Show: HARDBALL Date: August 2, 2018 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece; Glenn Kirshner, Ginger Gibson, Clarence Page, Cynthia Alksne, Josh Gerstein, William Sommer
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: And HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Caught in the swamp. Let`s play HARDBALL.
President Trump is acting like a ship`s captain in a typhoon. He braces himself with accusations against all around him. He calls the Russian investigation a witch hunt. The federal government of villain is deep state, the media, the enemy of the people.
There is something nervous in all of this. And edge of fear of Nazi in the American White House sine the last dark, (INAUDIBLE) dog days of Watergate.
Good evening, I am Chris Matthews. And steaming swamp like Washington which has just been drenched with its heaviest July rainfall in three quarters of a cent. It is wet in this town and steaming.
Set on a collusion course with the special counsel`s prosecutors, President Trump is now waging an increasingly desperate battle as we have seen. But the harder he fights, the more in snared he becomes. Case in point is the President`s cavalier tweet in which he calls on the justice department yesterday to terminate the Russian probe all together.
Quote "attorney general Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now."
It is one of the most overt efforts that the has President has taken to date to shut down the probe raising new questions about whether he is now ob. Trying to protect the President, Trump`s allies are trying to downplay the significance of his tweeting. Saying President Trump is only expressing his personal opinion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. PRESS SECRETARY: It is not an order. It is the President`s opinion. The President is stating his opinion. I think I have clarified this about ten times now. It is the president`s opinion. There is no reason he shouldn`t be able to Once again, he is stating hiss opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: However, as the White House has made clear in the past, Trump`s tweets are not nearly personal opinions. They are taken as official presidential statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are President Trump`s considered official White House statements?
The President is the President of the United States so they are considered official statements by the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Despite attempts to downplay the President`s statements may hear his intent that he wants the justice department to stop investigating him.
But another reason he steps to stop the probe. As "The New York Times" reports today, Mr. Trump believes that he needs a daily drum beat of criticisms against the investigation in order to sway public opinion in his favor. His lawyers have told him he has no personal legal exposure and the only threat to him would be impeachment proceedings if the Democrats win control the House this November."
It no wonder in the last year alone the President has made 78 official presidential statements on twitter that the Russia probe is a witch hunt. Tonight, almost 38 hours as the President called for an end to the investigation. Trump has not withdrawn his statement.
All of this comes amid new signs that the special counsel continues to probe potential collusion. As "New York Times" reports Mueller is now interested in speaking to the Russians intermediary who helped arranged that infamous Trump tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June of 2016.
Joining me right now is Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News" and Glenn Kirshner is a former federal prosecutor previously worked with Robert Mueller.
I want to start with Peter.
Peter, what do you make of Trump`s latest? It does get clamorous lately. I mean, there is the witch hunt. There is the enemy of the people, that would be us and thee is the deep state. Everybody is coming at it.
What it does seem to be picking up in frequency in harshness? What is Trump up to right now in saying he now wants the special counsel to be fired for the probe to be eliminated and he wants his attorney general to do it right now. That`s his current position.
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it does seem like he is lashing out more and more lately. He was very upset at the coverage of his meeting of Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. He is very upset at, you know, the news of Michael Cohen having taped his conversation about possible pay off to a woman who claimed that he had an affair with her. So you know, I think he is feeling the pressure, he s feeling the heat and he is lashing out.
No, you know, yesterday`s tweet takes him further up towards the line. So far he hasn`t been willing to cross which is actually to give an order saying fire Rod Rosenstein, fire, you know, Mueller, actually taken action that he knows Congress even Republicans pretty strenuously. So he inches up close to the line. He makes his point of view well-known. But so far he hasn`t willing to cross it. Because even he thinks that might be too dangerous.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, I`m not sure about how the prosecutor looks at it. I would think that this special counsel hears a guy that says fires me and takes it seriously. Well, that is just an eight-year-old in the White House, you know, bagging on the crib. It actually means something.
GLENN KIRSHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, you know.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, the President`s defenders acts like he is an eight-year-old banging on the side of the crib because they keep auto ignore what he says.
KIRSHNER: Yes. I think, Chris, you know, when we look at the President`s tweets, first of all, tweets equal evidence in a criminal case. They just do. There is a federal role of evidence that is called statement of a party opponent. If the President were to end up a defendant in a court, those tweets are directly admissible to prove his state of mind, his intent, his conduct, who he was angry with, and what he intended to do.
But guess what? Guess what are not admissible in court, walk backs. So you know, Sara Huckabee sanders trying to walk it back, that is not admissible. And it will never modify what the President tweeted about in court. The same holds true for Mr. Giuliani. His likes must be deadly tired from walking so many things back. Every walk-back will never see the inside of a courtroom, the presidential tweets will.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes, but that is the thing that this isn`t going to be in court is what the President`s lawyers are banking on. That the justice department`s guideline say you cannot indict a sitting President. So they are banking on that. If the President is found of doing something inappropriately, this will then go to Congress. And then that is the court of publics opinion. So that tweet yesterday, it is all about chipping Mueller`s credibility rallying up his base, making those --.
MATTHEWS: The points to the firing of basically of the guy prosecuting. It doesn`t sound like obstruction even to his friends? What else could it be?
PETTYPIECE: I mean, I view that as a political tweet, as something that this investigation is good for him politically as far as rallying up his base ahead of November 2018 to show what is at stake in the 2018 election. Then also what is at stake with a Supreme Court pick if you get Kavanaugh in there who has been friendly to the idea of the Presidential powers, that also helps you in this impeachment.
MATTHEWS: I just take him literally. And I think his defenders are able to play the game, everybody knows he is a little precocious kid. And he has (INAUDIBLE) temper tantrums. But when he says I want Mr. attorney general to fire this prosecution, to g et rid of the whole operations, this (INAUDIBLE), I think he says because he means and he wants - anyway, at the same time the President tries to discredit, destroy the investigation, he is negotiating the terms, I think he is pretending to, at least, potential testimony before the special counsel. He is talking about maybe talking.
Anyway, "The New York Times" reports that after eight months of talks Mueller`s prosecutors are now agreeing to accept some written answers from the President but will not limit the scope with their questions or the topics. However, the President`s lawyers are unwilling to concede the follow-ups in person, citing concerns that Mr. Trump will I increase his legal. You bet he will.
Despite those remaining sticking points, the President is still willing to be with prosecutors, they say, according to the Times because in effect he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel of his belief that their own inquiry is a witch hunt.
Well, Rudy Giuliani tells "Politico" tonight he will decide whether to grant special counsel Robert Mueller interview within a week to ten days.
Glenn, it seems to me this is like the North Koreans talking. We negotiate with them on there for two years on (INAUDIBLE). They want to keep talking. Rudy want to keep talking. Are they going to let him in the room with seasoned prosecutors to grill him on his intention regarding obstruction?
KIRSHNER: I think the answer is no. And I tell you, Mr. Giuliani has been negotiating against himself for months and months and months. I`m not convinced Bob Mueller was ever negotiating on the other side. But when we saw the reports that Bob Mueller --.
MATTHEWS: You mean they are leaking all of this.
KIRSHNER: Right. When we saw reports that Bob Mueller might be willing to actually submits some written questions, I thought if that is accurate, here is what he is trying to do. Question number one, for example, could be, you know, Mr. Trump, did you tell director Comey to layoff Flynn? There is only two answers to. If the President answers no, Bob Mueller I am betting he is lying about that. If he is answering yes, well, that is evidence of obstruction.
It is lose-lose for the President which is what I predict will happen. Bob Mueller will put those written questions together because he wants everybody to believe he is giving the President an opportunity to say his peace and have his answer be heard. He is going to give Mr. Giuliani that piece of paper. Mr. Giuliani is going to look at it realizes how it would expose the President. He is going to push that paper back and say I think we will pass.
PETTYPIECE: Right. And that is one of the reasons Giuliani`s proposal to Mueller was we will answer questions on collusion but not on obstruction because they know if Mueller believes Comey or believes other witnesses that Trump is going to contradict them and so there he is in perjury right there.
MATTHEWS: Let me go - let me go back to Peter on this question because the sort of the tease that has been going on here is ask questions about motive. Let`s get to motive.
I don`t think you can actually ask somebody as wily as Trump about his motive. I mean, he an answer those questions a million different ways. It is a subjective analysis, anyway. But if you ask him these questions of fact, did you ask the Comey, to let his buddy Michael Flynn off or did you not, I don`t think they are ready for questions of fact. What do you make of that?
BAKER: Well, I think that is a good point. I think the truth is I think his motives are pretty plain. As Glenn said, I think that he had made them plain through his tweets, he has made them plain through his statements. I don`t have a lot of question about what his intentions at this point.
The question is that they are putting out is can he be charged with obstruction if he is the head of the executive branch. They are laying out a theory that because the President of the United States is in-charge of the executive branch, including the justice department, that he cannot be guilty of obstruction because it is within his right. It is within his authority to not only change the personnel but even to end an investigation outright if he chose to do it. Now, that is an interesting interpretation that others wouldn`t agree with. And then particularly as Shannon says might not hold up in the court of public opinion when it gets to an impeachment proceeding if hit did in front of the Democratic House. Republican House isn`t going to go there.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That is a fair assessment. In fact, all of these impeachments going back to Andrew Johnson have been by opposition parties. Basically, Johnson was a Democrat. He was the vice president to Lincoln but he was a Democrat.
Let me ask you about this subpoena question. Nixon had a respond with the tapes. The Supreme Court require he turn over the tapes, the June 23rd tape showing him basically obstructing justice. Clinton had to turn over whatever he had to turned over. He had testify in open hearing on tape. Why wouldn`t they just subpoena the guy? Why does he just do it and get this over with?
KIRSHNER: Yes. I mean, it is great question. The department of justice has a policy, that we, they, I used to be with, they do not subpoena targets of investigation. Why is that? Because a target of investigation, by definition, --
MATTHEWS: Nixon was a target.
KIRSHNER: Yes, but by target of an - this is a DOJ policy, mind you. It is not a law. The target of the investigation has a fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. So we can`t hand them a grand jury subpoena which is a court order and direct him to testify because he will be incriminating himself. Now, there is an exception to that policy but in my 30 years, I have never seen it apply. So what can we extrapolate from the fact that Bob Mueller has not subpoenaed the President.
MATTHEWS: Well, can you make it jump to conclusion in civilian language, the lawyer language. He can`t be - he can`t be indicted and therefore he can`t be a target.
KIRSHNER: He can be a target because he could be indicted and they could delay a prosecution until after he left office. Right now, in real terms, I believe he has morphed into a target. How Bob Mueller chooses to proceed, it is a whole different approach.
MATTHEWS: Do we know - everybody, do we know why Mueller wants to talk to a guy as wily and slippery as Trump? Why does he want to do this? Why is he keep acting that I just want to sit down and finalize his motives? Why is he keep doing this?
PETTYPIECE: I mean, I guess, when you look broader at his mandate, his mandate is to look into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded or whatever would you want to use with Russia.
MATTHEWS: He is never going to admit it.
PETTYPIECE: Well, then if he lies to you, then you have him on making false statements or perjury defending on, you know, where there is before grand jury or interview. He has an investigation to conduct. So I mean, people who work with him, you know, better that I say that he is going to conduct a full and thorough investigation. And I think so many report on the Trump campaign without talking to Trump himself would not necessarily be a full and thorough investigation.
MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, there are some more signs today that the special counsel Robert Mueller is still scrutinizing Donald Trump Jr.`s meeting with Russians in June of 2016. We keep talking about that meeting and so does the special counsel. Think about it.
NBC News is reporting right now that Mueller has requested interview with Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, who helped set it up that now infamous 2016 Trump tower meeting.
In his testimony, Trump Jr. said he did recall speaking to him, Agalarov, or what they may have discussed before the meeting took place. However, in an interview with Vice News, Agalarov confirmed that he did speak to Donald Trump Jr. about the Trump tower meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the President is very unwise to walk into a perjury trap against a group of smart guys who spent years time getting ready to triad to killing. And I think he is not -- no one is smart enough to take on all of Mueller`s team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That is Newt Gingrich saying don`t sit down with them. That`s the political ways, you know, they wily guy himself, Newt Gingrich.
Let me go back to Peter about this thing. You have been saying, people have been saying that this is really about politics. There is not going to be like a trial, a Peery Mason trial, there is not going to be like an acquit or a verdict, or anything like that or a judgment against him, a condemnation. And in the end, it is going to depend on who carries the House this November.
If the Democrats carry the House, which most people think they will win by a few votes. The need 218 to impeach. Is that the game plan that Trump is looking at right now? I simply have to deal with the fact that a partisan house is going to impeach me or narrowly not. And I will live that and still get elected in 2020. Is that the strategy Trump is following in all of this stuff?
BAKER: It certainly, one strategy, yes. And as you, Chris, rightly pointed out. We have learned from previous impeachment efforts that they don`t succeed unless they are bipartisan, right.
MATTHEWS: That`s true.
BAKER: So it didn`t seem 1998 because the Democrats weren`t willing to abandon Bill Clinton. If the Republicans aren`t willing to abandon Donald Trump, he is going to be fine in the Senate. Now it doesn`t mean he won`t be impeach in the House. There is lots of reasons why that would be a bad thing for president, even he would be acquitted in the Senate.
But right now, even if the Senate were to go democratic, it would only be one or two votes. They wouldn`t have the 67 votes that they need for conviction. So the only way is actually forces him from office, if he chooses not to resign, as if, you know, Republicans just bail on him in a big way the way they did during Nixon.
That doesn`t seem likely at the moment. We will see. It depends on what Robert Mueller comes up with, depends on what happened in the election if they decide he is more trouble than worth keeping. There is a scenario in which he gets hammered in the midterm this fall. There is impeachment fright. And he rallies his base and does comes back to win in 2020. Remember, Bill Clinton did pretty well after impeachment. His approval ratings went up, not down. And you know, it is anything that can happen in politics as we learned the last couple of years.
MATTHEWS: Well, Clinton had moveon.org and a lot of liberals to support. And progressive supported him to the end. Nixon had nobody. I think that was his problem. And Trump has FOX.
Anyway, thank you Peter Baker. Thank you, Shannon Pettypiece and Glenn Kirshner. It is great to have you on, Glenn. Thank you.
KIRSHNER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, it is day three of the Manafort trial. And according to reports, the President is closely monitoring what is unfolding over there. How special counsel Robert Mueller fairing at his first big battle. His first big test.
Plus, the strange scary world of Q anon (ph0. Who are these internet conspiracy theorists and why are they showing up at Trump rallies? When you see them, they are scary branch, scary butt.
And add too, Ivanka. The President`s daughter does not agree with her father the media is the enemy of the people. The HARDBALL roundtable is going to weigh in on that, baby.
Plus, we are going to bringing you the latest from the Trump rally tonight. This is going on in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He will not like tonight.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: At today`s White House briefing, press briefing, five U.S. national security officials warn that Russia is clearly now attempting to interfere with the 2018 midterm election. Here is director of national intelligence Dan Coats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Out focus here today is simply to tell the American the people, we acknowledge the threat. It is real. It is continuing. And we are doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, if asked if the President had raised those concerns in his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin over in Helsinki, Coats said that he still doesn`t know everything the two leaders have talked about.
It is not nice. We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re in the third day now of the trial of President Trump`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
According to the Associated Press, President Trump is -- quote -- "closely monitoring news coverage of the Manafort proceedings" and has provoked a flurry of tweets by the president, including this one yesterday, claiming: "He worked for me for a very short time."
So he`s distancing himself from the guy on trial.
In the courtroom itself, prosecutors have been laying out just how lavish Manafort`s lifestyle has been. For example, he spent about $450,000 on landscaping at a vacation home that included a manmade waterfall and a flower bed in the shape of the letter M for Manafort.
And he spent more than a million dollars on clothing, including $15,000 for this jacket made from ostrich and $18,500 on one -- who wants a python jacket?
Anyway, Manafort faces multiple charges of bank and tax fraud, as well as failing to file foreign bank accounts.
Anyway, the charges predate his time on the Trump campaign itself. Once again, this is the first real test for special counsel Robert Mueller`s prosecution. A conviction here could provide even more legitimacy to counter the president`s repeated false claims it`s all a witch-hunt.
For more, I`m joined by Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor, and Josh Gerstein, who is senior White House reporter for Politico, who was at the courthouse in Virginia today, across the river from here.
Josh, give us a sense of the color of this. An incredible sort of like -- I think it was in "Goodfellas," the guy who robbed the bank, went out and bought all the expensive stuff. And De Niro said, what, are you crazy?
MATTHEWS: Why is this guy`s buying ostrich jackets and python jackets and all this loot from Eastern Europe?
JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO: It`s completely over the top.
And the prosecutors are doing everything they can, I think, to take advantage of the imagery and the signals that are sent by somebody that`s spending in that kind of a way. But they`re really being fought at every turn by Judge T.S. Ellis, who is in charge. He keeps telling them, move on, move on right now. That`s enough of this.
He will -- you have seen more pictures than you have shown to the audience right now, more pictures I think than the jury has seen. And I`m not sure the jury will eventually see many of those pictures. He pretty much will allow one or two in, and then he makes them move on.
And it`s been pretty much dry testimony about the wire transfers, banks in Cyprus, and going through line by line with accountants and vendors about how their invoices were paid.
MATTHEWS: Well, how is a jury going to challenge that kind of information? It seems me they`re all bank -- it`s all paper. Counting is tricky enough for most people, but here you had doing it in court with the pressure on.
Cynthia, you have been a prosecutor. It seems me they`re going to buy the argument from the prosecution. What are they going to do, say it isn`t true, all these documents?
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right.
And if you looked at the indictment, the indictment goes -- and they will get a copy of the indictment in the jury room -- it goes through line by line every single one of them, and just list after list after list.
These kind of cases are boring. That`s...
MATTHEWS: Well, they got him nailed, right?
ALKSNE: Yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about how it leaps over.
I know you have been thinking about this, because you`re politically in tune -- attuned, Cynthia. That`s why I like you here.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how this crosswalks over into the whole question of this -- of the special counsel`s probe, which is to catch Trump for colluding and obstructing.
ALKSNE: Well, it`s continuing to move Manafort to try to get him to actually flip. So he has this indictment. He has the indictment in D.C.
And my guess is the time will come he will have a third indictment that has to do with obstruction and a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. And Mueller is trying to push toward that. And this is the first piece of moving toward that.
MATTHEWS: And you were telling me that you think maybe that the Manafort people are already showing a little leg on this, a little -- a little niceness to the White House by saying, we have got some stuff here that`s going to come at you from Rick Gates, who is testifying against Manafort.
Here`s what I think people don`t understand. When you try a case in federal court, you have to give to the defense all the statements you have. So, everything Gates said since he`s flipped, everything he has said about everything...
MATTHEWS: And he`s prosecuting against Manafort, yes.
ALKSNE: And he`s going against Manafort.
Everything he`s told the prosecutors, everything he`s told the FBI, every videotape statement he`s made, the defense has that. Manafort`s people have all that. And they -- they are using it -- going to use it in the trial, right?
I don`t think people realize that. Well, interestingly, that comes right before trial. The prosecutors go through their file. They make all the copies, and they hand the defense. And you`re, here, Mr. Defense Attorney. Here`s the...
MATTHEWS: Let me go jump over to Josh.
What would a smart defense attorney do who is working for Manafort and wants to spring him, wants to get some help from other people? What`s he going to say? I got in my hands here all the dirt they got on me, but it`s also their dirt they got on you, Mr. President.
And here`s what -- I`m going to give you this barrel to take a look at. How about you give me a break, like a pardon or something like that?
GERSTEIN: Well, a lot of people think that the endgame here is some kind of pardon.
I mean, this is such a difficult case, as Cynthia`s saying, for the defense. They have these mountains of paperwork showing that this guy was paying all these really high -- hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal bills from accounts in places like Cyprus and the Grenadines.
I mean, why on earth would somebody do that? It`s not normal. The vendors all said either nobody`s ever done this before or it`s extraordinarily rare. And this may be the only gambit that they have, if they can`t find a stray juror here or a holdout.
MATTHEWS: He goes away for 30 years.
Anyway, while Trump may be willing to comment on the Manafort case, it seems the White House is trying to keep the president`s allies doing the same. According to Politico: "More than a half-dozen of Trump`s most vocal TV surrogates, the ones on TV all the time, told Politico they weren`t provided White House or campaign talking points in this case, as is customary for important headline-generating matters. Some interpret this as an attempt to keep them from talking about the trial on TV and to starve it of oxygen."
Cynthia, Trump -- let`s see -- you`re talking about how it may leap over to him...
MATTHEWS: ... this bad news from Rick Gates that can be used against the president or used in his defense or whatever, used against him, that they`re -- the White House is very careful to keep its fingers away from this thing.
ALKSNE: Well, here`s the other thing.
MATTHEWS: This Manafort case.
ALKSNE: Yes, here`s the other thing.
About the time the prosecutors give all this information to Manafort is the same time that Giuliani suddenly, remember, starts to talk in that crazy interview on CNN about how there was another meeting that Gates was present.
So they -- I think they`re seeing this. And it`s affecting them.
MATTHEWS: How is Mueller looking at this? Is this his first big battle he has to win?
GERSTEIN: He definitely needs to win it.
And they`re having a -- they`re not presenting the case that they hoped to present. They`re being forced to limit the evidence that they put forward. The judge is moving them along. Probably, the witnesses are on the stand for half the time that the prosecution intended.
But there really is a mountain of evidence here on tax evasion in particular. And cutting it down to half a mountain may not do much damage to Mueller`s case. And denying him some of those atmospherics, the pictures of some of the more fancy items, not letting jurors see the photos, I think they probably can figure it out from the paperwork alone.
MATTHEWS: The prosecution still has the advantage?
ALKSNE: It`ll be done at the end of next week.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Cynthia Alksne and Josh Gerstein.
And up next, by the way: What is QAnon? And why are supporters of this fringe group and its -- there are the pictures of these guys -- and its conspiracy theories showing up front and center at Trump rallies? They are going to be there tonight. We already got pictures of them.
There`s another crazy group out there that is allying itself with Trump about how this elite group of people led by Hollywood movie stars are out to screw you in every possible way, according to this group.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Over the past few months, a fringe group of conspiracy theorists has gained a lot of attention. The group known as QAnon prominently back President Trump. You see them there.
On Monday, these Internet devotees made up a significant segment of the crowd at that rally down -- see them, those Q`s -- down in Tampa. And here they are at tonight`s rally up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, that is starting right now. See the Q`s?
A recent report in The Daily Beast detailed some of the group`s conspiracies: "Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump`s North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, including sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay."
For more, I`m joined by Will Sommer. He`s author of that Daily Beast report.
Will, thank you for joining us tonight.
And it`s an area that we`re going to have to weigh into, because we see real people, citizens of the United States, wearing Q`s all over them. What do they believe? What`s -- what is this all about?
WILL SOMMER, THE DAILY BEAST: It`s pretty bizarre.
So, this all started on kind of some obscure Internet forums back in October. Very cryptic clues. And so they have -- people have grabbed on to this, and they believe that essentially President Trump is engaged in a life-or-death good-vs.-evil struggle with sort of all these different evil cabals.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think he`s already got enemies. He points at the press, enemy of the people. It`s the deep state.
He`s got the witch-hunt. So he`s got three known groups of people he calls the enemy. Is there a need by these people in the far, far, far Trump right to come up with something even more mysterious?
SOMMER: Apparently so.
I mean, I think, frankly, these are people who are maybe disappointed that, for example, Hillary Clinton hasn`t been locked up. And so they just imagine this whole universe of these nefarious cults and blood sacrifices and all this kind of stuff.
And these -- as we have seen, I mean, these are people at...
MATTHEWS: Who makes these sweatshirts or these jerseys, these T-shirts?
SOMMER: They`re all on Amazon. Go on Amazon. You can buy hundreds of these shirts. It`s a booming business.
MATTHEWS: And where`s it headed toward? Is there -- is it going to get violent? There`s a guy chuckling about it. He doesn`t look too dangerous.
But what is -- he`s enjoying himself, but he`s -- look, there`s somebody a little more serious. These are people that put on -- I guess you e-mailed away. What, do you go to Amazon to buy these T-shirts? I don`t where you get them.
SOMMER: You get your gear. I know there`s someone at this rally with a giant wooden Q he`s wearing.
And so, yes, I mean, these are -- these are people who -- they`re real people. They had a rally in D.C. in April. A couple hundred people turned out.
MATTHEWS: And when they all get together, what do they agree on is this Q person or Q being or group? Who is the leader of this conspiracy thing to do all the right -- this is a good conspiracy, right? They believe they`re out there catching all the bad guys they don`t like, right?
SOMMER: Right. Exactly.
So they think Q is sort of their ally. And they think it`s someone in the Trump administration. They`re obsessed with someone, a reporter, asking Trump, are you Q? Is it -- is it Michael Flynn, they think, maybe?
I mean, it`s all these ideas. But it`s so crazy, but people do believe it.
MATTHEWS: And where`s it going politically? Are they all going to vote for Trump?
SOMMER: Oh, absolutely. They`re all hard-core Trump people.
I mean, they think this an issue of -- this is like the fate of the country hangs in the balance.
MATTHEWS: Who are the good guys in their Parthenon?
SOMMER: Oh, yes, Mattis. Putin, weirdly enough. Kim Jong-un.
MATTHEWS: They`re the good guys?
MATTHEWS: This seems like extreme Trump.
SOMMER: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: Like you want to do a Marvel Comic figure and take that to that dimension, where it`s really simple, Manichaean, evil and good, and the good are all the Trumpies.
It is almost like a fantasy world, where, normally, in politics, you might have an argument about tax cuts, but this is an argument about like, what is this...
MATTHEWS: Look at this.
MATTHEWS: Are they going to endorse -- is Q whoever, whatever they are, he is, QAnon, is this being going to endorse candidates?
SOMMER: It`s funny you say that.
I mean, it is already having a real-world effect. An armed man in an armored trucks shut down a bridge near the Hoover Dam who was a QAnon believer. Q targeted Michael Avenatti. Someone showed up at his office maybe with a weapon. It`s strange stuff.
MATTHEWS: And it began last October. You started to follow it. And where`s it ending this year? Where do you see by this November, Election Day?
SOMMER: Let`s say the Democrats, say, take back the House.
I think probably Q comes up with a conspiracy theory about how the deep state stole the election. And I think it keeps going, unfortunately.
MATTHEWS: So, the whole Trump phenomena is wacky enough -- is not wacky enough. We`re going further into that sphere.
William, you can have this beat. You can keep this beat.
MATTHEWS: William Sommer, Will, thank you.
Up next: Ivanka Trump is speaking out about an issue on which she and her dad may not see eye to eye.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember that incredible night in November. Remember that incredible night.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
D. TRUMP: And you remember that we were way up in Pennsylvania, and there was only 2 percent of the vote left. And we were way up. If I lost every vote, we would have won the state of Pennsylvania.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
D. TRUMP: And the fake news refused to call it, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Donald Trump right now at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, bashing the fake news, as he calls it.
Earlier today, Ivanka Trump broke publicly with her father`s administration on the media question. Let`s watch her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you think that we`re the enemy of the people?
IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Sorry?
QUESTION: You think the media...
QUESTION: ... is the enemy of the people?
I. TRUMP: No, I do not.
QUESTION: That`s not a view that is shared in your family.
I. TRUMP: Are you looking for me to elaborate?
I. TRUMP: No, I don`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, Trump tweeted that Ivanka`s answer was correct, noting that "It`s the fake news, which is a large percentage of the media that is the enemy of the people."
I`m joined right now by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.
Ginger Gibson, political correspondent for "Reuters", Clarence Page is a columnist with the "The Chicago Tribune", and Jennifer Rubin is an opinion writer with "The Washington Post".
I want to start with Jennifer on this. Trump is serious about this. He`s not really narrowing the group, that we`re the enemy of the people. I think he`s getting into a frenzy.
I remember -- I`m thinking of Captain Queeg, you know? I`m beginning to think, you know, there`s something going on here. He`s worried about the typhoon around him, of people coming at him and he`s attacking everyone.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. I think he is desperate at this point. He is not the master of his own ship.
He sees the polls he sees a very good likelihood he`s in the last few months of a Republican Congress. When that changes, all bets are off.
He sees a trial that is proceeding down the emoluments trail. That means his wealth, his hotel is on the line. He sees horrible reviews for his meeting with Vladimir Putin, which he thought was a great success.
And he sees Robert Mueller who simply won`t go away, all the antics, all the smears, it doesn`t matter to Robert Mueller and Trump can`t do anything about it.
So, what does he do? He lashes out. And you could say that it`s instrumental that he`s doing it in order to pump up his base, but I think this is a desperate man.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
RUBIN: And I think he`s getting to the point where he`s completely out of control.
MATTHEWS: Ginger, when he says fire Mueller, get rid of the whole operation to his attorney general, I refused not to take that literally. Everybody, always just an eight-year-old kid banging on the crib -- no, no, no, he`s president of the United States and when he says something like that, we damned well to take it literally.
GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, REUTERS: He`s president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: He`s trying to obstruct justice is what he`s trying to do.
GIBSON: They`ve been telling us since he was running that we should take him seriously but not literally, but he understands what literal conversations are.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he does. He wants out. He wants out. He wants to be free of any prosecution.
GIBSON: And he wants us talking about that instead of what his tariffs are doing to people who are getting ready to buy school supplies and what it`s doing to farmers in states that voted for him. He would much rather fight with the press or send angry tweets about Robert Mueller than talk about the implications of some of his policies.
MATTHEWS: I think he`s turning his third world. This is a stuff in other countries when they have elections, they`re not really elections, they have to wait for three to -- do we dare announce the results the election, oh no, because somebody won`t like it.
Clarence, we used to accept reality.
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: It is a lot like a third world. The difference is the third world hasn`t got the U.S. Constitution. They don`t have the institutions that we have here.
We see a lot coming to a head at this point here. Jennifer ran it all down very well, from the emoluments clause to the Russia investigation.
And what`s interesting is that he has no new tactic, no new responses. He`s relying still on pumping up the base which I don`t know how it gets any more pumped up. We`ve all marveled at how solid it is and impenetrable but it`s not growing and still minority of the country.
MATTHEWS: It`s about 40.
PAGE: You know, and then you`ve got the bashing of the media, which everybody does he just does it more relentlessly. But it begins to lose some of its power, except for this new QAnon movement. It`s doing great t- shirt sales.
MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s a big difference. I want to stick on this point because Nixon would say the press is the enemy, meaning they`re adversarial and there is obviously an adversarial relation between people in power and the press.
PAGE: He had the enemies list remember.
MATTHEWS: What he meant by is my, personal. He didn`t think they`re enemies of the people. This guy has totally (INAUDIBLE) Henry Gibson. Enemy of the people is a lot charger than my enemy. This is they`re my enemies, Ginger.
GIBSON: He, you know, he --
MATTHEWS: There`s a difference.
GIBSON: He wants to try to discredit anything that would have credibility against him. He is a man who cares about messaging and perception and he thinks if he can undermine all of the media, it undermines anything they could write about them.
But the First Amendment doesn`t say a fair press. It doesn`t say a press that is nonpartisan. It doesn`t say a press the Donald Trump likes. It just says the press.
And that`s a problem that he`s going to face.
MATTHEWS: Well, at a rally -- that rally tonight up in Wilkes-Barre, Trump has weighed in on his recent summit with Vladimir Putin already tonight and the Mueller probe. Let`s watch him tonight in Wilkes-Barre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got along really well. By the way, that`s a good thing, not a bad thing. That`s a really good thing.
Now, we`re being hindered by the Russian hoax, it`s a hoax, OK? I`ll tell you what Russia`s very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you. But I got along great with Putin, and everybody said, wow, that was a great -- that was great.
A couple of hours later, I started hearing these reports that, you know, they wanted me to walk up -- here`s a podium here, they wanted me to walk up and go like this. They wanted me to go up and have a boxing match. I said whatever happened to diplomacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a problem, which is that the Russians, according to all the investigators we got in this country, are still at it. They`re still poking around. So, they`re going after Claire McCaskill, Shaheen -- Jeanne Shaheen up in New Hampshire. They`re still at it. His -- all his top people came out tonight, Dan Coats, the head of the national intelligence, all said they`re up to it again and here he is saying we got no problem with Putin.
RUBIN: Right. You have John Bolton going out said, oh, yes, the president understands this, the president wants us to do everything he wants to.
The only problem is the president isn`t saying that. These guys are running their own foreign policy because they don`t agree with the president. The president is exercising no leadership and he`s telling you right there and then, he did not want to confront a power that is hostile to the United States. He`s confessed -- he`s a patsy. He doesn`t have the nerve to stand up to Putin in public, gosh. Imagine if Barack Obama said that.
MATTHEWS: You know, Clarence, you and I have covered this, and I`ve -- everything in politics and nothing like this. He has basically said I don`t care if the Supreme Court burns down to the ground. I don`t care if the press burns down to the ground. The Congress, the United States government every because as long as I`m still standing.
In terms of reputation, he`s willing to destroy everyone`s but his own.
PAGE: Yes, but he loses his Congress, that`s going to be a lot to lose. That`s his protection that`s the base of his power right now, and where he goes from here, that`s a very big question mark.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he knows all this?
PAGE: He knows that much. I mean, we picked that up in the second grade I would think, you know? But --
MATTHEWS: Well, Nixon, in the middle of the night he got reelected overwhelmingly with 60-some percent, he said to -- called some of his buddies had been in that back room when they`re sitting there listening to victory at sea, you know, he goes we`ve just lost the House again. We have lost the power of subpoena. They`re coming at me.
Nixon understood the power subpoena. You think Trump understands all this?
GIBSON: I think Trump understands that --
MATTHEWS: Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, all these guys are going to have the power of subpoena to bring anybody they want to get the truth out of them come next January 3rd.
GIBSON: He understands the House is the problem, except he just doesn`t agree with what they`re saying is his tactic and strategies to keep the House. He thinks the way to do it is to shut down the government and talk about immigration every day, and nobody over at Congress agrees with him, and that`s the real problem.
MATTHEWS: Well, the ones that in tricky seas like we know, Barbara Comstock across the river from here, says, I`m not shutting down the government.
RUBIN: Right, no matter how much he wants.
MATTHEWS: They want to hold on to their seats, not the wall.
RUBIN: That`s exactly right. The last thing they want is a big old fight about immigration and a wall that 60 percent of the American people disagree with. So, every time Donald Trump does that, their skin must crawl because the people back home are saying, why does that somebody stand up to this crazy guy? And even the Barbara Comstocks or the people in moderates wing states, they`re making a majority that basically this has been.
MATTHEWS: Exhibit A of the humiliation. Look, I don`t have a problem a lot of people politics. There`s a few people I got a problem with.
But Sarah Huckabee Sanders has a job to do. I don`t want it. I wouldn`t take that job but she`s got it. And today, she was asked by Jim Acosta of CNN, do you believe the press is the enemy of people? Do you? And she dodged. She dodged.
I looked at her and I said, this woman is very unhappy in the world. Her existential being right now has been forced to choose between her conscience and her job. Let`s watch it. Let`s watch that.
Jim Acosta asking Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this contentious --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It`s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attacked the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country. Repeatedly, repeatedly, the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger. The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration. And certainly, we have a role to play, but the media has a role to play for the discourse in this country as well.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN REPORTER: The president of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people. His own daughter acknowledges that and all I`m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here.
SANDERS: I appreciate your passion. I share it. I`ve addressed this question. I`ve addressed my personal feelings. I`m here to speak on behalf of the president. He`s made his comments clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHESWS: There she blew it. She blew it right there. Tonight, she could have said, I don`t think you`re the enemy the people.
Anyway, the president tonight blamed the press for bad coverage of his visit to the queen tonight. Let`s watch that from Wilkes-Barre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So, here was the story by the fake news. The president was 15 minutes late for the queen. Wrong.
And then here`s the rest of the story, now here`s the rest. Here`s the rest of the story. So, if they said I was late when I was actually early, number one.
Number two, I guess the meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes and it lasted for almost an hour. The president overstayed. So, I was late and I overstayed, and honestly folks, it was such a beautiful, beautiful visit, an afternoon. But they can make anything bad because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have no idea what he`s talking about and I`m not going to think about anymore.
The round table is sticking with us.
And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back with HARDBALL roundtable. And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
Ginger, tell me something I don`t know.
GIBSON: The fight between Trump and the Koch brothers continued to escalate today and we saw the chairwoman of the Republican Party criticizing the Kochs for putting business ahead of the party. This is a fight that could cost some Republican candidates real dollars in the November election.
MATTHEWS: So, the RNC siding with Trump over the Koch brothers?
MATTHEWS: Well, I can`t say I have a dog in that fight.
PAGE: It`s fun to watch.
Chris, we all know about the right to bear arms. How about the right to bear knives? For the last eight years in fact, at least there`s been cruising going on to try to get rid of knife control laws. Yesterday, August 1st, Tennessee became the -- I`m sorry, Louisiana became the 29th state to pass laws in their case legalizing switchblades and the -- and carrying them --
MATTHEWS: Why would people want switchblade?
PAGE: Certainly, some people want to carry a concealed carry for guns, you know?
RUBIN: Well, right now, having the warm-up act on the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. Right now, they`re fighting over the documents that should have come out according to Democrats from the Bush administration. Wait until they start demanding documents from the Federalist Society who hand-picked this guy and stuck them on a list.
And wait until they start making inquiries as I think they will that Donald Trump should not be picking the guy who`s going to rule on an ongoing federal prosecution.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see.
Thank you, Ginger Gibson, Clarence Page and Jennifer Rubin.
When we return let me finish the night with "Trump Watch". He won`t like this one. It`s a big one tonight I think. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Thursday, August 2nd, 2018.
President Trump`s behavior is increasingly growing frantic. I`m sure I`m not the only one to notice this. Each day, his actions are those of a man facing some unclear but imminent danger. There`s a sense of desperate nervousness about him as if the big wolf attack is coming and there`s nothing really he can do to stop it.
I said it`s because of his own attacks are now going in all directions. It`s a witch hunt that`s coming out and from the Justice Department special counsel. It`s the deep state that`s out to get them. It`s the fake media that`s advancing to report the verdict. He acts and speaks and tweets as if all the forces of nature and society are converging upon him.
What can a serious observer make up this weird behavior by the figure elected to head the country in 2016? Is it paranoia, as the man we see on camera in the Oval Office or tweeting so desperately at the crack of dawn lost touch with reality? Or is he finally after all these wild months realizing what he`s unleashed, that all the accepted measures of truth and justice are now aligning and to his near and present horror about the strike with a stark power he`s never before had to confront?
I suspect this for him is the stark and awful truth.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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