Show: HARDBALL Date: February 1, 2019 Guest: Michael Eric Dyson, Cynthia Alksne, Greg Brower, Richard Blumenthal, Adrienne Elrod, Carlos Curbelo; Jill Colvin
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for THE BEAT tonight. Thank you for watching us as always. I will see you back here Monday back here at 6:00 p.m. eastern.
But right now, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: I have set the table, I have set the stage for doing what I`m going to do. That`s President Trump. This is HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
We have got a lot coming up this hour including Donald Trump`s brazen new comments about his plans for a border wall. A shocking scandal in Virginia including a newly unearth photo of the governor of the state in a racist photo. And a significant break of Democrat`s efforts to obtain Donald Trump`s tax returns.
We begin with a showdown over the border with the deadline to avert the second the government shutdown exactly two weeks from today, President Trump is openly undermining congressional negotiations to avoid a repeat. And now openly threatening the prospect of declaring a national emergency to build a wall.
In an oval office interview with the "New York Times" the President criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said he set the table for declaring a national emergency to begin wall construction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Nancy Pelosi is hurting our country very badly by doing what she is doing. And ultimately I think I have stet the table very nicely. I think people understand stuff.
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Set the table for emergency declaration?
TRUMP: I have set the table, I have set the stage for doing what I`m going to do.
TRUMP: Yes, I`m going to wait until the 15th. I think it`s a waste of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, at the White House this morning, he echoed those comments telling reporters he doesn`t think negotiations are going to work. And he indicated he is likely to declare a national emergency to build the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you privately decided whether or not you`re going to decide national emergency?
TRUMP: What`s in my mind? Certainly thinking about it. I think there`s a good chance that we will have to do that. But at the same time we`ll be building -- regardless we are building wall and a lot of wall but I could do it a lot faster the other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The President added they will see what happens after his state of the union address next Tuesday night.
Late today in an interview with CBs News, Trump offered another preview of what comes next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: On the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what`s going on because of the shutdown. People that didn`t have any idea, they didn`t have a clue as to what was happening, they now know exactly what is happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Joy Reid, host of "A.M. JOY" on MSNBC. Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the "Associated Press" and Carlos Corbelo, former Republican congressman from Florida. Thank you all.
Joy, you first. You know I have set the table, I have set the stage for what I`m going to do next. He is certainly telegraphing. He is going to use a national emergency.
JOY ANN REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: Well, you know, Chris, as I`m watching -- as I watched Donald Trump today and just watching what`s going on over the last couple of weeks. It does seem that this is a president who quite frankly is struggling for relevancy. It`s clear that the congressional leadership is working with one another to come up with a bill that Donald Trump is highly likely to sign. The one thing the shutdown showed is just how catastrophic for the economy, for the individual financial, the situations of million Americans for our airline industry, for public safety.
I highly doubt that the leadership in Congress, including even the Republican, even Mitch McConnell is going to have another government shutdown. So what Donald Trump I think is saying is that he is not in the room and he wants to be the center of attention and it`s upsetting to him these negotiations are going on without him. So he is threatening this national emergency because he also has to be demonstrating to his base that he is doing everything he can to get them this wall Mexico`s not going to pay for. So you know --.
MATTHEWS: You don`t think he is going to shoot the moon on that? You don`t think he is going to do what he is threatening to do?
REID: I think he is going to sign whatever the members of Congress, I think you will see a bill pass that will not have a wall in it. He will sign it. And then he may go ahead and declare a national emergency and then that will trigger immediate lawsuits. But what he will have done is number one, abuse the national emergencies act which is supposed to be for real emergencies. And number two, just trigger lawsuits. But he will have demonstrated to his base that he is willing to go all out for his wall.
MATTHEWS: You cover him all the time, do you think he is going to go all the way and shoot the moon on this? Because he often does say I`m going to do what nobody else is doing. And whether he has to fight courts over this or not, at least it protects him against charges from the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh that he didn`t really try.
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Absolutely. Look. The point is to prove for his base he fought hard for the wall, that he did all he could to make it happen and it has seemed for weeks now like the emergency order was the only logical off ramp, something that the White House has been moving towards you have seen. It`s been weeks now that the White House has been preparing this order, that they have been going to agencies trying to find pots of money.
Now, I do want to say that my sources at the White House do say that they are looking for other potential options, maybe some other pot of money, but it does seem --.
MATTHEWS: Is there a pot of money in authorized funding right now? He says he`s got money.
COLVIN: Yes. I mean, at this point it does seems the most realistic option for the White House is to declare a national emergency. Of course it will be immediately challenged in the courts. But you heard his tone there in that interview with the "New York Times" basically winking, suggesting he might do it. We even heard today in one of his phrase where he has suggested potentially that might even make an announcement during the state of the union speech.
MATTHEWS: So he is going to do it? I think he likes fireworks.
Carlos Curbelo, thank you congressman for joining us. Your sense of Trump on what he is up to and then we will get to whether he should do it or not. Do you think he is actually going to declare a national emergency like presidents do when they have to and says I want my wall, this is how we get in?
CARLOS CURBELO (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Chris, this is a big missed opportunity by this White House and by this President. The only way to get the kind of border security that the President promised his base is to make it part of a grand bargain, to include permanent protections for dreamers, permanent protections for the TPS population.
Because the White House didn`t put that proposal forward, which if they had, would have put pressure on Democrats, now they are stuck with the solution, which is to just show the base that they are trying to do something and increasingly. And regrettably I think that`s what we see more and more of in politics these days. Not people trying to advance their solutions but people trying to demonstrate that they are fighting for something and when it doesn`t happen, use that to make them angry and get them to vote in the next election.
This is a big missed opportunity. The President has put himself in a box. I think this is the only option he has left and I don`t think it`s going to get him anywhere.
MATTHEWS: But you know the Republican politics on this. And one day if he doesn`t put the wall up or if he gets the wall up or a portion of it, which is a waste of money, but if he gets the money for it , even in exchange for DACA, the wild people on the right will say amnesty. He has betrayed his people. And won`t they grab him for that. Any compromise involves, maybe not as path to citizenship immediately, but certainly DACA isn`t he getting in trouble with his right wing?
CURBELO: You are right, Chris. And we tried in the last Congress to move an immigration solution. And yes, the far right, the House freedom caucus and others attacked that viciously. And the President is obviously very sensitive to those kinds of attacks.
However, he is On the Record supporting a path to citizenship for Dreamers. So what he should do or what I would do if I was in his position is go to those conservatives and say look, this is the only way we are going to get the type of border security we promised. Let`s give these young immigrants an opportunity to become citizens. Let`s protect the TPS population and declare a win. But that takes a lot of courage and I don`t see that happening any time soon.
MATTHEWS: Well, in his interview with CBS today, President Trump was also asked about his relationship -- why am I getting this confused, the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had quite the showdown with speaker Pelosi. What did you learn about negotiating with her?
TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very ridged, which I would expect but I think she`s very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier, she knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it is very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn`t mind human trafficking or she wouldn`t do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Joy, here we are with pure politics, omano-omano (ph). Him against the speaker of the House. She is tougher than he ever thought. That`s all BS. She said I know she is tough. He had no idea how tough she is.
She`s saying it`s an immortality to build part of this wall. I think that is an interesting statement but it`s almost like unconditional surrender in World War II. I`m not giving up on Nancy. When you say immorality, what is this going to land? You said he`s going to end up signing whatever deal there is. What looks to you like a deal at this point?
REID: What choice does he have? I mean, the reality is --.
MATTHEWS: What is the deal going to be if Pelosi says? The speaker says not an inch of wall.
REID: It will be not an inch of wall.
MATTHEWS: What will be the compromise?
REID: The political reality for Donald Trump is that Nancy Pelosi is not Paul Ryan. She is actually a strong figure in the Tip O`Neal School of being speaker. She has control of her caucus. Nothing with a wall is going to pass the House full stop. SO that is not going to happen.
On the Senate side, with all due respect to former congressman Corbelo, nothing with what the right and the Coulter wing calls amnesty would ever pass the Senate. It would be immediately filibustered.
There is no way to get anything that offers to citizenship for anyone who is not from Norway through the United States Senate. So what Donald Trump has is one choice. He can sign what he is going to get which is an increase in border security that has no wall. He will have to sign that. But then he has to go explain that to the same people who won`t let him do a dreamer bill. He is going to have to explain that to his base who voted primarily on opposition to non-white immigration. That`s what drives the Republican base right now.
MATTHEWS: Do you think they will settle for anything less than those things they typically use with their dogs?
MATTHEWS: They want to hurt them.
REID: They want them hurt. And so that is the base. That`s where the Republican Party is. Donald Trump is afraid of Ann Coulter. He is afraid to defy her. Nancy Pelosi is not afraid of anybody, least of all, Donald Trump. He will sign what she gives him. He will have no choice and then he is go having to go back and say but, but, but I declare a national emergency.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go this way.
Congressman, do you have a thought there because I think he is going I`ll just put my cards on the table tonight. I think this guy is bent for trouble. I think he is going to shoot the moon like he do (INAUDIBLE). He doesn`t care what anybody else does. It`s classic, you know, bring down the temple -- Donald Trump. Your thought?
CURBELO: Yes. But to Joy`s point, and maybe I`m a little na‹ve, but I still think of politics as the art of the possible. And last year in the Senate, a pathway to citizenship for dreamers got 56 votes without any support from the White House at all.
If this White House were to invest in an effort to get Republicans on board, they could get this done. And that`s why I think this is the biggest missed opportunity for this administration. They could have got immigration reform done. If any Republican President could have gotten it done, it was Donald Trump. And it looks like going to go another two years without an immigration solution in this country and that is a true tragedy.
MATTHEWS: Hard right commentator Ann Coulter who we just mentioned continued her criticism on President Trump over the border wall. In an interview with Yahoo? (INAUDIBLE) podcast today, Coulter once again blasted the President for failing to deliver on his promises. Here she goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COULTER, RIGHT WING COMMENTATOR: We put this lunatic in the White House for one reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You put this lunatic in the White House.
COULTER: Right. But I don`t know why it seem SO crazy that the President should keep his campaign promises. Wow, that crazy guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Well, here is the question. Is trump a fraud or he is incompetent.
COULTER: He is lazy and incompetent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jill, this is incredible. This is a country. That`s a real country. We started in 1776. We have had rocky roads. We are not always been great. We are getting better until now. This is a crazy situation. He is not negotiating with Nancy Pelosi. He is negotiating with that person. That`s what is scary.
COLVIN: Yes. And we know that the President is so sensitive to what people like Ann Coulter and what Rush Limbaugh think. Of course, those aren`t the people who necessarily represent Trump`s voter base. But he hears those and he hears them so loudly. We saw how he was willing to shift away from the C.R. that he was going to sign that created this whole situation that were in perpetuated the shutdown.
But the President is in such a tight box here. He is the President who has not worked at all to expand his base while he has been office despite what we might hear from the state of the union on Tuesday. And he is dependent on his voters. The people he promised the wall, the ones who chanted "build that wall" at every one of his rallies and he is determined to do something that won`t upset them.
MATTHEWS: Joy, last here, because I love what you think about these things. I`m getting your drift. But I want to know more here. If you are ready for ISIS press right now, (INAUDIBLE) or for Reuters or form the Tokyo News or whatever, and you had to explain the existence of the phenomenon of our country that can tell the President what to do and her name is Ann Coulter. How would you explain her power?
REID: He is beholden to her because he understands that what motivates his voters is nativism and she represents them. And the reality is Donald Trump might want to be an autocrat. But he`s not capable of getting anything through Congress that Republicans don`t already want. So tax cuts, yes, he can get those through. Right wing judges, check. He can do that.
But he has not got the power to defy the Ann Coulters of the world, partly because Mitch McConnell doesn`t care if there`s ever a wall and is not willing to spend one iota of political capital to get it for him. And so without the willingness of his party to do it, Donald Trump on his own has no power to do anything.
So the problem is, is that he is a weak President too, be honest. But he is a weak president who when cornered could still deploy the powers of the office. He could still attempt to do this national emergency which is not the purpose of this act. But he could it because he is desperate and I think he is scared.
MATTHEWS: I think he thought he was leading this parade and he`s just a drum major. He is just a drum major. He could be standing out front but he isn`t leading this one. And these people (INAUDIBLE) is Gale Winen (ph) who thought he was a big newspaper publisher could tell the rabble what to do and they said no, we are the rabble, you are taking our orders. That was the message of that book.
Thank you. Congressman, thank so much, Carlos Curbelo of Florida.
Thank you so much, Joy Re
And thank you, Jill Colvin. Thank you for the "Associated Press" news.
Coming up next. Late today the governor of Virginia confirmed he is one of the people in that picture we are looking at, shocking photo showing a man in black face next to another man dress in a Ku Klux Klan robe. We have got the latest on that disturbing story coming tonight. It`s going to be a big story this weekend.
Plus, Roger Stone was back in court today. The federal judge is considering a gag order, good luck with that, saying it`s a criminal case, not a book tour. What`s next for President Trump`s dirty trickster?
And Donald Trump says he would release his tax returns after a routine audit was complete. Can you believe that? That was three years ago. Now that Democrats have control of the House, can they get their hands on those returns?
Much more after this break.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Following breaking news tonight out of Virginia. NBC News has obtained a disturbing photo from Democratic governor Ralph Northam`s 1984 medical school yearbook page. The amid shows a manmade of black face next to another person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan rope.
The Virginia governor released a statement tonight confirming it was him in the photo. He apologizes for what he acknowledge as clearly racist and offensive.
Quote "this behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I fought for throughout my career in military and medicine and public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians` faith in that commitment."
The latest black face scandal comes a week after the Republican secretary of state down in Florida, Michael Ertel resigned after photos emerged of him posing as a hurricane Katrina victim made up in black face. Those photos were for a private Halloween party 14 years ago. Two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The city that is 60 percent African-American.
I`m joined by Michael Eric Dyson, of course, author of "What Truth Sounds Like, Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin and our finish conversation about race in America." And our unfinished conversation about race in America. Also with us, Adrienne Elrod, former senior advisor to Hillary Clinton.
Professor -- thank you so much, Professor Dyson.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: The history of blackface and its offensiveness, and here we go again. Your thoughts?
And it`s bipartisan, obviously. This is something that -- and the astonishing thing is, this is 1984, not `64, not even `74. This is 1984.
And it`s a remarkable display of the fact that racial insensitivity is not the particular province of any particular party, though we know that, disproportionately, within conservative circles, this kind of thing passes muster.
But the reality is, is that, even among conservative Democrats or those Blue Dog Democrats, or those in the South who think that this is a joke or hah-hah and play it for laughs, understand later that this is something destructive and provocative.
And I`m glad he apologized. I`m glad he acknowledged that it`s offensive. I`m glad he acknowledged that it has to go through a process where people can grieve and be astonished and say, no, God, not again.
Megyn Kelly wonders why blackface is a problem. The gentleman last week you talked about who had to resign, and now the governor of Virginia, this is a consistency that has to be addressed. And it`s so deeply rooted in our culture.
And I end by saying this. For those who say, hey, aren`t we past this, mostly racism is gone, the impediments and obstacles that prevent black people and others are far since removed, you people keep harping on this, this is an index of the persistence of racism in our country.
MATTHEWS: I think -- everybody knows I`m a movie buff. And I was watching some old YouTube today of Al Jolson back.
MATTHEWS: He was the guy -- the first talking movie, "The Jazz Singer," in blackface.
MATTHEWS: And I always -- I was thinking...
DYSON: Right. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: Watching on YouTube, and I was thinking, what do the African- Americans who were in the crew, were they working there, or watching in the theater, or back in the theater in those days, what were they thinking, as this guy playing a blackface character out of the minstrels in the `20s and `30s and `40s, and here...
MATTHEWS: And then I watched an Alfred Hitchcock movie the other night. There are no black people in it, except the Pullman car conductors. There`s nobody in the street of New York, when they have a picture of Fifth Avenue, no black people at all, no African-Americans.
MATTHEWS: And what was -- what was the reaction of people at that time? Project back. What were people thinking, African-Americans?
DYSON: Well, it was astonishing.
I mean, black people had to pretend in public that they -- they could be amenable to such displays of flagrant and offensive racism.
But, look, think about it. It`s just like when Joe Louis was in the ring boxing, and he was beating a white figure. When they were in front of white people, oh, my God, how sad. But inside, they`re cheering. And when they went home, they hoorayed.
The reality is, black people have always had to accommodate the vicious expression, the lethal intensity of racial passions that are against us, and then keep navigating our way through it. We have to suck it up. We had to bite our tongues. Inside, we thought it was horrible. We fought against it. We talked about it within our circles, our sororities and fraternities and churches. We did that.
But we stood up, and we said to ourselves, this does that mark who we are. And yet, at the same time, the dominant culture is obsessed with black skin, but not black skill, not black talent, wants to be black in terms of look, but not black people in terms of reality. That`s part of the trauma that we see in blackface.
And that`s why its persistence is especially hurtful to those of us who think, look, we`re beyond this, we got to get past this. What is the obsession with white America about blackening their faces, but not blackening their circumstances or conditions?
MATTHEWS: Adrienne, we had you on before we knew what you were going to say today.
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And earlier this evening -- actually, this afternoon, you called for this governor, Northam, to quit, to resign over this.
ELROD: I did, absolutely.
I mean, first of all, even if he is acknowledging that what he did was wrong -- and this happened in 1984 -- I mean, you cannot undo this. He`s never going to be forgiven by the majority of his voters.
MATTHEWS: That`s not a million years ago, by the way.
ELROD: Correct. Exactly. That`s the point, Chris. It`s not a million years ago.
But, secondly, here`s what -- as a campaign operative, I don`t understand how this information just now came out. Why didn`t we see this during the primary? Why didn`t we see this in the general election?
Who was doing the opposition research, the opponents of Ralph Northam?
MATTHEWS: They weren`t doing a good job.
ELROD: They weren`t doing a good job.
MATTHEWS: I don`t want to make comic of this, but there is a political aspect of, why doesn`t this stuff get out? It`s usually an opposition organization that gets it out, and probably was this time.
MATTHEWS: But I`m going to ask you about.
Julian Castro, who was just on the show the other night, he`s also-called for him to leave, to quit.
Look, I think you`re going to see more and more calls from -- by prominent Democrats and Democrats across the party calling on Mr. Northam to step down. I think it`s going to be very hard for him to recover from this.
And, look, Justin Fairfax, lieutenant governor of Virginia, is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He himself is African-American. It`s not like there`s not a long lineage of talent in to replace Governor Northam too.
MATTHEWS: Are you speaking as a -- I`m going to ask you a question here, not just as a commentator. Are you speaking as a Democrat who thinks the Democrats have to keep their laundry clean too, that they have...
ELROD: They do.
Yes. No, absolutely. Democrats have to keep their laundry clean too. But, at the same time, if we`re going to criticize Republicans for these insensitive racial gestures, then we need to also call out our own in our party.
And I think that, again, Governor Northam is going to have a very difficult time recovering from this. And he`s also a one-term governor. You can`t forget, in Virginia, you don`t run for reelection.
MATTHEWS: I want to switch to the positive now.
You`re a Democrat. I will start with you and then get to the professor.
We have two African-American candidates that are really going to be serious contenders. This isn`t like an outside chance here.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Kamala Harris has, even Donald Trump said, the best rollout he`s ever seen, basically, this year.
And you have got Cory Booker tonight, the senator from New Jersey, who`s always looked like a winner politically. This is a real development, just one presidency after Barack Obama broke the color bar, basically.
And when Barack Obama was running in 2008, he -- he obviously embraced being African-American. But there was some consultants who said, you should sort of distance yourself from that.
Now we have got two prominent African-Americans running in this primary, which is wonderful to see. But it`s going to be interesting to see how the two of them adjust their message to compete with certain sectors within the African-American community.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael on that.
Has there been a zeitgeist change on this question of a black president, to be blunt, to put it that way, since -- since late `08?
DYSON: Well, there`s no doubt that Barack Obama broke the barrier.
He was Jackie Robinson. We just celebrated, what, the 100th anniversary -- birthday of Jackie yesterday? So, Barack Obama is Jackie Robinson.
He isn`t the first black person who was capable of being president. He`s the first black person who got a chance to prove that he could do it. Jackie Robinson wasn`t the best black ball player and wasn`t the only one who could have been the first ball player, but he had the right temperament.
DYSON: As the great philosopher Grace Jones said, I may not be perfect, but I`m perfect for you.
He was perfect for the situation. Barack Obama was too.
Now we see the rising competition of two extraordinary stars. These are intergalactic stars, politically speaking, Cory Booker with his storied history, and Kamala Harris with her superstar status, her rollout, 20,000 people in Oakland, and then doing a great job on a competing network having a town hall, and then being able to withstand some of the critique around her record as prosecutor and the like, so -- attorney general.
So, the reality is, is that both of these figures will show that you can have more than one black person, and that welcome to the world of black politics, like white politics. We have many white politicians, many black politicians. May the best way man or woman win. May the best figure rise and take the challenge.
And I think that Cory and Kamala, Senator Booker and Senator Harris, will show that in our own time.
MATTHEWS: And I think a lot of people who are not in the community of people of color are going to vote for these candidates. I don`t think it`s just the South Carolina primary we`re looking at here, or the California one.
MATTHEWS: I think we`re looking at a whole new -- at least in the Democratic Party -- a different attitudinal change here.
Here`s Senator -- New Jersey Senator Cory Booker today announcing his run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People in America are losing faith that this nation will work for them.
They`re beginning to believe that too many folks are going to get left out or left behind. They`re beginning to believe that the forces that are tearing us apart are stronger than the forces that bond us together as a people, as a country.
I`m running for president because I want to address these issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michael, it`s fascinating, the way these rollouts -- you can do your rollout exactly the way you would want to do it.
MATTHEWS: So, going to Howard, going to Oakland, sending a message, doing it on Martin Luther King Day, as the senator -- Senator Kamala Harris did, and he apparently doing it in an urban setting, it`s just...
MATTHEWS: They`re just emphasizing the roots and emphasizing their part in the Democratic Party`s history, by the way.
DYSON: Absolutely right.
Well, when I said earlier Barack Obama was Jackie Robinson, that made room for who? Roy Campanella. It made room for Don Newcombe. It made room for, eventually Willie Mays. And so they are a different kind of candidate because of his trailblazing efforts.
They go to an urban center. They go to an African-American celebration or a national holiday rooted in an African-American reality. So these are people who are embracing elements of their own blackness, not afraid of it, not seeing it as some kind of ancillary or a peripheral reality.
It`s not marginal. It`s central. And being central doesn`t mean it`s exhaustive. It`s part of their identity. It`s who they are. But they range across a wide horizon of potential and possibility.
And I think, as the American populace and the American voterate becomes more mature and sees that even a black candidate has interests that are rooted in, but not restricted to, their own race, it becomes appealing and powerful in this day and age.
And when we have this man who sits in the White House today, an inveterately ignorant man, who is proud to be unmolested by enlightenment, to see two highly intelligent, articulate black people come to the fore to represent the best interests of this nation is a breath of fresh air.
MATTHEWS: I`m so glad you`re on tonight, Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University.
DYSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Adrienne Elrod, former senior official in the Hillary for president campaign.
Coming up: Trump ally Roger Stone was in court today -- what a judge had to say to him about turning a criminal proceeding into a public relations campaign.
This guy is going to get gagged, don`t you think?
Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Roger Stone was in court today. It was his third court appearance since a predawn FBI raid on charges of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to the Congress.
Prosecutors for the special counsel told a federal judge that they`re eying an October trial for him, for the former adviser to Donald Trump, though no date has yet been scheduled.
The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, warned both sides that she may impose a gag order, saying: "This is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign."
It was one week ago that Mueller charged Roger Stone with lying to Congress about communications he had with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.
Specifically, Mueller and his team charged that, after WikiLeaks dumped documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee by the Russians -- quote -- "A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information WikiLeaks had regarding the Clinton campaign."
President Trump, during his interview with "The New York Times," denied that it was him. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did you ever talk to him about WikiLeaks? Because that seems to be what Mueller was...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
QUESTION: You never had a conversation with him about that?
TRUMP: No, I didn`t.
TRUMP: I never did.
QUESTION: And did you ever tell him -- did you ever tell him to -- or other people to get in touch with him?
TRUMP: Never did.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, and Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor.
Senator, I have got to start with you about this.
The gag order, I`m fascinated. Can you shut up Roger Stone? He seems to be an exhibitionist out there. We talked the other night about the number of costumes he shows up in. He struts around in front of the cameras, like he enjoys a perp walk.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, the judge has an obligation, as all judges do, to prevent this criminal trial from becoming a circus.
And a gag order was imposed by the same judge in the Manafort and Gates trials. So there`s no reason that she couldn`t do it again here.
But, remember, what`s most revealing about this proceeding is the delay and the reason for the delay, which is that the special counsel has discovered complex and voluminous material in that raid of the Stone apartment in Florida.
And that fact and the delay and other facts indicate that Bob Mueller is nowhere near completing this investigation. And a gag or not, Roger Stone is in really deep trouble.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s not the first time that the president has claimed or denied a claim that he turned out -- turned out to be true.
President Trump originally denied and then acknowledged that he directed Michael Cohen, for example, to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair.
And throughout the campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly denied having business ties with Russia. In fact, he said he purposely stayed away from Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don`t have any jobs in Russia. And I`m all over the world, but we`re not involved in Russia.
I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever. I don`t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia.
I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, OK?
I don`t have any deals in Russia.
I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.
I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russian. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we have stayed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That did not turn out to be true.
In an interview with "The New York Times," Trump insisted that he wasn`t lying to the public, because he said it wasn`t business. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
QUESTION: Sir, can you clarify the Trump Tower Moscow proposal, right? There was this discussion. And we have learned since the last -- since the campaign that this went on longer through the campaign than we had expected.
TRUMP: So, let me tell you about Trump Tower Moscow.
This was a very unimportant deal, OK? This was a very unimportant deal.
QUESTION: But you told people that you didn`t have any business there. And people might...
TRUMP: Well, that wasn`t business.
QUESTION: Isn`t that misleading to say you weren`t pursuing business there?
TRUMP: Peter, that wasn`t business. That was a...
QUESTION: Well, you were pursuing business there, right?
TRUMP: That was essentially -- I had no money invested.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, Thomas Jefferson once said that the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth.
Is this artful dodging or lying?
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Lying.
He`s been lying about a lot of things. And this is central to his lies. And if you look at all the people who have been indicted, usually, the common denominator is, it has to do with Russia.
And this is no exception.
MATTHEWS: Senator, let me go back to this whole question of where we`re headed here, because I`m sure -- what do you sense about the timing now?
Because you said a moment ago this investigation, this probe by Mueller is not going to end soon. Tell me what do you think.
BLUMENTHAL: I think that there are a number of strong indications that this investigation is going to go on for quite a while, not only what happened in court in these last few days, with the delay of Roger Stone`s trial, but also the extension of the grand jury, the ongoing proceeding in the Southern District of New York, which has a certain independent life of its own, but is related to what Mueller is doing.
And all of it emphasized the importance of Mueller being permitted to finish his investigation, to do a report. In fact, I have just submitted legislation that would require a report, and that it be made public and provided to Congress at the same time it`s provided to the attorney general, so that the American people need and deserve that report, and they should have it.
So I think it will go on for months. And I think that there will be other indictments, very serious ones, of people close to the president.
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, it seems to me what`s really going to hold this up is what we found out the other day, the amount of information and tapes and everything else and e-mail and everything they have just collected down in Fort Lauderdale from Roger Stone`s sort of bin down there, his hole, his place.
I don`t know if you call it a treasure trove or sewer, but you got a lot of stuff down there.
ALKSNE: Well, if you look carefully at the motion, it looks to me like much of that stuff, Mueller already had.
But it has to go through a review to make sure that there`s nothing -- all of the evidence has to go through review to make sure there`s no attorney- client privilege. That`s going to slow it down even more.
But there are a couple really big hints in the latest filings, not only the indictment, but also in the discovery filing, that Mueller is about to go forward on something larger.
The first is, in the indictment, that famous paragraph 12 that has somebody directed -- like, one big shot directing another big shot to call -- to direct him to check in with WikiLeaks.
ALKSNE: And what we know is, those big shots don`t have anything to do with Roger Stone`s indictment. So that is a big indication that there`s more coming.
Additionally, when you look at the discovery motion, there`s all this information about financial records. Financial records have nothing to do with the Stone case. So, there has to be a reason why that`s happening and that it`s going -- and that more is coming in the months to come.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Richard Blumenthal, senator from Connecticut, as always.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And, Cynthia Alksne, thank you.
By the way, I get the feeling when I watch Roger Stone that Nixon liked Watergate, in the sickest possible way. It was all about him. And Roger is lighting up like a lightning bug, he loves it so much.
Up next: Remember three years ago, when candidate Trump said he would release his tax returns as soon as a routine audit was complete? Well, with Democrats now in control of the House and the House Ways and Means Committee, what are our chances of seeing those returns before Trump leaves office?
Apparently, pretty good.
Back after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My tax returns are very simple. They are under a minor audit, routine-ordered, as they have been for many years. Every year, I get audited.
It`s under audit. And I will release them when the audit is completed.
At the appropriate time, I will release them.
I will absolutely give my returns, but I`m being audited now for two or three years, so I can`t do it until the audit is finished, obviously. And I think people would understand that.
The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK?
QUESTION: You don`t think the American public is concerned about them?
TRUMP: No, I don`t think so. I won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even though every president going back to Jimmy Carter released their tax returns to the public, President Trump so far has avoided doing so, leaving the American people without a clear picture of the finances of the man who campaigned as a successful businessman.
In fact, one month before the 2016 election, "The New York Times" obtained Trump`s 1995 returns, which showed that he declared a tax reduction so substantial, it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.
Trump attempted to spin that news to his advantage, noting that it showed that he understood the country`s tax laws. Let`s watch him in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I understand the tax law better than almost anyone, which is why I am one who can truly fix them. I understand it. I get it.
As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit. I have brilliantly used those laws. I have a fiduciary responsibility to pay no more tax than is legally required, like anybody else, or...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: ... put another way, to pay as little tax as legally possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You hear that cheering?
Well, now Americans may be closer than they have ever been to seeing those tax returns of Donald Trump. We`re going to explain why.
That`s next. Stay tuned.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Next week, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are holding a hearing on a bill that would require presidents to release their tax returns. Democrats are also planning to take advantage of a law that allows the chair of the committee, which includes the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, to request any individual`s tax returns from the treasury secretary.
But they expect to face a legal challenge from this administration, of course.
I`m joined right now by David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," and former U.S. attorney Greg Brower.
David, first, what do you see the politics of this? How will Richard Neal, who`s the new chair of the committee, how are they going to work this thing to get the tax returns of Donald Trump?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
It seems to me he has the right under this law that you just referenced to make a direct request to the Treasury Department for the tax returns of any American in pursuit of a legitimate inquiry. That would include Donald Trump.
There are some people out there saying, why did he not send that request in the day they came into power, the House Democrats?
It`s clear to me that what he`s doing is moving very deliberatively forward. They`re going to have hearings next week on this bill that would make it a law that you would have to present your tax returns if you run for president, and sort of examine the issue, example the potential conflicts of interest that Trump and other presidents might have, and work his way, creating a predicate, a foundation to making that request to Treasury.
MATTHEWS: Could that ever get through the Senate , though?
CORN: Well, no, it doesn`t have to. It goes directly to Mnuchin.
And then the issue is whether he will abide that...
MATTHEWS: But you`re talking about passing a law.
CORN: Well, no, no, no, no.
The law is separate. The law would make it a requirement for other candidates in the future. But the request can come without a law. Richard Neal, the chairman in the House Ways and Means Committee, could do that tomorrow. And it goes to this -- the IRS and the secretary -- and the Treasury Department.
And the issue is, would they honor that request, or does it...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me.
It seems to me, Greg, that the president lying here. I don`t use that word a lot. But he`s not being audited. He`s not been audited for three years. He`s just lying.
And the question is, when are they going to cause his bluff and say, the congressman say, ask the IRS, is this guy under audit or not? Just get to that preliminary stage.
GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right.
MATTHEWS: To prove he is a liar.
As David mentioned, current law does allow the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House or the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to simply make a request to the IRS.
And the statute actually says that the secretary of the treasury shall furnish those returns to the committee chair.
BROWER: And so no doubt that will happen. He will be the Ways and Means chair, of course, who will make that request.
The question, as was mentioned, will be, what will the secretary of the treasury do? This has never been litigated. So we`re in uncharted waters if the request is not complied with.
BROWER: And so we will see.
MATTHEWS: But Mnuchin is not going to do it because he`s asked.
BROWER: Well, then that will likely get into a contempt proceeding, potentially, and litigation.
MATTHEWS: So they could sue us -- the Democrats could hold him for contempt, Mnuchin?
CORN: Well, perhaps.
And they could also put in subpoenas. There are other ways to go. And, remember, Trump is out there saying that: I have been under audit for two or three years.
Well, we don`t know. It`s good to be find -- to find out. He`s provided no proof of the audit, right? And he could also provide tax returns prior to that period.
MATTHEWS: You`re the reporter.
You`re the expert on the law.
Does Robert Mueller have Donald Trump`s tax returns right now?
BROWER: I don`t think there`s any doubt. In my experience as a prosecutor, that experience tells me that there`s there`s really no doubt Mueller has those returns.
MATTHEWS: He does?
BROWER: That`s right.
In fact, the IRS has been asked about this. And they have said -- it`s not that they have, but there would be a legitimate request from a special prosecutor. They would honor it.
And there`s a lot the tax returns could tell us, but, also, remember, they`re not everything. They won`t tell us about all his LLCs, and how he -- and his emoluments from foreign sources. A lot of that money goes through very different channels. It`ll give us an idea of some of his financial issues, but not even everything.
MATTHEWS: Well, it got Al Capone, didn`t it?
CORN: That was not paying taxes.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, gentlemen.
It`s an amazing Friday night. I have never seen it.
But how do you like the new entrants in the Democratic primary?
CORN: Well, Cory Booker -- the quality is very wonderful of the videos. His video was great. Kamala Harris` big event in San Francisco -- San Francisco was great.
I think there are a lot of great choices for the Democrats right now.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s going to be a wild and wonderfully positive campaign season, before they start killing each other.
CORN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, David Corn and Greg Brower.
Up next: why a move -- why a move Donald Trump made today could prove to be very dangerous.
MATTHEWS: When I interviewed candidate Donald Trump in 2016, he surprised me with his attitude toward nuclear weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 30, 2016)
MATTHEWS: Where would we drop -- where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?
TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain.
Somebody hits us...
TRUMP: ... you wouldn`t fight back with a nuke?
MATTHEWS: No, to drop a nuclear weapon on a community of people that are...
TRUMP: No, no, but you can`t say -- first of all, you don`t want to say take everything off the table.
MATTHEWS: No, just nuclear.
TRUMP: Because you`d be a bad negotiator if you do that.
MATTHEWS: Just nuclear.
TRUMP: Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly. Possibly.
MATTHEWS: OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in `45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons.
Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.
TRUMP: Then why are we making them? Why do we make them? We had...
MATTHEWS: Because of the old mutual assured destruction, which Reagan hated and tried to get rid of.
TRUMP: Just so you understand, I was against Iraq. I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: So can you take it off the table now?
TRUMP: Because that`s sort of like the end of the ball game.
MATTHEWS: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon on anybody?
TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.
MATTHEWS: How about Europe? We won`t use it in Europe?
TRUMP: I -- I`m not going to take it off the table.
MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?
TRUMP: No, I don`t think so. But I`m not taking...
MATTHEWS: Well, just say it. I will never use a nuclear weapon in Europe.
TRUMP: I am not -- I am not taking cards off the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he seemed to lack any knowledge of the history or the horror they wreaked in Japan in 1945, of how that horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have kept the Cold War cold, free of an all-out military conflict between the United States and the USSR, in effect, a Third World War.
Trump seemed to view nuclear weapons as just another factor of production, like steel girders or cinder blocks. He spoke of using such weapons not as deterrents, but as just another ready-for-use weapon in the U.S. arsenal.
Well, today, the Trump administration moved to withdraw the United States from the nuclear arms treaty with Russia negotiated by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty that banned the nuclear competition between East and West in Europe.
Doesn`t this president know the dangers he`s flirting with?
That`s HARDBALL for now.
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