tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC March 30, 2017 11:30pm-12:01am PDT
is he doing too much, they ask, in the course of my reporting to engage with white house people, white house personnel in pursuit of information. >> julie pace, my clue tonight that this had gotten too much even for the most loyal trump surrogates was when jack kingston, the former member of congress from georgia, said on cable tonight, quote, i don't think they're organized enough to orchestrate this. in effect calling artillery in on the trump white house to say, no, they don't do that good a job, that this could have been planned out, but that's the extent of the response so far tonight. >> this is just a really bizarre situation because you have the white house initially saying that this whole idea that congressman nunes would have gotten this information from the white house then rushed back to the white house to brief the president about the information doesn't pass the smell test and frankly it doesn't, but it seems
that some pieces of that are now accurate. at least some of the sources nunes had came from the white house, and then he turned around and went right back to the president with it. the president, by the way, would have full access to this information. people i talked to in intelligence circles today said that it does seem like the information that nunes has been referring to on the surface would be information that got caught in normal intelligence channels, normal collections of foreign officials, and frankly the white house political officials like to see what foreign governments are saying about the president. it puts our government at an advantage. that's why some of these programs exist in the first place. >> that's why it's called intelligence. and jeremy bash, last night i asked you -- i guess we were talking about the nunes matter seemingly so insignificant now 24 hours later. i asked you how big a crisis this was.
let me revise my remarks and my question and ask you again in light of mike flynn looking for immunity because he knows so much, how big of a crisis is this? >> when i think about checks and balances, when i think about the congress being a check on the executive branch, brian, the image i have in my head of the white house is a runaway train. the brakes are out, and you pull your last best hope, the emergency brake. the great congress of the united states, and the handle literally breaks off in your hand. that is how much trouble we're in. >> okay. on that, we thank members of the panel. thank you all for coming tonight and sharing your work with us as we try to get a handle on this conversation, yet another breaking story on our watch. we'll take another break. and coming up, president trump takes on members of the freedom caucus. that would be fellow republicans. that heats up when we return.
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he went on to call some of them out by name. quote, if congressman mark meadows, jim jordan, and raul labrador would get on board, we would have great health care and massive tax cuts and reform. >> here is what some of them had to say in response. >> is this a massive negotiation by the president? is this a constructive way to do it? >> i mean, it's constructive in fifth grade. >> i don't work for the president. i don't work for the leadership. i work for the american people. >> i don't know who is giving him that counsel, but if it's the same counsel that is putting a bill that is 17% on the house floor, when the american people are 17% approval, it's not a winner. >> the fact is you have to look at the legislation, and it doesn't do what we told the voters we were going to do and the american people understand that. that's why only 17% of the population supports this legislation. >> this place is a swamp, not a
hot tub. the people sent us here. conservatives, republicans that believe in what they campaigned on, and donald trump. they sent us here to drain the swamp. >> we've asked robert costa to hang out with us a while longer. and joining us is the senior politics reporter for "usa today." and a political analyst, as well. so robert, the president it is often noted is not an ideologue. a lot of his members are. they come to their ideological leanings honestly. a lot of them represent -- if you polled their districts, that's how their district would vote. these are some important members of the republican party in the house. is the white house prepared to do business this way? >> they may be getting ready to do business. it takes some time. when i spoke to president trump last week, late last week, he said he was surprised by what he called the anger within the congressional ranks of his party.
this is a factional wonderland inside of the house gop, the tuesday group, the moderates, the freedom caucus, the hard liners, the leadership, the older appropriators. the president, the officials at the white house, they're grappling with this reality, an environment that's been simmering with all these different divides long before the president ever got here, and he's acting out about it. >> heidi, just a reality check here. this is a president polling at 35%. we've just seen the defeat of a health care measure that polled at half that, 17%. the white house is talking about getting democrats to switch over and vote with them, and the white house is talking about maybe making sure the republicans who are out of line get primary challengers back home. what do you make of this tactic? >> you know, the metaphor i
think of is he's trying to bare his teeth at the freedom caucus, but it is really rather toothless. the democrats are never going to negotiate with him as long as his goal is repeal, and the white house has made it clear their goal is still repeal. that's a nonstarter. and just as you saw from those clips that you played of the republicans, they don't exactly appear fear stricken. you heard a number of them mention 17% approval over and over again. they don't appear fear stricken of trump himself using the same tactics he used himself in the negotiation over health care when he called mark meadows forward and actually threatening him, which in the end the analysis was that made it virtually impossible for mark meadows to actually negotiate with him. so yes, this is a tactic, but i don't see any of these members are actually intimidated by it. when you think about it, what is the outside group that's going to primary them?
it kind of works that the coke brothers, which is a group that puts a lot of money into republican campaigns, has threatened the opposite. who are they more afraid of, a plan with 17% approval or groups like the coke brothers? >> just to add to heidi's smart point there, i was talking to a top white house official today. i was mentioning all the dynamics heidi was talking about, but they said look, we're going to send that plane, talking about air force one, to the districts. they're going to smell the freedom caucus members, the jet fuel of air force one, and that's going to be pretty clarifying for them. if you're winning your district and you're a conservative republican, winning it by 25 points every two years, is air force one and a rally with president trump really going to scare you? >> and gerrymandered. the republicans created this dynamic where a lot of these members are safe.
>> the last gentleman we heard from, massey of kentucky said this is a swamp, not a hot tub, when he was interviewed about his hell no vote on health care, he spoke with great confidence about representing his district in kentucky, that he liked his chances back home in effect better than a president polling at 35% and a measure polling at 17. >> right. that goes i guess to the previous point i was making as well is that a lot of these members are more concerned about a challenger from the right. in many cases they are the challenger from the right, right? so there's not a lot of fear until the president proves that he's actually willing to go out and do that. right now the threat is he's going to negotiate with democrats. i also spent a lot of time pounding the pavement talking with some of the democrats who he would most obviously talk to like senators mark warner and tim kaine, the moderates who have made overtures to him in the past, writing a letter in january.
none of them have even heard from the white house, so it is not a real threat. and robert, about heidi's point right there, every white house has a chief lobbyist, someone called the head of congressional liaison, but you are the face of the administration up on the hill. you're supposed to see leadership all the time until they get sick of you. where the rubber meets the road, what does the white house need and want out of these men and women in congress next? so they're going to be going after votes on infrastructure to build a southern border wall. how will that go over in kentucky, in upstate new york? tax reform. that is, as everyone says, a heavy lift. >> couple things to watch. government funding expires late april. >> there is that. that's right. >> so the republicans are talking about tax reform, infrastructure, all these different projects and endeavors they want to pursue, but let's see if they can get the votes,
whether there's an appropriations package, or a clean resolution with nothing attached keep the government funded in late april. that's a challenge right over the horizon. and there is a real divide even on strategy. the president is making these comments about democrats who do have a trust gap with the president, as heidi was talking about. at the same time, speaker ryan is saying i don't want to see the republicans work with the democrats on things like health care. let's keep working with my agenda. you've got some angst on both sides of pennsylvania avenue. >> we're 45 minutes into our hour long broadcast, most of which has been taken up by general flynn and russia. there is that cloud that is going to prevent republicans from saying anything nice about the boss. >> absolutely. and it's kind of grinding everything to a halt because it's not just that republicans won't necessarily get up and defend him. it's the democrats also have no fear in being very bold and threatening, for example, to filibuster gorsuch.
so even things that a week or two ago looked like they would happen easily are now kind of grinding to a halt, and if the various factions of the republican party, such as not only the freedom caucus, but also this tuesday more moderate group, don't have incentive to kind of get behind him, it's going to be really hard to get a single thing done because like robert says. they're facing a really fundamental test after for so many years fighting just to keep the government open if they themselves are capable of that. >> guys, think of it this way. if we have one of those crazy showdowns for the government closing down, you'll be in great shape to cover it. it always happens at midnight and we keep you up late all the time. thank you both for staying up with us tonight and always. we'll take another break. when "the 11th hour" continues, the difficult task of trying to
we are back and with us for this segment, former managing editor of "time" magazine who covered several political campaigns, and he also happens to be the former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in the obama administration. welcome back to the broadcast. >> good to be here with you, brian. >> speaking of the overarching theme of russia, the spector of investigations into ties with russia, we have tonight the general flynn story. your reaction to this latest development. >> well, it's ominous, brian. not to make it even more ominous than it is, but i think people also have to realize not only is russia trying to undermine the legitimacy of our democracy by meddling in our election, something they've been doing for decades, they're trying to undermine the total post-war
liberal world order and create a different kind of world, a world of spheres of influence where we don't medicine -- meddle in their affairs and we don't meddle in their affairs. it is a wholesale of change that putin is trying to engineer. >> the thing that's interesting and despairing is the putin model of trying to recreate reality, when they invaded crimea and he said there were no russian soldiers there, a lie. when a couple of weeks later he said there were russian soldiers, he didn't say sorry i told you an untruth a little while ago. he was recreating reality. donald trump is not a man who has ever apologized or has said he's made a mistake about anything. he's trying to push whatever he said was wrong in the background and recreate a new reality. that is a the trump playbook. we're seeing that in our domestic space. to me, that's worrisome. when a couple of weeks later he said there were russian soldiers there, he didn't say i'm sorry i told you an untruth a little
while ago, he was recreating reality. donald trump is not a man who has ever apologized or said he made a mistake about anything. he tries to recreate reality to kind of push whatever he said that was wrong in the background and recreate a new reality. that is the trump playbook. and we're seeing that in our domestic space. and to me that is a worry. >> and because you spent so much of your life in the communications business, because that attempted recreation of reality comes via twitter often, we put together a graphic of all of the white house briefings that have ever taken place, 32 of them. 22 briefings have featured questions about what the president of the united states and leader of the free world has said on twitter. think of everything that has been done in service to just what he tweeted about his predecessor wiretapping trump tower, the nunes business, think of the unforced errors.
>> in looking at the trump administration and you do it nightly i always try to divide it into what is simple incompetence, what is malfeas malfeasance, and what is policy? we had a president in barack obama who probably had the greatest and most complex filter on everything he said than any president in american history, followed by a president who has no filter at all. and these tweets become the source of all the information and everybody becomes the 6-year-old at the soccer game following the ball, which is his tweets. i don't know if that is by design or accident, i don't know if that is incompetence. it remains to be seen. >> and we've heard different versions from sean spicer, from the white house podium, things
that are not true. do you think from looking at the industry we have been candid enough? we see a sea change in the wording every night. >> it's funny, i've been teaching this every year, and one of the things i think we need is kind of a glossary of how we talk about these things. what is misinformation, and propaganda? and i think we're still sting this out. you know, sean spicer has a very, very hard job trying to parse out what the president is saying, what is ignorance or what is policy? i think we're in this very, very strange playing field right now where it's hard to sort out. >> give me the 30 second version if you got called in as a long-time government hand, and i said i want to get out of this, what would you recommend? >> i would recommend you stop tweeting. and i would recommend that
everything that comes out of the white house is something that is coordinated with what you think and what you want to do from a policy sense and the podium is the avocation of that, but it should all be organized. >> it's always good to have you here. another break for us, what we come back who is going to tell vladimir putin, hey, vlad, that was a great story you told about ronald reagan, but you got it wrong. more when we continue. >> now you're telling me i had no meetings with the russians, i just want to know if you met him in cleveland and talked to him. >> i'm not going to deny i talked to him. i will say i never met him anywhere outside of cleveland. let's just say that much. >> the only time that you met him was in cleveland. >> i may have met him possibly. or it might have been in cleveland.
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last things before we go tonight, funny story, at least to hear vladimir putin tell it. don't even get him started. but there he was at a conference, as in addition to his great physical skill and charm, he impressed the audience with his great quotes from modern u.s. presidential history. >> mr. president, i just want to be very clear about this, you and the russian government did never try to influence the outcome of the u.s. presidential election, and there will be no evidence found? >> ronald reagan once was debating about taxes and addressing the americans said watch my lips, he said no, watch my lips. no. >> okay, minor thing. it was not reagan, it was his vice president, later our
president, george walker bush, and you got the exact quote wrong. >> read my lips, no new taxes. >> and one more tiny thing. it did not end well. president bush was famously forced to then raise taxes and reverse his word. but a story for another time. that is our broadcast for this evening. thank you for being here with us. good night from all of us from new york. a report that the white house orchestrated its own vindication of the trump claim,
the big story is michael flynn. michael flynn today it was reported told the fbi and both congressional committees he will flynn was president trump's closest adviser on national security throughout the campaign and was named national security adviser by trump, but only lasted a month. he was fired in mid-february after lying about conversations he had with the russian ambassador. that coming weeks after acting attorney general sally yates had warned the white house that flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by the russian government because of the nature of those conversations and the falsehoods he used to describe them. tonight after news broke that he offered to testify in exchange for immunity, flynn's lawyer released a statement reading, in part, general flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit. he is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by members of congress and other