FBI pushes back on campaign “spying.” TRANSCRIPT: 5/7/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
DAVE CHAPPELLE, AMERICAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN: I`m standing there thinking in
my mind, you dumb (EXPLICIT). You are poor. He`s fighting for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Congrats to Dave Chappelle.
That`s going to do it for me. Ari is back here tomorrow night at 6:00 P.M.
Eastern. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Who`s afraid of big bad Mueller? Let`s play
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Why does Donald Trump
fear Robert Mueller so much, not Mueller the report, Mueller the man? What
is it in the picture of Mueller sitting and testifying before the Senate
Judiciary Committee that puts the fear of God in Trump?
We are learning that Trump`s dread of what the moral strength of Mueller
would look and sound like to the country is spurring him to oppose the
Special Counsel`s testimony before the Congress. It`s clear that Trump
resents the credibility and clarity that Mueller might bring to the table.
But above all, Trump fears and knows that Mueller has the ability to cut
through the smoke screen that currently protects Trump`s presidency.
The Associated Press is now reporting that in contemplating the Special
Counsel`s testimony, the President stewed for days about the prospect of
the media coverage that would be given to Mueller, a man Trump believes has
been unfairly lionized across cable news and the front pages of the
nation`s leading newspapers for two years.
According to that A.P. report, Trump has long known the power of televised
images and feared that Americans will be captivated by seeing and hearing
Mueller who has not spoken since being named Special Counsel. It`s that
fear that prompted Trump to come out and say that Bob Mueller should not
testify this weekend.
Likewise, Trump appears scared of Mueller`s star witness, his star witness,
former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, who was the center piece of the
obstruction case against the President. And just today, the White House
ordered McGahn to ignore a congressional subpoena for documents related to
the Mueller probe. It comes as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to
vote tomorrow to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress
for refusing to reply with a separate subpoena for the full Mueller report.
Well, given those developments, any formal attempts to block Mueller`s
testimony would be in keeping with the broader administration strategy to
stonewall congressional inquiries at every turn.
I`m joined now by Phil Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for The New York –
New York – The Washington Post. I`m up here in New York. I`m sorry. Tip
(ph) front newspaper. Mimi Rocah is a former assistant U.S. attorney in
the Southern District of New York. And Zerlina Maxwell is a Senior
Director of the Progressive Programming Sirius – where I listen to all the
I want to start with Mimi on this one. First of all, Trump`s fear of the
witness, what do you count that for? I mean, yes, people tell me once you
see a witness in a testimony that has more power than all you`ve heard
beforehand. Tell me what he`s afraid of.
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, absolutely. I think
it`s a couple of things. First of all, remember, unfortunately, a lot of
Americans haven`t read the Mueller report. And I think Barr and Trump –
MATTHEWS: And they never will.
ROCAH: And they never will. And it`s a lot to get through. I recommend
reading at least the executive summaries. But the point is that Mueller
testifying is something people will watch. More people will watch that
than they will read the report. And so even if Mueller said nothing
outside the four corners of the report, which I think he is likely to do,
by the way, right?
MATTHEWS: To limit himself to that.
ROCAH: He`s going to limit himself. But that is a worthy exercise, I
think, for a lot of reasons and I think that, in and of itself, terrifies
Beyond that, if he gets into and even Lindsey Graham seems to agree that
Mueller should be able to testify about the interactions with Barr and
those phone calls about sort of what was misrepresented, that`s not in the
report. That`s not anywhere we can read it. And we only have Bill Barr`s
side of it right now. That could be very damaging.
I don`t think Mueller is going to come out and trash Barr. I mean, I don`t
think anybody should expect that or Trump for that matter. But I think
even if he just speaks the facts and the truth, it can be very damaging.
MATTHEWS: So let`s talk about the marginal value of his testimony on fact.
For example, he never came to a verdict. He never told us whether there
should be a prosecution and indictment. He never told us whether he
thought the Congress should do that. He left a lot of material out there
and wanted Congress to reach for it. Do you have a sense that he would go
further and say yes? What I meant was – what I hope was Congress would
see what I saw in these ten cases of obstruction of justice. See what I
see. Let me help you. Will he do that? Will he go further?
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Chris,
I don`t know what Mueller is prepared to say, but I can say with some
certainty that some of the lawmakers on the panel would ask Mueller those
questions and would try to drag out of him some sort of additional
explanations for his conclusions in the report.
But, simply, Mueller getting out there and testifying is so scary for
President Trump because it would expose Trump`s own misrepresentation of
the conclusion of this report. It`s the President who`s been saying for a
month now that he was totally exonerated by Robert Mueller, when if you
read the report, you know that`s not true.
And if Mueller were to get on camera and do an under oath testimony before
the Congress ticking through all ten of those examples of obstruction of
justice that were under review during this report, it could be very
damaging to the President.
MATTHEWS: Zerlina, a couple of thoughts. First of all, let`s talk about
the drama. Hollywood big stars don`t go on T.V. much, because if you
resist that and make yourself rare, then people think, wow, when you see
them. Remember, Burt Reynolds ruined his career by going on Carson all the
time, I think. But let me get to the other thing.
Suppose this turns out to be another one of these – well, a little
confusing. I suppose he comes on and somebody on the democratic side, for
example, says, would you have indicted? And he goes, well, I left that to
whoever reads my report. Would you encourage Congress to take up an
impeachment action? Well, I left that. And what happens if it`s another
one of these disillusioning moments?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUSXM: I
think that there is a risk of that happening. I think that I don`t expect
him to come out and flame throw and attack Barr or President Trump. I
think that he`s going to have that certain level of respect. I think the
democrats can formulate questions that would evoke answers that would make
a lot of news.
MATTHEWS: Give me one. Come on, you`re good. Give me one.
MAXWELL: Does this report exonerate the President, yes or no?
MATTHEWS: Does it exonerate –
MAXWELL: Does this report exonerate the President, yes or no?
MATTHEWS: So, in other words, the Attorney General did not give us the
MAXWELL: Right. I mean, those are – that`s a fact. He can comfortably
say no to that question because it`s actually in black and white in the
report. This report does not exonerate the President even though the
President is saying the opposite. So I think that the democrats have an
opportunity here to formulate the questions that can invoke that kind of
information from Mueller understanding that he is not going to go further
or get ahead of his skis in any way.
MATTHEWS: Mimi, another set of questions would be why did you make so many
referrals to U.S. attorneys around the country. There is a lot of
potential criminality here.
ROCAH: Yes. I mean, right. It`s a lot of referrals they can certainly
ask. I think that`s one area where they`re unlikely to get a lot of
information, right, because those are – they can ask categorical
questions. Are they under seal because of their investigations without
telling us anything about what they`re about or are they under seal because
there are indictments that are sealed?
But I think that`s an area where actually their time is not very well
spent. What would be better time used, I think, is actually talking about
the substance of the report, because that`s something that Mueller is going
to be more likely to answer questions about because it`s already public,
privilege has been waived, there is no grand – I mean, there could be
grand jury issues with everyone of those.
And the other thing about seeing Mueller testify and even just saying, as
Zerlina said, something that people who have read the report know, it does
not exonerate. Mueller is going to come across as looking not like a witch
hunter, right, which is what this whole investigation –
MATTHEWS: That`s the good side of what it looked like. But he also has
this sort of Robert De Niro, the Hollywood guy (ph), the guy on SNL, the
brooding, hubby (ph), big gravitas presence that walks into the room. And
I think that`s what Trump is afraid of.
There is breaking news this hour. The New York Times obtained ten years of
tax information about Donald Trump between the years 1985 and – there is
the news story. The numbers showed that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses
of $46 million from his core businesses, largely casinos, hotels and retail
space and apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year
totaling more than a billion dollars of losses for the decade. In fact,
according to The New York Times, what a story, year-after-year, Mr. Trump
appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American
taxpayer. The Times found when they compared his results, his results with
detailed information the IRS compiles on an annual sampling of high income
Well, this is coming out of nowhere. I mean, we`re getting something when
we look at his tax returns. But just that first grab at it, all those
losses means all those taxes not required to be paid. These are all
ROCAH: Right. I mean, there`s a few things. One is this is Trump`s
greatest fear of people actually being able to see that he is not a great
business man, right, and two, there is like real tax fraud here.
MATTHEWS: Well, Phil, as Joe Biden would say, folks, it`s time to
reexamine this news report. What do you make of what they`ve got here,
this first look at this news breaking now?
RUCKER: Yes. Well, Chris, it`s extraordinary reporting and it follows on
the heels of the investigation that The New York Times has been pursuing
for several years now into Trump`s taxes. It`s important to keep in mind
that this decade of tax returns predates sort of the more recent years
before he became president and still shows a pattern year-after-year-after-
year of Trump not paying taxes and having pretty severe business losses,
which gets right to the heart of what Mimi was speaking about.
It undermines the narrative that Trump has sort of created and spun for
himself as this master businessman, this super wealthy guy worth $10
billion. I mean, that number seems to have come out of thin air. What we
have here, as documented in this Times report, is that he actually suffered
a lot of losses.
MATTHEWS: Do you know how many of those were created artificially to avoid
RUCKER: Possibly. I don`t know. I mean, I`m not a tax expert and I`d
want to read all of this reporting before commenting on it.
MATTHEWS: Somebody in our group is smiling heavily and you can`t see it
because the democrats know as a group that they want this information or
all kinds of it. Is he has rich as he says he is? Does he pay a fair
share, as most people make in 48 years say, well, I pay this percentage?
What`s he paying? They want to know that too.
MAXWELL: Right. But they also want to know because he possibly could have
conflicts of interest that are dictating his foreign policy. That`s
actually the major reason. I mean, I don`t care if he says rich as he says
MATTHEWS: The Deutsche Bank.
MAXWELL. Right. I don`t care if he`s as rich as he says. That has to do
with his ego and how he feels about it personally. That`s not a concern to
me as a citizen. What I care about is national security of the country.
MATTHEWS: Is he on the hook?
MAXWELL: Is he on the hook? Do they have blackmail material on him? Is
he in debt to a foreign nation and then making certain decisions, policy-
wise, as a result of those debts?
MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s his chief reason for keeping that to
MAXWELL: I don`t know that because we haven`t seen the tax returns.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, joining us right now is U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee
of Michigan who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. So your
Chairman, Richard Neal, has been trying to get this information base upon
the 1924 statute. Apparently, The New York Times beat you to it, at least
part of it. What do you make of this politically and statutorily,
REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, it`s not – I mean, it`s obviously
interesting information and in some ways not all that surprising because
this president has been the master of obfuscation when it comes to his own
personal interest and his own wealth. He seems to be poor when he needs to
be poor and rich when he needs to be rich.
But it underscores the importance of us exercising the authority under this
1924 law, which has been used regularly over those years, not always for
our president, obviously. We need to know whether or not the IRS is
properly auditing and properly enforcing the tax laws on the President.
And the information that was reeled in this story just makes that question
all that much more important.
But further, the response from the Secretary of the Treasury essentially
saying that it is his view that our inquiry does not represent a legitimate
legislative purpose is just a bizarre thing for him to say. It is not up
to Donald Trump, his Secretary of the Treasury or some lawyer that he hires
to determine under the constitutional separation of power what is is a
legitimate subject of legislative inquiry. That is up to the legislative
branch. And we are going to pursue this.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, now, not that you need it, but you`ve got a reason
to examine him. He doesn`t pay many taxes. It looks to me like he`s got
huge tax losses that allows him to avert, avoid, if not, escape taxes,
whatever means he has. One of them is huge tax losses, huge losses of
revenue, which he can set against his income and perhaps claim no income in
KILDEE: This clearly elevates the need for us to get this information to
determine whether any legislation is necessary to ensure that the IRS
properly enforces tax law on the President. And, of course, the President
raises this question by the way he uses his unilateral authority, as we
have seen referenced in the Mueller report and in other instances, to
direct people that he believes to be under his charge, that he thinks work
directly for him rather than for the American people to do things to
We have serious questions as to whether or not that is the case as it
relates to the IRS enforcing the laws of the United States on this
president and this report just makes that question all that more
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this extreme question. If Trump continues, the
President continues to use every trick ignoring subpoenas for documents or
testimony, ignoring citations for contempt even if they can get one through
this Justice Department, if he runs it all the way to the end and says, I`m
not doing enough for you, guys, because what I really want you to do is
show your teeth, impeach me, go ahead and do it because I think that`s
going to get me re-elected.
With a strong economy and you guys coming after me like wolves, I will be
able to say, if it weren`t for them, we would have an even stronger economy
and all they do is attack me. Are you afraid he`s what Nancy Pelosi
apparently believes? We interpret that she`s figured out Trumps wants to
impeach him so that you guys can be portrayed as a totally negative force
in our country.
KILDEE: Well, I think it`s clearly a plausible argument. And it does seem
as though he enjoys the notion that it`s us versus them and he wants to
rally the troops and this is just a big conspiracy. But I don`t think we
can make a decision on the use of the tool of impeachment based on the
politics of the moment or even trying to outthink the devious mind of
Donald Trump. We have to do it based on whether or not we think the
constitution is being violated. And if we come to that conclusion, Chris,
I don`t think we have much of a choice.
MATTHEWS: Even if it hurts you politically, because that`s what he wants
you to make that decision?
KILDEE: We absolutely have to put the short-term politics aside and think
about the long-term precedent we are setting for this country. We cannot
allow a president of the United States to just so completely ignore the
constitution and the rule of law and because we think it might affect the
next election, decide that we are not going to do what the framers of this
constitution would have expected us to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you, sir. Thank you so much. It sounds like
great government. I`m wondering what the Speaker is thinking tonight.
Thank you so much, Phil Rucker. Thank you, Zerlina Maxwell. As always,
thank you, U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee and Mimi Rocah. Sticking around –
Mimi is sticking around. We need her for another segment.
Coming up, spy versus spy. Attorney General Barr said he believes the
United States government, he loves this word – well, he was taunted by the
President, spied on the Trump campaign. But FBI Director Christopher Wray
has a much different view, and you`re going to hear it in a minute.
They`re crossing up their signals. Wray is an actual public servant. You
can tell him apart from the hacks.
Also tonight, the republican cover up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Special Counsel`s finding is clear, case
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, republicans in congress are doing everything they
can to protect the President from any oversight scrutiny. Forget the
constitution. Forget Senate rules and integrity. Protect the President
while they`re setting in dangerous precedent, however, and betraying their
Plus, why is Joe Biden winning so much in the polling right now? I know
it`s just early polling, but what`s going on here? Poll show with more
than doubled the support of Bernie, in fact, there`s one big reason that
he`s seen as the safest bet to beat the incumbent. I think so. I think
that they like him, I think, but they also like the idea of beating Trump
more. Much ahead, stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political
campaign is a big deal. It`s a big deal.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): So, you`re not – you`re not suggesting,
though, that spying occurred?
BARR: I don`t – well, I guess you could – I think there was – spying
did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Attorney General William Barr last month igniting a firestorm,
alleging that the FBI spied on President Trump`s 2016 campaign.
In congressional testimony today, FBI Director, however, Christopher Wray
refuted the attorney general`s description of what the bureau does for a
living. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAHEEN: When FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters,
suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe that they`re engaging
in spying when they`re following FBI investigative policies and procedures?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, that`s not the term I would use.
SHAHEEN: Do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the
campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?
WRAY: I don`t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Barr has faced intense criticism for his parroting of the
president`s talking points regarding FBI surveillance of people connected
to his campaign.
But, just last week, he doubled down on his use of the term spying. Here
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: And I don`t think the word spying has any pejorative connotation at
I think spying is a good English word that in fact doesn`t have synonyms,
because it is the broadest word, incorporating really all forms of covert
intelligence collection. So I`m not going to back off the word spying.
Up until all the full outrage a couple of weeks ago, it`s commonly used in
the press to refer to authorized activity, such as referring to the FISA
court as the spy court.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): But it`s not commonly used by the
WHITEHOUSE: It is not commonly used by the department.
My time is up.
BARR: It`s commonly used by me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Mimi Rocah is back with us.
Joining me right now is Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and former
chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.
Mimi, thank you for sticking around.
But I think that question, spying sounds to me pejorative.
It`s pejorative in two ways. But what his statement was, was pejorative in
two ways. One, he`s using the term spying, which clearly is implying
something illegal, unauthorized, certainly.
MATTHEWS: By the deep state.
ROCAH: By the deep state.
And we know here that, in fact, whatever happened in the beginning of this
investigation, as we have discussed many times, was court-authorized. You
can like it or not like it, but it was court-authorized. It was not
illegal. It was not unauthorized.
The second thing is, he said spying on the campaign, right? So, he`s
trying to make it seem like, as Trump does daily, the focus here was the
deep state trying to get into the Trump campaign.
No, they were – the FBI and other law enforcement was trying to
investigate what Russia was doing, perhaps in the campaign. And they were
trying to do it without blowing up the Trump campaign, without coming out
and saying, hey, we have got to look at what Russia is doing with the
campaign because they keep meeting with Russians.
So they did it in an undercover way. That doesn`t make it unauthorized or
MATTHEWS: You know, Evan, thanks for coming on, because you have got so
It seems to me any of us who watched “The Americans” the whole way through
understood there was something called counterintelligence. We, the
Americans, the real Americans, were looking out for what the Russians were
up to in our country. That`s called surveillance. That`s called
It`s not normally put down as spying.
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, that`s right. And I
got to tell you, Chris, the word spying actually isn`t a word that`s
regularly used by our intelligence agencies or our intelligence officers or
by our law enforcement officers.
It`s just not a word that`s regularly used in that business, in that world.
And that`s the world that Barr comes from. Barr worked for the Central
Intelligence Agency. Obviously, he`s been an attorney general or the
attorney general before. He knows this.
When spying is used occasionally, it`s actually to describe fellow
Americans who have betrayed the country and who are working on behalf of a
foreign power against the country, or sometimes, but less frequently, about
the work that our intelligence officers do overseas against our adversaries
It`s never used to describe what our law enforcement officers, what our
counterintelligence people do in investigating counterintelligence threats
to the country.
I will say that, as much as Barr has tried to protect and defend his use of
the word spying, his actual true intent was revealed by what else he said
about that, which was, he called into question whether those investigations
were – quote – “authorized” and – quote – “adequately predicated.”
MCMULLIN: And so he was trying – I mean, by his own words, he was trying
to suggest that they may have not been on the up and up, they may have not
And so we can understand, through those – those words, what he meant by
spying and what his intention was.
MATTHEWS: Evan, we got a hell of a story breaking, as you saw, this tax
story about Trump in “The New York Times.”
MATTHEWS: It`s breaking as we speak.
Let`s get to that story.
“The New York Times” obtained 10 years of tax information about Donald
Trump between the years 1985 and 1994. And the numbers in those records
show that, in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46 million from his core
businesses, largely casinos, hotels and retail space and apartment
They continued to lose money every year, totaling more than a billion
dollars in losses for the decade. In fact, according to “The New York
Times”` report just out this evening, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to
have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer in
Let`s bring in Trump biographer David Cay Johnston, who joins me on the
David, what did you make of this? And what – does this square with your
information you had you all working with him?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, “THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP”: Absolutely.
This is exactly what I have been trying to tell people about. It`s
consistent with what I reported when I got Trump`s 2005 Form 1040 tax
return two years ago and what I reported back in the `90s, when he arranged
to share a billion dollars of his debt.
And, Chris, these losses that “The New York Times” shows are way beyond the
losses he could take from depreciating real estate. These show that, in
fact, Donald Trump is not the modern Midas who turns everything to gold.
He is the Wizard. And Toto, in the form of “The New York Times,” has
pulled back the curtain and revealed the con man.
MATTHEWS: Unbelievable. Depreciation, I was thinking of that word as we
first got this report. One good way to roll up losses is depreciation.
According to “The New York Times,” by the way – and this is the killer for
tomorrow`s news – Trump paid no – is everybody listening now? No federal
income taxes for eight of the 10 years.
David, I just want to stick with you, because you know the guy`s character
and his M.O.
This is what so many people suspected, that he was able to drum up enough
costs in depreciation and other intangibles to justify not paying any
taxes, like all the people who don`t make a billion dollars a year or the
guy who makes or woman who makes 40 a year, pays taxes, and does it every
year in April 15, that they pay a big check, if it`s not withheld already.
And here`s this character who pays no taxes eight out of 10 years? That`s
what a lot of people suspected was the reason he kept this secret.
JOHNSTON: Exactly, because he is – Donald is a con man.
Chris, there is not now and there never has been any verifiable evidence
that Donald Trump has ever had a billion dollars. What we do know from
public records and his actions and now this report in “The New York Times”
is that money flows in and it flows out faster than it flows in.
And one of the reasons we should all be coming concerned about that is,
someone who is constantly desperately in search for money to maintain the
appearance that they`re wealthy is likely to commit crimes and be open to
And one of the things that has been looked at and we don`t have a
definitive answer yet on is Donald Trump and laundering money for Russian
Saudis, Emiratis, and others through real estate deals, some of which I
have written about, that make no economic sense as a business deal, but
absolutely make sense as money laundering and payoff operations.
MATTHEWS: Evan, you ran against. Did you suspect this?
MCMULLIN: Well, look, I think people have long wondered, of course, why
the president has been so careful to hide his taxes.
I mean, it is his red line. And I think most of us expected that maybe
they might reveal one of two things, or both things, that he wasn`t as
wealthy as he said he was, which, frankly, I couldn`t care less about, but,
more importantly, does he – does he actually contribute to the country?
Does he pay taxes, like every other hardworking American?
And then you get into sort of some of the other money laundering issues and
potential compromise by foreign powers that David mentioned as well. Those
But, at the most basic level, I think, for hardworking Americans across the
country, to know that Donald Trump really didn`t pay taxes, at least for
the bulk of this 10-year period, while they`re working so hard, and while
they didn`t inherit millions of millions of dollars, and they struggle to
make ends meet, and they still pay taxes.
And yet they have this alleged billionaire in New York City who was paying
essentially nothing. I think that`s going to create a problem for him in
Mimi, I tell you, the average person out there who gets out, put their hat
on, maybe a baseball cap or something, something to get through the hours
they got to put their taxes together – just, I got to sit there. I got to
sit there with a cup of coffee and all this paperwork, but I`m going to be
honest. I hate it. I got to be honest. I`m not a – and you feel like a
chump, because you`re just being honest.
Then you find out about a guy like him, living in that house, living like
he lives, with the planes and everything else, and you find out, wait a
minute, he came up with tax dodges, depreciation allowances, stuff to
justify – which he has a good accountant – to get out of it.
What you`re paying in dollars, he`s evading in millions.
I mean, look, there`s a bunch of things going on here. I think one of them
is, as Evan said, as you`re saying, just this idea that he didn`t
contribute in any way, apparently, for at least a good chunk of time…
MATTHEWS: To America.
ROCAH: … to the American economy, while trying to pass it – I mean,
this is where the whole like, I do care that he`s rich or not.
I don`t care if he`s rich. I care that he was trying to pass himself off
as this great charitable person, I`m rich and I have this Trump charity,
and I do good with it, when that`s a scam too.
MATTHEWS: Well, no wonder he`s being audited.
MATTHEWS: Of course, I don`t think he is being audited.
MATTHEWS: But he would if he had ever paid taxes for eight out of 10
But the other question is going to be, are these losses real? I mean, this
is just smart moving around of money, or is there tax fraud here? And, I
mean, my guess is, if he was trying this hard to hide it, it`s not just
he`s not this really rich guy, but it`s also, what has he – what scheme
has he created here to make it so that he doesn`t have to pay taxes?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the one question here – I want to go back to
David – is, look, anybody can look at your taxes and have a different
I mean, every – that`s why Trump said he didn`t want a bunch of think tank
people looking at his tax returns, because someone would have a different
interpretation and wouldn`t be so kind as to say, you don`t have to pay any
taxes eight out of 10 years. I mean, he`s right.
And probably you get a sharpie accountant that helps you out and you
figured out ways to do it. He probably did it legally, technically. And
yet he faces the fact that nobody`s going to believe it, that that`s fair.
JOHNSTON: Well, Chris, first of all, remember, in an earlier story, “The
New York Times” said, without question, Donald Trump and his family have
been committing tax fraud for years.
And as soon as the federal judicial authorities began investigating federal
Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, she resigned, because that stops the
JOHNSTON: Donald Trump also had two civil income tax fraud trials. He
lost both of them and was excoriated by the judges.
So I think there`s lots of evidence that Donald Trump is a criminal level
tax cheat. And it`s one of the reasons it`s important that Congress, under
this 1924 anti-corruption law that you and I have talked about in the past,
needs to get his returns and have them audited by congressional staff
MATTHEWS: OK, we`re talking about this, this breaking story tonight or
HARDBALL. It just came in, decade in the red is headline.
Trump tax figures show over $1 billion in business losses.
We have got the author on right now, Russ Buettner, a “New York Times”
investigative reporter. He co-wrote the piece.
Russ, thank you for coming on.
Two questions. The big headline story, avoiding the tax – how did he
avoid – how did he come up with these losses? What, were they all
depreciation, intangibles? What did he come up with for his losses?
RUSS BUETTNER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: No, a small – Chris – thanks,
A small portion of that is – are – is appreciation, where you can write
off the cost of a building over a period of years. Most of this is banks`
money, money from bond investors that he`s put in his casinos that never
supported the debt that he had loaded them with. And he was able to record
these colossal losses.
Some of it was even before that, though. And we really see that there`s a
couple of, like, odd income streams that seemed to keep him afloat in the
late `80s there, as all of it`s collapsing around him.
MATTHEWS: What about not paying taxes in eight of the 10 years? Explain
how he managed that outcome.
BUETTNER: It`s really the magic of recording business losses.
When you organize your businesses at these – what is called pass-through
entities, all of their balance sheet flows on to your tax returns. So you
can take – if you run an unprofitable business, and you can still manage
to live, you can use that, those losses, to write off your income from
So, for example, in some years, he`s making $10 million, $20 million on
stock trades, and he`s able to not pay any taxes on that because of his
business losses. It`s really a wonderful thing, and it rolls over year to
So, there`s really only one in this 10-year period when he pays any
significant taxes at all.
MATTHEWS: Some questions about tradecraft, your own. How do you get to
tax information that the Senate, the House Ways and Means chairman hasn`t
been able to get to?
BUETTNER: Well, we don`t go through the front door, I guess, is the main
answer to that.
I mean, there are – Donald Trump was a busy fellow during these years. He
was dealing with banks. He was dealing with casino regulators. He had
auditors for various agencies crawling up his business. And there were a
lot of places that this information was floating around. And we were able
to pull it together.
But, obviously, I have to protect the…
MATTHEWS: I know, but you have got eight out of 10 years not paying
federal income taxes. How did you get that information?
BUETTNER: Well, the information that we have is a printout from what is
called his tax transcript.
The IRS creates this database from every tax return that`s filed. It has
every line item from the 1040, every line item from the tax schedules.
BUETTNER: And what we got is a printout of that.
So we have dozens of points of data for every year in the cycle. And in
includes whether you paid any income tax, if you paid an Alternative
Minimum Tax, how much that was and all that stuff.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the American people out there listening right now,
especially regular people making regular incomes, around the average income
in this country, are going, wait a minute, I paid X-many thousands of
dollars this year.
I just did it in April 15. I paid what I hadn`t paid in my withholding.
It`s hurting me. I don`t get to buy things I would like to buy for my
family, like tuition bills I would like to pay.
And they hear about this behavior by what – seems to be incredibly,
Anyway, hold on there. Thank you so much for us. Hold on.
I want to bring in right now Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski of New
Congressman, thank you for waiting around. We didn`t think we would talk
to you. This story is huge.
For months, ever since this guy stuck his head up and said he wanted to be
president, the American people have said, well, OK, tell us about yourself.
How much money do you make it? And, more importantly, how much do you pay?
Are you paying a fair share?
We`re finding out now in this astounding report that, eight out of 10
years, he didn`t pay nothing, nada, nothing.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Yes.
Well, I`m just seeing this with you for the first time. But I will start
with what I think most Americans, the vast majority of Americans believe,
and that is the every president and everybody who runs for president should
just release their tax returns.
We shouldn`t be learning about this two years into his presidency…
MATTHEWS: He wouldn`t have won.
MALINOWSKI: … from a leak.
MATTHEWS: That`s the catch-22. If the American people found out a guy is
prancing around with airplanes and skyscrapers, and he owns everything in
the world, golf courses all over the world, and he doesn`t pay any taxes,
they`d say, that`s not fair. You can`t be our leader.
I think even the people in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan would say,
at the margin, he`s not my guy. My people pay taxes.
MALINOWSKI: I hope so.
I mean, I have got thousands of people in my congressional district,
middle-class homeowners whose taxes went up $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 this
year because Trump and the Republican Congress took away their state and
local tax deductions.
MATTHEWS: Because you didn`t vote for him.
MALINOWSKI: They didn`t do anything to take away…
MATTHEWS: No, you didn`t vote with Trump. So he got even with all the
MALINOWSKI: Yes, well. Well, there you go, yes.
MATTHEWS: You know what he was doing. He`s screwing the taxes of the
middle class because they wouldn`t vote for him in Connecticut and New
Jersey and New York and a lot of people in Pennsylvania, I think.
MALINOWSKI: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the impact of this in terms of the
Now that you have got this story – and everybody will have it tomorrow
morning or earlier online – the fact that Trump didn`t pay taxes for eight
of 10 years, in fact he had a billion dollars in tax losses rung up just by
what “The Times” has been able to get – and they have – obviously not
able to get everything.
Will this change Trump`s power in this country that he`s seen – he looks
now like a guy who`s skated?
MALINOWSKI: You know, I have quit predicting when that`s going to happen.
I don`t know if it`ll change the minds of his staunchest defenders in the
But it`ll add impetus to our effort to get his tax returns through the
front door. And I believe we will. The law is absolutely clear that the
chairman of the Ways and Means Committee has the right to request the
president`s tax returns. We will get those.
And, hey, you know what? If he made this money back fair and square, we
will be able to tell the American people about it. He should be willing to
cooperate with us.
MATTHEWS: Would you vote to arrest him under the right to subpoena,
inherent subpoena power of the House? Would you vote to send the sergeant
at arms of the House to go up and arrest Mnuchin at his house or when he`s
in an airplane or whatever?
Do you believe you would go that far to get this information?
MALINOWSKI: I think we`re going to win this in the courts. I think the
law is absolutely clear.
And for all the norms this administration has violated thus far, they have
respected court orders. And I believe they will when they are ordered to
deliver this information to us.
MATTHEWS: I hope you get that order.
Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey.
David Cay Johnston, an expert on Trump, whatever that is, but you are that,
thank you so much.
MALINOWSKI: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Russ Buettner of “New York Times,” if you don`t get the Pulitzer
for this, it`s unwinnable. Thank you, sir.
And Mimi Rocah, and Evan McMullin, sir.
Up next: Trump`s defenders in Congress are trying to slam the door on the
Mueller report and blame the Obama administration for Russia`s interference
in our election. We will get to that after this story.
The damage they`re doing could last – well, it could outlast Trump, in our
Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: We have more on the tax story in a minute, but welcome back to
The Republican Party has morphed from the Grand Old Party to the party of
one, Donald Trump. The metamorphosis began way back during the campaign
when Donald Trump remained the party`s nominee after the release of that
awful “Access Hollywood” tape.
It accelerated when the party drugged off proof that president Trump paid a
porn star and Playboy playmate to keep quiet about alleged affairs with
them. Well, today, the transition is complete. The congressional
Republicans have closed ranks around Trump, defending him against scrutiny
and abdicating the fundamentally constitutionally mandated oversight
authority. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Have I been confusing on this? It`s over.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Now we know without a single doubt that there
was no collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. The real collusion was
actually with the Democrats.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I`d like to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Fox News host Sean Hannity took it a step further, calling
Democrats psychotic for wanting to do their job and accusing some Democrats
of using dictatorial tactics.
Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They`re lost their mind. Democratic
congressman wants to handcuff, get this, the attorney general of the United
States, have the sergeant of arms drag him before the committee or to
prison. No trial, no charges, nothing. Well, welcome to Saddam Hussein`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s startling of all is how the Senate majority letter is
rejecting the checks and balances between Congress and the White House
established by the founding partners and the constitution, all to protect
Trump. You want to hear what Mitch McConnell had to say, it`s coming up
Mitch is doing anything he can for Trump.
MATTHEWS: It gets worse. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
After two weeks of relative silence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
took to the chamber floor today to trump at President Trump`s claims of
complete and total exoneration. The Kentucky Republican acting as judge
and jury went a little further by declaring case closed.
He`s Perry Mason now. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Two years of exhaustive investigation and
nothing to establish the fanciful conspiracy theory that Democratic
politicians and TV talking heads had treated like a foregone conclusion.
The special counsel`s finding is clear. Case closed! Case closed.
This ought to be good news for everyone. But my Democratic colleagues seem
to be publicly working through the five stages of grief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s amazing the number of people going to prison for
practically a long time, including a lot of Americans and Russians for
something that didn`t happen, is it?
For more, I`m joined by former New York Congressman Steve Israel who`s now
director of Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs.
And Michael Steele, my friend, former RNC chair.
What do you make about Mitch McConnell?
I`d go to Michael first.
Mitch McConnell I thought and had reason to believe, believed in the
institution, especially the U.S. Senate, he wanted to keep the filibuster,
he believed in all the old processes, and now, he has given away the store.
He doesn`t support subpoenas or contempt – citations for the Congress for
demands of testimony or documents. He doesn`t believe in any of that.
He`s now a Trumper all the way.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, it`s a reflection of
how much the paradigm has shifted inside that building on Capitol Hill
where senators supposedly there to protect the institutions, particularly
on Republican side are now more interested in protecting themselves. The
fact of the matter is, this is all about reelection, this is all about
maintaining control and power.
This whole thing with, whether it`s the Russia piece or the obstruction
piece has never been a Democrat-Republican partisan battle. This has been
borne out of the attack on our country by the Russians.
STEELE: And the fact that you have political leadership with the
Republican side that refuses to even acknowledge that much of this
narrative is not surprising at this stage, quite honestly, because at the
end of the day, Chris, this is about how do we hold the Senate, how do we
reelect the president and how do we maintain the power and control.
Nothing else is getting done much beyond that.
MATTHEWS: Well, revolt and development comes tonight. The president and
Mnuchin, his secretary of treasury, both wealthy men, worked together to
keep the president`s tax returns from the public. And now, we get pieces
So, we`re getting like a billion loss here, and eight out of ten years
taxes not paid there. We`re going to get it in pieces because we are not
getting it all. And now, the president is going to be forcing his flax to
put out the truth to prove they are right when they don`t want to put out
the truth. That`s their problem now.
FORMER REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D-NY): Yes, this is a real dilemma for them.
But, you know, this administration is not bothered by dilemmas. They`ll
just double down on this. Politically, Chris –
MATTHEWS: What`s he hiding? Besides –
ISRAEL: We don`t know and that`s why –
MATTHEWS: We know he wasn`t paying taxes.
ISRAEL: Politically, I think this is how to plays out. This is a love-or-
loathe electorate. Thirty-five percent of this electorate loves Donald
Trump no matter what. This is the tax equivalent of shooting somebody on
Fifth Avenue and not losing votes.
Forty-five percent of the American people loathe him. And so, this gives
them more excuse to vote against him. This election is about the 20
percent who are in the middle who has not yet made a judgment.
And you know what drives those people crazy, those fierce independents – a
rigged system, the sense that we have a president who says support the
troops, but didn`t fund them by paying his taxes. This could be his
Achilles heel with that 20 percent who have not yet made a judgment for
MATTHEWS: So, you may have missed it, but I go to you, and then Michael on
it, I think most Americans pay their taxes honestly and when they sit down,
they put all the papers together and they hate it. They hate having to do
it because they don`t want to make a mistake and they want to be crooked,
and they don`t want to walk away with it.
You know, there`s a couple of close calls, but I think I did the right
thing. That`s how the system works. You are the judge. It`s a self-
reporting system. There is nobody hanging over your shoulder.
And Trump –
ISRAEL: You don`t want a president who makes that mistake. You expect
that the very least, your president is going to pay his fair share. And
this president appears not to have done that.
MATTHEWS: I think all these losses we`re going to find out, Michael, to
the president`s advantage, I think when you don`t have to pay taxes and
you`re a billionaire, people wonder, how come you are a billionaire if
you`re not paying taxes?
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t seem to square. I mean, obviously, you are supposed
to pay based on how much money you make. How do you stay rich and have
skyscrapers and fleets of airplanes and any number of dozens of golf
courses and you didn`t make any money?
STEELE: Well, a lot of this – a lot of this is tied up into how the tax
laws play out, how real estate deals are done and particularly how they are
MATTHEWS: I know.
STEELE: – and how the banks, quite frankly, carry those loans and that
debt on their books. So, there are a lot of moving parts here.
At end of the day, though, when you are running for public office, the
expectation is that you do come clean with the American people about how
you`ve been positioned in the system.
And so, there is no crime in being a billionaire. There`s no crime in
having wealth and there`s nothing wrong with that. But you – if you take
advantage of the system in a way that to your point, Chris, taxpayers look
at it and go, well, wait a minute. Each year, you continued to play the
game that you didn`t have to pay any taxes.
STEELE: What does that say to them, which is again, why Donald Trump
really didn`t want it exposed in the first place, because the narrative is
not a good one. They got it to whether or not he has given charitably to
other institutions and groups out there. We haven`t gotten to the foreign
entanglements and the enterprises and the relationships he has beyond the
U.S. borders and how that shows up on his tax books.
So, there is a lot that the president just didn`t want to talk about.
MATTHEWS: I think everybody to do is, Geraldine Ferraro once did it. She
stood in a platform, a stage with her – his name is Murray. And she
answered every question the whole day until people were tired of asking
questions. So, that would be a good start.
Anyway, former Congressman Steve Israel, my pal, coming up here, thanks so
much. And Michael Steele.
Up next, one big reason the early polls look so good for former Vice
President Joe Biden, we`ll know the big reason in a minute. I`m going to
explain I think.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: The latest 2020 poll numbers give us a glimpse into how this
country sees this coming election. By that I mean both sides. To put it
bluntly, 2020 looks to both Trumpite Republicans and anti-Trumpite
Democrats like it`s going to be a tight one.
This may explain why Democrats are taking nothing for granted. The idea
that the country was ready to dump Donald Trump in a giant fun-filled
splash is no longer in the picture. The latest poll number has Trump at
his highest approval rating ever. His numbers for the economy are also at
an all-time high.
As I said, this largely explains the pattern of today`s poll numbers among
Democrats. Joe Biden is running at 40 percent now, two out of five
Democrats back him for the presidential nomination. This is especially
remarkable given the large number of candidates to choose from.
But except for Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, all are now in single
digits. And Sanders is even dropping.
What this tells me is that Republicans are rallying around Trump, and
Democrats are rallying around Biden, the one they see as the best chance of
The country`s top Democratic elected official apparently agrees. Seeing
the challenge of beating Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants her fellow
Democrats to, quote, place their bets on the best bet, own the center, own
the center left, she said. Own the mainstream.
That`s why Joe Biden is taking off in the polls, she said, he took off
because people know him. They trust him.
Listen to what Biden said during his first campaign event as a presidential
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I make no apologies. I am a union
man. The country wasn`t built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge fund
managers. It was built by you. It was built by the great American middle
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s the reason Biden is rising in the polls right now.
Democrats want to beat Trump and they know how hard it`s going to be. They
know they need a candidate that can withstand Trump`s coming assault on the
hard left, on socialism, open borders, late term abortion.
One word of caution for me right now – there is no way to know with any
precision how any candidate will look head to head with Trump in the full
fire of the 2020 general election. No way to know now.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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