Paul Manafort hearing provides clue. TRANSCRIPT: 2/11/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Susan Page, Donna Shalala, Dana Milbank

Date: February 11, 2019
Guest: Susan Page, Donna Shalala, Dana Milbank


Senator Klobuchar will join none other than Rachel Maddow for a live
interview at 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight. I wouldn`t want to miss that.

That is it for THE BEAT. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.

And “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Putin`s motive. Donald Trump`s deal. Let`s

For the very first time Robert Mueller`s prosecutors have revealed a motive
for a possible quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russia. This
sharpens the case dramatically. It shows us what could be the deal between
the trump campaign and Moscow.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. We have an explosive show
for you tonight.

We are also following the face off in El Paso, Texas where Donald Trump and
Beto O`Rourke are holding dueling real-time rallies over the border wall as
Washington braces for the prospect of yet another shutdown.

We begin with the new reporting indicating that the special counsel`s
office has a working theory now on its collusion theory - collusion
inquiry. This theory suggest that the Kremlin would support Trump`s
political ambitions for the presidency if he would support Russia`s
ambitions in Ukraine.

As “the New York Times” report today, the clue came last week at hearing in
case of Paul Manafort who stands accused of lying about his contact with an
associate tied to Russian intelligence. When the judge asked why
Manafort`s alleged ties or lies were important, Mueller`s prosecutor
responded with this remarkable explanation.

Quote “this goes to the larger view of what we think is going on and what
we think the motive is. This goes to the heart of what the special
counsel`s office is investigating.”

In other words, Manafort`s conversations with that Russian operative appear
central to a possible quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and the

To that point, the Times reports a closer look at the transcript from that
hearing shows that the prosecutors have been keenly focused on discussions
the two men had about a plan to end the conflict that followed Russia`s
invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

That so-called peace plan for Ukraine was apparently so sensitive that
Manafort lied to prosecutors about even discussing it. And it may explain
what Russia expected in return, for the unprecedented help they led Donald
Trump and his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

I`m joined by the author of that story Ken Vogel of the “New York Times,”
Betsy woodruff is politics reporter for the “Daily Beast,” Mimi Rocah is a
former federal prosecutor and Malcolm Nance is the author of “the Plot to
destroy Democracy.”

Ken, the central question here is, did Russia try to help Trump? And in
return, did Trump try to help Russia? How does this story get into the
heart of it?

working on here is trying to figure out what Russia is trying to figure
out. In other words, Russia, if this theory holds is using this Konstantin
Kilimnik guy to try to figure out whether Trump would amenable to
resolution in Ukraine, between Ukraine and Russia, that would potentially
were down to Russia`s benefit including possibly lifting those sanction,
which as we know, was Russia`s number one and remains Russia`s number one
foreign policy priority.

MATTHEWS: The sequence of events as I understand is the Russia began a
campaign to help Trump win. At that point, somewhere along the line, they
figured out what was going on and people like Manafort who are close to
Russia, the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and Russia, decide, OK, we will
jump aboard this train. We are going to help them do that by saying we
will stop American opposition to their grabbing of Crimea and their
offensive strategy towards Ukraine and we will stop all the sanctions and
all to reward them so they will keep doing this. They will continue to
help us in the campaign.

VOGEL: I mean, Manafort had a more nuance take here. And I think that`s
part of what Mueller seems to be trying to figure out is whether Russia is
trying to use Manafort to sort of push Trump further on this.

Trump had already said a number of things. There was already reason for
Russia to believe that Trump would be a better President for them than
Hillary Clinton. What we see here, potentially, if this is, in fact, sort
of blessed outreach by Russia through this Konstantin Kilimnik guy to the
Trump campaign through Paul Manafort is an effort to figure out whether
they could get buy in on a plan or plans that would give them what they
wanted from a President Trump.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Malcolm. It seems to me in political terms, you
find out a guy wants to give you 10,000 bucks, you go back to him for
100,000. Trump sees they want to help, OK. Can they help me even more if
I do certain things? Your thoughts?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, then, you are talking about a
quid pro quo, you know. And I think Ken`s article is really good because
it gets to the point of where was there an effort by Russia.

Let`s talk with the Kremlin going to the Trump campaign by someone who is
already damaged good, Paul Manafort. A person who owned person to a
Russian oligarch. But this operation has a longer timeline.

We saw that in 2012 Donald Trump had already made contact with Konstantin
Rekoff (ph), the head of Russia`s TV1.

2013, they established the internet research agency two months before the
Miss Universe pageant.

2014, they invade Crimea and Trump is effusive (ph) in his praise of
Vladimir Putin.

2015, Russia starts hacking the DNC.

This particular component with Konstantin Kilimnik is just a guarantor that
they are going to get in and have those sanctions raised if this can be
proven. So this is just one component of a very broad base intelligence

MATTHEWS: Mimi, what does Robert Mueller have to prove in a courtroom
sense about a quid pro quo? I mean, I brought up to believe that you can`t
prove bribery without somebody either taping it or a couple of witnesses to
say I will do this if you will do that. It can`t be implied. I`m talking
mob-talk here. But you have to basely prove that somebody said if you do
this, I will do that. That`s a quid pro quo. That is a bribery case.
What do you have to prove here?

you were trying to prove a straight out bribery case which is one possible
charge here, you would have to show that Trump or someone on his behalf
basically made a pretty expressed promise that they would lift sanctions in
exchange for what they were getting which was help on the campaign, help
throwing the election, maybe something with Trump tower.

But there are other possible charges here. I do think that bribery is a
possible charge but really depend on Mueller`s evidence and whether there
is really proof of that kind of guarantee other than the circumstantial
evidence we see.

But the other possible charge here, remember Mueller has already charged
the Russians with interfering in our election, conspiracy due to the fraud
by interfering the election. If let`s say Manafort is expressly part of
that conspiracy by giving poll data to help them with that by relaying
assurances about lifting sanctions, and if Trump knew about this, was aware
of it and did something to help make sure that we forward, he could be in
that conspiracy that – well, what could something be? It wouldn`t have to
be very express.

Remember, he is like the mob boss. And no one here is going do anything
without Trump`s approval either implicit or explicit. So if Trump - Trump
would have to give some kind of assurance, you know, they would have to
know that he was OK with what they were doing. And as Malcolm said, it`s
not just Manafort. It`s the people meeting at Trump tower. It`s the
people changing the Republican platform. So it is all these people doing
things and Trump would really have to give his approval and that could be

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Betsy on this because this is a journalist
question but it is also a political question. My experience is bosses
don`t give you orders. They know what you are there for. It is like going
to your dentist and tell them what to do. The dentist knows what to do.
You don`t tell them what to do. He tells you what – he does it because he
is a pro, a professional operative like I was. You know what the boss
wants and you do it.

So can you catch a guy because Manafort knows what Trump wants? He wants
to win the damn election and he wants any help he can get. It doesn`t take
much intelligence.

the things that makes it really challenging for prosecutors to bring so
many of these bribery cases. And it`s part of reason that the justice
department public integrity section actually gets a lot of criticism from
government watchdog who say they failed to aggressively prosecute these
cases in part because the evidentiary standards can be really tough to

Because exactly, as you said, Trump wouldn`t have had to tell Paul
Manafort, I want you to help me become President. That would have been
pretty clear. That said, some of the granular details I think as we talk
about this that are important to remember is that you can`t understand
Russians efforts to meddle in the 2016 election unless you understand the
Ukraine question. Historically for Russia for sort of more expensive
Russian governments, they have always wanted to take back as much as
Ukraine as possible. It`s a key part of greater Russia.

And in this case, what we also know before the 2016 election is that two
men, (INAUDIBLE) who is Ukrainian parliamentarian and Felix Sader (ph) who
is the go between Michael Cohen and Russian investors on the Trump Moscow
talks approached Michael Cohen with a Ukrainian peace plan where they had
specific details.

MATTHEWS: But that`s to use the word piece the way communists do it.
Peace means we win you lose.

WOODRUFF: And the important key here is where I can tell you, I spoke
earlier today with a person who had direct knowledge of that plan who said
that one of the things that was important piece of it was limiting NATO`s
access to Ukraine. It was basically making it so that the west had less of
a military footprint in this part of the world where Russia was trying to

VOGEL: And to your point, Betsy, about the difficulty in charges these
cases, it`s possible that this theory may never actually manifest itself in
an indictment but rather that we might see it laid out as sort of the
connective tissue in a Mueller report that may or may not be publicly
released but never actually have someone charged in direction connection
with this theory even if they are.

MATTHEWS: It always looked to me like the theory that made sense. Trump
has long appeared willing to lift the sanctions that were imposed on Russia
to punish them for annexing Crimea and from Ukraine, of course. At the
outset of his campaign in 2015, Trump was asked this question by a woman
who was later identified as a Russian agent.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were elected as President, what will be your
foreign politics especially in the relationships with my country? And do
you want to continue the politics of sanctions that damage both economy, or
you have any other ideas?

the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.


MATTHEWS: Well, then, just before the Republican convention in 2016, the
language in the platform was mysteriously changed to weaken the Republican
Party that position on U.S. assistance to Ukraine. However, Manafort
denied the campaign was responsible for doing so.


committee had said it came from the Trump campaign. If not you, who.

come from the Trump campaign. I don`t know who everybody is, but I
guarantee you –.

TODD: Nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

MANAFORT: No one. Zero.


MATTHEWS: Well, Republican delegates to that convention later told
National Public Radio that the Trump campaign was involved in that platform
change. We also know that Russia expected sanctions really from this
President as the Kremlin`s deputy prime minister said just days before
Trump took office.

Quote “sanctions will soon cease being in effect.”

Mimi Rocah, this case, it just keeps going back to what the Russians were
doing for Trump and what Trump and all his people seem to want to do for

ROCAH: Exactly. And you know, look. You would have to believe that there
was just this incredible set of coincidences that Trump just – Russia just
happened to be helping Trump get elected and Trump just happen to be giving
and all of his people Russia what they wanted and that there was no actual
agreement. And that really just – you don`t have to be a lawyer to figure
out that totally belies common sense.

So the question is, was (INAUDIBLE) explicit? Was it implicit? And can
Robert Mueller prove it? That is everyone has been saying. Just because
we may sort of know it and it may be obvious, which I think it is at this
point, doesn`t necessarily mean they can prove it.

But I will say that the fact the prosecutors still, you know, in this
hearing, that we have a redacted transcript and there were still things
that they really would not go out to say tells me that there are more
dominos, more chips to fall because if this was just about Manafort and his
contacts with Kilimnik, they would have just been able to talk about that
at the hearing and you wouldn`t have so many redactions.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm, let`s talk about how history will look at this moment.
If Trump walks on this, there`s no real strong Robert Mueller report that
says that nearly nails them. But yet everybody has been following this
case that watch this program and others like it, they have been following
this case for like two years. They know all the pieces of it and they know
it`s not all, you know, coincidental. They know there us so much action
here on both sides that it`s hard to imagine it any other way that they
were working together with the same goal. Get Trump in there. Get the
Trump team to help Russia. Because all Putin wants is to rebuild the
Russian empire again starting with Ukraine. And perhaps, that went on to
the Baltics. We don`t know what he is up to. Look at the guy. He is KGB
to its – toes to his head. That`s what he is.

NANCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And so, what will happen if he gets away with this? That`s
always - always my Watergate question way back when. What if Nixon and his
people all got away with it? What kind of a government would we have at
this point?

NANCE: Well, I`m pretty sure when you are talking about Robert Mueller,
you know, a man who was an FBI officer his entire life. He has got, you
know, all the bearings of Eliot Nest. There is no one to this
administration I think to this man who is untouchable.

But let me just say one thing. When Benedict Arnold gave the plans to West
Point, to Major Andre and they captured Major Andre, they didn`t have any
real information linking those plans to Benedict Arnold other than the fact
that he was in his presence at one point during that day. But everyone
knew it was treason when they caught the man and they hung him. So at some
point, there is going to be a bridge of data here that is going to be

If Donald Trump through a series of coincidences knew nothing about the
myriad of activities that was going around him that started back in 2012
and now end up with multiple activities and indictments around him then,
you know, then I have got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

MATTHEWS: I guess our political question is now, Ken, are we as tough as
George Washington? Because when he was head of the army, he hanged that
guy. He wanted to be shot. He said, I`m going to hang you.

VOGEL: Well, I mean, no. Short answer. But it will be a big question
about whether the Mueller report ever sees the light of day. Because I do
think we are potentially, you know, there may be a few more bread crumbs in
some of the ongoing cases. The Roger Stone case, we will see what comes
out of that. But there is the potential that sort of the most sweeping
narrative of this that really lays out what other guests here suspect is
already true will never actually become charges against either Trump or
Trump associate. That`s a possibility and then it will be left to

MATTHEWS: Betsy, it is going to be hard for people to unravel this in
their mind and said they never learned all this. But we have learned it
all and we broadcast it. People know it. These incredible so-called
coincidences and what you see as a narrative of deceit and a narrative of

WOODRUFF: And frankly, much of what Mueller has brought forward in his
charges, certainly not all, but a lot of it has previously been reported by
journalists who have been able to uncover a lot of what the Russians were
trying to do.


WOODRUFF: It certainly brings it in and it gives us more detailed
information and having it from a prosecutor with evidence I think can give
the public more confidence than when it`s journalists basing it on their
sources. At the same time though we have seen a ton of reporting, be
crystal clear collaborated by Mueller`s team.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You are a competitive bunch, aren`t you?


MATTHEWS: Give this guy some credit. Good luck with the “New York times.”
Good work there.

Thank you, Ken Vogel. Thank you, Betsy Woodruff. Mimi Rocah, and Malcolm

Coming up, there is no emergency and no one want another shutdown,
obviously. So can lawmakers cut through the politics and get a border deal
done by this Friday? That`s the 15th at midnight.

Also, Trump says he is the hardest working President ever. This goes back
to Washington. All the way, he is the hardest one. But a new batch of
leaked private schedules is casting more light on his so-called executive

Plus, of all the 2020 candidates, why does Elizabeth Warren seem to get
under President Trump`s skin the most. Maybe it`s because of come as like
the one she made this weekend taunting Trump about his future.

We have got a lot to talk about tonight. Stay with us.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s a dramatic split-screen of the battle over border security taking
shape tonight in El Paso, Texas. Look at it.

At this hour, former Democratic Congressman and possible 2020 contender
Beto O`Rourke is holding an anti-border wall march. And just a half-mile
away, President Trump will hold a campaign-style rally to make his case for
a wall.

And last week, he falsely characterized El Paso`s crime rate while pitching
his wall during the State of the Union. And tonight`s dueling events come
as congressional negotiators in Washington have just four more days to come
up with a plan on border security to keep the government open.

On Sunday, yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said there`s no
guarantee the president would even accept a deal.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: So is it fair to say whatever
Congress hands him, he will sign; he just may not be enthusiastic about it?


TODD: You`re not ready to go there?


TODD: You can`t definitively – we cannot definitively rule out a
government shutdown at the end of this week?

MULVANEY: You absolutely cannot.


MATTHEWS: Well, the top four congressional negotiators met today after
talks stalled this weekend over a disagreement on the number of detention
beds available to ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lawmakers have until Friday to avert a second shutdown, of course. That`s
the 15th of the month.

Congressional negotiators are set to meet again next hour – that`s this
evening – with hopes of reaching an agreement perhaps tonight on a path to
avoid a shutdown.

I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida,
who served as health and human services secretary under President Clinton,
and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for “The New York Times.”

I want to start with Congresswoman Shalala.

Are we talking another C.R., a continuing resolution tonight, a stopgap,
rather than a solution to this situation?

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D), FLORIDA: I don`t think so.

I think they`re really going to try to get an agreement. After all, these
are the appropriators. These aren`t just some random members of Congress.
These are pros. These are the best pros that we have there.

They`re used to cutting deals. The Democrats believe in border security.
We ought to be able to find a compromise here that`s acceptable to the
Republican leadership of both the House and the Senate.

And while there are a lot of grim faces around, that always happens at the
end of negotiations. You always hit obstacles. And let`s give them some
air to breathe and give them a chance to get this deal done.

No one, no one in the Capitol wants to see another shutdown. And no one in
the country wants to see another shutdown.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Peter on this, because this thing started because
Trump wanted the wall. And now a lot of Democrats came out in response to
that, saying, you shouldn`t take a debatable policy question and use it to
shut down the government.

However, having taken that position, staked out that position, Democrats
are now insisting on a cap on the number of beds available for people put
into detention who are picked up in the United States, who are already

Isn`t that a policy argument they`re trying to win with a shutdown threat?
Are they playing the Trump game on a shutdown?

that`s – that`s the risk. Sorry.


MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You, Peter. You`re up first.



MATTHEWS: Can he go first? I`m sorry. Let me go to Peter Baker.

Go ahead.

SHALALA: OK, Peter, go ahead.

BAKER: Sorry. Sorry, Congresswoman.

Look, I think that`s the risk for Democrats, obviously, is that they –
they came out of the first round of this shutdown, the 35 days, feeling
that they were emboldened, they had faced down President Trump, he had to
back down without getting a single dime for his border wall.

And now they`re – they`re trying to capitalize on that momentum. But
you`re right. The risk is, they don`t want to look like they`re
responsible for shutting own the government. And in the end of the day, at
the end of the day, whether this will be the kind of thing that prevents a
deal or not is really an open question.

I think that, as the congresswoman said, nobody`s angling for any kind of
shutdown here. The problem is – remains, of course, what will the
president do? If they come up with a deal the does settle the issue on the
beds, that does include some money for some barrier, but not what he wants,
is it something he will sign?

Or will he go to a national emergency and try to take – take over this
effectively through unilateral declaration of power?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

Go ahead, Congresswoman. Your thought.

SHALALA: Well, if the Democrats and Republicans agree on an appropriations
bill, the president doesn`t sign it at his own risk, because this means
that elected representatives have agreed on border security.

And, frankly, I think the bed thing is overrated, because it really is in
the context of border security. What we`re all saying is, we need more
judges. We don`t need to put people in detention for long periods of time.
We need to go back to the rule of law about asylum and to move people
quickly through the process, so that we don`t need a lot of people being
detained for long periods of time, and certainly not their children.

And so there are bigger issues here than just the number of beds. And I
think it`s important that we put our faith in the real pros here, the
appropriators, and give them the support that they need to get this deal
cut. And then the president will have to make a very tough decision in
which he can explain why, when elected officials came together and agreed
on a deal, that it wasn`t good enough for him.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to Peter on this, because I have got a
question here about – it seems to be the wall people – that would be the
people on television, Ann Coulter and who that other guy is on MS – on
FOX, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of them, they were all pushing for the
wall, or else you`re a weakling.

And now we have in the Democratic Party, the more activist wing, we have
got newly elected members who really want to get rid of ICE. They`re all
the way on this. Are we getting pressure from both sides now to avoid a

SHALALA: Absolutely not.

BAKER: Well…

SHALALA: There always are going to be people that have strong views about
what ought to be included in the appropriations process.

We can – we can debate the role of ICE. I don`t like their policies
either, but we`re talking about 20,000 federal employees, hardworking
federal employees.


SHALALA: We don`t like the policies.

Every time we don`t like a policy, we ought to change that policy if we
have the power to do that. But it`s the same as closing down the
government. You have a debate about an issue, and then you decide, if you
don`t get your way, you`re going to affect 800,000 hardworking people and
their families?

This is adolescent behavior. It`s time to let the pros in appropriations
cut the deal for all of us.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, Congresswoman Shalala of Florida. Thank you.

Let me get back to Peter on this.

Even as President Trump has repeatedly made his case for a border wall,
“The Washington Post” reports that President Trump`s golf course over in
Bedminster, New Jersey, employed dozens of undocumented immigrants, noting
that come – this recent purge of unauthorized workers from at least five
Trump properties contributes demanding evidence that the president
benefited from years, for years from the work of illegal laborers he now

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked about that in an
interview with FOX. Here he goes.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: How do you explain this apparent
hypocrisy by President Trump and by his business?

MULVANEY: One of the things you and I have talked about with my job is
what I call compartmentalization, which is that I deal with running the
White House.

We deal with running the government. What you have just put up, it`s a
fair question, but it`s a question that goes to the Trump Organization and
not to the Trump White House.


MATTHEWS: Mick Mulvaney, not my job, Peter, not my job.


MATTHEWS: But I think he put Trump under the bus there, because he
basically said, good question, it makes sense. Why the hypocrisy? He is
saying that about his boss.

BAKER: Yes, I mean, I think that`s the best answer the chief of staff can
have, which is to say, it`s not my role to answer.

But you`re right. I mean, it is a good question. And it`s one that the
Trump Organization really hasn`t given a good answer to, because in fact it
has been going on for years.

Our reporters have found – at “The New York Times” have found a number of
undocumented workers who have come forward because they wanted to make
their stories known, because they thought that there was some hypocrisy
there at these golf clubs, for them to be employed, they say knowingly, by
an organization headed by a person who is now president of the United
States and trying to take such a hard line on illegal immigration.

And it just – it begs the question why he wouldn`t have had his clubs and
his organizations do a better screen of this in the first place, knowing
that he would come under scrutiny like this. Everybody would have
understood that reporters and opposition figures would have been trolling
for examples of this kind of thing.

So it`s surprising that he didn`t make a point of avoiding this exact

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

Peter, you`re the Bigfoot of “The New York Times.” You write the big story
on the front page. Answer this big question. It`s a big one, all right?
Trump, we know his lifestyle. He`s got fixers, like Michael Cohen, to
cover up all for these relationships, pay people off, blah, blah, blah,
cover them up.

We know his personal lifestyle requires that kind of service for people who
work around him to cover up his lifestyle. He comes out as Mr. Pro-Life in
the campaign, as Mr. Moral Leader, blah, blah, blah. He got a lot of votes
in Pennsylvania and places like that on that.

He says, I`m against illegal immigrants. It comes out, hey, by the way, I
make a lot of money off of illegal immigrants because they work harder than
anybody I know, and they work even harder the first day they`re here

Complete and utter hypocrisy. What do you make of that? There`s a
parallelism, his positional on moral behavior, sexual behavior, and all
that, his position on hiring people. It`s a big fraud. Your thoughts?

BAKER: Well, look…


BAKER: Look, we ask – we go to the rallies like the one he`s having in
Texas tonight. And we ask his voters about this sometimes.

And they say, look, we get that he`s not always going to be consistent with
the things that he expresses, but we think that he is doing a good job by
mixing things up in Washington, by raising these questions in the first
place, by breaking china.

And it`s this sort of combative mode of politics that has sort of
overshadowed to his own voters the details of his own past, right?

Why do Christian conservatives back a president who is now on his third
wife and has had his own series of allegations of sexual impropriety?
Well, in part because of what you talked about in the previous segment,
because he`s got a lot of these judges who are going to be approved.


BAKER: And they`re more concerned about that than they are about his own
personal morals, because he`s – he advocates the policies that they want
to see, even if he`s not a perfect exemplar of them.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is what brought down Soviet Union, this utter
hypocrisy, the fraudulence of their claim to equality, while the big shots
were running the world and living like kings over there in Russia, the
future oligarchs.

And that`s what brought down that system. And we have got a system where a
president is willing to say one thing and live a completely different life.

Anyway, Peter, thank you for being on.

Up next: Donald Trump says he works harder than any other president in
history, don`t you think? But a new batch of private schedules, his real
schedule, are raising more questions about how he actually spends – is
that the right word, spends his day? I wonder. Does his days?

I don`t know.

We`re back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Trump is claiming he`s the hardest working president – get this – ever.
He tweeted over the weekend that he – quote – “probably works more hours
than almost any past president,” because, when he took office, the country
was a mess.

He added this morning: “No president ever worked harder than me.”

It`s not the first time Trump has boasted about his performance.


the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

There has never been a presidency that`s done so much in such a short
period of time.

The bottom line is, this is the biggest tax cuts and reform in the history
of our country.

There are those that are saying it`s one of the finest group of people ever
assembled as a candidate – as a Cabinet.

“The Art of the Deal,” which was – is one of the number one, probably the
number one bestselling business book of all time.

I went to an Ivy League school. I`m very highly educated. I know words.
I have the best words.


MATTHEWS: “I know words.”


MATTHEWS: That`s my favorite.

The president`s tweets come after Axios got its hands on months of private
schedules. They showed he spent about 60 percent, three or five hours, of
his day in executive time, whatever that is.

After the White House launched an internal hunt to find the terrible
leaker, Axios received even more of the president`s private schedules,
showing his agenda from last week. Again, the schedule showed that the
president spent half his time in executive time.

I`m joined right now out by Dana Milbank, worthy for this topic, columnist
for “The Washington Post.”

First of all, where do we start? I have a theory. That long tie of his –
the ties is about four feet long. What is it? Is that the longest tie in
history? Is that part of his, I`m better than anybody?

cable news host in history has ever asked as good a question as that one
right there.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Donald.

MILBANK: But, yes, you would think that that would be part of the
executive time and the hair and the proper oranging of the face.

But he seems to be getting a little defensive here. And I have noticed
some of the other things that – in addition to what you just played, that
he`s done better than anybody else. He respects women more than anybody
else, believes in the First Amendment more than anybody else. He reads the
Bible more than anybody else. He spends more time with the military, and
he is less racist.

So it would seem then, when something sort of gets at him and strikes a
nerve, if you will, that`s when he does one of these over-the-top things
and said, yes, Lincoln fought the Civil War, and FDR died after exhaustion
in World War II, but no.


MATTHEWS: A lot of New Testament Bibles books always show Jesus with his
hand in the air here like this. And Trump does that, like, I say unto you.

He actually makes these proclamations about his greatness, like Jesus
saying something about – something to do that`s important.

Anyway, the president seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of
former Washington Redskins star fullback John Riggins. Remember him? When
Riggins encountered Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor at a black
tie event back in `85, as the story goes, Riggins had a few drinks that
night, a few pops.

And he is quoted as saying to the Supreme Court justice: “Come on, Sandy,
baby, loosen up. You`re too tight.”

Well, this morning, President Trump tweeted: “The Democrats are so self-
righteous and angry. Loosen up and have some fun. The country is doing

He`s channeling the great, drunken at that case, John Riggins.

MILBANK: But it would seem he has a problem here, because now tonight he`s
in El Paso saying, there`s a horrible crisis and murderers and rapists and
drug dealers are coming across our border.

And, of course, he`s saying that he`s had to work so hard because the
country is in this disastrous shape from Barack Obama.

So which is it? Is the country in a crisis, or should we all just lighten
up because…


Not to knock down the chance of you to sort these stories, but when they
put out his APB bulletin last – all-points bulletin, looking for who was
leaking his schedule in great detail, going all the way back to November,
like four months of scheduling, intimate private scheduling of the
president, the person who leaked that apparently did it again this week.


MATTHEWS: I mean, you guys all laugh when I bring this up. I will ask you
the question on camera. The camera will catch your face at this.

Isn`t it harder to work on this – report this guy now? Isn`t it harder to
get dirt on him? And you all laugh the same way. It`s just as easy as

MILBANK: No, I think…

MATTHEWS: Who are these people?

MILBANK: I think it`s easier because there are more disaffected people.

But, in fairness…

MATTHEWS: In the White House.

MILBANK: … his executive time was 60 percent. It went down to 50
percent. So, like, he`s really had to cut back these last few days on
executive time.


MILBANK: But, yes, I mean, come on.

MATTHEWS: How do you satirize a president like this?

MILBANK: Well, you can`t.

MATTHEWS: It`s already done.

MILBANK: You can`t really. And that`s – that`s a major problem, but it`s
one we all live with every day.

MATTHEWS: I`m the greatest. It`s like Muhammad Ali, and you say, I`m
going to knock him out in the sixth round, and you actually do it.

This guy doesn`t quite do it.

MILBANK: Well, and that`s the problem, is that these things are actually

And, of course, he came out…

MATTHEWS: Yes, truth.

MILBANK: … and said – we have come back with our fact-checkers. And
now he says the fact-checkers are fake.

MATTHEWS: Truth sucks.

Thank you very much, Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post.”

Up next: Two more Democrats made it official this weekend. So what`s
their priority, tackling big issues or trying to tackle Donald Trump?

This is – this is getting to be quite a cage match between a lot of people
and this guy, Trump.

Stay with us.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is now the ninth Democratic candidate and fifth
female lawmaker to enter the 2020 presidential race. The three-term
senator from Minnesota braved freezing temperature and steady snowfall on
Sunday to make her announcement in Minneapolis.

Let`s take a look.


shutdowns and the showdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding. I am
running for this job for every person who wants their work recognized and
rewarded. I am running for every American. I am running for you.


MATTHEWS: Well, she joins Senator Elizabeth Warren who made her bid
official on Saturday up in Lawrence, Massachusetts.


House is not the cause of what is broken, he`s just the latest and most
extreme symptom of what`s gone wrong in America, a product of a rigged
system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on every one


MATTHEWS: And President Trump indulged in his favorite political past time
Twitter taunts. He tweeted: Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running
for president, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in
a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing.

By the end of her speech she looked like a snowman or woman.

On Saturday, the president hit Senator Warren with this: Today, Elizabeth
Warren sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for
president. Will she run as our first Native American presidential
candidate or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so
well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, in capital letters, Liz.

Was that a reference to the trail of tears, the forced relocation of Native
Americans in the 1830s and 1840s where thousands of Native Americans died
from hunger, frostbite and disease? Donald Trump Jr. got in on the action
by posting this message on Instagram: Savage!!! Love my president.

Well, Senator Warren retaliated with a stinging barb of her own. And we`ll
be back with that and what she had to say to President Trump after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On Sunday, Senator Elizabeth Warren took her 2020 message to Iowa. While
there, she dismissed the president`s tweets by saying he might be in jail
by the time the election rolls around, talking about hard ball.

Let`s watch.


WARREN: Here`s what bothers me – by the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump
may not even be president.


In fact, he may not even been a free person.


MATTHEWS: Well, for more, I`m joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau
chief for “USA Today”, and Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to the
Hillary Clinton.

You know what? Some people like that stuff. Do you?

COMMUNICATIONS: Yes. I mean, look –

MATTHEWS: Really tough, in your face.

ELROD: Yes. Look, Senator Warren loves campaigning. You can tell that.
And she`s very effective on the stump. Her announcement was fantastic.

What I think of what makes an effective announcement if you`re running for
president especially in crowded primary, I think, what is the message
you`re delivering and what am I going to remember as a potential voter, as
a Democratic primary voter. When I think of Elizabeth Warren, I think of
fighter who wants to take a system that`s rigged for the wealthy and help
the middle class.

When I think of somebody like Amy Klobuchar I think of somebody who has
grit and determination and wants to work across the aisle with Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, they`re two different messages.

ELROD: Two different messages.

MATTHEWS: Tonally, they`re different.

ELROD: Right, but that`s the point. Like the two of them have achieved
that. So, you don`t have to wonder, why is Elizabeth Warren running for
president? What is her platform? Same with Amy Klobuchar. You know from
their announcements.

MATTHEWS: One`s the fighter, the pug, I`m going to punch them in the face,
if I have to. And one says they`re the girl next door.

portrayed themselves as fighters, but their attitude toward President Trump
is different. You`ve seen Elizabeth Warren focusing on Trump, talking
about Trump, suggesting Trump might be in prison by 2020. And you had Amy
Klobuchar, who did not say Trump`s name during her announcement event.

She – but she also portrays herself as a fighter, but as a fighter for
people on the issues people care about, but not so much as a fighter
against President Trump in particular.

MATTHEWS: Who`s fighting the Indian wars, as you used to say growing up?
I mean, this is crazy. She called herself an American Indian in an
application for the Texas bar back in the `80s. She`s been called on that.

She didn`t bring it up. The press caught that. “The Washington Post”
caught that.

ELROD: Right.

MATTHEWS: She admitted she did it when she got caught. That`s called
rolling disclosure.

Trump jumped on it. He seemed to be winning the argument in terms of
terrorizing the issue. And then he made that comment about the trail in
his tweet this morning. Was he referring to the trail of tears, where all
of those Native Americans died of hunger and frostbite? Was he doing that?

ELROD: Does he know what the trail of tears is? I don`t even know if he
has that historical understanding of our nation`s history.

MATTHEWS: Well, we checked all the reporting today. All-around, every
reporter, objective or not or whatever, but everybody said he was talking
trail of tears, Susan.

PAGE: I think that was definitely the implication. And the White House
did not push back.

MATTHEWS: So he`s turned it into an ethnic slur when you could have argued
it was just a shot at her personally for appropriating Native American
identity, he`s going out and making fun of the – well, the terror that was
inflicted on native Americans by the white people.

PAGE: Well, that`s right. Although I don`t think – this is not a big
contrast with his attitude, generally. He`s combative guy that does think
that people find, people who are not supporting him find offensive all the
time. This is the latest in a list.

And you know, I think that he thinks that he`s got an issue with Elizabeth
Warren when it comes to claiming Indian heritage, that is – that goes to
one of her big strengths, which is her authenticity. It makes her look –

MATTHEWS: So, is this the bully who found the weakness in the kid on the
schoolyard or the person who`s afraid of the person on the schoolyard?

PAGE: Maybe both, right? Maybe that`s why you target someone if you`re a

MATTHEWS: I think he looks for weaknesses like low-energy Jeb. Sometimes
he punches anyone down he thinks he can do it to.

ELROD: I think he thinks this is her Achilles heel, but I think going
forward, we`re not going to be hearing as much about this. We`re going to
have 15, 20 people running, the Democratic primary debates will start in a
couple of months.

MATTHEWS: Is she going to hide in the crowd? I think Trump doesn`t quit.
He gets these nicknames like Lil` Marco, he doesn`t let go of them.

ELROD: I don`t think he quits, but I`m not sure how much it actually
matters when she really starts talking and focusing on the issues, which is
what she`s done so far.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Senator Klobuchar, one of the Democrats she`s debating,
was asked about the president`s Twitter habit. Let`s watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: How do you handle things like the
tweets, things like being called names?

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, you don`t go down the rabbit hole with everything
he says. You`ve got to have your own optimistic, economic agenda. And
Hillary had that. She would have been a tremendous president. But it got
lost in that campaign.

So, you have to pick your battles with him. And I think you have to use
some humor, like I got to do yesterday, right away.


MATTHEWS: So we`re going into the battle again, the second fight with
Trump. Hillary Clinton fought the first battle. And everybody since then
said, there must have been something you could do, when that comes up like
a monster behind her in the debate, just loomed over her like a monster.
Even to this day, is there a way to deal with that kind of bullying
behavior? What do you do to a guy like that?

PAGE: One person who`s found out how to deal with that and that would be
Nancy Pelosi. Maybe the presidential candidates can take a look at her
attitude, which is, which is respectful in a way, but in another way, just
brutally critical.

ELROD: Yes, no, I think Susan`s exactly right –

MATTHEWS: And Nikki Haley in her own way. “I don`t get confused.”

ELROD: In her own way, exactly. I think Susan`s exactly right. And I
think Amy Klobuchar is right, too, which is you`ve got to pick your

If you – if Trump comes after you like something he`s gone after Elizabeth
Warren on the American Indian heritage front, then yes, you`ve got to
address that, because that goes right to her authenticity, which is what
she`s all about. But, you know, if he`s throwing out some silly tweet
about, you know, that something that is essentially irrelevant to you, then
you can just sort of ignore it and blow it off.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he`ll have somebody like you to help him, because
this requires discernment.

ELROD: No, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Just teasing.

Thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Adrienne Elrod.

Up next, Beto makes his move tonight. Back in a minute. We`re going to
watch him against Trump, real time.


MATTHEWS: Beto O`Rourke is making his move tonight. The Democrat who
dared challenge Senator Ted Cruz in Texas is back in the battle. He`s out
to challenge President Trump and he`s doing it after months of laying low.

The laying low could help build the interest, even excitement of his
appearance tonight. Because what he`s daring to do is match President P.T.
Barnum in Hoopla, staging a rally at the same time and in the same city as
Donald J. Trump himself. Let`s see how all of this works, how putting the
question of size or bigness right before the cameras, right before the
American people is a good strategy and has long seemed to be.

In the coming weeks, Beto O`Rourke will need to make an even bigger move,
declaring his candidacy for president. Will Trump take a whack at him like
he did before the election in November?


is a stone-cold phony named Robert Francis O`Rourke, sometimes referred to
as Beto. And he pretends to be a moderate, but he`s actually a radical
open borders left winger.


MATTHEWS: It will be intriguing to see whom among the front-line Democrats
Trump fears a year from this November in the fall of 2020 and who he fears
today, in February of 2019. What happens when a candidate, Beto or Warren
or Kamala or someone else dares to show she or he`s – well, let`s check
out the word, bigger than him, bigger?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.



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