Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI Transcript 12/1/17 Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Jennifer Rubin, George F. Will, Michael Schmidt; Eli Stokols; Susan Page; Carol Lee, Frank Figliuzzi, John Lauro
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: December 1, 2017
Guest: Jennifer Rubin, George F. Will, Michael Schmidt; Eli Stokols; Susan Page; Carol Lee, Frank Figliuzzi, John Lauro


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: – when that news broke and has been
busy and one of the evenings when I am looking forward to watching
“Hardball” and Chris and Rachel and everyone continue this reporting.

That does it for “the Beat.” Thanks for watching. “Hardball” is now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The beginning of the end? Let`s play
“Hardball.”

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington where there was this
roaring scene outside a federal courthouse here. Michael Flynn, who served
as President Trump`s national security adviser before being fired, walked
into court to plead guilty to a charge of making false statements to the
FBI. It was a stunning moment. And one that takes the Russia
investigation on to a very dangerous path to the White House.

Flynn was the fourth person to be charged in Robert Mueller`s probe but he
is the first to have worked in Trump`s White House. There are few people
who were higher up in the transition.

According to the charging document, Flynn made two false statements to the
FBI about contacts with the Russians. Each instance included conversations
with officials in the Trump transition team which means it`s very likely
more shoes are going to drop.

After President Obama announced new sanctions on the Russians last
December, the Russian ambassador to the United States contacted Flynn.
According to the charges, Flynn called a senior official at the
Presidential transition team. NBC News is reporting it was K.T. McFarlane,
a senior official in the Trump transition, to discuss what, if anything, to
communicate to the Russian ambassador to the U.S. sanctions. They discussed
the members of the Presidential transition team at Mar-a-Lago did not want
Russia to escalate the situation. Flynn relayed that message.

In a separate instance last December, Flynn contacted the Russian
ambassador about a pending vote in the U.N. general assembly regarding
Israel. According to the charges quote “a very senior member of the
Presidential transition team directed Flynn to contact officials from
foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood
on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or
defeat the resolution.”

NBC News reported today that the very senior official was Jared Kushner,
the President`s son-in-law. In a statement today Michael Flynn said, I
recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong. And
through my faith in God I am working to set things right. My guilty plea
and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel`s office reflect the
decision I made in the best wanted of my family and of our country. I
accept full responsibility for my actions.

Well, there was strong reaction to today`s news from Democrats on the Hill
involved in the Russia probe. Their message, there`s more to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: My hope is general Flynn will
tell everything he knows and tell why he was having these contacts with
Russians, who directed these contacts. I think it goes well beyond the
fact that he lied to the FBI.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is clearly not the last
shoe to fall. Now we learn that there is at least one other key member of
the administration or the transition team who is very knowing of what Mike
Flynn did and the fact that Mike Flynn lied about it.

SEN, RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This admission of guilt
by the former national security adviser is a shattering moment for the
Trump presidency. For the first time the special counsel is penetrating
the White House gates. The simplicity of this indictment is a signal that
there`s a lot more to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well for more on this major development today, I`m joined by NBC
News reporter Carol Lee, “USA today`s” Washington bureau Chief Susan Page,
White House reporter for “the Wall Street Journal” Eli Stokols, and “New
York Times” reporter Michael Schmidt.

In order, I want to ask each of you as top correspondents to explain the
implications of this, of having as his primary witness for the prosecution
general Flynn at his disposal now after this plea deal – Carol?

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, it`s what you started to talk about a
few minutes ago, which is that this is an individual who Michael Flynn, who
is by Donald Trump`s side throughout the campaign, was a key player in the
transition, and then spent 24 days inside the White House. There`s nobody
else who has all of those things right now, that we know of, who has
flipped and is cooperating with special counsel. It`s a huge deal.

MATTHEWS: So he knows all about possible collusion with Russia, all about
possible obstruction of justice to cover that up.

LEE: Correct.

MATTHEWS: Susan?

SUSAN PAGE„ WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: So what`s alarming I
think to the White House is that this person who has flipped who is now a
small fish, not a big fish, you don`t flip the person at the top, means
that they have bigger targets in mind.

MATTHEWS: Who`s next? Jared?

PAGE: And there are only three or four people who are bigger targets.

MATTHEWS: Jared?

PAGE: Jared Kushner.

MATTHEWS: Jared gave them the duty, basically, to kill that resolution
against Israel for its settlements.

PAGE: But there - and a couple of other, Donald Trump Jr., I mean. But
there are not very many people that you would allow to negotiate, that you
would negotiate a deal with someone as senior and as important as Michael
Flynn to get somebody else. It`s got to be somebody bigger than him, not
someone smaller.

[19:05:14] LEE: Eli, is he the John Dean of this event? Is he the one,
the deal-cracker that opens up the door to prosecution?

ELI STOKOLS, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: There are a lot of people who say
that analogy is an apt one today, as people have been discussing and
drawing those lines, those parallels back to Watergate. But inside the
White House I think what unnerves them is that – what unnerves the
President about Mike Flynn more than maybe anybody else in this
investigation, is that he has been so quiet. They hadn`t heard from him.
They cut off contact with Trump`s attorneys. And now they had no warning
for this. And so I think –

MATTHEWS: Well, they did get the warning last week when he stopped talking
to the White House lawyers.

STOKOLS: Right, but they weren`t expecting this this morning. They didn`t
get a heads-up that this was coming today. And I think that just, inside
the White House, they don`t really know, they don`t have the information.
What they do know is there were few people closer to this President
throughout the campaign than Mike Flynn. He was someone who was vetted to
be vice President. This is a guy who was with Trump at every - almost
every rally, so.

And when Obama, Sally Yates came and said, you might want to think twice
about this guy, they were in this post-election glow. They thought nothing
could touch them. And they thought they were being political and they said
no, we are going to stick with this guy.

Even after he fired Mike Flynn, Trump regretted firing him. This is a
person that they can say, he will only work here for 25 days. He worked
for the Obama administration too. But there is no, you know, in the real
world, Mike Flynn was pretty close to this.

MATTHEWS: Michael Schmidt, backing that up, it seems to me that Trump laid
that out pretty well by two things. The first stage was getting rid of
Comey because after pushing Comey to protect Flynn and that didn`t work, he
got rid of Comey.

And also, all these months since sort of cuddling up, you know, by long
distance to Flynn. Trying to make him think, we are still together, we are
still buds. All the time he seemed to be saying, I don`t want this guy on
the other team. And now he is on the other team.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, look. Mueller and
the justice department don`t give out cooperation deals like this, plea
deals like this, if they don`t have anything to give. And I think that is
really what unnerves the Trump lawyers is that to go to this extent, to go
this far, is pretty significant. And raises questions about what does he
really know? This is not just something they give out for free. So that
is a, you know, a thing.

And the other thing that I think is significant here is that the Russia
thing continues to cast a cloud over this White House. The White House had
tried to push the notion that by the end of the year, the Russia
investigation would sort of be moved beyond it. That Mueller would have
wrapped up. I don`t think this is the ending of the year that they thought
it was going to be.

MATTHEWS: Well, Ty Cobb, the President`s lawyer must look pretty stupid
right now because he had been telling the President that tale for months
now that everything`s cool. It`s going to be over by Christmas. And also
– all he could do today was trash on the credibility of Flynn by saying he
was Obama`s guy. Although Obama warned them not to hire him. How does he
still have credibility as an attorney for the defense here?

SCHMIDT: Well, in terms of Cobb, look, he is in a very difficult position.
He has forced to explain this. And they fall back on this argument that it
was the Obama administration that had given him a security clearance.

It was also the Obama administration that fired Flynn. They got rid of
Flynn when he was head of DIA, the intelligence branch of the Pentagon.
And as you pointed out, you know, Obama says to Trump at the White House
right after Trump`s elected, hey, look, national security adviser, big job.
You can`t give it to a guy like this, he is not sophisticated enough to do
this. You really need to go with someone better. He wasn`t warning him
about the FBI investigation. He was simply warning him about what he
thought Flynn`s capabilities were.

MATTHEWS: Well, NBC News reported today quoted a source close to Donald
Trump, said the developments regarding Flynn – this talks like a kid, an
8-year-old. Are very, very, very bad. It`s like a kid`s book.

Anyway, Congressman Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence
committee, reacted today pointing to the President`s past behavior
regarding Flynn. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: The President, when he was in the process of firing Mike Flynn,
was at the same time very defensive of Mike Flynn. That`s the kind of
conduct you would expect if the President was forced to fire Mike Flynn not
because he lied, but because the lie was exposed. And if the President is
one of those senior transition officials who was knowing of the contact and
perhaps even supporting this contact with the Russian ambassador, that
would explain both his reluctance to fire Flynn, but also why he would be
intervening with James Comey and urging Comey to drop the Flynn case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What does everybody – Carol, what do you make of the fact that
the President, when he first came into office, said, I didn`t tell good
general Flynn to talk to the Russians but I should have or would have. It
reminded me of the O.J. story, O.J. wrote a book called “If I did it.” Why
would he play coyly like that?

LEE: What he said at the time was essentially – he was trying to say
there was nothing wrong with what Michael Flynn did. He was saying, you
know, I didn`t know about it. But if I did, it would have been fine
because he wanted to make it seem insignificant or diminish it.

[19:10:11] MATTHEWS: OK. Was he covering for something he was denying?
Anyway – I`m sorry.

LEE: Well, no. I was going to say that, you know, for the other piece of
this is that Mike Pence was under the impression, until today, that Michael
Flynn was the only one who knew at the time when he told him he didn`t talk
about sanctions, that he did talk about sanctions. And now it`s clear that
there were others within the Trump orbit, within the White House, who knew
that and knew that the vice President lied about that.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s listen to the President back in February of this
year, what a long year, instead, when he was asked about Flynn`s
conversations with the Russians. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with
the Russian ambassador –

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prior to your inauguration –

TRUMP: No, I didn`t –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And would you have fired him if the information
hadn`t leaked out?

TRUMP: No. I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very
simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his
counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I
would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it. I didn`t
direct him, but I would have directed him, because that`s his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jared Kushner directed him on this. Because he said various
governments, he was checking them, obviously, about the U.N. resolution on
the establishment. So Trump is saying he is hiding the fact that he knew
his son-in-law did it, looks to me. Although he was saying it was fine
what he did.

PAGE: Here`s what`s perplexing is if he did nothing wrong, if he should
have ordered him to do it though he didn`t, why are they lying about it?
Why did they then lie even knowing that would be a felony, to lie to the –

MATTHEWS: So that`s the beginning of the cover-up, the obstruction, OK.
They thought it was against the law, because technically it is.

PAGE: But it`s a law that`s not usually enforced –

MATTHEWS: I know. Do you think that General Flynn knew it was an
unenforced law?

Eli, everybody on this, my hunch about this whole cover-up is that Flynn
was so unaware that this law was never forced, the Logan act, against
anybody not in the government to be negotiating with a foreign power. He
thought it was unenforceable.

STOKOLS: Well, I mean, I think when you play that clip of the President
Trump at the press conference basically kind of offering an incoherent
answer, talking about both guys, that you know, if he did do it, no big
deal. But he didn`t do it. I mean, it`s basically creating space for him
on both sides. And maybe that`s just the usual Trump answer to everything,
where rhetorically he is back and forth and kind of spinning you into
knots.

But it also, as Susan said, I mean, this could also be a President who is
aware of things that happened because the tweet that the President sent out
right after, when Putin did not respond, when he did what Flynn asked him
to do and Trump tweets, Putin, very smart not to respond, I knew – I mean,
you look at that, then you have to ask yourself, is this really a President
who had no idea that these overtures were being made to the Russians?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get back to the one on the territory, Israel on its
territories. And the question there, Michael Schmidt, is the President was
obviously engaging in foreign policy. He was telling somebody or they were
telling on behalf of him to try to kill this U.N. resolution which he
didn`t want to carry and Obama was ready to abstain on and let carry, let
be enforced. I mean, clearly he was setting up a counter foreign policy in
the Middle East.

SCHMIDT: Yes, long-standing precedent has been there`s one administration
at a time. That the incoming one sort of defers to it. But what we saw
here was very different. We saw an administration that was constantly
engaging in its own foreign policy, in its own meetings with foreign
leaders, its own attempts to influence things.

And we are seeing some of the consequences of that now. It`s sort of a
gray area that we hadn`t really seen in previous, you know, transitions.
We are seeing, you know, as they have tried to explain that they have
gotten themselves into a lot of trouble here. And then maybe at the root
of the cause of why Flynn went to the lengths that he did in the interview
with the FBI to deny stuff that the FBI had wiretaps about.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s going to end up being a black area for this
administration.

Anyway, thank you, Carol Lee and Susan Page and Eli Stokols and Michael
Schmidt. What a team.

We will be covering Michael Flynn`s guilty plea and the Russian probe
throughout the hour. When we return where does the investigation go from
here? And will Donald Trump now move to fire Mueller or start giving out
pardons? What`s next?

Plus everything we know about Trump`s relationship with Michael Flynn.

And the “Hardball” roundtable is here to talk about whether the bombshell
news today has anything to do with Trump`s increasingly erratic behavior
this week and by the Russia Republicans to pass their tax cut for the
wealthy. And it really is for the wealthy.

Finally, let me finish tonight with “Trump watch” on this historic day in
Washington.

And this is “Hardball,” where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:44] MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump is back on twitter following
Michael Flynn`s guilty plea in the Mueller investigation. But in his first
public statement since the news broke, President Trump ignored the
bombshell development, of course, instead tweeting the media has been
speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon.
Fake news. He`s not leaving.

And while we disagree on certain subjects, I call the final shots, we work
well together and America is highly respected again. That`s the President
tweeting.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:19] MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “Hardball.”

The news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn is cooperating
in the special counsel`s probe has got the White House on edge and for good
reason. According to the plea agreement Flynn`s cooperation may include
answering questions, providing sworn written statements, taking government-
administered polygraph examinations, and participating in covert law
enforcement activities. Wow.

To many legal experts, the leniency of the single charge suggests that
Flynn must have offered information of significant value to prosecutors.
The question now is who could Flynn implicate?

As NBC News reported today Flynn discussed the nature of his calls with the
Russia ambassador with Jared Kushner and K.T. McFarlane. However, court
documents show that Flynn also discussed some those conversations with
other unnamed officials on the Trump transition.

Quote “Flynn spoke with senior members of the Presidential transition team
about Flynn`s conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding U.S.
sanctions.” That means multiple people were aware vice President Mike
Pence was not telling the truth when he said this in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Mike Flynn ever discuss lifting sanctions in any of
those conversations? Do you know?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to General Flynn
yesterday. And the conversations that took place at that time were not in
any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of
diplomats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Furthermore, NBC News confirms that the purpose of one of
Flynn`s conversations with the ambassador was to reassure the Kremlin that
the incoming administration would reverse the Obama administration`s
sanctions punishing Russia for meddling in the election to help Trump win.

I`m joined right now by Frank Figlusi, the former assistant director of
counter intelligence at FBI. John Laurel is former federal prosecutor and
Paul Butler, of course, the former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal
analyst.

Gentlemen, thank you for calling.

What do you think is the damaging information, Frank, that this guy holds,
that Flynn can give to the prosecutor to use as he wishes?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, look, we heard the
judge today in court say that your sentence depends on your cooperation.

And I think that cooperation`s going to go right to the top. I want to
throw out three names here. First, Vice President Pence has some serious
explaining to do about his prior statements in public about no
conversations involving sanctions and the Russians.

Jared Kushner is clearly exposed now, criminally possibly, for violations
of the Logan Act or conspiring to violate the Logan Act. And then, lastly,
this unnamed senior transition official is also now exposed.

So, we have got to watch carefully the next moves that take place here.

MATTHEWS: John Lauro, I think the question lies out there, who gave the
inexperienced Jared Kushner, the president`s son-in-law, the notion that he
could negotiate Mideast policy with all the nations around the world,
including Russia? Who gave him that right?

JOHN LAURO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, presumably, it was…

MATTHEWS: In fact, that duty to do that?

LAURO: Yes, presumably, it was the president, president-elect, that did
it.

But I want to be clear about something. The special prosecutor has tipped
his hand. He is not looking at this as a criminal matter with respect to
contacts with Russia. This is now an obstruction of justice case. It`s
about people who went in and were interviewed by the FBI and didn`t tell
the truth.

So the focus of the investigation is on lying to the FBI and obstruction of
justice, not the contacts with Russia as a criminal activity.

MATTHEWS: Paul, do you agree that the focus now, because of what happened
today, with Flynn coming in and plea bargaining and accepting a low charge,
that we`re talking obstruction here more than collusion, that this is the
real path we`re headed down?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think so, in part because of what a
sweetheart deal Flynn is getting. He`s got criminal exposure for money
laundering, for bribery, maybe even for conspiracy to kidnap.

And all he`s pleading guilty to was one measly count of false statements?
He probably won`t do any jail time. His kid won`t be indicted. Mueller
would only make a deal with a snitch like Flynn if the snitch has really
good evidence to offer, compelling evidence of criminality of someone
higher up in the chain.

I think, again, it`s got to be Trump, Trump Jr., Kushner, or Vice President
Pence. That`s where this investigation is heading.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go through that. Let me go through the other
gentlemen.

Frank and John, the same question to you, because it looks to me like
they`re not going to be able to get Trump himself on collusion, but they
could damn well get him on obstruction.

Frank, you first.

FIGLIUZZI: Yes, I think that`s where this is headed as well.

And let me throw out another name. Let`s not forget that Attorney General
Sessions, we learned this week, refused to answer a question from the House
Intelligence Committee about whether President Trump directed him to impede
the Russia investigation. He wouldn`t answer that question.

I believe Michael Flynn may have information about Sessions` knowledge and
involvement in that. And I think that`s where this could be going.

MATTHEWS: John?

LAURO: Chris, I have represented a general and people in the military.
Honesty is so critically important to them. What was going through Flynn`s
mind when he lied to the FBI?

I mean, that`s the million-dollar question. He had to be doing it for some
reason. And what the prosecutors have done, I`m certain, because they have
interviewed him, is drill down on why he took that step, why he consciously
lied about something that frankly was not a crime. That`s what we need to
know.

MATTHEWS: Is that – is it not that he talked to Kislyak, the Russian
ambassador to the United States, but that he talked about relieving
sanctions by offering during the transition a different, nicer foreign
policy to the Russians?

LAURO: That doesn`t matter.

MATTHEWS: And he was worried about that getting out?

LAURO: The Logan Act has never been used to prosecute anybody.

It`s clear that the special counsel is not using the Logan Act in this
case. So the question to me is, who did Flynn think he was protecting, and
why? That`s why he lied.

MATTHEWS: Was he afraid of what Richard Nixon did during the `68 campaign
that Johnson never forgive him for, that he was negotiating a better deal
for the government in Saigon than they were getting from Johnson?

LAURO: We will never know until he testifies in public. The prosecutors
certainly know about it.

But let me say this. Once you sign on the dotted line as a cooperator,
your life becomes an open book. Anything and everything you have done
becomes exposed. They`re going to question him for hours and hours and
hours until they drill down on every aspect of the campaign and every
aspect of the administration in its early days.

BUTLER: And, Chris, that`s how we know the focus is on obstruction.

So, when we look at Donald Trump, he`s famously not loyal to anybody,
right, except Michael Flynn. The whole reason that he fired FBI Director
Comey was because Comey wouldn`t call off the investigation on Michael
Flynn.

So, Flynn clearly knows something about Donald Trump that Donald Trump does
not want out there. Now Flynn is going to sit down with 16 of the
country`s best prosecutors, even more FBI agents, for hours and hours, days
and days, spilling his guts. It will be real interesting.

MATTHEWS: Frank, let me get back to you about speculation here.

Everybody agrees that the Russians tried to help Trump win because they
hated Hillary, and even if Hillary managed to squeak it in the Electoral
College, they wanted her to be starting off weak.

So, does Trump have a hand in that? Can we see that in this story so far?

FIGLIUZZI: I think Flynn holds the key to that kind of knowledge.

But we`re beginning to see this glimpse of collusion in even the charging
document today, where we see the transition officials well knowing what
Mike Flynn`s up to with the Russians. So I think we`re getting glimpses of
that.

And I think it`s within the realm of possibility that Trump actually had a
hand in that.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk some legal questions here, Frank – or John, you and
then Paul.

Let me ask you this. What about, if the president sees his son-in-law, who
he knows he has to care about just as long as he lives – he`s got to worry
about his son-in-law – he`s the husband of his daughter, his beloved
daughter, and the father of his grandkids. He wants to keep him out of
jail, I would think, the same way Michael Schmidt (sic) wants to keep his
son out of jail.

And we saw that today, effectively. Now, Paul, there`s the question. Does
he now simply pardon the guy, that kid we`re looking at? He seems like a
kid to me.

LAURO: I think any pardon at this point, I think any effort to try to
undermine Mueller or to fire Mueller results in impeachment proceedings. I
doubt – I significantly doubt he`s going to do that.

MATTHEWS: Paul?

BUTLER: If he does, Mueller would be like, make my day, President Trump,
for, number one, you are writing your own article of impeachment. That
might be too much. A pardon of Trump Jr. or Kushner might be too much even
for the Republicans.

Moreover, Mueller`s a crafty dude. And so he`s working with state
prosecutors as well, lots of exposure for all of these guys for state
crimes. Guess what? The president of the United States has no power over
state prosecutions, couldn`t pardon.

MATTHEWS: I know. And the attorney general in Albany can`t wait to get
going here.

Let me ask Frank one last question. I forgot my last question. I was
already done here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, what about the fact that the president will have this pardon
authority? Do you agree he won`t use it?

FIGLIUZZI: I think he might, but I agree that it would lead to impeachment
proceedings.

But here`s what I think. Knowing Mueller and his team, they`re already
factoring that in here. I don`t think they need Kushner. I think they`re
assuming there`s going to be a pardon. And I think they have got Flynn,
they have got enough, and they`re going to get inside that Oval Office.

MATTHEWS: What a week.

Thank you so much, Frank Figliuzzi, John Lauro, and Paul Butler.

Up next: The Trump White House may be trying to distance itself from
Michael Flynn, but the tape doesn`t lie. Trump used to heap praise on his
former national security adviser. We are going to take a look at their
relationship.

That`s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn`s guilty plea makes him the
highest figure in Donald Trump`s orbit to face charges in Robert Mueller`s
investigation.

As part of the deal, Flynn has agreed to cooperate with the investigation,
seemingly turning on his former boss. Well, today marks a watershed moment
in the relationship between the two men that dates back roughly two years.

The retired general first met Donald Trump in August of 2015, when Flynn
traveled to Trump Tower to meet with the then-candidate. According to “The
New Yorker”: “They were scheduled to talk for 30 minutes, the conversation
lasted 90. Flynn left the meeting deeply impressed with Trump.”

By February of 2016, Michael Flynn was serving as informal foreign policy
adviser to the Trump campaign. He had openly advocated for closer ties
with Russia. In fact, two months earlier, Lieutenant General Flynn had
traveled to Russia, to Moscow itself, as a paid speaker for a Russian Today
anniversary dinner.

He was seated two seats over from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On April 27, 2016, Donald Trump delivered his first major foreign policy
speech, in which he advocated for closer ties with Russia. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We desire to live peacefully
and in friendship with Russia and China. I believe an easing of tensions
and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is
possible, absolutely possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: By May of 2016, Donald Trump becomes the presumptive nominee of
the Republican Party.

In July, Flynn`s early loyalty is rewarded with the now-infamous speaking
spot at the Republican National Convention. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not need a reckless
president who believes she is above the law.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FLYNN: If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of
what she did, I would be in jail today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In September of 2016, despite increasing evidence from U.S.
intelligence that Russia was meddling in our election, candidate Trump
continues to praise Putin.

Here he is during an NBC News commander in chief forum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He`s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: On November 8, Donald J. Trump is elected the 45th president of
the United States.

And, two days later, President Barack Obama hosts a sit-down meeting with
the president-elect and warns him against hiring Michael Flynn as his
national security adviser.

On November 18, Donald Trump disregards President Obama`s warning and names
Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

A few weeks later, according to “The New York Times”` reporting, Flynn and
the president`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hosted a meeting with the
ambassador, with Ambassador Kislyak, at Trump Tower in order to establish a
line of communication between the new administration and the Russian
government.

On December 22, 2016, according to today`s court documents, Michael Flynn
called Ambassador Kislyak and asked Russia to delay or defeat a pending
U.N. Security Council vote on condemning Israeli settlements.

A week later, Obama orders the ejection of 35 suspected Russian
intelligence operatives from the country and imposes sanctions on two
Russian intelligence services as retaliation for election interference,
according to “The New York Times”: “Mr. Kislyak was irate and threatened a
forceful Russian response.”

Well, that same day, Flynn has a series of phone calls with Kislyak in
which, NBC News is reporting, Flynn promised to reverse those sanctions.
Court filings today reveal that Flynn asked Kislyak to refrain from
escalating the situation in response to the sanctions.

A day later, Putin announces he will not retaliate against the expulsions.
Trump takes to Twitter to take the Russian president, writing: “Great move
on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart.”

On January 13, once news of Flynn`s calls to Russian officials were made
public, the White House misrepresented the content of those calls. Let`s
watch the vice president, Mr. Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss
anything having to do with the United States` decision to expel diplomats
or impose a censure against Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: On January 24, the FBI, troubled by intercepts of the call,
asked to meet with Flynn. It was here where he lied about his
conversations.

On January 26, 2017, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was so alarmed by
Flynn`s characterizations of the calls that she warned the Trump White
House that Flynn might have been compromised by the Russians.

She recounted that story back in May before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We were concerned that
the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what
General Flynn had done, and, additionally, that we weren`t the only ones
that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn
had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president
and others, because, in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice
president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told
them, and that this was a problem, because not only did we believe that the
Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national
security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The following day, in a private one-on-one dinner, President
Trump appears to ask FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty.

On January 30, President Trump fires Sally Yates for not defending his
travel ban. On February 13, Flynn resigns. On February 14, in another
Oval Office meeting, Trump tells Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear
to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can
let this go.”

Comey was asked about this during his testimony before the Senate
Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: This is the president speaking. “I hope you
can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a
good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Now, those are his exact words; is that correct?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Correct. The reason I keep saying his
words is, I took it as a direction.

This is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, “I hope
this.” I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. Now, I didn`t obey
that, but that`s the way I took it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: All along, throughout this relationship, President Trump has
defended his former national security adviser.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person. And I asked for his resignation.

When I looked at the information, I said, I don`t think he did anything
wrong. If anything, he did something right. You know, he was just doing
his job. The thing is, he didn`t tell our vice president properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, up next: President Trump was hoping to take a victory lap
today, touting the passage of the Trump Tower tax cut. But then the Flynn
news broke.

We will get to that and more with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: I think the – at least the quick report of
the charge, it seems obvious to me that he had made a lot of misstatements
to a whole lot of people. And the frightening thing is this guy was the
national security adviser of the United States and the key, you know,
foreign policy adviser to the president.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think most of us believe it`s
not a witch hunt or a hoax and that the FBI director and all others believe
this is a legitimate concern. I like General Flynn. He served this
country for a long time with honor and effectiveness. It`s a sad day. But
this is the way the system works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love Lindsey Graham, he reminds me of what senators used to be
like.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Those words Senators Tim Kaine and Lindsey Graham reacting to the news of
Michael Flynn`s guilty plea in the Mueller probe, the bombshell that
overshadowed what should have been today`s headline, the battle over the
Republican tax bill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared he had the votes to pass the tax
bill today. The Trump Tower tax cut I call it, just hours ago. Anyway,
the Flynn news broke.

Four holdouts – Montana`s Steve Daines, Wisconsin`s Ron Johnson, Arizona`s
Jeff Flake, and Maine`s Susan Collins – declared their support for the
bill, giving Republicans the 51 votes, one more than necessary to pass this
sweeping overhaul.

Let`s bring in the HARDBALL roundtable for this Friday night. Jennifer
Rubin, opinion writer with “The Washington Post”, George F. Will is
columnist with “The Washington Post”, and Cornell Belcher is a Democratic
strategist.

I think this is interesting because here`s a bill about to be passed with a
lot of hoopla and grandeur, it`s exciting, with about a 28 percent popular
support. And yet the Republicans consider it an essential, necessary,
mandatory thing to do. And they are going to celebrate it.

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I think it`s
two reasons why they`re behaving that way. One is they haven`t done
anything else and they`re scared to go to the voters and say, we`ve done
nothing other than Neil Gorsuch. And the second is that the dogma of
trickle-down economics is very strong and these people believe it. Does it
matter that we`re not in a recession, doesn`t matter it`s going to create
debt, this is what they do. This is what they believe in. And they`re
willing to get behind –

MATTHEWS: Regardless of the cycle?

RUBIN: Exactly. And they`re willing to get behind it regardless of
whether it`s a dog`s breakfast of a bill or not.

MATTHEWS: George, we have almost a trillion-dollar deficit right now. And
I`m wondering, to add another $1.5 trillion over the next ten years doesn`t
sound like traditional Republican dogma.

GEORGE F. WILL, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Under current law, the
deficit`s going to – the national debt`s going to go up $10 million before
this, $12 billion with it, and people think that`s a rounding error
nowadays.

I would be interested to see how these people go back to Donora,
Pennsylvania, and the Monongahela Valley, and say, well, Obamacare wasn`t
repealed and replaced, the infrastructure – trillion-dollar infrastructure
is still a hypothesis. But we cut corporate taxes. And see how thrilling
that is.

The Republicans are making a serious lunge for 3 percent growth.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WILL: If we don`t get the 3 percent growth, our politics is going to be
just increasingly bitter, distributional conflict.

MATTHEWS: When`s that payoff? By 2020?

WILL: We don`t know. One of the beauties of economic debates like this is
we`re going to learn something. People have made predictions. They`ve
given a hostage to fortune now.

And we`re going to find out how taxes affect behavior. That`s what
economists argue about all the time. The Republicans have said, cut these
taxes and this will happen. We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s interesting, Cornell, despite I think the
Democratic Party`s figure to do education role here, to actually explain
how it does to different brackets, 75 a year, 250 a year, whatever, people
do have a sense it is a rich person`s tax cut. They got the message.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, despite our inability to
message properly on it, you do have a majority of Americans against this
tax bill, and you do have a majority of Americans who think that the most
of this tax bill is going to the wealthy.

This is almost a gift, right, to Democrats. It is hard to understand why
Republicans are doing this besides their donor class. So, they`re going to
go into a midterm election with a very unpopular president, with their
approval numbers at an all-time low, and not passing anything that actually
a majority of Americans want them to pass.

It – we are looking at 2006 perhaps all over again.

MATTHEWS: I`m very suspicious of the Democrats on this. I think their
donor class is very much the same donor class Republicans have in terms of
interests, economic interests. And they benefit because now they have a
big target to attack.

RUBIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But also they didn`t offend their people economically. All
their people did well. Do you know?

RUBIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat.

RUBIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: They got it made, a win-win for them. They lose the fight and
Republicans have to take the blame.

BELCHER: I want to jump into that conversation, though, because as someone
who worked for the Obama campaign, when you look at sort of where we raised
money, it wasn`t from the big donor class. When you look at someone who
also worked for Howard Dean, when you look at what we raised our money
from, it wasn`t from the big donor class, it was grassroots upsizing. It
is different, Chris.

MATTHEWS: So, Chuck Schumer isn`t better off politically?

BELCHER: I`m talking about – what I`m talking about is the last two
people who are head of our party –

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Democrats, you think they made a fight of this?

WILL: Sure. You`re quite right, the people who said this is a rich
person`s tax bill. But remember, they get this from the media coverage of
it. Twenty percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.

(LAUGHTER)

WILL: Seriously. Fifty percent of Americans, college students, can`t tell
you the length of Senate and House terms. Yet we pick up the paper and 18
percent of Americans oppose this provision of the tax bill. They don`t
know what the Senate is.

I mean, so, the idea that there`s formed public opinion out here or
informed is wrong.

RUBIN: But they do stumble on the truth. It is getting to the large
benefits going to –

MATTHEWS: We like to think they learn what they need to learn.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. And next, we`ll get back to
Michael Flynn`s guilty plea, how it`s made this a historic day here in D.C.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, as we`ve been discussing all day, Michael Flynn`s guilty
plea for lying to the FBI could have wide-reaching implications. If you
want to know more about the three-star lieutenant general, watch our MSNBC
special this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, “Headliners: Michael
Flynn.” It`s going to be great.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table, Jennifer, George Will
and Cornell Belcher.

All of you – today`s historical importance?

RUBIN: It`s huge. This is inside the White House. This is not an errand
boy. This is someone implicating potentially the president of the United
States, his son-in-law, and let`s not forget about the attorney general.

So, this is real. This is not a hoax. And the president could pay a
permanent penalty for this.

MATTHEWS: George, I wonder what the king is thinking tonight.

WILL: I think the king is probably thinking that there`s an inverse
relationship between the lightness of the sentence, the one charge that
Flynn has been convicted of and what he must have been offering in order to
get that lightness.

MATTHEWS: And all those charges that were pending against him, like
kidnapping –

WILL: That`s the point.

RUBIN: They go away.

MATTHEWS: This is life.

Anyway, Cornell?

BELCHER: It`s harder to call this fake news now, right? And I think to a
lot of real Americans who haven`t been paying attention to this, now, you
have someone admitting of a crime. It`s harder for Americans not to pay
attention to this right now.

MATTHEWS: And so, here we go.

RUBIN: Yes. You and I remember this from a time gone past.

MATTHEWS: OK. What`s the Watergate parallel, George?

WILL: Well, I suppose the Watergate parallel is what happened when James
McCord, one of the burglars, was given not a life sentence but a draconian
sentence by Judge Sirica in order to put pressure on him to begin to
unravel the whole system.

MATTHEWS: So, what`s the difference between punishing someone to make them
talk and rewarding them not to – rewarding them to talk?

RUBIN: Well, there`s – you know, everyone likes their own methodology.
And Mueller, so far, he`s getting one guy to flip after another.

MATTHEWS: Similarity is the public servant, the civil servant here, Judge
Sirica, Republican appointee, Nixon I believe appointed him, went out and
did his job. Same with Mueller. And by the way, with Comey, cheering him
on biblically. Sound like Dr. King.

BELCHER: Well, the rule of law is winning today and we`re seeing a lot of
chaos in Washington, a lot of Americans upset with institutions in this
country, but the rule of law, our legal system is working and I think we
have a lot to be thankful for today.

MATTHEWS: I think we have a merry Christmas and happy holidays coming our
way.

RUBIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s looking good for the country.

Jennifer Rubin, George F. Will, and Cornell Belcher.

When we return, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”. It`s definitely
he`s not going to like this. He didn`t like today. He won`t like tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: “Trump Watch”, Friday, December 1st, 2017.

Today was the day Donald Trump was told would never happen. His lawyers
said special counsel Robert Mueller was going nowhere, that he was about to
give up the case, that the president was going to go scot-free and today,
everything changed.

You heard the hecklers outside the federal courthouse yelling “lock him
up.” They were serenading General Michael Flynn, reminding him of his own
cheerleading at the Republican National Convention when he led the hall
with “lock her up,” the woman who ended up with the most votes last
November, just as General Flynn is ending up this November, copping a plea
to testify against the guy Hillary beat.

What a year it has been? All these months since the election without
question hanging over the heads of the Trump team, did they collude with
the Russians and will they eventually get caught?

Trump`s defense attorney has been giving false courage to Trump, telling
him again and again that Mueller is ready to close shop, that he`s coming
up with nothing and then today, Mueller`s got general Flynn, got him by the
back of the collar, has him ready to tell the whole story of what he knows
about, and well, everything. Who told him to tell the Russians to stay
cool on the sanctions, that Trump was helping – coming with help? Who
told him to tell the Russians they should kill that U.N. resolution about
Israel for the new settlements, the resolution that Obama was going to let
pass.

Flynn knows all kinds of stuff like what the president said about stopping
FBI Director Comey from looking into this and about how Trump was ready to
dump him rather than allow the investigation to go forward, one that would
lead to an impeachment before his presidency even got started. And now,
General Flynn is in the steady hands of Bob Mueller, ready and willing to
tell all he knows about the man who sits now, worried, resentful, a bit
disoriented, about a fix his lawyer told him he would never be in, a fix
that could doom his place in history, because whatever comes next, today
was a day of history.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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