Gross: ‘Hardball’ Panel Jumps for Joy as Manafort Trial Begins in Mueller’s ‘Opening Night’

In an Obama-like and pathetic display of worshiping at the feet of Robert Mueller’s investigation, MSNBC’s Hardball opened Tuesday with glee on day one of the Paul Manafort trial as host Chris Matthews and assembled guests hoped that it was “opening night” or “a day of history” that could begin “the dismantling of the Trump administration.” 

Along with boasting of how deeply liberal the Northern Virginia city of Alexandria was (site of the trial), Matthews and friends speculated without evidence that Manafort has dirt on Trump and could play the role of Frankie Five Angels from The Godfather movies.

 

 

Matthews set the tone in his open, hyping that the start of the Manafort trial should be “mark[ed]...as a day of history, the man who was once Donald Trump’s top kick is facing years in a U.S. prison.”

He continued with some grade-A hyperbole:

The prelude, the political foreplay, whatever you choose to call it, is past. For a year and a half, our country has been contorted into a reality TV show. Mark this as the day we discovered that reality bites...We’re heading into round one now of what could be the dismantling of the Trump administration. The first real test for Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling is underway, as I said, at a courthouse just across the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia. Neither Russian meddling nor the 2016 election itself are expected to be a part of the case yet.

NBC reporter and well-known intelligence community pawn Ken Dilanian giddily told Matthews that, even though the trial had nothing to do with the campaign, “Donald Trump must be concerned about what he might say” and “there’s a great possibility that he can testify about things that are very damaging to Donald Trump.”

Matthews later swooned to Mother Jones’s David Corn that “it seems this is a big test for — for Mueller,” who’s “all business, everybody says brilliant, everybody says competent” but must “get this conviction.”
 

Corn replied with more bravado (click “expand” for more):

Well it is. I don't want to make it — be glib here, but it is like opening night for a production. He’s been working on this for over a year....[H]e’s brought cases and put out very serious indictment about Russians and others. He’s gotten several people to flip...But now he has to put on a case in public before a jury and every lawyer will tell you. With juries, there’s always a chance that something can go south. So this is first time that we are going to see his full breadth of his preparation and his ability to bring a case forward[.]

Moments after Dilanian, Matthews, and The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff hyped how dark blue Northern Virginia bodes ill for Manafort, Matthews went into conspiracy theory mode and just generally not speaking in facts. 

With support from Corn and The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker, the MSNBC pundit surmised that then-candidate Trump and Manafort “talked Russia” and that Manafort “knows something on Trump that could spring him from maybe 25 years in prison if you add it up.” 

Again, that came without any evidence or acknowledgment of sources whatsoever.

Rucker refused to push back, reiterating that Manafort was likely privy to the most sensitive campaign information and “could have more value to Mueller and his investigators than [Rick] Gates” (read: evidence of collusion with Russia).

“He could be Frankie Five Angels. He could be right out of The Godfather. He could be the guy — Pentangeli,” Matthews concluded.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on July 31, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
July 31, 2018
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Crime and punishment. Let's play Hardball. [HARDBALL OPENING CREDITS] Today, Paul Manafort, the President's campaign manager, went on trial in a federal court across the Potomac River from here. Mark it as a day of history, the man who was once Donald Trump’s top kick is facing years in a U.S. prison. The prelude, the political foreplay, whatever you choose to call it, is past. For a year and a half, our country has been contorted into a reality TV show. Mark this as the day we discovered that reality bites. Good evening, I am Chris Matthews down in Washington. We’re heading into round one now of what could be the dismantling of the Trump administration. The first real test for Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling is underway, as I said, at a courthouse just across the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia. Neither Russian meddling nor the 2016 election itself are expected to be a part of the case yet. The defendant, Paul Manafort, was President Trump’s former campaign manager. He’s facing 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, charges that predate his time on the Trump campaign. If found guilty, Manafort could get up to ten years in prison. He’s also facing similar charges in federal court in Washington where he could get an additional 15 years behind bars. Manafort is the highest-ranking campaign figured charged so far. He also seemingly has the deepest connections to Russian actors. 

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016. Starting back in 2006, Manafort did work political work overseas for the Russian-backed President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. He made tens of millions of dollars through that work for Yankukovych. Manafort also had business ties with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Both these men have direct ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. More important for Mueller’s investigation, Manafort took part in that infamous Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 with Russians, including Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, where the trump campaign was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

(....)

KEN DILANIAN: And no mention of Donald Trump was made at this trial. I think that’s no accident. We are in Alexandria, Virginia, which is a Democratic stronghold that went for Hillary Clinton last time, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Ken. One last thought, if you’re Donald Trump watching what is going on over there, what is your concern because if Rick Gates has flipped against Manafort, is Trump still worried about Manafort flipping because he’s facing all these years in federal prison. I just wonder how much — how Nietzschian can he be? How strong can he be against what he’s facing in life. Now, if he has a bad jury, if he thinks he’s facing a bad jury. He’s facing a lot of charges which are well documented. He — he sees the time he is going to serve, you know? What was the old line? Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. He’s looking at a lot of time and I’m wondering, is Trump saying: “Oh my god! Don’t break, Paul.” What — what do you thinks Trump want out of this trial [sic]?

(....)

DILANIAN: But you’re absolutely right. Donald Trump must be concerned about what he might say. After all, Paul Manafort was the only non-family member invited to that Trump Tower meeting with those Russians who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. He was a chairman. He was in on sensitive meetings with Donald Trump, who doesn’t use e-mail, so it — there’s a great possibility that he can testify about things that are very damaging to Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS: Ken, hang on there at the courthouse. Thank you. I want to bring in everybody else. David, Betsy, and David, but first David, it seems this is a big test for — for Mueller. Mueller is all business, everybody says brilliant, everybody says competent. This is the first time. This is his first time at bat here. He’s got to get this conviction.

DAVID CORN: Well it is. I don't want to make it — be glib here, but it is like opening night ---

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

CORN: — for a production. He’s been working on this for over a year. He’s brought —

MATTHEWS: Well, the curtain’s up.

CORN: — he’s brought — he’s brought cases and put out very serious indictment about Russians and others. He’s gotten several people to flip, including George Papadpolous, Michael Flynn, and the aforementioned Rick Gates. But now he has to put on a case in public before a jury and every lawyer will tell you. With juries, there’s always a chance that something can go south. So this is first time that we are going to see his full breadth of his preparation and his ability to bring a case forward and there’s — 

MATTHEWS: Well, we got a divided jury. Six men, six women, eight white people. I hate to do that, but that’s the way they always count juries — by ethnicity. The others are minority of some kind. So, that doesn't tell you much, but there was said there by Ken Dilanian that this is a probable Democratic jury. I would say — just to look at it sort of — let's start with Betsy, you look at the jury over there, nobody who’s a Republican wants to face a jury in D.C. That goes back to Watergate days. It’s not a good place.

BETSY WOODRUFF: That’s true. So Virginia is comparatively, potentially — 

MATTHEWS: They don’t like big shots.

WOODRUFF: — potentially, Virginia is a comparatively, slighter better jury pool to draw from compared to D.C. But this is Northern Virginia. This is Alexandria. It’s an affluent, well-educated area. I believe it went for Hillary Clinton. The likelihood that Paul Manafort is going to find many political sympathizers in that jury pool —

MATTHEWS: Not exactly Dixie. 

WOODRUFF: — not particularly high. That's right.

(....)

MATTHEWS: Cause my feeling is they talked Russia. Here’s a guy who’s an expert on Russian-controlled Ukraine. Here’s a guy with all those contacts, who’s made all those millions of dollars. The fact that he and Trump didn't have a little trash talk, a little conversation about Russia alludes me. 

CORN: It was also reported that he had owed millions of dollars to Oleg Deripaska, who was perusing him at the time he joined the campaign and with his connections to a former Russian military intelligence officer had been reported too. I mean, there was no vetting and the bottom — I still want to know, at the end of the day, why was Manafort invited to the Trump Tower meeting?

MATTHEWS: Phil, it seems like there’s money in this guy. This guy’s got money in his pocket. He knows something on Trump that could spring him from maybe 25 years in prison if you add it up. 

PHIL RUCKER: Potentially and Rick Gates is cooperating with Mueller, but Manafort was the chairman, he was in the room for meetings that Rick Gates was not at. He had more visibility into Trump’s operation, into the finances of that campaign and into the finances of The Trump Organization, I think, than Rick Gates did. So, potentially, he could have more value to Mueller and his investigators than Gates. 

MATTHEWS: He could be Frankie Five Angels. He could be right out of The Godfather. He could be the guy — Pentangeli.

NB Daily Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe MSNBC Hardball Video Government & Press Chris Matthews David Corn Philip Rucker Donald Trump Paul Manafort
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