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Russian interference "sweeping and systematic." TRANSCRIPT: 4/19/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Ryan Goodman, Madeleine Dean, David Jolly, Christopher Painter,Jill Colvin


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That does it for me.  I`ll see you Sunday night, 9:00 P.M. Eastern for our Mueller Special.  HARDBALL starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Will the democrats be the enforcers?  That is the question.  Let`s play HARDBALL."

Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Tonight, the grave implications of the Special Counsel`s findings are sinking in.  The Mueller report details behavior unacceptable by any American, let alone the President.  Fact, Donald Trump and his people endorsed Russia`s successful effort to attack and subvert the 2016 presidential election.

They did so, according to Mueller, because they expected the campaign would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.  As NBC News points out, the report tells a story of how the Russians and the Trump campaign pursued a relationship of mutual benefit during the election campaign and afterward.

Mueller writes a month before the release of the hacked democratic emails, Trump campaign officials were given a heads up that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton.  The report says that from the outset, the campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks`s release of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton.

When the emails were released that summer, aides reacted with enthusiasm to reports of the hacks.  It was then, some witnesses said, that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.  Most damning is that by late summer of 2016, the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.

In a New York Times editorial or  op-ed today, Ryan Goodman writes to the Special Counsel, hints at a national security nightmare.  He writes that the public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that American`s own national security interest may not be guiding American foreign policy.

Ryan Goodman joins me now.  He`s a former Special Counsel at the Department of Defense, the editor of the blog, Just Security.  Also with me is Maya Wiley, a former federal prosecutor and Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School.  And, of course, Ken Dilanian is an Intelligence and National Security Reporter for our own NBC News.  Thank you all.

I want to start with Ryan.  Give me a sense and the biggest picture possible of the threat posed by this playing ball by the Trump people with the Russians in the 2016 campaign.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:  So I think the big threat here is that, indeed, this was a damning indictment of a certain sort, indictment at a lower case I, because the idea here is that many members of the Trump campaign were either knowingly working with the Russians to try to upset the election or they were doing it unwittingly and were manipulated by the Russians, in which U.S. national security interests and our democratic process took a back seat.  I think that`s written throughout the pages of volume one of the Mueller report.  And I think that`s what`s the most worrisome issue for our own national security.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Mueller`s pulling back from saying, coordinated?  For me, playing ball means you do this, I do that.  It seems to be a tacit relationship.  Why did they pull back from saying it was even a tacit arrangement between the two parties, Trumps and the Russians?

GOODMAN:  So I think that part of it might be that certain individuals might have been acting on their own.  That`s unclear.  Paul Manafort is one of those examples in which he does some amazing things in terms of his consorting with a Russian spy.  But at the end of the day, it seems as though they can`t pinpoint that Paul Manafort is acting at the behest of the campaign or with the knowledge of Trump.  So I think that might be one part of it.

I think they were trying to separate it out so that you have agreement -- even tacit agreements can be conspiracy under criminal law.  And then the second basket is this idea of collusion, which they didn`t actually analyze all of that here.  And that`s what`s probably in another report where they put together all of that information for counterintelligence analysis.  But there is enough in here that we can see what that analysis looks like, because there`s enough here that shows many different instance of what I would say goes under the heading of collusion.

MATTHEWS:  High crime and misdemeanors.  High crime.  It seems to me if you work for a country or work with a country that`s attacking our democratic process.  That`s a high crime.

KEN DILANIAN, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  I think that`s going to be the reaction of many Americans, Chris.  You know what?  This report shows that we`re up to 140 contacts now between Trump associates and Russians during the campaign.  And as you said, they welcomed the help.  They knew that the Russians were helping them get elected.

And what`s really interesting is, after they won the election, then the the report says the Russian government began to swarm the Trump transition with offers and with plans.  They wanted to lift sanctions.  And the most interesting example of that was that back channel meeting in the (INAUDIBLE), which we knew about, but this report really lays it out.

So what ends up coming out of that meeting with Eric Prince and the Head of the Russians Sovereign Wealth Fund is a two-page reconciliation plan that goes to Jared Kushner.  And what does Kushner do with it?  He hands it to Rex Tillerson, the incoming Secretary of State.

So there was a plan to lift sanctions.  And you could argue that the only reason it didn`t go through is because this became a scandal, the media pushed back, bureaucracy pushed back.  But, look, Russia played ball with the Trump campaign and then the Trump transition and Trump administration looked ready to play ball with Russia.

MATTHEWS:  It could give the wink they wanted.


MATTHEWS:  Maya, I didn`t had you on lately but I do have a big question for you.  And I`m not interested in intricacies of the law but a bit of history and parallel here.  Benedict Arnold gave the way to bring down West Point.  It seems to me that Manafort was telling the Russians at the cigar bar exactly which states they needed to win, the ones who were closely contested.  Here is how you could intervene in our election, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, and Minnesota.  Excuse me, why are we giving information to the enemy about ehat they are doing to destroy our election?  How is that different than Benedict Arnold?

MAYA WILEY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, THE NEW SCHOOL:  I can`t actually answer that question in any other way than to say this was an extremely disturbing part of not just the Mueller report, but we had indications of this before we got the full report from news reporting.  And remember what`s happening here.  What -- Oleg Derispaska, who is an oligarch, close to Putin, we all have the news reports and of how the Kremlin actually uses the oligarchs, how oligarchs, and some of this is in the Mueller report, take meetings with Putin and understand that they are being given directives by Putin.  This is one -- Deripaska is one of those.

Manafort has a longstanding business relationship with him.  He says in the Mueller report that he sees this essentially as an opportunity to get back some of what he feels he is owed by Deripaska.  So he is passing polling data as well as giving information to Kontantin Kilimnik, who has been affiliated with Russian intelligence who he has been working with for years.  At the same time that Konstantin Kilimnik is suggesting what Manafort himself acknowledges is essentially a backdoor way for Russia to regain control of Eastern Ukraine, and this is all during the campaign.

I also just want to flash out a few of these other points of contact between the Trump campaign, because some of them is even after the Trump campaign knows from a New York Times report, if nothing else, that U.S. intelligence believes that Russia is trying to infiltrate the campaign.  That is when Donald Trump comes out publicly on July 27th after learning that fact and says, Russia, get us the emails.  And then, for the first time, the Russians start trying to get Hillary Clinton emails.

And then you have Don Jr., who, in August of 2016.  And now, this is after the campaign has been asked by the FBI to tell them of any contacts with Russians.  He has exchanges with WikiLeaks that has already been publicized as passing through what Russia has gotten into.  And he`s re-Tweeting it and he`s having communications about re-Tweeting this.  That`s all in the Mueller report and that is not reported to the FBI.  There is no contact that is reported.

MATTHEWS:  I`m going back to Ken on this.  It seems to me that one person knows they were coordinating with the Russians, and that`s Manafort.  He was there giving them stuff.  I mean, I`m sorry, maybe if you give him another try at it, he might say ten years in prison on this thing because this report isn`t adequately done yet, it seems to me.

DILANIAN:  Well, you`re right, because what -- this is a criminal finding.  Mueller could not prove a conspiracy.  But as Ryan alluded to, there is a whole other counterintelligence thing that`s classified that the FBI is still working on.  This report, Mueller did not really cast judgment on this behavior.  He didn`t say that this harmed national security.  But you can bet there are FBI reports that make those judgments (ph).

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So counterespionage, right?

Now, as the American public begins to grasp the implications of Mueller`s report itself, the President appears to be changing his tune.  Overnight, he has gone from claiming total exoneration by the report to claiming the Mueller report is fabricated and totally untrue among other things.  However, as The Washington Post pointed, Mueller`s report is singular for its definitive examination of the events and will not easily be dismissed by Trump and his aides as fake news.

Now, Trump is threatening to retaliate against the investigators who brought the truth to light, saying, it is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even spying or treason.

Back to Ryan.  You`re assessment about the President?  Now, he considers treason turning on him.  State`s evidence, telling truth to prosecutors and investigators, that`s treason, but what he did was not.

GOODMAN:  It`s pretty amazing.  I mean, in some ways, it`s even more of an evidence of consciousness of guilt.  And this is kind of a bizarre scorched earth policy that he is trying to enact against people who cooperated with the FBI and the Special Counsel.  And it`s nuts.  If anything was somewhat treasonous in a term that that`s understood by the public, it`s what Mueller identifies.  And even Steve Bannon has said that that that June 9th Trump Tower meeting was treasonous and unpatriotic.

And now, that`s one data point compared to a bunch of other datapoints that are in what is now the authoritative guide of what actually happened in 2016, which is the Mueller report. MATTHEWS:  Well, the report also suggested there may be more prosecutions connected to Mueller`s investigation.  The redacted pages index, or actually appendix D, shows that two investigations remain ongoing, that Mueller issued 12 criminal referrals to other jurisdictions.  Those are all in addition to the cases that already have been identified in public reporting.

Ken, give us a sense of what`s going to be the results of what`s coming now with all these referrals.

DILANIAN:  So many of those, we have no idea what they are.  But we do know that the New York Attorney General is looking at the Trump foundation.  We know that the Southern District of New York is still looking at that whole Michael Cohen campaign finance issue, where Trump was implicated in a felony.  And they`re also investigating individuals in the Trump organization.  So there are some people close to the President who think that that`s a more dangerous investigation criminally if they start rooting around in Trump`s finances.

And then you have Congress, which is not -- Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is not really satisfied that Mueller delved deeply into whether Trump had a financial relationship with Russia going back years.  So he is going to do that.  e is issuing a subpoena to Deutsche Bank to see about the loans that that bank made to Trump.  That`s where this is going.  These investigations have a long way to go.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Maya, because you know what jumped out at me, I skipped a reference to one of the redacted names.  It could be Roger Stone.  I don`t know.  I guess it is.  But the question is what about this whole thing about who was getting the heads up on WikiLeaks?  I mean, we have been covering this story as almost a profession for two years.  Let`s be honest.  This has been our occupation.  And we have become very familiar with these sequence of events, like, all of a sudden, Roger says, you`re going to get something really tasty in a couple of days.  All of a sudden, it comes out from WikiLeaks.  And they, say, well, I was just talking generally.  No, you weren`t.  Where is that one going?

WILEY:  You know, what happens with Roger Stone, we`re going to know, because there`s going to be a trial, which means that`s going to be public.  I think it`s really interesting because one of the things that`s going in the Mueller report is there is a section where he`s talking about the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a Russian attorney who is close to Putin.

MATTHEWS:  And maybe Ivanka, too?

WILEY:  And maybe Ivanka too.  And this was where Mueller said, I couldn`t show -- it didn`t have sufficient evidence of willfulness of the campaign violation.  But then immediately following the section where he is talking about that, it`s blocked out.

And on one hand, you have Michael Cohen, the Southern District of New York has an ongoing investigation related obviously to the payments of women through the Trump organization and that will also be, I think, subject of the New York State Attorney General`s investigation.  But at the same time, this is in the context of a discussion of the Trump Tower meeting, not a discussion of Michael Cohen, not a discussion of the Trump organization.  Maybe that`s one of the dozen investigations that we don`t know about that`s still indicates campaign finance crimes being investigated.

MATTHEWS:  Look, there`s so much is going on here.  These finger nails are going to keep growing on this body.

Thank you so much Ryan Goodman, Maya Wiley and Ken Dilanian.

Coming up, Mueller is stuck with Justice Department guidelines that the President can`t be criminally charged, couldn`t be indicted.  But he drew a road map, if you will, for the U.S. Congress.  And now, a prominent democrat running for President is calling for impeachment.

In Trump`s house of lies, Mueller describes how the President lied repeatedly and ordered those around him to do the same, to keep lying all around him.  How about Huckabee Sanders and her fish story?

And tonight, one republican senator responded with a blistering statement, I am sickened.  This is a republican senator.  I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President.

We`ve got much more on that to get to tonight.  Stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Robert Mueller didn`t charge the President with a crime but his report lays out ample evidence, exploring ten episodes of potential obstruction of justice, providing a road map for Congress to investigate.

The report makes clear that Congress has the authority to determine whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice, concluding Congress has authority to prohibit a president`s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.

It adds, the conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President`s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principal that no person is above the law.

Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena for Mueller`s complete report and said, any talk of impeachment is premature.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK:  I believe he committed obstruction of justice, yes, but it`s not up to me.  It`s up to --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC GOOD MORNING AMERICA:  The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee?  You can open impeachment proceedings.

NADLER:  Well, we have to -- but we`re not there.  We have to now -- because Barr misled the country, we have to hear from Barr, which we will on May 2nd, we have to hear from Mueller and ask him a lot of questions.  We have to hold hearings and hear from other people.


MATTHEWS:  Well, late today. the Justice Department dismissed Nadler`s subpoena calling it premature, this is a favorite word these days, and unnecessary.  Well, meanwhile, in a letter to her democratic colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, Congress will not be silent.  She has scheduled a conference call this Monday with her caucus to talk about the next steps.

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from Pennsylvania, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, and David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida.

Both of you.  I want to start with the congresswoman.

It seems to me that the Democrats are kicking the can down the road.  They`re saying, oh, let`s talk to Barr.  Well, we know he`s not going to tell the truth.  And then we will talk to Mueller, who has already said in writing, after two years of putting together his report, everything he has to say.

What -- are you just pushing it off until June?  And then what`s the next excuse going to be?  Because it seems to me, everybody waited for two years for this report, in order to give a basis for an impeachment exercise process, and now nothing`s happening.



Thank you for having me on.  Happy holidays and a blessing Easter to you and your family. 

I disagree with you. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

DEAN:  We are not kicking the can down the road.  You have seen the subpoenas.  You have seen the press releases.  Our committee has issued a subpoena for the entire Mueller report, unredacted, with all of the underlying documents. 

So I disagree wholeheartedly.  We believe that the Judiciary has a right to see the entire report.  We believe Congress has a right to see the entire report.  And, most importantly, we believe America has a right to the full, transparent truth of what took place with the Russian interference in our 2016 election and any coordination with the Trump administration and the Trump campaign, and, much more importantly, volume two of the Mueller report, obstruction of justice. 

So we are far from kicking the can down the road.  We are digging in and doing the work that we are required to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are people like your majority leader, Steny Hoyer, saying it`s not worthwhile to do it right now, and Nancy Pelosi saying it`s not OK because you don`t have Republicans?

It sounds like they`re making partisan political estimates that it wouldn`t be good for your reelections next year, not what`s good for the republic.  It sounds like they`re being political. 

They say -- they speak in political terms. 

DEAN:  I think this transcends politics whatsoever. 

What we need to do is make sure we get the facts, full facts and evidence in front of us.  And that means a transparency of this report and this investigation.

Let`s remember what Mueller investigated.  He investigated corrupt conspiracy, criminal conspiracy to work with the Russians to interfere with our election.  We know that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election in sweeping and substantive ways, according to Mueller. 

And the second piece of it is, he showed over and over again the attempts of obstruction of justice.  So, what I would say is, we have a job to do, get the facts, get the evidence, show the American people the truth, and then impeachment will be revealed to us one way or another. 

It shouldn`t be off the table.

MATTHEWS:  Do think it`s possible another -- I just -- I don`t want a badger.

But do you think it`s possible that Congress, the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, after fighting so far, so hard to win control the House, so hard to get the subpoena power and the ability to be begin such procedures, if the Congress, led by the Democrats in the House, does not act on impeachment, do you think that will go down in history as a good decision? 

DEAN:  Well, I think we will go down....

MATTHEWS:  Could it potentially be -- a decision to not begin proceedings on impeachment at all, could it possibly be the right historic move? 

DEAN:  I think that`s -- you`re too far down the road. 

I think what will go down in history is that the American people spoke in the last election cycle and said, we need a sweeping change in this Congress, we need a Congress that will actually exercise its oversight role against an administration out of control, shamefully out of control.

Whether it is criminally out of control is yet to be seen, but it is shamefully, morally out of control.  That`s what`s going to go down in history.  And the rest will be borne out. 

MATTHEWS:  Can`t argue with that.  Stay there, Congresswoman.

Let me go right now.  Late today, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren had a different response.  She called on Congress now to started impeachment proceedings in a series of tweets, saying: "The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty."

David, she is for going now, beginning the procedures...


MATTHEWS:  ... passing a resolution, doing it. 

JOLLY:  And I agree with Senator Warren.

Chris, I think a lot of voters tonight think that the House Democrats and particularly Speaker Pelosi keep moving the goalposts, if you will.  The president of the United States, when he was named in a criminal conspiracy in SDNY, she said, let`s wait until the Mueller report. 

Now we have them the Mueller report, and now we need to get an unredacted one and have hearings. 

The truth is, we have a 400-page report, and the House only needs to have one single hearing.  Have Bob Mueller, Don McGahn, K.T. McFarland, and Corey Lewandowski testify, and ask them one question.  Is the information contained in the Mueller report a true and accurate reflection of the fact?

And if they say yes, call for a vote, up or down, on impeachment, because what their testimony to Mueller suggests and confirms is that Donald trump, as president of the United States, tried to kill the special counsel`s investigation into his own actions and his campaign, and then instructed staff to lie about his obstruction. 

We don`t need more hearings.  The redacted version contains enough to call for a vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it -- I`m going to be honest here.  I think it`s easier for you, David, to say that because you`re not representing a constituency of 600,000 people right now.  And the congresswoman is.

I think there`s a lot of hesitancy because of what happened to Bill Clinton back in `98.  Let`s go back.  Bill Clinton was impeached.  It didn`t do anything. 

Your thoughts, Congresswoman?  How does that -- how much does that guide your thinking and judgment now, what happened back in `98? 

DEAN:  I love what Representative Jolly is saying.

But I absolutely believe we have to do our homework.  If you jump and say on a redacted report that no one has fully read -- I mean, we have we have had the chance to really dig in, and it`s an extremely disturbing read. 

But if you jump ahead and say, OK, we got it, we got impeachment here, I think that would be foolhardy.  We have our work to do.  We have to reveal the narrative, the truth to the American public, and then we have the right to go forward with impeachment. 

Look at what we`re looking at.  We`re looking at a redacted report that has troubling information about obstruction of justice by this president, literally asking Don McGahn to fire the special counsel, and you have Attorney General Barr saying, oh, the president fully cooperated.

Well, that`s not cooperation, when you`re asking your subordinate to fire, McGahn.  And then you know what he layered on top of that?  He said to McGahn, OK, you won`t fire him, and now the media has picked up that I have asked you to fire him?  Would you go out to the media and say, I never asked you to do that?

Imagine these things.  They are treacherous.  They are wrong.  We all know that.  They are a moral failing.  But what we have the burden to do, and I think it`s a responsibility, frankly -- I don`t think it`s a problem -- it is a responsibility -- is to get the facts and the evidence, lay it out for the American people. 

And then we will see if impeachment is absolutely on the table, because we will need the public behind us.  We will need the Senate to take up the articles of impeachment.  We will need 67 votes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, my problem so far -- David, you can give a last thought here.

JOLLY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But my problem is, the president said 37 times he can`t remember.  He was useless as a witness.  His people all lied like you can`t believe.  Liar, liar, pants on fire, all of them.  So many of them are liars on the record lying. 

And now the Justice Department, as of tonight, is saying, I`m not going to give you this -- the full unredacted version. 

They have played every game in the world to keep the truth.  And if the Democrats have to wait for the truth from this administration, hell will have to freeze over, because they`re not going to give you the truth.  They`re not going to give you the means to bring them down.  You have got to make a judgment based on what`s available. 

Your thoughts on that, Congressman? 


JOLLY:  There`s a clear case of obstruction that`s currently available.

And here`s what Democrats truly risk.  In the long winds of history, what they risk is coming down on the side of Bill Barr.  Consider this.  Bob Mueller said, here is information I have about obstruction.  And Bill Barr said, I don`t think it`s enough to convict.

If Democrats suggest we don`t have enough information either, and they give this a pass, you are giving Bill Clinton a more damning legacy in presidential history than you are Donald Trump.  And I think Democrats will regret that. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

DEAN:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Congresswoman.  We have no time, but go ahead.  You deserve it. 

DEAN:  I have to say, I have spoken to many of my colleagues over the course of the last 48 hours.  No one believes in the credibility of Attorney General Barr, no one.

He poured away his credibility in buckets over the last several weeks. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania and former U.S. Congressman David Jolly.

Up next:  The Mueller report sheds new light on how Russian trolls were able to reach and influence millions of Americans in 2016.  They got through, not the truth, Mr. Barr.  Didn`t attempt to get through.  They got through.

What`s being done to keep it from happening again in 2020?  The Russians are at it again. 

We`re back after this. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My people came to me.  Dan Coats came to me and some others.  They said they think it`s Russia. 

I have President Putin.  He just said it`s not Russia.  I will say this.  I don`t see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. 


MATTHEWS:  So, William Barr flacks for the president, and the president flacks for Russia. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump last summer denying Russian interference in the 2016 election.  But as "The New York Times"` Mark Mazzetti points out, the Mueller report definitively states -- quote -- "Trump was elected with the help of a foreign power."

The report details Russia`s extensive social media operation, which reached tens of millions of Americans.  It also describes WikiLeaks` role in Russia`s interference campaign, which resulted in continuous negative headlines for Hillary Clinton in the final month of the election of 2016. 

I`m joined by Christopher Painter, former senior director of the cybersecurity at the White House, and Frank Figliuzzi, of course, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI. 

Thank you, Frank.  And thank you, Chris. 

Chris, you start. 

We`re looking ahead now.  What stops the Russians from doing just what they did in 2016? 


I mean, there are some good things we`re doing.  But that report is just, as it said, systematic and significant and sweeping efforts by the Russians to really undermine our elections.  And they`re doing it again.  They`re still out there. 

It`s not -- that report is not history.  That report is what we`re living now, we`re going to be living in 2020.  And we just haven`t done enough to prevent that.  We haven`t imposed real costs on Putin and his cronies that are going to change their behavior. 

MATTHEWS:  Frank, what do you make of this stuff?  I mean, you must think about this at night, as you go to bed at night, because, next time -- we just got a report that they were messing with a Florida county election system.

They`re not changing results.  All we need is another Florida disaster like 2000 to kill all hope for a clean election. 

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR:  Look, if there`s one inarguable section of the Mueller report that even the attorney general could not avoid, it`s the fact that Russia absolutely interfered with our election.

And people need to understand, Chris, this is a nonpartisan issue.  It doesn`t matter what party you`re a part of.  You need to understand that we still have enemies in this world, and that Russia wants very much to sow discord and chaos, regardless of the party. 

So this wasn`t just about -- and people need to understand this.  Their goal is not just getting a certain candidate into office, but rather to get us into chaos and not trusting our institutions and our electoral process. 

And if we lose credibility in our elections, in our ability to vote honestly and accurately, then we have lost democracy.  So imagine this scenario.  Imagine you go to your usual polling place, you have been going there for 20 years, they look you up in the roster, and they tell you, Chris, you`re not here.  You don`t exist anymore here. 

Or they tell you, Chris, your polling place has changed to the other side of the city tonight.  Now we have chaos in certain key swing states and precincts, and people don`t vote, and people lose credibility in the system. 

MATTHEWS:  And they know where it`s going to be close too.  They know it`s Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Minnesota, because they got the word from Paul Manafort. 

Anyway, Russian media is downplaying the Mueller report as we speak, claiming it -- quote -- "had no actual evidence" and calling Russia interference a myth. 

So, Bill Barr is working for the Russians too now, because he said attempted efforts, never said in his whole report yesterday, his little preview, that the Russians did it. 

PAINTER:  If you -- if you read the Mueller report, it is clear.  It`s a compelling narrative.  The Russians did it.

The Russians won.  The Russians really manipulated our system in a way no one else has been able to in the past.  And that should be a five-alarm fire warning for the future, that we should be doing everything we can.  We should have a coordinator in the White House who`s focused on this.  We should be doing everything we can to protect the ballots in all these individual states.

And we have been doing some good stuff.  Cyber Command has been doing..

MATTHEWS:  Is this a bipartisan effort to prevent it from happening again? 


PAINTER:  It should be.

MATTHEWS:  Are the Trump people helping?

PAINTER:  It should be a bipartisan effort.  There are some good people in DHS, from Homeland Security, people at Cyber Command, people Justice.  That`s all good. 

But they need to do a lot more, Chris.  And the one thing they really need to do -- and this starts at the top.  This is really at the presidential level.  The president has to call out, he has to condemn this.

Responding this report with a "Game of Thrones" tweet, rather than coming out and saying...

MATTHEWS:  You know why he doesn`t.

But, Frank, you know why he won`t do that.  And you know why pretty much...


MATTHEWS:  I can presume, I think, why Barr won`t say he did it, the Russians did it, because it suggests somehow he got help to win the election. 

FIGLIUZZI:  Here`s the dilemma, exactly. 

If the president says, yes, I`m going to believe a portion of this report, and we have got to take action it, then he runs the risk in his mind of delegitimizing his entire presidency, because the implication is, the Russians helped me win.  So we won`t hear word one from him on this. 

What`s most disturbing, Chris, is, we haven`t heard word one on an action plan from our attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the country.  Haven`t heard anything from him on this yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice in his little preview yesterday morning, when he grabbed the country`s attached at 9:30 yesterday morning, he never once said anything about the report saying the Russians interfered in our election?

PAINTER:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He never said it. 

PAINTER:  No, that was entirely left out. 

And that`s right.  We need to have almost a Marshall Plan to go after this.  We have to do everything we can. 

And even if you have good people in the government doing good things -- and they are -- if you don`t have that leadership at the top, that undercuts it.  If I`m Putin, I`m looking at what`s going on, and the president`s not calling me out, I`m going to do it again.  I`m creating a norm, if you will, that that`s OK.  And I`m going to do it more.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I got to ask you a question, Frank.  You have been doing great work for this network. 

Why did Rod Rosenstein go along as Sancho Panza in this whole thing?  He looked so nervous and uncomfortable behind Barr yesterday.  He`s a public servant.  He`s not a pol.  Why is he doing this? 

FIGLIUZZI:  Oh, boy, you`re asking one of the great questions of this entire inquiry and the role of Rod Rosenstein and why he didn`t recuse himself. 

He`s the guy who justified the firing of Jim Comey.  And now we see him standing behind the attorney general at the press conference looking kind of like a deer in the headlights. 


FIGLIUZZI:  I, quite frankly, think he was a fact witness.  I think he should have been interviewed by Robert Mueller.  And perhaps he`s one of the people that the Congress will call to testify to get even more detail out of him. 

But this is a flawed system.  And he should not have been involved in this decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Because I say because Bill Barr has used him.  He has used him.  He put him in a picture with him there.  He puts them up for his credibility.  He helps his own credibility.  But I don`t think it worked. 

Bill Barr is looking really troubled.  Well, he`s got a troubled reputation right now.  And, as we all learned in this city and in this life, you get one reputation, just one.

Christopher Painter, thank you, sir. 

PAINTER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Frank Figliuzzi, for everything you have done. 

Up next: house of lies.  The Mueller report shines a spotlight on a White House that just can`t handle the truth.  Well, it certainly can`t deliver it. 

And a quick programming note.  Join me tomorrow night right here on MSNBC.  From 6:00 to 8:00, we will have a special look for the expert -- actually, I went all the buffs to watch, the people who really want to understand this thing. 

We will be looking into the contents of the Mueller report and, perhaps most importantly, something I`m more familiar with, which is the Democrats. 

Are they going to do it?  Are they going to go ahead?  Or are they are going to say, well, we got to talk to Mueller, we got to talk to Rosenstein, we got to talk to Barr, and then we got to think about it?  And then the summer will be on.  It might be too hot to do it by then.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Robert Mueller`s report provides a detailed and disturbing account of how President Trump, his family and his aides hid, obfuscated and lied to federal prosecutors, the press and the American public. 

According to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "The White House that emerges from more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller`s report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty, defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him."

The report details those repeated lies by the president and the many lies by his subordinates.  The special counsel`s investigation has already resulted in the conviction of four Trump associates for lying. 

And, tonight, Republican Senator Mitt Romney responded to the report with this blistering statement.  This is Romney talking. 

"I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president."  He is calling the president a liar. 

Some of that dishonesty comes directly from the president`s press secretary.  What Sanders said about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and how she`s now backtracking in shame, that`s next. 

Stick with us. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

One of the bombshells revealed in yesterday`s report by Robert Mueller was that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders admitted, admitted to the special counsel that she made up public statements about the firing of former FBI Director Comey, telling the special counsel that those statements were not founded on -- I love this word -- "anything."

She said things based on nothing.

Anyway, let`s take a look at what Sanders said about Comey back in 2017 and what she`s saying today about those inconsistencies. 


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I have heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president`s decision.  And I think that we may have to agree to disagree.

We`re not going to get into a numbers game.  I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they`re very happy with the president`s decision. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  Why can`t you acknowledge that what you said was not true?

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  I said that the word I used, countless, and I also said if you look at what`s in quotations from me, it`s that, and it`s that it was in the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn`t a scripted talking point. 

I`m sorry that I wasn`t a robot, like the Democrat Party.


MATTHEWS: "I`m sorry that I`m not a robot."  That`s a cover for not telling the truth?

Anyway, we`re joined right now by Jill Colvin, White House reporter at the Associated Press, and Michael Beschloss, of course, NBC News, presidential historian. 

Jill, it seems to me that they have a problem, but yet it worked. Whatever murkiness there is today, whatever fog machine is up there now is the work of these lies and the president`s claim that he couldn`t remember 37 times, which is, in effect, lying. 


I mean, I think that that`s part of why you see the White House as confident as they are now, despite everything that is so damning in that report, all of those instances of lying, of the president seemingly not caring at all, instructing people to come out there, hold news conferences to lie, to say that accurate news reports are inaccurate. 

But this is a pattern that we have seen, that we know that this White House does, that this president has done so many times.  As a reporter who sits in those briefings, it was pretty stunning to see the extent of Sarah Sanders` dishonesty there. 

But it`s not like we trusted much of what she said from the podium anyway.

MATTHEWS:  You know, from the beginning, my friend, Michael, it`s like Groucho Marx.  You`re going to believe me or your lying eyes?


MATTHEWS:  And I was -- well, the same thought.

How can you walk into truth and lie?  Like the president, he lies when you can see him lying.

BESCHLOSS:  He lies even when he doesn`t need -- feel that he needs to.  It`s almost pathological. 

And it spreads to everyone around him, or many of those around him, as we have seen in the Mueller report.  I think what Mitt Romney said today was absolutely right.  The lying you see in this report is sickening. 

And it`s so much against the history of the presidency.  Honesty was at the center of the personas of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the president you served, Jimmy Carter, who said, I will never lie to you.  That was a promise he kept. 

Remember what Gerald Ford said in the first speech he gave after he was sworn in after Richard Nixon in 1974.  He was trying to draw a contrast with Nixon, especially his lying.  And Ford said, "I believe the truth is the glue that holds government together."

He was absolutely right.  How can a president ask the public to make sacrifices or go to war if Americans can`t believe him?

MATTHEWS:  I have always thought that he`d be a great guy to sell your old beat-up car for you, Michael and Jill...


MATTHEWS:  ... because he would oversell it.  This is the greatest car ever.


MATTHEWS:  But you would never buy a car from this guy.  Anyway...

BESCHLOSS:  Who`s ever seen a car like this?  No one. 


MATTHEWS:  Right. 

Well, according to the Mueller report, a major reason the president wasn`t able to gain control the investigation was that his orders were refused by his various subordinates and associates.

Trump`s efforts were -- quote -- "mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."

That list includes Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former White House counsel Don McGahn.

Jill, he`s out there trashing McGahn now, apparently firing his law firm for his reelect, because he was the one guy out there that actually said, I`m not going to cover up.  You tried to get me to fire Comey. 

COLVIN:  Yes, this is one of the most interesting dynamics at play right now. 

You have the president, who is seething.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you tried to get me to fire Mueller.

Go ahead.

COLVIN:  But he is seething right now, feeling like people who worked for him were disloyal because they went and spoke to Mueller`s team, when the president and the White House asked them to speak to Mueller`s team, told them, go there, tell the truth, tell them everything you know. 

And the president, nonetheless, as we saw from his tweets today, as we have heard from his private conversations, is furious, especially at McGahn for spending so much time talking to prosecutors. 

And the irony here is that it`s those people, especially McGahn, who talked Trump out of doing things that could have gotten him in trouble, more trouble, for obstruction.

MATTHEWS:  My sense, when I`m -- I watch these people like Barr talk on television, they`re in closed circuit.  Remember that old phrase closed circuit?  Like, there`s only one person watching in the other room.


MATTHEWS:  That`s the president.

BESCHLOSS:  That`s it.

MATTHEWS:  They`re not addressing truth to the American people.  They`re saying what the Trump -- what Trump wants them to say, which is not true. 

They want him to -- he wants them to cover for him, not speak the truth, every time they speak publicly. 


And Barr and these others know that that`s probably the only way to keep their job.  And from Trump`s point of view, if he were a leader of any quality, he would see this, and he would say, gee, there`s a shocking revelation here, which is, these people who did not tell me what I wanted to hear and who restrained me from doing bad things, they saved me.  I might be in a lot more trouble if I didn`t have those people working for me. 

Well, compare his staff nowadays.  He has very few, if any, of those people.  And the result is that it -- what may happen is that, having gotten through the Mueller report -- and he may think that this is a great victory -- if he does think that, I think he`s wrong -- but if he thinks that, he may feel licensed and he may feel even more emboldened to get rid of people who might conceivably tell him to -- not to do something he wants to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Jill, when you call people on background, when you talk to people from the booth or whatever over there at the White House, do you sort of calibrate, well, this person is good for about 70 percent of the truth, this person is good for about 90 percent, this person is good for like 10?

COLVIN:  Yes, I mean, it`s...

MATTHEWS:  How do you calibrate the sources?

COLVIN:  It`s definitely gotten better.  Especially at the beginning, we had this really toxic environment, where there were these different factions. 

And you always, in order to kind of get something I would feel comfortable printing, had to make sure that you spoke to someone from this faction and the other faction, and if they were telling you the same thing, then maybe, hopefully, that was the best truth you were going to get at that day. 

But it`s really difficult when people -- like -- we just had the Sarah example, but all of the other people here who are being ordered by the president to go out there and lie to reporters, a president who says...

MATTHEWS:  Even on background.

COLVIN:  Even on background.


COLVIN:  A president who says, this is all fake news. 

MATTHEWS:  Must be an interesting job. 

Thank you, Jill Colvin from the Associated -- the great Associated Press.  And we rely on that more than we admit.  But I admit it.

Anyway, Michael Beschloss, a great historian, and great to have as colleague.

BESCHLOSS:  Thank you.  Thank you.  You too.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Some call it a witch-hunt, but what if Hillary Clinton had been the one that committed the litany of horrors that are detailed in the Mueller report?  Think about that, you guys on barstools now loving your high-fives right now.

Think about if every single thing that Trump did, Hillary did, where would she be right now? 

We`re back in a minute. 


MATTHEWS:  A word tonight to those Trump fans out there high-fiving each other.

Say what you want about this whole two-year investigation being a witch- hunt.  You can enjoy your night of fun and foolery.  But give those who supported the investigation this and only this. 

If Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election, and it had come out afterwards that the Russians had done the same things to help her, the pushing of anti-Trump messaging on social media, the hacking into the other side`s e-mails, if it had come out that the Hillary people had made use of that Russian help, and had attended meetings to get more of it, if it had come out that Hillary had fired the Republican FBI director because he was looking into all this, if it had got out that she had asked both her White House lawyer and her campaign manager to push the attorney general out of his job because he wasn`t protecting her, if all this litany of horrors had come out, can you honestly say you would not have demanded her removal from the Oval Office?

You can go back to your partying now, but let`s not hear any more about this being a witch-hunt.

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thank you. 

And happy Passover and happy Easter.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.