ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: The story not over. But by the standard of what he was looking for and his team was looking for, quite a lenient sentence for Paul Manafort coming out of Virginia tonight.
Thanks to my entire panel for our special coverage. This has been THE BEAT with Ari Melber. Don`t go anywhere. MSNBC breaking coverage continues right now with "HARDBALL.`
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Four years. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
We have breaking news tonight. Just moments ago a federal judge in Virginia sentenced Paul Manafort to four years, 47 months all together. That sentence that was just handed down was just moments in the eastern district of Virginia just across the river from here where Manafort was convicted of eight felony counts last summer.
Speaking in his own defence during this hearing today, Manafort addressed the court quote "to say I have been humiliated and shamed would be a gross understatement. I ask for your compassion," well, he got it.
But it could be worst for him next week for his campaign manager - for Trump`s campaign manager for 2016 because another judge is coming next week. Today`s sentencing is just one of two cases against Manafort. He will be instanced on two additional charges of conspiracy here in Washington D.C. next Wednesday. That means that Manafort still face a possible consecutive sentences up to ten more years on top of what he got today. This marks a stunning fall from Grace, of course, for the President`s 2016 campaign chairman who played a crucial role in winning Trump the White House in 2016.
I`m joined by Glenn Kirschner and Paul Butler, both are former federal prosecutors, Betsy Woodruff, a politics reporter with "the Daily Beast."
But let`s see with NBC`s Ken Dilanian who is outside of the Virginia courthouse where Paul Manafort was just sentenced.
Ken, I have to believe that this judge doesn`t much like the prosecutor, Robert Mueller. He faced that this guy is squeezed, Manafort. He is being charged and sentenced for something that wasn`t really about bank fraud. It`s about his association with Donald Trump. That`s my thinking from the outside. What do you think? What do you know?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: I completely agree with you, Chris. And I think that`s 100 percent clear. It was clear before Manafort`s trial when judge Ellis basically said as much in comments in pretrial hearings and the only reason he thought Paul Manafort was in the court room is because he went to work for Donald Trump. And he said to the prosecutions and Mueller`s team, you don`t care about the bank fraud and tax fraud. You only care about whether you can squeeze him to get the President.
Nevertheless, this result, a four year sentence, is a shocker because it is so much lower than guidelines of 19 1/2 to 24 years. I mean, there were predictions of potentially 12 years, eight years. I didn`t hear a single prediction of four year in this case because, you know, not only was he convicted of eight felonies here in this courthouse behind me, Chris, but then he went on to commit other crimes after he was convicted. He reached a plea deal with the special counsel and then lied and broke the plea deal.
And essentially what Judge Ellis just said is that conduct doesn`t amount much to him. He is going to treat Manafort like any other white collar offender and give what many people would perceive s a relatively light sentence.
Particularly Chris, because in the statement that Manafort made to this court, truly before being sentenced, he did not apologize. He did not express remorse. He essentially talked about how painful this had been for his family and that he had been humiliated, that he had been in solitary confinement but not one word about by his conduct and by his crimes.
It was so surprising that some people looked at him and said, well, this is a man who expects to get a pardon or he is crippled by self-destructive arrogance. But that`s what happened. Ellis did mention that he was surprised that Manafort didn`t express regret but he didn`t reflect that in the sentencing, whatsoever, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ken Dilanian, we will be back to you later in this big hour news.
Anyway, the judge at Manafort sentencing right now said he disagree with the 19 to 24 year guidelines the prosecutors wanted for Manafort, saying these guidelines are quite high. I think this sentencing range is excessive. That`s the judge talking today.
The judge also said at Manafort he has been a good friend to others, a generous person. He has lived an otherwise blameless life. All in the record today in giving him a lighter sentence.
I want to go to Glenn Kirschner right now. Shocking news.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Shocking. And I tell you, as a former prosecutor, I`m embarrassed. As an American, I`m upset. Because, you know, what did we hear Paul Manafort say after he landed the position as Trump`s campaign chairman? How do I use this to get hole with the Russians? And then Judge Ellis will basically throw that out the window in favour of giving him a sentence so far below the guidelines that it is an outrage.
And you know, just as proud as I was to be in the courtroom when Judge Emmitt Sullivan called out Mike Flynn for being a traitor to the country and for disrespecting everything the flag stands for, I`m just as disappoint would judge Ellis who apparently knows better than the guidelines sentencing commission who said for these crimes this man deserves 19 to 24 and he said 47 months. It`s an outrage and it is disrespectful of the American people.
MATTHEWS: So Paul, is it knocking off a convenience store? This looks pretty light, it seems to me to for the majesty of what we`re talking about here.
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: To be a rich white man in America, you get a whole different kind of justice.
MATTHEWS: You think judge was (INAUDIBLE) because they thought he was a regular or middle class, wealthy middle class guy.
BUTLER: Again, he got to keep two homes worth $4 million. He was found guilty of $30 million he basically stole from the American people, what he didn`t report bank fraud, tax fraud. A jury convicted him of eight counts and then he admitted those counts of the jury didn`t convicted him of, I`m actually guilty of those other counts as well. And then, sensing, he presents himself as the victim. If his name was (INAUDIBLE) or Pedro, he would be going up the river.
MATTHEWS: Well, a lot of people look at this maybe not on those terms although we have a problem with equity in America. But this thing about a guy who stonewalls the case, who doesn`t give any help. According to what I read today in the sentencing, he gave no help to the prosecution. All that 50 hours they sat in those rooms, nothing came out of it. All he fed them was stuff he knew that Mueller already knew. He was playing the game and he got - you think he would be punished by some way, he can still get pardoned for his four years.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: There`s no way to interpret this sentence in any other way than Judge Ellis delivering a stunning criticism of the Mueller investigation. This is a federal judge saying that Mueller and his team have been essentially misleading them, mischaracterizing Manafort and running a prosecution that this judge through this incredibly comparatively light sentence as you put that so clearly that this judge is repudiating. That`s what this is.
MATTHEWS: What his --? What he has got to be he has spotted about Mueller? Is that he really thinks it`s a miscarriage or he just doesn`t like the Democrats climbing on or rolling up the square? What (INAUDIBLE)?
BUTLER: The concern he has expressed is that this case has nothing to do with collusion or obstruction of justice which is Mueller`s mandate. But when the - Mueller is investigating and he finds evidence that Paul Manafort is a stone cold thug, what he supposed to do? Is he supposed to ignore that? So he did what he should do, what other prosecutors would do which is present the evidence to a jury.
MATTHEWS: Let`s not forget the language of the mandate says also beyond the collusion any matters of crime that came up in the investigation to come across.
BUTLER: Exactly. So Judge Amy Berman Jackson our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Next week in that sentencing, you have the power to correct this tragic injustice.
MATTHEWS: Channelling Paul Simon. Thank you.
Let`s go to Ari Melber who has being held over here for this because of this big news tonight.
You and I have been watching this case. We thought it was developing into a story of massive sentencing. He was going to get a big sentencing tonight of maybe 15 years, 18 years and on top of that, perhaps a consecutive sentencing by the judge next week here in D.C. Now he starts with four. Does that mean he ends up at 10, do you think like Glenn suggesting or does it mean we are going to get more compassion next week?
MELBER: He could definitely get more years. You guys are ripping on Paul Simon. I think the question about judge Ellis tonight is he a one-trick pony who is constantly giving the prosecutors a hard time and there can be prosecutorial overreach, Chris.
But look. If Americans have been going to law school throughout the Mueller probe and learning all of these different things as we go, tonight is one of those night where as your panel just hammered, we all remember what we learn about our legal system in America. It does not operate with equal force for anyone. And Paul Manafort got the special clubby (ph) Washington elite, friendly treatment for individual who had stacks and stacks and stacks of crimes. And the only reason he was convicted of crimes in multiple places is because our system found him guilty of felonies in multiple places.
MATTHEWS: My father worked for the court system in up here. He was the dean of the court reporters for 37 years. And he always said to me if you are guilty, get a jury because you can never forget a jury. He said get a judge if you are innocent because might be able to get off on that because the judge will look at the facts and there will be no emotion. But looks like this guys has emotions.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, this guy had emotion and for all the wrong reasons. And I agree with Paul. If this defendant was a young minority who robbed somebody or burglar the house he would probably go away --.
MATTHEWS: What do they mean by otherwise blameless life? He has been a lobbyist for the pro Russian people trying to kill the Ukrainian republic. That`s what he`s been doing.
KIRSCHNER: And Chris, was he blameless when he caught his first felony charged and then what did he do? He started tampering with witnesses. That`s what got him step back by judge Amy Berman Jackson. Thank goodness Judge Jackson, sitting in the federal court in Washington D.C. can now clean this up unjust mess that Judge Ellis made.
MELBER: And Chris, I can imagine, people who are watching are wondering, what are the point of guidelines if you get 19 to 24 and you come in at around four years, what is the point of the guidelines, right? And this is the larger debate. But the problem is yes, you could find an exemption that someone who is really, really sorry and a first time offender and did all the right things might be a candidate. But why would Paul Manafort given everything that everyone knows and everything that has been displayed and everything that he did post-conviction to continue to try to lie to Mueller and upset the system and obstruct justice, why would he be a candidate for this? It something is off here.
MATTHEWS: I will start with you because you can do politics and everything, all right.
Let me ask you this. Trump is watching this in real time. He is having dinner tonight. He is watching on TV, he watching on FOX. And he is learning that his guy he though was going to face real bad time, maybe 15 to 18, whatever you said, more next week, he seems getting, you know, a much better deal. You know, he is older man but still it is a pretty good deal knowing that you are going to be out in four, at least as of this week. Is he going to get a pardon now to wipe away the four years? Is he more less likely to pardon him now?
MELBER: I don`t know if he`s more likely. I know that there were reports that Rudy Giuliani is that White House now. There`s a lot of pardon talk. I do think that as a public matter, the shorter the sentence, the more that people will have the association or the idea that perhaps it wasn`t that serious. Although, we have documented exactly how serious it was.
If he gets the maximum, Paul Manafort, next week in Washington full ten years, that would put him at about 14 years and he would still be under the guidelines for what normal people who are not viewed as friendly by a judge would get tonight in Virginia.
But I think Chris, your are putting your heart on the matter where this heads, which is, is this the kind of sentence, depending on what happens next week that gives Manafort and other people who are on the wrong side of Mueller, the idea, that even before they get to Trump they may have sentences they can beat, sentences they can lived through get out in good behavior and sill be alive at the end of it. So I do think this has real precaution potentially for where this all heads.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have been watching this. So everybody who watch this probably this trial, Paul. And the way these guys commute the sentencing, I mean, Bill Cosby. He comes at his point, lowest point, I don`t know. Then Manafort comes in with his wheelchair. Michael Cohen brings his daughter in. Everybody is - I mean, the performance. The clothing choices today by Manafort, the wheelchair, the jump suit or whatever it was. Some white shirt underneath it. What is this? Is this gamesmanship or what?
BUTLER: You can`t argue with success. It worked for Paul Manafort. He got slap on the wrist.
BUTLER: In part, you know, we can think about collusion. One of the things we know Paul Manafort is that when he was he campaign chair, he handed private polling data to a Russian operative. And he --.
MATTHEWS: To help the Russians collude. To help the Russian interrupt our campaign.
BUTLER: Yes. And the judge in D.C. found out that he lied about that even after he was convicted. This is a thug and he needs be put under the jail and this judge did exactly the opposite.
MATTHEWS: Let me talk to you about the whole political things. The headlines tomorrow in the paper. I still think of the paper the next day what it`s going to be. Light sentence for Manafort, right?
WOODRUFF: No question.
MATTHEWS: The president says - with his crowd of 47 percent in this country believed in him say, hey, must have been pretty innocent. Ten percent of tea pipe, right? This is no big deal. Four years he knocked off a candy store. What are we talking about here?
MATTHEWS: That`s the way he is going to ring out in the country.
WOODRUFF: The criticism of Mueller based on what this judge has ruled, those criticism is right themselves. That said one thing I can tell you if we have numerous conversations with people close to Manafort over the last couple of days leading up to this is that one thing they are quite concerned about is first off what judge Jackson is going to say. There is still a high level of tension even after those sentences has come down. That Manafort will end up spending the bulk of his life in prison.
And then in addition to that, they are very much wonders when it comes to what state attorney general can do. We know that attorney generals in several different states have potentially eyed against Manafort if he were pardoned, illegally, that puts him in some kind --.
MATTHEWS: There`s a double jeopardy.
MATTHEWS: Let me go in to this whole question next week. The judge next week can compensate for the leniency to put it lightly. Explain.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. And she will.
MATTHEWS: Consecutive sentences.
KIRSCHNER: And she will give him a consecutive sentence and he will punish him appropriately for what he did. The crimes that he was convicted of, the crimes that he admitted to and the witness tampering which strikes at the very heart of the integrity of our criminal justice system. How Judge Ellis said he has lived a blameless life when he tried to tamper with witnesses and get them to lie even after he was charged with felony offenses, I just I find that incomprehensible.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Malcolm Nance, one of our great colleagues here who wrote "the Plot to Destroy Democracy" is that grieve is what you heard right now in the judge`s sentencing, this leniency?
Look. He has given about one in five years that the guidelines provide, one in five. That is a deal for not talking, for stonewalling, for tampering for witnesses, his reward is a real break. That is his reward for going on the wrong stuff.
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT (on the phone): Reward is an excellent way of putting this because as you know the parameters of his conviction are all of the activities that he did leading up to where he became the campaign manager for Donald Trump. And this is working for foreign dictators. This is working for the Kremlin government and Ukraine. And for him to have stolen money from the people of the United States and now gets to walk away, as Paul Butler said earlier, with two houses worth millions of dollars and to walk away from this and put him in the ball park of a pardon shows that this is a breach of justice.
Now the judge is about the exact same age as Paul Manafort. And maybe he felt that sympathy. But this man does not have a blameless life. And right now, this place is in jeopardy. People has trust in the system.
MATTHEWS: Great. Well, let me get back to the question here.
I can start with you on this, Malcolm. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This judge doesn`t like Robert Mueller, doesn`t like the prosecution. Doesn`t matter - used the way they have got that evidence so far and all these prosecutions, all of these convictions so far. They had played HARDBALL, this prosecutor. He has been hired to do the job, get the bad guys, including crimes which have been unearthed as part of the investigation, going after Manafort for that reason.
Why is he so sympathetic on Manafort? Is it his way of saying screw you to Robert Mueller? Enemy of my enemy is my friend?
NANCE: I think it`s less - more of a screw you to Robert Mueller than essentially that he feels the American system of government has a separate rail and that this rail should apply to people like Paul Manafort. He transmitted that punch by his blameless lies statement.
I`m not so sure if it`s all about Robert Mueller or the prosecution itself. Because we really haven`t seen Mueller`s punch related to conspiracy and other charges that could have been added on to this. This is about his money laundering. And to certain extent that money laundering and this theft of money from the people of the United States really don`t seem to matter to the judge. And he is obligated the system that we came to trust.
MATTHEWS: Well, last month, the federal judge overseeing Manafort`s case in Washington one coming up next week ruled that Manafort lied to prosecutors about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate with ties to Russian intelligence specifically Manafort liked about sharing internal campaign polling data with Kilimnik. And discussing a so-called peace plan for Ukraine that would benefit Russia. In other words, to screws the Ukraine.
Among their contacts, there was a meeting at the grand Havana room, the cigar lounge up in New York. I think it is in 6th Avenue on August of 2016. A meeting that included Rick Gates who is cooperating with prosecutors.
As Mueller`s prosecutor told the court that meeting and what happened on that meeting was of significance to the special counsel of ruling that Manafort lied about those context last month, the judge in that ruling and the judge questioned his loyalty to the United States saying this is a problematic attempt to shield his Russian conspirator from liability and it gives rise to legitimate questions about where his loyalties lie.
Let`s bring in David Corn, the Washington bureau to "Mother Jones" and an expert on this whole Russian thing, the whole escapade.
The facts they had that meeting. I think I went there one night with somebody, someone who is at NBC. And I got to tell you something. It`s an interesting setting. It is all sort of very comfortable chair. Mostly men I think sitting there, smoking expensive stogie. They chose that setting, to me, because they figured would be protected from public observation and now to say nothing happened there. Tell me what it was about, David? Tell me (INAUDIBLE) of that meeting that Manafort has never come clean on?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Yes. And this is not part of what Manafort was charged with. But it has come out in the prosecution of this case. And as direct example of collusion as you would want.
Paul Manafort at the behest of a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska who is close to Putin`s regime was leading with Konstantin Kilimnik who is alleged by FBI to have Russian intelligence contacts, and what are they discussing? They are discussing a so-called peace plan for Ukraine, which is really a pro-Putin, pro-Moscow peace plan that could lead to the lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the U.S. and the European Union.
So, think about this. While Manafort is running the campaign for Donald Trump, and -- this is important -- while Russia is attacking the election to help Donald Trump, he`s sitting down with a Russian intermediary and talking about a plan that could help Russia get rid of the sanctions.
If they`re not stating this out quid pro quo directly, it sure raises the possibility that that`s what they`re all thinking about. And it`s a pity that, in the Mueller filings, that we don`t have more details on this.
And I`m sure hoping that, if Mueller doesn`t get to the bottom of this with any report, that Adam Schiff and others in Congress will tell us what went on there and whether there was this grand deal between the Trump campaign, or at least its manager, and people acting on behalf of the Kremlin.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back -- thank you so much, David Corn.
Let me get back to Ari, my colleague.
Ari, it seems to me that all this does end up connected. We`re talking about a judge giving a guy a light sentence and saying he has had an otherwise shameless life, when, in fact, we know what his life was about was selling U.S. influence, working on behalf of the bad guys in Russia, the oligarchs, including Putin, against the -- in this case the legitimate Republic of Ukraine, which has tried to be independent, and Putin wants back in the Soviet empire.
That`s how big this story is. He wants to rebuild the Soviet empire that he misses dearly. And part of getting it back is hiring, well, people that work for money, like this guy, and they -- Manafort, Paul Manafort. He`s a mercenary. They hire an American mercenary to use his influence in the Congress and in the United States government to rebuild the Soviet empire.
I mean, this is something that`s damn serious. And it`s not just about a judge having warm feelings about somebody his age.
MELBER: It`s as serious as a heart attack. And these are convicted felonies.
This is not one of those stories at the beginning where we talk about the presumption of innocence on both sides. We`re at the end, convicted of, as you just described, something with serious national security implications, which is why this kind of trading is illegal, why you have to declare when you are doing foreign lobbying, because we have laws that say, we don`t want people running a campaign for president while working for foreigners without everyone knowing about it.
There are good reasons for this, as you say, Chris. And so I think it`s quite, quite serious to see that all laid out in open court, and then have this sort of mind-set, whether you want to call it a certain elite Beltway mind-set, or what some political folks call the swamp, the mind-set that this should be dismissed, that this was OK, that this was business as usual, that this was -- quote, unquote -- "blameless."
It`s not blameless. That`s why there`s so many felonies. And if Paul Manafort was, as he claimed before the court today, under penalty of perjury, if he is so humiliated, as he said, when was he humiliated, Chris?
Was he humiliated when he first got caught and he kept fighting it? Was humiliated when he lied to the prosecutors on the Mueller team and said he would help them, and then lied to their face and committed new felonies, which have been proven in court? Was he humiliated when he kept back- channel conversations going, allegedly, with Donald Trump`s White House team for whatever reason, trying to feed misinformation to the Mueller probe on a matter of legal and national security?
When exactly did he have his change of heart? Judge Ellis spoke from the bench tonight and said: I was surprised you didn`t express repentance. But you get four years out of 20 anyway.
I mean, I think there`s a lot of surprises here. And the judge has this power under our system. As we often say, if we don`t like certain outcomes, you need to look back at the rules and why our system is so tilted in ways that are racial...
MELBER: ... in ways that are -- have to do with class and money and race. We know all that. We have covered all that.
But bottom line, to your point, Chris, these are serious crimes, and they`re not getting a very serious punishment.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Ari.
Let`s listen to the lawyer for Manafort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.
Thank you, everybody.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s all he had to say.
Go ahead, Ari.
MELBER: I think we were just listening, as you said, Chris, to Kevin Downing, Paul Manafort`s longtime lawyer.
That message right there, that wasn`t for the judge. That certainly wasn`t for next week, where he`s in trouble on other crimes. We just heard a denial of something he`s not charged with, which goes back to your organizing question earlier on the broadcast on HARDBALL, Chris.
Who`s the audience? Is this for a Trump pardon audience? Because they`re out there denying collusion.
I will tell you this. And I`m not here to second-guess Mr. Downing. He obviously got a good result today in court for his client. But I will tell you this. They don`t need to deny collusion for next week`s hearing, which is their only legal priority.
If they`re out on this front steps, as we just heard, denying collusion, that`s for a different audience.
MATTHEWS: Well, look, he got four years for not telling the truth, four years for basically stonewalling, four years for not apologizing. If he had done any of that, he would have got a trip to Disneyland out of this judge.
Anyway, thank you, Ari Melber.
MELBER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You`re great on this stuff.
MELBER: Appreciate it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I want to thank -- bring in, by the way, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, you have been with us a lot of times on this conversation about Russia, all the criminality involved that the special counsel is looking at, the House Judiciary Committee is ultimately going to judge on in terms of impeachment.
What happens when you see that the criminal courts give this guy this break, one in five years?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: You know, my ears are still ringing with the "lock her up, lock her up," my Republican colleagues shouting in Cleveland a little over two years ago. And now we`re at this point in time.
Look, the system is going to frustrate us. But we can`t give up. We remember there`s still next week. And I do want to take the word collusion out of our vocabulary for a while.
This isn`t collusion. This is a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy to attack the democratic process of the United States. And those people closest to the president of the United States were involved.
And, fundamental -- I think it`s a point your guests were getting to -- is, it goes well beyond the criminal activities of those surrounding the president. It goes to whether the president was involved in those criminal activities and whether those activities influenced the policy of the United States, between Flynn and the Saudis, Mr. Cohen and Trump Tower with the Russians, and clearly now with Ukraine and Mr. Manafort.
Is the United States less safe because of this conspiracy?
MATTHEWS: You know, I look at this thing, it`s just like a criminal -- or a mystery story. But it`s not so mysterious, because, in Cleveland, which you just mentioned, at the Republican National Convention, the -- magically -- magically, the Republican platform that most people don`t pay much attention to was rewritten by mysterious forces to advance the causes of Vladimir Putin, against the legitimate government of Ukraine.
Why would something like that happen under the good offices of Paul Manafort, who works for the pro-Russian forces against Ukraine`s forces? I mean Ukraine`s interests. Doesn`t -- don`t we get fingerprints? I mean, it seems to me there`s -- follow the signature.
Who changed that? And there was Manafort taking credit for all this. I`m sure he took credit to his -- to his clients. They know what he did. Are we going to find out?
QUIGLEY: We are going to find that.
We have the gavels. And there`s nothing to block us from the truth. At this point in time, it`s important that we reflect on just what you`re talking about here.
The fact of the matter is, from day one, it was about this extraordinary connection with Russia and Ukraine, an area that they were attempting and have been attempting to dominate. And the fact the matter, it just -- it was changing the new world order in presidents` policies from -- designed after World War II.
The new world order is under attack by its -- its primary architect. And we have to address that.
Remember, Mr. Mueller and the Southern District of New York have different responsibilities than the House Intel Committee and Judiciary and Oversight. Mr. Mueller and others` job is to decide who to bring to justice.
Our job is to find out who attacked the democratic process, who conspired with them, and to educate and inform the American public.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about obstruction of justice right now today. It`s a good time to do it, after this light sentencing of Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign chair and his -- and his convention chair. He ran the convention for the president.
It seems to me that Donald Trump has made it clear from the beginning he doesn`t want justice. He basically goes to the head of the FBI and says, lay off my friend Michael Flynn because of these meetings he`s had with the Russians.
He had his picture taken over there with Putin. Lay off the guy. He`s a good guy. Lay off of those meetings he had with Kislyak. Lay off him. And when the -- when the FBI director didn`t play ball with Trump, he fired him.
And then he goes and fires his attorney general because he dared to recuse himself. Under Justice Department rules, he can`t be involved in adjudicating a -- or prosecuting a matter that he was personally involved in, running Trump for president.
All along the line, he`s obstructed. What more do you guys need to impeach?
MATTHEWS: It seems to me we have got this broad daylight robbery of our Constitution right in front of our faces and all the other stuff with Russia, working for the other side. And they are the other side, the Russians.
All this stuff`s been going on in plain daylight. It`s all there. What more do you guys want?
QUIGLEY: You forgot the dangling of pardons.
It was interesting to me when they were referencing whether or not someone was seeking a pardon. I don`t think anyone needed to seek. I think the president of the United States foretold, the pardons he gave the sheriff in Arizona, in the same way he foretold and offered these promises of pardons and dangling of pardons to people for some time now.
So, look, we take that very seriously. But if we had listened to those who wanted to move forward with impeachment when they initially started, we wouldn`t have had any of this information about Mr. Cohen, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn.
I do believe we are getting close to a point where we have enough information. But, again, as a criminal defense attorney for 10 years, I can`t say strongly enough, you don`t stop an investigation when you think you have enough. You stop an investigation when you have found out exactly what took place.
Just this last week, we learned a considerable amount from Mr. Cohen. And I believe there will be key witnesses that follow that will give us an extraordinary amount of information.
This isn`t just about deciding whether we have enough as well. It`s also the court of public opinion, which I believe will drive our -- any opportunity we have toward this end in the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: Well, nothing`s going to crack the Republican phalanx. Don`t wait for that to happen, Congressman, because they`re at 88 percent, and climbing. The more guilty Trump looks, the more they`re with him.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Michael Quigley of Illinois.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: By the way, last month, Robert Mueller`s prosecutors floated the idea that Manafort lied because he hopes to be pardoned by the president.
Asked about that prospect last summer, Trump praised Manafort as a good person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t talk about that. I don`t talk about that.
I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad, when you look at what`s going on there. I think it`s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person.
And I think it`s very sad what they have done to Paul Manafort. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It wasn`t a short period of time. It was the entire time he was running the campaign.
Anyway, Trump was more direct about a pardon late last year, telling "The New York Post": "I wouldn`t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?"
Anyway, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Democrat from Texas, joins us right now on the phone. He`s on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, you`re part of this whole effort to try to get to the justice here. How did today help or hurt the cause of justice and truth?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Oh, well, I mean, I think it makes clear that the president has been surrounding himself, and at the highest levels of his organization and his campaign, with people who have lied, people that have associated with Russian agents, folks that have engaged in witness tampering.
And I think this continues to be the tip of the iceberg. Even -- I know that Mike was just on. And he talked about the interview that we had with Michael Cohen this week. And from what I heard, I believe that there will still be more indictments to come.
I think that the information I heard leads me to believe that the president -- members of the president`s family could be in legal jeopardy. So, I think that there`s still a good bit of investigation to do.
And I also think that we will probably see more prosecutions.
MATTHEWS: What do you think`s coming before we get a full report from Robert Mueller?
I mean, the defendant has had a good day today and in a Virginia court, four years, instead of 18 or so, one in five years. But what do you make of the fact we have been reading a lot about this, about Ivanka could be -- Ivanka could be in trouble, Jared more so, perhaps?
Are they facing prosecution?
CASTRO: I think so.
I think that there are folks that could be -- could be prosecuted for lying to Congress. There`s certainly testimony that I have heard now that contradicts what was told to us by Donald Trump Jr., for example.
So, yes, I do think that there is -- there is a legal jeopardy for some members of President Trump`s family.
MATTHEWS: Is anything leaking out of the special counsel`s operation that gives you more confidence that something like that is coming imminently, prosecution of other individuals, including those in the president`s family?
CASTRO: That`s hard to say, Chris, because they have run a pretty tight ship over there. And they have run an independent investigation, even from the congressional investigations.
But, based on what I have heard, I think that -- and I`m sure that the special counsel knows everything that Congress knows at this point. I think it would be hard for them, as prosecutors, to ignore what seems like compelling evidence that some folks knew more than they admitted to when they testified before Congress.
I was saying months ago that I thought eventually Roger Stone would be indicted. And, I mean, that doesn`t seem like too big a surprise, but, for a long time, it didn`t happen. And then, finally, it did happen.
And I think the same could be true about some members that are -- that are closer to President Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think Roger Stone`s probably in the business of judge- shopping right now, because, when you get deals like this today, you may look for one of those for yourself.
He, by the way, is his old business partner of Manafort.
Congressman, thank you so much, Joaquin Castro of Texas, for coming on tonight.
CASTRO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir.
Let me go -- let me go to Glenn on this.
Let`s wrap this up. Where`s this heading now? We got the news. Headlines tomorrow, this guy gets a soft treatment by the judge. Next week, he faces another judge who has a different attitude.
KIRSCHNER: So, I`m a big believer in the judiciary, but what we just saw was an unjust result.
However, Bob Mueller will get the last laugh. And here`s why. When David Corn a few minutes ago talked about the Havana Room meeting...
MATTHEWS: The cigar bar.
KIRSCHNER: The cigar bar, where they`re meeting with Kilimnik, where Manafort is giving over polling data, that is circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy to defraud the United States, to undermine our free and fair elections.
Everybody has confused Mueller`s silence on the conspiracy with a lack of evidence on the conspiracy. He`s saving the best and the biggest and the central charge for last.
And I agree with what`s been said. A conspiracy indictment is coming. And don`t be surprised if we see Paul Manafort on the receiving end of the unusual hat trick of federal cases, because he may get rolled into that.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Paul.
What would you need to prove this in court, that the president, as sort of a RICO-type leader, a ringleader, he`s got people meeting with Russians, and they`re talking about advancing the Russian cause in terms of Ukraine, getting rid of sanctions, laying off them in terms of their territorial ambitions, to put it lightly?
How much does he have to say, go do this, and how much does he just have to say, just keep checking in with me on that stuff? What does he have to know about it?
BUTLER: We know that Robert Mueller believes that Roger Stone communicated information about the hacked e-mails to Donald Trump.
Now, I do think it`s not enough for Trump to just know about that. But if he was involved in any way with how those e-mails were deployed, then he is a co-conspirator with those Russians who stole it.
MATTHEWS: He`s advancing the conspiracy.
BUTLER: And, again, I think the next step will be Donald Trump Jr.
If there`s justice in America -- again, Mueller has indicted Roger Stone and Michael -- Michael Cohen for lying to Congress. According to the Democrats on the Hill, Donald Trump Jr. told those same lies.
What this verdict today means is that we`re not guaranteed equal justice under the law in the United States.
BUTLER: If Mueller wants to prove that that`s not true, he needs to let everybody know that Don Jr. isn`t getting a break because he`s the president`s son.
If other people commit crimes, and Mueller indicts them, then he needs to indict Don Jr.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Betsy on a political -- larger question -- I hate to say larger than justice, but it`s politics -- are the Democrats nervy enough to go after the president`s kids?
Now, I even heard -- heard that today they may be a little -- a little dodgy on this. Oh, my God if we go after the kid, he will explode. And on the other hand, are some Democrats who are really political saying, we don`t mind if he explodes, because these kids have done something wrong, and we`re going after them? If he explodes, fine.
Which way are they?
WOODRUFF: The Democratic -- the House Democratic Caucus is not a monolith.
There are some members who are very, very keen, especially to go after Ivanka Trump, who wasn`t even listed on that 81-number list.
MATTHEWS: I think Elijah Cummings is looking at the family.
WOODRUFF: She`s very much someone who some members believe they aren`t doing enough to scrutinize.
At the same time, a bunch of new Democrats in the House won in districts that Republicans have traditionally held. They`re politically more moderate. They`re worried about their reelections.
And if they -- and if they believe that they can be accused of being part of a family-focused witch-hunt, which is an allegation Republicans will level, whether it`s valid or not -- that`s something that`s coming.
WOODRUFF: They are weighing the political costs there.
So it`s certainly something that`s caused some tension and friction within the Democratic Conference. How exactly do they handle this very politically complex question of going after somebody`s kids?
I think the kids -- I met them years ago, and they were very well-mannered and well-brought-up and all. But they are so much a part of his operation now. The nepotism doesn`t work.
WOODRUFF: Right. They aren`t just kids.
MATTHEWS: In most cases, it doesn`t work.
WOODRUFF: They aren`t just kids.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you so much, Betsy.
Anyway, thank you, Glenn Kirschner. Thank you for your passion about justice here. And, Paul Butler, the same. You guys know your stuff. And you also care. And that matters.
Betsy Woodruff, thank you so much for your reporting.
Ken Dilanian, my colleague, fabulous having you over there tonight for this rock-`em, sock-`em bit of pathetic news.
Let`s bring in Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Barbara, you have been in there watching this thing. Tell me, were you surprised by the appeal for compassion, the fact he wore the jumpsuit, he comes in, in a wheelchair? I mean, this is sort of Edward Bennett Williams sort of stuff. This is theater or the highest level here. Did it work?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It may have worked.
It seemed that Judge Ellis did take some time in considering what the sentence ought to be, and imposed what I consider a really shockingly low sentence of 47 months. I mean, it`s far lower than the 19 to 21 years that he could have been facing.
Judge Ellis has a reputation for being somewhat lenient in white-collar cases. And he sure proved that to be the case tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Barbara McQuade, for that expertise we need.
We`re going to go right now to John Brennan, who joins us right now.
John Brennan, thank you...
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good evening, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... the former director of intelligence, CIA.
What do you make this? Look, we got to, as we say in our business, segue now. We have got to go -- we can`t ignore what just happened tonight. It`s not your bailiwick. It`s justice, though, and it`s America.
This justice apparently gave this guy a pretty good deal today.
BRENNAN: Yes, it`s an extraordinarily lenient sentence, in light of the extent and scope of Mr. Manafort`s criminality.
It just shows that there`s a lot of power vested in the hands of judges. I think this sentence says a lot more about Judge Ellis than it does about Paul Manafort.
MATTHEWS: What`s it say?
BRENNAN: It says that he has an attitude towards a person of Paul Manafort`s ilk who has defrauded the government, as was demonstrated.
MATTHEWS: Does he know what a mercenary is, this judge? I mean, the guy who`s basically take on a career to make a lot of money defending the bad guys in Central Europe. You`re basically taking people who are -- you`re working for somebody who wants to crush the independence of Ukraine on behalf of a tyrant, Putin.
BRENNAN: Well, that`s what the guidelines, you know, calling for many more years. Guidelines are used for a reason. But obviously, Judge Ellis felt that he could just decide unilaterally on this one.
MATTHEWS: He said he`s had an otherwise blameless life except for jury tampering.
BRENNAN: Well, that is just mind-boggling, you know, why he would say that Paul Manafort has an otherwise blameless life. I mean, Paul Manafort has demonstrated track record of criminal, unethical, unprincipled behavior.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the way these things work together. The way in which the Russian probe, which continues, as it well stated by (INAUDIBLE), it`s really about a conspiracy that was advanced by Americans. Begun by Russians, advanced by Americans, co-worked on this stuff.
BRENNAN: Yes, it was --
MATTHEWS: I mean, selling out your country
BRENNAN: Yes, a number of U.S. persons still work with the Russians in one form or another, I think it`s been demonstrated now that there was this active engagement. And I`m hoping and I believe that Bob Mueller and his team were going to uncover a lot more that is unknown.
I think as got mentioned, there is a lot that special counsel`s office has been involved --
MATTHEWS: What do you smell coming between now and the final report from Mueller?
BRENNAN: I smell more indictments.
MATTHEWS: Family members?
BRENNAN: Well, I believe that if there are going to be family members indicted by the special counsel, it would be the final raft of indictments, because I think Bob Mueller and his team know that if they indict somebody of the Trump family, that Donald Trump would not allow Bob Mueller to continue.
So, I think on the conspiracy side --
MATTHEWS: You think he`d fire the guy?
BRENNAN: Oh, yes, absolutely. I think criminal conspiracy and family members.
MATTHEWS: This gets to the heart of the whole thing the connecting rods of the whole thing. You`ve got presidential offspring and in-laws, basically the son-in-law, who were refused FBI clearances. I mean, everybody gets in the Peace Corps gets -- maybe not for the highest level, a top security.
But what was it? People have speculated his relationship with the crown prince in Saudi Arabia, too tight with Netanyahu, too tight with the Emirates. Was it business dealings? The fact that the president`s own daughter couldn`t get a top security.
What does that smell like to you? Why would that happen?
BRENNAN: I don`t and I think we have to be careful about speculating too much here, because Ivanka --
MATTHEWS: Chief of staff to the president and his lawyer both went along with the FBI said, don`t give these people clearances.
BRENNAN: Right, there was something clearly that could not be resolved by the investigators. But yet, Donald Trump decided to overrule that component, whether it was the FBI or somebody else, as well as his chief of staff and the White House counsel, decide to overrule it for nepotism purposes, to give those clearances. So, I think it again says a lot about Donald Trump and how he just totally tramples the system and process and whatever integrity the system has.
So, again, I don`t know what it is, that Jared Kushner or Ivanka had in their past or their concerns about. Financial entanglements with foreign entities is something the investigators will look very carefully at because they don`t want individuals with this nation`s secrets to be in any situation that could be compromised because of those relationships that they have.
MATTHEWS: Do you see him -- it`s always hard to make references in history who Trump is. I mean, I think of him as someone who`s come in to our system, trashed NATO, trashed our alliances, made friends -- publicly flirting with people like North Korea`s Kim Jong-un, publicly flirting to his family with MLB, or whatever his name, over in Saudi Arabia, a killer of an American journalist. Flaunt all of the rules of what we thought of ourselves as a good guys of the world, and we hung around with other good guys, and we fought bad guys, either through diplomacy or war, whatever it took, or containment, we always knew what side we`re on.
It`s like Trump has jumped the balance, jumped the tracks and he`s just joining the other side. What do you make of that?
BRENNAN: Well, I think he has no sense or knowledge of history, of the Constitution, of law, of system of checks and balances, but more ominously, he doesn`t care. He only cares about himself, and that`s why over the last two-plus years, it`s been --
MATTHEWS: When did you come to that conclusion this is a show up, showing off?
BRENNAN: Pretty early on in this presidency. I was very skeptical that he was going to be able to rise to the occasion. I thought he was going to continue to carry out his duties and work the way he has many years which is by skirting the law, by skirting ethics and principles and just pursuing a very unilateral agenda.
And that`s why I think --
MATTHEWS: What happened to our belief, because you`re -- we`re the same age roughly. And I got to tell you, when you grow up with the idea that the office would change a man -- that maybe not in Nixon`s case because he was a mixed bag and a bad guy in many ways, but actually a mixed bag, but Harry Truman taught us, you know, a guy of limited ability, maybe has patriotism will come in and do a good job and make the right decision. That`s always been our sort of populist notion of democracy. You don`t have to be a PhD in political science or whatever else, Ivy League or anything because if you have the right instincts, you`ll make a great president.
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t work lat with him.
BRENNAN: Well, it shows if you`re a master charlatan, a snake oil salesman, and that you can snooker so many people, you can get away with a lot. And that has happened with Donald Trump. But the people I blame most are those people who know better, our senators, congressmen of the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell.
BRENNAN: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, how they`ve sold out their principles in this country, how they`ve held their nose over what Donald Trump is doing. I think history is going to treat them very, very accurately which is they really sold themselves because of Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Because it was George Marshall, Truman and Eisenhower, and all those -- Kennedy and all, they really did build this world order that made sense and we won the Cold War because of it.
BRENNAN: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and the icons of both parties over so many years. Donald Trump is nothing like any of those people. He is his own person. But, unfortunately, he has been able to get a lot of people to just unfortunately kowtow to him.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about North Korea, could it have been worse? He could have given away the 38th parallel? Just giving it away, we`re pulling our troops out.
BRENNAN: Yes, some people claimed it`s a success because he walked away. Well, no, he put this thing together and it is collapsing unfortunately, and we see now that there`s additional work that is being done in North Korea.
So, I guess it could have been worse, but the fact he continues to suspend the military exercises, the ones that the U.S. military relies on in order to insure the interoperability and coordination between not just the United States and South Korea but also our regional partners and allies. This is really hurting our national security interest.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to it could have been worse, because I like -- there`s hope now. If he cut a deal with Kim Jong-un and said, OK, if you get rid of all your weapons, you get rid of your production facilities, fusion, everything else, you get rid of all of it, we`ll pull our troops out of the 38th Parallel and leave the door open for invasion, that would have been worse, wouldn`t it?
BRENNAN: Well, yes, and there are a lot of worse things. But I do think what perturbed the North Koreans was the apparent misrepresentation of Donald Trump of what the North Koreans were asking for. Donald Trump`s claim that they wanted total sanction relief and the North Koreans came out publicly and said no, we don`t want that.
I still think they were asking for too much, but you need to be able to see some type of accommodation to move down the path of denuclearization. It`s not going to happen overnight, but we need to continue to engage. So, I`m hoping that the experts on our side are still working with --
MATTHEWS: They did finally get him to Vietnam, didn`t it? Just kidding.
Anyway, thank you, John Brennan. You`re an expert and a patriot.
Much more ahead in the breaking news tonight. The big news, President Trump`s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort sentenced in months, just 47 months in prison. They thought he`d get 18 years for tax and bank fraud.
Much ahead. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
We`re continuing to follow the breaking news tonight out of Virginia, just across the Virginia here, across the Potomac. President Trump`s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years, 47 months, for eight charges he was convicted of last summer. Well, after the sentencing, Manafort`s lawyer Kevin Downing made some brief remarks. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT`S LAWYER: As you heard in court today Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself and made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct, and I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official from Russia. Thank you, everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Any government official. Wasn`t that clever, David Corn?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Barbara McQuade is also joining us. Malcolm Nance joined me, MSNBC investigative reporter.
But you first, David, the place where it`s so obvious. Go ahead.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: You caught it. He didn`t collude with any Russian government official. And submitted by his own attorneys and Robert Mueller`s team, we have this meeting in the cigar bar that you and I have discussed, in which Paul Manafort appears to have colluded with a former business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI says was an associate of Russian intelligence and the meeting was happening because of what a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska was and a quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
So, yes, nothing we`ve seen has him talking to a Russian government official. But notice he didn`t say there was no colluding with any Russian interests. He did not say that. Why? Because it`s probably not true.
MATTHEWS: And also, the issue in trade craft of this kind of dealings, international under table dealings, you deal with cutouts. You know, Putin doesn`t meet at the cigar bar. Doesn`t show up there on Sixth Avenue with a big stogie and say, let`s deal. He sends people then he can deny later.
Let me go to Barbara McQuade on this.
You were there today at the hearing. Tell me about the feeling of the jump suit and the wheelchair and call for compassion. There was all that theatrics, well, schmaltz -- does it have an impact on the judge?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): So, I wasn`t in the courtroom, Chris. Bu I think judges can see beyond that. I think judges sometimes fall for that sort of thing because they are not in courtrooms frequently enough to know those kinds of things.
MCQUADE: But I don`t know that had an impact on the judge. It is a low sentence and, you know, the sentencing guidelines are not something the prosecutor made up out of whole cloth. The U.S. Sentencing Commissions creates those numbers based on real data of real cases around the country. The purpose is to have uniformity in sentencing around the country, so that if you`re sentenced in Washington or Virginia or New York or Texas, you`re likely to get the same sentence.
So when the judge says I think these guidelines are too high, he`s substituting his judgment for the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The judge is allowed to vary, but only he can articulate a reason why the guidelines overstate the conduct in this particular case, and I didn`t hear him say that.
MATTHEWS: Tom, what are you -- joining us right now-- Tom, it seems to this judge talk gives sentences like he`s a sequestered juror, like he doesn`t know this whole matter we`re talking about. He doesn`t seem to understand the business -- the business that Manafort`s been in all of these years. He`s workings as a mercenary for Putin`s people. He acts like a blameless life, what`s he talking about?
TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Chris, you raised the exact point I was going to make, that this is not in a vacuum. The sentencing is not in a vacuum and you really can`t consider some of the things that David Corn and you have been speaking about, and others have been talking about as it relates because it wasn`t charged in this case, his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik or anything involving Russia.
What he needs to consider and what he was told about because it was entered into the docket, because we watch it every single day, was the lies he told to special counsel as part of his cooperation. It was his behaviors, his lies to the grand jury, what a judge is counterpart in Washington, D.C. determined that he lied on three separate occasions to the special counsel after he`s pleaded guilty, that he was involved with witness tampering because he was notified of the charges that were brought in Washington, D.C.
So, the judge can`t look at this in a vacuum, and just I`m frankly very surprised and I don`t use those words lightly, that he didn`t look at the totality of the behavior of him in court filings, the totally of the behavior that he`s been charged with, that he was notified of. So, if he wants to look at it from purely a bank and tax fraud perspective and what other people have been found guilty of before and sentenced to before, I can see the kind of the downward move from the sentencing guidelines, but that`s not case here, Chris.
And I think another thing that we really need to consider with respect to the judge and Barbara McQuade, is unsurprisingly, perfectly accurate when she says that he has a reputation for being light on white collar crime. He does. What the judge is not kind of understanding here, Chris, and what I think is surprising is that when you look at his conduct and you look at now time served being added to this, there`s not much difference between Michael Cohen`s sentence of three years and what is now essentially just barely above three years for Paul Manafort.
WINTER: And you look at the tax and bank fraud differences between those two people, and the gulf is enormous. Now, granted Michael Cohen`s also being sentenced for the campaign finance crimes. But when you look at the -- when you look at the totality of the behavior here, it`s really very surprising.
Malcolm, how are they viewing this in Moscow, do you think today? As Putin saying my buddy got off pretty easy. What do they think of our justice system that a guy who was facing up to 20 years got four, less than four? Malcolm?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): I think the Kremlin believes that they now have managed to engineer the U.S. justice system by putting their man in the White House and through his influence and through his stature, he has managed to get someone who was really an agent of the Kremlin, someone who has been paid by Moscow for almost two decades now to carry out their operations in the Ukraine and other parts of the world.
You know, if I was Robert Mueller, I think now is the time to throw a secret haymaker. I would bring him up on Espionage Act charges for his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, or something along the lines of conspiracy to defraud the United States. I wouldn`t let this stand and I would make it clear that there are more tricks in the bag of the special counsel.
MATTHEWS: Well, Malcolm, so much of this case has been about his relations with Russia, the obstruction of justice matters, which I`d deal with the next several months, I expect. For example getting -- going to Comey, the head of the FBI, the top police force, investigative unit and saying layoff my director of national security because he was dealing with Putin and dealing with Kislyak and lay off of him, and then he fires the FBI director because he wouldn`t lay off, then he fires his attorney general because he won`t -- because he recused himself and wouldn`t help Trump in this matter.
Over and over the president has not only done stuff but doubled down in obstructing justice against himself and today, he must be having dessert at the White House. Your thoughts on that, Malcolm?
NANCE: Well, absolutely. And again this shows the puppet strings go from Moscow to the White House and now into the U.S. judiciary. Whether the judge had any influence at all, that doesn`t matter. It`s the fact the lawyer came out and said there was nothing to do with Moscow, that shows where the influence really lies.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
David Corn tonight, as always, sir. Barbara McQuade, as always. Malcolm, as always. Tom Winter as well.
Thank you all.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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