Michael Cohen pleads guilty, TRANSCRIPT: 11/29/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Joaquin Castro, Gwenda Blair, John Kasich, David Cay Johnston, Cheri Bustos, John Brabender
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 29, 2018
Guest: Joaquin Castro, Gwenda Blair, John Kasich, David Cay Johnston.
Cheri Bustos, John Brabender

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Individual one. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Special counsel Robert Mueller could now be one big step closer to
implicating the President in the ongoing Russia probe. Today, the
President`s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to
making false statements to Congress and said he will continue to cooperate
in the special counsel`s investigation in exchange for a lighter sentence
for him.

Specifically, Cohen has confessed to lying in August of last year about the
real estate project that was he was pursuing in Moscow on Trump`s behalf
while Trump was a candidate for President. Identifying the President as
individual one in his plea document, Cohen`s hearing today marks the first
time the President of the United States has been named in open court in
connection with Mueller`s investigation.

The documents reveal that Cohen testified falsely when he said he only
discussed the real estate project with Trump on three occasions. He has
now confessed that he discussed the status and progress of the Moscow
project with Trump on more than the three occasions. And he briefed family
members of Trump within the company about the project. That`s among the
several lies that Cohen told congress.

Cohen claimed that the Moscow project ended in January of 2016 when it
actually continued through June of 2016. He claimed he never agreed to go
to Moscow, yet, he did agree and he asked Trump if Trump would go as well.

Cohen also claimed he didn`t recall getting a response from the Russian
government, but in fact, he did remember dealing with the office of a top
Kremlin official.

All of those statements were deliberate lies in apparent effort to cover up
to protect the President.

As the charging documents state, Cohen`s intent was to minimize links
between the Moscow project and Trump, in hopes of limiting the ongoing
Russia investigations. The big question, why did he lie so much? Why did
he commit a felony so often? And why would Cohen commit a felony to cover
up his boss` dealings with Russia during the election? And now the
President is accusing Cohen of making up the whole story. Here`s how Trump
reacted to the news early today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he is trying to do
because he`s a weak person and not a very smart person, what he is trying
to do is end, and it`s very simple, he has got himself a big prison
sentence and he is trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up
a story. So very simply, Michael Cohen is lying and he is trying to get a
reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And joining me right now is Democratic congressman Joaquin
Castro of Texas who sits on the House intelligence committee. Tom Winter
is an investigative reporter with NBC News. Natasha Bertrand is a staff
writer at “the Atlantic” and Glenn Kirschner is a former federal
prosecutor.

Why it seem, get to the bottom of this, let`s go to our own guy, Tom.

Why would Michael Cohen commit a series of felonies to cover up his boss`,
his client`s, business dealings, in Russia?

TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I think, Chris, on face
value, Michael Cohen addressed this point directly in court today. He
stood up and then later sat down, better than speaking to the microphone.
But he said that the reason why he did this was to be consistent with the
messaging that was being offered by President Trump and by other people
close to the President. In addition to that, he said he did it out of
loyalty to the President, was the reason why he made these false
statements.

And I think the hope here, Chris, was that by saying, hey, look, you know,
any discussion of this Moscow plan, or this Moscow project, and any
discussion of a hotel, all that ended before around the time of the Iowa
caucus, meaning that it didn`t continue on into the actual candidacy of the
President.

But I think what`s really interesting here, Chris, is that, in fact, it
did. It went into June of 2016. And by that time, Trump was the
presumptive nominee. This occurred just barely a month before the RNC. So
I think it raises questions as to why, you know, seemingly, this is
innocuous. I mean, it would not be illegal for the President of the United
States at that point to continue his business dealings, whether it be in
Russia, China, the U.S., wherever it may be, it was not illegal for them to
pursue business dealings. And Michael Cohen was somebody who worked for
the Trump organization. So why in this particular case would you lie about
your business dealings in Russia? I think it raises a lot of questions.
Michael Cohen addressed some of them today, but obviously there`s more for
the Trump organization, the Trump family, and the President, himself.

MATTHEWS: I can give one explanation, it`s not a legal team, it smells.
It smells to have business dealings with people you are supposedly
negotiating with on behalf of the United States government, at least
defending our interests with.

By the way, the title, President of the United States, comes with it that
wonderful title leader of the free world. We are dealing with Russia, not
working with them.

Anyway, to your point, Tom, throughout 2016 and 2017, Donald Trump
repeatedly denied pursuing any deals with Russia or in Russia ever. In
fact, he said he purposely stayed away from Russia. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don`t have any jobs in
Russia. I`m all over the world, but we`re not involved in Russia.

I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever.

No, I don`t deal there. I have no business. I have no loans from Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia folks, OK.

I don`t have any deals in Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None
whatsoever.

I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no
deals that could happen in Russia because we have stayed away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Cohen`s plea deal today shows those statements were false.

Let me go to Congressman Joaquin Castro. Sir, you are on the intelligence
committee. What does this tell you about Trump`s believability, what`s it
tell you about his legal culpability and his impeachability?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Oh, all great questions. Well, the first
thing is I think the prosecution of Michael Cohen for lying to Congress I
think is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prosecutions for
lying to Congress by the witnesses who went in front of the House and the
Senate. There are other folks like Roger Stone and Donald Trump junior, I
think, who should be concerned about possibly facing prosecutions as well.

The other thing is based on the BuzzFeed reporting about the fact that
Vladimir Putin may have been offered a $50 million condo in that project.
If that`s correct, and that`s been determined, that opens the gates to
prosecution under the foreign corrupt practices act. And then that becomes
very serious if the President knew about what was going on and what was
being offered to entice Vladimir Putin to allow that project to go forward.

MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense that the money was driving Trump in the
business dealings? Was he running for President to enhance this brand so
he could make more money in Russia? Or was he – was he doing the business
deal over there – I don`t know, I keep trying to figure out what the
carrot was for him, was he trying to do business at the same time he was
trying to be elected President thinking he probably wasn`t going to get
elected? How do you see it?

CASTRO: You are right. I mean, it`s impossible for us to say with
certainty, but I don`t know that he was convinced he could win, and that at
the end, he may have been actually surprised that he won. So in that
instance, it`s not completely uncommon for people to take some benefit,
some financial economic benefit, from all of the exposure that they get by
running for office.

MATTHEWS: You are so right.

CASTRO: You know –

MATTHEWS: You are right because we all know people – young lawyers, they
come out of law school a couple years. Business isn`t working. They run
for some office to get some ink and get back to practice with a little more
name I.D.

CASTRO: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Glenn on this. Serious business here of possible
work together legally. How much in trouble does the president because his
lawyer-fixer was saying stuff as pergurist? It was lying under oath to
Congress. But the President was saying basically the same thing the whole
time. And this guy was echoing it and he is now having to confess to a
crime.

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. Chris, first of all, the
fact the President lies is not exactly late breaking news.

MATTHEWS: This President.

KIRSCHNER: Yes. So why is this consequential? And I don`t really think
it`s all about this one business deal with Russia. I think it`s about the
President`s determination to conceal from the American people his
relationship with Russia because he had bigger things in mind to exploit
that relationship. So – and what I found most consequential about all of
this news about Michael Cohen is Michael Cohen spent 70 hours testifying
before the grand jury. I got to tell you, I have tried complex murder
cases in less than 70 hours. This is the tip of the iceberg, and there`s
so much more to come.

MATTHEWS: You think there`s a lot more coming from Cohen?

KIRSCHNER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Natasha, this story, my God, I – every once in a while, it just explodes
with news. And all of a sudden, you got his fixer who has intimate
relations with, now he is saying I don`t know the guy, basically. He is a
lightweight. He is almost saying low I.Q. But this guy has facts.

NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. And I think when you are
asking the question of why Cohen felt the need to conceal all of this, as
late as August and September of 2017, it just goes back to the idea that
they were conscious of how bad this looked. They were conscious of the
fact –.

MATTHEWS: The smell factor.

BERTRAND: Right. They were conscious of the fact this showed, this
provided direct evidence that the President may have been compromised by
Russia when he was running his election and through the entire election –.

MATTHEWS: You mean a $50 million condo, whatever it was? That`s something
– a congressman just told me about.

I want to go back to the congressman on this one. The timeline of the
Trump tower project in Moscow overlaps with several key events in Russia`s
campaign to intervene in our 2016 election. So the money and the politics
are coming together here. We know that Trump signed a letter of intent to
pursue the Moscow project in October of 2015. Just a month after the
Russians success successfully hacked the Democratic National Committee.

And then in January of 2016, Cohen opened up his correspondence with
Putin`s spokesman, his press secretary, about the possible deal. So he is
right in the Putin world there. By May, Cohen was actively planning a trip
to Russia in connection with their project. And was arranging a separate
trip for Trump, himself, to do the same.

Anyway, Cohen continued those preparations through June of 2016, right in
the middle l of the campaign, when Donald Trump Junior famously met with
Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton on the 9th of June 2016. And
then four days later Cohen abruptly canceled his trip to Russia on June
14th. And that`s the same day the DNC publicly announced their servers had
been breached, hacked into by Russian intelligence. Wow.

The next day on June 15th, the first hacked materials from the DNC were
released by a Russian entity called Guccifer 2.0. And WikiLeaks then began
releasing the DNC`s emails the next month in July of 2016.

Congressman, this is so intertwined. And I keep thinking if he lied about
his business dealings not being nonexistent, why would anybody believe when
he would say he had nothing to do with collaborating with the Russians?

CASTRO: Yes. I don`t think that we can believe what the President says
about his relationship with Russia or whether he conspired with Russia or
not because you`re right, he started, Chris, by saying I have no business
with Russia, I haven`t talked to any Russians, and now we have all these
evidence of collusion of meetings of trying to get information about
Hillary Clinton.

Now further reporting that basically a bribe may have been offered to
Vladimir Putin to allow the Trump tower Moscow project to go forward. And
that`s very important because what`s important there is that it may show a
method of doing business that then opens up other questions about how he
was doing business in other countries where he has Trump properties. So he
can face criminal liability there, if, in fact, that $50 million condo was
offered to Vladimir Putin and the special counsel can look into how they
went about doing business in other countries.

MATTHEWS: You know, Glenn, he does show an ability to mix business with
pleasure. Mix business with politics. We know that down the street from
here on Pennsylvania Avenue, he has got a Trump hotel. He doesn`t mind
welcoming the Saudis there all the time. I call this sort of the tale of
two towers.

KIRSCHNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The one tower he wants to build in Moscow, the other he does his
political business with his son. Donald Junior, involved in both cases.
The nasty tricky business. He has got a kid who is being held hostage by
this whole process now and he knows it.

KIRSCHNER: And it`s pretty ominous that among the things we learned today
from Michael Cohen is that he also indicated he had been briefing and
keeping some of Trump`s family members up to speed.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KIRSCHNER: That had a real ominous ring to it because I had –

MATTHEWS: Donald Junior.

KIRSCHNER: – a feeling Donald junior, Jared Kushner, you know, who knows.
But –.

BERTRAND: And Ivanka Trump. Apparently, Ivanka Trump actually recommended
an architect for the Trump tower Moscow that was being pursued by Michael
Cohen. So she is very deep in this as well. And there is no evidence yet
that she has been brought in to be interviewed by the special counsel. But
I can`t imagine that she won`t be questioned about all this. And Donald
Trump junior has been telling his associates that he expects to be indicted
by the special counsel over what he told Congress about this very deal. He
said that he was only peripherally aware that what was going on but that.
Of course, may not be the whole story.

MATTHEWS: You know, you have to wonder about motive here, everybody. And
just an open question about motive.

Donald Trump may have been pursuing business over there which we know is
true. He was trying to make some money in Moscow. He was developing good
relations – sort of a reproach with Putin all that time. Was that
reproach meant to encourage his business chances or was, you know, if it`s
all about money, that makes it simple.

Anyway, pursuing the Trump tower project in Moscow, Michael Cohen teamed up
with Felix Sater, a Russian-born American citizen helping plan Cohen`s trip
to Russia and pushing the deal say, he wrote Cohen in 2015 saying our boy
could become President of the United States, the USA, and we can engineer
it. I will put all of Putin`s team to buy in on this. I will manage this
process.

OK. It sounds like mob talk. According to the “Washington Post,” Sater
also told Cohen he could get President Vladimir Putin to say great things
about Trump. Where do I go with this?

Let me go back to Tom on this. Put it together. Money, politics. What, I
mean, we are not even talking the dossier for a while now. It is so –
it`s so connected, all this stuff.

WINTER: It really is, Chris. I think that`s kind of the biggest thing
that we are trying to figure out at this point. I mean, I think we are all
a good six, seven months behind where Robert Mueller actually is in this
investigation.

I think really tellingly today, Chris, they decided to set the sentencing
for what Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to today for December 12th, which is
also the date that he`s going to be sentenced for what he already pleaded
guilty to back in August. So just tells me that, hey, you know, we are
good with this guy.

To Glenn`s point, they have had seven formal meetings called proffer
sessions with Michael Cohen. We have realize that today from the plea
agreement that he signed. So it just tells me, Chris, that I think they`re
much further along in this investigation than we know. I think Chuck
Rosenberg made the point earlier today on our air saying that, look, this
is just one of other things that Michael Cohen admitted to, pleaded to.

And so I think when you start to look at all the various dots here, you
start to look at – you start to look at his pattern and a serious of
circumstances that raise a lot of questions. And to your point before, why
lie about this? Trump today came out, you played a sound bite saying,
well, you know, Michael Cohen, he is a liar. He is doing this in order to
get time off of his sentence. And then later you have our colleague,
Kristen Welker, explaining that apparently the President`s written answers
to Donald Trump, according to Donald Trump`s legal team, matches up with
what Michael Cohen said today.

So on one hand, you are calling him a liar. On the other you are saying,
yes, now we agree with the things – we always stated the things Michael
Cohen is now saying. It doesn`t quite make a lot of sense, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know, the “Titanic” can make fun of the iceberg but the
iceberg won.

Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, Tom Winter, Natasha Bertrand
and Glenn Kirschner.

We are going to have much more on this breaking news story.

Tonight, Donald Trump`s fixer admits that he lied to Congress. Is the
President starting to feel cornered?

Plus, how long will Republicans stick with Trump? Ohio governor John
Kasich weighs in on that tonight.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump`s former personal lawyer and fixer sat in a federal courtroom
today and confessed to perjuring himself by lying about a Russia real
estate deal in Moscow. Michael Cohen`s lies seemed aimed at minimizing the
role of his former boss, Donald Trump, in the Moscow deal, something Trump
himself has repeatedly done as well.

Asked about Cohen`s plea today, President Trump tried moving the goalposts.
Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There would be nothing wrong
if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There
was a good chance that I wouldn`t have won, in which case I would have
gotten back into the business. And why should I lose lots of
opportunities?

Even if he was right, it doesn`t matter because I was allowed to do
whatever I wanted during the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But you denied it all, Mr. President. You denied it time and
time again.

Anyway, Trump began his day, today, tweeting wild accusations against
special counsel Robert Mueller, charging him with leading an illegal Joseph
McCarthy-style witch-hunt.

Well, it`s a technique he`s employed over the past two years, waging an
aggressive personal campaign against not just Robert Mueller and Michael
Cohen, but also his own government, lashing out against findings that
Russia was responsible for hacking our democracy.

So, what if – what is he afraid of? Why does he keep lying?

For more, I`m joined by two people who know Donald Trump well, David Cay
Johnston, founder of the DCReport.org and author of “The Making of Donald
Trump,” and Gwenda Blair, author of “Trumps: Three Generations of Builders
and a President.”

Let me go to Gwenda on this one.

And why the cover-up? We love television here. We`re on it. And we can
use it. And you can show all these tapes again and again and again, Trump
denying any business dealings during the campaign. Why does he do this
stuff? Why does he keep covering up something that smells bad, but wasn`t,
he says, illegal?

GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, “THE TRUMPS”: Well, there`s a couple of
possibilities. Maybe he`s guilty. That`s one.

But another one is – and it doesn`t preclude the first – is that I think
he`s a long-game guy. He was in long game in real estate. He`s in long
game now that he`s in the White House. And the long-game play in the White
House is, keep denying, distracting, blaming other people, throwing charges
back.

Make it so that we really don`t know what`s going on. Or that`s the
intent. And the delegitimatization is really the long game here, so that
he delegitimized, you know, conventional mainstream media. He
delegitimizes the idea that you look for the facts or the truth or the
chain of evidence.

And, in a sense, he`s not delegitimizing himself, but he`s always changing.
You can`t catch him, so that there`s a kind of deniability built into
everything.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David.

I mean, lying about something that may not be illegal, I mean, I`m not sure
anybody says it is, doing business while you`re running for president, it
smells bad because it`s a clear conflict. Why are you saying you`re going
to defend the interests of the United States when they go into conflict
with Russia, if you`re trying to make money on Russia, offering them condo
deals on the side?

I mean, it does look like double dealing. In fact, it is double dealing.
But that`s not necessarily illegal. The question is, do you trust him on
anything? When he denies the business, well, how about denying the
collaboration on the politics end, where his family`s involved with both
pieces of it?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, FOUNDER, DCREPORT.ORG: Well, the denials about Russia
are no longer at all credible. Even Donald Trump`s strongest supporters
should begin to realize this.

And, remember, we`re seeing one thread Mueller put out there today. It`s a
powerful and important new piece of information. But there`s a whole
tapestry of facts that`s being woven by Mueller and his team.

And Donald Trump tonight, I`m sure, is feeling very, very vexed, because,
among other things, what`s happened in just a couple of days here? The
prosecutor has shown that Paul Manafort lied and said, we have got evidence
to prove he was lying left and right to us. And Donald had already
submitted his written questions when this comes out.

And then we have Michael Cohen with this charge that came out of nowhere.
And Michael Cohen, same thing, we have e-mails, we have people around you
transacting this business.

The Donald Trump denial and distraction and muddy the waters game is not
going to continue to work as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, on his way to Argentina today, President Trump was asked
why he stuck with Cohen for so long, if he found him as so weak, as he says
now. And here`s his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: If Cohen is such a bum, why did you hire him, have him on your
payroll for 12 years and have him do much of your dirty work like paying
off…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Because, a long time ago, he did me a favor. A long time ago, he
did me a favor.

QUESTION: Mr. President, is Michael Cohen a threat to your presidency?

TRUMP: Not at all. I`m not worried at all about him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Again, “Godfather” talk, Gwenda. He did me a favor, so I made
him my lawyer and fixer for 20-some years, or whatever it was.

He doesn`t – he obviously faces a lot of bad news coming from the
direction of Cohen now. And he has to destroy the guy, like he tried to
destroy Maxine Waters, saying low I.Q. He has to destroy what he now sees
as a personal enemy, lifetime enemy.

BLAIR: That`s his M.O. You`re useful until you`re not useful.
Everybody`s a candidate to be thrown under the bus when they`re not useful
anymore. We have had a long string of them.

He did it – he`s done it all the way through from the start.

MATTHEWS: Who does he trust?

BLAIR: Himself. Himself.

MATTHEWS: Who will stand up for him? Who will take the bullet for him?

BLAIR: Himself. His gut – he trusts his gut. He doesn`t need experts.
He knows what`s right. He knows more than the generals, more than the
scientists, more than everybody.

MATTHEWS: David, follow up on that. That`s crazy talk. I mean, that`s
crazy – it`s not crazy talk by Gwenda.

JOHNSTON: Well, but…

MATTHEWS: It`s crazy – it`s an assessment that says this guy is nuts,
that he believes he`s smarter than anybody else on the planet on
everything. Solar issues, he`s an expert.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

JOHNSTON: If you sat down on a coast-to-coast flight next to Donald,
didn`t know who he was, by the time you got to Pittsburgh, you would have
concluded that you`re sitting next to a crazy person.

Donald really does believe that he`s smarter than everybody else, he knows
more than anybody else. The fact that he`s appallingly ignorant that, he
doesn`t know the first thing about economics, even though he has a – was
given a degree in it, he didn`t earn it from Penn – that`s how Donald sees
the world.

And so long as you`re with him, you`re smart, you`re really great. And the
minute you turn against him or become useless, just as Gwenda said, now
you`re weak and you`re an idiot.

And notice, in the papers that came out today, people very close to Trump,
not named directly, but we know who some of them are, they may turn out to
be distanced from Donald. It`s perfectly possible we will see Donald
throw, for instance, Don Jr. under the bus, if it becomes convenient or
significant for him to do so.

MATTHEWS: You know, David, the way you talk – and I`m serious about this
– I was an altar boy at a mental institution when I was a kid.

It was in our parish, and I would be an altar boy. And I would go in there
with these 7,000 inmates. And one of them was a trustee. And he would
meet me. And he was the guy that brought the movies in, these old-time big
movies. He would bring them in there.

And then finally, during the conversation, he went from being the guy that
brought the movies into a Hollywood producer. And then he kept going. And
this delusion of ability just kept growing.

JOHNSTON: That`s Donald.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I thought you were talking about, the guy that
brought the movies in to a mental institution.

Thank you so much, David, for a little humor there, I think, I hope, Cay
Johnston.

Thank you, Gwenda Blair, as well.

Great testimony here from people who have worked with Trump on his own view
of himself.

Up next: It`s the moment of truth for the Republican Party. Will
Republicans stand up for the rule of law or stand with a president who`s
flouting it?

Ohio Governor John Kasich joins us after the break live here at HARDBALL.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are sounding off on the news that President
Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen today admitted he lied to Congress
about a lot of stuff, especially Trump`s business dealings with Russia.

Well, some Republicans downplayed what it could mean for the president.
Here they go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: I don`t think at this point that there
has been anything that in any way changes the landscape, so to speak, where
the president is concerned.

He has argued all along there wasn`t any collusion on the part of his
campaign team or his administration with Russia. And I haven`t seen
anything that disproves that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All I have seen thus far are
process crimes. I have yet to see anybody indicted for actually colluding
with the Russians. So we will see.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the president has been talking
about or hasn`t taken off the table the idea of pardoning some of his
associates, like Paul Manafort, potentially like Michael Cohen, when all
these sorts of – the investigations are still going on?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: No, I`m not concerned about that. The
president has a right to do whatever he wants to there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The president has a right to do whatever he wants to.

Let me go to Governor John Kasich of Ohio.

Did you just hear that? Did you just hear this? Orrin Hatch is a man of
tremendous experience and dignity. And there he is saying the president
has a right to say anything he wants.

Governor?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, I don`t agree with Orrin. I don`t –
yes, I don`t agree with what Orrin said.

And, look, Chris, for me, you just got to let this whole investigation, you
know, be completed. It shouldn`t be interrupted.

And I was thinking about what I wanted to say tonight, and knowing I was
going to come on the show. And there are people who are watching this who
think, oh, well, you know, Kasich`s happy. Maybe he will run for
president.

Chris, this makes me sick to my stomach, all of these things that are
happening, because I believe, like you, we love our country, we worry about
our country, we worry about, you know, what kind of message this sends to
the world.

And – but, you know, we`re in tribal politics. We see it all the time.
And I know, you know, the question is, why does he have 90 percent
Republican support? Well, look at the party. It`s shrinking. You know,
it`s dramatically lost membership.

And it isn`t with any joy that I say that those House elections, I think
the Republicans lost 39 seats. There was a blue wave, something that I
thought would happen. However, that was done on the basis of anti-Trump.
I still don`t know what the Democrat message was, because I don`t think –
I mean, I know they had one, but it wasn`t very clear.

People are upset in this country. They don`t want to see these kinds of
things happening, and the party`s shrinking. Can it be saved? I`m a
Republican. We did pretty well out here, Chris. But I run the politics of
inclusiveness. You know, we`re up over a half-a-million jobs. We have got
money in the bank. We have cut taxes.

But we help people who don`t have much, people who are disabled, people who
are mentally ill or drug-addicted. It`s top to bottom. And here, the
Republicans did well, unlike almost everywhere else in the Midwest.

MATTHEWS: I know.

KASICH: They did well here.

MATTHEWS: You reelected a – you elected a successor, Mike DeWine.

Amid calls far Senate vote on a bill to protect the special counsel, Robert
Mueller, from President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
earlier this week called such a need irrelevant.

Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a solution in search
of a problem.

The president`s not going to fire Robert Mueller. We have a lot of things
to do to try to finish up this year, without taking votes on things that
are completely irrelevant to outcomes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Governor, it wouldn`t be hard to pass a resolution to say
that the president can`t fire the…

KASICH: Well, I would disagree, Chris. I would…

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead.

KASICH: Yes.

I would disagree with the fact that this is not relevant. Of course it`s
relevant. And we need to get to the bottom of all this. You know, I know
there`s a lot of speculation, what does this mean, what does that mean,
what does this leak mean, what does this charge mean?

I don`t really know. I don`t study it all every day. But, at the end,
there`s going to be a report from Mueller. And that report has to be
clear. It cannot be tarnished. It shouldn`t be limited. And I don`t
agree with Mitch McConnell when he says that, you know, it`s not relevant.

It`s very relevant, because I would like to see this thing get done. And I
hope, when it`s done, that we can then move on. And I hope – I just – I
don`t wish for bad things for people. That is not the way I operate.

But, Chris, we got to find out what the truth is. We have to find out what
the truth is, that simple.

MATTHEWS: Well, among Trump`s recent Twitter activities, this beauty.

It`s a retweet of a picture showing a who`s-who of Trump`s political
enemies, if you will, behind bars, suggesting they should all be tried for
treason. You can see there President Obama, the Clintons, Robert Mueller,
James Comey, Trump`s own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

What do you make of that, that he has to put out like a retweet? The
president of the United States is showing everybody he doesn`t like as
treasonous, behind bars.

KASICH: I think it`s terrible, Chris.

I mean, look, the country`s divided enough. And people are hungering. You
know, I just heard it on a call yesterday. I mean, I see it all the time.
People are hungering for an end to all this, the name-calling, the chaos.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KASICH: And, you know, when you are the president, you`re putting things
out like that – look, Chris, I`m the governor of the state, the seventh
largest state in the country.

I got things that make me mad, get me upset. I`m not going to start
putting out a list of people that – you know, that are my enemies or
something. I mean, I thought we got over that when Nixon left, you know,
no more enemies lists.

You got to work with people, sometimes even when you don`t like them. I
mean, it`s just a matter of fact. It`s life.

MATTHEWS: You know, I have grown up with your party, with the Democratic
Party. My family`s mostly in your party. My brothers, I think two or
three, depending on what day you talk to them, are Republicans.

I have to tell you that I grew up with people like Tom Ridge, the governor
of Pennsylvania, and Christie Todd Whitman, and all kind…

KASICH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Governor Rockefeller. All kinds of regular Republicans. They
were not right – crazy right tribalists. So here`s the question to you.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Well, how about this? Wait a minute. How about Ronald Reagan?
Wait a minute. How about Ronald Reagan? You knew him.

MATTHEWS: OK. I knew him.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: I love those people you mentioned.

MATTHEWS: Well, I knew him from the other side. I saw him inferentially.

Let me ask you about you. Last time around, I met you up in New Hampshire,
and you called me off into a side room. And I don`t think it was off the
record. And you were very optimistic that you could win the nomination up
in New Hampshire.

I think you have got good relations with the newspaper up there. Where
would you stop Trump, if you were to challenge? Would it be New Hampshire?
Where would any Republican have a shot at saying, OK, this is not the real
Republican Party of Ronald Reagan even, you`re not our guy?

KASICH: Yes. Well…

MATTHEWS: Who – where`s that going to start?

KASICH: I`m saying – I`m saying all the time and have been – and
sometimes it`s been lonely – that this is not the Republican Party that I
knew and I joined.

It`s – our party is pro-trade, pro-immigrant, believes that our
connections and allies around the world are critically important, not only
for our security, but world security and world peace.

We believe – I believe – I`m doing a piece right now, writing a piece for
“The Washington Post” on the deficit and the debt.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KASICH: When did we not care about debt?

MATTHEWS: OK.

KASICH: So I`m doing my darndest to try to pull things together.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KASICH: And, Chris, look at what I have done in Ohio. It`s not about
talk. Look at what I do.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you.

KASICH: That`s what matters.

MATTHEWS: That`s why you`re here.

Let me ask you. Anybody can write an op-ed piece who can write. But
here`s the question to you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Fourteen months from now, not a million years from now, about 14
months from now, New Hampshire`s going to have a primary.

KASICH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Will you be there to take on Trump?

KASICH: Oh, I don`t know. And you know this. I have answered. I`m very
seriously considering all of my options.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KASICH: And we will see, Chris.

MATTHEWS: What would stop you from running?

KASICH: There`s a lot of things that have to develop.

MATTHEWS: What would stop you from running?

KASICH: If I – if I thought that I would not make an impact, if I did not
think that it was something where I could contribute to the goodness of our
country.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

KASICH: But you know what?

MATTHEWS: We will be there to cover you.

KASICH: I`m going to have many ways to contribute.

MATTHEWS: We will be there to cover you. We will be there to cover you…

KASICH: OK. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: … in New Hampshire. It`s a – it will be cold, but it`s
already…

KASICH: Always with those HARDBALL questions.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s already cold. So, it might as well be cold New Hampshire.

Governor John Kasich, merry Christmas to you, sir.

KASICH: Merry Christmas to you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: The Democrats will face their own moment of truth in
January, when they take control of the House of Representatives. And
that`s going to happen. They have got the win, a 40-seat pickup.

What will Democrats do with that power? What can they do to ensure that
Mueller is allowed to completely complete his investigation, as Republican
Governor John Kasich says he must be able to do? And America is allowed to
see the results of that investigation in its entirety? The full report for
everybody to read.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

The big news today is Michael Cohen`s admission, confession that he lied to
Congress about a Trump deal, a real estate deal over in Moscow. It`s
called the Moscow project.

But a month from now, the president will face a Democratic-led House of
Representatives.

How will they use their subpoena power to dig deeper into Trump`s business
relationships with Russia?

Let`s bring in tonight`s roundtable. Illinois Democratic Congresswoman
Cheri Bustos, who just got elected today chair of the DCCC, the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, which is a really big deal. Eugene
Robinson, he`s a big deal, too, columnist for the “Washington Post.” And
John Brabender, surprisingly sharp for a Republican.

Let me ask you this. You must be having your – the new power, when Nixon
got re-elected in `72, he told Colson, oh my God, I lost the subpoena power
again.

You have it in your hands. What are you going to find about Trump`s
business dealings in Russia?

REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D-IL), DCCC CHAIR: Well, as of January 3rd, we have in
our hands. You know, here`s the thing, we`ve got three incoming chairmen.
We have Jerry Nadler, who will take over Judiciary, Adam Schiff,
intelligence, and Elijah Cummings on oversight.

They are three very smart men. They are very good men. They are very fair
men. I have complete confidence they will be driven by finding the truth.
And I think we`ll be in good shape. I think our country will be in good
shape.

MATTHEWS: If you were the grand inquisitor, where would you go, Gene?
Because it does seem a lot of stuff going on there.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, yes, I mean, you
know, and actually, I don`t know where I would go because I don`t know what
– you know, I don`t know what Adam Schiff knows, for example, about those
hearings.

MATTHEWS: We just heard tonight –

ROBINSON: We haven`t been allowed to find out –

MATTHEWS: Kristen Welker today found out he apparently – Putin was
promised a really nice condo in this new hotel over there.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I mean, these little – little tributes are interesting.

ROBINSON: From what we learned today, you know, one place you have to go
is the Trump organization, and it seems to me you have to take a look at,
you know, tax returns, Trump organization`s dealings, because what`s been
described is, you know, seems to violate the Emoluments Clause to me,
potentially.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he was running to drum up more business or drumming
up more business because he thought he was going to lose?

ROBINSON: Look, I think it was all about the family business.

MATTHEWS: John Brabender, your thoughts?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Every time I`m on a show the
Democrats seem excited about the breaking news about the day –

MATTHEWS: Republicans right –

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Well, what we learned today is Michael Cohen says they were
talking to the Russians after Iowa and Donald Trump said it was before Iowa
and there`s nothing illegal about that. I mean, so –

MATTHEWS: Why did he cover it up? Why lie about –

BRABENDER: He didn`t want it to be a political storm. I don`t know why
Michael Cohen did but –

MATTHEWS: He did a lot of lying about this.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Wait a minute, nobody cares about Michael Cohen. Everybody
cares about the president.

MATTHEWS: Why did Trump deny it? Again and again today. We have it on
tape.

BRABENDER: Let me ask you this. By him denying it, is that illegal? The
answer is probably not.

MATTHEWS: Why did he lie if he didn`t have to?

BRABENDER: I can`t tell –

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You got to help me here, he`s your guy, come on.

BRABENDER: What I can tell you is, this isn`t one of those smokes guns
where all of a sudden, people, Democrats are going to be out in the
streets. What he said isn`t illegal, even if he did lie.

MATTHEWS: It`s probably not illegal for Roger Stone to know weeks before
the DNC –

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: We just got out of a campaign.

MATTHEWS: All this suggests collaboration.

BRABENDER: I didn`t see anywhere in exit polls where people said what we
really need more around here is more investigations, more hearings.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re a young man. Let me warn you of something.

BRABENDER: Thank you for saying that. I appreciate you.

MATTHEWS: I want to tell you something, in 1972 when Nixon got re-elected,
nobody cared about Watergate either.

ROBINSON: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: The voters didn`t care. They gave him 49 states. What`s it
like to be powerful, by the way, Congresswoman?

BUSTOS: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: You are, you`re chair of the DCCC.

BUSTOS: You tell me.

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, President Trump canceled his meeting with Vladimir
Putin today at the G20 meeting down in Buenos Aires. Tweeting today, based
on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine
from Russia, I`ve decided it would be best for all parties concerned to
cancel my previously – he didn`t write this, this reads like the
government of the United States – previously scheduled meeting in
Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful
summit again as soon as this situation is resolved.

Trump`s tweet refers to Russia`s seizures of three Ukrainian ships in the
Black Sea last weekend. This came an hour after the president told
reporters in the midst of questions about Michael Cohen`s guilty plea that
now was, quote, a good time to meet with the Russian president.

Gene, who`s in charge here?

ROBINSON: Well, look –

MATTHEWS: That was not written by Donald Trump. That we know.

ROBINSON: Of course not. You know, what looks to have happened is the
most plausible thing. I imagine that his national security team have been
trying to get him in a meeting to explain to him, probably for a week now,
why he shouldn`t have this meeting, and they finally got him on the plane
and they finally, you know, and sat him down and explained why it would be
absurd for him to have this buddy/buddy meeting with Putin.

BRABENDER: Yes, but let`s have –

ROBINSON: At a time when he`s once again being aggressive toward Ukraine.

BRABENDER: Come on. Let`s be fair to the president. You`re familiar with
the “Washington Post.” On Tuesday, the president told the “Washington
Post” that there was a good chance this meeting would be canceled because
of what happened on the weekend, and he wanted to wait and see –

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. You guys withhold for a moment because we have an elected
official here.

I want to ask you, if you could describe, if you were speaker, you were in
charge of deciding how the Democrats use the new portion of the federal
government they`re going to control, as of January 3rd, you know, parties
have made the mistake of spending all their time, back after World War II,
the Republicans got control of the House for the first time in years, they
used it to all they did was hold hearings.

BUSTOS: We can`t do that.

MATTHEWS: So what happens?

BUSTOS: We made a pledge to the American public the first thing we would
do is focus on health care, bringing down the cost of health care and
prescription drugs, that we would rebuild our country with a real trillion
dollar infrastructure package.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUSTOS: And number three, we would clean up this mess in Washington. But
we`re talking about the dark money in politics. To Gene`s reference
earlier, we got a problem with abuse of the emoluments clause. I can tell
you back in the 17th district of Illinois, though, we don`t go around
talking about the Emoluments Clause. We just talk about making Washington
work.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Gene, then John. Who do you think the best picks are
for the Democratic nominee against Trump in 2020? Best picks.

ROBINSON: You know, Sherrod Brown –

MATTHEWS: Ohio.

ROBINSON: – is an interesting possibility. He won against the tide in
Ohio. He, you know, he won his race. And I think he`s a real possibility.

Kamala Harris, who is really, really, really talented politician. I just
think she`s got –

MATTHEWS: Is that a ticket? Is that a ticket right there? is that a
ticket right there?

ROBINSON: Could be a ticket.

MATTHEWS: Ohio, California.

ROBINSON: My third choice is candidate X, because there`s somebody out
there.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: I don`t know who the best opponent is, but who I will emerge, I
do think Beto O`Rourke is very credible. I think he will.

Senator Harris is very credible, great story.

And the third one, possibly, is Senator Amy Klobuchar.

MATTHEWS: I think Klobuchar, I like all this thinking. What comes
through, the Democrat needs a woman on the ticket.

BUSTOS: I`m all in favor.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, a possibility,
Eugene Robinson, and John Brabender, you`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: When we come back, let me finish tonight with “Trump Watch”.
It`s the tale of two towers, both Trump Towers, one in Moscow, one in New
York.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEW: “Trump Watch”, Thursday, November 29th, 2018.

I`d like to end tonight with the tale of two towers. The first tower, the
one Trump wanted to build in Moscow, was about a business deal to make him
richer. The Moscow Project, his associates called it, about building a
gold plated Trump Tower in the Russian capital. It`s a deal Trump denied
being involved with, certainly not during the 2016 election.

The second Trump Tower was the meeting place for that June 2016 get-
together of his son and namesake with Putin`s representative to talk about
getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Politics, not money was the name of that
game.

But from the beginning of this tale of two towers the meetings in these two
buildings had one thing in common, Trump has denied them both. He`s denied
being in on any business dealings with Russia, he`s denied knowing anything
about his son Donald Jr.`s meeting with the Russian rep in the Trump Tower
in Manhattan.

But don`t stop there, Trump recently denied knowing anything about the
change in the Republican platform to meet Russia`s demands. He`s denied
knowing anything about Russia`s hacking in the Democratic National
Committee. He`s denied knowing anything about Russia`s interference in the
2016 campaign at all.

And yet, and yet there`s the fact now these other witnesses coming forward,
like that of his fixer, Michael Cohen who now confesses to have lied, of
having perjured himself when he told Congress that Trump was not engaged in
Moscow business dealings during his campaign for the presidency, which is
adorned with the title, of course, leader of the free world.

Wouldn`t it have been useful for voters to know that Trump was playing
business tycoon with Russia at the very same time he was speaking voter
support for standing up to Russia? Wouldn`t it be useful for our country
to have a president who comes clean with the people who made him president?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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