ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: One note before I go. I`ll tell you, if you`re in New York, we have a special panel with the New Yorker`s Jeffrey Toobin, The View`s Sunny Hostin and Republican impeachment lawyer Ross Garber. You can find out more information at 92Y. That`s 92nd in New York, 92Y.org.
That does it for us.
"HARDBALL" is up nest.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Congress wants to see Trump`s taxes. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Mathews from Washington. Tonight signs the democrats are getting serious about breaking down those barriers protecting Donald Trump`s personal, business and political dealings. Just moments ago, the Democratic-run House Ways and Means Committee issued a formal request to the IRS for Donald Trump`s tax returns.
Chairman Richard Neal wrote the agency requesting six years of the President`s personal income tax filings from 2013 through 2018. And that`s not all. Neal is also asking the IRS for tax returns from companies and the trusts associated with the President.
And here is how the President reacted to that news late tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The Chairman of the Democratic Congress Ways and Means Committee moments ago asked the IRS for six years of your tax returns --
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Is that all?
REPORTER: That`s all.
TRUMP: Usually, it`s ten, so I guess they`re giving up. Now, we`re under audit despite what people said that we`re working that out and I`m always under audit, it seems. But I`ve been under audit many years because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name, you`re audited. But until such time as I`m not under audit, I would not be inclined to do that. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he pointed out two facts which are not related, that he`s very rich and he`s very famous. But the request did not go to him, Mr. President. It went to the IRS for your tax returns.
Also today, all 24 democrats in the House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for the entire 400-page report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, no redactions. Chairman Nadler says he will negotiate with the Attorney General, William Barr, but insists he see the full report without any compromises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you willing to negotiate any middle ground in terms of redactions --
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), N.Y.: No.
REPORTER: -- of the Mueller -- you`re not?
NADLER: No. The committee must see everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: According to The Washington Post, some democrats are more aggressive still, even more than Nadler, calling for a showdown immediately. Quote, many do not share Nadler`s patience and want the Chairman to serve Barr with the summons for the report right away.
Well, today`s vote by Judiciary Democrats comes a day after Attorney General Barr missed the committee`s deadline to deliver the full report. Instead, Barr has promised to release a partially redacted version to the public while Congress is in recess later this month. We think midterm -- mid-April sometime, he`s saying.
Barr is also set to deliver a previously scheduled testimony before the House Appropriations Committee next Tuesday. It is unclear whether he`ll answer questions about the Special Counsel report at all.
I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee. Mimi Rocah is a former federal prosecutor. Carlos Curbelo is a former Republican Congressman. Thank you all.
I want to go to Congressman Swalwell. It seems to me this is black and white. The federal statutes require that the IRS provide their personal income tax returns for the Chair of the Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee. How can the President say it`s up to him not to do it?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), C.A.: It doesn`t have to be so hard, Chris. He actually said as a candidate he was going to release them. The excuse that he`s under audit may sound like a good excuse, But, functionally, I don`t understand what prevents him from releasing them. We now have the majority of the American people want to see any President`s tax return, Republican or democrat. So we`re going to get them.
MATTHEWS: Well, why don`t you just ask the Commissioner of the IRS if he`s under audit to start with?
SWALWELL: We can do that.
MATTHEWS: I mean, the IRS Commissioner has to decide whether to meet your demand, it seems to me. The IRS is being asked for these tax returns. Under law, they have to provide them. What`s Trump`s mouth have to do with this? How can he even get in this conversation? I don`t understand it.
SWALWELL: Yes. And I don`t want to play into his semantics. I just want the tax returns because we should know the financial history of a person who leads the largest, you know, economy in government in the world. And so let`s just get that. And for a guy who always says he has nothing to hide, again, he sure sounds like he has something to hide.
Now, we`re in a position to get the taxes. We`re going to get them. It just may not be as fast as we want. But we`re going to fight and the law is on our side and the courts will be on our side.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll find out. Some of these appointees are toadies or not, like at the IRS.
Anyway, for over three years now, the President has claimed it is an IRS audit that`s preventing him from releasing his tax returns, as he promised at one point. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will absolutely give my return, but I`m being audited now for two or three years, so I can`t do it until the audit is finished, obviously.
It`s under audit. I`ll release them when the audit is completed.
My tax returns are very simple. They are under a minor audit, routine audit, as they have been for many years, every year I get audited.
At the appropriate time, I will release them. But right now, I`m under routine audit. Nobody cares.
You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters.
REPORTER: You don`t think the American public is concerned about that?
TRUMP: No, I don`t think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don`t think they care at all.
REPORTER: If the audit is still on, you will not turn over the tax returns or you will fight to block it?
TRUMP: When it`s under audit. Nobody would -- nobody turns over a return when it`s under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the President said that the scrutiny of his personal finances would cross a red line.
Let me go to Carlos Curbelo. What do you make of this? I mean, this is a pretty clear-cut. The Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is taking his time. But he`s now issued a demand, sent him a letter tonight at 6:00 Eastern Time to the IRS, which is really serving the public, and says, I want to see the returns of this individual American citizen. What`s the hold up?
FMR. REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), F.L.: Chris, I think a couple of things. Number one, the President should voluntarily turnover his returns. It`s the tradition in our country and he should just do it the way he said he would. Number two, we should change the law to compel every presidential candidate by a certain date to release their returns for X number of years, members of Congress can decide what makes most sense.
I will say that in terms of Chairman Neal making this request, there are some risks for democrats, in my opinion. The spirit of the law is that the Ways and Means Committee Chairman and the Senate Finance Committee Chairman can request these records in an effort or as they are attempting to conduct oversight of the IRS. I think this is a little outside that scope, so I do think we should change the law.
I think regardless of the law, the President should release his returns. But I do think that this could be a dangerous precedent.
MATTHEWS: And you think what would happen? What would be the boomerang here?
CURBELO: Well, this is something that`s arbitrary in nature and we would be setting a precedent that the Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee can request anyone`s tax returns for any reason at any time. I think that`s a little dangerous. Obviously, we`re talking about the President of the United States. The standard should be the highest. But the law right now does not require the President or any presidential candidate to release the returns. I think that`s what needs to change.
SWALWELL: And, Chris, I agree with Carlos. We should just change the law in the future that has bipartisan support.
MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman, what`s wrong with the law right now? You go over with too. What`s your version, the 1924 Law, which says the IRS has to turn it over to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the House and the Senate Finance Committee, what`s unclear in the law?
SWALWELL: Nothing is unclear. But the President -- a candidate should just be required to turn it over. Because now, the President is not going to allow his commissioner to do that, it`s going to get tied up in courts and it`s going to take much longer than would be a service to the public.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`d be interested to do the culling of the herd to find out which of these people work in the United States government working for the people and which are toadies of the President.
In March, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned Congress that he would most likely block a congressional request for the President`s tax returns. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you received any instruction or guidance of any kind about how to handle congressional requests for President Trump`s tax returns?
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Based upon the request, we`ll examine it and we will follow the law. We will protect the President, as we would protect any individual taxpayer --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, maybe that`s a double-talk there. That`s speaking with a forked tongue, as they used to say in the cowboy movies. He says, we`re going to obey the law. And he says, we`re going to protect my boss. Which is it? What`s he saying? Anything?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I don`t know what he`s saying because, of course, the President isn`t any other citizen. I mean, that`s a ridiculous argument. And specifically here where the President has made a claim, which is that because he`s under audit, he can`t release them, first of all, we don`t even know if that`s true, as you pointed out. Michael Cohen, in fact, I believe, testified that he didn`t think the President was under audit. But that`s something that`s verifiable or not. And I don`t know if him being under audit is a bar to his taxes being released.
So when you have those kinds of statements going on, it sure looks like he`s hiding behind it. And I think Congress has the absolute right to request them here. And, in fact, it`s probably already been done by Mueller and much of the analysis of his tax returns are probably already in the Mueller report.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congressman Swalwell. What do we make of Nadler? Nadler is an interesting guy. I think he`s a classic Democratic Chairman of any committee. He is being careful, and yet here he is basically getting authorization today by all the democrats -- all the democrats on his Committee of Judiciary, all of them saying he has now got the authority to go for use of subpoena. Where does he stand now in terms of getting the full Mueller report?
SWALWELL: We`re going to get the full report, Chris. We also want to follow the rule of law, which we are so offended that the President doesn`t. So we`re going to expect them to do the right thing. And when they don`t, we will subpoena it. The Republicans voted just a couple weeks ago 420 to 0 with democrats to get the full Mueller report. Their vote today against it is contradicting the earlier vote that they had.
But, Chris, again, going back to the President could just voluntarily do this himself. If he is 100 percent exonerated, then he should just order his Attorney General to give us 100 percent of the report.
MATTHEWS: But to your point, it was just three weeks ago, as you say, the Republicans in the congress -- just went [INAUDIBLE] there -- joined with democrats in a bipartisan vote urging the President -- urging the Justice Department to release Mueller`s full report to Congress. That bill explicitly called for the full release to Congress to any report, special report Counsel Mueller provides to the Attorney General. So everything should go.
However, during today Judiciary Committee, many of those same Republicans were adamant in their opposition to the subpoena.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the face of laws and rules he finds inconvenient, the Chairman demands our nation`s top law enforcement officer to break the rules and the regulations and the law.
This is reckless, it`s irresponsible and it`s disingenuous.
REP. DEBBY LESKO (R), A.Z.: It`s obvious to me that this is just a continuation of an attempt to undermine the President of the United States.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), T.X.: Enough is enough, for heaven`s sake. Let`s please move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s Louie Gohmert, one of the great birthers of our time, and what a joke. But let me ask you about -- let me go to Carlos on this question. Again, I don`t know what`s going to happen here. It seems the democrats do want to get the full Mueller report so they can get it and probably release all of it to the American people as much as they can. And yet the White House and the Attorney General appointed by the President, looks like they`re playing a game of, well, we`ll let you know. We`re going to show you.
CURBELO: Well, yes. Is this one is a lot easier, Chris. I agree with Eric. Congress should definitely get an un-redacted report. The Chairman Nadler, I think, is being prudent. He`s being patient and measured. He is giving the Attorney General the opportunity to deliver that report to Congress. If that doesn`t work out, now, he has the support of his committee to move forward.
So I think he is being prudent. I think he`s taking the right approach. And I think, politically, it`s important for democrats not to seem too anxious in this process and to allow the administration the opportunity.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Swalwell?
SWALWELL: Well, we also don`t want to do what the president does, Chris, which is not follow the rule of law or the honor code. Some things are not written in law, but there`s just customs and traditions that we follow, which is you ask for something voluntarily. If they don`t give it to you, then you issue the subpoena.
But just like Donald Trump said he`s going to give us his taxes and he didn`t, just like he said he`s going to release the Mueller report, now, he doesn`t want to, we`re now in a position with the subpoena power and the courts on our side, we`re going to get all of this.
MATTHEWS: Mimi, how is this going to work out in the courts? I just see a lot over the horizon coming over this year. You know, we thought it was more likely for impeachment. Maybe it`s more likely this year we`re going to see real court battles over information.
SWALWELL: It`s early. It`s only April. And there are a lot of battles ahead. But we`re no longer powerless. And I carry myself with the confidence that the American people gave us the ability to put a balance of power finally on all of these abuses.
MATTHEWS: Mimi, the subpoena power is really what they fight over. Nixon didn`t have it. Bill Clinton didn`t have it. The subpoena power often makes the difference. It`s the one weapon that the people trying to get to have, that it`s hard to stop them. Can the democrats win this fight on all this stuff, from the tax returns to the Mueller report? We`re going to go into questions later in the show tonight about the inauguration, who paid for it and what they got for it, questions about who are the people hanging around Mar-a-Lago, like -- sort of like gangsters and gamblers hanging around the locker room at a basketball game. There`s a lot of sneaky stuff going on here. And the question is, are we going to get the answers?
ROCAH: Yes. Look, Chris, in many ways I think court is a bad place for Donald Trump, and it has been over the past two years. Whenever things have been litigate and had gone to court, usually, when the facts come out, they don`t look good for Donald Trump. If you remember Amy Berman-Jackson, the judge who sentenced Roger Stone said, court is a place where facts still matter. And so I think that to the extent this is going to get litigated in the courts, at the end of the day, the right thing is going to happen here. And by the right thing, I mean the facts coming out, whatever they are.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, President Trump is totally wrong because anybody you talk to -- certainly, anybody on the democratic side, I think a lot of independents do want to find out what this President`s economic situation is. They want know what he`s been up to. They certainly want to know what his tax returns tells us about his dealings with Russia, Trump Tower, the whole works.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Swalwell, Mimi Rocah and former Congressman Carlos Curbelo.
Coming up, new concerns at Mar-a-Lago. Federal authorities have reportedly investigating possible Chinese Intelligence operations targeting the President at his winter White House.
Plus, Biden`s explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), D.L.: Folks who would come and go [ph] that expect to be talking about a whole lot of issues and I`ll always be direct with you. But today, I want to talk about just the support and encouragement that I`ve made to women and some men that have made them uncomfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, we`ll show you his promise to be more respectful in the future and the clearest indication so far that he`s running for president.
And in a freewheeling speech to House Republicans last night, the President made a number of outrageous claims. Tonight, a Republican senator is calling one of those claims idiotic.
Much more ahead, stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump affectionately calls his ultra exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach the winter White House. However, unlike the real White House, it costs $200,000 to get access to the President. But once paid, the guests are free to wander the property even when the President is there.
And over the weekend, while the President was visiting his club, we learned that a Chinese woman bypassed security and gained access to the reception area down there. Secret Service arrested a woman after club staff they realized she shouldn`t be there. A search of her belongings turned up four cell phones, a laptop, a hard drive and a thumb drive with malicious hardware.
In the Miami Herald`s report, federal authorities are investigating a possible Chinese intelligence operation targeting the President after the owner of a massage parlor was was reportedly selling access to President Trump and his family. All this is, once again, raising questions about just how vulnerable unrestricted the club is.
In February of 2017, members of the club snapped pictures of President Trump and Japan`s Prime Minister huddle in the patio as they discussed the response to the North Korean missile launch.
A month later, President Trump told the president of China the U.S. had bombed Syria during dessert, chocolate cake, I believe, at the club.
For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois and a member of the Intelligence Committee, and Katie Rogers, White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and Laurence Leamer, author of "Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump`s Presidential Palace."
I want to start with Katie on this.
Do you we know who this woman is? I was reading all about it today. I don`t get it. Is she a person just on the loose, sort of a person just who has enough money to get from Shanghai or whatever, finds herself in Mar-a- Lago, has enough money to go in the door, have enough moxie to find her way in, and has no mean or negative or malicious intent?
KATIE ROGERS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right.
So, that`s what foreign intelligence officials are trying to find out right now, whether she was a striver looking for a selfie or whether she was part of something more organized.
Like 16 hours into the investigation, not a lot is known about her, but...
MATTHEWS: She doesn`t speak English. And somehow she found her way into a club down in Florida. She knew which airline to take. She knew how to get there, by Uber or whatever, taxi.
ROGERS: Because these events are organized on Chinese social media.
So, on WeChat, which is a very popular social media app, events at Mar-a- Lago are advertised. They`re basically like turning Mar-a-Lago into a tourist destination. And people like Cindy Yang, who own those massage parlors, are -- is part of this, like, coalition they call themselves in South Florida of Asian Republicans who advertise these events in China.
And people come over. This has been happening for a while. So we don`t know at this point whether or not this woman had connections to something more organized, or if she just wanted to take a look around.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what do you make of this?
Because I get the sense that Mar-a-Lago has become a highly priced kissing booth. If you want to get to the president, join this club, and you can get relations with the guy, you can meet him on the golf course, you can hang out with him at the first tee, the 19th hole.
He can be your buddy just for the price of admission. This is a -- it is a kissing booth. Tell me the difference. That`s what it is.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Well, it might very well be.
But the question is, when do their profits come at the expense of national security? They have an open membership. And they have these events that are open to virtually anyone. And people are selling access to the president through these events.
But you asked exactly the right question, which is, is this person, Ms. Zhang, has she been tasked by the PRC, the Chinese People`s Republic, to basically collect intelligence on the president? What are we doing to stop that? And what -- what`s getting in the way of that at Mar-a-Lago?
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has effectively used his club`s membership roster as a shortlist for political appointees, in fact.
According to "USA Today," Trump has appointed at least eight current or former members of his clubs to senior posts in his administration. In fact, five members of the president`s clubs have been nominated and -- or are already current foreign ambassadors at major ambassadorships like South Africa. Serious business.
Let me go to Laurence on this thing.
Give me a picture of what it`s like down there. What`s it like? Is it like people milling around looking to get -- rubber-necking to look for Melania or the president?
LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, "MAR-A-LAGO": Well, no.
I mean, it`s $200,000. You can buy your way in. And it`s an exquisitely beautiful place. But is it a place where the president of United States should spend his weekends?
There are roughly 10,000 people who come in and out of there during the season, all kinds of people. And the security is a serious problem. I live down there in the winter. I walk on the beach. When you go -- when you go down the beach, you can walk right in.
When he`s there, you can go up to the pool. This woman was -- I`m sort of glad this happened, in terms of the security issues. There is a major security problem here. And Trump will insist on staying here, because he needs to be stroked constantly and needs to walk around and have people telling him how great he is.
But it`s not great for the presidency of the United States.
MATTHEWS: You know what it reminds me of? Like Mickey Mantle`s in New York on 59th Street, Central Park South. He used to be there once in a while.
You go to Mickey Mantle`s to get a hamburger, but you get to see Mickey Mantle. Is that what it`s like?
MATTHEWS: I mean, it seems like it`s just spotting the president as part of your big night. Your thoughts?
LEAMER: Well, no, you sit there, and the guy sits there for three hours having dinner. And people mill around him. And people are just delighted to be there. And the access is there.
What people use that for is just sitting there. What is $200,000 for people? One guy was sitting there insisting that they take his check for $200,000. He wanted to get in the door. To these people, $200,000 is like five bucks for the rest of us.
MATTHEWS: Yes. By the way, I love your book, sir. Thank you for coming on tonight.
LEAMER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, in April of 2017, President Trump launched a strike on Syria while eating chocolate cake with Chinese President Xi.
Here is the president describing the situation in an interview on FOX.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We`re now having dessert.
And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do?
And we made a determination to do it. So the missiles were on the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what do you make of that?
I mean, this is intimate surroundings here, but they`re not exactly our best friends in the world. And there they are watching -- we launch, the president, being commander in chief, while he`s having his chocolate cake with the head of China.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know, I think that this makes it all the more important that we find out some of the answers to the questions that Chairman Schiff asked today of the intelligence chiefs, which is, what is - - what do we need to do to basically safeguard our national security secrets at Mar-a-Lago, and what`s getting in the way of that?
We have classified information that`s flowing back and forth with Mar-a- Lago all the time. The Chinese know that. That`s why I think they`re targeting Mar-a-Lago. And that`s why they sent Ms. Zhang and possibly Ms. Yang before that, Cindy Yang, who`s been using this place as a hub for her access operations as well.
MATTHEWS: That second woman is the one who runs the parlors, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, the former -- the former massage parlor owner who`s been selling access to these events where President Trump has apparently been present.
One other piece of this, which I think that your former guest mentioned, which is, there`s an ethical element as well here, which is that the president uses his star power in part to increase the allure or appeal of Mar-a-Lago as a place to do business, as a place to have events.
And so I think this whole mess is in part created by a desire to make a lot more money at Mar-a-Lago, but, in the process, we`re jeopardizing our national security.
MATTHEWS: You know, Laurence, I think you have found the new Casablanca.
This place down there looks like where all the strange people in the world find their way in, somewhere between the Nazi Germany and somewhere between the Allies, and somewhere there`s this weird place called Casablanca or Mar-a-Lago, where anybody can come in, anybody can leave.
Thank you for coming on tonight, Laurence Leamer, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, as always.
LEAMER: Thank you.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And Katie Rogers for your reporting with "The Times."
Up next: Joe Biden speaks out. He says he gets it and promises to be more respectful of people`s personal space.
Does this put a lid on the controversy, or will this continue to be an issue? Well, he`s going to run for president. He made that clear today. Let`s -- let`s stop kidding ourselves. The guy is running. He made it clear today.
Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In a major story breaking just this moment, "The New York Times" is reporting that some of the -- Robert Mueller`s investigators have told the associates that Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry, and that they were more troubling, the Mueller report, for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.
That`s according to government officials and others familiar with the matter, who say that those investigations -- are -- quote -- "concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel`s findings, Americans` views will have hardened before the investigation`s conclusions become public."
As "The Times" puts it, it`s the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel`s office.
Joining me right now is one of the reporters on that story, Adam Goldman.
Adam, that`s -- to me, I guess that -- what`s the lead here? Is it the lead that there`s dirt here that Barr did not release?
ADAM GOLDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the lead here is, there is a nearly 400-page report with possibly troubling information about the president and his activities.
Maybe, in Barr`s view, it didn`t rise to the level of a crime, but, for the special counsel, it certainly -- at least in the case of obstruction, it didn`t exonerate -- it didn`t exonerate the president.
MATTHEWS: And the failure by Mr. Barr -- it sounds like Mr. Barr`s concerned in the report that Mueller didn`t make a decision on the issue of obstruction. He thought he should have done that.
GOLDMAN: Yes. Yes.
That -- that -- sorry, repeat the question again?
MATTHEWS: According to the report in "The New York Times," which is moving right now and will be in the paper tomorrow, according to your report in "The Times," which you were part of writing, Mr. Barr is up -- was upset when he got the report from Mueller, in that it did not conclude one way or the other whether the president obstructed justice.
It`s our understanding that main Justice Department, Barr thought that Mueller punted on the issue, that Mueller should have made a decision, and that`s what he was tasked with doing, but yet he didn`t. And he left it in the hands of the politicals, right, of Rod Rosenstein and Barr himself or political appointees, sort of that the whole purpose of the special counsel is not to put it in the hands of the politicals, so there`s no political interference.
MATTHEWS: And subsequent to that, Mr. Barr then had to make a decision.
He said he wished that Mueller had made a call on obstruction of justice, as he did to basically exonerate the president on collusion. But since he didn`t make a call, he also believed that Comey was wrong with regard to Hillary Clinton when he chastised her, even though he didn`t indict.
And in this case, he wasn`t willing indict because Mueller hadn`t made that call. He had to exonerate. That seems to be the train of thought here. Your thoughts.
GOLDMAN: Yes, there are some thoughts on that.
There`s a counternarrative that Barr did -- Barr did to Hillary Clinton what Comey did. By throwing in that line from the special counsel`s office that he wasn`t totally exonerated, some could argue that wasn`t fair, just like Comey said Hillary Clinton was extremely careless.
MATTHEWS: So, Barr decided it was wrong to in any way hurt the reputation of someone unless you`re going to prosecute?
But, like I said, one can make the argument throwing in that line about total -- the exoneration wasn`t exactly helpful to Trump either.
MATTHEWS: I see. Yes.
GOLDMAN: I think the larger -- I think the larger point...
MATTHEWS: We have lost Adam Goldman.
Anyway, that`s a lot of the report. What a big news story that is tonight.
Up next: It looks like, right now, there is tension between Mueller and Barr, real tension. We will read about that tomorrow, certainly, in detail.
Up next: Joe Biden is making his first on-camera remarks addressing allegations from a number of women about physical contact they felt was inappropriate. And that`s next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed allegations from four women of physical contact they felt was inappropriate. It was the first time he ever did this on television.
In a video posted on Twitter, Biden explained his hands-on style, but said he understands times have changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Social norms have begun to change. They have shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they`re saying. I understand it.
And I will be much more mindful. That`s my responsibility, my responsibility. And I will meet it.
But I will always believe governing, quite frankly, life, for that matter, is about connecting, about connecting with people. That won`t change, but I will be more mindful and respectful of people`s personal space. And that`s a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He also teased a possible announcement, saying he`d be talking about a whole lot of issues in the coming months -- month.
For more, I`m joined by former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, North -- she`s a Democrat of North Dakota -- and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," who has also written "The Matriarch." We will talk to her in a minute, my friend Susan.
Let`s talk about Joe.
I want you to start, Susan, as a straight reporter, front-page reporter. How did you read his statement tonight, on tweet?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": I thought it was that the Joe Biden we know, appealing and folksy and talking straight to the camera.
But I think two things are going to be important. Number one, do more women step forward with allegations that he made them feel uncomfortable? And, secondly, how does -- he how does he handle it when he`s actually getting questions from reporters?
He wasn`t taking questions here. He was speaking straight to camera. He`s going to have to address this in interviews and at news conferences. And that will be a tougher forum than he faced with an aide with what looked like it was a -- was a cell phone camera.
MATTHEWS: Give me a question that would be hard for him.
PAGE: Well, a question that would be hard for him would be, does this reflect a generational difference that is going to dog your campaign, not just when it comes to how you -- whether -- how you relate to women`s personal space, but on other issues in a party that seems to be moving to a new and rising generation?
I think that`s kind of the -- the broader question he faces. This is kind of a one symbol of an issue he`s going to have to address about whether time passed him by or whether this is still a possible path for him to take.
MATTHEWS: Senator, what do you think?
FORMER SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, I think, number one, Joe is Joe and everybody who knows him well knows that he is always in your space. He connects, he connects and not only by being empathetic, but also by touching people. And I think that one of the things that was predictable is you would hear concerns about violating that personal space.
MATTHEWS: You heard this before?
HEITKAMP: Well, I mean, everybody knows if you know Joe that he is going to hug you, he`s going to reach out, he`s going to make a physical connection, along with a personal connection.
MATTHEWS: Does it ever bug me?
HEITKAMP: Never me. I think in part when you think about the intent of who is reaching out, you know that that`s to make a connection, it`s to say hi. It`s to demonstrate friendship and warmth and empathy of what you are going through.
MATTHEWS: Let`s switch topics here. I have known him forever, like you did, and I thought he was very genuine today. Whatever you make of his answer, it was him. That`s Joe.
HEITKAMP: Well, that`s the point, isn`t it? We are looking for that authenticity in people and that`s a great characteristic for a presidential candidate.
MATTHEWS: Susan, "The Times" is breaking a big story right now, this very minutes right now. We had one of the authors on just a moment ago, and the question now is, we all thought and I think it`s a fair statement, when we got that little four-page of, whatever it, a little pricey, of the 400 page Mueller report, we knew it was not comprehensive and wasn`t going to tell us the conclusions comprehensively.
And now, it`s coming out -- leaking out of the Mueller team that they didn`t have the important facts which are troubling for the president.
PAGE: Yes, we knew it wasn`t going to be complete, the question is, was it a fair rendering, reflecting what the overall report concluded? And this is just going to fuel the calls to release the full report. I think it is -- I think there`s no question that we`re going to end up being able to read this full report. I don`t know when and I don`t know exactly the path that that will take, but this is just fuel on the fire that says the American people have a right to read the full report so they can assess for themselves what they can think about the behavior of the president and those around him.
MATTHEWS: You know, we spend our lives, I`m the oldest person in this trio right now, inevitably --
HEITKAMP: Not by much.
MATTHEWS: -- but when we want something, the American people get it.
HEITKAMP: Well, and not only that, but you can`t go out and say I`m totally exonerate and good job and see, we told you there was nothing there and then not show the report. You`ve got to live up to your commitment when you said you would release it. You`ve got to show the report if you want us to believe that you have been completely exonerated.
MATTHEWS: Well, the question, of course, is going to be -- what`s in there? I go back to you, Susan.
This -- we know they have a lot of evidence of collusion. A lot of meetings that are unexplained and a lot of dots to connect. And Mueller didn`t connect them in a criminal way, but we know all this stuff has to be answered. It must be in the report.
Why were they meeting at Trump Tower? Why are they meeting at the cigar bar? Why were they dealing with Kislyak all the time? Why did they change the Republican platform regarding Russia and the Ukraine?
All of this stuff to me would have been a firestorm if it came out at once, but it sort of dribbled out to us. I think there`s more.
PAGE: Well, you know, this were right back to where we were before it was submitted, which is Mueller must know more. We want to know with him.
You know, we don`t even the core question which is, what accounts for President Trump`s attitude towards Russia which he displayed since his presidential campaign? What is behind that? Is it nothing or is it something nefarious? I think that`s what Americans would like to find out.
And I agree with the senator that, you know, when 80 percent of Americans say they want to see a government made investigation report be made public, it`s going to be made public, because that`s the democracy in which we live.
MATTHEWS: You know, I can understand why President Trump plays ball with Netanyahu. They`re both men of the right. It doesn`t hurt American politics to be very pro Israeli. Most of us are.
But to take their side, pretty outrageous, makes perfect sense for them politically. The evangelicals love it and they`re the strongest base he`s got.
But there`s no political explanation why is he so kissy poo with Putin? He doesn`t get a vote out of it.
HEITKAMP: Yes, the one thing, Chris, I think that we`ve learned over the last many months, is that the Mueller report is going to speak for itself. We shouldn`t speculate on what`s in it, we shouldn`t presume we know what`s in it. Let`s see what`s in it. And that`s -- if he`s afraid of that, do you have to ask the question why? Why is the president afraid of letting us see what`s in the Mueller report?
MATTHEWS: Well, we will find out. I agree with you on the motivation. He doesn`t want to us see it.
Thank you, Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota. Susan, by the way, is sticking around. We`re going to talk about a new book on Barbara Bush.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: More on that breaking news. A bombshell news from "The New York Times" tonight on the Mueller report.
I`m rejoined by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell who`s on the Intelligence Committee.
Let me ask you the key committee you are on tonight. Congressman, this is amazing. Now it comes out what a lot of us suspected, I`m sure you did too. Mueller had more to say than Barr wanted us to hear.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE (via telephone): Chris, this shows why we need to get the report as soon as possible. The fact that investigators would express this concern shows the situation stepping back. This whole investigation launched because a foreign adversary attacked us. Russia attacked us. The questions about people in the Trump campaign and administration and transition who worked with them and those are unresolved.
And if we are going to protect ourselves in the next election, I think this is, you know, a clarion call that we better get this report and get to work.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go over a couple of concerns raised by this report. There is more in it that is troubling about Donald Trump. What is that saying to you? Trouble for him that never came out through this four-page summary by his attorney general.
SWALWELL: It shows that we have always been skeptical about someone who would solicit this job in a 19-page letter and write a summary of a two- year investigation that produced 37 indictments, six guilty pleas, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants. They would only summarize that with a four-page letter that had 84 words from the 400 page report.
So, we should be very skeptical of that and demand the full report.
MATTHEWS: And the second point raised by the letter was that Robert Mueller and his team never imagined or did they want it to happen that the attorney general would put a quickie weekend version of their 400-page report before the American public would shape public opinion that the president was off, that he was exonerated on the issue of collusion and it was 50-50 on the other one on obstruction. Apparently that was not the right shape that Mueller intended the public to get when they got the first word on this report.
SWALWELL: And, Chris, we are going to get that report now and we should not rely solely on the attorney general`s spin. Again, he should not have been confirmed by the Senate because of his bias. He should have recused himself and not allowed himself with that bias to make this decision.
And, again, my fear is that the rule of law erodes in this country when people can`t have faith in an independent Department of Justice and get an attorney general who seeks to protect the president rather than protect the ballot box.
MATTHEWS: Let me hold on, Congressman. Let`s go to Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor.
Glenn, "The New York Times" is reporting that some of Mueller`s team, his investigator, have told associates that Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry, that they`re more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr allowed.
My thought -- I think a lot of us thought that the genius of Barr was first impressions. When you meet somebody, you got a strong first impression. When the American people got the Mueller -- they didn`t get the Mueller report. They got the Barr report. They got a strong impression this president got scot-free.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC NEWS REPORTER (via telephone): Yes, Chris, here`s what I`ll say. FBI agents are usually vault-like in their refusal to step outside their lane and talk about a pending investigation or a recently concluded investigation. So, this could be a sign that what the investigators know the evidence shows about Donald Trump`s behavior may be far more dramatic than even we imagined.
Now, we have all suspected it`s more dramatic than Barr`s instantly clearing the president of obstruction, which makes no sense after Mueller himself said he could not exonerate the president. We all suspected something was a miss there. We don`t want to speculate what`s in that report, but as the Congressman Swalwell was saying, the good news is one way or another, Congress is going to see the report and the people are going to see this report and I think if Barr was covering it up and downplaying it, that is going to spell more problems, not less problems for the administration.
MATTHEWS: And this is another point in the report tonight by the "New York Times" which people read tomorrow morning. The other point is, that he didn`t, Mr. Barr and his team, did not think that Mr. Barr was going to come racing out 48 hours later with their report, the four-page summary. They thought it would take a while to get out or redacted. They had no idea he was going to make this presentation that Sunday night.
KIRSCHNER: Yes, I`ll tell you, Chris, it was so surprising when you read in one sentence that Mueller cannot exonerate the president and Barr without legal reasoning or analysis and without any factual support included in his letter, he said let me jump out and clear the president even though Mueller can`t based on the evidence. You know, that looks like yet another variation on the president and his people trying to put false information in the public square, trying to poison the will of public opinion and get people thinking, I guess there has been clearance of both experience and obstruction and what happens when the Mueller report comes out and public opinion will have to dig out of the hole in which Barr and Trump has put it.
So, maybe that`s the game here. But I`ll tell you, if it`s a game, I think Barr is going to be exposed.
MATTHEWS: We`re talking about the "New York Timess" story breaking just tonight and will be in the paper tomorrow, but it`s out tonight. It`s basically that the Mueller people, the investigators who talked to "The Times" have said they were not happy with the way that Mr. Barr, the attorney general presented their report in that four-page summary. That there was more troubling information about the president that did not get through.
That`s a big part of the story. Let me get to Mimi Rocah right now.
Mimi, what do you make of this? Maybe it took all these weeks to get the truth, but it`s coming out.
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes, Chris, and I was on your show earlier and I think I said the facts are not good for Donald Trump when they come out. This is what a lot of us have been saying since the day Barr released that letter. We can`t look at Barr`s conclusions, we need to see the facts, whatever they are.
Mueller did not write a 400 or whatever page report just to say nothing here to see. He investigated this for almost two years and there going to be facts in there that are probably good and bad for the president, but they all need to come out. And Barr`s insertion himself in this process and putting out that conclusion at the point where we didn`t have all the facts was absolutely the wrong thing to do as Congressman Swalwell said. It looked so political and he should have stayed out television and let the faxes come out when it was time for the whole report to come out.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Eric Swalwell. You`re a member of the Intelligence Committee.
And this is something that came out over the last couple of weeks before the breaking news tonight that Mueller`s people are not happy with the way Barr presented their information after two years. And that is that we need to know a lot more about whether a guy should go to jail or not or to be impeached or not. We`ve got a counter intelligence piece to this, and I think, with the Kerner report, the Warren report, all these commission reports over the years have been meant to help the American people understand what happened.
I think that`s the thing that maybe we`re going to find amazing information that has nothing to do with whether they caught the president with a capital crime or not. Your thoughts?
SWALWELL: There is a difference, Chris, between being charged criminally and not ride rising to the level we want for the president of the United States and our military that knows the deepest secrets of our government to protect our troops. If there is a compromise that the situation that he is in with the Russians or that people on his team have put themselves in, we need to know.
But again, this is always about the future and I think we have to talk about it this way. We have an election coming up, an adversary in Russia, just as determine. And if we can`t see what`s in the report, we can`t protect the American people from another interference I think.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, I want to finish with a question which I haven`t been able to get to. One of the points in the "New York Times" report tonight will be in the paper tomorrow, is that there is tension between the Mueller operation which is a two-year operation and the Johnny come latelies of William Barr and his people.
What do you know about that? The Mueller people are not happy with the Barr people.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. And you know what? Here is what that tension is being produced by, Chris. Mueller and his team of investigators and his team of career public servants who are not 13 angry Democrats, they are independent, hardworking, most of them career public servants who are all about investigating fairly and fully and getting to the truth of the matter.
So, if you have a team of law enforcement agents and prosecutors who have worked 22 months to get at the truth of the matter and then they see their investigation being misrepresented and their findings and conclusions being twist and contorted by an attorney general with his own agenda to protect the president, that`s where the tension comes in. I got to tell you, I believe once this report comes out, the truth is going to be known by people and it doesn`t look like it`s going to end well for Barr.
MATTHEWS: Mimi, I want to go to you on the last question really tonight is the Supreme Court, because I lived through Watergate and all the rest of this stuff for many years. And I always think these cases are going to come down to somebody has to break the tie between the executive and the legislature here.
Do you think the Supreme Court even though it`s a 5-4 Republican Supreme Court, do you think they will say the American people need to see this report?
ROCAH: I do, Chris. I mean, look, I probably have an oversized faith in the judiciary more than most people, but I believe at the end of the day that judges believe in information and truth coming out. And this is -- the fact that this now smells more like a cover up will weigh more in favor of that kind of a ruling.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, you think Barr will cut his losses before he is villainized completely here and says, OK, look at the report, put it out now?
SWALWELL: Just come forward now with the full report. It`s clear that there are questions about Barr`s evaluation of the report and the best thing you can do for transparency and the law and give and so, just give us the report now and let Congress go through it and give it to the American people.
MATTHEWS: Glenn, your thoughts tonight? This story keeps breaking on us. The "New York Times" has been incredible. No wonder Trump hates them. They keep breaking this stuff out.
KIRSCHNER: And I agree with Mimi. I also can be accused of having an oversized faith in the judiciary which has proved time and again they are not going to be some kind of a lackey for the president that appointed them. Ultimately the Supreme Court will get it right if they are asked to pass on it. What we learned today as a guarantee the entire report is going to come out and sooner rather than later and Barr may have just made one of his worst miscalculations.
MATTHEWS: And I think Mnuchin is going to be of no help in getting the tax returns, because he is part of the army of toadies now in the executive branch. This is an embarrassing executive branch.
Thank you to Congressman Eric Swalwell, member the Judiciary Committee and member of the Intelligence Committee in the House, and represents the people of California.
Glenn Kirschner, thank you, and Mimi Rocah. You are both great.
We will have much more on the breaking news from "The New York Times" about Mueller`s investigation tomorrow night. When we come back, we will have Susan Page with a great new biography about Barbara Bush.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
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