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Joe Scarborough plays hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 3/27/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Michael Schmidt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Cynthia Alksne, James Clyburn,Carmen Yulin Cruz, Adriano Espaillat

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  We`re going to talk about everything he knows and why he says he has ideas about what is in the Mueller report because he was in the grand jury room.

That`s it for us.  "HARDBALL" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Jumping over the bar.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  The democrats are not waiting for William Barr.  They`re talking right now about subpoenaing Robert Mueller himself to testify about his 22-month investigation.  And this would allow the democrats to leapfrog the Trump appointee, head of the Justice Department and get directly to what Nancy Pelosi has called the goods.  That`s the big news tonight.

Along with what former FBI Director James Comey just told NBC News just minutes among the headlines there.  Trump tried to burn down the institution of the FBI.  That is rough stuff.

In a little while, I`ll talk to my colleague, Joe Scarborough, here about President Trump who`s using enhanced credibility.  He`s claimed over the Mueller report to attack old enemies.  A big show tonight.

We begin with former FBI Director James Comey speaking out about the Special Counsel`s probe.  In exclusive interview with Lester Holt with NBC Nightly News, Comey discussed Robert Mueller`s conclusions, as described by the Attorney General on Sunday.

More importantly, however, he weighed in on what we still don`t know about the Special Counsel`s report, which no one has seen.  Among those unanswered question is, why Mueller did not make a call on whether the President obstructed justice or not.  Comey says the whole point of the Special Counsel was to prevent political appointees, like Attorney General Bill Barr, from making that decision.  Let`s watch.


LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:  Mr. Mueller decides not to make a judgment on that particular issue.  Does that surprise alone you?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR:  It does.  The purpose of the Special Counsel is to make sure that the politicals, in this case, the Attorney General doesn`t make the ultimate call on whether the subject to the investigation, the President of the United States, should held criminally liable for activities that were under investigation.  And so the idea that the Special Counsel wouldn`t reach the question and hand it to the political leadership doesn`t make sense.  I`m not prejudging.  I`m just saying it doesn`t make sense on its face.


MATTHEWS:  It doesn`t make sense to a lot of people.  Comey himself was -- himself, a central witness in the obstruction case as he doesn`t understand why the President wasn`t subpoenaed to answer questions about obstruction.


HOLT:  Do you ask yourself why Mueller did not subpoena President Trump to try to get to the heart of this intent question on obstruction?

COMEY:  Yes, I do.  And I don`t know the answerer to that.  I have the same question about how the Attorney General could resolve the question, which he says in his letter, turns upon the President`s intent without the president having been asked what his intent is.


MATTHEWS:  And Comey said the conclusion of the probe, it vindicates the FBI itself, which has been the subject of the President`s relentless attacks.


HOLT:  Do you take this as a rebuke of you and your leadership and the FBI?

COMEY:  No, I actually see it the other way.  It establishes, I hope, to all people no matter where they are in the spectrum that the FBI is not corrupt, not a nest of vipers and spies but an honest group of people trying to find out what is true.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.  Michael Schmidt covers national security for The New York Times.  Cynthia Alksne is a former federal prosecutor, of course, and Heidi Przybyla, National Political Reporter for NBC News.

I want to go to Michael on that one.  First of all, Comey looked at me like the guy Trump should be afraid of because he looks like a law enforcement guys, person, who -- his wonderful way of saying, how could we not have investigated the Russian situation?  How could we not-- all the evidence and smoke, if you will, of a deal between the President`s people, the President and the Russians, all the interactions between them.  He said imagine if Obama in a parallel universe had those kind of relationships with the Iranians, do you think we might have investigated it?  I mean, it was powerful.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  What he`s hitting on here is the perception problem that Barr has.  Because the Special Counsel, the person that Comey was saying, who was there to follow the facts, to insulate the investigation, to make sure the result was not looked at politically for some reason didn`t make a decision.  200 years in the Justice Department, I can`t find anyone who found an example of this, where a U.S. Attorney essentially, what Mueller was here, couldn`t come to something.

And what Comey is something is basically that that leaves the decision to go to the politicos, to go to Barr, to go to Rosenstein.

MATTHEWS:  And he knew it would go to Barr?

SCHMIDT:  And they are the ones that make it.  So the decision, Barr may have made the right call but the perception is that he, the politician, who wrote the memo many months ago unsolicited to Trump`s legal team is the person who was ultimate decider.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, a lot of people defended their vote for the war in Iraq by saying all we did was give him the authority to go to war.  Right.  You gave it to W.  He was going to go war.  This guy, Barr, was appointed after he wrote letter after letter, article after article on how he was going to support the President on obstruction of justice.  You give him the authority, he`s going to use it.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), T.X.:  Yes.  I remind you and the American people of the Article 1 Authority, and that is our authority in the United States Congress.  Although elected, we will have to take off the political hat and really get into the investigatory hat.  The American people deserve it.  I`m not deterred by the Mueller report.  It is it done now.  I am prepared to deal with the Mueller report by getting the Mueller report and insisting that Attorney General Barr does not wait a couple of weeks.  We do not need to have him massage the report, summarize the report, as he tried to do over the weekend.

I was shocked he gave an extensive letter.  I simply wanted a few points for him to say the Mueller is en route to the United States Congress.  So we will have to use our subpoena power in several instances in order to get the truth and begin a full investigation on both issues, the collusion, although we certainly acknowledge Mueller and also the lack of decision on obstruction.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in ruling that the President did not obstruct justice, Attorney General William Barr argued that it`s difficult to bring obstruction charges when the President himself hasn`t engaged in the underlying crime, the collusion here.  However, Comey took issue with that reasoning.


HOLT:  Is that a legal principal that you have always understood?

COMEY:  No.  That`s part of my confusion.  I don`t think the A.G. said that was the justification.  He cited it as a factor, and that`s just not been my experience as a prosecutor for decades.  Every day in this country, people are prosecuted for obstructing justice to avoid embarrassment, to avoid harm to their business, to avoid threats to their families where there isn`t an underlying crime that they committed.  And you wouldn`t want it any other way, because if you had to always prove the underlying crime, you would create incentives to obstruct because people get away with both if they successfully stop an investigation.


MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, it strikes me that knowing Trump and his suspicions of the so-called deep state and everybody else, and he also wonders about his kids and his other people.  He may have wondered as he was obstructing apparently, a lot of smoke there, that all kinds of people, Donald Jr., Gates, Manafort, he didn`t know what any of them were up to particularly.  So he may have been just trying to obstruct justice to protect all matter of folk.  Your thoughts.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, he may have been.  But Comey is right.  I mean, the general rule is you can be convicted of obstruction of justices whether or not the underlying crime, it turns out be a conviction.

I will say this about the confusion concerning Mueller and the decisions that he`s made.  The one thing Mueller is known for is being thorough and by the book.  And we can safely assume that Mueller gave the reason why he made this decision not to make a final call on the obstruction.  And he wrote that in his report in some detail and argued it with legal citations.

For some reason, Attorney General Barr did not feel the need to share that with us.  And that does concern me, that instead of telling us why and what Mueller was thinking, which is so critical to this report and to the findings, he chose to just put his own spin on what had happened.  And that`s a big concern for me.

MATTHEWS:  Well, meanwhile, NBC News is reporting tonight, just now, in fact, that according to three lawmakers involved, House Democrats on key oversight committees are exploring legal options right now, including the possibility of subpoenaing Special Counsel Mueller himself.  A report note sending a subpoena straight to Mueller, possibly bypassing Attorney General William Barr is one of the several options democrats are considering as they seek to obtain the full report.  Adding democrats involved in the oversight process say, they recognize that subpoenaing Mueller directly would be a nuclear option.

Congresswoman, I have to ask you about it.  You can subpoena the Justice Department.  You can subpoena the Attorney General or the Special Counsel.  What`s the difference?

LEE:  Every one of them.  And I would say there is a great interest in subpoenaing Attorney General Barr because of his summarization and, of course, Mr. Mueller.  The reason is we don`t believe that the President would allow Mr. Mueller to come voluntarily.  We believe Mr. Mueller would come voluntarily.  But if he is not able to do so, yes, we would subpoena him frankly because I actually think Mr. Mueller had some confidence in the Article 1 institution of Congress by leaving that question open for us to assess even though in the Mueller report we might find what his determination was.

And in order to do our job, Mr. Mueller might voluntarily appear but he might be stopped by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General by way of the President.  And so we`d have to subpoena both Mr. Barr for his interpretation and his acknowledgment or announcement that the President was exonerated.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s go to Heidi, who reported this.  Heidi, how do we know -- how likely is it they`ll go directly, the democrats are going to go directly to Mueller?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  It seems like it might be more likely now, Chris, that just in the past few moments, the Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, said that he had a conversation with Barr, in which Barr told him he will not meet this week`s deadline.  Nadler told him, that deadline is firm.

So even before that, Chris, democrats were consulting lawyers on key committees about what their legal options are.  As the Congresswoman pointed out, there are pitfalls and Barr could try and block this.  However, based on my reporting, democrats feel that they are on solid ground based on recent precedent.  What is that precedent?  It`s when James Comey gave a declination on Hillary Clinton`s emails that he was not going to prosecute.  He was up here within days testifying before the House Oversight Committee.  It was a very similar situation, Chris, where republicans argued that the then Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, was conflicted because she`d met on a plane with Bill Clinton.

Well, in this case, we also have an Attorney General who democrats say is conflicted because of his opinions that he made known about this investigation.  So democrats are weighing this along with other legal options.  But they do say this may be a way to try and force this information to come out.  Because democrats are very concerned about the timeline here, Chris, in term of the President basically misstating the contents of even this cursory memo saying that he`s been cleared on obstruction when the memo actually says otherwise.

MATTHEWS:  You know, there`s two great -- and you have to do this analysis as well as reporting.  Doing the old tricks is delay it, delay it, delay it.  Bill Clinton would have been in worse shape in early `98 than he was later in `98 when they found out all the truth came out about him and Monica.  But sometimes an argument, when you put it off and put it in [ph], it`s a powder keg when it explodes.  If they hold off that report, hold it off for a couple weeks, a month or so, and it does come out and shows that there`s so much spin on what Mueller -- that Barr put on it, the Attorney General, that it wasn`t the truth, that he looks like a liar, that`s not going to help this President.

SCHMIDT:  No.  I mean, that`s the problem --

PRZYBYLA:  It`s not just the -- pardon me.

SCHMIDT:  No.  That`s the problem with the perception here.  That is the issue, is that Barr looks like he is the President`s guy, I mean, because Mueller, the person there, to prevent all this political wind didn`t make the call.

The interesting thing here on the analogy to Comey is that Nadler did not like Comey`s press conference.  He did not like the disclosures that Comey made then.  Because he said, look, you`re not bringing criminal charges --

MATTHEWS:  By the way I agree with him.  I agree with Nadler.  If you`re not going to prosecute, keep -- go ahead.  That`s your job.

SCHMIDT:  But the question here now is that the Congress -- the Justice Department has decided not to prosecute the President.  But all the documentations now are going to go to the Hill?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s a great question.  Here`s what Comey said about Mueller`s decision not to seek conspiracy charges related to collusion.


HOLT:  The language was pretty clear.  There was nothing between this campaign and Russia.  So on that basis, should he be breathing a sigh of relief?

COMEY:  I don`t know that I read the letter from the Attorney General that way.  I read him as saying the Special Counsel didn`t find that the evidence established that there was any conspiracy between America and the Russians. What other evidence there is, what evidence that might be that falls short of that standard, I have no idea.

HOLT:  Establish is the word that you`re honing in on there?

COMEY:  Correct.  And so I don`t know what the Special Counsel found and I`m prepared, I hope, everybody has to wait and get the transparency we need.


MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, how about consistent justice here by the justice people?  It seems to me that a lot of people I know were very upset, and I thought so reasonably, that when Comey came out and said he wasn`t going to charge candidate Secretary State Hillary Clinton on those email matters and he kept talking and said, but she was really bad and she did bad things, and basically put some tar on it.  He put some stain on her.  And this time around, people are going, well, why did he make a call on whether they prosecute or not and that do his job and go quiet?  Because this time, he said, I`m not exonerating him.  But what does that mean for a prosecutor.  I thought a prosecutor`s job was to prosecute or not.

ALKSNE:  It definitely is.  And so that`s true when it comes to the decisions and any decisions about Don Jr. or Ivanka anybody else who could have been prosecuted and Mueller has declined to prosecute, and so we should not be getting a discussion about their behavior.

The President is in a different position though, because under the Department of Justice regulations, he could not have been prosecuted as a matter of regulation.  So the only option really was for Mueller to give that -- give the information and give it to the House Judiciary.

MATTHEWS:  I have to contradict you there.  Barr in his letter contradicts what you just said.  He said, we did not go by those guidelines.

ALKSNE:  Well, that`s what Barr says.  But what we don`t know is what Mueller said.

MATTHEWS:  Well, okay.  You`re saying Barr is lying?

ALKSNE:  That`s the whole point.  That`s what we need to know.

MATTHEWS:  Is Barr lying?

ALKSNE:  I`m saying Barr has spun -- I`m saying he has spun this as well as he can for the President.

And let me just say this about Mueller coming up to the Hill right away.

I`m all for that because I want to hear what he says because I trust him.  But he has the same 60 [ph] problems right now that Barr has.  And that has to be resolved before he can testify.  And, additionally, if they want to ask him questions about the conspiracy question, he`s got counterintelligence issues.

So it`s not as easy as we`re going to slap a subpoena on Mueller.  There are lot of things that have to happen before he can speak freely to the House Judiciary.  And if it`s completely doable, we can get a court order, I mean, there`re lots of things to do, but it`s not just something simple.  And I don`t want people to get that impression.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the democratic answer is we want the truth and we want the information as soon as possible and the American people are going to have to make some of the judgment themselves, and the one way they can make the judgment if they see this report.

U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, it`s always an honor to have you on, of Texas, Michael Schmidt, of course, Cynthia Alksne and Heidi Przybyla for that great reporting for us, that the democrats aren`t going to wait for Barr because they don`t really trust him, they`re going to go for the guy himself, Mueller, a fascinating story and a great reporting.

By the way, coming up right now, the next minute right after the commercial, Joe Scarborough is [INAUDIBLE] and we`re going to talk about the President.  It`s totally weird story.  It`s a [INAUDIBLE] to all this, the President`s weird appetite for revenge.  He`s the count of Mar-a-Lago.  All he wants to do is get even even if it can kills him.  We`ll see.

He`s calling people treasonous, referring to democrats and journalists who are doing their jobs.  Trump`s Obamacare kill shots coming up too.  Why does he want to kill Obamacare? And how can he repeatedly claim he`s going to protect people from pre-existing conditions when he has no healthcare plan, whatsoever?

And why is he killing the Special Olympics?  I`m going to talk to House Democrat Whip Jim Clyburn.  Much more ahead, stick with us.


Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Feeling vindicated, I guess, an (ph) emboldened President Trump has continued his revenge efforts, his tour, if you will, of revenge.

On Twitter, president went on the -- after the media again, writing: "The fake news media has lost tremendous credibility with its corrupt coverage of the illegal Democrat witch-hunt of your all-time favorite duly elected president, me."

Well, sources told "The New York Times" that, while the president was on Capitol Hill today, he told Republicans that he was going after the meeting because -- quote -- "People love it when you attack the press."

Well, that`s deep. 

And according to Politico, during that same meeting, the president also told -- urged senators not to -- quote -- "let Democrats off the hook" for how they treated him and his family.

Well, back in 2011, Trump explain why revenge was so important to him.  Let`s listen. 


DONALD TRUMP SR., PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You got to get even with people, because ,even if you don`t come into contact with them, everyone else knows you`re a fighter, and you`re not going to take crap, and other people aren`t going to take advantage of you. 

So I think it`s really important.  If somebody screws you, screw them back in spades. 


MATTHEWS:  Screw them back in spades.  That`s the voice of our current president. 


MATTHEWS:  But remember the story of the Count of Monte Cristo.

My favorite new -- story, the count of Monte Cristo destroys himself trying to get revenge on his enemies.  President Trump is the count of Mar-a-Lago, don`t you think?

For more, I`m joined by my colleague Joe Scarborough, host of "MORNING JOE."

"The Count of Monte Cristo," when we were kids reading classic comic books, was a good guy.  But, in reality, he was destroying himself, because he gets out, he can`t even get his old girlfriend back, because she thinks he`s so vengeful, he`s not the same guy anymore. 

Well, Trump apparently hasn`t changed, like the count of Monte Cristo.  He`s still -- he`s still Donald Trump. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE":  No, he`s always been Donald Trump. 

And it works well if you`re speaking to a crowd of people that are screaming and yelling for you.  And they come to Trump rallies because it`s like going to see a rock show.  It works pretty well if you`re going on TV and you`re debating Rosie O`Donnell. 

It does not work well when Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House.  It does not work well when you have to deal with federal judges in Kentucky that overturn your plans on Medicaid.  It doesn`t work well when you have to deal with Madisonian democracy.

And that`s -- that`s what Donald Trump is so bad at.  That`s why he still can`t figure out how John McCain was able to stop his efforts to kill Obamacare.  And he certainly has no clue how to deal with Nancy Pelosi.

You notice -- Donald Trump loves to beat everybody up.  You notice, though, he`s smart enough to stay away from Nancy Pelosi.  He does not hammer Nancy Pelosi, because he knows she`s got the power. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, John McCain, of course, had some moral advantage over him, having bombed -- haven`t been shot down over the enemy capital at the time and being fished out of the water, while they broke all his legs. 

And he was there with this concierge doctor, getting out of the whole thing. 

You know what I think is interesting?  In the midst of all his supposedly great weekend -- and I guess to him, it was a great weekend -- he got off the hook on the collusion for a while and maybe off the other one, obstruction -- he goes after Adam Schiff, one of the warriors going against him.


MATTHEWS:  Calls him a pencil neck.  Talk about high school talk.  That`s something from high school, pencil neck, and says he couldn`t hit a drive 50 yards.


MATTHEWS:  What is this about?  It is so weirdly personal.  I don`t know.  What do you make of it, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the thing is, after I won my first election, nobody could understand why the first thing I did was reach out to my opponents, especially those where it had gotten really personal, it had gotten really ugly.

And they were the first person I went to.  It`s what Donald Trump doesn`t understand about politics.  And I know people are going to say, well, who are you to talk about what Donald Trump does or doesn`t know about politics?

His problem is, right now, this is a great opportunity for him to move past 40 percent.  I mean, he`s the only president in U.S. history, in recent polling at least, in modern history, to not go above 50 percent, because he keeps picking these fights. 

I mean, it reminds me of that scene -- you love movies -- it reminds me of Jeremy Renner`s character in "The Hurt Locker."  He`s going -- he`s cheating death throughout the entire movie.  He finally gets sent home from Iraq.  And then he finds himself cleaning out the gutters. 

And after scooping out like this second handful of leaves, you know what the final scene of the movie is?  And that`s him back in Iraq on a deserted street marching down to defuse a bomb and try to cheat death one more time. 

Donald Trump is an action junkie.  A week may be a lifetime in politics, but, in Trump`s D.C., in Trump`s world, a day is an eternity.  And that`s why he`s picked a fight he can`t win on health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s something we`re going to get to later in the show, Joe, but you have opened it up.

And that one, he can`t win, because all the polling shows that, just like Republicans are hopped up over illegal immigration -- and fair.  That is what they`re hopped on.  They`re Americans too.  Democrats are much more hopped up over something really close to them, which is health care, because it affects their kids, their life, their later years in life, the whole thing.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, yes.

MATTHEWS:  And Trump is walking right into that Gatling gun of defeat.  Why is he doing this?  To answer your question.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, again, he`s addicted -- he`s addicted to chaos. 

Also, he doesn`t understand.  I mean, he thinks that he can somehow leverage this into a victory on health care by wiping out Obamacare.  I mean, he must not have paid attention to the results of the poll -- of what happened in November. 

I mean, Republicans had the largest defeat since 1974, the largest vote total loss in the history of midterm elections.  And, yes, he lied about Russia.  The vice president lied about Russia.  Flynn lied about Russia.  His campaign manager, everybody around him lied about Russia. 

But Americans really didn`t care about that.  But Donald Trump also lied about health care.  He promised universal health care when he was running.  That ended up being a lie.  And he reversed himself.  He promised people that their deductibles were going to be lower, that health care costs were going to be lower, that they were going to have better coverage. 

He promised he wasn`t going to cut Medicare, and ends up in his latest budget...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he does.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... he wants to slash $845 billion from Medicare. 

This is a dream for Democrats.  This is how Bill Clinton beat up Republicans.  It`s same thing, where you have got Republicans that are cutting Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich.  This guy -- and this is what Democratic candidates have to understand.  He ran as a populist.  He`s governing as a plutocrat.

And he`s just like every other politician that`s been bought off by billionaires.  Like, you look at his tax cuts.  What did he say, Chris, after passing the tax cuts?  He said -- he went down to Mar-a-Lago.

MATTHEWS:  Another -- he`s going to give us another tax cut.


SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Well, he went down to Mar-a-Lago, and that very night, he said to his billionaire buddies, I just made you guys a lot of money. 

So, yes, Jeffrey Epstein, he made a lot of money on Trump`s tax cuts.  Robert Kraft, he made a lot of money on Trump`s tax cuts. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Boeing made a lot of money on Trump`s tax cuts.

But workers in Wisconsin didn`t.  Workers...


MATTHEWS:  I like the way, Joe, you enumerated all the people who have their own problems, not just Trump.



MATTHEWS:  It`s true.

SCARBOROUGH:  They`re also -- hey, they`re also his buddies. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SCARBOROUGH:  And there are pictures of them at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SCARBOROUGH:  But that is who got richer after the tax cuts. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And so now Donald Trump is going to pay for those tax cuts by cutting Medicare and Medicaid?

MATTHEWS:  And Special Olympics. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, President Trump`s getting support from his allies.  Joe, I really want you to watch this little montage.  Just take a look. 


DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  This was the greatest farce ever perpetrated on our democracy.  It`s a disgrace, and it`s a stain on our Constitution. 

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY":  This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the deep state, for people who abuse -- abused power, and they did it so blatantly in this country. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  This should scare everybody.  Did the investigators, did the prosecutors use the law for political purposes?  If that turns out to be true, that is bigger than Watergate.


MATTHEWS:  Well, they`re all singing from the same music stand there, every one of them.  They`re going for dirt.

They`re going for -- they`re like the kid in "Good Will Hunting."  Not only did he have to win the fight on the playground.  He`s got to smash the kid`s head into the cement to show he won.  Your thoughts?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, but the problem is here every one of those people have a backstory.

Don Jr., are you really going to get on TV and talk about a farce, when you get caught trying to get dirt from the Russians, and then you lied about it?  And then the president the United States, on Air Force One, concocted a story to lie about it and say that it was about, what, adoptions?  A lie.

And you have got Sean Hannity?  What was Sean -- how clean were Sean Hannity`s hands in this story?  Seth Rich?  Ask Seth Rich`s parents about how cruel Sean Hannity was to them.  They lose a son, and then they have Sean Hannity dragging their son, their dead son, through the mud, and trying to make political hay by it?

Lindsey Graham, oh, my God, where do I even start?  Go back and look at Lindsey Graham`s quotes, what he said about Donald Trump.  Oh, yes, oh, and the dossier?

Hey, Chris, do you think South Carolina Republicans might be interested in primary season to know that, after Donald Trump attacked John McCain, who was it who told John McCain to send the dossier to the FBI?  Was it anybody in the deep state?  No.  Was it Nancy Pelosi?  No.

Hey, South Carolina primary voters, it was Lindsey.  It was Lindsey Graham.

So I just -- Chris, they should really just shut up and be glad they got away with it, and be glad that, at least for now, there`s an attorney general that`s trying to stop every American in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Florida, across the nation, stop all of us from reading what`s in that report.

MATTHEWS:  I think you have identified all the glass houses for us tonight, effectively. 


MATTHEWS:  My colleague, my morning doppelganger, Joe Scarborough, thank you so much for coming on tonight, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you, Chris, for having me.

MATTHEWS:  We will all be up.  We will be up at 6:00 in the morning to catch the next "MORNING JOE." 

Up next:  The Trump administration`s suddenly surprise shift on Obamacare left many Republicans scratching their heads -- how it`s causing health care havoc for millions of Americans.  A smart move heading into `20. 

You don`t go after people`s health care.  You don`t do it. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



QUESTION:  Your administration is making very clear that you think the Affordable Care Act is invalid and should be struck down.  What is your message to...

DONALD TRUMP SR.:  Let me just tell you exactly what my message is.  The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care.  You watch.

We will -- you watch -- we`re going to be the party of great health care.  And the Democrats have let you down.  They have really let you down. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump thinks, if you say something again and again, apparently, it becomes true.  And, this time, it`s health care, the issue that helped cost Republicans that House in 2018.  They lost because of this issue.

NBC News has learned that President Trump, egged on by Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, has his administration now supporting a federal court decision that kills, kills, eliminates altogether the Affordable Care Act. 

It`s a move that ran against the best judgment of Vice President Pence, apparently, we hear, the secretary of health and human services, and, of course, the attorney general.  He also opposed this, politically. 

Well, despite those objections, the president`s full-steam ahead and has defended the movie earlier today in the Oval Office.  Let`s watch him. 


DONALD TRUMP SR.:  Obamacare is a disaster.  And it`s still horrible, no good.  It`s something that we can`t live with in this country. 

If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that`s far better than Obamacare. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, yesterday, during a victory lap of sorts on Capitol Hill, the president told Republican senators he planned to make health care a top issue for the next two years going into 2020.

The move left some Republicans dumbfounded. 


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE:  I`m very disappointed and vehemently opposed to the administration seeking to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act. 

The answer is for the administration to work for with Congress and president a plan to replace and fix the law, not to, through the courts, seek to invalidate it altogether.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Axios is reporting that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- quote -- "told Trump over the phone that the decision he made, made no sense.

For more, I`m joined by House Majority Whip U.S. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. 

Mr. Whip, thank you so much for this. 

What -- how...


MATTHEWS:  I guess ask you a logic question.  How do you keep protections against people -- or people with preexisting conditions and protections up to kids who are 26-year-old children of them, how do you do all that if you have no plan?  It doesn`t make sense. 

CLYBURN:  No, it doesn`t. 

MATTHEWS:  No plan to do that with.

CLYBURN:  No, it doesn`t.

Thank you so much for having me, Chris. 

And the fact remains, this president has once again misled the American people.  He said time and time again that he would protect people with preexisting conditions. 

And we are told that 52 million Americans are under 65 have preexisting conditions that would make them ineligible for the Affordable Care Act.  So it would seem to me that the first thing you ought to be doing is improving what we have already done. 

He says they will be -- the Republican Party is going to be the party of health care.  He has not shown us what that means.  He says repeal and replace.  He talks repeal all day, every day.  I have never heard him offer one suggestion as to replacement.

On yesterday, Democrats had a press conference around 2:30 in the afternoon, and we laid out for the American people what we`re going to do to improve the Affordable Care Act.  And this president has now been pushing these junk policies.


CLYBURN:  We are going to get rid of junk policies.  We are going to get rid of any attempt not to cover people with preexisting conditions. 

We are going to say to those people in these communities whose children are born with diabetes that you will be able to bring those children onto your insurance policy.  And children who are still in college, they can stay on your insurance policy until they`re 26 years old. 

If you were doing anything, it seems to me, you ought to be lifting the 26 to around 30.


CLYBURN:  Because the way the economy has gone with this president, they are going to have trouble finding jobs. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s hard to ask you a question like this, but what`s the politics in this for him?  I mean, one thing that unites all communities in this country is health care.  Certainly, the whole issue of Medicare, Medicaid is very popular in the country for people of limited means.

People have Alzheimer`s in their family.  They need help with Medicaid, all kinds of middle-class people, not just working poor people.  Those programs are very essential to the livelihood of most American families, except for the very rich. 

CLYBURN:  Yes, that`s quite true. 

In fact, we know for a fact that the largest form of bankruptcy in the country is over health care, people -- the cost of it.  And so what we ought to be doing is working together to shore up the Affordable Care Act, make it the kind of program that it should be to protect American families. 

That`s what we have always done in this country.  We said at the day we passed the bill that it was a first step, that, incrementally, we will get to where it needed to be. 

But, all of a sudden now, this president wanted to go back to where we were when insurance companies could deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions and also kick people off the policies once they got sick. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

CLYBURN:  We`ve gotten rid of all of that, and I believe that the American people should remember that old adage.  Fool me once, shame on me -- on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  Well said. 

Next time we have you on, I want you to explain to me South Carolina.  Ha!  You got Mulvaney down there, you got Lindsey Graham.  You got a -- what a collection.

  CLYBURN:  Well, I`m still learning this state, Chris.  I`ve only been there for 70-plus years.  I`m still learning.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  You`re the best man.

CLYBURN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  You`re the best man down there.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

Up next, President Trump reportedly doesn`t want another dollar going to Puerto Rico, to get back on their feet in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  Is this President Trump being fiscally responsible or is there something else going on here?  Like what do you think?

We`ll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you`re throwing our budget a little out of whack because we`ve spend a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that`s fine.  We`ve saved a lot of lives. 


COOPER:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump in 2017, two years ago, just weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, taking a swipe at money going to hurricane recovery down there.  Well, you remember during that same visit, the president tossed paper towels to a gathered crowd during a visit to a relief center in San Juan. 

As Puerto Rico continues the can difficult recovery from the storm a year and a half ago, he reportedly thinks the island is getting too much money.  According to "Washington Post" during a meeting last month, Trump asked top advisors for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it`s taking money that should be going to mainland, to here, mainland United States. 

The report adds: A senior administration official with direct knowledge of the meeting described Trump`s stance, he doesn`t want to another single dollar going to that island. 

But believe it or not, Trump had more to say about Puerto Rico, and that`s coming up next. 



TRUMP:  I think Puerto Rico is incredibly successful.  I actually think it`s one of the best jobs that`s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.  I think Puerto Rico is an incredible unsung success. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s President Trump last fall actually calling Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico an unsung success.  But the president reported he doesn`t want another single dollar going to that island.  And during a private lunch with Senate Republicans yesterday, he again complained about the amount of disaster aid going to Puerto Rico.  The president, "The Washington Post" reports, by the way, and according to officials familiar with that meeting, Trump noted to GOP senators that Texas, also battered by a spate of hurricanes, was awarded $29 billion in aid, while South Carolina got $1.5 billion to recover from storms.  Trump then questioned why Puerto Rico got what he said was $91 billion, he claimed. 

The report adds Trump remarked that one could buy Puerto Rico four times over for $91 billion.  Both are wrong.

I`m joined now by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and Democratic U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York City who served as a whip of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

Mayor, thank you so much for joining.  What do you make of the president saying your country has gotten so much money?

MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO:  Well, you know, the president continues to show that he`s a bully.  He continues to show that he`s a racist and he continues to show that he does not get it.  He is embarrassed.  It truly is what it is. 

You know how sometimes the kids in the sand box really likes a little girl but just pushes her over because that`s the only way he knows how to do things?  Well, President Trump only knows how to bully people, and he was embarrassed worldwide by this paper towel throwing incident and by the fact that 3,000 Puerto Ricans have died and he continues to sentence the Puerto Rican people to an uncertain livelihood. 

He has been ignorant about the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.  He has been ignorant about the meat of the Puerto Rican people and rather than acting as a commander-in-chief, he continues to act as a bully in chief. 

MATTHEWS: What kind of vote would he get on the island?  If you could vote for president, how would he do? 

CRUZ:  Well, you know, this is the point.  He thinks it`s about voting.  But even people that are Republican in Puerto Rico or agreeing with the Republicans are trying to just wash themselves and push themselves away from President Trump.  A little too late. 

The Republican resident commissioner also said to the Puerto Rican people that the president had done a great job and he truly has not done so.  He continues to undermine the livelihood of the people of Puerto Rico and he continues to show the world what the U.S. is not about. 

Representative Espaillat was here in San Juan and he had the opportunity to go with me to a hospital, a private hospital that had lost all power and we saw first hand how people had to be moved away. 

He doesn`t know what is going on.  He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and never understood this is about lives, this is about saving lives.  This is about putting food on the table.  This is about giving people the opportunity to thrive -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

CRUZ:  -- and even to survive.  He doesn`t get it because he doesn`t want to get it.  For him, it`s all about giving tax cuts to the rich but not giving the people that really need his support what they are owed. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Madam Mayor.  Thank you for joining us from San Juan. 

Congressman, you are -- you live in New York.  You represent New York, and yet your are leader of the Hispanic Caucus.  How do you get Americans to get past Trump on this? 

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK:  I tell you his vision of giving Puerto Rico $91 billion is totally false.  In fact, FEMA has $20 million and they`ve only allotted for spending $1.5 billion.

  And the reason why they`ve done that is because it`s so difficult to navigate that bureaucracy.  So if you lost your home, you have to bring a notarized affidavit or an original deed to get that funding to fix your roof and that`s been a problem.  But a recent University of Michigan report reveal that nine days after the hurricanes hit in Texas and in Florida, you had $100 million being sent there.  Puerto Rico, $6 million. 

Nine days after the hurricanes hit, 30,000 workers in Texas and 60,000 in Florida, 16,000 in Texas, 10,000 in Puerto Rico.  So the response was horrible.  And Puerto Rico is still reeling back from this very lax, sloppy and lazy response to a storm that took 3,000 lives. 

So, the president continues to lie, saying that he sent $91 billion.  Medicaid reimbursement is a big problem over there.  That`s why they face a fiscal implosion.  Two hurricanes hit, not one, but two hit the island, and the response was not adequate.  It was not fast enough --

MATTHEWS:  Are you getting backing from the Democratic leadership in the House? 

ESPAILLAT:  We want to back Puerto Rico, yes.  The leadership wants to do it. 


ESPAILLAT:  The congressional members, Nydia Velasquez and Jose Serrano and Soto that are from Puerto Rico also want to support --

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Good luck.

ESPAILLAT:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS:  For coming on.  Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, thank you as always, Mayor, for coming on the program.  Please come back and keep us up-to-date.  U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York City, on the west side. 

Up next, more on the topic dear to my heart, the Special Olympics, coming up.


MATTHEWS:  I was thinking today of the best Republican values.  You know them, self reliance, enterprise, get out there and compete, and then I thought about the Trump`s decision to obliterate federal funding for Special Olympics today.  Why would anyone do such a thing?  Why would a Republican do it? 

Look at these young people to doing their best, racing with all they`ve got, and loving and doing it.  Really loving it. 

Have you ever seen such smiles?  Well, for whatever budgeting reason, the Trump people at the Department of Education just zeroed out the Special Olympics.  Dumped it totally.  Not another nickel for this gung-ho enterprise that set up a world for young Americans where they can compete on their own terms and learn, yes, learn, the thrill of victory. 

If you think about it, Mr. President, the Special Olympics is wonderfully pro-life.  It gives kids born with Down syndrome, for example, a chance to experience the excitement of being more fully and publicly alive, the possibility of victory, and the personal honor that comes with doing your best. 

I remember a line from a long ago Walt Disney movie so dear to my heart -- it`s not what you got, it`s what you do with what you got that counts.  And this president and this education secretary should reconsider and do the right thing here and back the Special Olympics.  You, sir, just had a good weekend.  How about giving these kids theirs? 

That`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.