tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC May 26, 2018 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
i always wish i had more time with these friends. my thanks to bret stephens, mike murphy and heather mcgee. i'm nicolle wallace. i'll see you back here monday for deadline white house at 4:00 p.m. the world according to trump. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm steve kornacki in for chris matthews. it's been less than 24 hours since president trump abruptly canceled his date with north korean dictator kim jong-un. once again, ratcheting up tensions on the world stage. despite that, though, president trump today declared that america is back and finally getting the respect it deserves. trump making that statement at a
speech at the navy academy earlier today. >> for we are witnessing the great reawakening of the american spirit and of american might. we have rediscovered our identity, regained our stride, and we're proud again. our country has regained the respect that we used to have long ago abroad. yes, they're respecting us again. yes, america is back. >> earlier this morning, president trump said the north korean summit might be back on. he told reporters the u.s. was still talking to north korea and that when it comes to negotiations, quote, everybody plays games. >> mr. president, is the summit still off? >> we're going to see what happens. we're talking to them now.
it was a very nice statement they put out. we'll see what happens. no, no. we'll see what happens. it could even be the 12th. we're talking to them now. they very much want to do it. we'd like to do it. we're going to see what happens. everybody plays games. you know that. >> nbc news reported that trump canceled the summit fearing that the north koreans might beat him to the punch and he wanted to be the one to cancel first. that is according to multiple officials. nbc news also reported that there were significant disagreements among the president's top advisers, especially secretary of state mike pompeo and national security adviser john bolton. one official says the process was, quote, like herding cats. despite the continued public optimism, "the new york times" reporting that the white house officials remain skeptical because as one senior official said, june 12th is in ten minutes. on the campaign trail, trump described himself as a deal maker and frequently touted his negotiating skills. >> i will bring america to a new
level. i will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like i do. i know everybody that i'm running against. nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things i can do. it's supposed to be you get along with congress and you cajole, and you go back and forth, and everybody gets in a room and we end up with deals. you're supposed to gather people around and make great deals. i want to make great deals from my side of the equation. otherwise you're going to have a stagnant country like you do right now. you have no negotiation. you have washington is in total gridlock. >> as the new yorker's susan glasser points out. deal making has proven challenging for the president. quote, there are no deals with trump, and there are increasingly unlikely to be, not on nafta, middle east peace. trump is a much better deal breaker than deal maker. i'm joined by nicholas kristof, "new york times" columnist, jonathan lemire, and sui mi
terry. thanks to all of you for joining us. jonathan lemire, let me start with you just on what is going on inside the white house to precipitate the cancellation and how active are the talks now in terms of getting this back on the schedule potentially? >> this is something that the president has really wanted despite some people around him, some of his closest advisers really urging caution to go ahead with this deal, even some suggesting by just agreeing to the summit in the first place, you've already given kim jong-un an air of legitimacy he did not have. they made efforts in recent days to try to set up logistics to make this thing in singapore in the middle of june, and north korea suddenly disengaged on a lot of talks, setting off alarm bells in the white house and the state department. therefore, would they actually be willing to give away what the president wants them to do? but you heard today a little bit of more optimism from the president and from those around the white house, that this is something he still wants. he sees this as not just something important for global safety, of course, but also as a
real win for him. the idea that not just the nobel peace prize, but the idea of accomplishing something that no american president has been able to do, to bring peace to the korea ns peninsula, something that he thinks not only would bolster his poll numbers but would perhaps inoculate him from some of these federal investigations surrounding him and perhaps even have a trickle-down effect to republicans in the midterms. the idea can you really vote against this president and his party if he's suddenly brought peace to korea, something no one else has been able to do. >> we are talk about this later at the board, but to look at trump's poll numbers. nick kristof, in terms of the possibility this is still something the president very much wants to make happen, that line he had there today saying, everybody plays games, do you see any strategy behind the abrupt cancellation that would give trump, that would give the administration more leverage in terms of picking things up now?
>> no. sha essentially what it did was antagonize south korea and our asian allies in the same way that withdrawal from the iran deal antagonized europe. it seems to have been based as well, at least according to nbc, on a complete misunderstanding of north korea's position, an assumption that north korea was about to back out of the deal, which is preposterous just as earlier trump seemed to enter the idea of the singapore talks on a completion delusion that north korea was about to completely hand over all its nuclear weapons, which likewise was preposterous. so, you know, i've been covering north korea. i've been visiting north korea since the 1980s. this is a moment of tremendous opportunity and risk, and it is so maddening to see this being mismanaged with this combination of ineptitude and innorrance and kind of obliviousness. >> sui mi terry, as you watch
everything that's playing out in the united states and north korea, do you think there still will be a summit? could it still be on that june date? will there be no summit at all? what's your expectation at this point? >> i actually expect a summit to take place. maybe time line could slip a little bit because of logistical issues but nick was absolutely correct. i think the trump administration really misunderstood north korea here. north korea had no intention of canceling the summit. the two previous statements that they produced, there was protest all this talk about libya and all this. they didn't mean to cancel the meeting. so when you look at the last statement they produced seven hours after trump canceled the meeting, it was very conciliatory. i have never seen a north korean statement actually personally praising trump, saying he's a bold decision maker and so on. so i think north korea is very much into having this meeting with trump, and summit will take place because president trump also wants it. >> nbc news reported there was
significant disagreement within the administration over what to do about north korea. one person close to trump said the president was unhappy with vice president pence's public remarks appearing to threaten regime change in north korea. meanwhile, according to several administration officials, secretary of state mike pompeo, who was taking the lead in negotiating with the north koreans, blamed john bolton for torpedoing the progress that had already been made. bolton, the president's national security adviser, has a long history of calling for regime change in north korea. >> i think this is potentially a meeting that begins and ends with the president saying, tell me what you're going to do to denuclearize, and kim jong-un saying, well, we'll have talks about this and talks about that. so it could be a long and unproductive meeting or a short and unproductive meeting. north korea has a playbook of phrases they use depending on what their propaganda strategy is. i think that their history over decades is that they, like iran,
like others, use negotiations to buy time to conceal their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities. >> are there any diplomatic options left in your view? >> i think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in north korea. >> well, john, you see this is a priority of the president, something he cares about. do you have a sense who has his ear? we're showing bolton there, pompeo. is there a sense within the administration whose view of this he's most sensitive to? >> that changes minute by minute as with most things with president trump, particularly with advisers who are in and out of favor. it is a truism in the trump administration he tends to listen to the newer voices in the room. both pompeo and bolton are relative new additions to the administration. tom p pompeo has made two trips to north korea. he's urging the president to move forward, perhaps cautiously, but believes it should happen. bolton has suggested he will go
along with what the president has said but has advised against it. he does not think kim jong-un is to be trusted. he thinks regime change would be the best course of action here. within the white house, in the last few hours they've said there is a team of staffers that are supposed to go to singapore in the next day sor or so to won logistics of the summit. that doesn't mean the summit will happen or will happen on june 12th, but it's an indication they have not quite given up on the possibility of these talks. >> it's interesting too, nick, when you talk about bolton saying regime change, bolton talking about making another libya out of north korea, libya where gadhafi gave up the nuclear weapons and then a decade later he's taken from power and he's killed. it does raise the bigger picture question about any potential negotiations here, how there ever could be a middle ground if the goal from the u.s. standpoint is denuclearization and trump has said basically nothing short of that, and then you've got a north korean regime that would say, well, look what happened to gadhafi.
>> so there are people in the administration and i mean a lot of korea watchers who i think can envision a process, and it involves reaching some kind of a general statement and then north korea blows up some icbms. it freezes production of nuclear materials. it stops nuclear tests, missile tests. and then over time, sanctions, especially from china and south korea, are eased. and the main thing is we're not shooting missiles at each other. it's not north korea denuclearizing, but it's at least better than where we are now. but the problem is that john bolton is dead set against that, and, you know, look, at the end of the day, bolton has a perfect record of getting things rowron over the last 20 years on iraq, on iran, on north korea. in the case of north korea, in 2002 he helped kill the agreed framework which had halt the north korean production of nuclear materials, and he seems
to have -- my reading of this is that he killed this pompeo outreach, possibly by misleading the president about what north korea was going to do. likewise in 2003-2004, he killed an earlier european deal with iran, and now earlier this month, he helped kill the latest iran deal. so i think that john bolton is -- has this -- he's hit the trifecta of getting every major thing wrong, and now he's indeed doing it again. >> sue mi from the north korean perspective, do you have a sense what the north korean regime, what their read is on trump? do they think they figure td hi o o out, what his game is here? >> it's hard for any of us to figure that out so i'm not sure if north koreans have figured it out. but certainly the last stiemt th -- statement that was released by north korea personally praising trump, that they also
learned a few lessons of how to deal with trump. but i think trump canceling the summit to begin with, i think that did kind of surprise the north koreans because they're not used to u.s. president acting this way. they did get away with all these kind of antics before. so i think that did kind of surprise the north koreans. so i think they're still trying to figure out how trump works like the rest of us. >> we also -- we have some breaking news here. it's not actually on this topic. it's on the topic of trump and the russia investigation. but one of our guests has broken this news. jonathan lemire on set with us here. he's breaking the news that trump defense lawyer rudy giuliani telling him tonight that trump's, quote, legal team wants a briefing on the classified information shared with lawmakers and may take it to the justice department as part of an effort to scuttle the ongoing special counsel probe. giuliani telling the a.p., if the spying was inappropriate, that means we may have an entirely illegitimate investigation. again, rudy giuliani telling this to jon lemire, who is with us now. what more can you tell us?
>> i spoke to the former mayor a couple hours ago, and he said this. that the white house, these two meetings, sort of unprecedented meetings yesterday in which, in the president's parlance, a spy who had contacts with the trump campaign to determine their relationship with any russian officials, that they want a similar briefing or some sort of readout that the lawmakers got yesterday. and that has certainly raised concerns that that would give him information that perhaps would impact the president, who is a, if not target, certainly subject of this probe. but what giuliani told me is they want to take this information and if any dethey d damaging, they would take this to the justice department and make it part of this case, why this probe shouldn't be here, that it was founded on illegitimate means, that it was founded on information from this spy in their terminology that they think shouldn't have had
this access, and jim comey's memos. they would make that case probably to deputy attorney general rod rosenstein to say, look, maybe this probe should be halted in its tracks. >> this is news breaking now at the associated press. thank you for joining us. coming up, a milestone moment in the "me too" movement as hollywood mogul harvey weinstein is arrested, handcuffed and charged with rape in a new york courtroom. the charges come after scores of women accused weinstein of sexual misconduct, accusations that triggered a global campaign to uproot powerful and predatory men. plus more and more states are teaming up to ditch the electoral college and go with the popular vote when it comes to picking a president. chris matthews joins us for a look at that. and is there anything to the talk that the blue wave that some democrats have been talking about for this fall? maybe it's receding. i'm going to be at the big board breaking down what we know and maybe what we don't know right now. finally some new developments in the russia investigation which continues
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there is yet another eyebrow raising report about president trump's embattled epa administrator scott pruitt. according to spending summaries released by the epa, taxpayers spent about $3.5 million on security for pruitt during his first year in office. politico reports the figure is more than twice what pruitt's predecessor spent in the final year of the obama administration. the epa maintains the increased security is needed given what they say had been an increase in threats made against pruitt. be right back. i'm gonna regret that. with new car replacement, if your brand new car gets totaled, liberty mutual will pay the entire value plus depreciation. liberty stands with you. liberty mutual insurance. (vo)have to happen?idn't
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sexual assault charges. this comes months after a slew of allegations of misconduct brought down the mogul's career and sparked a national reckoning on issues of sexual harassment and misconduct. weinstein was arrested, handcuffed and arraigned in new york on allegations from two different women. he faces three felony counts, first degree rape, third degree rape. weinstein has consistently denied having engaged in any nonconsensual sex. his attorney spoke to reporters after weinstein appeared in court and said his client plans to plead not guilty. >> my job is not to defend behavior. my job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. bad behavior -- mr. weinstein did not invent the casting couch in hollywood, and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about. bad behavior is not on trial in this case. it's only if you intentionally
committed a criminal act, and mr. weinstein vigorously denies that. >> weinstein is now free after posting $1 million in bail, surrendering his passport, and agreeing to wear an electronic monitor. at least 95 women have accused weinstein of a wide range of misconduct ranging from harassment to rape over four decades. one of weinstein's accusers, actress rose mcgowan had this message for him today. >> no more tears, not because of you. not anymore. today, today we rejoice. tomorrow will be hard again. but today we can have a moment for all of us. this is for all of us who have been told we are nothing. >> and for more i'm joined by msnbc legal analyst katie phang. katie, 95 different stories that have emerged publicly here about weinstein. let's be clear. what is it exactly he's being
charged with here? which ones do they think they've got him on and what's the potential he's looking at if he's convicted here? >> so there's one criminal indictment that's been brought by the grand jury against harvey weinstein for two separate victims. for one victim, there are two counts. one first degree charge of rape, one-third degree charge of rape. then for the second victim, it's the forcible compulsion oral sex charge that's being brought against harvey weinstein. for any of the first degree charges which is also the last one we just discussed, it's anywhere from 5 to 25 years in prison. the third remaining charge was that rape in the third degree. that's actually punishable by probation. but for a man who is 66 years old like harvey weinstein, 5 to 25 years in prison is actually a lot. the victims in this case are going to be challenged to convince a jury if it makes it that far that the conduct that was committed by harvey weinstein was nonconsensual because harvey weinstein has basically teed up for the prosecution in this case, steve, the fact that, yeah, the contact
may have happened. but according to harvey weinstein, it was purely consensual. >> if it makes it that far. do you think there's a decent probability of some kind of plea, some kind of agreement here? >> well, that's kind of a two-prong answer for you. one, we know benjamin brafman has announced on the courthouse steps that he plans to vigorously defend harvey weinstein, including filing a motion to dismiss very quickly. the legal grounds for that motion to dismiss will challenge whether the prosecution has basically alleged enough in terms of the elements of the cause of action that are being brought against harvey weinstein. but, yeah, there's always the possibility for a plea. today is not the first time we've seen a criminal defense attorney, you know, very vigorously say on the courthouse steps that their client is innocent and that they're going to be fighting the charges. and so harvey weinstein can always take a plea, but i will guarantee you that anything from cyrus vance's office is going to include jail time, and whether harvey weinstein can stand that, from what we hear, he couldn't even get -- you know, he couldn't get comfortable in the jail cell the few hours he was there. so i don't really think he's going to be taking a plea
anytime soon. >> michelle, katie talks about what may be the defense here. certainly publicly sounded like is going to be the defense from weinstein side, the comment from his lawyer that he's not the guy who invented the casting couch. what was your reaction to hearing that? >> well, he didn't invent rape either. i mean that's not the -- i think the idea is to say, well, this was an accepted part of the exchange in hollywood. so how can you punish someone who thought he was entitled to behave like this? and obviously what they're going to try to do then is smear these women, saying these women kind of knew what they were getting into, they understood the bargain they were making. i think, you know, we have 95 women who testify not just to coercion, not just to him sort of offering a quid pro quo, but to him destroying those who don't go along with him, right, when he's not actually physically forcing himself on them. so i think they're going to try to take something that's
extremely grave and make it seem as if these women kind of knew what they were doing and now regret it. >> the fact that he's being charged with this, i keep thinking back to the -- it's probably an inept parallel, but the financial crisis and none of these executives faced a trial. you've got somebody from this "me too" movement, you've got somebody now who is facing a potential trial, facing criminal penalty, facing prison. what is the broader significance of that? is there one? >> i think it's twofold. on the one hand, it's this e nrmous vindication obviously for rose mcgowan and all these other women who have come forward and a sign that finally the law is starting to take these things seriously. i also feel like there's something a little melancholy that this is what it takes. 95 women, two pulitzer prize winning investigations to bring charges against a man this powerful. you look at bill cosby. it took over 60 women, i believe, as well as two trials before he had to answer for what
are pretty clearly established crimes. and so, again, you know, about three months -- not even a few months after the "me too" movement began, you heard people saying, has this gone too far? is this turning into a witch hunt. harvey weinstein might have been trying to allude to a witch hunt with his biography of elia kazan that he brought with him into the courthouse. but really what i think this underlines again is just what it takes to get any measure of justice for women who have been victimized by powerful men. >> michelle goldberg and katie phang, thanks for joining us. up next, it is a movement that could drastically change this country's presidential elections. state as cross the nation looking to side step the electoral college, instead choose the president by popular vote. chris matthews is going to join us after the break with a look at that. this is "hardball," where the action is.
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remember, we won the election, and we won it easily. you know, a lot of people say, oh, it was close. and by the way they also like to talk about the electoral college. it's an election based on the electoral college. i would rather have a popular election, but it's a totally different campaign. it's as though you're running -- if you're a runner, you're practicing for the 100 yard dash as opposed to the one mile. the electoral college is different. i would rather have the popular vote because it's, to me, it's much easier to win the popular
vote. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was president trump saying he'd rather have the popular vote decide presidential elections instead of the electoral vote even though hillary clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by almost 3 million votes. well, earlier this month, connecticut voted to become the 12th state, including d.c., to join the national popular vote interstate compact, which would require state electors to vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote instead of the system already electors are assigned based on how the state votes. this system would only go into effect if states representing 270 electoral votes, the threshold presidential candidates currently need to win, sign on to the popular vote compact. with connecticut's seven expected electoral votes, they currently have 172 votes. i'm joined by james glassman, a board member of the making every vote count foundation and the former undersecretary of state in the george w. bush administration. jim, thank you for coming on.
give us a sense of how this -- i've explained the basic structure of this, that the popular vote would rule. tell us about why you got into this. you're a republican. why did you get into this? >> i am, and i got into it because i think americans are disengaged and disillusioned with their political system and that's not good. it's not good for democracy, and most of them -- that's what polls show -- want a system where the person who gets the most popular votes becomes president. that's how we elect everybody else, and that's what americans want. and it's not actually all that hard to get there. so that's how i got interested in it. and what frankly i did not know that at the point i got interested in it, 11 states had already passed this compact. now i got involved in connecticut, and connecticut's an interesting state because it's -- the senate is evenly divided between republicans and democrats, and yet we won in the senate by 21-14. so we're moving ahead, and this is going to happen, i think.
>> tell me about the psychology. how do you think, knowing that every vote counts, say if you live in a state -- i don't think i've lived in a state where my vote counts. like maryland tends to go democrat. pennsylvania, when i voted as a kid, that's a pretty close state. the fact is this would make every vote count no matter where you lived. >> right. that's the main point, chris. there are really -- elections, presidential elections -- and you know this -- are decided by about a dozen states. so one of the reasons why you've lived in states where your vote doesn't count is three quarters of americans live in such states. and, you know, connecticut's a good example. i mean nobody campaigns in connecticut. in the 2016 election, $330 got spent on presidential advertising. so people are left out. what we want and what most americans want is a system where everybody's vote counts and counts the same. and that's what would happen if we had a popular vote deciding who's the president. >> suppose you get enough states
for 270 electoral votes, which is enough votes to win an election in the electoral college. what do those states like montana, north dakota, the little states that benefit from the electoral college -- what would they do based on the fact that their candidate may lose that election in the popular vote? >> well, interestingly enough, small -- a lot of people believe that the original system was to protect small states. but that actually has not worked out. in fact, the 12 states where the elections decided do not include a single small state other than new hampshire, which is not a three-electoral vote state. it's a four-electoral vote state. there are seven states that have only three electoral votes and not a single one is among the states where the votes are contested. that's really not an issue. this is a means to get to an end, this compact. and the end is that everybody's vote counts exactly the same. >> what would stop -- if we go with this system, if it does come into play with 270
electoral votes shifting to this compact, wouldn't the candidates spend most of their time in highly populated areas like new york and california and maybe connecticut and not go to the little states? isn't that a problem, why the little states are afraid? the candidates wouldn't go there. >> i don't think we really know what would happen if everyone -- if everyone's vote counted the same. my guess is that candidates would campaign much more broadly. i mean let's take a look at california. i think it's a good example. so california elects its governor. there are 35 million people who live in california. it's almost like a small country. and yet candidates for governor campaign all over the state. i mean the three largest cities in california only have a population of 6 million out of the 35 million. so i think that would happen all over the country. you know, don't forget richard nixon campaigned in every state. maybe that was a mistake for him, but the idea of campaigning all over the country is not some kind of weird idea. what's weird is that candidates
only campaign in 12 states. >> yeah, and that's not a good system. thank you so much, james glassman, with the making of every vote count foundation. >> thank you. >> steve? >> all right. thanks for that, chris. up next, is that democratic blue wave starting to recede, or are democrats still poised to take the house this november? i'm going to go to the big board. we've got a lot of numbers to break down and a lot to talk about. you're watching "hardball." ens? this is your new name. this is your new house. and a perfectly inconspicuous suv. you must become invisible. [hero] i'll take my chances.
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ohhh. ooh ohh here we go, here we go. you got cut off there, what were you saying? oooo. oh no no. maybe that geico has been proudly serving the military for over 75 years? is that what you wanted to say? mhmmm. i have to say, you seemed a lot chattier on tv. geico. proudly serving the military for over 75 years. you ok back there, buddy? ithe race for governort. has turned into a scam. gavin newsom's trying to elect a republican who was endorsed by trump. and villaraigosa's being bankrolled by a handful of billionaires. it's everything that's wrong with politics. and none of it is helping struggling families. here's my pledge to you. i'll keep our budget balanced. invest in affordable housing.
fight for universal healthcare. and stand up to donald trump. as governor, you can trust me to do what's right- because i always have. all right. welcome back to "hardball." we've got to talk about the midterm elections, folks, because something big might be happening right now, or maybe it isn't. let's go to the big board to show you what i mean. so this is something we've been tracking. obviously everybody who is following these elections has been tracking throughout the trump presidency. the generic ballot. you call people up. you ask them, you want to vote for the democrats? you want to vote for the republicans for congress? remember at the end of last
year, democrats built a double-digit advantage on this question. remember they just won that special election in alabama. they were up 13 points on average at the end of the year in the generic ballot. well, guess what's happened more recently? that thing has been tightening, closing, and now if you average them together, the margins just four points. you falk to republicans who are trying to hold on to the house, keep democrats from getting those 23 seats, this he say they can do that if it's four points. if it's 13, forget about it. but if it's four, republicans thunk they can do it. what else is happening? donald trump's approval rating. it's been pretty low throughout his presidency but there's a question here of how low is it going to be. there's a certain point there where it might not cost republicans the house. it was 37% at the end of last year. it was in the 30s for a lot of 2017 into 2018. more recently it has begun to tick up. again, 44%. we're not talking reagan in 1984 here. we're not talking that territory. but by trump standards, 44% is pretty much as good as it's been for him since he's been president. so what is happening?
an uptick for republicans in the generic ballot, an uptick for trump in his approval rating and maybe rosier prospects. a poll on trump's handling of the economy. this is up almost ten points from earlier in the year. this is over 50%, over majority approval on the economy. is it just simply that rising tide lift's the president's boat politically? is that what's going on? that's possible. how about north korea? the summit is off right now. let's see what happens. but again recent poll here, trump's approval on north korea, his handling of it, 53%. the key here, that's up almost 20 points from late last year. so maybe he's been getting some credit for at least until this week, at least until the last 24 hours or so, how north korea had been going. maybe that's driving it. maybe it's the attention paid to the stormy daniels, the whole sex scandal. the sex scandal with bill clinton ended up helping him in 1998. there is a question here of it's may. how much does all of this mean? how temporary is all of this?
think back to the last major giant wave election in a midterm. 2010. at this point in 2010, if you had looked at the generic ballot, democrats were ahead. this week in 2010, democrats were talking about how all that talk about a republican tsunami in the 2010 midterms, maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up today. they led the generic ballot and of course we know what ended up happening. republicans gained 63 seats and they certainly were leading in the generic ballot by that point. it's a long way of saying there were some indications right now that are giving republicans reason for hope, democrats reason for worry. we want to see if those things continue or if, as we've seen before, they prove to be very temporary, springtime blips. a little bit of suspense, a little bit of drama in an election season. i think everybody looking to head to november to see what happens. up next, new developments today in the russia investigation. new evidence keeps emerging in the mueller investigation despite the president's attempts
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>> all you have to do is look at the basics and you'll see. it looks like a very serious event. but we'll find out. when they look at the documents, i think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened. i hope it's not so because if it is, there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. i hope -- i mean if you look at clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. but i hope it's not true, but it looks like it is. >> welcome back to "hardball." president trump has spent the week accusing the intelligence community of spying on his campaign, and he continued that distraction campaign this morning with a tweet storm on the topic, writing, can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain? and to think that the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, lost. as we mentioned earlier, trump defense lawyer rudy giuliani telling the associated press
tonight that trump's legal team wants a briefing on the classified information shared with lawmakers and may take it to the justice department as part of an effort to scuttle the ongoing special counsel probe. now, "the washington post" fact checker has grifn trump's spy claim four pinocchios pointing out that that narrative is part of a fog machine this president has deployed for months against the probe. let's bring in tonight's "hardball" roundtable. what do you make of -- donald trump came out there and said, look, this is simple. anybody can look at the basics and they will see this is one of the worst scandals in american history. what do you think when he says that? how does that read to folks, do you think? >> well, i actually think that's an open question, right? i mean you were just looking at -- we were talking about the midterms and what's going to happen there. i think there's a big question about how this plays with independents, how this plays with moderates, and how this --
how much this motivates frankly democrats to get out and vote. i mean we know that this is something that his base enjoys. we know that his base pretty much will follow him anywhere. and so i think the question isn't, you know, will his base stay with him. the question is will a middle hold, and how energized are democrats going to be? and certainly that's an open question. but when democrats hear this -- and not just democrats, but when people who are living in mental space where they've actually seen reality of what's been going on in this country and in that administration for the past year and a half, they see this as upside down day. this is a president who has gone out of his way to slander the justice department, congress, completely has no disregard for the separation of powers, and he's trying to discredit the investigation before the results are even in. and i think that's extremely dangerous. >> jen, i mean what we know -- or at least what's been reported
out there, put it that way, is that there was no spy in the campaign. there was nobody within the campaign. there was no mole. there was no plant in the campaign. so it certainly sounds like to read those tweets, to listen to what listen to what the president just said there, that he's taking some liberties here to turn this into almost a siege mentality moment. is that a fair way of what he's doing strategically? >> look, i don't know what you would call it if you have someone who has been sent by the intelligence community, by the opposition party that has utter control of the white house and the intelligence community heads. to put a person like that inside a political campaign -- this is worse than watergate if you look at it. >> let's separate two things. inside the campaign, in the reporting you've seen, tell me if you see something i haven't, there was nobody inside the campaign. >> there was someone sent having meetings with folks and he had been sent by the intelligence community to look into the russia connections.
i'll tell you this. i do think things are upside down for a different reason. i think when you're president trump, you're looking at this and saying this thing exists. you're not paranoid if they're actually following you. we know now two years down the line -- >> there was nobody -- you said in the campaign there again. we're not talking about somebody who was inside the campaign based on the reporting that's out there. also the suggestion there that if the intelligence community is doing it, therefore the party in power is doing it. is that a dangerous connection to make? that means anything the intelligence -- you're saying basically anything the intelligence community does at any point is inherently political and the part of ty in power? >> samantha was doing that 400 times to people in trump tower who are private citizens working on a campaign. we know now the word has been reported infiltrated the campaign. whether you want to say inside the campaign, a campaign
staffer, he infiltrated the campaign and was sent there by the obama administration. i think the longer this goes on -- >> you said two things. infiltrated and by the obama administration. not the intelligence community. philip, let me ask you about this. my understanding from the reports we've seen, yes, this was a person who had a meeting with -- who sought out a meeting, but was not inside the campaign. >> that's right. >> i would say it looks like under some false pretenses here. so there was, and i think there is a question whether this is normal operating procedure with the fbi, especially the political campaign. but infiltrate in the obama administration, that claim. >> i think the claims are invalid. there is a mini fog machine going on. we know, for example, the fbi first had carter page on the radar screen in 2013 when the russians were saying this might be a guy we can convert and get to work for us.
we know the fbi talked to carter page in 2016 well before he spoke with this confidential inform an informant. we know what triggered the investigation, papadopoulos, that started in july. papadopoulos didn't talk until september. this informant spoke with page and papadopoulos. aggressive from saying we're distant from the core of the campaign. now they're saying there is a real risk inside the campaign. we know this confidential informant spoke with them well after each had come to the attention of the fbi. so there is no indication to the point that former mayor giuliani was trying to make this was somehow the nexus, the origination of the investigation was this informant talking to those folks. there is no indication of that whatsoever. but to your point, i spoke with a retired fbi agent who is not complementary to james comey and not complimentary to the fbi at this point in time, but he made very clear that distinction. if you have an informant that is talking to someone, that's what
you do, that's how you investigate, especially counter intelligence investigation. if they got a employee, that is a whole different subject. that is not what happened here. there was no one in the campaign, it's pure semantics, pure political rhetoric to say it was. >> the round table is staying with us. next they'll tell me something we don't know. you're watching hardball. (vo) i was born during the winter of '77. i first met james in 5th grade. we got married after college. and had twin boys. but then one night,
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so, my colleague rosie came out with this piece today i think is pretty important which is about the criminallization of the opioid epidemic. and what she discovered after many months of reporting is essentially that prosecutors across the country have begun to -- excuse me, pursue charges or prosecute friends and family members or even acquaintances of those who overdosed and died from that overdose. those who were nearby them. so, kind of in the search to look for someone to blame, prosecutors, that's what they do, they prosecute understandably. but there is a concern that could actually lead to harm because this has been treated so far overwhelmingly as a public health crisis. and so whereas actually we saw that this went down the wrong path when we criminalized people who are addicted to crack cocaine, we don't want this to happen in this case and i think it's a great story. >> could be a significant shift. jen. >> california could see a
republican governor, a guy named john cox, i've been a big fan of his, is making a run for it. he has taken a big gamble that the sanctuary state showdown will be a winning issue. sure enough he looks to come in second only to gavin newsom and next week during the june 5th jungle primary he has gavin newsom running scare. gavin who is normally has no shortage of words has been refusing to debate this guy. it will be very interesting story if this turns into a battle between jerry brown, donald trump, but also the republican and democrat out there. >> tough state for -- i think pete wilson and schwarzenegger was the last. >> pew research center did a fascinating study this week. they asked americans if they thought there was a responsibility the united states had to accept refugees. of all the groups they surveyed, no group was less likely to say the united states had such a responsibility than white evangelical protestants which i thought was interesting.
26% of republicans said the its had responsibility, only 25% of evangelicals. >> thank you for joining us. that is "hardball." chris mathews will be back here monday night 7:00 eastern. >> tonight we have a very special show. we begin with breaking news. new heat on michael cohen as he's busted for trump tower russia meeting that has never been disclosed before. michael cohen secretly met with a sanctioned russian billionaire just 11 days before donald trump's inauguration. a meeting that was publicly exposed today and is now under investigative scrutiny and there is video. cohen met with viktor vekselberg at trump tower. if that rings a bell tonight it's because it is the very same oligarch questioned by mueller's investigators, the same oligarch behind the company that funneled half a million dollars to michael cohen's shell company that, yes, paid stormy daniels. now, the context is key. vekselberg is considered so clearly and blatantlyse