IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Second woman accuses Biden. TRANSCRIPT: 4/1/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Steve Cohen, Natasha Bertrand, Barbara Boxer, Jay Inslee, SahilKapur

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That does it for us tonight though.  "HARDBALL" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Can you stand the truth?  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  President Trump is once again acting like he`s got something to hide.  Why is he publicly now asking whether the Mueller report should be released at all?  Today, the President Tweeted, no matter what information is given to the crazed democrats from the no collusion Mueller report, it will never be good enough.  And later on Friday, he threatened to withhold the report entirely saying, quote, maybe we should just take our victory and say no.  We`ve got a country to run.

Well, that`s not the position of the American public.  They remain unconvinced.  They say that what they have learned so far from the four- page note released by the Attorney General has not satisfied their interest in what went on between Trump and the Russians.  They are not at all convinced the President is off the hook.  Look at these numbers.  A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows 40 percent of Americans say the President is not clear of wrongdoing and another 31 percent said they don`t know whether he is or not.  Well, take them together, that`s 71 percent of Americans who don`t see a clear verdict on the President despite his claims of exoneration.

Well, the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment, has set tomorrow as the deadline for the Justice Department to turn in a full un- redacted copy of the Mueller report.  And it`s clear the Justice Department will not meet that deadline.  According to Attorney General Barr, a redacted version of Mueller`s report will be released by mid-April.

Well, now, NBC News reports that democrats on that committee plan to vote this Wednesday, this Wednesday to authorize a subpoena if the Attorney General hasn`t delivered that report tomorrow, Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the President continues to use the four-page letter on the Mueller report to seek revenge against his adversaries.  Trump is demanding an investigation of the investigators.  He`s calling on media outlets to surrender the awards they received for reporting his links to Russia and he says that Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Judiciary -- actually, the House Intelligence Committee should be forced to resign from Congress altogether.  Well, this comes after Schiff issued a fiery rebuke of his republican colleagues last week, calling Trump`s behavior toward Russia unpatriotic, corrupt and unethical.

Responding to that criticism yesterday, Trump`s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that questions about ethics are not important in the absence of criminal wrongdoing.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  What do you think about his larger point that the actions were unethical?

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF:  Keep in mind that everything that Adam just talked about, and I know Adam, I used to serve with him in Congress, everything that he just listed right there was available to Mr. Mueller.  In fact, probably in greater detail than Adam goes into right there, and yet Mr. Mueller found no collusion and no obstruction.

TAPPER:  Right, not a crime.  But what about the ethics or morality of those things, those incidents?

MULVANEY:  Again, the issue here is not whether it`s ethical.

TAPPER:  All I`m saying here is that you`re setting the bar on criminal charges or evidence of conspiracy, and I agree with what you`re saying, that there is none there, but he is talking about ethics and morality and you`re saying that`s not his job.  Okay, fair enough.  But forgetting Adam Schiff for a second, what about the larger point about ethics and morality?

MULVANEY:  Well, I think the voters are going to decide on the ethics and morality of the people they vote for on either side.


MATTHEWS:  But what about the allegation by Adam Schiff that Trump`s conduct has been unpatriotic and corrupt?  Those are things to think about more seriously.

I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.  Peter Baker is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times.  Natasha Bertrand is here with me, a Staff Writer at The Atlantic.

Congressman, thanks for coming on tonight from the House.  What do you make of this discussion that`s going on in our country, whereby the President`s Chief of Staff, a government employee, can just kiss off matters of morality, ethics, patriotism and corruption as if they`re not relevant because they haven`t nailed the President for a felony, yet?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), T.N.:  Well, he works for an immoral and unethical individual.  So questions of morality and ethics would certainly work against him.  And he, like Mr. Barr, work for Mr. Trump, and they`re going to do everything they can to preserve his presidency so that he can continue to appoint judges that will look askance at women`s issues and other issues that have been important to this country.  They want to repeal Roe V. Wade and they will get as many judges on the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals as they can.  This, I think, is why Barr was chosen.  I think Trump saw the benefit of a federalist group giving Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and he said, give me an Attorney General.  And I think he got him and Attorney General.  And I think he got him.  And that`s what Barr is doing, he`s doing his work for the federalist society to get these judges through.

MATTHEWS:  How far -- do you see him as a puppet?

COHEN:  I definitely do.  He was hired with an agenda.  He took it.  That was his job that he wanted to.  Something I think nobody`s thought about.  The Congress adjourns on April the 10th for 19 days.  We don`t come back until April 29th.  I think Mr. Barr knows that.  And I think that`s why Mr. Barr says he`ll give us the report on April 15 so we won`t be here and it will be two weeks before we come back.  This whole thing has been played out like a stall, like when they used to play basketball without a 30- second or a 35-second clock.  And they`re just holding the ball and they got the lead, and they`ve got a three to nothing lead and they`re holding the ball.

MATTHEWS:  That`s Dean Smith`s four-corner offense.  I know all about it.  Thank you.  Thanks for the basketball recap.

Let me get back to Peter on that, and this isn`t basketball at all.  But there is a question of game playing here.  What do you think?  What can we tell objectively that the Attorney General is up to here with this clever four-page letter which led a lot of people to believe the whole game is over here?  He used the theme [ph] of word, game, again, and somehow, the President is going scot-free, capable of claiming exoneration, although, that`s at all what the public thinks or what Mueller wrote.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Yes, right.  Well, whether he intended it or not, Attorney General`s letter certainly allowed the President to set the framework for the narrative, which is to say that the bottom line conclusions do not find a conspiracy with Russia and that Robert Mueller is not charging that he violated the law on obstruction, even though he doesn`t exonerate him.  And that`s obviously been really important for the President politically to go out there and be able to say, see, I`m innocent.  I didn`t do anything.  Whether Barr meant to do that or not, that`s been the effect.

Now, what you saw in the letter he sent again last week following up on that, he said, look, I didn`t mean to summarize this report.  You shouldn`t take what I said in that four-page letter to be a summary of the report.  I was simply giving the principal conclusions.  And you can take from that, you can infer from that that the Attorney General is a little nervous or a little worried that people have gotten a little too far out in front, taking this four-page letter as if this was the be all and end all.  There`re 400 pages of this report and we don`t know what they say.

And Bill Barr is not telling us what those 400 pages say yet.  They may be very damning of the President even if they don`t find criminal activity or they may not be.  We don`t know.  But, clearly, Bill Barr is a little nervous, I think, that the impression is he left was that there wasn`t anything in those 400 pages that will look bad.  And then when we those, that full report, or at least even a redacted version of that report, it may not look in concert with that letter.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Natasha, when we watched the State of the Union, we take notes and we have to do a lot of things fast and well.  Papers like The New York Times do it incredibly well, the Wall Street Journal and The Post and everything else.  You`ve got to look at something and quick.  These people claim to have taken the Evelyn Wood speed reading course because they read a 400-page document.  And within 48 hours, they had it all.  And so this all, it says here is the President is clean.  And that`s what Barr basically said.  I`ve read the 400 pages, he`s clean.  That looked like a PR operation.

NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  I think the intention here was, again, to give the President a head start on this, to give him a head start to create the narrative.  And I think someone else who is escaping scrutiny here is the Deputy Attorney General, is Rod Rosenstein.

MATTHEWS:  What`s his game?

BERTRAND:  Well, we -- it`s really baffling that the man who wrote the memo justifying firing Jim Comey, which the President has been under investigation for for obstruction, has now been the arbiter of whether or not the President obstructed justice.  It`s really kind of self-serving.

MATTHEWS:  And he`s the guy the President calls a democrat from Baltimore.

BERTRAND:  It seems like it`s self-serving for Rod Rosenstein to be involved in these discussions because, of course, he is kind of in the clear now.  He is a witness in the obstruction investigation.  And by saying that there was no obstruction, he can kind of brush it off and move it aside.  So I think that`s a part of this.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he`s a Trump mole?

BERTRAND:  You know, I wouldn`t necessarily go that far, but I think, you know, there is a lot of -- there are a lot of speculation -- there is a lot of speculation that he is a survivor, that he is a political survivor, and he has done what he has had to do in order to remain in the position that he`s in.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s pretty sad.

Appearing on Fox News yesterday, White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway could not seem to explain why the President is claiming exoneration when the Special Counsel did not clear him on obstruction of justice.  Here she goes.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY:  When the President says that it`s total exoneration on obstruction, Kellyanne, that`s just not true.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the President is probably comparing that report and the ultimate conclusions of no conspiracy, no collusion, no contact with any Russian at any campaign that I managed into its final successful phases and have always been offended that anybody would think we would cheat, lie, steal or talk to any Russians.

WALLACE:  And, look, take yes for an answer.  I`m agreeing with you on collusion.  I`m asking you --

CONWAY:  Okay.  Well, I`m also going to take yes for an answer in the Barr report.

WALLACE:  I`m asking you about obstruction though.

CONWAY:  We`ll see what the full Mueller report says.  But there is nowhere in the Barr report that says the President obstructed justice.

WALLACE:  But there was no Barr report.  Barr is simply summarizing --

CONWAY:  Well, that Barr memo summarizing, but I think --

WALLACE:  Mueller.  And Mueller says that it did not exonerate him.


MATTHEWS:  You know, Chris Wallace gets better and better.  Congressman, let me know what you think of that, because there is the President`s Chief Communications person unable to explain the obvious.  The President is not clear.  He hasn`t been cleared, not by Mueller, certainly.

COHEN:  He hasn`t been exonerated by anybody except his own hired henchmen.  You know, as we sit here, Steve Scalise is speaking right behind me and it`s nauseating to listen to the republicans spin what they`re spinning just after they all voted two weeks ago to release the Mueller report.  All but four who abstained said, the Mueller report should be made public.  Now, they`re finding every excuse to not make it public.  And they`re talking about Hillary Clinton and they`re talking about FBI agents.  They`ll start to talk about Benghazi again.  They -- that vote, they should be -- that should be like perjury because they didn`t believe that vote.  They didn`t believe it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That`s like the old Chicoms, the old Chinese reds, where every once in awhile, they would haul out somebody, some merchant from 30 or 40 years earlier and say, this is what`s wrong with capitalism.

Anyway, on that point, on three different occasions, Trump has said publicly that he supports the release of the Mueller report until recently.  Here he is.


REPORTER:  Does the public have a right to see the Mueller report?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I don`t mind.  I mean, frankly, I told the House, if you want, let them see it.

REPORTER:  Would you want the report to be released?

TRUMP:  It`s up to the Attorney General, but it wouldn`t bother me at all.  Up to the Attorney General, wouldn`t bother me at all.

Well, I have great confidence in the Attorney General.  And if that`s what he`d like to do, I have nothing to hide.


MATTHEWS:  Peter, what`s the state of the art on this whole thing?  Because I think most people -- we`ve shown in our numbers, over 7 in 10 people or more would like to see what the hell is going on here.  They have been left with a blur, with a murky situation where the President has clearly opened the air in terms of guilt, perhaps criminal guilt on obstruction of justice.  He clearly was not cleared by Robert Mueller on that.  And even the other guy, Attorney General Barr, was very unclear in the way he cleared him.  Because he simply said -- okay, he says he can be guilty or not, but I`m saying he`s not.  But it was so clear what he was doing was playing politics.

BAKER:  Well, what we`re going to see here potentially is a pretty important clash if Bill Barr does not release enough of the report to satisfy the House democrats.  Now, the House Democrats said they want everything, they want not just the full report but the evidence underlying it.  Bill Barr says, I`m going to give you everything, at least in the report, except for these four categories, the categories being secret grand jury material, classified, you know, material in terms of, you know, intercepts with the Russians, that kind of thing.

The question is whether what he produces to them is a good faith effort to give them what they need to make an evaluation of their own or is it perceived to be hiding information.  Well, we don`t know that until we see what he`s going to give them.  He does say he`s going to give it to them by mid-April, or sooner, he said.  So we may find that out in the next week or so.  But if he doesn`t, if he doesn`t give them everything that they feel like they ought to have, I think you could easily see a fight that goes to the courts on this and the courts would be asked to rule as they were under Nixon, as they were under Clinton, as to what are the limits of the executive branch`s ability to withhold information from the Congress and the public.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s look at this.  A picture is worth a thousand words, everybody.  And, Natasha, you take this.  If we get a New York Times top of the full page picture of a whole page blacked out, you guys will have a comment on that.  I think the world will have a comment.  I think the world will have a comment.  They see pages all blacked out.  I guess the Congressman admits it.  I`m afraid that`s what`s coming, not just protecting sources but all kinds of executive privilege claims, all kinds of, oh, this was during a grand jury, blah, blah, blah.  So three strikes, you`re out.  There may not be much white left on that paper.  Your thoughts?

BERTRAND:  Yes, Chris.  And I think one thing the public and Congress has to be really careful about is this fourth bucket that Bill Barr said in his letter that would be redacted, which is information about third parties, peripheral third parties that might be damaging to their reputations.  Well, who does Bill Barr consider a third party?  What is damaging to their reputations?  I mean, this is all very vague --

MATTHEWS:  So this is going to hurt Roger Stone?

BERTRAND:  Who knows.

MATTHEWS:  I`m kidding.

BERTRAND:  I mean, is Donald Trump considered a third party because he wasn`t charged?

And I just want to go back also really quick to the question of whether ethics and morals matter.  If you`re a morally vacuous person, then that makes you more susceptible to being blackmailed by foreign country.  If you have no principle, if you have no ethics, this is a national security issue.

MATTHEWS:  Or patriotism or corruption.

BERTRAND:  It`s a very big national security issue.  And I think that that is the lens through which we have to view this.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, your last thought on this and where it stands, because you`ve got the committee demanding this full report without redactions by perhaps issuing a subpoena by Wednesday.  Who is going to win that fight?

COHEN:  Well, the courts will decide, and I think we`ll end up winning.  Historically, the grand jury testimony has been released by judges.  Generally, it`s been when the Attorney General and the Congress people have gone together.  But regardless if there is a request from a judge after the case has been heard, I think with the President being the subject of this investigation and the importance of this to the American people that a judge would allow that information to go to Congress.

The classified material, we all have classified clearances and we can hear that in a skiff.  And that`s simple enough to do.  Ongoing investigations, that`s not a problem either.  Executive privilege needs to be looked at somebody to make sure it truly is.  And then that kitchen sink thing about the reputational interest, that`s Huey [ph].  That`s just a way for him to black out everything, give us noting but two words, no collusion, with 400 pages black.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if I were in the party, the Democratic Party, I`d be filling that park next to the Capitol building with people with signs saying, release the report.  Release the report.  That will carry with the American people.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen, Peter Baker of The New York Times and Natasha Bertrand of The Atlantic.

Coming up, a cottage industry of lies.  Joe Biden`s team, by the way, sharpens its response today to accusations of inappropriate contact with women.  How big a threat is this to his 2020 presidential prospects?  We`ll see.  Who knows.

Plus, Trump`s new immigration drama, here it is.


TRUMP:  Massive caravans walking right through Mexico.  So Mexico is tough.  They can stop them but they chose not to.  Now, they`re going to stop them.  And if they don`t stop them, we`re closing the border.  They`ll close it.  We`ll keep it closed for a long time.  I`m not playing games.


MATTHEWS:  I`ll talk to the State of Washington Governor and presidential candidate Jay Inslee about the President`s threat to close our southern border.  Much more ahead, stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Actually, former Vice President Joe Biden is yet to announce he`s a candidate for a 2020 presidential nomination, of course, but he`s already facing some heat.  You`ve heard.  Democrat Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Assembly Woman, says Biden made her feel uncomfortable during a campaign event when she ran for Lieutenant Governor back in 2014.  She first detailed her accusation, by the way, in New York Magazine`s The Cut, describing what she said was inappropriate but not sexual touching and kissing.  Flores spoke to my colleague, Kasie Hunt, just last night.


LUCY FLORES (D), FORMER NEVADA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN:  I felt these hands on my shoulders, and I`m thinking, OK, that`s odd, and the vice president of the United States is touching me, but, you know, nothing, I guess, too out of the ordinary. 

But then I felt him get closer.  He leaned in and was, like, right behind me on my body.  And he leans down, smells my hair, and then plants this big long kiss on the top of my head. 

I don`t believe that it was a bad intention.  I`m not in any way suggesting that I felt sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.  I felt invaded.  I felt that there was a violation of my personal space. 


MATTHEWS:  NBC News has not independently verified this specific incident took place, but has reviewed correspondence provided by Flores that appears to corroborate that she discussed the incident around the time she says it occurred. 

That`s very important to learning what happened.  You talk about it at the time. 

Well, the former vice president responded in a statement, saying: "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have encountered -- or offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort, and not once, never did I believe I acted inappropriately.  If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully, but it was never my intention."

Well, today, the "Hartford Courant" newspaper reported a Connecticut woman also says Biden touched her inappropriately, but not sexually, at a fund- raiser in 2009. 

And during his speech in Delaware two weeks ago, the former vice president made note of his -- what he called his hands-on style. 


JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m a tactile politician.  I always have been.  That`s what gets me in trouble as well, because I think I can feel and taste what`s going on. 

Everywhere I went -- no kidding -- everywhere I went there was an insatiable desire by Republicans, as well as Democrats, for women and men of high character in public office. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by former Democratic Senator from California Barbara Boxer.  Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist.  Sahil Kapur is a national political reporter for Bloomberg News.

And this is just breaking right now, Senator.  And I wanted your thinking on it, as a veteran of the political world.  What gravity do you give to this story, these stories, which seem to be mounting, at least beginning to mount? 

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  I don`t think that there is anyone who hasn`t grown up with Joe Biden, as I did going, back to the `80s, that didn`t know he`s a very affectionate person. 

And the thing about that is, it was his style of being a politician.  And some people found him endearing.  I personally did.  He always treated the women in the Senate and the House as equals.  I have worked with him on many important things, including the Violence Against Women Act, community policing, saving the dolphin. 

He loves his family.  He used to bring his daughter to talk to me about the environment.  And, you know, some people didn`t find it endearing.  They found it annoying if he touched their shoulders or leaned in, and some people obviously found it offensive, but they didn`t feel comfortable saying anything.

And now they feel comfortable.  And Joe is listening.  And Joe will change.  And I think it`s a moment that people have to understand, some people don`t like to have their space invaded.  It`s as simple as that.  And I think he will learn from that.  And I think he`s a terrific person, and I always will think that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I can`t beat that.  I thought that was a great perception about all the bases here. 

Let me go to Susan, who has worked on the other side politically, but I don`t know if you had people like that, tactile politicians, or not. 

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Oh, no, of course there are.  And there are politicians that act that way. 

And I agree with the senator.  This is Joe Biden.  This is the way he is.  And most people welcome it.  And, honestly, I don`t think he did anything particularly wrong, especially in his mind.

But here`s the bigger problem for Joe Biden.  And let me just say, I do believe he is a man of strong character and integrity.  But he has been in politics for decades.  And the way he was isn`t the way he can be in 2020 - - for the 2020 primary.  And that`s the more significant difference. 

This is also part -- I can`t help but believe, part of an ongoing political hit job on the vice president.  We have now his son and Ukraine and people bringing up Anita Hill.  I think this is all part of a way of saying that Joe Biden`s past can hurt him. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is running that -- who is running that conspiracy? 

DEL PERCIO:  There are some who are running for president in the Democratic primary who are pedaling that.

And this woman -- just for all disclosure, this woman supported Bernie Sanders last go-round. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, you have to always think about that aspect of it.  True or not, you have to think about it, because politics is motivated.

DEL PERCIO:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, over the weekend, several of Biden`s would-be 2020 rivals weighed in on Flores` account. 

By the way, I like Flores` account.  You know what I like about it?  The credibility of it.  I believe every word she said, factually.  I believe every fact.  And I like the particularity of it.  I`m tired of these, somebody said this, somebody said that made me uncomfortable. 

She specifically told us what she said she experienced and how she felt about it, which I think is really damn helpful. 

DEL PERCIO:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, let`s take a look at this. 

A lot of them are all saying -- of course, the opponents of Biden are liking this.  It`s hurting them and helping them, relatively.  So let`s take a look what they have to say. 


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer. 

QUESTION:  Should he not run as a result? 

WARREN:  That`s for Joe Biden to decide. 


QUESTION:  Do you think it disqualifies him for the presidency? 

CASTRO:  He`s going to decide whether he`s going to run or not. 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have no reason not to believe her. 

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Women have to be heard, and we should really -- we should start by believing them. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have no reason not to believe Lucy. 

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION":  Do you think it`s disqualifying?

SANDERS:  Well, I think that`s a decision for the vice president to make.  I`m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.


MATTHEWS:  It`s interesting. 

This isn`t like a trial, where you`re trying to get information.  We know.  Everybody heard her.  She`s credible.  She said it.  She`s been experienced.  She didn`t like it.  She wrote about it.  She told her friends, people about it at the time.  It`s all true. 


MATTHEWS:  The question is, how do we react to it? 

KAPUR:  Well, naturally...

MATTHEWS:  How does the media react to it?  How`s other women react to it?

KAPUR:  Naturally, Joe Biden`s would-be rivals want to back him into a corner and play this up and make him answer for it.  He`s leading the polls of the Democratic field. 


MATTHEWS:  That clever line was, only one incident, in other words, waiting for the shoe to drop, which was this afternoon. 

KAPUR:  And we don`t know -- we don`t know how many more shoes there are to drop.  We don`t know what that`s going to look like. 

I think, Chris, the bigger point here is that this Lucy Flores situation is a microcosm of the challenges Joe Biden will face if he decides to run, not only on this category of issue.  We don`t know what else, if anything, is going to come out.

But over 36 years as a senator, he said and did a lot of things...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know that.

KAPUR:  ... that he didn`t think were appropriate -- or that he didn`t think were inappropriate at the time, but that Democratic voters today may have a very different view of.

And that`s not just Anita Hill.  That`s the crime bill.  That`s the bankruptcy bill in 2005.  That`s has vote for the Iraq War.


MATTHEWS:  How about the Democratic establishment types voting for the Iraq War?  And they all damn well did it.  All of them did it.  Nobody -- everybody, all of them.

KAPUR:  But many of the other presidential contenders -- many of the other presidential contenders today never got -- never cast that vote and won`t have to explain it.  And I do think those things matter.

MATTHEWS:  John Kerry.  They all did it.  I didn`t like it either. 

During the 2016 campaign, more than a dozen women, by the way -- let`s not forget what`s going out in the world there -- accused President -- or candidate Trump of sexual assault or misconduct. 

Many of them spoke publicly about their experiences.  Let`s listen to that, for memory`s sake here. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was a real shock when all of a sudden his hands were all over me.  He started encroaching on my space.  And I hesitate to use this expression, but I`m going to.  And that is, he was like an octopus.  It was like he had six arms.  He was all over the place. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He pushed me up against the wall and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again.  And I had to physically say: "What are you doing?  Stop it."

It was a shocking thing to have him do this. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The person on my right, who, unbeknownst to me at that time was Donald Trump, put their hand up my skirt.  He did touch my vagina through my underwear. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He then walked up to me and reached his right arm and grabbed my right arm.  Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast. 


MATTHEWS:  Senator, you know, generally, I like -- because we have had this problem in my church, you know, with priests.  And I like specificity, because it`s a little gross to listen to, but damn well you know what the hell happened five minutes later. 

At least you know what you`re dealing with and how bad it is.  And all -- usually, it`s grosser than you thought. 

Your thoughts? 

BOXER:  Are you talking to me, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Senator.  You`re the only senator on the phone right now. 

BOXER:  Oh, sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

BOXER:  I didn`t -- I couldn`t hear you.  Sorry. 

Look, these two people are as different, night from day.  Trump attacks the women, calls them all liars.  He tries to sue them and scare them. 

Joe Biden, these aren`t incidents, so much as it is, yes, shoe to drop.  He hugged a lot of people.  And he -- and that`s Joe.  And so it`s not an incident.  It`s the way he has been. 

And what he is learning, which I think a lot of people are learning now, since the MeToo movement, that, for some people, it`s just not OK.  But there is no comparison between what the women are saying that Trump did and what the women are saying Joe Biden did. 

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

BOXER:  Which is to just get cozy and be endearing.  And a lot of them liked it, and a lot of them didn`t. 

And he needs to stop, and I think he will learn that.  And if we are now going to say that anyone who came up in those years, when that`s what retail politics was, is a terrible person, I think that`s kind of a sad thing.  And I have not endorsed anybody in this race. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to talk to...

BOXER:  I want to be clear. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you just said it, because I don`t have as much experience as you have, but close to it, working on the Hill. 

This thing about retail.  He comes from a small state. 

BOXER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s personal relationships.  You get elected because people know you.  I think most of the voters in Delaware knew him.  They actually...

BOXER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But this thing you watch on the floor -- when you were a House member, have you watched the men when they meet each other, when they`re about to go for the door?  After you, Congressman.  After you, Congressman.  The hand -- the elbow grabbing, the shoulder grabbing. 

BOXER:  Oh, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s -- that`s what people don`t know about.  That`s politics.  There is all this physicality that goes on. 

BOXER:  There is a lot of -- there is a lot of that.

And I notice that Ms. Flores, who I absolutely believe, and I think she laid it all out there -- and, yes, she says it wasn`t harassment, it wasn`t sexual.  That`s what it is. 

Bernie Sanders had his arm on her shoulders, and she didn`t mind it in that circumstance.  But I think it`s just best for all of us now to shake each other`s hands, look each other in the eye.  And if people don`t feel comfortable, you know, if you get too much in their space, back off.  It`s just simple. 

But, my God, with all the problems we have in this great country of ours, I think we can get past this.  I hope we can.  Really, I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, it`s great to have you on.  Thank you so much, Senator Boxer of California. 

Susan Del Percio, thank you for your expertise and, Sahil, for your reporting. 

Up next, 2020 presidential candidate and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on Trump`s border drama right now, climate change, which is his big issue, the governor`s, and other important issues facing concerned voters.

We`re back after this.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Eight out of the 13 Democratic presidential hopefuls made their pitches and fielded questions from progressive activists at the We the People Annual summit here in D.C.  It was an opportunity to make their cases on a number of progressive issues, from gerrymandering, to corporate influences, and, of course, climate change. 

Let`s take a look at some of the candidates. 


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That`s why, as president, I will sign into law a new Voting Rights Act, so every single citizen can vote and every single vote is counted.  No more gerrymandering in the United States, racial, political or otherwise. 

KLOBUCHAR:  I am proud to support statehood for Washington, D.C.


KLOBUCHAR:  I don`t think you should have a big group of people that don`t have anyone to represent them in Congress. 

WARREN:  That`s why everything I call for starts with big systemic change.  How do we reduce the influence of money and power in Washington? 

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it. 

And I`m telling you today that, if I`m given this high honor as president of the United States, I`m going to make defeating climate change the number one priority.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington -- you just saw him -- joins me now live. 

You know, I get the feeling that we have to see the burning bush, practically.  We see all kind of climate craziness.  When I grew up, we had four seasons.  They were predictable.  Here in Washington, it snowed once in awhile in the winter. 

INSLEE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We don`t have snow.  It`s very hard to know when it`s coming, if ever.  The summers are not as hot as they used to be.  There used to be some predictability in our weather.  It`s gone. 

INSLEE:  Yes.  So, I...

MATTHEWS:  And it`s horrible out West and places like that.  It`s just horrible, the fires.

INSLEE:  It is.

When I went through Paradise, California, this is a town of 25,000.  It was just burned right to the ground.  It looked like a Hollywood apocalypse movie. 

And this is a magic moment for our nation, because the public is now understanding this.  This used to be a graph on a chart, an abstraction.  Now it`s real seeing real neighbors burned out of their homes. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s the one thing you would do as president on climate, if you got in there?

INSLEE:  Well, we would have a whole suite of policies to drive...

MATTHEWS:  Name the best, number one.

INSLEE:  Equity investment, clean energy fuel standard, 100 percent clean grid standard, big investment in energy efficiency, requirements for better building codes, and large research and development. 

We spent more money developing one kind of jeep years ago than our entire clean energy investment strategy.  Now, below that, there`s 24 different strategies.  And we`re doing them in our state as we speak. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of the New Deal, the Green New Deal? 

INSLEE:  I think it`s been very helpful because it`s elevated the debate.  It`s got people talking about climate change. 

It`s elevated the scope of people`s ambitions.


INSLEE:  And it`s brought communities of color and the poverty -- because, you know, the first people who are always hurt are people...



Let`s talk about something more, about the country and its borders and the way we -- we have 11 million people living in the country illegally right now, without documents. 

INSLEE:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s a problem to most people.  That`s a problem. 

INSLEE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  How do you solve it? 

INSLEE:  Well, look, you get a new president who is willing to seek solutions, rather than just hateful bumper stickers.

MATTHEWS:  What are the solutions?  I don`t hear Democrats with -- I mean, if you do think -- there`s a big if here. 

If you think it`s a problem -- and I think a lot of liberal Democrats don`t think it`s much a problem.  They are fine, people coming in.  They`re migrants.  That`s the way it is.  It`s basically open borders. 

Where are you?  Are you an open borders guy? 

INSLEE:  No, I think that having some border makes sense. 

We need to increase our openness to refugees.  It`s pathetic that we have - - Trump has been so inhumane to close the border to refugees, some of whom are climate refugees today.  It`s because of the drought. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  I agree with that. 

INSLEE:  It has been so inhumane to separate parents from their children. 

It has been nuts to want to waste billions of dollars on a wall that even the Republicans don`t want to do.  But I think you need to separate that, when you think about it...


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Democrats would work to reduce illegal immigration, or not? 

INSLEE:  Sure.  We have. 

MATTHEWS:  Would they reduce it?

INSLEE:  Sure.  The Democrats have put in appropriate appropriations for things... 

MATTHEWS:  Do they believe in it? 

INSLEE:  ... to have some meaningful border.

But it`s not just the border.  We have 11 million people that are our neighbors. 


INSLEE:  They`re working.  They`re going to schools.  And our dreamers...

MATTHEWS:  I`m just from Pennsylvania.  A lot of people voted for Trump because they don`t like illegal immigration. 


INSLEE:  Well, but I`ll tell you...

MATTHEWS:  They don`t like it. 

INSLEE:  I will tell you who they like.  They like the dreamers.  I will tell you what.  Everybody loves the dreamers in my state. 


INSLEE:  These are kids going to school.  They want to be doctors and engineers.

MATTHEWS:  You mean they -- because they didn`t make a decision to break the law. 

INSLEE:  Yes, they just came here.  They don`t even know.

But Trump has been so inhumane to them. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

INSLEE:  To use them as a poker chip, evil.

MATTHEWS:  It`s -- he doesn`t understand that the pictures he`s creating are terrible. 

INSLEE:  Absolutely evil.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this Gadhafi -- not Gadhafi.  Why am I saying...


MATTHEWS:  Khashoggi.

What do you make of the fact that we`re still doing business?  I mean, Jared is over there, the president`s son-in-law.  We`re doing -- Pompeo is talking to them over there, as if it`s OK.  We`re still buddies.  And they killed one of our reporters. 

INSLEE:  It`s one of the reasons we got to see Trump`s tax returns. 

What kind of deal has he got with the Saudi Arabians?

MATTHEWS:  Would you stick to our oil buying deals with Saudis -- 

INSLEE:  I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  -- even though they won`t -- it`s claimed that the prince had something to do with killing our guy?

INSLEE:  We need to reevaluate every single relationship with --  

MATTHEWS:  Would you cut it off if we could prove he did it?

INSLEE:  It depends on the situation.  I`d listen.  Unlike Donald Trump, I`d listen to intelligence.


MATTHEWS:  If the prince had something to do with it, would you cut him off? 

INSLEE:  They would pay some price that would be significant, if that`s what happened.  And my belief is it has happened.  So, my belief is there is something going on between Donald Trump and that regime that is unhealthy. 

I released my tax returns the other day.  I challenged Trump to do it.  I challenged all the Democrats to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Jared`s over there playing footsie with this guy, MBS, they`re buddies. 


INSLEE:  Don`t be surprised, once we finally -- once we finally get the tax returns, maybe we`ll find out the reason. 

MATTHEWS:  We can wait for that.


MATTHEWS:  Some news at the end of the show here --

INSLEE:  We just passed a law on this.  He can`t get on the ballot in my state until he released his tax returns. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys are tough. 


MATTHEWS:  Governor, thank you.

INSLEE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  It`s great.  We`ll have you on again.

INSLEE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Governor Jay Inslee of the state of Washington. 

Up next, a White House whistle-blower says the Trump administration overruled experts and granted top security clearances to high-risk individuals, including the aforementioned Jared Kushner and Ivanka on at least 25 occasions, including those two occasions, the president`s daughter and son-in-law.  What does it say about national security at the White House?  What`s going on there?  What are they hiding that these people did wrong that they couldn`t get a security clearance the normal way except through nepotism? 

Stay with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump has repeatedly declared the country`s national security to be a top priority for him, but actions within his own White House raise questions about his follow-through.  When it comes to protecting the country`s most classified information, for example, a White House whistle- blower, Tricia Newbold, has told the House Oversight Committee that the Trump administration granted security clearances to 25 individuals, including two current senior White House officials after they were initially denied by security officials. 

In a memo released today by the committee, Newbold said, quote, these individuals had a wide range of serious, disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interests, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use and criminal conduct.  She said the decisions to overturn the clearance denials issued by her office could jeopardize national security and said coming forward was her, quote, last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.  Those were her words. 

Can you guess who the current senior White House officials are that were initially denied security clearance?  I can guess because I know.  I`ll tell you why coming up. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Whistle-blower who works as a security specialist at White House confirmed that the Trump administration overruled dozens of security clearances that were originally denied by her office, including those of two senior White House officials.  Those officials are believed to be the president`s daughter Ivanka, there she is, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  There he is. 

NBC News had previously reported that Kushner was rejected for a top secret clearance by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised numerous concerns.  It identified questions about his family`s business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel and meetings he had during the campaign. 

According to "The Washington Post," U.S. intelligence officials had raised a number of concerns to the White House, including reports that intelligence officials from the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico were privately discussing ways in which they could manipulate Jared Kushner.  There he is there.

Now, Jared and Ivanka are in a list of nine current and former White House officials being asked by House Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings to provide documents about their security clearances. 

For more, I`m joined by Ken Dilanian, NBC News intelligence and national security reporter, and Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff to the CIA and Department of Defense.

Jeremy, you first.  Tell me what these meetings, these meetings that people were able to see documents, the top hottest stuff involving Russia, involving the Middle East, or China, who gets to see them?  It`s a decision made by who?  Normally?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT CIA & DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:  Normally, the FBI would do a background investigation and give the file to the White House personnel security office.  And they would say, if the person is approved, then the person can have access to that classified information.  If the person is disapproved and adjudicated for a no, basically denied, then usually that person can`t hold that job. 

Here in this case in at least 25 cases, the White House personnel office overruled the career judgment of the FBI and granted secret access to 25 White House employees.

MATTHEWS:  Ken, who would be that he or they?  Who would say we don`t care what the experts say about this person`s credibility or the danger to the country, we`re going to give them what they want?  We`re going to give them the OK to see everything?  Was is the president or --

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  No, it was the head of -- well, it was the head of the office of security, a guy named Carl Klein who was overruling these career specialists.  But at least in the case of Jared Kushner, "The New York Times" reported he did so on the orders of the president of the United States.  We don`t know about the other 24 cases.  And we don`t know who those people are. 

MATTHEWS:  So the president, his character witness?  How does he know something that they don`t know? 

DILANIAN:  Well, the thing is that it`s a reminder of how powerful the presidency is.  He has the absolute right to do this.  All this bureaucrat niceties, this is essentially set up -- this is how the rules normally operate, but he can override them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let`s get to the credibility about his problem.  An interview with "The New York Times" in January, not a million years ago, the president denied getting involved in granting Kushner a security clearance. 


REPORTER:  Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, I don`t think I have the authority to do that. 

REPORTER:  You do have the authority to do it. 

TRUMP:  But I wouldn`t do it.  Jared`s a good -- I was -- I was never involved with his security. 


MATTHEWS:  Is ignorance bliss here?  I mean, a month later, "The New York Times" reported it was the president who ordered his chief of staff to overrule intelligence officials and grant his son-in-law top security clearance.  How could he forget? 

BASH:  The president is obviously covering up what he did here with respect to his son-in-law. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would he do that? 

BASH:  Because he doesn`t want the American people to know his son-in-law was denied a security clearance and that he has access to classified information because, of course, that would show for everyone to see that his White House is absolutely Swiss cheese when it comes to security.  It`s full of holes. 

And not only Jared Kushner and Ivanka, but also 23, 24 other individuals, Chris.  It`s highly significant.  Sometimes this happens once in an administration, 25 times for a career person to be overruled show shows you how much the politics were putting their thumb on the scale in favor of their own people. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we know, do journalists know, do you know what was the problem with Jared and the president knew the problem was and overruled it basically? 

DILANIAN:  Yes, our reporting is foreign interest concerns.  He had foreign business entanglements and he neglected at first to disclose any of his foreign contacts.  That would disqualify most people --

MATTHEWS:  Why would he do that? 

DILANIAN:  That would disqualify people.  He said it was a clerical error.  Most people would not get away with that.  The important thing about this is it`s so unprecedented. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s a perjury charge. 

DILANIAN:  This whistle-blower Tricia Newbold worked for 18 years doing this.  She`s never seen anything like this.  She`s never been overruled more than once every couple of years.

MATTHEWS:  How much of this is the old problem of nepotism?  I`ve been raising this hell since the beginning, since Jamie Gorelick sort of representing this guy, since the beginning, a lawyer friend of mine.  But I never thought it was OK.

Bobby Kennedy was a different case.  Bobby Kennedy had run the Rackets Committee for years.  He ran both campaigns of his brother, both the Congress, got him into politics and the presidency.  He was one sharp political cookie.  You want to have him around. 

Jared Kushner, the conflicts he had is all he had was conflicts.  That was his resume, the conflicts, these foreign business relations. 

BASH:  Special rules for family, but also special rules for other political appointees.  And, again, throughout the White House, you have individuals with access to classified information, sensitive secrets, potentially sources and methods, law enforcement methods, other things that are vital for national security, and you give it to people who can`t we trusted or subjected for foreign influence, that`s national security issue. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the Justice Department building.  You know who it was named after?  Robert F. Kennedy.  So, it wasn`t like he was a problem of appointment. 

What is this going to lead to?  The story breaking right now?  Subpoenas by Elijah Cummings? 

DILANIAN:  Yes, he`s going to try the subpoenas on these White House officials, but the White House is going to fight because they say Congress has no right of oversight. 

MATTHEWS:  The whole dirty deal, this nepotistic crap. 

Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian -- two smart guys here -- and Jeremy Bash.  You know your stuff.

Up next, some hard to belief stuff about Trump.  Listen closely -- some hard to believe stuff. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  This just in, Donald Trump has released all of his tax returns, federal, state and local, going back ten years.  He says that with a longstanding audit by the IRS now completed, he`s now free to be totally transparent about all his business dealings.  Trump also admitted tonight that he intentionally lied from the outset about Barack Obama having snuck into the country from East Africa and he did so deliberately, Trump says, to cultivate the racist vote. 

And this administration was coupled with Trump`s stunning confession otherwise that he and his fellow Republicans have no idea how to replace Obama`s affordable care program.  But now comes the real blockbuster tonight, this Monday night, President Trump has agreed to release the entirety of his high school and college transcripts, the whole caboodle to prove once in for all he really was first in his class as he`s boasted. 

April fools!  Trump, of course, is releasing nothing on his taxes.  Trump has never nor will he admit his real motive for denouncing Obama as an illegitimate president, neither has he presented a plan to replace Obamacare, and never will.  And who knows where his high school transcripts have ended up. 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us on this April 1st day. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.