Robert Mueller testifies. TRANSCRIPT: 7/24/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Sean Patrick Maloney; Madeleine Dean, Ben Rhodes, Cynthia Alksne, Leon Panetta

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Second term or prison term.  Let`s play



Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.


That`s the message from today`s testimony by Special Counsel Robert

Mueller, a second term for term or a prison term for Trump.  Trump was not

exonerated in the investigation by Mueller and stands vulnerable to

indictment the second he leaves office.


And the dramatic double-feature today, Robert Mueller testified before the

House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, laying bare the evidence his

prosecutors uncovered in their two-year investigation.


And despite his reluctance to testify, Mueller offered a stark, often

emphatic summary of his findings.  He pierced a gaping hole in the

President`s most misleading defense, Trump`s false claim that the Mueller

report exonerated him.




REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  The President has repeatedly claimed that your

report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally

exonerated him.  But that is not what your report said, is it?


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL:  Correct, that is not what the

report said.


NADLER:  And what about total exoneration?  Did you actually totally

exonerate the President?






MATTHEWS:  Far from exonerating the President, Mueller confirmed for

millions of Americans today that Trump and his associates embraced Russian

interference with open arms and then lied about it.




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  In fact, the campaign welcomed the Russian help,

did it not?


MUELLER:  I think, we have in the report indications that that occurred,



SCHIFF:  Apart from the Russians wanting to help Trump win, several

individuals associated with the Trump campaign were also trying to make

money during the campaign in transition.  Is that correct?


MUELLER:  That is true.


SCHIFF:  When your investigation looked into these matter, numerous Trump

associates lied to your team, the grand jury and to Congress?


MUELLER:  A number of persons that we interviewed in our investigation, it

turns out, did lie.


SCHIFF:  When Donald Trump called your investigation a witch hunt, that was

also false, was it not?


MUELLER:  I`d like to think so, yes.


SCHIFF:  Well, your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?


MUELLER:  It is not a witch hunt.


SCHIFF:  When the President said the Russian interference was a hoax, that

was false, wasn`t it?






MATTHEWS:  Throughout his sworn testimony today, the former Special Counsel

detailed how Trump and others misled prosecutors and covered their tracks

throughout the investigation.  He reprimanded the President for encouraging

a hostile intelligence service, WikiLeaks, to distribute Hillary Clinton

campaign emails, and he explained how the President used the power of his

office to attempt to end the investigation itself.


When a Republican Congressman questioned Mueller`s findings on obstruction,

the former Special Counsel made clear that the President can be indicted,

indicted for criminal action after he`s left office.




REP. KEN BUCK (R-OH):  Okay.  But the – could you charge the President

with a crime after he left office?




BUCK:  You believe that he committed – you could charge the President of

the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?






MATTHEWS:  Didn`t explain I mean, didn`t expect it.  Anyway, Mueller`s

point appeared to bolster Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s private words to members

of her caucus in June when she said, I don`t want to see Trump impeached. 

I want to see him in prison.


Well, after House Democrats held an impromptu caucus meeting following the

hearing today, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland made an

impassioned plea to all Americans about the importance of this moment,

today`s testimony in history.




REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD):  It`s not about not liking the President. 

It`s about loving democracy.  It`s about loving our country.  It`s about

making a difference for generations yet unborn.  That`s what this is all

about.  And I`m begging, I`m begging the American people to pay attention

to what is going on.




MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of

New York State, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, a member of the House

Judiciary Committee.  Thank you both for joining us.  You`re on that busy

carter (ph) again, but let`s get to the question.


The President since March when William Barr put out his distorted notion of

what the findings were of the Special Counsel, the President has been

bragging that he was exonerated by Special Counsel Mueller`s investigation. 

What was the truth that came out today, Congressman Maloney?


REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY):  Well, I`m reminded of the old saying

that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes

on.  And I think what you saw today is the truth is getting in the game,

that the Attorney General went out and just flat-out misrepresented what

the report said.  The President has been lying about it all along.  Today

was the beginning of a serious effort to get the truth to the American



MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, the same question to you, because it seems to me

that the President was successful in lying.  It is a direct lie.  He was

not exonerated.  The committee counsel made that clear today many, many

times.  In fact, he is vulnerable for criminal prosecution the second he

leaves office.


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA):  Well – and you actually are getting to an

area that I actually focused on in my questions with Mueller, the role of

Attorney General Barr in creating public confusion around what the findings

were of this report.  The Special Counsel wrote to the Attorney General and

said, there is now public confusion as a result of his characterization of

the report, which gave cover to this president to go on over and over again

to say no collusion, no obstruction.


Guess what Mueller said today?  Neither of those things was the case.  In

fact, in volume one, we see sweeping wrongdoing by Russia that continues to

this day.  We see incredible collaboration, not criminal according to

Mueller, by the Trump campaign, more than 100 contacts with Russia and not

a call to law enforcement, and then ten instances of obstruction of justice

by this president, and he couldn`t charge simply because of the Justice

Department ruling that you cannot charge a sitting president.


MATTHEWS:  For which the President, according to Robert Mueller, now faces

if he leaves office tomorrow morning, criminal action against him.


Anyway, under questioning from Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, I

believe, Mueller acknowledged that the evidence he gathered contradicted

the President`s written testimony, which was not always truthful.  Here it





REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  In fact, there were many questions that you asked

the President that he simply didn`t answer, isn`t that correct?




DEMINGS:  And there were many answers that contradicted other evidence you

had gathered during the investigation.  Isn`t that correct, Director





DEMINGS:  Director Mueller, isn`t it fair to say that the President`s

written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn`t

answer many of your questions, but where he did his answers showed he

wasn`t always being truthful?


MUELLER:  There – I would say, generally.




MATTHEWS:  He is careful there, of course, Congressman.  It looks like he

is getting to the point there of saying the President perjured himself.


MALONEY:  Well, let`s remember, there was no in-person sworn testimony by

the President.  And I asked him why.  And I think the interesting

explanation is that Director Mueller actually thought he had laid out

substantial evidence, sufficient evidence in the report to divine the

intent and to assess the Presidents culpability in that area.


By the way, that`s the most he can do under the DOJ guidelines around

prosecution and around accusing without charging.  And so the fact is that

he ran right up to the line there, I think, of saying, we didn`t even

interview the President because we had enough and it`s in the report.


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, good ahead.


DEAN:  More than that, yes, take a look at what both the President and

Attorney General Barr claimed, full cooperation by this White House, full

cooperation by this president.  But he refused to come in, and then he

testified so many times in his written words he didn`t remember, he didn`t

know, and contradictory things.


This is not a transparent, accountable White House.  What we have seen

today is the lawlessness, the corruption that has permeated both the

campaign and this administration.


MATTHEWS:  Amazing testimony today.  Thank you so much, Congressman Sean

Patrick Maloney of New York State and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of



DEAN:  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  Piece by piece, democrats Mueller to confirm the details of

Trump`s attempt to fire the Special Counsel and stop the investigation





REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL):  The President wanted to fire you because you were

investigating him for obstruction of justice.  Isn`t that correct?


MUELLER:  That`s what it says in the report, yes.  And I stand by the



REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA):  Next, the President told the White House Staff

Secretary, Rob Porter, to try to pressure McGahn to make a false denial. 

Is that correct?


MUELLER:  That`s correct.


REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA):  So it`s fair to say the President tried to

protect himself by asking staff to falsify records relevant to an ongoing



MUELLER:  I would say that`s generally a summary.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  Mr. Lewandowski, a private citizen, was

instructed by the President of the United States to deliver a message from

the President to the Attorney General that directed him to limit your

investigation.  Correct?


MUELLER:  Correct.


CICILLINE:  And it`s an unsuccessful attempt to obstruct justice is still a

crime, is that correct?


MUELLER:  That is correct.




MATTHEWS:  joining me right now is Cynthia Alksne, former federal

prosecutor, Paul Butler, also a former federal prosecutor, also Ben Rhodes,

Former Deputy National Security Advisor.


Let me start with Cynthia on this.  It seems like the democrats did a

series (ph) at him, one after another, draw out from Mueller the examples

and cases of where he obstructed criminally.



really to even answer a question.  All he would do is take a leading

question.  But he wouldn`t actually say what happened.  I thought that was

frustrating.  He wouldn`t read from the report.  I thought that was



And then I also thought the presentation, you know, as nice as the clips

are that you`ve put together, your staff has put together, when you watch

the whole thing, it wasn`t compelling, because it was upside down and

backwards.  It started with the obstruction.  It moved to – after that to

the actual crime.  That didn`t make any sense.  He was very halting.  He

didn`t defend the report with the kind of gusto I expected him to.


So while the information got out, it was information we all knew.




ALKSNE:  And I hate to be the contrarian on the network, but I did not

think it went well.




ALKSNE:  And I was unimpressed with the manner in which it was organized.


MATTHEWS:  Well, a lot of this is the man`s age and all kinds of factors. 

We`ll be examining that.  But I thought although he didn`t have racing

stripes on, he did deliver the goods, point by point.  Your thoughts, Paul.


PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So Mueller directly proved that

Trump`s claim of no obstruction is a lie.  He presented compelling evidence

that all of the predicates, all of the legal requirements for obstruction

were proven.  His was an official investigation that the President tried to

impede with a corrupt intent.


And so Mueller proved that by looking at how Trump tried to fire Mueller

and then tried to get the White House Counsel to lie and cover up about how

Trump tried to get Sessions to recuse himself about how Trump impeded

witnesses by dangling those pardons and threatening Michael Cohen and Paul



So I agree with you, Cynthia.  The problem isn`t so much what Trump said

but how he – what Mueller said but how he said it.  Mueller is lawyerly

and reserved where Trump and Barr are aggressive and in your face.  And the

stakes here are very high.


This is the most important investigation of a president in American

history.  Trump and Barr lie about it and their lies seem to be effective. 

What Mueller needed to do was say plainly and directly that the President

is guilty of multiple felonies, that the only reason that he`s not charged

with a crime now is because of that DOJ policy.  But the constitutional

remedy is impeachment.


MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ben on this question, because it seems like a lot

of this was done in broad daylight.  The President attempted firing of

Comey, daring him to give a loyalty oath, everything he could to protect

his guy, his National Security Advisor, pushing for the firing of the

Special Counsel himself.  So much of this information is bold print in the

headlines for months now.  And all they wanted to do was tie it together



And I had to admit, I agree with Cynthia.  The ability of this special

prosecutor to make his case was not good, but the members of the Congress

on the democratic side and the republican side were able to bring out the

criminality, I thought.  Your view?



at the end of the day, the thing that has to endure are the facts, right? 

And the facts here are very clear, that Russia interfered in our election,

that the Trump campaign was involved in, as was confirmed today, 100

contacts with a hostile foreign power that was attacking our democracy, and

that, clearly, Trump and many people around him lied about their contacts

with Russia.  And some of those people have even been charged with crimes. 

And we learned today that Trump could be charged with a crime when he no

longer has the protection of the presidency.


So, again, a lot of this has been playing out in plain sight.  A lot of the

crimes, frankly, that were committed in the obstruction that was committed

was in plain sight.  Frankly, we all remember Donald Trump asking Russia to

hack Hillary`s emails on camera, just as we saw him confirm that he fired

Jim Comey because of the Russia investigation on camera.


But that shouldn`t make the facts matter less.  Again, just because the

republicans on that committee don`t have the conscience to defend Trump,

just because Bob Mueller did not perform like a professional wrestler

doesn`t diminish the severity of the facts.


And what we also heard from Mueller today is that Russia was continuing to

interfere in our democracy and that we should have no confidence as

Americans that this administration wouldn`t do the exact same thing again

and seek the help of a hostile foreign power in getting elected again.


Those are the facts, and now, I think the democrats now have to act on



MATTHEWS:  Well, I thought that Jerry Nadler got the points out front. 

First of all, the President has been lying for five months.  He was not

exonerated by Mueller`s report.  He was not exonerated.  And second, he

faces criminal prosecution.  You have a thought?


ALKSNE:  Yes.  Here is my problem with the situation.  I didn`t learn

anything knew.  I knew he could be prosecuted.  I read the report a million

times.  There isn`t any question to me that he committed the obstruction

and that they played cozy with the Russians, welcomed their help and then

they`ve lied to cover it up.


The question is what are the democrats going to do about it?  Every time we

approach anything, they have a new solution.  Oh, you know, Julian Assange

is coming.  Maybe he`ll talk.  Manafort will talk.  Stone is going to flip

for sure.  They always have something to kick the can down the road.  And

now, you can already hear them at this last press conference, we`re just

going get Don McGahn.


I got news for you.  Don McGahn is going to fight the subpoena constantly. 

They have to make the decision.  Are they going to impeach him or are they

not going to impeach him.  If they`re going to impeach him, get going.  If

they`re not going to impeach him, let`s take the business of the country.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Cynthia.


ALKSNE:  Sorry.


MATTHEWS:  No, don`t be sorry.  It`s in my soul what you`re saying.  I want

to do it too.  I`m going to move it too.


ALKSNE:  Just do something.  We all know what happened.  We know.


MATTHEWS:  Stop kicking the can.  Cynthia, Paul and Ben are all sticking

with us.


Coming up, Robert Mueller lays out the Russian connection and how Trump and

his people welcomed it, encouraged it, made use of it and then covered it



Plus, why isn`t there more being done to fight ongoing Russian

interference, which Mueller made clear was definitely not a hoax?  I`m

going to talk exclusively to former CIA Director Leon Panetta tonight.


Much more ahead on a big news day.  Stick with us.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Robert Mueller demonstrated again today that his investigation into Russian

election interference was not a witch hunt.  He was explicit about the main

finding of his two-year investigation, that Russia interfered in the 2016

election, and the Trump campaign welcomed, encouraged it, benefitted from

it, used it, covered it up.


Well, this afternoon, the afternoon House Intelligence Committee hearing

today, Chairman Adam Schiff, asked the Special Counsel to confirm aspects

of his findings.




SCHIFF:  In fact, the campaign welcomed the Russian help, did they not?


MUELLER:  I think we report in our – in the report indications that that

occurred, yes.


SCHIFF:  The President himself called on the Russians to hack Hillary`s



MUELLER:  There was a statement by the President in those general lines.


SCHIFF:  And numerous times during the campaign, the President praised the

releases of the Russian-hacked emails through WikiLeaks?


MUELLER:  Well, that did occur.


SCHIFF:  Russia committed federal crimes in order to help Donald Trump?


MUELLER:  When you`re talking about the computer crimes in –




MUELLER:  – the charge in our case, absolutely.


SCHIFF:  Trump campaign officials built their strategy, their messaging

strategy, around those stolen documents? 


MUELLER:  Generally, that`s true. 


SCHIFF:  And then they lied to cover it up? 


MUELLER:  Generally, that`s true. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, Mueller went on to call the threat of more Russian

interference next time the most serious threat to our democracy. 


Cynthia Alksne, Paul Butler, and Ben Rhodes are back with me. 


Ben, you first this time.


There was a lot of information gleaned there by the chairman, Adam Schiff,

from the special counsel about the role the Trump people played here in

terms of colluding, a lot of it. 


RHODES:  Yes. 


And that exchange is the whole ball game right there, Chris.  That`s that

the Trump campaign welcomed this attack from a foreign adversary, sought to

benefit from it, built a campaign strategy around it, and here we are. 

And here we are facing an ongoing threat to our democracy from the

Russians.  And Cynthia is exactly right.  Mueller can`t directly instruct

Congress to impeach the president, but he has basically punted it into

their lap, and said, here`s what I found.  What are you going to do about



And let`s be clear, Chris.  If this isn`t an impeachable offense, or at

least – if this doesn`t at least merit an impeachment inquiry, what does? 

We have got multiple crimes.


MATTHEWS:  I agree with that. 


RHODES:  We have an attack on our democracy from a foreign adversary, a

foreign adversary that`s going to do it again. 


And if the people who did this pay no price for it, if there is no

accountability, why wouldn`t they do it again, and why wouldn`t other

people do it after them?  That`s why this is such a big crisis for our



MATTHEWS:  Paul, during Watergate – and I was around – I got a – every

time I got a tad of sympathy for the guys who got in trouble, I said, no,

if they got away with this, it would have gotten much worse, because it

gets worse. 


If you exploit, if you abuse your power, you`re going to abuse it more the

next day you get up. 


BUTLER:  And Robert Mueller said that today. 


The word he used to describe what the Russians did to the United States was

attack.  This was an attack on our democracy.  And the question is, will

they get away with it?  And what he suggested is, not only have we not

learned, but that this is very likely to happen with the 2020 election, and

this time it won`t only be the Russians who are attacking us, it will be

other nations as well. 


The point here is, did Mueller then rise to the occasion and do everything

in his power to try to get that message to the American people?  Because

this wasn`t an investigative kind of hearing.  This was a showcase to –

for the American people to learn what Robert Mueller had found in his



And, usually, prosecutors want criminals to be brought to justice.  They

want there to be consequences for illegal actions.  And, again, I`m not

sure Mueller made that case to the United States as directly and

effectively as he could have. 




BUTLER:  This was theater.  At the end of the day, he was an ineffective

leading man. 


MATTHEWS:  He wasn`t a presenter. 


Anyway, Mueller…


ALKSNE:  Well, he is not a theater guy.  We all knew that.  He did exactly

what he said he was going to do.  I`m going to stick to the report. 


And, by the way, everybody who knows him knows he doesn`t do theater.  He

has this armor of ethics around him.  That`s why he is a prosecutor`s

prosecutor.  He was never going to do what the House wanted him to do.  He

was never going to do that. 


He was just – and he absorbed all the criticism from the Republicans. 

Neither side got what they wanted. 




ALKSNE:  Let me just be the depressing person at the table. 


Trump is getting away with it.  That is what is happening.  We are not –

they are not going to impeach him.


BUTLER:  But Mueller understands that. 


See, the thing is, Mueller understands that.  He is allowed to notice

politics.  So he understood that today could be a game-changer.  And given,

again, that he thinks that the Russians attacked our democracy, and that

Trump actively welcomed that attack, and then did everything in his power

to prevent the investigation, which is a crime, again, why wouldn`t he do

more to try to protect his findings, to make sure that Trump is brought to



MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, you say he is going to beat the judge here.  He is not

going to get impeached.  He is not going to get indicted.


ALKSNE:  I don`t think he is going to get impeached.  I don`t – he might

get indicted later, if we`re lucky.


MATTHEWS:  You think he might, really?  Suppose he gets a second term?


ALKSNE:  Well, here`s the – well, then we have a statute of limitations



But it`s not just this case.  It`s the campaign finance case too.  That

case is going down the road.  The guy paid somebody off in order to get

elected.  And what are we doing?  We`re like sitting on our thumbs,



I don`t know what`s going on here.  And how are you ever going to have a

campaign finance law, when you know the president of the United States can

pay somebody off and nothing happens?


MATTHEWS:  Ben, is he going to get away with it? 


RHODES:  Well, I mean, part of what…


MATTHEWS:  Everything we talked about, everything that Mueller brought

today under – he – pulled out of his hands, but we got the truth from him

today, all of the dealing, the collusion, all the obstruction, all that

that came forward finally today, you had to pull it out of his teeth, but

it came out. 


Is that going to put this guy away, or is he going to stay as president,

maybe get reelected without any prosecution?  What do you think?


RHODES:  That`s not going to put him away, right? 


And you`re only going to defeat him at the ballot box, and that`s when we

will see if he gets away with it. 


But if I`m the Democrats, I would be playing much more hardball, an

impeachment inquiry.  You can call all kinds of witnesses.  You can call

witnesses on what Russia did, on their tactics.  You can call witnesses…


MATTHEWS:  Pelosi is not going to do it.  I heard it again late today.  She

is not going to do it. 




RHODES:  I think that we have to expose the fundamental corruption and

unpatriotic nature of this administration. 


Somebody has to prosecute that case, if not the House Democrats, the

Democratic nominee. 




RHODES:  And just as they`re making the case on bread-and-butter issues,

they have to go right at this level of corruption, because I can tell you,



MATTHEWS:  OK.  Write your congressman.  I`m dead serious about this. 


RHODES:  … this matters. 


MATTHEWS:  Just a minute.  Let`s take a moment here. 


If you think there ought to be impeachment proceedings, write your

Democratic congressman.  The Republican ain`t going to do it.  Write them. 

Find out what their address is.  Write them.  It`s up on Capitol Hill, U.S.

House of Representatives.  They have the name of the person and make your

case, because I think there`s a lot of people that would like to see

something happen there. 


And it`s clear the leadership of the House is not going to do it.  Am I



BUTLER:  You`re right. 


And, again, what Pelosi says is she wants there to be other kinds of

hearings.  Well, guess what?  Impeachment would get all of that evidence

much quicker.  What the Trump administration is doing now is stonewalling. 

They`re not responding to any subpoenas.  If there`s impeachment, they have



MATTHEWS:  Five-week recess coming up.  It will be the fall when they come

back.  They`re not going to impeach this year.  And, therefore, they`re not

going to impeach next year.  It`s not going to happen. 


ALKSNE:  I`m at the point where I don`t even care – I don`t even care if

we have to wait to the ballot box. 


Just make a decision . Either impeach him and do it and skip your stupid

recess, or don`t impeach him and deal with the country, instead of this

constantly kicking down the road oh, we`re going do this, we`re going to do

that, and we`re going to decide. 


Enough about – there is enough evidence.  We have all read the report 100

times.  The evidence is there.  Make a decision.  That`s your job. 


MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I thought those four committee chairs looked like

they`re the losing locker room.  I`m afraid, because I thought the guy did

make the points today, but didn`t do it emphatically enough.  And the…


ALKSNE:  It`s not his job to do that.  It`s just – it`s their job to

decide.  Let`s keep the focus where it belongs. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Cynthia.


ALKSNE:  Sorry.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Cynthia Alksne.  And thank you, Paul Butler.  Thank

you, Ben Rhodes.  I think all three of you agreement – are agreeing here.


Still ahead: Mueller`s stark warning about Russia`s efforts to undermine

our elections coming up.  They`re doing it as we sit here.  Perhaps the

most consequential question to arise from today`s hearing, are we doing

enough to keep foreign powers, Russia, from interfering in our 2020



Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is going to come

to us about in a minute and tell us what he thinks about the danger lying

out there 2020.


We will be right back.






REP. WILL HURD (R-TX):  Is this – in your investigation, did you think

that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our

election, or did you find evidence that suggests they will try to do this



MUELLER:  No, it wasn`t a single attempt.  They`re doing it as we sit here,

and they expect to do it during the next campaign. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


That was special counsel Robert Mueller sounding the alarm, if you will,

that Russia is still actively trying to undermine our country`s democracy. 


Page one of Mueller`s report made that clear – quote – “The Russian

government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and

systematic fashion.”


And, as we have learned, the Trump campaign welcomed the help by the

Russians.  This is something Mueller says he worries could be the new

normal for our political campaigns here. 




REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT):  My concern is, have we established a new normal

from this past campaign that is going to apply to future campaigns, so that

if any of us running for the U.S. House, any candidate for the U.S. Senate,

any candidate for the presidency of the United States, aware that a hostile

foreign power is trying to influence an election, has no duty to report

that to the FBI or other authorities? 


MUELLER:  I hope…


WELCH:  Go ahead. 


MUELLER:  I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is. 




MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined right now by Leon Panetta, former director

of the CIA and former secretary of defense. 


Mr. Secretary, Mr. Director, what did you get out of the hearings today and

what we should be worrying about as Americans? 



question that the most critical point made by Bob Mueller today – and it`s

obviously the subject of the report that they were discussing – but Bob

Mueller made very clear that the Russians deliberately and systematically

attacked our country during the 2016 election, and that they`re continuing

to attack our election systems in this country. 


This isn`t a hoax.  The president called it a hoax.  Bob Mueller made very

clear this is not a hoax.  And what is the scariest thing of all, Chris, is

the fact that this president has not acknowledged to the American people

what the Russians did to our country and, as a matter of fact, has accepted

Russian excuses for the fact that somehow they were not involved. 


That is, I think, a very dangerous combination of having the Russians

continuing to attack our election systems, but, more importantly, having a

president who still even today called it a hoax.  That`s a dangerous

combination for our national security. 


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, when you and I were growing up, the Republican

Party took pride in being the party of national defense. 


They were the most anti-communist, the most serious about protecting our

country from foreign dangers.  When you watch them today, what did you make

of their failure to have even a nationalistic sense of, damn it, we can`t

let somebody else do this to us again?


It didn`t seem like they had any kind of indignation at all about it.  In

fact, they were covering it up. 


PANETTA:  Chris, you and I were in the House of Representatives when

Democrats and Republicans not only worked together, but Republicans were

very strong on national defense and protecting our country, particularly

from Russia. 


To hear the Republicans today not strongly come out with regards to the

attack that Russia made on this country, and try to continue to excuse the

president`s activities here is – it`s discouraging, because, frankly, when

it comes to our national security, this is not a partisan issue. 


This has to be an issue that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned

about.  We`re facing an election again in 2020.  People are going to run

for office.  The American people have a right to cast their vote knowing

that it`s not going to be interfered with from an adversary. 


Today, that is not the case.  We are still looking at the Russians

continuing to interfere in our election process.


And I will tell you what`s worse.  The Russians are getting a message from

this president and this administration that it`s OK to do that.  That`s the

worst message of all. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of his claim, admission, it`s more like a

confession, that this president says, if he got some more dirt handed to

him over the transom, he would take it from overseas, again?




PANETTA:  Well, you know, again, when the president gave that response

that, if the Russians were to offer that kind of information, he would take

it, that says a great deal about what we have just been through. 


Clearly, in the case of President Trump, there was only one issue that he

cared about, which was winning.  And he was going to win regardless of who

helped him.  It`s pretty clear the Trump team was willing to accept the

help of Russia. 


The fact that they lied about it tells you an awful lot about what they

were trying to do, so that you have got an individual here who is not going

to resist the Russians coming in and messing around with our election



That is the concern that I think all Americans need to have.  This is not a

situation in which our commander in chief ought to be standing back and

allowing the Russians to interfere in our election process.  He ought to be

speaking out against it.  He ought to be making clear what we`re doing to

prevent that from happening. 


He ought to be conducting a full-scale effort to make sure that this

doesn`t become the new normal for American politics. 


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, I wish you were president.  Thank you so much for

joining us from Monterey, California, Leon Panetta. 


Still ahead: a closer look at some of the cheap shots taken by Republicans

today during the hearings.  And they were cheap. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Republicans spend much of their allotted time today firing off cheap shots

at special counsel Mueller, and avoiding, of course, the substance of his





REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  Americans need to know this as they listen to

the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do

dramatic readings from this report that volume two of this report was not

authorized under the law to be written. 


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  He knows he`s innocent.  What he is doing is

not obstructing justice.  He is pursuing justice, and the fact that you ran

it out two years means you perpetuated injustice. 


REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA):  Having desperately tried and failed to make a

legal case against the president, you made a political case instead.  You

put it in a paper sack, lit it on fire, dropped it on our porch, rang the

doorbell and ran. 


REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND):  The drafting and the publication of some of

the information in this report without an indictment, without prosecution,

frankly, flies in the face of American justice.  And I find those facts of

this entire process un-American. 


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  There is collusion in plain sight, collusion

between Russia and the Democratic Party. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, late this afternoon, President Trump took a victory lap,

seemingly missing the part where Mueller told members he did not exonerate

the president. 





today, the Republican Party, our country.  There was no defense of what

Robert Mueller was trying to defend.  There was no defense to this

ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump spent of the day echoing his Republican

congressional defenders in a series of tweets.  At the end of the hearings,

he declared: Truth is a force of nature. 


And for more, I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor, “PBS NewsHour” White

House correspondent, Betsy Woodruff, “The Daily Beast” politics reporter,

David Corn, “Mother Jones” Washington bureau. 


Betsy, thank you for coming back. 


Today, the Republicans, the cheap shots, referring to them as the Democrats

and socialists, saying they`re aiding and abetting the enemy here like

they`re traitors.  I have to tell you, they did a pretty good day when they

had nothing to sell. 



irony of this is that the member who probably did the most genuine damage

to the president is Congressman Ken Buck, who is a Republican who got

Mueller to say in this clip that it would be possible to prosecute Trump

after he leaves office.  On the whole –


MATTHEWS:  He looked like a jug head.  He acted like he didn`t know the

answer.  Aren`t you supposed to as prosecutors, Yamiche, know something

what the answer is going to be when you put it, the question? 



And obviously that was in some ways such a telling moment because it was a

Republican trying to go in, and he asked the question multiple times, and

Mueller multiple times said yes, he can definitely be indicted when he

leaves office that raises the stakes for 2020, because the president isn`t

just fighting for getting reelected, he is fighting possibly for his

freedom, because if he doesn`t get reelected and is not president, he could

be taken to jail or indicted. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, what they called it in the show once?  Were you here

for that?  Second term or prison term.  So I was anticipating your genius. 


David, what are these cheap shots?  I mean, it was like the theories.  This

Maltese professor, these weird things.  It was like it made Johnny Cochran

look like, you know, he didn`t know how to do it.  Talk about distracted,

the brilliant distraction of this guy. 



distract.  They want to confuse.  They came up with a couple of new

conspiracy theories to supplant the half a dozen old ones that they`ve

used, and it`s pretty obvious. 


Did any one – any Republican, Will Hurd a little bit, talked about the

fact that Russia attacked an election, that Trump sought to benefit from

it, that they were trying to help Trump, and Trump then lied about his

connections with Russia to the investigators and others.  I mean, these are

very fundamental facts that give you a basic scandal, and all they want to

do is zero in on this, that and the other thing to try to create an

alternative narrative that the real scandal is that there was an

investigation of a Russian attack. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m going to defend it like the director said, just putting up a

framework for Fox TV tonight, just to give them enough stuff, crap, to

throw out and confuse the thing. 


WOODRUFF:  It`s interesting because it sort of seemed like the strategy for

Republicans was to take what Democrats were saying and just say the

opposite.  And, of course, Nunes, you know, the former chairman –


MATTHEWS:  Oh, the midnight rider. 


WOODRUFF:  May embody that, by saying, for instance, that Democrats were

responsible for colluding with the Republicans when you would be hard-

pressed to find a single person in the intelligence community who thinks

that`s even remotely connected to reality. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, he is the toddy, Nunes.  You know, he`s guy that went down

to the White House, went to the old office building, got some stuff, went

home for bed, went down the next morning and said, guess what I found out? 

OK, he was joke. 


The other guy, Gohmert, what a great name he`s got, Gohmert, so, Gohmert is

the birther of all time.  He is the guy who said our previous president,

President Obama was a Kenyan, a Kenyan national.  He would just throw that

stuff out.  And now, he is taken seriously by anybody today? 


ALCINDOR:  In that exchange you could see was made for TV for Fox News

frankly and conservative media to say look at Gohmert, go after Mueller. 


I think if you back it up little, the president is calling Republicans

today incredible warriors, and he says that the Democrats want to destroy

your way of life.  So, if you listen to the vocabulary that the Republicans

are using, they`re not just making a case the Democrats are wrong on this,

they`re making the case they`re un-American, they`re unpatriotic. 


And it goes back to this idea that if you don`t like the country you should

leave it.  So I think what we have here are Republicans really underlying

what the president wants to make this case about, and it`s who can be an



MATTHEWS:  Well, moments ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of

California joined by president Trump`s Greek chorus of Republican

supporters and boosters on the committees unflinchingly backed the

president, because Kevin is really good at numbers, and he knows the party

is going to back the president.  So he is going to do it. 


Let`s take a look. 




REPORTER:  You have no concerns about how the president conducted himself

based on the Mueller report? 


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  I do not.  There was no collusion.  So how do

you get to obstruction? 




MATTHEWS:  Betsy, they just – they`re toys.  They do what they`re told. 


WOODRUFF:  It`s not hard to understand that you can commit obstruction of

justice without committing the crime that is at issue.  This is I mean,

this is kind of what you learn on your first year of law school.  This

isn`t complicated. 


For Kevin McCarthy to make a statement like that, for him to say – well,

how can there be obstruction?  There is a really easy answer to that.  At

this point, he is the top Republican in Congress.  He can`t plead ignorance

on this situation. 


This is just willfully suggesting that the law doesn`t work when we all

know it works. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s what they say after a drink on the commuter train, that

any traveling business guy commuter say, well, you know, Herb, you can`t

really be accused of obstruction if you didn`t do the initial crime.  Well,

that`s not true. 


CORN:  There is this profound lack of seriousness. 




CORN:  They don`t take the Russian attacks serious.  They don`t take

Trump`s lies serious. 




CORN:  They just get out there and say they say whatever strikes them at

the moment.  They`ve all kind of fallen into Trumpitis which is you just

keep spinning, spinning, throwing out conspiracy theories, somebody said

this, that`s not really true.  I mean, people have used the phrase

gaslighting, but that`s truly what it is. 


MATTHEWS:  We`re going get back.  Alcindor, Yamiche, I can`t go by last

name.  I`m going to tell you something, we`re going come back and ask a big

question.  When the Democratic opponent, she or he gets on that platform

next year in October, they go to go mano-a-mano, what are they going to say

based upon today? 


Now, there are all the NAACP convention, fine.  But when they look at the

tapes and figure out what they will be able to take from today and throw it

at Trump, because I believe if they can`t throw it in his face when they`re

looking at him, it`s not going to serve much purpose. 


We`ll be right back.  Our guests are sticking with us. 


Coming up, where do Democrats go from here?  Speaker Pelosi weighed in this

evening.  We`re going have that for you next. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


In a press conference tonight, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked whether what

she heard today changed her mind on impeachment.  Let`s watch. 




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  What we saw today was a very strong

manifestation, in fact some would even say indictment of this

administration`s cone of silence in their cover-up.  My position has always

been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with

our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in

the courts.  It`s about the Congress, the constitution, and the courts.


And we are fighting the president in the courts.  If we have a case for

impeachment, that`s the place we will have to go. 




MATTHEWS:  I`m back with Yamiche, Betsy and David.  We only have three

minutes left. 


I want to start with Yamiche. 


We know where the speaker stands.  She is against the full indictment

against the president.  The next Democratic candidate for president,

however will, have this all in their quiver, in their arsenal. 


What do you think they will use or should do, whether it`s a woman or man? 

We know who the usual suspects are right now, who is probably going to be

the nominee.  But how can they use what we learned today after all this



ALCINDOR:  After talking with a number of Democrats, what Democrats want to

hone in on is that Robert Mueller said the president was generally

untruthful when he submitted answers, and that campaign aides and White

House aides repeatedly lied and tried to impede the investigation, and

they`ll point to a step by step repudiation that Mueller set out that this

is not 12 angry Democrats, this is not the president being exonerated, this

is not a witch hunt.  Those clear things when Robert Mueller wanted to step

out of the four walls of the report, he did so to directly refute the

president`s own words. 


MATTHEWS:  What is the spirit you would take right into the president if

you`re the Democratic nominee? 


CORN:  I think you go more basic.  America was attacked.  You were AWOL. 

You denied the attack, and according to the Mueller report you sought to

benefit from the attack that was designed to help you, and then you lied

about it, and then you get to obstruction. 


So I would do all that before you worry about obstruction.  When America

needed you, you were not there.  You`re national security risk. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s why I love you. 


CORN:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s why I love you. 


WOODRUFF:  Perhaps – 


MATTHEWS:  What would you say?  I know you`re a straight reporter.  You

don`t have any opinion about anything. 


But I`m asking you – I know you`re not supposed to.  If you think it

through, after all this investigation, all the witnesses, all the

indictments, all the convictions, all on the watch of this president, what

do you say about him when he comes up for reelection and says I deserve

another four years? 


WOODRUFF:  The newsiest moment that perhaps Democrats won`t talk about

this, but people in the national security space will is the fact that

Mueller said the Russians are currently working to meddle in the 2020

election.  And that`s something that should be front of mind for anyone

running for president in 2020, because it`s easy for campaigns to get stuck

in the past.  There is this maxim that candidates are constantly running

the last race. 


But right now, candidates know what the Russians` playbook was in 2016. 

And according to Mueller himself, they`re looking for creative ways to



MATTHEWS:  I`m afraid, the hot hand.  If we don`t have paper ballots and we

have electronic counting of whatever kind, right, what happens if we lose a

state next time?  We don`t have good candidates in some states and it`s

that close? 


WOODRUFF:  What I can tell you is when intelligence community officials

briefed Capitol Hill within the last two weeks about elections security,

they didn`t stress concerns about ballot integrity, but rather what they

said they were most worried about according to sources who were on hand for

this classified briefing was threats from Russia, North Korea, and, of

course, Iran.  That`s what people in the national security space. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m afraid they can skip one count and that`s enough in 270

electoral vote, the situation. 


Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor.  Thank you, Betsy Woodruff.  And thank

you, David Corn. 


Up next, the two major takeaways from Mueller`s testimony today and where

this scandal is headed.  My conclusion.  Stick around. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Long after today becomes a past date in the calendar, and long

after the weekly news is digested, two facts will hold their place in



One is that despite his repeated claims, President Trump was not cleared of

crime by the two-year Mueller investigation, and because he was not cleared

by the special counsel, this president remains vulnerable to criminal

indictment once he leaves office.  Trump could well be headed to a

reckoning in the same criminal courts and therefore to the same justice

available to any American. 


Two, it was confirmed under oath today by the special counsel that far from

being a witch hunt, the investigation determined that the Russians did

intervene in the 2016 election, that it was for the purpose of electing

Donald Trump president of the United States, and it was welcomed,

encouraged, used and covered up by Trump and his people. 


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


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now. 






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