Court filings reveal new details about Cohen. TRANSCRIPT: 12/7/2018, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

Ted Lieu, Natasha Bertrand, Richard Blumenthal, Shermichael Singleton, Sam Stein, Adrienne Elrod

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews from



Federal prosecutors in New York have accused the President of criminal

violation of the federal campaign laws.  They say Trump directed – that`s

the word – lawyer Michael Cohen to cover up a campaign contribution in the

form of payments to two women with whom he had sexual relations. 


This comes from the southern district of New York, not Robert Mueller, not

the so-called 17 Democrats the President says are working against him, not

the deep state, not from a witch-hunt.  It`s from one of the two sentencing

memos filed in the case of Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen today which

are shedding new light on the President`s potential legal exposure. 


As Trump`s long-time fixer, Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign

finance violations in making hush payments to two women on Trump`s behalf. 

And now tonight`s sentencing memo makes clear that quote “with respect to

both payments, Cohen acted in coordination with and at the direction of

individual one.”  That`s the President. 


We are also getting new insight into what Cohen has told the special

counsel in the ongoing probe of potential collusion with Russia.  According

to the filing from Mueller`s office, Cohen not only provided information

about the Moscow real estate project, Trump tower over there that Trump

pursued during the election, but also provide information about attempts by

other Russian nationals to reach the Trump campaign. 


According to the memo quote “Cohen spoke with a Russian national who

claimed to be a trusted person in the Russian federation who could offer

the campaign – here`s a phrase – political synergy, another working

together, Trump and Russia against Hillary.  Prosecutors say Cohen provided

useful information providing certain discrete Russia-related matters

according to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular

contact with company executives.” 


That was Trump company executives.  That`s how Cohen got the information he

has been using to try to save himself.  And Cohen also provided relevant

and useful information concerning his contacts with a person connected to

the White House itself after January of 2017. 


However, despite Cohen`s assistance, prosecutors in the southern district

of New York still recommended a substantial term of imprisonment for

Michael Cohen given the nature of his crimes. 


Also tonight, prosecutors detailed how Trump`s former campaign chair Paul

Manafort lied to them repeatedly while he was supposedly cooperating with



What a news night.  I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, reporter for

NBC`s investigative unit, Julia Ainsley, a national security and justice

report for NBC, Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney at Michigan.  Mimi

Rocah, former U.S. assistant attorney in the southern district of New York. 


I want to start with Ken.  I want to focus on one thing first.  I want to

focus on the criminal violation of the campaign laws, this effort to cover

up what is really a campaign contribution of $130,000, $150,000, adding it

up to cover up these affairs with these two women.  The President directed

that activity, according to this memorandum today – Ken. 



Chris.  And in fact, you know, Michael Cohen already stood up in court and

said that when he pleaded guilty to these charges in the southern district

of New York.  But what`s different today is that the U.S. attorney`s

office, a representative of the United States of America is endorsing that

view in black and white in a court filing that Cohen acted in coordination

with and at the direction of individual one, Donald Trump, who had become

the President of the United States. 


Now the reason I have been told it`s not accurate to call him an unindicted

co-conspirator because there still is an issue of criminal intent.  The way

the campaign finance law is written, prosecutors have to prove for a

violation that you had an intent to violate the law.  Normally you hear

ignorance of the law is no excuse.  In this case, ignorance of the law can

be an excuse.  If Donald Trump was told by a lawyer hey, this payment is

OK.  It`s not a violation of the campaign finance law, that would clearly

be a defense. 


But the facts outlined here suggest a scheme, suggest people who knew what

they were doing was wrong, particularly Cohen.  And clearly, if a President

of the United States was able to be indict indicted, this is a case

prosecutors would pursue, to the last document, to the last witness, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  And just to make your point, again, the prosecutors in this case

in the southern district of New York, the federal prosecutors basically

nominated and confirmed by this Republican Senate these people say that

Michael Cohen had criminal intent.  They said he knew the law, that he had

worked in politics. 


DILANIAN:  Absolutely. 


MATTHEWS:  He knew exactly this was a cover-up. 


Julia, your thoughts on that, that Cohen directed by the individual one,

the President, is accused of knowing what he was doing.  It is possible or

plausible to assume that the guy who told him what he was doing didn`t know

it was a criminal act, the President? 



Chris, before I came out here, I saw that individual one was the number one

trend of twitter, at least in this region.  And it`s because individual one

is named in both of these sentencing memos we have seen tonight from the

southern district and from the special counsel. 


In the Mueller memo, individual one is the owner of the company, the real

estate company that Cohen worked for that would be Trump organization. 

That would be Donald Trump.  And he is the one who I`m reading here would

have conferred with Cohen about reaching out to the Russian government. 

Then when you talk about the payments to the women that Ken was just

discussing, the individual one goes on to become the President of the

United States.  Pretty clear that`s Donald Trump.  And that he also worked

with him, talked to him about the payments to those women. 


So in a lot of ways, it cannot be underscored that these memos really

aren`t about Cohen.  I mean, they are about Cohen, but they really point to

the President in a way we hadn`t seen before. 




AINSLEY:  And point to this administration.  Not just the campaign, but

what`s going on inside the White House. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Barbara on this because I think the language is

very strong.  I was really impressed by the spirit of the prosecutors`

language.  They talk about how people go door to door in politics.  They

lick envelopes that.  They do all this cut work in politics in an open and

transparent way, because that`s what the law and our whole democracy is

about, is transparent politics. 


And this skullduggery, this middle of the night going to that magazine,

getting them the catch and kill, getting them to kill the story about these

affairs, all these done purposefully and deliberately and intricately to

cover it up, to make it nontransparent.  They really threw the book at

this.  They took this campaign violation as dead criminal activity. 


BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Yes.  One of the things that a

prosecutor is required to do in a sentencing memorandum is describe to the

judge the nature and seriousness of the offense.  And here they describe

this as a very serious offense.  The whole purpose of campaign finance laws

is to provide transparency and who is paying for things and how they are

being run.  And, in fact, they use the word cloud, that Michael Cohen and

individual one went out of their way and took deliberate steps to cloud

that transparency by making these payments to hide the truth from the

public so that they could cast an informed vote. 


When we have a democracy, it`s based on the ability of voters to cast an

informed vote.  And when you are hiding the truth from the American people,

that then that democracy breaks down.  That`s a serious crime. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, tonight`s multiple court filings appear to indicate that

President Trump himself could be facing new legal exposure, including

implications in a federal crime.  The President or individual one as he is

called here responded tonight with a show of confidence. 


He tweeted, this is outlandish.  Totally clears the President.  Thank you. 

Well, that`s crazy talk. 


Let me go to Mimi on this.  You know what`s interesting?  How character and

morality all come to play here.  That, you know, sometimes progressives

play this game and sometimes conservatives play this game and Trumpites,

whatever you call them.  They say first, the behavior doesn`t matter.  It`s

all about whether your politics and your ideology conforms to the

candidate.  It doesn`t matter who the person is. 


Here we are talking about a guy and his affairs and the way his character

shows that having the affairs and his character is showing and covering up

the affairs and how he use his lawyer to do it and how he use his money to

do it and now it`s all about protecting his chance to hold public office. 

It all integrates together.  That`s what I find fascinating.  And the

prosecutors talk like that.  They hit that guy morally.  That`s the way I

read that document tonight.  It wasn`t some cold secular document.  It`s

saying this is what brings the toxicity into American politics, these

affairs being paid off, women being paid off, power being used to snuff out

the truth and not enlighten democracy, but deny the truth to democracy and

the voters.  Your thoughts? 


MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY:  Absolutely, Chris.  And look,

this is a typical southern district, and frankly, you know, any U.S.

attorney office type of document where you talk about the purpose of the

laws and the spirit of the laws, and that`s important, as Barb said, you

know, to explain to the judge in terms of sentencing.  And judge Pauley is

a judge who takes those laws very seriously. 


And you know, I think it`s important to point out here that one of the –

there was a phrase used in the southern district memo about the evidence

against Cohen being quote “overwhelming.”  And that he didn`t cooperate out

of, you know, sort of the goodness of his heart or spirit, but because he

was really caught red-handed.  So for Trump to say that this clears him, we

don`t know all of the evidence that is quote “overwhelming against Cohen,”

but I`m willing to go out on a limb here right now and say that given what

the southern district has put as Ken said in black and white and writing

about the President`s actions, I`m willing to bet that there is good

evidence that Trump had the requisite intent to commit this crime as well. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  And I`ll go out on a limb and say this is the biggest act

of self-delusion since Baghdad Bob who said they were winning the war. 


I want to bring in Ari Melber, who has been brilliant on this tonight.  He

is MSNBC chief legal correspondent as well as host of “THE BEAT.” 


Ari, I love the way you put it up tonight.  And I want to go back to the

deeper question.  When Trump got away for a few weeks with the “Access

Hollywood” tape, that everybody said was going to kill him, Reince Priebus

was going to walk over it.  Smart Republicans, decent Republicans said the

smell is too terrible here than to withstand and survive.  And here we have

a President basically being charged by the federal district of New York up

there with basically covering up a couple affairs with money and power and

doing it in a way that I can get away with this crap.  This is stuff I get

away with.  I get this fixer lawyer here, Cohen.  He does this crap for me. 

I get a magazine that is going to buy this crap and kill it for me.  I got

it all wired.  I can get away with it, just like he said in the “Access

Hollywood.”  I can get away with it.  I thought it was interesting the way

you talked about it tonight. 



Chris.  That attitude that was caught on tape was not just bragging about

sexual assault, which itself is potentially felonious conduct, it was also

as you just put it his belief that they let you get away with it. 


Well, that`s not how those people felt, because many of them spoke out. 

That`s now knot how prosecutors in New York have deemed that conduct.  And

they say Michael Cohen had the same mentality.  If you want to call it the

Trump organization mentality is we will just get away with it.  The rules

don`t apply. 


I mean, this was 2x4 striking Michael Cohen in the head over and over

today.  And this is someone who went out there and did media leaks and

tried to say he was doing both ways or he was going to do this because it

was for the good of the country or he said he wasn`t taking a pardon, as if

this was something for him that is sitting around in a silver platter, I

mean, the privilege of that.  And this is the federal prosecutor as your

panel is alluding to, saying, no it doesn`t work like that.  You are

busted.  That`s why you`re in trouble.  You are busted.  That`s why you are

sort of cooperating.  And it still wasn`t good enough so that`s why you

should do time. 




MELBER:  And that comes against another thing is going to royal the city

you are in, the Manafort filing which is getting attention, although it`s

partly redacted.  Chris, it says on here on page nine, we only dealt with

this briefly on my hour, Paul Manafort authorized people to speak with the

administration on his behalf and then lied to Mueller about it.  Paul

Manafort was in contact with quote “administration officials in 2018.”  Who

are they?  Did they lie about it?  Are there other people inside the White

House who are on the hook in these implicated crimes? 


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about your interesting way of putting it together. 

Street corner cop.  You said there is a good cop and the bad cop.  You

basically said New York prosecutors were the bad guys.  The good guys were

the Muellers crowd in Washington.  Talk about how that worked because it

seemed to work against Michael Cohen. 


New York thought of him as a sleaze ball.  They basically said you are as

bad as Trump.  You are as bad as Trump because you are a fixer.  You help

guys like him.  You are an enabler.  You help guys like big shots get away

with crap nobody should get away with, buying off women and empowering

yourself at the expense of other people`s powers and dignities.  And then

we are going screw you.  But down in Washington they can stay nice to you

because you have been whispering in their ear down there for couple of

months and they are going to be nice to you but you are going to serve

time, buddy.  Looks like real-time. 


MELBER:  Yes.  I think there is a strategy here.  Number one, remember,

there was all this talk from pundits about, when SDNY got involved, well,

did Bob Mueller quote “hand off the case?”  No.  He never handed it off in

that sense.  He referred things jurisdictionally, but he is a by the book

guy that`s required.  But he never gave up strategic control which clearly

was benefit as he says in court under penalty of perjury to the Russia



So Mueller is the good cop saying give us what you got, we will take it in

and we will try to reward people who cooperate.  But SDNY as the bad cop

saying hey, we don`t even count this as cooperation.  This is crap.  You

didn`t fully cooperate.  This isn`t going to be treated under the legal

jargon as technical total cooperation, which gives you the sentencing

guidelines benefits.  And by the way, you only did it because you had to. 


So what does that tell us?  It sells us that you got folks who quite

independent up at SDNY.  It stands for southern, but your panelist knows

some people often refer to as the sovereign district of New York.  And

that`s the place that produced James Comey, Mary Jo white, Rudy Giuliani,

and Preet Bharara. 


MATTHEWS:  Tell me more about than culture.  Rudy Giuliani was up there. 

What is it about the southern district of New York that is so tough?  They

certainly look Dick Tracy here.  What do they about?  They seem to be the

tough guys of the federal government.  Not that deep state down here in

D.C., that nonsense, the 17 Democrats.  These look, like what do they call

them?  G-men.  They are going the get the bad guys. 


MELBER:  G-men. 


MATTHEWS:  Thant`s right. 


MELBER:  Well, you definitely have a pride and an attitude up there that

this is the most important district.  This is the only district with its

own foreign policy, just like people say that about the New York City

mayor`s office is different than being the mayor of Boise, Idaho.  No

disrespect to Idaho.  And so I think there is an attitude that they patrol

Wall Street, they patrol world trade center, they deal with terrorism, they

deal with things at a national and international level, and that feeds that



And again, to not lose the threat, as we talk about what Mueller got out of

this, he got his cooperation from Cohen.  He tells the story through the

footnotes of his filing here that Michael Cohen came in and thought he was

the smartest guy in the room.  Tried to volunteer a little bit in his first

meeting Mueller`s team but lied about Trump tower.  And they said we

already know about Trump tower Moscow.  So you just screwed yourself.  And

then they brought him to next meetings.  They got him flip and turn.  So

they got that out of him. 


Meanwhile, up in New York the prosecutor is saying that`s fine, but what we

are doing tonight, and again, Chris, this cannot be overstated.  What we

are doing tonight is stating that the sitting President directed a campaign

crime because he thought it would help him win an election, which through

the Electoral College, he did win.  That`s where we are. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s my lead too.  Thank you, Ari Melber. 


MELBER:  Thank you, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Ken. 


DILANIAN:  Why is Cohen not getting credit for cooperating with the

southern district?  They say in the document because he refused to answer

questions about other crimes they were investigating and past criminal

conduct, which is bizarre because he seems to have fully cooperated with

Robert Mueller.  But for whatever reason, he would not – he only met with

the southern district prosecutors a handful of times and he refused to

answer their questions about matters that they cared very much about, and

that`s why they are bringing the hammer down on him.  He is facing three

and a half years in prison, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, as Ari mentioned a moment ago, we are also receiving the

sentencing memo in the case of Paul Manafort who as we learned last week. 

All big three tonight, allegedly broke the terms of his plea deal by lying

to prosecutors as well.  In the sentencing memo on Manafort, it says that

Manafort lied about his contacts with his Russian business partner whom

Mueller was previously described as someone with ties to Russian

intelligence.  More significant is the filing state that the evidence

demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts with Trump

administration officials which he had denied. 


Quote “for instance, in a text exchange from May 26, 2018, that`s this

year, Manafort authorized a person to speak with an administration official

on Manafort`s behalf.  Furthermore, review of documents recovered from a

search of Manafort electronic documents demonstrates additional contacts

with the administration.” 


Mimi, I want to talk to you about this Russia thing and what we are

learning here.  It wasn`t just the Trump tower business that was going on

right through the campaign.  In other words, Trump was working for money

when he was working for votes.  That`s not exactly anything but a conflict

of business, but the idea that they were Russians.  This is the whole thing

about the Russian campaign. 


All the time these spooky Russian figures reaching out like tentacles

trying to establish relations with Trump against Hillary Clinton.  At the

same time the Trump people are either grabbing on to their tentacles or

trying to send their own tentacles back to Moscow.  Their both sides are

trying to hook up, to use a modern term, and it`s getting out into the

public information now.  Your thoughts. 


ROCAH:  Absolutely.  I mean, in some ways, we have all been focused on a

sort of narrow scope of this.  You know, Russia hacked the election, hacked

the emails, you know, did anyone within the Trump campaign know about that

or help that.  And I think, again, we still don`t know the definitive

answer to that though it`s looking more and more like the end to that

question is yes from these filings. 


But I think it`s much broader than that.  It`s about – the word synergy is

really perfect, right.  It`s not collusion as much as people working and

coordinating together towards a common goal, which also sounds a lot like

conspiracy.  That`s pretty much the definition of conspiracy if that goal

is criminal.  And here we know the goal for the Russians was criminal. 

And, you know, I think there is a very good chance – not chance, but I

think the evidence is starting to pile up more and more that Trump and his

team were also working towards that criminal goal, which was to swing the

election in illegal ways to get a Trump tower business deal out of it and

other things I think we don`t know about. 


And one point I just want to come back to what you read about Manafort`s

lies.  These guy over and over and over again, they lie.  And they keep

getting caught by evidence.  I mean, it shouldn`t be shocking to me because

I have silent with defendants before.  I`m sure Barb has too.  They keep

getting caught and then they try to change the story to fit the evidence

that they are confronted with.  Manafort did it.  Cohen apparently did it. 

And I think people are still doing to it this day like Stone and Corsi. 

And that`s why you just can`t take things at face value that they say. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You know, we were in catholic school about a thousand

years ago, they used to have the milk bottles.  And they said the white

milk bottle was clean and the black and white milkshake was the venal sin,

and the dark one, you were evil.  And look at this.  And look at those

three different examples we have got. 


Flynn goes completely clean this week.  He is completely (ph) going to

walk.  Cohen couldn`t decide what to do.  He would give some information

but not enough to get sprung.  And this other guy, Manafort is just being

hard-nosed.  He is just a hard guy. 


ROCAH:  Right.  And it`s not too late for Cohen, though.  He can still

cooperate with the southern district and get credit for that later. 


MATTHEWS:  What was your key on that?  I heard you earlier in the day. 

What indicates to you that he is still in play here?  If he comes out with

the more information against Trump, for example, does he have a chance to

get a lesser sentence? 


ROCAH:  Well, I mean, clearly factually there is information that southern

district is interested.  They basically said that, right, by saying that he

wouldn`t cooperate on past other criminal areas, other areas which I am

inferring relates to the Trump organization and other dealings, you know,

not necessarily related to the campaign or maybe related to the campaign. 


You know, remember, Cohen implicated the Trump organization essentially as

part of that criminal scheme.  So I think the information, he has the

opportunity.  He has things that are of value to the government.  You know,

the government would obviously leery of still cooperating someone who has

lied, but he has enough truth also telling on his side on the Mueller side. 

And there are specific mechanisms in the criminal – federal criminal rules

that allow for a defendant to get cooperation and credit after being

sentenced.  So I think the opportunity is still there. 


MATTHEWS:  Mimi, you have been great all night today.  I have been watching

you all night.  Thank you so much for helping our shows tonight. 


And, Julia Ainsley, of course, you guys are the pros.


And, Ken and Barbara, stick with us. 


Tonight`s bombshell report is highly explosive, of course, and incredibly

damaging to the president`s claim that the special counsel`s investigation

is a hoax or a witch-hunt.  This is coming out of New York.  This is a home

game for him. 


The feds up in New York are going after him, accusing him of directing,

which is basically directing a crime.  In fact, New York federal

prosecutors believe the president of the United States did direct Michael

Cohen, according to today`s paper, their memo, to direct two federal

offenses by paying two women – we know who they are, Stormy and McDougal -

- for their silence about alleged affairs by, what it`s called, catch and



Again, federal prosecutors write that Cohen admitted with respect to both

payments he acted in coordination – and here`s the word – and at the

direction of Individual 1.  That`s Donald Trump. 


Additionally, the special counsel`s filing seems to undermine President

Trump`s claim that he had nothing to do with Russia.  According to page

four of the special counsel`s filing tonight, Michael Cohen made false and

misleading statements concerning outreach to Russian officials.  Cohen had

in fact conferred with Individual 1, believed to be President Trump, about

contacting or – the Russian government before reaching out to gauge

Russia`s interest. 


In other words, they decided to get together, Trump and Manafort, to get

together with the Russians, a meeting – the meeting ultimately did not

take place. 


Joining me right now is Congressman Ted Lieu, Democrat from California,

member of the House Judiciary Committee, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer for

“The Atlantic,” and David Corn right here, Washington bureau chief for

“Mother Jones.” 


Congressman, thank you for joining us.


A lot of paper here tonight, but the one thing that jumped out at me is,

the president of the United States, Individual 1, directed a crime. 


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA:  Thank you, Chris. 


When you look at what the prosecutors did in the Southern District of New

York, they alleged that Donald Trump directed two campaign finance

violations.  These are felonies.  And you can infer intent by looking at a

defendant`s statements. 


So, I`m a former prosecutor.  And if you look at what Donald Trump said, he

did not say, hey, I made these payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy

Daniels because I thought it was perfectly fine.  He denied doing it at

all.  And that`s because he knew it was illegal. 


So, right now, we have a sitting president of the United States who

committed two felonies while running for president. 


MATTHEWS:  And it`s so intricate, Congressman.  If you look at the document

today, the memorandum, the amount of paperwork and phony show organization

creation, everything, it seems like they know that there was criminal

intent here. 


LIEU:  Absolutely. 


Individual 1, who is Donald Trump, was mentioned over 20 times in these

documents.  And it`s very clear Donald Trump was intimately involved with a

lot of these decisions, with a lot of things that Michael Cohen was doing. 

And the prosecutors are basically laying out that Michael Cohen brazenly

violated the laws, and Donald Trump directed him to do so. 


MATTHEWS:  What about impeachment here?  When you look at, is this enough

to bring charges?  Is this enough for hearings?  Is this enough for

committee hearings by the House Judiciary Committee on this president`s



LIEU:  So, I`m on the Judiciary Committee, and my view is that impeachment,

like the power to declare war, is one of Congress` gravest



It should never be our first option.  I think we need to wait for the

special counsel investigation to conclude.  These were court filings that

were done for sentencing purposes.  We don`t know how much special counsel

Mueller knows about what`s going on with Russia and these other related

activities, specifically at Donald Trump. 


We should wait for the investigation to conclude and then make a decision



MATTHEWS:  When do you think that would come?  Give me a time frame right

now.  Here we are right before the holidays.  Congress is going to be in

the 3rd of January. 


LIEU:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  You`re ready for business pretty early.  When do you see the

Judiciary Committee getting started in looking at these charges? 


LIEU:  We get subpoena power on January 3. 


There is something very telling in the Michael Cohen sentencing filing by

special counsel Mueller`s office.  They state that he gave information on

Russia-related matters core to their investigation.  That means special

counsel Mueller understands full well that his core investigation is Russia

collusion, that these other things, like obstruction of justice, perjury,

campaign finance violations, they are tangential.


But he would not have said that if he did not intend to deliver on his core

mission.  I think that`s going to happen some time next year. 


MATTHEWS:  Congressman Lieu, thank you very much for joining us this Friday



According to the Mueller memo just discussed, Cohen spoke with a Russian

national who claimed to be a trusted person in the Russian Federation who

could offer the campaign – what a phrase – political synergy.  He is

talking about collusion.  That`s another word for it. 


Prosecutors say Cohen provided useful information concerning certain

discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained

by virtue of his regular contact with company executives during the



I want to bring in David on this and Natasha, David first. 


We`re talking here about Cohen`s relationship with Trump executives, the

family members, the people at the top, working on Russia stuff.  But this

phrase synergy sounds to me like a synonym for collusion. 




They claim that that conversation didn`t lead to anything.  But the second

quote that you just cited from I think is the most significant thing on the

Russian front in all these filings. 


MATTHEWS:  Read it. 


CORN:  Got to take it slowly, that Cohen provided Mueller with useful

information, certain discrete Russian-related matters, plural. 


So we`re not talking just the Moscow project – tower project that we know

about.  Russian-related matters core to its investigation. 


Trump keeps saying there is nothing about Russia here.  Mueller is telling

us, core to our investigation. 


MATTHEWS:  Could this be the hacking? 


CORN:  I don`t know what it`s about. 


But the other part here, that Cohen obtained, because of his contact with

Trump Organization executives.  So here you have the Trump Organization

being tied to Russian-related matters that Mueller says are core to my



You know, Trump told us…


MATTHEWS:  Trump turned his company over to his kids. 


CORN:  Well, kids.  It could be the kids. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, they`re the top people. 


CORN:  It could be Trump himself, because he was still running the company.


He`s still – there has been no real distance there.  But during the

campaign – this all happened during the campaign – there was something

going on between the Trump Organization and Russia, or Russia-related

issues, beyond the Moscow project, that we don`t know about, and it blows

out of the water, which has already been blown out of water, Trump`s



MATTHEWS:  Well, who is this person?  Who is this Russian that we`re

hearing about who has – a trusted official, meaning close to Putin, who

was reaching out to the Trump Organization? 


CORN:  Well, that person has not been identified.  I know that I and other

reporters will be on this trying to figure this out. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s not Veselnitskaya or whatever in the tower.




CORN:  Probably not, no.


MATTHEWS:  How about the Papadopoulos connection? 


CORN:  But we see again and again and again, whether it`s Veselnitskaya,

whether it`s Papadopoulos with the Maltese professor, whether it`s Carter

Page talking to people, again and again, we`re coming up with dozens –

dozens or over a dozen points of contact between the Trump clan and Russia

during the campaign, let alone Trump contacting Putin`s own office for help

on a project that this filing says would have earned Trump hundreds of

millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars. 




CORN:  That`s real money. 


MATTHEWS:  Even here. 


Let me go to Natasha now on your thoughts about the Russian piece of this

tonight, because I see two leads in the paper tomorrow morning.  That`s the

way I still look at things.  What`s going to be the lead? 


One is the president basically directing campaign violations at a very high

level, lots of money, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to

catch and kill stories about his affairs, and now this other piece about

the Russian thing, picking up information from just the Cohen memo and the

Manafort memo. 


You`re getting this thing.  There are people coming in from the dark, from

Moscow, who want to create with Russia and create some synergy with his

campaign.  And then, of course, this financial thing that went all the way

through, according to Cohen, it never stopped.  And that`s in the filing



The campaign never caused the moneymaking effort on the part of the Trump

people to stop. 




And Mueller also revealed something else really interesting about Trump`s

interests in fomenting a relationship with Vladimir Putin during the

campaign.  He revealed that Trump and Michael Cohen were having

conversations in the fall of 2015 about reaching out to the Kremlin to try

to connect Trump and Putin while Putin was in New York for the U.N. General

Assembly in September of 2015. 


So that indicates that, whether or not Trump at that point was pursuing the

Trump Tower Moscow deal, there seemed to have been an interest on his part

to get in touch with Vladimir Putin that early on in the campaign, which is

absolutely remarkable. 


He had just announced a couple of months earlier that he was running for

president, and now he`s eager to meet with Vladimir Putin?  One of the

first world leaders he is eager to meet with is Putin?  I mean, that just

raises so many questions, in and of itself. 


And then, of course, the fact that, not two months later, you have another

Russian offering to, you know, make this connection between Trump and Putin

is also extremely suspicious. 


But I have to agree with David here.  I think that the most pivotal point

in that Mueller filing about Michael Cohen is the fact that he has

information related to the core of the investigation.  Does that have to

do, for example, Michael Cohen potentially going to Prague to pay off

Russian hackers, as the Steele dossier said?


Remember, the Steele dossier put Cohen at the center of these efforts of

potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.  So I think

that that right there just means that there`s so much more left to Cohen`s

cooperation, even though the Southern District of New York is very unhappy

with the extent to which he has cooperated with them, which may indicate

that Cohen is more reluctant perhaps to throw people associated with the

Trump Organization under the bus. 




BERTRAND:  He does not seem to be shy about detailing the efforts between

Trump and the rest of the campaign to coordinate with the Russians during





Thank you, Natasha. 


Let me go back to Ken. 


It seems to me that the wall – was the wall too high to climb in terms of

criminality?  In other words, as much as Cohen tried to help nail Trump, as

much as he tried to help on the Russian front, the business end and the

other contact, the synergism and all that, it wasn`t enough to make up for

his own crimes, so he is still going to have the book thrown at him. 


Or is he able to climb up that wall and get out of this thing? 




DILANIAN:  I think it`s not about that he didn`t give them Trump, because

he clearly did. 


Look, if Donald Trump wasn`t the president and was able to be indicted –

remember, Justice Department policy says you can`t indict a sitting

president – it`s pretty clear he would be the target of an investigation

about illegal campaign donations related to these payments of women, based

on what Cohen has given them. 


No, I think he didn`t get the deal because he refused to answer questions

about his past criminal dealings.  And there`s been rumors about ties to

organized crime.  Who knows why he didn`t want to answer questions about

certain things.  He`s had a long and colorful business history. 


MATTHEWS:  Right. 


DILANIAN:  But I just want to go back to one thing that Natasha and David

were just saying. 


Donald Trump, in his first presidential news conference, was asked five

times whether he was aware that any campaign officials or himself

personally was in touch with the Russian government, Russian officials. 

And he flatly denied it. 


And this footnote that you have been referring to in this Mueller document

completely refutes that.  It says that he conferred with Michael Cohen

about reaching out to the Russian government.  We shouldn`t forget that.  I

know we`re used to Donald Trump not telling the truth, but this is a major



He adamantly denied any ties to Russia.  And these documents suggest that

there were – there was outreach to Russia, and that Michael Cohen has told

the special counsel a lot about it. 




How much underworld possibility is there here?  Because we talked a couple

of days ago about Manafort.  And one – somebody brilliantly said, there

are things worse – I think it was Susan Page – there are things worse

than life imprisonment. 


And if you have to deal people with Ukrainian, pro-Russian people in

Ukraine, these are frightening people.  If there is a Michael connection

with the mob, there are frightening possibilities to everything in your

life.  Does this that make sense, Ken, because you just alluded to it? 




MATTHEWS:  Is there a notion that these guys have a darker context in which

they have to survive? 


DILANIAN:  Well, in terms of Manafort, I have always resisted that idea,

because the Russian mob – the Russian government, mob-protected people

don`t tend to bump off Americans in the United States. 


But he may be worried about it.  You can`t discount it.  With Cohen, I

think it`s a little darker situation, and we`re not clear about his past

business ties and who he`s got relationships with in New York.


And I`m not discounting that that could be a motivation for him, because

it`s really strange.  Like, why would you not – you`re cooperating with

Robert Mueller.  You`re telling him everything he wants to know, but you

won`t answer basic questions from the Southern District of New York.  You

won`t even meet with them about your past criminal history.


And they`re going to throw the book at you and put you in prison.  Why? 

What is he covering up?  That`s the question.


MATTHEWS:  Well, it could be because the Southern District of New York has

had a lifetime mandate to fight the mob, and it`s possible that they would

like to get a kill there. 


Let me go to Barbara. 


Last thought on that.  Is there reasons you have experienced in your life

as a prosecutor that there are people who are more afraid of other forces

than they are of the law? 


MCQUADE:  Well, sure.  There are other things. 


Sometimes, what`s going on is, they`re protecting someone else.  There is a

loved one, there is a family member or someone that they fear that they

want to protect.  So, that`s the kind of thing, because it`s in Michael

Cohen`s best self-interest to be fully cooperative. 


Everything he tells them, they`re not going to use against him, they`re

going to use in the prosecution of other people.  So the conclusions that

come to my mind are either someone he wants to protect or there is someone

he fears. 


MATTHEWS:  Well said. 


Thank you, Natasha Bertrand and, of course, David Corn and Ken Dilanian and

Barbara McQuade, a great power team tonight, and Ari Melber for joining us

from his program, from “THE BEAT.” 


Much more on today`s breaking news. 


Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is

going to join us next to discuss the court filing and what we learned today

about Russia, about criminality, about a president who`s been – well, he`s

got his name mentioned.  He`s called Individual 1.


And according to that filing up in the Southern District of New York, he

directed the criminality in that campaign violation. 


Anyway, in another big story tonight, Trump has his eye on a new attorney

general whose history includes criticism of the Mueller investigation –

big surprise – and a sweeping view of wide-ranging executive powers.  We

have got the older Kavanaugh coming, I guess, for A.G.  Go figure. 


Well, I figured this one out. 


This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 




MATTHEWS:  We`re continuing following the breaking news tonight. 


Boy, is it big.  In three separate filings, federal prosecutors have

provided a number of new bombshells.  Tonight, federal prosecutors up in

New York said Trump directed lawyer Michael Cohen to cover up a campaign

contribution in the form of payments to two women with whom he had sexual



We`re also getting new insight into what Cohen, Michael Cohen, has told the

special counsel in the ongoing probe of potential coalition – well,

synergism with Russia, they call it.  The Russians call it that.


According to the filing from the Mueller`s office, Cohen not only provided

information about the Moscow real estate project over there that Trump

pursued during the election, but also provided information about attempts

by other Russian nationals, trusted nationals, they`re called, to reach the

campaign, and set up a sort of a synergy between the Trump and the campaign

against Hillary. 


So it`s Russia and Trump against Hillary. 


Anyway, separately, prosecutors detailed how Trump`s former campaign chair

Paul Manafort lied to them repeatedly while he was supposedly cooperating

with them. 


For more, I`m joined by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who

sits on the Judiciary Committee. 


Senator, a lot tonight. 


What do you – how do you react to the Southern District of New York`s

report that the president directed the criminal violation of the campaign

laws to cover up his affairs with Susan McDougal and with Stormy Daniels? 


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT:  This sentencing memorandum,

first of all, is a bombshell in showing why prosecutors in the Southern

District of New York, independent of the special counsel, believe that

Donald Trump committed a felony that enabled him or at least helped him to

become president. 


And covering up those payments was part of what was done, part of the

conspiracy in which Donald Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator.  Think of

it for a moment, unindicted co-conspirator.  And the further information in

this bombshell memorandum shows facts and evidence that link that

conspiracy to Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and potentially

obstruction of justice. 


So, the pieces of the mosaic or the puzzle are coming into place, and the

walls are closing in on Donald Trump and his inner circle, including his



MATTHEWS:  Well, the president said in that infamous “Access Hollywood”

tape that he can do what he wanted to do with women because he is a

celebrity, he can get away with it. 


And my question, is he right?  Or is he going get caught?  Is he caught

now, because he was indicted – he was basically charged by the federal

prosecutors up in New York, not here in Washington, but up there, charged

with campaign violation, and the campaign violation being payments to shut

people up, to pay them off and to kill the story?


BLUMENTHAL:  There is a basic tenet of the American rule of law that no one

is above it.  No one is above the rule of law.  That was the lesson of

Watergate.  I hope it will be the lesson of this dark period in our history



Remember that those government prosecutors who have, in effect, named

Donald trump as an unindicted co-conspirator, so far unindicted, are not in

this special counsel`s office.  They`re in a separate office, and they will

survive any effort by the president to shut down the special counsel.


But all the more important now to ensure the independence and integrity of

the special counsel, because, as the walls close in on Donald trump, he is

going to be more desperate, more destructive, and potentially more

damaging.  And that`s why I am going to demand of this new nominee, William

Barr, as attorney general, that he commit specifically and unequivocally to

protect the integrity of and the independence of the special counsel. 


MATTHEWS:  By the way, on that topic tonight, because it is emerging as a

big story between now and next year, the Republicans still control the

Senate with 50 – what, 53, 54 seats.  They can get a majority vote and get

this guy confirmed. 


How do you, as a Democrat stop that, if you want to do so? 


BLUMENTHAL:  I`m going to be asking tough questions, and I`m going to be

demanding specific commitments, for example, that he will commit to

approving any subpoenas issued by the special counsel. 


MATTHEWS:  I see. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Approve the budget, approve the indictments that may be handed

down, and avoid constricting the authority of the special counsel. 


I think my Republican colleagues are going to be very, very interested in

those answers.  I think they want this investigation to be completed.  And

their fear is that there`s an attorney general who will, in effect, commit

another Saturday Night Massacre, even if it`s a Saturday Night Massacre in

slow motion, which is the danger from the acting attorney general, Matt



And, remember, William Barr has cast aspersions on the prosecutors in Bob

Mueller`s office.  He has said that Hillary Clinton and Uranium One are

worthier of investigation than collusion between the Trump campaign and the

Russians or obstruction of justice. 


And I want specific, definite commitments he is going to protect the

special counsel.  I`m going press for legislation that will require full

disclosure of any findings in evidence from the special counsel, including

a report. 


And I think those kinds of commitments are absolutely necessary.  And

Democrats, as well as Republicans can unite about them. 


MATTHEWS:  Before you leave tonight, I want to get your thoughts up in the

Tri-State area up there in New York.


The New York – Southern District of New York has basically pointed out,

they have charged the president with directing a criminal activity, the

cover-up of that campaign contribution, in great, intricate fashion,

apparently, according to that memo today, about how Michael Cohen really

went around to try to create the paperwork to make it look like it was

something it wasn`t. 


They say that in – that memo today, in that sentencing memo, that Michael

Cohen knew what he was doing.  He is a lawyer.  He was politically

sophisticated enough to know he is breaking the law, and proof of that was

the way in which he was covering it up, with such intricate effort. 


Do you belief it`s possible or plausible that the president of the United

States, who is directing him to do so, didn`t know he was doing so to cover

up a crime? 


BLUMENTHAL:  I believe it is totally implausible that the president had no

idea there was a cover-up ongoing here. 


He knew the facts, as apparently the Southern District of New York believes

that he did.  It seems both impossible and implausible that he didn`t

understand the motive and the criminal intent here…




BLUMENTHAL:  … as well as the actions. 


And one more thing.  This hammer over Michael Cohen, the recommendation for

additional time, I think, is a point of leverage, and we will see more

coming from Michael Cohen. 


MATTHEWS:  Knowing what you know of the law, as a former attorney general

of Connecticut, sir, all those years, longer than you have been a senator,

much many more years, many more years, do you think that the reason the

president wasn`t indicted is because he was president, and that`s it, that,

otherwise, he`s guilty? 


BLUMENTHAL:  I happen to believe the president could be indicted.  I may be

in a minority in that opinion.  And the trial could be postponed until

after he finishes his service. 


I think that there are legal obstacles to such an indictment, and the

special counsel or the Southern District of New York is going to have to

convince itself and the American people and ultimately a judge that those

obstacles can be surmounted. 


But the report, I think, will be extraordinarily damning whether or not

there is an indictment. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, when he leaves office, he gets it done.  That`s an

additional reason for your Democratic Party, sir, to find a nominee who can

defeat him this next election. 


Thank you so very much, Senator Richard Blumenthal.  It`s always great to

have you on. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  President Trump says there`s nothing to see in court

filings tonight.  He`s clear.  He`s clean as a whistle.  There`s nothing



He is Baghdad Bob.  He`s not seeing what`s happening on the front here, on

the warfront. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


We`re continuing to follow the big news tonight of the three separate

sentencing memos regarding Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen and Trump`s

former campaign chair Paul Manafort. 


We`re getting new insight into what Cohen has told the special counsel in

the ongoing probe of potential collusion with Russia, or, as the Russians

call it, synergy. 


And in Manafort`s sentencing memo, we`re learning that Manafort lied about

his contacts with his Russian business partner, as well as his contacts

with members of the Trump administration, when they were in office. 


But Donald Trump tonight is claiming that he`s not worried.  He tweeted:

“Totally clears the president.  Thank you!”


Well, let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL Roundtable, Adrienne Elrod, former

director of strategic communications for Hillary for Clinton – Hillary –

well, Hillary for Clinton.






MATTHEWS:  Hillary for America.  That was not intentional – for America.


Shermichael Singleton, Republican political consultant, and Sam Stein,

politics editor of The Daily Beast. 


Sam, let`s go to the first one.


I`m struck by Trump`s resolute denial of reality. 


SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST:  You`re struck by that? 






MATTHEWS:  What do you make of it? 


STEIN:  I`m not struck by that.


MATTHEWS:  I mean, the guy that – the prosecutors up in New York, the –

not the 17 Democrats he talks about, not the witch-hunt, not all that. 

It`s not the deep state. 


STEIN:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Feds up in New York said, basically, he broke the campaign laws

in a criminal way. 


STEIN:  Yes. 


He – what they said definitively is, he directed his lawyer to break

campaign laws.  He directed the commission of a crime. 


I am, unlike you, not struck by him denying reality.  I think he does it

every day.  I think this is how he exists, is to build an alternate reality

in which he is clean and innocent and above it all. 


But, at some point, facts are stubborn things.  And in this case, it is

very clear that that tweet he put out is erroneous.  It`s just a lie.  He`s

in some serious potential legal jeopardy here.  And what they lay out is a

case in which he deliberately went out of his way to pay hush money

payments to people because he knew specifically, specifically that it would

have a bad campaign impact, that it`s a violation of the campaign finance

laws of America. 


MATTHEWS:  I thought, Adrienne, it was very direct. 


Also, it had a lot – as I said earlier in the program, it was almost like

a sermon from the prosecutors.  People like you, who work in legitimate

campaigns working for people like Hillary, working very hard all the






MATTHEWS:  … in the daylight – everybody knows what you do.  You knock

on doors.  You write position papers.  You do it all.


And here`s this sneaky business of paying off these two women, know you`re

violating the campaign laws.  It`s a campaign contribution.  You`re working

a publisher to catch and kill


ELROD:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  And it`s all done intricately to avoid being caught. 


ELROD:  Yes. 


Chris, that`s what I have been thinking about a lot today, is, while we

were slaving away at Hillary Clinton`s campaign writing policy papers,

really focusing on the nuances of some of these health care proposals that

she was putting out, these guys were in Trump Tower conspiring on how to

implement the Moscow project and how to pay off some of Donald Trump`s



I mean, that the contrast between the two campaigns, the way we ran our

campaign, the way he ran his campaign, and, of course, the motivations that

he had to run for president, were so different.  And that`s what I keep

thinking about today. 


MATTHEWS:  I wonder, Shermichael, the idea that winning is everything

doesn`t look too good tonight. 




And I think about John Edwards.  That was really a walk in the park in

comparison to what`s going on now. 




SINGLETON:  I mean, look, the fact of the matter is…


MATTHEWS:  Well, Bunny paid for that.


SINGLETON:  … we`re going into – we`re going into January, Chris.


The president is going to have to answer for this.  Democrats are going to

have oversight.  I suspect that Michael Cohen will likely be subpoenaed to

come before some House committees. 


MATTHEWS:  Any of your guys on the Republican side likely to break loose? 

Anybody?  Marco Rubio?  Anybody that might say, enough is enough? 


SINGLETON:  I don`t foresee that happening until there is a significant

decrease in support among registered Republican voters for this president. 




MATTHEWS:  Speak for them, if you…




SINGLETON:  That`s not going to – I don`t see that happening. 




MATTHEWS:  The average joe tonight hanging out with his buddies, having a

beer, talking about this, yes, they got him, the New York guys got him. 

They got him on campaign – big deal. 


Is that what they`re going to say, big deal? 


SINGLETON:  You see, Chris, the issue – we were talking about this before

the break. 


The issue is, I think so many people have in some ways become desensitized

to this stuff.  This is a big night, what`s going on right now.  The

American people should be concerned and freaked out about what`s going on

with the president of the United States and those closest around him having

committed all types of crimes.


STEIN:  To the point, I think that what happened in Watergate is actually

fairly informative here, which is that there were – and you know this –

there were dead-enders, but they weren`t a small group.  They were a fairly

large group of Nixonian dead-enders, up until there were tapes. 


And when the tapes came out, that was hard, tangible proof, something you

could not….


MATTHEWS:  George Wallace dropped off the team and people like that.


SINGLETON:  Yes, and that – and once you see something or hear something

that cannot be refuted, that changes things. 


Right now, we have documents, we have allegations, we have testimony.  He

can dismiss by saying, these are disgruntled ex-employees, these are 17

angry Democrats, this is all the media conspiring again me.


Once we actually see primary evidence, that is a game-changer.


SINGLETON:  But what is going to be that primary evidence?  And what makes

you think that`s going to change the 30 to 35 percent of Republican voters? 

I`m not certain.




MATTHEWS:  You know what struck me, again, as not a lawyer, guys?


What hit me was, New York feds are after him too.  New York state officials

will be after him too.  The state governments – Virginia`s going to go

after him.  Everybody who sees crime is going to go after – anyway,

President Trump dropped some major hints this morning that he was

anticipating something big coming. 


And he was right. 


Just before dawn, the president launched a preemptive strike in a series of

angry tweets, many with typos and misspellings – that proves they`re his.


Lashing out at his special counsel, Trump said, among other things: “Robert

Mueller and leakin` lyin` James Comey are best friends.  Just one of many

Mueller conflicts of interest.”


Well, throughout his tirade, Trump singled out members of Mueller`s He

attacked former intelligence officials like John Brennan and James Clapper,

as well as Hillary Clinton and Justice Department officials, including his

own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.


He never gets tired of Hillary, does he?


ELROD:  No, he doesn`t.  She`s always the foil.  She`s always the one he

goes to.  It`s a common thing among Republicans, by the way. 




SINGLETON:  Oh, it is, because when you test that with Republican voters,

that – Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are two individuals who Republican



ELROD:  Two very strong, powerful women. 


SINGLETON:  … all come together…




MATTHEWS:  That was the old Lee Atwater fog machine.


When they were afraid that Trump (sic) was going to lose the second debate

to Mondale, they said, we`re going to unleash the fog machine. 


The fog machine is, forget the evidence, forget everything, just remember,

what side you on? 




MATTHEWS:  What side you on?  And you just remember where you are, and you

go after Trump. 


STEIN:  The problem with Trump, though, is that he`s reducing his own side. 

Right?  It`s not just the…


MATTHEWS:  Is he? 


STEIN:  Yes.  Well, let me get – he`s not just going after the Hillary

Clintons of the world. 


I mean, he`s – today, he spent time going after his old secretary of

state, Rex Tillerson, and calling him dumb as a rock. 


MATTHEWS:  Why did he do that? 


STEIN:  Because Rex Tillerson had said something about him earlier in the



MATTHEWS:  But dumb as a rock? 


STEIN:  It`s odd, because he appointed him as secretary of state. 




MATTHEWS:  It`s eighth grade.  It`s fifth grade.




SINGLETON:  Sam, it sounds crazy, but, for Republican voters, they look at

Tillerson`s comments, and they say, you`re not loyal to the president.  The

president has a right to critique you and fight back. 




MATTHEWS:  I know you`re a Republican, Shermichael, so explain this

behavior by your kindergarten class here.




MATTHEWS:  Here`s the president of the United States going after his very

recent secretary of state.  Let`s watch. 




REX TILLERSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  It was challenging for me,

coming from the disciplined, highly processed-oriented ExxonMobil

Corporation, to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn`t -

- doesn`t like to read, doesn`t read briefing reports, doesn`t – doesn`t

like to get into the details of a lot of things.


And I would have to say to him: “Well, Mr. President, I understand what you

want to do.  But you can`t do it that way.  It violates the law.  It

violates treaty.”


I think he grew tired of me being the guy every day that told him you can`t

do that.




MATTHEWS:  Nobody wants to be Trump`s hall monitor. 


Anyway, Trump responded this afternoon with a tweet calling Tillerson “Dumb

as a rock” and said he couldn`t get rid of him fast enough.  “He was lazy

as hell.”


Nice way to treat your recent major employee. 




ELROD:  I mean, but, look, what we do know is that he`s exactly right. 


I remember, during the campaign, when Donald Trump, I want to say that he

made it very clear he loves reading “People” magazine and the New York

tabloids.  That`s what he likes to read.  He doesn`t to read like

complicated policy papers.


We know that he doesn`t like to read the daily intelligence briefing. 

That`s been – those are facts we have known for a long time. 


STEIN:  I think sometimes it`s worth just stepping back and recognizing

what just happened here. 


The former secretary of state said he had to stop the president from

breaking the law.  That`s crazy.  I mean, that is just crazy.  And we just

sort of take it because it`s, you know, every day in Trump land. 




MATTHEWS:  Speak for yourself. 








MATTHEWS:  I brought this up because I think – what`s noteworthy, though,

is the manner in which they talk to each other about it. 




STEIN:  Childish, sophomore insults.  It`s nuts.


SINGLETON:  But think about the severity of this.


We`re talking about the president of the United States of America.  The

expectation is that this is someone who`s objective, who is methodical, who

has discernment, who approaches things from a position where they`re

looking at all sides, at all issues, that they`re spending those long hours

reading through the briefing papers, not someone who`s getting oral



I mean, that`s absurd to me.


ELROD:  Yes, but I don`t think we have ever thought that was happening with

Donald Trump.




SINGLETON:  But we shouldn`t stop or cease our expectation that the





MATTHEWS:  Shermichael, more news. 


Also today, NBC News reported that the president`s outgoing chief – he`s

not really an outgoing personality, but he`s outgoing.




MATTHEWS:  Chief of Staff John Kelly answered a narrow set of questions

from the special counsel earlier this year, questions related to potential

obstruction of justice. 


A person familiar with the matter says that Kelly was asked about a

conversation he witnessed between the president and former White House

counsel Don McGahn, who had spent over 30 hours testifying before the

special counsel.


In that conversation, the president asked McGahn publicly refute a January

story in “The New York Times” reporting that he, the president, had ordered

the firing of the special counsel, Robert Mueller.


According to “New York Times,” McGahn did refuse Trump`s order to fire

Mueller in 2017, and he never issued any denial that he had done so.


Sam, just think about it.  The president – talk about obstruction of

justice.  He fires the FBI director who is going after him.  Then he fires

the guy who is named to go after him.  And that`s not obstruction?


STEIN:  No, it`s all – it`s all happening, like, right in front of us. 

And, sometimes, we`re just like – can`t keep track of it all.


I keep going back to the Moscow – tower meeting that was arranged with Don

Jr., which is a massive deal.  If that came – let`s say we didn`t know

about it and it came out tomorrow.  It would be cataclysmic to this White



MATTHEWS:  There they are.


STEIN:  But it`s now baked into the cake.  And a lot of the stuff is just

baked into the cake.


ELROD:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I think the son is still going to pay here.


By the way, I just want to pass – since we forget so quickly, yesterday,

they buried down in Texas, College Station, they buried a former president.


I thought the public tribute, while it didn`t reflect all national opinion

– there`s a lot of populist anti-establishment attitude out there – I

thought it reflected a lot of nobility in the American government. 


I think a lot of people – I watched those people, Joe Biden, Al Gore. 

There were a lot of people paying tribute to that man that was real. 


ELROD:  Yes.  No, absolutely.


MATTHEWS:  On both sides.


ELROD:  Absolutely.


And we had a true moment.  I think it was not just yesterday.  I think it

was this week, where we saw both sides come together to honor such an

incredible former president.  And now we have today, where it seems like

all of that has been…




MATTHEWS:  And the Clintons were there too.  And I thought it was a great

look.  There was some nice chatty stuff going on there beforehand.  I

missed it.  But it was really powerful. 


There was a – there was a niceness there.  And then the weirdness



He comes in, and, as I said, like Reggie Van Gleason, takes off his

overcoat, hands it to an attendant, like he`s God.


ELROD:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  And they didn`t treat him with a lot of warmth.


STEIN:  Well it just – it felt like there was a politics where we knew we

could be nasty each other.  By the end of the day, we`re sort of

collectively into it, and then no longer.


MATTHEWS:  No longer.  Well, for a while anyway.


Adrienne Elrod, Shermichael Singleton, Sam Stein.


That`s HARDBALL for tonight.


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES,” lots more on this story coming up tonight.  This

is a news bombshell.  The president directed criminal activity.


That`s starting right now.






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