Must Watch: Chris Matthews Suffers an EPIC Meltdown Over the Mueller Report

Perhaps no single reaction Friday night to the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation rivaled that of MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews, who was apoplectic, inconsolable, and irate at the notion the Mueller team will not offer any further indictments in hopes of criminal charges concerning Russian collusion. And even his most adored guests couldn’t avoid his scorn.

Somewhere along the way, it never occurred to MSNBC that maybe a call should have been placed to Barack Obama to help calm Matthews down. Maybe that would have helped.

 

 

It was clear that Matthews was having a hard time when this was how he started the show (click “expand”):

The investigation is over and according to a senior DOJ official there will be no further indictments. That means no charges against the President, his children or associates after all those meetings with the Russians. Not only that but the Special Counsel completely his report and signed off on it without ever directly interviewing the President of the United States about collusion or obstruction of justice. After two years of looking into President Trump, his campaign the Kremlin's unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, Special Counsel Mueller has delivered his findings to the Justice Department and today at 5:00 p.m., word came from the Justice Department that notified congress that the Russian probe is officially over, leaving the fate of Mueller’s report in the hands of Attorney General William Barr.

Ruh-roh. Things only got worse when he wondered to NBC News correspondent Ken Dilanian: “How can the President be pointed to as leading collusion with Russia, aiding a Russian conspiracy to interfere with our election if none of his henchman, none of his children, none of his associates have been indicted?”

Dilanian noted that the President couldn’t be indicted and while some of their actions concerning Russian interactions were “all very bad but it's not crimes.”

Having likely lost his fuse hours ago, Matthews offered a sarcastic reply about trying to build a collusion case for those like Mueller that “missed the boat” and decided that “all these dots...don’t connect.”

Dilanian admirably responded without snapping (click “expand”):

That's the conclusion in front of us, Chris. I mean, all that stuff was suggested. It didn't prove anything. In fact, the Trump Tower meeting, my reporting tells me, was a bust. They didn't actually hand over incriminating information. What it showed is that Don trump Jr. was willing to accept help. But we saw no evidence that they accepted help, you know, hacked emails or sort of analytical stuff from all that sort of stuff. It never panned out, Chris. 

Dilanian wasn’t out the woods yet as New York Times writer Michael Schmidt joined Matthews’s thunderdome (click “expand”):

[W]hy was there never an interrogation of this President? We were told by weeks by experts you cannot deal with an obstruction of justice charge or an instigation without getting to motive. You do not get the motive until you hear from the person himself who's being targeted, a subject of the investigation. How can let Trump off the hook? So far tonight — so far tonight we have no reason to believe Trump is going to be charged by rhetoric in the document itself, in the Mueller report, that he will not be charged with obstruction or of collusion without ever having to sit down with the Special Counsel Mueller and answer his damn questions. How can that happen? 

(....)

Michael Schmidt, you’re reporting on those two questions. Why no indictment of the people around the President for collusion if there is collusion if Mueller believes there was no collusion? And secondly, who no interview? Why no questioning of the President...His job is to go to the collusion question. That's why he got paid all these months. That’s why he had this huge team. They were to look into the collusion matter. He can't pass that off to someone else, can he? 

The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand was up next and, unlike the others, she was disappointed like Matthews was. Matthews wanted to know from her why Mueller would “dump this at 5:00, close of business on a Friday” because “[t]hat's when you dump stuff you're not proud of” to “sneak something through the media.”

“Where's the collusion report? Where’s the obstruction report? And how come you never interviewed the big guy ever,” he screeched.

“But you’re absolutely right. I mean, the fact that Mueller is not recommending further indictments here is a surprise. But at the same time, we don't know what the report says,” Bertrand in part responded.

MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler was last in the opening panel to go under the microscope and Matthews was still breathing fire (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Paul Butler who knows this stuff. Paul, you and I’ve talked. You’ve been instructing me on this about the nature of a possible RICO charge, the President overseeing a number of his henchman, his people, his kids all involved with the Russians. My question to you is how come nobody's been indicted and if not, because we’re told by a DOJ official on background there’s not going to be indictments in this report, how can we say the President was a ringleader of something that nobody did wrong with? 

(....)

MATTHEWS: How could the President be responsible for high crimes and misdemeanors if none of his people are responsible for breaking the law? 

BUTLER: So, the other part of the Justice Department policies is unless they're confident they could get a jury to convict, they don't bring charges. That's higher than the legal standard of probable cause. So, it may be that they think that there’s sufficient evidence to charge people with crimes, but if they don’t think they can get the conviction, they wouldn’t prosecute and that information and analysis would also be contained —

MATTHEWS: In a D.C. jury? Come on, Paul. A D.C. jury wouldn't convict in these sets of circumstances, with all this information about meetings with the Russians and what it would look like to an average, commonsense juror and you didn’t think they thought they could get a conviction? 

Later, when Matthews asked Schmidt if he could still “build a case....for collusion against the President,” Schmidt admitted that he wasn’t sure he could but “what you're forgetting about is the issue of obstruction.”

In the first of four interviews with House Democrats, Matthews told Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX) that he wanted his take on “this somewhat unsatisfactory bit of news being out tonight.” Considering how the previous 21 minutes of the show went, that’s putting it mildly.

By the 24-minute mark, Matthews was losing steam, using fewer words to describe his disappointment: “I am a bit unsettled by the fact that all this investigation has yielded so far no indictments about collusion.”

It’s safe to say that would have behooved anyone who came into contact with Matthews after the show to just avoid him. Because someone was in need of a safe space.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on March 22, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
March 22, 2019
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: The investigation is over and according to a senior DOJ official there will be no further indictments. That means no charges against the President, his children or associates after all those meetings with the Russians. Not only that but the Special Counsel completely his report and signed off on it without ever directly interviewing the President of the United States about collusion or obstruction of justice. After two years of looking into President Trump, his campaign the Kremlin's unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, Special Counsel Mueller has delivered his findings to the Justice Department and today at 5:00 p.m., word came from the Justice Department that notified congress that the Russian probe is officially over, leaving the fate of Mueller’s report in the hands of Attorney General William Barr.

(....)

7:02 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Ken, my biggest question and I'm going to have this along until somebody answers it. How can the President be pointed to as leading collusion with Russia, aiding a Russian conspiracy to interfere with our election if none of his henchman, none of his children, none of his associates have been indicted? At best, it was a RICO situation where he was giving orders to people to do stuff with the Russians. If none of them were indicted, how can he be blamed? I’m just questioning. That’s my big one.

KEN DILANIAN: Chris, I think the answer is he cannot be in a criminal sense. You're right to question that because we know that, under Justice Department doctrine, the President can't be indicted. So we can consider the possibility that Mueller is accusing him of impeachable offenses that would normally be crimes in this report. But the point you just raised argues against that. Trump can't conspire with himself. If he was conspiring with the Russians, he would have had to have some help, at least with Roger Stone. That was sort of the last leg of the triangle and when they didn't charge Stone with conspiracy, that told us something. It told us that they didn't have it. Now, I’m waiting to see what’s in this report. Will they accuse Trump of misjudgment, of negligence, of allowing himself and his campaign to be manipulated by a Russian covert operation. What happened after he was warned by the FBI? What steps did he take during his campaign? Did he open himself up to this? And that’s all very bad but it's not crimes, Chris. They have not charged anybody in the Trump campaign with collusion.

MATTHEWS: Well, let’s see. Maybe we can help here if you're a member of Congress or if you think he missed the boat. Because we know about the meeting in Trump Tower, June of 2016. We know about the meeting at the cigar bar with Kilimnik. We know — my God, we know about all those meetings with Kislyak at the republican Convention in Cleveland. All of these dots, we're now to believe, don't connect? 

DILANIAN: That's the conclusion in front of us, Chris. I mean, all that stuff was suggested. It didn't prove anything. In fact, the Trump Tower meeting, my reporting tells me, was a bust. They didn't actually hand over incriminating information. What it showed is that Don trump Jr. was willing to accept help. But we saw no evidence that they accepted help, you know, hacked emails or sort of analytical stuff from all that sort of stuff. It never panned out, Chris. 

MATTHEWS: Alright, second question, I got to stick with you, my colleague, why was there never an interrogation of this President? We were told by weeks by experts you cannot deal with an obstruction of justice charge or an instigation without getting to motive. You do not get the motive until you hear from the person himself who's being targeted, a subject of the investigation. How can let Trump off the hook? So far tonight — so far tonight we have no reason to believe Trump is going to be charged by rhetoric in the document itself, in the Mueller report, that he will not be charged with obstruction or of collusion without ever having to sit down with the Special Counsel Mueller and answer his damn questions. How can that happen? 

DILANIAN: That is a great question. The Special Counsel talked to Bill Clinton. The FBI interviewed Hillary Clinton but Donald Trump would not sit down with him. My only conclusion, Chris, is that the President transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and Mueller decided it wasn't worth the subpoena fight that would delay the investigation and his report for months to go down that road, knowing he would lose. You don’t have to testify against yourself and if at the end of the day president trump was just going to assert his Fifth Amendment rights and never sit down with Mueller, which if you’re his lawyers, that what you would advise him to do, then why delay the investigation for, you know, but you could argue, he should have done it anyway. Mueller should have sent the subpoena to stand on principal, to show he took that extra step. He chose not to do that. 

MATTHEWS: Michael Schmidt, you’re reporting on those two questions. Why no indictment of the people around the President for collusion if there is collusion if Mueller believes there was no collusion? And secondly, who no interview? Why no questioning of the president?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, in terms of the charges and stuff like that, there are a lot of parts of Mueller that have lived on and will live on in attorney's offices on the — in the Eastern Seaboard basically from New York to Washington, so there’s still things that are being investigated. I think you sort of have to look at Mueller and his report as a sort of midway point as these things go forward and I’m just not sure we’re at the end.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. I got to stop you there. His job is to go to the collusion question. That's why he got paid all these months. That’s why he had this huge team. They were to look into the collusion matter. He can't pass that off to someone else, can he? 

(....)

7:07 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Why dump this at 5:00, close of business on a Friday? That's when you dump stuff you're not proud of. That's when you sneak something through the media. 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Close of business Friday for something we've been waiting for for two years and they’ve been working apparently on this report — closing up this report for months now, maybe since August some of the writing. And now they drop it at 5:00 in the afternoon and we're left with a question mark. Where's the collusion report? Where’s the obstruction report? And how come you never interviewed the big guy ever? Your thoughts.

NATASHA BERTRAND: This is a pattern we've seen from the special counsel since the beginning, right. I mean, he's dropped indictments on Friday. So I wouldn't read too much into that aspect of it. But you’re absolutely right. I mean, the fact that Mueller is not recommending further indictments here is a surprise. But at the same time, we don't know what the report says. Now, he might have found evidence of behavior that was perhaps, you know, unseemly or behavior that was, you know, wrong, that was not — did not rise to the level of criminal activity. There's a lot of this that's nuanced and perhaps couched in the language of a counterintelligence investigation that cannot — that does not rise to the level of criminal activity.

(....)

7:09 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Paul Butler who knows this stuff. Paul, you and I’ve talked. You’ve been instructing me on this about the nature of a possible RICO charge, the President overseeing a number of his henchman, his people, his kids all involved with the Russians. My question to you is how come nobody's been indicted and if not, because we’re told by a DOJ official on background there’s not going to be indictments in this report, how can we say the President was a ringleader of something that nobody did wrong with? 

(....)

7:10 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: How could the President be responsible for high crimes and misdemeanors if none of his people are responsible for breaking the law? 

PAUL BUTLER: So, the other part of the Justice Department policies is unless they're confident they could get a jury to convict, they don't bring charges. That's higher than the legal standard of probable cause. So, it may be that they think that there’s sufficient evidence to charge people with crimes, but if they don’t think they can get the conviction, they wouldn’t prosecute and that information and analysis would also be contained —

MATTHEWS:  In a D.C. jury? Come on, Paul. A D.C. jury wouldn't convict in these sets of circumstances, with all this information about meetings with the Russians and what it would look like to an average, commonsense juror and you didn’t think they thought they could get a conviction? 

BUTLER: You know, for issues like obstruction of justice, is firing the Attorney General — yeah, as well as FBI director, does that count as obstruction of justice? Those are complicated questions and I think, in fact, be complicated questions for a jury. So, I think that Mueller probably could have got a D.C. jury to indict or to convict based on some of the evidence we already know. 

MATTHEWS: I was thinking more of the collusion stuff. 

(....)

7:13 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: How can you blame the President for being a ringleader — a RICO-type leader of the crime if none of his henchman are worth indicting and they were not indicted today and we’re told by the DOJ they will not be indicted? How can you build a case, in your own mind, that there’s still a case for collusion against the President? 

SCHMIDT: I’m not sure. You present some very logical reasons there why this may — that may not exist and a case like that may not exist. I think what you're forgetting about is the issue of obstruction.

MATTHEWS: I’m not forgetting about that. That’s another question. But go ahead.

SCHMIDT: They — look, while there's a lot of questions about Russia, there's many more about obstruction and about actions he took when he was in office. And if you look at the questions Mueller wanted to ask the President, there were far more about obstruction than anything else and he never answered those questions but Mueller continued to investigate that and that's where he spent a lot of time talking to current and former White House officials to understand the president's motivations as he tried to gain control of the inquiry and I think that's the other bucket here that, you know, sometimes people think, you know, forget about but where the president may have the most exposure.

(....)

7:16 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS [TO CONGRESSMAN JOAQUIN CASTRO]: I just want to know what you think of the political impact of this somewhat unsatisfactory bit of news being out tonight, which is nothing about collusion really except no indictments on collusion of the people around the president. Nothing really on obstruction of justice — justice. There’s not going to be any interview of the President by the Special Counsel.

(....)

7:24 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I am a bit unsettled by the fact that all this investigation has yielded so far no indictments about collusion. 

(....)

7:25 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: We know that his kid went to Trump Tower to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. That was not a passive action. 

DILANIAN: That’s right.

MATTHEWS: He wasn’t waiting for it to be put over his transom. He went to the meeting. 

DILANIAN:  That’s right.

MATTHEWS: We know that there was a meeting — we know that there’s meetings with — lots of them — with Kislyak. We know that the Russian — the Republic — I shouldn’t say that — the Republican platform for 2016 was changed according to the purposes of the Russian government. We know all of this. 

DILANIAN: Right, so what we can conclude from the absence of any criminal charges related to that is it didn't rise to the level of criminal conspiracy but we can't conclude that the Trump campaign was blameless. 

MATTHEWS: So if somebody was paid off for whatever form of payment — whatever currency to change the Republican platform on Ukraine, that wouldn't be a crime? 

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