Show: HARDBALL Date: July 27, 2018 Guest: Mieke Eoyang, Charlie Cook, Eli Stokols, Margaret Carlson, Ayesha Rascoe
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Lawrence O`Donnell, is he going to come down?
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ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We made it. Turns out silence can be powerful.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A star witness. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Donald Trump`s lawyer, his fixer, the man he trusted for all those years to get him out of sticky situations, the friend he honored with praise now looms as the state witness against him.
Michael Cohen says that Donald Trump, the man now sitting in the oval office, knew beforehand about his son, Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort`s meeting in Trump tower to obtain dirt from the Russians on Hillary Clinton.
Repeat, Michael Cohen says Trump knew ahead of time about this effort to get Russian`s help to get himself into the White House.
Good evening. I am Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, the news that struck like a bomb in the investigation of Donald Trump and the Russians efforts to disrupt and discredit the 2016 U.S. election. As sources confirmed NBC News what CNN first reported last night that Trump`s former lawyer and fixer says they quote "Trump knew in advance about a meeting at Trump tower in June 2016 between his son Donald Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
Furthermore, Cohen is going to inform Robert Mueller that Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting. That meeting with Russians in June of 2016 has long been a key focal point in the Mueller investigation. It involve three top campaign officials, Donald trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort who is now sitting in jail pending a trial.
Trump Jr. accepted the meeting on the promise he had receive quote "information that would incriminate Hillary" which he was told was quote "part of Russia and its government`s support for Mr. Trump."
The assertion now that Trump had knowledge of the meeting before it took place suggest he approved of getting help from a foreign power. That means that despite Trump`s repeated claim of no collusion, it would appear he was more than willing to do so. The news contradicts the President`s repeated denials that he knew about the meeting until it was revealed in news report last summer.
Asked whether he was awe are of it last July, for example, the President told Routers, no. That I didn`t know. Until a couple of days ago when I heard about this. No, I didn`t know about that.
He also denied having any knowledge of the meeting in an interview with the "New York Times." Let`s listen.
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MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t know anything about the meeting. It must have been a very unimportant meeting because I never heard about it.
SCHMIDT: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit.
TRUMP: No, nobody told me. I didn`t know. It is a very unimportant - it sounded like a very unimportant meeting.
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MATTHEWS: Well, the revelation also contradicts the President`s son, Donald Trump Jr., who said this after the news that the meeting broke last July.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people are going to want to know this about your father. Do you tell your father anything about this?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S SON: It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell.
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MATTHEWS: Donald Trump Jr. could now face additional legal jeopardy because in his testimony before the senate judicial committee he denied ever informing his father of the meeting, saying, I never discussed if with him at all.
Meanwhile, the President is sticking to his story today and attacking Michael Cohen. Saying in a tweet this morning, I did not know the meeting with my son, Donald Trump Jr., sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam.
Joining me now right now is Eugene Robinson, columnist from "the Washington Post," Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for "Bloomberg News," Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor, Malcolm Nance, of course, is author of "the plot to destroy democracy."
I want you in that order. What does that tell us about Trump? He knew about the meeting to get some dirt on Hillary from the Russians.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, number one, this conforms to everything we knew about Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. except for the denials. We had the denials but what we know about Donald Trump and what we know about his son and desire for his father`s approval when everything and the relationship, the way the Trump organization worked, the way the campaign worked, it seemed inconceivable that he didn`t know probably before that meeting and certainly right after, there are those phone calls that Donald Trump Jr. We know he made phone calls to a blocked number right before and right after the meeting. Donald trump sr. had a blocked number - I mean, you know, --.
MATTHEWS: Blasted out that he had some dirt.
ROBINSON: Significant that there is a witness now who is going to say I was there at the meeting where he was told.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, I think that it does, if he was aware of this meeting, brings him closer to this idea of a coconspirator of the potentially the unindicted coconspirator, if we are thinking where this inevitably go to an impeachment hearing which we saw that mixing with that was the phrase, that if he knew about this meeting then he could have been involved in any conspiracy that could have come out of it. There is a lot of if`s there. We don`t know. But I think --.
MATTHEWS: What are the if`s?
PETTYPIECE: Well, if there is any collusion, if anything came out of the meeting, if the Russians --.
MATTHEWS: What about his intent to get some dirt on Hillary just by the fact he got his troops in there?
PETTYPIECE: So intent --
MATTHEWS: His son-in-law, his son and his campaign manager all showed up for this Russian to get some dirt from here.
PETTYPIECE: Intent probably wouldn`t be enough for a crime. You probably need some action to come out it. But I do think this emphasizes once again that there is so much about this investigation that we don`t know. We don`t know what various witnesses are saying. We don`t know what is in emails. We don`t know the phone calls, Mueller does. Their emails a lot of it at this point. And each little piece comes out I think tells us how much we don`t know and how many twists and turns that are going to be still ahead.
MATTHEWS: Well, as Eugen mentioned a moment ago, the fact that Cohen says Trump had prior knowledge of the meeting aligns other, circumstantial evidence that the President knew about the meeting.
At the same time his son was scheduling that meeting to receive Russian dirt on Hillary. Just two days before the meeting itself, Trump promised in his speech that he would soon reveal something big about Hillary Clinton. Here he goes.
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TRUMP: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we are going to be discussing all of the things that are taking place with the Clintons. I think you are going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.
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MATTHEWS: Well, there was a big tease. Additionally, as Donald Trump Jr. was planning the meeting, he had two phone conversations with someone with a blocked number as well as a third conversation t the day of the meeting itself. And we know from other witness testimony that Trump senior has blocked phone lines in his primary residence.
Glenn, your thoughts about before and after the signs that Trump thought he was getting some real juicy dirt on Hillary and the fact that he may have been working with his son lining up the meeting and what they are saying and what to get out in these Russians.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Chris, a lot of people are saying, you know, well, we need corroboration from Michael Cohen.
I got to tell you. I think Michael Cohen has corroborated what we already know. And here is why I say that. You know, I look at this evidence as a career federal prosecutor, OK. I triad a big gang case, the Rico cases right here in federal court. And the first thing I thought of when I saw the email string, when you have Don Jr. receiving email information that says, hey, Russia wants your father elected. The Russian government is in your father`s corner and guess what, they are ready to provide you dirt on Hillary Clinton.
If, you know, Donald Jr., human nature tell us, he would have run to his father`s office, maybe wearing the same little green polo shirt in baseball cap.
MATTHEWS: Guess what, Dad.
KIRSCHNER: Guess what pop, pop, Russia wants you to win and they are going to give us dirt on Hillary. This is huge.
Think about it. Human nature tells us he had to do that if he didn`t know that Russia was already in pop`s corner. But if he doesn`t do that, what can we infer from that that he already knew Russia was in pop`s corner. And it wasn`t a revelation to him. this is just another day at camp collusion. So I think either way you put it, it is bad for don junior and for the President.
MATTHEWS: Well, a new development has also confirmed that Rudy Giuliani`s credibility is now certainly shot. Just over two months ago, Giuliani was out there saying this about Michael Cohen.
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RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: He doesn`t have any incriminating evidence about the President or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.
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MATTHEWS: Well, that was wrong and that was in May. But now that Cohen is willing to say that the President knew about the meeting, Giuliani`s tune has changed. Here he goes.
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GIULIANI: I expected something like this from Cohen. He has been lying all week. I mean, for two -- he has been lying for years. There is nobody that I know that knows him that hasn`t warned me that if his back is against the wall, he will lie like crazy because he has lied all his life.
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MATTHEWS: He is beginning to act like a criminal lawyer with a really bad case, Malcolm. Really bad situation.
Malcolm, I don`t know. Tell me what you think because you are an expert on this. And putting it together, what we now know Trump knew before. I think if the fact that the son-in-law, the son, and his campaign manager all had this command performance. They all had to show up tells me it wasn`t just a lead they were working on. They were told this is the big show. Let`s get to that room and that Russian. Your thoughts.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. It absolutely has to be that sequence of events. There is no way that Donald Trump would have made a statement about a speech with information forth coming without some pressians (ph) as of what is going to be happening.
This is not camp collusion, by the way. This is camp conspiracy against the United States. And even though they didn`t receive anything, they went in fully intending to get dirty tricks information from a representative of the crown prosecutor of Russian, with a GRU Russian intelligence asset former agent in the room.
This thing, you know, it is just barely below espionage act depending on what was said in there. I think Mueller knows everything that has happened in that room. Cohen is just going to give us more commentary.
And don`t forget, Cohen spoke Trump all the time. He may actually have the date that Trump told him of what was going on and maybe even knows. Who knows at this point? But all we know is this. Trump had to have known. There is just no way. You know, his son is not like, you know, General Dreidel`s (ph) son in Catch 22, right, where he just goes around and say, pop, I don`t know what is going on. So that is absolutely had to had happened.
MATTHEWS: Well, by connecting these dots, Michael Cohen is drawing a straight line between the President and potential collusion with Russia, of course. At the same time, new report is connecting that Russian lawyer in the meeting more closely to the Kremlin.
According to the "Associated Press," Natalia Veselnitskaya who described herself to NBC News in April as an informant to the top Kremlin official. She is tied to an agency of the Russian state quote "scores of emails, transcripts and legal documents paint a portrait of Natalia Veselnitskaya as a well connected attorney who served as a ghost writer for top Russian government lawyers and receive assistance from senior interior ministry personnel in a case involving a key client.
Well, that - you know, I want to go back to Eugene on this.
You know, Trump, I can see him already wiggling his way out of this because his people are cult mail (ph). And of all people that around Trump who support him politically, I think will support a shooting on fifth avenue at this point. I mean, what more evidence do you going to get? And you know, if any problem with it, they are going to say, well, Russia is more our friend than the deep state or some horrible --.
ROBINSON: I mean, there was sort of collusion in plain sight that we have been talking about. Don`t forget the cover up, by the way, the obstruction of justice. Trump drafting the false statement about that meeting on the plane.
MATTHEWS: Yes, on the plane.
PETTYPIECE: Which he said he didn`t.
ROBINSON: Which he said he didn`t but of course he did. And he had been, I believe they have been laying the groundwork for, no, collusion, no problem, you know. It was fine. It was worth it because we kept Hillary Clinton from becoming President.
ROBINSON: However, there is that conspiracy against the United States thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think they knew they did something wrong, Shannon and then Glenn, because they acted like, maybe they read somewhere there is something called the Logan act or something. And that is supposed to be negotiating foreign policy if you are not the government.
PETTYPIECE: Well, right, which is why they didn`t say that Flynn talked about sanctions and why they sent, you know, Sean Spicer and other officials to say he didn`t talk about sanctions and then it turns out that they did talk about sanctions. There is a sense that they knew something. There is something here not be truthful about. The same thing about the statement. As they say he was involved in a statement then the story changes.
But looking at their defense, the defense seems to be obviously discredit the witness. Their defense seems to be protect the principal, protect Trump. Say well, he didn`t know about it. I didn`t know about it. Maybe something going on down here, but I didn`t know about it. And then, of course, this is going to be, well, you know, so what?
MATTHEWS: He can`t throw his son under the bus though, can he? And son- in-law and campaign - well, he is already -- Manafort is already is under the bus.
PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean, it does seem historically that his family would be the people that he will protect among anyone, but --.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Cohen camp isn`t commenting on who leaked his story to the press about him, knowing about Trump knowing. "Vanity Fair" reports tonight that Cohen denies Russia is responsible induced a leak of the fact he knew about Trump`s knowledge beforehand as an attack on him. If anything he appears embolden by the escalating confrontation with Trump, however.
Two people to Cohen said that he is about - he has spoken about a treasure trove. This is something, a treasure trove of information that he says he could unleash against the President. According to these sources, Cohen says there is a lot more to come. There are is lot.
Glenn, your thoughts. We are hearing about there is three more cases.. We are hearing about Avenatti. We are hearing all of this stuff. There is always more here.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. I think this is going to be something of an indictment palooza when it is all said and done. And I really think the only open questions that remain, are, what form does Bob Mueller`s action take moving forward. Is it going to be a report to Congress? Is it gong to be a series of indictment? And if it is, does it name the President as an indicted coconspirator, as an unindicted coconspirator? That will defend on whether there is an exemption to the OLC (ph) --
MATTHEWS: Did he put a ring of fire around the President? Can he indict family members, top aides to the point where everybody in the public realizes, you know, this isn`t bridge and Kelly freelancing supposedly on the Washington bridge. George Washington (INAUDIBLE). He was freelancing. But is this, to the point where the President, he burned up by it.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. I think Bob Mueller can and will indict everybody that the evidence supports indicting. Because, you know, he is driven by one thing, the rule of law. When I worked for him, he was my chief of homicide here in D.C. I learned how to be a federal prosecutor from him. He is governed by the rule of law and the rule of law alone. So I think he sees all f this evidence of criminality and he is going to do the right thing.
MATTHEWS: The titanic has hit the iceberg.
Thank you, Eugen Robinson, Shannon Pettypiece, Glenn Kirschner and Malcolm Nance. More time for you next time, Nance. I heard you are laughing there.
Coming up, the second Putin summit it is on, it is off, and now maybe back on again this time over at Moscow. Can he uninvite himself and then to have his own party? I don`t get this. Is he completely in-charge of the President?
Plus, if you are wondering who is in-charge of protecting us from election meddling. Keep wondering. The news is not goo. But the news maybe good for the Democrats come November according to great Charlie Cook, the expert. He is going to give us his latest report. Looks like the Dems are going to get the House.
And the HARDBALL roundtable how Michael Cohen went from fixer to state witness, in fact, star witness and how the boss is reacting behind the scenes. He is a little rattle, I think.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: President Trump took a victory lap of sorts on the south lawn this morning after the latest GDP numbers showed the economy growing by more than four percent in his second quarter this year. Trump touted the Republican tax overhaul saying Americans are getting far better paychecks. Well, that is despite, labor department data showing real wages and personal income growth has slowed or remain stagnant over the past year. The press also claim the new levels of economic growth are sustainable but some economists say the GDP may have been artificially inflated in this quarter by a flood of exports as country races to stay ahead of a potential trade war.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The fact that President Trump is now accused of knowing in advance of that infamous Trump tower meeting between his son Donald Jr. and a Russian lawyer, isn`t stopping Trump from continuing his bromance, if you will, with Vladimir Putin. The leaders two are now jockeying to host their next face-to-face meeting.
Speaking in South Africa today, Putin said he is ready to invite Trump to Moscow. He is ready to visit Washington if the conditions are right, he said.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: "President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the 1st of the year, and he`s open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation."
You will remember that, last week, President Trump invited Putin to Washington this fall. But that invitation was put off.
National Security Adviser John Bolton explained the delay, saying: "The next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch-hunt is over." That`s his word. "So we have agreed that it will be after the 1st of the year."
For more, I`m joined by Mieke Eoyang, vice president of National Security Program at The Third Way, and Ken Dilanian, national security and intelligence reporter for NBC News.
There`s something off-putting about the fact of our president being so willing to accept the beckoning call, the siren song or whatever, of Vladimir Putin. He says, come on over, and Trump says, well, I could come over there.
But isn`t he still pending an invitation from this president? Isn`t he still supposed to say, yes, I come to Washington first, before he starts going off and inviting him over there? There`s no sense of respect from that little guy to that American president, from I can see.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Chris, yes, I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: He`s dissing him over and again, and he gets away with it.
DILANIAN: Yes. Democrats use words like submissive and supine to describe Trump approach to Putin.
But, look, leaving all that aside, Vladimir Putin seized Crimea, in violation of international law. The last time that happened, Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait, the international community went to war to oust him.
Now, obviously, we can`t go to war against Russia. But this is hanging over the relationship, or should be.
Secondly, Donald Trump has been briefed on detailed intelligence showing that Vladimir Putin supervised the election interference operation, an attack on our democracy. He has never called Putin out on that. Now he`s going to meet with them and have a lovey-dovey summit, either here in Washington or Moscow? It`s -- neither seems appropriate.
I can`t imagine either George W. Bush or Barack Obama taking this course, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What do they want, Mieke? Start with Putin? What does he want? Why does want to be in the embrace or in the company of our president?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it`s very clear that when he sits down with the president, he gives him his talking points, because when they stand out there together afterwards, it`s Trump who is saying the Russian talking points.
He was saying the Russian talking points..
MATTHEWS: He`s scripting Trump?
EOYANG: He`s scripting Trump on Montenegro. He`s scripting Trump on the relationship with Europe. He`s scripting Trump on the U.S. exercises with NATO.
It`s very disturbing that, when the president stands next to Putin, he doesn`t seem to remember what the American national security priorities are.
MATTHEWS: That`s a good point, Ken.
Why would an American president, left, right, or center -- and I don`t know where Trump is, actually -- why would they take this side of the argument, well, suppose little Montenegro, which is nowhere near the Russian border, would get into a fight with the Russians because they wanted to be too aggressive, and therefore that we couldn`t exercise or respond to Article 5, which we go to the rescue of any member of NATO.
Why would he take a wacko argument that Russian would push that somehow little Montenegro is threatening us more than Russia is? Why would he do this? I`m sorry, it`s a rhetorical question.
MATTHEWS: Because Trump is working -- he seems to be working for the Russian. That`s why. Go ahead. Your thoughts.
DILANIAN: Well, you know, we don`t have proof that, Chris. But I know of no rational explanation for this course of foreign policy.
I mean, Trump is a guy who`s willing to get into fights with Canada, right?
DILANIAN: He wants to be tough with other countries. He`s getting tough on trade. A lot of his supporters are glad about that.
But why -- why won`t he be tough with Russia? It`s inexplicable, unless you take into account the theory that he is somehow in thrall to Vladimir Putin. Again, no evidence for that that has surfaced, other than the 82 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, many of which are unexplained.
MATTHEWS: Well, Russia is not a great power. I noticed they`re meeting in Johannesburg with the other middle-level powers, right, the BRICS.
They`re a gas station with an army.
EOYANG: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: That`s what they are.
And I just wonder why we treat them as equals -- not equals. Trump treats them like the other great superpower. Well, that`s about 30 years out of date.
EOYANG: Right. Well, it seems like Trump is stuck in the `80s on the -- on a lot of things, including his view of Russia.
Now, remember, after Reagan and after the fall of the Cold War, Russia really deteriorated as a power. Yes, they have a nuclear arsenal, which makes them formidable and we have to deal with them, but they wouldn`t even qualify to be back in the G8 based on the size of their economy, which Trump is asking them to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ken, you reported that according to current and former officials -- quote -- "Nineteen months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference and no single person or agency in charge."
Well, today, President Trump convened a meeting of the National Security Council devoted to election meddling. Well, late today, the White House released a statement on the meeting, writing: "The president`s made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections."
Well, he does, he is, and he was doing it. He was tolerating it. He won`t even admit it happened. Your thoughts?
And, Chris, the statement also said that as soon as he took office, he put in motion a strategy to combat foreign election interference. I have talked to a lot of current and former officials. I can`t find anyone who`s ever seen this strategy or knows what it says.
But I have talked a lot of people who are pretty sure it doesn`t exist. And, as you said, we reported today that even his own Cabinet officials have been saying in Aspen and other places that, look, they`re trying to do some things that they can do, DHS, the FBI, to combat foreign election interference, but they really need a whole-of-government strategy, some presidential leadership that would unite the government, because some of these problems are really hard, Chris.
Russian interference on Twitter and Facebook, that`s what -- there are First Amendment issues there. The government is not well-equipped to tackle that problem. The only prayer we have of solving it is through presidential leadership. And we`re not seeing any of that from Donald Trump right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s meeting with his National Security Council today comes just days after he tweeted he -- quote -- "very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. Based on the fact that no president`s been tougher on Russia than me" -- that is Trump talking -- "they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats."
But new reporting from The Daily Beast contradicts that. According to their forensic analysis, Russian hackers right now have targeted Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 reelection campaign in earnest.
The report notes that hackers went after McCaskill last August at the same time Trump was publicly targeting her on her home turf out there in Missouri.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must lower our taxes.
And your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you. And if she doesn`t do it for you, you have to vote her out of office.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Senator McCaskill confirmed The Daily Beast report, in a statement writing, in part: "While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this" -- this is about the Russians -- "I will not be intimidated. I have said it before. And I will say it again. Putin is a thug and a bully."
So Putin and Trump are double-teaming Claire McCaskill. It certainly looks like that.
EOYANG: That`s right.
And whether or not the president is aware of what the Russians are doing, it`s very coincidental that when he goes in front of the podium and says, hey, Russians, can you check into these missing e-mails or, hey, you should vote out Claire McCaskill, that at the exact same time, then the Russian start attacking the campaigns that he`s talking about.
MATTHEWS: Well, who`s the monkey on the string and who`s the guy with the organ grinder?
EOYANG: I mean, I think this is the question that Mueller`s trying to figure out.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Mieke Eoyang. And thank you, Ken Dilanian.
DILANIAN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: We`re just 100 days out from the midterms now, and the tea leaves are looking good for the Democrats, despite everything we have been talking about.
But are those predictions overestimating the public`s concerns about Trump and Russia or underestimating the impact of the roaring economy? We`re going to find out from an expert.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
I think the Democrats are taking the House. I think they`re going to pick up at least 30 seats. I have said it before.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. .
As the White House continues to mitigate -- or try to -- the fallout of the news that President Trump may have been aware of the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian-backed lawyer, a majority of Americans believe that the president`s not been transparent, he`s been lying when it comes to his dealings with Putin and Russia.
Against this, Republicans face a daunting map of the fall. It doesn`t look good for the GOP this November.
According to The Cook Political Report, Democrats are favored to win control the House -- again, Democrats to win control of the House. Republicans will be forced to defend 42 open seats, something they haven`t faced in nearly 100 years. So they will be playing defense. Democrats have a lead in the generic poll -- that`s the national poll -- among women and independents.
And with the president`s approval rating stuck below 50, are Republicans in store for something like a shellacking this November?
For more, I`m joined by the expert Charlie Cook, editor and publisher The Cook Political Report.
Charlie, what`s up -- what tells, of all the leading indicators about this fall, that it looks like the Dems will gather -- will grab the House?
CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, Chris, there`s sort of two ways of looking at it. There`s sort of the macro and the micro.
And the macro is looking, as you mentioned, at generic congressional ballot, as you look at presidential approval and history. But the other is the micro approach. And that`s looking at it from the 1st District of Alabama all the way through the at-large -- the at-large seat in Wyoming.
And right now, Democrats need a 23-seat net gain to get a majority. There`s 16 Republican seats in danger, only five Democratic seats in any kind of danger at all. There are 34 Republican seats that are tossup or worse.
This is a -- the Republican majority has been in danger for well over a year. And it`s pretty serious. I had been saying maybe a 65 percent chance maybe of Democrats getting a majority. Now I think it`s closer to 70. But -- but it looks -- Democrats look in line to pick up between 20 and 35 seats.
So, obviously, the odds of hitting 23 are pretty high.
MATTHEWS: Yes. What about enthusiasm? When you poll people, how many people on the Democrat vs. Republican side are anxious to get in that voting booth?
COOK: Well, that`s one of the findings in that NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, was that something like 63 percent of Democrats on a scale of one to 10 rated themselves as 9s or 10s in interest. And I think it was only like -- something like 48 percent of Republicans.
FOX News asked, are you more enthusiastic or less than normal? They showed a big Democratic advantage on interest.
I mean, by every measurement that we look at, this -- it`s flashing -- remember "Lost in Space" -- Danger, Will Robinson, danger, danger. It`s flashing danger for Republicans right now.
It strikes me, given the numbers, that a lot of Republicans didn`t want to face reelection. They just got out of the business.
COOK: Well, that`s -- a lot of times, if you have a choice, do I want to have to raise and beg a lot of money and go through a really ugly campaign, and maybe I win, maybe I lose, or, hey, I could just bail out now, a lot of people choose the exits.
And a lot of them were sort of due for it anyway. But a disproportionate number of retirements is definitely a leading indicator of a party having a bad year.
MATTHEWS: I get a sense there`s going to be a blue wave -- and you`re the expert -- but also a bit of a red wave in those conservative Western states, that people like Heitkamp going to face a lot of -- a problem getting reelected, and certainly even -- even Tester, and certainly Donnelly in Indiana and McCaskill in Missouri, whereas, in the Eastern suburbs, there`ll be another one, a blue wave, a blue wave around Philadelphia, for example. Totally different waves.
COOK: Well, yes, I mean, it`s as if the House and the Senate are being fought in different countries, that the House, the competitive races are in the suburbs.
And those suburb start in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania and go all the way out to California. But it`s fought in the suburbs. But the Senate, it`s more red states, it`s rural small town America. And this is the most lopsided map that any party has seen a long time, which is why we could see three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars spent on the U.S. Senate and perhaps have no net change whatsoever in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Republicans could be losing their majority in the House.
MATTHEWS: That`s the way I see it, Charlie.
Anyway, during his interview with Sean Hannity, President Trump reviewed his plan for the midterm elections. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: So many things have taken place. But the economy is the strongest ever. And I think that`s going to have a very positive impact. And I am going to work very hard. I will go six or seven days a week when we`re 60 days out.
And I will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race. And we think we`re going to bring them over the line. So I really believe that, because we`re doing so well as a country and so well with the economy, I think we`re going to be surprising a lot of people.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Charlie, do you think the president expresses knowledge there?
I know he`s -- as you just said, he can help in places like Montana, Indiana, perhaps Florida, Missouri, where he can help in the red states. But is he going to be any help in the Pennsylvania suburbs? I just wonder if he ought to just stay the heck out of there.
COOK: No, if I were him, I would -- I would keep the president out of these competitive suburban districts.
He can do Republicans a lot of good in these deeply red states. Five Republicans -- or five Democrats are up in states that Trump carried by 19 points or more. He could do them a lot of good there. He could do a lot of harm in some of these suburban districts with -- with a lot of college- educated women, where his numbers are just awful.
But if I could just caution, the Republican problems in the House long preceded the Russian investigation. This is not being driven by Russia.
COOK: And there`s a danger of people hyperventilating. I think the Russian investigation, the Mueller investigation is very serious stuff and should be pursued.
But you don`t have -- in the recent NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, you don`t have a majority of Americans that think it ought to be continued. It`s 46 percent think the investigation should be continued; 38 percent say it should be -- should be ended. And the 16 percent have no opinion whatsoever, that this is sort of the Democratic base and people who watch a lot of cable are really exercised about this.
But I have been an 18 states so far this year. You get outside of the Beltway, you get outside the Democratic base and people that watch a lot of cable, they`re not talking about Russia, I promise you.
Well, I have been through Watergate, and you have too. And I don`t think that people lead on these things. I think the investigative reporters, the good reporters in the major newspapers and the serious political figures, and, most importantly, the investigators decide what history is going to be made here.
Anyway, thank you, Charlie. I agree with you about the politics.
Charlie Cook, thank you.
Up next: Breaking up is hard to do, especially when you`re talking about a business mogul and his fixer. Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are on the outs right now, and that`s putting Trump in a very uncomfortable position.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD")
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": When did the president become aware of this meeting?
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, the president said he became aware of it very recently, right before this came out.
And it was -- that`s when he was notified. His lawyers talked to him about it right before. And, again, the president has been very clear on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Jay Sekulow, President Trump`s personal attorney, a year ago discussing when the president first learned about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russian.
As we have also been discussing, Michael Cohen has indicated that Donald Trump did in fact tell his father about that meeting at the time, contradicting what the president and his team have repeatedly told the American public for the last year.
For more, let`s bring in tonight`s Roundtable, Ayesha Rascoe, White House reporter for NPR, Margaret Carlson, columnist for The Daily Beast, and Eli Stokols is White House reporter for "The L.A. Times."
Ayesha, no collusion, no collusion, but yes collusion.
AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: Well, when you look at this and you see this kind of falling out with Michael Cohen and between President Trump, this is the damage that could happen to President Trump.
Right now, you`re just talking about Michael Cohen saying that he heard this or that he -- that he has knowledge of this and other people do. And that`s going to raise more questions.
And even if they`re -- there could be legal implications, obviously. But even beyond that, it`s this idea that did the president tell these kind of really bold lies that he didn`t know about this, and then you come out with evidence that he did know?
I think that would be a big deal even for this president.
MATTHEWS: Eli, there is a lot of indication, based on the president`s bragging and teasing, I got some really good stuff on Hillary coming up. All these phone calls apparently back and forth on these unidentified phone calls with his son.
And common sense tells you all three people in the Trump lead, the chairman of the party, the chairman of the campaign, his son-in-law and his son, all show up for a command performance with this Russian woman, as if the president had nothing to do with it.
ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, and then Steve Bannon says in the book "Fire and Fury" it was inconceivable that Donald Trump Jr. didn`t take the Russian up to see his father or at least tell Donald Trump Sr. about the meeting.
And so you have all these statements. And the media has over the last year caught the president and his staff in a series of lies about, as you point out, whether the president was aware of the meeting, then whether or not he had any role in crafting the public statement that was proven to be false.
STOKOLS: And they said he didn`t. Then he does.
So, in terms of their credibility, this is a president who people who have been fact-checkers have been cataloguing his lies for the duration of his term so far, and they`re in the thousands.
And so I don`t think the prosecutors in this case, the investigators, are going to take the president`s word or Michael Cohen`s word. I think they`re going to listen to what everybody has to say, and then they`re going to look at the evidence. They are going to look at the phone records. They`re going to look at maybe security camera footage from Trump Tower. Who knows.
But we`re trying to figure out in Washington who`s the bigger liar, Michael Trump or -- Michael Cohen or President Trump? That`s a tough game to play, because, for years, Cohen lied at Trump`s behest.
STOKOLS: And we see the president make false statements every day.
And so it is tricky for prosecutors, I think, but certainly neither has a ton of a lot of credibility.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have had a lot of success in prosecuting when people like Valachi come forth and tell you how the mob was run, or John Dean in another way told us -- it turns out John Dean, in Watergate, everything he said from his memory showed up on the tapes, Margaret.
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: So it could be that Cohen comes out, has fixed all these cases, all these women he got rid of and got their problems rid of, he knows everything about Trump.
CARLSON: He does know everything about Trump.
MATTHEWS: Trump must be dying with this guy out there.
CARLSON: And in liar vs. liar, I think I would give -- I would go with Trump as being the better liar, the more consistent liar. If he breathes, he lies.
And Mueller is not going to have to just rely on Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen could be a corroborating witness on this meeting. And in a mom-and- pop operation with, by the way, Manafort in the meeting...
CARLSON: ... pop knows what Jr. is doing. Jr. is not calling meetings without telling pop.
MATTHEWS: There`s no way that Michael Cohen can lie, because he`s -- he`s a state`s witness. If he gets caught lying, he is finished and he goes to jail for 20 years.
Anyway, Trump`s not going to jail for 20 years. It was not long ago that President Trump had only positive things to say about Michael Cohen. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I always liked Michael. And he`s a good person.
From what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He`s a good lawyer in my firm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How do they rework the scripts over at FOX on this stuff?
MATTHEWS: I mean, they got him on one way, one the other way. How do they do this?
(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: They can`t go with that one, yes.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, of course, the president probably doesn`t feel the same way today. Do you think?
Anyway, look at the president`s tweets from this morning denying he knew about the Trump Tower meeting. You may notice something missing.
At one point -- at no point, by the way, does he directly reference Michael Cohen by name. That wasn`t by accident.
According to The Daily Beast, Trump -- quote -- "will often stop using people`s names if he`s convinced they`re turncoats or if he suddenly finds them big enough losers, not worth the attention. In fact, the relationship has become so toxic that a source close to the president describes it as, `They`re dead to each other.`"
This is "Godfather."
RASCOE: Well, there`s a thin line between love and hate.
And it seems like they have crossed over. And -- but President Trump is known for kind of falling out with people. But, in this case, there could be real repercussions for this falling out and for them going back and forth.
And what does Michael Cohen know? And even though he may feel like, I don`t want to say his name, he doesn`t have to say his name. We all know Michael Cohen at this point.
MATTHEWS: Margaret, the "Godfather" reference, please.
CARLSON: Well, let me just say, in that first video, it`s -- to me, it`s a divorce reference, where we`re breaking up, but we have the greatest respect for each other, and please give us our privacy.
And then later, it`s, through Rudy Giuliani, one of the biggest liars in the world -- he was honorable -- now he`s one of the biggest liars in the whole world.
But Michael Cohen...
MATTHEWS: First of all, they`re going to divide up the books.
MATTHEWS: You get those books. I get my books, yes.
CARLSON: But Michael Cohen is in that no man`s land now, where he`s lost Donald Trump. He`s never getting a pardon, right? That door is closed.
But he has not yet gotten Mueller. So he`s just out there.
MATTHEWS: He knows a lot.
Finally, we -- you never know who you`re going to run into waiting for a plane at the airport, especially in D.C.
Take a look at this photo showing special counsel Robert Mueller and Donald Trump Jr. just a few apart -- a few feet apart from each other at the same gate. I think it`s 35X or what it was.
What do you make of that, Eli?
MATTHEWS: This is D.C., where everybody bumps into each other.
STOKOLS: We`re living in surreal times, Chris. And this is still a small town. Everybody knows the pain of 35X at Reagan.
And I think you just -- you saw that picture, your eyes popped out, and you wanted to know. It didn`t -- didn`t seem that either figure acknowledged the other or was even aware of just how close they were to the others.
MATTHEWS: Lookit, we have spotlighted it here. There`s Donald Trump with the baseball cap. And there is Robert Mueller as just another computer.
CARLSON: In the Tip O`Neill days that you were -- you`re so fond of, it was a small town where people actually treated each other with more civility, because they might run into each other at dinner or at 35 Exit at Reagan Airport.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe not prosecutors and defendants.
Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will Tell Me Something I Don`t Know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, one day after the court-ordered deadline, the government says all eligible migrant children in ICE custody have now been reunited with their parents. That`s more than 1,800 children back with their parents tonight after being separated under Trump`s zero tolerance policy.
About 1,000 of those families now face immediate deportation.
While the judge praised the government for getting these families back together, he urged the agencies to make sure it never happens again. That`s his phrase.
And we will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.
Ayesha, Tell Me Something I Don`t Know. You got time.
RASCOE: Yes, so you mentioned the NPR/Marist poll that came out earlier this week.
Digging down into that, everybody`s looking at support or -- support or opposition to Roe v. Wade because of the Supreme Court fight. Well, what we found was -- well, what NPR/Marist poll found was that the group most supportive of overturning Roe v. Wade is actually Republican women, even more so than Republican men.
So, 43 percent of Republican women want Roe v. Wade overturned. That`s more than any other group. And only about 30 percent of Republican men actually wanted it overturned.
CARLSON: So, Chris, being a summer intern sometimes set you on your career path in government.
But, if you look around, most of the interns, particularly on Capitol Hill, are from white and wealthy families, because they don`t get paid.
Republicans pay a little bit more than Democrats, but...
MATTHEWS: We pay our interns here.
CARLSON: Good for you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the deal here.
CARLSON: But most pay in psychic income. You`re going to make the world a better place, so...
MATTHEWS: Resume material.
CARLSON: So, yes, you -- lining your resume.
But, this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to pay a stipend to interns, which means that now they can have interns that look more like America, a few more working-class kids getting a leg up on a...
MATTHEWS: On the DCCC.
CARLSON: ... on a career in government.
MATTHEWS: That`s only a few.
CARLSON: Or politics.
MATTHEWS: That`s only a few.
CARLSON: It is only a few, but it`s...
MATTHEWS: Eli -- I used to be working there.
STOKOLS: You know, obviously, this week, with Michael Cohen in the news, I have spent a lot of time talking to people in New York, Trump Organization folks, people from the campaign.
And I was reminded by one of them of why it is that Michael Cohen did not wind up going to Washington with President Trump and joining the administration. The person who was the most opposed to it and who was in the president-elect`s ear at the time saying, you can`t give him a job, was Jared Kushner, the son-in-law.
And people who want to talk about questionable political instincts of Jared Kushner -- I mean, granted, we don`t know what kind of trouble Michael Cohen would have gotten to had he come to Washington and joined the administration and continued to sort of behave as -- in that fixer role.
But now, given the estrangement, given the legal consequences, and the fact that this is the same guy who sort of greased the skids for Trump to get rid of Comey when they were at Bedminster the weekend before that was announced, a lot of people would just say, this is Jared Kushner and that`s two strikes in terms of political instincts.
MATTHEWS: You made the wrong enemy, Mr. President.
Ayesha Rascoe, Margaret Carlson, Eli Stokols.
When we return, Let Me Finish tonight with Trump Watch.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Friday, July 27, 2018.
What Trump calls a witch-hunt has now caught itself a witch.
His lawyer`s account that a candidate for president knew that his son was about to seek dirt on his rival from Russia is indeed killer evidence against the man who now sits in the Oval Office.
Consider the corruption this uncovers. It shows Donald Trump more than willing to collude with a person offering herself as a Kremlin agent to provide negative information on Hillary Clinton. It shows Trump doing what he`s denied relentlessly. It shows covering up this grave matter for months.
It surrounds him, of course, in a larger question: Why have the Trumps been so ready to meet with Russians upon request, not just an instance of his son`s meeting at Trump Tower, but to this very day?
Putin is in a small country, economically, a pathetic land in many ways. Why then does Donald Trump snap to so readily at Putin`s call? Why does an American president who disrespects our country`s old friends in Canada, Great Britain and continental Europe play bellhop to the tyrant in the Kremlin? It`s embarrassing.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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