BuzzFeed: Trump directed Cohen to lie. TRANSCRIPT: 1/18/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Kim Wehle, Greg Brower, Ted Lieu, Annie Karni, Jennifer Rubin, Jonathan Capehart, Eric Swalwell; Chuck Rosenberg; Donny Deutsch

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


Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 


Article one to impeach Richard Nixon was that the President counselled

witnesses to provide false or misleading statements.  That was 1974. 

Tonight, there`s new reporting that President Donald J. Trump did just

that.  If that reporting (INAUDIBLE) proves true, it is corroborate

evidence that President Trump did in fact commit a crime. 


“Buzz Feed” news is reporting that President of the United States directed

his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to knowingly lie to Congress in order to cover

up Trump`s ongoing efforts during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump tower

in Moscow.  Just as important that Mueller has proof. 


According to two federal law enforcement officials familiar with the

Mueller investigation quote “the special counsel`s office learned about

Trump`s directive from Cohen or for Cohen to lie to Congress through

interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump organization and internal

company emails, text messages and a cash of other documents. 


NBC News has yet to confirm “Buzz Feed`s” reporting. 


Rudy Giuliani, the president`s lawyer told NBC News quote “any suggestion

from any source that the President counselled Michael Cohen to lie is

categorically false.  Today`s claims are just more made-up lies born of

Michael Cohen`s malice and desperation in an effort to reduce his



Well, directing someone to lie under oath is a crime, of course.  And if

proven is potentially impeachable. 


For more I`m joined by U.S. congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from

California and member of the House judiciary and intelligence committees,

Shannon Pettypiece “Bloomberg News” White House reporter, Chuck Rosenberg,

former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official and MSNBC contributor and

Donny Deutsche, chairman of Emeritus od Deutsche incorporated. 


I want to go to Donny on this.  Tell us – you are friends with Cohen. 

Tell me about Michael`s sort of feeling about the pressure he is under now

that his story`s out, his story that President told him to lie to Congress. 



actually, has some surgery today and I spoke to him from the recovery room. 

And his response was look.  Obviously, I asked as anybody else would and he

said look, out of respect to Mr. Mueller`s investigation I can`t talk about

this.  He did point out that this came from two top law enforcement



I also think people are going, so they don`t get disappointed February 7th,

he is not going to be able to get into anything having to do with the

Mueller Russia investigation in front of Congress.  So I don`t think that

Michael is going to be able to corroborate this in front of Congress



The other thing is very important to remember, I know this is the story

that is a huge story.  But at the same time, he is continuing to go after

his father his father-in-law.  And that is a second obstruction of justice. 

And I have seen it real-time. 


I was on the phone with Michael the other night the first time it happened

and he was panicked.  He was like he is going after my father-in-law.  Are

my children next?  He said you have no idea what this man is capable, 


I actually saw the reaction to the obstruction of justice in real time

where he said I don`t know if I`m going to testify.  I don`t think I`m

going to testify and I think he needed Elijah Cummings to come out the next

day and calm him down a bit.  So we are seeing obstruction of justice

coming from two different angles to Michael Cohen and we are seeing



MATTHEWS:  You know, I`m thinking of the scene in “Godfather II” when

(INAUDIBLE) bother called over from Sicily because they are going to kill

the guy.  (INAUDIBLE) brother and kill himself.  Is that what it`s about? 

Being a family member and threat thing family member, this case the father

in law did cause the witness? 


DEUTSCH:  You know, Chris, he used the same exact analogy to me.  It is

exactly analogy used and any “Godfather” fan knows it well.  They brings in

the brother from Sicily.  He is sitting right there.  And of course, he

changes his testimony. 


We get so numb with all the heinous things that this President does.  Let`s

think about this for a second.  There is a man who is going to testify U.S.

citizen in front of Congress.  And the President is publicly, publicly

threatening sending warnings to a man`s family member.  Are his children

next?  I don`t care.  Republican, Democrat.  If you are a U.S. citizen,

that to me with all the atrocities at Trump we have watched him waddle

through, this is top of the list as far as I`m concerned. 


MATTHEWS:  He is your friend.  Did he give you a sense of his commitment? 

Will he testify before the Congress? 


DEUTSCH:  I believe strongly he will.  But I have to tell you, you know, he

was thrown and like I said, that was with obstruction of justice in real

time.  I got a front-row seat to it. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Chuck Rosenberg. 


Chuck, the President has unique screw yard tactic like bully in his

(INAUDIBLE) to find a weakness in the other guy.  Now, he is saying he has

got the (INAUDIBLE).  But let`s talk about this obstruction case.  A

President tells somebody to lie to Congress.  Talk about the law. 


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Matter of law pretty simple.  That

is supporting perjury and whether it`s under oath or not.  Whether it is

oral or written, whether it is in front of Congress or the FBI, that`s a

crime.  And prosecutors know how to charge that.  It`s not hard. 


MATTHEWS:  Talk about the evidence here.  According to the report of “Buzz

Feed,” there`s all kinds of evidence – email, there is all kind of

documents, the cash of them, there is a couple of other people involved. 

It`s not just word of Michael Cohen. 


ROSENBERG:  More could be.  I mean, as matter of law perjury requires a

witnesses and something else.  But as a matter of practice and the

congressman knows this well because he was a prosecutor.  You want to

corroborate your witnesses however you ask can in as many ways as you can

as long as it`s truthful and accurate.  And so documents, emails, tapes,

all that stuff corroborates, in theory, Michael Cohen. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it is he said, he said. 


ROSENBERG:  Right.  And you wouldn`t bring a he said, he said case.  It

doesn`t work, right?  You need other stuff.  And it sounds like if the

reporting is accurate that you have other stuff. 


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about his materiality here.  How material is this to

the role of the president of the United States?  That he to cover up a

business deal, told one of his people to lie about it, is that relevant to

his role as head of state?  Tell me how. 


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA:  Yes.  This is Watergate plus, right. 

Watergate was more of a domestic issue.  Rule of law at stake.  The

Articles involved, contempt of Congress, obstruction of justice and abuse

of power. 


Here, if you step back and ask why did the Presidents direct Michael Cohen

to lie, if that is what he did, it`s to cover up a relationship that he had

with Russia that is still ongoing today where what we value, democracy,

human rights, rule of law, that`s at stake.  So that is an outside threat

as well as a rule of law inside threat.  And I think that is, you know,

what`s most concerning to me. 


MATTHEWS:  To me, it`s always been a question of collusion with the

Russians.  All kinds of weird entanglements, 101 we are counting it and

counting right now between the Trump people and the Russians and

obstruction of justice.  I wonder if this is one of those cases where it`s

an over law.  Because if he was covering up his business dealings so that

he can cover up the fact that he was talking nice about Mr. Putin all those

times to keep a business deal warm, that is a real problem in our country -

- as a country, 


SWALWELL:  Yes.  That that is evidence of collusion.  That is an

entanglement with a country that is not our friend.  And I think some of

the best evidence, if you are looking at, is there a quit pro quo?  The quo

really started to heat up after the Helsinki conference, right.  Since

Helsinki where, you know, the interpreter`s notes were essentially taken

away, no other witnesses in the room, he has pulled us out of Syria, he has

tried to take us out of NATO and he is easing sanctions against someone who

is involved in the Mueller investigation, Deripaska. 


MATTHEWS:  You are a member of the judiciary.  Do you believe the President

right now has been an agent of the Russians? 


SWALWELL:  Yes, I think there is more evidence than it isn`t. 


MATTHEWS:  An agent? 


SWALWELL:  Yes. And I think all the arrows point in that direction.  I

haven`t seen a single piece of evidence that he`s not. 


MATTHEWS:  An agent like in the 1940s where you had people who are

(INAUDIBLE)?  Like that?  In other words working for a foreign power? 


SWALWELL:  He is working on behalf of the Russians, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  As I mentioned throughout the campaign in 2016, Donald

Trump denied having any business interests in Russia.  However, according

to two law enforcement sources quoted in the “Buzz Feed” piece, Trump was

actively engaged in talks of building a Trump tower over Moscow.  The

sources tell “Buzz Feed” that Trump had quote “at least 10 face-to-face

meetings with Michael Cohen about the Moscow deal during the campaign and

told Cohen to make a meeting happen in order to help the negotiations.” 


The President wanted to meet with Putin.  It`s mesmerizing, Shannon. 

During the Presidential campaign this guy wants to be seen sitting down to

do business with a man most people American see as an adversary. 



speak to the facts that he never thought he was going to win.  


MATTHEWS:  Right. 


PETTYPIECE:  That he was a businessman. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, this wouldn`t help. 


PETTYPIECE:  Well, right.  He was a businessman running a business. 

Russians buy up his apartments in the United States.  They have been

talking for years about doing a Trump tower Moscow.  This is not something

they cooked up all of a sudden.  Had he lost with the Trump organization

still want to do a Trump tower in Moscow?  Probably.  Would Russians still

be buying Trump apartments? 


So if he is on the campaign trail attacking Russia, what does that do then

when he is not President and to the do business with Russia as businessman? 

I think it kind of t shows the mind-set that he had at the same. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me got to Donny on this.  Because I have always – a lot of

my friends on the left and I deal with a lot of people on the left, they

have a sense of the pettiness of Donald Trump, not just they don`t like the

guy, they don`t like his posy.  They think he is petty.  They think he does

everything for money.  That everything in the campaign was basically a PR

campaign to build up his business potential when he loses.  That it was all

about that Trump tower.  Everything about being pro-Russian wasn`t about a

grand deal which (INAUDIBLE), maybe I`m romantic, that would be some deal

east, west, against the south, against the terrorists in the Middle East. 

Where are you on that question?  Is he always interested in money day to

day?  And can Michael confirm that? 


DEUTSCH:  Donald Trump is sleazy real estate deal.  It is always about the

money.  Michael once said to me at the beginning of the campaign, Donald

say, this is going to be the biggest infomercial that we have ever did. 

That to the previous point, Donald think that he would never win. 


And I have always said from the beginning of this, follow the money. 

Donald Trump went bust in the early 90s.  He could not borrow money from

banks.  It was coming from Russia, as you unfold this.  And even once he is

out of office, and the U.S. attorney continue to pick a pot in Trump

organization, you are going to see money laundering.  You are going to see

a criminal enterprise.  People in New York knew.  Look.  Real estate guys

are slippery to begin with but he was the bottom of the bottom of the

barrel.  And so there is nothing.  Take a look at what a criminal would can

do.  Take as low as it can go and that`s Donald J. Trump. 


MATTHEWS:  What`s his motive for the campaign? 


DEUTSCH:  It is really, really simple.  Well, two things.  First of all,

there is the heroin of the attention but it is, at the same time, just

think about it, you run for President for 24/7 for 18 months you are out

there.  And even if you go back to this Russia thing, once again, he loses

this Trump tower Moscow, he is a hundred times more of an international

figure than he ever was. 


You know, before “the Apprentice,” he was basically just a guy doing pizza

hut commercials.  And even with “the Apprentice,” he was basically a

reality star.  You run for president.  You are on the national stage for 18

months.  And by the way, saying some nice things about Russia, where does

that open up outside of the western world for your business?  Follow the



MATTHEWS:  Wow.  William Barr, President Trump`s nominee for AG was asked

if it would be a crime for the President to direct someone to lie and here

is what he told senator, Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota and Senator

Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina in his confirmation hearing

this week. 




SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  You wrote on page one that a President

persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction.  Is that right? 



any person who persuades another – yes. 


KLOBUCHAR:  OK.  You also said a President or any person convincing a

witness to change testimony would be obstruction.  Is that right? 


BARR:  Yes. 


KLOBUCHAR:  And on page two you said that President deliberately impairing

the integrity or availability of evidence would be an obstruction.  Is that



BARR:  Yes. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  So if there was some reason to

believe the President tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify

falsely, that could be obstruction of justice? 


BARR:  Yes, under obstruction statute, yes. 




MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Chuck?  I mean, there`s his guy saying

if he does this, if “Buzz Feed`s” right with his story, he is a criminal? 


ROSENBERG:  There is no other answer.  And this is straight-forward

criminal law.  There are complicated questions about the President`s

authority to maybe pardon somebody or to fire someone.  And whether that

could be a crime, suborning perjury, that`s easy.  That`s a crime.  NO

question.  It is the only answer he could give. 


MATTHEWS:  Chuck?  I mean, congressman? 


SWALWELL:  Yes.  And also, the evidence that he did this, you know, Chuck

was talking about corroboration, it is independently confirmed by evidence

that we had in our intelligence committee investigation that he told Hope

Hicks at times to lie and what he did with James Comey, saying, can you

make this go away? 


This is just the way the guy acts.  And it is you question, is he an agent

for Russia?  We should not assume that he is faithful only to Russia.  I

think there are other countries he has business dealings with that he would

work in behalf with like –. 




MATTHEWS:  Donny, if there`s money that moves this guy and he was going to

make $300 million on a tower over there and he is going to make a – what

do you call that?  The top of the room?  The best room – penthouse to

Putin, talk about entanglement. 


PETTYPIECE:  Right.  Well, you know, and Donny raises an interesting point. 

That in New York his reputation was like a quote-unquote “sleazy real

estate man.”  There is a lot of people in the New York real estate scene

who would say that. 


Prosecutors in New York knew that, too.  For years and years and years,

Donald Trump was big fish.  He was someone that they knew had questionable

history with business.  They never got to him.  Now they have an in.  They

never really had an in before.  So you could argue that now through Michael

Cohen, through all these payments through Stormy Daniels, it has given them

potentially an in to dig in to his organization that they want to go in to. 


MATTHEWS:  Donny, it is great to have you on the show.  And I have watched

in all other shows.  I`m going to take advantage of you being here.  Tell

me about Donald Trump.  If he gets impeached but not convicted?  Say that

happens.  What`s he going to do?  Is he going to get to run for re-

election?  Is he going to run into exile? 


DEUTSCH:  This is the scary part.  This is where it ends.  He is going to

tell people to take to the streets.  That is his last move.  He owns 50, 60

- however many voters with the 30 percent.  He is going to say they are

trying to take your President away.  Don`t let them do it.  We are going to

the streets.  We are going to create a civil war and then take it one step

further than that then he is going to monetize and say and I`m starting the

Trump revolutionary network.  You can join for $6 a month subscription. 


MATTHEWS:  He is going to form a third party.  He is not like that. 


DEUTSCH:  Well, I think he will say he will.  He will say I have more power

outside the government now.  Your government is – this is a deep state. 

I`m starting the Trump revolutionary party.  I don`t need to run for

office.  We are not going to run for office again and I`m going to have my

megaphone.  Follow me down the street.  My first rally is in Arkansas. 




DEUTSCH:  We are heading to a civil war.  Whatever we think this man is

capable of, he is capable of more. 


MATTHEWS:  And that`s what I think in a perverse way, he is going to find a

way to take Speaker Pelosi`s denial of him for the podium on the scheduled

night at state of the union and say the deep states running this country

with the Democrats, they are the enemy.  I`m not the government.  I`m still

the opposition.  I`m the good guy.  I can see him twisting that way.  Boy,

it`s a scary prognosis you have given us, Donny.  But thanks for coming on. 


U.S. congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thank you. 


Shannon Pettypiece, Chuck Rosenberg and Donny Deutsch. 


Coming up this bombshell report form “Buzz Feed” we got tonight as

Democrats on capitol talking impeachment.  Why not?  It`s obstruction of

justice if proven.  One member of the Judiciary Committee says hearings

need to start now.  And he, Ted Lieu, joins us in a minute.  Stay with us. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


The bombshell “Buzz Feed” new report that President Trump told Michael

Cohen to lie to Congress, if true, would be the most concrete threat to

Trump`s presidency to date.  Democratic chairman of the House intelligence

committee Adam Schiff vowed to investigate the allegations. 


In a statement Schiff wrote our committee is already working to secure

additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump tower

Moscow deal and other investigative matters. 


The chairman of the House judiciary committee Jerry Nadler of New York

issued a similar call.  In a tweet Nadler wrote, we know that the President

has engaged in long pattern of obstruction, directing a subordinate to lie

to Congress is a federal crime.  The House judiciary committee`s job is to

get to the bottom of it and we will do that work. 


Other Democrats went step further.  Here is Texas congressman, Joaquin





REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS:  If this report is true, if the president

directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, then that`s a clear case of

participating in perjury and obstruction of justice, and he should resign. 

But, if he doesn`t resign, he should be impeached. 




MATTHEWS:  Any impeachment proceedings would originate in the House of

Representatives in the Judiciary Committee. 


By the way, in May of 1974, that committee, Judiciary, began hearings into

the impeachment of Richard Nixon, passing the first article of impeachment

on July 27, citing obstruction of justice.


I`m joined right now by Congressman Ted Lieu, Democrat from California, and

a member of the House Judiciary Committee.


Congressman, I`m sure you have looked back at the record and the language

of obstruction of justice, tampering with witnesses, counseling them to lie

to anyone that Congress or the federal judiciary is a crime, and apparently

impeachable.  Your thoughts? 


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


I`m a former prosecutor.  And let me first say that Donald Trump, like any

other American, is entitled to the presumption of innocence.  I hope these

allegations are not true, because, if they are, it means that the sitting

president of the United States committed a felony. 


That`s why the House Judiciary Committee will start our own investigation. 

We will hold hearings and get to the bottom of this serious matter. 


MATTHEWS:  Talk about the sequence.  You can hold hearings any time you

want.  I just checked it historically.


In 1974, it was the House, by resolution, asked the Judiciary Committee to

take up the matter of impeachment.  Do you need the resolution of the full

House to investigate possible impeachment action? 


LIEU:  No, we don`t. 


And before we even get to the question impeachment, we have to first lay a

record as to whether these allegations are true or false.  Right now, we

have got a news article.  We have got to have witnesses come in under oath. 

We`re going to subpoena documents, review all the evidence.


And we can have those hearings well in advance of any impeachment

proceedings, if they were to occur. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, congressional Republicans remains mostly silent, sir. 


“The Washington Post” reports several Republicans on Capitol Hill sought to

deflect questions.  Ohio Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said that Mueller`s

investigation is a place to sift all this out and said it`s important for

the investigation to continue unimpeded. 


Do you have to wait for Mueller, sir?


LIEU:  We do not. 


And, also, I am troubled by attorney general nominee William Barr`s

testimony, where he suggested that he could hide all or parts of special

counsel Mueller`s report.  And that`s why Congress, a co-equal branch of

government, has an independent duty to conduct our own investigation,

subpoena witnesses and documents, and then let the American people know

what we find. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, you know the game they`re playing.  They`re saying you

can`t impeach the president.  And, by the way, if you can`t impeach him,

you can`t talk about him in a report, because all the report does is talk

about what is indictable.


So, it`s sort of left him out, hasn`t it, by definition, the way that the

former or future attorney general is talking?


LIEU:  In fact, one way to read William Barr`s testimony is that none of

the report will be made public, because his view is that a sitting

president cannot be indicted, even though that`s nowhere in the



And if there`s no indictment, then you can`t really have anybody see all

the negative information that Robert Mueller has found, including if the

president committed a variety of crimes.


MATTHEWS:  One of the things I didn`t like about Jerry Ford way back then -

- I was much younger, of course – when he pardoned Nixon. 


I know a lot of people thought – even the Kennedy Center up at Harvard

thought, well, maybe it was a profile in courage because it got the mess

off the front pages for a year. 


But let me tell you, people like me wanted to know what Nixon had done.  We

wanted to know exactly what had happened.  And we felt that the pardon

eliminated our chance of ever finding out exactly what Nixon did under

oath, that he`d have to come up and testify, that all the people around him

would have to testify, and we would finally figure out the end of this

horrible scandal. 


Do you believe we will travel this all the way to the final – will we know

in a year or so what Trump did in all these regards?  Will we?


LIEU:  I believe one reason Democrats won last November wasn`t just being

that we ran on health care and investing in great jobs and infrastructure,

but also that we were going to act as a co-equal and separate branch of

government and get to the truth. 


So Democrats will subpoena the report if Barr tries to hide it, assuming he

is confirmed.  And we will make sure the American people know the truth,

regardless of whether it exonerates Donald Trump or finds him guilty.


MATTHEWS:  Well, one way he may try to hide the truth – I`m talking about

the president of the United States – is to use witness tampering. 


Now, he put out today in a tweet that he`s going after these – wants to be

on the lookout for possible damage he can do to Michael Cohen`s father-in-

law, who had some legal problems a while back.


And he basically – like in “The Godfather,” he`s threatening the relative. 

And it`s weirdly funny, but it is weirdly awful too.  Here`s a guy who must

have seen “The Godfather,” like most guys have seen it, and knows that`s a

felon in itself.  You can`t threaten a guy by saying, I`m going to knock

off your brother-in-law or your sister or anybody, your – I`m going to

prosecute your father-in-law. 


What do you make of that?  Can he keep the witness from appearing before

the Oversight Committee?


LIEU:  One thing that prosecutors look for is, we look for something called

consciousness of guilt, which is, what would a guilty person do that an

innocent person would not? 


So Donald Trump has had a lot of time now to respond to these allegations,

and has he denied them personally?  No, he has not.  Instead, he tries to

intimidate the key witness behind these allegations, and that is, in and of

itself, a possible felony. 


Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen`s attorney, clearly believes that Donald Trump

is trying to intimidate Michael Cohen.  And just because the president does

it so brazenly doesn`t mean that it also is not a crime. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much for leading into our next segment.  Thank you,

Congressman Ted Lieu of California. 


We`re going to talk about that very question coming up right now. 


Does the BuzzFeed report, if true, what are the legal implications for

Trump and his family?  Because the kids might get involved in this trouble. 

This is serious business, covering this up, this whole business dealing

with the Trump Tower in Moscow.


Covering it up may end up being illegal for some family members.


We will be right back.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump was also trying to

cut a deal to build a Trump Tower over in Moscow.  He was also publicly

praising Vladimir Putin, not by coincidence, and promising a better

relationship with Russia. 





Russia.  And I will get along with Putin.  He will respect us. 


That`s what we want.  We`re not looking for trouble. 


I believe we will have a very good relationship with Russia.  I believe

that I will have a very good relationship with Putin. 


I don`t like the way Obama treats Putin.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  This is a person that kills journalists,

political allies – I mean, political opponents, and…


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Invades countries.


SCARBOROUGH:  And invades countries.  Obviously, that would be a concern,

would it not?


TRUMP:  He`s running his country.  And at least he`s a leader, unlike what

we have in this country.


I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia.  I mean, he`s been

a lot stronger than our leader.  That, I can tell you. 


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




MATTHEWS:  All the time he`s trying to get in cahoots with Putin to build

that hotel. 


Now, according to the report from BuzzFeed News, it appears to president

directed his longtime fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about those

negotiations for the potential Trump Tower in Russia. 


What are the potential legal ramifications of all that?


I`m joined by Kim Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney, and Greg Brower,

a former FBI senior official.


So, in that order, what does this mean legally?  Where`s it going?



well, suborning perjury?


Well, I mean, legally, it is a crime.  It`s a straight-up crime.  It`s not

one that requires climbing into someone`s head, like obstruction of

justice, to determine how – what he was thinking.  So it`s something that

can be easily proven.


The bigger question is whether Mueller would actually indict the president. 

I think at this point the answer has to be no in that regard.




WEHLE:  And so – well, because we got…


MATTHEWS:  Oh, you can`t indict him.


WEHLE:  Well, I think you probably could, as a constitutional matter.  I

teach constitutional law.


But I think we have that OLC memo.  I think Barr made it really clear he`s

a rule of law guy.  He`s going to…




MATTHEWS:  Well, here`s the conundrum.  I was raising this before with a

member of Congress, Ted Lieu, member of the Judiciary. 


What happens if Trump – I`m sorry – whether Mueller believes all that,

what you just said, and said, I can indict a president?  OK.  That`s sort

of the way it is. 


But there`s also this other sort of orthodoxy out there, if you can`t

indict somebody, shut up about it.  Therefore, he doesn`t say anything in

his report about Trump`s behavior in regard to all this mess and scandal.


WEHLE:  Well, the report – I mean, I worked on Whitewater.


And there was this – under the statute, you had to – Ken had to produce a

very long report.  That`s not the case under these regulations.  There is

no report that…


MATTHEWS:  Oh, it`s possible, in other words, that members of Congress, who

have got impeachment on their mind, Greg, will not have any information

from Mueller, by that theory, any information.


GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, the good news for the

president potentially is, because of the OLC opinions Kim referenced, a

sitting president cannot be indicted. 


The bad news is that, unlike any other target of an investigation, who, if

not indicted, Congress doesn`t care about, Congress will care a lot about

finding out what Mueller found, even if he felt he couldn`t indict the



MATTHEWS:  And how would they find that?  How would they get it?


BROWER:  Well, they`re – unlike – they`re likely going to simply demand

the report, the confidential report that the special counsel gives to the

attorney general, and perhaps even call Robert Mueller up to testify.


MATTHEWS:  How about William Barr, the new A.G., next A.G.?  Can he stop

all this and kill the whole thing?


It sounds like he`s keeping that option. 


BROWER:  He was noncommittal in the hearing, to be sure.  And I wouldn`t

expect him to be – to make it commitment at this point.




WEHLE:  Well, he said he`d let him finish.  He said he`d let him finish the



BROWER:  That`s true.


WEHLE:  And he could actually amend the regulations.  These are internal

DOJ regulations.  It`s not a statute.


MATTHEWS:  He said in the testimony we just showed that he believes this is

obstruction, this is illegal, what he just saw there, suborning perjury.


WEHLE:  Yes.  Right. 


I mean, it`s a straight – you can`t – and this is a core constitutional

power of Congress to investigate.  That`s part of its legislative power. 

And so here we have got the president of the United States potentially

telling someone to lie to a coordinate branch of government.


I have thought a lot about this.  And I think, even despite the OLC

memorandum, despite all of this, if this were ever to get up before the

Supreme Court of the United States – I used to work with Brett Kavanaugh -

- I think it would be very difficult for them to say, listen, we`re all

boxed in, there`s no way that Congress can get this information, there`s no

way that the executive branch could prosecute. 


I think there would have to be – just like executive privilege, for

example, there would have to be a sense of balance here.  We have got to

figure out…




MATTHEWS:  You mean the Supreme Court follows the election returns,

basically, the old line.  They know how much the public wants to know what



WEHLE:  Well, they`re institutionalists.


They – I mean, the framers wanted checks and balances.  And if we have got

a situation where it`s a checkmate, there`s no place to actually make this

public it`s a problem.


MATTHEWS:  Criminal motive here, Greg.  Why did the president tell, if he

did – according to this report, he did – tell Michael Cohen, his

lawyer/fixer, to lie about his business dealings in Russia?


They`re not illegal.  They looked – they looked unsavory that he`s doing

this during a presidential campaign, but?


BROWER:  Well, I think a couple reasons, unsavory, as you point out.


And we don`t know that they`re not illegal.  There could have been Foreign

Corrupt Practices Act violations being committed.  We just don`t know

enough yet.


There clearly was a reason that, if the reporting is true, that the

president didn`t want the Congress and the public to know the extent, the

true extent of his dealings in Russia.


MATTHEWS:  I can think of why politically he wouldn`t want us to know,

because all the time he`s throwing – blowing kisses over to Moscow to



It begin – it might begin to look like he reason is doing that is to warm

up a business deal. 


WEHLE:  Well, I mean, he signed his letter of intent.  There are signatures

on the letter of intent the day that there was a Republican for –

presidential debate.  And then we had all of the clips you`re showing, pro-

Putin, pro-Putin, pro-Putin.




WEHLE:  And it stopped around the time of the Trump Tower deal in Moscow,

when the DNC`s people made – made the hacking public. 


MATTHEWS:  You guys use the word exposure in criminal law. 


Here`s one.  According to BuzzFeed, the president`s son Don Jr. received

regular, detailed updates about the Trump Tower Moscow plan from Michael



But, in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the young Don Jr.

said he knew very little about the deal and was only peripherally aware

about it. 




BROWER:  Yes, I think…


MATTHEWS:  Is he in trouble on this?


BROWER:  Potentially.


The key to all of this, I think, is whether or not the reporting is

correct, in that there`s actual corroborating evidence, it`s not just

Michael Cohen`s testimony, but there are other witnesses, perhaps

documentary evidence, that corroborate what Michael Cohen apparently will

say to Congress.


MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the kid? 


BROWER:  Well, again, it depends on what that evidence suggests or

indicates about him and others.


WEHLE:  It`s also so lawyered.  Peripherally – peripherally involved,

that`s a very carefully crafted answer that you could easily dodge.


I think Congress could put him back in the box and say, listen, we want to

know what you mean by that and pin him down or he…


MATTHEWS:  Would a judge say he was lying if he said peripherally involved,

and he was the son and the future owner of the whole enterprise?


WEHLE:  Well, it would be a jury that would make that determination.  It`s

hard to say, without knowing what the evidence is. 


MATTHEWS:  All right, anyway – anyway, Kim Wehle, thank you.  And, Greg

Brower, thanks so much. 


Up next:  Some Republican still in the Senate came down hard on President

Bill Clinton when he was accused of a similar offense of obstruction 20

years ago.  Will they be just as hard on President Trump if this BuzzFeed

report is true?


Isn`t it wonderful to catch people like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham

having to be consistent in how they treated Bill Clinton and be consistent

now with the same charge?  Won`t it be interesting to watch?


You`re watching HARDBALL.   






SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Don`t cheat in a lawsuit by

manipulating the testimony of others.  Don`t send public officials and

friends to tell your lies before a federal grand jury to avoid your legal



Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.


If you believe he`s a perjurer, that he obstructed justice in a civil

rights lawsuit, the question is not, should he stay?  What if he stays?




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.   


That was Senator Lindsey Graham back in 1999 arguing for the impeachment

President Bill Clinton – he was still in the House – citing the presence

direction to Monica Lewinsky to lie about their relationship. 


Senator Mitch McConnell made a similar point during a closed session of

Clinton`s impeachment trial, noting that – quote – “He obstructed justice

by encouraging Ms. Lewinsky to give false testimony.  He was interested in

saving his hide, not truth and justice.  If we have no truth and we have no

justice, then we have no nation of laws.”


That was Mitch McConnell back then.


As Philip Bump pointed out in “The Washington Post” today, 14 of today`s

current U.S. senators voted to hold Bill Clinton accountable for

obstruction of justice.


If this new BuzzFeed report that the president directed Michael Cohen to

lie to Congress is true, will Republicans hold President Trump to the same

standards that they held Bill Clinton?


Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL Roundtable.


Annie Karni is a White House reporter for “The New York Times.”  Jonathan

Capehart, of course, and Jennifer Rubin are both opinion writers for “The

Washington Post.” 


Annie – you first, Annie.  I think the question is consistency.  Do we

expect it? 


ANNIE KARNI, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, first of all, if this story turns

out to be true, it carries serious implications for the president.


That being said, it`s a different time now.  It`s a much more partisan

time.  And I think politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, have a way

of being able to make a, well, that was then and this is now argument.


So I think that consistency – obviously, these clips will be played a lot

if they change their position.


MATTHEWS:  They`re hypocritical, by nature.


KARNI:  But “I see it differently now from where I sit now” is something

that politicians do.


MATTHEWS:  That`s hypocritical.  Anyway, I`m sorry.  You`re being very nice

about it and genteel, but I think they`re being hypocritical.




MATTHEWS:  And breaking just moments ago, by the way, a spokesman for the

special counsel – that`s Mueller`s office – just put out a statement in

response to the BuzzFeed report, saying: “BuzzFeed`s description of

specific statements to the special counsel`s office and characterization of

documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Mr. Cohen`s

congressional testimony are not accurate.”


Jonathan, I`m not sure how to – how do you read that, if you read that as

a complete denial of the story that Michael Cohen was told to lie to

Congress by this president.  I`m not sure it`s a denial.  I have to weed

through it.


JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, I have read the statement

now about five or six times.


And two words jump out at me, description and accurate.  They`re not saying

it`s false.  They`re saying it`s not – overall…




MATTHEWS:  One of the oldest flackery lines in history.


CAPEHART:  Right.  They`re not accurate.


MATTHEWS:  The report is inaccurate.


CAPEHART:  And the description of what was said – now, maybe I`m being

overly lawyer-like and not being a lawyer.


MATTHEWS:  So are they.  So are they.


CAPEHART:  But those were two things that jumped out at me.


And the interesting thing will be, how do the two BuzzFeed reporters

respond?  How do they report on this statement?  How do they interpret it?


MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, one question I have right off the bat is, why are they

responding?  Mueller responds to nada, hasn`t responded to anything in a




question, I think.  And I can`t figure out a good answer to that. 


Now, in addition to what Jonathan saw, what I see is denial that these

things were told to the special prosecutor`s office, to this office.


So perhaps they occurred.  Perhaps they were told to a different set of

prosecutors, i.e., the Southern District, but not to this office. 


But why he would go to this length to deny a story, when, as you say, there

have been so many other misinformation, misstatements, and the special

counsel has never done that, is very hard to pierce and figure out what is

going through his mind and why he would go to that extreme on this



MATTHEWS:  Annie, your thoughts, your reporting?


KARNI:  It just popped, so I haven`t done any reporting since I have been

sitting right here. 


But the statement certainly raises more questions than it answers,

especially the strangeness of the spokesman that never speaks, which is the

Mueller spokesman, issuing a statement, is very strange. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  We have another party that is trying to shut up this

witness, trying to shut up this whole story.  And his name is Donald Trump.


And, “Godfather II”-like, he`s scaring the witness into not talking by

saying, I may go up to your father-in-law.  It does remind me of

Pentangeli`s brother coming back from Sicily.  I`m sorry.


RUBIN:  It does, right.  Great scene, by the way.


But, yes, why would he bring this up, I mean, and in public?  It`s so

bizarre and so atrocious, that – and that`s sort of the pattern of Donald

Trump.  If he did this in private, it would be a horror scandal.  He does

it in public, so people are sort of inured to it and kind of take it for



I don`t know that the special counsel…


MATTHEWS:  Is this the behavior of an innocent man, that he says, I don`t

want the truth, I don`t want you talking?




RUBIN:  And watch your father-in-law while you`re at it, yes.


CAPEHART:  And he does it consistently. 


This is not the first time he`s gone after Cohen`s father-in-law.  He did

it on – with Jeanine Pirro when he called into her show.  And he`s done it

once before that.


So he`s making – it`s a consistent pattern here, that he`s trying to put

Cohen`s father in rhetorical crossfires.


MATTHEWS:  Is he vulnerable?




MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to – let me to go Annie on this, because Trump

has the schoolyard bully`s technique.  If he senses anything about your

look, your height, anything about you, he gets after it, your low energy,

you`re little or anything you do, whatever. 


In this case, he thinks that – he thinks Mr. Cohen is worried about his

father-in-law, because that means he`s worrying about the marriage, he is

worrying about his wife, worrying about the whole family, not just the



But I thought the father`s legal business was behind him for many years. 

It`s over. 


KARNI:  Yes, I mean, you`re right that Cohen is someone that Trump knows

really well.  So he would know if the family is a vulnerability here.  He

can push on that bruise.


But this is – the tweets today at Cohen are kind of in line with him

pushing the limit of witness tampering that he`s done and that we have seen

this gray area in the past, him commanding Sessions to end the special

counsel`s investigation. 


And it goes right up to that line a lot in terms of, is this witness

tampering, or is this just spouting off on Twitter? 


MATTHEWS:  So this seems to be the big story of the week.  I think we had a

big story earlier in the week, but as this week goes, as so many weeks

lately, every day the story – the day gets topped the next day by a bigger



And this one, I get the feeling that this is the one is going to drive the

House impeachment committee.




MATTHEWS:  Jerry Nadler is already moving. 


RUBIN:  If it`s true.  If it`s true. 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, on hearings. 




RUBIN:  They`re surely going to have hearings.


And I think this points to, I think, a very important point, which is if

they can find something concrete, discrete, easily explained to the

American people, that will have much more power than a very complicated

tale of – that takes lots of Russian names to explain it. 


So perhaps this is too good to be checked, as they say, on this story, but

they are going to be looking for these discrete acts which are easily

explained and which Republicans in the past have been on record about.


MATTHEWS:  It would be great. 


Let`s bring in Ken Dilanian on that one.  He`s available.  Here he is.


Ken, what do you know about this new story?



special counsel`s office has issued an unprecedented statement disputing a

part of the BuzzFeed article.


I want to read it to you: “BuzzFeed`s description” – this is from Peter

Carr, Mueller`s so much – “BuzzFeed`s description of specific statements

to the special counsel`s office and characterization of documents and

testimony obtained by this office regarding Mr. Cohen`s congressional

testimony are not accurate.”


I cannot remember a statement like that coming from Mueller`s office about

any news report, pro or con, in the history of the special counsel`s



Chris, now, let`s be clear.  They`re not disputing the idea that Michael

Cohen is testifying, is saying that Trump asked him to lie.  What they`re

disputing is that there is all this corroborating evidence that they seized

from the Trump Organization, which was a key facet of the BuzzFeed article

and one of the things that lent it credibility, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that to protect their own integrity, that they had custodial

– they had custody of those documents and they don`t want the word to get

that somebody`s got to them, because that meant somebody put them out?


Is that what they`re really concerned – by the way, not accurate is an old

term of art for flacks.  It doesn`t mean it`s not true.  It means that, in

certain iotas, it wasn`t quite true. 


But it doesn`t deny, as you say, the thrust of the article.  Your thoughts? 


DILANIAN:  No, no, but it does…


MATTHEWS:  The flackery involved here.


DILANIAN:  But they are disputing, Chris – I read this as the special

counsel is disputing that they have obtained evidence from the Trump

Organization, e-mails, documents and testimony saying that Donald Trump

asked Michael Cohen to lie.


And, when you think about it, that was always – I have been saying this on

the air today – that is a little hard to believe, that people would put

that in writing, in text messages, in e-mails, oh, Trump wants Cohen to lie

to Congress.


That`s – that is what the article suggested.  That was the hardest part of

it to believe.  But it`s also the thing that led – that suggested that it

was corroborated, and it`s not just the word of Michael Cohen, an admitted

liar and a soon-to-be convicted felon, Chris.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Ken Dilanian, who was available to us

tonight.  Thank you, sir. 


I have to say that I am – this doesn`t change the story for me yet.  Not

accurate is an old term of art.  We all know that. 


KARNI:  I get it.  It opens more questions than it answers.


But one thing to see is, one story, one huge story happened today.  So far,

it`s standing out there by itself.  No one else confirmed it yet.  And yet

it took – within hours, Democrats were calling that, if this is true, the

president should be impeached.


MATTHEWS:  Every one of them.


KARNI:  It`s going to be – just it`s a reminder of how hard it`s going to

be for Nancy Pelosi, who claims she wants to hold off impeachment when the

Mueller report comes out, that there`s just – they`re ready to go. 


And, if she wants to hold it up, it`s going to be very difficult for her. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, she has to at some point.  She has to hold it up, because

they have to have the report first.  I think that`s fair.


KARNI:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  The Roundtable is sticking with us.


And up next, these three will Tell Me Something I Don`t Know.


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


We`re 28 days into the government shutdown, and Donald Trump and Nancy

Pelosi don`t seem any closer to making a deal to reopen our government. 


And late tonight, Trump tweeted: “I will be making a major announcement

concerning the humanitarian crisis on our southern border and the shutdown

tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. live from the White House.


Well that`s Trump.


When is this going to end, Annie?


KARNI:  I wish I knew.  No one knows.  It`s Friday of another week has

passed.  The sides are no closer than they were last Friday, potentially

even worse.  There`s no talks.


The only end that I`m hearing talk about is a declaration of a national

emergency.  I don`t know necessarily think that`s what he`s doing tomorrow. 

If you notice, the tweet said humanitarian crisis.  It didn`t say national



MATTHEWS:  How about a stochastic variable coming in here, Jonathan,

something from outside the box, something that has nothing to do with

either of these personalities we`re dealing with?


RUBIN:  Well, we hope it`s not something serious.


I mean, people are talking about a disaster or some kind of horrible…


MATTHEWS:  Yes, it will be, probably.


How about the air traffic controllers walking off and saying, we can`t do

this without…


RUBIN:  Well, that, I think, is probably the most realistic scenario.


Now, they`re not legally allowed to do it.  They`re not allowed to have a

wildcat strike, but they`re already not appearing in very great numbers. 

The sick-out rate is going up.


So at the point at which perhaps the Super Bowl airport is threatened with

a shutdown, maybe that would get Donald Trump…




MATTHEWS:  Maybe Mitch McConnell wake up and play broker here and come up

with some new effort on border enforcement that Democrats can agree with

that isn`t a wall.


CAPEHART:  But that – but that would require the president to go along.


We`re in this mess because the president put out a deal, and then snatched

it back.


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, maybe Rush Limbaugh will retire.


Anyway, thank you, Annie Karni, Jonathan Capehart, and Jennifer Rubin.


Coming up next, my thoughts on the shortest road and the surest road to



You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Let Me Finish tonight with the way today`s story of presidential

obstruction of justice fits into history. 


If Donald Trump told his lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen to lie to the Congress,

we have a perfect match to what Richard Nixon was impeached for.  It was

right there in article one.


The question from the beginning of the current scandal is whether the truth

is, what happened, the guilt of the president for a particular deed, will

be enough to move the Congress politically.


Will you get a majority of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of

the U.S. Senate to vote to remove him from office?


Well, that last part is important because, if the House impeaches and the

Senate fails to convict with a two-thirds vote, the verdict of history is

that Trump would be acquitted.  That`s the word, acquitted, which just

might be enough to win him reelection and belittle the whole exercise.


Richard Nixon knew he was going to be impeached and convicted.  That`s why

he quit, because the Democrats and enough Republicans were behaving as if

they really weren`t that happy about doing it.  They looked grave when they

voted for those articles of impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee.


They – and that included the Democrats – looked like they were doing what

needed to be done, not something that they relished doing.  There was no



And that`s the way the Democrats and any Republicans that could be scared

up would need to do it this time.


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


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.






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