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Biden speaks publicly for first time. TRANSCRIPT: 4/5/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Judy Chu, Tim O`Brien, David Corn, Shannon Pettypiece, Rick Reilly

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST:  Ari will be back here Monday night, 6:00 P.M. Eastern.

"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now, everybody.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump`s darkest secret.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Mathews from Washington.  President Trump has put aside killing Obamacare.  He`s put aside his threat to shut down the border.  He`s given up all together his crackpot birtherism theory about President Obama being born abroad.  But one thing he has never given up on is his Captain Ahab-like obsession to hide his tax returns from the American public.

And now, now Democratic Congressman Richard Neal is using his powers as Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee to force the IRS to turn those returns over.  Neal is setting a 1924 law that clearly states, quote, upon written request, the Secretary of the Treasury shall furnish such committee with any return or return information.  And while the law could not be more clear, the President is talking as if it doesn`t apply to him.  Big surprise.

Here`s trump earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Hey, I`m under audit, but that`s up to whoever it is.  From what I understand, the law is 100 percent on my side.


MATTHEWS:  Well, hours after those remarks, the President`s lawyers sprung into action, making it clear that Trump will fight to keep his tax returns secret from Congress in a detailed four-page letter to the Treasury Department.  Trump`s lawyers wrote that Chairman Neal cannot legally request and the IRS cannot divulge this information.  His lawyers said the Ways and Means has no legitimate committee purpose for requesting the President`s tax returns and it`s all about scoring political points against the President.

Well, Trump`s attorneys are urging the Treasury Department to get a legal opinion from the Department of Justice before allowing the IRS to turn over the President returns.  It comes after the President suggested that he intends for the Attorney General as if he were his Attorney General to get involved.


REPORTER:  -- the commissioner of the IRS not to disclose to the House Ways and Means Committee your tax returns?

TRUMP:  They`ll speak to my lawyers and they`ll speak to the Attorney General.

REPORTER:  Will you direct the IRS to do that?

TRUMP:  They`ll speak to my lawyers and they`ll speak to the Attorney General.

MATTHEWS:  He does not like this issue.  He wants to hold those things secret.

Anyway, meanwhile, there are other indications that the President, in anticipation of Congressman Neal`s request, has already taken other steps to protect himself.  We`ll get to that as well.

But, first, I`m joined by U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, a democrat who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.  Tim O`Brien, of course, is the Executive Editor of Bloomberg Opinion.  Joy Reid is host of A.M. Joy on MSNBC.  And David Corn is the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones.  Thank you for joining us.

I want to go to Congresswoman.  Thank you for joining us.  What do you make of this that the President is out saying it`s illegitimate for the government to carry out the law?  That sounds to be a contradiction in terms.

REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA):  Well, Chris, let me say that the law is totally unambiguous.  It says that upon request, the IRS shall furnish those tax returns.  And it doesn`t say may furnish.  It says shall furnish.  And, in fact, in every 60103 request that has been made, those returns have been provided.  Never has a return been denied.  And this is over the nearly 100 years of the existence of this law.  So if the President doesn`t provide it, it would break precedents, it would actually break the law.

MATTHEWS:  Tim -- thank you, Congresswoman.  W will be back to you in a moment.  Tim, it seems to me that this president will take all kinds of heat for not disclosing his tax returns.  You will have people imagine that he is covering up a crime or he`s covering up the fact that he`s not as rich as much as he says he is or he never pays any taxes.  There`re all kinds of conclusions that reasonable people, and not just people on the left, would think he is hiding.  Why is he willing to pay that price?  Is it so horrible when we find this out that he`ll do anything to keep this secret?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  Chris, Donald Trump has never cared what reasonable people thought.  So that`s not going to start happening with his tax returns.  When he is putting out there that he is under audit, and that`s a reason he can`t turn the returns over, that`s a red herring.  Richard Nixon, of all people, Richard Nixon turned his taxes over while he was being audited.  Trump has said that he`s been audited for last 12 years, though no one in the IRS believes that.  The IRS in the past has come out and said it would be unusual for someone to be audited a few years in a row, much less 12.

And then I think the other issue here of him punting this over to DOJ and somehow saying that the OLC has a role in determining this shows how much he blurs the lines around separation of powers.  Congress is exercising its legitimate oversight powers when the requesting of the President of the United States be transparent and straightforward about potential financial conflicts he or she may have at administering their duties in the executive branch.  And these tax returns speak to those things.

I think the reason Trump doesn`t want them to come out is because you would see possible funding or investment from overseas, which obviously gets into things like influence from Russia or the Gulf region or China, things that he doesn`t want talked about.  It would reveal how robust his business really is, another thing he doesn`t want to talk about.  And I think he`ll do anything he has to avoid this.  But I think he`s on very shaky legal ground to say Congress doesn`t have a right to get the documents.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump`s attorneys called Congressman Neal, he`s the Chairman of Ways and Means, request harassment.  However, The Washington Post points out that the law Congressman Neal is following, quote, was written in part to give Congress the ability to scrutinize the tax returns of executive branch officials to investigate conflicts of interest or other potential improprieties because -- I love this line, because of the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920`s.

Joy Reid, as any student of history knows, this is probably the low point and credibility of any presidents.  He was Harding, Warren Harding.  He basically died from it.  The horrible thing about it is people using their interest, their influence at the Department of Interior to make money, the worst kind of corruption is all about money.  And Trump is now saying this doesn`t relate to him and it exactly relates to him, it seems to me.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Yes.  It`s the same way that he sort of treated the emoluments clause.  I mean, one of the arguments that bolsters Michael Cohen`s theory that he never intended to be president is that Donald Trump doesn`t feel that he has to follow any of the traditions than any prior president has to try and prove that they are above reproach and that they`re not using the White House to make money.  They`re not making money off of the office.  He doesn`t care what he has to do to stop people from finding out about his businesses.

And the thing is that Donald trump, and Tim O`Brien knows this better than I, Donald Trump has always operated with the help of consigliere, people who help shield him from consequences.  And he believes -- he seems to pretty openly believe that everyone in the executive branch is supposed to do the same thing, whether it`s saying he wants his Roy Cohn.  Why can`t he have an Attorney General who will protect him, the idea that he wanted to fast track getting the IRS counsel in and saying that`s more important even than getting William Barr in place, that he wants all of these people in place who have written op-eds, like the current IRS commissioner did, saying he doesn`t have to release his tax returns although that was demonstrated that they believes he doesn`t have to follow these rules.  That`s how he thinks he`s supposed to operate.

MATTHEWS:  David, and seemly, the law here is clear.  I don`t know how many lawyers he got or many pages of legal argument he makes.  It`s clear that he`s got a problem and he knows it.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES:  I think at some point in the Trump years, we are heading to a true constitutional clash.  We keep saying there is a crisis and there have been flashpoints ready.  And by that, I mean, there is going to come a moment in time when he is going to be told under the law, you must do this, and he`s not going do it.  So they`re going to be --

MATTHEWS:  Is this impeachable if he ignores that law?

CORN:  Well, certainly --

MATTHEWS:  He says, I`m not giving -- I`m going to tell the IRS not to release it?

CORN:  I mean, that`s committing a crime.  And this will end up probably in the courts.  It may even end up to the Supreme Court and before a guy named Brett Kavanaugh and his comrades there.

So -- but I think there is no way he is going to let this happen.  He will order Steve Mnuchin, if he has to, say no.  And they will take this to court.  Bill Barr has already shown --

MATTHEWS:  So our country`s future will be determined constitutionally at that point by Roberts and Kavanaugh probably, and maybe Gorsuch.

CORN:  But whether the President --

MATTHEWS:  Somebody we don`t know how they`re going to vote?

CORN:  Whether the President and his administration have to follow a very clear law or not, that`s going to end up being, I think, a tremendous fight.  And there are may be others coming down the pike too here.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, new reporting also suggests that the President may have already taken steps to shield himself, as Joy just suggested.  The New York Times revealed earlier this year Trump asked Senator McConnell, the republican leader in the Senate, to prioritize a confirmation vote for his nominee to be the Chief Counsel of the IRS.  Chief Counsel of the IRS, think about that, why he cared so much about it.

Most curious, however, was the urgency of Trump`s request.  Trump indicated to McConnell that it was a higher priority than voting on the nomination of William Barr as Attorney General.  As the story notes, Trump`s request raised questions about whether the President had other motivations.  And so why was the President so determined to get this guy confirmed as the top lawyer inside the IRS?  The democrats made no secret of their plan to obtain Trump`s tax returns.

And as The Washington Post points out, the timing is very difficult to dismiss as a coincidence.  Trump`s pick, Michael Desmond, who was confirmed in late February for the job, is a tax attorney who briefly advised Trump`s company before Trump took office.

Furthermore, as The New York Times points out, Desmond formerly worked with Sherry Dylan, who is currently a tax lawyer for the Trump organization.  She`s best known for addressing the President potential conflicts of interest just before Trump took office.  Dylan has also backed the President`s claim that he is under audit, saying in a 2016 letter that Trump`s personal tax returns have been under continuous examination by the IRS since 2002.

Tim O`Brien, it looks like Trump has put more preparation into defending and hiding his tax returns that he put into any meeting, any summit meeting with any world leader.  This seems to be far more important to him, hiding his papers.

O`BRIEN:  Remember when he rolled down the escalator and announced that he`s running for President?  The first thing he spoke in 2015, in the summer of 2015, the first thing he spoke about wasn`t policy or how he wanted to serve the American people.  The first thing he talked about and the thing at the top of his campaign announcement was that he was worth $10 billion.  There are two things to take note of with that.  He is lying.  He is nowhere close to being worth $10 billion.

The second thing is he defines himself by pretending he is worth $10 billion and getting his tax returns out into the public realm would give a lie to all that posturing he has been doing for decades around those sorts of numbers.  And then again, it gets to what it would expose about his financial relationships at home and abroad.

And there are many weaknesses Donald Trump has, but one of his core strengths is he has a reptilian ability to survive and he knows when things are a threat to him.  And he actually thinks ahead about those things in ways he doesn`t think about other things.  And I think he was thinking long and hard about the returns.  He had been asked about it repeatedly during the campaign and he repeatedly said in the early days of the campaign, of course, I`ll make them public.  Of course, I`ll make them public.  And the campaign wore on, he dreamed up an excuse of being under audit and therefore being unable to release them.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, if this fight is going to go on, where do you see it heading?  Because if you`re right with the law and he just has a lot of lawyers, but he`s not right with the law, even though he`s put people at the IRS, like a General Counsel to look out for him, Michael Desmond, where does this thing end up and how many months is it going to take to get it to the Supreme Court so you can win your case?

CHU:  Well, we are going to continue to pursue this.  Actually, they are supposed to provide the returns on April 10th.  We are going to send another letter asking for them.  And this may go to a subpoena eventually, it may go to court.  But we do know that we stand on solid ground.  Certainly we deserve those returns.  Every president for the last four decades have revealed their returns voluntarily.  He is the only that has not.  And when we did a 60103 request of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller, they provided their returns.

So the basis for providing them is very, very clear and we feel that we will stand on solid ground in court.

MATTHEWS:  Is this impeachable if he says, no, no way, Jose, I`m not going to do it?  I`m not releasing my tax returns.  I`m telling my people not to do it my Treasury Secretary, my IRS Chief Counsel, no.  I just say no to you guys.  What do you do then?  Is this impeachable?

CHU:  Well, first things first.  We want to see what is in those returns.  But certainly I would have to say we stand on the solid ground that he would break precedents and that he would break the law if he doesn`t provide his returns.  And that is very serious.  That is not what the President of the United States should be doing, the most powerful man in this country, the man who has the sole ability to sign federal bills into law and has power over an entire branch of government.  That is not what he should be doing.

And so we will look at it.  But first things first, we have to first establish whether he has provided us the returns or not.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Congresswoman, for coming on tonight.  Let me go to Joy for the last question.  The politics of this thing, do you think on the democratic side in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has a Congress, a lot of young people, a lot of progressives, do you think they`re going to stand for this or will this be if he just thumbs his nose at all those people just elected, will they fight now more -- with greater toughness for an impeachment move?

REID:  I mean, the reality is, Chris, I think that anyone who cares about the constitution should hope they do.  Because Donald Trump has repeatedly asked the question and everything he that does, well, who is going to stop me?  He doesn`t respect the emolument clause, he doesn`t respect the constitutional limitations on the presidency of the United States.

He thinks this is like a city council that he can just buy off.  And he stack this executive branch with cronies and with people who are willing to protect Trump first, to do his bidding first.  He`s tainted the Justice Department this way.  He`s tainted every department from interior on out, education, everything is all about protecting him and him alone.

That is not the way American democracy was meant to function.  We don`t have a king.  But Donald Trump is testing the proposition that no one is going stop him.  And the democrats are the only game in town where that is concerned.  The House of Representatives is the only constitutional entity that can put a stop this to this president`s abrogation of the constitution because the republicans aren`t going do it.

The republicans have already made it very clear they`re going to do nothing, that they`re going to let him do whatever he wants.  He can operate as freely as he wants as long as he gives them the courts.  As long as he gives them courts, he can have everything else.

And so I think anyone who cares about democracy, if you put party aside, if you care about a limited presidency that is not a monarchy, I think the American people better hope somebody stops him.

MATTHEWS:  Can`t do better than that.  How can I argue with that?  Thank you, Joy.  I mean it, Joy.  I`m not kidding you.  That`s well said.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, of course, Tim O`Brien, Joy and David Corn are sticking with us.

Coming up, Michael Cohen makes a last ditch effort to delay or even reduce his prison sentence of three years, saying he has 14 million documents that could provide congressional investigators with more dirt on Donald Trump.

Plus the President`s golf game and what it reveals about him.


TRUMP:  I just wanted to say -- look at that.  Those hands can hit a golf is ball 285 yards.  Those are good strong -- and I actually said I was the best golfer of all the rich people, to be exact.


MATTHEWS:  I`ll talk to Rick Reilly, the author of a new book, Commander in Cheat.  He calls Trump a compulsive cheater on the golf course.

Much more ahead, stick with us.



MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S EX-LAWYER:  I have lied but I am not a liar.  And I have done bad thing but I`m not a bad man.  I have fixed things but I am no longer your fixer.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In just 30 days, President Trump`s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence for a series of crimes, including violating campaign finance laws and lying to the Congress. 

And now Cohen is making a last-ditch effort to try and postpone or even short his three-year sentence.  Cohen`s legal team sent a letter to the Democratic chairs of key House committees saying that Cohen has regained access to millions of files seized by federal agents, including several they believe have significant value to the committees.

Cohen`s lawyers argue, if he has more time to sift through those files, he could possibly provide more dirt on his former boss to the congressional committees. 

We`re also learning for the first time what Cohen revealed to the special counsel and to the House Intelligence Committee in his non-public testimony. 

According to his lawyers, Cohen provided evidence that President Trump was involved in or at least knew about a criminal conspiracy to collude with Russia during the election, participated in obstruction of justice, including covering up the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, and suborned perjury by instructing Cohen to make false statements to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.

Well, President Trump was asked today if he worried about what Cohen could still share. 


QUESTION:  Are you worried about Michael Cohen`s hard drive?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, they have already got it.  He`s old new.  He lied numerous times during his last testimony.  They have had that for many months.


MATTHEWS:  Joining me now is Jill Wine-Banks, a former assistant Watergate special prosecutor.

And back with me, of course, are my colleagues Joy Reid and David Corn.

Jill, I have read a lot of just what I just read there about what Cohen`s lawyer says he has to use against the president, if you will.  Why wasn`t that available to Mr. Mueller and his team? 

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR:  Well, it probably was available to Mr. Mueller, and it was, before it was taken from Mr. Cohen, available to Mr. Cohen.  And it could be available to him again while he`s in prison, either in one of two ways. 

One, prisons do allow computers, and my understanding is, this was his hard drive that has been returned to him.  And so he can use it while he`s in prison.  He does not have to be outside of jail for that. 

Or he can be housed very near to Congress, if Congress wants to talk to him or any prosecutor wants to talk to him.  He still can serve his sentence while cooperating. 

MATTHEWS:  If you`re a prosecutor, and you had access to Mr. Cohen, and with him all his stuff, his 14 million files, which is almost incredible to think about in the hard drive.  But I don`t know how many I have got, but that`s a lot, it seems to me, 14 million.

Would you think that he would have the secret?  In other words, he would know where the -- to use an old phrase, where the bodies are buried, in a way that Mueller might not have known where to go? 

WINE-BANKS:  Yes, I think it is very likely that you need a guide through that many files, and that it would be helpful to have his cooperation. 

And since he wants to reduce the sentence, it really behooves him to act in his own best interest by giving whatever he possibly can think of. 

But this happened, obviously, during Watergate.  Many of our witnesses were serving jail time while they were being prepared for trial.  We brought them in daily from a nearby facility.  Many of them were at Fort Holabird, which is not far from the D.C. courthouse. 

And they cooperated with us fully.  So this is in the days before computers, so that they actually had documents.  Now, my understanding is he does have boxes and boxes of documents.  That might be easier for him to review and refresh his recollection, which is what witnesses always do. 

It`s easy for him to refresh his recollection by looking at the computer, or by looking at actual documents. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, David.  I will put my cards on the table.  I looked at what we`re getting, this filtering out of the Mueller investigation.

We`re finding out that there was more alarming information about perhaps obstruction of justice.  We have heard there`s all kinds of evidence in there that there was collusion. 

In other words, something may have been very tightly balanced there, very finely balanced about whether he called for what is the equivalent of a prosecution with the president. 

And, therefore, it would seem to me, if you got 14 million files here, that could tip it the other way in both cases, collusion and obstruction.  So, what -- don`t we want more information if we can get it? 

CORN:  Well, the prosecutors have had this information, right?  They took it from him.  They gave it back.  That`s why he`s getting access to it now.  It was about a year ago that he was raided, right?

So they have gone through it the way they can.  I agree with Jill that there`s probably a way that he can go through that and maybe find some things.  Maybe something will re-trigger a memory.

MATTHEWS:  Will they give him all this in prison? 

CORN:  Well, I don`t know.

I think it -- but I think it really depends on what the prosecutors want.  If they still think there`s more there, and I think he has to...

MATTHEWS:  Who are the prosecutors now?

CORN:  Well, there -- well, we`re probably talking about the Southern District of New York...


CORN:  ... and others who -- picking up the bits and pieces of Mueller`s investigation.

I mean, a lot of this is probably not related to Russia, but the 10 years he spent working for Trump.  And, remember, we missed testimony this past week, the last week.  Felix Sater was supposed to testify publicly.  What`s his story? 

It`s about Trump`s business deal in Russia while he was running for president.  Who was the point man on that?  That was Michael Cohen.  So there`s still more to come out there.  And, hopefully, Michael Cohen can contribute to that story after Sater testifies. 

But I do think there`s probably a way for him to do that and prove that his sentence should be reduced, even if he goes to jail. 

MATTHEWS:  Joy, president and his walk-by he does with the press, where he deigns to answer questions, usually on the South Lawn, he said it`s old news.  That is one of the oldest tropes in politics.


MATTHEWS:  Old news, been there, done that.

REID:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We know all that.  Your hand movement was exactly right there.

REID:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Forget about it. 

REID:  Yes, forget... 

MATTHEWS:  Or this one.  Knock it off my shoulder.


MATTHEWS:  But the fact is, we know Trump.  And, often, the way to -- the path to his truth is the opposite of what he says. 

REID:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And if Cohen has been working with the guy, who is his Tom Hagen, to use a "Godfather" reference you all know, all these years...

REID:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... he knows all the skunky stuff he`s done.  He knows it all.  Every time he heard the word Russian, he`s got it. 

And if he`s sitting -- even in prison, he`s sitting there with nothing else to do... 

REID:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... except dig for dirt to get him out sooner. 

REID:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I would be afraid of him.  

REID:  Well, and Donald Trump should be.

I mean, he was the person, right, that was the closest to him and knew the most.  Look, given the fact that we have seen so many people caught up in this scandal we can sort of call Russia-gate get such light sentences, 14 days here, 12 days there -- I think George Papadopoulos served like 11 days.  People have been lying to the FBI. 

We don`t know what Michael Flynn is going to get.  I don`t really see a problem, as a citizen, with lightening Cohen`s sentence.  Manafort to me got a pretty good deal for all that he did to defraud the United States. 

So what would be the harm in letting this guy help the American people understand more about what the president of the United States was up to, if there was dirt?  I would say Congress is the only one who can do it now, because William Barr stands between us and Robert Mueller. 

So Congress is the only entity who can do it.  Put him back in front of Congress and let him testify.  Let me tell what knows.

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, Jill.  I`m sorry, Jill.

You know, Jill, I had this great scenario, of like a prison movie, where he`s sitting in jail.  I know whether it`s Lewisburg or wherever it is, Allenwood, someplace reasonably posh.  And the other guys are lifting up their barbells.  And while they`re doing their barbells, he is sitting there with his computer figuring out how he can screw the president of the United States.


MATTHEWS:  I think it make him a very popular guy in the jailhouse.  Tell me how that would work.  Would he be able to secund some of the other inmates to help him with the paperwork?  I mean, really, I`m asking.


WINE-BANKS:  Well, there`s always jailhouse lawyers. 


WINE-BANKS:  Jailhouse lawyers could help him, I`m sure. 

And people would be volunteering, I will bet you.  But, yes, he certainly can do it from jail.  They allow computers.  He can use his computer, and he can find what he can be refreshed with. 

I think he probably has a lot more to give.  And a lot of it will be of value to the Southern District, which is the one place that hasn`t been as sold on his cooperation.  Mueller thought he cooperated fully. 

So, if he can help the Southern District make cases based on real estate fraud or whatever else he knows about that happened in their jurisdiction, that might help him get his sentence reduced. 

And, really, when you look at his sentence compared to some of the others, it is a pretty stiff sentence compared to them.  But I`m sure that the judges who made these judgments used the guidelines and feel that they have fairly sentenced him.

So, unless he gets cooperation from the Southern District recommending that he be lightened -- he`s already got that from Mueller.  So, we will have to wait and see whether this letter intended to get him a lighter sentence and to delay his starting his sentence is effective or not. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Jill Wine-Banks, Joy Reid, and David Corn.

I`m thinking they get him in a prison situation where all the check kiters are, the white-collar criminals, he could really put together quite a team.


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Joe Biden and Donald Trump are already trading jabs, and we haven`t even rang the bell for the first round.

And later on, these two political pugilists -- after this break, we`re going Biden against Trump. 



JOSEPH BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lonnie. 



BIDEN:  And you guys can sit on the edge or what -- if -- I don`t want you to have to stand all along, but it`s up -- by the way, he gave me permission to touch him.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was, of course, former Vice President Joe Biden today speaking publicly for the first time since a number of women have alleged he made physical contact they felt was inappropriate. 

Biden spoke with reporters after addressing a conference of electrical workers.


BIDEN:  I made it clear that, if I made anyone feel comfortable (sic), I feel badly about that.  That was never my intention, ever, ever. 

QUESTION:  Are you sorry for the way that you made these women feel?

BIDEN:  I`m sorry I didn`t understand more.  I`m not sorry for any of my intentions.  I`m not sorry for anything that I have every done.  I have never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman. 

QUESTION:  Is this whole episode of the past week, is this going to change how you campaign? 

BIDEN:  Well, I think it`s going to have to change somewhat how I can campaign. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Biden effectively acknowledged he`s running for president today.  He`s not yet a candidate formally, but he`s that -- that`s not stopping President Trump from taking swipes at his would-be opponent. 


QUESTION:  Do you see Joe Biden as a threat?

TRUMP:  No, I don`t see Joe Biden as a threat, no.  I don`t see him as a threat.  I think he`s only a threat to himself. 


MATTHEWS:  While the president is publicly confident, as you saw, about his chances vs. Biden, "The New York Times" reported in January, this January, that the president was especially fixated, speaking frequently about Biden, the former vice president whom Mr. Trump regards as his most dangerous potential opponent. 

Anyway, Trump`s concerns about Biden seemed evident today.  Shortly after Biden finished his remarks to the electrical workers here in Washington, the president tweeted: "I have employed thousands of electrical workers.  They will be voting for me."


MATTHEWS:  I bought them.  They -- I own them.

For more, I`m joined by Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for Bloomberg News, and Mike Memoli -- Memoli.


MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry.  It`s my mistake.

MEMOLI:  You`re not the first.

MATTHEWS:  I have heard it a million times.  National political reporter.

Thank you both.

Mike, you`re the expert.  You`re the -- Biden.  I don`t know.  He`s -- to me, he`s -- pretty obvious who he is.

MEMOLI:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And when he is overdoing things with personal space, people -- I haven`t noticed it, but everybody`s -- it`s all in the pictures.  I haven`t seen it in person, but I have seen it in the television shots. 

He does it.

MEMOLI:  He does it. 

He said this week, I get it.  I get it.  I understand I have to limit my space. 

But then you see him on stage today, and he can`t help it.  I mean, this is who he is.

MATTHEWS:  Is he doing that to just to make it a lighter thing, like hugging that kid around his neck?

MEMOLI:  You can hear the advice from staff to him as he`s doing this.

His instinct is to do one thing.  And then he says, oh, I can`t do it anymore.  So he tries to make light of it. 

Of course, I was there.  And he had to come out and apologize.  Not really.  Joe Biden isn`t in the mood to apologize.  But he knew he had to address it, because I can tell you other campaigns were already jumping on this.  They thought maybe he had moved beyond it. 

And then he brings it up again himself.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the people on the -- anybody -- is anybody behind pushing this story?  I know there`s people who delight in it.  There`s always somebody delights in the zero sum game of politics.

Trump delights.  People who are going to have to run against him if he runs.  Who out -- is there anybody known to be pushing the story?

  SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, on the Trump world universe, where I sort of exist, they are kind of delighted to see this and that they feel like it is the Democrats starting to cannibalize themselves, which is what they have been waiting for and hoping for. 

There is a bit of glee among them to see the MeToo movement, which they felt almost derailed Kavanaugh, coming back to bite the Democrats, is the way they view it. 

And, yes, their strategy and what they have been advising the president to do is sit back, let the Democrats fight amongst themselves, try and look presidential in these next few months.  And then, when you get an opponent, you can go after it. 

Of course, the president hasn`t done that.  But that`s sort of the strategy that they have been hoping for.

MATTHEWS:  Is Trump more afraid of Biden than he is of, say, Bernie at the other end?

MEMOLI:  I think the president is obsessed with his firewall, the states that he flipped from red -- blue to red.  And he sees Biden right now as the one who`s most likely to flip them. 

So what`s always going to be interesting about covering this primary is, the president`s going to be color commentator, right?  He can`t help himself.  He`s going to be analyzing what he sees happening.  But Joe Biden is certainly for now the candidate he sees as the biggest threat. 

If he sees somebody else, he will target somebody else.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he can`t call him a socialist.  He can`t go him -- after abortion.  You can`t -- the usual targets don`t work with Joe. 

You can`t certainly call him an elitist. 

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, I mean, I would agree exactly with what you`re saying. 

When you talk to people in Trump world, they -- their biggest concerns right now are Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, those sort of purple states.  And when they look at the head-to-head polling between Trump and all the other Democrats, Biden, they feel like, is the only one who is close, who is within the margin or beating them. 

They can -- if they hold on to everything from last time, they can only lose Michigan and Pennsylvania.  And they feel like right now it`s -- they feel like Wisconsin`s almost lost and Michigan and Pennsylvania is what they have to hold onto.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the former vice president and President Trump traded jabs on Twitter yesterday.  The president tweeted a video mocking Biden`s statement promising to be more mindful of personal space, writing: "Welcome back, Joe."

Biden responded, writing: "I see that you`re in the job" -- or "on the job and presidential, as always."

That was sarcastic, Mike.



And there was actually some debate among his team about whether to even respond.  Do you take the high road, let Trump be Trump, and move beyond it? 

Because they`re -- what was really interesting is, as they were trying to sort of calibrate the politics of this week, was he suffering, was he not, they thought Trump did him a huge favor.  Here is the party now going to be able to rally around Joe Biden against Trump. 

So whether or not it was a good idea to reengage in that fight himself, we will see.

MATTHEWS:  Unintended consequences.  I have been trying one out in my head today.  This has been three days.  Every day, I have read all the papers, three columns a day, practically, women especially, with very strong arguments, some nuanced.

But it seems to me, this gives Trump -- I`m sorry -- Biden a chance to be a fighter.  And one thing we know about the Democratic progressives, whatever they think of moderates -- they`re not big on moderates -- but they want a fighter. 

And if Biden can spend these days showing he`s a fighter and he`s not going to roll, they might like that.  May.


Well, that`s what -- it`s been interesting.  Is he going to take the Trumpian approach to this sort of controversy?  You remember, in the "Access Hollywood" tape, Trump`s advisers at first tried to tell him to be -- to apologize.

He made a very awkward video.  And then he just sort of let go and said, I have to do what I`m going to do. 

Biden, on that stage today, he could have -- he could have let it go, try to drop the subject, let`s get everyone to stop talking about it, which is what a lot of people advised him to do.  Instead, he brought it back up.  He leaned into it.  He made a joke about it.  He went out and didn`t really apologize.  He didn`t sort of bow down and apologize over and over again. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s the old rule of politics.  Never explain.  Never complain.  Your friends don`t need it.  Your enemies won`t buy it. 

Think about that one.

Anyway, Shannon Pettypiece.

Trump didn`t invent this.

Mike Memoli, thank you. 

Up next: the new book detailing the lengths Donald Trump will go to win a golf game.  Hmm.  Author Rick Reilly -- this is going to be a riot -- joins us to talk about what he describes as Trump`s habitual cheating and what it may tell us about the man himself. 

We`re back after this.  Don`t miss this.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump frequently boasted about his golf game.  Let`s watch. 


TRUMP:  I have been a good golfer over the years.  I have won a lot of club championships and things.

I think I deal with pressure well.  I mean, I have won many club championships.

Have I won many club championships?  Does Trump know how to close?

I hit a ball 280 yards.  Stand up, my club champion.  Stand up.  Do I hit the ball good?  Do I hit it long?  Is Trump strong, huh?

QUESTION:  What is your response to the "Washington Post" article claiming that you cheat during golf?

TRUMP:  That`s absolutely false.  I win at golf.  I win at golf.  That, I can tell you.


MATTHEWS:  And now, as President Trump uses golf to attack his opponents, in a speech to House Republicans last week, for example, he said that House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff would be a week off-the-tee golfer who could only drive the ball 50 yards.

And he compared Fed Chairman Jay Powell to a bad putter. 

Well, in his new book, "Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump," Rick Reilly writes that: "Trump doesn`t just cheat at golf.  He cheats like a three-card monte dealer.  He throws it, boots it, and moves it.  He lies about his lies.  He notes that: "The way Trump does golf is sort of the way he does a presidency, which is to operate as though the rules are for other people."

Reilly details a rich history of Trump`s career in golf, ranging from cheating during the game, to lying about his scores, to convincing people he had won club championships.  But did he actually win any of those championships?

That`s up next.  You can`t miss this on HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Trump likes to boast about how great he is a golf, once tweeting that he had won 18 club championships. 

Well, in his new book, Rick Reilly notes that winning 18 championships is like an NFL quarterback saying he`s won 18 Super Bowls.  "It`s a lie that is so over-the-top crazy town, it loses all credibility among golfers the second it`s out of his mouth."

Anyway, Reilly, the author, takes a look at those 18 supposed championships.  Twelve of those were senior golf championships which Reilly compares to bowling with bumpers. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, two of them were at clubs that weren`t even open yet.  That`s tricky.  One wasn`t even the right number of holes.

And an executive at Trump Westchester said Trump couldn`t have won its 2004 championship, because he "never won any of the eight years I worked there," which leaves two at Trump International, where Reilly says he has never seen a signed scorecard or spoken to any objective person who remembers him winning or not winning. 

He notes that the final score on the 18 club championships is lies 16, incompletes two, confirms zero.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by the acclaimed sports journalist Rick Reilly, author of "Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,"

RICK REILLY, AUTHOR, "COMMANDER IN CHEAT: HOW GOLF EXPLAINS TRUMP":  Well, how about the one he won in Philadelphia when it was being held at Bedminster?  It`s 87 miles away.

He calls up and says, hey, who won the club championship today?  And they go, Joe Smirch (ph) shot a 75.  And he`s like, well, I shot 72 up here.  Put -- make me the champion.  And they`re like, what?

MATTHEWS:  He shot par? 

REILLY:  But he...

MATTHEWS:  He didn`t.

REILLY:  He didn`t.  He shot 82.

But he says, I shot 72.  So, they had to take Joe Smirch`s name and put his up?

MATTHEWS:  We all -- everybody watching the show is familiar with this guy`s slip of truth or whatever you call it. 

He doesn`t talk the truth.  But let me ask you about doing it in your face.  So, you`re playing with him. 

REILLY:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You have got a scorecard.  He`s got a scorecard.  And you`re keeping an honest scorecard.  And he`s not.  And how does he look at -- does he say anything?  Does he -- you know he`s not keeping the score. 

REILLY:  He`s open about it. 

I played with him.  And I was keeping score.  We were having a $10 bet, total score.  And he said: "I made a six there.  Give me a four."

I`m like, what?

MATTHEWS:  He just said that?

REILLY:  Yes.  And one time, he says, "Give me -- this chip-in is good."

Chip-in is good?  I have heard of a putt.

MATTHEWS:  You get a gimme on a chip?

REILLY:  You got a gimme chip-in?  I never even heard of that.  That`s incredible. 

MATTHEWS:  So you`re not even on the green.

REILLY:  Oh, the bird moved.  Oh, you talked.

MATTHEWS:  You`re not even on the green, but you got to give him it.

REILLY:  And he`s a terrible chipper.  He`s right.  He`s a really good driver of the golf ball.  Can`t chip to save his life. 

MATTHEWS:  Furtherance, but not towardance.



REILLY:  Dude, I have seen him putt around bunkers. 


REILLY:  That`s how bad he chips. 

MATTHEWS:  But what is it -- what about the people that play?  I have heard things about like -- what`s the difference between him and Clinton?  Because I have heard Clinton took a lot of mulligans.

REILLY:  I played with Clinton as president.  He didn`t take...

MATTHEWS:  What is the difference between these two guys?

REILLY:  He didn`t take mulligans.  He took billigans.


REILLY:  So, he would hit his first shot.  And he would say, I`m playing that one.  But then he would hit five, six more to practice.

MATTHEWS:  But he wasn`t as dishonest as Trump, right? 

REILLY:  Well, that is -- that`s illegal, but not dishonest.  He`s doing it to get better. 

But Trump is so bad, that he will kick your ball into the bunker if you`re not watching. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn`t you write in your book that he would take somebody else`s ball if he wanted it?

REILLY:  Yes.  He`s done that.  He`s done that. 

So you said, how -- what do people say?  Well, he cheated Tiger Woods.  Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, against him and Faxon.

MATTHEWS:  I`m not a golfer.  My family`s golfers.  I will say something.  The essence of golf is character, because you so -- you can so easily cheat...

REILLY:  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  ... that you have to be honest, or it doesn`t make any sense.

REILLY:  We call our own fouls on -- we call our own penalties. 


REILLY:  You`re 200 yards over there.  I got to trust you`re going to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it`s all about trust.

Anyway, President Trump has fixated on how often Obama played golf ball while he was president.


MATTHEWS:  Let`s watch. 


TRUMP:  We have a president who doesn`t fight.  He goes out and plays golf all the time.  He plays more golf than the guys on the PGA Tour play. 

I`m not going to be playing much golf, believe me.  If I win this, I`m not going to be playing much golf. 

I like to play golf.  You know, it`s -- I`m a good golfer, believe it or not.  I should play Obama for the presidency. 


MATTHEWS:  I like beer.

Anyway, Donald Trump has spent 177 days at his golf properties since becoming president. 

He tells the working people out there, I`m not going to be some elitist playing golf all day.  And then he plays golf all the time. 

REILLY:  And he plays golf all the time.  And, by the way, last year, he played 66 times.  You know how many times he posted a score, which you`re supposed to do to keep it fair?  Once.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how does he know his handicap? 

REILLY:  Because he cherry-picks.  It`s taken him eight years to...

MATTHEWS:  What is his handicap? 

REILLY:  Two-point-eight.

You know what Nicklaus` handicap is, Jack Nicklaus?  Three-point-five. 

MATTHEWS:  But he`s 2.8. 

REILLY:  I will say it right now.

MATTHEWS:  So, in other words, he -- he plays golf in the mid-70s. 

REILLY:  No, he doesn`t.

MATTHEWS:  I know, but he says he does. 

REILLY:  Yes, but it`s all baloney.  He`s not a 2.8.

If he`s a 2.8, Queen Elizabeth is a pole vaulter, OK?  It`s not possible.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  You know what I call this book?  You know what I call this book?  It`s a little early the year.  This is beach reading.

This is -- if you want to have fun and get to bed at night, and go to sleep at night after you`re -- because it`s just totally -- it`s not exactly harmless. 

REILLY:  It gets worse, Chris.  It gets worse.

MATTHEWS:  It`s just discerning about this guy.

REILLY:  You know he keeps eight goats on one of his courses?  Do you know why?  In a pen.

MATTHEWS:  Cheaper than the lawn mowers? 

REILLY:  It`s an $80,000 farm tax break. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you. 

Trump regularly touted his golf properties during the 2016 campaign.  Let`s watch. 


TRUMP:  I have a club in Virginia.  Do you all know my club, Trump National?

It`s the best there is in the tristate.  It`s one of the best golf courses in the country. 

What do we do with Doral?  The golf courses are world-class.

Loudoun County on the Potomac River, one of the most beautiful clubs you have ever seen and one of the best golf courses anywhere in the world. 

I own, like, just about the greatest clubs in the world. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Rick, you write in your book that he overvalued those properties by millions of dollars and that these courses aren`t ranked as highly as he says they are. 

These -- every course is worth $25 million, I read today, according...

REILLY:  Fifty. 


REILLY:  He said they`re all worth $50 million at the same time he was suing the tax boards for valuing -- valuing them over $2 million.  So that`s a $48 million lie, if you`re scoring at home. 

Tonight, he is at Trump Los Angeles.  And that`s the course he says is better than Pebble, even though it`s never been ranked in the top 200.  And if you walk in Trump Los Angeles wearing a Pebble shirt, he makes -- that pro shop -- he makes you take it off.

MATTHEWS:  What does a cheater in golf, what`s it teach about life? 

REILLY:  Golf is like bicycle shorts.  It reveals a lot about a guy.

And this reveals everything about him. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.

Thank you, Rick Reilly.  Great writing again and a great book. 

I mean, I know people buy books, but this is the weekend.  This is your fun for your weekend, like Trump or not.  Well, if you really don`t like Trump, this is your perfect book.

REILLY:  Yes, you`re done in two hours.

MATTHEWS:  What real sportsmanship looks like.

You`re watching HARDBALL.  There it is. 

I`m going to talk about the good sportsmanship in a minute.


MATTHEWS:  A lot of America, a lot of this country is going to be watching the Final Four this Saturday and Monday. 

So I want to say something for those of us who love basketball, the smell of the asphalt in the summer, shooting baskets even when it gets dark, from a friendly game of horse all the way to the Final Four. 

I want to say something about a team that didn`t make it to this weekend, the Tar Heels of Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina basketball team, and what they showed us a week ago tonight.

I had gone home after HARDBALL last Friday night to watch the game.  And I caught the incredible shooting by Auburn.  Did they really hit 17 three- pointers?  How do you beat that? 

And then came what I want to talk about tonight, which is not about the final score, which was all Auburn, but a scene of sportsmanship that grabbed me the moment it happened and stuck with me and probably always will.

It came when Auburn star Chuma Obeke -- Okeke, rather, twisted his leg going down headed to the basket.  You could tell it was really a bad injury, but even faster to realize it was North Carolina player Brandon Robinson, number four there, who reached down to help Obeke -- Okeke.  I keep saying it wrong. 

In an act of real sportsmanship, the Carolina team then comforted Okeke off the floor. 

Now, I`m not the first to pay tribute to this superb instinctive conduct by UNC, but I wanted to recall the team that didn`t make it to tomorrow, but will be remembered for what it showed us. 

So let`s hear it for the Tar Heels and the class they showed a week ago tonight in the heat of battle with so much on the line. 

That`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.