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Trump says he would likely accept help. TRANSCRIPT: 6/12/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Ted Lieu, Nina Turner, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump`s Perry Mason moment.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We have major breaking news tonight and a stunning admission tonight.  The President told ABC News he has no problem accepting dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power.  In fact, Trump denied that foreign help shouldn`t even be considered election interference.  Listen to this.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST:  Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I think maybe you do both.  I think you might want to listen.  I think there`s nothing wrong with listening.  If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I`d want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP:  It`s not an interference.  They have information.  I think I`d take it.  If I thought there was something wrong, I`d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.

But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, oh, let`s call the FBI.  The FBI doesn`t have enough agents to take care of it.  But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have.  And that`s the way it is.  It`s called oppo research.


MATTHEWS:  Two years to get that admission, two years of the Mueller report, and now, we have the President`s motive.  There`s nothing wrong with taking dirt from the Russians.  It`s a shocking statement from a president who won with help from Moscow in 2016.  And it signals to foreign governments around the world, just think about it, that Trump`s 2020 campaign is open for business.

I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, the National Security Reporter with NBC News, Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, and Jason Johnson, a Political Editor at The Root, Susan Del Percio, republican strategist.

I will start with Ken.  I want to get to Cynthia right away.  This is the politics of this.  He has admitted there is nothing wrong with what he`s been investigated for for two years, playing footsie with the Russians.

KEN DILIANIA, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  It`s so inconsistent with the values that we all understand our politicians live by republican and democrat.  It`s outside the mainstream.  Stephanopoulos went on to say, by the way, Al Gore had a debate prep book from George W. Bush.  He called the FBI.  He didn`t use it because that was the ethos.  And Trump is blowing it all up.  And you`re absolutely right, he`s sending a signal to the Chinese, the Russians, anyone who wants to interfere in our election.  It`s open season.  Hack, investigate, use intelligence methods to get incriminating information about opponents and hand it to Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  When I heard the President say that, and great work by George Stephanopoulos, by the way, when I heard the President say, there is nothing wrong with taking dirt from a foreign power, which was what we`ve been talking about for two years, I thought that`s why his lawyers wouldn`t let him give live testimony, because they were afraid this character would just do a Perry Mason and say, all right, I did it.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right.  And it`s not just a foreign power.  It`s our adversary for the last 50 years.  And here`s the problem why it`s not a Perry Mason moment.  Because now what happens?  Nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Okay, you make a point.  But the --

ALKSNE:  I mean, before we get too excited about it, what happens?  Nothing.

MATTHEWS:  When the accused comes down and says, damn it, I do this stuff, there is nothing wrong with it.

ALKSNE:  Right.  Well, everybody knows -- I mean, on some level, we know he is a completely selfish person and the only thing he cares about is himself.  And if he thinks it helps his election, then he`ll take it.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Jason, you understand politics as a big picture.  For years, his crowd has defended him.  He didn`t play a role with the Russians.  He didn`t think -- he would never do anything like that.  And he, on Air Force One, concocted perhaps with Hope Hicks sitting there, concocted this crazy story.  We were just talking about adopting Russian kids, when, in fact, his son told him apparently he was in there getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT:  Right.  So we always knew that he was lying.  The question is going to be now --

MATTHEWS:  Of course, I was lying.

JOHNSON:  It`s the O.J. thing.  The first, he used to say, well, I didn`t do it, but here`s how I would.  Now, he said, well, okay, I did it.  You got me.

The question is going to be how many republicans take the Justin Amash standpoint.  They`re like, okay, this is it.  This may be a this is it moment.  When the President says, I will take active (ph) and open information, but also --

MATTHEWS:  We`ve got a republican here.  Susan, what do you think?  Do you think the republicans will crack this?  I mean, it is primary (ph).  I will argue because I have been waiting for this guy.  George is standing right next to him, a weird angle, by the way, looking down on him, and he is looking up sideways at him, like he really doesn`t want to confront him, and says, yes, what`s wrong with that?  It was like a street talk.  So what?  Go ahead, Susan.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Chris, the President has proven he has no respect for the office he holds.  He has no loyalty to the country.

MATTHEWS:  What is his defense?

DEL PERCIO:  He doesn`t have one.  He is a traitor to the pillars of our democracy.  That`s what that interview shows.  And the fact that there aren`t republicans willing to stand up to him, I don`t know what they think they`re going to be doing in the next couple of years when Donald Trump gets kicked out in 2020 and people are going to look at them with disdain, or at least I hope they do.

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk about the development of two years now.  We have focused on this program and many other programs in all over cable land and nightly news and everywhere else, trying to figure out what was Trump`s motive?  Did he know what he was doing?  Did he knowingly involved of getting dirt from the Russians?  Because we`ve got the kompromat, the dirt given off on social media about Hillary.  We got the digging into the -- hacking into the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta and Paul Marion (ph), and everybody.  All that dirt, we know the big three parts to it.  We know everything they were doing.

And now, he`s admitting nothing wrong with that.  The Russians were helping him.  Who wouldn`t take the Russian`s help?

DILANIAN:  Robert Mueller found that they were too disorganized to have a real conspiracy.  But now, we know that it wasn`t about morals and ethics.  Trump was willing to do this.  That`s not why he didn`t get jammed up (ph) criminally.  He just -- they Russians didn`t need to conspire.  They were pouring out the emails to WikiLeaks and the Trump team was using them.

But I also think, Chris, there is a little bit of trolling going on here.  He knows this is going to drive people crazy.  And he knows he`s --

MATTHEWS:  Come on.  No, no.  Wait until you see how this cracks tonight everywhere world.  This is going to blow him tonight.  I know this is part of an elongated circular game delay.

JOHNSON:  No, no.  This is not three-dimensional chess.  He just doesn`t care, right?  He doesn`t think there`re going to be consequences.

MATTHEWS:  He thinks he`s fine.

DILIANIA:  That`s his genius.

JONSON:  But that`s not genius.  He just knows the democrats are too cowardly to do anything.

DILIANIAN:  His base will eat this up and have no problem with it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me explain what I think it is.  He was asked by George as the context to that question to your son.  So he`s basically doing what most people did to defend the family, okay?  He`s defending his son because the son went to Trump Tower, the son met with -- let`s watch him now.  In that interview, Trump also expressed and explained the press, he expressed why his son, Donald Trump, Jr., did not alert the FBI that he had received offers of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Here he goes.


STEPHANOPOULOS:  Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email?

TRUMP:  Okay.  Let`s put yourself in a position.  You are a congressman.  Somebody comes up and says, hey, I have Information on your opponent.  Do you call the FBI?

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I don`t think, I mean, from what I`m going to do.

TRUMP:  I`ll tell you what.  I have seen a lot of things over in my life.  I don`t think in my whole life I`ve ever called the FBI, in my whole life.  You don`t call the FBI.  You throw somebody out of your office.  You do whatever you --

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Al Gore got a stolen briefing book and he called the FBI.

TRUMP:  Well, that`s different, a stolen briefing.  But this is somebody that said, we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  The FBI director says that`s what should happen.

TRUMP:  The FBI Director is wrong.


MATTHEWS:  I thought that was the clearest bite (ph) of that interview, where he currently said not FBI and use the dirt, but just use the dirt.  Give me a break.

ALKSNE:  Right.  That`s obviously exactly what he would have done and it`s what he will do in the future, which is why you`re right, it`s open season.  And then, now, the question becomes, what do we do with this information?

DILANIAN:  I mean, he`s really going to war with his Intelligence Committee, more so than ever before, saying the FBI Director is wrong.

Yesterday, he repudiated the CIA for allegedly trying to recruit somebody close to the brutal dictator of North Korea.  He said he wouldn`t do it because he is friends with the guy.  I mean, we have never seen anything like this in our history.

MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, let me talk about the Republican Party and this nine to one deference to this president.  And we`re going to talk about George Wilson but then I`m thinking about that.  Why is the Republican Party defending him no matter how outrageously shameless he is?  I mean, tonight was a good example.  He seems okay.  Why didn`t he say get out of here?  He talked a mob talk to George.  We all know we do this.  Are you kidding me?

DEL PERCIO:  Because, believe it or not, I think they`re worse than Donald Trump because they are not standing up for what they know is right.  I mean, Donald Trump, I actually think, believes that there is nothing wrong with accepting information from foreign governments on your opponent.  I also don`t think that it`s beyond him to think it`s okay to make things up and use the government to take it forward.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  You`ve got the first shot at this one, all right.  Susan, suppose I try to flip this for my right wing associates.  I don`t have many of them.  But if I had, I`d say this to them.

Suppose Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton set up a meeting with some Russian lawyer that was working for Putin to get dirt on this big American billionaire, Donald Trump, and the whole idea was they will win the election.  Then it came out that their colleagues over there in Moscow were pushing out kompromat on Trump and they were pushing out stuff and they were hacking stuff out of the Trump, whatever, files.  And what do you think the republicans -- they are going after her Benghazi and the emails.  What would they have done with this?

DEL PERCIO:  They would have gone to town.

MATTHEWS:  The exact thing that Trump did and admitted it.

DEL PERCIO:  They would have gone to town on it.  And, frankly, I`m always surprised when we see the democrats right now not jumping on issues and coming up with a concise messaging to go after this president.  There is a lot to do.  They should learn from the republicans, frankly.

MATTHEWS:  He says everybody does it.

DEL PERCIO:  They don`t.  That`s a lie.

MATTHEWS:  I don`t think I have met two or three Russians in my whole life.  Not the Russians as the people, of course, they are nice people, but we don`t deal with them.  He is dealing with them on stuff.  That`s why he`s dealing with him with stuff.

JOHNSON:  Everything Trump says also is a projection and a lie.  That man has never thrown anybody out of his office, okay, listening to him.  He will take any kind of dirt and information he can get.  And the problem is, not only will he lie, but we don`t know what kind of information he will be willing to take in the future.  Will it be on his own country?  Will it be on his party?

MATTHEWS:  First question to Mitch McConnell.  I`m going to hit you with a political question.  Mitch McConnell always asked the question in the -- what he called it, the dugout chatter they have on the Senate floor this morning.  Is it okay to take dirt on your opponent from the Russians?

ALKSNE:  He`ll have some measly mouth response and then he`ll do nothing.  That`s what he does.  He will have some, no, it`s not acceptable and I disagree with the President.

MATTHEWS:  How about Lindsey Graham?  What`s Lindsey Graham going to say.

ALKSNE:  Lindsey Graham has no soul.  I`m sorry.  It`s missing.

DEL PERCIO:  Chris, the only one who would do that would be probably Mitt Romney.  That`s the only one who we`ve seen stand up at some level to the charges that were even coming out in the Mueller report and other things.  I would be willing to bet he is one, maybe a couple of others.  But, basically, they`re all looking at the primaries and they`re all worried about Donald Trump coming after him.

MATTHEWS:  So we have Amash and half of Mitt Romney?  That`s what you can say, half of Mitt Romney.  This is a tough one.

DILANIAN:  This goes beyond Donald Trump`s political future.  This is why the U.S. government is not doing enough to stop the next round of foreign election interference because there is no leadership.  The President has made it clear, he is not interested in the problem.  So the FBI is doing a little bit, the CIA, the NSA, but there`s not White House leadership and we`re not prepared.

ALKSNE:  And there`s no Senate leadership.  And anything that happens at the House is stopped by the Senate.

MATTHEWS:  So we`ve had two years of investigating counterintelligence, as you pointed out, not just the law, not just whether he has broken any laws there in the statute book, the code, but to try to find out how we can stop this government, which is our adversary, Moscow, I didn`t think it was ten years ago but it is now, from hurting us again, because we are the great role model of the world because of our democracy.  Our elections actually happened.  It is the Electoral College, but the numbers are right.  It`s tough.  Some people lose, some people win.  But we don`t go out and say it was rigged, we don`t go out and arrest the losers.  Lock her up.  We don`t do that not in a real country like America.

Trump comes along and says, screw all of that, and he says, everybody does it.  I don`t think everybody deals in the way he deals with things.  I think that`s a lie.

ALKSNE:  And, you know, here`s the problem.  We have this tradition of not prosecuting our elected leaders when they leave office, and this one is going to need to be prosecuted.

MATTHEWS:  We`ll see.  This is -- well, he admitted it.  He means he did it.

ALKSNE:  He admits that.  And we have the obstruction and we have -- he`s an unindicted co-conspirator in the campaign finance.  So we may very well have to break that tradition as well and prosecute him once he is done.

MATTHEWS:  Ken, you and I have been doing this.  You`re the lead guy on this for our network.  And I have to tell you.  Tell me, what does it tell you if you had heard this six months ago, if Trump had come out and said, yes, what`s wrong with that?

DILANIAN:  I would have been sure that Mueller had more.  That`s mystery about all this.  And you just spoke about the counterintelligence findings.  Those are not in the Mueller report.  That`s what Schiff wants to pry out of the FBI.  Because Mueller didn`t pass judgment on of these more than 100 contacts on this flirtation between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but somebody in the FBI, I bet, did, at least in terms of --

MATTHEWS:  Well, he said there was no conspiracy theory proven.  But here, we have the President saying, yes, I`d go along with that.

JOHNSON:  Well, you have to remember from the republicans perspective, they think that all information from everybody is tainted, right?  It`s the guy who`s like, I don`t care where I got this T.V. from, even if it came off the back of a truck.  That`s what he said.  That`s why he mentions a place like Norway.  His assumption is, look, if the --

MATTHEWS:  That`s a boring country, that`s why.

ALKSNE:  Hey, hey.  Be nice to Norway.

JOHNSON:  He`s like I don`t care where the information comes from.  And that`s the other element to it.  He wants to dismiss the fact that there could be a national security element to this.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Let`s go back to -- let`s start with his motive.  You`re the attorney.  If it`s on the record that on the plane with Hope Hicks there, who`s going to testify next week, on the plane, he said, we`ve got to cover up this meeting at Trump Tower with my son and namesake there, Donald Jr., we`ve got to cover up.  We`ve got to say that that meeting meeting, and there is the President on the plane rewriting history saying, this was about adoptions.

ALKSNE:  Lying.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn`t that establish the fact that he knew what the real meeting was about was illegal or improper or something?

ALKSNE:  It`s certainly consciousness of guilt.  But, remember, the lie is to The New York Times.  That`s not a lie that is a perjury lie.  It`s not to judicial or --

MATTHEWS:  You mean putting out that statement.  But doesn`t it show that he was covering up what he thought was illegal?

ALKSNE:  Yes, it shows consciousness of guilt.  It shows that he knows what he`s doing is wrong.  But when you lie --

MATTHEWS:  Why has it changed?  Why is he now saying it`s okay?

JOHNSON:  Because he`s caught.

ALKSNE:  Well, he`s caught and he doesn`t care because nobody is going to do anything.  He thinks he`s safe.

MATTHEWS:  No, I think he thinks he`s safe.  Pelosi is not moving.  Mueller has taken a disappearing act.  He`s gone.  He doesn`t want to testify.  Pelosi decides it`s bad politics, apparently.  And so he says, now, I can come clean.  So what?  Screw you guys.  I did do it.

ALKSNE:  Well, he`s not going to be prosecuted for lying to The New York Times.  He knows that as well.

JOHNSON:  And he`s not going to be impeached because none of the democrats seem to have the backbone to do it.  And that`s really why he`s sort of bragging and --

ALKSNE:  Well, I mean, that`s a political question, how they handle it.  But he is certainly staring down the barrel of a prosecution as soon as he leaves office.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wanted to just -- before we get on this break, I want to say, I mean, congratulations to George Stephanopoulos.  I`ve known him forever.  I don`t know what he did.  Sometimes you get a guy disarmed when he says things.  They did with me once when he gets about abortion and everything.  He gets a little disarmed.  And there was George standing over him in that amazing position, looking down on him, he was looking up by the side of his head to George, and he says, yes, what`s the problem, George?  Unbelievable.  That`s all macho man stuff.

Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian.  Thank you.  My other guests are sticking around.  We`ve got much more to get to on this breaking story tonight.

Perry Mason moment from the President, so what if I did?  President Trump, in a stunning admission, says, he is willing to accept the help of a foreign government in future elections and accepting dirt on a political rival from a global rival is not interference.  Think about that.

We also get to the other breaking stories that Hope Hicks, as I said, former top aide insider, has agreed to testify.  Well, she can talk about what happened on Air Force One when he came up with a cover story and said it was all about adoptions.  Isn`t that sweet?

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL, back with tonight`s breaking story, the shocking admission from President Trump that he thinks it`s okay to take political dirt on his opponent from a foreign government.  Take a look look at what he told to ABC`s George Stephanopoulos today.


STEPHANOPOULOS:  Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP:  I think maybe you do both.  I think you might want to listen.  I think there`s nothing wrong with listening.  If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I`d want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP:  It`s not an interference.  They have information.  I think I`d take it.  If I thought there was something wrong, I`d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong.

But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, oh, let`s call the FBI.  The FBI doesn`t have enough agents to take care of it.  But you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have.  And that`s the way it is.  It`s called oppo research.


MATTHEWS:  That`s the way it is.  Well, he`s not exactly Walter Cronkite, is he?

Even after Robert Mueller`s investigation exposed the full extent of Russia`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the president now argues it`s not interference, it`s just information.  The president went on to add he would maybe, would maybe call the FBI if he thought something was wrong, maybe.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu from California, who`s on the House Judiciary.

Congressman Lieu, what we know is that the president now believes it`s OK to take dirt, oppo research, from a foreign government.  He says it`s OK.  Does that square with your committee`s decision not to impeach him? 

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA):  Thank you, Chris, for your question. 

What Donald Trump said is un-American, unpatriotic and unbelievable.  The issue is not oppo research.  You can take oppo research.  You cannot take it from a foreign power. 

And there is actually a law against this.  The Federal Election Campaign Act says that candidates cannot knowingly take anything of material value from a foreign power.  Donald Trump is selling America down for his own personal benefit. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this -- what do you think the Russians were up to when they gave him stuff? 

I want to get to back to what he thought how innocent this was.  He is saying it was OK -- because he covered up the story.  He didn`t think was that OK, the Trump Tower meeting with Veselnitskaya with his son.

He obviously thought there was something wrong, because he lied about it later.  He had a totally misconstrued thing about, oh, it had to do with adoptions. 

Do you believe the president`s admission of his motive, that he thinks it`s OK to do this, will move the committee on Judiciary and the speaker, Pelosi, to move now, or not? 

LIEU:  Right. 

So I have expressed my personal opinions to the speaker.  This is a decision that will be made by the speaker and the caucus.  And I respect that decision. 

But, in the meantime, we`re going to investigate and gather evidence.  There was a breakthrough with the Department of Justice recently, where I and other members of House Judiciary will be able to look at the underlying documents specifically for that Trump Tower meeting. 

And we want to know exactly what was said, what the agents were told when they interviewed these witnesses.  And if, in fact, it was things of material value, then the House Judiciary Committee is going to continue investigating that very meeting. 

MATTHEWS:  He`s saying today that he wouldn`t tell his FBI director, Christopher Wray, he wouldn`t tell him, his own appointed FBI director, that he got some dirt offered to him over the phone from Moscow. 

What do you -- or anywhere, he said, any foreign government.  What do you think -- make of that? 

LIEU:  It is unbelievable. 

Donald Trump views himself as above the law.  He thinks it`s OK to get information from a foreign power on opponents.  That is not OK.  It`s illegal.  Again, the Federal Election Campaign Act makes that illegal. 

And the FBI director is absolutely right.  And we can look back historically.  When the Al Gore campaign got a package of information that was going to reveal information about the Bush campaign, they sent that to the FBI. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take a look at this again, Congressman.  You`re on the Judiciary Committee.  I want you to watch this and have your reaction to what Trump said with Stephanopoulos in that interview.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that e-mail?

TRUMP:  OK, let`s put yourself in a position.  You`re a congressman.  Somebody comes up and says, hey, I have information on your opponent.  Do you call the FBI?  I don`t think...

STEPHANOPOULOS:  If it`s coming from Russia, you do.

TRUMP:  I`ll tell you what.  I have seen a lot of things over my life.  I don`t think, in my whole life, I have ever called the FBI, in my whole life.  I don`t -- you don`t call the FBI.  You throw somebody out of your office.  You do whatever you do.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Al Gore got a stolen briefing book.  He called the FBI. 

TRUMP:  Well, that`s different, a stolen briefing book.  This isn`t a stolen -- this is somebody that said, we have inflammation on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  The FBI director says that`s what should happen. 

TRUMP:  The FBI director is wrong. 


MATTHEWS:  What would you make of this, Congressman, if those very words we heard now, after all the fighting about this with Pelosi and everybody, and all this stalling game that`s going on right now, which is what it is, what would you have done if you got this information a few months ago in the written answers to the questions by the special counsel?

Because they wouldn`t let Trump answer the questions.  They hid the guy.  They gagged him.  Here he is coming out with what looks to me like very, very dangerous testimony. 

LIEU:  This interview with Donald Trump is very revealing, because it shows that the president does not understand the difference between Americans and America and a foreign power. 

So, as a member of Congress, if I got information, oppo research on my opponent from, let`s say, an American political consultant, totally fine.  If a Russian person, a Russian official came up to me and said, hey, we have dirt on your opponent, I would call the FBI.  That`s exactly what you`re supposed to do.

The FBI director is right.  And Donald Trump, again, is unpatriotic and un- American for thinking he can take material information from a foreign power and use it against his political opponents. 

MATTHEWS:  Every roll call, you have to walk along with Republican members of Congress on the other side of the aisle.  You see them around.  You see them at dining hall, at lunch and everything. 

How are they -- do you think they`re going to be held to this question now?  What`s your gut?  Will the media say to them, do you agree with the president it`s OK to take dirt from foreign governments?

LIEU:  I hope every news host on every channel asks them, including FOX News.  I hope they don`t ignore this story, because, again, what the president said is unbelievable.  It is unpatriotic, un-American. 

He is the commander in chief of the American armed forces.  No commander in chief should be selling America down the river to a foreign power simply to benefit himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Last question.  It`s a little HARDBALL. 

But does it matter what you think, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, about impeachment?  Because it seems to me, we keep getting reports that almost every Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee wants to move forward with impeachment, yet you don`t do it.  So does it matter what you think?

LIEU:  So, right now, we are in...

MATTHEWS:  It`s a cruel question, I admit.

LIEU:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  It`s cruel as hell. 

LIEU:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But I have been hearing from everybody.  I know these people.  They`re all good people.  They say, we want to do it.  We want to do it.  But you don`t. 

LIEU:  Right.

So we are making the Mueller report come to life.  We`re getting additional information to the American people.  We just had another breakthrough where, next week, we will interview Hope Hicks.  That will be behind closed doors, but then the transcription will be made publicly available. 

So we try and get information out to the American people, and to show them what happened when the Trump administration basically had all these contacts with the Russians and then they tried to obstruct the investigation into those contacts. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I sympathize with your situation, Congressman, but the fact is, Hope Hicks is going to testify behind closed doors with a lawyer from the White House there to make sure that anything that`s even slightly interesting isn`t talked about, because she will -- they will claim executive privilege, don`t you think? 

LIEU:  They might, and they will lose in court.  We have very, very strong case law behind us. 


LIEU:  So we will see what happens next week. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m rooting for you, sir. 

LIEU:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California. 

We`re going to stay on top of this all night tonight. 

But, as I mentioned, we have got more breaking news to get to.  Donald Trump Jr., who was in that meeting on the air -- well, he was in the meeting with the Russians the president covered up about, and now the president said, so what if my son was in a meeting with the Russians getting dirt on Hillary Clinton?  We all do that, as he would put it.

Donald Trump, as I said, Jr. returns to Congress to testify behind closed doors.  He did it today, while former top White House aide Hope Hicks is coming next week, but with the help of the White House.  She`s going to have a lawyer there with her. 

Stay with us. 



We`re continuing to follow the stunning news tonight that President Trump has admitted now, tonight, that he`s willing to take opposition research, dirt, from a foreign country, well, like Russia. 

And there`s more breaking news tonight.  Hope Hicks, a former top aide to the president at the White House and in the campaign, has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors, of course, also with a lawyer from the White House there.  That`s a day after Trump plans to formally announce his reelection campaign.  That`s next Tuesday.  She testifies Wednesday. 

By the way, tonight, "The Washington Post" is characterizing the Hope Hicks development, her testifying, as a significant breakthrough for the Judiciary Committee, which has struggled, of course, to enforce its subpoenas. 

But the report notes that Hicks might not answer many of the panel`s questions, citing the president`s assertion, as I said before, of executive privilege on events that occurred inside the White House.

According to a person familiar with this deal about her testimony, a member of the House, the White House`s Counsel`s Office will be present for her testimony.  Hicks left her job at the White House in February of last year, just two days after she testified she occasionally told white lies for the president.

Back with me are former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne, Jason Johnson from, and Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist.

Susan, admitting you told white lies is probably a mistake.  But I guess it accomplishes something in terms of your moral happiness.  But when you say you tell white lies, that`s a big door that`s open there, because were these conversations about dirt from the Russians, or were they about adopting Russian kids by Americans? 

It seems they were about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. 


MATTHEWS:  And now these -- saying white lies carries a different message than it did 24 hours ago. 

DEL PERCIO:  Yes, define white lies.  How big is it?

And she opens herself to questions on that.  What`s also interesting is, I think she`s actually testifying because of the company she works for.  She works for FOX.  They have shareholders.  They just took off over Disney, the happiest place on Earth.  They do not want their top coms person being charged with contempt. 

And that`s what she was facing.  And I think that she was in a real personal bind.  She knows Donald Trump very well.  She knows that he will be up there for her, to a point, and then he will cut and run and hurt her if he had to. 

So she`s got to protect herself, because she can`t expect loyalty from him. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, you think just like I thought today.  And I thought like the same happened to Larry Speakes when he went to a private firm and became part of a story.  You don`t want to be part of a story. 

DEL PERCIO:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You don`t want to be -- you`re in charge of P.R.  Your job is not to be the P.R. problem, right, Jason? 

DEL PERCIO:  Correct.

JOHNSON:  Look, I...


MATTHEWS:  Now we have her coming up to testify next week, with the help of a White House lawyer.

JOHNSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Getting asked, first question, the president says it`s OK to kick dirt from the Russians.  Was he like that when you were with him?  Was that his attitude? 

JOHNSON:  Right. 

And she will give some sort of vague answer one way or another.  People have been treating Hope Hicks with kid gloves from the very beginning.  She is just as dirty and just as involved in all of this as everybody else.

And the feckless Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, who don`t seem to realize that having her out publicly is the only way that her testimony has any value, are allowing the White House to do what they always do, which is obfuscate and lie and hide and pretend.

I don`t see any value in having her come in and testify.  And not to insult the previous congressman, but you can`t call this a victory.  It is not a victory if it`s hidden behind closed doors.  And that`s exactly what`s happening with Don Jr.  And now they`re doing it with Hope Hicks. 

MATTHEWS:  I get a sense that Hope was one of those few insiders that he`s never broken with.  He breaks with everybody else.

ALKSNE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  She`s still an insider.

ALKSNE:  She`s still an insider.

But now we know the Judiciary Committee does have the FBI 302s, which could make it interesting.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me why.

ALKSNE:  An FBI 302 are the witness interview notes. 

So the Judiciary Committee is getting those notes.  They will have them on Hope Hicks.  So that`s good.  That is something of a victory. 

But I don`t think there`s any question that what happens is, she comes in.  She knows she doesn`t have immunity not to show up.  She has a good lawyer, the former United States attorney from Baltimore.  He comes in.  They sit down.

And the minute they ask her a question of any value, she takes executive privilege.  This is not a victory.


MATTHEWS:  Ms. Hicks, here`s my question.  The president of the United States says it`s OK to take oppo research on a political opponent from a foreign power.  Was that your understanding of his attitude when you worked for him? 

ALKSNE:  Nobody would like to help you more than this lieutenant colonel, but I am incapable of responding because of executive privilege.  I mean, it`s like the Oliver North hearing.  It`s like the beautiful Oliver North...


JOHNSON:  That`s her answer.  And that`s her answer every single time.  And they`re going to let her get away with it.  And they`re going to let her get away with it. 


MATTHEWS:  Susan, you think they can get away with -- she can get away with just saying, I don`t know nothing? 

ALKSNE:  No, she will take executive privilege. 

DEL PERCIO:  Well, and I just wonder, though, because I don`t think executive privilege will extend to the trips that she took with him after she left.

If we recall, she was on Air Force One.  There were several meetings after that as everything was getting bubbling with Mueller.  So I don`t think she`s exempt from that -- those conversations.

ALKSNE:  She`s not.

Executive privilege does not apply. 

JOHNSON:  Right. 

ALKSNE:  This has to do with what happened during the campaign, but that doesn`t stop the White House, and it gums up the whole process. 

MATTHEWS:  I don`t think we have had a headline like this -- I`m sorry -- in a long time.

We have been plodding away and probing and trying to find out what the president thought.  The prosecutor, a fine man, Robert Mueller, has been trying to get the -- to motive, trying to figure out, what was the president thinking all the time?

And George Stephanopoulos, with a bit of disarming reporting tonight, got the president of the United States right there with the cameras rolling to say, there`s nothing wrong with what we did. 

It was an astounding -- a two-year investigation by Mueller, and we got more heart of the story.  The president of the United States tells us, it`s not just if I did it, it`s OK.  He said, it`s OK.  It`s OK.

He asked him a number of times.  It`s OK to take political oppo, as he called it, from a foreign government, which is the very heart of this thing.  In other words, it`s OK for a not-innocent foreign government, Vladimir Putin`s government, to give you stuff, so you will be on the hook.

ALKSNE:  And I will do it again. 

JOHNSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Cynthia Alksne, Jason Johnson, and Susan Del Percio.

Susan, thank you so much.

We`re staying on top of this story, breaking story.

President Trump says he`s willing to accept the help coming into 2020 from a foreign government.  He wants to win again the same way. 

Former CIA Director John Brennan joins us next. 

HARDBALL back after this.



We`ve been reporting a stunning news tonight that the president is admitting now.  He did it with George Stephanopoulos just now.  That there`s no problem he said, taking dirt on a political opponent, Hillary Clinton, from a foreign power, Russia. 

Joining me right now on the phone is John Brennan, former CIA director, MSNBC senior national security and intelligence analyst. 

Mr. Director, thank you for joining us. 

I was stunned.  Your reaction to hearing the president say, so -- no problem, I can take dirt from the Russians, basically. 

JOHN BRENNAN, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (via telephone):  Well, first of all, Chris, I think it should be unsurprising to all of us that that was his comments because I think that`s been his attitude ever since he was on the campaign trail, number one.  Number two, this just is the definition of a craven and unethical politician who is willing to stoop to anything in order to win an election.  And three, it shows that Mr. Trump does not have a problem with a foreign government shaping the outcome of a U.S. election. 

And I think all American people really need to digest that and understand what this means.  We have somebody in the Oval Office who is not opposed to having foreign governments influence the campaigns and the candidacies of the individuals who aspire to gain our public trust.  And that`s something that we should all be outraged over and deeply, deeply angered.  That`s what Mr. Trump`s attitude is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he talked maybe if I would get some dirt from -- about Hillary Clinton from the Norwegians, what would be the difference between getting information from the Norwegians -- I assume they are a neutral power -- than getting it from the Russians?  What would be the Russians` motive of feeding him dirt on Hillary Clinton? 

It sounds ludicrous but I want to know the clear answer to this question.  Would you imagine innocent information of dirt on Hillary Clinton to go to a candidate for president? 

BRENNAN:  Well, I could say that the Russians and others would be using cutouts in third countries, and their contacts in those governments and say, here, this information really needs to get to Mr. Trump about one of the Democratic candidates, the person who is going to be the candidate in November of 2020. 

The Russians are not just going to come in sort of, you know, directly, but I think according to Mr. Trump, you know, he would wait, he`d listen and then he might decide, you know, if there was something wrong that he might go to the FBI, but he would use that information.  I don`t know which list of countries he is thinking of it`s OK to accept from, but clearly, this is contrary to our tradition as well as to our laws. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Director John Brennan, former head of the CIA.

Joining me now right now is Nina Turner, national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign for 2020.  Steve McMahon, Democratic strategist.

What do you make of this?  I mean, Bernie gave a big speech, but this is bigger news, I have to tell you.  The president of the United States is saying, basically, Perry Mason style, OK, I do this stuff. 

NINA TURNER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN NATIONAL CO-CHAIR:  This is disgusting, Chris, and this president thinks he is above the law.  And now, Republicans need to step up because now they can`t blame the Democrats.  The president said out of his own mouth that he is willing to take information on a rival that will help him win an election.  If the Republicans don`t check him, they are cowards and they are the ones that are anti-government. 

MATTHEWS:  Nina, Senator, I got to ask you this question, because this is almost ludicrous.


MATTHEWS:  Suppose it came out that Hillary Clinton and Chelsea, her daughter, arranged a meeting with the Russians to get some dirt on Donald Trump.  Imagine that they knew also at the same time they were hacking into the Republican National Committee and they were taking dirt and putting that dirt, that information out to embarrass them, and they were running kompromat all through social media.  This was part of a campaign of dirt. 

Imagine Hillary Clinton got caught in that web.  She`d be in prison. 

TURNER:  The Republicans would not hesitate. 

MATTHEWS:  They would try to get her in prison.

TURNER:  Yes, they would absolutely try to do that.  But this is about who`s going to stand up for --

MATTHEWS:  So, why are the Democrats not moving? 

TURNER:  I have no -- I mean, out of his own mouth -- 

MATTHEWS:  Can you make a prediction?  I`ll make one.  Can you make a prediction for tomorrow?  Will they move on impeachment tomorrow? 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Steve, they`re not doing anything.


MATTHEWS:  I watched these guys, from Adam Schiff, I watched Jerry Nadler sweat -- I understand why he`s sweating, the pressure of 20 people on his committee, Democrats, who want to act like Ted Lieu. 

I asked Ted Lieu a few minutes ago, it`s a cruel question, what difference what you think?  Because you`re not doing anything? 

MCMAHON:  Well, there seems to be reluctance.  And, you know, Nancy Pelosi just as recently as yesterday again, sort of ticked off the number of Democrats in the Democratic caucus who want to move forward on impeachment because they`re in districts where they there`ll be a really big problem.  I didn`t agree. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but do you think she is going to change? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, I think that -- I think that she`s open-minded to changing, but I think that she wants to avoid what might be appearing to someone to be a rush to judgment. 

MATTHEWS:  Trump was so nervy today with George Stephanopoulos, say, yes, it`s OK to do that, because he`s already beat the judge.  Mueller didn`t put him away.  He didn`t really put him away, he didn`t indict him.


MATTHEWS:  And Nancy Pelosi doesn`t want to indict him.  So, who`s he`s afraid of? 

TURNER:  But I don`t begrudge the speaker for saying, let`s do due diligence.  I get that.

MCMAHON:  That`s -- 

TURNER:  But today, the president of the United States of America, out of his own mouth said it is okay to take dirt on your opponents from foreign governments.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Republicans would wait right now?

TURNER:  No, they wouldn`t -- 

MCMAHON:  They wouldn`t wait, but in fairness -- 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I don`t believe -- I know what you`re saying because it`s the Pelosi line.  I don`t believe it`s true.  I don`t believe Pelosi says we`re going to go slow and get their sometime. 

I keep asking members.  Gentleman`s bet, I can do a lady, too.  Do you think there will be impeachment by this speaker or do they go quiet on it?  Because you know they`re not going to do it next month or the month after.  It`s July next month and we are almost into fall. 

When are they going to do this, this year is almost out?

TURNER:  To me, the president has said -- he said it out of his own mouth.  We don`t even have to pretend -- 


MATTHEWS:  OK, Vladimir Putin heard it tonight and now he knows it. 

TURNER:  Yes, China -- 

MATTHEWS:  They woke him up tonight and said, the president of United States says, doing business with you is fine.

MCMAHON:  What the president did today is outrageous.  What Nancy Pelosi --

MATTHEWS:  No, what he admitted to doing. 

TURNER:  It`s anti-American.

MCMAHON:  What he admitted to doing today is outrageous.  What Nancy Pelosi`s strategy has been is investigate, litigate, because they`re going to court now to try to enforce these subpoenas, or at least some of these subpoenas.

MATTHEWS:  Is this Democratic centralism, you ought to back the leader?  Is this what`s going on? 

MCMAHON:  I mean, you know, you`ve got -- look, you have Nancy Pelosi waiting a long time to be speaker again and she wants to make sure that she behaves in a way that --

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s see how she reacts tomorrow.  We`ll give her a fair opportunity, the speaker obviously heard this today.  She was told immediately and now she has to act and it`s got to be more than we`ll get there. 

Anyway, Nina Turner, thank you, Senator, for joining us.  Steve McMahon. 

Good luck with your campaign. 

TURNER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Big speech today. 

Up next, columnist George Will will be here.  What does he make of today`s breaking news that President Trump said he is willing to accept dirt from Moscow.  That was it was about because the question was about his son at a meeting at Trump Tower talking to a Russian agent did dirt on Hillary.  It wasn`t about foreign adoptions. 

Back after this. 



What will the Republican Party say about the latest news out tonight that Trump`s declared openly on television with George Stephanopoulos asking the question, saying it`s OK to take dirt from foreign powers, which has been the whole essence of the last two years investigation by the Mueller committee. 

Joining me right now is syndicated columnist, George F. Will, author of the new book, "Conservative Sensibility". 

This president, what do you think of him, given the latest news here that he was willing to say there was nothing wrong with getting oppo, as he called it, from any government?

GEORGE F. WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I think of him exactly what I thought on June 3rd, 2016 when I left the Republican Party.  Six months before that, we knew everything we need to know about Donald Trump.  What he is doing now is what he promised to do, Chris, which is overturn all the norms that he associated with decade of establishments. 

It turns out the norms have something to be said for them and maybe perhaps so to establish --

MATTHEWS:  Well, you are the keeper of the sacred writings.  You`ve got the scriptures.  But your party and former party, as you just said, is not, 90 percent of the Republican Party, and poll after poll is servant to this president.  Explain that. 

Where are the conservatives?

WILL:  The Republican Party has never been more homogenized.  Teddy Roosevelt runs against William Howard Taft.  That split in the party replicated, Dewey against Taft. 


WILL:  It`s replicated in Goldwater to whom this book is dedicated against Rockefeller. 

MATTHEWS:  Rockefeller.

WILL:  Today, there is no -- 


MATTHEWS:  What happened?  You are the odd man out.  You are the state conservative. 

WILL:  Well, precisely.  That`s why I wrote this book. 

MATTHEWS:  Not to confusion your religion.  You are the Thomas Moore of this case, because you stuck to your religion. 

WILL:  Indeed.  I have written this book for three audiences.  One, conservatives to think something has gone wrong in the conservative movement.  Second, for all Americans who are interested in the intellectual archaeology of our politics.  And third, for progressives, because they depend -- their whole agenda depends on a strong government which can`t exist as long as people dislike government. 

MATTHEWS:  Just take a look at this.  I agree.  I like the way your book, for the first time, I heard somebody actually say, using the word "progressive" instead of liberal makes sense because it`s traditional.

WILL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take a look at this.  I do have to get the news here.  Watch the president. 


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  Should he have gone to the FBI when he got the e-mail? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  OK, let`s put yourself in a position.  You are a congressman.  Somebody comes up and says, hey, I have information on your opponent.  Do you call the FBI?  I don`t think --

STEPHANOPOULOS:  If it`s coming from Russia, you do.

TRUMP:  I`ll tell you what?  I`ve seen a lot of things over my life.  I don`t think in my life I have ever called the FBI in my whole life.  You don`t call the FBI.  You throw somebody out of your office.  You do whatever --

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Al Gore got a stolen briefing book.  He called the FBI. 

TRUMP:  Well, that`s different, a stolen briefing book.  This is an -- this is somebody that said, we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  The FBI director says that`s what should happen. 

TRUMP:  The FBI director is wrong. 


MATTHEWS:  George, your whole book here is basically about fidelity to the Founding Fathers and what they set forth, not is religion or anything in the old days, depending thrones, but defending ideals and rule by law. 

This president, what we just heard, everybody does it. 

WILL:  This is the Trump we`ve known for long before he came down the escalator in Trump Tower.  We -- this is -- what I don`t understand about how excited people get --

MATTHEWS:  I am excited because he admits -- 

WILL:  I know you are.

MATTHEWS:  -- he is Perry Mason.  He comes out and says, yes, I did it, just like it used to happen in that TV show.  Finally, the bad guy stands up and says, yes, I did it.  Screw it. 

WILL:  What surprises me is that you are so surprised. 

MATTHEWS:  Because we got him to do it.  I found why his lawyers didn`t want him testifying, because that guy testifying would have put himself in jail. 

WILL:  Trump is keeping his fundamental promise which is to abandon all the norms that regulated American politics.  This is the Trump we knew on Election Day. 

MATTHEWS:  Will he pay for it?

WILL:  Who`s going to make him pay?  The Republican Party?  Of course not.

MATTHEWS:  So, you are not a Republican now. 

WILL:  Of course not.

MATTHEWS:  What are you? 

WILL:  I`m an independent.  I`m a free agent.  It`s nice. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you vote for any Democrat over this guy? 

WILL:  Not any. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, any?

WILL:  I`m for Delaney and Hickenlooper and those guys. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you got a couple of them.  Anyway, thank you.

George Stephan -- I want to congratulate George Stephanopoulos from another network.  I`ll tell you, I`ve always thought that the best way to get Trump to talk was to go in there, disarmingly, not adversarily, and just ask him logical questions and he`d all of a sudden starts thinking in this weird kind of honesty.  You know, he did it once with me.  I mean, honesty with this guy is rare, but we just heard it. 

He admits that he believes there is nothing wrong with getting dirt from the Russians to use against an American opponent, in other words, following the political purposes of a foreign hostile power so you can win an election. 

I want to talk George F. Will with a great book. 

By the way, we`re taking HARDBALL on the road to talk to voters like you more than that, next.  We`re going to talk about that in a moment.  Stick with us on for a minute on this big news day. 

You are watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Next Monday, five days from now, a huge HARDBALL show, "The Deciders".  Our guests, the people of Dayton, Ohio, a county and a state devoted for Obama and then went for Donald Trump. 

We`ll talk to Democrats who don`t understand why anyone would vote for Trump and Republicans and others who will explain why they did and might do it again.  Tune in Monday, June 17th, at a special time, 10:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC, 10:00 next Monday. 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.