America sifts through redacted Mueller Report. TRANSCRIPT: 4/18/19. Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mueller`s case for obstruction, and we got it
here. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Tonight, we know
President Trump`s very first reaction to the appointment of a special
counsel in 2017 was as dramatic as it was revealing. That moment of
political terror captured in Mueller`s report today showed a president
realizing how much his life of cutting corners could now be coming back to
haunt him. Trump said, oh, my God. This is terrible. This is the end of
my Presidency. I`m (bleep).
That reaction certainly rings true in light of the news today that Special
Counsel Robert Mueller believed he had a case of obstruction of justice
against President Trump. Despite abundant evidence, Mueller declined to
prosecute, however, because of his view that a sitting president should not
be indicted nor officially accuse while in office.
The reason we`re only hearing this today is because of the four-week effort
by Attorney General William Barr to keep Mueller`s findings about
obstruction of justice from us. It was not until earlier today that Barr
even admitted that he disagreed with the Special Counsel on the obstruction
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Although the Deputy Attorney General
and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel`s legal theories and felt
that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a
matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Despite the Attorney General`s attempts to blunt the impact of
today`s revelations, the Mueller report speaks volumes about the
President`s misconduct, detailing numerous efforts to control, curtail and
otherwise kill the Mueller investigation.
One significant episode occurred in June of 2017 when the President twice
directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the Special Counsel,
telling McGahn in one instance that Mueller has to go. Call me back when
you do it. Well, instead, McGahn decided to resign telling Reince Priebus
that the President asked him to do crazy stuff.
Well, the report finds that Trump was clearly trying to shield himself from
further inquiry at that point, quote, substantial evidence indicates that
the President`s attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the
Special Counsel`s oversight of investigations that involved the President`s
Mueller cites numerous other examples of the President`s meddling in the
investigation, including his attempts to limited scope and his
encouragement to witnesses not to cooperate. And while there`s much more
in the report, the Mueller report, which stands at almost 450 pages in
total, the evidence of obstruction is substantial and can serve as a road
map for the U.S. Congress moving forward.
In fact, in declining to accuse the President of a crime, Mueller`s team
pointed to the role of Congress to impeach the President, saying a criminal
accusation against a sitting president would potentially preempt
constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct. Wow.
I`m joined right now by Cynthia Alksne and Paul Butler. Both are former
federal prosecutors. And also NBC`s Pete Williams is at the Justice
Department. Pete, lay out the litany. It was wonderful and nightly
tonight. Do it again. What`s the charge made by Mueller about obstruction
of justice, his laying it out?
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he goes through ten
episodes that he said were investigated as potential obstruction of justice
events. Many of them we know and we knew in advance they would be those
that happened in public, the firing of Comey, urging Comey to go easy on
the investigation of Michael Flynn.
One of the things that was a bit surprising in the report is that it said
that what seemed to bother the President the most about James Comey in
firing him is that Comey steadfastly refused to say that the President
wasn`t under investigation despite being repeatedly asked to do so.
So they go through all those, the couple that you have mentioned, McGahn
urging Lewandowski, the former campaign manager, to have Jeff Sessions say
that the Mueller investigation had concluded the President didn`t do
And at the end of the day though, they say they didn`t charge – they
didn`t say the President obstructed justice. But I think you put your
finger on the key part of this disagreement between the Attorney General
The report strongly suggests, it doesn`t come right out and say it in so
many words, but the strong implication is that the Mueller team believed
there was evidence of obstruction of justice. Barr in describing it in his
letter last month said that Mueller concluded that the evidence was
ambiguous and it pointed in both directions. And indeed, there are parts
of the report say that.
The very first page of the report says that, fundamentally, the Mueller
team concluded that the President could not be charged with a crime because
of the longstanding Justice Department policy that said that would be
So that`s the disagreement here, that the report strongly suggests that the
Mueller team believed that the reason they didn`t go all the way and say
obstruction of justice was because they couldn`t.
And what Barr has said, and said today, by the way, that Mueller told him
last month that it was the fact that the evidence was inconclusive and
pointed in both directions, that was the reason Mueller didn`t make a call
on obstruction of justice, that it was not the disagreement or the problem
with the longstanding policy against indicting a sitting president.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s murky as hell. Thank you so much. The facts are
real, but, my God. Thank you, Pete Williams, for the great reporting.
Paul Butler, the whole question to most watch right now is was there a
case, is there a case for the Congress to take up now? Have they been
handed the goods?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They have. We learned from the
Mueller report that President Trump did everything in his power to try to
impede the Russian investigation. And the only reason he didn`t stop the
investigation is because his staff just said no. The President asked 11
different people to do unethical or illegal things to try to halt Mueller`s
investigation and they all said no.
For the law though, you don`t actually have to succeed in stopping an
investigation in order to be guilty of obstruction. All you have to do is
try. The difficult case for a prosecutor with obstruction is how you prove
criminal intent, ill motive that the subject knew he was doing something
wrong. Here, we have President Trump not only asking people to break the
law, but then afterwards saying lie about it.
So he told McGahn, yes, I tried to fire Mueller, but if you are asked by
the press, deny it. That`s consciousness of guilt, the President knew knew
that he was doing something wrong. There is an extremely strong case for
obstruction against the President of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Well, we can`t say the word on any network or cable right now
tonight, but I am f`ed, everybody knows what he`s saying. There, it seems
to be established, his motive for cover up and for obstructing justice. He
said if this thing goes forward, I`m dead. My presidency is dead. There
is your motive.
BUTLER: And remember what the investigation was about. The investigation
was about whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to try to
give the election to Trump. And Trump says that there is an objective
investigation that my presidency is over?
MATTHEWS: It`s pretty clear. Anyway, the report supports James Comey`s
version of events over the story offered by the President. It says, for
instance, the substantial evidence corroborates Comey`s account of that
dinner invitation and the request for loyalty from the President. Remember
that night? The report also affirms that the President fired Comey because
of the Russia investigation. Quote, substantial evidence indicates that
the catalyst for the President`s decision to fire James Comey was Comey`s
unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under
Cynthia, it seems to me we`ve established motive here. The President
didn`t want to be caught for what he has done and all of the things we
don`t know about that he`s done. I think those were all in his mind when
he thought about, my God, an investigation to me, Donald Trump, who needs
that, and now, finding out that he particularly was afraid of the Russian
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. And the report is
written beautifully because it goes through each of these ten charges and
lays out exactly what the facts are, what was his intent, what is all
evidence. And it is when you read it, any regular prosecutor reading this
would say this is a prosecution memo, basically. If this guy`s name was
regular guy Trump, he would be indicted today as opposed to President
I mean, it is very clear from the reading –
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the charge? I`m sorry, go ahead.
ALKSNE: What do you make of what charge?
MATTHEWS: Of the charge that the reason they didn`t go – that it was this
bad as it could
have been because a lot people around him, including his White House
Lawyer, McGahn, refused to do what he told him to do.
ALKSNSE: That doesn`t really have anything to do with an obstruction
charge. Because you don`t have to – the obstruction has to be – does not
have to be complete.
So, to me, that`s not much of an argument. I mean, it sort of sets the –
MATTHEWS: Well, I didn`t mean that is an argument. I mean, for the
republic, I mean, it`s better off that they didn`t follow what he told him
to do because it would have been a worse consequence.
ALKSNE: There`s nothing but bad news for the republic today. I mean,
first of all, we have an Attorney General who is deceiving us. We have a
President who is completely out of control. We have a Press Secretary who
lies to the press with impunity. There is just – there is no good news
for the republic in this except that it has come – now, it`s come out and
it`s being thrown to Congress.
MATTHEWS: I`ve got to remember. Paul, what did you make of the fact that
we found out today in a report that Sarah Sanders, the press flack for the
President, said thousands of people at the FBI don`t like Comey. And then
she admits under oath, I just made that up.
MATTHEWS: She`s made it up.
BUTLER: And, again, what she is making up is an attack against people who
are federal workers, FBI agents who put their lives on the line to do their
job. And so, again, not only is the President upsetting norms at the
Department of Justice and the White House, again, he is upending why people
go into government service. He`s attacking people for trying to serve the
MATTHEWS: And here`s the President of the United States, and I was reading
Robert Kaiser`s piece in The Washington Post a couple of days ago about how
old is too old to be President. Catch this. A review with the President`s
responses to Mueller`s written question shows that the President claimed on
36 occasions that he did not recall, did not remember, had no recollection
that the Special Counsel was seeking.
Cynthia, how many times can you get away with saying, I don`t remember, and
still be able to pass a competence test? 36 times he said I don`t know.
ALKSNE: Right. But it`s not believable that he doesn`t know. I mean, he
didn`t remember anything. The document showed that he was in the Trump
Tower when the meeting was organized for Don Junior and he couldn`t – and
we know that he went on the air and announced that he had this big speech
with new revelations about Hillary Clinton and he couldn`t remember whether
or not anybody told him about that meeting. I mean, that just isn`t
believable. So there are 36 times that don`t appear to be true.
And don`t forget that not only is in his non-cooperation was he refusing to
testify in front of the grand jury, number one, but number two, he would
answer written questions on the Russian side. He refused to even answer
written questions on the obstruction side. And knowing all this, the
Attorney General of the United States went on the air today and told us all
that he has cooperated. The whole thing is shocking.
I can tell you, this was the Attorney General who was the A.G. when I went
into the Justice Department. And so I really wanted him to succeed. I
wanted knowing that he was going to be the Attorney General again to be an
institutionalist and protect the Justice Department that I so love, and he
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump claimed all those memory lapses of his after he
repeatedly boast about his great memory. Remember this in 2016, a great
memory. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have a very good memory. People know me for my memory.
One of the great memories of all time.
And I have like a good memory.
You know, I`m blessed with a great memory.
Crooked Hillary Clinton told the FBI she couldn`t remember 39 separate
times, she couldn`t remember. You know her memory is a little bit off.
If she really can`t remember, she can`t be president. She has to remember
I can`t remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: 37 times in this report he said, I can`t remember. He`s
knocking Hillary for 39. He`s in competition at least.
BUTLER: Yes. But he probably does remember, which is why he had to lie.
So there were – this was a very thorough investigation. 3,000 subpoenas,
500 search warrants, 500 witnesses interview with one tragic flaw. Mueller
did not interview the President of the United States. If Mueller had sat
him down for a one-on-one interview, he would have conclusive evidence of
the President`s criminal intent.
And what Mueller said, the reason why he says he didn`t do that is because
it would have prolonged the investigation. That`s kind of like Mueller
buying (ph) into Rudy Giuliani`s line, the Trump defense lets in the
investigation that is taking too long. This investigation was way shorter
than most other investigations of presidents, but it was the most
consequential, the most important investigation of a president in American
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you, Cynthia Alksne, as always, and thank you,
Coming up, William Barr versus Robert Mueller, it`s about the truth. The
Attorney General now says he disagreed with some of Mueller`s legal
theories on obstruction and how, today, he revealed himself to be a
partisan defender of the President. We call them flacks and not a defender
of justice at all.
Plus, what we are learning about the collusion investigation, Donald Trump
Junior`s connections to WikiLeaks and what went on in that meeting in Trump
Tower with the Russians.
Much more ahead. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Attorney General William Barr once again ensured he got the first chance
today to put his own spin on the Mueller report before the report was
released. In his press conference hours before the report`s release, Barr
acknowledged Mueller examined ten episodes that could have amounted to
obstruction of justice but added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of
the Special Counsel`s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes
examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely
solely on that in making our decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We call that flackery in Washington. Imagine that the Attorney
General, that guy right there, Bill Barr had stated he disagreed with
Mueller`s findings in his letter to Congress four weeks ago, explained his
decision that day. Imagine if we knew that then. We would be talking in
the last four weeks about how Barr disagreed with the Mueller report.
Well, Barr claimed that Mueller did not draw a conclusion back then, four
weeks ago, only quoting the Special Counsel was saying, while this report
does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not
exonerate him. Well, Barr conveniently omitted the preceding sentence that
states, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts
that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would
so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we`re
unable to reach that statement. Wow.
As to drawing a conclusion, the report states Justice Department got
(INAUDIBLE) against indicting a sitting president, saying investigators
determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result the
judgment that the President committed crimes. And despite the Special
Counsel laying out numerous links between the President`s campaign and the
Russians, Barr repeatedly parodied the President`s favorite rallying cry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The Special Counsel found no collusion by any Americans in IRA`s
illegal activities. There was no evidence of the Trump campaign collusion
with the Russian government`s hacking, did not find that the Trump campaign
or other Americans colluded in those efforts. No underlying collusion with
Russia, there was in fact no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of
Florida, he serves in the House Judiciary Committee, Jeremy Bash, Former
Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Department of Defense, and Michael
Schmidt, Washington Correspondent for the New York Times.
Michael, I need you here now. It seems to me that Barr did a great
disservice for the country because for four weeks now, he`s had access to
that report in full, every word and letter of it, and he did not present it
accurately when he made that four pager on that Sunday night four weeks
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this
is the root of the frustration with the Mueller team that we were reporting
about a few weeks ago, that they felt that Barr had sort of put his finger
on the scale when he came out and said, essentially, cleared the President.
They wanted a fuller accounting at the time of what they had found. They
thought that the president`s conduct was troubling. And they thought that,
by Barr coming out with his declination, he was sort of casting the die on
how the public would see that, and that the public really needed to see the
entire report, and was eventually going to see the report.
Now, from Barr`s perspective, he thought the president was due the ability
to be cleared and be told and the public know that he was not going to be
charged, because this is something that has hung over him and his White
House for so long.
So that was sort of the rub there. Now, what we see today is a Mueller
team that obviously went to great lengths to look into obstruction, got
great cooperation from the people around the president, who really told
what the president was doing and saying behind closed doors, giving us this
intimate view of a president intent on using his power atop the executive
branch to insulate and protect himself.
It`s a damning portrait. But, at the end of the day, it wasn`t what Barr
thought was illegal.
MATTHEWS: Why did – well, what he said is illegal. I mean, you don`t
know what he thinks. He`s looking – he`s flacking for the president,
Michael. Come on. You don`t know – you think he thinks the president was
SCHMIDT: I believe – yes, I…
MATTHEWS: Do you think William Barr believes the president is innocent of
all these charges, in disagreement with the judgment made in the report
today by the special counsel? He disagrees with that, or he just has a
SCHMIDT: My guess is – my…
MATTHEWS: In Washington, they say where you stand is where you sit. And
he`s got a job working for the president, it looks like.
SCHMIDT: Look, I…
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
SCHMIDT: Look, I can`t get inside of William Barr`s head.
But my guess is that he believes what he says. And I will take him at what
he says for now, I guess.
MATTHEWS: OK, fair enough.
Let me go to Congressman Deutch on this thing.
What do you make of this? It seems to me, you got a case here because he`s
just given it to you.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Of course we do.
He hasn`t just given it to us. He`s asked us to move ahead. Chris, if it
weren`t for the actions of the attorney general almost a month ago and then
again this morning, the takeaway from today would be that we had a
president who was terrified when this investigation started, went out of
his way, at least 10 times tried to interfere with the investigation.
When asked about it, when he – he refused to talk to the Mueller team.
But when asked in writing, he couldn`t remember over and over and over
again. This is not the Donald Trump of Twitter. This is the Donald Trump
who looks like he`s trying to avoid answering questions.
And then Mueller concludes by saying, Congress has the authority to pursue
obstruction charges. It`s consistent with the constitutional system of
checks and balances that we have, in order to ensure that no one`s above
Without the attorney general, as you point out, as you describe it,
flacking for the president for the past month, the story today would be one
of shock and outrage at what the president did over the course of this two-
year period, and the demand that Congress now exert its influence so that
it`s clear that the rule of law actually has some meaning in our country
MATTHEWS: Well, Barr`s letter – that`s the attorney general`s letter –
also suggested four weeks ago that President Trump lacked the intent to
He quoted the special counsel as saying: “The evidence does not establish
that the president was involved in any underlying crime related to Russian
But the report itself goes on to state that we got today, the real report
the evidence does point to a range of other possible motives, personal
motives, animating the president`s conduct.
In describing why this case was complicated, Mueller`s team notes proof of
such a crime is not an element of an obstruction case offense. The
integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person
committed an underlying wrong.
Jeremy, there`s a lot of things Trump would like to not have be found out,
OK? We know that. His life is cutting corners, business deals, tax
decisions, all kinds of stuff. In New York, we hear about it. And now he
doesn`t want anybody to be investigating him. He said, I got a red line
here. You can`t go here, the whole thing. We know what he`s hiding.
We don`t know. We know he`s hiding stuff. Mueller makes that clear. He
says there`s a lot of things you might be hiding here.
But Barr comes out and says, no underlying crime, therefore, no obstruction
potential here. The guy is flacking for him.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: That`s right.
And what Mueller says at the very beginning of volume two of this report,
Chris, is that the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department
prohibits charging a president. And so Mueller says, I can`t even in good
faith charge him with a crime. However, here`s all the evidence. Over to
MATTHEWS: Well, the attorney general also tried to argue the president had
non-corrupt motives in those 10 episodes you just mentioned of possible
obstruction. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: As the special counsel`s
report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the
president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the
investigation was undermining his presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, here`s the question, because the cover here the
flackery – I think you agree with me on this.
The flackery by the attorney general, who got appointed by Trump because he
promised his belief, he swore his belief in total executive authority by
the president, of unitary theory of power, that the president was only
operating in reaction to what was the bad faith efforts of Democrats and
journalists to come at him. Therefore, whatever he did was justified.
Well, again, this is the attorney general, completely mischaracterizing.
He says that it`s because the president was frustrated. That`s besides the
point anyway. But the Mueller report makes clear, if you look at the
reaction by the president of the United States when he learned that this
investigation had commenced, his response was, “This is the end of my
presidency, this is terrible,” and then proceeded to do everything he can
to interfere with the carrying out of this investigation.
So let`s be clear about this, Chris. There was never a question of whether
or not the Mueller team was going to suggest charges or find the president
guilty. They said, as you point out, that their only choice here was
whether to exonerate – that is, find the president not guilty – or being
unable to find him not guilty.
They chose the latter. They could not exonerate. And there is chapter and
verse in these 400 pages to explain why, and a whole range of characters
that need to come before the Judiciary Committee now, so we can actually
understand, for example, why Don McGahn reacted by invoking the Saturday
MATTHEWS: I know.
DEUTCH: … when he was asked to take action.
It`s clear. There`s just so much more there that has to come out. And
he`s asked us, Mueller has asked Congress to do its job. We have a
responsibility to do that.
MATTHEWS: Michael, I got to go to your big story tomorrow. I have seen a
tease of your story in “The Times” tomorrow about how – about how Mueller
apparently thinks there might be an incarcer – or certainly a trial of the
president based on these facts after he leaves office on obstruction.
SCHMIDT: Well, Mueller essentially saying that he can`t because of the OLC
opinion, because of the Justice Department policy, he can`t indict the
president. They can`t take that into consideration.
But when he was out of office, is there a criminal case to be made against
him? I think the biggest takeaway from the report today is just this
picture of Trump trying to obstruct justice, but failing.
He wasn`t very good at what he did. Every time he tried to do something to
get in the way, he was thwarted, oftentimes by the people around him. And
it`s a sort of interesting thing, where he sort of ham-handedly is trying
to lean on people and push them, and he wasn`t very good at it. He wasn`t
If he had been more stealth and thoughtful about it, he could have done
some real damage to the investigation. But he didn`t seem to want to take
the time and effort to do that.
So, instead, he sort of took out his megaphone and was tweeting things and
saying things publicly and dangling things. And that is really interesting
in the whole thing, that the president may not be that good at obstructing
MATTHEWS: Well, it sounds like Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Michael Schmidt, I think the top
reporter in the country right now.
Anyway, Ted Deutch, thank you, Congressman, for coming on tonight, and
Jeremy Bash with your expertise in so many places.
BASH: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: drilling down on what the report reveals about the
Trump campaign`s multiple contacts with Russians and Trump`s repeated
assertion he has no – no recollection of anything – 37 times, I can`t
remember, I don`t have a recollection, blah, blah, blah.
That`s what mobsters say, isn`t it?
We will be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The special counsel report lays out the breathtaking steps Russia took to
manipulate the American democratic process in the 2016 election. The
special counsel describes that attack as sweeping and systematic – or
systemic – a point that the president of the United States, to this day,
Volume one of the special counsel report details at great length Russia`s
interference. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign
that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. Second, a Russian
intelligence service conducted computer intrusion operations against
entities working on the Clinton campaign. We know that.
Finally, in trying to determine conspiracy with Russia, the special counsel
identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump
campaign, but acknowledges that, in applying the legal framework of
conspiracy, not the concept of collusion, they could find – not find tacit
and express coordination.
For more, I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief at “Mother
Jones,” who`s an expert on this thing.
He hung on the word collusion a like a life raft today, Barr did, to
protect the president.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: But the question we want to know is, was the Trump campaign
playing ball with the Russians?
CORN: Nowhere in the report does Robert Mueller say, “There was no
collusion.” He doesn`t say that. He`s going on criminal conspiracy
charges, as he`s looking at this long series of puzzling, curious
interactions between Trump and the people around him and Russia.
And what we see in this report is really a flood of lies and misconduct.
MATTHEWS: By Trump?
CORN: By Trump and the people around him.
I go down the list quickly. The Trump Moscow project, Trump lied about it.
He was dealing with Moscow throughout a lot of the campaign. Wonderful
scene in the report where Michael Cohen goes up to him and says, hey, boss,
you`re saying there`s no contact with Russia. What about this deal? He
goes, it`s not finalized yet, so I can lie about it.
Here`s the president lying about a gigantic conflict of interest. The
Trump Tower meeting, that`s an effort at collusion, at working together.
There`s a lot on that.
Again – and Mueller points this out – Trump keeps repeating throughout
the campaign, Russia is not attacking.
MATTHEWS: OK, why do three top guys around him, Michael Flynn,
Papadopoulos and Michael Cohen, all get indicted, admitting to crimes,
felonies for lying about Russian connections? Why?
Well, because they`re all hiding the fact that they were either trying to
echo the Russian disinformation, deny it was happening, or maybe doing
We know that they lied about the Trump Tower meeting because they didn`t
want people to know that they were trying to collude with Russians.
CORN: But the other thing is Roger Stone.
His name is redacted, but he`s all over this volume. Why? Because Trump
was in contact with Roger Stone. You can read through these redactions
CORN: While Roger said or was in contact with WikiLeaks. That`s what
Trump is worried about.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s remind everybody, Roger Stone got the word, the heads-
up, that dirt was coming on Hillary, and he was getting it from WikiLeaks.
Trump was talking to him about it. And that`s what he`s – that`s who
Trump got the information from. In his response, written response, to the
special counsel, Trump says, oh, I just got that from the air. Everybody`s
talking about it.
No, he got it from Roger Stone.
CORN: Think about this.
And I look at Trump as sort of a mob boss. Here, he has a henchman, Roger
Stone, who`s telling him, I`m in touch with WikiLeaks, which is like being
in touch with the Russian attack on the United States.
So that`s what Trump has been worried about. No collusion, that means, I
don`t know Roger Stone. Roger Stone lied. He`s covering up something,
right? Or he allegedly lied. He`s charged with lying. And Trump doesn`t
want to acknowledge this.
MATTHEWS: That`s why we have RICO charges.
Thank you so much, David Corn. You know your stuff.
U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro is a Democrat from Texas, of course. He`s
a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, you sat through this whole thing today, like we all have.
What`s going to happen now in Congress, especially on obstruction?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, a few things.
First of all, we have got to get special counsel Bob Mueller in there to
testify. And I think a question that he will be asked, and I would expect
that he would be asked, is, based upon your findings, if you were a member
of Congress, would you move forward with impeachment proceedings?
I think he should be able to answer that question for us. It`s a question,
obviously, that every member of Congress is going to have to answer for
themselves, the Judiciary Committee first.
But it`s also clear today that the special – that – I`m sorry – that the
attorney general, Barr, has been doing a real public relations campaign for
the president for a few weeks now and really trying to soften the blow, so
And now that we have got the final report, we know that it`s much worse
than what the attorney general has been making it out to be.
MATTHEWS: Certainly. Well said. Thank you.
Rick Gates, by the way, Congressman, told the special counsel that – quote
– “By the late summer of 2016, the Trump campaign was planning a press
strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible
release of Clinton e-mails, Clinton e-mails, by WikiLeaks.”
On July 27 of 2016, five days after the initial e-mail dump, President
Trump called on Russia to do more. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you`re listening,
I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, the
Russians heeded his called – quote – “Within approximately five hours” of
Trump`s request there to the Russians, Russian intelligence officers
targeted for the first time Clinton`s personal office.
Congressman, it seems to me – I don`t know about the laws of conspiracy,
but, to me, it looks like they`re playing ball with each other, Trump and
the Russians, to get Hillary.
CASTRO: Yes, I think that`s right, Chris.
And I think this point can`t be overstated. You have a presidential
candidate running for president of the United States basically asking a
foreign country to hack into an opponent`s e-mail server and find e-mails.
And the bad thing for our democracy, for our country is that, if that is
not punished or recognized as wrong, then whoever`s running in 2020 or 2024
can go out there and say, Iran or China or whoever, man, I wish you would
really go find the e-mails that are on this person`s server. Wouldn`t that
And then they can come back and say, you know what, guys, I was just joking
about that. I didn`t really mean that. And I guess that they`re – they
would be off the hook.
Just because Donald Trump said something publicly, and later claimed it was
a joke, should not let him off the hook for that. And as the report makes
clear, within five hours, five hours after he said that, for the first
time, the Russians went after Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.
MATTHEWS: You know what struck me, Congressman, is how smart the Russians
are. They know about the coal miners and their anger about basically the
green revolution right now against coal. They know all about that.
They know about anger in the black community about black lives, which
certainly they do. But they have a lot of these are legitimate grievances
in our culture. And they played on them. It`s in the report. It`s
CASTRO: Oh, it`s very sophisticated.
MATTHEWS: And we don`t have anything. We couldn`t do that in Russia.
They can do it here. Yes.
CASTRO: Yes, it was very sophisticated.
To give you an example, in Houston, Texas, they set up both a pro-
Confederate rally at an anti-Confederate rally at street corners across the
street from each other. That`s how sophisticated they were in what they
MATTHEWS: They`re working our nervous system, aren`t they?
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. Thank you, sir.
CASTRO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: more on Trump`s handpicked attorney general and his
remarkable subjugation to the will of this president, don`t you think?
He`s a useful, I guess, Roy Cohn.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump and his team have been trumpeting the results of the
Mueller report all day, claiming, well, their version, total exoneration,
even though the report states it doesn`t. In fact, the words are, we
cannot exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.
Trump was helped, of course, by the Attorney General Barr`s press
conference this morning where Barr not only stressed there was no
collusion, but referred to the Russian interference in the 2016 election
merely as an effort or an attempt. He won`t even admit there`s all through
the report which is the Russians intervened in a sweeping fashion in the
2016 election. He denied that, too.
Here we go. Here`s Barr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Russian attempts to interfere in
our 2016 presidential election.
Russia`s attempts to interfere in our electoral process.
The efforts of the Russian government to interfere on our presidential
Two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
Efforts by the Internet Research Agency.
Efforts by the Russian military officials.
Russian efforts to publish stolen e-mails and documents.
These dissemination efforts.
The Russian government`s sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the
2016 presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The report clearly states that the Russian government
interfered, didn`t try to, interfered with the presidential election in
sweeping and systematic fashion. It couldn`t be more clear.
I am joined now Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for “PBS
NewsHour”, Eugene Robinson, columnist with “The Washington Post”, Charlie
Sykes, editor in chief of “The Bulwark”.
I don`t know who is smiling the most. Let`s start with Eugene.
What a flack. What spin.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Read the Russia part of the
report. I mean, the Russians interfere, those were not efforts. They were
accomplishments. They were from the Russian point of view triumphs. They
reached millions and millions of people.
MATTHEWS: But he just wants to reach one guy, Trump.
ROBINSON: Yes. Right, Barr just wanted to reach one person. I mean,
that`s one factor.
You know, this report is a 400-page referral to Congress. That`s what it
is. And now, it`s in the court of – the ball is in the Congress`s court.
I mean, it is – you know, they have a job to do here.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me do a follow-up. It`s almost May. They`re going to
hear in May from Barr. They hopefully hear from Mueller in May.
That means June is the month to decide. Do you think they will move ahead
ROBINSON: I don`t know if they will or not. You know, Steny Hoyer has
already come out and said, you know, no.
ROBINSON: He doesn`t think Congress should move –
MATTHEWS: He and Pelosi.
ROBINSON: Pelosi is going to be pushed in various directions. She hasn`t
wanted to talk about it until now. Read this report. I mean, this is
devastating. And Congress has a responsibility here.
Now, they are either going to do their job or not. But it`s clear what
their job is.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And one of the key things that came
out of Attorney General Barr`s press conference or remarks, the reporters
did not have the report to ask real questions. But what you have is him
with no mention of Robert Mueller leaving this up to Congress, and then we
all got the report and it was the exact opposite.
There are several places in the report where it says explicitly, Congress
has the authority to look over the president`s behavior and protect the
integrity of the United States. And then you get to this point where you
have Robert Mueller saying, the president wanted to obstruct justice, but
the people around him couldn`t do it.
You have Corey Lewandowski who is supposed to give dictated speech to Jeff
Sessions, he never gets it done. And then you have Don McGahn told to
basically lie about the president, telling him to fire the special counsel,
Don McGahn packs up his office and says, I`m going to resign. Then Reince
Priebus, the chief of staff to the president, said that`s all crazy. Just
forget about it.
So, you have the idea that people are around the president in some way
shielding him. And when you talk about the fact that he was dealing with
his team that wasn`t the A team, that wasn`t even the B team, but they
really helped him not get indicted for obstruction of justice, at least
according to the Mueller report.
MATTHEWS: Was it resistant or incompetence?
ALCINDOR: It sounded like resistance, and sounded – but it did sound like
these people understood that the president –
MATTHEWS: Good for them. Let`s give them credit for that.
Anyway, Mueller`s report cites multiple instances where the Trump aides
lied or misled the press. Notably, the report states that after then-
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the press that the White
House had heard from countless FBI – she said this, had heard from a
countless FBI agents who have lost confidence in Comey. Well, later,
Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on
Charlie, I don`t know where to begin. The flackery begins with her and
ends with Barr. And I can say – what do you think? Will Congress step up
to the plate here?
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE BULWARK: Well, you know, there is two
things. There is two separate issues. Number one is the political
calculation that the Democrats have to make. The public does not want
impeachment and I don`t think the Democratic leadership wants impeachment.
But if you read this report, Yamiche is absolutely right, this is an open
invitation. It is very close to an explicit invitation to Congress to
exercise its constitutional responsibilities.
And there is something fundamental here. As Robert Mueller lays out, if
you cannot indict the president of the United States, then unless Congress
takes the responsibility of oversight seriously, the president is literally
above the law.
SYKES: So, there is something fundamental here. I understand the
Democrats don`t want to do it politically, but this is their job. And
Robert Mueller lays this out and this is the way the system is supposed to
Look, if this was about anyone else, if this was about you, Chris, or this
was about me or this was about Eugene Robinson, we would be indicted for
obstruction of justice. This is an overwhelming case. And what Robert
Mueller is basically saying is do not expect the criminal justice system to
deal with this because he`s the sitting president.
But now, it is up to the public and it is up to Congress to do something,
whether or not it`s impeachment, whether or not it`s some sort of or
oversight or a censure, they have to follow-up on this and they have to
take their constitutional obligation seriously.
ROBINSON: One other thing. The political calculation – if Congress
doesn`t move forward, Donald Trump is going to move forward. He`s going to
be pushing this counter narrative that that was something wrong about how
the investigation started, even though that`s completely debunked.
MATTHEWS: It was Christopher Steele who did it.
ROBINSON: You know, facts don`t matter and he`s going to push and push for
new special counsel to investigate the investigation. He`s not going to
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a bigger question. Nixon – I didn`t hate Nixon.
Most people did. I can see something in this guy that was just sad.
But if Nixon had gotten away with Watergate, God help – I`m with Woodward
on that, Bob Woodward. If he had gotten away with that, who knows, what
would have come next, because he got away with a lot of stuff.
If Trump gets away with this, if he walks because they can`t indict, they
can`t even accuse because that would be unfair, according to Mueller, and
they can`t act in Congress because of political calculations, he walks and
he`s dangerous because he knows nothing can stop him.
ALCINDOR: We have been saying for a long time the president was someone
who almost felt like he was Teflon. Nothing could stop him.
I think what essentially we`re going to learn is whether or not the 2020
election stops him. Nancy Pelosi does have a tough decision to make.
Voters are talking about health care – the Democrats are trying to put
forth a platform and a lot of people saying, can the president get away
with all of this stuff?
She is going to have to figure out how hard to fight. But I think it`s
really going to come down to, now that the American people know what Russia
did, exactly what the president did, will he be reelected for another term?
MATTHEWS: He is headed to Mar-a-Lago tonight, Charlie. Just think about
the optics. He`s heading down there. The applause of that peanut gallery
down there would be unbelievable. All the paid entrance, all the paid
members cheering him at dinner. He will be walking around table to table,
taking bows because he walks.
SYKES: Chris, there is a rule in politics that simple beats complex. He
and Bill Barr are basically saying, no collusion, no collusion, no
collusion. And then you have the Robert Mueller 450-page report. What
percentage of Americans are going read that whole report, go through all of
He is counting on the slogan and in his peanut gallery to basically push
the narrative. And Eugene is right about this. One other reason why I
think Democrats need to continue to push forward on this is otherwise the
initiative does shift to Donald Trump. He is not going let this go. Facts
matter, truth matters, accountability needs to matter as well.
MATTHEWS: To Florida today, the president claimed on Twitter that I had
the right to end the whole witch hunt if I wanted. I could have fired
everyone, including Mueller if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the right
to use executive privilege and I didn`t.
Mueller`s team took a different view when it comes to the president`s
executive authority, writing, quote, we were not persuaded by the argument
that the president`s blanket constitutional immunity to engage in acts that
would corruptly obstruct justice.
Gene, I mean, the Constitution is swaying right now.
ROBINSON: No, it is really, because is the president above the law? He
cannot be. That`s not the way the system is designed. The president is
not supposed to be above the law. Nobody is supposed to be.
The Mueller report says that he can`t be charged in the criminal courts.
It`s up to Congress. They have to hold him accountable.
MATTHEWS: Yamiche, is this a mistake for the legislative branch to count
on the executive branch to make them their case for them? If that`s what
they`ve done, they`ve counted on somebody appointed in the executive
branch, in the Justice Department, to give them their case.
ALCINDOR: I think it`s hard to know, because I think that now the
Democrats have this report and they are going to drag Robert Mueller down
to Congress and we are going hear from him. They understand now that the
ball is in their court. I think that they had to wait for the Mueller
report to figure out what Mueller after all these hundreds of interviews
and what he was going find. But I think, now, the question is whether or
not they let Bill Barr and Donald Trump have this narrative and keep that
narrative with them looking at 2020 as where they can have their results or
whether or not they will fight the president on this.
MATTHEWS: The chain of custody in this case was terrible, because it went
through the White House.
Anyway, last week, the attorney general told Congress multiple times he
wouldn`t discuss the report until it was released. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I`m not going to say anything more about it until the report is out
and everywhere has a chance to look at it.
Once the report is out, I`m happy to discuss the process.
I`m not going to discuss it further until after the report is out.
I`m not going to discuss my decision. I will lay it out after the report
As I say, I`m not going to discuss this further until after the report is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Charlie, that is not only disgustingly misleading, he is having
organized meetings with the White House and they have been sharing all this
information. They got not just a heads up, but they got, who knows, some
sort of get-together on how this was going to be put out.
SYKES: Yes. You know, this administration has been a bonfire of
reputations, but it`s shocking that somebody of William Barr`s stature has
been willing to do, turning himself into a flack, going – having that
bizarre, inept press conference where he basically tries to justify what
the president did because he was sincerely angry and his spin didn`t
survive even the most cursory look at the Mueller investigation.
But the fact that he gave the White House the heads up, if there was any
doubt in your mind that he was not an honest broker here, I think that
certainly – that notion did not survive this morning.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton got in trouble with meeting with the former
attorney general at the airport. Bill is impulsive. I don`t think he
planned it at all. This was planned, this get-together.
ALCINDOR: What was mind-boggling, I was texting Rudy Giuliani after that
Barr press conference/remarks as I put it, and at one point today, the
president knew what was in the report and his personal lawyers knew what
was in the report. White House aides knew what was in the report, but
Congress was still in the dark. That tells you about how William Barr
rolled this out.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he finally gave it to Jerry Nadler about noon.
Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. Thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Charlie
Up next, as the focus now shifts to U.S. Congress, the American people are
waiting for a judgment from them. I think. Don`t you?
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: “Law and Order” is one of the most popular shows in the history
of television. Its popularity I believe lies in its clarity and crackle.
The first act shows how the police catch the bad guy, the second is the
courtroom drama. You get the investigation of a crime and then you get a
Well, right now, the American people are in what we used to call the
commercial in “Law and Order”, or between the investigation of Donald Trump
by the special counsel, and the judgment of Donald Trump by the only court
that can render it, the United States Congress.
I believe it would be a mistake by the Democrats who control the U.S. House
of Representatives who fought so hard last year to win it and with it the
subpoena power to fail to render this historic judgment, because if they
decide to kill this necessary and expected second part of our justice
system, the weighing of the truth, they will have abdicated a Constitution
role that is their exclusive domain and therefore their unique
To do otherwise might be good politics. I doubt history will see it as
That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the