Show: HARDBALL Date: September 7, 2018 Guest: Adrienne Elrod, Greg Brower, Mark Leibovich, Margaret Carlson, Eugene Scott, Susan Page, Shermichael Singleton, Omarosa Manigault Newman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Round up the usual suspects. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Still reeling from the anonymous op-ed describing a resistance inside his own administration, President Trump is tonight, shadowboxing against an invisible enemy. At the same time, former President Barack Obama launched his most pointed criticism of this administration since leaving office. We`ll have more on that coming up.
Well, today, with his authority in questions, President Trump said, once again, that he wants the attorney general to serve his political agenda rather than the law. Making the dubious argument that the op-ed in the New York Times posed a national security threat to the country, Trump said he`d like Jeff Sessions to launch an investigation to find out who wrote the piece. Here`s the audio of the president responding to reporters aboard Air Force One.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will say this. For somebody to do that, it`s very low, and I think journalistically and from many different standpoints and maybe even from the standpoint of national security - we`ll find out about that - for the New York Times to allow that to happen is disgraceful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Do you think Jeff Sessions should be investigating who the author of the op-ed piece was, or who (INAUDIBLE) -
TRUMP: I think so. Because I think it`s national security. I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it`s national security.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This is like a third-world dictator ordering the secret police to go after somebody for saying something against the boss. Anyway, this comes after the president demanded that the New York Times turn over the author of the op-ed to government. That was his phrase. "To government, at once."
And it follows Trump`s suggestion that the anonymously-published article amounted to "treason." In a Fox News interview set against the backdrop of his rally last night, the president doubled down on that allegation and accused the New York Times itself of treason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, number one, the Times should never have done that. Because, really, what they`ve done is virtually - you know, it`s treason. You could call it a lot of things. It may be a deep state person that`s been there a long time. You don`t know where.
It`s a very unfair thing, but it`s very unfair to our country and the millions of people that voted, really, for us. They voted for us
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me now is Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for the U.S.A. Today; Shermichael Singleton`s a Republican political consultant; Omarosa Manigault Newman is, of course, a former White House staffer and author of Unhinged: - a huge bestseller - An Insider`s Account of the Trump White House. By the way, congratulations, because you turned out to be the first whistle-blower. You were ahead of Bob Woodward, ahead of this person.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFFER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: By the way, who do you think wrote the op-ed?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I think it`s somebody out of Pence`s office, and I suspect it might be Nick Ayers.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Because -
MATTHEWS: Why would somebody write an op-ed piece where they want the 25th Amendment to take effect? To put Pence in office? What?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Oh, yeah. They`re in a position to benefit if, in fact, the 25th Amendment is enacted and if Trump is removed from office. The clues are in the op-ed.
MATTHEWS: And which are? (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS) used the word lodestar?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS) if he leaves. However, indicating that whether it`s by impeachment or by the investigation or if he`s not re- elected.
MATTHEWS: So you don`t believe the vice president when he denies responsibility for this.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I actually believe the vice president when he denies it, but the style of the writing reminds me of memos and documents and emails that came out of the vice president`s office.
MATTHEWS: And you still think it`s one of his staffers?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And Susan, you talked about that. I just want to get to something really big, because you`ve got (INAUDIBLE) plus you write the top of the pole, U.S.A. Today, the one newspaper read all over the country. And you have an analysis piece in today which basically says this president has got a real reckoning coming to him right now.
SUSAN PAGE, U.S.A. TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think there is a sense of storm gathering. Just in the past week, the McCain funeral, the op-ed in the New York Times, and the Woodward book together paint a very consistent picture for the president. And lays the groundwork for what I think is the big event to come, which is the Mueller report, and what Robert Mueller finds.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any timing sense on that yet?
PAGE: I don`t. I mean, we all believe that he would try not to interfere in that. Which an election - which means that the report will either be relatively soon or months away.
MATTHEWS: Or the day after the election. Shermichael, what do you make of the president accusing the New York Times and the writer of this article in the New York Times of being a traitor. A traitor to the country. What does that mean?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well, he said - and I don`t think the president knows the definition of treason, to be quite honest with you. Because if he does, I would ask the president, where is the treasonous act? Where did the treasonous act occur?
But what I do think is very telling about this is that it`s very obvious that whatever is going on internally within the administration is all because of Donald Trump. He`s the leader. He has set the tone. And it`s very telling that those individuals, who he selected to work with him, on behalf of him and the people who voted for him, don`t trust the president. But I do think those individuals need to have enough courage to come out and say who they are, because not saying who they are doesn`t help the country.
MATTHEWS: (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS) I`m worried about the press. I want to get back to the president here. Omarosa, I want to ask you about this. The fact that the president thinks about a person who doesn`t like him as a traitor to the country, how`s that mentality develop? What`s the mean - say about Trump?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: He`s already had this extreme level of paranoia. And I`m telling you -
MATTHEWS: He thinks he`s the state.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: You know what? He - this is triggering all of his worst fears. And it`s going to make him go around and hunt down this person in the White House, in the agencies, and it`s not a good precedent.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there`s something to that, Susan? Do you think there`s a manhunt or a womanhunt or whatever? Is Trump out there looking for the guy that ate the frozen strawberries in The Caine Mutiny?
PAGE: I think the president is pretty determined to try to find out who the author is. That doesn`t mean he`ll be able to, because, for one thing, I don`t think you can necessarily believe that just because someone denied they were - that they were not, in fact, the author. And if you think it`s possible we`ll find out pretty soon, but if you think about back to, it took a couple decades before we were certain who "Deep Throat" was.
MATTHEWS: And then it turned out to be a pretty boring guy. It wasn`t somebody as exciting as a White House staffer.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: But this is very much like "Primary Colors." When I served in the Clinton administration, there was something very similar to this. They were trying to figure out who wrote "Primary Colors," and they found out by doing a writing analysis. So, I think -
MATTHEWS: Joe Klein. He told me he didn`t write it. And then he told everybody he didn`t write it.
Anyway, it appears that behind the closed doors of the West Wing itself, the president`s unable to distinguish friend from foe right now. According to the Washington Post, White House officials are not only disavowing the op-ed, they`re attempting to prove their loyalty to the president. Catch this. "In Oval Office huddles yesterday - actually, Thursday, White House chief of staff John Kelly, national security adviser John Bolton, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner, among other aides, tried to convince the president that he could trust them and others in his inner circle. They argued that the author was probably a lower-level employee, according to the senior official."
You`re laughing over there, but (INAUDIBLE) big-time journalist like you. Are you out there trying to figure out who this person is? And you say the president`s trying to figure out who it is. Are you guys - by the way, New York Times reporters, these tough guys like Michael Schmidt and the rest of them, are they trying to find out?
PAGE: I assume they are.
MATTHEWS: Keep going.
I think, well, I think we would like to know who it is. And I think one other thing. I think it is a brave move by this White House that we are worrying about who it is and not what this person said.
MATTHEWS: But I thought they`re trying to change the subject. They don`t like it. They say, the president, somebody put out a statement yesterday saying, "Don`t think about who did it." I think that was Huckabee Sanders today.
SINGLETON: You know, I do think, to Susan`s point, it`s far more important what`s actually written in that article. And there`s a line in there where the individual writes that they`re trying to help the country, if you will, by making sure the president doesn`t commit disastrous acts. What I wonder, and I would argue, that what we`ve seen so far has been pretty disastrous. So, if there are other things that are worse than this, where does that leave -
MATTHEWS: Well, you know who agrees with you? Former President Barack Obama says, what good are you guys in the White House defending us against ten percent of this crap when 90 percent of it`s happening thanks to you guys?
In his first campaign remarks in 2018, former President Barack Obama today warned voters not to take comfort in the sentiments expressed in that Times op-ed. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The claim that everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren`t following the president`s orders, that is not a check. I`m being serious here. That`s not how our democracy is supposed to work.
These people aren`t elected. They`re not accountable. They`re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that`s coming out of this White House, and then saying, "Don`t worry, we`re preventing the other ten percent."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Omarosa, is that true that the people in the White House feel morally superior because they`re keeping Trump from doing a tenth of the damage worse than he is doing?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well, the former president threw out ten percent. I would have to venture and say that there was more. Just in the time that I served -
MATTHEWS: Just sort of damage control?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Absolutely. In the time that I served, he would have these dangerous impulses. And the op-ed said his most dangerous impulses, just - they`re not just ignoring any order that the president is giving. But when he says, "Let`s blow up this country," because he doesn`t like something that the leader of that country said, then of course the staffers are going to push back. And they should.
MATTHEWS: Well, at his rally last night, President Trump said that the author of the op-ed and other like-minded officials inside the administration pose a threat to democracy. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The latest active resistance is the op-ed published in the failing New York Times by an anonymous, really an ominous, gutless - I think their reporters should go and investigate who it is. That would actually be a good story.
Unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a word he hasn`t used before: Anonymous. Not one of his words. But everybody makes mistakes. I certainly do.
What do you think about that? He`s personally going after this character, he doesn`t even know who it is. Man, woman, GS10, he doesn`t know who it is, but he`s making, he`s trying to put an "enemy of the people" mark on this person. The old Trump trope. Make that person the enemy of the people.
PAGE: I do think he has a legitimate point here, that it is not appropriate for unelected officials to try to countermand the decisions made by a duly elected president. I don`t think that is - that is not how our system is supposed to work.
MATTHEWS: You mean, they shouldn`t be doing what they admit - this person admits to doing.
PAGE: I mean, it`s not our system. I think the president - so, we elect a president. He won the electoral college, so he`s the president. So, if you want to oppose him, the checks and balances are with the Congress and the courts, and in public (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS).
MATTHEWS: But didn`t James Schlesinger, the Secretary of Defense under Nixon, basically say don`t obey any order from the commander-in-chief when it comes to launching missiles?
PAGE: Of course. (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS) nuclear missiles, yes.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Particularly when his mental health and his fitness for office is being in question. Then, Susan, do you follow the orders of an unfit president?
PAGE: So, I think that`s a very fair question. I understand the argument. But we`ve got a 25th Amendment, we have an impeachment process (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS) and so, that is our constitutional -
MATTHEWS: Did anybody here think - I mean, it`s tough when you`re a straight reporter. Well, except you. Your point of view, your point of view. Does anybody here believe that Michael Pence would ever blow the whistle on Trump`s incompetence? Ever?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: No.
SINGLETON: No, I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: No matter how incompetent.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: His staff will. He won`t but his staff will.
SINGLETON: No, but - Omarosa is right. I think -
MATTHEWS: But it takes the Constitution, the 25th Amendment, for the VP, the vice president, to basically start the ball rolling on the 25th Amendment.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes.
SINGLETON: But, Chris, I mean, if the president is not capable of being president. Again, to the individual who wrote the article and the other individuals who are a part of this resistance movement, they should indeed resign. They can come right over to Capitol Hill and testify before Congress and say, "For these reasons, we think the president is unfit to serve." And if that is indeed the case, if their critiques are found to be legitimate, then I do think we have to act upon the (MULTIPLE SPEAKERS).
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we have two ways of blowing the whistle on this president. Your way, Omarosa, is to leave the White House and write a book.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: This other person wants to stay in the White House and put out an op-ed through some interesting channels secretly.
SINGLETON: Which doesn`t do anything.
MATTHEWS: Which is the most admirable?
SINGLETON: I would write the article, put my name on it, and say -
MATTHEWS: So, the first one.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: You put your name on it, you suffer consequences. And the moment they show who - the agency of the person who wrote it, you know what`s going to happen to them? You know, it`s like -
SINGLETON: Well, of course. I went through it.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: You went through it.
SINGLETON: But I would argue that it`s far more important for the country`s sake to deal with those consequences, because what`s at stake is far bigger.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well, as long as he has whistle-blower protection, then I would stay comfortable with that.
MATTHEWS: Well, you can take it, too. Thank you. Good luck with the book, by the way. I just read in the Wall Street Journal last week, number two.
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes. Number one on New York Times bestseller list.
MATTHEWS: Are you number one?
MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Can`t be better than that. Look out, Bob Woodward. You can`t beat her. Well, we`ll see. Anyway, Susan Page, thank you, Shermichael Singleton and Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Coming up, he`s waited more than a year and a half for this, and today President Barack Obama, as I said, directly challenged President Trump`s divisive politics for the first time. And the president quickly responded. We`re going to get a lot more response.
The question is, which side wins when these two political gladiators go into the ring? I think Trump is taunting Obama to get more personal, more severe, more directed, nastier, so that then he can get back on him and do to him what he did to low-energy Jeb, what he did to little Marco. He wants the former president to get in the ditch with him, because then he can take him down.
George Papadopoulos, by the way, who triggered the entire Russian probe, late today was sentenced for lying to Robert Mueller`s investigators. He gets 14 days in jail. Fourteen days in jail! You think he might have cut a deal? Fourteen days? I think jaywalking gets you about eight.
Anyway, Bob Woodward`s book, it`s fiction. That`s what the president says. And he doesn`t talk like that, that`s what he says. Unfortunately for the president, we`ve got tape to show he uses exactly the same vocabulary words that are in Woodward`s book.
Finally, let me finish with what President Obama said today in Illinois. This is "Hardball," where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Sometimes, the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often, it`s manufactured, by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical. Because that helps them maintain the status quo, and keep their power.
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." President Trump - or actually President Obama delivered those pointed remarks today about the current president. They were the toughest remarks he`s made, of course, since leaving office. Nothing like it before today.
Obama warned his supporters that these are extraordinary and dangerous times. He knocked Trump, of course, for attacking the press, for pressuring his attorney general to push - to punish political opponents, and for not standing up clearly and unequivocally against Nazi sympathizers. Well, the contrast couldn`t be sharper between these two guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And the closer we get to election day, the more those invested in the politics of fear and division will work to - will do anything to hang onto their recent gains.
TRUMP: Their policies are horrible. They`re for open borders, meaning let all the crime come in. they`re against so many things that you want.
OBAMA: It shouldn`t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don`t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don`t like.
TRUMP: The latest act of resistance is the op-ed published in the failing "New York Times." It`s really dangerous and it`s really sad for the media and the mainstream media.
OBAMA: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it.
TRUMP: They like to use the impeach word. Impeach Trump. Maxine Waters, we will impeach him.
If it does happen, it`s your fault, because you didn`t go out to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Adrienne Elrod, who is former director of strategic communications for Hillary for America. And Michael Steele is former RNC chairman and an MSNBC analyst.
You know, he`s back in the fight again. And I think he was careful today. And I think that former president is wary, because he`s seen what happened to anybody who gets into the arena with Trump. You start getting -- talking trash talk with him, he trash talks back to you, you look smaller.
It is very hard to stay fighting with the guy.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t think that`s the case with Obama. I think Obama is a different type of player on that space.
We saw that at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where he systematically deconstructed Donald Trump in front of Donald Trump, and has a very biting way to do it. It is sort of highbrow approach, for sure, but no less biting.
And I think the president is planning to do a couple of things here, one, obviously, to engage the base and get that Democratic vote out there, but also to be that voice that`s a countervoice to what`s out here now, because that doesn`t exist in the Democratic Party.
Who is that individual? It`s not Cory Booker. It`s not Kamala Harris. It`s not...
MATTHEWS: There`s no leader of the Democratic Party.
STEELE: There`s no leader who can stand in with stature, to your point, and make the case about a different America, an America that we thought we knew.
MATTHEWS: I`m not saying, Adrian, that the former president has a glass jaw, that he can`t fight.
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Yes.
MATTHEWS: But I have watched the Trump method. Draw the other person into the pit with you. Get the other guy or woman to take shots at you, make them at your level. Then the other person likes any moral advantage.
ELROD: Yes, I don`t think Obamacare cares.
I mean, he sees this as -- there`s a much higher calling right now, which is to try and unite the country. And to your point, I mean, he does not see himself as the face of the opposition, the face of the Democratic Party.
You may recall, Chris, of course, when President Clinton after -- when he was -- the two years after he was president, he did sort of take on that role. He was out there. He was more visible. President Obama is not doing that.
But when he does speak, he draws a lot of attention. He`s trying to unite the party. He`s trying to unite the country. And that`s what he sees. He doesn`t care if President Trump tweets at him or...
ELROD: ... back at him.
MATTHEWS: Well, we will see.
President Trump wasted no time responding to Barack`s remarks.
Here`s what he had this say during a fund-raiser in North Dakota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m sorry. I watched it, but I fell asleep.
TRUMP: I found he is very good, very good for sleeping.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s what I think he`s doing.
MATTHEWS: You guys are not going to help me here. I can tell you`re not. You`re all playing it straight.
I think he`s taunting Obama. He`s saying go, get nastier than that. Come on. Come at me. Because then, if you get nasty against me, instead of this -- don`t be too high level with me. Give me some purchase here.
STEELE: But, Chris, that is not Obama`s style. They call him no-drama Obama reason.
STEELE: But he does have a way -- and we have seen it.
I mean, it`s not something that is unknown to us. We have seen the president, former president, take on adversaries in a way in which he scores the points he needs to score. And to...
MATTHEWS: Like when he made fun of "The Apprentice."
STEELE: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
So he has a way of doing that. Now, is that entertainment for us? Possibly, to a certain degree. But I think there`s something bigger and more important here, because I -- this last two weeks, Chris, has been a real exposing of some deep fissures in the country, and people are beginning to realize just where we are.
And so now there`s -- a voice is starting to emerge, this op-ed. Other things are starting to happen that are setting a different stage. Now, we will see how it plays out. You may ultimately be right.
But I give Obama an equal footing on this.
Here`s what I think Obama`s doing. He basically gave a political speech today colored in nonpolitical language. He said, even if you don`t like the Democratic Party on immigration, even if you don`t like them on, what do you call it, regulation, you think there`s too much big government, even if you don`t like them on abortion, issues like same-sex, even if you don`t like any of those things, here`s a chance to punch back at -- to Trump.
In other words, this an anti-Trump opportunity. He was broadening that tent to include everything but Trump`s kids and vote Democrat.
ELROD: But he gave an aspirational speech.
ELROD: The contrast that you just showed was incredible.
And I think what he`s also doing is reminding people, if you want to take back your country, take back democracy, you got to vote.
Voter turnout in the midterms is notoriously low. You know that. You`re former RNC chair.
STEELE: Yes. Yes.
ELROD: So we got to see turnout if we`re going to actually win back some of these House seats and possibly take back the Senate.
MATTHEWS: Is Hillary going to run next time?
MATTHEWS: I had to ask you before -- because I keep hearing these rumors that John Kerry`s running, that Biden is running, that Hillary`s running, that everybody is running.
I keep hearing this. But I`m wrong, right?
ELROD: She`s made it very clear on multiple occasions that...
MATTHEWS: None of these older people are going to run?
ELROD: I don`t know about -- I can`t speak for John Kerry. But...
MATTHEWS: What do you hear, Michael?
MATTHEWS: I keep hearing they`re all running again.
STEELE: No, I don`t hear that they`re all running.
What I do hear is that of the list -- on the list -- of the list you just mentioned, Biden is the one that everyone`s got an eye on, because -- and I think of that list he is the strongest one to move forward.
And I think the country...
MATTHEWS: There`s -- it`s January.
STEELE: Age won`t be an issue in this next battle.
MATTHEWS: Have you been following these Democratic primaries?
STEELE: I have. I have.
MATTHEWS: Women are winning. Minorities are winning. Younger people are always winning.
STEELE: You`re talking about the presidential race.
I don`t think age is going to be a factor there, necessarily. It may play down-ballot in other things, but not here.
MATTHEWS: You agree with that?
ELROD: Yes. No, I agree.
And I think people are going to want somebody who is experienced and somebody who can just come in and take our country back in the right direction.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with the Tony Bennett model, which is the older guy that young people like, the older guy that young people like.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Adrienne Elrod, thank you, Michael Steele.
I think this is too mature an audience here.
MATTHEWS: Up next -- up next -- former Trump -- not you -- campaign -- Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was sentenced today.
He got two weeks. What do you get two weeks for, except a deal? Let`s talk about. We will have the latest on this milestone in the Mueller investigation straight ahead.
He`s knocking them off. How many indictments so far, 30, 40? This is amazing. And it`s all happening. It`s more than a witch-hunt or whatever.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re covering breaking news on the Mueller front tonight.
George Papadopoulos, the first Trump campaign adviser to be arrested in the investigation, is now heading to jail. But late this afternoon, a federal judge sentenced the former campaign adviser to what, 14 days.
Who gets 14 days for anything?
Aboard Air Force one, President Trump sought to distance himself from him. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I see Papadopoulos today is going to -- I don`t know Papadopoulos. I don`t know him.
I saw him sitting in one picture at a table with me. That`s the only thing I know about him. I don`t know.
But they got him on I guess a couple of lies is what they`re saying.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don`t know nothing.
Anyway, Papadopoulos pled guilty to repeatedly lying to FBI agents. And since the special counsel investigation was actually launched, Mueller has indicted or secured guilty pleas now from 32 people and three companies.
That -- that`s three -- 32 people indicted so far.
For more, I`m joined by Julia Ainsley, NBC News national security and justice reporter, and Greg Brower, former U.S. attorney.
Both of you know this story.
Put this -- just give me a sense, Julia, because I have been counting on you to do this. This Papadopoulos guy, he`s this young guy, 29 years old, with these pictures of him at that meeting. Then Trump says he never met him. And there he is sitting at the meeting.
How does he fit into the Russian whole thing?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So, he really fits into what kicks this off in the first place.
We understand that he had some kind of like drunken conversation with an Australian diplomat. And that could be one of the critical things that kicked off the investigation into this possible conspiracy or collusion.
MATTHEWS: Not the dossier, this.
AINSLEY: Yes, this in particular, because he was offered dirt from this professor in U.S. -- in the U.K., Mifsud, for dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And he apparently went and spoke to the Trump campaign. And not only did he offer that, but he also offered a meeting perhaps between Trump and Putin. So he was definitely someone who was trying to use these connections as a young person to get ahead in the Trump campaign.
But what is not clear as who took the bait, who actually decided to go forward, or if anything did.
MATTHEWS: Was it Sessions? Was it Sessions himself?
AINSLEY: Well, we don`t know if anyone at all did. Sessions has said he did not.
MATTHEWS: What I find fascinating is, Sessions was apparently the one who seemed interested in what Papadopoulos was proposing in terms of a hookup with the Russians.
And he`s also the guy who later recused himself. And that`s why Trump is so furious at him. He was the one who -- one who stuck his nose into it. And he`s also -- anyway, on his way to North Dakota today, President Trump once again denied any contact with Russia.
Let`s listen to the president.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was none.
There was no talking to Russia. There was no phone calls. I didn`t make phone calls to Russia. I didn`t receive phone calls. I didn`t have meetings. I didn`t have texts. I didn`t have anything. I`ve nothing to do with Russia. Nothing to do with Russia.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Greg, let me ask you about this sentence. I guess most people wonder about an eight -- well, let me look at this first.
However, last week, Papadopoulos` lawyer said Donald Trump had approved of efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Putin during the campaign.
According to a sentencing memo, the lawyers wrote: "Eager to show his value to the campaign, George announced at the meeting that he had connections that could facilitate the foreign policy meeting between Mr. Trump and President Putin. While some in the room rebuffed George`s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions, who appeared to like the idea of a hookup and stated that the campaign should look into it."
This is pretty close to the bone here, Greg.
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that`s a sentencing memorandum in which Papadopoulos` lawyers were trying to hopefully get a lighter sentence for him, which they managed to achieve in large part.
There`s no transcript of that meeting. The attorney general has denied that that`s the way it happened. There`s no quotes.
MATTHEWS: What did he get for a reduced sentence? Why did he only get two weeks?
BROWER: Well, I think it`s twofold.
I think the special counsel won with respect to the sentencing, because they were asking for some jail time, and they got it. I think won, in some respects, because he didn`t get very much jail time. But I think, in large part, that judge felt that Papadopoulos was remorseful and also probably didn`t completely buy into the government argument that Papadopoulos` misstatements were -- tended to significantly undermine the investigation.
AINSLEY: I think that`s key here.
It`s not that it was cooperation in any piece. In fact, they canceled the cooperation interview with Papadopoulos because they found out he was talking to reporters. But it seems that the judge thought he was very remorseful. He said he wanted a second chance.
And, really, the government only asked for 30 days here. That was the sentencing given to Alexander Alex van der Zwaan, the lawyer who was also indicted for lying to the FBI in the Mueller probe. So they got about half of that.
I know it seems like a lot less, when we`re talking about Paul Manafort looking at 10 years. But the charges here are very discrete. And in a lot of times, the judge says someone wouldn`t even go to jail -- and you may know this more -- for lying unless they had a criminal background.
MATTHEWS: But didn`t his lying to the agents allow this agent to escape they were going to try to grab?
BROWER: The professor.
And, look, from a former prosecutors`s perspective, I think everybody who`s ever prosecuted a case would like to see someone who lies to agents get more time than 14 days. But, again, he did get some time. So that`s a win for the Mueller team. The judge just apparently thought that he didn`t deserve more time than that.
MATTHEWS: He gave -- he must have given them something. What did he give them?
AINSLEY: No, I don`t think that`s necessarily the case. I don`t think we know that.
MATTHEWS: You don`t think he gave anything?
AINSLEY: I think that he was actually someone who -- it seems that the sentencing is not reflective of any cooperation.
And the Mueller team actually got pretty frustrated. What they have from Papadopoulos is tons of e-mails and texts. They know exactly who bit on that bait that he was offering. They don`t need Papadopoulos` cooperation to get those answers.
BROWER: And I would also say, Chris, that if Papadopoulos -- Papadopoulos` cooperation was significant and ongoing, you would not have seen his sentencing today.
It would have been postponed, as the Flynn sentencing has been postponed.
AINSLEY: That`s a great point.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much for the nuance here.
I thought two weeks meant nothing, but, , it means two weeks.
Thank you, Julia Ainsley. And thank you, Greg Brower.
Up next: President Trump is pushing back on some of the insults attributed to him in Bob Woodward`s new book. He says that he doesn`t talk like this. Well, he`s not just denying these things. He`s denying ever saying anything like these things, like they aren`t his words.
But we have got video evidence, taped evidence to say, these are the very words he prefers.
Coming back -- come back and watch the rest of HARDBALL tonight.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, today, President Trump again attacked Bob Woodward`s tell-all book on his presidency.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: The book that was written was fiction. I don`t speak that way.
I`m highly educated.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In reality, the anecdotes in Woodward`s book match a lot of the president`s day-to-day vocabulary.
For example, Woodward reports that the president called Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentally retarded and a dumb Southerner.
Well, earlier this week, Trump tweeted that he never used such terms on anyone.
But, in 2004, he used that very language on "The Howard Stern Show."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have a golf pro who`s mentally retarded. I mean, he`s like really not a smart guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you go.
A former Page Six editor, by the way, told "The New York Times" that in 1997 Trump called his former wife Marla Maples` parents "an entourage of dumb Southerners."
Woodward also writes that Trump called former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster full of "S," a line that Trump had used about politicians before.
Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what? No politician is going to solve it. No politician. These people -- I would like to use really foul language. I won`t do it.
I was going to say they`re full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), but I won`t say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: According to Woodward, when former White House adviser Gary Cohn decided to quit, Trump called it treason.
Trump used that very word, of course, last night while talking about "The New York Times"` decision to publicize article. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: "The Times" should never have done that, because really what they have done is virtually -- it`s treason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL Roundtable.
Mark Leibovich is author of "The Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times."
That book, when`s it come out?
MARK LEIBOVICH, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It came out last Tuesday. And your name`s not in it, so it`s...
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s OK. Thank you.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for The Daily Beast. And Eugene Scott is a political reporter for "The Washington Post."
You, Mark, first, then everybody.
Why would Trump deny, when it`s verifiable by tape, verifiable by tape?
LEIBOVICH: Well, that`s it.
MATTHEWS: He uses these words, like dumb Southerner.
LEIBOVICH: I will say, first of all, that was very good use of video. That was very deft.
I think, look, that`s -- he`s going to deny that`s what he says. I mean, Bob Woodward doesn`t have him saying these things on tape. That is sort of all he has. And we just sort of move on to the next thing.
But, by the way, that interview there in like before the live studio audience, that was very WWE. It was like Vince McMahon should have been doing that interview.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes, well, he`s good at that.
Let me ask you, Margaret, this president, why does he deny what is undeniable?
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Oh, because he lies, and he gets away with it, so it reinforces that he can lie and get away with it.
And I`m very sensitive to mentally retarded, since you know my brother is brain-damaged.
And I -- he`s the kind of person -- we heard it -- that uses, like, retard. It`s just -- it`s -- he uses it as an insult. He never cares about how people feel about it.
CARLSON: Feelings. Not at all.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not unusual in this case.
EUGENE SCOTT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think he does it...
MATTHEWS: Dumb Southerner. The white Southerners -- let`s be blunt about it -- put this guy in the White House, basically, 70 percent returns done in places like Alabama.
That goes directly at the Dixie crowd with an insult about their intelligence, which I said the other night I went to Chapel Hill, a real brain school.
SCOTT: Where I went to undergrad as well.
MATTHEWS: And it`s a brainy school. The idea of people being stupid is absurd.
MATTHEWS: But your thoughts?
It was very odd for him to attack Southerners and to attack Jeff Sessions for not going to an elite university. So many of the people who got on the Trump train have Southern accents, did not go to Wharton, are working-class Americans. And so why is -- why is he attacking his base? Because he...
MATTHEWS: Because he doesn`t like his own people.
SCOTT: And he knows they`re not going to leave him. He said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and they would stay with him. And that`s what it looks like.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s look at the latest polling here. I love polls.
NBC and Marist released three polls this week on head-to-head Senate matches out there, all which are a part of our HARDBALL 10, the 10 races we`re looking at.
In Missouri, the race is tied in 47 all between Claire McCaskill, the senator,and her challenger, Josh Hawley. Among likely voters in Tennessee, Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former governor, leads Republican Marsha Blackburn 48-46, two points, which is clearly within the margin of error.
I think Blackburn can win that. And among likely voters in Indiana, the Hoosier State, incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly leads -- the Notre Dame guy is up by six, Margaret.
CARLSON: You didn`t put Joe Manchin up there. Trump is already...
MATTHEWS: Well, no, we`re going state by state. We don`t do all 10 every show.
CARLSON: Oh. Oh.
MATTHEWS: Watch the show, Margaret.
We would rather two or three a night. Go ahead.
CARLSON: I watch religiously. I must have missed something, went to the stove to stir the pot roast.
MATTHEWS: OK, Maggie.
CARLSON: So sorry.
No. I mean, Hawley`s put out everything against McCaskill he can negative, and it hasn`t dented her.
MATTHEWS: She is tough.
CARLSON: She is one tough girl. I wish I were that tough against you.
MATTHEWS: You don`t need to be that tough.
It`s getting too personal.
No, I actually think the Dems can take it. Their lead is really small. And they`re counting on some conservative...
MATTHEWS: OK, answer the question.
I think they got a shot at winning the Senate. I didn`t think so two weeks ago.
SCOTT: Yes. I didn`t either, but...
MATTHEWS: Do you think Trump`s calamitous week could hurt the Republicans` chance of holding the Senate?
SCOTT: Yes, and Kavanaugh`s.
I think a lot of people on the left were inspired by some of the performances they saw from Harris, from Booker.
SCOTT: And they want to turn out.
MATTHEWS: You`re a straight reporter. Can use you say this? Can you make a prediction?
LEIBOVICH: I can say that if the Democrats play defense, if they keep these seats, I think they got a real shot.
MATTHEWS: If they can keep the ones in Indiana, North Dakota.
LEIBOVICH: Yes, like North Dakota. Florida is another big one. You didn`t mention that.
But I think if they can maybe get two out of Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, maybe put Texas in there.
MATTHEWS: Well, then they will. It`s huge. If they hold the four and win the three, they`re up there in -- in the low 50s.
LEIBOVICH: If they hold the four.
CARLSON: Phil Bredesen is really popular in Tennessee. I think he could - - I know you think Marsha Blackburn could do it. I think he`s going to win that.
MATTHEWS: I think that`s very close to call
CARLSON: He`s going to win that.
MATTHEWS: I think age might hurt him.
I think women are in good shape this year. Is that dumb to say that? I think women candidates, per se, are in strong positions.
CARLSON: You can`t go wrong that.
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, this week, Nike announced an ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player who was one of the faces of the original movement to take a kneel, in their ad.
The ad reads, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."
Here`s how Trump reacted to that ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t like Nike. I don`t think it`s appropriate what they did.
I honor the flag. I honor our national anthem.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I know this is treacherous cultural terribly.
You have got the white guys who root for the NFL, the African-American players who dominate, especially in the backfield. And you have this thing about taking a knee.
Couldn`t Roger, what`s his name...
LEIBOVICH: Goodell, Roger Goodell.
MATTHEWS: Who makes how much a year?
LEIBOVICH: He will make $200 million over the next five years.
MATTHEWS: OK. Can`t he figure out a way to finesse this? Is that too...
LEIBOVICH: Apparently not.
MATTHEWS: Why can`t he finesse, say to the players, OK, do it different times in the Pledge of Allegiance? Do it for two or three games and then stop? Something that works it out.
LEIBOVICH: They`re working on it.
I mean, listen, the vacuum of leadership inside the NFL, which I write all about, is -- has been filled by Nike, by Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, how come the NBA knows how to do things?
NBA has just as much cultural challenges. And look at that. They don`t have...
LEIBOVICH: Well, first of all, they have a much more sort of urban and sort of coastal fan base. And they also have a much more trusting relationship with their commissioner, Adam Silver, and their Players Association.
SCOTT: It`s also worth noting that Goodell has no control over Colin Kaepernick anymore, because he`s not in the league.
MATTHEWS: They don`t give him a job.
MATTHEWS: Why won`t one team say one -- they always go -- you know how the teams like to lose in the NBA, so they get -- like the Sixers did those years, so they could get the good -- the picks, right?
Well, here`s a guy who is open. He`s a free agent. Why doesn`t somebody hire him?
SCOTT: Well, because he will bring about a bunch of baggage with some of these fans that are not as supportive of protesters against police brutality and racism.
CARLSON: It just shows -- it just shows how bad Roger Goodell is that that doesn`t -- that hasn`t happened. And now he`s a symbol.
And, by the way, it`s such...
MATTHEWS: The guy that had problem with dogs, he got a job.
SCOTT: He did.
LEIBOVICH: Well, he went to jail first.
SCOTT: That should tell you something more about the fans and how they view the issues affecting animals vs. black people being shot by police officers.
MATTHEWS: You make a cruel point, sir.
MATTHEWS: That`s a cruel point.
How about the game last night? I stayed up until 12:30.
LEIBOVICH: It was a terrible game. I fell asleep.
LEIBOVICH: I know Philly won, so that`s good for you.
MATTHEWS: Philly won because God is on their side.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this.
Notice that the other team from wherever they`re from, Atlanta, you notice they had like five first downs in the last three minutes? They had so many opportunities.
LEIBOVICH: No, because I fell asleep.
LEIBOVICH: But I take your word for it.
MATTHEWS: You`re like Trump making fun of Obama.
LEIBOVICH: No, that has nothing to do with Trump making fun of Obama.
CARLSON: It`s good to know God...
CARLSON: ... are on Philly`s side, and they won.
MATTHEWS: Philly needs wins. I love Philly.
LEIBOVICH: But they already won.
CARLSON: So do I.
MATTHEWS: Philly flies.
The Roundtable is sticking with us.
And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We got a big week coming up on HARDBALL.
On Tuesday next week, we`re going to sit down with former Secretary of State John Kerry. He has a lot to say about the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, of course.
Then, on Wednesday, a really big show. John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, who has got real problems with Trump, and Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio, they are both going to join us.
You`re not going to want to miss those. These are two, I think, presidential contenders.
We will be right back quick.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.
Mark, tell me something I don`t know about your book.
LEIBOVICH: About my book?
I sort of traded the Washington swamp for the NFL swamp. The NFL is just as bad of a swamp as the NFL. We`re going to al watch football this weekend. Only 7 percent of all NFL fans have ever set foot in an NFL stadium. It is king -- TV is king in football.
MATTHEWS: What`s the average price of a ticket?
LEIBOVICH: Probably about $55. I just totally made that up. But that`s about...
MATTHEWS: I think it`s more. They`re way up there in the nosebleeds.
LEIBOVICH: Eighty-five dollars, yes.
CARLSON: I think it`s more because David`s going to the Patriots game this weekend.
MATTHEWS: That`s a great story, that everybody is a TV watcher.
LEIBOVICH: Everyone is a TV watcher.
CARLSON: But he`s taking the kids anyway.
Chris, I was told today that Bill Shine, the ousted FOX person, is in on the leak hunt.
CARLSON: And this is just stirring up the talk of how Bill Shine has -- couldn`t possibly have the vetting or security clearance that he needs to have the job he has in the White House, because he goes into secure locations.
He goes into those meetings. He`s got all these civil lawsuits against him.
CARLSON: ... $200 million.
MATTHEWS: OK. How is he going to find this person?
MATTHEWS: How do you do it? They`re talking about lie detectors. What is the technique?
CARLSON: Well, I think bamboo sticks under the fingernails.
MATTHEWS: I think they got to do word selection.
Gene, just do that thing about...
CARLSON: No, there were phases dropped in, like lodestar and adult in the room, to take people off the scent.
MATTHEWS: It was salted. The mine was salted.
What do you got for us tonight, Gene?
Today, Trump`s pretty excited because Congress passed a bill that makes it legal for the federal government to deport immigrants convicted of violent crimes.
Whether or not the Senate -- the Senate actually passes that...
MATTHEWS: I thought that is the...
SCOTT: Well, actually, there`s been some debate about what -- how...
MATTHEWS: If you commit a felony in this country, you are deported, aren`t you?
Well, not -- it`s not clear. The Supreme Court back in April had some debate over how they were defining what in fact was a crime.
And so the Senate has to vote on it before December. It`s not on the schedule right now to actually be voted on it. And so it`s not clear if it`s going to be -- it`s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: That is a hard thing to vote against, I would think.
SCOTT: Right. Actually -- like many Democrats actually voted along with the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Anybody know what happened to Rahm Emanuel, why he quit in Chicago this week?
SCOTT: He`s not really popular.
CARLSON: Well, the murder capital, and that trial is coming up on the police shooting where he kept the video from being released.
MATTHEWS: It`s so rare for somebody to walk away from...
LEIBOVICH: I wonder what he wants to do next.
MATTHEWS: Something besides politics.
Thank you, Mark Leibovich. Thank you, Margaret Carlson and Eugene Scott.
When we return, Let Me Finish tonight with what President Obama had to say in Illinois. I think this guy is going to the ramparts between now and November. He made a real partisan speech today. It may have looked like something else. He wants people to vote Democrat. It`s so simple.
I will get into that when we come back. It`s about partisanship. It`s about beating Trump.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let Me Finish tonight with what President Trump said today -- actually, President Obama said that today in Illinois.
He said to get out and vote for the Democratic candidates this November.
It`s not direct.
He said, we should vote Democratic even if we disagree on important matters, even if we`re more libertarian and want to see less government regulation than most Democrats, even if we`re more conservative on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, even if we don`t trust the Democrats to get serious about enforcing our immigration laws, any immigration laws.
Obama said we should vote Democratic even if we disagree with the party on all these areas, because it`s the only clear way to vote against what Trump is doing in all these areas, his partisan approach to administering justice, his relentless assaults on the American free press, his refusal to even condemn white supremacists.
President Obama wants voters to use their ballots this November to condemn Trump, to vote against. He`s drawn the line in the sand: Vote anti-Trump. Vote Democratic.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.