Show: HARDBALL Date: August 1, 2018 Guest: Laura Rosenberger, Steve Israel, Anita Kumar, Dana Milbank
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump tells AG to fire Mueller. Let`s play HARDBALL.
So now he has done it. Donald Trump facing the greatest federal investigation since Watergate has told attorney general Jeff Sessions to fire the special prosecutor and terminate his investigation. Could this be the ultimate obstruction of justice? In effect to focus of the historic federal probe, Cohen for its dismantlement. Is the President of the United States saying that a renegade federal agency is out to get him to engineer a political coup de etat? Or is Trump simply saying that he, the country`s good leader is simply expressing his opinion on the matter.
Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Under investigation for obstruction of justice, President Trump demanded that the attorney general end the Mueller probe altogether.
Quote "this is a terrible situation and attorney general Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stay in our country ant further." That is Trump tweeting.
Even though the President knows he is the subject of the investigation, he is making clearly he want his justice department to end it before it reaches its conclusion. That means the President`s tweet could be further evidence that he is out trying to obstruct justice.
Trump`s lawyers immediately attempted to control the damage. Telling "The Washington Post" today that Trump was merely expressing his opinion. And the president of the United States should no order or direction to the part of justice on this. Here is Rudy Giuliani defending the President`s tweet today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)[
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: (INAUDIBLE). And he used this -- he used a medium that he uses for opinions sort of. One of the good things about using that is he has established a clear sort of a practice now that he expresses his opinion on twitter. He used the word should, he don`t use the word must. And there was no presidential directive to follow. He wants the investigation to come to a conclusion and not interfere in it. He added (ph). I mean, that is why this whole obstruction of justice thing is nonsense. If he wanted to obstruct it, he would have obstructed it and ended it. And then you would know about it whether he has the legal right to do that which I think he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHEWS: He does.
Anyway, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed that defense of the President today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is not an order. It is the President`s opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Rudy Giuliani the one giving the President legal advice on his tweets and does that statement reflect the opinion of the president`s legal team.
SANDERS: Look. The President is not obstructing. He is fighting back. There is a reason that the President is angry. And frankly, most of America is angry as well and there is no reason he shouldn`t be able to voice that opinion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President know that Jeff Sessions can`t stop the investigation? Does he directed Rod Rosenstein, too?
SANDERS: The President is very well aware of how the process works, once again, he is stating his opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)[
MATHEWS: Well, ABC News is reporting tonight that this comes after the special counsel`s prosecutor told Trump`s lawyer that they will limit their questions for the president but still want to ask him about obstruction of justice. According to ABC`s report it was that news that triggered the President`s tweets this morning. Yet despite Trump`s frequent demand that somebody else should end the investigation, the President has repeatedly stop sure of trying to do so himself.
As we know and as Rudy Giuliani said today, Trump already believes he has the authority to fire Mueller. In fact, he ordered Mueller`s firing last December, according to "The New York Times" but relented when his White House counsel threatened to resign for that. So what the press are really believes he can fire Mueller and thinks it is an illegitimate investigation. Why does he do so?
Joining me right now is Natasha Bertrand, staff writer of "The Atlantic." Robert Costa, national political reporter at "The Washington Post." And Seth Waxman, former federal prosecutor.
Let me start with Robert about this -- this things that is going on. He gets up and he says I want Jeff Sessions who he think his attorney general to get rid of the whole Mueller investigation. Just get rid of it. And then somebody comes out later, his -- I guess his lawyer, spokesman Rudy Giuliani (ph), has his opinion. It seems to me either he is saying he wants the guy fired and he means it or he doesn`t meant it and what is he doing if he is not saying he wants him fired?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: What he is doing is he is going after the credibility of Robert Mueller and the entire investigation. He is not pulling the trigger. He is just attacking and attacking over and over again because he knows the reports is coming. He knows he needs to make a decision on the presidential interview.
MATHEWS: Is he saying it is a legitimate investigation or an illegitimate investigation? And if it is illegitimate, why doesn`t he fire them all? If he really believes that the Robert Mueller is an illegitimate, it is an illegitimate action of the federal government, if he believes that, he should terminate it. Does he believe that?
COSTA: He would like to base on my conversation with his officials.
MATHEWS: But does he believe it is illegitimate?
COSTA: He does believe it is illegitimate.
MATHEWS: But then why doesn`t he get rid of it?
COSTA: Because he is being told by Republicans on Capitol Hill, you are going to have a Midterm disaster if you give in to the special counsel.
MATHEWS: In other words, let me go to Natasha, does he honestly believes it is not a legitimate investigation? He honestly believes he has authority to end it but he won`t.
NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: No. I mean, we saw the reaction after Helsinki, that disaster summer where there was bipartisan condemnation. And he knows that this would be politically disastrous for him especially as Bob said, ahead of the Midterm election.
MATHEWS: Does just mean that he knows he is guilty, Seth, and that is what he is worried about? He is afraid they got him. They got him on obstruction. They got him over and over again on obstruction.
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I don`t think he believes that. In his heart, he is out there saying this is a hoax. This is a witch hunt. I think he thinks it is illegitimate. The reason why he is not getting rid of it, is because he can`t. The special prosecutor rules regulation says that it is only the attorney general. And now since he is recused, it is Rod Rosenstein.
MATHEWS: Why does he keep saying, he has got a lawyer named Rudy Giuliani, one`s America`s mayor now his lawyer, who say he has the authority as of today to fire Mueller, the whole shebang. Why don`t he do it if he has the authority?
WAXMAN: Well, Rudy may say that, he may say that, but again, he doesn`t as a legal matter.
MATHEWS: You don`t think so. You don`t think the Supreme Court would back him up of he said I`m the head of the executive branch. I picked Sessions to head the justice department. I can tell them what to do. That`s how we have a license on this country.
WAXMAN: Well, we came down this path once before in 1973. When Archibald Cox was fired a D.C. federal judge here, had three senators that filed an injunction. And that judge found that the termination of Archibald Cox was illegal. And in addition, when they try to disband the entire special counsel`s office, that same judge --
MATHEWS: Well, Cox lost his job though.
WAXMAN: Yes. And he -- Jaworski picked it up and says that --.
MATHEWS: But wait, Cox was a Kennedy guy but he never got the job again. Dixon did get rid of him.
WAXMAN: And Jaworski picked up and ran.
MATHEWS: OK. But you are missing my point, Seth. He did get rid of the guy. Can`t Trump do the same thing? Get rid of Mueller?
WAXMAN: He can try. But we can have senators today filed that same sort of civil lawsuit seeking an injunction of audit.
MATHEWS: And I am getting confused here. I opened the show in trying to figure out what it is. Can somebody help me? Either Trump believes this is illegitimate. And he has the power to get rid of this guy or he believes it is legitimate, he is just BSing us or it is a coup de etat because he is suggesting there is a dark deep state out there, up these Democratic 17 members of the prosecuting team, all ought to get him. They really -- it is a dangerous (INAUDIBLE), it should be stopped. If he really believes that, what is he going to do about it?
BERTRAND: Well, Trump needs a foil. He needs someone to be in opposition to do at all times. And think that --.
MATHEWS: For the next election.
BERTRAND: Right, exactly. And this is, you know, we say it over and over again, but it really is true. It is raw meat to his base. And he wants the ability to say that there is a deep state out to get me.
MATHEWS: Which is rotten, which is illegitimate, which is evil. And he is the only person I got in the United States to protect him from the deep state.
COSTA: And he has a lot on his plate. He has Paul Manafort on trial in northern Virginia. He is Michael Cohen his longtime lawyer fixer signaling he is willing to cooperate with federal investigators. He knows his son Donald Trump Jr. is under federal scrutiny. He knows this fed are wondering behind the scenes. Right now, was there criminal intent in any of the President`s tweets or his decisions?
MATHEWS: Why is he scrambling like a quarterback? Why is he racing around right now making these charges this morning? Does he fear that prosecution is coming at him before labor day or sometime after the election?
WAXMAN: Well, I think he fears it is a long-term after the election. But I think he also sees this whole thing coming to a head where all these people are either testifying against him or providing information. And at the end of the day, Paul Manafort I think is playing with house money. If beats this case, great. I will fight it in D.C. But if he loses, he can still walk into Mueller`s office, still get a deal and he can testify and provide information against Donald Trump.
MATHEWS: Or the tweet today, you see the President tweeting about Paul Manafort saying he is getting a bad deal.
COSTA: Well, I mean, that is - federal prosecutors believe that Manafort is playing for a pardon.
BERTRAND: He can still cooperate. I mean, prosecutors -- former federal prosecutors have told me --
MATHEWS: Trump can offer complete freedom. He walks out the door with all these tax charge, all of this pile of time again, 25 years if you add it up facing him. They are not going to let him walk. Mueller is not going to say goodbye have a nice day. He is not going to say, I give you five. I might give you seven. But Trump could give him zero. I would wait for Trump.
Anyway, Trump`s tweets today came after "The New York Times" reported last week that the President`s tweets can bolster potential obstruction case against themselves. And that has made some of Trump`s lawyers uneasy.
Quote "the fact that they are scrutinizing his actions under a section of the United States code titled tamper with a witness, victim or an informant raised concerns for his lawyers abut Mr. Trump`s exposure in the investigation."
But Rudy Giuliani says what the President tweets could not be evidence of obstruction. That`s Rudy talking, but here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Now we have obstruction by tweet. Whoa. I don`t think the Congress -- I mean, obstruction happens this way. Or there is a gun. It doesn`t happen by -- he has 80 million followers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHEWS: Now Seth, give me about the rules they keep changing. I love the way that -- Rudy, by the way, I`m always been impressed, but lately he is just cute. I mean, there is no - nothing in the code of (INAUDIBLE). But there is something called a conspiracy in advancing (INAUDIBLE). Change the words a little bit and you are in trouble. This now thing about tweet, it is cute to say tweet. But this whole government has been run by tweets so don`t stop now, brother.
WAXMAN: Yes - no. Tweets can be evidence just like anything else. Anything that comes out of the defendant or target or subject`s mouth, whether it is an email, a tweet, a text message, or an oral statement is evidence. If someone says I am going to kill person B tomorrow on a tweet and that person ends up dead, you sure know, prosecutors are going to be holding up that tweet saying look what he said just yesterday. So the idea that a tweet is somehow just cute and can`t constitute evidence, there is a file somewhere in Mueller`s office. That is the tweet master , who every there is a new tweet, they put another tab in their file and say, you know, this is evidence piece number 647.
MATHEWS: Can you read the President`s sort of cycle of tweeting? Can you tell? Is he getting more excited? Does he tweet more, Robert?
COSTA: I mean, the President spends most of the morning watching television up in the residence watching television, thinking through his tweets. It is him tweeting on his own. And he watches the man of the --.
MATHEWS: What causes the highest tweeting level? Because he seems like when he gets scared, he tweets a lot.
COSTA: Well, you see often with the President`s style, it is the so-called called witch hunt, his words, talking about the Mueller investigation. And then there will be a series of tweets, not just one or two.
MATHEWS: Natasha? Do you have a tweet meter? Because I think he does get scared. He goes - and somebody told me in "The New York Times," and the he gets the Times, it could be "The Washington Post" thrown in his bed, he goes, Oh my God, and he starts tweeting.
BERTRAND: I think the trigger here was very clear and ABC already reported that after about ten-days of Giuliani going to the special counsel and kind of renegotiating a sit down interview, they finally got an answer from the special counsel last night saying that he does want to still discuss obstruction of justice with the President. The President then kind of flew off the handle, I guess thinking that just, you know, a tweet can`t be obstruction of justice and he is kind of stopping short of the line there. But I think that it is really not hard to read the President`s mood (INAUDIBLE).
MATHEWS: What does Mueller want?
COSTA: He wants the President to sit down and answer a question, what was his motive. And if the President doesn`t want to sit down, Mueller has a decision to make this summer. Is he going to issue the report without an interview or is he going to issue a subpoena to get the President to sit down.
MATHEWS: What is the advantage of having the interview? Perjury trap?
COSTA: I mean, the advantage for Mueller is that he wants to find out the President`s intent.
MATHEWS: He is never going to tell him.
COSTA: Giuliani is advising against the interview.
MATHEWS: Seth, why is a guy who is being charged with having bad purposes here and then he is bad purposes.
WAXMAN: Well, I will tell you, any prosecutor would lick their chops to get in the room with the target, get that person under oath and hear what he has to say. I mean, Mr. Trump or anybody that is a subject to retard, it really cannot appreciate what a prosecutor is trying to do in that room. They don`t know the evidence. They don`t know that witnesses that the government has. It is a death trap for someone like Mr. Trump to walk into that room. But I don`t think he has a choice unless he wants to plea the fifth (ph).
MATHEWS: You notice, by the way. Every time Trump faces a somewhat difficult interview, Natasha, like me or Lester or anybody else in our network, any time he gets somebody besides the a FOX interview, he doesn`t do so well. He says stuff he wish he hadn`t said.
BERTRAND: Right. It is because --.
MATHEWS: That means he keep away from Robert Mueller`s.
BERTRAND: He gets nervous. He has a tendency to lie a lot. He really can`t help himself and there are things that he just can`t help backtracking.
MATHEWS: Can he protect himself in an interview with Mueller, do you think?
COSTA: Every one of his lawyers is advising him not to sit down.
MATHEWS: Well said.
There has been a lot of reaction to the President`s tweets today. Let`s watch those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Clearly this statement is serious and substantial evidence of criminal intent even if it doesn`t constitute a crime itself. There is now, right now, a clearly credible case of obstruction of justice against the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it is appropriate for him to send a text like that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don`t. Of course it is not appropriate.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: I think that there are definitely indications that would lead to the conclusion that he is engaged in obstruction of justice.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The President`s tweet is unfortunate. I think it is inappropriate for him to be commenting on an ongoing investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHEWS: By the way, that is the Senate office building basement where report is grab the senators. That`s why they all look a little (INAUDIBLE).
Anyway, Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell, also warned the President quote "fire Mueller, and we fire you." Robert?
COSTA: Look at what mayor Giuliani said today in New Hampshire. He said this whole midterm election is about impeachment. And the Republicans, because he say I have to get out to defend the President from Democrats wanting to impeach him as they take back the House.
MATHEWS: I am going back to coup de etat. I think he is going to - here is the deep state that trying to dump him, the people`s choice. I think that is what is up. You got to said that. This is what he is setting up.
Thank you, Natasha Bertrand, Robert Costa and Seth Waxman.
Coming up, election meddling, the threat is real and the threat is here. Facebook polls` fake accounts conducting political influence campaigns. What is President Trump going to do about this Russian intervention again.
Also, when control P means pistol, a federal judge to release a blueprints for doing yourself 3D gun. But is gun control about to become incontrollable? And we are going to talk about unlucky seven -- number seven in the HARDBALL roundtable. That is the average number of false misleading statements President Trump has made per day since inauguration. It is also how much he is losing to a certain Democrat in a 2020 match. And guess who that is? Joe Biden is beating up. And we are going to tell you why.
Finally, let me finish tonight watch. This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATHEWS: President Obama today announced his first set of Midterm endorsements backing 81 candidates in federal state and down ballot races. The former President tweeted today I am proud to endorse such a wide and impressive array of Democratic candidates leaders as diverse patriotic and big heart as the America, they are letting to represent. The accompanying statement said Obama will prioritize taking back the House of U.S. House of Representatives and growing the U.S. Senate Democratic caucus.
Interesting, he didn`t endorse any red state Democrats for Senate. President Obama hist the campaign trail next month. I guess he wants to pick winners. That`s clever.
We will be right back.
MATHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Last month, Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian officials for orchestrating the hacking of the DNC and the Clinton presidential campaign. The President is consistently attack Mueller`s word, it will be Trump is nothing as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Well, the witch seems to be back, Mr. President. Yesterday, "The New York Times` report that Facebook had shut down eight pages, 17 profiles and seven Instagram accounts that violate its span on quote "coordinated inauthentic behavior." In other words, the pages were set up with the purposes of amplifying politically charged nest news methods to sow discord exactly what Mueller indicted those Russian agents for. The company has not yet determined the accounts to Russia but it does say that it resemble propaganda run by Russia`s internet research agency.
And today, the Senate Intel committee held a hearing into election interference by foreign actors. Experts warn that Russia attacks will continue because of mixed messages our government is sending to Vladimir Putin. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, FOUNDER AND CEO, GRAPHIKA: We think they have long-term strategic goals, which include weakening Western institutions and faith in democracy and traditional sources of information and authority. That`s the strategic goal.
And then have a lot of near short-term tactical goals, things like injecting hacked information to sway a particular event or election.
LAURA ROSENBERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF MEMBER: I think it`s evident by the fact that this kind of activity continues that we have not yet effectively deterred it.
Vladimir Putin cannot see from one place that there is a potential for consequences, but then over here be getting a very different mixed message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Laura Rosenberger, who testified there. You just saw her at that hearing today. She`s the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and was a foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton`s campaign. Malcolm Nance, of course, is author of "The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West."
I want to start with Laura today.
So, we`re still under attack?
ROSENBERGER: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Do we know who the enemy is? Is it Russia? Is it someone else? Who is planning this kompromat, this bad stuff?
ROSENBERGER: Well, as you noted, Facebook has not yet attributed the accounts that they took down yesterday.
But experts who have looked at it do believe that it bears very similar hallmarks to what we saw from the Internet Research Agency previously.
MATTHEWS: What are those? What are the -- what are we looking for? What do we see when we go looking for this trouble? Are they trying to get the Democrats to look bad in the case of McCaskill, in the case of Shaheen? What are they up to?
ROSENBERGER: So, what Facebook talks about, this coordinated inauthentic behavior, I think it`s important to understand that what we`re talking about is not necessarily about content.
We`re talking about behavior. They`re trying to masquerade as Americans to either sow divisions among us, create greater polarization. That`s a way to weaken us, so we can`t be talking about the real things we should be talking about as a country.
MATTHEWS: Is this like kids in school, when they send messages to their friends, and they let their -- the one they`re trying to hurt just happen to hear it?
I mean, is this an attempt to just cause people to hate each other?
ROSENBERGER: That`s part of it. That`s absolutely part of it.
Part of it is also trying to shape our opinions on things. I used an example at today`s hearing about how one of the messages we saw from the Internet Research Agency after the election -- because this activity never stopped. So one of the posts we saw, actually on Reddit, a platform that gets less talked about, but was also used by the Internet Research Agency, sought to use the Flint water crisis and police brutality as a wedge to say, countries aren`t bombing us for police brutality and not taking care of the kids in Flint, Michigan, so why should we be bombing Syria for chemical weapons attack?
Basically trying to shape Americans` opinion about foreign policy in a way that`s to the benefit of the Kremlin.
MATTHEWS: Sounds like R.T.
You know, Malcolm, your thoughts about -- It seems like the arsonists are still at it. We`re trying to put out the first fire and they keep setting new ones.
MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, you`re absolutely right. And this a major conflagration.
But what we`re seeing is the pilot light that`s being set. I really think that what`s going on with the Facebook activity that we`re seeing right now, which we know started last March in 2017 and has continued up into May of this year before Facebook caught it, is you`re seeing the leading edge of what is going to start overwhelming us as we go up to the midterm.
And I say it`s the leading edge of an attack, because this time they chose fake leftist extremist groups. They created a Mexican group, an African- American group, a radical resistance group, even a spiritualist group. And they intended to use these organizations, fake organizations, as foils, so that Trump supporters would have a target to attack.
MATTHEWS: Perfect. Perfect.
MATTHEWS: In other words, radicalize -- create the idea that the Democrats are all hard crazy leftists and, therefore, they`re an easy choice to go.
Let me ask you about Trump`s -- Trump`s denial, his is denialism, you might say, it`s gone on since this first third in the country`s conscience. He constantly says nothing happened, it`s all a hoax, blah, blah, blah, witch- hunt.
How has that affected the transmission of this misinformation? Has it stopped it? Has it encouraged it, or what?
ROSENBERGER: Well, one of the things that I emphasized today, as you saw in that clip, is that these mixed messages actually hinder our ability to deter the enemy.
One of the things that any expert on deterrence will talk to you about is that messages need to be credible, and they need to be backed by capability. We aren`t credible in delivering threats if we have mixed messages coming, in particular from the president of the United States.
If you`re Vladimir Putin, are you going to believe that you`re going to face consequences for this continued activity? If you`re not hearing it consistently, I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: Well, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment that would have provided states with more election security funding ahead of the midterms. Interesting.
Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in support of the amendment. Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford said it was far too early to sign off on more money, despite reporting last week by The Daily Beast in Missouri that Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was the first 2018 target by Russian hackers, and also despite this warning from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I`m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.
Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack. Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Malcolm, I know this sounds primitive, but the fact is, the president is out there saying that Russians are out to help the Democrats this fall. So why isn`t he trying to stop the Russians?
Because -- I mean, I`m telling you, the only evidence we have is again that they`re out to get McCaskill, who is a Democrat. They`re not helping her. They`re hurting her.
The Republicans don`t want to do anything to stop the Russians, even though they say the Russians are out to help the Democrats. Explain this, will you? I mean, it`s -- it`s hard to keep track of the claptrap we`re getting from the White House on this stuff.
NANCE: Well, from the president himself, this is classic misdirection.
And to tell you the truth, I was quite alarmed when he made that statement about the Russian -- he`s tough on Russia, the Russians are going to assist the Democrats.
It almost sounded like he was sending orders to the Kremlin to now go after the -- and make it appear that the Democrats are going to do something.
Look, if there is a blue wave this fall, even if it`s a small one, the best thing that the Russians can do is introduce mayhem into the system to make it look like they were supporting the Democrats. Go out and hack a few voting machines. Go out and turn over a few precinct ballots.
And then the other side, the opposition, can use this to either call for the invalidation of the election itself or to create mayhem just short a civil war. The president himself is going to be responsible. And the Senate today, what they showed is, they are not going to -- they don`t want to take the blame.
They will probably the release some money early on towards the end of the - - towards the election, but they don`t want to do anything at all.
MATTHEWS: Sometimes, I think the president wants to destroy every institution in this country, not just the Democrats, but the courts, the media, every government agency, everything they hold dear, so that he can be the phoenix that rises from the ashes.
Thank you so much, Laura Rosenberger. And thank you, Malcolm Nance.
Up next: The 3-D printed plastic gun is no longer the stuff of movies. Whatever your take is on the Second Amendment, this new reality should concern all Americans.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. .
As if it wasn`t easy enough to obtain a gun in our country, some advocates are pushing to allow Americans to simply print them at home. All it would take would be an online blueprint and a 3-D printer. So-called 3-D printed guns wouldn`t have serial numbers, making it almost impossible for law enforcement to track them down.
And because they could be made entirely out of plastic, they could bypass metal detectors.
Well, yesterday, a federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order to block the release of 3-D printed gun blueprints online.
President Trump weighed in yesterday, saying: "3-D plastic guns don`t seem to make much sense."
And here was White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president`s glad this effort was delayed to give more time to review the issue. And this administration supports the decades-old legislation already on the books that prohibits the ownership of a wholly plastic guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is the former U.S. Congressman from New York and author of the novel "Big Guns" Steve Israel.
Steve, thank you so much for coming on.
I don`t know. It`s like we have got crazy people, and I`m looking for the craziest ideas. Of all the problems we have, we have Saturday Night Special, cheap guns you can buy for a few bucks out of the trunk of somebody`s car or in a hotel room or one of these gun shows. It`s not hard to get a gun in America, I`m told.
Why would you want to have these guns you can make yourself with this 3-D equipment, which apparently only is several hundred dollars? Your thoughts?
STEVE ISRAEL (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, the only reason you would want these guns is to get them through a metal detector undetected, or to have a gun that cannot be traced, or to have a gun where there`s no background check.
Those are the only reasons for these guns. Look, this administration, Chris, they do dangerous things. They do crazy things. This is dangerously crazy. They allowed a company to distribute the codes, the software so that anybody with a 3-D printer, using the same plastic that`s in a Legislator, could make a lethal firearm, get it onto an airplane, get it into the Capitol, and cause great harm to people.
This administration has upended 30 years of bipartisan policy from Reagan to Obama by trying to allow this to happen. Now, the good news is, a judge, as you just said, a judge has put a temporary restraining order. So it has continued the ban on the download of these files.
But the bad news is that, already, hundreds, if not thousands of these files have been downloaded. And these guns can now be manufactured with these 3-D printers.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have seen a movie -- and I know you have seen it -- "In the Line of Fire." It`s a great Clint Eastwood movie. I know you`re a movie guy.
ISRAEL: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: John Malkovich is the bad guy. It was very elaborate. It was a procedural. You actually watch him put it together, a plastic gun, so he can get through a metal detector at a presidential fund-raiser.
Why do we want to have the technology available for John Malkoviches of the world to do what they want to do?
ISRAEL: Ronald Reagan -- in 1988, Ronald Reagan recognized that we shouldn`t make it easy for people to manufacture guns that could go through metal detectors or not be traceable.
And that policy was continued by George Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Now we have the Trump administration, which settled a lawsuit, and decided we should actually make it easier for a child, a criminal or a terrorist to make these guns, get it right through a metal detector, cause harm, and the gun is not even traceable.
MATTHEWS: Well, the National Rifle Association released a statement saying the issue is being overblown.
Quote: "Many anti-gun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3-D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms. Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years."
Explain how their cagey here.
ISRAEL: Well, they`re very cagey.
First of all, it is true that the Undetectable Firearms Act, originally signed by Ronald Reagan, makes the manufacture, distribution, production of these weapons illegal.
But here`s the thing. You can`t enforce the law if you can`t see a weapon that is plastic. And so this is a very clever way for the NRA and other gun fanatics to say, well, we have already got a law on the books.
But we`re going to handcuff TSA agents. We`re going to handcuff the police. We`re going to handcuff law enforcement, so they cannot detect when a gun is right in front of them, despite the fact that there`s a law on the books.
MATTHEWS: Well, they say that as long as it has a metal piece to it.
But, according to what I have been able to read, that mental piece can be removed, and it can still go through a metal detector, and it would still fire.
ISRAEL: Well, that`s exactly right.
Two things here, Chris. Number one, a metal piece can be snapped off and snapped back on. So you can snap it off before you go through the metal detector and snap it back on when you get on the airplane.
Number two, the Undetectable Firearms Act, when that was passed in 1988, the notion of 3-D printers was like a "Star Trek" episode. It needs to be modernized. And the way you modernize it is, you simply require that various components of the firearm must have some metal permanently attached to them.
I tried to get that passed when I was in Congress. The NRA adamantly opposed it. We were able to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act.
MATTHEWS: Why would they defend -- well, why would they defend, in effect, defending -- why are they defending plastic guns, in effect, that don`t need these metal pieces, so they can still fire a bullet?
Why do they want to defend the reality of such a thing, the NRA?
ISRAEL: Because they`re extremists and they`re absolute. They are extremists and they are absolutists.
And they are going to continue to have these extreme views. By the way, President Trump, you mentioned, tweeted that these -- these plastic guns don`t make sense and he was looking into it. And in that tweet, he said, I`m checking with the NRA.
I tweeted back at him, reminding him that he has veto power, not the NRA. Why he would want to check with the NRA to see if it was OK to continue to make it safer for us to get on planes...
MATTHEWS: Because he`s pandering. He`s pandering to the gun guys.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. You know what he`s doing.
ISRAEL: Which I don`t mind pandering, but when it -- I don`t mind pandering, but when it`s dangerous, that`s when we should all be objecting.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for that exquisite distinction.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel. It`s great to have you on.
MATTHEWS: Up next: when the last -- when was the last time President Trump went grocery shopping? Well, there`s a good reason to ask that question. Wait until you catch what is coming from him.
This is HARDBALL.
We will be right back.
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