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One-on-One with Matt Tyranuer. TRANSCRIPT: 9/20/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Carol Leonnig; Mike Quigley; Ben Wittes; Yamiche Alcindor, KenVogel, Evelyn Farkas, Glenn Kirschner, Rick Tyler, Matt Tyrnauer


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We`re getting major breaking news tonight from multiple sources about the president`s alarming conversation with a foreign leader that prompted an urgent whistleblower`s complaint.

The Washington Post tonight has revealed crucial new information, that, quote, President Trump pressed the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden in a call between the two leaders.  That`s according to two people familiar with the matter who say that Trump used the July 25th conversation with Ukraine President Zelensky to pressure him to more aggressively pursue an investigation that Trump believed would deliver potential political dirt against one of the president`s political adversaries, Joe Biden.

Again, just to reiterate, a president who spent three years denying that he colluded with a foreign power to get dirt on his political enemies has been caught red-handed doing just that.  And this comes after the president today declined to say whether he discussed the former vice president, Joe Biden`s family in that phone call with the Ukrainian president, a call he insists was appropriate.


REPORTER:  Did you discuss Joe Biden, his son or his family with the leader of Ukraine?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  It doesn`t matter what I discussed --

REPORTER:  Did you mention Joe Biden during the conversation --

TRUMP:  I don`t want to talk about any conversation other than to say a great conversation, totally appropriate conversation, couldn`t have been better and keep asking questions and build it up as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall.


MATTHEWS:  Well, separately The Wall Street Journal reports that in that phone call, President Trump, quote, repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine, urging Zelensky, their president, about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump`s personal lawyer, on a probe, according to people familiar with the matter.

We already know that since May, Giuliani has been working outside official channels to push the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden`s family.  In fact Giuliani confirmed it himself just last night.

In a bizarre performance on CNN, Giuliani first denied that he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden only to admit it just seconds later.  Watch this.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST:  Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?

GIULIANI:  No.  Actually, I didn`t.

CUOMO:  So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI:  Of course, I did.

CUOMO:  You just said you didn`t.


MATTHEWS:  He just figured that one out.

We also know that three House committees in the House of Representatives have launched investigations into whether the president withheld military aid to Ukraine to improperly pressure the Ukrainian government to assist the president`s bid for re-election, a prospect that they say would be a staggering abuse of power.

Well, that aide was eventually released last week but only after lawmakers of both parties expressed outrage over the delay.

Joining right now is U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour, Ben Wittes, Editor-in-Chief of Lawfare and Carol Leonnig, who`s one of the reporters to break this story for The Washington Post.  Carol, it`s great to have you on tonight.

This is the biggest story I`ve seen in months.  The president of the United States, as I said, spent three years denying he colluded with a foreign power to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.  And now says -- excuse me, I`m out there doing it again this time to get it on Joe Biden, I`m working for 2020 here.

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER I know.  What gives?  It`s funny a person that we`ve Interviewed said to me today, you know, Robert Mueller in his two-year investigation never really had what you would ostensibly call a quid pro quo, and here it is right in front of us in broad daylight, apparently.

The timeline is not very flattering to the president.  July 25th, he makes a call to Zelensky, pressures him to look into Joe Biden`s son, then sends Rudy Giuliani to meet with a Zelensky aide days later, has the ambassador to Ukraine help setup that meeting, and all of it while offering or withholding as like a tease, $250 million in military aide that Congress has approve.

MATTHEWS:  So he`s doing two things.  He`s getting dirt from a foreign government directly, simply.  This is much simpler than the whole Russian collusion thing.  This is clear cut, I`m going to a foreign government, a president of a foreign government for dirt, I`m using my office as president to do it.  I`m using the threat of withholding military aide to a Country that is vulnerable to the Russian government (ph).

Anyway, in a statement just moments ago, former Vice President Joe Biden said, if these reports are true, then there`s truly no bottom that President Trump`s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.  This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our government and undermines our national security for partisan purposes.

He also said, at a minimum, the president should release a transcript of the call in order that the whistleblower`s complaint be released to Congress.

Congressman Quigley, thank you for coming on a Friday night, but, my God, this is big one.  The president of the United States, put it into perspective, out there trolling for dirt on political opponent using his presidential power, his office or foreign policy or foreign aid or military aid to go to a foreign government to get oppo on somebody he thinks he might have to run against.  Your thoughts.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  You know, as tough (ph) as this is to say, I guess, I`m not surprised.  I`ve watched and investigated this White House for over three years now and absolutely nothing surprises me.  I guess if I`ve learned anything is there`s never any coincidences with this White House and their operation and everything is tied together.  I mean, this began a long time ago with Manafort and the profiteers and conmen that worked in the White House.  This is just an extension of those actions.

MATTHEWS:  You`re not supposed to take aid from a foreign power, a foreign government, in a political campaign.  Is this that?  Is this going over there for something of value, in kind dirt which is something usually paid for from an oppo operation?  Is this a crime?

QUIGLEY:  Look, even if you don`t conflate these two issues, the assault on congressional oversight and the whistleblower operation and what we`re learning about Ukraine, these are two body blows to the country that we live in.  It is extraordinary.  It is a danger not only to our country and what we present.

Let`s understand exactly where Ukraine is right now.  Crimea is occupied, there is fighting in the east.  This is country just hanging on against Russian oppression.  So these are our allies, what they must think of us now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I disagree with the congressman because I`m shocked by this.  I don`t care what Trump has done before (ph).  This is blatant.  He`s been investigated for three years for this very act.  He now does it in broad daylight, we caught him.  You know what, a whistleblower caught him doing this.  We didn`t catch him.

BEN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LAWFARE:  Yes.  So I think there`re three issues here and they`re all really big deals.  So the first is shaking down a foreign leader for his own personal political gain.  It`s not for some U.S. policy objective, right, but it`s holding up congressionally appropriated money while you`re making demands for your personal benefit, personal political benefit from a foreign country.

The second issue is inviting, as you just pointed out, inviting or asking or demanding that foreign country to improperly engage in the U.S. political process, right?  This is collusion, right?

And the third, which is from my point of view by far the worst, is asking, demanding a foreign leader to investigate your political opponents.  And Trump has been pretty open about demanding that his law enforcement apparatus investigate his political opponents, whether it`s Hillary Clinton or, you know, Obama, right, he`s easy about that.  But now, we see he`s leaning on foreign officials to do it as well.

And by the way, he`s not sending -- he`s not saying to the Ukrainians, cooperate with our law enforcement officials.  He`s saying to the Ukrainians, cooperate with my personal lawyer in digging up dirt and spying on and investigating my political opponents and their children.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in addition to abuse of power is extortion.  He`s taking a country which is vulnerable to being brought down by Russia and Putin and saying, I know you`re in trouble.  You want to be saved, give me my dirt.

In June, the president openly admitted that he would accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government and said that he would not inform the FBI if he was contacted by a foreign government with information.  Let`s watch.


TRUMP:  This is somebody that said, we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way.

If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I`d want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST:  You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP:  It`s not interference.  They have information.  I think I`d take it.


MATTHEWS:  Yamiche, in this case, he didn`t have something come over the transit.  He went over the transit.  He went to another government and said, you want that $250 mil, you need to protect yourself?  You`ll get it if you give me the dirt on Biden.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR:  If you pull this back, the big question is, is President Trump open to a foreign government meddling in our elections in 2020.  It seems as though from the reporting that we`ve seen from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, is that, yes, the president is open to that.

And it fits a pattern.  When he was a candidate in 2016, he said, Russia hacked Hillary Clinton`s emails, then he`s telling George Stephanopoulos, hey, if you have information, foreign governments, give them to me.

What this tells us in the future is that if you`re a foreign government and you want to sway this president, can you give him information that you come across about any political opponent and say, here, Mr. President, give me this because I want to be interested in you and I want you to work in my favor.

So I think this is going to be a big issue going forward.  There`s been a big question about whether or not foreign governments are going to meddle in 2020.  Now, the question is, is President Trump going to help them do that?

Well, of course, he is.  The Congress can`t stop him.

Let me ask Carol.  In the last several days, this story has blossomed to the point where we now are putting it all together.  A whistleblower`s complaint through the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, all this information about the president doing something that was so upsetting to that person and national security and that they said this was urgent, we have to know about it.  They are withholding that information from us under the advice of William Barr, the president`s toady and A.G.

And now, we`re finding out that it was in fact perhaps was a quid pro quo.  What happened in the last couple of days?  How did this story break out?  There`re a lot of theories about what your sources are you obviously can`t get away.  One source is they think that Trump himself is putting it out in a sort of -- okay, I like your face.  She just did that.  (INAUDIBLE) the camera captures you.  Thank you, Carol.

LEONNIG:  Donald Trump cannot let us know about this.  In fact, actually, what I would say, Chris, is one of the stunning things that tells me this is a big deal beyond the fact that it is encouraging a foreign power to get involved for his personal benefit has been put so well.  What tells me it`s a big deal is how silent the White House is.

I mean, usually you get some engagement.  You get somebody there to say, look, here is our argument, I want to push back on this.  There is an absolute deafening over there.  And I have to believe that they`re scratching their heads, trying to figure out what are they going to say.

The president, for his part today, said, my lawyers are looking at it and they`re laughing at that complaint.  I`m not so convinced they`re laughing at that complaint.  Our reporting today is that the White House Counsel and Bill Barr both, if not personally, their offices, was consulting with the Director of National Intelligence giving their legal arguments about why this should not go to Congress.  And the DNI --

MATTHEWS:  T the complaint, the content of it?

LEONNIG:  Yes.  Why this whistleblower`s information shouldn`t go to Congress and that this has created great consternation and tension between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s go back to this -- both your piece today and The Wall Street Journal piece that came out late today say, pressured, that the president of the United States pressured the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, to give us that dirt or else.  What`s the or else?

LEONNIG:  As we`ve all been discussing, it`s $250 million in military aid that Congress approved that the president was holding back on and blocking, which is pretty unusual.  And then the other was a meeting with the president.  Aides had been trying to arrange for Trump to meet with Zelensky, something Zelensky really wanted.  It`s a signal to the world, I`ve got the U.S. behind my back, that ally that`s feeling so unprotected.  And Trump was withholding that too.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the promise we keep reading in this piece, he will meet with him?

LEONNIG:  I can`t tell you exactly.

MATTHEWS:  But there was a quid pro quo aspect to this?

LEONNIG:  There is an alleged promise, according to the complainant, which I could talk about a little bit more, but let me --

ALCINDOR:  Well, I`ll just say this, in terms of the president has always and people in my reporting has always talked about, the fact that -- the thing that blocks the president has been the courts.  Now, what we`re seeing with this whistleblower is that there are people within his own government that are willing to say, you know what, you have gone too far, here it is.

We`ve been waiting for Republicans in Congress at times for people to say, oh, they`ve gone too far, the president can do this.  But now, what we see is that he is probably not pushing back as much and thinking -- they`ve been calling and asking the White House about this, they`re not pushing back.  Because if they do, they obviously have people inside that can push back on that who have evidence of this call.  Is there are recording of the call?  Who knows?  But the question is that they can`t push back too hard because the person who`s whistle-blowing is inside this administration.

MATTHEWS:  And they don`t know.  They`re guessing who is the person inside blew the whistle.

ALCINDOR:  He`s calling him partisan and had no idea.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to something you just said.  You said there`s more there you wanted to get to about a possible quid pro quo.  What was it?

LEONNIG:  Well, I want to stress something about the whistleblower complaint, which is, this complainant took a pretty brave, some might say, step because this could be career-ending and this could also lead to them being found out because of the way they`ve described what happened.

MATTHEWS:  You said them to avoid giving gender away, right?

LEONNIG:  I do that.  I apologize, I do that reflexively.

MATTHEWS:  No, I wonder (ph) what you were up to, that`s all.  I love the way you source these things.  Go ahead.

LEONNIG:  That complaint is based not just on the one July 25th call but multiple events, multiple incidents.  It`s not just I`m on the phone and I hear the president doing something skivvy (ph).  It is, I know through several methods that a series of events have taken place that are an urgent concern.

What`s an urgent concern?  An urgent concern under the statute is something that is a flagrant abuse that needs to be alerted to Congress immediately.  And if one of those things involves what the president said, that should worry everybody.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Quigley, this is -- the requirement of the statute is when the whistleblower blows that whistle, you folks get to know what the whistle was about.  What can you do to get the content of this complaint which has led to this whole explosion of news tonight, in the several days building to tonight?  Your thoughts?  What can you do?

QUIGLEY:  I want to reinforce the inspector general told us this was a series of events.  He said this was an extremely important function that the DNI has a responsibility to the American people.  He said he corroborated it, so it was extraordinarily important.

He stressed the chilling effect on the entire process of congressional oversight.  And what`s his next step, I think we`re going to see him on Thursday, the acting DNI, explain to us why he`s blocking a lawful effort.

Beyond that, I think this can`t just be another court fight.  This must be an emergency order seeking injunctive relief to get a copy of this complaint.  It is being unlawfully held from Congress by an opinion, according to the inspector general, from the Justice Department.

MATTHEWS:  Is this going to move Pelosi to impeachment?

QUIGLEY:  Look, I think it should move everyone to understanding what we saw in the Special Counsel`s report was only part of it.  The Special Counsel didn`t even follow the money.  There`s so much more to be investigated and the abuses haven`t stopped.  A president who has never been held accountable will not act in an accountable fashion unless we do something.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinoi, Yamiche Alcindor, as always, Ben Wittes, thank you, Carol Leonnig, congratulations on this story.  It is a blockbuster.

Coming up, Giuliani`s melt down, first, he denies that he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, and seconds later -- seconds later he admits he was trying to get the dirt.

Plus, what Donald Trump learned about fighting dirty from his ruthless mentor, Roy Cohn, we`re going to have that story for you tonight.  Nice fellow, Roy Cohn, the kind of guy Trump can use.  This is something of a very, well, intriguing new documentary.  This is a piece of work.  Watch a bit of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Trump settled but that for him was a victory because he didn`t admit he did anything wrong, and it`s very consistent with Roy`s advice, never admit you`re wrong.


MATTHEWS:  I`ll talk to the director of that documentary called, Where is my Roy Cohn.  That`s Trump talking.

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



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN:  Did you to ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?


CUOMO:  You never asked anything about Hunter Biden?  You never asked anything about Joe Biden...

GIULIANI:  The only thing I asked about Joe Biden...

CUOMO:  ... and his role with the prosecutor?

GIULIANI:  ... is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko who was appointed...

CUOMO:  Right.

GIULIANI:  ... dismissed the case against AntAC.

CUOMO:  So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI:  Of course I did.

CUOMO:  You just said you didn`t.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That bizarre performance is the latest from President Trump`s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, attempting there to explain his months-long efforts to get the government of Ukraine to help dig up dirt on one of the president`s political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. 

Well, those efforts have come under new scrutiny, as multiple news outlets tonight are reporting that, in July, President Trump himself pressured the new Ukrainian president eight times, by the count of "The Wall Street Journal," to help Giuliani in his efforts to get the dirt. 

According to "The Wall Street Journal," Giuliani met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Mr. Zelensky, the president, in Madrid in August.  Mr. Giuliani told "The Journal" earlier this month that Mr. Yermak assured him the Ukrainian government would get to the bottom of the Biden matter. 

And Giuliani has told NBC that it was the State Department that helped connect him to that top aide.  Giuliani defended his actions back in may to "New York Times" reporter Ken Vogel, saying: "There`s nothing illegal about it," but admitting that somebody could say it`s improper.

For more, I`m joined by himself, Ken Vogel of "The Times," Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Ken, give us a sense of your sense of Rudy, Rudy Giuliani`s last chapter perhaps of his public life here.  What`s his role?  It seems to be oppo.  Get me the dirt on the guy I may have to run against, Joe Biden.  It seems to me that is the number one job for the number one guy.

KEN VOGEL, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Yes, his explanation is that he is acting in his capacity as President Trump`s personal lawyer.

And what he -- he says that he started looking at Ukraine because he was looking for exculpatory information about the origins of the Mueller probe, believing that somehow it got its start because of a Ukrainian investigation of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump`s campaign chairman for a time, and that that`s why Rudy Giuliani started looking at Ukraine.

In the course of looking at Ukraine and pushing the Ukrainians to investigate that, he says he stumbled upon this potential investigation or this matter involving Joe Biden, and Joe Biden`s diplomacy in Ukraine and how that intersected with Joe Biden`s son Hunter and his work in Ukraine for a Ukrainian oligarch-owned gas company. 

I use the air quotes stumbled there because we had written about that back in 2015.  It wasn`t like he discovered anything new.  What he was doing more was pushing the Ukrainians to investigate it to give fodder to Trump to be able to potentially run against -- run against Joe Biden. 

And that is why we see this complaint, which I think is quite valid, that Rudy Giuliani is sort of distorting the U.S. foreign policy apparatus or meddling in U.S. foreign policy for political ends.

And he has some effort in that effort from Trump. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, what we`re talking about tonight is this breaking story tonight, which really has come to full bloom, which is the latest reporting of "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post" that what`s going on here is the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is out there dealing with the president of Ukraine to get dirt, saying, I will give you the latest military aid we owe you if and only if you get me some dirt on Joe Biden and his kid Hunter. 

Well, last night, Rudy Giuliani alleged that President Trump had no knowledge of his initial efforts, his initial, Rudy`s, to dig up this dirt.  Let`s watch. 


CUOMO:  Did he ask you to do...

GIULIANI:  ... you should investigate it.

CUOMO:  ... what you`re doing?

GIULIANI:  No.  I did what I did on my own.  And then I told him...

CUOMO:  Really?

GIULIANI:  ... about it afterwards because I`m his lawyer and I know how to investigate...

CUOMO:  So, you...


MATTHEWS:  But, back in May, before his canceled trip to Ukraine, that time, Giuliani told Ken, Ken Vogel, that: "The president basically knows what I`m doing, sure, as his lawyer."

I want to go to Evelyn here about that.  Does anybody know who`s paying that the tab for all this travel to Kiev and to Madrid and Paris?  Rudy`s flapping around, heading around the world, all these -- he`s not staying at the two-star hotels.  He`s not flying coach.

Somebody is paying for all this. 

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Yes, he`s going through an expensive divorce.  So I`m guessing somebody is, either the Trump Organization or some supporter of President Trump.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, some third party.

FARKAS:  But that`s -- that`s interesting. 

But I think the real issue is that, for some reason, Rudy Giuliani is out here now to capture our attention.  And a lot of times, what we see is, when the president`s doing something wrong, a la the Mueller report, Rudy Giuliani will come back and make it seem like it`s OK. 

He will kind of actually air the dirty laundry.  And it may explain why the way the White House is so quiet.

MATTHEWS:  Why did he initially deny it to Chris Cuomo last night, and only when he stumbled back, according to -- Chris was probing or prodding him -- he finally, oh, yes, I did?

FARKAS:  Yes, I mean, that`s a little weird.

That is I admit, odd, because he was clearly on there for some reason.  He was trying to make some point to the public about the president`s dealings and about President Trump and about, of course, the Biden fake conspiracy that he`s trying to make up. 

But I do believe that he comes out when the White House is in trouble.  So my guess is the White House feels like they`re in trouble.

MATTHEWS:  OK, maybe you got a better -- I will tell you, that`s a side story. 

But why does Rudy make himself almost like Ed Koch, I mean, so flamboyant, so out there at 9:00 at night, after dinner?  That`s -- some people think that`s a factor.  Obviously, from Mario`s son -- he was always close to Mario.

What do you make of all this?  What does the guy -- why is he so exposed?  Is it to draw fire from the president?  Is that what`s going on here, Ken? 

VOGEL:  Yes, I think there`s certainly something to that. 

I think, also, there`s an element of, like, he`s working for this guy, who he sees as able to say the most outlandish, sort of controversial things, just for the sole purpose of kind of stirring the pot, or trolling his rivals.

And Giuliani has, in some ways kind of mirrored that.  That is the way that he is behaving.  He wasn`t always like this.  I mean, he`s still quite lucid.  And he`s, for the most part, good on his feet, with maybe the exception of a few interviews, like the one that you just showed.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

VOGEL:  But I think he used to be like a little, like, more careful and sort of calculated in his statements. 

And now we have just seen that totally go out the window, whether that`s because he`s acting on some instructions from Trump to kind of take the pressure or the scrutiny off him, or whether he just sees that this is the way Trump behaves, so it`s probably OK for him. 

It`s tough to get in his head and sort of figure it out.  What we can clearly say is that, in this particular case, it did not work.  I mean, it did not deflect any attention.  In fact, people are just going deeper into this.  And there`s been more reporting on it.

The one thing I just would correct on is this idea that the quid pro quo that was offered, that there may have been a quid pro quo offered in that July 25 call with Trump and Zelensky that involved the U.S. military assistance. 

It is my reporting that the Ukrainians were not -- that, A, that assistance was not raised on that call, and that, B...

MATTHEWS:  Not verbally.

VOGEL:  ... the Ukrainians were not even aware -- they were not even aware that that assistance was being delayed or reviewed until more than a month after that phone call.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  But the timing makes it suspect. 

I want to get back to you.  One last question.  It looks to me like Rudy is out here doing something that Bill Casey did for Ronald Reagan, prove himself before he gets elected by doing the dirt work for him.  This is big casino, isn`t it, for Trump?

He has to get rid of Joe Biden`s threat. 

VOGEL:  I mean, yes, that`s clearly what`s going on here. 

I mean, he sees Joe Biden as a real threat.  And we have reporting on this, that he sees him as potentially the most viable Democratic candidate, and this is a potential liability that Rudy in some ways is sort of muddling up. 

He`s not really helping push the story.  The story has become about Rudy`s efforts to meddle in Ukrainian politics, as opposed to the subject. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ken.  Thank you.  Great reporting. 

And thank you, Evelyn Farkas.  Great work to have you here.

Up next, call it central tenet -- a central tenet of the Trump presidency, the flouting of rules and norms usually associated with America`s highest office, zero repercussions.  Watch it tonight. 

I`m not confident Congress, even on this big one tonight that they caught him on, the journalists caught him, will be able to do anything about it.  This Congress is weak. 

But something about this latest scandal does feel a little different, more damaging, if the Congress knows how to use it.  They don`t even have the ability to express outrage anymore.  Are Trump`s chickens finally coming home to roost, however, in this case, chicken Kiev?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump was elected by flouting political norms, of course, breaking the rules, of course.

Three years into his term as president, his behavior is not a flaw, but a signature feature of his presidency.  Breaking law is what he does, breaking the rules. 

The Constitution was crafted to ensure, however, that there was a system of checks and balances in place to avoid the abuses of a monarch.  Article 2 vests the president with vaguely defined executive power, which, according to President Trump, means, no one can stop me. 

Let`s watch him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don`t even talk about that. 


MATTHEWS:  Oh, great.  So you can do anything you want.

Since his election, President Trump has tested that power.  He stonewalled Congress` lawful subpoena powers in response to multiple investigations.  He`s directed his Treasury Department in one direct case to simply deny a lawful request guaranteed in statute to give -- to turn over his tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee. 

He`s called for his political enemies be prosecuted for unspecified crimes.  He just makes them up.  He shared classified intelligence with world leaders.  We know about that.  And now three House committees are investigating whether or not President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressured the Ukrainian government to assist in Trump`s reelection through production of dirt.

For more, I`m joined by Rick Tyler, Republican strategist, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor. 

You`re the political guy, like I have been. 

What is wrong?  There`s no sense of outrage.  This president just keeps punching into, what, cotton?  There`s nobody stopping him. 

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  We don`t have a co-equal branch of government in the Congress. 

And the problem is, just look at the -- Nadler`s committee, right? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Judiciary.

TYLER:  The Judiciary Committee.

He sends out subpoenas, calls witnesses three months late, calls out subpoenas.  Nobody shows up.  He gets a low-level fired political hack to show up, and he mocks them. 

And people are supposed to take that seriously?  This Congress as -- he has so screwed up the accountability problem with Congress, that they don`t know how to react.

Congress has a co-equal duty.  It`s in the Constitution.  Read the Constitution.  Use your constitutional powers.  They have the power of the purse, the budget.  They could screw up this executive branch so seriously, so quickly, if they wanted to.

But they`re not serious. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I agree. 


Right now, the Congress is not acting like a co-equal branch of government.  I love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote.  Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. 

They have given their consent to be an inferior branch.  The Republicans have given their consent because they`re scared to death Trump will tweet about them and they will lose the support of his base.

MATTHEWS:  Mitch McConnell just looks the TV camera in the face and says, I`m doing it my way.  Live with it. 

KIRSCHNER:  And the Democrats, Chris, have given their consent because they`re unwilling to use all of the tools in their toolbox to hold the administration accountable.

MATTHEWS:  Why aren`t the Democrats...


MATTHEWS:  ... Mitch McConnell, instead of dumping on him?

They should dump on him.  But they don`t have one.

KIRSCHNER:  I don`t know.

You know what the Congress needs to do?  They need to use the lawful vehicle of inherent contempt to hold all these people accountable. 

TYLER:  And there`s only -- there`s only one vehicle to hold this president accountable, because we know the Republicans won`t.  They haven`t. 

So when people say, well, you`re not -- you should hold the Republicans accountable, I have.  But now there`s one vehicle to hold the president accountable.  It`s the House Democrats. And they`re just not doing it, because Nancy Pelosi and Chairman Nadler are at odds. 

And the thing is, Chairman Nadler, either follow your leader, oppose your leader, or go home. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s take a look at the Republicans, who have been playing their part here. 

Republicans on Capitol Hill have come to the president`s defense again on this whole thing we`re talking about tonight, this blockbuster story about the president in bed with the Ukrainians to get dirt on Joe Biden.

Let`s watch. 


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  This is not something I`d ever see the president doing.  And I would, instead of jump to conclusions, actually get the facts first.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  How much you want to bet whatever the president said was in the best interest of the United States of America?  I mean, that`s the bottom line. 

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL):  I think there are people in the intelligence community and other parts of our government who just have it out for the president.  I don`t have any worries about the president. 

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO):  But it looks to me like another deep state attack, I mean, another bureaucrat attack, bureaucratic attack, on the president.  We have seen this over and over and over in this administration, from anonymous sources deep inside the bureaucracy.

Frankly, it has been an unprecedented attempt by the bureaucracy to resist the policies of a duly elected president of the United States. 


MATTHEWS:  Again, the amen corner.  Doesn`t have to pay. 

They come from districts 90 percent, whatever, Republican.  They don`t have to worry about reelection or being primaried.  They just bow down to this president and make his executive power even grander. 

KIRSCHNER:  And why this is, in a way, even more troubling than Russian collusion, Chris? 

Because that was, hey, Russia, if you can find the e-mails, it would be great. 

This is him affirmatively asking another world leader to investigate a former vice president, presidential candidate, and his family. 

Guess what?  We at least have some constraints on U.S. law enforcement when we`re criminally investigating people.  I had to abide by the Constitution as a prosecutor.  If Ukraine sends agents to the United States, whether overt or covert, to start investigating Biden and his family, they`re unconstrained by our laws.


Imagine this whistle-blower listening to the president of the United States talk like that, like a mob guy. 

TYLER:  I mean, the president is acting like a mob family.

He talks about a -- that this person:  I have been told he`s a partisan.

Well, he`s a high-level intelligence official.  He`s someone known to the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

He`s telling the truth; he must be a partisan. 

Rick Tyler, thank you.  Glenn Kirschner, thank you. 

Still ahead -- you guys have more outrage than the whole Democratic half of the House.

Still ahead: what Donald Trump learned about fighting dirty from his ruthless mentor, Roy Cohn.  Wait until you catch this stuff. 

Stick with us. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Everyone watching right now knows that Donald Trump wanted an attorney general who would protect him, especially against the investigation of his dealings with the Russians in 2016. 

"Where`s my Roy Cohn?" Trump yelled in anger when told that the person he did name attorney general had refused to do just that, that Jeff Sessions had actually recused himself, in other words, refused to even handle the Russian investigation?

"Where`s my Roy Cohn?"

The president was referring to his late mentor Roy Cohn, a charismatic Bronx-born prosecutor whose methods were ruthless, in fact, criminal.  Equally notorious was the dirty work Cohn carried out himself. 

He began his career hunting suspected communists as the chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.  No client was too unsavory for Cohn over the years, who went on to represent an array of mafia figures, among others. 

And now filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer has borrowed Trump`s quote for the title of his new documentary: "Where`s My Roy Cohn?"

And here`s a clip. 


DAVE MARCUS, COUSIN OF ROY COHN:  The Justice Department was going after Fred Trump and Donald Trump for not letting blacks in their housing.

But rather than making a deal, rather than admitting guilt, Roy said to Trump, you need to go full-bore after the Justice Department.

KEN AULETTA, JOURNALIST:  Roy Cohn was very clear what to do.  Attack.  Don`t settle.  Don`t apologize.  Attack.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Roy would always be for an offensive strategy.  Those are the rules of war.  You don`t fight on the other guy`s ground.  You define what the debate is going to be about. 

I think Donald learned that from Roy.  I learned that from Roy.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP":  Roy Cohn began this whole new mode of what you see today of get off the issue, attack law enforcement, attack the government, attack the press, create phony issues, so that you can totally change the debate. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here`s a little McCarthyism going on right now.

ROY COHN, ATTORNEY:  He shouldn`t disclaim, I mean, total inability to cope with any of these current topics.  He does it with great -- great...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Keep talking, Roy.  Keep talking.

COHN:  Great precision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is known as filler.  You throw your mud, and then the filler goes on, until they have forgotten what the point was. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the incredible story of mob lawyer Roy Cohn and his ties to Donald Trump coming up next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

Roy Cohn was a friend, lawyer and mentor for the current president of the United States.  But it`s Cohn`s notorious role in history, including at the side of the anti-communist demagogue Joe McCarthy, to his service as a mob lawyer, that makes for one hell of a story. 


JIM ZIRIN, ATTORNEY/AUTHOR:  Cohn soared to national prominence as McCarthy`s handmaiden, whispering in his ear in a conspiratorial fashion, advising him how to question witnesses before the congressional subcommittee.

STONE:  Roy`s tactics and his approach, via McCarthy, make him one of the most controversial people in the country. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don`t think you understood that question.  The question was, do you know this man?  Can you look at the picture and tell us whether you know him?  I would the answer is yes or no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, the assumption is a little bit mistaken in this instance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell us whether you know the man before you proceed.  Do you know this man or don`t you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your statements about him have made it difficult for me and unsafe for me.


MATTHEWS:  Joining me right now is filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer, whose new movie "Where`s My Roy Cohn?" examines the dark and compelling life of Roy Cohn. 

Thank you so much for joining us, Matt. 

And here`s the question.  What attracted Joe McCarthy to this guy Roy Cohn?  He trusted him completely, implicitly, defended him no matter what he wanted. 

And is it the same thing that attracted Donald Trump over the years?

MATT TYRNAUER, DIRECTOR, "WHERE`S MY ROY COHN?":  Joe McCarthy was kind of an empty vessel. 

He wasn`t really the sharpest tool in the drawer.  And I think he needed someone to manipulate and tell him what to say. 

The iconic footage of Cohn is him whispering in the ear of McCarthy in the Senate subcommittee and really kind of leading him into these persecuting questionings of usually innocent witnesses. 

He was a demagogue whisperer, and he liked to sort of infect empty vessels.  And I think Trump was his late-in-life project, an empty vessel, a demagogue in the making.  And he became the apprentice to Roy Cohn. 

MATTHEWS:  One thing impressed me in the beautifully made movie by you.  It`s a hell of a documentary.  I have seen lots of them.  This is really good. 

And what I liked about it is the artistic quality with which -- I had no problem with any of the political message.  I thought it was very fair about history, very fair. 

I also thought it was interesting about the New York society and the way they value things, the bad values of New York and this country.  Why would people of repute, like William F. Buckley, Barbara Walters, people like the cardinal of New York, the Catholic cardinal, why would they all surround this guy as their best friend? 

Why would you want to be around such a sleaze ball?

TYRNAUER:  Because New York City -- and it still is to this day -- is the most transactional place in the world. 

And Roy Cohn was the greatest transactionalist maybe ever, until Donald Trump.  So, Cohn goes back after the disgrace of the Army-McCarthy hearings and insinuates himself into this power grid of New York society, befriends everyone.

And because he became a power broker and a mob attorney, and he was someone who had the ear of powerful politicians, and he was always up to nefarious things that involved money changing hands, he was accepted in New York society.

And New York sort of likes a lovable scoundrel.  A lot of people I know who had great liberal credentials were friends of Roy Cohn, and they called him a lovable monster and kind of shrugged him off that way. 

But the whole media power complex of New York really fostered him and allowed him to exist. 


TYRNAUER:  But the key to Roy Cohn is that he was a media-manipulating master.


TYRNAUER:  He just knew how to work the system. 

And the system of the day was print and TV and radio.  And he just fed information to the press, curried favor with them.  He was a wonderful source of extraordinary gossip.  And he also was a power broker. 

And he was sort of the bridge from the illegitimate world and the mob -- he was the attorney for the five dons of the mafia families -- and the legitimate world, because he had the ear of the politicians of the day. 

So he sort of invented this unique job for himself, where he was the power broker to the dark world and the light world.  And then, obviously, his ultimate mentee was Trump.  And he even sort of predicts.

There`s an extraordinary piece of footage in this film from the late `70s, where he says, Donald is a meteor rising from New York City who`s going to go on to touch parts of this country and every part of the world.  So almost Nostradamus-like, he`s predicting a Trump presidency from the Carter era.  It`s bizarre. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the film also tackles Roy Cohn`s identity as a closeted gay man who targeted gay men in the U.S. government, notoriously, early in the `50s with McCarthy.

Let`s watch. 


ZIRIN:  And, of course, McCarthy, we think of him in terms of investigating communists, but he and Cohn also investigated homosexuals.

ANNE ROIPHE, COUSIN OF ROY COHN:  In the `40s and the `50s, being gay with such a terrible secret.  And that was true for Roy.  It`s just hard for people today to imagine the damage keeping that secret did to people and their lives. 

And Roy certainly would have done everything to hide it in any way. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s a different era today, of course, about people who are gay in this country.  We have a gay fellow running for president who is married to another man.  We live in a different time.

Back then, in the early `50s, they were -- here is Roy Cohn, who was gay, leading an investigation into gays in the United States government.  What would -- and then, of course, the liberals who went like Robert Welch and those guys, they also were doing some gay-baiting about him and David Schine.

I thought it was -- I have never seen that brought out the way you brought it out in the movie, the way they talk about fairies and all this stuff.  They were doing the same anti-gay, homophobic stuff that the right wing would have done.

TYRNAUER:  Yes, this is the Army-McCarthy hearings, where McCarthy and Cohn are going after the Army for a suspected communist ring. 

It was all really a personal affair for Cohn.  He egged McCarthy on into creating this TV spectacle in the early `50s.  And it really became a personal matter, because Cohn at the time had a kind of boy crush on a very good-looking Army private name G. David Schine.

And he was trying to do a favor for this handsome man who was also on the McCarthy committee.  Unbelievably, he calls the secretary of the Army and requests a promotion from private to general for his friend, G. David Schine, and a posting in the penthouse of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. 

This is not a joke.  This actually happened.  The Army pushed back and said never.  And Cohn said, I`m going to wreck the Army.

And that led to the Army-McCarthy hearings, which then is rife with homosexual subtext, with Joseph Welch, who is the lawyer for the Army, the good guy, who says, "Have you no decency, sir?" to Joseph McCarthy and kind of pricks the bubble of the McCarthy era.

But they engage in a homophobic attack on Cohn and McCarthy, trying to use any arrow in their quiver to pop the bubble and bring these guys down. 

MATTHEWS:  Hard to find the heroes in that time. 

Thank you, Matt Tyrnauer.  Great, great documentary.  The title is very today, "Where`s My Roy Cohn?"  That opens today.

Stay with us on HARDBALL.  You`re watching it. 


MATTHEWS:  Millions of people around the world, many of them children, took to the streets today to demand action on climate change. 

The strike was inspired by the work of a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who started these Friday climate change strikes a year ago. 

Here she was today in New York. 


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST:  This is an emergency.  Our house is on fire.  We are doing this to wake the leaders up.  We are doing this to get them to act. 

We demand a safe future.  Is that really too much to ask? 



And that`s HARDBALL for now.