Mueller expected to release Flynn sentencing memo. TRANSCRIPT: 12/4/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

John Brennan, Michael Isikoff, Jonathan Swan, Amy Klobuchar, Donna Edwards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Are we coming to the end?  Let`s play



Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews from Washington. 


Tonight we are awaiting what could be bombshell news out of the special

counsel`s investigation.  At any moment now Robert Mueller`s prosecutors

will file a key memo in the sentencing of Trump`s former national security

adviser Michael Flynn.  A memo that could answer the question at the heart

of the Russia probe.  Did the Trump campaign collaborate with Moscow to

beat Hillary Clinton? 


As one of the first witnesses to flip against the President, Michael Flynn

has been cooperating with federal investigators for over a year.  In fact,

he appears to be so valuable as a witness that the special counsel delayed

his sentencing four times. 


As a former top adviser to the President, both on the campaign trail and in

the White House briefly, Flynn was in a position to know firsthand about

any collaboration, collusion with the Russian government, which could

include a quid pro quo for sanctions relief. 


In fact, Flynn came to the campaign with his own connections to Vladimir

Putin.  In 2015, there he is, he famously attended a dinner with the

Russian autocrat to celebrate the Kremlin`s state-run news network. 

There`s something to celebrate. 


Anyway, Flynn pleaded guilty last year to one count of making false

statements to the FBI after lying to investigators about his conversations

with the Russian ambassador.  Specifically, Flynn told the FBI that he did

not discuss U.S. sanctions with the ambassador when, in fact, he had

discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador.  The question is, why did

he lie?  Why would Flynn commit a felony, perjure himself, to cover it up? 


As a potential reckoning draws near, the President`s recent behavior has

raised new questions about obstruction of justice and witness tampering as

well.  Yesterday, the President attacked a cooperating witness while

encouraging another key figure to remain silent.  In a tweet Trump slammed

Michael Cohen saying he makes up stories to get a great normally reduced

deal for himself.  He then praised Roger Stone for promising not testifying

against him saying, nice to know some people still have guts. 


I`m joined now with the former director of the CIA, John Brennan. 


Mr. Director, thank you about this.  I was thinking late this afternoon as

we await this memo from the special prosecutor, is it possible that Michael

Flynn, who was brought in as Trump`s foreign policy adviser, national

security adviser, the works, throughout the campaign, in fact, he wanted

him to be his national security adviser, to run all foreign policy, didn`t

know there was collaboration with the Russians if there was? 


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  It`s possible that mike Flynn was kept

out of some of the aspects of the campaign and interactions with the

Russians.  Mike Flynn knows foreign policy and so, therefore, he was looked

to for his advice on that front.  But there might have been some things

going on behind the scenes about how to influence the American electorate

that Mike might not have been aware of.  Maybe he encountered some of it. 

That`s why I think the Mueller team is trying to do, is find out exactly

what Michael Flynn knew during the campaign. 


MATTHEWS:  What would be the motive for him lying about it, for example,

saying we didn`t talk sanctions - I didn`t talk sanctions with the Russian

ambassador when he did? 


BRENNAN:  Well, I think Mike probably realized when he was being questioned

the first time that he made a mistake and then he shouldn`t have been

talking to the Russians. 


MATTHEWS:  Why was that a mistake? 


BRENNAN:  Well, if it was, in fact, something that he felt that he

shouldn`t have been doing because it was engaging with the Russians in a

manner that was inappropriate during the period of time before the

inauguration – and I don`t know the circumstances under which Mike had

interacted with folks.  I know some things, but who knows what was behind

Michael`s decision to lie to investigators. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Trump`s behavior, the President – now the

President, where he goes to certain witnesses and says, keep a stiff upper

lip, don`t talk, you are my guy, and then trashes the integrity of anybody

like Michael Flynn who does squawk, if you will, in mob terminology? 


BRENNAN:  Well, I think just what you said, mob terminology because it`s

almost a mob environment and mob attitude, trying to influence those

individuals who might think about cooperating, praising those who have

stood firm and trashing those who have spoken out of school.  I think it is

so typical Trump and so typical mob –


MATTHEWS:  Well, it is right out of “Godfather II” where, you know, Robert

goes to the prison and tells the guys they are afraid they are going to

talk, frankly five angels and tells him if he commits suicide, basically,

his family will be left alone.  It`s not that bad yet. 


BRENNAN:  No, but it`s not surprising in terms of how Trump has operated, I

think, through the years.  And so, as he became, you know, President-elect,

I think he was continuing to use some of these tactics.  And now as things

get a little more difficult for him, and dealing with an investigation that

will not go away, despite his best interest and best wishes, he is now I

think resorting to whatever tactic he can to try to convince individuals

that stick by me, you know, ride it out, we will be fine here.  But I think

less and less he has able to convince people about that. 


MATTHEWS:  You have worked with real presidents, presidents who have follow

some sort of the norms. 


BRENNAN:  Yes, I have. 


MATTHEWS:  How much of an outlaw is this one? 


BRENNAN:  Total outlier.  Total. 


MATTHEWS:  How about an outlaw? 


BRENNAN:  I think that`s what Bob Mueller is going to decide, whether

there`s been criminal activity here.  But certainly he is not doing things

the way, I think, most presidents have done them in the past, especially

from the standpoint of trying to protect his own interest as well as his,

you know, his family`s interest, his business interest while he is in the

oval office.  I have never seen that in any President I`ve worked with



MATTHEWS:  What comes first, the chicken or the egg in this case, is it the

money in Russia, which is why he went after the Miss Universe contest, he

wanted to build the tower over there, he kept up those relations and

business efforts all through his campaign, at least for the summer, early

summer of 2016.  At the same time he sort of wanted to be President.  What

was his guiding motive, do you think, money or power? 


BRENNAN:  Well, I think it was both, but I don`t think he was expecting to

be elected president.  And that`s why throughout the course of the

campaign, he was keeping a lot of those business fires burning in

anticipation that he was going to be able to capitalize on his increased



MATTHEWS:  Why did he run if he didn`t expect to win? 


BRENNAN:  Well, I think it was part of his branding efforts.  He has always

trying to increase his profile.  And being Republican candidate for the

President of the United States, that certainly gave him more notoriety than

he has ever had in the past.  So I think he was hoping to be able to

exploit that after he was defeated. 


MATTHEWS:  So, political famous cash in the bank. 


BRENNAN:  Absolutely, especially on the international front.  And it`s

clear he was going after the Russian target for many, many years. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Michael Flynn`s legal problems began during the

presidential transition when he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the

Russian ambassador in late December.  I think December 28th.  About two

weeks later on January 15th, vice president Pence publicly denied sanctions

were discussed in Flynn`s conversations.  Let`s watch the VP here. 




CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Did Mike Flynn ever discuss lifting

sanctions in any of those conversations, do you know? 



yesterday.  And the conversations that took place at that time were not in

any way related to new U.S. sanctions. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, the problem was that Flynn had lied to the vice president

before he went on that show on Sunday with Chris Wallace.  Anyway, Flynn

then repeated that lie to the FBI in an interview on January 24th, again

covering up the nature of his conversation with the Russian ambassador. 


President Trump first learned that Flynn speak to the FBI on January 26th. 

And it was just a day later that Trump asked FBI director James Comey, I

remember this one, for his personal loyalty to Donald Trump.  And two weeks

after that, Flynn was fired for lying to the vice president.  And the next

day, on February 14th, Trump asked James Comey to drop the FBI`s

investigation of Flynn. 


We are now also joined right now by Harry Litman, a former federal

prosecutor and Natasha Bertrand, she is staff writer of “the Atlantic.” 

Thank you so much. 


Harry, what do you make of Michael Flynn?  I do believe - I mean, the

director here said – director Brennan says it`s possible that he wouldn`t

know some of this stuff, perhaps the business end of things.  But the

(INAUDIBLE) thing, the quid pro quo regarding sanctions, I think Michael

Flynn is right in the middle of it. 



mean, he repeatedly during Trump`s inaugural address is sending out a text

saying, the sanctions are going to be off.  We are going to be OK.  And

need to do a nuclear deal that involves Turkey but required the sanctions

to go. 


I mean, we are going to find out what you make of him, but he has been this

missing man for, you know, a year and a half.  And he now resurfaces,

having cooperated in obviously many, many of the cases.  And, of course, he

started at the sort of the first strike involving collusion.  Mueller,

thereafter, went far and wide with other witnesses and now he is returning

to the topic that Flynn first told him about. 


And especially the point you made at the end, the Valentine`s Day request

to Comey, can you drop this thing?  Flynn likely knows the backdrop there,

including what Trump knew about what the FBI was investigating.  That could

really pin obstruction of justice charges on the President. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, when a guy or person is under control of the FBI,

under control of the special prosecutor for a year, give me a sense of what

it`s like.  You basically have a vacuum cleaner going into your head for

any possible – do they go at it again and again and again to granulate any

information that might help their case?  Tell me how it works because this

guy Flynn has been in the box with these guys for an awful long time now. 


LITMAN:  The short answer is, yes.  Conversation after conversation first

just to kind of establish trust and get the ground rules.  But then

repeatedly, session after session, including any time you are thinking of

charging him or using him, you go over it again and again, typically from a

position now of trust or more collegiality. 


We just learned about Cohen`s 70 hours of conversation with the

prosecutors.  People were stunned.  But that`s not so much.  You sit down

and have conversation after conversation.  Once you are cooperating, the

prosecution owns you.  And they want to make sure every single particular

is precisely right because any discrepancy at all could be fodder for the

defense on the other side to really attack your credibility. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s clearly a great drama trying to figure out how

Michael Flynn will be used.  Michael Flynn was this President`s number one

guy.  He was going to be his foreign policy guru.  He was going to be his

Henry Kissinger.  And now he is state`s witness against him. 


Natasha, this is drama.  We are expecting it to percolate to a boil tonight

some time when that report comes out.  How does this fit into the story of

Donald Trump`s investigation, rather, his being investigated? 


NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC:  Yes, so Michael Flynn is really

at the center of multiple inquiries, as we have pointed out.  He is at the

center of whether the campaign conspired with Russia so lift sanctions and

exchange for some kind of help during the election.  And he is also very

pivotal to the investigation in whether the President tried to obstruct

justice.  So in that way he is very dangerous for President Trump at this



I do think it`s – it`s not – it shouldn`t be understated the extent to

which when Michael Flynn lied to the FBI.  He was also, perhaps, trying to

protect himself because as Harry alluded to, he was also pursuing a nuclear

deal to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East with Russia`s help

that would have required lifting sanctions on Russia.  So, this was not

completely out of – he didn`t lie to the FBI completely out of loyalty to

the President.  We are not even sure that he has such a thing. 


So, I think that when considering whether or not – or to the extent to

which he has been cooperating fully with the special counsel, I think that

self-preservation is key here.  And, of course, the question of whether or

not the President tried to obstruct justice, the President kind of said

that out in the open when he tweeted earlier this year that he had fired

Michael Flynn because he had lied to the FBI.  Now, of course, people

jumped on that because the President had said earlier that he didn`t know

that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI before he fired him.  So, that was

just another area where it seemed like a kind of Freudian slip that the

President was owning up to. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I accept the fact he had his own interest but he wasn`t

out exactly robbing gas stations.  This guy was doing things that warmed up

Putin just like he was warming him up for Trump. 


As a Trump surrogate in fact during the 2016 campaign, Flynn was best known

for leading chants of lock her up, that`s a sweet line given all these

context, at the Republican national convention.  Here he goes in his gig

for Trump. 





that`s right.  Yes, that`s right.  Lock her up!  You guys are good.  Damn

right.  Exactly right.  There`s nothing wrong with that. 




MATTHEWS:  Again, I want to go back to a public servant, John Brennan. 


That says to me – I know this bothers people.  It sounds a little

politically incorrect, but that`s the kind of crap you expect from a third

world brand-new nation, a democracy where every time you win an election,

you put the other guys in jail.  And every time you lose an election you

say it`s rigged.  It`s just the language of the other sides are all

criminals and your side has been robbed because there`s no confidence in

our institutions. 


Here is a guy standing at a Republican convention saying the candidate for

the Republican – or the other side should go to jail.  Not just be

defeated on November, but go to prison.  For no crime that anybody can

think of that Hillary Clinton committed.  I don`t know what it was. 

Benghazi?  They keep making up this stuff. 


BRENNAN:  I think many of us who were watching the convention that night

who know Mike Flynn personally were very disappointed in the way he was

just brought into is that partisan whirlpool and, you know, engaging in

that chanting of lock her up.  Because you are exactly right, that`s not

what we expect of individuals. 


First of all, those who wore a uniform.  But secondly, those who are part

of a process, an electoral process here that is supposed to maintain some

degree of decorum and calling for the former secretary of state, you know,

to be locked up, you know, absence, you know, the type of process, again,

that we expect –


MATTHEWS:  A process?  How about a crime?  And how about an indictment? 

How about some reason to say, lock her up, except you don`t like her and

you are running against her. 


BRENNAN:  No.  Well, they were pointing to the email issue. 


MATTHEWS:  I know what is, but it is the one. 


Let me ask you about this while I have you here.  Great guest.  I want to

have all three of you talk about this. 


This thing with Khashoggi.  Now, you know what the phrase we all grew up

with plausible deniability.  Why is this President – maybe you know the

answer.  I`m asking the answer.  Give me the answer.  Why is he and his

secretary of state and secretary of defense and all the people at the top

refusing to listen to the tape of the torture and death of Khashoggi over

there in Turkey?  Are they doing it just so they can say, well, there`s

doubt?  Why are they not helping the truth come out? 


BRENNAN:  I don`t think they need to listen to the tape to be convinced

that Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the killing of Jamal

Khashoggi.  There is I think ample evidence and certainly Gina Haspel laid

out on the Hill today –


MATTHEWS:  The CIA director. 


BRENNAN:  Laid out the evidence to the committee to the leadership there. 

But I think there has been ample evidence so far that this was something

that was directed by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. 

And they just don`t want to abandon him.  I think Trump has put down the

order that they are going to stick with him because of the relationship

they have established with him. 


MATTHEWS:  What do they want?  They want a deal for Israel?  What`s Trump

up to deny the obvious truth of this murder? 


BRENNAN:  I don`t know.  It defies logic.  I`m surprised that Jim Mattis

has stood so strongly by the White House on this.  I`m not surprised that

Mike Pompeo has.  Mike Pompeo will do what Donald Trump wants.  But it`s

clear, again, Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of Jamal

Khashoggi.  And I think what we need to do is to tell Saudi Arabia Mohammed

bin Salman needs to be held to account.  He needs to be arrested.  He needs

to be incarcerated.  He needs to be held responsible for the –


MATTHEWS:  Maybe beheaded is the right answer. 


Anyway, thank you, John.  That`s what they do over there. 


Thank you, Natasha Bertrand and Harry Litman.  Thank you sir, especially

you for coming in here today. 


We are awaiting the release of the Mike Flynn sentencing memo any minute

now.  We will bring it to you as soon as it comes out.  This is going to be

the blockbuster, I think, not just for the week but the months ahead, I

think.  But we will see when it comes out tonight. 


Coming up, we are nearing Mueller`s end game.  Are we?  I think so.  A new

media reports suggest the special counsel is showing signs of wrapping up

his investigation.  How will President Trump handle that pressure? 


Plus, the legacy of George Herbert Walker Bush.  Senator Amy Klobuchar

comes here from Minnesota, a Democrat, to discuss the former president`s

passing and why it looks to many like the end of a pretty good era in

American politics. 


And the North Carolina district nine congressional race is still being

contested.  Are we seeing a case of voter fevery (ph)?  I think so. 


Finally, let me finish tonight with that American moment in the capitol

rotunda.  What a sight that was as Bob Dole standing up for his colleague

and friend, George Herbert Walker Bush. 


This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. 


The sentencing memo in the case of former National Security Adviser Michael

Flynn is the first in a series, a series of court documents this week that

could disclose new details in special counsel Robert Mueller`s



This coming Friday, Mueller`s team will file two additional memos – catch

this – one with potential details regarding former Trump campaign chairman

Paul Manafort, and a similar memo from the president – about the former

president`s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen, seems who to be driving from



President Trump kicked off the week yesterday attacking the special counsel

on Twitter, writing; “Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people

think)” – that`s in parenthesis – “and his out of control band of angry

Democrats don`t want the truth.  They only want lies.  The truth is very

bad for their mission” – close quote. 


But Yahoo News reports this week`s court filings could be part of a signal

that Mueller`s investigation is preparing its endgame, noting that – quote

– “Trump`s (sic) prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks

that they are `tying up loose ends` in their investigation, providing the

clearest clues yet that the long-running probe into Russia`s interference

in the 2016 election may be coming to its climax potentially in the next

few weeks.”


I`m joined right now by the author of that report, Michael Isikoff, the

chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo News, and also Jonathan Swan,

Washington – national political reporter for Axios. 


So, both of you, gentlemen, starting with Michael, who wrote the story

here, we had these three memos coming out this week involving, it seems to

me, all three people, by the way, Manafort, Flynn and Cohen, all involved

with the Russian end.  I`m not sure that tells us anything.


Are we getting to the end of the collusion piece of this, the obstruction

piece, or the whole shebang?


MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS:  Well, we`re certainly likely to be getting

towards the end, if not the end, of the obstruction phase of the

investigation, and I think probably even on the collusion one as well. 


Look, I think we`re going to learn more this week than we have learned in

the last year-and-a-half about what Mueller has been told.


MATTHEWS:  Love it.  Love it. 


ISIKOFF:  These are the most high-profile, crucial cooperating defendants. 




MATTHEWS:  Will we know if there was collusion this week, from a Mueller

point of view?


ISIKOFF:  You know, I mean, look, that`s a whole other question, how you

define collusion. 




ISIKOFF:  It`s an elastic term.  It can be defined in many ways.


MATTHEWS:  You`re the expert.


Is it possible – I ask…




ISIKOFF:  But here`s the thing.




ISIKOFF:  Look, if – Mueller is going to put, I think, a lot of

information, a lot of details in here.


But if he was getting information from any of these three that was going to

lead to other cases, they wouldn`t be going through sentencing.  The normal

way prosecutors do it is, if you have a cooperating witness who`s pled

guilty, you don`t do sentencing until you`re through with all the cases

that that cooperator has helped you bring.


MATTHEWS:  Well, what`s a file then?  What is memo?  What is a filing mean?


ISIKOFF:  No, this is for sentencing.  This is for sentencing. 


So the fact that they haven`t asked for more delays on sentencing on Cohen

and Flynn – they asked for four delays on Flynn, but now they`re not

asking for any more delays – is a sign to me that they`re not expecting to

bring additional cases based on what they have told them.


MATTHEWS:  Against these guys?


ISIKOFF:  Against anybody who they have fingered as a result. 


Now, with Flynn, it`s most likely relating to obstruction, what he knew

about the conversations with Kislyak, his conversations with Trump, what

contacts he had with Trump after he left the White House.  All that`s very

key to an obstruction case.


But that would be something Mueller would put in a report, not bring in a

criminal case.


MATTHEWS:  Let`s go – let`s narrow it down.


Let`s go down to what we know, which is that Trump tried to get Comey, then

FBI – or – FBI director, the drop this case, to drop the investigation of

Michael Flynn.  He said he`s a good guy, give him a break. 


He also then fired the guy when he wouldn`t play ball with him.  So is that

going to be the interstices of what Flynn can report on, what Trump was

talking to him about while he`s doing all this with Comey?




I mean, that – you have got right to the heart of it.


But what we – we haven`t heard from Flynn in a long time.  I mean, he was

– was it December 17 he was…


ISIKOFF:  Yes, it was practically a year ago, yes.


SWAN:  It`s practically a year ago.  This guy has been silent for a year. 


We know he`s been cooperating because Mueller keeps delaying.  Is it four

delays, I think, so far?


ISIKOFF:  Four delays.


SWAN:  Four delays.  So he keeps giving them more. 


We don`t know what he`s been giving them.  We haven`t heard anything from

Flynn.  And, yes, obstruction is obviously part of it, but Flynn was by his

side on the campaign.  He was flying around with Trump on that jet.  They

were talking in the campaign. 



So, anything that happened during the campaign that potentially had

something to do with foreign influence…


MATTHEWS:  That`s what I think. 




MATTHEWS:  Let me try this by both of you.  And I tried this by the

director, by Director Brennan. 




MATTHEWS:  Is it really plausible that Flynn didn`t know that the hanky

panky was going on with Russia, with the sanctions and all that, if Trump

was involved with it?


ISIKOFF:  Well, look…


MATTHEWS:  In other words, if there was collaboration over policy, not

money, he would have known about it? 


ISIKOFF:  No doubt. 






SWAN:  No doubt.


MATTHEWS:  No doubt.


ISIKOFF:  You had that incredibly compelling document last week with

Michael Cohen, where we learned for the first time that Michael Cohen, a

representative of the Trump Organization, was in communication with

Vladimir Putin`s office during the campaign.


That was new.  That was highly significant.


MATTHEWS:  According to his press secretary, who said, I have the phone

calls here from the guy, the e-mails. 


ISIKOFF:  Right, right, right. 


But that was the Trump Organization.  Flynn may not have had any insight

into that.  There`s no reason to think he would. 


But, remember, you know, under Department of Justice policy, they can`t

indict the president.  Mueller can`t do that.  So, all he can do with this

information that he`s gotten from all these people is then put it in some

sort of report, right, that will go to now Matthew Whitaker. 


What happens after that is – you know, that`s a jump ball with Congress. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.


ISIKOFF:  But he will probably try to put as much as he can in these

sentencing memos, which is why I think they`re so important. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump spent part of yesterday tweeting about Michael

Cohen, about Cohen`s attorneys – after the Cohen attorneys filed a memo

requesting no prison time, due to Cohen`s cooperation with Mueller and

three other investigations into Trump and his inner circle. 


So, Trump doesn`t like the fact that this guy is getting off for squawking. 

Well, “The New York Times” reports of Cohen`s motivation, writing that, all

of those in Mueller`s crosshairs – quote – “Cohen has undertaken perhaps

the most surprising and risky legal strategy in cooperating.”


The report goes on to say: “He did all this without first obtaining a

traditional ironclad deal under which the government would commit to

seeking leniency on his behalf.”


So, this is fascinating to me.  Cohen has basically decided he`s left the

ship, he`s left Trump, he`s on the other side now.  He said, I`m putting

all my money on, I`m going to bring down Trump.  I`m going to tell all the

truth I got, with the hope that, somewhere down the road, I maybe spend a

couple years in prison, but I`m going to be better off for being against

Trump than being with him. 


SWAN:  According to people who have spoken to Michael Cohen in the last few

months, he felt personally betrayed.  He felt that he had done everything

for Trump, and then was iced out when it really came down to it. 




MATTHEWS:  But before the prosecutions.  He was iced out because he wasn`t

getting a job. 


SWAN:  It was a sort of a slower process.  I think he thought he was going

to get a job and then didn`t. 




SWAN:  But the point is, Cohen clearly now – it`s personal.  It`s beyond -

- yes, he`s going to give it all up, but he sees his path to redemption as

bringing down Trump, as putting everything out there that he has. 


MATTHEWS:  Michael, you agree with that? 






MATTHEWS:  It`s war between Cohen and Trump. 


ISIKOFF:  Right. 


And you know what I think this calls for?  Congress has really dropped the

ball here.  We have had no public hearings of any of the key fact



MATTHEWS:  You mean the Republican-controlled Congress.  Let`s be honest.


ISIKOFF:  Republican-controlled, but, OK, now it`s the Democrats in the

House are going to have the opportunity. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, they haven`t got there yet.


ISIKOFF:  They should be calling Michael Cohen in January to testify, in

public, under oath, tell the whole story of every conversation he`s had

with Donald Trump. 


MATTHEWS:  What can Congress do that Mueller hasn`t been able to do,

though, in terms of getting at the truth? 


ISIKOFF:  Air it for the world, so we can all know and make our own

determination about what it adds up to. 


MATTHEWS:  For the world, yes.


I would put my money on Robert Mueller over Congress to get the job done. 


ISIKOFF:  Well, but Mueller`s brief is very narrow.  It`s to make criminal

cases.  It`s up to Congress to inform the public about what`s really



MATTHEWS:  OK, we shouldn`t prejudge. 


Let`s hope that Congress, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the

chairman of the Intelligence Committee, the chairman of the Reform

Committee do their job. 


Michael Isikoff has made it pointedly clear. 


Jonathan Swan, thank you both. 


You`re the best, buddy. 


Mike – no, he is. 


You`re good, too. 






SWAN:  I thought you were saying about me, the best. 


MATTHEWS:  No, no, because he`s been around the years. 




MATTHEWS:  He`s so damn good.  He`s so damn good. 


ISIKOFF:  Not as long as you, Chris. 




MATTHEWS:  No, you`re so damn good.


SWAN:  You guys should get a room. 








MATTHEWS:  Is that…




MATTHEWS:  Doing the comedy here? 




MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Senator Amy Klobuchar will come here and talk

seriously, compared to this, to talk about what she calls the grace and

dignity with which the late President George Herbert Walker Bush treated

his friends and, more importantly, his rivals. 


I want to hear a little of this from a good Democrat, Amy Klobuchar from



This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Members of the public visited the Capitol Rotunda today – I joined them,

by the way – to pay our respects to the 41st president, including former

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who, in a powerful moment, stood.  Look at

him.  He`s getting helped out of his wheelchair.


He`s an older man.  And he`s got a lot of war wounds that are still working

on him seriously.  And he wanted to show man-to-man respect, person-to-

person respect there to the man he ran against in 1988 in the Republican



And that was one tough primary campaign. 


There`s been a lot of outpouring of praise for the former president coming

from both sides of the aisle.  I was very impressed, both sides. 


Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us right now.  She

commemorated George Herbert Walker Bush`s commitment to bipartisanship

today.  Let`s watch her in action.




SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  For George H.W. Bush, patriotism was

bigger than political rivalries. 


President Bush was someone who fought hard on the campaign trail, but, once

the votes were cast, he understood the underlying truth of America, that

people with different political views are not enemies, and that, when all

is said and done, we can come together to advance the cause of America, not

tear it down. 




MATTHEWS:  I`m a fan of yours. 


So, I`m asking you the toughest question I give anybody.  What can you, a

Democratic senator who is very well-known and respected, do to bring this

country, despite the fact we have Trump as president – is there any way

the country can improve, despite having him as president?


Or does he continue – does he have the power to keep bringing us down by



KLOBUCHAR:  I think that already started, Chris, with this last election,

where you saw record turnouts of people that came out and said, enough is

enough, moderate Republicans, independents, Democrats, young people.






They said, we want a different America, we want civility.  And look at the

numbers.  Look at the new people we elected.  So, I think that`s the first



The second is to continue, despite the bad tweets, despite the statements,

to look not just for common ground, but to have that bring us to a higher



And we can do something right now, like right now, in the next two weeks. 

We can pass criminal justice reform, something that has support on the left

and the right and is long overdue.  We can get that farm bill done.


MATTHEWS:  Have you talked to the president about that?


KLOBUCHAR:  I actually have – I don`t think I have talked to him directly. 

I have certainly talked to his family members about it.  I have talked to

his staff about it. 


I have had dinner with people on his staff about it, with Senator Durbin

and others, because I feel so strongly that it needs to get done.


MATTHEWS:  I`m a big Durbin fan.


Anyway, meanwhile, on the sleaze side, Roger Stone said today, in response

to a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which you`re a member,

ranking member Dianne Feinstein, to her, he says he plans to plead the

Fifth Amendment, saying he will not provide documents or appear for an

interview before the committee. 


What do you make of that?  This is the guy that is at the heart of a lot of

this stuff with Russia and WikiLeaks and the whole works.  And he says, I`m

not talking. 


KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, we`re trying to figure this out, because this request

actually came many, many months before, over a year before, and this was

out of the blue – I have talked to some of the staff members about this –

that he sent this response in. 


So, the thought is, why is he suddenly saying he will plead the Fifth? 

Well, maybe he`s trying to send a message to Adam Schiff in the House, if

they start hearings. Maybe he`s trying to send a message to Mueller.  We

really don`t know. 


But what I do know is that we have to allow this investigation to continue. 

This is an investigation of a foreign power that tried to influence our

election, that tried to hack into our equipment.  And this is about our

democracy.  And so that is our number one goal right now.


MATTHEWS:  Speaking of democracy, this election coming up, it`s going –

for president is going to begin. 


We all know, from history, it starts next January.  It`s a couple months

from now.  That`s a year from the primaries already.  It seems to me that

everybody knows that the fight is going to be in the battleground, the

middle of the country.  It`s going to be Minnesota, which almost went for

Trump by a point-and-a-half.  Of course, Wisconsin, Michigan and

Pennsylvania, Ohio all went for Trump. 


How do you win it back?  You have the personality to do it.  But how do –

do you have the toughness?  You got to take on Joe Biden maybe.  He says

he`s the best prepared.


KLOBUCHAR:  All right, well, first of all, let`s – let`s start there. 


Joe – everyone loves Joe.


MATTHEWS:  He said it today.


KLOBUCHAR:  He was an incredible vice president. 


And what he said was that he was experienced.  That is a true fact.  And he

said he`s going to talk about to his family about it.


MATTHEWS:  He said he`s the best prepared, the best.




He has a lot of experience for this job.  And that`s all he said.  And I`m

not going to go criticize this guy, because he`s an incredible patriot.


We go to the next thing.  There`s going to be a lot of people running.  But

I do think it`s important that there are people running from the Midwest. 

The Midwest came roaring back in 2018.


MATTHEWS:  How about you?


KLOBUCHAR:  I`m considering it.  There`s a number of people considering it.


MATTHEWS:  What would stop you?


KLOBUCHAR:  Look, it is a daunting task to make that decision.  You have to

decide that you would be a good president, that you could bring the country

together, that you would be able to beat Donald Trump or whoever the other

party put on.


But to do it right, I really think you have to do what I said at the

beginning.  You have to find common ground – and I do have that track

record – but for the purpose of bringing this country to a higher ground. 


When you think of George H.W. Bush, you think of what he did, I saw that

clip of Bob Dole.  I hadn`t seen it until I watched it on your show.  It

was George H.W. Bush who then pushed for the passage of the American With

Disabilities Act, against a lot of the people in his party who didn`t want

to do it.


MATTHEWS:  For Bob. For Bob.




You look at what he did on the environment with the Clean Water Act.  You

look at what we`re facing right now. 


And we need leadership that`s willing to take on those tough causes, like

climate change.  George H.W. Bush, he did that.  He saw his party as a

party of conservation, a party of not just people who are fighting off

change.  He saw it as, you have got to find your moments and reach across

the aisle and get things done.


So, that`s what I think we need to do right now, when you look at this

major challenge of climate change and everything else we`re facing. 


So, when we pause for a moment tomorrow at this funeral, we have to

remember that this is a person that we have to recognize not just in words,

but we then have to go back and do the deeds, which is passing these

important bills.


MATTHEWS:  Do you think you convinced – do you think you convinced me? 

You do? 






MATTHEWS:  Well, you just did.  I was very – I`m going to read that

statement again, what you – I do think that`s the exact tone to beat this

guy, if he runs again.




MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  And I do think come from the part of the country that

seems to be more important than any other part, because the South is going

to stay Republican.  The West – the Left Coast will stay Democrat.  The

East will stay, but it`s the middle America, of the Midwest and the

industrial northern Middle West that is going to decide these elections. 


And you have the accent and the manner and the personality and the



KLOBUCHAR:  And I think you need a little humor to take this guy because

I`m telling you, you just take this guy and go down every rabbit hole,

that`s –


MATTHEWS:  I want you to come up with a nickname for him. 


Anyway, thank you, Amy Klobuchar, the senator from Minnesota, member of the

Senate Judiciary Committee, very important senator especially as she

continues with this effort at bipartisanship to get things like criminal

reform.  We knew that.


Up next, senators on both sides of the aisle say there`s no question that

the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, an

American reporter. 


Plus, the latest on what looks like vote stealing, let`s call it what it

is, in North Carolina. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Allegations of vote stealing in North Carolina`s ninth congressional

district continue to swirl and evidence of vote theft in Bladen County. 

Yesterday, a local North Carolina affiliate, WSOC, spoke to a woman who

seemed to be part of a targeted effort to illegally pick up absentee

ballots in the county. 


According to a new report out today, a second woman now confirms that she,

too, was paid to collect completed absentee ballots, not knowing if they

were delivered to the county board of elections.  Some guy or woman comes

along and says, I want your unfilled out or filled out absentee ballot and

hauls it off. 


According to a sworn affidavit, one political character, I`ll say, McCrae

Dowless, is at the center of the scheme.  He denies any wrongdoing.  On

Capitol Hill, the incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters

today that Democrats might refuse to seat Harris unless and until

substantial questions are resolved.  He told “The Washington Post,” quote,

the House has, as you know, the authority over the propriety of the



For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable tonight.  Katty Kay,

Washington anchor for BBC News and an MSNBC contributor, former Democratic

congresswoman of Maryland, Donna Edwards, and Michael Steele, former RNC



Who`s the biggest politician here?  You two are politicians.


I have to ask you, Donna, I don`t know much.  I hear about it once in a

while.  I generally think American elections are clean, in other words,

your votes get counted, generally.  We don`t have rigging like Trump talks

about and some new democracies have it. 


This looks like the old stuff, you know, typing in – send me a ballot and

you get the ballot and the next day someone shows up and says, you got your

ballot.  If it`s got the wrong information or the wrong votes, they throw

it in the trash can.  If it hasn`t been filled out, they fill it out for

their guy and they cash it in and put it into the system. 


DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, you know, you talk

to plenty of voters, and I have, who don`t like to file absentee ballots

because they`re afraid of exactly that.  I mean, keep in mind that the

elections are conducted county by county and then the state.  And so, you

could see that it – that if someone were nefarious, it would be easy to



Here, you have real evidence.  People saying, I was paid to do “X” and to

change ballots.  We don`t know how much that took place across the state or

whether it was just confined to these two counties. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s an African-American county.  They went to older people. 

You know how it works.  They go to people trusting of public officials. 

They`re older, 87 years by, I`ll collect the ballot, you don`t have to pay

the postage or whatever.  They look official. 


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  They look official, sound official and

acting, quote, in an official capacity to help this senior citizen.  The

sad part of this narrative is this was taking advantage of a segment of the

population, elderly folks in particular.  It`s particularly ironic that my

party, which often enlarges – you know, lays these charges at the feet of

Democrats are the ones behind this particular nefarious act. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, it`s changed.  Life has changed.  In the old days,

Democrats ran the big ethnic cities and they played the old games.


STEELE:  Right, right.


MATTHEWS:  Now your party is trying to save itself with a diminishing

demographic reality. 


STEELE:  In a district that is a plus D district, a Democratic district,

and you`ve got more absentee voters than you have population.  It`s crazy. 


KATTY KAY, WASHINGTON ANCHOR, BBC NEWS:  Doesn`t look very smart, right? 

If you`re going to do election fraud, do it a little smarter.  They left a

trail of witnesses.  They have more absentee ballots than people. 


STETELE:  I want to get into this international thing.  Earlier today, CIA

Director Gina Haspel who seems like a straight arrow briefed a small group

of reporters on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi over in Turkey.  Emerging

from the briefing, the senators said they were convinced after listening to

her, the CIA director, that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was

responsible for the killing and some even rebuked, well, rebuked the Trump

administration for its response – its lack of response, its deniability. 

Let`s watch. 




SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE:  If he was in front of a jury, he would be

convicted in 30 minutes. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  You have to be willfully blind

not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by

people in – under the command of MBS.  As to Pompeo and Mattis, I have

great respect for them.  I would imagine if they were Democrat – in a

Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket

of Saudi Arabia, but since I have such respect for them, I`m going to

assume they`re being good soldiers. 




MATTHEWS:  Wow, that was so sarcastic by Lindsey basically saying they`re



Well, just last week, the administration made a concerted effort to dismiss

the link between the murder of Khashoggi and the crown prince.  Let`s watch

their cover game here. 





he did or maybe he didn`t. 


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  There is no direct reporting

connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi. 


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY:  We have no smoking gun that the

crown prince was involved. 




MATTHEWS:  I`m so impressed.  I shouldn`t say this because I`ll be

sarcastic, that Lindsey Graham finally said, I`m not going along with this

crowd on this one. 


KAY:  Yes, he`s been saying this for a while.  Not only did he say, I think

the crown prince is behind this, he also threw Pompeo and Jim Mattis under

the bus by saying effectively they are using intelligence for political

means.  Whether they can actually now do anything about this because

anything they vote on in the Senate can get vetoed by the president, who`s

made it clear he`s going to put that relationship first.  But it was

striking that the White House didn`t want Gina Haspel to go up and testify

there.  They sent up Mike Pompeo last week.


MATTHEWS:  Good for her. 


KAY:  She goes up and they don`t come out of that –


MATTHEWS:  I love it.  You know, I got to want to both of you two, this

question of, why is – I always wonder why people do things to get them

this trouble.  Why are we defending a killer? 


EDWARDS:  Well, it`s such a good question.  It leaves open the question of

whether Donald Trump is doing this because of other motivations –


MATTHEWS:  How about this, the grand deal involving the Soviets –


EDWARDS:  Financial interest.  And let me tell you something –


MATTHEWS:  And somehow they`re going to get the protector of Mecca, to

somehow protect the Israel`s right to the holy – are you crazy?  It`s a

loony tune idea, I think. 


EDWARDS:  Well, MBS is clearly – I mean, he is behind this.  He ordered

it.  These senators know that.  And I think that there are things, in fact,

that Democrats can do particularly when they come in the house and call for

a full briefing of the House and the Senate so that everybody`s on the same

page about what this intelligence is. 


STEELE:  Yes, I`d echo that.  I think right now, I appreciate getting in

front of cameras and expressing outrage.  But now, show me your walk.  Show

me what we`re going to do.  Is there resolution?  Is there a bill, House

and Senate together?


KAY:  Is there a bill the president doesn`t veto?  If sanctions –




MATTHEWS:  Extradite the prince.  Put him in a caboose. 


Thank you, Katty Kay.  Thank you, Donna Edwards and Michael Steele. 


Up next, Joe Biden says he`s the most qualified person to be president. 

Does that mean he`s running?  Sounds like it. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Former Vice President Joe Biden seems to be inching closer to making a

decision on running for 2020.  During a stop on his book tour in Missoula,

Montana, he told a roomful of people, I think I`m the most qualified person

in the country to be president. 



When asked if the fact that he was prone to gaffes would turn people off,

he said: I may be a gaffe machine, but my god, what a wonderful thing

compared to a guy who can`t tell the truth. 


When we return tonight, let me finish tonight with the American moment some

of us saw at the capitol today.  What a sight.


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with that American moment today in the



Bob Dole, the Republican leader who never got to be president, saluting

George Bush who did.  Theirs was quite a rumble back in the day. 


Bush, then the vice president, ran a TV ad that excoriated Dole, then a

Kansas senator, for trying to have it both ways on a tax bill.  It was

called the straddle ad.  It made Dole looked like he lacked the guts to

take a stand. 


Dole didn`t like it.  When NBC`s Tom Brokaw asked if he who had just lost a

New Hampshire primary had a message for the candidate who had just won, he

did – tell him to stop lying about my record. 


I remember that moment.  And though I know it made Dole look bad, I always

thought he had a reason to be riled.  After all, we`re talking about a guy

who got shot and permanently handicapped when carrying a wounded fellow

soldier through German gunfire, that`s not a good candidate to insinuate

he`s afraid to show his colors, something that that Bush ad did do.


Today, Bob Dole got up from his wheelchair however to salute the other guy,

the other World War II vet, the greatest generation – our colleague Tom

Brokaw christened them.  And there they were today, the living, the lost,

both firmly in the American scroll of honor. 


That`s HARDBALL for now. 


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.











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