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Bob Woodward plays Hardball. TRANSCRIPT 3/25/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Shannon Pettypiece, Caroline Fredrickson, Sheldon Whitehouse,Hakeem Jeffries, Mike Quigley, Bob Woodward

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Quite a busy night, as we like to say around right here, cant` stop, won`t stop.  And so I want to tell you tomorrow night, we have a special guest, the man who Bob Mueller`s investigation found unwittingly helped launched the Russia probe, former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.  He`s here tomorrow on The Beat in his first ever interview on MSNBC.  But don`t go anywhere right now because HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Barr`s bombshell.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  The Attorney General`s letter on the Robert Mueller report stirs the country.  It says Mueller cleared Trump and his people, including his children, on the Russian front.  Barr quotes from Mueller`s report that the investigation, quote, did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

Well, that`s the box office news of the weekend because if Mueller had found evidence of a crime there, the calls for impeachment would have been resounding and could even have reached republicans, but he didn`t.  As a consequence, republicans are now even less likely to back impeachment and certainly not conviction and removal from office.

But now comes the big stickler, obstruction of justice.  According to Barr`s letter released to Congress late yesterday, Mueller did not draw any conclusion as to whether Trump had committed a crime here.  What Barr then did quote, the evidence is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense.  Well, that`s because, according to Barr, the report identifies no actions that were done with corrupt intent.  In other words, Barr reviewed Mueller`s two-year investigation over the course of two days and ruled that the President had not obstructed justice.

Well, reacting to that news yesterday the President was quick to claim exoneration, of course, and then attacked the investigation itself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It was a complete and total exoneration.  It`s a shame that our country had to go through this.  To be honest, it`s a shame that your President has had to go through this for before I even got elected began.  And it began illegally, and hopefully somebody`s going to look at the other side.  This was an illegal takedown that failed.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the President`s claim of exoneration, however, is at odds with Mueller`s characterization of findings of possible obstruction of justice.  According to Attorney General Barr`s own letter, the Special Counsel specifically said, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.  All this has intensified calls to release the Special Counsel`s full report as well as the underlying evidence he collected.

I`m joined by Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg News White House Reporter.  Caroline Fredrickson, President of the American Constitution Society, Mimi Rocah, of course, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.  Thank you all for joining us.

I want to start with Shannon.  What`s the difference between the political, legal, constitutional reality we faced five minutes to five last Friday and now?  What`s big and change in the cosmos?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Politically I don`t know if much has changed.  And I`ve been talking to a lot of people about this.  I know democrats really hitched their wagon to this argument, but that`s not what voters cared about.  They cared about the economy and health care, and that`s what the presidential candidate we`re talking about.

Legally, I don`t think the President is in any more legal jeopardy than he was before this.  There is this opening for democrats that you`ve pointed out with Mueller saying that he is not charging him with a crime if he is not exonerating him.  That gives democrats an opening to pursue this and to call for the full report to be released.

I think that is going to be difficult for Barr to do because so much of what Barr collected was grand jury testimony, classified information or things covered by executive privilege.  But if the democrats want be to wage that fight, they can do so and it could be a court battle that could play out for years, just like these other battles of releasing documents have played out.

So -- but I don`t know if that`s a path the democrats want to go down.  I think some will pursue it but I think you`re going to see the party try and shift the topics to something else that voters are more interested in, healthcare, the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m interested in whether the President committed a crime or not.  Let me get back to Mimi Rocah.  You know, every crime show I watch, my favorite was The Good Wife for years.  But I have to say, there`s something I saw in the face of the reality which was prosecutorial discretion.  Prosecutors get to decide what to do, whether they prosecute or not.  Why did Robert Mueller not decide?  Why didn`t he play Pontius Pilate here?  Why did he pass the buck to Barr who he knew was a republican who had written favorably of the President`s position on obstruction of justice, passed it over to him and didn`t use the two-year investigation to make up his mind?  Did the President or not obstruct justice?  What`s wrong with the question and where`s the answer?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, Chris, I don`t know that Mueller did pass the buck to Barr.  I mean, look, we`re recreating something here without knowing, you know, all of the facts and, again, this is something that the release of the report might tell us.  But it seems to me that what Mueller -- Mueller is not someone -- he`s spent decade making hard decisions in his career.  I do not view him as someone who would shy away from a decision just because it`s hard for no good reason.

It sounds to me like he came up with facts that were problematic for Trump, that pointed towards obstruction.  But as Barr quote Mueller is saying, they were, quote, difficult questions of law and fact.  And Mueller felt that given that the President could not, under department of justice policy, be indicted.  It was for Congress to resolve those questions.  And so I think that he --

MATTHEWS:  He doesn`t say that.  I don`t see that.  I don`t see that in the letter from Barr.  Where did you know that he was thinking that the President couldn`t be indicted?  Where are you getting that from in this report?  I haven`t seen it yet.

ROCAH:  Well, I`m saying that that could be one of the difficult questions of law that Mueller was trying to resolve.  And I think Mueller was trying to pass this over to Congress and Barr`s swooped in and took it.  There is nothing that Barr --

MATTHEWS:  Well, it would have helped.  It would have been helpful to know that that was his reason because what we`re getting here is difficult issues.  We`re getting questions.  And if he had just said, I can`t rule out an indictment because we`re not supposed to, according to the Justice Department guidelines, indict.  And I would say there`s a lot of speculation here.  My question is why did he turn it over a guy who he knew was pro-Trump?

ROCAH:  Well, I guess what I`m saying is I don`t know that that was Mueller`s intention.  To quote my former boss, Preet Bharara, I think Mueller was punting the football to Congress and Barr swooped in and intercepted it and took it out to the bleachers.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  That`s a nice one.  I agree with it.  I want to go to Caroline.  Hold on Mimi, I`ve got a lot of respect for your judgment.  But I want to get some other thoughts here.  Caroline, it seems to me that the chain of custody of the report went right to Barr.  So whatever his intentions were, he was turning over the authority to do what he wanted with that report to the Attorney General.  And the Attorney General`s position was pretty damn clear going into this, that he was pro-Trump.  And then Mueller gets what?  He gave him the hot potato.  He took the hot potato.  And in 24/48 hours, he decided to rule on the evidence of two years.  He just did it.  And he had Rod Rosenstein helping him.

FREDRICKSON:  Right.  And I think it`s highly problematic.  I mean, I think this is an Attorney General who auditioned for this job by writing a letter to the President that said, I don`t think a President can commit obstruction.  So right off, you have to wonder about his --

MATTHEWS:  Well, he knew this.  And he turns over the report to a guy he knew didn`t believe the President could be guilty.

FREDRICKSON:  Right.  But I don`t think -- well, I mean, Mueller -- we don`t know what Mueller -- what other -- there wasn`t really a clear alternative for him.

MATTHEWS:  He could have made a decision.

FREDRICKSON:  But that`s -- well, certainly.  But I think what Mimi said is most likely correct, that he`s guided by this Justice Department policy.

MATTHEWS:  We don`t know this.

FREDRICKSON:  We don`t know it.  But --

MATTHEWS:  And he didn`t say it.

FREDRICKSON:  But the fact of the matter that we don`t know it is all the reason why we need to see the report, why Mueller and Barr should have to go up to Congress and talk about it, testify.  And I have to say, I disagree.  I think we don`t know, again, that most of what Mueller`s collected is -- can`t be turned over to Congress because it`s grand jury.  I mean, Congress actually has a right to see grand jury material when it`s related to the President.

MATTHEWS:  I want to go back to Mimi on this one more time past you.  It seems to me that the report that we got, the pieces of it we got, thanks to Barr, basically said, I`m not exonerating him, I`m not indicting him.  Why would he go through all that if the reason either those were relevant was that he couldn`t indict the President just to begin with?  Why would he talk about weighing the evidence and all if it didn`t matter how he weighed, because according to your reference, he couldn`t indict?

ROCAH:  Well, I mean, again, you`re right.  We don`t know that was the only basis.  I think that the OLC policy could be changed, okay?  There`s no question that it could be changed, but it could be that the facts did not cry out for that, right?  So you have to take the policy in combination with the facts.

I`m not saying that Mueller did the right thing or didn`t do the right thing.  I don`t know enough to pass judgment on someone like Bob Mueller right now sitting here.  I can tell from Barr`s letter that it seems to me, the impression I`m left with, is that he says Mueller didn`t decide this.  Well, here, I`m going to -- it`s left to me to decide.  And he inserts himself.  I don`t know what gives him the authority to do that.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

ROCAH:  I don`t think it was appropriate, and I think most of all, releasing this letter with this pick and choose quote partial sentences from Bob Mueller is just very unhelpful and quite prejudicial because it`s giving a certain impression that is not the full picture right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think everybody wants to see that full picture.  To that point, Mimi, Former Attorney General Eric Holder said that it was wrong for Bill Bar to make that decision on obstruction of justice, saying it shouldn`t have been up to him.  I agree with you.  Your thoughts?


MELBER:  So when Barr in his letter suggests this is up to him, is he right or wrong about that?

ERIC HIMPTON HOLDER JR., FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I think he`s wrong.  And I would say he is acting in a way that`s inconsistent with the best practice.  It would seem to me having received the information in the way that he did from Bob Mueller, that Attorney General Barr should have taken that information and then packaged it in the appropriate form and sent it to the House for consideration.

It seems hard for me to imagine that Bob Mueller asked Bill Barr to do this.  That seems -- because that would be Bob Mueller shifting responsibility for making the call to the Attorney General.  And that`s just not the way in which Bob Mueller is wound.  that`s just not the way he`s wound.


MATTHEWS:  I want to bring in Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  He sits on the same Judiciary Committee.  Senator, you`ve been listening to this.  Do you think it makes sense for Bob Mueller who spends two years trying to discern the truth and the justice here to turn it over to a guy who was just appointed Attorney General to make a ruling on, final ruling on the issue obstruction of justice?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), R.I.:  No, because the whole purpose of Special Counsel is to have somebody make prosecutive decisions outside of politics.  So to take the prosecutor decision and handed it back to the top political appointee in the office defeats the whole purpose of being Special Counsel.  He could have sent a draft indictment and said, this is for you to review under the policy if that was the problem.  But it really seems odd, and I agree with everybody else who has said that this emphasizes why it`s so important that we get to have a look at what went on because there`s no logical explanation for this at this point.

MATTHEWS:  If he and -- if Jeff Sessions were still Attorney General under the logic of what we saw over the weekend, this 48 hour rush job that ended up being a judgment by William Barr, Jeff Sessions would have made the decision.  I mean, he recused himself on the report but then the report comes back.

WHITEHOUSE:  Well, except that he recused himself.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But then the report comes back to him from review.  What does he do then, pass it as another hot potato to the Congress?  Maybe that`s what he should have done.

WHITEHOUSE:  I don`t.  He`d probably still be recused and then it floats off to someplace else in the department.  But the whole thing -- you can speculate about all of that, but the bottom line is we need to know what happened, because on its face, it does not make sense.

The two big things we need to know is what happened here with this very peculiar treatment of the obstruction charge and, two, what was the scope of the collusion investigation?  Because if I`ve got to tell you, Chris, I still have that Ukraine plank in the Republican Party platform stuck in my draw [ph].  It was probably the top thing the Russians cared about in the Republican Party platform.  Their guy, Manafort, is on scene doing this stuff.  Manafort has got all kind of hawk that he owes to Russian -- pro- Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.  And the idea that somehow that whole thing ended up being legit makes no sense to me.  I don`t know if they looked at the Trump tax returns to see whether there was a financial element to this.

So we`ve got to figure out what Mueller actually looked at.  Because I think he`s entitled to the benefit of the doubt on what he looked at, but he is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt on stuff he did not look at.  And we`re entitled to know what the heck went on with this very, very peculiar saga on --

MATTHEWS:  I`m with you.  Counterintelligence.  You`ve got a minute left, Senator.  I really want to know what you think about this.  Compromise, all the ways they may have had him on his shorts.  They could have had him on his business dealings, the they could have had him with all kinds of it, perhaps the dossier, who knows.  We didn`t get that information, didn`t we?

WHITEHOUSE:  This was driven by a very narrow set of phrases in the Mueller report that this was related specifically to the Russian efforts to interfere in the election.  So if they were trying to interfere by having ah compromise on the President, they`re trying to interfere in the Republican Party platform, it is not clear at this point that that was looked.  There were were two very specific attacks that were looked at that we know.  The rest is an unknown.  And that`s why we have to get Barr and Mueller and Rosenstein on a panel answering questions to Congress and to the public.

MATTHEWS:  And let`s start with everybody saying that report for Mueller himself.  But I think you`re so right.  So I hope we get ahead with this spy versus spy and what they got from Trump.  Lots of information that you suggest we may not have even had in the report itself.

Thank you, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Mimi Rocah, thank you so much.  Everybody seems to agree with you.  Thank you for coming on, Shannon, of course, for the reporting here, and Caroline, stick with us.

Up next, much more on the unanswered questions from the Mueller investigation, we`re starting to get to these unanswered questions.  Stick with us.

Plus, Trump is already hinting a vengeance, isn`t this swell, against his political opponents following his declaration of exoneration, which he`s given himself, by the way.

I`m going to talk to Bob Woodward.  He`s coming here tonight to talk about Trump`s faithful decision to avoid a sit down interview.  How did he get away without being questioned even?  We don`t even know about it if the tax returns were looked at.  It`s a busy night here on the news.  Stick with us.



TRUMP:  Hopefully, somebody is going to be looking at the other side, so it`s complete exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction.  Thank you very much.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Hardball.  And claiming complete exoneration yesterday, the President once again called for an investigation of his opponents on what called the other side.  He went further today in the Oval Office calling his critics treasonous.


TRUMP:  There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say, treasonous things against our country.  And, hopefully, that people that have done such harm through our country, we`ve gone through a period of really bad things happening.  Those people will certainly be looked at.  They lied to Congress, many of them, you know who they are.  They have done so many evil things.  But what they did, it was a false narrative.  It was a terrible thing.


MATTHEWS:  Imagine what he`d be saying if it was a bad weekend.

Anyway, rather than embrace the results Mueller`s probe, which clears him on collusion, President Trump appears vengeful, calling the investigation an illegal takedown.  However, it was Trump`s own actions, let`s face it, and that of his associates that prompted the FBI to investigate in the first place.  As The Washington Post points out, Russian citizens interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and during the transition.  Then those same people tried to hide those interactions.

Donald Trump Jr. released a misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting.  Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the Moscow project.  Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about sanctions on Russia.  Paul Manafort was found to have lied to prosecutors about his contacts with a Russian intelligence operative.  George Papadopoulos lied about seeking Russian dirt on Hillary.  Roger Stone was charged with lying to Congress about WikiLeaks.

I`m back with Shannon Pettypiece and Caroline Fredrickson.  And joining us now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post." 

Robert, how do we explain Trump`s anger, this vengeful nastiness we`re getting to, even though he got the clearance by Robert Mueller on the issue of, did he collude with the Russians, that he carried on their conspiracy, and none of his kids got nailed, and none of his henchmen got nailed?  And yet he`s acting like he had the worst weekend of his life. 

What`s up? 

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Politically, many of his advisers today are urging him to move away from the Mueller probe, to take the Barr summary and to walk on and just focus on 2020. 

But, according to the president`s confidants, talking to them today, Chris, he takes this personally.  He sees it in personal terms, some of his friends being called in as witnesses.  He wants to fight back against the media, who he sees as an opposition party, against the federal government, especially the Department of Justice. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this, the question of what he thinks of Mueller.  He took an opportunity in passing today to say he`s an honorable man.  He agreed with a reporter`s question very directly.  He`s an honorable guy. 

How does that fit with his trashing of the investigation? 

COSTA:  It`s totally discordant.  It doesn`t fit with any of his messaging over the past two years. 

But this is President Trump flipping the entire message.  This is tabloid- style, personality-driven politics.  His confidants and associates say this is how he operates, how he operated in business, how he`s always been as a political figure. 

If you`re with him, and you give him a positive affirmation in any way, he will be with you.  But if you`re negative, if you come at him, even in the slightest way, he will attack you. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s explain why he went on McCain and dropped McCain over the weekend.  What do you think`s going on there? 

A little question of mine, because I had a tip he was going to drop it.  And he did drop McCain.  He hasn`t said anything awful about him in three or four days now.

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, he decided to, like, revive his greatest hits of attacks to gather more attention. 

I mean, all I can assume is that, where was everyone looking in the news media right before that happened?  The 2020 contenders.  It was Beto O`Rourke standing on top of a diner countertop in Iowa.  It was Beto in his van.  It was Beto on the cover of "Vanity Fair," and no one was talking about Trump.

He put out those 50 tweets in 24 hours or whatever it was, and, all of a sudden, people were talking about Trump again.

I think, as we get more and more into 2020, he is going to have to struggle with this idea that he is not always going to be the center of attention.  Even with this Mueller report, even the good news and the bad news of the past two years coming out of this, at least it has kept him in the spotlight.  It has kept him out there being able to counterpunch, being able to stir up his base.

If he doesn`t have that microphone, it takes a lot away from his appeal and I think his ability to mobilize people.  And there`s no doubt that there are going to be moments where he`s going to be ignored over the past two years.  And he`s going to have to find a way to break through.

MATTHEWS:  So, he would rather look like a jerk than be ignored?

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, I -- there is no such thing as bad press. 

And he has said as much.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think there is.

Anyway, President Trump said again today he wouldn`t mind if the Mueller report was released.


QUESTION:  Would you want the report released?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Up to the attorney general, but it wouldn`t bother me at all.  Up to the attorney general.  Wouldn`t bother me at all.


MATTHEWS:  That was a little twisted there.  It`s up to the attorney general, but it wouldn`t bother me. 

Anyway, however, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow is now saying the president answers to Mueller`s written questions should not released.  Even the part he wrote isn`t supposed to be released.  Let`s watch. 


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  As a lawyer, you don`t waive privileges, and you don`t rave -- you don`t waive investigative detail, absent either a court order or an agreement between the parties. 

And you would have to weigh a lot of factors there in how that affects other presidencies.  So I think that it`s not a simple just wave your hand and, here, we release the document.  I think that would be very inappropriate. 


MATTHEWS:  Why would Trump say something on -- under oath in his written answer to these questions, which obviously was lawyered up?  But why wouldn`t he want that out?  That`s a defense.  That`s his defense.

FREDRICKSON:  Well, you would think so. 

I mean, he says that he`s been exonerated completely.  So, in addition to his own written statement that he swore to under oath, he should want this report to come out.  If he says and he claims it exonerates him completely, then he should be entirely supportive of it being provided to Congress and to the American public pronto. 

MATTHEWS:  To turn the pillow over, as I like to say, that reference to middle of the night, when it`s too hot on one side, you turn it to the cool side, I want go to you, the cool side of the pillow question, Robert Costa. 

Who is Trump most, in the middle of the night, worried about running against? 

COSTA:  I can`t speak to his inner mind-set, Chris.

But talking to White House officials who know him, they say he`s paying attention to Vice President Biden, someone who could actually, in his view, compete in a significant way in those industrial Midwestern states that were so critical to the president`s victory in 2016.

And he also has respect, when he`s talking candidly to his friends, for movement-style politicians like Senator Sanders, like Congressman O`Rourke.  He also see saw the big crowds for Senator Harris in California, keeping an eye on her as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Thank you so much.

Looks like Biden is the one that is knocking at his window at night.  Anyway -- Poe-like.

Anyway, thank you, Shannon Pettypiece.  Thank you for being here tonight.  And Caroline Fredrickson, thank you, and Robert Costa, of course.

Still ahead:  Will Congress get to see the entire Mueller report for themselves?  I mean, they are elected to watch this president.  Will Attorney General Barr be called to testify?  I think it`s up to the Supreme Court.  And you know what we think of that.

We will be right back.  We`re going to ask some lawmakers about what power they have they to get the truth.  It`s coming up next.

Stick with us. 




It wasn`t that he took this upon himself.  That`s the process of the law.  When the special counsel couldn`t make a decision, couldn`t make a final determination, they refer that to the attorney general to make that decision.  He made it in conjunction with the deputy attorney general, who`s been intimately involved in this process from the very beginning. 

So it`s not like you have somebody that just showed up onto the scene. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

They did just show up. 

Anyway, President Trump and his allies continue to call the special counsel`s report a complete and total exoneration of the crimes of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, a decision they say is grounded in the rule of law. 

For the record, the report explicitly, explicitly does not exonerate the president, and says so.  It does not exonerate.  That`s what Mueller said. 

However, since we have only seen Attorney General William Barr`s summary, and not the report itself, a number of questions are out there.  Namely, what`s in the Mueller report?  We haven`t seen it.  And did the attorney general overstep when he cleared the president of obstruction?  In two days, he covered what was judged -- was looked at for two years. 

And moments ago, six Democratic committee chairs submitted this letter -- you`re looking at it -- to the attorney general, William Barr, requesting he submit the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence to Congress by next Tuesday, April 2. 

In the joint letter, they go on to say: "Your four-page summary of the special counsel`s review is not sufficient for Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, to perform its oversight function."

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat from New York and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman Mike Quigley, Democrat from Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

I want to start with Congressman Jeffries. 

First of all, how do we know whether the president obstructed justice on all these matters, especially around the Russian probe, and who says so?  Are we to take the word of Attorney General Barr, appointed by the president, that the president innocent and exonerated?  Because, apparently, that`s his word. 

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK:  Well, we absolutely should not take the word of Attorney General Barr. 

What we have seen to date is the Barr report, four-page report from someone who was appointed by Donald Trump, perhaps because, as Donald Trump indicated, he wanted his Roy Cohn.  He wanted his attorney general who would have the president`s back.

That`s not the job of the attorney general.  But, apparently, that`s what Donald Trump believes is the highest qualification to hold that position. 

Instead of the Barr report, we need to see the Mueller report, every single word.  The House voted 420-0 for full and public disclosure of the work that Bob Mueller has undertaken.  And that is why we all stand behind our six committee chairs to make sure that we can get access to this information, so that it`s presented to the American people. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you win that fight? 

Is this going to go to the Supremes?  And that`s, of course, a Republican court.  Are you going to -- if you take this to the Supreme Court, and you say, we`re going to subpoena the president, who is going to ignore the subpoena, it goes all the way to the top court, can you win that fight with a Republican court? 

JEFFRIES:  I think we can. 

But, hopefully, it doesn`t have to get to the court.  We are a separate and co-equal branch of government.  We don`t work for Donald Trump.  We work for the American people.  We have a constitutional responsibility, as you know, Chris, to serve as a check and balance on an out-of-control executive branch. 

That`s not the House Democratic Caucus playbook.  That`s the James Madison playbook.  And so we are well within our rights, on behalf of the American people, to subpoena the attorney general, if necessary, subpoena the report, if necessary, on behalf of the American people.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Quigley, the report from Robert Mueller, as quoted by Mr. Barr, the attorney general, says that the president was not exonerated from obstruction of justice. 

Then, having quoted the Mueller report, the attorney general said, but I`m going to exonerate him. 

What do you make of that sequence of events?  It`s extraordinary. 

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS:  Look, Mr. Barr did the job he was assigned to do.  It is the singular purpose for him being exactly where he is. 

He argued against the theory of law that Mueller was theoretically using to deal with an obstruction case before he got there.  He never should have been approved by the Senate.  But here he is, and we have to face the consequences. 

And I think, not just Mr. Barr, but Mr. Mueller has to appear before Congress to get into the details, not just of the report, but of the underlying documentation they used to make their arguments. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, two weeks ago, gentlemen, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told "The Washington Post" these amazing words: "I`m not for impeachment.  Impeachment is so divisive to the country that, unless there`s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don`t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.  And he`s just not worth it."

She`s talking about the president. 

In the wake of the special counsel investigation, a Democratic aide tells Politico: "You can hurt Trump more without impeaching him.  If you`re going to go after him, it has to be a kill shot.  But, otherwise, you can keep cutting him over and over again, and then beat him in 2020."

What`s your thinking about that?

First, with Congressman Jeffries, do you think impeachment should be on the table after this weekend? 

JEFFRIES:  Well, for most of us, impeachment was never on the table.  And I think Nancy Pelosi, our speaker, was making two important points. 

The first point is that we didn`t run on impeachment.  We didn`t win on impeachment.  We`re not focused on impeachment.  We`re focused on executing our for-the-people agenda, lowering health care costs for everyday Americans, enacting a real infrastructure plan, and cleaning up corruption and the mess in Washington, D.C., which we have begun to do with passage of HR-1. 

That was our first point.  Our second point was that, if we were to even consider going down the impeachment road, the case must be compelling, the evidence must be overwhelming, and the public sentiment around impeachment must be bipartisan in nature.

In the absence of any of those three elements, I completely and totally agree, and so do the overwhelming majority of House Democratic Caucus members, that impeachment is not the route that we need to go. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Quigley, I wonder.  I listen to what Mr. Jeffries says.  And I respect him, of course, and I respect you.

But how come everybody that stops me at an airport or anywhere I walk, are we going to get rid of this guy? 

So, somehow that people got the idea that the Democrats were going to impeach Trump.  Where did they get that idea?  The Democrats are the only one that could impeach him.  And everybody says to me, when are we going to get rid of this guy?

That`s their phrase. 

QUIGLEY:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  Where did that come from? 

QUIGLEY:  Well, I think a couple of our colleagues filed articles of impeachment some time ago. 

The fact is, I would not rule out impeachment.  I just said, we shouldn`t be focused on it, but let the Mueller investigation take its course.  Let`s find out what`s in the Mueller investigation report and the underlying documentation. 

And, remember, there are 12 ongoing criminal investigations that are taking place.  There`s a lot more information out there, including the House investigation, still dealing with counterintelligence, which is one of the reasons that report and the documentation is so important. 

Was the president compromised?  How does that look before the American public and, of course, the U.S. Senate?

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Gentlemen, it`s so great to have you on tonight.  And thank you for coming on, on this important night, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Mike Quigley of Illinois.

Still ahead:  Why was President Trump never forced to answer Mueller`s questions in person?  He never did.  And they`re looking for criminal intent, corrupt intent.  How did they get it without talking to him?

Legendary investigative reporter Bob Mueller -- Bob Mueller -- Bob Woodward has some special insight on that question and others. 

He joins us up next. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

According to Attorney General William Barr, special counsel Robert Mueller made no determination about whether President Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice.  But Mueller never even questioned President Trump under oath.  Instead, he relied on written responses by the president and his lawyers.

Today, Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that was not unusual. 


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER:  Well, I think I made 5,000 prosecutorial decisions in my career, some of the worst criminals of the 1980s.  I rarely got to interview anyone.  The people that I indicted and the people I declined.  That`s very extraordinary when you do that.  I mean, only because he was the president was there any pressure to do it. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, one target of the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election who was called in to testify, Hillary Clinton`s former campaign chairman John Podesta argued otherwise. 


JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON & OBAMA ADMIN. WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL:  I think that`s exceptional and I think the question is why.  Perhaps Mr. Mueller will be asked that question by the Judiciary Committee, why he thought he could complete his report without being -- submit to questions by the special counsel, but right now, all we know is that he did have heavily lawyered answers submitted for the record. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s the guy that was hacked, of course. 

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward detailed why John Dowd thought his client, that would be the president, his testimony was a bad idea in Bob`s book "Fear."  Woodward writes between a meeting between Dowd, the lawyer, special counsel Mueller and one of Mueller`s deputies, Dowd said: The fact is I don`t want him looking like an idiot.  I`m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. 

And you publish that transcript because everything leaks and the guys overseas are going to say, I told you he was an idiot.  Why are we dealing with that idiot?  Unbelievable.  What are we dealing with that idiot for? 

John, I understand Mueller replied.  It would have been a bad idea, it seems.  Bob Woodward is coming here.  The legendary investigator Bob Woodward is going to tell us how the president avoided that face-to-face with Mueller and what`s yet to come for the president.  That`s coming up next in about a minute. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Journalist Bob Woodward offered a chronicle of how the president and his legal team responded to special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation in his book "Fear", and detailed how President Trump avoided answering Mueller`s questions under oath.

Bob Woodward joins us now.  How did he avoid having to confront the special counsel?  Everybody wanted to see that room.  They wanted to see it on television --



WOODWARD:  But the special prosecutor, special counsel really can`t force a president to testify and people say, oh, he could have subpoenaed him.  That might have been a loser in the Supreme Court, particularly this Supreme Court.  But what I chronicled is that John Dowd who was Trump`s lawyer for eight critical months did practice sessions with him and they went through it. 

He said to Trump, you make things up.  You lie.  You`re going to wind up in a jump suit if you testify, and what Dowd did, which is quite extraordinary in Washington, he stood on a principle.  He said, I`m not going to sit next to you and have you do this to yourself and wind up in that orange jump suit.  I`ll resign. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s suborning perjury.  He wasn`t going to do it. 

WOODWARD:  Well, exactly.  And -- but also, there was a principle there.  I`m here as your lawyer to defend you and you`re not letting me do it.  And so, they resisted testifying.  And the new team and Dowd did resign to send the message and the new team of lawyers, Giuliani and so forth, stuck to that line with Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about Mueller`s job here.  He -- the word I was getting from some of the legal experts is when you go to obstruction of justice, particularly that kind of charge, you have to understand corrupt intent, because a lot of this was done in broad daylight and you can`t discern or detect corrupt intent without a meeting, without a sit-down. 

So how did Mueller decide he couldn`t convict, he couldn`t exonerate but he never got to the need he had, the necessity of sitting down with the guy? 

WOODWARD:  Exactly.  And the resistance by Trump and his lawyers -- no, I`m not going to do it.  The route would be a subpoena.  It would be challenged, go to the Supreme Court and it would be the -- you know, it would be 2021 before this was decided, even if you expedited it. 

So, again, this is an illustration as we look at this in detail, the power a president has. 


Why didn`t Bill Clinton know this?  He had a great lawyer in Bob Barnett -- Bob Bennett.  Barnett`s another great lawyer, but it was Bob Bennett. 

And what is -- why did he go and agree to sit down on camera and talk about Monica Lewinsky. 

WOODWARD:  Well, he thought he had no choice because it was a civil suit and he was being subpoenaed and there were court rulings that he would have to testify.  But the key point here is Trump understands the power of no.  No, I`m not going to do it.  No, I`m not going to --

MATTHEWS:  OK, let`s talk about that power, Bob. 


MATTHEWS:  You went through the whole Watergate investigation leading it in the journalist`s point of view.  And I just want to ask you about.  Remember the phrase, release the tapes? 


MATTHEWS:  I mean, people are driving past the White House in the summer of `74 blowing their horns.  It was a freer country then you could drive right past 1600 Pennsylvania.  And you could blow your horns, and release the tapes.  Today, will they say, release the report? 

WOODWARD:  Yes.  I think -- I think everyone who is saying we have to see the report is quite correct, because God is in the details here.  And this is under dispute, and so, let`s look at it. 

I have no idea and no one I`ve talked to has any idea or will say how long it is.  It might be thousands of pages. 

MATTHEWS:  Or three. 

WOODWARD:  Well, no. 

MATTHEWS:  You think it`s long? 

WOODWARD:  Oh, sure.  It has to be. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the differences in politics because I know you`re not a political reporter per se.  You`re an investigative reporter. 

But the difference in politics back then when Republicans -- and they were not all moderate Republicans, they were just regular Republicans who gradually said, you know what, I think Nixon did it, I think he is responsible for obstruction of justice, we`ve got the evidence and when it comes time, we`ll vote to remove him from office.  The Senate was like that.  Remember when George Wallace wouldn`t help out Nixon in the South, even the crusty Southerners were willing to vote for impeachment. 

WOODWARD:  Well, at one point after Nixon resigned, Barry Goldwater, the conscience of the Republican Party had Carl and myself up to his apartment here in Washington, quite nearby, and read from his personal diary with that last meeting the Republican leaders had with Nixon. 


WOODWARD:  And no one else was there and Nixon knew he was going to be impeached, charged in the House, and he kind of joked according to Goldwater`s diary, confirmed by the other participants, hey, look, Barry, how many votes do I have?  Twenty?  Kind of you needed 34 to stay in office in a Senate trial.

And Goldwater said, Mr. President, you -- I counted, you have four votes.  One of them is not mine.  And talk --

MATTHEWS:  Rough. 

WOODWARD:  Yes, rough.  Stuck it to him.  The next night, Nixon announced he was resigning. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s another one of your books, "The Final Days."  A hell of a book. 

Anyway, over the past 24 hours, Democrats have spoke with one voice in calling for the Mueller report to be released in full.  Let`s watch. 


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The entire unfiltered report as well as the evidence underlying that report must be made available to Congress and to the American people. 

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The Mueller report must be made public for a full accounting. 

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS:  Let`s have the president urge the attorney general to release the report in its totality to the American people. 

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the American people deserve to see the report itself, not simply the attorney general`s summary of it. 

REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA:  We need the Mueller report and the documentation released so that the public can make a determination. 

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  Obviously, we really need to see Mr. Mueller`s report. 

REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA:  We`re going to be pushing in every direction to make sure that it is released. 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I want to see the whole report, and certainly the public wants to see the report.  Nearly 90 percent of the public has said that they want to see the report. 


MATTHEWS:  Democrats speaking in harmony. 

WOODWARD:  Yes.  And Trump himself said, OK, it is OK as far as he`s concerned. 

MATTHEWS:  But then he said it will be up to the attorney general. 

WOODWARD:  Yes, but, see, looking at the details of that report are only one path we`re on.  The other path, all of these investigations in New York and the U.S. attorney there in that office is celebrated for tough investigations.  There are lots of allegations and these are the follow- the-money issues, among others. 


WOODWARD:  And I think the third path is the counterintelligence investigation that`s going on.  Normally, those things are not made public, but it would be quite something to see what they came up with.  And as you know, the media is being criticized now.  Oh, OK, there was all of this hyperventilation about alleged collusion and so forth. 

You lived through this as I have for the last couple of years, and I think the media, NBC, my newspaper, "The Washington Post", "The Wall Street Journal", "The New York Times", did a very good job with all of these allegations and lies out there.  There`s no way you`re going to sit at home, even myself at my age was energized by this. 

MATTHEWS:  Just think if they let it go after all of the contacts with the Russians, all of the incredible Russian names we have gotten used to.  If all of that happened and there wasn`t an investigation, where would we be?  I think maybe in the end it will be better off for the Mueller report.  Who knows?  It is weird. 

WOODWARD:  But there`s something we can do with the tone that we make presentations and distinguish between the fact-based reporting and the commentary and the analysis. 

MATTHEWS:  News, analysis, opinion, in that order. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Bob Woodward. 

Up next, it`s time for Democrats to adjust their strategy to remove Trump from office.  I will be back with that commentary in a minute.


MATTHEWS:  It`s important for all of us to grab hold of the difference in the world minutes before 5:00 p.m. this past Friday and right now.  It is vitally important that the Democrats grasp this new reality. 

After months of waiting for Robert Mueller to arrive like the U.S. cavalry, it is time to realize he has arrived and left, and now you, Democrats, are left alone.  There will be no more cavalry arriving from the special counsel`s office, far less of a chance from the rest of the Justice Department over there.  For the Democrats to remove Donald Trump from the White House, one of two methods are now available.  One is defeat him in next year`s November election and the other is the two-term limit, whichever comes first. 

To win in 2020 means beating Trump, because I can`t help but think that this weekend`s report from Mueller and Barr has barred the chance of any Republican to take on and defeat the incumbent Republican president, not that a good candidate on the Republican side wouldn`t be doing the country and the GOP a favor. 

So in all probability, the person standing in Donald Trump`s door to the White House come January 2021 will be one of the Democrats picked to be there.  The question is who.  Not the candidate through whom you would like to make a statement like the one you want to signal your point on the ideological spectrum, but the person you can see preventing Trump from getting four more years, the one you see serving this country and returning our country back to world respect. 

It`s a big job picking that person but I have a hunch a small number of candidates will prove themselves able to convince us.  The important thing is to realize is as of close of business on the East Coast last Friday, it was time for the loyal opposition to open business in saying what the Democrats are for.  The world knows and agrees with them on what they`re against. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.