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Trump appears to discuss hush money deal. TRANSCRIPT: 7/25/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Philip Bump, Jason Carter, Eugene Scott, Sabrina Siddiqui, Aaron Blake

Show: HARDBALL Date: July 25, 2018 Guest: Philip Bump, Jason Carter, Eugene Scott, Sabrina Siddiqui, Aaron Blake

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That is our show. One programming update. We announced Michael Avenatti to be on the show tonight, and he got stuck in court. He will have to join us another night. I will be back at 6:00 eastern tomorrow.



I am Chris Matthews in Washington.

Release of the taped conversation between President and his long time fixer lawyer, Michael Cohen. Getting a glimpse of his true self. The tape is real. But we do not know whether it has been altered or not. Let`s listen.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know. So that -- I`m going to do that right away. I have actually come up and I have spoken --.


COHEN: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: Funding -- yes. And it is all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I`ll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: Pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no. I have got.

TRUMP: Check. How are you?


MATTHEWS: The financing. It was Cohen`s team that made that recording public, Michael Cohen. His lawyer, Lanny Davis told NBC News Cohen is trying to reset his life as not being Donald Trump`s bullet taker or worse, a punching bag for Donald Trump`s defense strategy where he takes the bullets. This is the turn for him. IT is a new resolve to tell the truth no matter what even if it endangers him.

Well, President Trump denies the affair but Karen McDougal told CNN back in March, it is was a real relationship. There they are. The recording suggest that President Trump was aware at the time of the conversation that Ami, as the parent company of the "National Enquirer," had already purchased McDougal`s story. In fact, four days before the election, the "Wall Street Journal" revealed that the "National Enquirer" had purchased McDougal`s story for $150,000, catch this, in order to conceal it, not to print it. A process known as catch and kill.

Rudy Giuliani, he is President Trump`s lawyer now, has said that the tape is exculpatory and bolsters his client`s argument. And last night while on FOX, he denied that the President did anything wrong.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: This is, at most, an attempt to do something. I don`t know of any attempts in this category of crime that they are looking at. So in any event, I don`t think anyone can suggest that this represents anything where the President did anything wrong.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me suggest it.

Anyway, the President lashed out at Cohen this morning tweeting, what kind of a lawyer would tape a client. So sad. Is this a first? Never heard of it before. Why was the tape so abruptly terminated cut, while I was presumably saying positive things. I hear that other clients and many reporters that aren`t taped. Can this be so? Too bad.

After meeting with the press with European commission today, Trump avoided taking any questions from the press. Let`s watch. This is a press conference with no press questions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Michael Cohen betray you?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?


MATTHEWS: Well, a press briefing on the Rose Garden. In fact, the President may took no questions there either.

Anyway, CNN is reporting now, the; reporter who asked them a question would summon at the Bill Shine`s office. That`s the former co-president of FOX News and current deputy chief of staff for communications at the White House. While there, she was informed that she would be barred from attending a press availability in the Rose Garden because her question quote "inappropriate for the venue" and because she was shouting. And to counter, in fact, and of course, for poor reporters to ask questions in that setting.

For more, I`m joined by Betsy Woodrow, politics reporter for the "Daily Beast." Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and Ken Dilanian, intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News.

Well, let`s talk about this, Ken, about this. So we hear the President of the United States talking about making a payoff to this company. And that was the "National Enquirer" for $1150,000. The purpose of the payoff is apparently to keep the story from printing but they make it -- to take it out the hands of Karen McDougal who said she had a relationship with Trump. Get her to give up her story. Give up rights to using them and giving it to anybody else so they can kill the story and doing it within months of the presidential election. That fall, when he is candidate for President, to kill the story, to kill the bad news, to protect him as a candidate, and are all that, what is the significance to this beyond the sneakiness of the whole thing.

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, the first thing then against, Chris, is that the White House lied about it. When this first came out, Hope Hicks said that Donald Trump knew nothing about this payment. But this tape goes to shows that he was aware of it. They even talk about the idea that the President and his company, David Pecker, could get hit by a bus and might change his mind about owning the rights to this woman`s story so therefore they could have considered buying the rights themselves.

The second issue here is whether this amounts to a campaign finance violation. And this tape is not (INAUDIBLE) doing that point. But Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s lawyer said in an interview with MSNBC news that he believes that is what happened here. That this was a payment made to squelch a story that was dangerous to Donald Trump`s election. That it wasn`t accounted properly. That it could be a campaign finance violation. The same way John Edwards, the former senator, was charged with felonies.

Now Edwards was acquitted. But this fact pattern is much more incriminating because this payment was made right before the election and Michael Cohen is here to prepare to testify that it was about protecting Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, in those days with John Edwards, he was getting help from (INAUDIBLE), a wealthy woman, one of the wealthiest people in the world basically, who paid for the payoff, what is her name, his filmographer, I think was her title and kept her relation quiet with him.

But this is a case where Trump did all of this and he is paying money to shut up somebody, to Karen McDougal to help his campaign. Yes, it is a campaign contribution, you can argue. But it is him contributing to his own campaign, which under (INAUDIBLE), a constitutional ruling, you are allowed to give all the money in the world if you own it to your own campaign. So how is that square with the big of violation?

DILANIAN: Well, because you have to account for those contributions. Because the law says the public has a right to know who is giving, even if it is you the candidate and how much you gave.

But you are right, Chris, look, the bottom line is if this is all they ever get on Donald Trump, this is someone would call this a kind of chicken feed when use a different word, charge against the president of the United States. Nonetheless, if there is a criminal conspiracy here to violate campaign finance laws, that could end up being an important situation.

MATTHEWS: Paul, you know what? I guess, times have changed under Trump and not for the better. We have to find BBNC way down. I guess there was a time when we would all be thrilled, actually in a negative way, to hear the President of the United States was on the phone with his fixer lawyer, talking about paying off a woman because he had an affair that he was afraid can go public with that used to be big news before Trump. I mean, go back to Clinton, I don`t know, go back to Kennedy, wherever, I mean, wouldn`t be shocked to know this kind of thing happened in the past and it did. But I would be shock we have a tape. You can hear the President`s own voice, talking about funding. I mean, he was actually talking about cash versus checks and it is all of the details of sort of a criminal conspiracy. Your thoughts.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is really shady. It is really unseemly. It is probably legal on the part of Trump if all he is doing is paying hush money to people like Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels. That is not against the law. As Ken said, what would be a criminal issue is if this is in fact the to aid the campaign, which the tape makes purely clearly it is, then it should have been reported.

MATTHEWS: How does it make it look like in the tape we were listening just know, the whole tape, that it was a campaign contribution to shut her up. It would her hurt his chances in winning the election?

BUTLER: Because they were very concerned about the period before the election. Cohen is clearly now an agent of the campaign. He is no longer just Mr. Fix it, and Mr. Trump`s lawyer. He is making representations on behalf of the campaign.

The other thing that is really got to worry President Trump is the way that other members of the Trump organization have been brought in now. Allen Weisselberg who was the CFO of the Trump organization. He is implicated in trying to set up this shell corporation.


BUTLER: As well as the CEO of AMI which is "National Enquirer`s" phony company. Again, both of these people may not only have exposure for conspiracy to violate the campaign law, but they can open up a whole Pandora`s Box to the Trump organization finances. We are pretty sure President Trump does not want a prosecutor to go anywhere near his finance.

MATTHEWS: You are the best, Paul. I cant tell you how much I appreciate you coming on this program.

According to the "New York Times," federal authorities have to come to believe that AMI, that`s the company that owns "National Enquirer" acted more as a political supporter. And as a news organization was not functioning under what campaign financial cause are legitimate press function. They were contributing basically by helping Trump out. That could create legal and political challenge as to the president, David Pecker, the chairman - and CEO of AMI. That`s the holding company of the "National Enquirer" and close friend of the president and also of Michael Cohen.

Sources tell the "Wall Street Journal" that when Pecker took over AMI in the late 1990s, he imposed a moratorium on negative stories, catch this, about Mr. Trump. No bad news on Donald Trump, his friend. Sources also tell the paper that throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, AMI would privately communicate quote "to bolster the candidate and bash his opponents."

Let me got to Betsy on this. A couple of things - trade craft journalism. If you get a tape recording from somebody, and then from their adversary in the fight, so you get the tape recording from Lanny Davis` working for Michael Cohen. They get ahead - to CNN the other day. Or you get a transcript of it, which one would you think was really being forth running? Because I can remember that Nixon. Nixon tried to give a big pile of transcripts so that it would heavily did redacted his version of the word. But if you give the tape out, it seems like you are giving closer to the truth. Your thoughts.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: I think without a doubt. It is a lot easier to sort of doctor or mess around with the transcript, something ties up than it is with audio. That is not to say you can`t doctor audio. That is not to say --.

MATTHEWS: It also to say intelligible if you don`t like a line or two.

WOODRUFF: Exactly. That`s not to say to you can`t doctor audio. And of course, there are parts of this tape that are hard to understand.

MATTHEWS: It is an edited that you heard it?

WOODRUFF: I don`t have any knowledge that it was edited.


WOODRUFF: I don`t have any reason to believe that. I can`t speak to it. But of course, if you are trying to project confidence, releasing a tape, releasing audio recording is much stronger than releasing a transcript. The fact that Rudy Giuliani is talking about needing to slow things down or look at a transcript, it doesn`t look right.

MATTHEWS: Well, we are big people here. Boys and girls, all grown up. We are used to hearing the politicians are not saints. OK, move on. What do you think that most Americans would think when they hear the way the President is talking to his fixer lawyer in this conversation. It is comfort with the conversation.

WOODRUFF: What is striking is how cavalier the President`s tone is in his audio. He talks about paying off a tabloid company to try to cover up a story related to his alleged affair with a former Playboy playmate like he is talking about setting up a golf outing.

MATTHEWS: You said alleged. He doesn`t think it is alleged.

WOODRUFF: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: He knows it happens apparently.

WOODRUFF: When talks about it like it is just sort of another average day in the life of Donald Trump, paying out tabloids and that`s his own stories that potentially be horrifying (ph) to you and your family. And I think that is what makes this audio so striking and so significant is that it just speaks to the way that Trump did business. The way that he handles these issues that for just about anybody else, it would be extraordinarily controversial. I mean, imagine if President Obama had something like this, it would have been impeachment.

MATTHEWS: He would have been gone if he behave like this press, it would have been close call by his enemies.

Reince Priebus, the ousted former chief of staff to Trump, dismissed the recording as nothing special. And had this glowing take on his former boss.


REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: I was one of the people that would freak out over every one of these kind of stories. And overtime what I figured so out with the President is that nothing sticks to him. None of these sticks And what I found out about his character is that he is a person who is able, which I am not one of these kinds of people, that can handle 50 total, you know, massive, you know, bullets coming at you.


MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t want you to be a media critic, Ken, because that is not your role here and neither is it mine. But there he is on a network, a cable network, where they are bragging together about how good he is in avoiding responsibility of behavior. That most of it people would be held accountable for. They are raving about his sneakiness, has how he can sneaks spy and doesn`t get caught. That`s supposedly that is a journalistic conversation. Aren`t they great, we can`t catch him?

DILANIAN: And the irony is -- one of the reasons nothing sticks to him is because he has a whole ring media apparatus that tells you black is white every night.

But look. I think, you know, what is interesting about the tapes, as we saw with the Nixon Watergate situation. Nixon might have survived Watergate if not for the tapes. The tapes were the sort of brutal unvarnished, machinations in the oval office. Now, depending on how many tapes there in the situation with Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, it may start to affect how some of these middle of the road people who don`t want to believe what we say, how they start to look at how this president behaves.

MATTHEWS: I agree. By the way, Nixon set up his own Frankenstein monster. He set up the tapes.


MATTHEWS: I am sure he thought about the rest of the life, why did I tape myself. In this case, it was the lawyer fixer who is preparing himself for whatever he did. But it ended up today being here on television. The tapes of then backroom machinations of one Donald Trump sneaking around.

Thank you, Betsy Woodruff.

Thank you, Paul Butler. I said you are the great one.

Thank you Ken. I`m so glad we have you. Ken Dilanian, working with NBC.

Coming up, Putin meeting, the sequel, gets (INAUDIBLE) next year. They are not meeting this fall while Trump secretary of state is grilling about what was actually discussed in the first big meeting over there in Helsinki. Is he, the secretary of state, even in the Trump loop? The testy exchange on the hill coming up next here.

Plus, yes, he said that. Trump`s pick for Georgia governor goes there, making extreme campaign ad in the GOP primary and, guess what, he won. Does the Democratic candidate have a chance here?

Also, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight, a late afternoon truce on one front in America`s trade war. But the President still wants to prop up U.S. farmers hurt by it . One member of his own party say that is what communist do.

And reports that Trump is fears that CNN is served up on Melania`s TV on air force one. He is trying to make sure it sets up there. There are only to do with his favorite network. It is not us.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He won`t like this.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Just moments ago, Sarah Sanders issued a statement and that response to the news today that a poor reporter from CNN was disinvited for a press event because she, the CNN reporter, asked the president question during a pools prey (ph).

Sanders said at the conclusion of a press event in the oval office a reporter shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so. Subsequently, our staff informed her she was not welcome to participate in the next event, but made clear that any other journalist from her network would attend.

We will check more about that. We will be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After the surprised announcement last week, the President planned to meet again with Vladimir Putin here in Washington this fall, the White House today rescheduled the potential visit holding it off until some time. We don`t know when next year. So that was a big decision made after a quickie decision last week.

It explain the sudden need for delay, National security advisor John Bolton, one of the great hawks of this world, blamed the special counsel`s ongoing Russian probe.

Quote "the President believes that the next bilateral with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over." That`s an official documents so. So we have agreed that it will be after the first of the year.

He talks like Trump now. It is not clear who ultimately made the decision. And it raises new questions about why the President would call for second meeting so soon after Helsinki. And then less than a week later pushes it all back until sometime next year. It comes as administration officials continue to struggle with the fought over Trump`s performance over there with Putin two hours of which we have no idea what they were.

Testifying before the Senate foreign relations committee on that point today, secretary of state Mike Pompeo appeared unable to explain the President`s behavior over there in Helsinki to the satisfaction of Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Let`s watch that back-and-forth.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I would love to have some insight into you as to -- for instance, at the Helsinki conference, to create an equivalence between our intelligence agency and what Putin is saying, that shocks people.

Is there a strategy to this? Or is it -- what is it that causes the president to purposely, purposely create distrust in these institutions and what we`re doing?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator, I just disagree with most of what you just said there.

Somehow, there`s this idea that this administration is free-floating. This is President Trump`s administration. Make no mistake who`s fully in charge of this and who is directing each of these activities that has caused Vladimir Putin to be in a very difficult place.

CORKER: I noticed that you are not responding to what I`m saying.

POMPEO: I think -- I think I responded to everything that you...


POMPEO: Senator.

CORKER: Well, I -- no, no, you didn`t.


MATTHEWS: Well, the question from the Senate leader there, the Senate committee chair, a Republican from Tennessee, is, why is the president taking the side of the KGB guy, Putin, against our own intelligence people?

Anyway, the public -- American public appears to have a hard time comprehending Trump`s bizarre behavior over in Russia. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that a majority of Americans, 51 percent -- that`s a majority -- say they believe that Russia has compromising information about the president. They have got something on him.

Joining me right now is Phil Bump, national correspondent for the national -- "Post," and Heidi Przybyla, national political reporter for NBC News.

Philip, I want to ask you about that poll. Also, 50 -- I always like to look at the independent voter, and 55 percent, a bit more of them, also think that he -- that the president is somehow compromised, to put it lightly, by something that Putin has in his bag over there.

What do you make of that, that public opinion?


Yes, I mean, it is -- I`m not terribly surprised by the results of that poll, simply because so many Americans hold such a negative opinion of the president. One of the things I think that jumped out at me about that question in particular was even about a fifth of Republicans think that perhaps the Russians have something incriminating on President Trump.

And I think that part of this and part of the problem here, obviously, is the fact that we have so far been unable to explain why it is that President Trump behaved in the way that he did, exactly to your point.

I mean, if you look, for example, at the fact that we don`t know what happened during that conversation, if you look at Secretary of State Pompeo`s explanation of how tough Trump has been on Russia -- you just played that excerpt of him saying there was no distance between what the administration was doing and what the president was doing.

But that`s simply not true. We have reporting that suggests that, on multiple occasions, when the administration was taking a hard line on Russia, President Trump opposed it. He got irritated, according to reporting, once he learned how many people, how many Russian diplomats were being expelled from the country.

He took a long time to implement sanctions. There are all these ways in which he has repeatedly demonstrated, he himself personally, repeatedly demonstrated a weakness on Russia that remains unexplained and wasn`t explained today by Pompeo.

MATTHEWS: Philip, to make your point today, I think I heard Pompeo, who does impress me, sometimes often more than the president impresses me, said today he agreed with the chairman of the committee, Corker, Bob Corker from Tennessee, the chair, a Republican, that they should be looking into tougher sanctions against Russia.

I don`t hear the president talking about tougher sanctions against Russia.

BUMP: Yes.

I mean, the way the president describes how he`s reacted to Russia, he is the toughest there`s ever been for a variety of reasons, some of which are valid, and some of which aren`t. I mean, there was -- for example, people may remember that the un ambassador, Nikki Haley, made an announcement about some impending sanctions on Russia that were then scaled back.


BUMP: They ended up not happening, because, apparently, President Trump didn`t want to move forward with them.

So there are all these ways in which what President Trump is doing is separate from what the administration is doing, and then he tries to take credit for it.

MATTHEWS: Well, the administration of Donald Trump has also been reluctant or unable to same with any clarity what the president discussed with Putin for two hours behind closed doors last week.

Secretary Pompeo defended the president`s apparent need for secrecy in a contentious back-and-forth with Democrat Senator Bob Menendez of Jersey, New Jersey.


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two-hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki?

POMPEO: Presidents have a prerogative to choose who`s in meetings or not.

Senator, presidents are entitled to have private meetings.

I`m telling you what U.S. policy is.

MENENDEZ: Did he tell Putin that I will release or ultimately relax sanctions?

POMPEO: Senator, what you need to conduct your role, your appropriate role, I will provide you today.

Senator, I understand the game that you`re playing. I get it.

MENENDEZ: No. No. No, Mr. Secretary..

POMPEO: I do. I get.


MENENDEZ: With all due respect, I don`t appreciate you characterizing my questions.

My questions is to get to the truth. We don`t know what the truth is.


MATTHEWS: Let`s put Menendez aside and his manner of interrogating.

But let`s talk about this. The president hasn`t apparently told his secretary of state what went on for two hours in Helsinki. That`s interesting.


And yet, if -- that was one of the specific questions. One of the senators tried to get Pompeo on the record, now, you`re telling me you know everything, that you got a full debriefing from the president?

And he said yes. Good.

And then he proceeded to ask him specific questions, including about sanctions, and Pompeo would not answer it.

And one of the things that he did, in addition to saying we`re not changing policy, was to continually go back to the president`s statements about Russia. Well, here -- here`s when he made a strong statement. And here`s when he said he believed the intelligence community.

But, for every single one of those statements, there`s 10 more calling it a witch-hunt, calling it a hoax, and then standing beside Vladimir Putin and calling our own country foolish and denigrating U.S. intelligence agencies.

So what he`s actually doing when he says, I disagree with you, Senator Corker, is, he`s telling the American people that he disagrees with their own eyes, he disagrees with what all of us saw in Helsinki.


PRZYBYLA: And he disagrees with the fact that we all are adults, and we see for ourselves the fact that the president`s overwhelming tone in statements...

MATTHEWS: I know...


PRZYBYLA: ... has been calling this a hoax.

MATTHEWS: Look, I know you`re a straight reporter, but I think a straight reportable will notice -- and I said this last week -- if you watch anything about the body language, the way -- the way Putin came springing out onto that platform after his two-hour meeting, he was in heaven.

He jumped up onto that stage. And he just -- he just was -- look at him. He`s got a little swagger, waving his arms around. Look at him. He just loves this moment, whereas Obama -- whereas the other guy looks like he`s had a hard time.

And then he gets up there with that little mischievous grin of his with his cheeks way up there. He looks like he`s smirking.

PRZYBYLA: He did have a grin. He did have a grin.

MATTHEWS: Something happened.

PRZYBYLA: And just the body language as well, not just at the press conference here.


MATTHEWS: I have got this guy by the shorts. I got this guy. I own this guy, is the message a lot of people took, which is our polling, 55 percent of independent voters said, I think the guy has got something on that big guy to his right.

PRZYBYLA: He looked very deferential. He looked very cowed. We`re not used to seeing Trump behave like this with any other foreign leader.


PRZYBYLA: And that`s why it`s so remarkable.

MATTHEWS: What do you -- Phil, what`s your view of just watching this? And I think the American people got to see it more than they listened to it, because it was a kind of embarrassment for the president of the United States, leader of the great country of the world, which is, even by our enemies` standards, the great country, along this gas station with a with an army over there called Russia.

And yet that guy could like he was the big shot.

BUMP: Yes. I mean, again, it`s hard to explain. We don`t know. We don`t know what happened.

I mean, certainly, what President Trump says is that he wants to be friends with Russia. Part of his instinct is to do the opposite of what everyone tells him to do. If everyone tells him to be tough on Russia, he`s not going to do that. They told him wasn`t going to win the presidency, and he won the presidency. So what do they know, right?


BUMP: So part of this, I think, is his instinct. But he`s just -- it just runs contrary to everything we have ever seen from President Trump, as Heidi just pointed out.


BUMP: And we just -- we lack an explanation for it.

MATTHEWS: Well, and sometimes, it says, in common sense, if you live by the river, make friends with the alligators. But this doesn`t quite make sense.

Philip Bump, thank you. Heidi Przybyla, thank you so much.

Up next: His opponent predicted the election would be a test of who could be the craziest. And now Republicans down in Georgia have a gubernatorial candidate whose political ad -- wait until you catch this ad -- shows him wielding a shotgun and vowing to personally round up undocumented immigrants in the back of his truck.

He`s going to go out and grab them, as a citizens arrester, I guess, and he is probably the front-runner down there for the Georgia race for governor. We will see who the Trumpiest candidate looks like in a moment.



Republican voters in Georgia sided with President Trump`s pick for governor in last night`s run-off.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp -- there he is -- defeated Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in a landslide, defeating him, the lieutenant governor, by 39 points. A self-described unapologetic conservative, Kemp ran a series of provocative ads -- I would say -- throughout the campaign.

Take a look at this one.


BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m so conservative, I blow up government spending.

I own guns that no one`s taking away. My chain saw is ready to rip up some regulation. I got a big truck just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.

Yes, I just said that.

I`m Brian Kemp. If you want a politically incorrect conservative, that`s me.


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a subtle ad.

This morning, Trump congratulated that guy on his very big win in a tweet, writing: "Wow, 69 to 30. Those are big numbers. Now go win against the open border, crime-loving opponent that the Democrats have given you. She`s weak on vets, the military and the Second Amendment. win."

Well, Kemp now he goes on to face Democrat Stacey Abrams -- there she is -- in November. If she wins, however, Abrams would become the country`s first African-American woman governor.

Anyway, for now, I`m joined by Jason Carter, a former Georgia state senator and the Democratic nominee for governor back, well, four years ago.

Jason, thank you for joining us tonight.

First of all, let`s talk about the Republican guy. You know, you hear people talking, I guess, people in the far right or far Trump version of the world who talk like that, but not a guy who`s running or a person who`s running for governor of a state, to talk about rounding up -- quote -- "criminal illegals," not even people, not even illegal immigrants, illegals, like that`s all they are, and criminal, because they`re -- they didn`t have documents.

And I`m going to round them up, like citizen`s arrest. A little extreme.

Your thoughts about his likability when people go to vote. JASON CARTER (D), FORMER GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Yes.

I mean, I think, first of all, it`s tough for me, as a Georgian, to watch it, because it`s embarrassing. And what we all have to remember is he`s pandering to a tiny group of people. I mean, he got a couple hundred thousand votes yesterday in a state of 10 million people.

And so the first thing I want to says is, it doesn`t reflect my state, where I live. And I think that you`re going to see the business community feels like they can`t trust him. I think you`re going to see regular mainstream Georgians feel like he`s going to be unacceptable to them.

And that`s going to just lay the door wide open for Stacey, who`s a remarkable candidate, to walk through it.

MATTHEWS: Compare him to Lester Maddox, that guy with the axe handle who wouldn`t let black people into his restaurant, who your grandfather Jimmy Carter the president had to deal with down there in Georgia as lieutenant governor.

How would you compare these two fellows, this guy and that guy?

CARTER: I think Kemp is -- Kemp is from a different era. Comparing back like that probably doesn`t get us anywhere?

MATTHEWS: Is he as bad as Lester Maddox? Is he as bad as Lester Maddox?

CARTER: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Is he? Come on. Yes or no, is he as bad?

CARTER: Yes. No, he`s -- no, no, no, no, no, no.

I don`t think -- I think Brian Kemp is pandering in a terrible way. And I think, whether he believes what he says or not, I`m not sure which one is worse, to say that -- to believe what he`s saying or to not believe it and still be saying it.

But, yes, I`m not going to compare him to those bad old days.

MATTHEWS: OK, give me -- here`s somebody to compare to.

Elsewhere in Georgia, there was a new fallout from a state lawmaker, state senator, duped by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

State Representative Jason Spencer resigned today following his appearance on Cohen`s series "Who Is America?." In the episode, Spencer was pranked into shouting racial slurs, the N-word, over and over again, and even dropping his pants.

Let`s watch this character.


SACHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN: Now I`m going to teach you how to use your buttocks to intimidate ISIS. Show me the buttock. No, trousers down.

OK, go.


COHEN: We say in the Mossad -- I mean not in the Mossad -- if you want to win, you show some skin.


COHEN: OK. Show it to me. No. Try to touch me.

SPENCER: I will touch you. I will touch you with my buttocks. I will touch you. You will drop the gun or I will touch you.



MATTHEWS: Jason, that was the people`s choice down there for state senator, until today.


MATTHEWS: Was he as bad as Lester Maddox?


CARTER: Look, I mean, again, I`m tired of my state being the butt end of jokes, for lack of a better pun, but...


MATTHEWS: Butt end. A little pun.


CARTER: But we -- now, I will say, to his credit, he had already lost in the primary now.

But I was in the Georgia legislature. There`s good people down there. And the folks like this really are giving our state of terrible name. And I hope that we get to spend some time talking about Stacey, because she`s exactly the kind of candidate, I`m telling you that you put her out there against these folks, it`s not going to be close.

MATTHEWS: You were great to come on the show tonight, Jason Carter. Good luck with your race someday in the future, I hope.

Up next: reality check. President Trump was reportedly less than pleased to find a TV aboard Air Force One tuned to a channel other than FOX News. This is about he doesn`t like anybody turning the channel or setting it for the first lady with the wrong channel. He is controlling our minds.

You`re watching HARDBALL.



LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN`S ATTORNEY: It is about truth. So if Mr. Trump lied about would versus would not and what he said to Putin, he lied about denying that he knew anything about the McDougal issue when we know from the tape that he did know. This is about truth versus lying and ultimately Donald Trump is going to be done in by the truth.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Lanny Davis, the attorney for Michael Cohen, discussing the secretly recorded tape of Cohen`s conversation with Donald Trump back in 2016 a few weeks before the election.

On the tape, the two men discuss buying the rights to kill the story about an alleged affair Trump had with a playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the affair all together. For more, let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Eugene Scott, political reporter at "The Washington Post", Aaron Blake, senior political reporter at "The Washington Post" and Sabrina Siddiqui, political reporter at "The Guardian" newspaper.

Let me go to this Eugene -- the whole question is Trump now is faced with the reality we`re all watching and listening to this tape, he clearly was in on the deal, the cover up, the pay off, the kill. How`s he going to deal with the next press conference when somebody asks how do you, Mr. President, explain that tape? Those were your words.

EUGENE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He`s probably going to deny it and say that he wasn`t addressing what it clearly appears he`s addressing. I don`t know how --

MATTHEWS: He was buying tickets to a Knicks game? What is he talking about?

SCOTT: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of questions -- what was the Charleston event? What did he want Pastor Burns (ph) or Pastor Scott to go to?

MATTHEWS: Cash or check?

SCOTT: Well he certainly said cash, right? And that is what we think of when people are trying to pay off some skullduggery nonsense --

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Cash is the way the dealers do that. Yeah, yeah. Sabrina?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: The White House has been remarkably inconsistent in terms of what the president knew about these payments, not only the with "The National Enquirer" purchasing the rights to the story Karen McDougal, but also of course the payment Michael Cohen made, to Stormy Daniels And the initial question was -- what exactly did the president know and when did he know it?

We now have a clear picture of exactly what he knew, so now the question is you have a pattern submerged, where close allies of the president or people directly work for him have tried to intimidate and pay multiple women into silence.


SIDDIQUI: So what was the president`s involvement in that practice?

MATTHEWS: June 23, 1972, Richard Nixon telling Haldeman, his chief of staff, to cover up by having the CIA say to the FBI stay out this case. He was caught leading the cover up. Here we have the president leading the cover up --

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This is no the that, but it is -- it is --

MATTHEWS: -- this has to do with sex instead of break in.

BLAKE: Well yeah.


BLAKE: And maybe a campaign finance violation, which of course is not quite the same thing. I think one of the more interesting things here --

MATTHEWS: -- a third rate burglary?

BLAKE: -- a third rate burglary, yeah. One of the more interesting things here is the different denials from Team Trump. Giuliani says he -- Trump said don`t pay with cash. Meanwhile, the Trump Organization, their lawyer Alan Futerfas, said he was -- he may have been talking about cash, but he was using it as a counterpoint to the idea of financing. Like he wasn`t actually talking about a bag of cash. So there`s -- all over the place on this.

MATTHEWS. OK. One campaign which is now being led by Lanny Davis, puts out a tape recording. The other side put out a transcript. I know what side to believe (ph). Nixon put out transcripts remember? That was his cover. Meanwhile, President Trump with the president of the European Commission today agreed to work toward resolving trade disputes. Let`s watch that.


TRUMP: We agreed today first of all, to work together towards zero tariffs, zero nontariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. We will also work to reduce barriers that increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans.


MATTHEWS: Well, this comes -- that was the key phrase by the way, soybeans. This came a little bit after the time the Trump administration announced a $12 billion bailout to farmers harmed as a result of Trump`s ongoing trade war. It didn`t sit well to some republicans. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said this becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here. Sabrina, it seems to me like he`s feeling the heat. He put on that little show today, they haven`t resolved the problem. This was just relief.

SIDDIQUI: The president is realizing that those who have been hit hardest by his tariffs are the very people who voted for him, the agricultural industry. But this is a short-term fix for a self-inflicted wound. And a lot of republicans have penned the proposal.

Now the question is what are they going to do about it? Just a couple weeks ago the Senate voted to limit the president`s authority on tariffs but it non-binding. So are they actual going to now have more support perhaps for sending something more definitive to his desk that would actual require congressional approval before he were to pursue any further policy on tariffs?


BLAKE: When I watched that press conference in the Rose Garden, I kept thinking back to two weeks ago, the end of the NATO summit in Brussels where the president came back afterwards and said all of these countries are now going to be chipping in more for the common defense for NATO funding. We still don`t know what exactly that agreement was. Macron from France basically denied that there was any new agreement here. There was nothing in that press conference that we could sink our teeth into. It was all a bunch of we`re starting a dialogue, I think it`s going to go a good place. He`s trying to change the subject from what happened yesterday with (inaudible).

MATTHEWS: Well finally, more evidence of Trump`s love to all things FOX. "The New York Times" reports that during the president`s time in Helsinki, the First Lady, that would be Melania`s TV on Air Force One was tuned to CNN. When the president boarded, Trump reportedly raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to FOX. The Times reports that an internal e-mail chain, White House officials confirmed -- that tuning the TVs to FOX would be standard operating procedure going forward. Aaron, state TV. That`s what it looks like, at least on Air Force One -- you can`t tune on anything else.

BLAKE: I think -- the First Lady`s spokeswoman responded today by saying that she can watch whatever TV station she wants --

MATTHEWS: Who says? Who said?

BLAKE: -- and talked about -- but the thing is --

MATTHEWS: I`m serious. The President of the United States heard that the First Lady`s TV was turned to CNN, so he had it changed and said it must always be CNN (sic) --

BLAKE: If this is the approach that`s being taken within the White House and what he insists upon even for members of his own family, that says a lot about what kind of bubble of information he wants around himself.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t exactly organic farming here. But these people are being -- yeah -- cultivated with thought.

SCOTT: What I thought was really interesting is they looked at this (ph) as the latest example of Melania Trump saying I am going to do whatever I want to do. She has done that multiple times.

MATTHEWS: Like the coat?

SCOTT: Like the troublesome coat. And she didn`t say that these reports were wrong, she pretty much put out a statement that said if I want to watch CNN, that is what I am going to watch.

MATTHEWS: She would be a great guest on HARDBALL.


SIDDIQUI: The bottom line though -- the bottom line is this is a president who is so sensitive to criticism that he can only live within his own echo chamber. And this of course comes as he continues to attack the press, as The White House is barring reporters from events, as he was telling people just yesterday don`t listen to or believe what you hear in the news.

So it`s also part of this broader authoritarian view that he has of the media. Where he is now normalizing the attacks that are being made on the freedom of the press. He`s ultimately setting a tone from the top that tries to discredit the media and the institutions that are a key credit to this democracy.

MATTHEWS: Eugene -- you ever think of "1984" with the TV that`s always on --

SCOTT: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: It`s always watching, and big brother is always talking.

SCOTT: Yeah, I mean that`s what could be happening, but he needs to know that people are watching him as well.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Wow, you turned the tables there. Round table sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. Be right back.


MATTHEWS: Well in a combative interview on BBC, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer -- remember him -- was forced to defended himself against accusations of lying, or at least endorsing and enabling the president`s lies from the White House briefing room. At one point the interviewer, Emily Maitlis confronted Spicer about his first press gaggle on the size of the crowd -- remember that at Trump`s inauguration. Let`s watch that.


EMILY MAITLIS, JOURNALIST, BBC: It became a joke. It became something that defined you. You joked about it when you presented the Emmy Awards. But it wasn`t a joke. It was the start of the most corrosive culture -- you played with the truth, you led us down a dangerous path, you have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: With all due -- I`m sorry, Emily, that -- you act as though everything began and ended with that. You`re taking no accountable for the many false narratives and false stories that the media perpetrated.


MATTHEWS: Well Spicer went on to say that it wasn`t his job to interpret or correct the president thoughts and ideas, only to communicate them to the public. Just like a cipher. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We are back with the roundtable. Eugene tell me something I don`t know.

SCOTT: An NPR poll came out today letting us know how women are viewing Trump and what we can expect of them this fall. Nearly 60 percent of suburban women, which was a group that really got on board with Trump in 2016, disprove of him and are therefore more likely to back democrats this fall.

MATTHEWS: I think the democrats this fall will get the vote that Hillary thought she was going to get two years ago. I think that`s coming, which may just be enough to win most of those seats. Aaron?

BLAKE: A federal judge in Maryland today allowed the emoluments clause lawsuit against the president to resume. This was the first time it appears that this emoluments clause, which is a little known anti- corruption clause --

MATTHEWS: -- presidents can`t do stuff.

BLAKE: -- was applied to a president. Yes, a sitting president --

MATTHEWS: What was the case? Yeah, what`s the case they`re looking at?

BLAKE: They are looking at basically the Trump Hotel and whether this constitutes the president doing business with foreign governments.

MATTHEWS: So if a foreign leader comes here and just decide to stay and reserve a bunch of rooms --

BLAKE: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- as a pay-off.

BLAKE: The question is if the president is not actually running that business, is he still enriched by it? And is that a conflict that rises to a constitutional level. Also really important --

MATTHEWS: Yasser Arafat used to do that in Ramallah. If you wanted an interview with him, you had to rent a whole floor of rooms at some 3-star or 2-star hotel. Yes, Sabrina?

SIDDIQUI: Tomorrow, Thursday is the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite families who were separated at the border as part of a zero-tolerance policy. And just a quick update on the numbers. The administration has so far reunited 1,012 parents with their children, or families I should say. But there are as many as 914 families who will not be reunited by tomorrow`s deadline.

MATTHEWS: Ever -- what do they think will be the final result?

SIDDIQUI: Some of those --

MATTHEWS: How many people are just lost causes and will never found their mom?

SIDDIQUI: Well, there are 463 parents who were deported without their children and who were led to believe that they had no choice to still stay in the country --

MATTHEWS: Well how do you take the young six-year-old -- the toddler, you put them on a plane to somewhere in Nicaragua -- I mean in Guatemala or someplace like that?

SIDDIQUI: Well, the administration still does not know how exactly what -- how it plans proceed in terms of whether it`s going to keep these children in some of the detention facilities. But they are saying that they are trying to track down some of these other parents with whom the children have not been reunited and why there`d be other backlog that haven`t yet to offer an explanation for.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`re learning a lot -- we`re learning a lot and some of it bad, like that. Eugene Scott sir, Aaron Blake, thank you for coming -- Sabrina Siddiqui. When we return let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch Wednesday July 25, 2017. I grew up hearing about it in communist countries, people were only allowed to hear news from the government -- and you got arrested or worse if you were caught even listening to news from anywhere else.

Doesn`t President Trump remember growing up hearing about countries where people were denied that kind of freedom? So how could he order that a reporter from a major cable news (ph) channel be disinvited today`s press avail in the Rose Garden?

And how can he allow a memo to be sent out saying only one news channel should be running on Air Force One? And how can he continually be saying that only that cable channel is telling the truth.

Didn`t Thomas Jefferson say were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.

Every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them. Freedom of the press. Doesn`t it bother even his supporters, especially Trump supporters that this president is so afraid of press freedom -- of criticism -- that he is trying to smother it. Shouldn`t the American citizens out there be able to listen and decide the truth for themselves? That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.


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