Multiple investigations underway in Epstein death. TRANSCRIPT: 8/12/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Mark Sanford, Devlin Barrett; Arianna Berg; Joel Payne

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That does it for us.  We`ll be back at 6:00 P.M. tomorrow.  But don`t go anywhere.  HARDBALL starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Death in a prison cell.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We`re learning things about the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein who was found unresponsive in his cell early Saturday morning and was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.  Epstein was being held in a special housing unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.  Epstein who was believed to have tried to commit suicide three weeks earlier was supposed to be monitored by guards every 30 minutes.  That didn`t happen.

An administration official familiar with the facts tells NBC that a number of hours elapsed between checks of Jeffrey Epstein`s cell, additionally, that official tells NBC that Epstein`s cell mate was released Friday and was not replaced, which according to administration officials, was in violation of Bureau of Prisons protocols.  You`re supposed to have a cell mate when you`re concerned about somebody committing suicide.

Well, earlier today, in unexpected remarks, the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, what`s his last name, Bill Barr, not Bill Maher, of course, said he was appalled by the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I was appalled and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry to learn of the MCC`s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.

We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.

But let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein.  Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.  The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Epstein was taken off suicide watch, and it`s unclear why he was.  A person familiar with the case tells NBC News that Epstein`s lawyers visited him at the facility on Friday and said they found him mentally and emotionally stable, they said.  NBC reached out to his lawyers, by the way, for comment but they have not responded to us.

The FBI and the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General are investigating the circumstances.

However, amid the confusion of Epstein`s apparent suicide, a slew of conspiracy theories emerged online, offering wild speculation for what happened.  One of the most outrageous and clearly unsubstantiated was re- Tweeted by the president of the United States, of course, and suggested former President Bill Clinton was connected to the death of Epstein.

In the last hour, the House Judiciary Committee launched a bipartisan investigation into the circumstance of Epstein`s death and demanded answers from the Bureau of Prisons.

For more, I`m joined by Devlin Barrett, Washington Post Reporter, Arianna Berg is a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York.  Thank you so much.

Let me go to Mr. Devlin.  What do you make, Devlin, of this whole case?  What is your suspicions about why there was no cell mate assigned there, why they weren`t checking on him every 30 minutes, what`s the whole deal here about a guy who had tried to commit suicide apparently just a couple of weeks ago? Why was he not being watched?

DEVLIN BARRETT, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  So, couple of things, one, we`re told that as far as taking him off suicide watch, we`re told that was something he and his lawyers requested, that he didn`t want to be on suicide watch.  That`s frankly not that unusual for prisoners, even ones who are suicidal, because suicide watch is not a pleasant experience.  You literally have someone watching you all the time.  So that`s one, that`s why he came off the suicide watch.

Now, that`s going to be investigated pretty heavily because obviously there will be a lot of scrutiny of that decision.  But the other piece is that that jail -- parts of that jail often, frankly, screw up and often don`t cross every T and dot every I.

It seems like what you had once he got back to his cell, once he got off suicide watch, is that two things were missed that were pretty important to his safety.  One was the checks on him every half hour, that didn`t happen for a good stretch of time, and two, that he didn`t have someone else in the cell with him to alert authorities when something happened, because that is what happened in the last incident, as best we can tell.

MATTHEWS:  And explain why they like to have a cell mate there in these situations.

BARRETT:  Because, obviously, if someone -- if you`re worried about someone`s health or well being, that cell mate can, you know, bang on the wall and get the guards to come quickly if there`s a problem.

What we know in the original instance is that there was an incident where, according to prison officials, he tried to hurt himself.  But according to him, he wasn`t attempting to hurt himself but it was the cell mate who, by most accounts, first started making noise in the cell that brought guards to that situation.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Arianna.  Do you have any reporting you can give us about, foul play perhaps or other involved, other prisoners on that cell block, anything like that that might be a lead as to why they failed so miserably to keep an eye on this guy?

ARIANNA BERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  There are huge question marks surrounding the death of Jeffrey Epstein today, and I don`t pretend to have the answers for it.  What I do know is that BOP`s own policies were not followed here and perhaps the colossal bureaucratic failure to date.

While I was a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for eight years, there was one defendant that I was aware of that was put on suicide watch and there were no deaths in the jail while I was a prosecutor at the Southern District of New York, which, of course, is where the Metropolitan Correction Center is where Jeffrey Epstein was housed.

It is so rare that this happens and for someone who is the most, perhaps, the most high profile Department of Justice criminal defendant in this country at this time, for this death to happen is incomprehensible and the investigation must continue and there must be clear definitive answers given as to why there was such a failure here.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.  I`m going to inform this in a common sense courtroom way.  Why am I, someone who watches the news and covers stories like this, generally, not with a lot of scrutiny, not surprised by what happened on Saturday, by -- because I had heard this was coming, he had tried it once, it seemed like he had found himself in a situation, a man who had enjoyed his life, ridiculously and infamously, found himself at the end of the line would do this.  It didn`t surprise me.

Why would it surprise the people managing this prison that this guy would likely do this?  It`s common sense given his pattern of living, impulsively, doing what he felt like doing when he wanted to do it, his own world he lived in, and they were surprised that he tried to take his life?  I wasn`t.  Most people aren`t surprised by this.  Your thoughts.

BERG:  I`m not -- you know, at this point in time, because there are now three investigations pending, we don`t know the answer as to why people might not be surprised he would want to take his life.

Let me just start with the first beginning premise here.  We don`t know what happened.  We know he`s dead.  We don`t know what happened.  Yes, there could be reasons why, given the timing on Friday of the release of 2,000 documents in the second circuit relating to his case, which named lots of high profile figures and showed lots of the damning evidence in this case.  There could be reasons why he saw the writing on the wall and wanted to commit suicide on Saturday, the day after.  That could be.

But, honestly, I`m not prepared here at this time to say what happened.  We don`t know.

MATTHEWS:  I want to get back to Devlin on that question, because the reason I suggest it was likely that there was this kind of development to come, is that after the last release of information is when he attempted it the last time.

BARRETT:  Right.  And, look, it is not out of, you know, the realm of possibility frankly that someone facing a virtual death sentence for heinous alleged crimes would decide that they would rather just end their life than serve that sentence, than face that additional public humiliation and condemnation.  So I think there`s a universe in which we can sort of understand his rationale.

I think the main question here right now is what do the video tapes inside MCC show?  Do they support this belief by officials that he killed himself?  And also to the degree that the videos show what the officials in the jail did, how much is that video damning of the official`s own conduct?  Did they just not care?  I mean, that`s a big question.  Did they care enough to check on him?

MATTHEWS:  Last point, I have to squeeze one in.  Notoriously, we know that people have been accused and go to prison for child abuse of any kind, face death in a horrible way from their fellow prisoners.  It`s some sort of code they operate under.  And, in fact, the person would kill him in this case would be righteous today, would be credited something of a hero within the prison culture.  Isn`t that something that Mr. Epstein was facing as well, the life inside prison would end rather horribly for him?

BARRETT:  I think there`s some reason to consider that, especially because a lot of people in prison are victims themselves of abuse and take that sort of behavior very, very seriously.  So that is always a concern with convicted pedophiles and sex abusers in prison.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Devlin.  Great reporting, Devlin Barrett and Arianna Berg, thank you both for your expertise and your reporting.

Now, I want to bring in Shannon Pettypiece, Senior White House Reporter for NBC News Digital, and Joel Payne, Democratic strategist.

I guess the first thing is the most, speaking of heinous, is the president of the United States re-Tweeting some nonsense about Bill Clinton being involved.  I mean, off the wall, why does our president do this?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, MSNBC SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Yes, Saturday.

MATTHEWS:  They want conspiracy buffs of the hard right who just love this stuff.

PETTYPIECE:  Saturday from his Bedminster summer retreat, that was one of the things he was doing.  I mean, it does insert him into a story that`s the main news story of the day that doesn`t have to do with him.  So it helps bring that element to it, even though, in a way, it does have a little bit to do with him because he was an associate of Jeffrey Epstein.  But there`s no evidence at this point that he was involved in any wrongdoing there.

But it`s been interesting to see the White House reaction o this when we have pressed in on this that they have not gone to discredit this theory that the Clintons were somehow involved in Epstein`s death.  And they`ve almost sort of suggested that there maybe is something there to be investigated.

Kellyanne Conway was on T.V. Sunday and said, the president thinks everything should be investigated.  And the one of the president`s communication -- campaign communication advisers said the same thing.  So they`ve continued to, well, not endorse this theory, sort of an underlying suggestion that everything should be investigated.  We just want to get to the truth and transparency.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You suggested these things, Joel, and you`re suggesting there`s an element of -- this is off the wall.  There`s no connection between Bill Clinton and this guy`s death.

JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Of course not.  And I was with you recently, and we`ve kind of  talked about this.  Like this is kind of who he is at his core.  I think that there is always this --

MATTHEWS:  You can laugh about it if it`s him.  If he does it to you --

PAYNE:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, it`s horrible.

PAYNE:  But there`s always this temptation (ph) almost like explain away his behaviors, like, oh, well, there`s some grand strategy, like I take your point about the new cycle piece and everything.  I just kind of think that this is who he is.  He`s the guy who thinks 9/11 was an inside job.  He`s the guy who thinks that the pizza parlor half a mile away from here was housing pedophilia run by top Democrats.  That`s, in essence, who he is.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s take a look at that.  Yes, Joel, you have raised the issue and we`ve got the tape to show it.  Here he is, President Trump, he is our president with his pattern of pushing false claims.  He launched his political career promoting the false notion that Barack Obama wasn`t born here and then built his 2016 campaign by promoting a number of unfounded conspiracy theories.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down.  And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST:  Do you accept that President Obama was born in the United States is not --

TRUMP:  No, I don`t know.  I really don`t know.

Do you know that Hillary Clinton was a birther?

The father was with Lee Harvey Oswald, prior the Oswalds being, you know, shot.  I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.  But what is this, right, prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up.

HALLIE JACKSON, MSNBC HOST:  You mentioned President Obama being the founder of ISIS.  What did you mean by that, and Hillary Clinton?

TRUMP:  Well, I meant exactly that.  He`s the founder of ISIS.

But you have to be a citizen to vote.  You have places where people walk in and vote.

When you look at the people who are registered, dead, illegal in two states, and some cases, maybe three states.  We have a lot to look into.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, and one point during the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that theories about foul play involving the death of Clinton White House Lawyer Vince Foster were very serious because the circumstances of the death were very, this is Trump`s words, very fishy.

What`s been a notorious conspiracy claim that both Bill and Hillary Clinton were responsible for Foster`s death, the fact is foster died by suicide 1993, a well-established fact.

Shannon, this president, I have a theory, he has a number of constituencies, all right.  There are the people out there who hate immigrants, period, especially from the southern border, and won`t believe anything about them, rapists, whatever.  He has a number of people who have racial -- real problems, resentments, hatred, whatever you call it, racism, all the way.  He wants to keep them aboard.  He`s got gun people.  He has a number of constituencies on the far right he doesn`t want to mess with because he can`t afford to give up one.  He needs those votes.  Your thoughts.

BERG:  Well, he certainly does need to hold on to certain constituencies.  And when you look at sort of these comments that he all sort of throw out there --

MATTHEWS:  Ted Cruz`s father killed Kennedy.

BERG:  He does not come from a world or a background where truth and accuracy matter.  If you think of him and you listen to him in there as a marketer, as a salesman, as someone who is just trying to make a point, if you`re selling real estate, you can tell somebody, oh, you know, you can see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean from here, or I heard a rumor that this building is going up, and it doesn`t really matter.

And so much of it is about marketing and branding, branding his opponents, branding himself and --

MATTHEWS:  It does matter if the foundation is thick enough and the walls are thick enough.  The specks matter.

If you`re a builder, Joel, I want to know the specs are meant.

PAYNE:  You know, and Shannon brings up the point, but he kind of relies on it, right?  And not only does he come from a world where that`s not important, but he needs that.  So like I`m listening to Bill Barr talk about this, how can he or any other federal law enforcement, person in Trump`s orbit, have any credibility when Trump has spent the last three years telling you that everyone in the FBI and everyone in senior levels of law enforcement are liars and you can`t believe them.

It`s moments like this where we actually need to believe those folks, that the president has created a world where you shouldn`t trust those people.  That`s also at the heart of this as well.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I misspoke.  I spoke earlier Bill Maher, a great man, I`ll be on the show in a few weeks.  And I have to say, he`s not -- well, Bill Barr is no Bill Maher.

Anyway, thank you, Shannon Pettypiece, and thank you, Joel Payne.

Coming up, just one week after two mass shootings in this country, the case for hope is coming when it comes to gun control.  I think so, yes, I think there`s hope.  There are reasons to be hopeful.  I think the stars are aligning this time, I think, against Mr. Mitch McConnell there on the right.

Plus, President Trump is lashing out privately and on Twitter for being called a racist.  He doesn`t like it, saying it is just another attempt to discredit him, he thinks.  His remarks behind closed doors however at a Hamptons fundraiser over the weekend are not helping his defense.

And he`s losing the Mooch, the former White House official says Republicans should consider putting country before party and dump this guy, Trump.  That`s the Mooch talking.  And one well known republican politician seriously considers running against the guy, you know this guy, he`s going to run, it looks like.

Much more ahead, stick with this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My party has got to get out of the defensive crouch that has us thinking that we`re in the minority on these issues.  America is with us in demanding common sense gun safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Isn`t he good?  Anyway, that`s Buttigieg. That`s Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa this weekend calling for new gun control legislation.

Well, the Democratic candidates showed unity in the wake of the massacres in El Paso and Dayton and demanding that President Trump and the Congress enact gun laws.  Sixteen candidates participated in a forum in Des Moines sponsored by every town for gun safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA:  My friends on the debate stage have great ideas, which I support.  We do not lack for great ideas.  What we lack is the United States Congress to have the courage to act.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT:  If McConnell wants to vote against gun safety legislation, let him vote against it, but reconvene the United States Senate.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  It`s not just about passing four piece of legislation over there or changing two regulations over here, it`s about reducing the deaths from gun violence.

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They should be exposed, they should be exposed for what they refuse to do because they`re being intimidated by the NRA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Former Vice President Joe Biden there followed up on his appearance with an op-ed in "The New York Times" on Sunday.  Biden promised to ban assault weapons if elected, writing, if we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won`t just be a political affair, it will be a moral one.  It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy. 

Politico reports the unified response sends a clear signal the gun control is now front and center for Democrats in the race to beat Trump, writing, Democrats this year more so than during the last presidential election have been buoyed (ph) on gun control by gains in state houses last year, by an internal weaken of the NRA and by a ground swell of youth activism following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

For more I`m joined by Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post."  Adrienne Elrod, Former Senior Advisor of the Hillary Clinton campaign and Shermichael Singleton, Republican Political Consultant.

I guess my question is, is this moment different, given all the confluent coming together issues of the supremacy argument, the mass killing, the shooting of children, all of this in the last couple years.  Is this going to change the fighting lines between the NRA and the gun control people?

ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR OF THE HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN:  You know here Chris, here`s why I think it`s different, because of all the reasons that you just mentioned, and also I think you`re Mitch McConnell right now, you are looking at some of those polls that show that suburban voters who you need to make sure that you yourself get reelected and that the Senate remains in Republican hands, those voters want to see background checks, they want to see gun laws strengthened.  So, I think in that context it does matter.  You`ve also got a course of 20 plus Democratic presidential candidates right now talking about this.

MATTHEWS:  OK, answer the question, ready?

ELROD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Cartoon question.

ELROD:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Mitch McConnell, is he Elmer Fudd or is he Bugs Bunny?  Bugs Bunny was brilliant -- brilliant.  Is he smart?  Has he got a calculation here, and if so, is it time to give on the red flag at least?

ELROD:  Democrats don`t think the red flag laws go far enough.

MATTHEWS:  No, but is he willing to go that far?

ELROD:  I think he might be, but I don`t think we`re going -- we see that as a cop-out.  Democrats see that as a cop-out --

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that, but will he go that far?  My question, will he give something for once?

ELROD:  I think he might try to.

MATTHEWS:  Shermichael, will he give something that -- is it time for Mitch to give something?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT:  I mean I think --

MATTHEWS:  Throw a bone to the gun control people and the American people.

SINGLETON:  I -- I mean I think the president could back this, the president --

MATTHEWS:  I`m asking about Mitch.

SINGLETON:  Let me finish.  Has 90 percent approval rating with the party.  If the president says I`m behind this, that gives the green light to the majority leader to say yes to increasing background checks, yes to closing the gun show loophole. 

I`m a gun owner, I think I`m OK with that.  Yes to red flag laws, again, I`m a gun owner, I shoot very regularly.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SINGLETON:  I have a lot of friends who are NRA members, they support some of those commonsense measures.  And I think to Adrienne`s point about suburban in particular, I think some of those positions would be sound enough for them to stick the party.

MATTHEWS:  You`re a student of the president, is it time for him to give an inch?  And with McConnell?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Depending what you mean by an inch.

MATTHEWS:  OK, red flag.

ELROD:  Red flag.

COSTA:  Let me start there.  Based on my reporting today, red flag laws dead on arrival in the Republican controlled Senate.  You already have Senator Barraso, a member of the leadership saying --

MATTHEWS:  From Wyoming.

COSTA:  -- saying he has due process concerns about it.  So does Senator Ben Sasse, up for re-election in 2020.  Red flag laws being championed by Senator Graham, he`s talking to President Trump on the golf course about it, but unlikely to happen on Capitol Hill.  The only game in town, if you want gun control based on my conversation with the top Republicans, Toomey- Manchin, it`s got to be revived, that`s had a past history of getting some Republican votes.

MATTHEWS:  Which basically moves -- it doesn`t threaten the NRA much, but it does widen the background check law, right?

COSTA:  It does.

MATTHEWS:  Does it include gun shows?

COSTA:  The NRA has been weakened with the scandals with Wayne LaPierre.  Listen to Rush Limbaugh show on Friday, he spent hours saying that the president moves on background checks. 

They know they`re dealing with a president who is not ideological at the core and that may be looking for a win, especially as the trade deal stalls with China.  And if he starts looking for a background check win, you already have people beyond the NRA trying to boost that gun rights activism and say -- they`re telling this White House behind the scenes, don`t move an inch, we`re not going to give anything and McConnell`s play, I`m told, is to just let it peter out.  Talk about being (inaudible) background checks.

MATTHEWS:  Wait it out.  OK.  Here`s the biggest question.  You`re a Democrat, but I think I will start with you, you`re a Republican, you`re a reporter.  What`s Trump more afraid of, being too intransigent in an opposition to the gun control people and the American people that he looks like he`s pro-gun and pro-death basically, or is he more afraid of Rush Limbaugh calling him a trader?

ELROD:  I think it`s a toss-up.  I think it`s a toss-up Chris, because look, he`s more fearful of --

MATTHEWS:  Trump`s -- Rush (inaudible) -- excuse me, is already calling him a trader, which he is.

ELROD:  Sure, of course.  And I think -- I also think that Donald Trump in the back of his mind knows that even if he tries to concede on background checks and go forward with that, he knows that even if the NRA -- if 75 percent of NRA members support background checks, that it`s still going to freak out his base.  He is so scared.

MATTHEWS:  So, what`s he going to do?  What`s he more afraid of, the base?  Is he more afraid of the NRA and Rush Limbaugh or the majority of the American people?  What`s he more afraid of?

ELROD:  I think he`s more afraid of Rush Limbaugh and his base.

SINGLETON:  I mean to my --

MATTHEWS:  But, what`s he more concerned about.

SINGLETON:  -- again, to my original point, if the president wants to stand behind some form of a measured reform, he certainly can based upon his approval in the party.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he challenged Rush Limbaugh.  Well he trust --

SINGLETON:  He could.  I think he could.  I think --

MATTHEWS:  Well, when`s (ph) he done that before?

SINGLETON:  -- more voters would stand with the president than Rush Limbaugh.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I`ve got ask Robert your -- he says he would probably (ph) fight with him.

COSTA:  Most Republican -- most Republican lawmakers, when you ask them, what`s the greatest organization to help you get out the vote, it`s not the Republican National Committee, it`s the NRA.  And as I look at the suburban problem from 2018, they`re saying we need our base with us in 2020, it`s going to be very difficult.  President Trump has to lean in and give his political capital, the Toomey-Manchin, or else I don`t go anywhere, based on my conversations with top Senators.

SINGLETON:  But with all due respect to Robert, I don`t see how that`s true.  I`ve worked with the RNC when I worked on Gingrich`s campaign, Romney`s campaign and even Ben Carson`s campaign.  And even after he dropped out in the --

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SINGLETON:  -- Trump, I do not believe the notion that the NRA has more clout than the Republican Party, that puts people on the ground in key places, I don`t believe that.

ELDROD:  I think -- no -- the NRA has a strong ground game.  They`ve had members who have -- they`ve --

SINGLETON:  The NRA doesn`t have a get-out-to-vote mechanism, I can tell you that.

ELROD:  -- who have been five generations members of the NRA.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here`s my thought, my thought is the president will wait a couple weeks to decide this, he`s going to wait and get it close.  He`s going to have five weeks to play -- four weeks to play with this thing until the ninth of September. 

I think he would like to not do anything.  I think if he does Toomey- Manchin, that might squeak by in Pennsylvania, but it still raises the question of the true gun people up in Pennsylvania, I know them well, I`ve got a brother in one of these guys, I know them.  And they`re unforgiving and they`re always looking for traders, the trader is what they look for and if they see Trump as a trader, bye-bye Pennsylvania.

COSTA:  House Democrats, they don`t really want to deal with a president they`re calling a white supremacist.  They already have their own bill.  A lot of Democrats are pressuring the leadership saying, don`t work with this president on the gun deal.  It`s not going to come enough in our direction.

MATTHEWS:  Maybe they don`t want one (inaudible) issue.  You say they want the issue.  The Democrats want the issue too.

COSTA:  They want reform, but they also -- they don`t want to just have a watered-deal.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, nobody wants something just like -- just like the calling out the one person that might -- shouldn`t be getting a gun.

SINGLETON:  Well, the polices need to be proportioned. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SINGLETON:  I mean, I`ve heard some gun activists on the Democratic side saying, ban all assault rifles all together, I`m not in support of that.

MATTHEWS:  Well let me tell you, I think the president is going to play it careful and in the end probably do nothing. 

My guest are sticking with us.  Up next, new reporting that President  Trump is lashing out over being called -- he doesn`t like that word racist.  Frustrated he can`t shed that label.  I think he knows he hurt some (ph) of the burbs (ph).  He didn`t help his reputation, however, with his attempts at foreign accents at the Hamptons over this weekend.  You`re watching Hard Ball.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do Democrats calling you and your supporters a white nationalist and a white supremacist help you?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t think it helps.  First of all, I don`t like it when they do it, because I am not any of those things.  I think it`s a disgrace.  For them to throw out the race word again.  Racist, racist, racist, that`s all they sue to anybody.  They call Nancy Pelosi a racist, she`s not a racist.  They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Hard Ball.  That was President Rump defending himself and reacting to Democratic candidates calling him racist and a white supremacist, which most have done, in fact. 

It`s been a month a divisive rhetoric, of course, from him, starting with his tweet that four Democratic Congresswomen of color, three of them born here in the U.S., should go back and fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.  At least his grammar was right. 

That escalated to his supporters chanting, send her back, to Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar at one of his rallies.  Well, then president then went after another member of Congress of color, Maryland`s Elijah Cummings, calling the majority black city of Baltimore, quote, "the worst in the USA and a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess."

And the charges of racism against the president only intensified last week, that the El Paso`s shooters manifesto was revealed to have echoed Trump`s language on inauguration. 

"The Washington Post" now reports that being called a racist has led Trump, in recent days, to lash out, behavior as -- advisors and allies explain as the natural reaction of anyone who does not consider himself a racist, but is accused of being one. 

According to "Washington Post" Trump feels the charges of racism are just another attempt to discredit him, not unlike he believes, he says, the more than a dozen women who have accused him of sexual misconduct or the investigation, he says, of Russian interference in the last election.

We`re back with Robert Costa, Adrienne Elrod and Shermichael Singleton.  But, Robert, you start this time.  I mean, this seems to bother him.  Is this going to hurt his credit score, as we say in business, this charge of racism?  Will it hurt him in the burbs? 

COSTA:  I was just in the burbs, in Georgia, outside of Atlanta, spent a few days.

MATTHEWS:  In the donut. 

COSTA:  That`s exactly right.  Around the parameter of Georgia, of Atlanta and taking of suburban voters there, both white, black, Latino and Asian, you get the impression that these racist tweets of the president, his behavior, it`s baked into their view of the president, but it`s not driving their decision making at all times. 

They`re concerned about the Trade War, they`re concerned about immigration, especially the economy and so it does have an effect in the suburbs and we saw in 2018 the president did have a problem in the suburbs with the Republican brand had a problem and part of it`s due to his commentary. 

MATTHEWS:  Adrienne, why does this bother him?

ELROD:  Well, it bothers him because, first of all, it`s true, right?  It`s absolutely true.  He can not have it both ways.  He can`t go out there and criticize members of Congress of color, he can`t go out there and basically like put Elijah Cummings life in danger, make comments about Asians --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he exploits negative attitudes about race?

ELROD:  Yes, I absolutely do -- think he does and I also think that there`s been some questions, should Democratic candidates call him a white supremacist or a white nationalist or even a racist, is that taking it too far.  I don`t` think it is, because I think --

MATTHEWS:  Well, Biden wont` do it and I don`t think Harris will either. 

ELROD:  Biden is right straddling on the line.

MATTHEWS:  Harris won`t do it.

ELROD:  Well, the tier ones are not doing it for most part, but I think --

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m certain Biden`s a tier one. 

ELROD:  Yes, not, he`s a tier one.  My point is, like I think if you`re a tier two and you`re turing to move into that space, you have basically nothing to loose by calling out what you actually see.  I think --

MATTHEWS:  If you`re one percent in the polls or less you`ve got nothing to loose period.

ELROD:  Yes, well yes.

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, Shermichael, I`m giving you joke here.  But the fact is, Trump doesn`t like it.

SINGLETON:  I mean, no, I can imagine any white person not liking being called a racist, so I guess I sort of understand.  I`ll let Democrats figure out if that`s what they want to call the president.

I`ve seen no quantifiable data thus far to suggest to me, to Robert`s point, that this moving the needle one way or the other.  I think, for the most part, people`s opinions on the president is pretty summated (ph).  I think if you believe he`s a racist, you formed that view probably a year a two ago, likely around Charlottesville, maybe even before.  If you don`t think he`s a racist, that`s a view you held, again, before. 

So, while I understand Democrats sort of throwing meat to the base, if you will, that excites a lot of Democrats I would image.  I`m not certain, as far as independents that it`s something that will move the needle one way or the other. 

ELROD:  But it -- but Shermichael, it has affected his disapproval ratings.  And that`s a -- that`s a big factor when you`re trying to get re-elected.  It has.

SINGLETON:  Yes, well --

ELROD:  That has moved the needle on his disapproval ratings.

SINGLETON:  Well, I mean, Adrienne, it`s early though and you know this, we both worked on presidential campaigns, it`s very, very early.  I`m not certain, six months from now, what the president`s approval ratings will be.  I think arguably it depends on what the economy and how the economy is pacing.

ELROD:  Fair.

MATTHEWS:  Well, "The New York Times" -- or actually "The New York Post" reports that a fundraiser in the Hamptons on Friday of this past weekend, the president made fun of U.S. allies, South Korea, Japan and the European Union, mimicking Japanese and Korean accents. 

This is the first time Trump has attempted a foreign accent, of course.  In 2018, "The Washington Post" reported that, quote, "The president has been know to affect (ph) an Indian accent and imitate Indian Prime Minister Modi.  It`s also something he`s done in multiple times on camera, here it goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The Attorney General says I`m going to recuse myself. 

And when I asked President Xi, I said, do you have a drug problem?  No, no, no.  I said, why?  Death penalty.  We give death penalty to people that sell drugs.  End of problem. 

Said, where are you from?  We are from India.  Oh, great, that`s wonderful.  Thank you very much, that`s all I need.

Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, they say, we want deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That`s sort of Lone Ranger, Kemosabe kind of talk.  I`m not sure they`re even decent accents, but that are derogatory, aren`t they?

SINGLETON:  I mean I think that depends on interpretation. 

MATTHEWS:  What -- I don`t know how you --

SINGLETON:  I think it depends on interpretation.  I mean, look, let`s be honest, are there some legitimate things to call out about the president and his rhetoric that are obviously racist, as Adrienne said a few moments ago, absolutely.  I`m not certain that`s one of those things. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, who wants to argue with him?

ELROD:  I will, I`m happy to argue with him.  It is racist and I think what`s so troubling about it --

MATTHEWS:  It`s true (ph) --

ELROD:  -- Donald Trump doesn`t even realize it is.

MATTHEWS:  OK, President of United States in a different category, he speaks for all of us, maybe he can`t tell the jokes you could at a party or imitate.  You could do British accents, Irish accents, French accents, German accents in every movie, come on.

ELROD:  These are pretty accents of his that he`s trying to emulate here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I didn`t even get the Indian one.  I didn`t get the Indian one.

COSTA:  It`s also a statement on the Republican Party, which continues to support this president despite comments that are racist, stereotypical, offensive, hurtful, the party believes politically he provides a benefit, and so they swallow these comments day-in, day-out. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COSTA:  Because they believe he`s the key to their re-election in 2020.  We have a political culture, that for the most part, in the Republican side, allows this to pass.

MATTHEWS:  Knowing his sensitivity in the public -- in the public mind about him and his attitude sort of people who weren`t brought up like him or look like him, why does he still tell these jokes, these mimicries? 

COSTA:  Why?

MATTHEWS:  He needs to entertain?

COSTA:  It`s not entertaining.  If anything it`s hurtful, he does it because, as many people around the president say, this is who he is and I have no psychological explanation to offer. 

SINGLETON:  But I think the people at those rallies find those things to be appealing.  I personally don`t, but I think they do.  Unit --

MATTHEWS:  They`re chuckling on them.

SINGLETON:  They are, and until I think the moods in those crowds change, Robert, I think he`s going to keep doing those things. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I love this conversation, because it is important American conversation right now.  Robert Costa, Adrienne Elrod and Shermichael Singleton.  Thank you Shermichael for the different point of view from her.  Anyway, because you come from totally different political parties and backgrounds.

Up next, a man who served Trump briefly at the White House says Republicans should reconsider nominating him next year.  How`s that for a call to arms.  (Inaudible) to use a foreign word, you`re watching Hard Ball.  f (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  The president didn`t do well on the trip.  He`d probably be mad at somebody for saying that.  Maybe he`ll tweet something negative about somebody for saying they didn`t do well on the trip.  The facts are, he did not do well on the trip because if the trip is being made about him and not the demonstration of compassion and love and caring and empathy for those people, then it becomes a catastrophe for him, the administration and it`s also a bad reflection on the country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was former White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci on HARDBALL just last week responding to the president`s visits to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. 

Over the weekend, the president struck back at Scaramucci personally, saying he was quickly terminated from a position that he was totally incapable of handling, that`s at the White House, and, quote, seems to do nothing but television as the all time expert on President Trump.  That`s President Trump talking about Scaramucci talking about him. 

Scaramucci responded while he was, quote, fully supported the president recently, the president has said things that divide the country in a way that`s unacceptable.  That`s Scaramucci`s latest verdict on him.  Scaramucci added: Eventually he turns on everyone, and soon it will be you and then the entire country. 

Well, today, Scaramucci went further saying he thinks Republicans need to consider a change at the top of the ticket. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARAMUCCI:  I think the president needs to be challenged.  I think he`s a very tired pitcher now that`s throwing balls over the backstop, and we need a relief pitcher to come in that can speak to the American people about very similar policies with a different, more inclusive style.

I`m calling on my fellow Republicans.  The question is going to be object them.  Do they have the courage to step force in a block, OK, and knock this guy off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And joining me next is a Republican who`s considering challenging the president for the nomination for president in 2020.  You know this guy.  Stick with us.  You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD (R-SC), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Now, I`m here to say there`s a big storm coming.  We`ve never had so much debt.  We`ve never had so much spending.  We`ve never had this much of our debt owned by foreign governments. 

I listen to the president who rules out action on the things that drive our debt and spending.  It all makes me wonder how we change our country`s direction on spending debt.  Some who have suggested starting an advocacy group.  Others have suggesting running in the Republican primary against the president as a way of elevating the issue and changing the debate.  I don`t know what the answer is, but I do know that we have to do something. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was a new video from the former governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, who says he`s mulling whether to challenge the president next year for renomination as a Republican.  Sanford was caught up in a marital scandal during his second term of governor, won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, but lost his congressional primary in 2018 after President Trump urged voters not to back him. 

It`s been nearly a month since Sanford announced in may he would be getting into the 2020 race.  Over the past few weeks, he has been speaking with people in the early voting states of Iowa and California.  As the former governor approached the self-imposed 30-day deadline to make a final decision, Sanford will be heading to New Hampshire tomorrow for a two day swing out there through the key primary state. 

Joining me right now is former Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. 

Governor, thank you for coming on tonight, and I wonder about this because a famous politician once said to me, the only reason to run for office is you`ve got nothing better to do.  You`re not happy with what you`re doing, and you want to knock the other guy`s block off.  In other words, you`re really serious about taking on Donald Trump.  I mean, taking him on in a really withering fight because he`s not going to make your life pleasant. 

SANFORD:  I think I fully understand that, given the fact that I`ve been at the bad end of his tweets more in the past.  But as was expressed in that video, I think a lot is at stake.  I think we need to have a conversation particularly as Republicans about what we stand for, what we believe, because a lot of the traditional benchmarks of what Republican or conservative movement was about have gone by the wayside with President Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened to free trade?  What happened to fiscal responsibility?  The whole shebang, what happened to alliances around the world built basically by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans and certainty led by Dwight Eisenhower and Reagan?  What happened to all that?  That whole shebang of Republican belief, it`s gone. 

SANFORD:  Well, I think the belief is still there.  And that`s the big thing I`ve been imploring in the last 30 days is that given the thousands of different visits I`ve had over the last 25 years in politics, whether it was Congress before, the eight years of the governorship, or being back in Congress, those folks are still there who care whether it`s a farmer in the Midwest caring about being ability to export soybeans on or whether it`s somebody at the port in Charleston trying to get something in or out, I mean, people still care about the way in which we`re linked to the rest of the world given its impact of the economy at large and their pocketbook or wallet as the case might be. 

And similarly on the deficit issue, people that I talk to, little small business person, he cared about or she cared about getting their finances in order.  The same thing as they sat around the kitchen counter as a family.  These issues haven`t gone away.  They`re not being focused on by this president, but I believe at a grass-roots level, they`re still out there and they need to be discussed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, speaking of the family at the kitchen table, I remember Uday and Qusay Saddam, the sons of Saddam Hussein, and if you went to the wrong restaurant and they got their eye contact, you were dead.  It seems like every Republican in your party is scared to death. 

He knocked you off.  He knocked another Republican off down there in South Carolina.  Lindsey is scared to death of him, I guess.  How else do you explain Lindsey Graham`s tooting to the guy? 

I like the guy.  Why does he like Trump so much?  It doesn`t seem human to like something that much. 

SANFORD:  I think Lindsey has been transparent.  In fairness to Lindsey, you know, he`s been fairly transparent.  This is the cost to stay in the game.  Everyone has got their own line in the sand as to what they`re willing to cross, the degree to which --

MATTHEWS:  But you`re not afraid. 

SANFORD:  No.  I`ve already been a dead guy in the politics.  And a dead man has little to fear in a larger issue.  Of course, I`m afraid.  To answer your question, yes, you`re terrified.  It`s a monumental task of crazy levels of scale, difficult to get your arms around but I think it`s important.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I think people are afraid.  Let`s talk about November, 2020, when you would like to be on the Republican ticket as president.  Suppose the ticket is instead led by the president, current president, and also the choices -- say something like Joe Biden, a moderate Democrat. 

Who would I vote for right now?  Trump or Biden?  Who would you vote for?

SANFORD:  Again, I am a Republican.  I mean, there`s no getting around that.  So, again, I`m --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who would you vote for?  You`re out there to knock Trump off?  Would you vote for him?

SANFORD:  I believe in the sanctity of the ballot box, Chris.  And so, I think it`s not going to be Bernie Sanders.  It`s not gong to be Elizabeth Warren.  It`s not going to be a variety of different folks. 

I think it would be President Trump, but I would want to look at that election at that time based on the issues that are at play.

MATTHEWS:  You go Trump over Biden? 

SANFORD:  I would. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about this white nationalism tag on Trump.  He seems to be wearing it rather unpleasantly.  He doesn`t like it.  Is it fair?  Is he a white nationalist? 

SANFORD:  I don`t think he`s a white nationalist, but I think the white nationalists think that he`s a white nationalist, and that`s even more troubling.  I mean, you don`t want somebody who thinking they`re speaking to you if you`re in that particular line of thinking.  So, I think that the issue is, rightly or wrongly, they`re reading the tea leaves in a way that`s sympathetic to them.  And that`s a real problem. 

MATTHEWS:  I hope you enjoy New Hampshire, Governor.  You`re a good guy in many ways.  I like you.  I`m rooting for you to go up there and raise hell in New Hampshire, which is particularly beautiful in the summer.  So, you`re going to love it out there. 

Good luck, Governor Mark Sanford, headed to New Hampshire, the Granite State. 

Up next, the clear differences between the two parties on guns and America.  You`ve got to hear this.  This is sharp.  These two parties really radically disagree, the Democrats and Republicans. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We talked earlier in the show tonight about gun control.  And just to show you how different the Democrats and Republicans are on this issue, here`s the competing language in their platform from 2016. 

First, the Democrats, quote -- with 33,000 Americans dying every year from guns, Democrats believe that we must finally take sensible action to address gun violence.  We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our community safe.  We will expand background checks and close dangerous loopholes in our current laws, hold irresponsible dealers and manufacturers accountable. 

Keep weapons of war such as assault weapons off our streets and ensure guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers and other violent criminals and those with severe mental health issues. 

And here`s the Republican platform.  Quote: We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.  A natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution, and is secured by the Second Amendment.  Lawful gun ownership enables Americans to exercise their God-given right of self- defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones and their communities. 

We salute the Republican Congress for defending the right to keep and bear arms by preventing the president from installing a new liberal majority on the Supreme Court.  We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.  We condemn frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and the current administration`s illegal harassment of firearm dealers.  We oppose federal licensing or registration of law abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton assault rifle ban. 

So, now, you`ve got it.  The Democrats wants background checks and a ban on assault weapons.  Republicans to expand the rights of Americans to own and carry guns anywhere.  We await to hear what both parties will do.  The guns of August have all we`ve been heard from. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 

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