YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me. Rest easy. Ari will be back tomorrow. You can catch mornings on "THE FIRST LOOK" at 5:00 A.M. Eastern.
"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Charm offensive. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, the President of the United States continues to disown and insult America`s cities. Trump`s latest target, Baltimore, Charm City to its proud citizens. And insulting Baltimore as a rat-infested mess, Trump is making racial division, a core element of his re-election campaign.
And today, he continued his incendiary attacks on yet another prominent elected official of color, Baltimore`s Congressman Elijah Cummings, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. In an early morning Tweet Saturday, Trump blasted Cummings` criticism of the treatment of migrant children at the southern borders saying, his Baltimore district is far worse and more dangerous. The President called Cummings` district a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess, adding if he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he would help clean up the very dangerous and filthy place.
The President later stated no human being would want to live there. He`s talking about Baltimore. He also shrugged off criticism that his own attack was racist Tweeting, if racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy helping the good people of his district and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made and fixing the mess that he has helped to create.
Well, the latest attack on Mr. Cummings comes just two weeks after President Trump Tweeted that a group of minority congresswomen, three of them born in the USA, should go back to the crime-infested countries they came from.
Well, The Baltimore Sun responded to the President`s latest broadside (ph) towards Cummings and their city in a a scathing editorial headline, it`s better to have a few rats than to be one. Writing, Mr. Trump sees attacking African-American members of congress as good politics as it both warms the cockles of the white supremacists who love him and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don`t to scream.
But after a weekend of targeting Cummings and Baltimore, Trump expanded his attacks this morning to the Reverend, Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, of course, and my colleague ahead of a press conference by the civil rights activists in Baltimore. The President wrote, Al is a conman, a trouble making, always looking for a score, adding he hates whites and cops.
Well, Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network and Host of PoliticsNation and my colleague here on MSNBC joins me now.
Well, you are in the crossfire. In fact, you may be in the crosshairs, Reverend. What do you make of that? Because he`s given you a platform to talk to the President of the United States on equal ground right now because that`s where he`s going.
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: I think what he is clearly doing is deciding that he is going to have a race-based campaign by going after high-profile blacks and others of color. Certainly by calling Elijah Cummings a racist then all of a sudden, I hate whites, yet he says he`s been knowing me 25 years, he`s come to National Action Network`s conventions, even though we`ve disagreed with him, it shows a lack of intellect that he calls everybody a racist from Elijah Cummings, to me, to the Squad, as they`re called, they`re anti-Semites.
And you really have to ask yourself, is this the kind of conduct we expect out of the President of the United States? If the President really felt that Elijah Cummings was a racist, he would say how. If he really thought I was a Racist, then why did he come to my conventions? Why did he call me after he won the election and invite me to meet with him?
So I think that we really have to resist taking the bait and really raise the issues that we continue to raise on income inequality and healthcare and the things that matter to Americans, which is why the former Republican Chairman Michael Steele and I were in Baltimore today talking about the erosion of black home ownership. We were there trying to take care of things that the President ought to be concerned about, rather than trying to name-call Elijah Cummings, me, or anyone else.
MATTHEWS: Well, in his testimony before Congressman Cummings` Oversight Committee in February, Trump`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified to what he swore under oath with the President`s private comments about African-Americans and cities. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER LAWYER: Mr. Trump is a racist. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn`t a (BLEEP). This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States. And while we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Why do you think he wants a political race war?
SHARPTON: I think that he really doesn`t know any other way. You know, for many years, we have fought him from Central Park Five where he tried to get the death penalty for five young black and brown men that were proven innocent all the way to his own discrimination. And people kept saying, well, given the benefit of the doubt. You know I toured with Newt Gingrich and others that I`ve disagreed with, but it was never this kind of racial rancor back and forward.
And for his own lawyer, who set up meetings with me and Trump to say he was a racist and what he would say in private shows that, at his core, this is how he feels about people of color, particularly blacks. And the way he tries to fight back is accuse us of things that he himself have a deep- seeded feeling for.
Remember now, Chris, we had a shooting last night at a festival. He wakes up this morning and he deals with attacking me rather than dealing with the shooting. We need a president that`s going to be responsive to the needs of the people in this country and not this demagoguery.
MATTHEWS: When we grew up, you and I -- I`m a bit older than you, but I remember it, maybe not as vividly as you did, George Corley Wallace of Alabama. And he -- even he would hedge his language a bit. He would talk about pointy-headed bureaucrats with their attach‚ cases with peanut butter sandwiches in them. And he`d make fun of bureaucrats and talked about outside agitators. But this guy is personal. He calls people by name.
SHARPTON: Very personal.
MATTHEWS: He gets people -- African-American people. He names them the squad. The knows their names. He calls them out. Who is he trying to get to like him with this stuff?
SHARPTON: I think he underestimates the intelligence of the American people. I think that many independent voters, many moderate voters, even in the Republican Party are not going to go for this. But he feels that if he causes this racial divide that he can stack up enough electoral votes to win. And I think he`s going to see a massive resistance in that. Every black with a high profile is not a racist. Donald Trump is not a race. To disagree with him does not make you a racist. It means you disagree with Donald Trump. And I think that people are smart enough and intelligent enough to know that.
MATTHEWS: Well, a man who thought the same thing was Frank Rizzo, the former Mayor of Philadelphia when I grew up. And you know what he did? He escalated the black registration beyond the white registration. There are so many blacks registered, he was finished. Maybe Trump will do the same thing. He`ll the best registrar of black voters in history perhaps in a weird perverse way. What do you think?
SHARPTON: I think so. I think that what will is that America will reject him even in a good economy, because rather than govern, he is too busy demagoguing and trying to scapegoat people for his own lack of ability to really bring the country together and deal with things that are real and continue a wave that Barack Obama had brought this country on.
MATTHEWS: My colleague, it`s an honor to have you on, sir. Thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: On the defense, which is a good place to be with Trump, be on the defensive.
SHARPTON: The only defense -- the only defense because Donald Trump is staying on offense. He`s got the right one. If he wants to fight, he can come to me first any time.
MATTHEWS: And not just for lunch. Anyway, thank you, Reverend.
Anyway, the President`s aides reportedly see an advantage in the racially divisive attacks that started with his assault on the four progressive congresswomen known as the squad, telling them to go back to their countries, wherever that was supposed to be.
According to The Washington Post, Trump`s advisers have concluded after the previous Tweets attacking those four congresswomen that the overall message sent by such attacks is good for the President among his political base, resonating strongly with the white working-class voters he needs to win re- election in 2020.
Joining me right now to analyze that thought, Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Donna Edwards, former Maryland Democratic Congresswoman, and The Washington Post Contributing Columnist.
Donna, your columns are great. I want to know what you think about Trump just numerically. I think, look, there are a lot of racial problems in this country to this day. They haven`t gone away. They won`t go away in our lifetime completely. But I don`t think many suburban people want to be known as racists. I don`t think -- working people don`t want to be known as racists.
DONNA EDWARDS, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I agree with that. And I think the President has wrongly calculated, but, frankly, it`s his own calculation that his pathway to victory is to rally his base to do the race baiting in the hopes that that will gin them up and that that will be his pathway to victory. It`s actually a big mistake. One, those suburban voters.
But there was really low voter turnout in Detroit and in Milwaukee.
MATTHEWS: And Philly.
EDWARDS: We`ve seen Philadelphia --
MATTHEWS: A little better.
EDWARDS: A little better.
MATTHEWS: We both watched Meet the Press yesterday. Who are we kidding?
EDWARDS: And so, really, you know, he is going to end up energizing black voters, people of color all across the country who are opposed to this president.
And suburban voters, college-educated voters, middle-class working people, this is not their game. They`re concerned about the economy, their pocketbooks, but not about this. So he`s made a really foul calculation.
MATTHEWS: Eli, what about the White House staffers who are saying they think he knows what he`s doing? I get a feeling they`re just covering him.
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, I mean, if you look at what happened today, and you get a sense they are trying to course- correct in a big way. This afternoon, 2:00, what do you know? There`s an unscheduled event with inner city pastors at the White House. That was not on the schedule that went out earlier in the week.
MATTHEWS: That`s a statement.
STOKOLS: Just a couple of hours ago, Trump is Tweeting his praise for a candidate in Kentucky, an Attorney General candidate, happens to be African-American.
I mean, you know -- and he addressed yesterday morning in a Tweet the allegation that this is racist. He said it`s not racist to basically said what I said, but he`s aware of this. He`s obviously been told that this has gone too far. This has touched a nerve.
But yet at the same time, you know, he`s trying to have it both ways. He`s not going to apologize, as we`ve seen all day. He`s doubled down and tripled down with what he says, not just about Representative Cummings, but about Reverend Sharpton. And he`s going on and on. He`s not going to admit, you know, that he`s wrong on this, because, again, he does believe he has to animate that base. And one way to do it, especially when it`s not clear, if you`ve really delivered economically, the way that for generations, white politicians have rallied white voters is to play that race card and drive that wedge.
MATTHEWS: There`s always a limit. There`s always -- you run out of them. There is not enough of those angry people.
Anyway, President Trump`s use of the word infested to describe Congressman Cummings` Baltimore district is part of a pattern the President typically only uses to refer to minority communities. After Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who represents Atlanta, said Trump was not a legitimate president. Trump said he should, quote, spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested.
He later added that Lewis should, quote, focus on the burning and crime- infested inter cities of the U.S. And in his initial Tweet, attacking the four congresswomen of color, he told them to go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.
In an interview Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked about the President`s rhetoric, his word usage. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman. And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think you`re spending way too much time reading between the lines.
WALLACE: I`m not reading between the lines, I`m reading the lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Good for Chris Wallace. I`m reading the lines. Infested, infested, infested. It`s a word. It`s vermin. It`s a Hitlerian term. If you go back and read gerbils (ph) and all that stuff, it`s all about the Jews, in that case, it was -- his use of the word vermin, infested, he`s obsessed with this thing about cities.
EDWARDS: Well, this is the Nazi playbook, right? I mean, you dehumanize people. You say they`re infested. It gives you the reason to, I don`t know --
MATTHEWS: Well, exterminate them or something like that.
EDWARDS: And I think that this is, again, his way, and he`s done it for every single one of these cities and what many of these cities have in common is a majority African-American population, in some cases, African- American leadership. And he goes -- he goes at them.
MATTHEWS: You know what I was thinking about? Maybe I`m broadening this and letting Trump off the hook for a second, but my producers think so. I don`t think so. People like to live in cities. My kids love to live in cities. They love to live in diverse neighborhoods. They call them gritty. Even formerly your still black neighborhoods and say, I like living there, it`s gritty, it`s real. People with money go back into the cities, you know empty nesters do.
He seems to be attacking the whole metropolitan notion of living together. I`m serious.
STOKOLS: And, you know, it`s one of the reasons why he won, is because there is an alienation in a lot of these places that so many people have left. Jobs have migrated to the cities. And so you can understand why Trump has appeal in places that are not urban, in places that have, you know, seen the population move away.
But I just think if you step back from it --
MATTHEWS: You mean the inner suburbs?
STOKOLS: Yes, and the industrial parts of the country and a lot of the states that he won. And then people were surprised that he won.
But what`s remarkable is just looking at a president who makes explicit that he doesn`t think that he is president of the entire country.
STOKOLS: He is pitting people and regions and subgroups against one another all the time.
MATTHEWS: But vividly.
STOKOLS: And it`s remarkable to hear him say that that congressman should fix Baltimore, that they should worry about that. He`s the President of the United States, but he doesn`t travel to all the places.
MATTHEWS: And no infrastructure.
STOKOLS: And he doesn`t speak to the needs of people.
MATTHEWS: He hasn`t done a thing on the cities. He hasn`t done (INAUDIBLE) he promised to do. He`s going to rebuild JFK Airport. He was going to rebuild La Guardia. He was LAX. He was going to rebuild all these hot subways and stuff.
EDWARDS: And also do things that would not just benefit cities but they`d also benefit rural areas as well, investing in infrastructure. The President has completely abandoned that and he`s decided that his playbook for 2020 is going to be a race playbook.
MATTHEWS: I got an advice for Mr. President, which I freely give on this program publicly. As David Garth, the great political consultant, democrat from New York once said, replace the smell of decay with the smell of construction. Build. People will like you of all colors and all parties if you build.
Thank you, Eli Stokols, thank you, Donna Edwards.
Coming up, the silence is deafening. Republicans have almost nothing to say about Trump`s attacks on a congressman of color, including Elijah Cummings, who`s actually very popular in the United States Congress. Do you think their voters like this stuff and are they right?
Plus, the Director of National Intelligence is supposed to be someone who tells the President what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. And now, the President is nominating one of his biggest cheerleaders to that job.
And a new poll shows Biden and Warren getting stronger, especially Biden. My thoughts on how that should affect their strategies for this week`s big debates.
Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump spent the weekend trashing another American city, as I said, this time, Baltimore. I used to say, Baltimore. But does he choose minority communities to pick on? You tell me.
By the way, even when Trump says his worst, all his fellow republicans do is shrug or hide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS HOST: No human being would want to live there.
MULVANEY: When Donald Trump attacks people --
BRENNAN: This is being perceived as racist. Do you understand why?
MULVANEY: I understand why but that doesn`t mean that it`s racist.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: You condemned the go back Tweets but you do not condemn these Tweets by the President?
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): I wouldn`t be doing those. I wouldn`t be Tweeting this way. But I think they are different.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That justifies a racial resentment tweet in response? Is that presidential leadership?
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Well, I -- I -- look, I didn`t -- I didn`t do the tweets, Chuck. I can`t talk about why he did what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was a lot of sound effects before the answer, wasn`t it?
And there is a good explanation for all of this, of course. According to "The Washington Post," the Trump campaign and Republican officials are looking to use this type of rhetoric to turbocharge voter enthusiasm, and Republicans have to go along with it.
Advisers tell "The Post" the tweets work with the president`s base, and have prompted them to find ways to fuse Trump`s nativist rhetoric with a "Love it or leave it" appeal to patriotism ahead of the 2020 election, while seeking to avoid the overtly racist language.
Well, they`re not doing that too well.
For more, I`m joined by Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post," Michael Steel, former spokesman to House Speaker John Boehner.
John, you`re on defense right now, because I don`t think these are subtle.
Michael, I don`t think these are subtle. I do think they are direct and ethnic, racial, if you will.
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER JOHN BOEHNER SPOKESMAN: Sure. And I feel...
MATTHEWS: Why is Trump doing it?
STEEL: Why is Trump doing it?
MATTHEWS: Why is your party defending it?
STEEL: Trump is doing it because Trump has one election left.
And his only way to win that election is to recreate the narrow path that led to an electoral majority in 2016 by ginning up outstanding support, oversupport, unprecedented support among older white voters in these industrial Midwestern states.
And he believes that these attacks, these politics of resentment does that.
The problem for the rest of the GOP is twofold. One, they`re getting vivisected on national television trying to defend this stuff, when it`s indefensible, and they have to win elections after 2020.
MATTHEWS: Is Trump the only guy that can get away with this kind of talk?
STEEL: Of course. Trump has always...
MATTHEWS: Why does he get away with it, and the rest of your party not get...
STEEL: Trump is massively popular with the base of the Republican Party. That`s not changing. So the reality that these other elected Republicans deal with is that.
MATTHEWS: Gene, your assessment, your cold assessment?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s kind of domestic realpolitik, I guess, or whatever.
It`s astounding, really. Where are these principled Republicans? We were told there were a few left, you know, Mitt Romney, for example.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
ROBINSON: And, you know, why don`t we hear?
What would it cost them to come out and say -- Mitt Romney in Utah, they don`t like Trump that much in Utah, do they?
MATTHEWS: What about the Republican problem of running up, driving up the inner-city African-American vote, especially, liberal?
MATTHEWS: Because they don`t like this stuff.
MATTHEWS: The net effect could be negative.
STEEL: Well, and that`s the gamble they`re making.
If you look at the results in the 2016 election, there was the overperformance by Trump in the rural areas, and Secretary Clinton didn`t equal the numbers that President Obama got in some of these -- in some of these...
MATTHEWS: Who could? First black candidate was president was going to beat her.
MATTHEWS: But the other problem is, I think there is a lot of anti-Hillary attitude in the suburbs. But this is going to -- there`s no Hillary running this time.
ROBINSON: There is no Hillary running. Right.
So you take away the anti-Hillary attitude in the suburbs, and you factor in the fact that most people, most white people I know in the suburbs don`t like to be thought of as racist.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
STEEL: Of course not.
MATTHEWS: They tut-tut, at worst. They tut-tut, too.
ROBINSON: It`s not the way they think of themselves.
MATTHEWS: They go, oh, not me.
But, anyway, Congressman -- and, by the way, they don`t want to be racists. Let`s face it.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Cummings came to the defense of Republican Congressman Mark Meadows earlier this year in a major moment. In February, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib accused Congressman Mark Meadows to -- quote -- "a racist act."
And Congressman Meadows, who was upset by the comment -- who wouldn`t be? - - turned to Cummings, his friend, to defend him.
Let`s watch that exchange. It was powerful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): My nieces and nephews are people of color.
Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman. You and I have a personal relationship that`s not based on color.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Mr. Meadows, you know, and of all the people on this committee, I have said it and got in trouble for it, that you`re one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.
MEADOWS: And, likewise, Mr. Chairman.
CUMMINGS: Yes, but you are.
And I would do -- and I could see and feel your pain. I feel it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today, after two days of silence, Congressman Meadows put out a statement that actually glossed over much of what Trump said about his -- quote -- "best friend," Elijah Cummings.
"I am friends with both men, President Trump and Chairman Cummings. I know both men well. Neither man is a racist, period. Both love America."
That wasn`t a strong counter to what the president said about his friend.
STEEL: I think that`s fair.
But I think that there`s also -- leaving aside the genuineness of Representative Meadows` feelings on this issue, which I think are very real, he also may someday want to -- this goes back to what we were talking about earlier -- he may someday want to run statewide in our home state of North Carolina, where he`s going to have to win votes in Raleigh, in Charlotte from these well-educated people.
MATTHEWS: Will you give me a political -- do you have any moral problem with this stuff?
STEEL: Of course I have a moral problem with it.
MATTHEWS: I`m asking.
STEEL: That`s one of the reasons I find the president`s actions and words to be indefensible.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me -- this is a little too philosophical, but, of all people, you will get it.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me the definition of a conservative, as opposed to a right-winger or a reactionary, is to try to hold society together.
MATTHEWS: Because, unless you hold it together, you have revolutions, you get your head chopped off or something...
MATTHEWS: You have to -- how do you hold society together if you make people hate each other?
STEEL: And this is...
ROBINSON: Well, you don`t.
And there is a certain amount of give and take that`s necessary to hold a society together. And there is a certain amount of politeness and what Donald Trump would call political correctness, but, in fact, a lot of not going around...
ROBINSON: ... and saying racist things to people.
ROBINSON: It`s, you know, politeness and just joining -- the recognition that we are a society and we`re in something together and that, if we work together, we will get further.
MATTHEWS: It`s like Churchill keeping national health when he came in, in the `50s. It`s like Eisenhower keeping the New Deal. You make accommodation to keep society together. It`s not all a knife fight.
Anyway, President Trump and his allies have called the Democrats` oversight authority presidential harassment.
Congressman Cummings, as head of the Oversight Committee, is overseeing multiple investigations, of course.
And when acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was a member of Congress, he would frequently demand oversight of the Obama administration. But now he`s criticizing Cummings for doing the same job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What Mr. Cummings said this week was wrong.
Mr. Cummings is spending all of his time on this impeachment inquiry, which is -- we all know is going nowhere.
So it`s the -- Democrats have a chance to actually focus on things that matter. Instead, they`re working on scandal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, during the Obama administration, House Republicans spent roughly $7 million and held 33 hearings investigating the attack on an American Consulate in Benghazi.
Congressman Mulvaney in 2013 told his constituents there were times in our nation`s past where, if our ambassador was killed, it was cause for going to war, pumping it up.
MATTHEWS: Pumping up...
ROBINSON: Look, you and I both know there is no president, no presidential administration that has ever loved congressional oversight. They never love the Oversight Committee.
MATTHEWS: It`s an audit. Please audit me.
ROBINSON: Nobody loves it.
But they put up with it, you know, because that`s the way the Constitution works and those are the powers given to Congress. And so you put up with it. And you provide the documents, you provide the witnesses and you get past it.
And so, through gritted teeth, the Obama administration had patience with the whole Benghazi thing. This administration will have to, you know, at the end of things, have patience with this Congress.
But that`s not in Donald Trump`s...
MATTHEWS: Do you think, if Trump were Nixon, he would have burnt the tapes?
MATTHEWS: You think so? We agree on -- and we all agree. We`re unified on that theory.
Thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Michael Steel.
Up next: President Trump finds a hard-core loyalist to take over as director of national intelligence. But Congressman John Ratcliffe still needs to be confirmed by the Senate.
Why Ratcliffe may be facing an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate -- next on HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Americans need to know this, as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do dramatic readings from this report, that volume two of this report was not authorized under the law to be written.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump`s new pick for director of national intelligence, U.S. Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas, directing a pointed barb at Democrats during the Mueller hearings last week.
President Trump announced on Saturday this weekend that Ratcliffe is his choice to replace Dan Coats, who has been one of the few Cabinet members willing to stand up to the president.
In contrast to Coats, Ratcliffe has shown himself to be a partisan foot soldier for the president. In fact, just before Mueller`s testimony, Ratcliffe met with Trump about the job, according to "The New York Times," which notes that the hearings just five days later offered the congressman a chance to essentially audition for the president.
And during that hearing, Ratcliffe repeatedly accused Mueller of violating the special counsel regulations because his report didn`t charge the president, but didn`t exonerate him either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATCLIFFE: Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: I cannot, but this is a unique situation.
RATCLIFFE: OK, well, you can`t. Time is short. I have got five minutes. Let`s just leave it at you can`t find it, because I will tell you why. It doesn`t exist.
Respectfully, Director, you didn`t follow the special counsel regulations. I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He`s not, but he damn sure shouldn`t be below the law, which is where volume two of this report puts him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump`s choice of that man as his chief intelligence official has ignited outrage among Democrats at least.
But according to one report, some Republicans also warned the White House that he`s too partisan, this guy, for such a sensitive job as DNI, director of national intelligence.
And that`s coming up next. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump`s decision to nominate loyalist Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe for director of national intelligence has elicited outrage from Democrats.
But "The New York Times" reports that there was a degree of apprehension on the president`s side of the aisle as well -- quote -- "Some Republicans privately expressed concern, including Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who cautioned the president`s advisers that he considered Mr. Ratcliffe too political for the post, according to people familiar with the discussions. However, Mr. Trump disregarded the warning."
Well, late today, Senator Burr denied that reporting from "The New York Times" and said -- that said Ratcliffe would be too political.
He also released a statement today: "When the White House submits its official nomination to the Senate Intelligence Committee, we will work to move it swiftly through with regular order," whatever that means.
I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter of the Associated Press, and Katrina Mulligan, managing director for national security and national policy at the Center for American Progress.
Jonathan, what does that mean, by the way, by the chairman? I respect Burr a lot. I think he`s sort of from the old school of senators who worked together across the aisle, especially on national security issues like intelligence.
He said it, we will move it through the regular. Does that mean he`s voting for this guy or not? I can`t tell.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, there is actually another update, Chris. I can provide some real-time Richard Burr news here.
He just said in the last hour that he stopped well short of endorsing Ratcliffe, says he doesn`t know him, and looks forward to getting to know him, and says clearly more research is needed.
So he could certainly move to advance the nomination. It doesn`t necessarily mean he`s going to vote for him when all is said and done.
And I think his fate remains uncertain. There are some Republicans, particularly those like Collins and Gardner, who are -- you know, have vulnerable seats, who are up for reelection, whose states did not vote for Donald Trump last time around and may not again, who I think will face some pressure to not send this nomination forward, to not vote for this nominee.
There is real concern that Ratcliffe not only is perhaps too partisan, but doesn`t have the necessary experience for the job.
LEMIRE: Let`s reflect back briefly on Dan Coats, who, as you said at the opening here, was one of the few members of Trump`s national security team, his Cabinet, who was willing to say no, who was willing to stand up to the president to try to tamp down, to contradict him on matters like Iran, North Korea.
And, most memorably, I believe, he`s the one who, in the hours after the president`s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, when Donald Trump sided with the Russian leader over his own intelligence agencies, Dan Coats put out a statement defending those very agencies.
MATTHEWS: You know, Katrina, we have a challenge here, because we do count on our intel people, our G2s, to tell us what the hell is going on in the world.
And if this guy comes out and says -- well, suppose during the 2020 election and the run-up, suppose he does hear about Russian fiddling with the election, helping Trump. Do you think he`s going to tell the Democrats, this guy?
KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think that`s a critical question.
And I don`t think we know the answer to that right now. So far, what we have seen from him is that he`s been a partisan cheerleader. And he has no experience. He -- if he`s confirmed, he would be the least experienced intelligence -- director of national intelligence that we have ever seen.
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is, Congressman Ratcliffe of Texas, doing his audition, attacking Robert Mueller and his investigation just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATCLIFFE: The person who learned the most about the Mueller report during Wednesday`s hearings was Robert Mueller.
The Mueller report and its conclusions weren`t from Robert Mueller. They were written by what a lot of people believe was Hillary Clinton`s de facto legal team.
It`s really going to be difficult for the Democrats or anyone to rely upon the findings of a report when they just listen to the man whose name was difficult for the Democrats or anyone to rely upon the findings of a report when they just listen to the man whose name was on top of it not have a command of what was even in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds like Fox. And he was on Fox yesterday. He also claimed that crimes had been committed in the early days of the Russia probe during the Obama administration. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATCLIFFE: What I do knows a former federal prosecutor is it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, this is just pure, unalloyed 100-proof stuff you get from the right wing. This obsession with this idea that somehow how we found out about the Russian connection was somehow tainted, therefore, we shouldn`t have found out about the Russia connection. It`s illogical.
We should have found out about the Russian connection and any Americans who had anything to do with it. Why do they keep focusing on how we found?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You`re right, Chris. It`s borne from the idea of the fever swamp, the fringes of the right wing. But one echoed from the Oval Office. That this president looks at every opportunity to undermine the Russia probe, which, of course, has now reached a conclusion, at least Robert Mueller`s version of it.
But still it gnaws on Donald Trump. Any discussion of Russian meddling back in 2016 or a suggestion that it could happen again in 2020, the president, according to our reporting, really views it as something that delegitimizes his victory. As if you`re saying that he only won in 2016 because he had outside help. And Coats` departure here also, let`s point out, this is yet another guardrail gone from this president.
LEMIRE: Whether it was Defense Secretary Mattis or the original Secretary of State Tillerson, even chief of staff John Kelly for a time, there were people in the administration who would stand up to the president who would sort of either quietly or loudly disagree with him and sometimes not put his edicts into action. We`re seeing that disappear now both on the foreign policy side like Coats but also domestically within the White House. According to our reporting, we have a new story out tonight, there is no one in the White House who has chided the president that he shouldn`t have put out these tweets about Elijah Cummings.
He is his own strategic director. He is his own communications director and no one there telling him no.
MATTHEWS: And rooms full of enablers.
Anyway, speaking at the Aspen security forum last year, Intelligence Director Coats appeared to joke about the president`s reported intention to invite Vladimir Putin to the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have some breaking news. The White House has announced on twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.
DAN COATS, DNI: Say that again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You -- Vladimir Putin coming to the --
COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COATS: That`s going to be special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. There you go.
According to "The New York Times," aides of Mr. Trump seized on that exchange to suggest Mr. Coats was disloyal and should have been fired but he was shielded by Mr. Pence, a long time protege and former governor of Indiana. So, the Hoosier stuck with him.
But here`s the question -- Trump doesn`t like that kind of stuff. He doesn`t like grown-ups in the room.
KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS NATIONAL SECURITY MANAGING DIRECTOR: He has proven time and time again that the thing that matters most to him to him is loyalty to President Trump not the ability or --
MATTHEWS: Tell me about Coats because he`s leaving now. You worked for him.
MULLIGAN: I did. I worked at the director of national intelligence during his tenure. You know, he had a way of saying, you know, we -- we seek truth, we speak truth. That was one of the mantras during his tenure. And, you know, he was well-respected. Steady leader of the intelligence community and somebody who was willing to stand up for the intelligence community assessments, even when he knew them to be unpopular with the president and with the president`s staff.
MATTHEWS: I love that slogan. We seek truth, we speak truth. Good-bye to that.
Thank you, Jonathan Lemire. Thank you, Katrina Mulligan.
Up next, Donald Trump may think his racist rhetoric will fire up his base and help him get re-elected, but what if it`s firing up the Democratic base even more?
Michael Eric Dyson joins us next on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
While President Trump is focused his latest ire on the city of Baltimore, calling it a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess, it`s one of several cities that the president has criticized that seems to follow a familiar pattern of his. As "The Washington Post" describes it as an attempt to undermine a political opponent, the president disparages an entire place, often in racially insensitive tones.
Here is the president talking about some of our cities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like Chicago, which has been an absolute and total disaster.
Unemployed African-American youth in cities like Detroit who have become refugees in their own country.
Take a look at Charlotte. Take a look at Baltimore. Take a look at Ferguson. Take a look at what`s happening out on the streets of our inner cities. You have city, inner cities that are worse than war zones and more dangerous than some war zones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s not just here in the United States that President Trump has targeted. He`s targeted them all around the world, including reportedly calling El Salvador, Haiti and African countries S-hole countries.
For more, I`m joined by Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University professor and author of "What Truth Sounds Like." There is the book. Congratulations on the new book.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this -- this platform that this president`s given all good people by name, by face, by ethnicity, by race, he`s direct.
DYSON: He is.
MATTHEWS: He takes African countries. He takes Latin American countries. He`s never going after Norway.
MATTHEWS: Or Russia.
MATTHEWS: Or even Japan.
MATTHEWS: It`s always black or brown. That`s his name. That`s his game.
DYSON: Well, that`s what he does. And as you said earlier and brilliantly, you know, George Wallace was abstract and anonymous. He didn`t put a face to the name. He talked about categories.
But this president is putting entire categories of people at risk. He`s putting the Squad and other Congress people at risk.
DYSON: Physically. I mean, to be assaulted by somebody who is a lunatic out there on the fringe willing to do his bidding for him. He`s putting Elijah Cummings in such a horrible spot. And here he is a man who has served valiantly his city, Baltimore.
I mean, think about Randy Newman song that Nina Simone sang in 1978, think about Prince writing about Baltimore. There are ways you can talk about the complicated configuration of ills that besets that city, as well as the extraordinary promise and brightness of that city, and yet this president as the president of the United States of America, guess what? Baltimore falls under your bailiwick. That`s within your sphere. And you --
MATTHEWS: He might want to rebuild the cities like he promised to?
DYSON: I mean, my God, how about that?
And, you know, LBJ, not LeBron James, but the president in the 1960s said if you can convince the poorest white man that he`s better than the smartest black man, you can pick his pockets. He said, guess what? If you can convince him that he`s better than all of those people, he`ll pick his pockets for you.
So I don`t understand why working class white people who have not been benefitted by the policies and practices of this particular president continue to believe that he is their man.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s a question. I know Elijah Cummings. I live in Maryland.
He is a grown-up, a figure of leadership and respect.
MATTHEWS: He`s not Adam Clayton Powell. He`s not a community leader. He`s a statewide statesman. People look up to him that way.
DYSON: They admired him.
MATTHEWS: He could have won the Senate seat if he wanted it, everybody knows that --
MATTHEWS: -- in a state that is mostly white, overwhelmingly white.
MATTHEWS: Why did he pick a guy and treat him like he`s some loud mouth, you know, ethnic advocate or something there?
DYSON: Because he`s making an example. If he can pick on what he perceives to be the nicest, even in some people`s viewpoint the most conciliatory figure, if he can demonize that guy, he works backwards and then everybody else on a scorched-earth policy is fair game for him.
DYSON: So, it`s ingenuous but rather problematic tactic of identifying the most conciliatory figure within African-American leadership culture, who says his friend is Mr. Meadows who, by the way, did him no favor when he drew a false equivalency between Trump and Elijah Cummings. That was --
MATTHEWS: That wasn`t a favor to a friend.
By the way, people when they move to the burbs love their cities.
DYSON: Why are they here? Why are they in Detroit?
MATTHEWS: They root for their cities. They love their cities.
DYSON: The urban culture is there.
MATTHEWS: By the way, I think he`s attacking diversity, not just blacks. I think he`s attacking people who want to live in that kind of setting. In a "New York Times" op-ed, Princeton professor Kevin Kruse used the case -- makes the case that President Trump remains a greater danger to our political discourse than segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace was back in `60s.
Kruse writes that Mr. Wallace`s targets for the most part were presented in the abstract, though he denounced broad categories of generic enemies, agitators, anarchist, communists, he rarely went after an individual by name. President Trump in contrast has used his rallies to single out specific enemies. Kruse says, participants have been moved to attack individuals he has called out. And those attacks ranged from chanting "lock her up" and "send her back", the death threats.
I`m telling you, is this president responsible if something breaks out physically?
DYSON: Absolutely. I mean, he`s instigating. He`s inciting riots of the mind, of the spirit, of the soul and now sometimes even physically. People have said who have been white supremacists they were stirred up by the rhetoric of the president or those who are affiliated with him. So, yes, I think the professor makes an excellent point.
It`s one thing to have an anonymous abstract backdrop against which you pitch your bigoted beliefs. Not that we`re excoriated -- not that we`re exonerating Mr. Wallace posthumously, but what Trump is doing is so dangerous because he riles up and gins up the -- ratchets up the rhetoric against them and people are vulnerable because people will go out thinking, I`m doing the right thing because the president has demonized this person. Now, they are fulfilling his --
MATTHEWS: You`re not a leader of a community, but speak for it. What is the reaction in the black community, brown community when they see a president of the United States who is in charge of the whole country?
DYSON: Well, first of all --
MATTHEWS: Talk like this?
DYSON: -- they see how abhorrent he is. They see how ridiculously racist he is. But they also see this, where are the good white people who speak up? You use your bully pulpit to speak against this every night. Where are other people coming -- not only coming to the rescue, but coming --
MATTHEWS: Where is Mitt Romney?
DYSON: That`s right. That this is wrong, because their bodies are not at stake in the same way. And thirdly, they miss Obama. Whatever you say about Obama, he brought the nation together.
MATTHEWS: Where is Susan Collins? Where is Susan Collins?
DYSON: I mean, where are the white politicians who claim to be adherent to the democratic process in American. This is anti-patriotic.
MATTHEWS: By the way, where is Mike Pence? Mike Pence can talk.
DYSON: Oh my God.
MATTHEWS: I know it`s an idiotic proposal but he should talk.
DYSON: They should say something, but none of them will. They`re cowards. And they are betraying the best traditions of this country.
MATTHEWS: You`re not, professor. Thank you, Michael Eric Dyson.
Up next, what Joe Biden`s debate strategy should be?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We got a new poll today. This one from Quinnipiac shows former Obama Vice President Joe Biden holding very strong at 34 percent, with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in second place at 15 percent.
And this tells me a couple of things. One, that Biden should look upon this week`s debate adds a sparring match. When he gets attacked by an opponent, he should use it to show he knows how to mix it up, show he can defend himself, show he`s the kind of fighter to send into the ring against Donald Trump.
Biden should, A, not be surprised by the attack from, whichever the other candidates it comes. Not take it personally, handle the punch as a way to show his fighting ability to take on Trump, and lastly, play defense not offense. Why? Because the best way to win and look good winning is to be seen defending yourself.
That`s what FDR did in winning his fourth term. It`s what Ronald Reagan did in winning his first, attack from a defensive position. The country will root for you.
Second observation, have you noticed Senator Warren`s rise? It`s relentless. If she keeps going this way, she`ll be up there in the lead with Biden by the Iowa caucuses in early February. And she`s doing it by being positive with a steady dynamic output of policy proposals not by attacking another candidate.
Both Biden and Warren are doing the job and no harm to their party`s chances come November 2020. They`re following the advice of Winston Churchill as what not to do.
If we open a quarrel between past and present he told his party at the outset of World War II, we shall find we have lost the future.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
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