Matthews, Guests Go BALLISTIC Over Barr’s ‘Skullduggery’ Having ‘Lied’ About Mueller

At the 7:13 p.m. Eastern mark of Tuesday’s Hardball, MSNBC host Chris Matthews sent his show into rolling coverage for the rest of the hour (and thus making the entire show commercial-free) over stories in The New York Times and Washington Post about Special Counsel Robert Mueller having expressed concerns to AG Bill Barr about his March 24 letter on the Trump-Russia probe’s principal conclusions.

Naturally, Matthews and friends ignored a key line in The Post story about Mueller having no issues with the accuracy of Barr’s letter, but that didn’t stop the MSNBC crazy train. Instead, they smeared Barr for engaging in “skullduggery” that “[b]amboozled” Americans and “covered up” the truth about Trump-Russia collusion and the need for Trump’s impeachment.

 

 

Matthews blurted out “wow” upon reading the lede from The Post, adding that Barr “made no effort to translate” the report but “suppressed” it and “distorted the reality of the situation.” Speaking moments later to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell, he asserted that Barr’s behavior wasn’t “great American democracy in action.”

The MSNBC pundit initially shied away from saying Barr lied, but by the time the bottom of the hour came, he had changed his tune because “it seems like [a lie]” to which NBCNews.com’s Heidi Przybyla admitted:

When are we finally got the report, Chris, everyone — or all of the Democrats in Congress said this reads like an impeachment referral, like this was supposed to be a determination that would be made by Congress. That was language that was actually in the report.

Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher was rather blunt when it came to how the public thinks differently than they should (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: How much do you think the PR — the way they handled this with a four-page report covering up the fact that they — saying they didn't indict because they didn't think it was worth indicting when, in fact, they didn’t indict because you’re not supposed to....What was the impact of the landing of this report?

BELCHER: Bamboozled. They won because now — cause he — he put it out there and they got week after week of press that the President needed and wanted and guess what? Republicans rallied around him. It's — it’s gone, right? It’s — it’s corrupt, but Chris, they won the Mueller report battle. They have thus far. Now, what Congress does is another question. But public opinion right now, we have seen poll after poll, it means nothing.

Legal analyst Cynthia Alksne made an appearance and was teed up by Matthews fretting that “[t]he whole thing was covered up” and how he’s “stunned” that he “was misled” by the Barr letter, falsely claiming the Barr letter completely exonerated Trump.

Alksne finally got her chance (click “expand”):

ALKSNE: The attorney general of the United States, the most important law enforcement officer in the history of the world has lied to the American people and we just have to face that. That is exactly what happened. He has to be called into account for it and we need to get Mueller up there to explain what he did and why he did it and you are correct. When you read the Mueller report, the reason why he did not press any charges is because the Justice Department guidelines forbid him to do it and he is not a guy who breaks the rules.

(....)

MATTHEWS: It seemed to me Mueller, until he says otherwise, was preparing a report for use by the Congress for an impeachment hearing — impeachment proceedings. Here it is.

ALKSNE: It’s clear reading it that's exactly what he was doing and if his name was not President Trump, he would be indicted today. 

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

ALKSNE: When any normal prosecutor reads that memo, that is an indictment memo.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg and faux Republican Elise Jordan brought up the rear in terms of the guest list and, as expected, those two came locked and loaded. Matthews complained to Goldberg that Barr “disfigured” and “lied” about the Mueller report and Goldberg responded by repeatedly referring to Bill Barr as former GOP Congressman Bob Barr.

On the substance, here’s part of her hot take: “[I]t’s always been obvious that Bob Barr’s [sic] four-page memo....completely mischaracterized the Mueller report if you sat down and read the 400-plus-pages of the Mueller, but obviously, most people don't have time to do that[.]”

As for Jordan, she ruled that this disagreement (which is being completely overblown) was “a very disturbing episode for American democracy.” Maybe how this investigation started, but not this, Elise.

 

 

After Matthews and Goldberg complained about how Barr’s letter quieted down the impeachment talk and it was a coordinated PR campaign, the two echoed comments from earlier by Mother Jones’s David Corn about there still having been collusion with Matthews blasting Barr’s “skullduggery” (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: [A] lot of the obstruction led to us not getting the facts about the coordination and the collusion, if you will and the continuing of the Russian conspiracy by American agents, i.e. Trump people. So all along it's a dynamic and they have been covering their trail so successfully that they're still potentially going to get re-elected, this crowd. 

GOLDBERG: You know and I think another thing that would have been the headline had the report just dropped on its own was...there was a substantial amount of the report that was just about the various connections that the Trump administration or that members of the Trump campaign had with Russians. Not even about Trump's financial entanglements but just about all of these strange meetings, including the meeting in the Seychelles that Eric Prince lied to Congress about and has now been referred to the Justice — there's a criminal referral to the justice department. So, that in itself, it documents a huge amount of not apparently criminal conspiracy but a huge amount of cooperation, collusion. I also think it's significant that, you know, the report itself says we did not look at this through the lens of collusion. Collusion isn't, you know, a term in criminal law. We looked at it through the lens of criminal conspiracy because if you just read the plain language of the report, it’s — you can only describe what — you can only describe all these meetings as collusion, but because they buried it and allowed Bill Barr to go up there and say over and over again no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, again, when the report shows the opposite. 

Jordan received the last word and used it to promise that “this is not going to go away and they had a PR coup at the onset by seizing the four-page summary, and they really — I think they really have messed themselves up here.”

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on April 30, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
April 30, 2019
7:13 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: The Washington Post is breaking a major story as we speak. Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Attorney William Barr that the depiction of his findings failed to capture context, nature and substance of his probe. Expressed his concerns in a letter to William Barr after the attorney general publicized Mueller’s principal conclusions. Wow. [BELCHER LAUGHS] That's what many of us thought that the guy did not — did not translate well. He made no effort to translate. He suppressed the Mueller report.

(....)

7:17 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: One of the things that Mueller said that distorted the reality of the situation was to say that the issue of whether a President can be indicted while serving as president, he said that did not guide Mueller. It turns out it did guide Mueller.

CONGRESSWOMAN JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Of course it did.

MATTHEWS: Mueller did not indict because that was Justice Department guidelines from the Office of Legal counsel. He followed those guidelines, that's why he didn't indict the President on the obstruction of justice. At least that was a central reason why he did not do it. Mueller said that was not guiding him. He — he let the president off the hook because the president was exonerated. I mean, that was a hell of a distortion, congresswoman.

(....)

7:21 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS [TO ERIC SWALWELL]: And here's the question for the American people. Why didn’t we get the Mueller report clear? Why didn't we just get it? Why was it held up for four weeks while it was marinating in the hands of a political appointee of the President? Why were we given it in a way that was spun not only 48 hours afterwards, but a few hours before it was actually released, spun like a movie preview, spun so you would see it a certain way? That's not great American democracy in action. 

(....)

7:23 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: You know what? Clearly, the Mueller report if you had gotten it cold without going through the distillation process and marination process of Mr. Barr and Rosenstein, you would have gotten a report that said the President’s guilty of obstruction of justice. All kinds of — ten instances listed. You would said, “my God, the guy is in big trouble.” But because it was slowed down and worked down and we were prepared for it step by step in a way that it had a soft landing, nobody knew what the hell it said. 

(....)

7:32 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: And I hate to call it a lie, but it seems like one. When we first got the four-page letter from AG Barr, from the attorney general, it said that Mueller did not use the Justice Department guidelines in deciding not to indict. In other words, he didn’t indict him on the merits because he wasn’t guilty. It turns out that Mueller did file those guidelines. He did not indict the President because under the guidelines, you’re not supposed to indict him. That is essential distortion of Mueller went through.. 

HEIDI PRZYBYLA: When are we finally got the report, Chris, everyone — or all of the Democrats in Congress said this reads like an impeachment referral, like this was supposed to be a determination that would be made by Congress. That was language that was actually in the report.

(....)

7:33 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Cornell, you’re an expert on public opinion. How much do you think the PR — the way they handled this with a four-page report covering up the fact that they — saying they didn't indict because they didn't think it was worth indicting when, in fact, they didn’t indict because you’re not supposed to. They were deferring to Congress as Heidi you put it and the fact that they covered up all the elements, the 10 elements of examples, illustrations of obstruction of justice. All that covered up. What was the impact of the landing of this report?

CORNELL BELCHER: Bamboozled. They won because now — cause he — he put it out there and they got week after week of press that the President needed and wanted and guess what? Republicans rallied around him. It's — it’s gone, right? It’s — it’s corrupt, but Chris, they won the Mueller report battle. They have thus far. Now, what Congress does is another question. But public opinion right now, we have seen poll after poll, it means nothing.

(....)

7:35 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I watched this game. We watched the way they did it. Justice delayed is justice denied. They spent four weeks covering up this baby. Isn’t it possible that the president's lawyers will fight these — 

CONGRESSMAN JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): That’s one ugly baby, by the way.

MATTHEWS: — huh —

GOMEZ: One ugly baby, though.

MATTHEWS: — and he will fight these subpoenas for the records. He will fight these subpoenas for documents. He will fight them all the way until Christmas. He will then have you guys have to the deliberations — no, you’ll get the witnesses finally. You’ll finally get the witnesses. Then, you’re going to deliberate about whether to begin impeachment. Then you have — he can run out the clock. 

(....)

7:36 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: I just have to ask you. You’re learning this the way we’re learning it. Flash news.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE: Right.

MATTHEWS: The whole thing was covered up. 

(....)

7:36 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to the point I’m going to hit on for the next few minutes because I'm stunned by because I was misled it. When I first heard Mueller's four-page report, when he came on and said this was what was in the Mueller report, he said basically they didn't indict the President because he wasn’t guilty. They were exonerating, basically, when in fact, they came out that Mueller was simply following Justice Department guidelines. You don't indict a sitting president. That's a fundamental difference in reality from what we got as a lie. 

ALKSNE: That's exactly right. 

MATTHWES: — from Mueller.

ALKSNE: The attorney general of the United States —

MATTHEWS: We got the truth from Mueller and a lie from Barr. Yeah, go ahead.

ALKSNE: — that's right. The attorney general of the United States, the most important law enforcement officer in the history of the world has lied to the American people and we just have to face that. That is exactly what happened. He has to be called into account for it and we need to get Mueller up there to explain what he did and why he did it and you are correct. When you read the Mueller report, the reason why he did not press any charges is because the Justice Department guidelines forbid him to do it and he is not a guy who breaks the rules. He is fundamentally a Marine and he follows the rules and that's what he did here. And Barr took advantage of that. I hope it's not too late for the American people to actually learn and absorb what actually happened, but it may very well be. We just won’t know. But we do need to get Mueller up there very quickly to Congress to explain what he did. 

MATTHEWS: It seemed to me Mueller, until he says otherwise, was preparing a report for use by the Congress for an impeachment hearing — impeachment proceedings. Here it is.

ALKSNE: It’s clear reading it that's exactly what he was doing and if his name was not President Trump, he would be indicted today. 

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

ALKSNE: When any normal prosecutor reads that memo, that is an indictment memo. That’s what it is and the only reason why it's not is the Justice Department guideline and Bob Mueller followed the rules. 

MATTHEWS: Robert, we are having a Perry Mason moment here to use an old reference, which is something is happening in the courtroom of public opinion that we didn't know. We now know thanks to your paper's reporting that Robert Mueller was not happy. He was dissatisfied with the report made by the attorney general 48 hours after getting his report where in the attorney general made very erroneous statements about that report in terms of, as your paper reports, “context, nature and substance,” which is the whole ballgame and most importantly, lied about the fact that the special counsel didn't indict the President because you’re not supposed to, not because he was innocent. 

(....)

7:44 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Well, thank god for a free press, once again. 

(....)

7:44 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: This is big stuff. I mean, across the front page of The Times and The Post tomorrow and all the other major quality papers. The fact that Mueller was basically betrayed by Barr in a way that a lot of us thought he might have been, but to come out and find out that the “context,” the “nature,” the “substance” of the two-year Mueller report and was disfigured in its presentation and the fact that they lied and that's a good word for it about the fact that they didn't indict the President because of the — because of the Justice Department rules and not because he was innocent. It’s astounding how that was betrayed — misinterpreted. Your thoughts? 

MICHELLE GOLDBERG: Well, I think, in some ways, it's always been obvious that Bob Barr’s [sic] four-page memo, the summary that he later said was not a summary, completely mischaracterized the Mueller report if you sat down and read the 400-plus-pages of the Mueller, but obviously, most people don't have time to do that and so what I think is important about Mueller's rebuke of Bob Barr [sic] is both that sort of he misunderstood how the gap between what he had produced and what Barr was telling the public and he really pointed out that the point, one of the main points of this investigation was to give some sort of kind of public narrative that everybody could trust about what happened, right? To give a resolution to all the confusion and doubts about the 2016 election and Trump's behavior in it and after it. And Bob Barr [sic], you know, that closure was so necessary for the country and Bob Barr [sic] basically blew it up by going out there and misrepresenting the contents of the report in a way that allowed Republicans to pretend it said something that was completely contrary to what it actually said and you know, it still allows them to go around saying no collusion. You know, in his quest to protect the President, he basically — he made it almost impossible for the report to do what it was supposed to do, which was to give the country some clarity and some closure. 

(....)

7:48 p.m. Eastern

ELISE JORDAN: Well and you have an institutionalist playing by the rules when no one else he is up against is following those rules and so, what is the service to the American public if your job is to tell the truth, to get at the truth, and then through the institution, the truth is distorted? This is a very disturbing episode for American democracy. 

(....)

7:48 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Time — time works to the defense of a lot of people because people's shock wears off and especially when there’s this marination process, which was so purposeful. Four weeks? Are we believing it took four weeks to redact the grand jury testimony and some names? They could have done that over a weekend. Come on. They held that to marinate it, to wear down the public’s interest. Michelle, what do you think? I think they knew it. These guys — whoever did the PR on this thing knew what they were doing. I mean —

GOLDBERG: Right. I mean, I think that if the report had just came out and we all had access to it at the same time, the headlines would have been 10 episodes of obstruction of justice, right? And it would have been obvious that it was a road map for impeachment that Mueller was abiding by the Department of Justice rule that a sitting president can't be indicted and so — but there is serious evidence that he has committed crimes or indictable offenses and he’s laid it all out for us and it would have, I think, forced both a serious conversation about impeachment and maybe the start of an impeachment process. Instead, he was able to muddy the waters so the question of whether or not Trump had — whether or not the report showed evidence of obstruction of justice became kind of confused and subject to partisan misinformation.

(....)

7:52 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: David, you spent years working on this. You wrote a great book about the — called Russian Roulette about this and all this stuff about playing footsie with the Russians, which is also illustrated rather well in the report, even if there wasn't actual criminality proven. There was all kinds of examples of them playing ball with the Russians, taking advantage of Russian help in the '16 election to defeat Hillary Clinton. All kinds of meetings, all kinds of stuff that would normally defeat any Democratic candidate for president, I can tell you, just from having experienced life in this country, Democrats would get blamed much worse and my question is, historically, this Mueller thing has been deflated in its political impact because of skullduggery by an attorney general. This is worse than John Mitchell’s stuff. 

DAVID CORN: Well, I heard other guests earlier tonight and I think we're not done on that. The Mueller report came out [CALL CUTS OUT] before Barr tried to do his little math trick and say there was no collusion so all the issues you just raised about attractions between Trump people and Russians and more importantly, trump trying to benefit from the Russian attacks and equally important denying the attack while it was happening so as to exploit it and basically being in read with Putin in terms of the disinformation campaign, but, you know, that stuff didn't get into the headlines because of Barr, but I think we're only in the third inning and I hate sports metaphors in politics because if they —

MATTHEWS: David, we got a problem. David, you sound like you're on a tug boat somewhere. We're going to have to come back to our onshore witnesses.

(....)

7:56 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: It seems to me this is part of a saga which began way back with the Russian connections and then as, you know, as Heidi pointed out brilliantly, I hadn't thought of this, a lot of the obstruction led to us not getting the facts about the coordination and the collusion, if you will and the continuing of the Russian conspiracy by American agents, i.e. Trump people. So all along it's a dynamic and they have been covering their trail so successfully that they're still potentially going to get re-elected, this crowd. 

GOLDBERG: You know and I think another thing that would have been the headline had the report just dropped on its own was there was, I believe, over a hundred pages — I could be wrong, but there was a substantial amount of the report that was just about the various connections that the Trump administration or that members of the Trump campaign had with Russians. Not even about Trump's financial entanglements but just about all of these strange meetings, including the meeting in the Seychelles that Eric Prince lied to Congress about and has now been referred to the Justice — there's a criminal referral to the justice department. So, that in itself, it documents a huge amount of not apparently criminal conspiracy but a huge amount of cooperation, collusion. I also think it's significant that, you know, the report itself says we did not look at this through the lens of collusion. Collusion isn't, you know, a term in criminal law. We looked at it through the lens of criminal conspiracy because if you just read the plain language of the report, it’s — you can only describe what — you can only describe all these meetings as collusion, but because they buried it and allowed Bill Barr to go up there and say over and over again no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, again, when the report shows the opposite. 

MATTHEWS: Elise? Let me ask you a question, which is a really nasty question, but I don't mind asking a colleague like you. Who do you think of as a likely Republican who might come along? Is it Mitt Romney in the Senate from Utah? Someone to come up and say, you know what, this cover-up has got to stop. 

JORDAN: I think Mitt Romney, I would certainly put him at the top of my list in terms of hoping to see justice served and hoping to see our institutions protected and not abused for political purposes. I think I still am just astonished that this letter leaked after two years of Robert Mueller's investigation being so tightly sealed and it just gives you a sense of how great the anger at what Mueller feels is a misrepresentation, that this finally leaked. And also, reading the story and the defensiveness of the Department of Justice sources quoted, this is not going to go away and they had a PR coup at the onset by seizing the four-page summary, and they really — I think they really have messed themselves up here. 

NB Daily Mueller Report Push to Impeach Trump Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe MSNBC Hardball New York Times Washington Post Elise Jordan Robert Mueller Chris Matthews Heidi Przybyla Michelle Goldberg David Corn Donald Trump Bill Barr
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