Trump twists judge's words. TRANSCRIPT: 3/8/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Kimberly Atkins, Jonathan Lemire, Joyce Vance,Natasha Bertrand, David Cicilline

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  What a week.  We are out of time.  I will be back next week Monday 6:00 p.m.  We are going to cover those hearings for Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and a whole lot more.  I will see you then.  Have a great week. 

And HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump gets it wrong.  Let`s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

President Trump was out there today distorting the words of the federal judge who sentenced Paul Manafort to four years in prison.  In an attempt to claim innocence for his part, he tweeted a total untruth that quote "both the judge and lawyer in the Paul Manafort case shouted loudly and for the world to hear that there was no collusion with Russia."  The judge said nothing of the kind. 

The President perceive to repeat that falsehood from the south lawn of the White House. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I feel very badly for Paul Manafort.  I think it`s been a very, very tough time for hum.  But if you notice both his lawyer, a highly respected man and a very highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia.  The judge -- I mean for whatever reason, I was very honored by it also made a statement that this had nothing to do with collusion with Russia.  So keep it going.  Let`s go.  Keep the hoax going.  Just a hoax. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s twice now in one day Trump said something the judge never said.  Manafort was sentenced yesterday for committing tax and bank fraud.  Charges that are completely unrelated to the issue of Russian collusion.  Yet Trump now seems (INAUDIBLE) dishonesty representing with Judge Ellis said in that hearing.  As the court transcript shows Ellis didn`t say there was no collusion. 

Referring to the fraud case that he presided over he said Manafort is not before the court for any allegation that he colluded with the Russian government.  In other words, Manafort`s sentencing on charge of fraud does not clear the President of the allegations his campaign colluded with Russia.  Donald Trump is the one clearing himself. 

I`m joined right now by U.S. Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Natasha Bertrand is the staff writer of "the Atlantic," Jonathan Lemire is White House reporter at "the Associated Press" and Joyce Vance is a former federal prosecutor. 

Joyce, Trump, I guess you have to use the word lied here.  He said something that, I don`t know, he was talking to the people were not following it closely.  The judge was simply ruling on a case that didn`t retaliate to Russian collusion, collusion by the Trump people with Russia and Trump used that as a statement as a way of saying I have been cleared.  Your thoughts? 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  You are absolutely right, Chris.  This is at best silly, at worst it is deceitful.  It would be as there you look at someone who was on trial had been indicted for bank fraud and said well, no murder.  You wouldn`t expect prosecutors to prove a murder in this case involving Manafort.  You wouldn`t expect prosecutors to have put on evidence of collusion.  So the President just yet again trying to appeal to his base, trying to cling to some support here. 

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, this is what I call I think price discrimination in the market whereby you sell one story to another at a different price.  I mean, the fact is, Jonathan, he is telling people who weren`t paying close attention who are dealing with (INAUDIBLE), if you will, to be sophisticated about it, who don`t want to hear what happened yesterday.  Yesterday`s trial was not about collusion.  It was about all kinds of other bad things that Paul Manafort did on his own, you can argue, even though he also said he had brainless life otherwise where I came from.  What do you make of Trump`s communication trick here? 

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  This is the strategy the White House has been using pretty much from the beginning of this investigation, one that only accelerated when Rudy Giuliani came on as the President`s attorney last spring.  Words and a lot of smokescreen.  It`s a lot of misdirection, changing the conversation, putting out untruths, mistruths, distorting the facts.  That`s been their strategy is to try to pray upon members of the American public who have not been paying close attentions, weren`t following a day in and day out like we all are. 

And when handed something like this yesterday the President and Giuliani have really seized on it to take a swipe at the special counsel.  Rudy Giuliani told me late last night he really sort of used the judge`s comments to twisted them somewhat to suggest that he was punishing Robert Mueller`s team for over reach.  But Mueller`s team, of course, had suggested a much stiffer sentence for Manafort.  The fact the judge only gave him four years, in Giuliani`s estimation was proof that the special counsel was out of bounds.  And clearly trying to sort lay that groundwork to make a similar claim for whenever the Mueller report does finally - is finally released and the White House has to deal with that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It is like I said last night, a different way of saying, Giuliani (INAUDIBLE) with you, whatever.  It seems to me last night the judge was saying the enemy of the enemy is my friend.  I don`t like this guy Mueller, I`m going to reward his enemy.  I`m going to reward Manafort. 

Anyway, let me go to Natasha on a larger political question here.  A pardon, if there is one anytime, it is politics, whether it is Jack Johnson or anybody you are pardoning.  Are you pardoning Richard Nixon?  It`s always politics.  Is it easier or harder for Trump, the politician to pardon Manafort now that he got pre-light sentence yesterday? 

NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  I think is harder.  I think that he can`t make the argument now that this wasn`t fair, right.  This is beyond fair.  This is extremely lenient compared to the 19 to 24 years he might have gotten if the judge had gone with the guidelines here.  I think that it depends on what happen with D.C. next week if the judge in D.C., Amy Berman Jackson, gives him --. 

MATTHEWS:  I bet she gives him seven.  I`m sorry, six.  Something to add up to ten.  Just a thought. 

BERTRAND:  If it`s adding up to ten, if it is consecutive, then I can see it being a bit of a stronger argument for Trump to say to his base, to his allies, look, Paul Manafort committed white collar crimes. I mean, just like Rudy Giuliani was saying last night.  He is not organized crime.  He is not a murderer.  He committed white collar crime.  That is the argument I can see them making if Paul Manafort were to get between 10 and 14 years in jail.  It will be very easy argument for them to sell. 

MATTHEWS:  He is just working for the Russians against America`s national interest.  Anyway, and doing it secretly. 

Anyway, Mueller`s prosecutors said at yesterday`s hearing that Manafort did not fully cooperate under the term of short lift plea agreement saying quote "he told us things we already knew.  He did not provide valuable information or cooperation." 

That`s now sound fuelling new speculations about whether the President will reward Manafort sounds with a big fat pardon.  Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tells NBC News that a pardon isn`t being considered at this time.  Isn`t that cute?  At this time.  The President is not ruling one in or out.  That`s all Giuliani talk there. 

When asked about a pardon earlier today, Trump also side stepped. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you ruling out a pardon for Manafort? 

TRUMP:  I don`t even discuss it.  The only one discussing it is you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Blumenthal, take a big bite out of this apple here.  Thanks for waiting here to have your thought here.  But it seems to me Trump is cute, Rudy Giuliani is being very cute at this time.  The President is not saying one way or the other.  The President himself is not saying one or the other.  It seems like he wants to serve up something really nice to Manafort for clamming up though. 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT:  I think that any sort of pardon for Manafort, whatever the sentence would be really a bridge too far, even for this President.  The reaction in Congress I think would be one of abhors and repugnance.  There would be action, although the pardon power is broad.  It`s not unlimited.  If it is misused for obstruction of justice and clearly a pardon for Manafort would be to reward not only noncooperation but also witness tampering, confidential discussions with the White House after his conviction.  Potential destruction of documents in effect, contempt for the rule of law.  And a feeling as many in the White House says and the current principal occupant that the norms and ordinary rules don`t apply.  So I think that any pardon for Manafort would trigger a firestorm in United States Congress. 

MATTHEWS:  Joyce, if he pardon a guy who has all kinds of dirt on him, the President, a candidate then and then later the president, everybody knows he would this to reward him stonewalling.  I mean, if Richard Nixon, you know, had pardoned John Mitchell or (INAUDIBLE), that would speeded up the whole process of his impeachment, it seems to me.  It is obviously, and is personally, it is not only pardoning Jack Johnson, you know, the African- American Boxer from the early part of the 20th century who may have been screwed by the law.  This is part of the cover-up in itself, a pardon for Manafort. 

VANCE:  You know --. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, senator. 

BLUMENTHAL:  And remember that this sentence itself is so lenient, laughably lenient that it would in fact trigger that exact feeling that President was playing politics with the justice system.  There is a lot of reason to feel that Manafort`s conduct made him hardly blameless.  In fact he is no choir boy.  He should be held accountable for not only the acts that the did that brought him before the court but also his own giving polling information to Russians, while he was a campaign manager, his apparent cooperation with the Russian, his defiance of the terms of his plea agreement and that kind of basic defiance of rule of law I think has to be taken into account. 

MATTHEWS:  Joyce, let`s talk about conflict of interest.  Let`s talk about obstruction of justice.  If he were to give a break, I mean, he could be already planning to send off to Allen Wood (ph) to play tennis for couple of years.  I mean, he has all kinds of power, this judge to make life easy for Paul Manafort.  But if the President jumps in and pardons him, it seems to me, the President is protecting himself. 

VANCE:  That`s exactly right.  And the pardon process isn`t meant to be a tool that the President can use to put himself above the rule of law.  You know, the President is supposed to be like everybody else in our constitutional system.  Accountable.  Maybe not while he is in the presidency but certainly accountable for violating the law either up on Capitol Hill or after he leaves office. 

I think it`s incredibly reassuring to hear Senator Blumenthal say that he believes that in Capitol Hill, if Trump uses the pardon process, in essence to protect himself and to reward Paul Manafort for refusing to testify against Trump, that Congress will react badly.  Because if they don`t react badly, if they don`t uphold the rule of law, then it`s shattered and we are nothing more than a banana republic. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s go back to the politics.  I agree with that completely, Joyce. 

Let`s go back the politics and who Paul Manafort is.  He is not only an advocate, a lobbyist and a fixer and a mercenary for the Russians and for Putin, but also he was instrumental in winning Trump the White House.  Back to those unrelated matters in 2016.  And as Trump has made clear in multiple occasions, his contributions, Manafort`s, did not go unnoticed.  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I have fantastic people, Paul Manafort just came on.  He is great.  He didn`t need to do this but he wanted to. 

Paul, Corey, Hope, I mean these people what we have been doing has been incredible. 

And Paul Manafort has done an amazing job.  He is here someplace.  Where is Paul?  Paul Manafort.  Oh, good.  You made it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ironically, I interviewed Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican convention where he defended Republican chants to lock up, we have heard those, Hillary Clinton.  Let`s watch him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Lock her up became the anthem for days.  All we keep hearing is lock her up.  It is so much like the battle at the republican.  They start singing lock her up.  How much hatred can you garner between here and November? 

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  It`s not about hatred.  The American people don`t trust -- she is crooked. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you say that to her face? 

MANAFORT:  I`m a gentleman. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I`m more of a gentleman, right. 

Anyway, now that the she is on the other foot, obviously.  And during his five-month tenure, Manafort was present for several key events of interest for the special counsel, including that meeting with Trump tower to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton.  You know, lock up.  The mysterious changes made in the Republican Party platform in Ukraine in favour of Russian and Putin.  And Trump`s outrages public call for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton`s emails, all that is happening while he happened to be on watch, Natasha. 

BERTRAND:  I have always said this that Paul Manafort is really at the center of this.  All the most significant Russia-related events that happened during the campaign coincided with Manafort`s arrival to the campaign. 

I mean, take your pick.  It was the Trump tower meeting, it was the RNC platform change on Ukraine that made it softer towards Russia, it was, you know, the document dumps of WikiLeaks documents dump before the DNC, you know.  He had to resign because of his ties to pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine and that was discovered and he had to kind of leave the campaign in a hurry.  But it has also been a pattern of the President just completely distancing himself from anyone on the campaign.  But this Russia ties after became know their interest with to the special counsel. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, like counting step back and said I don`t care what he did.  In fact, he may have done everything he is accused of but I didn`t tell him. 

BERTRAND:  Well, this is what Trump is actually been very good at is keeping people at arm`s length during the campaign and afterward who may have done the dirty work for him.  But there were text messages that were posted by, that were send between his daughters that were posted on the dark web and they were since verified that said that Trump and their father Paul Manafort would go up and down Trump tower all day scheming.  They were friends.  And they were closer than what the President want us to believe. 

MATTHEWS:  Since his appointment in May of 2017, the special counsel Robert Mueller has put charges against minus all the recap, 34 people and three companies.  That includes six Trump associates and dozens of Russian nationals.  The question now is whether Mueller will bring any additional indictments before he reports his findings to attorney general William Barr. 

And last night on this show, Democratic congressman, Joaquin Castro of Texas who is on the House intelligence committee said Michael Cohen is closed door testimony leads him, the congressman to believe the President`s family could be next.  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS (on the phone):  From what I heard I believe that there will still be more indictments to come.  I think that the information either it leads me to believe that members of the President`s family could be in legal jeopardy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And former CIA director John Brennan who was sitting here last night also predicted more indictments to come before the final report.  Here he goes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  There is a lot that special counsel`s office has been involved in. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you smell coming between now and the final report from Mueller?  What turns on between? 

BRENNAN:  I smell more indictments. 

MATTHEWS:  Family members? 

BRENNAN:  Well, believe 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 in fact they indict somebody of the Trump family that Donald Trump would not allow Bob Mueller to continue.  So I think it is still on the conspiracy fight. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he would fire the guy? 

BRENNAN:  Yes, absolutely. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, I have to get to you then to the senator. 

What`s the (INAUDIBLE) this looks like at this point?  How is this film developing if you will?  It is like an old Polaroid, it is developing.  How is it going to end up --?  Are we going to see more indictments perhaps of the family?  What`s to come before the final report? 

LEMIRE:  It is possible.  It is really conventional Washington wisdom that if the members of the Trump family were to be indicted, that would be the final stage of the Muller probe.  I think Brian Williams on this network last night said it would be fade-a-way jumper from the special counsel.  I go one step further even say that would be a buzzer beater because if he was to do that, that almost assuredly would lead the President to take action to order the probe to be shutdown, to really move forward to aggressively end things. 

And we don`t know that indictments are coming.  Certainly there`s speculation that more may.  There is this belief the Mueller probe is wrapping up.  It could be a matter of days or weeks before the report is transmitted to DOJ.  There is also another stage here on what part would be then be made public.  What we would be all be able to see?  But I think it is clear that if members of the President`s family and speculation is centered on his eldest son, if they were in jeopardy, that would be the last stage, the last stage of this investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Blumenthal, your thoughts quickly on the questions of what happens if the special counsel goes after family? 

BLUMENTHAL:  I think that special counsel is a by-the-book prosecutor that`s going to respect the high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  If he goes after members of a Trump family, he will have a very powerful case. 

But two points to keep in mind, Chris, it`s not only special counsel, it`s also the southern district of New York and state authorities.  And they may have a lot more on financial crime against Donald Trump Jr. and others.  And the last point I would make is Donald Trump`s testified before various congressional committees including the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And I believe there` are very, very serious questions about his truthfulness in testimony before that committee based not only on Michael Cohen`s testimony, but on other facts and circumstance that have come to our attention so there may be a very, very powerful case against don Trump Jr. and others in the Trump family.  And we have yet to see the end of the special counsel in terms of indictments, I believe.  There is more coming. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, senator. 

And I also think say at the end of the show tonight, I think the U.S. Congress could still make their case right now for impeachment. 

Thank you very much, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.  Natasha, short names here. 

Natasha, Jonathan and Joyce are sticking with me. 

Coming up, someone is not telling the truth.  Cohen testified he never asked for a pardon, remember that.  And his lawyer said, well, he did actually did there.  Cohen did ask for a pardon.  And now the President Trump says Cohen`s lying about that. 

Plus, the White House brings another leak.  The House oversight committee of the House gets aits hands on security clearance documents of Ivanka Trump and guess who, Jared Kushner.  The administration did want to have those documents.  They got him.  White House staff is not working for the President here. 

And the race to 2020, Biden`s path to nomination, why Warren, Elizabeth Warren wants to break up Amazon now. 

And Trump`s unlikely rose garden strategy, not on his personality.  We have got a lot to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Ever since Michael Cohen`s explosive testimony last week, where he called the president a con man, a cheat, and a racist, Cohen has been under fire - - under attack, actually, by the president and his allies. 

Today, the president tweeted: "Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony he never asked for a pardon.  His lawyers totally contradicted him.  He lied.  Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon.  I said no.  He lied again.  He also badly wanted to work at the White House.  He lied."

It`s a strange way to talk.  Anyway.

But Cohen`s legal adviser, Lanny Davis, said Trump`s people first broached the subject of a pardon.

In a statement, Davis said: "Michael was open to the ongoing dangling of a possible pardon by Trump representatives privately and in the media during that time period.  He directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon," because he kept hearing about it, I guess.

President Trump, just before heading to Alabama, denied those claims and added this warning:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know that in watching and seeing you folks at night, that Michael Cohen lied about the pardon.  It`s a stone-cold lie.  And he`s lied about a lot of things.  But when he lied about the pardon, that was really a lie, and he knew all about pardons.  His lawyers said that they went to my lawyers and asked for pardons. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, for his part, Michael Cohen accused the president of lying, tweeting: "Mr. President, let me remind you that today is International Women`s day.  You may want to use today to apologize for your own lies and dirty deeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford."

For more, I`m joined by Natasha Bertrand, Jonathan Lemire, and Joyce Vance. 

I want to start with Jonathan about this, the pardoning, the not pardoning.  He clearly wants to differentiate, in his favor, and where he dispenses his favor, Jonathan:  I like Manafort, I hate Cohen. 

Explain why he would have different attitudes towards these two gentlemen. 

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right.

He`s made that distinction very early on, from this past summer, on that remarkable day with both of them ended up in court at the same time, Manafort and Cohen.

Where Trump has largely praised Manafort -- though Manafort did have a cooperation deal, he violated it time and time again, and is seen by the president and those around him as someone who has stayed loyal, while Cohen, of course, has done exactly the opposite.  He very much flipped on the president.

Trump has accused him longtime former fixer of lying about him repeatedly in order to get a lighter sentence.  Cohen, of course, has been sentenced to three years in prison and has to report in about two months. 

The issue with this is the very conflicting stories about this pardon, where Cohen`s team says that Trump`s lawyers sort of dangled it.  Giuliani and those around the president say that it was Cohen`s lawyers who first broached the subject.

And now we have the president today for the first time saying that Cohen directly asked for that.  I asked Rudy Giuliani just a few hours ago about that.  He says that, yes, that Trump told him that Cohen went to him in those first couple weeks after the April 2018 raid on Cohen`s home and office and asked about a pardon, and that Trump said no.

Of course, when I talked to Rudy Giuliani yesterday about this, on this very subject, he didn`t say that.  And that`s, of course, part of the issue here is, all the players involved, Trump, Giuliani, Cohen, Lanny Davis, all have significant credibility issues and all have changed their stories on this very subject time and time again. 

MATTHEWS:  Joyce, what do you make of this mutual courtship over the pardon?  Like, would you like one?  Yes, I would like one.

Well, it seems like there`s a tease going back and forth here.  What do you think it looks like?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Prosecutors have a term for it.  We call it obstruction of justice. 

It`s unusual because here we have the president, who has the ability to grant a pardon, involved in the mix.  In other cases, you might see someone encouraging a witness against them to leave town or suddenly become unavailable. 

But this really isn`t any different, Chris.  The really bizarre aspect of this is that the president and his former lawyer going back and forth at each other saying, you`re a liar, no, you`re a liar. 

And the reality is that they both are.  I wouldn`t want to have either one of them on the witness stand as a witness, unless they were backed up by corroborating documents and other witnesses, because there`s no one to trust here without that.

MATTHEWS:  Natasha, have we any -- I -- I know this is always an inside game.  Do we know who`s advising the president legally?  Who`s telling him when you can pardon, when you can`t, when it`s good politically, but when it`s bad legally or constitutionally, it may get yourself impeached?

Who`s -- who`s there?

NATASHA BERTRAND, "THE ATLANTIC":  I believe that the people that he`s relying on most for legal advice are folks like Jay Sekulow and Emmet Flood in terms of the Mueller investigation and the Russia probe. 

But, as we have seen, Jay Sekulow doesn`t necessarily have the most credible role here either, because he may have coerced Cohen into lying before Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.  That`s still kind of up in the air.  We need more reporting on that.

But he was -- he was involved, apparently, in altering that statement that he gave to Congress.  So these are people that are surrounding the president who may not be giving him the best advice.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are they concierge lawyers?  Are they telling him what he wants to hear?

BERTRAND:  Potentially.

But, anyway, the president doesn`t -- doesn`t listen to his legal team anyway.  He just kind of tweets what he wants to tweet.  And I think we`re losing sight of the big picture here, which is that the president admitted today that he was discussing pardons with Michael Cohen.  And that was just after the raid on Michael Cohen`s home and office by the FBI. 

So, if he was discussing pardons at that moment with someone who was potentially about to flip on him, who else was he discussing pardons with at this time, and was he dangling them? 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  That`s a hell of an analysis right there. 

According to Cohen`s legal adviser, Lanny Davis, Cohen asked his lawyer to explore a potential pardon last year with Trump`s legal team.  Davis said that that was when Cohen had a joint defense agreement with the president. 

The revelation of Cohen`s pardon request appeared to contradict his testimony last week to the House Oversight Committee.  Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP:  I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.

And I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that credible, Joyce, what he just said, that he wouldn`t have tried to get out of this rap of going to prison using the one out he had at hand, which was, I have had a decent relation with this president, maybe he will give me a pardon?  I mean, why wouldn`t he do it? 

(CROSSTALK)

VANCE:  Cohen needs to be very careful from this point forward about telling the truth. 

His narrative right now is, I lied, I pleaded guilty, now I`m a new guy, now I`m committed to telling the truth.  And any effort that he makes that deviates from that straight and narrow path, I think, will be very damaging to him. 

It`s already bad enough that he has to be corroborated by documents or other witnesses before his testimony can be accepted.  He looked very credible in front of the Congress.  He did a couple of things to demonstrate credibility.

Here, I think that this is very unclear about why he would lie about such a simple matter.  So, it may be that the explanation that Lanny Davis is offering that it`s a matter of timing is the truth.  But, going forward, Cohen need to act with extreme care for telling the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you`re winning a game of eight-ball in pool, don`t scratch.  That`s the danger for him right now. 

Anyway, thank you, Joyce Vance, Natasha Bertrand, and Jonathan Lemire.  What a team.

Coming up:  The House Oversight Committee didn`t need cooperation from the White House to get the security clearance documents they were seeking.  They got a leak.  So, how did they get them?  And what does it mean for Jared and Ivanka?  Somebody in the White House is not friendly towards Jared and Ivanka.  They`re leaking the bad stuff on them.

What was the problem?  Why couldn`t they clear the FBI investigation, the background check?  What`s wrong with their background? 

That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The witch-hunt continues.  The fact is that I guess we got 81 letters.  There was no collusion.  It was a hoax. 

There was no anything.  And they want to do that, instead of getting legislation passed; 81 people or organizations got letters.  It`s a disgrace.  It`s a disgrace to our country. 

They want to focus on nonsense. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump earlier today -- or this week, actually, criticizing Democrats for their wide-ranging investigations, particularly the documents the House Judiciary Committee requested from over 80 Trump associates and organizations.

That includes, that list, members of the president`s family.  Most notably, it does not include, however, his daughter Ivanka.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that House Democrats are torn over how aggressively to investigate the intersection of Ivanka Trump`s private financial interests and her service in the White House due to the political optics of questioning Trump`s adult children.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told "The Post" that: "Trump`s children not off-limits to the investigation.  They are advisers to the president.  They have security clearances.  This is not their children at home."

Well, earlier this week, the White House rejected the Oversight Committee`s requests for documents on the security clearance process, including for Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

However, Axios reported today that the Oversight Committee already had documents on Jared and Ivanka`s security clearances before they made that request, thanks to a leak from the White House.

I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, you`re a great guest.  I`m so glad you come on, by the way.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  But thank you for this. 

I have seen a lot of skullduggery in my life, but I have never heard of White House staff people, who are purportedly, theoretically, loyal to the president, leaking stuff to a committee that`s investigating him. 

What`s going on?  Can you figure out how these documents about the FBI field tests -- checks on the president`s family members are now floating down to the House committees who are investigating him?  How`s that happening? 

CICILLINE:  Well, there are clearly whistle-blowers within the department or within the administration who are concerned about this.

We should remember, security clearances, as you know, Chris, are given to protect the national security interests of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CICILLINE:  They are only given to people who are trustworthy and can`t be compromised and can keep confidential some of the most important secrets essential to protecting the American people. 

And so, when the intelligence community and the law enforcement community raised objections to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump getting security clearances, and the president ordered that they get them anyway, and then lied about them, there`s a lot of concern about what is going on here. 

And so I think the lesson to the Trump administration is, cooperate with these investigations, furnish the documents that are being requested, so we can do our oversight, because there are conscientious whistle-blowers who are sharing this information because they`re concerned about the national security of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of these two?  Do you think they are just beneficiaries of nepotism?  They`re well-off, obviously.  They have the president`s love, of course, as the father, but also the president`s deputizing them for, like, world peace, like all kinds of things, not fashion statements or looking good or anything. 

He`s -- and not showing up around like this with these sort of public appearances.  He`s not using them like that.  He`s using them for, as you were suggesting, national security questions, how do we make peace in the Middle East, for example, judicial reform, all this stuff.

Your thoughts? 

CICILLINE:  Yes.

I mean, the president made the decision to hire them as senior advisers to the president.  They`re involved in very significant work.  And we should remember, Ivanka Trump, during the same period of time, was provided with trademarks from the Chinese while we`re negotiating with the Chinese.

Jared Kushner`s family was bailed out on their Fifth Avenue property by the same company that`s trying to sell nuclear technologies to the Saudis.  So, there`s a lot of reason to be concerned about these security clearances and to understand why they were objected to by the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

And why did the president order that they be given, and then lie about it?  So I think there`s a lot of concern.  The president just said in the clip you show, all we`re worried about is investigations. 

The good news is, we can do both things.  We passed an extraordinary bill today, HR-1, to transform politics, to raise ethical standards, to get money out of our political system, to raise -- to really make a big difference in empowering voters, for the people.

We have passed commonsense gun safety legislation.  We have done hearings on driving down prescription drug prices.  So Democrats can do both things.  We can get the work done of the American people and hold the administration accountable. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, "The Washington Post" notes today that any move to probe Ivanka or any of Trump`s children will probably infuriate the president.  Trump regularly complains that House Democrats are trying to impeach him and ruin his family, according to a senior administration official, and has said privately he doesn`t want his children testifying on Capitol Hill or providing documents to the investigators. 

I worked for Tip O`Neill for all those years.  And his doctrine was, don`t go after family members.  Don`t make fun of Nancy Reagan, for example, when you`re going after Ronald Reagan.  It`s bad politics.

In this case, is it an extraordinary situation where it is good government, if not good politics, to go after the kids?

CICILLINE:  Yes, I don`t think we`re going to have a choice. 

Look, we have a responsibility to find out what happened here.  These are not kids that are at home doing their own thing.  That would be certainly off-limits.  These are senior members of this administration who are in the middle of some very, very important events, with real questions about what`s happening.

We would be derelict in our responsibility if we didn`t conduct investigations and oversight.  We obviously have to do it in a respectful way.  We obviously ought to limit sort of the public hearings, if we can, try to collect information first.

But it simply is not the case that, simply because they`re the children of the president, that they`re off-limits, that they can engage in whatever conduct they want, and it`s unreviewable.  That -- our Constitution doesn`t work that way. 

The president made the decision to hire them, to put them in the White House.  They then become members of the administration.  They are subject to the same laws and ethical standards of everyone else who works in the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island.  Thank you, sir. 

CICILLINE:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  The president`s advisers reportedly want him to rein in his wild campaign rally performances -- you know those pretty well -- and present a more dignified presidential image heading into 2020, something Trump has had -- well, he says it`s easy enough to do. 

Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I`m very presidential.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That`s him pretending to be presidential.  Can he actually do it, though?  Can he pull it off? 

That`s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With a dozen Democrats already in the race for president to take on President Trump in 2020, much of the focus is centered, however, on someone who`s not yet running, former Vice President Joe Biden.

"The New York Times" reports Biden has spent much of this year running what amounts to a non-incumbent`s version of a Rose Garden campaign, giving high-profile paid speeches and appearing at events that project him as statesmanlike. 

Well, this week, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown announced they wouldn`t be running for president.

NBC`s "First Read" notes: "What Biden`s anticipated entry has done is that it has started to clear one lane, the white male moderate-leaning lane, but what it hasn`t done is scare off anyone else."

Well, to the left of Biden is, of course, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called today for the breakup of some of the country`s biggest tech companies, like Google, Amazon and Facebook. 

Warren discussed her plan a short time ago on "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What this is about is about competition.  It`s about all those little businesses and startup businesses and entrepreneurs who want to put their products on Amazon or Google, and who are at an enormous competitive disadvantage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, meanwhile, as President Trump watches the Democratic field take shape, Politico reports he`s itching to upstage them with rallies of his own, but that Trump`s Republican allies and campaign officials believe an early reelection strategy built around his role as chief executive in dignified settings like the Oval Office and the Rose Garden will carry more weight with voters than his signature freewheeling arena speeches. 

Unfortunately for those campaign officials, there`s plenty of reason to believe that that will never happen. 

And that`s coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Politico`s now reporting that the president`s advisers hope he can run a Rose Garden reelection campaign, at least at first, to take advantage of the trappings of his presidential office. 

According to President Trump, that should be easy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  It`s much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we`re doing here tonight, believe me.

With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that`s ever held this office.  That, I can tell you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP:  Remember I used to say how easy it is to be presidential?  But you would all be out of here right now if I -- you would be so bored.

I`m very presidential.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight.

When I would be a little bit wild, and we would have a lot of fun, they would say, say he`s not acting presidential.  Anybody can act presidential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Act, the key word.

Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR up in Boston, and Howard Fineman, our friend, NBC analyst.

I`m going to start with you, Kimberly, by the way.  Congratulations on this new position with WBUR.  Goodbye, print.  Here we go. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the guy who actually talks in front of an audience, like Rupert Pupkin, like one of these characters in the movie, who actually talks like, I`m now deciding how I`m going to show myself to you?  Should I play -- present -- act like a president or not act like manic, some character?

And he does it right in real time.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR BOSTON:  Yes, I want to know where these advisers who want him to be -- quote, unquote -- "presidential" have been for the last three years.  There`s absolutely no sense that that is what`s coming.

I mean, did you see his CPAC speech?  That is what 2020...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, two hours of rambling, Fidel Castro, whatever, stream of consciousness -- if he had a consciousness. 

How do you do stream of consciousness when you don`t have a consciousness, Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the idea of him staying in the Rose Garden is amusing.

I think what they will come to is that they will bring a few roses with him wherever he goes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  Because he wants to be out there. 

He -- this is very important.  Having covered a lot of his rallies during the campaign, and seen him since in action, he feeds off -- he requires the energy infusion of mass adulation in person. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  It`s not enough that his Twitter follower number goes up.  It`s not enough that he gets a reaction from us on television. 

He needs the visceral human sound of adulation. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  He...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who was it?  Like, Ed Koch, the mayor of New York for years, he was so much like him.

FINEMAN:  How am I doing? 

MATTHEWS:  How am I doing?  How am I doing?  He needed that interaction all the time.

FINEMAN:  How am I doing? 

And that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We got to move ahead.  We got two more topics. 

Joe Biden has been restrained, but it may be his challenge could be that his highest poll number will be the first day of his campaign, because they`re already going after him. 

ATKINS:  Yes.  Yes, I think that`s true. 

I think Joe Biden`s biggest disadvantage now is that it`s no longer four years ago.  Politics has changed dramatically in the past four years.  The Democratic Party has changed dramatically in the past four years.

MATTHEWS:  Where were you on bussing 30, 40 years ago? 

ATKINS:  Right. 

And so everything, every policy position, we are already seeing Democrats being very critical of the Obama administration.  Now every policy position that he`s ever taken, every video of him from the Anita Hill hearings, everything from before is going to seem terribly out of step in 2020.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ATKINS:  I think it`s really tough when you`re going against folks like Elizabeth Warren.

MATTHEWS:  When the zeitgeist -- as Norman Mailer used to say, the zeitgeist -- the cosmos has shifted.  Now you got to look liberal.

You got to look a little lefty.  You can`t look like that middle-of-the- road guy anymore that he was.

FINEMAN:  Well, Chris, in reporting on this -- and I have been obsessively reporting on what Joe is up to.

Talking to people in his -- people out there, I know that people in his inner circle are calling around the country looking for allies to help explain and put in context various aspects of Joe Biden`s past.

That means a lot of the organizational work for the run, if he makes it, is about getting people who are willing to step forward to explain, no, no, here`s what he meant in 1982 about this.  Here`s what he meant about Anita Hill.  Here`s what he meant about bussing.  Here`s how it fits into that context of long ago.

MATTHEWS:  You`re not winning when you`re playing defense.

FINEMAN:  You`re not winning.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Colorado and Governor John rMDNM_Hickenlooper. 

I don`t understand -- well, I do, because neither you or I -- and we`re on television a lot. 

Let`s watch him.  He wouldn`t explain himself to Joe this morning, Joe Scarborough, who asked him if he`s a capitalist, a pretty decent question. 

Here we go. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Well, would you call yourself -- would you call yourself a proud capitalist? 

(LAUGHTER)

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh, I don`t know.

You know, again, the labels, I`m not sure any of them fit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you.  Just -- I will break it down even more.  Do you consider yourself a capitalist?

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, again, the labels -- I`m a small business person, so that part of the system that you would call capitalist, I get it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

So do you consider yourself a capitalist?  And does capitalism work? 

HICKENLOOPER:  Well, I think I don`t look at myself with a label.  I think, right now, the way capitalism is working in United States, it`s not doing what it once did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  You`re first, Howard, and just quickly.  We don`t have much time.

FINEMAN:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s his problem? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The cat hat got his tongue.

FINEMAN:  If that`s the level of conversation that Democrats are going to have about capitalism and socialism, which is a fake argument...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  I wrote down roads, harbors, bridges, dams, Social Security, Medicare, interstate rules.  Those are socialist.

MATTHEWS:  Also, building the railroad or the runway.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Yes, we have a mixed system.  What is the problem?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Howard says, we have a history of 200-some years of mixed capitalism, public-private working together.  It`s worked pretty well. 

ATKINS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Why do we have to decide one or the other now?

ATKINS:  Because people are afraid.  People are afraid of those -- those labels.

MATTHEWS:  What`s scary about the word capitalist?

ATKINS:  It`s this idea that Democrats can`t embrace this idea about making money in the market.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You don`t believe in the market?

ATKINS:  It`s kept people put -- it`s kept people out of this race.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do they think the groceries get to the Safeway?  How do they figure out the beers on the bar when you go to bar?

ATKINS:  I`m not saying..

MATTHEWS:  How do they think -- it`s called the market.  People bring it to market.

(CROSSTALK)

ATKINS:  I`m not saying that there`s no place for capitalism in the country.  I`m saying, in the political discourse right now, it`s seen as Kryptonite.  And people don`t even want to touch it.

MATTHEWS:  They got to grow up.  They got to grow up. 

By the way...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  They got to grow up?  Who is going to tell all the millennials in Brooklyn they got to grow up?  Come on.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you something.  Elizabeth Warren told me at lunch a couple months ago she`s a capitalist, because she has to be refined.  You have to have the safety net.  You have to have antitrust, like she`s talking about today. 

You got to have those requirements.  But if you throw out the market, what are you left with?

FINEMAN:  Well, millennials, if I can speak for them for a second, feel screwed by the market.  They don`t feel enabled by the market.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we`re going to move on with feelings here with Howard Fineman.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Kimberly Atkins and Howard Fineman.

There`s such a thing as history.  There`s such a thing as fact.  Move on.

Up next:  It`s time for the Democrats in the House of Representatives to publicly recognize that the case for impeachment is already on the public record.  Let`s stop waiting for the smoking gun. 

I`m going to say that at length in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Some argument that the push for impeachment is ahead of schedule. 

I think a stronger argument could be made that it`s way behind schedule.  The fact is, Donald Trump`s impeachable crimes have been committed in broad daylight.

Trump asking the FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigations of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  Trump firing the FBI director for refusing to do so, worse yet, firing him for refusing Trump`s demand to declare personal loyalty to Donald Trump above the law. 

Trump firing his Attorney General Jeff Sessions for insisting on following Department of Justice rules and recusing himself in a case in which he had played a personal role, his part in Trump`s presidential campaign.

And try this for high crimes and misdemeanors, Trump paying off someone for hiding a matter from the voters that could have turned the 2016 election, a violation of campaign finance laws, secretly sending checks month after month in the Oval Office to pay for the silence of women he had relations with.

And what about Trump`s ringleadership of his people, including family members and their efforts to win this award of a foreign power, Russia, to win the presidency?

Democrats who control the House of Representatives, and with it the power to impeach, should consider what they and the country are already looking at, and not spend two more years looking for the cherry to put on top of the cake Donald Trump has already baked.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END