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Trump denies knowing about Cohen hush money, TRANSCRIPT: 8/23/2018, Hardball w Chris Matthews.

Guests: Greg Brower, Eli Stokols, Richard Blumenthal, Peter Baker, Zerlina Maxwell, Katty Kay

Show: HARDBALL Date: August 23, 2018 Guest: Greg Brower, Eli Stokols, Richard Blumenthal, Peter Baker, Zerlina Maxwell, Katty Kay

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.

Don`t do the crime if you can`t do the time. Didn`t the people around Donald Trump pay attention to that old crime show warning? Didn`t they know that if you committed federal crimes, you could be squeezed by federal prosecutors to rat? Didn`t Donald Trump know that if he did business with such people that he, Donald Trump, would end up being the fall guy? Which gets us to the president`s predicament this Thursday evening.

The poet John Donne once wrote, "No man is an island." No man except, increasingly now, President Donald Trump. The acceleration of his own legal exposure is leaving him isolated. His former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, is now convicted of financial crimes. His former fixer/lawyer, Michael Cohen, has pled guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance violations, which he says were directed by the president itself. It would now appear the waters around Trump`s island are rising fast.

That sentiment is evident in a new cover of Time magazine just out, showing the Oval Office submerged - look at it there - reading simply, "In Deep." As Trump struggles to stay afloat, the New York Times reports today that, "People who have known Mr. Trump for years pointed out the he has never been as cornered - or as isolated - as he is right now, and that he is at the most volatile when he feels backed against the wall."

Well, that volatility was clear in a message that Trump tweeted just after 1 o`clock this morning, writing, in capital letters, "NO COLLUSION - RIGGED WITCH HUNT!" It was also evident in his first television interview since two of his close associates became convicted felons. He attacked the plea deal Cohen reached with federal prosecutors.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This whole thing about flipping, they call it. I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I`ve been watching flippers. It almost ought to be outlawed. It`s not fair, that you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you`ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.

In all fairness to him, most people are going to do that, and I`ve seen it many times. I`ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It`s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump also denied Cohen`s claim that he directed two hush money payments. Trump said they didn`t come from his campaign while seemingly confessing to a campaign violation in the process.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS REPORTER: Did you know about the payment?

TRUMP: Later on I knew, later on. But you have to understand, these are - what he did and they were taken out of campaign finance, that`s the big thing. That`s a much bigger thing, did they come out of the campaign? They didn`t come out of the campaign. They came from me, and I tweeted about it. You know, I put - I don`t know if you know, but I tweeted about the payments. But they didn`t come out of campaign.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump also returned to his long-time punching bag, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


TRUMP: I put in an Attorney General that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department. Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should`ve told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn`t have put him in. He took the job, and then he said, "I`m going to recuse myself." I said, "What kind of a man is this?"

And by the way, he was on the campaign. You know, the only reason I gave him the job was I felt loyalty.


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal; Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York `Times; and Zerlina Maxwell, who`s director of the progressive programming for Sirius/XM Radio. Let me start with Peter Baker about the president`s mindset right now.

What is your reporting about - he`s up at 1 o`clock in the morning tweeting in capital letters all this stuff. It seems to me odd for any grown-up. I mean, he`s in his 70s, he`s up at 1 o`clock in the morning, out there tweeting in capital letters. To whom? Who`s he talking to, and why at that time of the morning?

PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no, it absolutely invokes the memories of Nixon during Watergate talking to the paintings. Right? You know, a president sort of caught alone in his house late at night, stewing over the troubles that are besetting - that have beset him, wondering what way out?

You know, it`s very evocative, and it does suggest somebody who is stewing and very consumed with the troubles that are inflicting the people around him and then really kind of the walls closing in on him. It`s - someday there will be tell-all book that will give us a little bit of a better picture of last night. Last night could be the opening scene of the book. It sounds very, very dramatic.

MATTHEWS: What do you - while you`re on this, Peter, I want to get your thinking about what his biggest fear right now, because is it sort of just a sense that everyone around him he had done business with? These interesting characters that all are not unfamiliar with people who are flipping all the time. I mean, that`s an amazing announcement by the president, he knows all these people who flipped to save themselves before federal charges or state charges. He knows people like this. He does business with people like this. I`m going to get to this the rest of the show.

Why does he pick people like Cohen to do business with? People like Manafort to do business with? They`re flippable because they`ve all been vulnerable to federal charges that they would be forced to deal with and go after him. He had something, the fall guy.

BAKER: Yes, absolutely. You know, he promised he would have only the best people around him, and, you know, so far we`ve seen, what, seven, I think, convictions and guilty pleas so far among people who were pretty important to him. Michael Cohen was not just sort of a random person plucked off the street, not a coffee boy as they dismissed Papadopoulos. This is somebody who worked with him for years. Paul Manafort was put in charge of this campaign. Michael Flynn was his national security adviser.

These are really important figures in this, and if they implicate him, the president, directly - Michael Cohen does. Most of us don`t, but we don`t know what Robert Mueller knows, and that`s the really interesting thing. We heard today that David Pecker, the head of the American media conglomerate that owns the National Inquirer, is now cooperating on an immunity deal with the prosecutors. That`s part of the scheme that had been put in place to kill stories about women who were claiming affairs with the president before the election. So, the president - the prosecutors now have testimony, presumably, from him about how that worked. So, the president`s sitting there at 1 o`clock in the morning, watching all of these pieces fall in the wall that he`s surrounded himself with.

MATTHEWS: Then at 1 o`clock in the morning he`s still cursing Jeff Sessions, the AG that doesn`t play ball with him, anyway. Sessions pushed back today on the president`s latest attacks on him, among them that he didn`t take control of the Justice Department. Sessions wrote, "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had an unprecedented success at effectuating the President`s agenda...While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

But South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham told reporters today he expects Trump will fire Sessions after this fall`s midterm elections. Let`s watch this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC: The president`s entitled to an Attorney General he has faith in, somebody that`s qualified for the job. Certainly Attorney General Sessions doesn`t have the confidence of the president, and all I can say is that I have a lot of respect for the Attorney General, but that`s an important office in the country. And there - after the election, I think there will be some serious discussions about a new Attorney General.


MATTHEWS: Well, there seems to be, Senator Blumenthal, that that`s an agreed-upon time for a Saturday night massacre. In other words, we`re going to get rid of this prosecution by getting rid of the Attorney General who will then grab charge of it all. And that person, whether it`s Rudy Giuliani, whoever I foist in there, is going to do what I want. I`ll be free.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CT: That knocking sound you hear is the special counsel at the White House door. The White House is looking increasingly like a criminal enterprise, and of course the president is flailing and failing. And that`s why there is this talk about firing the Attorney General, which would be a path and prelude to firing the special counsel, but equally threatening to fire the deputy Attorney General, who ultimately right now is responsible for this investigation. And that John Donne poem that you began with?

MATTHEWS: Yeah, "No man is an island."

BLUMENTHAL: "No man is an island," ends with the call that the bell tolls for thee. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." It tolls for my Republican colleagues to stand up and shake themselves out of this moral stupor and abandon the purposeful inertia that is giving the president solace as he goes down this increasingly belligerent and bullying and unhinged path.

MATTHEWS: Zerlina, we have two political parties. I know you`re not formally associated with the Democratic Party, you`re not here to speak for them, but we`ve got two political parties, and one is not talking. The Republican Party. They`re saying nothing. In fact, Lindsey Graham is basically enabling this president to fire this AG and get control of the operation. The president said, "I could take control of the prosecution of me." He said that just this week.

What are the Democrats going to do? Should they be talking impeachment now, finally, after all this action of this week?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS/XM DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: If you had asked me that a few months back, Chris, I would have said no. The Democrats should hold off on talking about impeachment because we need to see all of the facts. And I still think that we need to see all of the facts, but I think Tuesday changed things fundamentally in this country.

The president was implicated directly in a criminal conspiracy, in court, under oath, and that is something that has never happened before in this country in terms of a crime that goes to the eligibility - excuse me, the legitimacy of his election. Right into the core of his election. It`s something that made it more possible for him to be elected by hiding salacious details about alleged affairs.

And so, I think that Democrats can start talking about impeachment. Not saying that we should just remove the president without going through the full two-step process, right? But I think that, if now is when we can`t talk about impeachment, when can we talk about impeachment? The president was implicated in a crime, and I can`t imagine a scenario that is - could be any more right for a serious discussion by responsible adults. That`s exactly what the framers would have wanted.

MATTHEWS: Tough question, senator. Is committing of a felony grounds for impeachment? In this case, the felony being what he`s accused of doing by his lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen?

BLUMENTHAL: Here`s what we know very certainly, that he has been implicated as an unindicted co-conspirator in a crime that involves corrupting his own election. And all the remedies, and I stress all the remedies, ought to be on the table. And we need to know those additional facts. As a prosecutor, I want to know facts so I can charge the strongest offenses with the best evidence, and then seek the best remedies. And they ought to include...

MATTHEWS: But if this crime is proven, is that enough? What he did with the money and the payoffs?

BLUMENTHAL: There may be enough. There may well be enough, but the facts may establish even more serious felonies, like collusion with Russia, like obstruction of justice. And they ought to be part of whatever the remedies and the charges are.

And, by the way, those remedies and charges are to include indictment of the president. I`ve said before to you that indictment is legally possible. In my view there`s a controversy or question about it. I believe a trial could be postponed until after he leaves office.

MATTHEWS: Well, in this Fox News interview, Trump warned there would be consequences if he were ever impeached. This is airing last night, of course.


TRUMP: If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see - you would see numbers that you wouldn`t believe, in reverse.


MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also weighed in on that today. Let`s listen to that.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think impeachment would be totally horrible. I mean, there is no reason. He didn`t collude with the Russians. He didn`t obstruct justice. Everything Cohen says has been disproved. You`d only impeach him for political reasons, and the American people would revolt against that.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Rudy Giuliani over in Ireland with that observation, I should say from overseas. Peter, let me - I`m being a little sarcastic here. What do you make of the president saying that after him, the deluge, it sounds like de Gaulle or Louis XVI talking here. The deluge is coming (INAUDIBLE). The deluge, it`s all coming. The market will die, people will starve, the world will end. This is the President of the United States, assumingly of sound mind, talking like this.

BAKER: Well, he`s trying to motivate, of course, his supporters to stick by him through all this. His supporters are reading the papers and watching television seeing some pretty troubling details coming out, very troubling developments.

So he`s trying to suggest to them, look, I`m somebody who has given something to you, to this part of this country. I`m making the economy strong, I`m making the stock market strong. If they get rid of me, "they" being the "deep state" that he`s talked about, then there`s consequences for you. So, you have a reason to come out this fall in these midterm elections to stop them from doing it. But you know, it`s really a fascinating strategy on his part, because he`s not really defending himself on the facts of the case here.


BAKER: He`s not really suggesting that what he did was OK, and that, you know, silencing women before the election was, you know, a perfectly acceptable standard of campaigning, much less a legal standard. But he`s trying to say, you know, I`m the only person holding this together at this point, which is a rather extraordinary statement.

MATTHEWS: The message from the president: I`m too big to fail. I`m too big to fail. Unbelievable in a democracy. Thank you.

What, is Mike Pence going to destroy his tax program? Is Mike Pence going to bring back regulation of the environment? I mean, it`s crazy.

Anyway, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for your patience here today. Peter Baker, your reporting. Zerlina, thanks for your passion on these issues.

Coming up, why did President Trump`s fixer, Michael Cohen, turn on his own boss? What turned him? What does he actually have on the president he can use to save himself?

And that late-breaking story today on the safe they have over at the National Inquirer that holds damaging documents about Trump, including hush money payments. They just found out this safe over there at the National Inquirer. That`s front page National Inquirer stuff!

Plus, Trump reportedly asked his lawyers about pardoning his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, who was found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud this week. We`re learning more and more about the drama that unfolded in the jury room, by the way. Only apparently one holdout on those other ten counts. Only one holdout, or they would have got him on all eighteen.

Anyway, Trump`s evolving story, by the way, on Stormy Daniels. The Washington Post fact-checker says the president`s initial statement was not misleading, but false. It was a lie, in fact.

Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. This is "Hardball," where the action is.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."

As the president continues to grapple with the news that his one-time fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, has turned on him, he`s been dealt another significant blow. The president`s close, personal friend, David Pecker, chief executive of the company that publishes the National Inquirer, cut an immunity deal in order to provide evidence against Michael Cohen and President Trump. That`s done now, brand-new. A person close to the president told Vanity Fair magazine, quote, "I thought Pecker would be the last one to turn." Et tu, Brutus?

AMI, the parent company of the National Inquirer, coordinated with Michael Cohen to pay off former Playboy model Karen McDougal. And late today, the Associated Press reported that the National Inquirer kept a safe containing documents on hush money payments and other damaging stories it killed as part of its cozy relationship with Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Throughout the campaign, AMI would act as the de facto PR wing of the Trump campaign, promoting the candidate and savaging his opponents.

That`s Hillary Clinton, a lot of that stuff that was done. So, meanwhile, advisers to President Trump admitted to "The New York Times" that there was no strategy for countering news related to Michael Cohen`s bombshell.

Cohen`s evolution, by the way, represented a rapid disintegration of a decade-long relationship between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.

According to reporting by Emily Jane Fox in "Vanity Fair," Michael Cohen -- quote -- "felt he was being hung out to dry by the president and those around him, that he was strapped for cash, that he was willing to do whatever it took to protect his family."

Emily joins us now. And, also, Greg Brower is a former U.S. attorney.

Thank you both for joining us.

Emily, give us a sense. I have watched this guy. I have watched -- I have watched him being portrayed on "Saturday Night Live." I have watched this personality of the guy. He sounds like a terrible bully of a guy when you listen to the recordings, and yet he looks more sympathetic when he`s walking in and out of the courtroom.

Tell us about what made this guy turn, Michael Cohen.

EMILY JANE FOX, "VANITY FAIR": I think that there were a couple of moments after prosecutors came in and seized documents from his hotel room and in his apartment and his office in April where he realized that what he had seen President Trump do to people in his orbit over the year -- over the years working for the Trump Organization, and that is turn his back on people close to him if it meant saving himself, was happening to him at that moment.

There was the first initial interview that President Trump did on "FOX & Friends" this spring, in which he said, Michael Cohen really only did a fraction of my legal work. That moment was a moment where Michael Cohen realized, oh, maybe he`s throwing me under the bus.

There were several interviews that Rudy Giuliani did on television where he realized, that`s not Rudy just saying things for the sake of saying things. These are things that are coordinated with the president and other people who are close to the president.

And so there was a long buildup where he realized that he wasn`t this valued member of the Trump team, that the Trump team was actually turning their back on Michael Cohen. And it was a slow build, where he realized that, as his case got more serious, as prosecutors were diligently working away, and lawyers were explaining to him that he was going to be potentially in a lot of trouble, where he thought, I`m not going to stand by and protect this man and be loyal to this man who is very clearly not going to protect and be loyal to me back.

And that`s really what we saw build. Last week, it kind of came to a head. It was the first time, from my reporting, that Michael Cohen was actually approached by a prosecutor, and on a very short timetable and over the weekend, a deal for him to plead guilty came together.

And at that point, he was ready to just do whatever it took to save him financially and to save his family as much pain as he could possibly save them.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Greg on this.

I came out of politics for years. And loyalty was the essence of everything. You would never rat on your boss. I mean, in my case, they never committed any crimes. But you had a tremendous sense of loyalty every day to this person. That`s the way it worked. That was the honor of our work.

And you watch mob movies, there`s that sort of omerta there in the mob. You look out for your -- the capo or whatever it is. It didn`t seem like there was honor listed among the requirements of working with this president.


MATTHEWS: There`s no culture of honor that I can sense here.

BROWER: Well, I think -- I think Emily`s right.

For Cohen in particular, I think the realization that he was in a lot of trouble and facing some significant prison time, potentially, along with the fact that he started to think, as all of us kind of watched, that the president wasn`t necessarily going to be as loyal to him as he thought he should be to the president...

MATTHEWS: Didn`t he seem like he turned on him early?

I mean, I mean, he started, as Emily was saying there, disowning him, only a little bit of my legal work.


MATTHEWS: Like the same thing he did with Manafort. Oh, he was only with me a few minutes. I don`t really know the guy.

BROWER: Right.

Yes, I think, for Cohen, that didn`t sit well with him. And so -- and we see the result of that. He`s now feeling as though he doesn`t need to reciprocate in terms of the loyalty.

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump and Michael Cohen`s relationship goes back years, in fact, a decade -- a decade, in fact, but the friendship seemed to have taken a turn, as we have heard, after federal prosecutors raided Cohen`s office, his hotel, and his home, everything.

Let`s take a look at that event.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man, and it`s a disgraceful situation.

I always liked Michael. I haven`t spoken to Michael in a long time.

QUESTION: Is he still your lawyer?

TRUMP: No, he`s not my lawyer, but -- anymore.

QUESTION: Your personal lawyer? Not anymore?

TRUMP: But I always liked Michael.

Well, he was a lawyer for me for -- one of many. You know, they always say the lawyer, and then they like to add the fixer.

Well, I don`t know if he was a fixer. I don`t know where that term came from. But he`s been a lawyer for me. Didn`t do big deals. Did small deals. Not somebody that was with me that much. You know, they make it sound like I didn`t live without him. I understood Michael Cohen very well.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Emily.

He wasn`t my fixer. I think we all know where the word fixer came from, because we know the episodes, looking out for him to keep things quiet that would otherwise destroy marriages, destroy elections.

FOX: Yes.

I mean, this was a man who handled his problems. It`s possibly true that President Trump never referred to him as his fixer, but the very definition of what a fixer did -- does is what Michael Cohen had done for more than a decade. So, it doesn`t really matter who came up with the term.

And it`s also a little bit funny for the president to say, he was one of many lawyers, and I barely saw the guy.

It`s true that the Trump Organization does have many lawyers, and President Trump does have other outside attorneys, but Michael Cohen`s office was right next to him in the Trump Organization. We all heard the conversation from the tape that Cohen`s attorneys released earlier this month.

It sounded like a very familiar conversation between the two men. So whether you believe the president and what he is saying or Michael Cohen and what he is saying, we have all heard with our own ears that there was a very familiar back and forth that sounded like the kind of conversation.


FOX: It didn`t happen once every so often. It sounded like the kind of conversation that happened every day, if not every couple of days.

There was definitely familiarity.

MATTHEWS: Emily, this is personal. This is personal.

I look at this guy walking around, he seems like a sympathetic figure. He doesn`t look like a bad guy. He looks like sort of Tony Curtis, the former actor, the late actor.

I don`t think I got anything against him. And yet, when you listen to the tapes, he sounds like a mobster. The guy sounds like he`s using muscle with people, really scaring them, frightening people to death.

So who is he? Is he the guy on the tape or is the guy we see looking somewhat sympathetic in and out of the courthouse?

Who is he?

FOX: Look, I think he`s a -- he`s a complicated guy. I think a lot of people have different facets to their personality.

There is undoubtedly a side to Michael Cohen that is -- he`s a bully. He is someone who has not treated reporters particularly well. He has been sort of playing this role as a fixer for many years. But I have interviewed him many times. I have seen the way that he interacts with his family.

I have seen the way he interacts with people on the street and in restaurants. And so there is a side to him that is different than the one that we have heard on recordings of him.

I think he`s a complicated man who has different sides. Right now, I can tell you from my reporting -- I have spoken to him this week -- he`s someone with -- who is grappling with what he just pleaded guilty to, who is someone who is very concerned about his family, and understands, is starting to understand the gravity of what he`s facing going forward.

MATTHEWS: Greg, last question.

As a lawyer and as a prosecutor, does it matter -- I have been reading a lot about this case. Does it matter that he knew or didn`t know he was breaking the law on all this stuff, this complicated thing with the campaign finance laws and whether he was covering it up, or it`s actually is a campaign contribution in kind, or it`s just a cover-up in a marital situation?

Did he -- does a guy like that have to know that it`s a law?

BROWER: Well, I think it`s going to turn out that he did know that this was a criminal scheme, and that he knew exactly what he was doing or trying to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what he`s admitted to.

BROWER: And it sounds like he`s going to come clean with all of that.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Greg. We will have more time next time.

Greg Brower, thank you. Emily Jane Fox, unique -- unique reporting ability from you today. We really appreciate you coming on.

Up next: One of the jurors on the Paul Manafort case has come out. I love the fact this wonderful woman, Paula Duncan, has come out and told us what really happened, the surprising things that were said during the deliberations.

One holdout out of 12, one that refused to see the case, at least the way we all saw it.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.



AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Are you considering pardoning Paul Manafort?

TRUMP: I have great respect for what he`s done in terms of what he`s gone through. He worked for Ronald Reagan for years. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked -- I guess his firm worked for McCain.

He worked for many, many people many, many years. And I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.



Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump dodging a question on whether he would pardon his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was found guilty this week of eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges.

The president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told "The Washington Post" that Trump discussed the possibility of pardoning Manafort with his lawyers several weeks ago, and that they "counseled the president against the idea party anyone linked to the investigation into Russia`s interference in the 2016 election, according Giuliani, saying Trump should at least wait until special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his probe."

Well, Giuliani added, "The president agreed and did not push the issue further."

For more, I`m joined by Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for "The L.A. Times."

Thank you, Eli, on this.

And let`s get into the -- first of all, let`s talk about the fact of what we know about the Manafort jury -- Manafort jury, that this woman was wonderful, I thought. I heard her on FOX last night, Paula Duncan. She`s very smart about how she played it out. She seemed like the kind of reasonable juror you like to have on any jury to get the truth.

And then she pointed out -- one of those jurors. She spoke out last night. Let`s watch her.


QUESTION: How close, I want to know, did this jury come to convicting Paul Manafort on all 18 counts?

PAULA DUNCAN, PAUL MANAFORT JUROR: By one. There was one holdout.

QUESTION: So, you all agreed on the eight counts. The 10 others, there was one person who kept you from making that next step?

DUNCAN: That is correct, yes.

QUESTION: What was their reasoning, if they shared with you?

DUNCAN: Reasonable doubt.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what -- I guess reasonable doubt could be a mind- set, a person who is just not comfortable making a big decision like this on someone`s life.

But what does this tell us about the prosecutor? It seems to me it tells us that they`re going to go ahead with the prosecution of all these other counts in D.C., where there will probably be a tougher jury facing someone like -- a big shot like Manafort, and they`re going to get -- probably have a better shot there to even get all 18 or 25, whatever they`re pushing this time.

ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes, I don`t want to speculate on what it was for that one juror that held them up.

But if you listened to the whole interview, and what she said, a couple things stood out, one, her honesty about saying, hey, I`m a Republican, I got a make America great hat in my car.

MATTHEWS: That woman talking there.

STOKOLS: That`s what she said.

And she said, I wanted Manafort -- she`s aware of the context. She knows who these people are. And she came in saying she wanted him to be innocent, but the evidence was overwhelming.

And if the evidence was enough for 11 out of 12 people to want to convict on all 18 counts, it tells you something about the evidence.

It also struck me what she said about Rick Gates` testimony and how most people on the jury, the jury as a whole didn`t find him to be very credible. That is instructive for the government in terms of what they get out of putting Gates on the stand, and the idea that, as the president has told people over and over again, that people who flip are just, in his words, making stuff up.

Whether or not they`re making things up about him or not, the idea that they`re working with the government, to at least some people on this jury, made Gates seem less than credible.

MATTHEWS: Well, now he`s facing another trial, Manafort, in D.C., probably a more liberal, more difficult lawyer -- jury for a Republican like him, a big shot, a lobbyist, not a great word.

What does that say about a possible pardon? I mean, it looks like this guy is going to be facing a lot of time coming out of the next trial.

STOKOLS: Well, he`s 69 right now. So forget the next trial.

The trial that was just concluded, if he gets the minimum range, he is looking at 10 years. So chances are, this guy is going to do a lot of time. And I think, talking to our reporters who have been covering the trial, talking with the Manafort attorneys, the sense is that his only real hope at this point is a pardon.

And it`s striking that the president, who`s seeing the sort of walls closing in, still continues to express his personal feeling that Manafort is a victim here, that Manafort is being unfairly targeted.

And after doing so for a couple of days, you see Rudy Giuliani go out and acknowledge the fact that they have talked about it. Now, obviously, it would be -- it would be foolish for the president -- I`m not going to predict he won`t do it -- but it seems like, of course, he would get advice to wait until after the election and after the investigation.

MATTHEWS: You`re into something there.


MATTHEWS: The fact that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani is suggesting they have been thinking about it...

STOKOLS: But he goes out...


STOKOLS: Yesterday, at the White House, Sarah Sanders was asked this. And she said, I`m aware of no conversations that have taken place about a pardon.


MATTHEWS: If you`re Manafort, this is a ray of hope when you hear Rudy Giuliani says, the president is already talking about it.

STOKOLS: Correct. Correct.

And it looks like a smoke signal that they`re sending to him. And that is something that investigators will also look at, because, right, in an obstruction case, is the president and his attorney, are they intentionally sending a message to people to not cooperate, as the investigation...


MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to the other side.

If you`re the prosecutor here, and you`re Bob Mueller, Robert Mueller, and you`re dealing -- you`re going to the judge and say, give this guy serious time, hard time, maximum security -- or minimum security -- not -- medium security -- and this guy could be going to a really hellish place, Leavenworth or somewhere, for 10 or 15 years.

It`s not like Allenwood, where you play tennis and lift weights and talk to the white-collar criminals and have fun with them. You`re going to a serious prison.

Can they put that kind of pressure on this guy Manafort at this point?

STOKOLS: They can.

But I think, the more they lean into that, the more it does play into the president`s characterization of this as they`re out to get him, they`re being too harsh on him, for more -- some people who get caught on this, maybe it`s a tax audit.


STOKOLS: Manafort is getting strung up because he worked for me.

And that is the thing that I think, generally, the investigators, the prosecutors, they have gone -- they have kept their heads down. They have tried to not be influenced by the media circus and Trump tweets and things like that.

But they have to be cognizant of the implications of this and the sense that the public and that a jury may have that they are out to get this guy, that it`s too much. MATTHEWS: Let`s see what his mensch factor is, how much Trump actually cares about another human being who has been loyal to him, who won`t...


STOKOLS: Well, I mean, the pardon seems to be more out of self-interest than real concern for Paul Manafort.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a fair assumption with this guy. But I -- he talks like he cares about the guy.

Thank you, Eli Stokols.

STOKOLS: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: There are truths, half-truths, little white lies, of course, and flat-out lies.

Well, based on Michael Cohen`s plea deal, Trump`s statement that he knew nothing about payments to Stormy Daniels seems to fall into that last category, the bad one.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Trump`s story about what he knew about payments to Stormy Daniels has changed a lot of times. Let`s watch the changes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth or allegation?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney. And you`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don`t know.

Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payments?

TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, honestly, what he did and they weren`t taken out of campaign finance. That`s a big thing. That`s a much bigger thing. Did that the come out of campaign? They didn`t come out of the campaign. They came from me.


MATTHEWS: Well, the Washington Post fact checker which notes it in the past that there has been hesitant to call Trump`s misleading statements lies, concludes that it`s now clear that the President statement on Stormy Daniels was a lie.

Let`s bring in tonight HARDBALL ROUNDTABLE, Katty Kay, Washington Anchor for BBC News, John Brabender is a Republican Strategist and Jason Johnson, he`s Politics Editor for the

In that order, Katty first, what do we make of Trump`s stories from he handled the Stormy Daniels thing for me? Well, I actually -- I didn`t even hear about that until later. It`s kind of messy.

KATTY KAY, WASHINGTON ANCHOR, BBC NEWS: So the reason that Washington Post changed its wording on this is because, they are saying now, the President knowingly told these mistruths. And therefore, it constitutes a lie.

Now, critics of the President would say, the press has been far too cautious about this all along. And the people have done business with Donald Trump in New York over the course of the past few decades, will always consistently say that when it comes to negotiation, one of the traits of Donald Trump is that he lies.

And critics have called out the press on this and saying this is semantics and the press actually should have used that word much earlier.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have Presidents before that have not told all the truth, John Brabender. FDR wasn`t exactly --

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You mean, are you telling this isn`t --

MATTHEWS: -- on England on World War II, forward the War.

BRABENDER: Are you telling me this isn`t the first time that an elected official in Washington didn`t entirely tell the truth?

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to help you out. I`m only helpful.

BRABENDER: But, look, look, there`s two arguments there and you know there`s two arguments there. Everybody is going down the path, did the President lie or not? Well, he might have -- wasn`t that legal. There`s wasn`t anything that is something that`s going to go to court. There`s nothing that affects the Mueller investigation.

You know, they might just be a guy who didn`t want to his wife to know what he was up to.

MATTHEWS: Yes, yes.

BRABENDER: It won`t go to court. Might be a guy who didn`t want his wife to know what he was up to. And so, that`s our argument. OK, great.

What does going to do with all the other stuff going on in the world like creating jobs and nuclear?

MATTHEWS: His lawyer says that he did it to avoid campaign problems right near the election, because he had just had access Hollywood and this would have tipped the election into impossible --

BRABENDER: Do you believe that, though? How many stories -- there was already so many stories like this that didn`t tip the election. So why would this one have? I mean, I just think.

MATTHEWS: Because I think they thought they had this much chance to win the election going into it -- right at the end. People like the smart people in the campaign, including Trump. They had a little bit of chance. And this would have blocked it.

BRABENDER: You know what, history showed us with Bill Clinton that the thing with him didn`t matter, right? This didn`t matter to voters in November of 2016.


MATTHEWS: We`re talking about --

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: All of that make sense retroactively, right? In the moment, in the moment, if I am in the campaign war room and someone says, as they used to talk about, the old -- I would have been used the word but the eruptions with these to talk about the women and Bill Clinton. Look, you don`t often survive.

MATTHEWS: Let me spare you the name. He called them. We don`t have to call them that. They called them bimbo.

JOHNSON: Yes, they call them bimbos back in the `90s. This is a porn star eruption, OK? There`s nobody in any war room, in any campaign that would have wanted to run the risk of that getting public.

BRABENDER: You`re forgetting one other thing that no one wants to talk about with Stormy Daniels. How many know that she ran for the United States Senate in Louisiana being invited by the Democrats to do that? She`s not exactly number one.


BRABENDER: My point is the average person sees this as politics. They don`t think that as --

JOHNSON: No, they don`t. No, the average person doesn`t see -- the average person don`t sees -- cheating as politics. They average person does not see spending $130,000 on a porn star as regular politics.

KAY: But, John, you are making the argument (inaudible) in the Fox News which is basically I can do anything I like because the stock market is good. You`re saying it`s OK if he lied. You`re one step away from saying it`s OK campaign finance violations.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to John Brabender. Just to remind you how unfair you guys are about this. If a certain recent president named Obama had involved himself in anything like this near an election, he would have been toast. Anyway, because of you guys. And maybe he should have been.

But late last night, President Trump tweeted that he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to closely study the South African land, informed seizures and expropriations in the large scale killing a farmers. They are both connected of course.

According to Tucker Carlson show on Fox last night he wrote, "South African government is seizing land from white farmer." Well, the South African Government responded to the tweet, "South African totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and remind us our colonial past."

Though, South Africa is currently in a political debate over land reform, we`re black South Africans who make up 80 percent of the population still own just 4 percent of the land. There`s no evidence that white farmers are being killed because of their race.

John Brabender, I`m sorry, we`re going to chase this.

JOHN: Yes. So this is a white nationalist lie that`s been promoted for decades since the end of apartheid. What -- (inaudible) in attempting to do is redistribute land which was denied to black people in that country for almost in the last century.

This is a not an uncommon practice when you have had sort of institutional racism end of denial, almost an essentially apartheid state for 100 years. So -- but it does strike me that this is the kind of thing that Donald Trump talks about. This is the kind of land and resources he`s concerned about. Not Jeff Sessions using civil forfeit, asset forfeiture to take land from American, to take resource of American. He`s concerned about black folks and white folks in South Africa. It tells a lot about what this President actually cares about.

MATTHEWS: What do you think he cares for, John?

BRABENDER: Well, first of all, I don`t know why he`s entering into this battle.

JOHNSON: You know why. We all know why.

BRABENDER: No, no. I know contextually people who don`t like him are going to come up with one reason and people who do like him are going to come up with something else. It`s so far off message. It`s not relevant to his base, his enemies or anybody else that it makes no sense.

KAY: Except that way he feels that it is relevant to his base. Because he is standing up for white farmers --

BRABENDER: OK. Let me ask you this. Everybody says that, define to me who his base is?

KAY: So people who voted for Donald Trump who feel there`s a threat of immigration excessively and who are feared for that position.

BRABENDER: Are they Republicans or Democrats?

KAY: I don`t think their necessarily either. I have met --


KAY: Absolutely both.

BRABENDER: So probably a lot of Democrats in breast belt states maybe who put him over the top?

KAY: Some Democrats.


JOHNSON: And so, we`re talking about people who are driven emotionally and voting wise by notions of white racial grievance. Those are the people who cares, that`s why he mentioned this.

BRABENDER: If people are voting that way, they`re wrong. And you`re not going to convince, however, that they are. I believe they`re voting on economic issues of their health.

JOHNSON: There`s no proof of that. There`s no -- like the economic anxiety argument has never lasted. It is not true. And the President`s focus on NFL players and police in law and order is based on the fact he knows racial grievance works for him.

KAY: And now white farmers in South Africa.

BRABENDER: Yes. But overwhelmingly, most Americans believe we should stand for the flag. It doesn`t mean that they want to take anybody`s first amendment rights away.

JOHNSON: Right. But the notion that it`s racial grievance and that`s what drives Trump.

MATTHEWS: The round table is going to stay with us. I like this. Because I think it`s true and I think we know what we`re talking about.

Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL ROUNDTABLE. Katty, Katty Kay, tell me something I don`t know.

KAY: OK. I`m going to give you a little break from politics. We`re all married I think so this doesn`t necessarily apply to us. But the Economist has a new cover story out today how all of our phone habits are changing because of smart phones. One of the biggest habits that`s changing is relationships in a marriage.

You will never believe this, one-third of marriages in America today start through online dating sites.

MATTHEWS: They start that way?

KAY: Yes, they come from online dating sites.

MATTHEWS: No more bar scenes.

KAY: Forget the bar, just go online.

MATTHEWS: Forget the bar, guys.

BRABENDER: Look, everybody wanted Facebook to make big changes after 2016 and they have, they made up much more restrictive for political candidates. They change the calculus of how you get a message out.

The problem is, it`s hurting people that isn`t be. What`s going to happen is, there`s going to less spending on Facebook in 2018 and 2020, and the people are going to get hurt the candidates with the least amount of money.

MATTHEWS: Which is the biggest Republican upset this fall coming up? What`s the biggest upset in the Senate and House?

BRABENDER: Well, you know, I have to say Bob Casey losing the --


JOHNSON: Randolph County, Georgia, there is a big decision to make by county officials as whether they are going to close from having nine voting centers to only two voting centers in a county 60 percent African-American.

MATTHEWS: I wonder why.

JOHNSON: Yes, exactly. But the plan is even worse than you think. The two voting centers will be separated in the black and white parts of town. The black part of town even though it`s got three times as much of a population.

MATTHEWS: It`s like men`s rooms and women`s rooms.


MATTHEWS: You got to get -- you got allow for abortions. Anyway, thank you, Katty Kay, I know the stuff, John Brabender, Jason Johnson. When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Thursday, August 23, 2018. Here`s the problem, Donald Trump`s problem. His problem is he`s done business, chosen to do business with people who conducted their lives in ways that have left them open to criminal prosecution. It`s that simple.

What did Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort have the in common? Both are headed to prison because they`ve been incredibly or credibly charged with federal crimes. They`ve spent their life skirting the law in order to make money and now probably because of their association with Trump, they`ve been caught.

Cohen and Manafort are men that Donald Trump has deliberately chose to do business with and because of that long series of decisions he finds himself facing the menace of men now forced by their own self-interest to either turn against him or to taint him by their mere association with him. Got it? This is why the man living upstairs in the home of our presidents finds himself up at 1:00 in the morning tweeting in capital letters denying charges and the crying is unfair the force is coming to get him.

This battle between he and Robert Mueller is a competition. Mueller wants evidence and squeezing men, vulnerable men to get that evidence. But it wasn`t Mueller`s doing that men like Cohen and Manafort exist. The prosecution didn`t surround Trump with men vulnerable to criminal indictment, man who could be squeezed for the truth, squeeze to betray whatever loyalty they might have once felt duty bound to show this president.

It was Donald J. Trump who recruited those men. They are the kind of people with him Trump finds himself comfortable. Not a boy scout among them. And this is why he`s up at 1:00 in the morning sending out 21st century distress signals not because Robert Mueller is on his tail but the trail criminal associations Trump himself has spent his life building.

To quote the Meyer Lansky character in Godfather 2, "This is the business he chose." And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.