty...

MATTHEWS: Wow, whereas Obama had you record, the stenographers report -- record what he said to liberal, favorable columnists, right?

DOREY-STEIN: Right.

And it`s just -- during the day, the president`s time is not his own. He`s working on behalf of the people. So it sort of defeats the purpose of an interview if he`s having kind of this pre-talk that actually was an hour- long.

MATTHEWS: Well, just to make it straight, Obama was on the record with stenographers, Trump avoided that. Is that the difference?

DOREY-STEIN: Indeed.

And I feel like President Trump choosing not to have everything on the record contributes to the sense of chaos that we`re now characterizing his administration for having.

MATTHEWS: Well, any other differences between the two presidents, as you record through your history?

DOREY-STEIN: It couldn`t have been more different.

So, when I was a photographer for the Obama administration, we actually learned to schedule the day before. We knew exactly what we are covering. We knew what was happening. If there was breaking news, we were informed, so we could be there. They really valued our role.

And as soon as President Trump came in, from day one, it was -- we weren`t there. We were not included. So he would talk to the press. His first interview with Lester Holt of ABC (sic), the stenographers were not in the room. And it`s a dangerous thing.

MATTHEWS: Beck Dorey-Stein, a great -- I want to read that book.

Thank you. The book is called "From the Corner of the Oval," from the inside.

Up next: Our roundtable weighs in on Trump`s latest depiction of the media as -- quote -- "the real enemy of the people." Isn`t that nice?

And a look ahead to the 2020 presidential race. We`re already there. Who in the current field of potential Democratic candidates has a real shot? Who is it that could beat Trump? And who does the president actually say he wants to run against, say? You will never get the truth.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s attempts at spinning his way out of his disastrous performance in Helsinki haven`t gone over well with many elected Republicans.

But just one day after Trump insisted Russia was no longer targeting U.S. elections, once again contradicting his own intelligence agencies, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told Fox News he doesn`t see the big deal in Russian meddling. Huckabee argued their efforts didn`t even impact the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did the Russians try to interfere? Yes. Did they succeed? It doesn`t appear that they did, but the fact is we try to interfere in elections all over the world ourselves, so let`s not be too much patting ourselves on the back how pure we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think he`s the real slick guy from Arkansas.

Anyway, I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable. Katty Kay is Washington anchor for BBC News. Eli Stokols is White House reporter for "The L.A. Times", and Howard Fineman is an MSNBC analyst.

Katty, what do you make of this of equivalents number here that I find it odd that the conservatives are finding a charm and love for the -- for the former Soviet Union led by a KGB colonel?

KATTY KAY, WASHINGTON ANCHOR, BBC NEWS: Yes, it`s kind of odd to hear conservatives say, well, actually, America should not have meddled in elections as they did in Central America over the course of many decades. But it`s this idea of moral equivalency, right? And that`s what even Republicans are pushing back against and they`ve said publicly this is not the United States. There`s no rule of law in Russia. There`s no freedom of press. There`s no freedom of speech. The elections are often rigged.

And so, to draw some kind of moral equivalency between whatever America does and Russia does just isn`t acceptable even amongst Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t think, Eli, that Republicans are running around today in 2018 bragging about what happened with Allende down there in Chile, for example.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE L.A. TIMES": No, but I mean, we`re in this age of absolute tribalism absolute partisanship and so this is where you have Republicans who would be you know sounding the alarms if this was a Democratic administration were basically shrugging their shoulders. You`re seeing Republican you know Trump trolls on Twitter out there saying that you know who cares if Putin interfered because he saved us from Hillary. And so, those are the arguments you`re hearing.

I was in Brussels for the NATO summit traveling with the president last week and I heard so much concern from Europeans about what`s happening to public opinion in this country, the fact that the president just by virtue of taking these different policy positions is swaying public opinion more in favor of Russia and against NATO, I think Europeans are really shocked at how fluid American public opinion is.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, if I can talk about the nature and desperate politics of this. I mean, that was a trial balloon that Huckabee set up that was blown up by Donald Trump himself a few hours earlier and it`s necessitated by the ironic result of Helsinki in Trump`s insane performance there that even people like Mike Huckabee and everybody else on the Republican side had to finally to quell the initial craziness of Helsinki, they had to admit, unless they wanted Dan Coats to quit, that yes, the Russians interfere in our election.

So, they lost that battle, and so now, they`re going on to the next piece of spin which was, yes, the Russians meddled in our election, but we`ve spent decades meddling and everybody else`s election.

MATTHEWS: I get it.

FINEMAN: So, you know, what`s the deal? That`s what this was in terms of minute by minute spin. That`s what Huckabee was doing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Latest polling, Howard, four out of five Republicans buy everything Trump did in Helsinki.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, meanwhile, President Trump continued his blame the media strategy in response to the backlash from Twitter this morning. Quote: Trump said, the fake news media went so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia even a confrontation that could lead to war.

Well, I didn`t know that. I don`t know any reporters who want that.

Trump went on to defend his performance in Helsinki writing, the summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the fake news media.

Eli, this is -- this is something that we`re the enemy of the people.

STOKOLS: Well, we hear them trash the media every day and, you know, it`s striking how Putin and Trump are singing from the same sheet of music on this. They`re both bashing the press and telling us what an incredible summit they had.

The problem is, because of the format, they met for two hours and ten minutes by themselves, no one, not even Dan Coats, has any idea what was discussed during this summit. Things are starting to leak out with Putin briefing his own diplomats in Russia, Trump has not given any briefings to U.S. diplomats, to the State Department, to any of these agencies.

And so, it`s really hard to assess whether the summit was a success like he says it is, or was, because we have no information.

KAY: You know, he`s actually managing to trash -- once again President Trump by criticizing the media and what he tweets, he is actually changing American public opinion. He did it on the Mueller probe. He`s now doing on Russia. He`s even done it on whether the Russians meddled in the election.

That "Reuters" --

MATTHEWS: How about on trade? How about on trade? How about a fiscal policy, on everything? He has moved the Republican Party like he`s the Lion King.

Howard, I want you to start, I`m going to give you some time on this.

FINEMAN: OK.

MATTHEWS: Trump is out there counting up Joe Biden as his easiest victim in 2020. What`s he up to?

FINEMAN: Well, what he`s up to is trying to cause as much trouble as he can within the Democratic Party as possible, number one.

Number two, he`s got to have a fight with somebody at all times. And Joe - - he and Joe Biden have a history and have exchanged some pretty sharp remarks in the past.

I mean, I had Joe Biden up to my class at Penn, Chris, in a few months ago. He was fantastic with the kids there. He inspired the heck out of them and they`re not all wild-eyed liberals, by the way.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: He did a great job and he`s a guy who is widely respected.

And, by the way, if the battlegrounds are going to be, as they were, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, et cetera, Joe Biden is a guy who`s got some credibility there.

But mainly, it`s Trump just trying to get in the news cycle, just trying to get a jab and trying to divide the Democratic Party. It`s just the beginning of what they`re going to do. Wait until Donald Trump gets a hold of, you know, the people on the left trying to deal with the Democratic Party leadership. That`s what Trump is going to be spending a lot of the next two years doing nothing but trying to cause fissures in the Democratic Party and he`s very good at that. That`s what he`s really good at is undercutting his enemies.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Nixon was good at that too.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. I`m always learning that.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former First Lady Michelle Obama is dipping into the 2018 midterms coming up. She`s featured in a star-studded voter registration initiative called When We All Vote.

Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: It`s time. Our nation requires it. Our democracy in the country we love requires our attention, voice and participation.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: When we vote, we prove that we are a democracy, with the government of the people and by the people.

OBAMA: When we all vote, we determine our future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love her voice.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.

Katty, tell me something I don`t know.

KAY: Well, initially, the reaction in Moscow to the Helsinki summit was that Trump have been totally outmaneuvered by President Putin. But now, we`re starting to hear Russians concerned that Trump`s critics are so keen to demonize Moscow, one of them told us today, do they actually want war with a nuclear power? It`s starting to shift, they`re getting very frustrated.

MATTHEWS: Oh crazy.

Anyway, Eli?

STOKOLS: I`ve talked to some Republicans this week in the aftermath of the Helsinki summit about what they think of all this. They`ve tried to hold their fire, but they`re increasingly frustrated, they`ve once said to me that they hope the president can just golf for the next couple months, stop talking about Russia, talk about anything other than Russia.

I texted one tonight after news that the White House has invited Putin to Washington in some time in this fall, right before the elections. The response I got back was one word: nightmare.

MATTHEWS: Yes, especially, if it becomes before the election.

Howard?

STOKOLS: Right.

FINEMAN: Chris, some conservative sources of mine who were close to and know a lot about the NRA say that watch out for and look for further and investigations of whether Russian oligarchs funneled money for or construe or conspired to funnel money through the NRA blindly without a notice to influence independently the Trump campaign. That`s going to be a live investigation to look at and my sources say there may be there there.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Katty Kay. Thank you, Eli Stokols. Thank you, Howard Fineman.

When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", July 19, 2018.

I have wondered these last days what it would have been like if President Trump`s predecessor had done what he`s been doing and what his enemies would have said about it. What if Barack Obama gone over to Moscow and stood with him, that`s Putin, defending his every move, challenging every criticism? It`s maybe too tough a market is set out there, but why not ask it? Why not ask if the president`s legions of supporters had been confronted with a progressive Democratic president showing such support for an autocrat like Putin?

I assume the Trump brigades would have accused Obama, that hated progressive Democrat, of engaging too comfortably with this country`s foe, of betraying his, Obama`s sworn oath to defend America against those seeking to harm us. So what gives? Is it the standard set for Obama good enough for a Trump? Isn`t the loyalty standard bold and straight enough to guide any and all American leaders?

Please explain you Trump supporters, tell me why it`s OK to sprinkle your national foe with love as long as you`re a Republican doing it. But it`s OK to go further and say it`s OK for a president to serve up American officials to be interrogated by former KGB agents. Sorry, I forgot we`ve been here before, in comparison with what`s OK for Donald Trump but not OK by a mile for his predecessor.

Suppose that recorded conversation Trump had on the "Access Hollywood" bus was the voice of Barack Obama`s. Consider the attitude and the words Trump used to describe that attitude toward women. What would have happened had they been broadcast by one Barack Obama? Do you think he still would have been elected president? You think so?

So, just throw it all together. The siding up to Putin, the comments on the bus and say with a straight face that you`re judging Trump objectively, that you`re holding him to the standards of any decent president or politician for that matter. Fact, four out of five Republicans say they approve of how Trump handled himself in Helsinki. That tells you quite a lot, doesn`t it?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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