A brazen display of bitter partisanship. TRANSCRIPT: 5/30/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: John Brabender, J.W. Verret, Neera Tanden, Eric Swalwell, GlennKirschner, William Cohen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump says he didn`t help Russia help him.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Well, tonight, the battle rages between a president and a civil servant whose work Trump seeks to distort and, at the same time, discredit.  Only in a brief moment did Americans get a short but vastly illuminating glimpse of the truth.  It`s when President Trump himself declared what the rest of the world has known for nearly three years, that Russia conspired to help him win the election.

Here`s the Trump Tweet from earlier today that said so much.  Russia, Russia, Russia, that`s all you heard at the beginning of this witch hunt hoax.  And now, Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.  It was a crime that didn`t exist.  I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.  Here`s a quote.

Well, Trump was directly acknowledging for the first time what the U.S. Intelligence Community has been saying since January of 2017.  And having stumbled into the truth, the President picked himself up and denied what he had just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you believe Russia helped you get elected?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  No, Russia did not help me get elected.  You know who got me elected?  You know who got me elected?  I got me elected.  Russia didn`t help me at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That`s not what you Tweeted, sir.  Now came another Trump stumble, asked whether he expects Congress to impeach him, he said the courts wouldn`t allow it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you think they`re going to impeach you?

TRUMP:  I don`t see how.  They can because they have possibly allowed it, although I can`t imagine the courts allowing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I`m not -- I can`t allow the courts allowing it.  Well -- but every kid who`s ever taken civics knows that that`s not how impeachment works.  As the constitution makes vividly clear, the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a President, sole power.  The courts have nothing to do with it, Mr. President.

Anyway, shifting the matters of image, his stronger suit, Trump said he didn`t like the sound of the word for what Congress might still do to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word.  To me, it`s a dirty word, the word, impeach.  It`s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word, and it had nothing to do with me.  So I don`t think so because there was no crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump`s rocky performance today seems to indicate that the Special Counsel`s public remarks yesterday might have gotten to him because like it or not, Mueller said that the evidence he gathered does not clear the President of criminal obstruction.

In response, again, the President launched a diatribe against Mueller saying he never should have been appointed as Special Counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I think he`s totally conflicted because, as you know, he wanted to be the FBI Director and I said no.  Look, Robert Mueller should have never been chosen, and he loves Comey.  Why didn`t Mueller investigate Comey, his best friend or his very good friend?  I think he is a total conflicted person.  I think Mueller is a true never-Trumper.  He`s somebody that dislikes Donald Trump.  And Despite $40 million, 18 Trump haters, including people that work for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on earth, they got nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The President of the United States there.

I`m joined now by 2020 democratic presidential candidate Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.  He`s on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

What did you make of that performance, including the fact that the President stumbled into the truth that the Russians helped him get elected?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Good evening, Chris.  What I make of it is that is a guilty person trying to clean up.  I don`t see it as chaos.  I see it as corruption.  And he is trying to use chaos as a way to mask the corruption, Chris.

But here`s why it matters, and this is what`s important for your viewers to understand, is it`s a virtual certainty that Donald Trump in the last ten years has probably cheated on state and federal taxes.  It`s also a virtual certainty that the if the Russians know a lot about Hillary Clinton because of what they hacked, they probably know the same about Donald Trump.

Therefore, the question we have to ask is would Donald Trump sell America`s secrets to protect his own secrets?  I think it`s likely that this guy is always looking to protect himself.  So that`s why we need to know if he`s compromised or not, and that`s why I think we need to take a full diagnostic of this guy`s finances and his relationships with Russia.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of him saying, you guys can`t impeach me, even though you were one of those calling for the process to begin because the courts will save him?  How do the courts get in the way?  What`s this hallucination he`s throwing around here about the courts saving him?

SWALWELL:  It sounds like a guy who`s spent a lot of time being sued in court for his corrupt business practices.  If he knows anything about civics, this guy knows the courts.  He has been involved in hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits.  But it doesn`t work that way, Chris.  We are going down the road to Impeachment.

I personally think the first thing we should do is impeach the Attorney General and the Treasury Secretary.  They are front door obstructers, keeping us from getting documents that we need.  And it would set an example that no one is above the law.  And, second, if the President is so clear and so unable to be charged because he`s exonerated, he should lift the DOJ policy that says a president can`t be indicted and then see what Robert Mueller does next.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you`re right there.  Robert Mueller made clear that he followed the Justice Department`s legal opinion, the President cannot be charged while in office.  Attorney General William Barr on the other hand tells CBS today that Mueller could still have said the President obstructed justice.  Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I personally felt he could have reached the decision?

JAN CRAWFORD, CBS HOST:  In your view, he could have reached a conclusion?

BARR:  Right, he could have reached a conclusion.  The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he`s in office but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.  But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained, and I`m not going to argue about those reasons.

CRAWFORD:  Well, he seemed to suggest yesterday that there was another venue for this and that was Congress.

BARR:  Well, I`m not sure what he was suggesting but, you know, the Department of Justice doesn`t use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s the Attorney General in front of the Richard Nixon Memorial Fireplace because it`s 90 degrees in D.C.  I don`t know what he needed the fireplace for.  But his argument that he could -- that Mueller could still, as Special Counsel, pointed the finger at the President, even if he couldn`t indict him, what do you make of that?

SWALWELL:  It`s nonsense, Chris.  It`s the reason why he should be, I believe, impeached because he`s lied to Congress.  He hasn`t turned over documents that were subpoenaed.  He sounds like he`s being paid by Donald Trump to be his lawyer, not us.  We`re the ones who are paying him.

But the truth is Bob Mueller went into this case seeking just to get the evidence.  He didn`t go into it and saying, I`m going to put a case on the President of the United States.  And he actually did the right thing by saying, if I can`t indict the President, it`s not fair to the President for me to smear him in this way because the policy says that I can`t do that, so he`s leaving it to Congress.

Again, you have one honorable person, Bob Mueller, doing the right thing and a bunch of dishonorable people, the Attorney General protecting the President and a very very guilty President of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Just to make it clear, Congressman, you`re for impeachment right now, go to -- start the process right now?

SWALWELL:  I`m for bringing Mueller in, getting the full Mueller report, impeaching Barr and Mnuchin to get the documents, being prepared for impeachment.  But I recognize that the rule of law here is the most important thing we can protect.  It`s very fragile.  This is the most extreme remedy.  So first things first, let`s get rid of the first two obstructers, Barr and Mnuchin, and then get the information for the President.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Thank you, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

I`m joined right now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, Barbara McQuade and Glenn Kirschner, both former federal prosecutors.

Let me go to Yamiche on the politics here.  This president seems to be all over the place in his Tweet storm this morning.  He went crazy with X many minutes out there on the south lawn, on and on, including that weird statement where he said, you know, I didn`t help the Russians help me.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR:  Well, the Tweet initially was something that was of a real revelation by the President, because over and over again, he`s been asked pointblank, do you think Russia helped you get elected.  He never wanted to say that.  I remember in the historic, I would say in the Helsinki press conference, where he says, I don`t know who to believe, Russia or my own intelligence communities.

But the fact that the President backtracked very quickly, to me, wasn`t surprising.  Because the politics of this is that the President doesn`t want to say that Russia helped him or that they really interfered in the election, because he feels as though that would then question his own legitimacy.

And that`s at the heart of this.  It`s this idea that, at this core, he doesn`t want to be seen as someone who doesn`t deserve the job that he has.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in fairness to this president, if he acknowledged that the Russians helped him get elected, wouldn`t that be seen by most people, especially his enemies as he admitted the Russians got him in office?  I mean, that`s what he`s -- the slippery slope is you`re the Manchurian candidate, right?

ALCINDOR:  Yes.  I mean, it`s a real quandary.  You could say though, of course, I believe my intelligence communities, Russia clearly interfered in the election.  I did not welcome their support.  They probably did impact the election.  At the end of the day, I still ran a good race, and Hillary Clinton didn`t.  You could make that argument.

MATTHEWS:  But not everyone acknowledged (ph) that the margin of victory came from the Ruskies.  Can you -- do you think he would ever admit that?

ALCINDOR:  I don`t.  I feel that this President, at least from what we`ve seen, he does not want to admit at all that Russia had an impact.  And Robert Mueller`s statements, beginning his statement and ending his statement with the fact that at the core of this is this idea that Russia interfered in our elections, and let`s not, as Americans, forget that.  That also, I think, probably struck the President, at least.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of his claim that the courts will save him, Glenn?  What reading of the constitution is that?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDRAL PROSECUTOR:  I`m not quite sure at what point in the impeachment process the courts intervene.  In fact, they don`t.  And, you know, I think we just all saw, Chris, the sort of disintegration of the President during that press spray (ph).  It really -- and, you know, if anybody would take a moment to think about how, on the one hand, he has been saying the Mueller report completely exonerates me, yay me.  Now, he is saying, Mueller, what a terrible guy.  He`s conflicted.  You can`t believe a word he says.  Well, which is it?  The fact is it`s neither.

But this --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is confusing his people out there?  47 percent of the country said, yes, yes, yes.  That`s their response.

KIRSCHNER:  Hey, wait a minute, that doesn`t makes sense.

MATTHEWS:  No, they don`t do that.  They don`t do this disentanglement.

KIRSCHNER:  Apparently not.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take a look at this.  Special Counsel Mueller yesterday repeated two key points from his report.  We know this now by heart overnight.  One, that he could not indict a sitting president.  He says that they`re not allowed to do that.  It`s unconstitutional for the Justice Department.  And, two, he could not clear the President of criminal obstruction.

But today, President Trump contradicted, falsely claiming he had found him innocent.  He says, as you point out, Glenn, first of all, he found me innocent and then he`s no damn good.  Anyway, let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  There were no charges, none.  If you look at Bill Clinton, that very nice gentleman who has been so much on my side, as you know, his special prosecutor, it was guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, so many guiltys.  With me, there was no guilty.  And he said, essentially, you`re innocent.  I`m innocent of all charges.

REPORTER:  Sir, he did not say that you were innocent, he said --

TRUMP:  There was no crime, there was no charge because he had no information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, he is suddenly pulling back.  He`s saying no evidence yesterday.  Trump, he says no information.  It`s almost like, okay, I beat the rap.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Yes.  And, you know, I think Attorney General William Barr really contributed to this.  In his initial letter, I think he misled the American public into believing that what Robert Mueller was saying is it`s just too close a call, there`s just not sufficient evidence here for me to find obstruction of justice.  What we know instead from both Mueller`s report and his public comments yesterday is that he could not charge a sitting president, and therefore he chose not to make a decision because it would be unfair to even accuse him of a crime.

But what he said is, so therefore, why did I do this work knowing I couldn`t charge him?  I did it for a few reasons, one, to preserve the evidence while memories were fresh and documents were available, so that, number one, we could charge co-conspirators, number two, we could preserve for future prosecutors when Trump is no longer a sitting president, and number three, to give it to Congress because it`s their duty under the constitution to hold the president accountable.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn`t he -- all of that sounds right.  But why didn`t Robert Mueller, early on in this process, say, by the way, my role here is to investigate, look for wrongdoing, but I can`t, under the constitution, that we at the Justice Department accept, indict.  So I`m not going to indict no matter how much evidence I get.  Why didn`t he say that a year ago?

MCQUADE:  I think from a public relations standpoint, it probably would have been a good idea to manage expectations that that`s where he was going.  But I think that we know it is not his M.O. to go out in the public.  He likes to speak through his court documents, and that`s what he did.  I`m not sure why he even gave a press conference yesterday other than perhaps to try to preempt any congressional testimony.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he didn`t want to testify because he didn`t want to go before Senate Republicans, did he, Glenn?  Can you imagine that hearing?

KIRSCHNER:  No.  The hearing would be a circus, because, you know --

MATTHEWS:  Lindsey Graham?

KIRSCHNER:  The republicans would ask about everything except the President`s conduct.  I`m sure they`ll ask questions about Hillary`s emails, for that sake (ph), and the democrats, I think, would be also be frustrated because they would want Mueller to go beyond the four corners of his 448 pages and he has already indicated he`s not interested in doing that.

Now, if he was placed under oath, he would have to answer those questions.  So we`ll see how that plays out.

MATTHEWS:  Yamiche, why do you think he chose to do eight minutes yesterday rather than accepting testimony and cross-questioning?

ALCINDOR:  I think he was trying to say, the report is my any testimony.  Please don`t try to subpoena me because I don`t want to go any further than this report.  I think that`s why he was signaling to Congress, both democrats and republicans, there`s nothing more I want to say here.  I think that`s part of the reason why he did that.

MATTHEWS:  It`s a little unsatisfying to put it lightly for everybody.  And we all want a judge to come in and say guilty or not guilty and clear up the air.  Anyway, maybe the Congress will do that.  I`m worried they might not.

Yamiche Alcindor, Barbara McQuade and Glenn Kirschner, thank you all.

Coming up, the silence from republicans, well, boy, is it silent.  Well, the Mueller report is deafening, even on Mueller`s biggest red flag, Russian interference, they got nothing to say.  Sergeant Schultz, I don`t know nothing.  Why isn`t there more doing done here?  Well, nothing is going on from the republican`s side.

And the President`s petty grievances with a deceased war hero, military officials in Japan were told to hide the warship named from the late John McCain so the president wouldn`t see it when he`s in Japan.  Did the word get all the way to Tokyo the President can`t let this go?  Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a friend of John McCain`s joins us tonight.

Plus, how about Mitch McConnell`s (INAUDIBLE) on Supreme Court nominations?  He`s looking for his chance next year to confirm another right wing judge.

And be sure to watch our HARDBALL live Town Hall where you`ll hear from Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the voters talking to each other.  It`s going to be great.  This guy is an interesting guy.  And that`s Monday night 7:00 P.M. Eastern, live from Fresno State in California.  We`ll all be out there.

Much more ahead tonight, by the way, stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For all the talk about what democrats will do in the wake of the Special Counsel`s public comments yesterday, we haven`t heard a mouse.  Well, you haven`t heard anything from the republicans.  From the little we have heard, it seems like they`re all singing from the same song book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  If you read the Mueller report, there were two questions, really, just one asked.  Was there collusion?  The answer is no.  Was there obstruction?  The answer is no.  Nothing is going to change that outcome.  So the country needs to move forward.

I know, from a political basis, why some people want to continue to do this, but I think the American public wants more from us.  That`s why we should move forward.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Mueller was the final word for me on all criminal matters.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  And the special counsel`s finding is clear, case closed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there`s been one exception, Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash.  On Tuesday, Amash, the only republican to call for impeachment proceedings to begin even shared this interesting nugget on where his republican colleagues stand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI):  My colleagues phone all the time.

In fact, you wouldn`t believe how many phone conversations I had or conversations in person with colleagues: "Justin" -- by the way, a lot of them think I`m right about the Mueller report, but they just won`t say it, a lot of the Republicans. 

And what they will say to me is: "Justin, you know, going out publicly with, you know the Democrats will never support you.  You know that they`re hypocrites on this stuff."

And I say, you know, some of them are, some of them aren`t.  But it doesn`t matter to me, because you have to look at what you`re doing first. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Republicans for the Rule of Law -- that`s a conservative group created to defend the institutions of our republic -- will run an ad on "FOX & Friends" tomorrow morning -- that`s next week, rather -- urging members of Congress to hold Trump accountable. 

In the ad, three former senior Republican officials from both Bush administrations and the Reagan administration make the case on Trump`s obstruction and Republican inaction. 

Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Asking a witness to lie, to create a false record is a classic case of obstruction of justice. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the most disturbing things to me is the conduct of Republicans.  They know that there is a damning case in the Mueller report of obstruction of justice by the president, and they are acting like it`s not. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Conservatives are all about conserving, conserving history, conserving morality, conserving the country.  If you really believe in those sorts of principles, now is the time to put your principles first. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that group also plans on hand-delivering the Mueller report with highlighted sections to Republicans in Congress. 

For more, I`m joined by Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and the Defense Department, and J.W. Verret, former Trump presidential transition staffer and associate professor at George Mason University School of Law. 

J.W., talk about this.  What do you make about the Republicans?  Is it about the fact that nine out of 10 rank-and-file Republican voters are with Trump to the end, dead-enders?

J.W. VERRET, FORMER TRUMP TRANSITION STAFFER:  That`s a big part of it. 

I think there are some, especially in the House, that just want to ride the president`s coattails, and they look like one of the junior officers behind Kim Jong-un at his rallies.  I mean, they`re really disgusting, these guys. 

Now, there are some members of the Senate.  I, frankly, think the members of the Senate should stay quiet.  Remember, their role is the judge in impeachment.  The House`s role is the grand jury. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VERRET:  I think they should all stay quiet either way. 

And some of them have been good about pushing back at Trump where they think they can make a difference, Rand Paul on immigration issues, Ben Sasse on trade.

But some of them -- there are no -- there are a few heroes in the House.  But Justin certainly is one.  And I predicted it would be Justin, the first one to speak up.

MATTHEWS:  What was the signal that he might break from the pack? 

VERRET:  Because he`s always been a guy, a very libertarian Republican, who cares about the rule of law. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VERRET:  And I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was Rand Paul`s baseball card description too.  What happened to him?  He`s become a MAGA boy. 

VERRET:  Yes.  Well, here`s the deal. 

No, I wouldn`t say MAGA boy, no.  He pushes back on trade, pushes back on immigration, pushes back on Yemen.  He`s pushed back on all three of those. 

He should stay silent on impeachment, I think, as a senator.  I think he -- frankly, he feels like he can`t get ahead of Nancy Pelosi, who should be the leader on this.  It`s a lot easier for her to push back, rather than Republicans. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I love the reference to the -- every time I watch one of those mass hall meetings at North Korean officialdom, and I just figure there`s people taking notes. 

If your smile isn`t exactly like the smile on both sides of you, if there`s -- if you yawn, if you ever get caught asleep, you`re dead in the next 24 hours, literally. 

But the Republican Party is being disciplined like that.  I have never seen a political party so in step.

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA:  Well, not only are they in step, Chris, but they`re also departing from their history. 

Ronald Reagan spoke of peace through strength.  And even I`m old enough to remember when Republicans were tough on Russia, tough on the Soviet Union.  The Reagan buildup in defense was really to counter the Soviet menace, as it was described. 

And here we have Republicans who are ostensibly tough on national security, and they`re lining up behind a commander in chief who denigrates our military, denigrates our law enforcement, denigrates our intelligence, and sends love letters to Kim Jong-un, and embraces Vladimir Putin. 

How is that Republicanism?  How is that peace through strength? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about the objective thing that has nothing to do with whether Trump gets reelected or not.

The one sure thing we have going for us -- against us is, the Russians are coming again.  They have learned what they can do.  They have screwed us up in this two years of arguing about this.  They have made this country more divisive than it`s ever been over facts, what happened, what they did.

And now everybody`s worried about the fact that what they did in -- already in Florida, screwed with two counties down there, according the Republican, the new governor down there, DeSantis.

If they start messing with our election counts, what happens, when we won`t even know who the next president is, because nobody knows?

VERRET:  I wouldn`t paint with too broad a brush here about all Republicans. 

Trump`s rhetoric is disgusting.  It`s deplorable.  And it`s treasonous, frankly.  But I think Senate Republicans have been focused on this issue, have spoken out.  And you have a 20 percent increase in funding at DHS. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VERRET:  Kirstjen Nielsen was on top of this issue and tried to get it to Trump. 

I think it was very difficult for her to do that.

MATTHEWS:  You weren`t allowed to say Russia around him. 

VERRET:  Right.  Exactly. 

I think there are probably -- don`t always -- I`m just saying don`t always paint with the Trump brush for all Republicans, because I think there are people trying to do the right thing within the constraints that are there. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there`s 330 million in this country, maybe 100 million Republicans.  When one or two say something, I`m not impressed.

Anyway, when it comes to preventing a similar attack again in 2020, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he is unlikely to allow the Senate to vote on any election-related legislation that would help protect the United States against further attacks. 

In fact, according to "The Washington Post," when the Obama White House disclosed Russia`s interference to Congress, McConnell was among the Republicans who didn`t want to tell the public at all.  According to "The Washington Post," McConnell voiced skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House claims.

Jeremy?

BASH:  And I think there`s something very insidious in sowing doubt about whether or not our elections system is secure, because what happens?

People say, well, I`m not going to vote, I`m going to stay home, I`m not going to go to the polls.  And, fundamentally, I think McConnell`s made a calculus that lower turnout, lower-turnout elections are good for his political party, when we all know it`s in -- manifestly in the national interest to have higher turnout and higher participation. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of some of these guys who were -- we will get to this later in the show, the president`s sort of weird, weird pathology about John McCain and his memory and his ghost, if you will, and his ship named after him. 

What is it about Lindsey Graham?  Let me talk to -- because I have always liked the guy for one reason -- I have known him a long time.  He seems a lot -- amazingly willing to just play Trump`s game.  I`m curious about it. 

Not that long ago, one notable Republican made the very same case for impeachment -- he did it -- about President Clinton, as Republicans -- actually, Democrats, are making today. 

Let`s take a look at this montage of our friends at "Meet the Press Daily."  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Let it be said that any president who cheats our institutions shall be impeached.

He doesn`t have to say go lie for me to be a crime.  You don`t have to say let`s obstruct justice for be -- for it to be a crime.  You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.

If you determine that he committed the crime of perjury, and you determine that he committed the crime of obstruction of justice, based on the precedent of the Senate, I think you would have a hard time saying under the situation in this case that that`s not a high crime. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The old line was, what`s good for the goose is good for the gander, whatever that means, but apparently not with Lindsey. 

VERRET:  As a libertarian Republican, I disagreed with John McCain`s positions a lot, but how can you not deeply respect his sacrifice and his career? 

MATTHEWS:  Why is Lindsey so tough on Clinton and not on his guy now? 

VERRET:  I don`t understand it. 

But here`s another question I have for you.  Why were Democrats not willing to stand up during the Clinton impeachment?  Only five of them did.

I think the answer, really, the truth of it, voters don`t reward character as much as they should.

MATTHEWS:  Well said, unfortunately, too well said.

Thank you, Jeremy Bash.  Thank you, J.W. Verret. 

Up next:  Look who is moseying back into town.  Alabama`s controversial Republican Judge Roy Moore -- there he is on the horse -- is considering making another run for the U.S. Senate down there.  But President Trump is not on board with that. 

Find out why next on HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former Alabama Judge Roy Moore -- you saw him on the horse there -- is thinking about another run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.  You may remember this Republican who lost to Democrat Doug Jones two years ago in a special election.  Moore faced accusations then from several women that he had pursued relationships with them while he was in his 30s and they were teenagers, at best. 

And he was going around looking around the malls for young women -- girls, actually.  Those were the accusations.

But one very key Republican right now is not on board with him coming back into politics.  That`s President Trump. 

The president stood by Moore during the 2017 special election, despite the misconduct allegations.  But, yesterday, Trump tweeted: "Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the great state of Alabama.  This time, it will be for six years, not just two.  I have nothing against Roy Moore."

He later added: "Roy Moore cannot win.  And the consequences will be devastating."

The president`s son Donald Jr. also piled on, tweeting: "It`s time to ride off into the sunset, Judge."

Well, in an interview with Politico, Moore shot back, saying: "The president doesn`t control who votes for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.  People in Alabama are smarter than that.  They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C."

For more, I`m joined by John Brabender, Republican strategist, and Neera Tanden, CEO of the Center for American Progress. 

Let...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You`re smiling.  You`re doing something.  I don`t know what.

What do you think the president`s thinking?  He`s obviously counting.  I need 50 seats and a vice president, meaning, I got to get reelected, and I need 50 senators to run this country, at least stop the Democrats.  And he doesn`t want to lose that seat. 

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes.

Well, first of all, the president is right.  We don`t need Roy Moore.  And we need to have him out there and everybody out there saying it. 

I actually wish the president would have gone even further.  He could have gone beyond saying, for political reasons, he can`t win, we don`t need him.  It`s also because of Roy Moore`s actions, we don`t need him.  We should be able to stand up universally.

Now, again...

MATTHEWS:  Well, where`s his red line, his misbehavior and his own behavior? 

BRABENDER:  Well, but... 

the

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever read the "Access Hollywood" tape?

BRABENDER:  But the things that Roy Moore did with underage women, basically, you -- how can you even spin it? 

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  The big problem you there is that, after that happened, Donald Trump campaigned for Roy Moore. 

He went into Alabama a few days before the election, after all of that had been aired, and said, please vote for Roy Moore.

BRABENDER:  Well, wait, wait, wait.  But let`s be clear.  He did not -- he was actually for Luther Strange, who was running as the senator, and supported him. 

And his point was...

TANDEN:  And he lost.

BRABENDER:  ... you do have people like Jones, who, for example, are pro- choice, and he can`t support that. 

So the president was saying, we have two bad choices.  I might as well go with the choice that`s going to agree with us 90 percent of the time. 

TANDEN:  OK, I`m just telling you, once you say -- even despite all the allegations, despite the allegations that Roy Moore had a 14-year-old girl in a car, stuck up against a wall, and was assaulting her, Donald Trump campaigned...

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER:  That was an allegation.

TANDEN:  It was an allegation.

BRABENDER:  Let`s just be clear.

TANDEN:  Donald Trump campaigned for him.

But then, for you to turn around...

BRABENDER:  But I`m agreeing with you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I knew this would happen.  You would agree, but still fight.

BRABENDER:  Lookit, here`s my bigger thing.

The guy who was in his 30s.  And he said, well, yes, I didn`t normally date teenagers, but I asked their mothers.

Here`s a good rule for all you men out there.  If you`re over the age of 30, and you have to ask somebody`s mother permission to date their teenage daughter, it`s not a good idea to begin with. 

TANDEN:  I totally agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

You know, I remember a great story.  What`s this?  Tom Hayden once, when he was running against John Tunney in a California primary for the Senate, accused him of dating teenagers, to which Tunney responded: "Name one."

And he said: " Well, I can`t name one.  I met it metaphorically."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was twice removed from the bench, twice, was known long before the 2017 race for the -- for these comments.  Watch his comments from the past, which are all public record. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Do you think that homosexual -- homosexuality or homosexual conduct should be illegal today?  That`s a yes-or-no question.

ROY MOORE (R), FORMER ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Homosexual conduct...

QUESTION:  Should be?

MOORE:  ... should be illegal, yes.

QUESTION:  Should be illegal.

MOORE:  We were torn apart in the Civil War, brother against brother, North against South, party against party.  What`s changed? 

Now we got blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting.

I think they can holler political question all they wish, but it`s a simple fact that, if -- if he`s not a natural-born citizen, he`s not qualified to be president.  And I don`t care who he is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have a birther.

BRABENDER:  Well, look, here`s what I can tell you.

MATTHEWS:  He`s a live birther.  There he is.

BRABENDER:  In addition to the president, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Leader McConnell, all have said, we don`t want him.

And even Moore said, it`s not up to Washington.  It`s up to Alabama. 

Guess what?  They didn`t choose him last time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If he gets nominated, will you back him against Jones? 

BRABENDER:  I think, this time, we would have to say no.

And -- but the fear is, if you have six candidates, you can have somebody like him, and there`s -- there`s no line that says...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There`s no runoff. 

BRABENDER:  Yes, you can still be a Republican. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, I want to be honest here.  I got to balance the scales just for a half-a-second here. 

Have you ever ended up backing a Democrat who you thought was the worst possible choice, but you`re stuck with him? 

TANDEN:  I don`t think so. 

MATTHEWS:  Never?  You have never done what he does?

TANDEN:  I don`t think so. 

But I would say this.  I think the big challenge for the Republican Party is that we knew all these facts about Roy Moore last time, and they all said, please go vote for Roy Moore on Election Day. 

So it`s a little -- I totally understand how you`re saying...

BRABENDER:  No, they said, please don`t vote for Jones.  There`s a big difference.  And they all were not with Moore in the primary.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER:  So, let`s be fair here.

TANDEN:  That`s fair.

No, but in the general, Donald Trump said, please vote for Roy Moore.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

TANDEN:  Now he is taking it back. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, guys.  You`re the best.  You two guys are the best arguers.  You do not have to disagree to argue.  I love it. 

Anyway, John Brabender, sir, thank you, and Neera Tanden.

Up next:  Trump says the person who ordered the USS John McCain kept out of sight during his recent visit to Japan was well-meaning. 

Anyway, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a very close friend of John McCain, in fact, one of his pallbearers, is coming in to talk what he thinks about this weird grudge, postmortem grudge match.

Back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know what happened.  I wasn`t involved.  I would not have done that. 

I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care.  I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form. 

Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn`t like him.  OK?  And they were well meaning.  I will say.  I didn`t know anything about it.  I would never have done that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So squirrely. 

Anyway, we`re back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump earlier today responding to reports that military officials were told to keep a warship named for the late Senator John McCain hidden from sight during Trump`s recent trip to Japan. 

In a May 15th e-mail sent to U.S. Naval and Air Force officials obtained by CNBC, military officers assigned to the White House outlined instructions saying in part, quote, USS John McCain needs to be out of sight, and confirmation that the request was being carried out. 

A senior White House official told "The Washington Post" yesterday the request was made to keep Trump from becoming upset.  And according to photos reviewed by "The Wall Street Journal," a tarp was hung over the ship`s name ahead of the president`s trip, and sailors were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore McCain`s name. 

And while the tarp was taken down prior to the president`s arrival, "The Journal" adds a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name, obscuring the name John McCain. 

Meanwhile, "The New York Times" reports that according to two Navy sailors, sailors from McCain`s ship were not invited to hear Trump speak that day aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp, while sailors from other warships at the time were. 

The Pentagon has pushed back on all of these reports.  The Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has insisting he had no knowledge of, nor did he authorize the request from the White House military office to keep the USS John McCain out of sight.  Instead he has asked his chief of staff to look into this. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY:  I have never authorized or approved action around the movement or activity regarding that ship.  And further more, I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And today, we`re getting a strong reaction from Senator McCain`s daughter Meghan, and one of the late senator`s close friends, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

We`ll have all of that and one of John McCain`s pal bearers, actually, former Defense Secretary William Cohen coming here next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump said today whoever made the request to hide the USS John McCain before Trump`s visit over to Japan was well-meaning. 

Well, those closest to the late senator disagree. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  John McCain was a war hero, should be treated as a war hero, anything less than that is beneath anyone who doesn`t treat him that way. 

MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR MCCAIN:  It`s impossible to go through the grief process when my father has been dead 10 months, is constantly in the news cycle because the president is so obsessed with the fact that he`s never going to be a great man like he was.

So, it actually was --

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, his daughter Meghan there added that the president`s actions could have negative consequences for the military. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  And putting people in the military of horrific situations, they are fearful for their jobs if god forbid you`re a sailor on this ship, you think there`s going to be some kind of retribution.  And I think it`s horrible, I think it`s bad for Americans, and I think we have to look at the kind of culture that`s being put in place. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by William Cohen, former secretary of defense under President Clinton. 

Mr. Secretary, your reaction.  You wrote a beautiful piece in the "Washington Post" today. 

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I think it`s shameful. 

MATTHEWS:  On the other issue. 

COHEN:  On the issue of what happened with the USS John McCain.  I think that aspect is really shameful, what has taken place, and I know Meghan feels deeply about this, and she has a right to because she was so close to her dad. 

Cindy, whom I`ve known over the years, and a special tribute to Roberta, the mother, Mrs. McCain, who`s 107 years old.  Just the McCain family that has to be reminded of this in terms of what the president of the United States, if not doing directly, is acknowledging or sanctioning indirectly.

And the notion that show they were well-meaning, I don`t doubt that he didn`t know about it directly.  I`ll give him credit for saying that.  But he doesn`t have to. 

This is what Michael Cohen said, Michael Cohen said, you don`t have to give direction, we know what he wants, and what he wanted and has wanted is wants McCain`s name out of the picture.

And what`s disgraceful about is that John McCain is not just an American hero.  He`s a global hero.  You had at his funeral, that was something reserved for royalty in this country.  You had people from all over the world who came to pay tribute for what he was trying to do, and that is to remind the world America is the reason why we are holding that lamp of liberty up so we prevent the darkness from swallowing up the world.  So, that was very hard to take as far as I`m concerned.

In terms of John McCain himself, obviously, I was very close to him, when he was married, and sadly was one of the honorary pallbearers during his funeral.  But John was just the spirit of this country and he was cantankerous.  He had his moments where he would strike out in a moment. 

But you always knew that if you ever in a fight, you wanted John McCain with you.  And so, I enjoyed going up.  He gave me a tough time when I was secretary of defense as well.  But actually, I enjoyed going up and matching up with him.

MATTHEWS:  I think we`re watching their vote not to kill Obamacare.  That made the president crazy.

Anyway, the president also appeared to take a veiled swipe at the late senator from Air Force One.  In a tweet honoring former Senator Thad Cochran, who passed away today, the president tweeted: Cochran was a real senator with incredible values, even flew back to the Senate from Mississippi for important healthcare vote when he was desperately ill.  Thad never let our country down. 

A little shot there indirectly against the guy who did vote against him. 

COHEN:  It was a direct shot and don`t forget, John McCain, who was suffering from cancer to come back and cast a vote.  And so, the notion that somehow you would hold this against John McCain because he voted against him, actually he voted to save Obamacare.  That means he`s saving young people who had preexisting conditions.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COHEN:  So, he saved health care.  He didn`t vote against it.  He voted for it.

MATTHEWS:  He voted against the effort to kill. 

Anyway, Secretary Cohen, you wrote an op-ed today, beautifully written, as I said, about the GOP`s defining silence in response to the Mueller report.  You write: Republicans have taken the position that Mueller`s redacted report has resolved all issues of alleged presidential collusion with the Russians and obstruction of justice.  Case closed. 

Well, this is not a tenable position, as you`re writing: The Mueller report has raised nearly as many questions as it has answered.  You go on to write: The silence of Republicans today in the face of presidential behavior, that is unacceptable by any reasonable standard.  It`s both striking and deeply disappointing.

How do you explain?  You are a moderate Republican from Maine, a very independent state.  Why do you think it`s 9-1 among Republican people, not just politicians, to go along with this MAGA thing? 

COHEN:  Well, I think as far as the politicians are concerned, I think it`s fear.  I think it`s fear or they support what the president is doing and how he is conducting himself.  So, it`s either fear or complicity.  It`s one or the other, or maybe even both. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, how the Republican Party of free trade and alliances since World War II became the opposite of those things? 

COHEN:  Well, they have become the Trump party.  Rather than the traditional free trade, strong national defense, embracing our allies, working together as coalitions, that is a tradition Republican position.  I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  What about Russia?  When you find out that basically, the same tactics used for subversion in the `30s and `40s is using -- being used today against our elections by the Russians. 

COHEN:  Here`s the irony involved.  The president is determined to have a wall on the southern border. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COHEN:  What we need to do is have a -- a digital wall erected against the Russians, one so thick that they can`t penetrate it to protect our democratic system.  That`s the wall we really need. 

And here we are getting silence from the president.  Here we`re getting silence from the Republican Party, and so many of his millions of supporters, saying, what about protecting us from the Russians who are hacking into our system, who are actually conniving to manipulate the voting results and getting into our system in terms of critical infrastructure.  We need a wall against that.

So, instead, he is raising this as an issue to denigrate immigrants, to denigrate people coming here in search of asylum. 

And one of the things I want to mention, I don`t think people are really focused on this.  The president said at one point that it was his sick idea to take the -- round up the asylum seekers and send them to the cities of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Sanctuary cities. 

COHEN:  Sanctuary cities.  Now, think about the issue of that.  Let us suppose that what he said was true that the immigrants were carrying diseases, which is false.  Assuming they are true, and he sent them to an American city to spread it?  That`s unconscionable. 

MATTHEWS:  His logic is killing me.  There`s too much information.  I`m teasing.  You know what you`re talking about. 

I wish we hear from more of you.  We`ll try to hear from more of you, a real Republican.  That`s what we just heard. 

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. 

Up next, Mitch McConnell once again demonstrating why he`s the master of political cheap shots and brazen partisanship. 

Stick around for this one.  You really get mad at this guy.  You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We often hear it said that the country should end the bitter partisanship that clogs our government, that we`d be a stronger America if we could stop the cheap shots, the delayed tactics, and the refusal to let anything get done that paints a positive picture of the rival party. 

We can only think of Rodney King after the L.A. riots asking, "Can we all get along?"

The other day, we got the answer from the majority leader of the United States Senate to that question, the Honorable Mitch McConnell, and his answer is, no, we can`t get along. 

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, it was McConnell who slammed the door in President Obama, naming a replacement in his last year.

  (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  The American people should have a say in the court`s direction.  It is the president`s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court an it is the Senate`s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And so, it happened that the top Senate Republican erased President Obama`s appointment to fill the country`s top court and he was proud of it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  One of my proudest moments is when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and said, Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the other day, McConnell said he will not -- he`ll do just the opposite for President Trump. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  If a Supreme Court justice was to die next year, what would you do?

MCCONNELL:  Oh, we`d fill it. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Very funny. 

If a court vacancy occurs in 2020 and Trump nominates someone to fill it, McConnell will move for the Senate to confirm the appointment.  He just said so.  This is kind of cheap politics and brazen partisanship that makes the word politician so sleazy. 

That`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END