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Cohen has new evidence against the President. TRANSCRIPT: 3/6/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Donny Deutsche, Jackie Speier, Ted Lieu, Leon Panetta, BarbaraBoxer

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Congresswoman Jackie Speier from (INAUDIBLE), David Corn who has been in the dossier and all over the story and a strategist who worked against Manafort in 2016 when he was doing some of the stuff. 

That`s our show.  HARDBALL with Chris Matthews starts now. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Cohen doubles down.  Let`s play HARDBALL. 

Good Evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles. 

The big news today is that Michael Cohen has new evidence against the President.  In a follow-up to his explosive testimony last week, Cohen today appeared before the House intelligence committee in an all-day back room hearing.  Here is Cohen. 


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY:  Hearings went very, very well.  I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them.  I told them that any additional information that they want they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel, and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest except of my capabilities. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, today`s hearing was behind closed doors, multiple reports indicated that Cohen showed up today with new evidence to back his allegation that the President`s own lawyers edited his false statements to Congress in 2017.  Cohen pleaded guilty to making that false statement to cover up the timing of the President`s efforts to build Trump tower in Moscow.  Here`s Cohen last week saying Trump`s lawyers changed that key part of his false testimony. 


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Which specific lawyers we viewed and edited your statement to Congress on the Moscow tower negotiations, and did they make any changes to your statement? 

COHEN:  There were changes made, additions.  Jay Sekulow for one. 

RASKIN:  Were there changes about the timing? 

COHEN:  There were several changes including how were they going to handle that message, and the message, of course, being the length of time the Trump tower Moscow project stayed alive. 


MATTHEWS:  Trump attorney Jay Sekulow has denied the press`s legal team made those edits.  However, NBC News is now reporting Cohen today backed up his allegation with new documents that show edits to the false written statements he made to Congress.  Not only that but "The New York Times" has now acquired eight of the 11 checks the President used to reimburse Cohen for his illegal hush payments to Stormy Daniels.  There they are.  In other words, Cohen left a paper trail that could be a treasure trove for investigators. 

This comes as a new Quinnipiac poll shows that 64 percent of Americans, almost two-thirds, said they believe the President committed crimes before he became President.  The same poll shows that Americans view Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying, as being more honest than President Trump. 

Catch these numbers, 50 percent of Americans say they believe Cohen more than his former boss, while 35 percent said they believe the President over Cohen.  That`s a bad number for the President. 

I`m joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California who was in that House intelligence committee hearing today, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times."  Thank you.  Donny Deutsche, chairman emeritus, Deutsch Inc.

Thank you all for different perspectives. 

Congresswoman, are you with the public on this that believes more of Cohen than they do of Trump. 

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Without a doubt.  Without a doubt. 

MATTHEWS:  What about today?  We are getting a report today that he doubled down on his charges at the President`s lawyers cut out, perhaps in this case, put him there to do that and helped him lie to Congress.  Your thoughts? 

SPEIER:  I would say that the documentation that he provided us today will help us come to the conclusions that we will need to make about whether or not there was an effort to manipulate the dates and the information.  So I think it`s important to point out it was Michael Cohen who said both that the oversight committee hearing and to this committee that he would make available the documents to support his positions. 

MATTHEWS:  What this tells the American people are two things today you may have been able to get confirmed, probably did today in the backdoor hearings, number one is the President while he was running for President, was basically all the time playing big-shot businessman with Moscow, trying to build an empire building over there, a bill land mark building in Moscow across the red square at the same time he`s telling the American people he will be their true representative dealing with a difficult country, Russia. 

We are also finding out that while he is President of the United States, meeting on the phone with Putin and others, being President, he is also signing checks on a regular basis to pay off for Stormy Daniels.  All of this is going on, this multitasking, what does it tell you? 

SPEIER:  Well, it tells me this is nothing new for Donald Trump.  It starts very young in his life in which he was always trying to beat the system.  And I think what we are going to find out over the next few months is that he has played every card to either suborn perjury and create a conspiracy to do so. 

I think what is going to haut son many people that are associated with Donald Trump is what Michael Cohen said in the opening testimony, that if you don`t watch out, you are going to be in the same position that I am, going to prison. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we have a basically dishonest man in the White House? 

SPEIER:  Without a doubt. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Donny Deutsche on this thing about the way in which the President`s lawyers, there were cutouts, two people who had distance from the President for purposes of this editing Michael Cohen`s testimony to Congress with regard to the timing, especially, for this work for the Trump tower in Moscow.  What do you make of his backing that up again today with documents? 

DONNY DEUTSCHE, CHAIRMAN EMERITUS, DEUTSCH INC.:  First of all, I want to answer your question to the congresswoman, you have a spectacularly criminal man in the White House.  Anybody who has been in New York city 20 years -- worked in New York city like I have, known Donald Trump for 20 years, he`s as dishonest and slimiest as they come and this is just the beginning. 

As far as Michael, when people doubt Michael, anything he said, you have to go into his mindset going into this.  Michael had everything to lose and nothing to gain.  If he tells the truth, he gets a gold star but he is still going to prison for 30 months.  If he lies - now, keep in mind there`s 70 hours with Mueller, dozens and dozens of hours with the southern district, hours with Congress and the Senate, the last thing he`s going to come in and lie again, because he will get more prison time.  When he says something in front of the American people, something as potent as basically they edited my statement, here is my statement, he is not lying.  He use common sense.  That mad is telling the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  So basically the President is subverting perjury here? 

DEUTSCHE:  This will be, I believe, the smallest of his crimes, Chris.  I have said this for a long time.  It`s not about Mueller, it`s the Trump organization, an enterprise that will be RICO, the Racketeer Influencing Corruption Act, about organizations like this that are crime organizations, any way a person can lie and cheat and steal for his entire life, Donald Trump has.  This is just going to be a pimple. 

MATTHEWS:  Hold that.  The RICO statute was used against organized crime.  It was written by the Congress so they could catch guys like Capone character, modern character in the sipped kit, who basically sends signals through indirection, who talks like Trump does, he says here`s what isn`t the truth, as I hear it.  So you give it the way I`m just giving it to you.  It isn`t like do this, it`s this is the word we`ve got to put out.  So it`s all by indirection.  All of this crime gets done by a lot of different people without the person`s fingerprints being on them.  He doesn`t have his fingerprints on the gun.  That`s what RICO is about, and you say it applies here? 

DEUTSCHE:  Basically, and Rudy Giuliani ironically was one of the first to use it.  It`s set up when you have multiple, multiple crimes.  In the case of Trump I believe there will be bank fraud, money laundering, campaign finance, the Trump university, the foundation, the inauguration, tons and tons and tons and basic businesses practice of them all.  So you put them all together and as you said the center guy, the mob boss, is isolated.  This takes that off the table and he is responsible for all of the crimes. 

The other piece to you can also take back assets.  They can take his buildings away.  I think it will always end in the southern district.  They don`t just want to take this guy out, they want to take him down.  He tried to undo what his forefathers did and starts to really, really send a signal about who we are as a country. 

MATTHEWS:  Tough stuff. 

Anyway, Peter, I want to talk to you.  Peter Baker, the expert of "The New York Times" reports your article today that the President`s reimbursement payments to Michael Cohen are dated the same days he was attending to public Presidential business.  And one of the checks Trump signed was dated May 23rd, 2017, the same day he was overseas with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.  There he is.  That day he was signing checks to cover up for Stormy. 

Another check for Stormy is dated September 12th of that year, the day Trump was hosting the prime minister of Malaysia at the White House.  Another is dated the same day that the President held a ceremony of Turkey, remember that thanksgiving thing they do, and spoke by phone to Vladimir Putin. 

Furthermore, one of the reimbursement checks issued by Trump trust which is signed by the president - well, not signed by the president, was issued February 14th, the same day Trump asked James Comey to drop his investigation of Michael Flynn.

  This intertwining of this person`s behavior, potentially criminal, in the small stuff affairs, sexual escapades, whatever you want to call them, at the same time he`s dealing with the big stuff we`re wondering about, what the hell is he doing with Putin and why?  And how does this relate to Trump tower?  It`s all connected and you show it`s connected in time as well. 

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, it`s very interesting, you see these parallel lives he is leading while sitting President of the United States is not just that there was money paid to Stormy Daniels during the campaign, it`s he was still paying it off for the first year of his presidency.  Once a month, he would sign a check for $35,000 to Michael Cohen to reimburse him for this money.  And it did seem to coincide with just events on his calendar that show you the dichotomy between a President acting as head of state and a businessman who is signing checks to a lawyer because he is trying to fix some event that happened before and didn`t want it to come out before the election.  And these two parallel story lines take you through this first year and kind of open a window into his, you know, the complicated life that he has been leading. 

MATTHEWS:  To put it lightly. 

Anyway, ABC News is now reporting tonight that following the raid on his properties last April, Michael Cohen quote "was contacted by two New York attorneys who claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani." 

That`s according to people familiar with the discussion, say the lawyers quote" urged Cohen not to leave the joint defense agreement that he had with the President while the President`s apart was not explicitly offered, according to sources, there was an implicit message if Cohen hired these lawyers it could preserve or increase his chance of a pardon down the road. 

Congresswoman, this whole question of a pardon being flashed in front of the face of these guys, really serious trouble facing long-term imprisonment and the President`s power to say here, body, play on my team, stick with me and you are not going inside. 

What do you think about that in terms of impeachable offenses, congresswoman? 

SPEIER:  I think dangling a pardon, I think obstructing justice, I think suborning perjury, are all conduct that are high crimes and misdemeanors in my view, and would be the subject of an impeachment. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you react -- what for or against that exculpatory or probative, whatever, from Cohen today can you tell us supports or doesn`t support that idea that he was teased with a pardon? 

SPEIER:  I can just tell you that we are going to have the transcripts out in a very few weeks, and it will be both revealing and explosive on yet another level. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you one thing tonight, we are about to end this segment, but I want to go to Peter Baker for the news part of this thing. 

This Roger Stone thing, he was gagged by the judge.  I don`t quite understand the first amendment rights of judges to do this but he was told to gag, told stop talking and he has a book coming out, revised version of his book, basically who framed roger stone the point of it is.  What do you make of that?  Is he going inside now to wait trial? 

BAKER:  You are asking a good question.  He is certainly poking the bear.  I mean, the lawyers told the judge they didn`t think about the book when she told them, you know, he had to keep quiet.  The book had already been basically in process and was coming out and portions had come out in January.  So it somehow escaped their thinking. 

I don`t know how the judge will buy that.  She seemed pretty upset at Roger Stone at the last hearing she held but she kind of restrained herself and didn`t revoke his bail, simply made clear that he as we not to do this anymore.  Whether she will decide this is enough is not clear but Stone definitely seemed to be pushing her buttons a little bit and that`s a dangerous thing for anybody to do in a federal court. 

MATTHEWS:  How much of the reporting -- we get (INAUDIBLE) here, awaiting the result or report by Robert Mueller, how much of it depends on the papers and materials gathered from Stone down in Florida?  How much is relying on going through that, the prosecutors -- Peter? 

BAKER:  Well, they found an awful lot of stuff down there, you know.  An enormous amount of material.  In fact, the question is how fast that can be processed and how material it is to their investigation.  We hear all of this talk in Washington that the Mueller`s, you know, office is getting ready to send a report of some sort to the attorney general Bill Barr.  We don`t know whether if he is holding back because he has to go through that or whether they feel like they have gotten ahold of what that material tells them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get back to, Donny.  You know Trump over the years, you are not his buddy or anything, but you know him.  What is his end game?  What is his (INAUDIBLE)?  How does he end up in the bunker?  What will he do, run from reelection to protect him from the statute of limitations, hold on to the pardon power, just try to get reelected at all cost to keep himself out of prison?  What`s his end game? 

DEUTSCHE:  Take it one step further.  And Michael Cohen in his final testimony, and I thought this and said this before, Donald Trump, we will not have a peaceful transition.  Donald Trump, I believe whether he is going to be impeached, whether they are disqualifying him for running for office, even if he gets elected out, he will tell his people to take to the streets.  I know that sounds extreme.  That`s who this man is.  There`s 30 percent of this country he believes he owns and he actually does own them.  The normal things we see, the peaceful transition, I believe Donald Trump is not beyond starting a civil war. 

Chris, I have known this man for 20 years.  And if you watch every one of his plays, he tees off what he is going to do.  I think we are headed for a very ugly time in American history.  I`m sad to say that. 

MATTHEWS:  You know I`m sorry.  Thank you very much, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, as always, thank you very much. 

And Peter Baker, the expert, the front page, the big foot of "The New York Times." 

And Donny Deutsche, who knows this stuff -- and who knows Trump. 

Coming up, President Trump`s past is quickly catching up with him, don`t you think, as the number of investigations pile up and up.  And "The New York Times" reports the Trump associates says he wants a second term partly, as I suggested, because it would shield him from indictment another four years.  Statute of limitations, no indicts to pardon power, all of these goodies he keeps in his bag. 

Plus former CIA director Leon Panetta comes to play HARDBALL.  The danger of Trump`s actions on security clearance is did he just get taken to the cleaners by Kim Jong-un?  Don`t you think so? 

Plus the hypocrisy of Donald Trump. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  All he has to do to get $5 million for a charity or charities of his choice is get his colleges to immediately give his applications and records. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s Donald Trump back in 2012 demanding Barack Obama`s college transcripts.  However, irony here, a new report on efforts to conceal Trump`s transcripts all the way back to high school.  We have a lot to get to tonight.  Stick around. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump is now facing legal scrutiny unlike it, let`s face it, anything seen by previous Presidents.  Prosecutors, investigators and congressional committees are probing President Trump`s 2016 campaign, his administration itself, family business, past financial practices and certainly after the midterm elections the President warned of a war-like posture by him if the house Democrats start to investigate him. 

True to form, the president and his allies are now refusing to cooperate.  Just yesterday, in a letter to the House Oversight Committee, the White House counsel dismissed the committee`s request for security clearance documentation. 

Meanwhile, CNN reports that the president intervened to help his daughter Ivanka get her security clearance, despite objections from the chief of staff, John Kelly, and the White House lawyer Don McGahn.  They didn`t think she qualified for this kind of top-secret clearance. 

And last week, "The New York Times" did the same thing to her husband, overruling objections to grant his son-in-law, Jared Kushner -- why are these two people such a problem for the FBI that they can`t get cleared? 

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, Democrat from California and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, also Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor. 

Congressman, thank you so much. 

And thank you, Cynthia. 

It seems to me that this whole investigation of the president by everybody, Mueller, of course, the House Democrats who are now in charge, New York -- New York district down there, the New York Justice Department up there in New York, in the Southern District, they`re all coming at them.

They`re coming at his kid, his son-in-law.  They`re coming at his past business practices. 

Congressman, you got to know this is political war, because Trump said, you`re not -- you got a red line against going after my past business.  And you`re not going after my family. 

You`re going to war.  And he`s saying, we`re not going to give you enough.  And we`re going to stonewall.

Your thoughts?

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

The first thing I want the American people to ask is, why is the Trump administration hiding information from the American people?  And the reason there are all these investigations and the fact the House Judiciary Committee has cast a wide net is because, for the last two years, it looks like there`s been a wide array of misconduct and what appears to be potential criminal behavior by Donald Trump, his family and his associates. 

And we need to conduct our oversight duties and investigate all of those incidents. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you accept the red line he put up, no focus on my family, no focus on my past business?  Because almost two-thirds the American people, according to a new Quinnipiac poll today, believe he was a crook before he came to the White House.

LIEU:  Chris, the law does not have a red line. 

If Donald Trump or his family members committed crimes, the House Judiciary Committee wants to know about it.  And if he committed crimes that are high crimes and misdemeanors, then we will have a conversation with the American people as to how to proceed. 

There are no red lines.  Want to leave no stone unturned.  We`re going to connect the dots, if they are to be connected. 

MATTHEWS:  Where`s this going to end up, Cynthia?  You have seen this case.  We have been talking about it for years with you. 

If Trump just says, no mas, no more stuff, I`m not giving you any -- Nixon tried that.  The court overruled him with the tapes.


MATTHEWS:  They said, you`re going to turn over the tapes, whether you like it or not.  Trump is acting like none of that ever happened, like he can somehow win this fight on evidence. 

ALKSNE:  Well, to the extent that he`s already given whatever evidence he gave to Mueller, the executive privilege, all of his complaints, those are all waived.  He`s going to have to give all that to the House. 

The question is, those things that he hasn`t already given to Mueller, who`s going to force him to give those, for example, the security clearances?  And I would predict that the courts require them to do that. 

Now, he`s got a different -- he`s got a different argument about security clearances, because whenever you`re starting to deal in international affairs, there`s a lot of deference to the president. 

But because it`s a security clearance, and because there`s these allegations out there of serious misconduct with Kushner and Khashoggi and WhatsApp messages, in the end, I think a court is going to require them to turn over all that information. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to the congressman on this. 

It seems to me that that is the problem here, because the hard rock  and -- what`s that is called, a rock and an unstoppable force meeting each other.  I get the feeling that Robert Mueller and you guys are the unstoppable force.

But I want to bring an NBC News reporter Carol Lee right now.  She`s at Duke University, where former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly just finished speaking.

Carol, what did we get from him?  Did he rat out the president, or not? 


CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  No, we weren`t that lucky, Chris. 

He was asked about the security clearances and whether he intervened, and he really didn`t want to talk about it.  That was very clear.  He said that he couldn`t comment on it, for two reasons, one, because it`s security clearances, and, two, because it was his belief that whatever conversations he may or may not have had with the president about this fell under presidential privilege.

And then he said something to the effect of, the press doesn`t always get it right, and sometimes they get some things wrong in a story, if not the whole story, and then repeated that he wasn`t going to talk about it.

So it wasn`t something that he wanted to get into at all.

MATTHEWS:  Anything else about his kids and why he had -- incest -- well, there`s an incestuous term there.

Anyway, why does he have to have this Romanov thing going on at the White House?  Why does he need Jared Kushner as his Middle East adviser?  What does he need his daughter, as smart as she might be, to advise him on everything? 

What -- and he had to get clearances for them, when the FBI says they`re not worthy of clearances.  What`s his -- what`s Kelly sense that?  Did he give that away?  What`s Trump`s obsession with nepotism? 

LEE:  No, he didn`t.  He didn`t really go there.  He was really diplomatic, frankly, in the way that he answered a lot of questions. 

He was critical of some policies that the president had, like separation of children on the border.  He blamed that on the attorney general.  He didn`t like deployment of troops to the border, things like that. 

He did say at one point that this -- being chief of staff was the worst job he had ever had, but also the most important job he had had.  And he dropped a lot of hints about the kinds of difficulties that he had serving this president and being in the White House. 

He talked about the early days with the travel ban and said there was a very inexperienced group of White House officials there who didn`t follow the process.  He went through sort of how he tried to put some controls around the White House.  He denied that he felt like he was the adult in the room, which our reporting shows he certainly did feel that way while serving as chief of staff.

But he was generally kind of very -- at times, he invoked humor to answer some of the questions about what -- how difficult it must be to work for President Trump.  For instance, he said that his advice to his successor was to run for it.


According to CNN -- thank you, Carol Lee down at Duke. 

LEE:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  According to CNN, President Trump pushed Chief of Staff John Kelly, as I said, and White House lawyer Don McGahn to make the decision on his daughter-in-law -- his daughter and his son-in-law`s security clearances, so it did not appear that he was tainting the process to favor his family.

And after both men refused, President Trump pushed Jared and Ivanka`s clearances right through, regardless of what the FBI or his people said. 

Just last week, "The New York Times" reported that the president ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law a top security -- security clearance, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House`s top lawyer.  Well, we said that.

The decision was so troubling to Kelly and McGahn that they wrote memos documenting their objections.  Trump and his daughter Ivanka both denied that the president influenced the process, however.

Let`s take a look at that. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That will be up to General Kelly.  General Kelly respects Jared a lot.  And General Kelly will make that call. 

I won`t make that call.  I will let the general, who`s right here, make that call. 

IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP:  There were anonymous leaks about there being issues, but the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband`s clearance. 


MATTHEWS:  Congressman, this is really troubling, because the president has seen the White House as his personal property, as an acquisition of Trump, Inc.  And he brings his family with him, and he ignores the normal procedures about who gets the top security information here.

And now they`re all apparently not telling the truth about it.  Where`s Congress come in on this?

LIEU:  So, Chris, this is not just an issue of nepotism.  It`s not like Donald Trump getting Jared Kushner some government car to use.

This is a security clearance.  And the problem is that the CIA, the FBI, John Kelly and former White House counsel all didn`t want to give Jared Kushner a security clearance because he`s a security risk.  And he`s a security risk because of all his compromising financial positions, all his foreign contacts.

He had to submit at least three security clearance forms.  I filled out these forms in the past.  I had a security clearance before entering Congress.  Anybody who had to submit three security clearance forms just simply would not have gotten a security clearance.  And they may likely have gone to prison for making misleading statements. 

And that`s why Congressman Don Beyer and I have referred Jared Kushner to the Department of Justice to investigate him for potential prosecution. 


Well, thank you for that.  Thank you for that information.  Jared Kushner is facing investigation for why he didn`t get clearance.  I want to know why the president wanted him, despite the fact he didn`t get clearance.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California, Cynthia Alksne, as always, and Carol Lee down at Duke, where Coach K keeps winning.

Up next:  Former CIA Director Leon Panetta joins me live to talk about the Trump family`s security clearances, the multiple investigations into this president, and the new missile attack -- activity out at North Korea, which is scary and humiliating to our president and to our country. 

You don`t want to miss it. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Reports that President Trump intervened in the security clearances for his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared, have provided new leads for congressional committees to look into.

Last week, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings threatened to subpoena the White House for documents related to that clearance protocol. In a letter to Cummings, White House counsel Pat Cipollone called the requests overly intrusive, adding: "We will not concede the executive`s constitutional prerogatives."

Well, in a statement back, Cummings responded: "There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people."

I`m joined right now by Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA, Defense Department secretary, former congressman, and former chief of staff to President Clinton. 

Thank you so much, Mr. Panetta.

What do you make of this, watching this whole -- because you have been through procedural arguments about clearances and who gets an I.D. to walk around in the White House and who gets the top security information.  What does it tell you when the FBI says no to two applicants? 

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Well, it is about national security. 

That`s the reason we provide security clearances, is to make sure that, when it comes to highly classified information, that you are not allowing someone who could be a risk to be able to receive that information.

And, look, this kind of information is put together by CIA officers and sources that are putting their lives on the line in order to bring this information to the attention of the president and those around him.

To allow somebody who is a risk, a security risk, to -- access to that kind of information is to not only compromise that information.  It is really putting our national security at risk itself.  That, no president ought to be allowed to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what`s your suspicion here?  Is it that Jared is too close to that yahoo`s government, too close to Khashoggi?  I mean, that sounds ironic that both of them would be too close to him.

Is it feared that he would -- he would give away the stuff, give away the information to people that we`re negotiating with?  Is that a fear? 

PANETTA:  Well, look, there is a security clearance process.  And it involves the personnel security office in the White House, which investigates and does a background check on anyone who`s supposed to get a security clearance.

Obviously, they registered concerns.  What those concerns are, I don`t know.  I assume it`s related to his contacts, not only with the Russians, but with other foreign dignitaries as well. 

So, because of that concern that that information could be jeopardized, the recommendation of the FBI and the security office was not to give him a clearance.  John Kelly and counsel McGahn, obviously who were thrown the ball by the president, in the hope that they would bypass the FBI, did not do that, and instead wrote memos to the record about why they were not going to allow that to proceed. 

And the president went around them and allowed that security clearance to happen.  That should not happen.  I think the Congress, if it`s going to look at anything, has to look at how, do you make sure that, when there is a security risk, that the FBI and the security people make that call, not the president or anybody else?

MATTHEWS:  What would it mean to you?  I mean, I`m not asking if you had to ever do it.  But the fact that that you have been chief of staff to a president.  You have to keep things going.

If you would have to write a memo to yourself for the record that you did something you really didn`t want to do, is that what they`re really saying?  They were saying, I did something I didn`t want to do?

PANETTA:  Well, I think it`s for -- it`s for the historical case, I`m sure...


PANETTA:  ... that both of them wanted to make sure that, when history comes back, if they found that information was jeopardized because of allowing the security clearance, that they would not bear the brunt of blame for having granted it.

So I think that was the reason they did it.  I have never had to do that, thank God.  But, clearly, I think what was behind this was to try to protect their own reputation with regards to the security clearance. 

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of security, here`s a big question. 

Meanwhile, President Trump responded to new evidence today -- he did -- that North Korea is rebuilding a key missile site, possibly in preparation for another test. 

NBC News reports tonight that satellite images of the site -- there they are -- taken just two days after Trump`s failed nuclear summit with Kim Jong-un show the regime is quickly building, working to rebuild a site used to launch long-range missiles, aimed at guess who?

North Korea began dismantling that site after President Trump`s first meeting with Kim in Singapore last June.  However, here`s the president today trying to explain it. 


D. TRUMP:  Well, we`re going to see.  It`s too early to see.  But we have to solve a problem.  We have a very nasty problem there.  We have to solve a problem. 

I would be very disappointed if that were happening.  It`s a very early report.  We`re the ones that put it out.  But I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim.  And I don`t think I will be, but we will see what happens.  We will take a look.  It will ultimately get solved.


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Panetta, by the way, you missed this on the picture.  There`s the president saying that appeasing line of his with a bronze of Winston Churchill behind him on the shelf.

And here he is justifying Kim Jong-un`s behavior with Winston Churchill behind him.  He doesn`t seem to get the disconnect, if you call it that.

Your thoughts?  Why is he covering for Kim?

PANETTA:  You know, this whole thing was haywire from the beginning.

To think that somehow he and Kim could sit down and pull off an agreement that would denuclearize North Korea was, I think, a basic mistake and a critical mistake by the president of the United States.

And it`s proven to be a mistake, because this whole summitry between the two of them has basically flopped.  It`s a disaster.  And the North Koreans now have gone ahead and started to improve their missile site, with a clear message that they may very well go ahead and test another ICBM. 

And the president of the United States is now stuck, because he`s given Kim a world stage.  He`s given him a tremendous amount of credibility as a world leader, by virtue of these meetings.  He`s lost leverage in that relationship. 

And so the president, one way or another, has to regain some leverage here.  I don`t know how he`s going to do it.  But he can`t just do it by being nice to Kim. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, flirtation doesn`t seem to be working. 

Hey, it`s great to have you on, Secretary Leon Panetta.  Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

PANETTA:  Good to be with you.  Good to be with you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Remember when Donald Trump was demanding to see President Obama`s college grades? 

Well, guess what?  In a new report, Trump`s allies apparently went to great lengths to prevent Trump`s own academic records from being exposed from his military academy days.  Apparently, he had something to hide, and still does. 

Stick around for a few minutes to find out what Trump`s hiding in his scores. 

That story is coming up next.



MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY:  When I say con man, I`m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges and the college board to never release his grades or SAT scores. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Michael Cohen last week testifying that in 2015 the president directed him to threaten Trump`s schools to never release his grades.  And now, "The Washington Post" reports that Trump`s efforts to hide his grades went beyond what Cohen described. 

According to "The Post", in 2011, the headmaster at New York military academy got an order from his boss, find Trump`s academic records and he`ll bury them.  The pressure to prevent the disclosure of the records was coming from wealthy alumni of his school who were Trump`s friends. 

As "The Post" reports, this effort to conceal Trump`s grades happened days after Donald Trump challenged President Barack Obama to show his records to prove he had been a terrible student. 

Just like with his false birther attack, Trump had zero evidence attacking or backing his attacks on Obama`s academic record. 

Let`s watch. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He was a terrible student, terrible.  He went to Occidental.  I heard he was a terrible student.  Not like OK, I heard he`s a bad student. 

How does a bad student then go to Columbia and then go to Harvard?  How does this happen?  Let him show his records.  We don`t know anything about this guy. 

The people that went to school with him, they never saw him.  They don`t know who he is.  Crazy. 

If Barack Obama opens up and gives his college records and applications and if he gives his passport applications and records, I will give to a charity of his choice a check immediately for $5 million. 


MATTHEWS:  So what is it, Mr. President, former candidate?  Is it Barack Obama benefited from affirmative action or he didn`t even go to any of these schools?  Was he a phantom? 

Trump tried both cards during the campaign and it worked with the bad people in this country.  The president`s effort to hide his own grades is a contest of all of that boasting, by the way, about his IQ over the years. 

That`s coming up next on HARDBALL.



TRUMP:  So here I am, great schools, great brain, great success. 

I went to an Ivy League school.  I`m very highly educated. 

And I was a good student.  I always hear about the elite, you know, the elite, they`re elite?  I went to better schools than they did.  I was a better student than they were. 

I was the first in my class at the Wharton School of Finance. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it turns out none of that is true. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump touting his academic success, claiming he was first in his class at Wharton, he wasn`t.  Because in 1968, the year Trump graduated from Wharton, his school paper "The Daily Pennsylvanian" published the list of 56 students who were on the Wharton dean`s list that year.  Trump`s name is not among them. 

In contrast according to "The Harvard Crimson" Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. 

I`m joined now by the former Democratic senator from California, Barbara Boxer, and former RNC chair, Michael Steele. 

Hypocrisy is probably a word we`ve overused with this guy, but Trump -- Barack Obama was a phantom, or he`s an affirmative action beneficiary or something, he wasn`t who he claimed to be.  And it turns out Trump may want well be anywhere near the claim he made, which he was Mr. Student. 

FORMER SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Chris, he`s like the "Wizard of Oz".  He`s hiding behind a curtain.  Remember when that movie happened and they opened the curtain, it`s this little guy, a little person like me. 

MATTHEWS:  And what did he say?  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. 

BOXER:  That`s a good one.  But here`s the bottom line, he`s hiding behind that curtain with his lies.  His grades, he`s afraid people will find out what they are.  The phony bone spur thing, he`s afraid people will find out what that is.  His tax returns, he may not be as rich as people think. 

So, it`s a really sickness.  And by lashing out at Obama, it just shows that he can`t get over his jealousy over President Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, your theory, I love your theory, your back story on this.  Why was he obsessed -- why was he obsessed with diminishing the first African-American -- let`s face it -- to be president of the United States.  That`s a fact.  That isn`t identity politics or anything. 

Everybody in America should have been proud of that fact.  And he wasn`t. 


MATTHEWS:  He was furious about it. 

STEELE:  Well, I think some of it is generational.  You think, you know, at that -- at the age of the president, the time period in which he grew up, certainly in the 1950s, and the attitude that a lot of whites of that generation had about black success.  It was not -- it was not achieved.  It was given to them.  It was not earned.  It was somehow appropriated to them. 

And there grew over time a certain resentment around that, because there`s always this sense that, well, the only reason you`re there is because someone else got you there.  And I think that played itself out. 

That`s why when you look at the success of Obama -- I mean, the dude is a smart guy.  I mean, he`s magna cum laude, he went to some great schools and he showed that.  He would often boast that himself.  And this would just twerk these guys like Trump in a way, Chris, that they fight back against it. 

The irony of it is that, you know, show your grades, and if they`re not that great, so what?  You can now tell the story and create the narrative of how, yes, I had a tough time in school, but look what I`ve been able to do.  I built an empire financially, I`m successful in business, and I`m now president of the United States with a C-plus average, right? 

So, there is -- but Trump can`t see it that way.  It`s the competitive nature, but I think there`s also just that tinge of looking at a very successful black man and going, hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  What did he mean, Barbara, Senator, what did he mean -- we`re relatives, actually.  Distant, but we are.  What does it mean to say, nobody knew him in school?  That wasn`t knocking him -- that was saying he was a phantom of some kind.  That he wasn`t really in these schools. 

BOXER:  He has a -- I don`t want to say hatred, he has this complex about Barack Obama. 

And, you know, I hear what Michael seas saying about other people saying, oh, well, certain African-Americans got away with it, got a deal.  You`re talking about Trump who was not only born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Michael, but an entire -- you know, set of dishes and the refrigerator thrown in.  This is a guy who had $7 million before he can say "hello, daddy."

MATTHEWS:  I know.  And, by the way, for all of those who quibble about Barack Obama`s academic success, he was named editor of the Harvard Law Review in a blind test.  Nobody knew he was African-American.  That`s not how it works. 

He won on merit and academic ability.  That`s why he got these academic honors. 

Anyway, during the 2016 presidential campaign while "The Washington Post" was working on a story about the time Trump spent in the New York Academy, he told "The Post," I`m not letting you look at anything.  Why would I let you look at my records, you`re doing a lousy story. 

So, I think he knew the problem, Michael. 

STEELE:  Yes.  I mean, exactly.  The grades probably aren`t the greatest and the best ever in the world of grading.  So what? 

But that`s the nature of the man.  He is constantly in competitive mode.  Everything is transactional.  Everything has to redound to his benefit and ultimately make him look good. 

And so, he can`t show a "B" when he`s been castigating someone like Barack Obama, whom everyone knows to be smart, and you know, in a way that would make that somehow problematic for him.  So, he`s got to be competitive with him and put him down in the process. 

MATTHEWS:  He`s probably mad at you for using the word redound.  These words are driving him crazy. 

STEELE:  Yes, I know.

MATTHEWS:  Senator?  Senator? 

BOXER:  You know, it`s not about competitive.  I think, you know, he can compete with Barack Obama in any level whatsoever.  I worked with Barack Obama.  I served with him. 

Brilliant doesn`t begin to describe him.  And you know what`s so great about him?  He`s just -- he`s an old soul.  He gets history.  He understands it. 

But to me, it`s about Trump`s narcissism.  He wants people to think he`s the smartest guy in the room.  You have clips of that.  He tells us, people, I was the greatest, you know?  So, he can`t stand the truth, because the truth will bring him down. 

MATTHEWS:  I was the greatest that was said by another American, Mohammad Ali, and he really did knock the guy out in the round he named. 

Anyway, thank you, Boxer --

BOXER:  This is a different situation. 

MATTHEWS:  I know -- former Senator Barbara Boxer, Michael Steele, thank you both. 

Up next, will the real Michael Cohen please stand up?  There he is.  The real one. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Michael Cohen was back before Congress today in the similarity to the great Ben Stiller who place him on "SNL" is striking. 


COHEN:  I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility.  It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable. 

BEN STILLER AS MICHAEL COHEN:  This is a check Mr. Trump wrote me as reimbursement for hush money I paid to Stormy Daniels.  And this is a copy of the check I wrote to Ms. Daniels.  I`m also including a copy of the threatening letter I sent to Mr. Trump`s high school, warning them not to release his SAT scores. 

COHEN:  I have lied, but I am not a liar.  And I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. 

STILLER:  In conclusion, I know that I was wrong.  And I know it because I got caught. 


MATTHEWS:  "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.