Robert Mueller concludes investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 3/22/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Michael Schmidt; Natasha Bertrand; Paul Butler; Joaquin Castro; Joe Neguse, Joe Neguse, Charlie Sykes, Ted Lieu, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Daniel R. Alonso, Shannon Pettypiece
Transcript:

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  And what comes next, involves our Congress and our

public and involves you.  So, stay tuned, stay involved and thank you for

watching our special coverage here tonight on THE BEAT.  I will be part of

more special coverage of the Mueller report, including this Sunday.  I`m

learning here, 9:00 P.M. Eastern, it`s official, a special on the weekend.

 

But don`t go anywhere because Chris Matthews, takes over our continuing

breaking coverage now.

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Mueller has landed.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.  The investigation is

over.  And according to a Senior DOJ Official, there will be no further

indictments.  That means no charges against the President, his children or

associates after all those meetings with the Russians.  Not only that but

the Special Counsel completed its report and signed off on it without ever

directly interviewing the President of the United States about collusion or

obstruction of justice.

 

After two years of looking into President Trump, his campaign at the

Kremlin`s unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, Special Counsel

Mueller has now delivered his findings to the Justice Department.  And

today, at 5:00 P.M., word came from the Justice Department, that they

notified Congress that the Russian probe is officially over, leaving the

fate of Mueller`s report in the hands of Attorney General William Barr.

 

In his letter, Barr`s letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees,

Barr`s stated simply that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his

investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related

matters.  Barr said, I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be

in a position to advise you of the Special Counsels principal conclusions

as soon as this weekend.

 

Separately, this is Barr again, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney

General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other

information from the report can be released to Congress and to the public. 

Well, there are major questions left to answer tonight, big questions and

calls from Congress for Robert Mueller to answer them.

 

We have the best reporters possible tonight.  Joining us now, our NBC Ken

Dilanian, The Atlantic`s, Natasha Bertrand, and Former Federal Prosecutor,

Paul Butler.  Also joining me by phone, The New York Times`s Michael

Schmidt.

 

Ken, my biggest question, and I`m going to have this along until somebody

answers it.  How can the President be pointed to as leading collusion with

Russia, aiding a Russians conspiracy to interfere with our election, if

none of his henchman, none of his children, none of his associates have

been indicted?  At best, there was RICO situation where he was giving

orders to people to do stuff with the Russians.  If none of them were

indicted, how can he be blamed?  I`m just questioning.  That`s my big one.

 

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  Chris, I think the answer is

he cannot be in a criminal sense.  You`re right to question that because we

know that under Justice Department doctrine, the President can`t be

indicted.  So we can consider the possibility that Mueller is accusing him

of impeachable offenses that would normally be crimes in this report.  But

the point you just raised argues against that.  Trump can`t conspire with

himself.  If he was conspiring with it the Russians, he would have had to

have some help at least with Roger Stone.  That was sort of the last leg of

the triangle.  And when he didn`t charge Stone conspiracy, that told us

something.  It told us that they didn`t have it.

 

Now, I`m waiting to see what`s in this report, will they accuse Trump of

misjudgment, of negligence, of allowing himself and his campaign to be

manipulated by a Russian covert operation.  What happen after he was warned

by the FBI?  What`s steps did he take during his campaign?  Did he open

himself up to this?  And that`s all very bad but it`s not crimes, Chris. 

They have not charge anybody in the Trump [INAUDIBLE].

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s see.   Let`s – maybe we can help here.  If you are

a member of Congress or you think he missed the boat here, because we know

about the meeting at Trump Tower June of `16.  We know about the meeting at

a cigar bar with Kilimnik.  We know, my guy, we know but all those meetings

with in Kislyak at the Republican Convention in Cleveland.  All of these

dots we`re to believe don`t connect.

 

DILANIAN:  Well, that`s the conclusion in front of us, Chris.  I mean, all

that stuff was suggestive.  It didn`t prove anything.  And, in fact, the

Trump Tower meeting at my reporting tells me was a bust.  They didn`t

actually hand over any incriminating information.  What it showed is that

Don Trump Jr. was willing to accept help.  But we saw no evidence.  They

actually accepted help, hacked emails or sort of analytical stuff from all

that stuff.  It never panned out, Chris.

 

MATTHEWS:  Second question, I`ve got to stick with you, my colleague, why

was there never an interrogation of this President?  We were told for weeks

by experts, you cannot deal with an obstruction of justice charge or

investigation without getting the motive.  You do not get the motive unless

you hear from the person himself who`s being targeted, a subject of the

investigation.  How can they let Trump off the hook?

 

So far tonight, we have no reason to believe Trump is going to be charged

by rhetoric in the document itself, the Mueller report, that he will not be

charged with obstruction or of collusion without ever having to sit down

with the Special Counsel Mueller and answer his damn questions.  How can

that happen?

 

DILANIAN:  That is a great question.  The Special Counsel talked to Bill

Clinton, FBI interviewed Hillary Clinton but Donald Trump would not sit

down with him.  My conclusion, Chris, is that President transmitted to

Mueller that he would take the 5th.  He would never talk to him.  And

therefore, Mueller decided it wasn`t worth the subpoena fight that would

delay the investigation and his report for months to go down that road,

knowing he would lose.  You don`t have to testify against yourself.  And if

at the end of the day, President Trump was just going to assert his 5th

amendment rights and never sit down with Mueller, which if you`re his

lawyer, that`s you would advice him to do.  Then why delay the

investigation?

 

But you could argue, he should have done it anyway.  Mueller should have

sent the subpoena to stand on principal, to show he took that extra step. 

He chose not to do that.

 

MATTHEWS:  Michael Schmidt, your reporting on those two questions, why no

indictment of the people around the President for collusion, if there is

collusion?  Bob Mueller believes there was collusion.  And secondly, why no

interview?  Why no questioning of the President?

 

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, in terms of the

charges and stuff like that, there are a lot of parts of Mueller that have

lived on and will live on in other U.S. Attorney`s Offices in the eastern

seaboard, basically, from New York to Washington.  So there are still

things that are being investigated here.

 

I think you sort of have to look at Mueller and his report as a sort of

midway point as these things go forward.  And I`m just –

 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Again, stop there.  His job is to go to the

collusion question.  That`s why he got paid all these months.  That`s why

he had this huge team.  They were to look into the collusion matter.  He

can`t pass that off to somebody else, can he?

 

SCHMIDT:  I don`t know.  Those are very complex investigations.  They take

a very long period of time.  And Mueller has cast a shadow over the

President.  And there had been – the President certainly would want this

to be wrapped up as soon as possible.  But I don`t know.  I mean, w don`t

know what Mueller found.  We don`t know what Barr is going to tell us about

that stuff.  So I`m not sure.  We can make a judgment that they didn`t find

collusion or they didn`t this or didn`t find that.  I just think that there

are still a lot more to play out.  And we have to look at the results of

what Barr discloses.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me got Natasha in this question.  You`ve been reporting

great on this stuff.  My question is, why dump this at 5:00, close of

business on a Friday?  That`s when you dump stuff you`re not proud of. 

That`s when you sneak something through the media.  5:00 in the afternoon,

close of business, Friday for something we`ve been waiting for two years

and they`ve been working apparently on this report, closing up this report

for months, maybe since August, some of the writing.  And now, they drop it

at 5:00 in the afternoon and we`re left with a question mark, where is the

collusion report, where is the obstruction report, and how come he never

interviewed the big guy ever?  Your thoughts?

 

NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  This is a pattern that we`ve

seen from the Special Counsel since the beginning, right?  I mean, he`s

dropped indictments on Friday.  So I wouldn`t necessarily read too much

into that aspect of it.  But you`re absolutely right.  I mean, the fact

that Mueller is not recommending further indictments here is a surprise. 

But at the same time, we don`t know what the report says.

 

Now, he might have found evidence of behavior that was perhaps unseemly or

behavior that was wrong, that did not rise to the level of criminal

activity.  There`s a lot of this that is nuanced and perhaps couched in the

language of a counterintelligence investigation that does not rise to the

level of criminal activity.

 

But there`s so much we still don`t know, right?  I mean, we still don`t

know, for example, one big question, why was Alfa Bank paying the Trump

organization server during the election?  We never came to a conclusion

about that.  What about Michael Cohen in Prague?  There are reports that

his phone was there.  What about that?  What about all the meetings that

Jared Kushner had with the Russians at Trump Tower during the transition

period?  Why did Mike Flynn lie about the sanctions phone call?  I mean,

all of these things might actually be addressed.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think we`ll get those answers in this report?  Do

you think we`ll actually get those non-indictment answers, if you don`t

indict the President because you believe you can`t?  You don`t indict any

of the people around him.  First of all, how can you blame the President,

even in any regard, if you`re not going to say, his henchmen carried out

his orders?  I mean, I don`t get it.

 

BERTRAND:  Well, that`s the big question, as to what – that`s the big

question, as to what extent will Mueller get into conduct that`s not

criminally chargeable, right?  And that is what people are kind of

concerned about, is that we might never know the answers to the questions

because Mueller is going to stick to why he decided to prosecute and why he

didn`t decide to prosecute.

 

MATTHEWS:  But, we didn`t want – a lot of people did not want that done

with regard to Hillary, those weeks before the 2016 election.  If you`re

going to indict, indict, others, shut up.  I mean, that`s a different stick

[ph].

 

Let me go to Paul Butler who knows this stuff.  Paul, you and I have

talked.  You`ve been instructing me on this about the nature of a possible

RICO charge, the President overseeing a number of his henchmen, his people,

his kids all involved with the Russians.  My question to you is how come

nobody has been indicted, and if not.  Because we`re told by a DOJ official

in the background, there`s not going to be indictments in this report.  How

can we say the President was a ring leader of something that nobody did

wrong with?

 

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, Chris, I think the answers

to those questions are contained in the Mueller report.  So when a federal

prosecutor doesn`t extend the investigation and elects not to bring

charges, she writes as lengthy memo explaining the reason why.  So we can

be confident that the Mueller report contains a detailed analysis of why

charges weren`t brought against people like the President and Donald Trump

Jr.  The question is whether Barr will release that information to the

Congress and to the American people.

 

The department has another policy that suggests that if charges aren`t

brought, then the reason should not be made public.  So if, for example,

Barr knows from the Mueller report of high crimes and misdemeanors by the

President and Mueller says that the only reason he didn`t indict is because

of the DOJ policy against indicting a sitting President, Barr could sit on

that information, citing that other DOJ policy –

 

MATTHEWS:  How can the President be responsible for high crimes and

misdemeanors if none of his people are responsible for breaking the law?

 

BUTLER:  So the other part of the Justice Department policy is unless they

are confident that they could get a jury to convict, they don`t bring

charges.  That`s higher than the legal standard of probable cause.  So it

may be that they think that there`s sufficient evidence to charge people

with crimes.  But if they don`t think they could get the conviction, they

wouldn`t prosecute.  And that information, that analysis will also be

contained.

 

MATTHEWS:  Come on, Paul.  A D.C. jury wouldn`t convict in these sets of

circumstances, all this information about meetings with the Russians and

what it would look like to an average, common sense juror.  And you don`t

think they thought they could get a conviction?

 

BUTLER:  For issues like obstruction of justice, as firing the firing the

Attorney General – well, as firing the FBI director, does that count as

obstruction of justice?  Those are complicated legal questions.  And they

may, in fact, be complicated questions for jury.  I think that Mueller

probably could have gotten a D.C. jury to indict or to convict based on

some of the evidence that we already know.

 

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  I was thinking more of the collusion stuff.  Let me –

thank you, Paul.  We`ll be back to you.

 

I want to go to Michael Schmidt.  You write the big foot articles for The

New York Times` front page.  What is the impact of tonight`s news and

tomorrow in Sunday`s papers and the Sunday shows with regard, put it

together with Nancy Pelosi said no impeachment on the table right now. 

Well, this put – keep it off the table, put it back on or what, because

I`m curious.  The big story of 2019 was impeachment.  Is it still a big

story of 2019, the impeachment inquiry?

 

SCHMIDT:  It all depends on what Mueller has found and what is relayed to

Congress.  If it`s relayed to Congress that the President broke the law,

then this will head in a certain direction, I am sure, and that will push

the democrats on impeachment and their base will really want to do

something.  If Barr says he didn`t find anything there, he`ll be under

pressure from the democrats to release as much information from the

investigation as possible so they can, quote on quote, check his homework

and see if the investigators truly followed the facts and were not impeded

by politics.

 

But we, today, can`t make that assessment until we know what Mueller

concluded.  And there`s some indication we`ll find out this weekend, maybe

some early summary of that.  Barr was saying that he was going to brief the

Hill as early as this weekend about this.  And we`ll just have to see how

far he goes.

 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, let`s use your powers of deduction.  If there was a

criminal conspiracy to advance the Russian interference in our elections in

2016 led by the President, all of his people would be involved.  Many of

them would be involved.  We know it could have been Flynn, it could be

Manafort, it could be certainly Roger Stone, Rick Gates, all his family

members, especially those who met with the Russians.  How can you blame the

President for being a ring leader, a RICO type leader of a crime if none of

his henchmen are worth indicting?  And they were not indicted today and

were told by the DOJ they will not be indicted.  How can you build the case

in your own mind that there`s still a case for collusion against the

President?

 

SCHMIDT:  I`m not sure.  You present some very logical reasons there why

that may not exist, and a case like that may not exist.  I think what

you`re forgetting about is the issue of obstruction while there were a lot

of questions about Russia.

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m not forgetting it.  That`s another question.  But go ahead.

 

SCHMIDT:  Look, while there`s a lot of questions about Russia, there`s many

more about obstruction and about actions he took when he was in office. 

And if you look at the questions that Mueller wanted to ask the President,

there were far more about obstruction than anything else.  And he never

answered those questions.  But Mueller continued to investigate.  And

that`s where he spent a lot of time talking to current and former White

House officials to understand the President`s motivations as he tried to

gain control of the inquiry.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

 

SCHMIDT:  And I think that`s the other bucket here that sometimes people

forget about but where the President may have the most exposure.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, yes, I can see the President announcing in two or three

weeks.  I split the double header.  I get off collusion.  All they got me

on is this argument of obstruction.  By the way, I`m allowed to obstruct

when I`m innocent.  I can hear the political argument right now.  Michael

Schmidt, yes, go ahead.

 

SCHMIDT:  Well, he already started saying that today a bit.  There was sort

of a hint to that in his Fox Business interview that he did with Maria

Bartiromo.  He`s basically saying, well, this was a fake investigation,

fake issue, the Russia thing was a whole hoax and I had to protect myself

from that.  You could see that argument forming in what he was saying

today.

 

MATTHEWS:  And 88 percent of the republican people out there, voters

support Trump, they`ll support him on that obstruction.

 

Collusion has always been the name of the game.  I think you know more. 

Thank you, Michael Schmidt, a fabulous reporter of The New York Times.

 

In a joint statement, by the way, late tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

and Senate minority leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said the

following.  Attorney General Barr must give President Trump and his lawyers

– must not give President Trump, his lawyers or any staff any sneak

preview, that`s their phrase, sneak preview of Special Counsel Mueller`s

findings or evidence and the White House must not be allowed to interfere

in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made

public.  The American people have a right to the truth.  The watchword is

transparency.  Well, that was strong.

 

Joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro who sits on the

House Intelligence Committee.  Congressman, you`re a politician.  I just

want to know what you think of the political impact of this somewhat

unsatisfactory bit of news we had tonight, which is nothing about

collusion, really, except no indictments on collusion of the people around

the President, nothing really on obstruction of justice, there`s not going

to be any interview of the President by the Special Counsel.  What do you

make of that set of news?

 

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), T.X.:  Yes.  I guess a few things, Chris.  I mean,

obviously, the country has been waiting for this report for a long time. 

It`s owed to the American people.  So I believe the acting Attorney General

shouldn`t make any changes to it, deletions, additions, should just let the

American people see it for themselves and make their own decision.

 

But there`re basically three buckets here that we`re talking about. 

Collusion, as you`ve been talking about, obstruction of justice and then

any kind of business crimes, money laundering, insurance fraud, anything

like that.  Let me deal with the last two.

 

I think that in that report, I would suspect that if there`re obstruction

of justice findings, that Bob Mueller will say, Congress has to deal with

that part.  Based on what I heard Michael Cohen talk about in his

interviews with the Intelligence Committee, I believe that the Southern

District is probably looking or is looking at some of Mr. Trump`s business

dealings.  So that`s those two buckets.

 

The third one is the collusion question.  And I can`t say for sure what

they found on that.  Obviously, they`re not going to go forward and do

indictments on the President because it`s DOJ policy or it`s been DOJ

policy in the past or any of the people around him, but we don`t know

whether that means they have no suspicion or no evidence of indictments and

simply didn`t think they had enough evidence to convict.  We just don`t

know until we see the report.

 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about impeachment now?  These last couple of

hours have changed a lot of views, I would expect.  Does this make it more

or less likely that the Congress will conduct a formal impeachment process,

including perhaps indicting or rather subpoenaing Mr. Mueller himself and

make him sit on the stand under oath and tell us everything he decided or

didn`t decide to do?

 

CASTRO:  Well, I do think that the Congress and the American people should

hear from Bob Mueller directly about the investigation, how he went about

it and so forth.  I think the important piece for the Congress will be –

or the most important piece will be obstruction of justice piece and what

the Mueller report lays out in terms of its findings with respect to that.

 

MATTHEWS:  How about under oath?  Would you put the Special Counsel under

oath?

 

CASTRO:  Sure.  And I suspect that as a lifelong prosecutor and so forth,

somebody that served in the Justice Department, I don`t that he would have

a problem testifying under oath.

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you hope that the Special Counsel will, at some point in the

next few days, either in the written report, which is now in the hands of

the Attorney General, will clarify what he discovered about this President

and the Russians?

 

CASTOR:  Yes, I hope so.  I think everybody hopes so, republicans,

democrats, liberals, conservatives.  Look, our elections were interfered

with in 2016 and we know that there were Russian agents who were part of

that.  And a big question throughout the last two years or so has been

whether and how much any Americans helped achieve that.  So, yes, I think

everybody wants to know the answer to that.

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.  Thank

you, sir.

 

While waiting the report early this morning, the President laid down his

last line of defense.  This is critical, I think.  Let`s listen.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There was no collusion,

there was no obstruction.  Everybody knows it.  It`s all a big hoax.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, no collusion is a big lead there.

 

Joining me right now is Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado who

sits on the House Judiciary Committee.  I`m going back to your question. 

How can there be a charge here or a claim of collusion?  Formally, the term

is advancing a Russian conspiracy to interfere and screw with our

elections, basically.  How can that be laid, that – that blame, that

accusation, be laid against the president by Mueller, if he`s not getting

any of Trump`s people here? 

 

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D), COLORADO:  So, thank you for having me, Chris. 

 

I have been listening to the questions you have been raising.  I think

they`re important ones.  But I think it`s hard to speculate until we have

actually seen the report.

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m asking.  I`m not speculating.  Why didn`t he – why didn`t

he indict? 

 

We were told by a DOJ official tonight there will be no indictments.  That

means no indictments about collusion.  Doesn`t that startle you, with –

after all these meetings? 

 

NEGUSE:  I suspect that the underlying rationale – and I would hope that

the underlying rationale is detailed in the report. 

 

It`s why the Judiciary chairman – and you heard from Speaker Pelosi and

Leader Schumer.  They`re ultimately making clear that they believe the

report should be released to the public and that the underlying findings

and evidence should be transmitted to the relevant committees in the

Congress, including the Judiciary Committee. 

 

I mean, that`s why it`s important to get this report, so that we can

understand the rationale behind decisions to prosecute and decisions not to

prosecute.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you`re being very patient.  I`m not patient.  I`m not

patient here, because we have waiting for this thing for two years. 

 

It comes out on a Friday at 5:00 at night.  Excuse me.  That`s the dumping

ground, when you dump it at 5:00 – at close of business on a Friday. 

 

By the way, does it bother you that the president of the United States, who

is the target of this whole inquiry, was never interviewed?

 

NEGUSE:  Again, I want to read the report, so I understand better precisely

why he wasn`t interviewed.

 

And I would like to understand the special counsel`s rationale for not

issuing a subpoena and so forth.  Some folks, again, have speculated as to

why that is.  But I would like to see the report, so that we can ultimately

get a better sense of why that was the case.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, if I were Bob Bennett, who was Bill Clinton`s lawyer, and

if I were Bill Clinton, I would sure as hell say, you mean a president

doesn`t have to respond to a subpoena? 

 

You mean a president can skip town and not ask for – when Bill was put in

that booth, he was forced to talk on the tape, talk all about Monica

Lewinsky, all on the tape, before that grand jury.

 

He had to do all that.  You mean he could have gotten out of it, the way

Trump`s getting out of it?  That`s what you`re assuming here. 

 

NEGUSE:  Again, I – I hear you, Chris. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  It`s doable.  A president can just say, excuse me, I`m not

coming. 

 

NEGUSE:  I think it`s hard to make a judgment call without seeing the

report and the findings and the underlying evidence. 

 

And let me just say, I think it`s important that we not lose sight of where

we are, and how far we have come, after a-22 month investigation, 37

indictments, multiple guilty pleas, a conviction, including multiple

advisers to the president, people like Michael Flynn and others. 

 

So let`s – context matters.  I think right now the focus should be getting

the report.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but nobody has been – nobody around the president has been

indicted ever since this two years began about collusion, which is the

heart of the inquiry.  Nobody has faced justice on collusion yet.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

NEGUSE:  I think a couple of folks have raised the point – and I think

it`s a salient one – that we also can`t lose sight of the obstruction of

justice piece of this, and the reality that that was a big component of the

special counsel`s work. 

 

And so, again, I would like to see the report and the findings become

public.  I think the American public deserve to know the truth. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I think you`re right.  I think, unfortunately, though, in the

way politics works in 2019, it`s the Democratic Caucus which will be

interested in that obstruction of justice question, whereas the Republicans

are going to wink at that baby. 

 

They`re going to say he was innocent, of course he defended himself. 

They`re going to buy the Trump line.  Aren`t you afraid of that? 

 

NEGUSE:  I hope that`s not the case. 

 

I mean, I think it`s going to depend on the evidence that comes out.  And

it`s why I know I sound like a broken record, but, look, it matters.

 

MATTHEWS:  You`re an optimistic guy.  You`re an optimistic guy.  The

Republicans are waiting for the evidence.  That is astounding.  You really

believe that? 

 

NEGUSE:  Well, let me – let me say this, Chris, because, again, it`s –

context matters.  History matters. 

 

The last time that a special counsel was appointed under this statute was

with respect to the Waco incident in 1993.  And back then, the – so this

notion made by some that the report should be made public with redactions,

and that the attorney general should only release a summary of findings and

so forth, is just not consistent with the law. 

 

It`s not consistent with past practice.  Release the report to the American

public.  Transmit the evidence to the relevant committees in the House, so

that we can engage in our important constitutional oversight duties.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you, Congressman Joe Neguse, who is being very

judicious tonight from Colorado. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS:  Still with me is Ken Dilanian, Natasha Bertrand, and Paul

Butler.

 

Let me go back to Ken, because you have been watching my interrogative –

my interrogatives here, my questioning of people, because I am a bit

unsettled by the fact that all of this investigation has yielded so far no

indictments about collusion. 

 

DILANIAN:  You are asking all the right questions, Chris. 

 

But there`s another way to look at this whole collusion question, which is,

so there wasn`t a criminal conspiracy.  That`s obvious.  There are no

conspiracy charges.  But Natasha mentioned the counterintelligence aspect

of this.

 

What that means is that the FBI launched an investigation into the question

of, is Donald Trump compromised by a foreign adversary, by Russia?  And

often the answer to that question is not a criminal charge. 

 

If you`re a senior government official, and you have an affair with a

Chinese spy, you don`t get charged criminally with espionage.  You get

fired and you lose your security clearance. 

 

What if the Mueller report finds that the Trump campaign were dupes to a

Russian covert operation to manipulate our election, and they allowed

themselves, by their willingness to take meetings with Russians and accept

dirt from the Russians, they allowed themselves to be manipulated by a very

sophisticated Russian operation?

 

That would be a scandal that may well be impeachable, depending on the

facts.  We have to wait and see.  Just because there wasn`t a crime doesn`t

mean there isn`t a scandal. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it isn`t all passive.  The evidence we have so far is not

entirely passive.

 

We know that his kid went to Trump Tower to get dirt on Hillary.  That is

not a passive action. 

 

DILANIAN:  That`s right. 

 

MATTHEWS:  He wasn`t waiting for it to be put over his transom.  He went to

the meeting. 

 

DILANIAN:  That`s right. 

 

MATTHEWS:  We know that there was a meeting – we know that there`s

meetings with – lots of them with Kislyak.  We know that the Russian –

the Republican – I shouldn`t say that – the Republican platform for 2016

was changed according to the purposes of the Russian government. 

 

We know all this. 

 

DILANIAN:  Right. 

 

So what we can conclude, though, from the absence of any criminal charges

related to that is that it didn`t rise to the level of a criminal

conspiracy, but we can`t conclude that the Trump campaign was blameless. 

 

MATTHEWS:  So, if somebody was paid off for – with whatever form of

payment, whatever currency, to change the Republican platform on Ukraine,

that wouldn`t be a crime? 

 

DILANIAN:  No, of course it would.  But I don`t think that fact pattern

exists.  That would be bribery straight up, right?

 

So the question is, was there improper influence, which may not be a crime,

especially when you`re talking about a foreign adversary. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

 

DILANIAN:  But, remember, the FBI warned the Trump campaign that the

Russians were circling.

 

The question is, what do they do with that warning?  Apparently nothing,

because they allowed themselves to be manipulated and used and turned

against the democracy, essentially.  And the details that, we think, are in

the Mueller report.

 

And, Chris, this letter actually gives us a clue, this letter from Barr,

that the Mueller report is perhaps more detailed than we thought, because

he talks about giving the baseline information of declinations to the

Judiciary Committee.

 

And then, in the next paragraph, he says, but there`s this other

information that I`m going to discuss with my lawyers about whether we can

make this public.

 

Well, the other information, that`s the stuff we really want to see, Chris.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Paul on this, because you`re the lawyer here and

the professor. 

 

What about – what – the things that are missing, the dog – as Sherlock

Holmes would say, the dog that didn`t bark here, there are all kinds of

laws about denial of people`s public service, that you engage in purposes

beyond those of your appointment or your elective official position.  And

you`re doing stuff really for someone else.  You`re denying public service

– services to the public here. 

 

If you`re over there fobbing for the – for the Russians, isn`t that a

crime?

 

BUTLER:  I think it very well might be a crime, but then it depends on the

facts. 

 

And, so, we can look at Mueller as being a very efficient and productive

prosecutor, but also called a somewhat conservative one.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

BUTLER:  So, 199 criminal charges, 37 people charge individually, and seven

guilty pleas or convictions, every single person who Mueller has charged,

he`s gotten, with the exception of Roger Stone, who hasn`t had his day in

court yet. 

 

And so what that means is, he only brings cases when he has unimpeachable

evidence that he knows he can win.  And it may be that, for people who

haven`t been charged, he didn`t feel he had that quality of evidence. 

 

But, very quickly to Ken`s point, President Trump is far from out of the

woods.  So the president appears to have made a number of misleading

statements about Trump Tower Moscow when he was a candidate for president

of the United States. 

 

Now, it`s not a crime for a candidate for office to lie.  At the same time,

the Russians knew he was lying.  And so he may have been compromised in a

way that has important national security implications and that could also

lead to his impeachment and removal from office.

 

MATTHEWS:  Natasha, what changed at 5:00 Eastern time tonight?  What`s

different now than it was two, three hours ago? 

 

BERTRAND:  We know that Mueller`s investigation is over.  We don`t know

that the investigation is over, right? 

 

So, the House will continue to investigate things like Deutsche Bank.  They

are probably going to subpoena Mueller, according to Adam Schiff, the chair

of the House Intelligence Committee. 

 

And I think that the biggest lingering question now is, is Trump

compromised by the Russians?  Because there`s really nothing else that

logically explains his behavior, his deference towards Vladimir Putin. 

 

That is the biggest lingering question, I think, that Schiff wants answered

particularly.  He`s already said that that is one of the biggest things

that he wants to investigate. 

 

And I think that we are also losing sight of the fact that Trump`s

submitted written answers to Mueller.  So were there any consistencies in

those answers that perhaps Mueller wanted to charge him with, but couldn`t

because he`s a sitting president? 

 

So these are questions that I think the report might answer.  I mean, we

really don`t know at this point.  But you would expect it to.  I mean,

there`s just so much out there that we don`t know. 

 

But I think the biggest question is, what explains the president`s behavior

towards Vladimir Putin?  What explains his behavior throughout the course

of the campaign?  Is he compromised by the fact that he was looking into

doing a Trump Tower Moscow?  And does that explain the behavior of everyone

around him during the campaign? 

 

I think that, just because there were no indictments related directly to

conspiracy, “his henchmen” – quote, unquote – as you call them, were

indicted. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Not for collusion.

 

BERTRAND:  Perhaps not about that main conspiracy question.

 

MATTHEWS:  Not yet, yes.

 

BERTRAND:  Not for collusion, but the purpose of it was to get information,

presumably, to flip them against the president, to get information about

what happened during the campaign.

 

Whether or not that information rises to the level of criminal activity,

apparently, Mueller didn`t think so.  But we`re probably going to learn a

lot more as the days – as the days go on. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Ken Dilanian.  And thank you, Natasha

Bertrand and Paul Butler.

 

Moments ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer weighed in on the report

and warned President Trump and his lawyers not to interfere with the

release of it.  Let`s watch. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER:  Now that special counsel

Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, it`s imperative

for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying

documentation and findings to Congress. 

 

Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his

staff any sneak preview of special counsel Mueller`s findings or evidence. 

And the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about

what parts of those findings or evidence should be made public.

 

The watchword is transparency.  The president himself has called, without

qualification, for the report to be made public.  There is no reason God`s

green earth why Attorney General Barr should do any less.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  I want to bring U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California, who

sits on the House Judiciary Committee and joins me by phone.

 

Congressman, what do you think is the thinking behind the leadership in

both houses on the Democratic side about not having the president get a

sneak preview?  That was their term.

 

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

 

Let me first say that today is a historic, proud day for America.  Despite

multiple attempts by the president to stop this investigation, Robert

Mueller and his team were able to complete it. 

 

And the fact that he kept his job, and Deputy Attorney General Rod

Rosenstein kept his job, I think, shows the strength, the vitality of our

institutions.  So let`s not lose sight of that. 

 

In terms of the report, the American public and Congress should see the

entire report.  If it`s classified, if the report is classified, Congress

should see it.  And we should not have any interference from the White

House before we see the full report. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, back to my question, what`s the concern about the

president getting a look before the rest of the country does at this

report? 

 

LIEU:  The concern would be that they would tamper with it, that they would

put pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to not release certain portions

or to redact certain portions of the report.  And that would be

unacceptable.

 

MATTHEWS:  What do you – you said this report was a conclusion.

 

But my question is, it wasn`t really conclusive, because they never

interviewed under oath the president.  And we were told for weeks by

experts in prosecution you have to get to motive when it comes to

obstruction.  You have to figure out what the person says who is being

investigated. 

 

And we have never gotten an on-the-record, under-oath interview –

interrogation, I think is a better word for it – of the president, ever. 

 

LIEU:  That is correct. 

 

I`m a former prosecutor.  It would have been really great if Donald Trump

was courageous enough to do an interview.  But he`s not required to, as a

target of an investigation.  He could simply clam up and not say anything,

if he wanted to do.

 

So there was no legal formal requirement that he had to submit…

 

MATTHEWS:  Why did Bill Clinton accept – why did Bill Clinton have to be

taped before the American people about Monica?  He had to go through that

humiliation of being asked all about it on television, basically, for all

of us to see.  And this president skips town. 

 

LIEU:  Bill Clinton could have asserted his Fifth Amendment rights.  He did

not have to do that.  He chose to do it. 

 

I would have hoped Donald Trump would have chosen to testify the way that

Bill Clinton did.  But he didn`t have to do it, legally. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What`s the next step?  I mean, you have got the Congress decides

on impeachment.  The speaker has said it`s off the table. 

 

Is it back on the table or still off the table?  Where`s impeachment?  It`s

now March, late March.  Is it something that`s going to come up in the next

couple months or not? 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

LIEU:  Right. 

 

So, the mission of special counsel Mueller is fairly narrow, right?  He`s

looking at whether he can get enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable

doubt that someone committed a federal crime.  The committees in Congress

have a much broader mission. 

 

We want to know, did Donald Trump, his family or his associates commit any

crime, whether or not it was related to Russia?  Second, did they engage in

any ethical misconduct, whether or not it rose to levels of a crime?  And,

third, how do we keep this from happening again and how do we explain this

to the American people?

 

So, our investigations are going to continue.  Based on what we find, we

will have a conversation with the American people and decide, should we go

forward or not with impeachment?  But we don`t have enough of a record to

decide that question yet. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what`s winning right now, the case for impeachment or the

case against it?  What`s winning as of tonight?

 

LIEU:  I don`t think we have enough facts to go forward with impeachment.

 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you so much. 

 

LIEU:  We, first off, would need to see the entire report from Mueller as

well.

 

MATTHEWS:  It`s great to – I always want you on, Congressman Ted Lieu of

California. 

 

LIEU:  Thank you. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I`m going to bring in now Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of

Illinois.  He sits on both the House Intelligence Committee and the

Oversight Committee, led by, of course, Elijah Cummings. 

 

Let me ask you this, Congressman.  You`re smiling.  I don`t know why

anybody is smiling tonight, but let me ask you this. 

 

My two questions tonight, if there`s collusion on the part of the

president, how come none of his people, his family, his henchmen, none of

his associates, none of them have been indicted, and there`s not going to

be any more indictments? 

 

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, we don`t know that there was

collusion by the president.  But we need to see the report to understand

why he decided not to charge. 

 

I mean, theoretically, it`s possible, although unlikely, that he may have

thought that the charges may have risen to the level of an indictable crime

with regard to the president, but he could not charge him in this regard…

 

MATTHEWS:  What about his people?

 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  … and nobody else was involved, and, theoretically,

others weren`t involved.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, nobody has charged that president personally went out and

organized this whole thing all by himself, that if he was involved with

collusion with the Russians, he had his people involved at doing it for

him.

 

No indictments of any of his people, not of his kids, nobody, no

indictments.

 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  One – right.

 

One evidence of – piece of evidence of collusion that I thought was pretty

striking was the meeting between Mr. Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik in

that cigar bar in New York…

 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  … where he passed private polling data to Mr. Kilimnik,

who was thought to be an agent or connected to the Russian intelligence

services.

 

In fact, Mr. Manafort lied about this in the proceedings in which he was

recently sentenced.  And I`m just curious, what did Mr. Mueller say about

this particular episode?  And did it get passed off to someone else to

investigate?

 

One other thing I just want to mention very briefly, Chris – and I know

you`re focused on this collusion issue, but I would just like to know…

 

MATTHEWS:  Because that`s why we had a special counsel. 

 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Yes. 

 

I think that, with regard to this collusion issue, I would like to know

what Mr. Mueller thought he could not pursue on his own, but he needed

assistance from other investigative agencies or other U.S. attorneys, who

are also continuing their investigations. 

 

In other words, I`m just curious whether, in this report – and I think

that the American people must see this report, by the way – whether this

was a midterm report or a final thesis. 

 

In other words, did he basically farm out the rest of the investigation to

other U.S. attorneys to complete the investigation?

 

MATTHEWS:  We will see.  Good thought. 

 

Thank you so much, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. 

 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Thank you, sir.

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for joining us.

 

Stay with as.

 

Much more coming up on tonight`s breaking news.  Special counsel Mueller

has concluded – this is his final report – and submitted it to the U.S.

attorney general, William Barr.  We will see what Barr does with it. 

Apparently, over the weekend, he is going to feed some morsels to the

members of Congress. 

 

We will be right back after this.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

More on tonight`s big story tonight.

 

Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation into Russian

interference in the 2016 election.  NBC News reports there will be no

further indictments, no more indictments.  The report is now in the hands

of Attorney General Barr.  Barr has notified members of Congress he may be

able to brief them on some of these morsels, he says the big stuff, over

the weekend.

 

For more, I`m joined by Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for

Bloomberg News.  Daniel Alonso is a former federal prosecutor, Malcolm

Nance, author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.” 

 

I want to start with you, Malcolm. 

 

What`s your reaction to this whole thing, since 5:00, when you heard, no

indictments, no interview with the president?

 

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  It`s the no indictments part that

gets me, because there`s one indictment, one indictment which I thought was

critical to the entire matter. 

 

That was the indictment for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, because, if

there`s going to be a bridge between Roger Stone and the Trump White House,

well, it`s one thing for Mike Pompeo to come out and say that they are a

non-state intelligence agency. 

 

It`s another thing to bring the criminal indictment against them, the way

that they did against the Internet Research Agency. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

 

NANCE:  So, whether it`s out there somewhere or whether it`s going to be

handed off to the Eastern District of New York to be processed later – of

Virginia to be processed later, I don`t know. 

 

But that should have happened.

 

MATTHEWS:  In the narrative we have all covered now, everybody watching

pretty much, Roger Stone knew ahead of time about the e-mail dump on

Podesta, the DNC, the whole thing.  Nobody can tell the future.  He had an

inside. 

 

And that`s – you were suggesting that could have been the direction of a

conspiracy.

 

NANCE:  Sure. 

 

But this investigation is a counterintelligence investigation.  I recall

two years ago saying that means spy hunt.

 

MATTHEWS:  We`re looking for spies.

 

NANCE:  The FBI spy hunters are doing it.

 

Unless it`s a very specific individual who has handed over intelligence to

a foreign power, who was an actual paid spy of a foreign power, those

things don`t get adjudicated the way that you would think, all right?

 

This is an investigation of the president of the United States and his

immediate staff who may have conspired…

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

NANCE:  … with a foreign power.  And this report may spell it all out and

leave it for the Congress to…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I agree with that.  It`s always possible.

 

Let me ask you, Daniel, about this.  If you`re in a – we understand, the

reporting is right now, the president sitting outside on the terrace of

Mar-a-Lago, probably an ideal setting, sitting there with his family or

whatever. 

 

Should they feel that they just – they just skipped justice, that they got

away with everything? 

 

DANIEL R. ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  No.

 

I mean, there – we just don`t know that.  I mean, they don`t know.  They

probably know more than we do, frankly.

 

MATTHEWS:  All those meetings with the Russians, and they`re going to walk,

they`re going to go scot-free? 

 

ALONSO:  Yes, I think – I think, frankly, that probably is right. 

 

If there are no indictments on the so-called collusion question, it shows

that all these set of stars that we have been looking at for all these

months maybe don`t make a constellation like we might have thought.

 

MATTHEWS:  But what about the fact that the special counsel has given up on

interviewing the president, who I have been told by people like yourselves,

you got to get the motive, you got to interrogate the guy? 

 

ALONSO:  Well, let me disagree a little bit with the people that have told

you that.

 

In the typical criminal investigation, you don`t investigate – you don`t

get to interview the target, even in the typical obstruction investigation. 

Yes, you need to know what his or her intent was.  But you learn that

through other sources. 

 

Now, in a corruption investigation or an investigation of a high-level

public official, time was when they would not dare take the Fifth.  That`s

not something thing that they would do, because they would get so much

public condemnation for doing it. 

 

I think that`s changed.  I have been noticing that in recent years, that

they tend to do it and sort of say, well, look, that`s my right. 

 

MATTHEWS:  But if they`re running for office again, they tend not to do it. 

 

ALONSO:  It all depends. 

 

But I think that they can – they can make a plausible argument, as I think

the president`s lawyers have made here, that he has the right to not…

 

MATTHEWS:  By just saying it`s an impeachment – I`m sorry – it`s a

perjury trap.  Just keep saying that over and over again. 

 

ALONSO:  Well, that – but it`s not a perjury trap just because you`re

interviewing somebody. 

 

Obviously, when you interview somebody, you`re looking for the truth…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Are the kids clear?

 

ALONSO:  Of the conspiracy piece?  I would say likely.

 

Of anything else, I would guess…

 

MATTHEWS:  What about New York? 

 

ALONSO:  I think the Southern District is very much investigating the Trump

Organization. 

 

Let me go to Shannon. 

 

Shannon, let`s try to go back to when we started here.  Robert Mueller was

named by Rosenstein to investigate possible collusion by the president

advancing a Russian conspiracy to interfere with our elections. 

 

We don`t have anything on that tonight, except we don`t have any

indictments of his people in regard to that particular inquiry. 

 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, we don`t have any – right.

 

An indictment means there was criminal activity.  It does not rule out that

there was questionable activity, things that the public might find

distasteful that anyone involved in that campaign might want to do. 

 

But the president`s lawyers and the lawyers of the people involved in this

have been saying all along that, yes, maybe there`s questionable activity

or things that are unsavory, but was a crime broken?  What crime is

collusion? 

 

And people have mentioned conspiracy.  Well, that`s a very hard crime to

prove and to establish.  It`s not necessarily illegal to give information

to a Russian spy, if you don`t know it`s a Russian spy, per se, or you`re

not sure, they can`t prove that you knew that, unless it`s classified

information. 

 

So, internal polling data, you can share that with someone posing as a

Russian professor, and that`s not necessarily a crime.  So I think there`s

a lot we don`t know.  And I think just ruling out the indictments does not

rule out that there could be things in this report that the public would

find very distasteful. 

 

MATTHEWS:  The only last question to you is, the Democrats – we follow

politics here at HARDBALL – have been riding this camel through a lot of

miles through the desert, waiting for an explosive report that would decide

whether the president did something impeachable or not with regard to

Russian collusion or obstruction of justice. 

 

Isn`t there a sense of disillusion here?  There`s no – that clarity has

not yet come to bear?

 

PETTYPIECE:  I mean, we have been seeing the Democrats trying to hedge this

in recent days and weeks, trying to talk about how it`s not just about

Russian interference in the election, it`s about any foreign interference

in the election, trying to put – to talk about the other investigations

they have into this administration. 

 

The Democrats have seemed very aware that they need to diversify their

impeachment portfolio.

 

MATTHEWS:  I know that, because they`re partisan politicians.  I understand

that completely, but you have to get some Republican buy-in to get anything

like an impeachment effort.  You got to get some buy-in. 

 

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, absolutely.

 

MATTHEWS:  And I don`t know if tonight`s news is going to add that – add

to that case.

 

Thank you. 

 

PETTYPIECE:  Right.  Well, I think we still…

 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Your thoughts? 

 

PETTYPIECE:  We still don`t know so much of this.

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  Well said.

 

Thank you, Shannon Pettypiece, as always.  Daniel Alonso, thank you, sir. 

 

Thank you, Malcolm. 

 

I thought you would be more – spitting more fire tonight, Malcolm. 

 

PETTYPIECE:  Thank you. 

 

NANCE:  I have one last thing to say. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead. 

 

NANCE:  That document, that report could be an impeachment document, I

mean, could be itself an indictment of the president.  We just don`t know. 

It`s too early to say.

 

MATTHEWS:  Will we know this weekend?

 

NANCE:  Who knows? 

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.

 

Much more on the breaking news tonight.  It`s huge.  Robert Mueller has

completed – completed – that`s the word – his investigation. 

 

We`re back after this. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Great graphics. 

 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

At the end of the special counsel investigation tonight at 5:00 Eastern,

the focus now, of course, shifts to the attorney general, and, of course,

to the Congress and what this report might mean for the fate of Donald

Trump`s presidency. 

 

For more, I have got a great panel to close the show with tonight, David

Corn, my friend, of course, Joy – all my friends tonight – Joy Reid,

Charlie Sykes, Michael Beschloss. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS:  This is an all-star team. 

 

So I`m going to step back a bit.  I have expressed my skepticism about

where this is going because of no indictments of the people around the

president, none of his henchmen, about collusion itself. 

 

I`m going to talk with Charlie on that. 

 

Charlie, you`re probably the most conservative guy on the panel right now. 

So let`s start with you.

 

Charlie, what do you think the right wing will say tomorrow morning, when

they`re having coffee in their little dinettes around the country and as

they talk to each other Saturday night?  Will they say, he got away with

it?

 

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE BULWARK:  Yes, they are. 

 

They`re going to – they`re going to spike the football.  They`re going to

claim vindication.  And it`s all premature. 

 

Look, I don`t think that the president`s critic should be as disappointed

as they sound tonight.  And I don`t think that the spin that the president

has been vindicated is actually too – again, we don`t know what is in that

report. 

 

And, keep in mind, as Ken mentioned earlier, something might not be a

crime, but it can be a scandal.  Being compromised might not be an

indictable offense, but it might be impeachable.  Lying to the American

people…

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that?  Come on, Charlie.

 

SYKES:  Yes.

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you really believe that…

 

SYKES:  Yes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  … that you can impeach a guy because of scandalous behavior,

but not criminal behavior? 

 

SYKES:  Yes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  High crimes and misdemeanors in the Constitution, high crimes.

 

SYKES:  Right. 

 

Well, and especially because we know that the president cannot be indicted

under Justice Department guidelines.  So, yes, that`s a political judgment. 

And there are things that you can do within the law that constitute an

abuse of power.  And I`m not saying that`s actually going to happen. 

 

But, again, let`s go back to the fact that, right now, we`re in this giant

spin room, but we do not know what is in that report.  And, also, this

report is not the only investigation.  You still have the SDNY.  You still

have the congressional investigation.

 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But this is about collusion. 

 

SYKES:  You still have New York investigation.

 

MATTHEWS:  This is primarily…

 

SYKES:  He`s…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

SYKES:  … not out of the woods yet. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me – I agreed with all that, but, if I were Trump, I would

be having a happy dinner tonight.

 

SYKES:  Yes, he is.

 

MATTHEWS:  Because he did the blade of the guillotine tonight. 

 

Joy, your thoughts? 

 

JOY REID, HOST, “AM JOY”:  Right.  And I think – I have just been talking

to some Republican sources.

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with Charlie or me?

 

REID:  I agree more with you, in the sense that I have been talking to

Republican sources who are saying that the mood in Trump world is, they`re

high-fiving, because the idea that they didn`t see any indictments here

means, in…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  No kids indicted.

 

REID:  Right, that, in their mind, they`re through the collusion piece of

it after this.  And so, in their mind it cleared – they will – the

talking points tomorrow will be, Donald Trump has been cleared of any

collusion, the Russia investigation is a bust.

 

Now, the other question, I think, that a lot of people should legitimately

be asking is, how much are we prepared to trust William Barr?  Because

William Barr shows himself…

 

MATTHEWS:  About – about hiding it?

 

REID:  He shows himself to be an absolute just defender of the president,

in the Devin Nunes school. 

 

So I don`t know that I 100 percent trust…

 

MATTHEWS:  He`s that bad?  He`s that bad? 

 

REID:  I don`t know that I…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  That`s terrible.

 

REID:  OK, maybe in the guy who preceded him school.

 

Do we trust that he is going to release a summary that is a complete and

full and accurate representation of what is in that report?

 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you.  Let me ask you.

 

REID:  We may never see what`s in the report or really know what`s in it. 

He may bury it. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Can he – in terms of burying things, if the president says no

collusion – I can just see it on “Saturday Night Live” – no collusion. 

 

REID:  Yes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Alec Baldwin.

 

If he says that, and that turns out to be the case, they don`t have a

criminal case against him for advancing a Russian conspiracy, OK, can he

then say, corollary, since I was innocent of the investigation focus,

therefore, I was right to defend myself, therefore, there`s no obstruction

of justice?

 

REID:  Well, he will say that.

 

MATTHEWS:  There`s no justice – can he get away with that with his

Republicans? 

 

REID:  I mean, with his base, yes, and with the Republican Party, because,

remember, the only thing the Republican Party – their prime directive,

protect Trump, because Trump is the Republican Party now. 

 

MATTHEWS:  So, it will give him the benefit of the doubt?

 

REID:  The sort of worship him is what the party is about.  It`s what the

party is organized around. 

 

If there`s nothing in there that is a complete and clear indictment of the

president, they will all rally around him, they will refuse to act.

 

And the Democrats, without a clear…

 

MATTHEWS:  That`s a useful anthem, by the way. 

 

REID:  Yes.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Because it`s true in every regard, in every regard.

 

REID:  That`s what they will do.  They are just the rear guard.  It is the

politburo at this point.  They`re not going to anything unless…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I say phalanx.  That`s my Roman term for it, the phalanx.

 

REID:  That`s a nicer way to put it.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to David on this, because you have been following this

year.  You have been writing about the Russia – your book is great on

this. 

 

What does this do in terms of – none of the kids, none of the henchmen

have been indicted.  How can the president be guilty of being a ringleader,

if nobody around him committed a crime vis-a-vis collusion? 

 

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know, I think we fell into a

trap, that the only issue out there was criminal collusion, which isn`t

even a defined legal concept. 

 

We have a situation in which Trump ran for president, he did collude with

Putin`s office to try to advance a business deal, and lied to the public

about it.  His top three advisers, Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, met

with a Russian emissary to try to get a secret Kremlin plot to help Trump

going, then lied about it. 

 

Manafort met with a Russian intelligence associate and talked about a

secret Russian peace plan that would help the Kremlin, did this at the

behest of a Putin-friendly oligarch, and then lied about it. 

 

And, of course, the big lie, Trump spent the whole campaign saying the

Russians were not attacking the election to help him, when they were, when

he was briefed it was happening. 

 

So we have fallen into a trap of focusing on this issue of criminal

collusion, when we see time and again that he was doing things that were

scandalous, as Joy and others have pointed out.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I agree, except we have a prosecutor.  Prosecutors go

after crime. 

 

That`s all I`m saying.

 

CORN:  Right. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, I want you in here.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

CORN:  But this is bigger than crimes, is what I`m saying. 

 

REID:  Yes, it should be.  It should be, David.  If we had a sane

Republican Party, it would be.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  We will see if it`s impeachable.  It`s an argument.  That`s all. 

 

Tonight, we don`t have the fact.

 

Michael, no indictments tonight, that`s my big question, no indictments.

 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  No indictments, that would

have been a lot more of a powerful statement. 

 

But I would say a couple of things, Chris.  Number one, let`s wait a couple

of days to find out what`s really in the report, going beyond the criminal

aspect of it. 

 

And the other thing is, if this doesn`t change, this is the first time in

230 years that a lot of Americans think that our last presidential election

may have been decided by a hostile foreign power. 

 

And this is also the first president in 230 years – George Washington was

inaugurated 230 years ago next month – in which a lot of Americans are

suspicious that Donald Trump is acting on behalf of the Russians and has a

secret relationship there. 

 

The report may shed light on that, it may not.  You`re going to have a

Democratic House during the next year-and-a-half working very hard to

answer those questions. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What is the threshold for impeachment, given all that we know

now?  Is it scandal?  Is it is it playing patsy with – loosey-goosey with

the Russians, that may not be criminal, but you`re working with the bad

guys out to do us bad? 

 

Is that impeachable by high crimes and misdemeanors? 

 

BESCHLOSS:  As you remember, Gerald Ford said that the standard for

impeachment in the House is whatever the House says it is. 

 

REID:  Yes, it should. 

 

CORN:  Betrayal.

 

REID:  And the thing is, is it shows the insanity of the current moment

that, for the average Republican in Congress, that should be enough.

 

What you just heard Michael Beschloss just say, what David Corn just said,

the idea that a president of the United States would willingly take the

help of a hostile foreign power to get himself elected, so that he could

make money, something as mundane and crass as that, or for whatever other

reason, he`s in bed with America`s adversary, that should be enough.

 

MATTHEWS:  That argument was made to Robert Mueller, and he didn`t indict.

 

I like your argument.

 

REID:  No, but it should be enough for the Republicans on impeachment. 

 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

 

REID:  Impeachment is a separate political process. 

 

The idea that they don`t care, the idea that they don`t mind, it`s shocking

to me.

 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it will?  Do you think it will, Joy?  Do you think

it will turn Republican heads?

 

REID:  But – no.  Current Republicans, this party is a cult of

personality.  And, shockingly enough and just depressingly enough, they

don`t care. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it shows that Robert Mueller is not a politician.  He`s an

investigator with very narrow guidelines. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Correct, yes.

 

MATTHEWS:  Apparently looking at the law very narrowly.

 

BESCHLOSS:  Correct.

 

MATTHEWS:  And not looking for a larger sort of cultural frightening aspect

that the president of the United States and all the people around him were

having all those meetings with Russians, and doing what they wanted done,

because why did we change the Republican platform? 

 

Why did all this happen?  Why was the president so gung-ho pro-Moscow all

these years now?

 

REID:  Thank you. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Corn.  Thank you, Joy Reid.  Thank you, Charlie

Sykes.  And my friend, Michael Beschloss, thank you, sir.

 

That`s HARDBALL for now.

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

 

 

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

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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