Trump silent on Russian interference. TRANSCRIPT: 08/03/2018. Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Jacob Soboroff, Mimi Rocah, Julia Ainsley, Erica Werner, Sahil Kapur, Jeremy Peters

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 3, 2018 Guest: Jacob Soboroff, Mimi Rocah, Julia Ainsley, Erica Werner, Sahil Kapur, Jeremy Peters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Home alone. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Well, he is elected to run the country, head the U.S. government and speak for the American people yet he gives the impression of a guy alone. Someone living remotely, even from his own staff, the very cabinet he appointed.

This is the world of Donald Trump. We know him from his tweets rather than executive leadership. Instead, as if he is living upstairs at the White House all alone tweeting from his bedroom while strangers run things down stairs and in the government agencies.

Good evening. I am Chris Matthews in Washington.

After months of inaction and equivocation his top officials gathered in front of the cameras yesterday, there they are, to issue a strong and unambiguous message. Russia is targeting the United States and our very democracy is at stake.

What appeared at for the first time in 19 months, the Trump administration was finally speaking with one voice. Well, actually, it is not. Just six hours after that press conference yesterday, President Trump preceded to undercut their warnings, calling it a hoax while bosting of his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. The dissidence, the distinction, the difference between the President and his administration couldn`t have been clearer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great meeting with Russia. Great meeting with Putin.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously.

TRUMP: Let me tell you. If I did go up and start screaming, they would have said, he was terrible.

COATS: The Russians have to stop doing what they are doing.

TRUMP: If I get along with Vladimir Putin, that`s a good thing, folks.

WRAY: This threat is not going away.

TRUMP: We got along really well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our democracy itself is in the cross hairs.

TRUMP: Now we are being hindered by the Russian hoax. It is a hoax.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: As NBC News points out the two events created a split screen effect. America`s intelligence experts warning voters that Russia is trying to undermine democracy. While Trump saying it is all political chicanery. And then again, highlighted the President is apparent of willingness to hold said Putin accountable for the cyber warfare that Russia launch the 2016 and continues to wage against our country.

And despite all the evidence of Russia`s influence campaign to help Trump, the President said that Putin was unhappy he won.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will tell you what? Russia is very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well that`s a far cry from what Putin himself said back in Helsinki last month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you direct any of your officials help him do that.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Because he talked about using the U.S./Russia relationship back to normal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now is Mieke Eoyang, national security director at Third Way. Michael Schmidt, a reporter for "The New York Times," Jonathan Lemire, a White House reporter for "The Associated Press" and Malcolm Nance, MSNBC analyst and author of "the Plot to destroy democracy."

First to the reporters, Michael and then John. What do we make of this? I mean, factually, this is not what is going on, this split screen?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I guess, they had no choice. They had to show that they were doing something because it left them exposed to these critics who says look, you are actually not doing anything. You are not taking this threat seriously. So by putting them out here, they have an official way by saying look, this is a real thing that is on our radar. The President obviously, still able to say what he wants despite that.

MATTHEWS: John -- Jonathan, the White House briefing room is to brief the country what the White House thinks, what the President thinks. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that very clear (INAUDIBLE). I speak here for the President. They arrange this press conference in the White House to speak for the White House. And it said we have a threat from the Russians. We have an attack from Russians in 2016. We are getting it again. And then the President goes out who is the President says no such thing, it`s a hoax.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, it is a remarkable split, Chris. Another example of the President versus the presidency where you did, you saw the show of forces in the briefing room yesterday. Finally, people say overdue show of force. They are trying to warn Americans about Russia`s continuing election interference and to just trying to outline some steps on how to stop that.

And just hours later, in the rally in Pennsylvania, I was there. The President made no mention of that whatsoever except to call it a hoax. And then instead, spent the majority of his time in that rally delivering a screed against the media, complains against the press, using fake news as a term not to say the story is not true, but simply use it as a blanket term for coverage he didn`t like. And in particular, on Russia, how the media covered to Helsinki summit which let`s remember, the President right then and there was given an opportunity to publicly with the world watching denounce what Russia did, to tell them not to do it again and he didn`t do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, who told those people, like the head of the national intelligence, Dan Coats or the CIA director, or the FBI director Wray, who told them to go in the White House press room, stand there with Sarah Huckabee, the President`s spokesperson and say the opposite of what the President said. Did he tell them to say the opposite? That the Russians really did screw with us in 2016, they are doing it again? Did he tell them to do that? Who did if it wasn`t the President.

LEMIRE: Nothing in the White House happens, of course, without the President giving OK to it. But what you are seeing here is he takes - you laid it out well at the beginning of the show here. He charts its own path. He goes alone. He is going to say what he feels whether it is on twitter or at a rally. And in terms of collusion, the idea of interference, I should say, he can`t separate the idea between the Mueller probe and the accusations of collusions and just that Moscow tried to interferon his behalf. And he thinks that given credence to that idea, giving credence to the idea that Russia was trying to interfere delegitimizes his victory and makes him an illegitimate president. And we see time and time again how that revs him up and how he unleashes. We saw last night at Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch one more time with Michael, "The New York Times." Did he tell those people to go into the White House pressroom and yes, stay and say the Russians did what they did? And then he announced they didn`t. I mean, this is wacky. And why don`t people see this is wacky.

SCHMIDT: I can`t believe that this is idea. I find it hard to believe that it was his idea. That would not be --.

MATTHEWS: Who is the grown-up that came over with the idea that briefing and stay --?

SCHMIDT: I think John Kelly. I mean, I think time and time it goes back to Kelly.

MATTHEWS: While U.S. officials, intelligence officials announced they are taking step to combat the threat of Russian interference, the President still appears unwilling to leave that effort which ultimately hinders our ability to tear Russian aggression. And cybersecurity experts telling "The New York Times" to deter Russian, Moscow needs to believe that the United States will impose costs beyond the sanctions already and other punishments that it has doled out. And that requires Mr. Trump to make clear, he will act against interference -- Mieke.

MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, THIRD WAY: So I think that when you after who is grown up in the room, what we saw yesterday it is the vice President who is actually still saying this is a threat and we need to do something. He is on a different page from the President. He is on the same page with the intelligence officials. So if anyone else who is saying hey, go into the room, we can see that. But at the same time, we are bleeding expertise in FBI on cybersecurity. They are walking out the door.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm, put it together. Have you ever seen a CEO who tells that one (INAUDIBLE) to put out officially and then delivers the (INAUDIBLE) within six hours in purpose?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, yes. And the last person that I saw do that was Saddam Hussein. He would always come out with these insane statements and that he would wait to see if his little (INAUDIBLE) would be backed up and try to get anyone who is in opposition.

I think what we saw here with Donald Trump is that he with Mike Pence just decided to stage of preempting village event and allow them to cover their butts, so to speak, by coming out and doing what Michael Kelly wanted to do which was to make a statement to the nation that they are on top of it.

I think he has no intention whatsoever of allowing them to go ay further than that press conference and the basic standards that each agency would do as a matter of course. I think like Michael said, that this gives him a measure of illegitimacy. If he recognizes any of this as decent or illegitimate.

MATTHEWS: Well, I would guess, and I wanted you to check me on this and then Mieke and everyone else. Vladimir Putin operates differently. Vladimir Putin wants his government to do something, they do it. And then they do it because he believes it. That is his message. So the Russians are sitting there watching this game. We are playing over here with the President says they did nothing is wrong and his people say, they did. And they are thinking, well, Trump is doing this by subterfuge. She really doesn`t want to cause trouble with me.

What does Putin make of all this? President Putin think wait a minute, what is going on here? They know we did it. They know we know that they know we did it. It is all public information now. Yet Trumps keeps saying Putting wouldn`t o something like that.

EOYONG: So, I would say on this that Putin didn`t get the gift he thought he was getting when he got Donald Trump as President. He thought he was going to turn this entire United States government to his will and what we have seen that the bureaucracy is resisting direction that is totally outside the norm of what the U.S. has historically done.

MATTHEWS: Michael --.

SCHMIDT: On the rhetoric --

MATTHEWS: As a journalist front paging it, how do we objectively describe this situation where the President is still, and he will do it again tomorrow in Ohio. He is on the road now with his show and his show says hoax.

SCHMIDT: Well, from the rhetoric, Putin could not be happier. But the problem with Trump has had the rhetoric was too pro-Russia that he has raised all these questions that almost undermine everything that is going on. And then when Trump wants to do things on Russia, there is deep skepticism of it. So he is playing too hard into it where if he was a little quieter and maybe more, you know, conniving or more slick, he could get more done in terms of what Russia actually wants.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, tell us about this. I know what an AP reporter does. You have to over everything that happens as it happens. These are the facts, you know. How do you cover tomorrow`s event in Ohio 12? When he goes in there to try to win that race for that Republican. And he says the same kind of denials and yet, you know, you check your notebook or read any newspaper or wire copies, he said -- his people were saying the opposite that there was Russian interference in our election and it continues to be so. And he goes out on the stump using air force one say, no, there isn`t.

LEMIRE: Right. Well, I will be there tomorrow in Ohio tomorrow, Chris. You are right. I mean, what we do is we cover him fairly, and honestly and factually base as we can. And while we are writing what he will say, we will fact check him. He may say that Russia didn`t want him to win, but as a few weeks ago, as an example, Vladimir Putin on stage in Helsinki said the exact opposite.

We have President Trump in a tweet saying the Russians might try to interfere to help the Democrats win this midterm. That goes against the all confusions of the intelligence services.

This is a unique moment, though, where we have the President and the rest of his administration on two separate pages. And this is something. We have seen it with other issues and particularly with Russia where President Trump is going to discharge his own course. And we are going to see him talk. And he will say what he wants to say whether it is on twitter or rally, even if flies in the face of the facts and even if he is opposed by members of his government.

MATTHEWS: Does everybody understand watching right now how crazy this is? I thought I knew politics. This is outlandish.

Anyway, to Jonathan`s point there, this comes after we saw the President do everything he could last month to muddy the water and distort the facts again about Russian interference. First there were the remarks in Helsinki which he will likely never let down. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this, I don`t see any reason why it would be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the very next day, as we are seeing in this split screen reality, when his hand was forced, President Trump still wouldn`t definitively say that Russia and Russia alone were responsible. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I accept the conclusion that Russia is meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A lot of people out there. And then he did it again a day later saying Russia was no longer targeting the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let`s go, make your way out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: No, he is shaking his head.

Malcolm, your thoughts? This is dizzying. And this is not opinion journalism. These are facts, the President saying one thing again and again in public to his crowd. His government with all their expertise and all their apparatus and intelligence information are saying the opposite. Russia did it. They are doing it.

NANCE: You know, it is not dizzying, it is exacerbating. When I swore an oath, uphold and protect and defend the constitution of the United States, I held it to bottom of my heart. I hold it today.

This is not a President who believes in that oath. He apparently has an oath or a debt to the President of Russia to the point where he will do and say anything to the detriment of this nation. I don`t think he was joking when he said that he thought the Russians would do something for Russia. In fact, it came off like he was issuing orders. And we know the Kremlin is following orders out of his mouth before. I think we are going to head into big trouble this election season. And I think if there is a blue wave, that the Russians are going to make sure the it looks like there was that link in order to discredit it or in fact, delegitimize it.

MATTHEWS: It would have been like catching Nixon in the middle of the night at the Watergate.

Thank you so much Mieke Eoyang, Michael Schmidt, Jonathan Lemire and Malcolm Nance.

Coming up, Paul Manafort his lavish coats are ostrich and python. But there is something phish someone might think about a guy who is broke. And then works in the Trump campaign for free. What is going on here with Manafort? And who is paying him?

Plus, why is the Trump White House asking the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, to clean up Trump`s mess over family separations.

Also, the HARDBALL roundtable tonight on the midterm and Trump, when he attacks the media like he did last night. Does that help the candidates?

And what about actual endorsements to the president, are they actually a blessing or a curse.

Well, finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He will not like tonight, but it is kind of funny.

This is HARDBALL, if you have a sort of sick humor, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Sources now tell NBC news that special counsel Mueller`s team has interviewed Kristin Davis also known the Manhattan Madame. Investigators are reportedly interested in Davis` ties to Roger Stone. There h e is. And she is known in a case they worked with, think about that phrase, for about a decade. This is the latest indications investigators are trying to build a case against Roget Stone about his possible contacts with WikiLeaks` founder Julian Assange during the campaign of 2016.

In his statement to NBC News Stone says that Davis knows nothing about alleged Russian collusion. Wikileaks collaboration or any other impropriety related to the 2016 election. Sounds like he is covering for her.

But we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The first week for the trial of President Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort wrapped today. Prosecutors have been digging into the financial dealings of the person who was Trump`s number one man during key parts of the 2016 campaign.

Paul Manafort is facing 18 counts of bank and tax fraud that pre-date his time on the campaign. These charges stem from his work overseas with clients that have direct tie to Russian president Putin and to the Russian bank former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych (ph) and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Well, a sales pitch to Deripaska, Manafort wrote in a 2005 memo, we are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government.

Well, this trial not prosecuting Russian meddling in the 2016 election, it is the first real test for Mueller.

For more, I am joined by Julia Ainsley, NBC News national security and justice reporter and Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.

Thank you both for joining us to put this together.

Just tell us about the trial today, Julia, and this weird thing about all these foreign accounts, and the wife and how Mrs. Manafort reacted, and his own accountant was surprised at all these accounts.

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I know.

I mean, in one sense, we thought today would be a drier day. We weren`t talking about ostrich jackets or the luxurious...

MATTHEWS: Python jackets.

(LAUGHTER)

AINSLEY: Yes, python as well. No one is talking about python.

Anyway, we thought it would be a drier day, considering you have two accountants who are testifying, but actually it really struck a nerve. And I think it really got to the meat of this case.

When the first tax preparer came on the standards -- that`s Philip Ayliff - - he said that he was told there were no foreign bank accounts. He didn`t know anything about Cyprus, didn`t know anything about where that income was coming from.

At that point, we saw Mrs. Kathleen Manafort dab her eye, and then she got up and left the room for about five minutes.

MATTHEWS: How did that strike you, that she was surprised to know he had all this money cached away, stashed away?

AINSLEY: Well, I think Ms. Manafort clearly knew. I mean, it was -- it was their joint tax returns.

I don`t think she was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Was it her husband`s denial of it that struck her?

AINSLEY: It was the fact that there -- that she knew that the prosecution was hitting on the right course, that this was going to be very hard for the defense to walk around.

And, in fact, we saw that. I mean, it was a really tough -- it was a tough obstacle for them to get over. I mean, so, basically, when they started cross-examining this guy, Philip Ayliff, the tax preparer, it was a short cross-examination.

And all they focused on was the fact of, didn`t you know? Weren`t there hints of foreign bank accounts? You knew he was getting money from foreign people. Weren`t there enough bread crumbs there? And the answer is really not.

And then we had an even more damning witness. We had Cindy LaPorta, who has immunity because she knowingly falsified these records. In 2014 and 2015, when the bottom was really falling out for the Manaforts and for the business, she knowingly falsified these documents. And she said she felt really disturbed about it.

I mean, I think she -- she felt personal anguish, and that really came across today.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of anguish, Mimi, what do you make of the fact that a guy who`s lost his empire, no more ostrich or python jackets, no more luxury lifestyle, which he was spending out the window there, all of a sudden he`s broke, and so he goes to work for Trump?

Does that to be like -- is that a rainmaking operation? He thought if he went to work for Trump, he would meet all kinds of new clients and open up the doors? I know action is always good. Or was he -- was -- somebody else was pushing him to go to Trump? What was the intrigue here, a broken guy going to work for free for Trump?

MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Right.

Well, it is intriguing, right? And, I mean, that -- this trial isn`t going to answer the question, but it certainly lays the base for the big question, which hopefully Mueller will answer for us at some point, which is, as you say, this was a desperate -- he was a desperate man.

He was broke. He goes to work for Trump, and he runs his campaign. And we know then that that campaign -- and we now know that campaign gets help from the Russians to help elect Trump, despite what Trump now says. That`s the fact.

And so when you put those pieces together, just those standing alone, I mean, you can draw real inferences from that, that Manafort was doing this with either the push or the promise or however you want to phrase it of Putin to get in that campaign, and then Putin would help, and he could be very much the -- he, Manafort, could be the link.

Now, we don`t -- we don`t -- and we don`t even know all of the evidence that Mueller has. There may be -- I think there is probably much more about that. But even if you just look at those facts alone, it`s a pretty compelling inference to draw. And that`s -- that`s what prosecutors do. They draw inferences, and then they look for the facts to see if they support that.

MATTHEWS: I want to stick on this for a moment, Julia, because you have been covering this case.

Is this just like six degrees of Kevin Bacon? I keep trying to figure out why -- why do they all know it? Why does Roger Stone get involved with Trump? We have got him all with the madams and -- the Manhattan Madam and all that stuff going, that sleazy stuff.

And then we have got Manafort. They were business partners. And Manafort had all these pro-Russian dealings in Ukraine. And Trump seems to have an affinity for Russia, whether it`s Miss Universes or whatever going on over there, and wanting to build hotels.

How did it all start, all this Russian mix?

AINSLEY: I mean, I think it started at different points for different characters.

MATTHEWS: Did the Russians come to him or did he go to the Russians?

AINSLEY: Different points for different characters.

But there`s a pattern here. I mean, we see a pattern just in the way Paul Manafort did business over these many years. And there are patterns in the way a lot of these men operated. These are people who had enormous amounts of money, wanted to maintain a certain lifestyle. There are plenty of parallels you can draw between Manafort and Trump.

MATTHEWS: And what did the Russians do for them? Cash?

AINSLEY: Well, they`re cash. They`re cash when American banks might not loan, especially during financial crisis.

And they are putting them in a place where they owe something. This is classic Russian...

MATTHEWS: OK. So, the Russians have a lot of money they want laundered. They want to get it out of the country into the West, where there is buying...

AINSLEY: And they`re buying influence. They`re buying influence over these people. They want to know that they will do their bidding, because they have something over them, whether that be blackmail on something sort of they did that they don`t want anyone to know about, or whether it`s money.

I mean, there are a lot of ways. And this is -- really comes from a classic Russian KGB playbook in some ways.

MATTHEWS: Manafort isn`t the only member, of course, of the Trump campaign potentially facing prison time.

All those who have been indicted or are cooperating with the Mueller investigates, including Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, could still face lots of jail time. There are numerous other people who are under scrutiny from the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, as I said, who could also face legal jeopardy.

Mimi, I just think it`s like this is the first round. It`s going to be a 10- or 15-round fight. It`s going to end up probably with Trump. My question is, well, how important is this first round?

ROCAH: I think it`s important, Chris, in large part because it is the first round.

So, as we were just saying, even though this isn`t directly about the Russian conspiracy, it lays the groundwork for something that I think could lead into that, namely, Manafort`s susceptibility to Russian pressure when he was running the campaign.

And, also, I think that, rightly or wrongly, Trump has made this -- well, wrongly -- Trump has made this about the prosecution, right? He`s put the prosecution on trial with the public.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ROCAH: And so, rightly or wrongly now, this going to be viewed as a thumbs up or thumbs down on Mueller`s investigation, even if it`s not about the Russian conspiracy, but how is he doing? How`s he doing as the special counsel?

And if a jury, which is a semi-official, basically, body gives the thumbs up in a conviction, I think that will at least quiet a little bit of the criticism. And you can be sure that, if for some reason, there`s an acquittal or a hung jury, it`s going to send the witch-hunt people into a frenzy.

I`m not saying I agree that all this should be a referendum. But I think that`s where we are.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

I agree that, if you want to call it a witch-hunt, you got to make sure that aren`t real convictions. With real convictions, it takes on reality, and reality bites.

Thank you, Julia Ainsley. Thank you, Mimi Rocah.

Up next: The Trump administration now wants the American Civil Liberties Union to take the lead on reuniting separated families under its zero tolerance policy.

So, why is the U.S. government, a Republican-led government, asking private groups, a liberal group, to clean up the mess they made? They used to hate the UCLA -- UCLA...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: The ACLU.

This is HARDBALL.

I keep thinking sports.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a big difference on issues. You see, last year, in the primary, he expressed his passion. He said, I am a strong liberal Democrat, August `87.

Then he said, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. That was what he said. He is out there on -- out of the mainstream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. .

That was then Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush criticizing his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, for being a -- quote -- "card- carrying member of the ACLU," card-carrying, a phrase that echoed condemnation of card-carrying members of the Communist Party during the McCarthy era. Of course, we all -- well, I remember it.

Well, today, our current Republican administration, led by the president, is asking the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, to do the government`s job for them.

In a court filing yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department argued that the ACLU, the same organization that Bush once attacked, is to use its -- quote -- "considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs and volunteers to help reunify parents separated from their children at the border."

The ACLU, which is representing migrant families, pushed back in a statement, noting: "The government appears to be taking the remarkable position that it is the job of private entities to find these parents," and pointing out that it was the government`s unconstitutional separation practice that led to this crisis in the first place.

Well, late this afternoon, the judge in this case, overseeing the case, rejected the administration`s proposal and said that reuniting the families was 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.

According to NBC News, out of the 2,550 children who were separated from their parents after crossing the border, more than 570, about one-fifth, are still in government custody.

Well, I`m joined right now by NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff.

Jacob, you`re on top of this. You`re there. Tell us about it.

The ACLU, I have to tell you, having lived through that campaign back in `88, when basically George Herbert Walker Bush accused Dukakis of being some sort of hopeless lefty because he dared to associate with the ACLU, which a lot of people on both sides of the aisle do respect, that organization, because it helps out people who aren`t too popular. And that`s the people that need help in our legal system.

But your thoughts about this new reliance of the Trump crowd on the ACLU?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It`s a bizarro, bizarro world, Chris.

And to watch that clip, I just -- you think about it. The Trump administration wants to put the ACLU at the center of this, not because they want to be buddies with the ACLU, but, frankly, because they have absolutely no plan to put these kids back with their parents.

We`re talking about the administration that separated today 2,551 kids from their parents down at the border in the systematic way. That had never been done before. I was on with you from down there. I saw those kids in the cages.

MATTHEWS: I know you were.

SOBOROFF: And I will never see anything like that again. And I don`t think many of us in our lifetime will see anything like that again.

And now the administration is saying, you know what, we separated them, but we don`t really know how to put them back together, so the organization that is suing us, we will just suggest, hey, why don`t you guys do, and we will -- we will be the supporting player?

And the judge said, absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: Well, I hear we got a pretty good line on the kids who are here, who were separated from their parents, who are in American foster homes or anywhere -- elsewhere.

But we have no line on those who were sent back, deported back to their countries of origin. And the question is, how would the ACLU be able to find those people down there any better than the U.S. government, which has embassies, consulates, diplomatic people all over those countries, and spies? We got everything down there in those countries.

They would seem to be better equipped than the ACLU, based here, to find those parents.

SOBOROFF: And, by the way, Chris, those are the vast majority of the kids that still aren`t reunited with their parents.

There`s 572 that still aren`t reunited; 410 of them, those parents were deported out of the country before they had a chance to be reunited with the parents.

So, the judge said today, why don`t you guys appoint somebody, government, one person, to run this whole operation? You`re the United States government.

This is the judge suggesting it. How about somebody from the State Department?

MATTHEWS: That`s interesting.

SOBOROFF: How about somebody from Health and Human Services? Maybe you guys team up, the both of you, to come up with a plan, actually, to go to the consulates, like you said, Chris?

It`s not like it`s complicated. It is a no-brainer. These people are going to go to the consulates, say, my children are still in the United States, I want to get back together with them. The rules are, I can`t come back to the United States, so figure out how to get my child, who is literally in the custody of the U.S. government, sitting in the country, back to me here.

It is a no-brainer. But the government shirked its responsibility, at least in that proposal. And the judge -- the judge just ripped right into them and said, this is not acceptable, this is unacceptable.

MATTHEWS: In the old days, the governments of the United States, the administrations, like Roosevelt`s, would find some business leader, someone who knew how to get things done.

It could be Bernard Baruch or somebody like that or -- and they would find one of these Lee Iacocca types and say, you`re pretty good at doing this, organization. Why don`t you do this, do some of your country for the next several months, and get this job done?

Why don`t they do that? Why doesn`t Trump find one of his smart business types who know how to get things done, and pick him for -- him or her for the job and say, here`s something you can do for your country in the next few months and for mankind?

SOBOROFF: Well, let me ask this.

Why didn`t they put somebody like that in charge of the policy in the first place when they started separating these children, so they knew where to find them at the end of the day when they decided they were going to reunite them with their parents?

I guess that the answer is, they never thought this through. They still obviously haven`t thought this through. On the first part of the reunifications, when they reunified about 1,800, they had this commander that was normally in charge of natural disasters come in and reunify the first group of kids that was sort of the low-hanging fruit, the ones that were easiest to pair back up with their parents, because they happened to still be here.

But now they`re left searching again for this leader to figure out who can put all these kids back together.

MATTHEWS: Jacob, you care. That`s good for us. Thank you -- and for the country. Thank you for caring about this project. It hasn`t been done yet -- Jacob Soboroff out in L.A.

Up next: President Trump laid into the media again last night at a campaign rally up in Pennsylvania in Wilkes-Barre. He`s doing a lot of these rallies. He`s not running the country. He is doing rallies during primary season.

But what will candidates still want his support when it comes the actual midterms? Come November, will they want this guy in town? I guess it depends.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. And the fake news refused used to call it, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump at that rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania last night. He was supposed to be boosting republican Congressman Lou Barletta`s Senate campaign, but instead he spent much of his time doing just that, bashing the fake news. Here is more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re doing better in all of or states than we did on election night. Despite all the negative stories from the fakers back there. And even these people back here -- these horrible, horrendous people, even these people back there say look it this -- it looks like the Academy Awards there are so many. Have you ever seen this many? But they can make anything bad because they are the fake, fake disgusting news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Look at those little kids who are just laughing at this educator-in-chief. For more on that HARDBALL Roundtable (ph) -- Erica Werner, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post", Sahil Kapur, national political reporter from Bloomberg and Jeremy Peters reporter for The New York Times." Jeremy, OK -- he does this, have you ever been to these things?

JEREMY PETERS, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Of course.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about them. What`s the feeling in the room? How`s it get voters out for him?

PETERS: It`s the same schtick every single time. He whips the crowd out in a frenzy saying fake news media, points at us, everyone in the crowd turns around and jeers. And frankly sometimes it`s quite chilling, like this is not a laughing matter because somebody is going to end up getting hurt. I`ve seen reporters have their laptop slammed down. Nothing has yet escalated to the point where somebody`s gotten physically injured, but this is the President of the United States calling journalists the enemy of the people -- using a Stalin, a choice phrase of Joseph Stalin to describe us. At like at what point do you just say enough, but he never does.

MATTHEWS: See I said the other night or (ph) Erica did -- Nixon was a little more careful, Nixon`s looking so careful now, he would just say they are our enemies, like they don`t like us. He didn`t say they were enemies of the people. He admitted it was an adversarial relationship. But he didn`t say they were evil.

ERICA WERNER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, well clearly turning all of his supporters against reporters. So it delegitimizes anything that we may report about him.

MATTHEWS: That is anticipatory? It seems like --

WERNER: I mean I think he himself has acknowledged that -- and as you indicated, he goes to these rallies, he`s supposed to be campaigning for a candidate for Senate in this case or a House candidate, barely mentions this person, talks about himself and attacks us.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: It is an applause line, Chris -- there`s not much more. There is no voter out there who thinks I`m going to show up and vote for Lou Barletto or Ron DeSantis because Trump is attacking the press. And there is no consistent standard that the president has for what fake news is. He calls networks like CNN fake news, but said warm things about Alex Jones, who has spread really malicious conspiracy theories that are fake by any standard. So his standard seems to be coverage he doesn`t like, coverage that`s critical of him is what he describes as fake news,

MATTHEWS: He also lies about ratings.

PETERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: He just says about ratings, "The New York Times" is doing great.

PETERS: He lies about his approval ratings all the time.

MATTHEWS: He says the dying "The New York Times", "The New York Times" hasn`t been so healthy in decades. Anyway in addition to last night`s rally in Pennsylvania, Trump was in Florida earlier this week in support of republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, he`s an upcoming republican primary running for governor. Anyway, tomorrow he will be in Ohio for Troy Balderson`s congressional special election campaign next week.

In Tennessee, republican Congresswoman Diane Black candidate, a candidate for governor there, ran in yesterday`s primary on her ties to Trump. Axios reports that President Trump`s endorsement of her is worth its weight in gold for republican candidates 2018. The only problem for Black is that she didn`t get it. Black only finished third in the race, making her the fifth House republican to lose the statewide race this year. Finally, well let`s talk about that -- is Trump`s endorsement worth it?

WERNER: Well it hasn`t always pulled the people who get it across the finish line. And while it helps people in primaries, we`re going to find out how -- whether it is useful in general elections. Like in Tennessee with Marsha Blackburn in the Senate race, she`s kind of in a box with Trump`s endorsement because she is tied with him like on tariffs which are unpopular in Tennessee. And makes it is difficult for her to do the straddle and win over the soft Trump voters.

MATTHEWS: Yeah and that is a conservative state, Sahil -- Tennessee, somebody I just talked to the other day. A lobbyist friend of mine, he said it is just as conservative as Texas and Blackburn should do well.

KAPUR: Right.

MATTHEWS: But you also have a former popular governor who`s a democrat, Bredesen running and it may be touchy on this big -- do you want to nationalize a race like that? If you`re her, if you`re Blackburn.

KAPUR: It entirely depends on the candidate you know, whether or not their endorsed by Trump and the strategy they`re running. If it is a base strategy, if you`re just trying to super charge the Trump voter and the republican voter and run a turnout campaign, then his endorsement helps as I think Marsha Blackburn is trying to do. Bredesen is trying to localize as much as possible -- re-emphasize his party label and talk about local issues. Now it may work for someone like Ron DeSantis who is bragging to voters that he teaches his kid in the crib to say bigly. That is the level of devotion he is providing. But for someone like Mike Coffman in Colorado or Carlos Curbelo in Florida? Trump`s endorsement is not going to help.

MATTHEWS: I like to pick at elections, Jeremy, I love picking winners. I wish we had a national sports book. So I always go by this. You know my thinking? I`m thinking if you want to make a picked predictions -- I don`t want to hurt any democrats or republicans. Who makes predictions? Look at red or blue. If it is a red state, Trump is going to get a -- really big support, big surprise. He is going to drive up that vote. He is going to put the name Trump on that ballot and it`s going to help that person win.

PETERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: They`ll see Trump when they`re there. Yet in the blue states, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, places that I know pretty well? He`ll stay the way a hell (ph) because -

(CROSSTALK)

PETERS: The fact of the matter is republicans are quietly talking about the missing Trump voter. The people who showed up in 2016 and voted for him who have not been showing up in these special elections. And further, so -- I mean your point is good, but Trump doesn`t always help him in these red districts. Look what happens in Pennsylvania `18 with Conor Lamb, Trump showed up. I mean the republican candidate was pretty lousy in the first place, but Trump showed up. It actually energized the democrats more. They came out and voted.

MATTHEWS: Conor Lamb`s a hell of a candidate.

PETERS: He`s a hell of a candidate, but Trump`s presence there jazzed them up.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, finally speaking of a special election (ph), that`s the 12th, that`s coming up the 12th. Trump weighed in on Twitter yesterday, but there was one problem, Politico reports he urged voters to get out and vote next Tuesday, noting that Trump tweeted that Representative Steve Stivers, who is leading House republicans` efforts to keep the chamber in this fall`s midterm election has earned his full and total support. But Stivers won his primary on a post (ph) in May and he won`t he even face voters until November`s general election. If Trump had his wrong (ph) homework here, the tweet was deleted and replaced with a new tweet touting Troy Balderson, the candidate who is actually on Tuesday`s ballot and who Trump is campaigning for this weekend. All right Erica, he`s not getting his homework done here.

WERNER: I mean what can you say?

WERNER: Apparently, he was confused -- or someone was confused.

KAPUR: Oops.

WERNER: But the outcome of this election is going to be really interesting, it`s the last special before the general.

MATTHEWS: Who wins, Balderson or O`Connor?

KAPUR: It is a very tight race, Chris. The margin is going to matter more than ultimately who comes out ahead. If democrats win, it`s panic time for republicans. This is a republican plus seven districts. It`s exactly the kind of district that if democrats win, it will portend a blue wave. This is a district that republicans have held for three dozen years.

MATTHEWS: Is he being careful, Jeremy?

PETERS: He is.

MATTHEWS: Trump`s picking a likely winner with Balderson, isn`t he?

PETERS: Well, he is. That`s what he always does, right? He looks polls and his people tell him yeah you`re safe to go -- this one, I`m not so sure. What is interesting to me is the way Balderson has kept his distance from Trump. If you look at his ads, this is not like the rest of the republican ads that we`ve seen this cycle because this is a general, or (ph) not a primary. But the republican primary, as one smart strategist told me the other day, is like if it were a Broadway show, it would be sung in the key of Trump. All of these candidates running ads, giving speeches --

MATTHEWS: OK.

PETERS: -- they`re trying to tether themselves to Trump. Balderson has not done that, his ads are about Medicare and bi-partisanship

KAPUR: And his ads are for education (ph)

MATTHEWS: I think the democrats will win, but we gotta to win over thirty seats this fall. We`ll see. I think they`re going to lose a few Senate seats. One or two, I think they`re going to win over thirty in the House. We`ll see. I keep looking at these numbers. The roundtable`s sticking with us; up next -- these three will tell me something I don`t know. You are watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll maybe this is just an author trying to sell books, but former White House aide and reality TV star Omarosa`s making explosive allegations in a new tell-all coming out later this month. In an excerpt of the book obtained by The Daily Mail, Omarosa says she felt something wasn`t right with Donald Trump during his now infamous interview with NBC`s Lester Holt. Quote while watching the interview I realized something real and serious was going on in Donald`s brain she writes. His mental decline could not be denied. Omarosa will be our guest here on HARDBALL August 13, that`s week from Monday. You will not want to miss that baby. We`ll be right back.

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MATTHEWS: We`re back with our Roundtable, tell me something I don`t know, Erica?

WERNER: From yesterday`s primary in Tennessee, an interesting republican candidate emerged in the second congressional district. His name is Tim Burchett, he`s an organic gardener who makes his own skateboard out of bamboo that he harvests from a nearby synagogue with the Rabi`s permission, according to "The Wall Street Journal."

MATTHEWS: Wow. Kosher skateboards, just kidding.

WERNER: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: I`m just kidding. Go ahead, Sahil.

KAPUR: Chris, the democratic group Majority Forward is attempting to mimic a strategy from the Alabama Senate race by spending $24 million just on turnout in the key starts of Arizona, Missouri, Tennessee and Indiana. These states will determine the balance of what happens in the Senate, who controls the majority. These are states where democrats have been decimated over the last decade. They`ll need a lot of money on the ground, they`ll need a lot of luck to pull it off and this is how they`re going to try.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be so tough in some of those races. Jeremy?

PETERS: Consider this is a sign of how spooked the republicans are and the White House is that they could lose the House of Representatives in the fall. The talk of the shutdown that Trump was putting out there this week was a bit of a trial run (ph) to see how people would respond to it. This is why you saw him go on Rush Limbaugh, talk about it, he was talking directly to his base because they want to see if this is going to be the type of thing that gets them going ahead of November.

MATTHEWS: What`s the verdict?

PETERS: Well, Hannity likes it and in Trump`s mind, that might just be enough.

MATTHEWS: Well if you are the governing party, you ought to govern.

PETERS: Yeah, well --

MATTHEWS: I think Barbara Comstock is a pretty good leading indicator. Around here and northern Virginia, does not want a government shutdown, but she does want to keep her seat in the House. Thank you. Erica Werner, Sahil Kapur, and Jeremy Peters. When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You won`t like this one. But it will be worth watching for those who are thinking. You`re watching HARDBALL.

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MATTHEWS: Trump Watch Friday August 3rd, 2018. Donald Trump once famously said, the suspected Russia hacking into the Democratic National Committee in 2016 "could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds". Well such a description would be a better match for Trump`s own tweeting this week. It`s as if the person doing it has no connection to the outside world, much less the intelligence and security apparatus and of course expertise of the United States government. Trump, the tweeter calls the Russian effort to disrupt and discredit the American electoral system a hoax. Yet his government says that Moscow`s effort was not only real but ongoing to this day.

Reading Trump tweets you get the idea that they`re coming from a man alone, one totally unmoored by either sources of information or even human contact. It`s as if the person tweeting lives entirely alone, derives his thinking, his entire sense of reality from his own peculiar sources much like that 400-pound somebody, unable to even get up, leave the bed, and come out and contact with the world.

Well certainly this is bizarre. It`s the president of course. We have a president sending signals as if he is alone on the planet, distant from his cabinet, his staff, the top intelligence and security officials of the U.S. government. As Walter Cronkite once said, that`s the way it is. This Friday evening, August 3, 2018. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts right now.

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