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Epstein pleads not guilty. TRANSCRIPT: 7/8/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Chris Coons, Brian Fallon, Neera Tanden

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  This was clearly a special moment and we at THE BEAT want to wish everyone congratulations.

That does it for us.  I`ll be back here live 6:00 P.M. Eastern tomorrow.  We have a special show planned.  I hope you join me.

"HARDBALL" starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  A 2020 reckoning.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Matthews.  It rained in Washington today a lot.  These are the scenes in the nation`s capital where a flash flood emergency was issued.  Flights were canceled, motorists stranded, even the White House basement was flooded.  In short, it was a total mess, and that is why I am anchoring HARDBALL tonight.

Chris Matthews was supposed to be in Washington but his flight was delayed and delayed and delayed again.  So he`ll be back tomorrow.

In the meantime, we`ve got a lot of news to get to.

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Jeffrey Epstein on the charge of sex trafficking women, some as young as 14.  The wealthy financier once palled around with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, among other powerful figures.

At the end of the hour, the extraordinary public battle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and some of the democratic party`s most well-known liberals, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But we begin with some big 2020 news.  Former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to put to rest the controversy over his remarks about working with southern segregationist senators in the 1970s.

After three weeks of resisting calls to apologize, he did just that at an event in the critical early primary State of South Carolina on Saturday.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  Folks, now, was I wrong a few week ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was.  I regret it.  And I`m sorry for any of the pain or misconception they may have caused anybody.


VELSHI:  Meanwhile, a new poll found Biden, still the democratic frontrunner, to be the only democrat with a clear lead over President Trump in a head-to-head match-up.  The Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Biden beating President Trump by ten points among registered voters.

Now, Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris narrowly defeat President Trump in a head-to-head match-up.  Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg run even with him.

The same poll also showed President Trump`s job approval rating rising to the highest point in his presidency, 47 percent among registered voters, and that`s up from 42 percent back in April.

Meanwhile, the crowded democratic field got just a little less crowded today.  California Congressman Eric Swalwell became the first candidate to bow out.  He said he`s returning to Washington to focus on his work on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

For more on all this, I`m joined by Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Neera Tanden, CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Jason Johnson, Politics Editor for  Welcome to all of you.  Thank you for being with us.


VELSHI:  Listen, a short time ago on Meet the Press Daily, my colleague, Steve Kornacki, asked his Joe Biden`s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, why Biden`s apology took so long.  Let`s listen.


KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Well, look, I think there were two takeaways from this weekend.  One is that he`s somebody who listens and hears.  And when he felt like an apology was owed, he had no problem making one.

You heard him make a forceful case for, you know, the fact that, look, he has been in public life for many years.  And you know what?  He`s been at the forefront of change.  He`s been at the forefront of making change in this country and you`re going to hear him talk about that.  But he`s also not going to allow anybody to mischaracterize or take his record out of context.


VELSHI:  Neera Tanden, do you buy the explanation and the apology?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I think the apology is definitely one thing.  I do think a lot of the energy in this exchange was about the issue of actually seeming to sanction racist and segregationist views.  And I think it is actually really important that the Vice President spoke out and said he was sorry and wrong about that.

And I don`t think it really answers the question as to why he didn`t do this before the debate.  I do think they probably think it would have been better to do this before the debate so he didn`t leave this space open for Kamala Harris.  But I also think you see from Cory Booker and some other campaigns that they`d like to move on.

And this is -- this will be a question of whether the Vice President can successfully pivot and move on to other issues, he does have this good poll for him, or whether he continues to talk about this in a way that puts him on the defensive.

VELSHI:  Jason Johnson?

JOHNSON:  He dropped ten points.  I mean, he dropped ten points in almost every single post-debate number to poll.  That`s the only reason Joe Biden apologized.  When he spoke to Reverend Al Sharpton in South Carolina, when he did other interviews afterwards, he was fiercely, fiercely defensive, he insisted he did nothing wrong, but when those polls came out, he realized, oh, my gosh, I cannot keep this position.

I don`t think Joe Biden has learned his lesson.  He is still the frontrunner but he`s got work to do.  And you can`t spend three weeks in American politics before you recognize that you make a mistake.  You need to address that mistake, because if he was a true frontrunner, he would have been able to spin this in 48 hours and we wouldn`t still be talking about it a week-and-a-half later.

VELSHI:  So, Robert Costa, so far as everybody agrees, it took him too long to do it.  Has he put it behind him by doing it?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  This is a candidate who began his campaign with a video calling out President Trump`s response to the tragedy in Charlottesville.  He began his race by talking about the issue of race in this country.

And you have a candidate now who is trying to bring the conversation back to his time with President Obama, the eight years as Vice President, and not get bogged down in talking about his long record in the Senate.

And Senator Harris, like a prosecutor, politically came at him, talking about busing.  His aides even admit for Vice President Biden he fumbled the response.  He did take too long.  He finally did apologize for his response.  But the more his aides say privately, he`s talking about the Senate years and not the V.P. years, the more he`s going to face these sorts of challenges.

VELSHI:  So as for the V.P. years, former First Lady Michelle Obama was asked for her thoughts about the confrontation between Biden and Kamala Harris on Saturday night at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.  Let`s watch.


GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS HOST:  What, if anything, would you like to say about the Kamala/Biden dust-up?  He apologized today.  You`ve been following that.  Do you have any thoughts about that?


KING:  Okay.


VELSHI:  Neera, what does that -- what does that tell you about the future that she had no comment?

TANDEN:  I think that the Obamas have made a decision to stay out of the primary for awhile.  I think that Barack Obama, the President -- President Obama says pretty regularly that the vice presidential pick was one of his best picks, but that`s pretty much where they`ve left it.

And I think the one thing I would say about the Vice President is I think he has made an electability argument and this Washington Post poll really helps him.

I think a lot of people thought he would drop against Trump after the debate performance.  And the fact that he didn`t, at least in that poll, it is only one poll, does give his campaign, I think, a little bit of an ability to reset.

But I think Jason Johnson is right that, you know, politics is unforgiving these days and he has to have better performances in the next debate and the other exchanges to come.

VELSHI:  So, Jason, Trump -- Biden does well as of now amongst African- American voters.  Having Barack Obama`s endorsement would make him do more well, but Barack Obama and Michelle Obama do not seem to be willing to go out on a limb for Joe Biden, particularly now.

JOHNSON:  Right, and they shouldn`t.  They shouldn`t.  I mean, Michelle Obama`s response is basically sips tea, I have nothing to say, right, and she`s not going to.

And here`s what`s key, though, Ali.  Guess what would have been more important than an endorsement had Joe Biden been there.  You have Essence in New Orleans.  It`s one of the largest collections of African-American women of all classes, levels and education sizes and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, they were critical candidates who weren`t there.

He can`t put on this Obama mask and think that that`s going to allow him to skirt through.  He`s got to be out talking to the kinds of voters that matters.  And African-American women are the backbone by turnout and interest and passion in the Democratic Party.  Joe Biden has got to fix that problem on his own.

VELSHI:  All right.  Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, this is new, is not ruling out running for President.  In a July 4th op-ed in The Washington Post, Amash declared his independence from the Republican Party.  He criticized both parties, saying the two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.

Now, Amash had been the only republican in Congress to support an impeachment inquiry into president Trump.  In an interview on Sunday, he was asked what he`s heard privately from republicans about his decision to leave the party.


REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI):  When I was discussing impeachment, I had fellow colleagues and other republicans, high-level officials contacting me saying, thank you for what you`re doing.

So there are lots of republicans out there who are saying these things privately, but they`re not saying it publicly, and I think that`s a problem for our country.


VELSHI:  Obviously, Robert, President Trump came out and Tweeted all sorts of nasty things about Justin Amash and being a loser and whatever the case is.  And, normally, nobody knows who Justin Amash is and running for President wouldn`t be a threat to anyone, except the guy is from Michigan.

COSTA:  And that`s one of the key states for President Trump in 2020.  It`s one of the five or six states in 2016 that he had a very narrow margin of votes.  And if he wants to win the White House again, he has to do well in a state like Michigan.

For the last few months, William Weld, the former Massachusetts Governor, has been running in the republican primary against President Trump.  He`s been the only place for that anti-Trump republican voter to go.

The problem for the White House, they don`t think Amash`s candidacy, if he runs for president, would be a as nuisance nationally.  But they wonder even if they got traction in a few of these states, like Michigan, a few thousand votes, 5 or 10 percent even, could that hurt the President`s path to re-election.

So he`s a threat in that sense, even if he`s not a major contender in any way.

VELSHI:  Neera, what do you make of this?

TANDEN:  You know, I am glad that he came out for impeachment.  But I have to say that, I mean, we`ve gone years of republicans saying they`re concerned and anxious.  And I just have a hard time relying on any republican to put up on this stuff.  And so I really -- I hope he actually follows through with his principles.  But, generally, they all tend to cave in the end.

VELSHI:  Jason?

JOHNSON:  Yes.  I don`t see how you win the game if you take your ball and go home.  Look, if Justin Amash really wanted to make that much of a difference, he would stay in the Republican Party and he would continue to light a fire under the butts of his colleagues and tell them that they need to stand up for American sovereignty and address the fact that you have a president who is possibly engaged in impeachable offenses.

So quitting the party, that doesn`t impress me one way or another.  If he decides that he wants to run, it`s absolutely immaterial.  The only way that any republican running against Donald Trump in the primary in 2020 will potentially matter is if he had to stand on a debate stage and actually face other republicans who say, you should be impeached.  That would be interesting.  That might possibly affect some of the never Trumpers out of there.

But as a practical matter, nobody knew who Justin Amash was before this and now that he doesn`t have the republican machine behind him, no one will remember him again.

VELSHI:  All right.  Guys, the warm-up is over.  Put your thinking caps on for this one.  This is going to be tough.

President Trump today Tweeted out what appeared to be a former quote from former President Ronald Reagan praising Donald Trump.  It showed an actual photo of the two together, but the quote attributed to Reagan was fake.  It reads, for the life of me, and I`ll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president.

All right, the account that originally posted that quote has since been suspended.  A Reagan library official confirmed the quote was false.  The website PolitiFact called it a, quote, pants on fire lie.  Neera?

TANDEN:  I mean, we have so many pants on fire lies, one could ask, why do you have a president so insecure that he would need to lie and make up a quote by a former republican president about himself?  But this is just one of the myriad insanities of the Trump age.

VELSHI:  It does, Robert, make you wonder, and you have wondered about this, and I`m sure you`ve investigated it, does he just do this stuff or is it his people?

COSTA:  It`s hard to say.  But, look, the President has been praised in the past by Richard Nixon.  Richard Nixon notably wrote a letter to then businessman Donald Trump saying Mrs. Nixon really enjoyed meeting him, he really enjoyed meeting him, but President Reagan never wrote such a note.  There is a photo that is signed by President Reagan.

But this is, again, the President using social media in a way that`s not checking the facts, that`s not accurate, but he really seeks that adulation and he likes to spread the idea that he`s popular online.  It`s nothing new.  It`s a shame that something that`s not accurate would get such public disbursement, but it`s not a surprise in terms of his political tactics.

VELSHI:  Jason, you`re a younger man than I am but you`re old enough to remember a time that kind of thing would have been embarrassing, would have been caused for a statement and might have chase (ph) on someone.  But this doesn`t matter anymore, does it?

JOHNSON:  No, it doesn`t.  And I am thinking back to that brilliant quote from Abraham Lincoln when he was posting on Instagram and said, don`t believe everything you see on the internet.  Look, I mean, this is the kind of thing that happens all the time, right.  People don`t read.  They don`t pay attention to history.  And so, therefore, anything the President Tweets out, people get excited about it.

But it`s indicative of the lowering of the standards that we have that`s pretty much been caused by this president.


TANDEN:  Also the President benefits by never having any shame.

VELSHI:  Right.


TANDEN:  Again, Donald Trump doesn`t experience the emotion of shame.

VELSHI:  I often wonder what life would be like like that, Neera.

TANDEN:  So he`s able to do these things that actually any normal human being would feel some degree of shame over.

VELSHI:  Yes, it`s the end of shame.  Great to see the three of you.  Thank you for helping us get this kicked off, Robert Costa, Neera Tanden and Jason Johnson.

Coming up, businessman Jeffrey Epstein, whose circle of friends included President Trump and Clinton, pleads not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls.  Epstein could have been spending the past decade behind bars if not for a current member of Donald Trump`s cabinet.

Plus, democratic divisions, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exchanging sharp criticism over immigration and working with republicans.  Who wins this ideological struggle in the long run?

Much more ahead.  Stay with us.


VELSHI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Jeffrey Epstein, the New York multimillionaire hedge fund manager, has travelled in some of the world`s most elite political circles, from President Bill Clinton who flew on Epstein`s plane on several occasions, according to flight records reviewed by NBC News, to Prince Andrew, Epstein has cultivated ties with some of the world`s most powerful people.

President Trump told New York Magazine in 2002 that he had known Epstein for 15 years and called him a terrific guy, adding, he`s a lot of fun to be with.  It`s even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.  No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.

Today, Epstein pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy.  He will remain in jail until his bail hearing on Thursday.

In 2007, Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring a minor for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution.  But as the Miami Herald reported, he received an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein`s crimes and the number of people involved.

The deal is called a non-prosecution agreement, an NPA.  It was agreed to by former Miami U.S. Attorney, this man, Alex Acosta, who now serves as President Trump`s Labor Secretary.

According to The Herald, Acosta allowed Epstein`s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.

The White House had no comment today.  But in February, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House was looking into Acosta`s role in that plea deal.

Epstein ended up serving 13 months with work release privileges.

For more on this, I`m joined by Tom Winter, NBC News correspondent, who covered today`s hearing, and Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor.

Welcome to both of you.

Tom, bring us up to speed on what has happened.  It`s an amazing story about what happened in 2007 and the non-prosecution agreement.  But what has happened now? 

TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  OK, so, what has happened now is that federal prosecutors here in New York and the New York FBI have brought forward this case.

And they have looked at all the conduct between 2002 and 2005 that they have been able to find so far and be able to say, look, here is how this scheme worked. 

Basically, this guy would arrange massages, and then would allegedly have increasingly sexual contacts or increasingly sexual sessions with these underage girls.  And then, in some cases, those victims, according to the indictment today, would then turn around and recruit more girls to be his next underage victims, according to the allegations. 

And, as you mentioned, Jeffrey Epstein has pleaded not guilty to this. 

So, that`s essentially what he set up.  And that`s essentially...


VELSHI:  So, that`s the trafficking part.

WINTER:  That`s the trafficking part.

VELSHI:  He was getting people.  Others were setting these up for him as well. 

WINTER:  Exactly. 

VELSHI:  And there are other people who are named, his associates.  They`re not named, but they are referred to.

WINTER:  There`s three employees that are referred to.

VELSHI:  Yes. 

WINTER:  And, boy, you wouldn`t want to be them tonight.

VELSHI:  Yes. 

WINTER:  We`re working on those possible names to see if that`s something that we can report. 

But there are three people that worked with him.  There were other people that worked for him that did testify to local police back in 2005, when they initially opened their investigation into -- into him. 

So you have these people here that are -- that are talking about it that said the things that Epstein would do.  One person who worked for him said that he would get up to three massages a day.  So you can imagine the amount of victims that it would have taken to essentially satisfy that requirement for him. 

Another person who worked for him stated that, at one point in time, he was ordered to send a dozen roses to a local high school in Florida. 

And so one of the things that I think bears repeating and bears mentioning is that these were girls that were going there thinking that, for $300 -- and they were coming from limited means, a lot of these girls, limited means, limited backgrounds, difficult broken homes in some certain circumstances. 

And they would go there saying, all you got to do is give this guy a massage for $300. 

And when I was reviewing the files last night, one victim in particular said, :He ordered me."  He`s this big, imposing guy.  He`s 6 feet tall. He`s 180 pounds.  We know that from law enforcement records.  He`s this imposing guy, "And he ordered me to take off my clothes."  And things went progressively downhill from there. 

So, basically, today`s indictment kind of wraps up all this, puts it into kind of a complete case.  And now they`re going to move forward with it.  And they have not ruled out more charges.  They have not ruled out a potential superseding indictment down the line.

VELSHI:  Cynthia Alksne, I have not been able to answer this question from people who have asked it of me today.

Put yourself in the position of Alex Acosta back then.  And you have got this case to prosecute.  And you simply don`t.  There were allegations.  There were charges.  There were witnesses.  Why?  Why did this case not get prosecuted?  Why did it end up becoming a state case in which he got some remarkable lenient terms? 

He got 12-hour work releases from this county jail on a daily basis to go do his work. 


VELSHI:  His driver would pick him up, and he would go to his office.

ALKSNE:  Yes, he had a limousine pick him up.

VELSHI:  Yes. 

ALKSNE:  I must tell you, I find it to be outrageous.  And there`s no excuse for it. 

And it may be why the public corruption unit is the one doing the investigating.  But let`s remember this.  And, sometimes, we spend a lot of time thinking about the legal implications and the moving pieces in these law cases.

Let`s think about these victims.

VELSHI:  Yes. 

ALKSNE:  Because -- because this was allowed to happen, and he was allowed to get this sweetheart deal and get out of jail free, essentially, there are a lot more victims than there should be. 

And there are a lot of girls who should not have been sexually assaulted by this guy.  And they were because our Department of Justice failed them. 

And I -- my guess is, what we`re going to find is, after we go through the bail hearing, and he gets no bail, which I very much hope happens, some people were going to come forward, some girls who are now grown up, when they -- because they will feel safer. 

VELSHI:  Yes. 

ALKSNE:  They will feel like they can come forward.

WINTER:  It`s already happening.

ALKSNE:  And we need that to happen. 

VELSHI:  That`s happening already?

ALKSNE:  And we need that to happen. 

But, remember, that`s on Acosta.  That`s what he -- that`s his legacy. 

VELSHI:  Yes.  So...

ALKSNE:  More girls assaulted. 

VELSHI:  So let`s talk about Acosta. 

According to Politico, a former Trump adviser who remains close to the White House said -- quote -- "The next 72 hours are critical for Acosta.  This is a settled matter for people in the White House, but it`s usually the response that kills you."

A current senior administration official added: "We`d really have to see that he`d cut a deal that was improper, not unsavory, but improper, that for some reason he was protecting himself or he was given money.  Those burdens are very high.  And that deal was 13 years ago."

Now, in the wake of the indictments, Secretary Acosta is facing renewed calls for his resignation. 

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine had this to say a short time ago:


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA):  I`m glad that it looks like there`s now going to be some real justice for Epstein.

But I voted against Acosta for secretary.  He needs to go, because this is such a -- "The Miami Herald" and others have laid bare that this deal was such an egregious and outrageous deal.  He needs to go. 


VELSHI:  All right, another hat tip to "The Miami Herald," Cynthia, whose reporting did a lot of the work that people say prosecutors should have done. 

But how does this not -- the next 72 hours being crucial for Acosta, the outrage about this has got to be bubbling up. 

ALKSNE:  Yes, it ought to be bubbling up within the Department of Justice.  It ought to be bubbling up at the -- anywhere Acosta touches.  People ought to be talking about it and pressuring him. 

And does the man have no shame?  Why doesn`t he resign?  And why don`t the Republicans in the Senate and the House begin to also call for his resignation? 

What he`s done here is terrible. 

VELSHI:  Before, we were talking about how Acosta -- how Epstein -- I`m sorry -- had relations with a lot of famous people.

Former President Bill Clinton`s press secretary issued a statement reading in part: "President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago or those with which he`s been recently charged in New York.  In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein`s airplane.  Staff, supporters of the foundation and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of the trip."

There`s more to that, Tom.  But the bottom line is, President Clinton getting out there fast to say, I didn`t know about this.

This is the problem, because you heard the references that Donald Trump made to Jeffrey Epstein.  And people seem to have known for a very long time with Jeffrey Epstein was about.

WINTER:  By the time that the -- that the Palm Beach Police Department gets onto this and opens a formal inquiry in March of 2005, when you look at those files, this is something that was -- that was well-known. 

I mean, once they started getting into this, once they started talking to people, this exploded as an investigation for them.  And, today, we`re talking about activity that goes back to 2002 is in this indictment. 

Well, that covers that 2002 and those 2003 plane trips.  So, when you look at it, look, is it -- is it possible that people didn`t know?  Sure, it`s possible that people didn`t know.  Is it possible that they did not also engage in the behavior for which Jeffrey Epstein is now charged?  Of course it`s possible that they didn`t do that. 

But I think, when you look at this, it raises some questions about what people knew and when.  If people are talking about this guy having relationships with young girls, certainly, the women who would -- were -- we know from the flight records that were on board those plane trips, from the parties that Donald Trump attended too, according to some of the magazine articles that have been written about this, it was very clear that these are younger woman. 

This is not a seasoned secretary, a seasoned assistant, a business associate.  These are women that are in their late teens, early 20s that are working for him at the time. 

And I think it does raise some questions as far as, you know, does this picture make sense, when you`re associating yourself with somebody like this? 

So I`m curious to see where it goes.  I`m also curious to see whether or not the public corruption of this goes after the former state attorney that gave him that kind of sweetheart deal, Barry Krischer.  And so I think that`s something that we`re going to have to look at going forward. 

VELSHI:  Tom just said something, Cynthia, about the public corruption.

This is -- this is handled by the Southern District of New York public corruption unit.  Why? 

ALKSNE:  Well, we don`t know why. 

It could be as simple as, there were people who were in the mansion or on the plane or in Palm Beach who are public officials.  It could be that they`re investigating whether or not the deal itself was corrupt.  And we just don`t know the answer. 

I will say this.  The plane was referred to sort of colloquially as the Lolita Express. 

VELSHI:  Wow. 

ALKSNE:  And that is a name it got for a reason.

VELSHI:  It`s remarkable. 

Tom, Cynthia, thank you to both of you. 

Coming up next:  Trump says some migrants are very happy with conditions at overcrowded detention centers.  Our next guest sees it differently, accusing Trump of employing intentional cruelty as America`s new immigration policy. 

Don`t go anywhere.  HARDBALL is back after this. 


VELSHI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

This weekend, "The New York Times" came out with another startling report about the conditions that children face at a migrant detention center in Clint, Texas. 

According to "The Times": "The agency`s leadership knew for months that some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry.  Its own agents had raised the alarm and found themselves having to accommodate even more new arrivals."

In a tweet yesterday, Trump called the reporting phony and exaggerated.  He told reporters last week that the detention facilities were -- quote -- "beautifully run," then tweeted that: "If illegal immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detention centers, just tell them not to come.  All problems solved."

I`m joined now by Democratic Senator Chris coons of Delaware. 

Senator, good to see you.  Thank you for being with us. 

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE):  Good to be with you, Ali.

VELSHI:  Your response to the president calling these detention centers beautifully run?

COONS:  Well, Ali, this is another example of a tragic misstatement by a president who has demonstrated a willingness to use cruelty to children as a tool of immigration policy. 

I will remind you, a year ago, his intentional decision was to follow a zero tolerance policy that led to children being separated from their parents after crossing our border. 

This latest episode, where an internal investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security`s own I.G. concluded that there were dangerously overcrowded and inhumane conditions at these detention facilities, a significant number of children, Ali, are being held in unlicensed and for-profit detention centers. 

And I think all of us in Congress should be doing more to make sure there`s both effective oversight and that these conditions are improved significantly promptly. 

VELSHI:  And in some of those for-profit detention centers, the price per child per night that taxpayers are paying are more money than any American would ever pay for a hotel room. 

However, in an opinion piece in "The Washington Post," former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson argued the Democrats need to be careful, Senator, with their rhetoric on migrants, writing that -- quote -- "While Americans should be outraged about the treatment of migrants, they shouldn`t espouse extreme policy proposals that are unworkable, like decriminalizing unauthorized entry into this country."

I think he was making a reference to things that came up during the Democratic debates. 

But there have been suggestions by some Democrats that it should not be a criminal matter if you enter the country illegally in an unauthorized manner.

Your take on that? 

COONS:  Well, Ali, it`s important that we continue to emphasize that Democrats have voted for, have supported increased investments in border security, and we don`t support open borders. 

That will be one of the main lines of attack on us from President Trump in the presidential campaign and for those of us who are facing reelection in the Senate and the House.

I have co-sponsored bills, I have voted for bills that would invest tens of billions of dollars in improving border security.  And there are folks who have been mischaracterized as supporting the abolition of law enforcement and Border Patrol. 

So I would agree with former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson that it`s important for us to continue to fight for border security and for humane immigration policies.  The two can be achieved in our country. 

In fact, we should accept nothing less.

VELSHI:  Senator, we have so much news to get to.  I`m going to move on to another story.

After leaked memos revealed that the United Kingdom`s ambassador to the United States called Donald Trump inept, insecure and incompetent, the president is now firing back. 

He tweeted today: "I do not know the ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S.  We will no longer deal with him."

Late today, we learned the ambassador was disinvited from tonight`s dinner with the emir of Qatar. 

And, tonight, the president -- or, today, the president took the opportunity to go after Prime Minister Theresa May for how she handled Brexit, writing: "I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit.  The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new prime minister."

And, finally, Senator, late today, the U.K. government released a statement calling the leak unfortunate, but says it continues to support the ambassador. 

What`s your take on this? 

COONS:  I know Ambassador Darroch.  I have worked closely with him. 

And, frankly, the long and close and important relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom shouldn`t be disrupted by this dustup.  The reason countries have ambassadors overseas is to offer their frank assessment on what`s going on in foreign capitals. 

And this unfortunate leak by a newspaper in the United Kingdom of what was supposed to be a confidential cable, I don`t think should be allowed to be a significant impediment to what is a really important relationship. 

We share values, we share history, we share priorities with the United Kingdom.  And the ways in which President Trump has unsettled or destabilized our relationship with the United Kingdom concern me greatly. 

I think this flap over this one cable by Ambassador Darroch will soon blow over. 

VELSHI:  Senator, you wrote a piece in "The Atlantic" titled "Democrats Need to Talk About Their Faith," in which you pointed out: "The Democrats can fight for our progressive values while also identifying with the religious backgrounds that are so important to tens of millions of Americans."

It`s a -- it`s a great piece.  And I think everybody who can should read it. 

COONS:  Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI:  What`s your -- what`s -- like, why did you write this?  What was the point you`re trying to -- what prompted you to want to talk about faith and Democrats? 

COONS:  Well, Ali, first, it`s important to say that, in a country with a separation of church and state, all of us who are elected at whatever level have to act and speak in a way that makes it clear that we value and we represent people of all faiths backgrounds and those who have no faith background. 

We represent all of our constituents, and we need to do so in an inclusive and tolerant way. 

But I`m someone who, like many of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, was first called to public service through the values that I learned in my home, through my family, and through my church as a child.  And those are very progressive values. 

A lot of the values of the Gospel or of the Torah are values that talk about welcoming the stranger and foreigner, caring about those who are our neighbors, defining as neighbor a broader circle of people in our community and our world. 

A lot of what animated the U.S. civil rights movement was faith-based concern for the treatment of others in our country.  And I think it`s important, if we want the average American to understand the heart of those who seek to represent us as our next president, that our candidates who are running for office, like Joe Biden, like Cory Booker, like Elizabeth Warren, like Pete Buttigieg, to continue speaking about how faith moves them. 

I know Joe Biden well.  I know his character and I know his heart.  And I know that his faith has gotten him through some incredibly hard times in his life.  And I think it, frankly, is a good thing when people understand that that`s how he`s been able to get back up after life has knocked him down. 

VELSHI:  Senator, it`s a thoughtful piece.  Thank you for writing it.  And thank you for joining me tonight.

COONS:  Thank you. 

VELSHI:  Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. 

COONS:  Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI:  Up next:  Congressional Democrats are sparring over a $4.5 billion border bill signed into law by President Trump last week. 

Are these internal fractures threatening the Democrats` agenda?

More HARDBALL after this. 


VELSHI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi facing new criticism from some freshmen Democrats.  Speaking to Maureen Dowd of "The New York Times," Pelosi was asked about the pushback she received from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley for not fighting harder for stronger protections for migrant children in last month`s compromise border bell. 

Pelosi said the four congresswomen made themselves irrelevant to the process by voting against what Pelosi said was the strongest bill she felt she could get. 

Quote: All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world but they didn`t have any following.  They`re four people and that`s how many votes they got. 

Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter over the weekend, writing: That public whatever is called public sentiment.  And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.

Congresswoman Tlaib had this to say. 


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI):  You know, people like us, people like me and Ayanna, Ilhan and Alexandria, we`re reflective of our nation in many ways.  But many of us didn`t want to be first of anything.  But more people like us have been missing in the halls of Congress.  It is very disappointing that the speaker would ever try to diminish our voices in so many ways. 


VELSHI:  Now, this is not the first time Pelosi has publicly minimize the significance of the outspoken new progressive members. 

Here she is on "60 Minutes" in April. 


INTERVIEWER:  You have these wings, AOC and her group on one side --

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  That`s like five people. 

INTERVIEWER:  No, it`s the progressive group.  It`s more than five. 

PELOSI:  Progressive -- I`m a progressive.  Yes. 


VELSHI:  And as Pelosi remains at odds with some of her members, President Trump has reportedly compared Ocasio-Cortez to Evan Peron, the charismatic former first lady of Argentina. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


VELSHI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is continuing to fire back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for comments she made over the weekend, appearing to minimize the significance of a group of prominent progressive congresswomen. 

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this afternoon: A glass of water could have beat a 20-year incumbent.  The Green Dream or whatever.  The public whatever. 

These aren`t quotes from me, they`re from the speaker.  Having respect for ourselves doesn`t mean we lack respect for her, it means we won`t let everyday people be dismissed."

Meanwhile, "The Guardian" published excerpts of the new book "American Carnage" by "Politico`s" Tim Alberta who says Trump became star struck by Ocasio-Cortez during last year`s midterms, comparing her to Argentina`s Eva Peron, popularly known as Evita. 

  The president told Alberta: She`s got talent.  Now, that`s the good news.  The bad news, she doesn`t know anything.  She`s got a good sense, an "it" factor, which is pretty good, but she knows nothing.  But with time, she has real potential. 

For more on this, I`m joined by Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice and former national press secretary for the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

Welcome to both of you.

Brian --


VELSHI:  -- yesterday, you tweeted the four House freshmen whom Pelosi dismissed in the Dowd column have done more to define the vision and moral center of today`s Democratic Party than all of the message bills pushed by the party leadership combined.  Explain. 

BRIAN FALLON, DEMAND JUSTICE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:  Well, I think you can`t be dismissive of these women and the role that they occupy in our party today.  For one thing, Ali, it`s the representativeness. 

The leadership in our party is very talented in many ways, but it`s very old and it`s very white.  These women are young, they`re people of color and they speak to a base we`re going to need to mobilize in 2010.  We need to mobilize the younger voters that came to the polls in 2018 and see themselves, in people like AOC, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. 

The second thing, Ali, is these women have a unique ability to rise above the din and, in fact, I think it inspires a lot of jealousy among rank-and- file members of the caucus who are wondering why I can`t go viral.  But these women by their visits to the detention facilities brought more attention to the plight of the migrant children than any measures the House Democrats can put on the floor. 

That`s why Trump is enamored with AOC.  That`s a megaphone and a platform that the Democratic leadership should be leaning into not jostling against. 

VELSHI:  So, Adrienne, the point that Nancy Pelosi often makes is my job is to get things done, not to get headlines. 

ELROD:  Yes, that`s right, Ali.  I think that`s why she made these comments.  They were not unprompted.  She was asked my Maureen Dowd and she made the comments she made. 

But I agree with everything that my friend Brian Fallon just said.  But I also will say that Nancy Pelosi has a totally different job to do than some of these freshmen we`re talking about, which is to regulate and moderate her caucus and actually get some stuff done.  She`s got to legislate.  It`s her job.

  And, you know, Ali, I served in Congress.  I was a chief of staff in Congress for ten years in Congress back in an era where Nancy Pelosi was also the leader.  She was the speaker at the time.  And we had a lot of members who disagreed with her, you know, who weren`t always on the same page but we didn`t often hear about it because social media was not as prominent. 

So, that`s why I agree with my friend Brian Fallon who says, yes, these women have a megaphone that is largely unrivaled by almost anybody in the caucus, but at the same time, when it comes down to votes, they have the same individual single vote that every single other Democratic member of Congress has and Nancy Pelosi`s job is to actually get some legislation passed, especially in this, you know, Donald Trump era of Washington right now.  She`s the only thing that we have that`s really able to work across the aisle and try to legislate and try to get things done, which means she can`t often, you know, work with the far-left wing of the caucus who is often times trying to, you know, rile -- you know, get people, you know, riled up and make some noise. 

VELSHI:  You know, Nancy Pelosi in her conversation with Maureen Dowd of "The Times" said: If the left doesn`t think I`m left enough, so be it.  As I say to these people, come to my basement.  I have signs about single- payer from 30 years ago.  I understand what they`re saying. 

But we have a responsibility to get something done which is different from advocacy.  We have to have a solution, not just a Twitter fight.

Brian, who wins this?  How does this -- how does this -- how does this end? 

FALLON:  Well, I think that`s the irony of the comments you just read, Ali.  You know, maybe 25 years ago, Nancy Pelosi probably would be a member of this faction. 


FALLON:  Before she was ever a member of Democratic leadership, she was a movement progressive in her own right.  She was somebody that broke glass ceilings of her own.  I think she sees a lot of herself in these members, but what I think she`s trying to send to them is a bit of a challenge, saying, if you want me to do it your way, force me to do it. 

The old saying that LBJ said to MLK, if you want me to go your way, add to your ranks, build your support, force my hand. 

And I think, you know, some of the reason that the bitterness if spilling out here is because Nancy Pelosi didn`t like how this debate over this emergency bill for the border worked out either.  They ended up having to swallow Mitch McConnell`s bill and I think there is a lot of bitterness toward the Senate Democrats, quite frankly, for undercutting the House Democrats by going along with a bill that the Republicans put forward.  So, I think there`s some finger-pointing here because Nancy Pelosi didn`t like this bill any more than AOC did. 

VELSHI:  Speaking of AOC, Adrienne, what do you make of Donald Trump`s fascination with her as recounted in Tim Alberta`s book? 

ELROD:  You know, Ali, it seems to the same fascination that Donald Trump has with other powerful women, namely Nancy Pelosi.  Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris.  You know, women who he often times gives backhanded compliments to are the very women he`s afraid of because he knows the force they have. 

He knows that AOC is here to stay.  And she`s got this huge following of supporters.  She`s also in politics for a long time.  She`s very young and I think she`s got a long life here in politics.  And I think he knows that and makes him very nervous. 

He knows that she is going to be a very forceful voice as we go into 2020 in that she is a real threat to his candidacy. 

VELSHI:  She`s a lightning rod, Brian, on the right.  I mean, everybody in the media talks about her.  They talk about her way more over at Fox. 

FALLON:  Yes, I think they`re afraid of her.  They can`t land a punch really on her when they try.  It comes off as sort of a schoolyard crush that a lot of these white male conservatives have.  It`s like, boy, they chase a girl on a schoolyard, talking about her ponytail.  They don`t quite know how to match her sophistication, her eloquence, her mastery of the issues and they understand that she speaks to a huge base that they are trying to compete for as well, in terms of young people, especially young people of color. 

So, they`re worried about her and it comes off in a very twisted way.  But Donald Trump respects her ability to command attention, get media attention, and inspire feelings for better or for worse.  That`s something he`s a master of in his own right.

VELSHI:  Adrienne, real quick, 15 seconds.  Do you think there is a truce at some point before the election? 

ELROD:  Between Democrats? 

VELSHI:  Yes. 

ELROD:  Yes, sure.  I mean, look, I think a lot of this is just, you know, a little manufactured or a little blown out of proportion.  I think ultimately Nancy Pelosi wants to work with her caucus and wants to get things done.  We`re just hearing more about it because of the advent of social media. 

VELSHI:  Nancy Pelosi actually said that.  With all due respect, the press likes to make a story that is more about Democrats divided than the fact that Mitch McConnell doesn`t care about the children, he said to Maureen Dowd.

Thanks to both of you.  Stay with us. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


VELSHI:  Hey, that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thank you for being with me.  I`m Ali Velshi. 

Chris Matthews will be back tomorrow night.  But for now, that`s it. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.