FBI Deputy director McCabe stepping down Transcript 1/29/18 Hardball with Chris Matthews
Date: January 29, 2018
Guest: Charlie Dent
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: That is our show. A very busy night.
And I will be watching “Hardball” along with you, which starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Impeachable. Let`s play “Hardball.”
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
Like an old polaroid snapshot, the case for obstruction of justice against
President Trump continues to come into focus. Here is what we have
learned. That President Trump did ask former FBI director James Comey for
a loyalty pledge that he asked the FBI director to drop his investigation
of Michael Flynn. That he told the FBI director he wanted the cloud of the
Russian investigation to be lifted. And he ultimately fired Comey, telling
the Kremlin`s foreign minister that doing so had taken off the pressure of
the Russia investigation.
Not only that, the President also concealed the truth about his son`s
meeting with Russians in a misleading statement. And he ordered the firing
of special counsel Robert Mueller, but was rebuffed.
Based on this series of events, “New York times” columnist David Leonhardt
writes the President has in fact obstructed justice. The question that
faces us now, he writes, can a President use the power of his office to
hold himself above the law?
Well, as the evidence mounts, we have seen Trump and his defenders step up
their efforts to discredit the FBI, to hamstring the justice department and
ultimately end the Mueller probe itself. It`s against that backdrop that
the Republican-led House intelligence committee voted late today to release
a secret memo drafted by the President`s chief defender chairman Devin
According to “the Washington Post,” the memo calls into question actions
taken by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, the only person who has
ultimate authority over the special counsel`s probe. Moreover quote “the
President has told close advisers that the memo could provide him, the
President, with grounds for either firing or forcing Rosenstein to leave,
according to one person familiar with his remarks.
Well, flanked by his Democratic colleagues, intelligence committee ranking
member Adam Schiff weighed in on the development late today. And he also
revealed that Republicans on the committee have opened up an investigation
into the FBI and the department of justice itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today
this question voted to put the President`s personal interest, perhaps their
own personal interests above the national interests. It does show how in
my view when you have a deeply flawed person in the oval office, that flaw
can infect the whole of government. And it today tragically it infected
I should also mention that it was disclosed to the minority today for the
first time that the majority has evidently opened an investigation of the
FBI and an investigation of the department of justice. Under our committee
rules, of course, that has to be the product of consultation with minority.
But we learned about that for the first time here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this also comes after deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe
today resigned, two months ahead of his retirement date in March.
According to “The New York Times,” McCabe told friends that he felt
pressure from the head of the bureau, Christopher Wray, to leave, according
to two people close to Mr. McCabe. This comes after Axios reported last
week that attorney general Sessions at the public urging of President
Donald Trump has been pressuring FBI director Christopher Wray to fire
deputy director Andrew McCabe.
I`m joined right now by Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a
member of the House intelligence committee. Charlie Sykes is an MSNBC
contributor. Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. attorney and MSNBC
contributor and NBC News political reporter Carol Lee.
I want to start with Congressman Castro. It looks to me like a purge. I
mean, today McCabe get pushed out as deputy director of FBI. And now the
President son the warpath after thanks to chairman Nunes of your committee
to dig up evidence enough to support getting rid of Rod Rosenstein, the
deputy head of the justice department. Why is he purging everybody that is
involved with investigating him and the Russian probe?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, I have to imagine, Chris, that he is
scared of what they are going to find out. And, you know, there were of
course stories about him, his firing of Comey and the reason he fired
Comey. In fact, the President did an interview that suggest head fired
Comey because of the Russia investigation. And now the pressure that was
applied to Andrew McCabe and the result today of him stepping down.
I said earlier today that Andrew McCabe should not be replaced with
somebody who is just a Presidential stooge and who is going to help kill
this investigation. Because there are already plenty of people around
here, quite, honestly, who are just doing the bidding of the President over
conducting a thorough and fair investigation. Unfortunately that`s where
we are now.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I mean, you are young, too young, to have seen it.
But it looks like a slow motion Saturday night massacre. One by one,
Comey, McCabe and now Rosenstein in the target zone.
CASTRO: No, you are right. Look, I was born shortly before the President
resigned in 1974. And there are a lot of comparisons and parallels to the
Nixon years, except at that time, you actually had a Congress of a
different party that was a kind of check on the President, doing a thorough
investigation. Here there is a real question whether that`s going on.
Because of that, I think the Congress and the American people have to be
protective of the investigation that Bob Mueller is conducting because he
really is the best hope in getting to the bottom of all this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to – hold on there, congressman. Let me go to Carol
Lee about this. This pattern is pretty clear. If you step back and look
at it like a polaroid picture developing, what is developing is he is
purging anybody that threat him in term of the Russian investigation.
Knocked them off one at the time. First Comey, then McCabe today, and now
the targeting of Rosenstein.
CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, yes.
MATTHEWS: That`s a purge.
LEE: Well, the question is whether that is happening because the President
is trying to get around or conceal some sort of actual real criminal
wrongdoing that he is aware that will come down, or if it`s because of some
other reason that he just doesn`t like being under sort of scrutiny, that
he doesn`t like this investigation, that he feels like it`s an attack on
him and an affront on his presidency.
We don`t know the answer to that. But Robert Mueller is going to know the
answer to that. And I think one of the questions here is what happens to
Rod Rosenstein. We know from our White House colleagues over there that he
and FBI director Wray met with chief of staff John Kelly today. And the
second question is what does this mean for Robert Mueller.
MATTHEWS: Well, they are surrounding him.
Let me go to Barbara McQuade on this, a former prosecutor, U.S. attorney in
Michigan, MSNBC contributor. Thank you, Barbara.
This – look at the pattern. It is a slow motion Saturday night massacre.
They are going after everybody involved in the probe, the Russia probe.
BARBARA MCQUADE IS A FORMER ATTORNEY: Yes. It makes me think of that
comment that President Trump made a while back where he talked about how
frustrated him that he couldn`t control the department of justice. And he
admired prior attorneys general who he believed were there to protect the
President. It seems like that`s what he is after in leadership as opposed
to the independence that we have traditionally seen at the department of
You know, there is a concept in criminal law called consciousness of guilt.
And when people act in a way that makes them appear guilty, covering things
up, hiding evidence, getting rid of people who are inconvenient. It is
some evidence that they are guilty.
President Trump by trying to eliminate all these people trying to
investigate him is showing evidence of consciousness of guilt. The best
thing he can do if he hasn`t done anything is let Robert Mueller proceed to
the end, find evidence and exonerate him. But instead, he seems to believe
that`s not the result that is going to be reach and seems to be acting with
this consciousness of guilt.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this investigation that is now being
launched by the House - the chairman of the House intelligence committee by
Republican Devin Nunes? What do you make of the fact that he seems to be
helping the President do what you describe?
LEE: I think it`s deeply disturbing that he is damaging the institution of
the department of justice and the FBI with its credibility. Once you
damage those reputations, it`s very hard to fix them. And I think at some
point his action could also be scrutinized as potential conspiracy to
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Charlie, you know, Charlie Sykes, thanks for
joining us as always.
What do you make of this? How does it look from outside when you see Trump
knocking off McCabe today? Apparently it was pressure for him to leave
early, retire a few months early after being targeted by the President.
And now Rosenstein is, the number two guy at justice who really picked -
who really did pick Mueller to do the job, he is now on the chopping block,
according to what we are seeing here, because the Republicans – the
Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee are going after
him. They are launching an investigation of him. A purge it looks like to
me. Your thoughts.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, you know, it is appalling,
you know if you ask that question. Because I was thinking that you would
think that one of the grownups in the White House are in the justice
department would have said sometime today or yesterday, Mr. President we
know you want to get rid of Mr. McCabe, but you know how bad this would
look? And you know, do you know what it would look like? Well, it look
exactly like you would think and they didn`t care about it.
So yes, what is interesting about this, and really, again, you know,
shocking but not surprising, I suppose, is the degree to which Republicans
in Congress are willing to be complicit in this long slow rolling very
public attempt to obstruct justice.
Look, you don`t have to engage in conspiracy. There is a President
basically said look, I`m fighting back. He has been very, very public
about it. He wants to do everything possible to delegitimize this
investigation. But apparently congressional Republicans have decide that
number one, their political fate is tied up with Donald Trump. Number two,
that this investigation poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency
and to their electoral prospects. So they are going to go along with this
de-legitimization of the rule of law be damned which is amazing because,
you know, when they pointed the special prosecutor, it was a great
opportunity for Republicans in Congress to say OK, you know, hands off. We
can step back. Well can do things like cut taxes and repeal Obamacare. We
don`t have to get involved in this particular thing. But they`ve obviously
made a very, very different choice.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Congressman Castro. We talked about history
then. I mean, Nixon in the Saturday night massacre got rid of Archie Cox,
get rid of Eliot Richardson, the attorney general, he got rid of
Ruckelshaus, the deputy and finding Bork, Robert Bork, who would do his
It really look likes Trump is trying to grind down, to find somebody in the
establishment in the government service, this public service to do what he
wants them to do. He is looking for a Bork.
CASTRO: No, I think you are right. I think that it seems that he doesn`t
want people who are going to do a neutral or a fair, objective
investigation. He most of all wants to put people in place who are going
to shield him from the investigation and protect him from any kind of legal
liability. And that is deeply disturbing. And it is going to be – and it
already is a test for this Congress about whether, you know, we are going
to push back on that. And so far, that`s not happening by the majority.
The majority is being protective of the President above anything else.
CASTRO: I want Carol to answer this. President Trump and his allies have
long attacked former deputy FBI – former as of today, Andrew McCabe as
being bias because McCabe`s wife accepted donations from Clinton allies in
an unsuccessful race for Senate in Virginia. McCabe is also a witness in
the Mueller probe and is expected to corroborate the testimony of James
Comey. If he hasn`t already On the Record.
However, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today denied any White
House involvement in McCabe`s departure. Let`s watch that and you react to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen the
numerous reports, as all of you have. And any specifics I can tell you
none of this decision was made by that of the White House. And any
specifics I would refer you to the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about this notion that the President has been
applying pressure for months, steady pressure?
SANDERS: The only thing the President has applied pressure to is to make
sure we get this resolved so that you guys and everyone else can focus on
the things that Americans actually care about. And that is making sure
everybody gets the Russia fever out of their system once and for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a flag. I`m sorry because it`s not a popular vote as to
where the truth lies. We don`t vote on where the truth is. And that
shouldn`t even be suggested as a jurisdiction.
Anyway, let me go to carol. What about all this thing about the pressure
on McCabe and going after him and the President mocking him on the phone
and all that reporting?
LEE: Well, Chris, look, the President, you don`t need to look anywhere
beyond the President`s twitter feed to know that he was applying pressure
to try to get rid of Andrew McCabe. He wrote last summer asking why Jeff
Sessions had still kept him around. The idea that he wasn`t hands-off on
this whole decision and had nothing to do with it is a little bit hard to
But what we also know is there were private ways in which the President was
applying pressure. And one of them is in a phone call that the President
made to Andrew McCabe the day after he had fired James Comey. He was very
upset that Comey was allowed to fly back on this FBI plane from California
after he was fired. And when he vented, he made a comment to McCabe about
his wife saying, ask your wife how it feels to be a loser. And that kind
of sums up – it`s another data point in what it was like for McCabe to
work under this President, and just how frustrated President Trump was
going back a year, more than a year or so ago.
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t that sound like he is mocking him? What`s it like for
your wife? I`m going to go to Charlie on this. It calls for a little
analysis here. How do you interpret – I don`t mean to get you Carol,
can`t do it. I want you to do it because you do it all the time. What do
you make when a guy says how does your wife like being a loser? That`s
SYKES: Yes. I mean, this is the mockery of a bully who manages by cruelty
and humiliation. And I think you saw that, you know. You know, Carol is
absolutely right about this. There is no speculation about whether he was
pressuring the FBI to get rid of McCabe. He made it very, very clear.
Look, Richard Nixon had his enemies list. Donald Trump has his twitter
feed. It just happens to have more names on it. But it`s open. It`s
obvious. And I think one of the most disappointing and troubling aspects
of this is that apparently FBI director Christopher Wray is susceptible to
this kind of pressure. Remember, we heard last week that he was
threatening to resign if they went ahead and made him get rid of McCabe.
Well, now McCabe is gone. So you know, to the extent that this is a slow
motion Saturday night massacre you are already finding people who are
willing to go along with this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Barbara on this, Barbara McQuade. It seems like
there are a lot of voices out there, not just Roger Stone who is a bit of
an outlier, but people like Newt Gingrich openly warning this President
don`t go under oath with Mueller. You are not to be trusted yourself. You
personally are not to be trusted as President not to get yourself into a
felony situation, a perjury situation.
MCQUADE: Well, I think all of us have seen President Trump be very
reckless with the truth. He speaks in a lot of hyperbole. And you can
imagine that when he is confronted with Robert Mueller who is asking him
very pointed questions, the peril that he is in to tell the truth there.
He would find himself in a very dangerous situation.
But I`m also aware that President Trump has been in lots of litigation
before. He has been in depositions before. And so my guess is he is able
to turn on some mechanism in his brain when he is sitting in that situation
and be a little more careful and a little more circumspect. I also think
some people are suggesting that Robert Mueller is laying a perjury trap for
him. And I don`t think that`s a case.
A perjury trap is defined as when you asked someone in to be questioned
without any legitimate investigative purpose. I think Robert Mueller has
lots of areas he really wants to ask President Trump about. And I think at
the end of the day he is going to find himself across the table from Robert
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the congressman on this to finish up here.
Congressman Castro, you`re on that committee. And at somewhere down the
road you will be in the Congress. The Congress has to decide on impeaching
this President or not. Now I`m looking at Leonhardt`s (ph) piece in the
“New York Times” today on the op-ed page. It`s very detailed and very
sharp and objective. He goes through all these points. We opened the show
with it. How do you not see? How that – how do you not see obstruction
of justice in the pattern of the President right up through today in
pushing McCabe out of office and going after Rosenstein, getting rid of
Comey, all these actions have been by the President to protect himself
against prosecution. Isn`t that the definition of obstruction?
CASTRO: Well, I guess, let me just say that it looks like the President is
moving himself closer and closer to impeachment proceedings. And the
evidence of obstruction of justice is getting stronger. On the impeachment
vote so far, I have voted present because I`m part of the intelligence
committee. And I want the investigations to run their course first. But
it certainly looks like the evidence is gaining steam.
MATTHEWS: Well, it take a Democratic majority in the House to do it?
CASTRO: Almost certainly.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. U.S. congressman Joaquin Castro on the
intelligence committee. Thank you, of course, Carol Lee as always, Charlie
Sykes and Barbara McQuade, all of you.
Coming up, Democrats are pushing new protections for special counsel Robert
Mueller. But Republicans are dragging their feet. Guess why? After Trump
ordered Mueller fired last June. Why don`t Republicans think he won`t try
it again? Don`t you think he might try to get rid of Mueller? He is
getting rid of everybody else. This is a purge that is going on.
Plus, Richard Nixon addressed Watergate during his state of the union in
1974. As Trump gets ready for his first state of the union tomorrow night,
the Russian investigation cloud hangs over everything he does.
And tomorrow, you can expect to see scripted Trump, of course, reading off
the teleprompter and playing the role of a regular President. But what
about the guy we have seen the past several days, the past year, the one
that picks a fight with Jay-Z and says the polar icecaps aren`t melting.
They`re actually setting records up there in the North Pole.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.
This is “Hardball,” where the action is.
MATTHEWS: President Trump has disregarded another opportunity to stand up
to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Trump administration has notified
Congress that it will not enact new specific sanctions against Russia in
response to that country`s meddling in our 2016 election. Today was the
deadline for those sanctions to be imposed by the Trump administration.
The measure had already passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress.
A state department spokesperson tells NBC News that the congressional
sanctions will serve as enough of a deterrent against Russia. Therefore
new punitive measures are not needed at this time, according to Trump
people. And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One man stands between President Trump and his ability to govern the
country free from the shadow cast by the Russian probe. The man is special
counsel Robert Mueller, of course.
“The Washington Post” is now reporting that President Trump has complained
that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – quote – “is not properly
supervising Mueller`s probe and suggested he should fire Rosenstein” –
Rosenstein, the only person with the legal authority to discipline or fire
According to special counsel regulations, Robert Mueller can be removed for
misconduct, the dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or
for other good cause, including violation of department or policies.
Just last week, “The New York Times” reported that President Trump ordered
Mueller fired, but backed off when the White House counsel threatened to
Well, “The Washington Post” adds that President Trump, who is angry and
frustrated, “does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to my
guys at what he sometimes cosmonaut calls the Trump Justice Department.”
Congressional Republicans were asked about the Trumps – or about reports
that President Trump wanted to fire Robert Mueller.
Here is what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We know that he didn`t fire Mr.
Mueller. We know that, if he tried to, it would be the end of his
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It certainly wouldn`t hurt to put that
extra safeguard in place, given the latest stories.
QUESTION: Do you still trust – after all you have heard, do you still
trust special counsel Robert Mueller to conduct a fair and unbiased
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: One hundred percent, particularly if
he is given the time, the resources and the independence to do his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s a – that is a strong statement from a conservative
from the South.
For more, I`m joined by Ashley Parker, White House correspondent for “The
Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor. She wrote the “Washington Post”
piece about this. I`m also joined by Republican Congressman Charlie Dent
Ashley, thank you for joining us.
Give us the reporting on this. First of all, the fact that Rosenstein is
now in the target zone, and the fact that Trey Gowdy is out there saying, I
still trust Mueller to do his job if he gets the resources and the time to
do it and he isn`t interfered with, how do you put that together into
partisan politics terms?
ASHLEY PARKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s not surprising that
Rosenstein is still in the target zone. This is someone who President
Trump refers to as that Democrat from Baltimore.
This is someone he has complained about since last summer when he gave the
order that he then backed down on to fire Mueller. What was striking to us
was that President Trump, who by all accounts has sort of been tamed a bit
by his lawyers, was still this past week talking about wanting to fire Rod
And, more specifically, he was talking about how this memo that now
increasingly looks like it will be released would sort of give him the
pretext or the foundation to fire him and make other sweeping changes at
the Justice Department.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get a couple of the party registration facts down
here. Isn`t Rosenstein a Republican? And isn`t McCabe a nonregistered
person? He doesn`t register by party? Isn`t that the case?
PARKER: Well, Rosenstein was appointed by President George W. Bush, and
then he stayed on under President Obama. And, as we remember, as “The
Post” reported when President Trump asked Andrew McCabe who he voted for,
he didn`t vote.
So, these sort of characterizations are not quite accurate.
MATTHEWS: Charlie Dent, thank you, Congressman.
It seems like Trump is channeling Richard Nixon. He is going around the
federal judiciary and he`s going around the federal government generally
looking for Democrats. He thinks everybody is a liberal, a knee-jerk, some
part of a fifth column against him. And when he finds out they aren`t,
when he finds out the guy didn`t vote or the guy tends to – was picked by
George W. Bush, a Republican appointee, it doesn`t seem to stop his
predilection that these guys are his enemies.
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I tell you what, Chris. If I
were the president, I would give him advice to stop interfering with this
I think he runs a risk. He runs a real legal risk by doing so. I trust
Robert – I trust Director Mueller to run a thorough and fair and
professional investigation. He ought to leave well enough alone. The
president has said he has done nothing wrong. Well, then he should not
fear this investigation.
I cannot understand why he continues to interfere in this way. It`s a
mistake. I think Don McGahn did the nation a service by basically stopping
the president from firing Director Mueller. I mean, we could have had an
Archibald Cox moment, a Saturday Night Massacre.
Well, I have been call it a slow-mo Saturday Night Massacre, because he`s
gotten rid of McCabe. He`s gotten rid of Comey, and he is on his way to
getting rid of Rosenstein. It`s almost the same pattern as Nixon`s in `73,
yes, Congressman? You`re the one that made the reference. It`s so clear
he is channeling Nixon.
DENT: Again, I think it`s a terrible mistake for him to go down this road.
It makes absolutely no sense. I believe it provides a greater legal
exposure to him by doing so. I think, as Republicans, we are the party of
law enforcement at the state and local levels. And we should not be
getting into this type of warfare with the FBI and even the Department of
I don`t want to undermine the American public`s confidence in our system of
justice, DOJ and certainly the FBI. It`s not helpful to us as Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Trump does
have a more receptive audience. It`s a majority Republican body.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican leader, a Trump ally,
does not think legislation is necessary to protect Robert Mueller`s
investigation. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: Would you support legislation to
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: If there is an issue
that arise, we will take it up at that time. But right now, there is not
an issue, so why create one, when there is not a place for it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ashley Parker, let`s talk about this. You`re a straight
reporter, so let`s just figure out what we can report here.
The fact that the Republicans don`t want the give any authority – or
actually protection to the special counsel to keep him in place there, to
protect him from being – firing, what do we make of that? Can we make
something from that in terms of motive? They don`t want to protect the
special counsel; therefore, they don`t care to protect him?
PARKER: Well, I think you`re seeing a trend we have long seen in this
administration, which is that Trump defenders sort of almost always defend
him or find a way to justify what he is doing or justify their defense of
And there is a breakdown between the House and the Senate. The House
members are a lot more likely to be Trump allies, to sort of say, we don`t
need to protect the special prosecutor, special counsel, where you do see
some senators increasingly this weekend, even Republican ones, were coming
out and saying, you know, this might be necessary.
And I have to say some of them are almost couching it almost as protecting
Mueller. But it is also protecting Trump from himself. Senator Lindsey
Graham said that, if the president does this, his presidency will be over.
So, the bipartisan legislation Graham introduced with these protections
would certainly protect Mueller, but it would also make – protect the
president from making a decision that many of his aides are desperate for
him not to make.
MATTHEWS: That`s a profound thought as a reporter, because I have noticed
now that Trey Gowdy is also warning the president, it seems, and certainly
Lindsey Graham made a very stern warning, don`t fire Mueller, or you`re
going to be in trouble, Mr. President.
Anyway, thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania,
and Ashley Parker of “The Washington Post.”
Up next: The cloud of the Russian probe hangs over tomorrow night`s State
of the Union address. Will President Trump avoid the issue altogether and
focus on his economic issue, or will he channel Nixon and use the prime-
time address to call for an end to the probe, the way Nixon did this time
back in `74?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1974)
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I have
provided to the special prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material.
I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude
his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the
I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other
investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Nixon telling the country in his 1974 State of the Union
that it was time for the Watergate investigation to end. Of course, it was
investigating him. At the time, which was after the Saturday Night
Massacre, 37 percent of those polled by Gallup said that Nixon should be
impeached, just 37 percent.
That August, he resigned before Congress could impeach him. So 37 percent
quickly grew up.
In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 45 percent of American voters say they would
like the Democrats to begin the impeachment process if they take part –
take back the House in 2018. Of course, that`s this November.
And the Russian investigation isn`t where near where the Watergate
investigation was a year into Nixon`s second term.
Well, tomorrow night, President Trump will give his first State of the
Union State with the cloud of Mueller`s investigation hanging over him.
I`m joined right now by Eugene Robinson, who is a columnist at “The
Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor.
Big question to you, Gene. I know I love giving you the big ones. Nixon
asked for the – just rather peremptorily said, stop investigating me. We
have done enough.
Of course, they hadn`t gotten him yet.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: The public hadn`t quite reached a majority of supporting
impeachment at that point.
This time around, Trump is doing it differently, after – I have been
calling it tonight a slow-motion “Saturday Night Live” – Saturday Night
Massacre, because he has gotten rid of his FBI director. He has now today
gotten rid of his deputy FBI director, and his forces on Capitol Hill,
helping him out, are going after the deputy attorney general.
I mean, he is clearly trying to clear house. It`s a purge. It`s a slow-
motion thing. He is channeling Nixon.
He is going to have to go down a ways before he finds his Robert Bork,
though, the person who will actually deep-six this investigation.
I think, just from everything I know of the Justice Department and the FBI,
it will not easily give up this investigation. The purge that, again, you
called a slow-motion purge or Saturday Night Massacre, that`s certainly
what it looks like.
But that`s not likely to cow or intimidate, I think, the – really the FBI,
I mean, the professionals in the FBI. I think they`re going to keep moving
forward. But it is an interesting juncture.
Those figures on public opinion were fascinating. And you remember what it
was that actually really flipped public opinion, of course. It was the
tapes. There was testimony. There was ongoing testimony that implicated
It was when finally we learned of and then knew we were going to get the
tapes that proved it, that kind of changed everything.
ROBINSON: That was the tipping point, the real tipping point.
And I think, clearly, in the Russia investigation, I think we`re not at
that tipping point yet.
MATTHEWS: Back as recently as 1974, we believed in a joint national, in
fact, universal acceptance of objective truth, that evidence meant
evidence. If you have a tape from June 23 that had Nixon asking Haldeman
and to get Vernon Walters, the number two guy over at CIA, to get the CIA -
- to get the CIA to get the FBI off the case, which was what the smoking
gun tape was.
MATTHEWS: We all heard it. Nixon heard it. He knew he had been caught.
The Republican leadership came to him and said, you got to go. That was a
day of objective reality.
Are we in that day today?
ROBINSON: Well, who knows.
ROBINSON: It certainly doesn`t seem that we`re in that objective reality.
Back during the Watergate scandal, people – people and legislators
reacted. When something happened, there was a reaction.
ROBINSON: Events changed things and changed people`s opinion and changed
people`s minds gradually.
But there was cause and effect. We seem to be at a time when those laws of
political cause and effect don`t seem to apply, or certainly don`t apply
the way they used to. So, will we reach a point where Republicans, for
example, in the House even, will decide, this was serious and this was
wrong and we need to make a stand? Will we get to that point?
I can`t assure us, or assure myself that we will get to that point. I
certainly hope that it`s still in them to reach that point.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a different world now. And is Tokyo the capital of
Japan? Well, it depends on your opinion.
MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s a strange world.
Thank you, Eugene Robinson.
Up next: As the president prepares for tomorrow night`s State of the
Union, we`re getting together a glimpse of Trump unscripted in a new
interview. Trump asks the bizarre claim – or makes the bizarre claim that
the polar icecaps are actually setting records, more – getting icier up
there, colder up there. And once again, he defends himself as a stable
But facts, as Gene and I were just talking, and Gene was saying, you know,
facts, do they mean anything? If it`s getting colder, is it getting colder
if Trump says it`s not?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s a tale of two Trumps, don`t you think? Tomorrow night, President
Trump will perform one of the most presidential of duties, delivering the
first – his first State of the Union.
If he sticks to the script, Trump is expected to focus on five themes.
This has been put out for the White House obviously. The economy, of
course, bragging rights; infrastructure, not done yet; immigration,
troubling; trade and national security.
It will be a sharp contrast to what we saw this past weekend when the
president went off-script during an interview with ITV`s Piers Morgan.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I shake things up.
It had to be shaken up. The country had to be shaken up.
PIERS MORGAN, ITV HOST: As you said, stable genius. Your words.
TRUMP: I am a stable genius.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump made this bizarre claim when asked whether he
believed in climate change. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a cooling and there is a heating. I mean, look, it used to
not be climate change. It used to be global warming.
TRUMP: Right? That wasn`t working too well because it was getting too
cold all over the place. The icecaps were going to melt. They were going
to be gone by now. But now they`re setting records, OK? They`re at a
I tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air. I believe in
crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration, the world hasn`t had a cooler than average
year since 1976. So, we`ve been getting hotter. Arctic Sea ice also hit a
record low last year. But Trump also defended his position on gun control.
When asked what the U.S. is doing to stop mass shootings like last
October`s massacre in Las Vegas where the gunman had purchased an arsenal
of 55 guns in the year right to the attack. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am a second amendment person. I think you need it for security.
I think it would be far worse. I think you need it for security.
But again, you`ve had so many attacks where there was only a gun, a bad
person`s gun going in this direction, and if you had one on the other side,
so many. In fact, that`s a very big example. And if they had the bullets
going in the opposite direction, you would have saved a lot of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in a HARDBALL round table.
Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist, Zerlina Maxwell is director of
progressive programming for SiriusXM, and Nan Hayworth, who sits on the
board of directors at the Independent Women`s Forum is a former Republican
congresswoman from New York.
So, I always go to elected power first, congresswoman.
NAN HAYWORTH (R-NY), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Oh, no. Our power is from
the people, Mr. Matthews.
MATTHEWS: What do you think when you watch Donald Trump, is he talking the
language of his voters or of his mind?
HAYWORTH: I look at the president. And, you know, Susan has a former
colleague, Bill O`Reilly, not the TV host, who wrote a great piece about
the president last year in which he quoted an Italian saying. You know,
watch the lands, not the mouth.
So what I watch with the president is how he has acted as chief executive
to do things that are salutary for the country and the world. And he`s
putting Americans back to work. We have a growing economy. People`s
retirement funds are growing. People have more money in their pockets.
And he has also expressed, rightly so, the view, just in that interview.
And he has put in place the administrative mechanisms to make sure that the
EPA is actually fulfilling its mission of compliance across the country.
MATTHEWS: Zerlina, I don`t see him as an environmentalist. I see him
laughed at the Paris accords. He has basically gone against the world.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING AT SIRIUSXM: Right.
MATTHEWS: He said nice things about clean water and all that, but he
doesn`t do it. His hands are not working for environmental protection.
MAXWELL: No, absolutely not. But that`s because he doesn`t really
understand the underlying policy. This is true of environmental policy.
It`s also true of foreign policy and domestic policy. When Donald Trump –
MATTHEWS: You don`t think he doesn`t understand or doesn`t agree with
MAXWELL: I don`t think he understands.
MAXWELL: I think we give him too much credit when we presume that he
understands the underlying policy.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, his tweet on weather I
think is what you were referring to.
MAXWELL: Correct, because e is basically in line with a lot of Republicans
that say well, if it`s cold out, then there is no climate change. If it`s
hot out, there is no climate change.
But scientists like Nan know that that`s not – the scientific data does
not support that conclusion. And that the lying, the idea that climate
change is a problem and that we should deal with it because of the
mudslides and the wildfires and the increasingly strong storms that we`re
seeing, it`s actually really dangerous. It`s a national security threat
for the president not to understand that underlying policy.
MATTHEWS: Here is my question. I do think Trump knows what he is doing.
I think he is a smart politician. But I don`t believe a big city liver
like him, and he is Manhattanite, for a number years, he doesn`t believe
everybody walking around the streets of Manhattan with a gun. He doesn`t
believe in Second Amendment for every kid when walking down from the
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t believe in that.
So why does he say it? Why does he say we`re safer with everybody having a
gun when he knows New York would be like Dodge City if everybody had a gun?
DEL PERCIO: Because he`s got to play – he constantly plays to his base.
He finds it easier. His safe retreat is to 35 to 37 percent of the
country. That`s where he goes. And –
MATTHEWS: But he is not one of them.
DEL PERCIO: He may not be.
MATTHEWS: He is not one of the 37 percent.
DEL PERCIO: He was a Democrat for how many years. He would not qualify to
be in his own base, actually, based on his whole history.
So he does these things. These interviews, when they`re unscripted are
very dangerous for this president. He is not prepared to talk about a lot
HAYWORTH: But he`s prepared to act.
MATTHEWS: So, let`s talk about why he gets in fights with people, I mean,
not getting fights.
But look at this, President Trump also went off script this weekend after
rapper and businessman Jay-Z told CNN that the president`s recent touting
of the black unemployment rate was missing the whole point, and that it
doesn`t make up for his treatment of the black community.
Trump responded on Twitter writing, somebody please inform Jay-Z that
because of my policies, black unemployment has just reported to be at the
lowest rate ever recorded. Why – he is like Sinatra in that way. You go
into a bathroom, somebody gives you a little rap – he wants to fight with
the guy. He will fight with anybody.
Why? Is does it raise his stature?
HAYWORTH: The president snaking a very important point that he cares about
putting Americans back to work, no matter where they live, what their zip
code, what the color of their skin. And it is absolutely true.
It is fact. Thank God. African American unemployment is at record lows.
And that would not have happened had the president not passed the tax –
signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And had he not –
MATTHEWS: You think the tax cut –
MATTHEWS: Are you saying in a couple of weeks has cut the unemployment
rate among African Americans in a few weeks?
HAYWORTH: The GDP –
MAXWELL: No, that wouldn`t work, obviously. The numbers don`t work.
HAYWORTH: The GDP tripled basically after the president got into office.
And that is helping every American.
MAXWELL: Look, the downward unemployment on black employment has begun in
2010 in earnests. And so, it`s not a result of Donald Trump`s policies.
Beyond that, the black unemployment rate is still double the white
MAXWELL: And black people should be grate to feel this president even
though we`re at double the rate is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.
DEL PERCIO: The president likes to play in pop culture. It`s much easier
for him to take on Jay-Z than to answer a question on climate change.
MAXWELL: And he didn`t attack Eminem, who is a rapper.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to keep up. You`re watching HARDBALL. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL round table is going to stick with us. And up
next, there is going to be a headlines. I love that they raised the bar
around here. Get me a headline for tomorrow. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Susan, tell me something I don`t know.
DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s not something you may not – you may know this, but
it hasn`t been out there very much. Kellyanne Conway has not been brought
into Mueller`s investigation to be questioned. Now, you have to say is she
now part of – are they going to take away the Russian investigation
portion of this investigation and stick strictly to obstruction of justice?
Because you would have the campaign manager of the Trump campaign if you
were really look –
DEL PERCIO: But it`s very unusual that she hasn`t met –
MATTHEWS: Ii think that`s fascinating, actually.
MAXWELL: That is fascinating.
MAXWELL: Former Vice President Joe Biden just announced two advisory
councils for his Biden Foundation. One is tackling ending violence against
women. The other is focusing on LGBTQ issues. And full disclosure, I am
one of the members of the advisory council on ending violence against –
DEL PERCIO: Good for you.
MATTHEWS: He is definitely getting state-of-the-art, isn`t he, for old
MAXWELL: Yes, but he has cared about in issue since 1994.
MATTHEWS: He`s absolutely strong on that.
HAYWORTH: Chris, today is actually a very sad anniversary. Thirty-two
years ago to the day, the Challenger exploded. And I recently had the
opportunity actually to speak with astronauts Charlie Duke and Jim Lovell
and Harrison Schmitt with Bill Tucker. The interview is online.
You know what, they`re still inspiring today. And one of the things we
need to keep going is NASA. And the president has expressed a great
MATTHEWS: I`m with you. And by the way, Tip O`Neill and I watched
Reagan`s Challenger speech that day that Peggy Noonan wrote and we were
both in tears. It was the most amazingly powerful speech he gave. Among
all his speeches, that was the one that got to me the most.
Anyway, thank you all, Susan Del Percio, Zerlina Maxwell of SiriusXM, and
former U.S. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.
But we`re going to return. Let me finish tonight with Trump Watch tonight.
A lot of facts coming it of me tonight. I hope they`re useful to you.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch Monday, January 29th, 2018.
Tomorrow night, the president tells us the state of things in this country,
but here is a head start from me. If you want to understand why young
voter, millennials are looking for something different politically,
consider this. Today, a millennial making minimum wage salary has to work
15 times longer than a boomer did to pay off his or her college loan. The
hole facing young adults right now is very deep.
Here is another fact. Both major U.S. political parties are in perilous
shape. Millennials overwhelmingly want a third political party and this
dissatisfaction with traditional parties, let`s face it, in the victory of
Donald Trump, over all the main line GOP candidates two years ago and by
the very near success of Bernie Sanders, the self-described independent in
the 2016 Democratic primaries.
This shows the continual decline of party loyalty across the board in this
country, especially among millennials. It shows that Senator Sanders or
someone sharing his views could do well in the 2020 Democratic primaries
even if he continues to run as an independent.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party face an uphill test in 2018. Today, the
Democratic Party has to win up to 6 percent more than the Republicans to
win control of the House of Representatives. But the forces pushing it
because of reapportionment, forces in the other direction are enough to get
them over the obstacle, however.
Today, the people want most to vote in this election are people who voted
for Hillary Clinton. They are much more excited about the prospect of
doubling down on their 2016 vote than Trump voters are. And that`s the
hole that Trump is in.
And today, women college graduates are ready to vote overwhelmingly for the
Democratic candidates for Congress. That`s another hole Trump has dug
So, right now, it looks like a modest Democratic victory in the House this
November, which puts the power of subpoena in the Democratic hands this
time next year, which means we`re looking at an impeachment if trends
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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