Trump on Putin’s human rights abuses. TRANSCRIPT: 11/30/2018, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Tom Hamburger, Jennifer Rubin, David Ignatius, Karen Bass, Tim O`Brien
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL
Date: November 30, 2018
Guest: Tom Hamburger, Jennifer Rubin, David Ignatius, Karen Bass, Tim
O`Brien

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

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington.

In the wake of Michael Cohen`s explosive plea hearing yesterday, the
President has continued to vent his anger with the special counsel`s
investigation all the way down to the G-20 summit in Argentina.

Referring to the real estate project in Moscow that Cohen lied about, Trump
tweeted, oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life,
when I see our country going in the wrong direction, to put it mildly,
against all odds, I decide to run for President and continue to run my
business, very legal, very cool. Lightly looked at doing a building
somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn`t do the
problem. Witch hunt.

But Cohen`s plea yesterday has one of two consequential documents to emerge
from the special counsel`s office this week. There is also the draft plea
agreement for Jerome Corsi, which Corsi turned down. Both identify the
President by name as a key subject in the Mueller investigation.

As “the Washington Post” reports quote “together the documents show
investigators have evidence that Trump was if close contact with his
lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks and that
they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.”

We know that Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews now with
Mueller`s team, which means that yesterday`s bombshell could be the first
dose of the evidence that Mueller still has under wraps.

We also know that Cohen lied in the cover-up to protect the President. As
he said in court just yesterday quote “I made these misstatements out of
loyalty to Trump.”

And while the President has lost Cohen`s loyalty, he is counting on the
sounds of other allies for his survival, namely people like roger Corsi and
Roger Stone who both say they are expecting to be indicted soon.

Joining me now is Paul Butler, a former prosecutor, Shannon Pettypiece is
White House correspondent for “Bloomberg News” and David Jolly is a former
Republican congressman from Florida, who is no longer affiliated with that
political party.

Let me go to Paul on this. Because I do have the sense that 70 hours of
testimony of serious questioning of Michael Cohen has yield more than was
heard just yesterday.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. So I think before this week
the conventional wisdom was that the Mueller investigation was winding
down, that if there were criminal charges, they would be more about
obstruction than collusion and that the President would not be implicated.
All bets are off. Collusion is still very much on the table. And I don`t
see Robert Mueller going anywhere any time soon.

For collusion the questions have always been about motive and method. Why
would the President collude with the Russian and how? So the Cohen
indictment answers the why. With this President, cash money. It`s always
about the benjamins (ph). He had financial session e connections with the
Russians he wanted to maintain. How? From the Corsi drought plea, we know
that Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi were go between Assange and WikiLeaks and
the President of the United States.

MATTHEWS: So what is the chicken or the egg? I mean, which comes first,
the money, lure, which of course, he spent years chasing big bucks or the
campaign? Was the campaign a promotional tour for him to help raise his
brand so he can have a better relation with Putin? I mean, put it
together. The money and the politicking?

BUTLER: Yes. So again.

MATTHEWS: What do you want first?

BUTLER: Apparently between January and June, he somehow understood that
there`s a chance I could become President. So in January when he didn`t
really think it was a possibility, he was actively negotiating with the
Russians about Trump tower. In June, it`s near the convention, my God, it
looks like I`m going to be the Republican candidate. So then Cohen stops
working on that deal, but we know Don, Jr., now was very involved with the
Russians. So one question for Mueller is even in June, did the deal with
the Russian stop him with Trump tower or did it shift from Cohen to Donald
Trump, Jr.

BUTLER: We now know that Michael Cohen`s plea documents yesterday from
them the work on Trump`s Moscow project did span from January actually 2015
until June of 2016. It was during that same period of time that Trump
repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail. And so why is he
warming up this guy as he`s trying to make money with him. By the way, he
is asking him to help with his deal, asking him for a $50 million condo to
go with the deal. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think in terms of
leadership, he is getting an A, our President is not doing so well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person that kills political opponents. And invades
countries. Obviously, that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He is running his country. At least he`s leader, unlike what we
have in this country.

I will do things with Putin nobody else is going to be able do. Believe
me.

I don`t like the way Obama treats Putin.

Like for instance, Putin said Trump is brilliant.

Wouldn`t it be nice if actually we get along with Russia?

I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia. He`s been a lot
stronger than our leaders. That I can tell you.

Putin said Donald trump is a genius. He is going to be the next great
leader of the United States.

Putin did call me a genius.

I`m going to disavow a savor (ph) when somebody calls me - I am not
disavowing anything.

My attitude, when people like me, I like them. Even Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUTLER: It is not that simple. It`s not that psychological, David,
because he is clearly trying, we know from the documents now from Michael
Cohen that he was trying to get Putin support which is not getting anything
done, but you need counseling him privilege in New York. You need
counseling him to approve new digs and constructive projects. In Moscow,
you simply need Putin support. He was actively seeking Putin`s support for
a big money and project in Russia. At the same time, he is throwing these
flowers at him in public. They always rhetoric of love toward him,
clearly, trying to warming him up for the money. I mean, it looks that way
and smells. And that`s why I think Trump has denied the whole thing.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: He was. And he is lying
about it, which also creates an additional level of exposure for Donald
Trump to Russia.

MATTHEWS: Explain the why. Explain the why of the lie. Why does he lying
all the way through? All of them all the way through the day, they are
lying about the thing. Trump did it again today saying I really didn`t
have anything going only over there.

JOLLY: Because though Donald Trump may not have a moral compass, he does
understand legal jeopardy. And he knows at a time when Russia was trying
to influence our elections that he, in fact, was trying to make money and
gain leverage from Vladimir Putin, himself.

Chris, the first thought I had yesterday is now it`s coming more clear why
John Dowd and Ty Cobb resigned earlier this year. Because I think what we
know based on yesterday`s filing, is Bob Mueller has a lot of information.

Yesterday`s plea deal seemed a little incomplete. It was lacking in
finality. Why would Bob Mueller offer a sentencing guideline of zero to
six months for a simple single plea to lying to Congress if he wasn`t
trying to send a signal to the entire Trump organization to Don Jr. and
everybody else that he has a lot more information regarding Donald Trump`s
personal involvement?

Chris, Donald Trump controls everything. This is a guy two said he doesn`t
need a communications director. He will be his own chief of staff. It
requires a suspension of belief that everybody around this President can
fall, can be convicted, can plead to certain federal crimes and yet Donald
Trump, himself, survives this. It requires a suspension of belief to see
the President come through this.

MATTHEWS: Shannon, it seems to me that this dropped out of the sky when I
found out that he offer of Putin of a $50 million condo in this new project
to his, and that`s a pretty nice place to imagine living even if you are
Putin, probably living in American buildings., a lot better than living in
any Russian building (INAUDIBLE).

In addition, he is throwing these flowers at him, all this incredible
flattery. At the same time he is giving him an offer of this incredible
gimme. What do you make of this? He has tied to money making.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: And the feeling
is mutual, too. Because we now know the assessment from the intelligence
community that the Russians were working to hurt Hillary Clinton and help
Donald Trump win elections. So really have you this great love affair
between these two going on even at the time we didn`t realize, you know,
that Putin was working to help the Trump campaign.

But I mean, I know everybody kind of wants – we are all like so desperate
for the answer and to see the full picture of this puzzle. But I just kind
of keep coming back in my head that we only have maybe 20 pieces of the
puzzle. And maybe this week we got two more. But we don`t know how many
pieces are in the whole puzzle. It could be 50. It could be 100. It
could be a thousand. We don`t even know how big the puzzle is. And every
now and then we get two pieces that seems to fit together. And we try and
say oh is that a leg? Or maybe it is a face and to try and figure out what
this puzzle is. But I think what every time Mueller reveals something, I
think it just emphasizes to us how much we don`t know. We did not know
this was going to be an issue. We did not know this deal have been going
on. It`s just one more tiny little thing that we realize we don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David on this, the politics. I mean, sometimes I
think it`s Trump trying to pull the big deal, the great play, the big play
with Russia. And then I think now is these mash notes they are sending
each other, back and forth. I like you. I like you, you know. It`s
something I`m passing from desk to desk in school.

You know, what is - how do you unpack the motive here for Trump? Does he
want to be the great Presidential leader of the west that cuts a deal to
the east or is he just another guy, nothing wrong with this, another guy
trying to make more money? Which is it or both?

JOLLY: I think for Donald Trump, there is no separation between his
personal interest and his family fortune and his role as President. And
that`s created this legal jeopardy. I would suggest, Chris, so very
importantly, take the Mueller thing completely out of the picture. Go to
Congress, go to the responsibility of our other national leaders, and it`s
this.

The reason lying is important, if Michael Cohen was lying or Donald Trump
was lying, is that they weren`t just lying about whether or not they were
exposed financially in a Russia deal. The lie, itself, exposes the
President of the United States and the purity or sanctity of his decision-
making on matters of foreign policy. Because you know who knows that
Michael Cohen lied before Congress, the Russians and the Russian had known
Cohen lied. So if Donald Trump has been lying, the one party that knows
Donald Trump is lying is Vladimir Putin. And it can explain the reason why
American shake their head at how this President continues to deflect when
it comes to matters of Vladimir Putin.

MATTHEWS: And you are right all the time. The head of the former soviet
union of Russia which is being - and acting like the former Soviet Union
sometimes has got him by his shorts.

Anyway, Trump has publicly applauded Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi - Jerome
Corsi for not cooperating with Mueller. You know, whenever Trump praises
somebody, he thinks he has them on the hook. However, we know that Mueller
already has evidence to suggest that Corsi had advanced knowledge of the
hacked emails that WikiLeaks released – planned to release, information
the Corsi passed along on to Roger Stone.

Now Corsi`s draft plea agreement also shows that he understood Roger Stone
to be in regular contact with then candidate Donald Trump. And we know
from Stone, himself that he was talking to Trump during that time.

So a line of discussion, a passing of the message. But they are coming out
with this stuff there hackled from the Democrats, the Democratic National
Committee and from John Podesta. It`s all coming out, Mr. President to be
is getting the information from Corsi, to Stone to Trump. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How often do you talk to him?

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: From time to time. I Middle
Eastern, not on a daily basis. But from time to time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you talked to him?

STONE: Saturday. We talk from time to time. I decline to characterize
the content of those conversations.

I spoke to Donald Trump yesterday in good spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you divulge to us, Roger - and I respectfully ask
this question - some of those middle of the night phone conversation you
had with MR. Trump?

STONE: You know, I really can`t and it`s been my policy not to discuss
personal conversation with him, otherwise they will, in all honesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The question now is whether Roger Stone ever passed information
about WikiLeaks to Trump in any of those conversations. Both Stone and the
President deny ever discussing WikiLeaks. However, Stone said he spoke to
Trump just a day after he received this stunning email from Jerome Corsi.

You will find that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Corsi wrote, word is friend
in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I`m back. Second in
October. Impact planned to be damaging.

You know, Paul, this is like (INAUDIBLE) or something. I mean, here`s a
guy talking in spy language, you know. Our friend in the embassy. And we
know two he is. By the way, who is he kidding by that, he is our friend in
the embassy? And he is passing on this information that you know, he is
going to be in the barrel. It`s so, you can`t predict the future unless
you know something about the future.

BUTLER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He knew about the hacks.

BUTLER: And he is not kidding anybody. And so the message, if there is
ever a jury trial will be come on, use your common sense. Does Jerome
Corsi look like the kind of person who could divine these hacked emails are
going to come from Podesta of all people? And so again, common sense,
forensic everyday like emails and texts. It would be great if Mueller
could get Corsi to admit it.

That is likely to happen. Corsi says I`m staying strong.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: Yes. Well, but we heard the same thing from Paul Manafort.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUTLER: Every single Trump operative who Mueller has prosecuted has pled
guilty. Michael Cohen. Michael Flynn. George Papadopoulos. Mueller is a
prosecutor who always gets his man.

MATTHEWS: Couldn`t have happened to a nicer guy. Isn`t Corsi the guy that
cook up the whole birther nonsense?

BUTLER: Yes. So again –.

MATTHEWS: Accused of first African-American president being a foreign,
basically illegal immigrant?

BUTLER: Yes. But - so he is kind of the good liar because he turned that
lines into a “New York Times” best seller. But he is not a great lawyer
because this lie about whether he knew about WikiLeaks, the email dump,
nobody believes that.

MATTHEWS: Shannon, this looks to me like, if I`m the President, if I`m
Donald Trump, I`m down there in beautiful Buenos Aires, which is wonderful
especially this time of year and you are with your wife and you are having
a good time, (INAUDIBLE), pretending peek a boo with Putin. You have a lot
of stuff coming at you. You have got the Jerome Corsi group, Roger Stone
coming at you. You got the Manafort stuff. You got Cohen`s testimony.
Now it looks like it`s only began to sing. He has only began to sing.

How does Trump – Clinton used to (INAUDIBLE) with a lot less trouble, with
a lot less trouble, was able to shake it off and compartmentalize. How is
Trump going to do it?

PETTYPIECE: You know, it was obviously getting under his skin earlier this
week when there was the Manafort hearing about his being in violation of
this plea deal. There was the Corsi-the Stone stuff coming out. And you
know, we saw these tweets.

But in the past, it is kind of interesting, when things get really hot, the
staff usually finds a way to distract his attention. They tell him, focus
on the Korea summit. Focus on your meeting Putin in Helsinki. I`m sure
they are telling him now, Mr. President, we got the G-20 coming up. We
have this meeting with Xi. We have the signing. Focus his attention
elsewhere to try and get him to hold back a little from saying things like
he has in the past that could, you know, at worst to incriminate himself at
best make him look like he is guilty of something.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You are having steak and ice cream tonight, Mr. President.

PETTYPIECE: Yes. I do think they are going to have to get worried about
to the point of not knowing what they know.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. A great group tonight.

Thank you, Paul Butler as always.

Thank you, Shannon.

Thank you, David Jolly.

Coming up, Donald Trump has pursued business ventures in Russia for at
least 30 years, thee decade. He traveled to the then soviet union the
first time back in 1987. That`s behind Trump. What is behind his - he is
looking eastward all the time. What is that about?

Plus, is Donald Trump, Jr. next on Mueller`s list? I think he is coming up
as a problem. It`s a question that may be keeping his father up at night.

And Trump is in Buenos Aires as I said for the G-20 summit where earlier
today, cameras caught, it is interesting, when I think an awful moment
between two world leaders. We will show you what that - what happened
there when Vladimir Putin and Saudi crown prince MBS ran into each other.
It will make you sick.

Finally, let me finish tonight with a field of names popping up as 2020
Democratic contenders. What a list. We are going right across the country
to show you the map of candidates. It is extraordinary. And I have been
watching this stuff for a long time. I never seen so many people so gung
ho (ph) to take on Trump.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(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 are not involved in Russia.

I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever.

I don`t deal there. I have no businesses. 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: Eastern promises.

We now know those claims made by Trump are 100 percent false. The
president`s former lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted, as of yesterday, at
least for us, to lying to Congress about a real estate project he was
pursuing in Russia, in Moscow, on behalf of Trump while he was a candidate
for president.

In fact, “The Washington Post” reports that deal was the Holy Grail in a
long quest for Trump, writing: “Trump`s attempt that year” – that would be
2016 – “to expand his brand into Moscow capped a 30-year-long effort by
this celebrity mogul to do business in Russia.”

The report goes on dad: “Again and again, Trump pursued his Russia project,
traveling to Moscow and unveiling – unveiling four ultimately
unsuccessful plans to put his name on a building in the Russian capital
before he announced he would run for President.”

Trump, seen here in December of 1987, greeting Mikhail Gorbachev here in
Washington, first visited Moscow earlier that year to scope out luxury
hotels sites, a plan that eventually fell through. He traveled to Moscow
again in 1996, exploring another real estate project. That project also
fizzled.

In fact, former Trump biographer Tim O`Brien points out that, in 2007, in a
deposition that year, after Trump sued him for libel, Trump told attorneys:
“It`s ridiculous that I wouldn`t be investing in Russia. Russia is one of
the hottest place in the world for investment.”

I`m joined right now by Tom Hamburger, political investigator for –
investigations reporter for “The Washington Post,” and Tim O`Brien, the
aforementioned executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion.

Tim, let`s go over this.

What is it about his movement to Russia? What is it about the appeal of
Moscow, generally of Russia? Why is he always dreaming in that direction?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, I would put this
in context, because I actually don`t think it`s only Russia.

Trump was engaged in a number of these deals before he became – shortly
before he came president all over the world. He was doing it in Brazil.
He was doing it in India. He was trying to do it in Russia.

And all of them amounted to him generally trying to cut deals in which he
had to put no money into it, and someone else financed it, and he put his
name on it, and he got either a fee or equity in the project in return.

MATTHEWS: OK. Is that part of this thing that we`re hearing about that
there`s a lot of Russian ruble floating around, and they wanted a – a lot
of it needed to be laundered? There`s a lot of money over there. He
didn`t need to bring money there.

O`BRIEN: Well, I think that – no, I think this is just a way – I think
he was always looking to partner with anyone. So I don`t think that
Russia, in that context, was that exclusive.

But I think what`s important to focus on is, when he said repeatedly that I
have no investments in Russia or – and I have no loans from Russia, I
think he`s playing a semantic game, because whether or not he had
investments in Russia, it`s very possible that at different points in time
the Russians had investments in him.

Specifically, you can look at projects like the Trump SoHo in Lower
Manhattan, that he did that in partnership with Felix Sater of the Bayrock
Group. Felix Sater is the same individual who shows up in the criminal
information that Robert Mueller`s prosecutors filed. He was anonymous in
that, but they`re referring to him in that document.

He was – he`s been floating around Trump for the better part of 12 years.
And so the president`s playing a semantic game when he said, I don`t have
investments in Russia.

He`s lying when he says he didn`t have a deal in Russia. That`s just a
flat-out lie. And we now know that to be a fact.

MATTHEWS: Tom, not that I compare the two men in terms of the morality,
but this is an old Trump – this is an old Bill Clinton thing.

It depends on your definition of is, is, like I`m not having an affair with
Monica Lewinsky as I sit here. And it gets to the point of absurdity, what
he meant.

When he says all those times we just showed that, Trump, all those times,
he said, I got no dealings with Russia, totally the whole truth to make it
sound like, I would have nothing to do, when all the time he was trying to
work something over there.

TOM HAMBURGER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: He was trying to work something.

And, as Tim just noted, there were also considerable relationships with
Russians investing in him, in a sense, that is…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How do these find – you did the reporting on – a lot of work
on that piece. How do they find each other? Did the Russians come looking
for somebody to dump their money in the United States and launder it? Or
did he go looking over there, because that`s a known repository of a lot of
cash from the – from the oligarchs?

HAMBURGER: That`s true, Chris.

And I think we want to separate a couple of things here. One is, if we`re
talking about investments in Trump properties, which occurred substantially
during the 2007-2008 period, when U.S. real estate was collapsing, Trump
needed tenants.

And those tenants in some cases were – in some Trump buildings and Trump
branded buildings were overwhelmingly Russians.

We did a – at “The Washington Post” a couple of years ago a look at
multiple Trump Towers that opened in Florida on the – north of Miami, all
of them opening between 2006, `7, `8, `9.

The guy who was in charge of selling those units told us, the Russian saved
our butts.

MATTHEWS: Do the Russians actually inhabit those apartments and those
condos and buildings, or do they just have so much money they can afford to
buy them everywhere, like in London and everywhere else and the Riviera?

HAMBURGER: So, again, we have to be careful of which places we`re talking
about.

But this particular area, Sunny Isles, Florida, is actually a little hub of
Russian activity. And in some of the lobbies of Trump buildings there,
depending on who`s staying in the building and who might be renting it at a
given time, you will hear Russian spoken in the lobby and Russian in the
elevators. And, yes, Russians are living in those buildings.

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump returned to the Russian capital in 2013, bringing
his Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow.

In a series of tweets that summer, Trump promoted – promoted the event as
– quote – “a big deal that will bring our countries together.”

Well, Trump also wrote: “Do you think Putin will be going to the Miss
Universe Pageant in November in Moscow? If so, will he become my new best
friend?”

Tim, what do you make of that? is that, again, 8-year-old talk from Trump?
My new best friend? It sounds like Valley Girl.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What are we talking about here?

O`BRIEN: Well, I actually don`t think he had any proximity to Putin at
that point in time.

I think he was bragging about a relationship he didn`t have. It had
happened on other occasions. He, I think, at one point said he and Putin
were on “60 Minutes” together at one point, when they weren`t.

I think he was always trying to cozy up to him. I think that Putin
certainly had – was aware of who Trump was. I suspect, from what we have
seen now in the fact pattern, that they didn`t try to actually get their
hooks into him directly until that presidential race.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Tim, what do you think Putin thinks of a guy who lies about all his
overtures to him? I mean, Putin knows everything about the Trump efforts
to go East into Russia, into Moscow, asking him for help in these deals,
and necessary help, of course, and offering big condos, little lucrative
sort of door prizes, if you will.

But Putin knows at all. What do you think he thinks of Trump lying about
it?

O`BRIEN: I don`t think he actually has a problem with that.

I see – Putin has said publicly that, like most people, he didn`t suspect
– wrongly didn`t suspect Trump would win the presidency. He won, and he
has been essentially a policy patsy for the Russians in a lot of ways, at
least on the public stage.

And I would think that, on election night, they were both laughing and
toasting one another.

MATTHEWS: There they are dressed alike there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Tom Hamburger and Tim O`Brien.

Up next: Who will be the next insider under Mueller`s microscope. Who`s
talking next? There`s one. What if it`s Don Jr.? Will that be enough to
push Trump over the edge in trying to halt the investigation?

I have long thought that Trump will stop this at the family door.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Michael Cohen`s bombshell plea has raised the stakes for the president and
his family.

According to the court filing, Cohen acknowledged that he discussed the
Moscow deal with Trump`s family members – very important phrase – during
the campaign. So, Michael Cohen talked to the family members about what
was going on in Moscow.

And while it`s unclear which family members the filings referred to, Donald
Jr., Ivanka, and Eric were all top officials in the Trump company. So it`s
all fair game to imagine that they were the ones he was talking to.

And Cohen`s testimony has raised questions about Donald Trump`s answers to
Congress on that same topic. Is he telling the truth? Was he lying,
perjuring himself?

In September of 2017, Trump Jr. was asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee
to characterize the Trump Organization`s business relations with Russia.

He replied: “Other than we hosted that Miss America Pageant there, they
don`t exist.”

Pretty thorough denial.

Specifically, Trump Jr. said he was only peripherally aware – he was only
peripherally aware of a Moscow project that Cohen was suing.

Well, “USA Today” is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now
reviewing Trump Jr.`s interviews. And NBC News is reporting that, after
yesterday`s plea, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are going
through their own transcripts to check for Donald Trump Jr.`s truthfulness.

For more, I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother
Jones.”

We have got three or four minutes. I`m going to let you go, because you
know this more than anybody I know.

I have always thought the failsafe point for Trump, when he finally says,
I`m firing everybody and pardoning everybody else, no more cooperation, is
when they approach the door of the family.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let`s one step back.

The plea deal yesterday – not even plea deal – the guilty plea by Michael
Cohen, what does it show? It shows that Bob Mueller is really dead serious
about prosecuting cases of lying to Congress, because he already had Cohen.

Cohen already copped a plea on the Stormy Daniels front. He was going be
sentenced on that. And he was cooperating fully, fully with Mueller.
Mueller did not need to put any pressure on Cohen with this case. So why
did he do it?

To show people that he will be prosecuting crimes of this nature. So if
you`re Donald Trump Jr. and anybody else has come before Congress and has
said anything that may not be true, you ought to be sweating bullets right.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Senator Burr? Because he said, I have
referred a lot of this.

Tell me about – here – well, seldom prosecuted, lying to Congress is
against the law. And today the chairman of the Intelligence Committee,
Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, had this warning for
those who had appeared before his committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I won`t get into the numbers, but
we have made referrals from our committee to the special prosecutor for
prosecution.

In a lot of cases, those might be to tied to lying to us.

My message yesterday was, if you lie to us, we`re going to catch you and
we`re going to prosecute you, period, end of sentence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that is a serious warning there.

CORN: Big news.

MATTHEWS: Today.

CORN: Big news.

We also know that Adam Schiff, the House Democratic – top Democrat on the
Intelligence Committee, who will be becoming chairman, has been saying for
months – I have been reporting on this for months – that he believes that
perjury or lying to Congress has occurred in their hearings, in their
private sessions, and that he wanted Mueller to be going through that.

Now they`re doing it themselves. Joaquin Castro, a member of that
committee, a Democrat, a few months ago tweeted specifically about
something that Donald Trump Jr. said about the cover story for the Trump
Tower meeting that he indicated was a lie to the committee.

So, I think Trump Jr., but also Erik Prince, Roger Stone – and who knows
who Richard Burr is referring to – are all…

MATTHEWS: And all these guys – all these guys had to basically say under
oath what Trump is saying public to synchronize.

CORN: Well, that`s what Cohen said in his plea, in his guilty plea: I
lied in order to protect the message, the cover-up, the camouflage story
that President Trump was telling me.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me to a question I haven`t had.

Why – it`s a question I have had for two days now. Why does Trump lie
over and over and over again about having nothing to do with Russia?
Totally blanket denials, not, I didn`t have this.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Nothing. Nothing.

Why is he so – does he know there`s a smell test problem, that the
American voter says, wait a minute, while you`re running for president,
you`re trying to make some money over there?

CORN: I don`t think we have enough time to get into this, but I think,
psychologically, he doesn`t understand the concept of truth.

You`re asking this question as if he`s a rational actor. He said during
the campaign, not only that I have nothing to do with Russia, which maybe
you could say technically is true because I don`t have a deal at this
moment. He said, I have stayed away from Russia.

Now, the other thing is, who knows that`s false? Donald Trump Jr. knows
that`s false.

MATTHEWS: And Vlad.

CORN: Ivanka and, of course, Vladimir. So, all – Vladimir is watching
him lie to the public.

And as others have said, it`s giving him information to hold over Trump.

MATTHEWS: Just like the dossier. Who knows?

Anyway, thank you, David Corn.

Up next: yet another overseas trip for Trump overshadowed by damning
revelations back here at home.

How does he compartmentalize? I don`t know how he does it. We will be
having – will having Democrats in control of the House next year bring
oversight back to this mix, as David just said? They got the power of the
subpoena. They got – they can hit them every time somebody lies up there.

I would haul them up and make them lie again. Let them lie and lie and
lie, and nail every one of them, because, if they keep lying, they`re going
to keep committing perjury.

And will this all make a difference to the Republican holdouts for Trump?
I keep asking that. Will they finally say, enough?

We will see.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s been a week of bad news for this president, don`t you think?

And first Paul Manafort`s alleged lies to the special cost him his plea
deal. So, he`s just going away for a long time. Then it was revealed that
Manafort`s lawyer was helping Trump while his client was supposed to be
cooperating. That`s not much of a deal-making.

Anyway, and, finally, there was yesterday`s bombshell news that Michael
Cohen lied to cover up Trump`s business dealings in Russia. As NBC First
Read – First Read put it: “Isn`t the news that a presidential candidate`s
business deals were shaping his views about a geopolitical adversary a
humongous scandal all by itself?”

Well, they cite former federal prosecutor Ken White, who wrote in “The
Atlantic”: “These are the sorts of developments that would, under normal
circumstances, end a presidency.”

Let`s bring – on that note, let`s bring on this Friday night HARDBALL
Roundtable.

And we got a great guest here, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of
California, who was just elected this week the new chair of the
Congressional Black Caucus, which is a huge honor.

Congratulations, Congresswoman.

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And I do think someday you`re going to be speaker. You`re on
that list, short list.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Jennifer Rubin is the opinion writer for “The Washington Post.”
And David Ignatius knows all things to do with spooks and spying that we
always want to find out about.

I want to get – we`re going to get to Khashoggi in a minute.

Let`s talk about this, Congresswoman.

You know, in a real world – I think we`re still in one, but I`m not sure -
- Trump`s stuff, everything`s coming. He`s got three or four fronts. He`s
fighting a war on so many fronts. He`s got Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone.
My God, what a group.

And he`s got Michael ratting him about everything he can. He`s got
Manafort ready to go to jail forever, but all these people coming in with
dirt on him.

BASS: Right. Right. Right. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: How is he – and then he goes down and talks big shot stuff at
the G20. I don`t know how he does it.

BASS: Right. But just wait.

In a few more weeks, January 3, when Adam Schiff has a gavel, and Elijah
Cummings has a gavel, because, really, for the last two years, he hasn`t
really been investigated. There`s been no oversight.

MATTHEWS: OK, I love the way you guys talk about process, but make me
excited.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What are you going to do with this process?

BASS: Well, how about his taxes? How about his financials?

I think that there`s an awful lot of oversight and investigations.

MATTHEWS: Does Ways and Means get the – does Ways and Means have the
right, first shot?

BASS: Absolutely. Right, right. I believe Ways and Means can do it right
away. I think it`ll be one of the first things that…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And what`s your enforcement mechanism? The sergeant at arms?

(LAUGHTER)

BASS: Well…

MATTHEWS: I mean, who`s going to go to the White House and say to the
president, turn over your taxes? I`m dead serious about this.

BASS: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Under our Constitution, the Justice Department has to enforce,
right?

BASS: Right. Exactly.

However…

MATTHEWS: A subpoena.

BASS: … there`s a subpoena. Yes.

The Justice Department does have to enforce.

MATTHEWS: Are you counting on this guy Whitaker to do this?

BASS: No, I`m not.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BASS: But you know what? There can be lawsuits. And there was lawsuits
in the past under the Bush presidency, when Nancy Pelosi was a leader.

So I think that there`s enforcement mechanisms that will come way before
the sergeant of arms.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch.

BASS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jennifer, I think this is interesting.

What do you think of this whole week, because normally this would close
down a shop?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes.

Listen, it`s getting thickened and fat.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He lied about his business connections to Russia for years.

RUBIN: He sure did, while he`s running for president, while he`s denying
that he is doing it, while he`s throwing bouquets to Putin every other day.
That`s a problem.

It`s also a problem for Don Jr., who apparently has lied multiple times, if
you can read between the lines of what Adam Schiff is saying, before
Congress. So you can see an indictment coming for him a mile away.

But really the question is, how much does Mueller have that`s going to tie
Corsi to WikiLeaks and is going to tie Roger Stone back to Trump? That`s
the links that puts him in the collusion camp.

Now, I think there`s plenty on the obstruction camp already.

MATTHEWS: Well, your paper that you work for is great.

And your paper, David, your paper has pointed out the fact that there was a
complete loop there. It went right through from Corsi to Roger Stone to
the president of the United States – the candidate who became president,
that they knew all about the hacking, the Russian hacking.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: So, Mueller has to sew
these remaining loops.

But I think this week was crucial, in that this investigation went to new
places. It went to Donald Trump`s personal finances, his personal
financial stake in Russia.

It went, as Jennifer suggests, to his family. And it went to the core of
his narrative. I mean, he`s been saying for two years, this is a witch-
hunt, this is all made up, this is – and this week, you saw facts that
basically begin to blow up that narrative.

And I felt that the world is going to be different for Donald Trump after
this week. It`s different.

MATTHEWS: I even heard FOX this morning, listening in the car this
morning, and I get the feeling that, maybe not Steve Doocy and that crowd
in the morning, but the later people were taking this plea by Cohen damn
seriously.

Why would a guy admit to all this if it didn`t happen?

BASS: Right. Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s real.

BASS: Exactly.

And it opens the door for us to bring him in before Congress as well.

RUBIN: And it answer the question of, why was everyone lying?

BASS: Right.

RUBIN: Everyone is lying about the same thing in the same way because
Trump is…

MATTHEWS: Well, answer your question.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why are they lying?

RUBIN: They`re all lying because they want to follow Trump in disguising
this ongoing relationship he`s had with the Russians for years.

MATTHEWS: Because it smells.

All right, meanwhile, and NBC`s Jonathan Allen put it, Trump has cast a
dark cloud over Trump`s trip to Argentina for the G20 summit. The
president quietly arrived in Buenos Aires last night, in a contrast to the
red carpet and band that greeted President Xi China early in the day.

Well, two years ago, Trump mocked President Obama for not being greeted by
a red carpet at a G20. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I see Obama is now over in China. They won`t even give him stairs,
proper stairs, to get out of the airport. You see that?

There are pictures of other leaders that are going there, and they`re
coming down with a beautiful red carpet. And Obama`s coming down a metal
staircase.

I got to tell you, if that were me, I would say, you know what, folks? I
respect you a lot, but close the doors. Let`s get out of here. It`s a
sign of such disrespect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Should he have left today, when they didn`t treat him with a
band?

BASS: Oh, my goodness.

MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, I`m never going to take the side of another
country against ours, ever. If they want to disrespect us, try somebody
else to like that.

But Trump did make fun of Obama for getting bad treatment that way.

BASS: Absolutely.

But you know what? I think that we need to pay more attention to how we
are viewed on the world stage now. I travel the world. I`m on Foreign
Affairs. And we just have so little credibility.

MATTHEWS: Well, nobody`s trying to get into Argentina to live, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s not build up how great that country is. Don`t cry for me,
Argentina.

BASS: No, I`m not talking about Argentina.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.

RUBIN: Listen, he is shrinking by the moment.

He has now capitulated to Saudi Arabia, which, frankly, is a Third World
country with a bunch of oil.

MATTHEWS: So, Jennifer Rubin, you`re now a big friend of the U.N. General
Assembly. I have never heard you speak like this before.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You like all those little countries all of a sudden.

RUBIN: Well, you know…

MATTHEWS: I never heard you talk like this.

RUBIN: Well, when they murder our journalist…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we will get to that.

Finally, at the G20 summit today, Russian President Vladimir Putin and
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – he called MBS – who the CIA has
concluded ordered journalist Jamal Khashoggi`s killing, high-fived each
other.

Let`s watch that.

BASS: Well, they can both relate.

MATTHEWS: Pretty sick.

BASS: Exactly. It is. It is. But just…

MATTHEWS: Why is he giggling like a little kid there that he`s talking to
a guy who most probably killed this guy?

BASS: But just think about the two of them. How do they deal with
opposition? How do they deal with journalists in Russia?

I think they have an audience a lot in common. And I think that they`re
just laughing at the world, but also with us, because, again, I put on the
table our credibility in the world.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

What do they talk about, what a great meat grinder you got, buddy? I mean,
I`m dead serious about this. This is graphic.

(CROSSTALK)

IGNATIUS: I found that chilling to watch.

If I was to write a caption for that scene that we just saw, it would be,
you can get away with murder.

BASS: Right.

IGNATIUS: Hey, buddy.

BASS: And the U.S. won`t hold you accountable.

RUBIN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Why do they love this guy? Why does Trump do anything to defend
Saudi? What`s he up to with this guy? He`s defending the war in Yemen.
He`s defending…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re a member of the committee.

RUBIN: Because they get some money.

(CROSSTALK)

BASS: Yes, exactly. I think it`s his financial interests.

RUBIN: Yes.

Or you can think it`s that he is so invested in Saudi Arabia, in lieu of an
actual Iran policy, that they have put all their eggs in that basket.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, the defenders of…

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: … defend Israel`s right to the Holy Land? And we kidding
ourselves?

RUBIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s the crazy – David, do you think that`s insane?
This whole counting – Jennifer mentioned this whole idea that somehow
Saudi Arabia is going to deliver Israel to some sort of peace deal with the
Arab world.

IGNATIUS: So, Saudi Arabia has moved in some ways toward more modern
positions, and everybody should welcome that. When a member of the Saudi
religious leadership goes to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, that`s
good.

I think the problem for Israel, which has been saying hooray for MBS, the
problem for Donald Trump is that he is now – he, the crown prince, is so
weakened, that Saudi Arabia is not going to be able to get investment.
It`s not going to be able to deliver on the things that Israel wants so
badly.

He has somehow got to show the world that he`s – whatever he did with
Jamal Khashoggi, he`s going to go in a different direction. If he doesn`t,
I think he`s sunk.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, I think that`s much worse than not laying out
the red carpet and having the band playing in Argentina.

The real disrespect of Trump is thinking he can get away with this.

BASS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

And the congresswoman from California, the new head of the CBC, the
Congressional Black Caucus, has hot news to share.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, Tell Me Something I Don`t know
in 15 seconds.

BASS: Fifty-five members of the Congressional Black Caucus, five members
will be full committee chair members and 28 subcommittee chair members.

A lot of power.

MATTHEWS: And one thing I know about the Black Caucus, they love
seniority.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you. And I know why. It`s a good way to get to the top.

BASS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

RUBIN: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that`s the new buzzword for Trump,
giving a $50 million condo to Trump – maybe to – to Putin, rather.

MATTHEWS: What does a $50 million condo look like anyway?

RUBIN: Gold. Gold.

MATTHEWS: David. David.

IGNATIUS: If there is a smoking gun linking MBS to the death of my
colleague Jamal Khashoggi, it`s in a series of messages that were sent in
the 36 hours around his death.

Nobody I talk to thinks those messages will ever come out.

MATTHEWS: Have you heard the tape?

IGNATIUS: No, sir.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass, Jennifer Rubin, and David Ignatius.

When we return, Let Me Finish tonight with the field of names popping up as
potential 2020 contenders. Wait until you see the map of presidential
candidates for the Democrats. It`s extraordinary. There are more
candidates coming out of just one state than there used to be altogether.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let Me Finish tonight with a remarkable fact.

Look at this map and what it shows, state by state, the names being raised
as Democratic challengers to Donald Trump in 2020.

Let`s go left to right, starting with what we lovingly call the left coast.
I see a half-dozen Democratic prospects in California alone, Senator Kamala
Harris, governor-elect Gavin Newsom, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, and
Adam Schiff, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and wealthy progressive
activist Tom Steyer.

Heading Southeast, there`s Julian Castro and Beto O`Rourke of Texas and
Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans.

In the Midwest, there`s Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mayor Pete
Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and coming off a big reelection, Senator
Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The Northeast is packed with prospects, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont,
then five from Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Senator and
Secretary of State John Kerry, former Governor Deval Patrick, U.S.
Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and Seth Moulton.

New York state has a quartet of potentials, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,
former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Governor
Andrew Cuomo, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Also on the map, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Maryland Congressman
John Delaney, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware, and
recent Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The question is, which of these faces on the map can go toe to toe with
Donald Trump and knock him to the floor?

But long before that, each hopeful has to ask himself or herself how much
they want it, because Trump will be in trouble. He will use every weapon
ever imagined to save himself.

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

“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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