Stone talks problems. TRANSCRIPT: 1/28/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Jackie Speier, Joon Kim, Peggy Noonan, Zerlina Maxwell, Yamiche Alcindor, Steve Israel

Date: January 28, 2019
Guest: Jackie Speier, Joon Kim, Peggy Noonan, Zerlina Maxwell, Yamiche
Alcindor, Steve Israel


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Quite a Monday. That`s our show. Don`t go

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A Russian winter. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

Breaking news tonight on the Russia front. Acting attorney general Matt
Whitaker told reporters he thinks that the Mueller investigation is close
to being completed. It`s the first public acknowledgment from the
department of justice. Take a listen.


investigation is, I think, close to being completed. And I hope that we
can get the report from director Mueller soon as possible.


MATTHEWS: Well, the news comes just days after federal officials arrested
Roger Stone in Florida and charged him with seven criminal counts,
including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering, and
five counts of making false statements.

And today, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who held her first
press briefing in 41 days, was asked if the President was considering a
pardon for Stone. Here`s what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the President ruled out a pardon for roger stone?

that. I haven`t had any conversations regarding that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you discuss it with him and let us know?

SANDERS: I`m not going to get into that at this point, but if need be,
we`ll let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, just to follow up, can you guarantee the
President won`t pardon roger stone?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not going to talk about hypotheticals that are
ridiculous and things I haven`t talk about.


MATTHEWS: Well, it is not hypothetical. Trump likes to pardon people.

Anyway, to date, Mueller has accused six of Trump`s advisers or his
associates of lying multiple times to federal officials, raising the
question of why they keep lying. The Whitaker comment today, by the way,
comes moments before the House intelligence committee announced today that
Michael Cohen, President Trump`s personal lawyer and fixer, would appear
before the committee next week.

Like just last week, Cohen canceled a public appearance before another
House panel, citing threats against his family. In what seemed like a
telling move, Cohen today announced a shakeup of his defense team, adding a
former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer.

For more I`m joined tonight by Natasha Bertrand, staff writer for “the
Atlantic,” and of course Danny Cevallos, MSNBC legal analyst.

Let me get to this question now. With your reporting, Natasha, is this
thing coming to an end or is it I think it`s coming to an end? How did you
read Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general?

Whitaker said this didn`t seem like - it didn`t seem like he was making an
announcement, right. It sounded like he was kind of speaking off the cuff,
he is responding to a question that was asked by a reporter. And for all
we know, he may have been alluded to press reports that have said that the
investigation may wrap up as soon as February.

That being said, I have spoken to people who used to work at the FBI who
say that in this context, in a press conference like this, they would have
prepared for this question and they would have prepped Whitaker for how to
answer it. So I don`t think that we can write off his statement

But I do think it`s very difficult to believe that the Mueller
investigation is going to wrap up by February or even by March given
everything that happened last week with Roger Stone. The FBI agents carted
out documents, computers, things that will have to go or require all of
these agents to go through forensic analysis of his electronic devices and
it just doesn`t seem like that`s going to be able to be done by March.

There`s also the question of whether or not Roger Stone is going to reach
some kind of deal with the special counsel`s team. And if that`s the case,
then those negotiations are going to be going on throughout February. So I
really don`t think that we`re going to see any kind of final report,
certainly, issued by next month.

On top of that, we still have Rick Gates, who needs to be sentenced, who is
still cooperating. We still have the mystery grand jury subpoena that is
currently - that was brought before the Supreme Court and they are
currently fighting that out.

So there are just a lot of loose ends that still need to be tied up. And
Matt Whitaker apparently has been telling people behind the scenes for
quite some time now, as my understanding, that it`s going to wrap up soon,
but with no actual end date in mind.

MATTHEWS: Danny, all this has to do with Russia and whether there was
collusion, whether it was a conspiracy. We know there`s a Russian
conspiracy. What role did Trump and his people play. How we put this
puzzle together. How do you see it coming together? Because this thing
seems to be very strange. This arrest, how did you, rather dramatic arrest
this past week of Roger Stone. A guy who clearly had some connection with
WikiLeaks and therefore with Russia. How do you tie that into the end of
this investigation? Is this kind of an arrest you would have near the end
or in the course of it?

DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: No. This is an arrest that signals
other than Whitaker`s statements today, that there`s likely more to come in
the Mueller investigation.

Going back to Whitaker, the chief concern when Whitaker was installed as
the interim attorney general was that he might compromise the Mueller
investigation. And now, critics have proof of that, at least even in a
tiny way, because Whitaker today revealed information that is a first. No
one has revealed any information about the Mueller investigation from the
Mueller team. So Whitaker`s critics now have something to seize upon that
he even answered a question about the progress of the investigation.

What makes it even stranger is that it doesn`t appear to be an accurate
guess by Whitaker. Because the Mueller team now has just arrested Roger
Stone. With Roger Stone, they have a new treasure trove of evidence they
may have seized or if Roger Stone cooperates, he might give them new
tendrils of investigation in this gigantic white-collar investigation.

So from everything we have seen, the redactions in the indictments, the
sealed documents, those are all indicators that there is more investigation
to be done. So Whitaker`s statements today were both incongruous and
potentially compromising to the Mueller investigation.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Roger Stone, President Trump`s favorite dirty trickster
spent this weekend blasting Robert Mueller`s indictment of him. By the
way, seemingly speaking to anyone that was willing to listen, Stone made
the television rounds to savage the special counsel investigation. And
today, Stone indicated he would not cooperate with prosecutor Mueller.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to cut a deal with Mueller to avoid
going to trial?

questions. I have no intention of doing so, however.


MATTHEWS: Natasha, this is the kind of tease we have been watching from
this guy for decades. This is what Roger Stone does. He taps right up to
the tip-toes right up to the edge of the cliff and dances on it for a
while, while you watch him do it. He has been doing it all weekend.
What`s he up to, besides narcissism? What do you make of it?

BERTRAND: I think that he is trying to get more donations to his legal
defense fund. His supporters don`t want to see him cooperate with Mueller
and he needs money in order to keep this fight going. And he also knows
that the more he keeps this fight going, the more famous he will be.

I do think, though, that it`s interesting that the President now has to
kind of dance this very, very fragile dance with Roger Stone, because if
Roger is intimating that he might be willing to cooperate with Robert
Mueller and he might be willing to talk about, you know, the associates on
the campaign that maybe he has information about, then the President really
has to be careful about what he says about Roger Stone. So whereas he has
trashed Michael Cohen in the past, for example, for, you know, cooperating
with Mueller or for, you know, other witnesses who are indicating they
might become “rats,” quote-unquote, he can`t really do that with Roger
because Roger seems to be a very fickle person. And if he gets any, you
know, sense that the President might be turning on him, then I would not be
surprised at all if Roger would turn on the President.

MATTHEWS: So that mention by our press people, two of our correspondents,
asking Sarah Sanders whether it`s going to be a pardon or not, seems to be
probably what Roger wants to hear, right? Natasha, he wants to hear the
pardon is still in the air and still possible.

BERTRAND: Yes, of course. And Roger is also saying he would not address a
hypothetical, but he is also, of course, not ruled it out. And I cannot
imagine that Roger would turn down a pardon, especially because he thinks
that he has been the target of a witch hunt throughout the last two years.
It just doesn`t seem like it would be in his character to say no to the
President, who of course, he has been loyal to up until this point. And
that he sees kind of as his ally in this fight.


Well, thank you so much, Natasha Bertrand and Danny Cevallos.

I`m joined now by California Democratic congresswoman, Jackie Speier. She
is a member of the House Intelligence committee.

Congresswoman, how do you read this little, well, this huge tease from Matt
Whitaker today that this thing is coming to an end?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I don`t know if it`s coming to an end
at all. I don`t know Matt Whitaker is the source of all knowledge on the
Mueller investigation. He certainly being briefed, but I think that Robert
Mueller has more indictments up his sleeve, not that I have any
information, certainly, but that would be my suspicion.

MATTHEWS: Well, go further with your suspicions because I`m curious about
what you are on this committee have to think. Why does everybody lie? Why
did Roger Stone get accused of lying, why is Michael Flynn lie? All they
did was lie about anything to do with Russia.

Now, I don`t know whether there was a conspiracy involving in the Trump
people as a lot of people think so. But the fact that they are lying about
it is obvious. They are always lying, always denying. Why? What possible
motive is there except there`s something really dirty there they don`t want
anyone to know about?

SPEIER: That`s precisely it. I mean, there is no question that Trump was
trying to do a deal with the Moscow hotel. He wanted that to be kept under
wraps. He didn`t want to be in a position saying he was negotiating with
Russia and Putin during the campaign, because it would have affected his
chances of winning.

I am absolutely astonished at how readily all of these individuals are
willing to lie to Congress. And to think that they are going to get away
with it. The emails that are in that indictment, I encourage all of your
viewers to read, because there is no question that Roger Stone was there
attempting to silence another witness, trying to prevent him from coming
forward. And who was up to his eyeballs in lies and, I think, corrupting
behavior as it related to the Russia involvement in the Trump campaign.

MATTHEWS: What would you like to hear from Michael Cohen? He has got a
couple of new lawyers. He is lawyering up. He is going to show up before
your committee, wouldn`t do it oversight, now he is going to talk to your
committee. What are you hearing about his news openness to speak?

SPEIER: Well, his new openness to speak is, you know, his effort to try
and turn over a new leaf. And I`m sure it has something to do with his
desire to want to reduce his sentence because he really values his family.
I think what I would like to hear from him is more about the ten years in
which he served Donald Trump. And what conduct would he assess was illegal
that he was asked to do under the Trump organization.

There are three properties that were part of this whole effort that have a
lot of Russian money in them, both the Toronto hotel, the Soho hotel, and
the Panama hotel. There`s corruption there in my view. There is Russian
money. There is an effort to, I think, launder money. And I would like to
hear more about that from him.

MATTHEWS: Well, in his new memoir, former governor Chris Christie of New
Jersey shares an interesting anecdote in which both Trump and Kushner
genuinely believe the Russian thing, as they called it, would be over once
they fired Michael Flynn. Here`s Christie recounting that exchange on NBC.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Having lunch with the President,
and Jared Kushner after he has fired Michael Flynn, they thought that would
end the Russia investigation?

listen. Flynn is the only guy who spoke to the Russians, apparently. So
you know, I think this is going to end it. And I just laughed. And I said
Mr. President, it is unfortunate that I have tell you this, but having done
this myself for a living, we are going to be talking about this on
valentine`s day, February `18. And they laughed out loud. And Jared told
me I was crazy.


MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, how could the President be stuck on fly paper,
because he is. He can`t get off of it, and he`s the fly, without really
knowing from anyone that day one he was involved. I mean, how can a guy
believe he is so innocent or what was he believing to think that all he had
to do was fire Flynn and he would be free?

SPEIER: Because that`s how he`s dealt with business problems in his
career. You either sue someone, you get rid of someone, and that sort of
takes care of it. I mean, he runs the presidency like he is part of an
organized syndicate. And I think that he thought that would do it.

You know, it`s really palpable when the FBI director Comey before our Intel
committee, one of the few open hearings we had, when he said the
investigation was being opened on the Trump campaign and its involvement
with Russia. It wasn`t just the Russian intervention in our election. And
I think everyone up to that point had thought that it was over, but
certainly, it was not.

MATTHEWS: We thought Watergate was going to be over some time in the
summer of 1972. It certainly was not. And Nixon thought it was over.

Thank you so much, U.S. congresswoman Jackie Speier. It is always great
having you on.

For more, I`m joined by Joon Kim, former acting U.S. attorney for the
southern district of New York and a partner in the law firm of Cleary
Gottlieb. Thank you so much for joining us.

Let`s talk about the law here. Matt Whitaker lets out accidentally or
Freudian slip, this thing is about to end. Apparently, the experts we had
on in the last 20 minutes think no. Where are you?

surprised to see that he would say that. Normally, as he said in the press
conference, you don`t comment on ongoing investigations or the timing of
when they would be completed. It`s hard to imagine that it was a mistake,
as you do prepare for those press conferences, and you would have expected
a question about the Mueller investigation.

I don`t know what to make of it. It`s hard to think that it is going to be
completed very soon because there was just this arrest and search warrants
related to Roger Stone. So at a minimum, you would want to at least go
through those materials and figure out if there are any additional charges
that might, you know, that could be made now with the additional evidence.
So it`s hard to know what to make of it.

MATTHEWS: I think most people in this country, and that includes, they
don`t want to hear it, but curious, did Trump play ball with the Russians
to get himself elected, to screw Hillary Clinton`s chances, to win the
election, and in so, basically hurt our whole electoral system. Will we
get that answer for sure from Mueller? Will the justice department under
Barr or Whitaker get us that information so we can all see the facts?

KIM: You know, just the way criminal investigations work, you know, you
are going to investigate what you can. You are going to bring charges if
there`s the evidence meets the standard beyond a reasonable doubt. And
normally, that`s it.

Your prosecutors speak through their charges and don`t speak otherwise.
Here, with the special counsel, there is this regulation provides for a
report that the special counsel provides confidentially to the attorney
general and then the attorney general decides whether to make it public.
So there is that additional possibility which doesn`t normally exist in
federal prosecutions of a report. You don`t need to – you may never get
to the answer.

MATTHEWS: Cutting to the chase, if you can`t indict a President, can the
special counsel tell us what the President did? The bad he did, even if
they can`t indict him? Will they tell us how awful this gets?

KIM: My guess is he is going to include some of this information in the
report. The information, he needs to explain why he brought certain
charges and why he didn`t bring other charges. And so to the extent the
answer to those questions will get into the other evidence and other
information that may not be an indictment or the subject of trials or
charges, I would think that the report would include that. Again, how much
of that will be public and how much will be redacted or withheld, that`s a

MATTHEWS: Well, we are not going to stop searching.

Thank you so much, Joon Kim, for coming with your expertise.

Up next, President Trump had one of his worst weeks as President? Don`t
you agree? Allies knocked him for caving on the wall, and Republicans said
he had nothing to show for his shutdown fight and that includes all the

Plus, there`s a new challenger to Trump, and she is drawing huge crowds.
Senator Kamala Harris of California kicked off her campaign this weekend
surrounded by, look at that crowd, Trump must be envious as hell, 20,000
real people. Not some count his characters came up with, 20,000 actual –
look at them. You can see them in Oakland for Kamala Harris. And she is
running against Trump.

Meanwhile, a popular Republican may be inching toward challenging Trump in
the party`s primary. We are going to tell you who that is. A very popular
governor who looks like he`s inching quickly actually to run against Trump.

We are back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As he begins this week, President Trump is reeling. After last week ended
with a remarkable cave on his demand for a border wall, today, House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended an invitation to the president for his State
of the Union speech, announcing the new date as February 5.

His capitulation on the wall may have ended the five-week government
shutdown, but it leaves the president weakened and bracing for even more
challenges ahead.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will begin meeting on Wednesday to try to
hash out an agreement on border security, including the wall, but the
president has already thrown cold water on those negotiations.

In an interview with “The Wall Street Journal,” the president was asked
about the chance of a deal in the next three weeks. He said – quote – “I
personally think it`s less than 50/50.”


Well, the president also wouldn`t rule out another shutdown, calling it –
quote – “certainly an option.”

Well, in a pair of interviews yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick
Mulvaney backed up the president`s threat.


MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”: Is the president really
prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?


Keep in mind, he`s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border.
He does take this very seriously.

But, at the end of the day, the president`s commitment is to defend the
nation, and he will do it either with or without Congress.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House
correspondent for “PBS NewsHour,” former Democratic Congressman Steve
Israel of New York, and former chairman of the Republican National
Committee Michael Steele.

Yamiche, right down the middle, is this president weaker this week than he
was, starting last week?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, “PBS NEWSHOUR”: Well, I think if you ask the president`s
opponents and if you ask independents, I think they see the president as
weaker, because he really ended the shutdown on Nancy Pelosi`s terms.

However, the White House is sticking to this idea that the president hasn`t
given up ground here, that he`s only said that after, 35 days of holding up
the government, that he will have this committee work on wall funding, and
that he will in some way get the money for his wall.

But it`s no doubt – it`s really very clear that the president is obviously
frustrated with the situation that he`s in. He`s even lashing out FOX
News, his favorite network, for the coverage that they had on him ending
the shutdown on Nancy Pelosi`s terms.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s blaming everybody.

He`s like Groucho Marx, Steve. He`s out there blaming every – I will
fight anybody in the house for $1.

He`s after Ann Coulter now. He says she`s being hostile.

I mean, come on. This is pathetic. He`s the president of the United
States, and he`s worried about somebody who writes a book every four years.


When you`re going to war with Ann Coulter, you`re not having a good time in

MATTHEWS: It`s a skirmish off to the right.

ISRAEL: He thinks that this is a winning argument, that the wall is a
winning argument. Fundamentally, he believes it`s a win.

It`s a loss. And here`s the empirical evidence. We just had a midterm
election. He tried to litigate the wall in those midterm districts. He
lost Republican members of Congress.

He litigated the wall, made a referendum. They flipped to Democrats. This
is not a winning argument for Donald Trump. He just hasn`t figured it out

MATTHEWS: Michael, read this guy, because I think he looks weaker. I
compared him to Sonny Liston once, the guy that couldn`t be beaten, until
he couldn`t win.


MATTHEWS: There was no gradual decline. It went from can`t lose to can`t

STEELE: Yes. No, I think that that`s exactly right.

And I think he`s in this space, and he`s buffeted by guys like Mulvaney in-
house telling him, all right, let`s do this, let`s stick to it. They go
out and they continue to beat that drum.

What I take away from this is, again, the idea that we`re going to have
another shutdown in three weeks, this president is prepared to take
ownership of that. He`s prepared to say, yes, I own this shutdown too,
because, to Steve`s point, this fight over the wall is the one corner he
cannot figure out how to get out of, short of an emergency.

And so I think that either he`s going to shut down the government or he`s
going to do the emergency piece, will be the next reaction in this debate.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, the president has taken some heat from his
base, of course, over the wall capitulation. Hard-right commentator Ann
Coulter and FOX business host Lou Dobbs both blasted the move.


ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “IN TRUMP WE TRUST”: Crazy that I expect a president
to keep the promise he made every day for 18 months.


COULTER: No, it`s not just – it`s the base. That`s what happened. The
base is what has rebelled here. And they can take me as a stand-in for the
base, but that`s all I am, a member of the base.

LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS: But you have got to call it as it is. This president
said it was going to be conditional, border security, building that wall,
and he just reversed himself. That`s a victory for Nancy Pelosi. It will
be perceived as such on every television monitor and screen in the country.


MATTHEWS: And that`s reality, of course, every television screen in the
country, Lou.

Anyway, Coulter was following up on her tweet that Trump was – quote –
“the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.”

In his interview with “The Wall Street Journal,” Trump said of Coulter –
quote – “I hear she`s become very hostile. Maybe I didn`t return her
phone call or something.”

This is so snippy. You know what it reminds me of? Faust. Faust made his
deal with the devil, and this is the devil.


ISRAEL: That`s exactly right. That`s exactly right.

And this is the fundamental problem. This is guy, he sits in his recliner,
he watches these people, he listens to these people. He believes that they
reflect the sentiment of the electorate.

In fact, if you take a look at an NBC poll that just came out last weekend,
the wall unpopular with the American people, Donald Trump underwater now,
way more underwater than he ever was.


ISRAEL: So he takes a look at this little slice of extremism and believes
it represents a broader psychology in the electorate. He`s misreading the

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he just take the $25 billion the Democrats offer him
now and then – every once in a while, they give him an incredible offer –
and say, we got our first down payment, we will get the rest of it in the
second term?

I mean, sometimes, you have to finesse these things.

STEELE: Well, it was there on the table. But now he`s at a point where
the opposition is not going to put that offer back on the table.

Look, they`re not going to give him 5.7. There`s no way in heck they`re
going to give him $25 billion.

MATTHEWS: They were talking – how about Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the
House, saying, oh, we will have it next Tuesday? She will dictating terms.

It`s so clear she`s calling the shots.

STEELE: Which is – goes to my central point about this relationship
between these two individuals. Donald Trump has yet to figure out what to
do with Nancy.

He has a Nancy problem, and he doesn`t know how to deal with it. And she
knows it, and every day, she turns the screw just a little bit tighter on
him. And today`s letter was a good example of that.


ISRAEL: And we would have had a different outcome to this shutdown had
Nancy Pelosi not won the speakership. Can you imagine what would have
happened had she not prevailed in this election?

MATTHEWS: All I know is, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, knows how
to deal with friends and enemies. Ask Kathleen Rice of your state.


MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, even before negotiations begin on border security,
some Republicans are looking to the past shutdown to caution against
another government shutdown.

So, just like the – because the base is with Trump doesn`t mean the
leadership on the Hill is with him. Let`s watch.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: What did this shutdown

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, hopefully, it teaches everyone that
shutdowns are not good leverage in any negotiation. I think it`s important
to separate tactics from the policy aims here.

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”: What was actually accomplished?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, I would say absolutely nothing.
Shutdowns are never good policy ever. They are never to be used as a means
to achieve any kind of goal, no matter how important that goal may seem to


MATTHEWS: Yamiche, why does the president think he wins on the wall, and
senators who represent states, some of them red states, some of them not,
think they lose on it? What`s the difference in the job description that
gives you a different perspective?

ALCINDOR: I think – I`m not even sure that he really believes that he
wins on the wall and wins on the shutdown.

And I think what`s even more confusing is that, when you talk to Trump
voters – and I have talked to so many of them – they forgive this
president if almost anything. Think about all the things they forgave
before they even – before he was elected, the “Access Hollywood” tape.

While he`s in office, all his colleagues are being convicted and going to
prison. And all of these people stick with the president through porn
stars, through all sorts of scandals. And now I think they would forgive
him if he said, you know what, I tried really hard, but I couldn`t get the

But you know the one thing they won`t forgive President Trump for doing?
Taking away their paychecks. If there`s another shutdown in three weeks,
and more people are going another month without work, another month without
getting paid, Trump voters will completely turn on this president.

And the polls that “PBS NewsHour” did, show that his base, his actual base
– these are working-class white men, men without college degrees,
evangelical women – that they started shifting, and that he was losing
support with that critical base of his because of the shutdown and the fact
that there are people who couldn`t get paid.

That`s a different thing than saying, I tried really hard for this, but I
can`t actually get it.

MATTHEWS: Let`s ask the – answer the question – or ask – answer that
Yamiche just posed.

Will this president do it again? Will he say, I don`t like the deal they
cut between the House and Senate conferees, I`m shutting it all down again?
Will he do it?

ISRAEL: I believe he will do it again. He`s like the guy on the Titanic
saying, we hit the iceberg, let`s try that again, that worked out well.


ISRAEL: He believes it`s a win. It`s not a win. But he needs to deliver
that to his base.

STEELE: As much as he believes it`s a win – it is a win, I don`t think he
will do that again, because of the things that Yamiche just said, and he
will instead invoke an emergency action on his…



ISRAEL: Agreed.

MATTHEWS: Well, is he going to go with the emergency?


ISRAEL: No, I think there`s a lot of posturing here.

STEELE: Right.

ISRAEL: I think he`s trying to set the stage to invoke an emergency decree
on the border. But he`s going to take this to the 12th hour.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. Jared is warning against it. Jared is warning
against it.

ISRAEL: Against the emergency decree?

MATTHEWS: I know, the emergency decree. I think he`s going to go for it.
I think he shoots the moon, because I have watched the guy all this stuff,
starting in the `90s.

This guy, every hand he gets, he shoots the moon. And that would be a
national emergency.

Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, up there with your expertise, Steve Israel,
and Michael Steele.

Up next, we`re coming to the end of one of the strangest months in Trump`s
presidency, tracking Trump`s first taste of a divided government – after
this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s capping off the start of this third year in the White
House with battles on all fronts. And for the man who claimed he would be
doing so much winning, that has yet to be seen.

The president caved on his border wall last week, ending the longest
government shutdown in our country`s history, a shutdown that he started.
And during the shutdown, more Senate Republicans voted with the Democrats
on their plan to reopen the government than their own – or his own,

Instead of delivering his State of the Union address tomorrow night, Trump
capitulated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s demand to postpone it to the
following week. And Trump watched as his longtime adviser Roger Stone got
hauled away in handcuffs this week. Stone is the sixth member of Trump`s
inner circle who has been arrested by Robert Mueller.

Any one of those headlines would normally be enough to stymie any
president. For Trump, he has to face them all at the same time.

For more, I`m joined by historian Jon Meacham, presidential biographer and
author of “The Soul of America.”

I think, now that you`re down in Nashville again, Jon, I want you to think
about the Woody – Willie Nelson song “It`s Not Supposed to Be This Way.”


MATTHEWS: And it seems to be everything is wrong. His buddies are getting
arrested, put in handcuffs. The government has shut down.

His number one fixer, with all the dirty work on his fingernails, is going
to talk and squawk before two committees next week. This is awful. And
whatever you think of Trump, how does he deal with this life that he has
chosen to screw up?

Go ahead, your thoughts.

JON MEACHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So Willie Nelson meets “The Godfather.”
That was a classic cultural tour.

He did choose this life. And we always ultimately pay for the – you
mentioned Faust a minute ago. We do ultimately pay for what we do on the
way up. Willie Stark taught us that in “All the King`s Men,” that there`s
always something.

And, ultimately, there`s always a canceled check, there`s always a
footprint outside the window. And there`s a lot of canceled checks and a
lot of footprints in this case.

The only analogy – and you know this as well as I do, if not better – is
Nixon in `74, when the economy was in pretty serious shape, and Watergate`s
really closing in. Nixon could only find a couple of audiences that would
really be acceptable or welcoming by the time the spring of `74 came along.

He came down to the Grand Ole Opry, not far from here, in March of `74,
tried to do the “Yo-Yo” with Roy Acuff, and was here basically because he
would get a warm reception, which was not the case anywhere else.

My sense of where the president is, is, he`s paying the price for having
invented this as he`s gone along. And to say that he goes day to day, I
think, is an insult to people who go day to day. I think it`s a minute-to-
minute thing, and it seems to me there`s no clear path to getting a
presidency that is at about 35 percent or so approval rating, which is a
danger zone, as you know.

When you get in the 20s, you`re really done. When you`re in the mid-30s,
it`s lethargic, and I think – I have a feeling it`s going to begin to go
down even farther.

MATTHEWS: Here`s a tough one.

Back when Nixon went down, he went down not – just because of the break-in
or the cover-up of the break-in, which was kind of hard to explain to
people today. That`s all he did? But – there`s a lot more, of course.


MATTHEWS: But was the economy was so terrible in the `70s at that time, in
the 1970s, stagflation. It was awful. It wasn`t getting any better. We
were stuck in bad times.

With Bill Clinton, I know with a lesser offense involved with Monica
Lewinsky and that thing and that – it seemed to me that better economic
times are working for the guy in trouble, that people don`t feel miserable,
therefore, they don`t want to throw a guy out of office.

What do you think the economy does, if it stays strong, does to protect
Trump against removal from office, potentially?

MEACHAM: Oh, we have had – oh, yes. No, I think that`s hugely important.
I think that`s his safety net.

I have used this phrase there are a lot of people in the country – I know
a lot of them, you do, too – who are basically 401(k) Trump supporters.
Those numbers have gone up. If you have done well in the system, you have
done well under Trump. The people who have not done as well are still

And that`s going to be an interesting dynamic to watch. But I think if the
economy gets softer, I don`t think this is – predictions are not worth
much – but it`s very hard to see him being able to move forward with a bad
economy, plus all this other stuff.

The real question isn`t – is, you know, there`s about 30 percent of the
country that is more or less permanently disaffected and open to being
persuaded by someone like this.

What happened in 2016 and 2017 and a good part of `18 is, that number was
up near 48 percent or so. Is that 12 percent, 13 percent, 14 percent of
folks who believe in institutions, but don`t particularly believe in
elites, who didn`t want to see Secretary Clinton be president, and who were
willing to say basically to Washington, I think, if you`re going to act
like pro wrestlers, we`re going to send you one, are those people going to
come back to a more centrist view, not ideologically, but in terms of
institutional frame?

And, as you know, presidential politics are not referenda. They`re
choices. So, everything – not everything, but almost everything depends
on who the Democrats put up as a choice.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m so with you.

There`s a difference between free will and free choice, I once heard at a
Georgetown lecture. We don`t get to think of the president we would like
to have. We look at the people that run, and we choose among them. It`s
just choice, not free will.


MATTHEWS: That`s how we get stuck with some of those characters.

Anyway, thank you, Jon Meacham. I thought that was brilliant analysis.

Up next: The field of potential 2020 candidates keeps growing, of course.
Kamala Harris had 20,000 people out yesterday for her official launch of
her campaign in Oakland, California.

And there`s been a loud and immediate response to the potential entry into
this race of a dark horse independent.

You know what independents do. Think about Jill Stein. Think about Gary
Johnson. Think about Ralph Nader. They cause trouble.

We`re back after this.



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: These are not ordinary times and this
will not be an ordinary election. But this is our America.


It`s up to us, each and every one of us. So let`s remember, in this fight,
we have the power of the people. So let`s do this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, California Senator Kamala Harris officially launching
her presidential campaign yesterday in front of a crowd that her advisers
estimate, look, make your own judgment, 20,000 people. That`s according to
“The New York Times” reporting.

It was a contrast in energy to former Starbucks executive chairman Howard
Schultz who announced last night he`s seriously considering running for
president as an independent in 2020. Here he is.


thinking of running for president. I will run as a centrist independent
outside of the two-party system. Both parties are consistently not doing
what`s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every
single day in revenge politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, as “The Washington Post” points out, quote, almost
immediately, reactions began pouring in at a furious clip, noting some on
the left fumed that a Schultz run would split the anti-President Trump
vote, essentially handing the incumbent the election.

As “The Washington Post” notes, it reignited a perennial debate among
political talking heads, how much do third party candidates actually
influence elections. Well, it`s a complicated question because there`s no
way to definitively know how a third party voter would have voted if they
could only choose between a Democrat and Republican.

However, in a key 2016 swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and
Pennsylvania, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won a larger number of votes
than Clinton lost to Trump by. So, if all those Stein votes or even some
of them had gone to Clinton, she would have won the presidential election.

And catch this. In the year 2000, Al Gore lost Florida to George W. Bush
by 537 votes, by some counts, but Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got
more than 90,000 votes in Florida, which would have swung the election to
Gore if at least just 538 of those third-party voters had voted for Gore.

What`s shaping up to be a crowded field for 2020, of course, but Democrats
may not be the only ones facing a contested primary season. There`s buzz
about a Republican who may challenge Trump, a Republican in the primaries.

We`ll be right back with that one after this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s shaping up to be a busy primary season, don`t you think? And now, it
looks like Donald Trump could face a potential primary challenger from
within the Republican Party. “The Washington Post” is reporting that
Maryland`s popular governor, Republican Governor Larry Hogan has been
consulting with aides and national GOP critics of Trump about whether to
pursue a White House bid. I think Bill Kristol is pushing him.

I`m joined now by Zerlina Maxwell, the director of progressive programming
for Sirius. I think I up again this month.


MATTHEWS: And Peggy Noonan is a columnist with the “Wall Street Journal.”

I love your column. You know that. I used to tweet you after I read it or
e-mail you.

What do you think about Kamala? What`s your sort of political – you`ve
got a good sense of horse flesh, how does it look?



NOONAN: I thought she made a very good impression in her announcement
speech. The headline to me, did you see a picture of that crowd? Twenty
thousand people was the number I read in the papers, as we used to say.
What a huge crowd.

It was a good, strong, liberal left speech. She also, I`ll tell you what I
see when I look at her. She enjoys this. She likes it. She likes –

MATTHEWS: If you don`t like it, why are you there?

NOONAN: You know, also, they wear on us if they don`t like it. It`s good
when they like it.


MATTHEWS: You know, I`m not going to mention the name, but “SNL” the other
night referred to one to one of the other candidates, Kate McKinnon was
playing her saying voting for her would be like having a prostate exam.
It`s good for you, but who wants to do it? Enough said.

But what do you think about this, does happy matter?

MAXWELL: Yes, I think it matters, and I think especially when the contrast
is Donald Trump and, you know, American carnage which is what he talked
about on the inauguration, when you contrast that with the progressive
vision, but also a clear message about how you`re going to take the country
into the progressive future, you know, talking about health care being a
fundamental human right. I mean, for all the talk about how the party is
moving to the left, and I think that`s true, I think the country is also
moving to the left on many of these important issues.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MAXWELL: Including health care.

MATTHEWS: I agree –

NOONAN: It`s economically moving to the left. I suspect in terms of the
social issues, it`s moving less left. I think it will probably be moving
more moderate, but economically, left.

MATTHEWS: Watch Pennsylvania on that score.

NOONAN: Watch Pennsylvania?

MATTHEWS: On cultural issues.

Let me ask you, Peggy, about the Republican Party and Larry Hogan. He got
re-elected overwhelmingly in a state that`s pretty blue.


MATTHEWS: In Maryland. Very popular.

NOONAN: Popular guy.

MATTHEWS: He had a scare a while ago which may have helped people
sympathize with him. But also, he`s been able to put it together
politically and he doesn`t like Trump. Where`s his future? New Hampshire?

NOONAN: You hear very lately a lot of chatter about him. I have no idea
what his plans are, what his heart is. I know there are people around him
urging him to go forward.

I am – as long as Trump stays viable, I think the Republican Party stays
with him. So, I`m a little skeptical of those who would make a challenge
from his right or from his left, we`ll see. But at this point, I mean when
you just look at the numbers, Republicans are still pretty solid behind

In terms of the country, he`s got this solid third. It seems to me
immovable. He never – you know, he could – he could get out there and do
something, the strangest, weird thing in the world and keep his third.

MATTHEWS: Shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, he was right about that.

Let me ask you about the Republican Party. You`re progressive but they
seem to be culturally different, not just to the conservative side of the
Democrats, but they behave in a regimental manner. Democrats don`t stick
together like that, they just don`t, unless Nancy Pelosi is calling the
shots. Generally, they do what they feel like doing.

MAXWELL: I mean, I would hope that Democrats would stick together the way
that they just did during the shutdown. But I would also say that
Republicans tend to fall in line. They don`t necessarily think about the
specific policies of the Republican running, but if there`s an “R” next to
that person`s name, they vote for that person. That`s true for
presidential campaigns –

MATTHEWS: That`s the description of my beloved dad.

MAXWELL: They don`t care who it is.

MATTHEWS: He voted for everybody. He was so consistent. In fact, we had
Kennedy running as a Catholic. And I said, dad, aren`t you voting for
Kennedy? He`s a Catholic. He said, I`m a Republican.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, this morning, President Trump tweeted that Howard
Schultz doesn`t have the guts to run for president, he`s not the smartest
person. Besides, America already has that. That`s what he says, I`m the
smartest president. I only hope Starbucks is still paying me their rent in
Trump Tower.

Tonight, Schultz got heckled at a book event by a protester who said he
would help elect Trump if he runs. Let`s watch this. It`s already
starting. It`s already going.


UNIDNETIFIED MALE: Don`t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire.


MATTHEWS: Well, you heard the heart of it, Peggy. Don`t help elect Trump,
you egotistical – I don`t know what`s worse, egotistical or billionaire.

NOONAN: Maybe the insulter didn`t know either. This is so interesting to
me. Howard Schultz has a fabulous story in terms of business and what he
made and it`s a great product, et cetera. I don`t know how to read this
presidential possibility that he`s got –

MATTHEWS: What`s his connection with the presidency?

NOONAN: Look, I don`t see his constituency. I don`t see his – what`s the
word for wow, everybody looks at him.

MAXWELL: Charisma, the “it” factor?

NOONAN: I guess I don`t see the “it” factor. So, I don`t know –
everybody who`s smarter than I am says it`s money, he can spend anything.
But I think really?

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the cost factor. We`ve seen this happen with
Nader, 90,000 votes, Al Gore wasn`t president. We`ve seen it in New York
with Jill Stein, I mean, Pennsylvania. These margins are obvious.

MAXWELL: Right. And I would like to not repeat that with this much at

So in terms of Howard Schultz, run for mayor. Do what Michael Bloomberg
did, use your business acumen and run for mayor, run a city and do a good
job at that and then maybe we can talk in a few years. But right now,
there is way too much at stake for a vanity projects like running for

MATTHEWS: Vanity. You egotistical billionaire.

Zerlina Maxwell, Peggy Noonan.

When we return, one of the best movies of the year tells a story that needs
to be told and retold.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

One of the best movies of the year is also one of the most educational.
I`m talking about “Green Book”, about the manual sold to African-Americans
back in the days before the 1964 civil rights bill which band
discrimination on the basis of race in places of public accommodation,
hotels, restaurants, gas stations, rest rooms, you name it. It`s
impossible for me or any other white person to understand what it`s like to
have someone behind the care of a hotel tell you after seeing you that your
reservation has been unfortunately lost.

It was to avoid the punishment of such moments that the green book was
published and became well known to so many Americans in the 1950s and
1960s. Without it, you were truly on your own in an unfriendly land.
Recently, in seeing the film based on the “Green Book” experience, I
recalled something told to me by Bobby Kennedy`s hard-nosed operative, Paul
Corbin. One night he told me how he had been listening to Bobby speak
about civil rights and called him out on how detached he sounded.

What would you feel like, he challenged Bobby, if you were riding around in
the south and your wife needed to use the restroom. What would you feel
like if you were told that the gas station restroom was for whites only?
How do you feel?

That`s why there was a green book. I like the movie based on this history
because it tells a story that needs to be told and retold, especially the
people not brought up under the burden of racial repression.

White supremacy is what we Americans must never forget for the simple
reason it`s where we came from. And because of at a certain level as
William Faulkner wrote, the past isn`t dead. It isn`t even the past. How
can we be good Americans if we don`t remember what we did wrong.

That`s HARDBALL for now.

And tonight be sure to tune in at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Senator Elizabeth
Warren joins Lawrence O`Donnell.

And “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES”, of course, starts right now.


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