Matthews Wonders ‘Second Term or Prison Term’ for Trump as Lefty Guests Panic

Continuing MSNBC’s theme on Wednesday of panic regarding the Robert Mueller hearings, Hardball featured a number of panelists melting down at the possibility that President Trump won’t be impeached, removed from office, and/or be criminally charged. But it was host Chris Matthews who tried to keep up the fight with this opening tag of “second term or prison term.”

 

 

Matthews expanded on that after the opening credits (click “expand”):

That's the message from today's testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller. A second term for term or a prison term for Trump? Trump was not exonerated in the investigation by Mueller and stands vulnerable to indictment the second he leaves office. In a dramatic double feature today, Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, laying bare the evidence his prosecutors uncovered in their two-year investigation and despite his reluctance to testify, Mueller offered a stark, often emphatic summary of his findings. He pierced a gaping hole in the President's most misleading defense, Trump's false claim that the Mueller report exonerated him. 

That optimism was extinguished by legal analyst Cynthia Alksne, who complained minutes later that she was “frustrated” by the “halting” Mueller “refus[ing] really to even answer a question” unless it was “a leading question,” making for hearings that weren’t “compelling because it was upside down and backwards.”

“He didn't defend the report with the kind of gusto I expected him to, so while the information got out, it was information we all knew. And I hate to be the contrarian on the network, but I — I did not think it went well. And — and I was unimpressed with the manner in which it was organized,” she added.

Fellow legal analyst Paul Butler tried to steady the ship (click “expand”):

So, Mueller directly proved that Trump's claim of no obstruction is a lie. He presented compelling evidence that all of the predicates, all of the legal requirements for obstruction were proven.....So I agree with you, Cynthia. The problem isn't so much what Trump said but how he said — what Mueller said but how he said it. Mueller is lawyerly and reserved where Trump and Barr are aggressive and in your face and the stakes here are very high. This is the most important investigation of a president in American history. Trump and Barr lie about it and their lies seem to be effective. What Mueller needed to do was say plainly and directly that the President is guilty of multiple felonies that the only reason that he's not charged with a crime now is because of that DOJ policy, but the constitutional remedy is impeachment.

Undeterred, Alksne continued by lamenting that she “didn’t learn anything new” and that Democrats “always have something to kick the can down the road” on not impeaching Trump, predicting that the next move would insist they can’t move unless Don McGahn testifies. 

While at one point clapping her hands, she pleaded: “They have to make the decision. Are they going to impeach him or are they not going to impeach him. If they're going to impeach him, get going. If they're not going to impeach him, let's take the business of the country.”

Along the way, there was some serious irony as former Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes repeatedly complained that “[t]he Trump campaign welcomed this attack from a foreign adversary, sought to benefit from it, built a campaign strategy around it, and here we are and here we are facing an ongoing threat to our democracy from the Russians.” 

He also stated that the Russians haven’t faced consequences for their election interference, so who was in office when this all happened? Ohhh, that’s right.

Rhodes pushed for impeachment, which led Matthews briefly address viewers directly, implore them to “write your congressman” to help nudge more to back impeachment. 

 

 

Alas, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Alksne, who offered even more during the second segment that she appeared (including falsely talking up the now-closed hush-money case) (click “expand”):

[Mueller] is not a theater guy. We all knew that. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. “I'm going to stick to the report.” And by the way, everybody who knows him knows he doesn't do theater. He has this armor of ethics around him. That's why he is a prosecutor's prosecutor. He was never going to do what the House wanted him to do. He was never going to do that. He was just going to — and he absorbed the criticism from the Republicans. Neither side got what they wanted. But let me just be the depressing person at the table. Trump is getting away with it. That is what is happening. We are not — he — they are not going to impeach him.

(....)

I don't think he’s going to get impeached. I don’t think — he might get indicted later....[I]t's not just this case. It's the campaign finance case too. That case is going down the road. The guy paid somebody off in order to get elected and what are we doing? We're, like, sitting on our thumbs, fiddling. I don't know what's going on here and how are you ever going to have a campaign finance law when you know the President of the United States can pay somebody off and nothing happens?

(....)

I don't even care if we have to wait until the ballot box. Make a decision, either impeach him and do it and skip your stupid recess, or don't impeach him and deal with — with the country instead of this constantly kicking down the road “oh, we're going do this, we're going to do that, and we’re going to decide.” Enough about — there is enough evidence. We’ve all read the report 100 times. The evidence is there. Make a decision. That's your job....It's not his job to do that. It's their job to decide.

During the back half of the show, PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor took a page from Matthews, noting that 2020 could have high stakes since, if Trump can be indicted after leaving office, “the President isn't just fighting for getting reelected, he’s fighting possibly for his freedom because if he doesn't get reelected and is not president, he could be taken to jail or indicted.”

And commenting on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasting this seemingly never-ending probe, Matthews and The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff blasted him as a “toy” spinning for Trump (click “expand”):

MATTHEWS: Betsy, they just — they're toys. They do what they're told. 

WOODRUFF: And it's not hard to understand that you can commit obstruction of justice without committing the crime that is at issue. This is — I mean, this is kind of what you learn on your first year of law school. This isn't complicated. For Kevin McCarthy to make a statement like that, for him to say “well, how can there be obstruction?” There’s a really easy answer to that. And, at this point, you know, he’s the top Republican in Congress. He can't plead ignorance on this situation. This is just willfully suggesting that the law doesn't work when we all know it works. 

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on July 24, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
July 24, 2019
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Second term or prison term? Let’s play hardball. [HARDBALL OPENING CREDITS] Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. That's the message from today's testimony by special counsel Robert Mueller. A second term for term or a prison term for Trump? Trump was not exonerated in the investigation by Mueller and stands vulnerable to indictment the second he leaves office. In a dramatic double feature today, Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, laying bare the evidence his prosecutors uncovered in their two-year investigation and despite his reluctance to testify, Mueller offered a stark, often emphatic summary of his findings. He pierced a gaping hole in the President's most misleading defense, Trump's false claim that the Mueller report exonerated him. 

[HEARING CLIP]

MATTHEWS: Far from exonerating the President, Mueller confirmed for millions of Americans today that Trump and his associates embraced Russian interference with open arms and then lied about it. 

[HEARING CLIP]

MATTHEWS: Throughout his sworn testimony today, the special counsel detailed how Trump and others misled prosecutors and covered their tracks throughout the investigation. He reprimanded the President for encouraging a hostile intelligence service, WikiLeaks, to distribute Hillary Clinton campaign e-mails, and he explained how the President used the power of his office to attempt to end the investigation itself. When a Republican congressman questioned Mueller's findings on obstruction, the former special counsel made clear that the President can be indicted, indicted for criminal action after he's left office. 

[HEARING CLIP] 

MATTHEWS: Didn't explain that one — anyway, he didn’t expect it. Anyway, Mueller's point appeared to bolster Speaker Nancy Pelosi's private words to her caucus in June when she said, “I don't want to see Trump impeached. I want to see him in prison.” Well, after House Democrats held an impromptu caucus meeting following the hearing today, Elijah Cummings of Maryland made an impassioned plea to all Americans about the importance of this moment, today's testimony in history. 

CONGRESSMAN ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): It's not about not liking the President. It's about loving democracy. It's about loving our country. It's about making a difference for generations yet unborn. That's what this is all about and I'm begging — I'm begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on. 

(....)

7:09 p.m. Eastern

CYNTHIA ALKSNE: He refused really to even answer a question. All he would do is take a leading question, but he wouldn't actually say what happened. I thought that was frustrating. He wouldn't read from the report. I thought that was frustrating and then I also thought the presentation, you know, as nice as the clips are that you have put together, your staff has put together, when you watch the whole thing, it wasn't compelling, because it was upside down and backwards. It started with the obstruction. It moved to after that to the actual crime. That didn't make any sense. He was very halting. He didn't defend the report with the kind of gusto I expected him to, so while the information got out, it was information we all knew. 

MATTHEWS: Yes. 

ALKSNE: And I hate to be the contrarian on the network, but I — I did not think it went well.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

ALKSNE: And — and I was unimpressed with the manner in which it was organized.

MATTHEWS: Well, a lot of this is the man's age and all kinds of factors. We'll be examining that. I thought although he didn't have racing stripes on, he did deliver the goods, point by point. Your thoughts, Paul. 

PAUL BUTLER: So, Mueller directly proved that Trump's claim of no obstruction is a lie. He presented compelling evidence that all of the predicates, all of the legal requirements for obstruction were proven. His was an official investigation that the President tried to impede with a corrupt intent and so Mueller proved that by looking at how Trump tried to fire Mueller and then tried to get the White House counsel to lie and cover up about how Trump tried to get Sessions to recuse himself about how Trump impeded witnesses by dangling those pardons and threatening Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. So I agree with you, Cynthia. The problem isn't so much what Trump said but how he said — what Mueller said but how he said it. Mueller is lawyerly and reserved where Trump and Barr are aggressive and in your face and the stakes here are very high. This is the most important investigation of a president in American history. Trump and Barr lie about it and their lies seem to be effective. What Mueller needed to do was say plainly and directly that the President is guilty of multiple felonies that the only reason that he's not charged with a crime now is because of that DOJ policy, but the constitutional remedy is impeachment.

(....)

7:14 p.m. Eastern

ALKSNE: Here is my problem with the I didn't learn anything knew. I knew he could be prosecuted there isn't any question to me that he committed the obstruction and that they played cozy with the Russians, welcomed their help and now they’ve lied to cover it up. The question is what are the Democrats going to do about it? Every time we approach anything, they have a new solution. “Oh, you know, Julian Assange is coming. Maybe he’ll talk. Manafort will talk. Stone is going to flip for sure.” They always have something to kick the can down the road and now you can already hear them at this next — at this last press conference, “we're just going get Don McGahn.” I got news for you. Don McGahn is going to fight the subpoena constantly. They have to make the decision are, they going to impeach him or are they not going to impeach him. If they're going to impeach him, get going. If they're not going to impeach him, let's take the business of the country. 

(....)

7:20 p.m. Eastern

BEN RHODES: The Trump campaign welcomed this attack from a foreign adversary, sought to benefit from it, built a campaign strategy around it, and here we are and here we are facing an ongoing threat to our democracy from the Russians and Cynthia is exactly right. You know, Mueller can't directly direct Congress to impeach the President but he’s basically punted it into their lap, “Here's what I found. What are you going to do about it?” And let's be clear, Chris. If this isn’t an impeachable offense, at least if this doesn't at least merit an impeachment inquiry, what does? We’ve got multiple crimes.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that. 

RHODES: We’ve got an attack on our democracy from a foreign adversary. A foreign adversary that's going to do it again and if the people who did this pay no price for it, if there is no accountability, why wouldn't they do it again, and why wouldn't other people do it after them? That's why this is such a big crisis for our country. 

(....)

7:22 p.m. Eastern

ALKSNE: He is not a theater guy. We all knew that. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. “I'm going to stick to the report.” And by the way, everybody who knows him knows he doesn't do theater. He has this armor of ethics around him. That's why he is a prosecutor's prosecutor. He was never going to do what the House wanted him to do. He was never going to do that. He was just going to — and he absorbed the criticism from the Republicans. Neither side got what they wanted. But let me just be the depressing person at the table. Trump is getting away with it. That is what is happening. We are not — he — they are not going to impeach him.

(....)

7:23 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, you say he is going to beat the judge here. He’s not going to get impeached? He’s not going to get indicted?

ALKSNE: I don't think he’s going to get impeached. I don’t think — he might get indicted later. 

MATTHEWS: You think he might really? Suppose he gets to second term? 

ALKSNE: Well, here’s — then we have a statute of limitations problem. But it's not just this case. It's the campaign finance case too. That case is going down the road. The guy paid somebody off in order to get elected and what are we doing? We're, like, sitting on our thumbs, fiddling. I don't know what's going on here and how are you ever going to have a campaign finance law when you know the President of the United States can pay somebody off and nothing happens?

MATTHEWS: Ben, is he going to get away with it?

RHODES: Well, I mean —

MATTHEWS: Everything Mueller brought was pulled out of his hands, but we got the truth from the day. All of the dealing, the collusion, all the obstruction, all that came forward finally today. Had to pull it out of his teeth, but it came out. Is that going to put this guy away or is he going to stay as President, maybe get reelected without any prosecution? 

RHODES: That's not going to put him away, right? And you're only going to defeat him at the ballot box, and that's when we'll see if he gets away with it. But if I were the Democrats, I would be playing much more hardball, an impeachment inquiry. You can call all kinds of witnesses. You can call witnesses on what Russia did on their tactics. You can call witness —

MATTHEWS: Congress is not going to do it. I heard it again late today. She is not going to do it.

RHODES: I think that we have to expose the fundamental corruption and unpatriotic nature of this administration. Somebody has to prosecute that case, if not the House Democrats, the Democratic nominee. 

MATTHEWS: Okay.

RHODES: Just as they're making the case on bread and butter issues, they have to go right at this level of corruption. I can tell you.

MATTHEWS: Okay, write your congressman; I'm dead serious. 

RHODES: This matters. 

MATTHEWS: First Amendment, Let's take a moment here. If you think there ought to be an impeachment proceedings, write your Democratic congressman, the Republican ain't going to do it. Write them. Find out what their address is. Write ‘em. It’s up on Capitol Hill. U.S. House of Representatives, they have name of the person and make your case, because thing is a lot of people that would like to see something happen here, but it's clear the leadership of the House is not going do it. Am I right? 

(....)

7:25 p.m. Eastern

ALKSNE: I'm at the point where I don't even care. I don't even care if we have to wait until the ballot box. Make a decision, either impeach him and do it and skip your stupid recess, or don't impeach him and deal with — with the country instead of this constantly kicking down the road “oh, we're going do this, we're going to do that, and we’re going to decide.” Enough about — there is enough evidence. We’ve all read the report 100 times. The evidence is there. Make a decision. That's your job. 

MATTHEWS: I agree. I thought those four committee chairs looked like they were losing locker room. I'm afraid, because I think the guy did make the points today but didn't do it emphatically enough and this —

ALKSNE: It's not his job to do that. It's their job to decide. Let’s keep the focus where it belongs.

(....)

7:43 p.m. Eastern

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And obviously that was in some ways such a telling moment because it was a Republican trying to go in, and he asked the question multiple times, and Mueller multiple times said yes, he can definitely be indicted when he leaves office and that, of course, raises the stakes for 2020, because the President isn't just fighting for getting reelected, he’s fighting possibly for his freedom because if he doesn't get reelected and is not president, he could be taken to jail or indicted.

MATTHEWS: You know what the cold open to the show was? Were you here for that? Second term or prison term. So I was anticipating your genius.

(....)

7:46 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS [ON KEVIN MCCARTHY CLIP]: Betsy, they just — they're toys. They do what they're told. 

BETSY WOODRUFF: And it's not hard to understand that you can commit obstruction of justice without committing the crime that is at issue. This is — I mean, this is kind of what you learn on your first year of law school. This isn't complicated. For Kevin McCarthy to make a statement like that, for him to say “well, how can there be obstruction?” There’s a really easy answer to that. And, at this point, you know, he’s the top Republican in Congress. He can't plead ignorance on this situation. This is just willfully suggesting that the law doesn't work when we all know it works. 

MATTHEWS: That's what they say after a drink on the commuter train, that any traveling business guy commuter will say that kind of, “well, you know, Herb, you know, you can't really be accused of obstruction if you didn't do the initial crime.” Well, that's not true. 

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