Show: HARDBALL Date: January 25, 2019 Guest: Gregory Meeks, Amy Klobuchar, Jonathan Lemire, Joaquin Castro
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Caveman. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in New York.
And what a day it has been. We are covering two smashing news stories tonight both pummeling the Trump presidency. The arrest of his long-time dirty trickster in political intimate in the Russia probe, Roger Stone. And Trump`s big cave in the shutdown reopening the federal government without getting a single penny for his prized wall.
The President now faces the rat of his far right base like Ann Coulter who tweeted today, Trump is the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States. Wimp.
Much more on that crushing Trump headline coming up.
We begin with today`s arrest to Roger Stone in the predawn raid of his home by the FBI in Florida where he was later hauled before a judge in shackles. Stone been charged with several criminal counts including witness tampering, obstruction, and five counts of making false statements to the Congress.
Most significant is the indictment draws the Russia investigation a big step closer for the highest levels of the Trump campaign. It indicates that Mueller has evidence directly related to the core of his mandate which is to investigate quote "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump." closed quote. In other words today`s indictment of Roger Stone appears to be exhibit A in a case of collusion. Got it?
In detailing his alleged lies, by the way, the special counsel today Stone as a key link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, a front for Russian intelligence which can played a crucial role in the Kremlin`s campaign to screw with the American electric. It was Julian Assange of WikiLeaks who released over 50,000 stolen Democratic emails all hacked by Russia in a deliberate effort to inflict maximum damage on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
The indictment today suggests that Stone knew what was coming from the Russian hackers even before WikiLeaks released the first batch of emails. Quote "around June and July of 2016 Stone informed senior Trump campaign officials that he had information indicating WikiLeaks had documents whose releases would be damaging to the Clinton campaign," closed quote.
Then after the first batch of DNC emails was released in late July quote "a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information WikiLeaks had. Stone thereafter told the Trump campaign about the future releases of damaging material by WikiLeaks.
As of tonight we don`t know the identity of that quote "senior Trump campaign official" or the person who directed them to contact Stone. Here`s what told reporters after his appearance in shackles before a Florida court today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: After a two-year inquisition the charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other illegal act in connection with the 2016 campaign. At the crack of dawn, 29 FBI agents arrived at my home with 17 vehicles with their lights flashing. When they could can simply have contacted my attorneys and I would have been more than willing to surrender voluntarily. As I have said previously there is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the President, nor will I makeup lies to ease the pressure on myself."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is Texas Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro who is a member of the House intelligence committee, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, Maya Wiley who is a senior vice President for social justice at here in New York and MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos.
Danny, I want to know about this. Tell us about how this brings this in the, I guest, to the heart, I believe it does, of the Russia probe.
DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It does and it doesn`t. You look at all the conduct alleged in this indictment that Roger Stone isn`t actually charged for. He is charged for obstructing justice, for lying, for persuading witnesses corruptly. That relates to everything that happened after the investigation began. But far more compelling is the information before Roger Stone allegedly committed those crimes. And it leaves open the question, does the special counsel have enough information about Roger Stone`s conduct with WikiLeaks or whatever the organization is to charge him or do they not yet have it and they are waiting until they get an air tight case to charge him? Because then and only then when those dots connect up will we have evidence of Russian collusion.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, what do you think about this? I have a different view. I think that Roger Stone knew dam well it was coming from Russia because everybody on the planet knew it was coming from Russia and he knew what he was doing and as being a link, which is the key word, in the mandate of this probe. Get all the links between Russia government people and the Trump campaign. He clearly is a link. Your thoughts.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Chris. This is an incremental step towards a bigger conspiracy indictment that is absolutely coming. And you know it is funny because this indictment reads like a conspiracy indictment. It has the building blocks of a conspiracy indictment but it doesn`t yet charge the conspiracy. That`s obviously for tactical reasons.
This is one incremental step that the Mueller team will use to try to break Roger Stone and bring him on board because goodness knows he would be a treasure trove of information about on Donald Trump, having a decades` long association with him.
And you know what? Either roger Stone will break and see the light or he will die in prison. But this is just one incremental step and the next big step is probably an overarching conspiracy indictment.
MATTHEWS: And this is quite a scene I have known Roger Stone somewhat of a distance, luckily, for years. He had the weirdest look on his face today. He looked like he was enjoying this moment of whatever.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He absolutely was. I mean, he is the one who said, you know, it`s better to be talked about than not. And he doesn`t care if being talked about means being talked about as he stares down the barrel of a prosecutor`s gun.
And it`s rather staggering. I mean, I want to go back to the point that Glenn made. You know, we are talking about a man who says he doesn`t want to bear false witness, who literally -- we have email exchanges in which he`s fabricating lies about Hillary Clinton`s health in the context of the indictment and we know from Jerome Corsi himself, asked Jerome Corsi to lie.
MATTHEWS: Or be punished physically by him. I mean, it is frightening this "Godfather" stuff the way he threatened this witness.
WILEY: And called him a rat.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the indictment alleges Stone communicate with conspiracy theories Jerome Corsi and radio host Randy Credico about making contact with WikiLeaks. While at the same time he kept can in touch with people close to the campaign.
For instance, Stone wrote to a supporter involve would the Trump campaign saying spoke to my friend London last night. The pay load is still coming. Later that day a supporter involved with the trump campaign asked Stone via text message if he had heard any more from London. Stone replied yes. Went to talk on a secure line.
And then after the release of Jin Podesta`s emails on October 7th, quote "an associate of a high-ranking Trump official sent a text message to Stone, it read, well done. Well that associate who congratulate (INAUDIBLE) is unknown his boss, the high-ranking campaign official, has been identified as Steve Bannon.
Congressman, thank you. I don`t know. You guys up with the hill have to decide whether to impeach this President and I`m wondering how close this gets to getting to the heart of the matter, the belly of the beast, which is was Trump directly or indirectly working with the Russians to beat Hillary Clinton?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think right now we still don`t know that conclusively whether he personally was. I believe his campaign was the indictment today shows that, that there was basically a chain of people that went from the Trump organization, high up to the Trump organization, to WikiLeaks that had stolen or received stolen emails and then dumped them. I think we will find out ultimately before this is all over whether Donald Trump knew or didn`t know and whether he participated.
MATTHEWS: If you found out that a lot of your campaign people whole bunch of them were working together to work with Moscow to defeat an opponent, would you feel responsible? It seems extraordinary that the fish rats from the head. I wonder if Trump is a victim or a potential target of a RICO charge because he was running a criminal enterprise here, it seems to me. Your thoughts.
CASTRO: Yes. And you tell that it`s getting harder for Sarah Sanders to keep denying that this has nothing to do with the President as it gets closer and closer to the President. And you know, I`m not surprised that Roger Stone has been indicted for making false statements. That was I think, of all the interviews we were in, the one interview where when the interview was done, everybody was pretty sure that he had lied to the committee. Because he took contradictory -- he made contradictory answers or gave contradictory answers to questions and so we knew both things couldn`t be true.
MATTHEWS: Well, Roger Stone has said he never spoke to Trump about WikiLeaks. Now there`s a great case can of hiding from the truth by saying certain things. I never talked to him quote about WikiLeaks. He may have just talked to him about getting dirt on Hillary from this interesting source. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STONE: I can honestly say that candidate Trump, Donald Trump, President Trump and I have never discussed the WikiLeaks disclosures before, during or after --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s hard to fathom in light of today`s indictment which alleges Stone lied about discussing WikiLeaks with several members of Trump`s campaign. Furthermore, Stone admitted during the election, he was frequently in touch with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How often do you talk to him?
STONE: From time to time. I mean, not on a daily basis but from time to time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the last time you talked to him?
We talk from time to time. I decline to characterize the content of those conversations.
I speak to Donald Trump yesterday. He`s in good spirits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you divulge to us, Roger, and I respectfully answer this question, some of those middle of night phone conversations you had with Mr. Trump?
STONE: You know, I really can`t and it`s been my policy not to discuss personal conversations or it will end, honestly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Danny, give me a psychological profile of the guy we just heard from there. He seem to want to tease the idea he is on the inside and then if asked a legal question he gives you a very careful denial.
CEVALLOS: He is like (INAUDIBLE) of public statement. He is teasing the information. He is getting everybody getting everybody excited but he has a very legal ease type answer. The reality is speaking as often as he did, some of his statements, not just to Congress but to us were inconsistent and it becomes very not credible to actually believe that he never spoke with Donald Trump about WikiLeaks when we have that montage of Donald Trump discussing WikiLeaks on an almost ongoing basis. It stretches the imagination that Donald Trump in all of his conversations and his close relationship with Roger Stone would never have brought up WikiLeaks, which apparently was Trump`s favorite conversation.
MATTHEWS: And of also the President is publicly and notoriously known for having asked the Russians to give him any information they have on Hillary`s email. I think that might come up in conversations with Roger and the President.
WILEY: Well, he literally is asking Corsi what we now know as Jerome Corsi to go get the emails from Julian Assange two days before Donald Trump publicly says, come on, Russia. If you can find, get us those 30,000 emails. It`s a two-day break in time.
You know, the other thing, just going back to the way the Trump campaign worked and this notion, we don`t know. So this is not something we know in terms of what Trump knew and what conversation he had. But we do can know this campaign was a family run business.
MATTHEWS: Yes, the Romanoffs. As I mentioned Stone is also charged. This is really - this is a "Godfather" staff. For witness tampering, for allegedly threatening and pressuring Randy Credico not to contradict his, Roger Stone`s testimony before the House of Representatives.
Among other things, Stone told Credico to plea the fifth like Michael Potenialo (ph) the fix character "Godfather II" who was intimidating into keeping quiet. Now Roger Stone also told Credico, you are a rat, a stuly, you back stab your President, run your mouth for lawyers. Are you dying to rip you? I think lawyers are dying to rip you in shreds. He also said let`s get it on, prepare to die, expletive.
Glenn, I don`t know. This is mob talk. He`s threat thing guy physically or whatever. I don`t know how you describe it. Go ahead.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, you know. It`s ridiculous. And, you know, Stone may like the parse words. He doesn`t parse them well or credibly. And you know, as you were just saying, President Trump talked with everyone in the world about loving the WikiLeaks and what they are providing but he didn`t talk to Stone about it.
Again I think Stone will probably fold like a cheap lawn chair and come on board and, you know, Bob Mueller can back up with three pieces of evidence and convicting Stone at trial on this will be a cake walk.
Congressman, I made a similar return. And I believe you are, too. Were you concerned this guy can be guilty as hell? He could be a bad dude in every possible way - immorally, legally, politically. Were you happy with the way they picked up today with 29 agents, guns drawn, long rifles, put them in shackles, the whole region.
I think criminal justice should only be administered by - voting by a jury. Don`t beat up the kids in the car in the way to the police station like they used to do in the bald old days. Don`t do perp walks to humiliate a guy. If the person is guilty, they get the penalty set by a jury and judge, not in a kind of extra pipe. What do you think of the way this guy was picked up at dawn?
CASTRO: You know, I missed a lot of the coverage because I was on to the airport for a flight back home. And I know that there was a debate whether there was a media tipped off so they can recorded. And CNN said that they weren`t tipped off and so forth.
I think yes, people should be judged in a court of law. There has been a lot of media speculation and a lot of discussion about this. So I think that`s all fair.
MATTHEWS: Does it concern you as Democrat, a person of public life that people get picked up this way.
MATTHEWS: Does it concern you as a Democrat, a person in public life that people get pick up this way. I have seen this kind, congressman, by the way. A friend of mine is member of Congress years ago got picked up like this so that all the neighbors would see it. There was some -- the agents want all the neighbors to see this guy was under investigation. Your thoughts.
CASTRO: Sure. Yes, I don`t think, Chris, that we should go out of our way as a government to humiliate people. I also don`t know what dangers or what concerns the agents of the FBI may have had. But yes, I don`t think we should go out of our way to publicly humiliate somebody on their way to taking them down to the station basically.
MATTHEWS: I think ends don`t justify the means but the ends were certainly valid.
Thank you so much U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, Glenn Kirschner, Maya Wiley and Danny Cevallos. Thank you all.
Much more on this huge story tonight, including a unique look at Roger Stone`s long history as a Washington dirty trickster. I have known the guy for years. I have got video of Stone that shows just how important and intimate a figure he is in Donald Trump`s political world. He is not some hanger on. He was in the belly of the beast. Well, you are not going to miss what`s coming up. Stick around and watch where getting to the heart of who Roger Stone really is.
The other big story tonight, President Trump, the man who build his brand as the mater deal-maker has caved. Get that word caved. It`s going to be all the headlines tomorrow in a big way. The government is reopening for now and some of Trump`s friends on the far right are not happy. They are calling him a wimp. He won`t like it.
You are watching HARDBALL right after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After five weeks and two missed paychecks for more than 800,000 federal workers, an end to the longest federal government shutdown in history is now coming into view.
President Trump caved on his demand for a border wall -- we know that now - - agreeing to open the government without the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.
As everyone knows, I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn`t want to use it at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president tried to paint the announcement, as you see, as a victory, but the deal notably includes not a nickel for the wall.
Instead, it funds the government for three weeks, until February 15, and leaves the issue of $5.7 billion for a border wall aside for further negotiations.
But the president left on the table the prospect, as you just heard, of taking another drastic action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.
If we don`t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And just a short time ago, the House joined the Senate in passes legislation to temporarily fund federal agencies. The package now goes to the president for his signature.
Anyway, the blowback for Trump was swift from at least one hard-right commentator. Within minutes of Trump`s remarks, Ann Coulter tweeted that the president was -- quote -- "the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States."
His retreat over the wall, of course, also marks the second time this week Trump capitulated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who`d insisted on no negotiations for the wall until the government was reopened.
The speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York addressed reporters shortly after the president`s spoke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi, did the president underestimate you politically? And can you assure the public that there won`t be another impasse in three weeks?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I can`t assure the public on anything that the president will do.
But I do have to say I`m optimistic. I can`t characterize the president`s evaluation of me.
QUESTION: Do you think that he thought he could get what he wanted?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I think he thought -- no one should ever underestimate the speaker, as Donald Trump has learned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: From more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman of New York Gregory Meeks, and Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press
Congressman, as a politician what do you think of the standoff this week? It looks like the president caved in, lost 100 percent, it`s all lost for him.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, Nancy Pelosi is the master negotiator.
She said all along that we needed to get back to the table only when the American people get back to work. That`s what`s happening, from the beginning. So we could have avoided all of this if he had just listened to Nancy Pelosi in the beginning.
MATTHEWS: But he listened to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
MEEKS: Well, clearly.
And they don`t know how to run a government. And they could see that they were losing and had lost the American people because of the Trump shutdown in the very beginning.
And so now, as Nancy has said, because Democrats all along, we want border security, but we want sensible and reasonable border security. And I think that the format that they are putting together, that working like it is a conference committee...
MATTHEWS: Yes, the regular way.
MEEKS: That`s right, with six Democrats, six Republicans in both House and Senate, sit down with the experts, so that we can talk about how do we really secure the borders and hire judges and law enforcement and make sure we have drones and electronics that`s up to date, that`s what you do.
That`s what Nancy Pelosi was talking about from day one.
MATTHEWS: You think Trump would buy a smart solution like that, that really dealt with border enforcement, or he just wants this symbolic brick wall?
MEEKS: Well, I think that he`s now backed into the corner, because when you`re a con man...
MATTHEWS: He`s not going to get the brick wall, is he?
When you`re a con man, sometimes, the con is up, OK? He started conning the American people in the beginning, when he said he`s going to build a brick wall, and Mexico`s going to pay for it. The con is up. He can`t do that.
MATTHEWS: It`s interesting to watch. Thank God we have video now, so you can watch some of these meetings.
A couple weeks ago in the Oval Office itself, he started to talk her down. I know the tricky situation Nancy`s in right now. She can`t really speak for the House Democrats. She had a little leadership challenge there.
And he calls her Nancy. And she just called him on it. She just said, don`t talk to me about my political situation and my leadership.
And now she`s gotten an object -- he`s gotten an object lesson from her.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: There`s no question that one of the results of the shutdown is that her power has only increased, and there is no question, as an equal to him in Washington, which drives him, privately, sort of insane.
This is obviously -- it`s a good news story that workers are going to start getting paid again. But this is a loss for this White House, and they know it. If this -- if "The Art of the Deal" had been this negotiation, no one would have bought that book.
The White House saw the writing on the wall last night after those votes in the Senate, those two dueling bills that passed. There was a sense of resignation there. They knew they had to move towards this.
It was just a question of trying to spin it in some sort of victory today, trying to sell it to Republicans that it`s not entirely cave. But, of course, we`re seeing that media on the right not buying it.
Let`s look at some of the language before this happened about what the word cave really means.
Earlier this month, Senator Lindsey Graham had a warning about what it would mean for Trump if he gave in on his demand for a border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he gives in now, that`s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. That`s probably the end of his presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, some headlines in conservative media today bolstered that point.
Breitbart wrote -- quote -- "Government open and border, no wall, still no SOTU."
Anyway, while "The Washington Examiner," which is a conservative paper, said, "Trump blinks."
One former Trump administration official, by the way, told NBC News the move was a -- quote -- "total cave, unless he calls national security emergency when he doesn`t get the wall fully funded."
Congressman, I have to ask you about this, because, at the end of this three-week sort of cooling-off period, like we used to say in labor issues, three weeks of cooling off, if the president says -- goes on television from the Oval Office and gives one of these John F. Kennedy kind of things, this is a national emergency, we have to secure the wall, I`m doing it with the funds from -- available funds from the Defense Department, what would the Congress do?
Can you stop him?
MEEKS: Look, the emperor at that point won`t have any clothes because of the negotiations between Democrats, Republicans, House and Senate. Put something on his desk.
Then, if he tries to go against all his Republican senators -- I think what was significant yesterday, if you look at the Senate vote, we had six Republicans voted with Democrats. In fact, the Democratic alternative had more votes than Republicans.
That showed him that he`s losing all of the senators.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Mitch McConnell, who has been obdurate in defending Trump, would let his Republican conferees agree to a compromise on border security that didn`t include a physical barrier?
MEEKS: Mitch McConnell is in trouble too, because you understand the behind-the-scenes meeting there from his members who are up for election in 2020.
They`re trying to protect their own you-know-what.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
LEMIRE: And the national emergency threat, it may be one that doesn`t have much in the way of teeth.
The White House looked into this a few weeks ago, seriously considered it, and sort of backed away, in part because they don`t feel like they`re going to get much support from Republicans on this. They are afraid Republicans on the Hill are not going to be willing to give up that sort of power to the executive branch.
And, moreover, they`re afraid of setting a precedent for some future Democrat president to come in and declare a national urgency for some sort of liberal cause.
MATTHEWS: As a reporter, can you identify who gets credit for this deal, tonight`s deal?
LEMIRE: I mean, the -- Mitch McConnell`s reemergence is what broke this.
And because he engaged in the process, the White House realized they had to move.
MATTHEWS: Because of the fear you mentioned?
MEEKS: That`s exactly right.
LEMIRE: That`s right.
And Speaker Pelosi, of course, deserves a ton of credit for holding her ground and claiming what is unquestionably a win for her. Her power has increased. She outmaneuvered the president over these last -- over this last month.
MEEKS: There`s a check on the president now.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk theatrics.
I know you`re a serious politician. But this is theatrics. Trump walks out with that usual strut of is, the open coat, the big long overcoat, the tie eight-feet-long, and he swaggers out, even though it`s about three degrees out in Washington.
He comes out and swaggers out, as if he had won.
MEEKS: Well, look...
LEMIRE: He`s a salesman. That`s what he does.
MEEKS: Well, salesman, con man, that`s what he does.
If you talk about the art of the deal, if the art of the deal is going bankrupt, that`s Donald Trump. He`s gone bankrupt six times. And now in the Financial Services Committee, there`s people that are going to be looking at those dealings.
So there`s a big -- there`s big things that`s are going on. There is a check.
MATTHEWS: Guess who won?
I`m sorry to interrupt. There`s Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House...
MATTHEWS: ... signing the bills to get the government wide open.
Is he going to all her Nancy anymore? Or is that over?
LEMIRE: Well, I thought it was very interesting.
MATTHEWS: That`s his nickname for her.
LEMIRE: In the Oval Office of the other day, he said, Nancy Pelosi, or, as I call her, Nancy, which is not a devastating nickname from the president.
It`s been interesting that he has at this point -- he doesn`t know what to make of her. We knew before she was elected speaker he was telling people around her -- around him that he felt like she could -- he could deal with her, that he did respect her, that, yes, she`s been a useful whipping boy - - or girl in this case, I guess, for Republicans for a long time.
They have raised a lot of money off of her name, but privately he thought, like, I can negotiate with her, and then go on a rally stage and bash her.
But, right now, he has been utterly outplayed by the speaker.
MATTHEWS: And his usual nicknames, low energy, low I.Q.
LEMIRE: They don`t apply.
MATTHEWS: They don`t work here, thank God.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York and Jonathan Lemire.
Coming up: Between Roger Stone`s arrest today at dawn and Trump caving in on the wall funding, it`s been a pretty rough day for Mr. President, despite his costuming there.
So where`s all this taking us?
To talk about all of today`s big events and more, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota -- I think she`s running for president too, by the way -- joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The charges today relate in no way to Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration, or any other illegal act in connection with the 2016 campaign.
TRUMP: I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight, the White House is suffering huge casualties on two fronts. Both are very bad for the president.
First, Trump`s longtime adviser and confidant Roger Stone was arrested, placed in shackles, and indicted by the special counsel all this morning. His indictment says he was in touch with senior Trump campaign officials about the release of those WikiLeaks documents leading up to the 2016 election.
Then came the news that Trump caved on the shutdown, announcing a deal to reopen the government without money for the border.
I`m joined right now by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Put it together. This is a historic day, Senator. And I -- I don`t know how -- they both seem bad for Trump. What`s what`s in it for the country, what happened today?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: What`s in it for the country is that finally these workers are going to be able to go back to work.
And I was listening to the rightful praise of the work that Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer and the rest of us did in standing our ground, and not giving into the president, because every time he gut-punches you.
But the real credit are those workers, 800,000 federal workers doing their jobs without pay. Everyone saw them at the airports, the prison workers, the people at that -- you name it, all of these security agencies, the FBI. I served some of them lunch today in the food line just a few blocks from the White House.
KLOBUCHAR: It was an unbelievable thing that the president let this happen. And those workers are back to work.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s stupid. And I wonder if the Democratic Party, of which you`re a member, would be willing to say, no more government shutdowns. There are no excuses for them. This shouldn`t be a tool, an art -- part of the art of politics, shutting down our government as sort of an angry tantrum.
Can`t we -- can`t the leaderships of both parties just say, never again, we`re not going to do this anymore?
KLOBUCHAR: While, actually, Senator Warner has a bill, an interesting name to it, the STUPIDITY Act, which looks at doing that.
And I know he`s going to do some work on that bill. And there should be a way to do this, because these workers shouldn`t be a pawn. And that`s what this president has allowed to happen to this country.
And the other thing about this, Chris, is, I think when you have heard about the deals he made a New York, a lot of times, he would just walk away from the table, maybe he wouldn`t pay people.
Well, I think he found out today that you can`t do that to an entire country. You can`t do that to the people of America. And you can`t get by without paying American workers.
MATTHEWS: We do -- we`re looking at -- it`s a little unfair because we`re looking at a picture in the cross-screen from you, Senator, of Trump walking onto the steps there at the Rose Garden at the White House, a very historic spot, obviously, and he`s got his coat open.
And he`s got that ridiculous red tie about eight-feet-long. And he`s strutting. He says now, just a minute ago, he put out the word that he didn`t lose today. What do you make of that claim?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, the only people that lost really in this last 35 days were the American workers and the American people.
And just to look at it as a win-loss game is just typical of things that he`s said. But what we have to look at now is, what are we going to do over these next three weeks? Because this thing is over, what, the day after Valentine`s Day, right?
And the hope is that we can look at the security issues in a sensible, smart way, look at the technology, look at some of the border crossings, and not do what he was suggesting, which made no sense -- many security experts have said that -- but instead look at what works best at the border and stop this chaos and start governing from opportunity.
What I`m really worried about is what we`re not doing, pharmaceutical prices still rising. And he talks a big game on that. We have got proposals. We have to get them through. The ice sheet melting in Greenland, reaching a tipping point, we have to start moving on climate change.
And all the time he creates this chaos, it becomes harder and harder for the country to move forward and to compete in this international economy. And that`s what we have to get back to doing. And that is looking out and having the backs for the American people, and not allowing him to create more chaos.
So, if there was any win today, it was that finally someone said to him, enough is enough. We`re going back to work.
MATTHEWS: Well, congratulations on being the first positive voice tonight in this country. I`m glad to hear that.
MATTHEWS: By the way, Roger Stone joins a growing list of people in Trump`s inner circle charged by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Look at this.
In addition to Roger Stone, you have the president`s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who pled guilty to lying to Congress. His campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on bank and tax fraud charges. Manafort`s deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to similar charges.
Trump`s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. His campaign adviser George Papadopoulos also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
This list is Watergate-length.
KLOBUCHAR: You know, in another way today -- talk about an I told you so day -- was for those of us who have been fighting to protect this investigation, but also making the point that this is a national security issue.
This is about another country trying to influence our election and hack into campaigns and do things that were unbelievable in any other election that we have seen in American history.
Well, this indictment really got us closer to the truth, because, in this case, you have, in an indictment sworn under law, which says clearly that someone in that campaign, a senior official, asked Roger Stone to go over there and start communicating on the release of these e-mails.
It showed what they were doing to Hillary Clinton, what -- they were trying to undermine her by attacking her health and making things up about her memory and other things.
This is exactly what we saw unfold before our eyes in the election. It influenced the American people. And, again, our main goal in the Senate right now is and should be to allow that investigation to complete its course, so the American people can have the whole story.
And that`s why it`s so important that that report be released, so we really know what happened. It`s the only way to prevent it from happening again.
MATTHEWS: Senator, I think that nails it.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight on this big, historic night.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Who exactly is Roger Stone? By the way, stick around for this one.
And how did he become the scariest person in American politics today? Tracing the ties between a man notorious for his dirty tricks and the man currently occupying the Oval Office, including some very interesting video.
We`re going to show you how close these two guys really are.
Stick with us for this horror show.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For roughly 50 years, Roger Stone, a Nixon acolyte and self-proclaimed dirty trickster, has proudly peddled his trade in the dark underbelly of American politics.
It was there he met Donald Trump. Trump served as Donald Trump -- actually, Stone served as Donald Trump`s first and longest-serving political adviser, the relationship dating back decades. Stone has also been closely associated with Trump`s 2016 campaign chair, Paul Manafort, who`s currently in jail awaiting sentencing.
In the 1980s and `90s, Stone and Manafort were partnered together in a lobbying and consulting firm. And, as "The Washington Post" noted at the time, they had a list of clients that by 1988 already included Donald Trump.
Stone continued to be an intimate and top political adviser to Trump as he flirted multiple times with a White House bid.
In the 19 -- actually, the 2016 documentary "Get Me Roger Stone," Manafort said this about Stone`s close relationship with Donald Trump:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Roger`s relationship with Trump has been so interconnected that it`s hard to define what`s Roger and what`s Donald.
While it will be clearly a Trump presidency, I think it`s influenced by a Stone philosophy.
Rogers`s relationship with Trump, they both see the world in a very similar way. If Trump is elected president. I think Roger will see one more very significant impact he`s had on world history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Up next: a piece of historical video that shows just how important Roger Stone was to Trump`s political rise.
Back after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How strong is your allegiance to President Trump?
STONE: I am one of his oldest friends. I am a fervent supporter of the president. I think he is doing a great job of making America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Roger Stone`s relationship with Donald Trump dates back nearly 40 years. In fact, Stone joined Trump and his then girlfriend, the current first lady, Melania, of course, at a 1999 HARDBALL College Tour -- there they are sitting together -- when Trump was talking about a run for president back in the year 2000.
That`s a close, interesting statement of his power.
Twenty years later, Roger Stone has become a huge viability -- liability to Trump`s future.
For more, I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" magazine, and Anna Schecter, of course, NBC News, investigative reporter.
You first, David, and I want to get Anna to come in here and talk about what she knows, more about Roger.
But this guy, it seems to me, was the classic, and is as long as he lives, the dirty trickster of all times.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
And he`s taken pride in being called that. But he`s not just a dirty trickster. That sounds a little cute. He`s been a conniving conspiracy theorist for decades now.
And he started off working, as you noted, with Paul Manafort as a lobbyist, representing autocrats, dictators, thugs and oligarchs around the world.
He`s been involved in bunch of controversies, he sometimes claims more credit than maybe he`s due, but trying to shut down the recount in 2000 in Miami, getting dirt on Eliot Spitzer and forcing him out of office, putting together an anti-Hillary campaign in 2008 that had an acronym as a title that I can`t even say on a family-friendly show.
So he`s been lying, cheating, maybe stealing for a long time now, and it`s kind of interesting. The indictment really shows that he`s really bad at lying, just some very basic lies.
But he went into the House Intelligence Committee thinking he had a magic shield, and could say whatever he wanted, and he wouldn`t be held account for it.
MATTHEWS: How does he seduce these powerful figures like Richard Nixon and Donald Trump? Why do they fall for him? What will he do for them? What`s he do psychologically?
ANNA SCHECTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, here`s one of these huge, larger-than-life New York characters. You know them.
We have covered them reporting, just like Donald Trump, and he`s got charisma.
MATTHEWS: But I know great New York characters in person, like the late Jimmy Breslin, but they were good guys. This is a bad guy. This is like Roy Cohn bad, Roy Cohn famous.
SCHECTER: Well, he likes to actually give out that image.
And I think that gives him sort of a powerful image, that he`s willing to go there, and he`s willing to go there, do the dirty tricks and get the job done. And so far, until now, he`s gotten away with it.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at him here.
MATTHEWS: He looks -- David, he looks like he`s enjoying this, like I always thought Nixon in some weird way liked all the attention of the Watergate prosecution. In some sick way, he liked the attention, like a -- you know what I mean, a narcissist would.
CORN: Yes, we have all known Roger for many years. And I think narcissist is a good word for -- word for him. It also applies to Trump.
So maybe there`s a bond there . You used two magic words earlier, Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn was a dirty, underhanded player who was Trump`s lawyer, also a lawyer for the mob, and Trump loved him. He was a mentor in a lot of ways.
So I think, when Roy left the scene, Roger was a natural person for Trump to gravitate towards.
He also is -- I mean, he`s a bit of a kook. He put out a book saying that LBJ killed -- killed John F. Kennedy.
CORN: He put out a book during the last campaign saying that Bill Clinton was tied to a series of murders. He`s a conspiracy theorist who hangs out with Alex Jones.
And yet he was considered a VIP, a VIP at the Republican Convention for Trump in 2016.
MATTHEWS: Where did these two meet, at some mixer, college mixer? Where did they get together?
I mean, I`m kidding, because he`s an underworld figure in many ways, and Trump seems to know a few underworld figures.
What`s -- where did the matchup occur?
SCHECTER: They go back 40 years.
Roger Stone even knew Fred Trump before he knew Donald Trump. And it sort of makes sense that that friendship would forge. And they really do have a bond that`s developed over these years.
And you see the loyalty there.
MATTHEWS: Where did they meet?
SCHECTER: I actually don`t even know where they met. But it`s -- they go way back.
And Roger has been telling me for the last six months how they go way back, he`s not going to turn on the president, but...
MATTHEWS: What is he doing sitting next to Melania at the president`s event, a candidate -- not even candidate, but Donald Trump, when he went to Penn with us? He`s like he`s an escort.
SCHECTER: He`s -- that`s an interesting word to use for Roger Stone, actually.
He pushed the Manhattan Madam, Kristin Davis, to run for office in New York and fund -- was the backer of her campaign.
MATTHEWS: Is that how he got the stuff on Eliot Spitzer?
SCHECTER: That`s right. I mean, that was all part of it.
I mean, he loves this stuff. He loves to be right at the heart of the most controversial thing that could happen.
CORN: And remember too -- sorry, interrupting.
CORN: He was the political guru for Trump.
Trump was a business guy. But he talked about getting in, running for president and for governor of New York many times. And Roger was always at his side, egging him on.
And when he started this campaign in 2015, it was basically two or three people there working with him, Roger Stone, Sam Nunberg, and that was it. So he always has turned to Roger, this conspiracy theorist guy, for political advice.
MATTHEWS: That`s all Donald Trump needed, was more bad influence.
Anyway, thank you, Anna Schecter, for your expertise about this guy, David Corn, as always, sir.
Coming up: Roger Stone and the dirty tricksters in Washington politics.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: The man arrested at dawn today once said it was better to be infamous than not famous at all.
Roger Stone loves most of all being in the action. Stone was pushing Trump for president even before Trump was.
That thing he said about being infamous, rather than not famous at all, is the Roger Stone I have known for decades. He was telling the truth in this case about himself.
And far from pushing dirt or trading in rumors, his more familiar role, he was actually expressing his lifelong ambition. Stone wanted to be known -- maybe still does -- as the master of the dark political arts, a primo dirty trickster, the last, but still dangerous devotee of Richard Milhous Nixon.
There are a number of dirty tricksters in Washington politics, people known for pulling off schemes that undercut their rivals. I think I know most of the big ones, like the guy, presumably Paul Corbin, who stole Jimmy Carter`s debate prep materials and got them to his rival, Ronald Reagan, or Dick Tuck, the vintage Democratic dirty trickster, who drove candidate Richard Nixon berserk.
There`s Donald Segretti, who committed some of the misdeeds of Watergate, writing in the margins of one report, "Love this job."
What has raised Roger Stone in the pantheon of the dark arts is his relentlessness. That loyalty to mission, as well as person, is what makes this Washington figure I have known for decades so dangerous. He doesn`t quit.
This brings me back to what Roger Stone once said about it better to be infamous than not famous at all. That`s something I could imagine Richard Nixon himself saying. That`s if he were as outrageous a character as Roger Stone.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"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