The pros and cons of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 3/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: – along with a lawyer who has faced the Mueller
probe, Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutors. Well, it should be
interesting. That`s all the time we have though. I will see you then.
HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Should Democrats impeach? Let`s play
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi drew a clear line in the sand for
her party and the country when asked about impeaching President Trump. In
a wide ranging interview, Speaker Pelosi told the “Washington Post”
magazine, I`m not for impeachment. This is news. I`m going to give you
some news right now because I haven`t said this to any press person before.
Impeachment is so divisive to the country unless there`s something so
compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don`t think we should go down
that path because it divides the country and he is just not worth it.
Trump`s not worth it.
Well, this drew an immediate response from Democratic activist Tom Steyer,
the country`s leading voice for taking constitutional action against the
Quote “Speaker Pelosi thinks he is just not worth it. Well, is defending
our legal system worth it? Is holding the President accountable for his
crimes and cover-ups worth it? Is doing what is right worth it or shall
America just stop fighting for our principles and do what is politically
And just moments ago, Speaker Pelosi was asked about her news-making
declaration. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Speaker Pelosi, can I ask you why you are
posed to impeachment? Why you are imposed to impeachment right now?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have always been opposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Pelosi has now stated position and sure to draw anger and
not just from the far left of the party. Some have been demanding his
impeachment, of course, since the beginning of the Mueller probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: As far as I`m concerned, he has enough
violations. He has been involved in a lot of activity that we believe
needs to be made apparent. And so, I believe that we have everything that
it needs to basically impeachment him.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: It is really important to understand,
you know, I`m here. There`s a sense of urgency on my part and many of us.
This is not to say we disagree. I think every single colleague of mine
agrees there`s impeachable offenses. That`s one thing we all agree on.
REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: If you are creating harm to society, if you`re
causing things to happen in society that are unacceptable to the people in
the United States of America, an up fit President can be impeached for
those misdeeds that harm and corrupt society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as press secretary Sarah Sanders told NBC News quote
“impeachment should never be on the table because the President is doing a
great job.” That`s his spokesperson, of course.
Speaker Pelosi did tell the “Washington Post” that Trump is not fit to be
President. What`s powerful here is Pelosi`s statement today about
impeachment. It has the sounds of break. She is not just pumping the
break, she is bringing him down hard even slamming them telling her caucus
and her Democratic party that this is bad politics. Well, with that, the
Republicans avoid it`s the long road that you dance, he says.
I`m joined right now by Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of
Illinois. Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the “Los Angeles Times.”
Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster and Tom Steyer, activist and founder
of the “Need to Impeach.”
Mr. Steyer, thank you for coming on tonight, Mr. Steyer. And I was shocked
by Pelosi`s statement because it seemed to me it wasn`t – well we are not
going to do it right away. We don`t have enough stuff right now. It was a
statement of direction. We shouldn`t be going toward looking to impeach
this guy even though he have a lot of evidence already. Your thoughts.
TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH: Well, I think that what she is
saying is regardless of the information, regardless of how unfit he is, we
are waiting for Republican permission to go forward and hold him
accountable for his crimes. And I think if we, in fact, let the American
people see through hearings exactly how lawless he is, they will insist he
be removed from office immediately.
MATTHEWS: What article of impeachment, sir? Are you confident of right
now he deserves to have brought against him? What article?
STEYER: I think the two most obvious articles, Chris, are obstruction of
justice and straight up corruption that he has been taking money from
MATTHEWS: And explain obstruction of justice in a moment, if you can.
Right now, what has he done? I can see things. What do you see that he
has done? Misusing his power of office to protect himself.
STEYER: I think he`s done a number of things starting with firing Mr.
Comey because he was investigating his Russian connections. Using as many
means as he can to frustrate any investigations into his past conducts and
behavior. I think it has been a pattern of behaviour before he was
inaugurated. And while he has been president, I don`t think there is any
question about it. But I think that we need public hearings to lay out the
evidence for the American people so they can see exactly how lawless this
President is, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to congresswoman Schakowsky. You know the speaker
quite well, I understand. Tell me what you think motivated her decision to
make such a bold statement today?
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, she added on by saying unless
there were such compelling evidence that the majority of Americans would
agree, it would be very divisive. It`s hard to disagree with that.
When Nixon was impeached, he had won that election overwhelmingly. But
when those tapes came out, the majority of Republicans and Democrats and
people across the country said it`s time for him to go. We are not at that
Number two, Chris. If we go into impeachment hearings, that will stuck up
the news, all the energy in our country. We need to do things like lower
prescription drug prices to continue on with the agenda of the people,
making health care more affordable, increasing wages in our country. Those
are things people come home and talk about. And I fear that that agenda
would be completely off the table.
MATTHEWS: Everybody that comes up to me and every one of my colleagues,
and you know this congresswoman, you are the expert, you are the
politician, they come up to us and you know they ask this, when they are
going to impeachment this guy. That`s the question.
You hit over and over again from progressives and regular people that
aren`t progressive who just want to know. They think he is on the verge of
facing. Let me ask you this. Do you think the Republicans will back him
or won`t back him if he fires Mueller? Because if he goes after the kids,
everybody figures he will fire them. And even then, do you honestly think
the Republicans are going to turn on him?
SCHAKOWSKY: I think there may be a tipping point.
MATTHEWS: What will it be? Shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. Does he
actually have to pull the trigger?
SCHAKOWSKY: I absolutely think if he do something as drastic as firing
Mueller, that there could be, that could be the triggering thing that
people said, OK. That is a step too far.
But in the meantime, Chris, we aren`t just sitting around watching him do
what he does. There are serious investigations and we are preparing,
perhaps, for a time when impeachment is on the table.
Right now it would suck up all the air, all the energy and we couldn`t do.
You know, I don`t hear that so much from my constituents. I hear from
people who say, I can`t afford to pay for my health care bills.
MATTHEWS: Well, here is some more just moments ago now. Speaker Pelosi
expanded on what she meant by her comments. He told reporters if the
Mueller report is so conclusive that there is a bipartisanship and there
was a message to the President, then so be it. A message to the president.
President Nixon was not impeached until Republicans finally saw the light.
That`s what she said. She added, I just don`t believe in impeachment.
They wanted to impeach President Bush for the Iraq war. I didn`t believe
it then and I don`t believe it now. It divides a country unless there is
some conclusive evidence that takes us to that place.
Cornell, I want to go to you, next person here. It seems to me that you
have to look at the main strokes of this so far. And I wonder whether
there`s more information to change it much. But to foreclose the road to
look into impeachment I think is a dramatic statement by the speaker.
Shocking statement to the Democrats.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think what she was trying to do,
is to the Congresswoman`s point, they have done some really big things. I
mean, they have voted on gun reform which is something that many Americans
have been clamoring to do but it`s lost in the chaos of this conversation.
So I understand from a strategic point what the speaker was trying to do.
But I also understand that look, no one is above the law.
And also to the congresswoman`s point, if there`s evidence that`s laid out
there that he has broken a law, particularly on the security issues. If he
is a national security threat to our country, I`m very confident that
Democrats will start impeachment proceedings. But the problem is I don`t
share their enthusiasm that you are going to get Republicans and move.
Nixon was a different era. There`s no way they are going to get enough
Republicans to move on in impeachment.
MATTHEWS: A recent Mammoth poll, by the way, found that 42 percent of
Americans believe that President Trump should be impeached, 54 percent in
that poll disagree. In November, 36 favored impeachment while 59 percent
we are opposed.
Eli, I`m not sure about the statistics about Republican. A good chunk of
Republicans went against Nixon but there`s still some hold out. Your
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Look. Cornell is
exactly right. We are not in the `70s anymore. We are in different times
culturally and in terms on media. FOX News didn`t exist back in the `70s.
I mean, there`s just a different climate now. You have seen Presidents
approve rating be incredibly static over the better part of two years
despite these bombshell revelations that we have seen periodically from
members of the press revealing what the Mueller probe is looking at.
Revelations out of the southern district of New York, the President is an
unnamed co-conspirator in a crime out of New York and yet it hasn`t moved.
And so, it just tells you, and I think that`s what the speaker is
understanding. She is not saying stop investigations to the House
oversight committee. She is saying everybody is looking at this bright
shiny object of impeachment and we need to look at other things whether are
those are pocketbooks issue that they, you know, align of a message for
MATTHEWS: But you got me sometime.
STOKOLS: And it`s also I think a way to take the heat out of the members
who go back to their communities, get after that impeachment all the time,
they can now point to the speaker to say well, look, the speaker doesn`t
want to do this right now. Don`t blame. If you want impeachment, I`m not
the one who made the decision. I think it does create a little more space
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go back to the congresswoman. It always strikes me
watching your political career that you are an unhyphenated Democrat. You
are classic regular Democrat. You come out of a big city. You have got a
lot of that thing diversity. You have some wealth, some non-wealth. I
know the light short. You have a good community to respond to. Can you
tell your community at home, your constituents that yes, I think he should
be impeached but it`s not good politics. I think we have a case but it is
not good politics. How do you sell that to the true blue Democrat?
SCHAKOWSKY: As a true blue Democrat, I go home and I say look, we are
continuing these investigations. We cannot have Donald Trump have another
two years. Impeachment at this moment and you notice the speaker did say
unless. There was an unless in what she said. At this moment, this would
be the most divisive thing at probably would actually raise Donald Trump`s
MATTHEWS: It`s not about right now. Pelosi is not talking about right
now. She is talking about the direction we are going in. She makes it
very clear in that statement that she is putting on brakes to where we are
headed, where the congress is headed. It`s not, you know, March 11th. She
is not talking about March 11th. Read the statement, congressman. This is
a broad statement. We shouldn`t be going in that direction.
SCHAKOWSKY: Yes. But there`s also about if there is compelling
information that we should - that it could be considered. She did put some
equivocation in that. But beyond that, we know we would not be able to do
our agenda, our for the people agenda. The basic things that they want
economically and with health care and with jobs and infrastructure.
We would be completely stopped on that agenda if we moved to impeachment
right now. And I think it would make Donald Trump even more popular right
now. This would be, you know, said to be, you can`t win an election fairly
and so you decided to go around it with impeachment. It`s not worth it.
She used those words, too. Not worth it.
MATTHEWS: I accept your political acuity. I really do that. I think you
know what you are talking about. I think it`s an assessment.
Tom Steyer, you are not in office. You may be running for office at some
point. I don`t know where the American people which way they will turn.
Certainly, that Trump where is the maga hat people are going to blame
anybody on the side no matter what the truth is if he did shots somebody.
We saw it through the Access Hollywood tape, we saw it through firing
Comey, firing his attorney general. Trying to make them all march to his
music and ignore the law. And it`s all in broad daylight and it hasn`t
stopped his wigwam of support. Just this group of people that are for no
matter a cultural thing, the Republican Party, has united behind this
president beyond truth. They are with him as a village. You are never
going to change.
Anyway, your thoughts. Is it more important that Democrats to proceed with
their agenda or to get Trump?
STEYER: Look. They have had one public hearing which was in the House
oversight committee with Mr. Cohen. And it moved the desire from
impeachment across the country by six percent. If we actually have the
kind of hearings that we had in Watergate, we didn`t have one hearing on
one day but we saw that entire cast of criminals come across America`s TV
screens then Americans across the country will get direct evidence of who
these people are and what they have been doing. And I believe that
Democrats, Independents and Republicans will say we need to protect this
country. We need to stand up for our values and we need to get rid of the
most corrupt President in American history. I think you would not be
divisive. I think we come together over that decision.
MATTHEWS: You guys are all staying with us. Thank you so much.
By the way, putting Michael Cohen on is like putting Chuck Colson (ph) on.
That was hell of a witness by the way.
But anyway, tricks are at your point. Thank you all. Please coming back.
Everybody is coming back.
Trump reportedly, by the way, tells a Republican campaign donors down in
Florida that Democrats, did you know this? They hate Jewish people. I
never knew that. I have been following politics for about half a century.
But the history of politics in this country tells, of course, a completely
Plus, a rouge`s gallery of Trump associates are said to make court
appearances this week, well Tome Steyer is waiting for this, including Paul
Manafort for his second hearing, his second sentencing. He could get ten
more years. A decade more in prison.
While Trump will be over rule in justice Northam and pardon Manafort, and
by the way, would that bring about impeachment, pardoning Mr. Manafort?
And they say you got a play to win unless you are Donald Trump and you own
a golf course. And He wins every award. He`s like a kid in little league.
Trophies for everybody. Anyway, how he won the glove championship without
Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. President Trump has ignited trouble with his
comments regarding Jewish people and the Democratic Party over the weekend.
“Axios” reports that at a closed door event on Friday, President Trump told
Republican donors quote “the Democrats hate Jewish people.” That`s
according to three people who were there. The report goes onto add that
Trump said he didn`t understand how any Jew would vote for Democrat these
The President reported comments went a step further in comments he made
earlier that day on the White House south lawn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought yesterday`s vote
by the house was disgraceful because it`s become the Democrats have become
an anti-Israel party. They have become an anti-Jewish party. And I
thought that was a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And while the President was responding to last Thursday`s House
vote on an anti-hate resolutions sparked by comments from freshman
congresswoman Ilhan Oman of Minnesota. At an event two weeks ago said she
I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it`s
OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.
Back with me now, Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Eli Stokols,
Cornell Belcher and Tom Steyer.
Congresswoman, your thoughts on both sides of this debate, this
SCHAKOWSKY: I want to tell you something. The worst thing that could
happen to the state of Israel would be to basic it partisan issue, which it
wasn`t for decades. Ever since the founding of Israel. And that is what
the President is trying to do. And he is revving up this kind of myth that
somehow Democrats, I resent it personally as a Jew and all but one of the
Jewish members are Democrats in the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
SCHAKOWSKY: It`s so offensive to me.
And the idea that – the woman that was on FOX that was complaining about
her wearing a hijab, you know, Jews fought for a long time to be able in
the military, for example, to be able to wear a skullcap or a beard if you
are a religious Jew.
And these kinds of things – I took an oath of office on the Torah, on the
Five Books of Moses. And Ilhan Omar took it on the Koran. And then we all
took an oath of office together, loyalty to the United States of America.
This debate is so destructive. And I really think the politics is on the
Republican side and being led by the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Well, in his first White House briefing and six weeks this
afternoon – hers, actually – Sarah Sanders was asked about the
president`s latest comments.
Here`s the flackery. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Yes or no, does the President truly believe that Democrats hate
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am not going to
comment on a potentially leaked document. I can tell you what…
QUESTION: Does he think Democrats hate Jewish people, as he said on the
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that they`ve had a lot of opportunities over
last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments.
QUESTION: But I`m asking about the President specifically.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I`m trying to answer you. If you`d stop talking, I will
finish my statement.
QUESTION: Just a yes-or-no question.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has had – and laid out clearly his
position on this matter. Democrats have had a number of opportunities to
condemn specific comments and have refused to do that.
That`s a question, frankly, I think you should ask Democrats, what their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, as Congresswoman Schakowsky just said, 32 of the 40 – 34,
I guess – 34 members of Congress are Democrats – there may be more, in
fact, according to her.
And in presidential elections, Jewish voters have historically supported
Democratic candidates by large margins. Jewish support jumped to – I knew
this. I checked it. And it is true. This is what I have always
remembered – 90 percent supporting FDR`s reelection campaigns, over 80
percent for JFK. It dipped under McGovern and Carter.
But since the 1990s, Jewish support for Democratic candidates for president
has remained incredibly high, high 70s to 80 in that range.
Eli, talk about that. If you got the history here, it seems like Trump
needs to be reminded of the facts.
ELI STOKOLS, “THE LOS ANGELES TIMES”: I don`t think he`s concerned about
the history or the facts.
I think the president sees a story with Representative Omar that he wanted
to keep in the news. And so, after that vote on Thursday, what does he do?
He goes out and gives a characteristically over-the-top, hyperbolic
statement about, Democrats hate Israel, Democrats hate Jews.
And he did it multiple times, as you have already pointed out, which tells
you that this wasn`t a screw-up. This was something he`s thought about and
he`s doing intentionally.
And the awkwardness that I saw in the Briefing Room today from Sarah
Sanders trying to defend this and trying to say, well, Republicans
condemned Steve King, they kicked him off committees, that – I mean, she
was asked, did the president himself condemn Steve King? And she waffled
and said, well, I – I speak for him, and I have condemned Steve King.
So he hasn`t. The president is not pure on this. I was there in 2015 when
the president told a room full of Republican Jewish donors that, hey, you
guys aren`t going to vote for me because I don`t want your money.
These are the exact same stereotypes…
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know.
STOKOLS: … that Representative Omar…
MATTHEWS: Look at it. We got it. We pulled that for you.
STOKOLS: But he`s not worried about the hypocrisy.
MATTHEWS: We anticipated that bad language right there.
Despite his attempts to paint Democrats as anti-Jewish, President Trump has
himself, as Eli said, been accused of peddling in anti-Semitism in the
In 2015, he made these remarks to members of the Republican Jewish
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know why you`re not going
to support me. And you`re not going to support me because I don`t want
You want to control your own politician? That`s fine. Good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, in 2016, then candidate Trump tweeted and later deleted
me an image of Hillary Clinton over a bed of money – well, this is really
subtle – next to a six-pointed star. Indeed, it was the Star of David.
As president, he refused to condemn the white supremacist march in
Charlottesville in 2017 that included anti-Semitic chants, of course –
they always do – saying they were fine people on both sides.
Well, charges of anti-Semitism also extended to high-ranking congressional
Republicans. Last October, in a tweet, then House Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy singled out Democratic voters with Jewish heritage, George Soros,
Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, for attempting to – quote – “buy this
McCarthy later deleted the tweet, but not our memory of it.
Tom Steyer, your thoughts about this, this latest problem for Trump?
TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEXTGEN AMERICA: Look, I don`t think there`s any
question that Mr. Trump has been associated intentionally with the
vilification of different people, including Jews, in our society.
And I think that it`s a tactic that he uses to divide and conquer people,
that he plays on racism intentionally, and has done it for his entire
political career. And I think this is one more attempt by him to divide
and conquer people based on race, ethnicity, and religion.
I think it`s 100 percent wrong. And I think that it is something as un-
American is I can imagine.
MATTHEWS: Well, his people certainly know what he`s feeling, because they
express it openly.
FOX News host Jeanine Pirro stirred trouble on Saturday night with comments
she made criticizing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim. Here she
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS: She`s not getting this anti-Israel sentiment
doctrine from the Democrat Party. So, if it`s not rooted in the party,
where is she getting it from?
Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Koran 33:59,
tells women to cover so they won`t get molested. Is her adherence to this
Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself
is antithetical to the United States Constitution?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Are you following that?
Anyway, in a statement late Sunday night, FOX News strongly condemned
Pirro`s remarks about Congresswoman Omar, adding: “They do not reflect
those of the network, and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”
Cornell, that`s a hell of a – you have to past that mark. FOX is too much
CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: It`s too much for FOX.
MATTHEWS: But what do you think about that, to stretch, appealing to an
audience, pandering to an audience that has a problem with Muslim people,
to go all the way of saying, if she wears this hijab, that somehow that
says she wants to get rid of Constitution?
BELCHER: Well, look, we know that that`s part of their game plan.
Being a tribal warrior is Trump`s ace in the hole. They`re not – that
base of voters who stick to him, they are the most anxious about the
changes that are happening in our – happening in our country.
So you feed that and you continue to feed that. And that`s the shame of
it. But it`s also – I know I think I`m the odd man out on the whole
Jewish question, but what Sarah Huckabee did, because I was watching –
what Sarah Huckabee did today was disgraceful, because you know what?
I`m a partisan Democrat. All Republicans aren`t anti-Jewish. All
Republicans aren`t anti-black. They don`t hate blacks. And despite the
wall, all Republicans aren`t anti-Mexican. It`s an easy thing to say.
It`s an easy thing to say, and we have to sort of call for our better
angels in those positions than that.
It shouldn`t be a partisan issue at all.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congresswoman Saransky on that.
Your – Schakowsky. I`m sorry to mispronounce your name. That`s an awful
thing to do, but Schakowsky. Thank you, Congresswoman. I have known you
Let me ask you about – about this whole question of ethnicity and Trump.
I thought – I never can tell whether it`s in his heart – and this is a
tough one for any politician or journalist – is it in his heart to be
nastily bigoted, or is it always a card he plays, perhaps surrounded by a
pretty conservative group of people?
And maybe when he – who don`t like black people, in fact some – I always
thought his original sin was going after – Trump – and claiming he was a
foreigner from Africa, that he was not an American, that he was stuck into
the country, that he didn`t really go to these schools, because I thought
that appealed that the worst kind of right-winger.
But I don`t whether he feels it. Did he really think this guy was a
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
SCHAKOWSKY: Donald Trump, I believe, of all things that he is, is canny.
And he understands that certain words trigger a certain response.
Now, why would he not condemn Ilhan Omar? Because he had the Muslim ban.
That was this first act, to ban Muslims from coming into the country.
And now the anti-immigrant rhetoric in general from south of the border.
This is the hate-monger in chief. And it gets him points. He wants to
incite and excite his base. And though – he knows the words that do that,
and that`s exactly the kind of politics that he wants to play.
It`s very intentional.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he feels it himself, or he`s just working the
SCHAKOWSKY: You know, I am not sure what Donald Trump believes in.
He believes in what at the moment makes him feel good, what fills up the
deep hole that he has inside him that needs to be filled every single day.
And if he can get the adoration of his base, he will say anything.
BELCHER: What difference does it make if he feels it or not? If you are
going around stoking racism, you`re a racist. I don`t – I don`t care if
you feel it or not.
If you`re stoking racism, you`re a racist.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
BELCHER: I hate this question about if it`s in his heart.
MATTHEWS: Well, I made a mistake, then. I made a mistake.
STOKOLS: It`s the politics of fear. It`s the fear of the other.
And it`s something that you just pointed out.
STOKOLS: It`s unique in our history to have a president who is – who is
really trying to pit different groups of Americans against…
MATTHEWS: It`s extraordinary to me that a person would be so evil as to
make up a prejudice and pretend to have one. That`s – I don`t know if
that`s worse or not might, but it`s…
BELCHER: It might be.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Chicago and Eli
MATTHEWS: And – Chicago.
I got to pronounce it right by a local version.
Anyway, and, Tom Steyer, Tom, thank you for coming on. And keep up your
STEYER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Tonight is a good night to have you on. And I`m glad we did.
Up next, we`re going to talk about the big week ahead in Robert Mueller`s
world, with new developments expected in the court case, lots happening
this week. Paul Manafort could face another decade of prison. Mike Flynn
could face more trouble. Rick Gates. Roger Stone – Stone is facing the
judge this week.
And that`s straight ahead.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone is today pleading for his freedom, after
he failed to disclose to the court that his new book could violate his gag
Last month, Stone was barred from speaking publicly about the Mueller
investigation, after he publicly attacked the judge overseeing his case.
Now we`re awaiting a filing from Stone`s lawyers which will explain why
Stone didn`t violate that order – didn`t violate the order.
It kicks off an eventful week coming up for the special counsel`s
prosecutors. This Wednesday, Paul Manafort will be sentenced in
Washington, D.C., where he faces up to a decade more in prison for
conspiracy. That`s on top of the four years he got last week in Virginia.
We`re also expecting a status update in the case of former National
Security Adviser Michael Flynn on that day, same day, Wednesday, which
could reveal the extent of his cooperation with Mueller. Is he talking?
Then Roger Stone is back in court this Thursday for a status hearing about
his upcoming trial. And, on Friday, we will get a sentencing update on the
case of Rick Gates, who`s also cooperating with prosecutors.
I`m joined right now by Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for
Bloomberg News. Ronald Weich is the dean of the University of Baltimore
Law School and formerly worked at the Justice Department under Eric Holder.
Let me go to you, Shannon, as always.
I`m going to ask you about this. Why would Stone not tell the judge, I
have got a book coming out, or an update on a book, that`s going to
basically talk, which I`m not supposed to be doing?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, why would he post a photo of the
judge in an image of some crosshairs?
I mean, it helps improve the Roger Stone show. I mean, Roger`s defense
could be that this book is part of his livelihood, that what he is, is a
commentator and a provocateur, and he still has First Amendment rights to
some extent. And we don`t know what the full extent of – is the book.
Does it go into deep detail about his case in particular? But, I mean,
he`s probably going to make a case that he needs to make money and that
this book is part of his living and who he is.
MATTHEWS: What`s his – name of the book? What`s the name?
PETTYPIECE: Oh, I – you know…
MATTHEWS: “Who Framed Roger Stone” or something? It`s like Roger Rabbit.
PETTYPIECE: Yes. Well, he`s already got that one down.
I don`t actually know the name of the book.
But I think Roger is kind of a sideshow at this point. Unless Mueller can
sort of turn the screws on him and get him to cooperate in this
investigation or another investigation, it seems like Mueller`s
investigation is winding down. We`re seeing a lot of loose ends being tied
Unless Stone can start cooperating in another investigation, I don`t think
he`s going to become that relevant. I think it`s just going to be the
Roger show, and that`s – and it`s going to be…
MATTHEWS: Well, I think they were all business partners. So I`m curious -
- Roger Stone, Manafort.
Anyway, let me ask you, Ronald. What are we doing here with the
conversation we had for the first segments of tonight`s show, the president
on the issue of impeachment?
RONALD WEICH, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right.
MATTHEWS: What will be the straw that breaks the camel`s back? Will a
pardon of Manafort do it for the Republicans? What`s your sense of the
pardoning when it`s clearly in your interests?
This isn`t Jack Johnson, the boxer from the early part of the 20th century.
This is your…
WEICH: This is clearly an abuse, abuse of the pardon power.
I mean, the president has that power in the Constitution. But to use it to
reward friends, to – payback for people who didn`t tell dirty deeds about
the president, that would be an abuse. And, hopefully, some Republicans
would be concerned about that.
I think what Speaker Pelosi…
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s clearly – it seems to me it falls right into the
wheelhouse of obstruction of justice. You can`t get the guy to – well,
one way to get a guy to not testify against you is to pardon him.
Speaker Pelosi, I think, was hearkening back to the Constitution. It`s
true enough that, with a majority vote, the House can impeach the
president. It requires two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators to convict.
And I think what she was saying was, we`re not going to move forward unless
it`s clear that you`re going to have that.
MATTHEWS: Would this do it? In your judgment, would this be enough, to
see the president clearly obstructing justice again? How many times does
he have to do it? Does he have to fire Mueller or just pardon Manafort?
It`s all intended for the same thing.
It`s really hard to know where the Republicans are. I`m sure they`re
guided by public opinion. You know very well, Chris, looking back at the
Nixon precedent, it was when President Nixon had done so much that public
opinion turned against him, that…
WEICH: … Goldwater and others…
MATTHEWS: Well, when it was evidenced.
MATTHEWS: It was evidenced when they saw that the June 23 tape had him
right there talking, in Nixon`s voice.
By the way, whenever it`s on the phone, it`s always better. And I think
that was on the phone. And there he was saying – he said, get the CIA to
cover up to the FBI. Get the FBI off the case.
So, ultimately, impeachment wasn`t necessary because his own party told him
he had to go.
MATTHEWS: Well, the weekend – this weekend just past, the chairman of the
House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, said that Robert
Mueller should have compelled the president to testify in person, not given
him that take-home exam he did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it is a mistake. And I have
said all along that I don`t think Bob Mueller should rely on written
When you get written answers from a witness, it`s really the lawyers`
answers, as much as the client`s answer. And here you need to be able to
ask follow-up questions in real time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to get to both of you on this quickly.
It just – he`s very good at process, Adam Schiff, but I don`t know if it
means anything to American people.
Does it matter? Do you think that Robert Mueller is going to await a
written – spoken testimony by the president in the room?
It seems to me at this point he`s going to present what he has and not
wait. If he had wanted to subpoena the president to testify in a grand
MATTHEWS: So, he doesn`t – he`s not setting a perjury trap?
WEICH: I don`t think so. And we don`t know what he has.
MATTHEWS: How can you have a perjury trap as a take-home exam? Your
lawyers make sure you don`t commit perjury.
WEICH: Well, except they don`t know what evidence…
PETTYPIECE: Unless your lawyers weren`t honest to you.
WEICH: That`s right.
PETTYPIECE: Yes, unless your client wasn`t honest to..
MATTHEWS: You follow up here.
PETTYPIECE: Well, if the client wasn`t honest to the lawyers, the lawyers
don`t know how to draft the correct answer.
So I think that the point you were about to make it is, if there is other
evidence from, let`s say, three or four other people contradicting
something the president stated, even if the lawyers crafted those
statements for them, the lawyers only know what their clients and the
documents and the information that they have.
They don`t know what everyone else is saying.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Shannon Pettypiece and Ronald Weich.
Coming up: Donald Trump named co-champion of his golf club`s annual
tournament, co-champion, which is a little strange, considering he didn`t
actually play in the tournament.
More on Trump`s impressive history of giving himself awards and accolades
for stuff he actually didn`t do – after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to win in a way
that nobody seen before. We`re going to win so strong. We`re going to be
so strong. We`re going to be so smart.
There`s never been a presidency that`s done so much in such a short period
I would give myself an A plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump campaigned on being the best at everything. He`s taken
that attitude with him into the presidency. But he has pattern of
falsifying or exaggerating or downright falsifying those accomplishments.
For example, Trump wisely talked about what a great student he was, even
claiming that he was first in his class at the Wharton, at University of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was a good student. I always hear about the elite. You know,
the elite. They`re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was
a better student than they were.
I was first in my class at the Wharton School of Finance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But in 1968, the year Trump graduated from Wharton, his school
paper, “The daily Pennsylvanian” published a list of the 56 student who
were on the Wharton dean`s list that year. And Trump`s name was strangely
not among them. Perhaps a misprint.
In 2017, “The Washington Post” reported that Trump hung up a fake time
magazine cover featuring himself, at least at five of his golf clubs.
And the former “Forbes” reporter says that the president called him in 1968
– 1984 rather pretending to be an aide in an effort to inflate his wealth
so that reporter would put him on the Forbes 400. Let`s listen to that
self-identified aide to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you saying that perhaps for tax purposes it`s been – the
ownership has been transferred to Donald Trump?
BARRON (TRUMP): Correct, correct. That`s correct.
REPORTER: OK. And when you say, you know, in excess of 90 percent of the
BARRON (TRUMP): I`d say in excess of 90. In fact, well, it`s really
closer to even the ultimate, but it`s in excess of 90 percent, yes.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, that was Trump actually there.
But a new report details one of Trump`s strangest fabrications yet. And
that`s coming up next on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
“Golf Magazine” is reporting that the president has a plaque in his golf
club in West Palm Beach stating that he won the club`s annual golf
championship last year, although he never played in that tournament. Hmm.
Multiple sources told the magazine the president joked to the actual
champion, Ted Virtue, the only reason he won is because I couldn`t play,
close quote. The president golfed at that course 47 times in 2018,
according to NBC News. Trump then proposed a nine-hole challenge match to
Virtue, winner-takes-the-title. The president won and according to the
magazine said, this isn`t fair, we`ll be co-champions.
Well, the White House does not respond to NBC`s request for a comment on
I`m joined right now by “The Washington Post” columnist Dana Milbank, and
David Cay Johnston, Trump biographer, and author of “It`s Even Worse Than
Is it worse than this, David? Putting out these plaques to yourself – I
mean, we always kid about kids in like Little League and stuff all needing
a trophy. This needs trophy that says, I want it all. He still needs it.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: This is pathetic and it tells you a
lot about what an empty vessel Donald is. You know, 19 of his properties
he has plaques up of awards he gave himself from a phony hospitality system
run by his pal who the mobbed up Joey No Sox who emcees at Mar-a-Largo
I mean, who gives an award to themselves? It is bad enough when we give
children awards for showing up, but giving an award to yourself, the only
word to describe it is pathetic.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of it, Dana? Nobody does it better than
you. I think somebody said, Jan Schakowsky, the congresswoman from the
north shore of Chicago, she pointed out he has some big vacuum in his soul,
I guess, that has to be filled up regularly and relentlessly with this B.S.
stuff about how great he is.
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, he has this insatiable
need for support for people to affirm him to believe in him. Do you
remember a year ago when the Democrats didn`t stand up and applaud at the
State of the Union. He said that was treason. You could get an idea of
what he means. But I`m happy he`s doing this – giving himself the trophy
He`s not getting the trophies from North Korea. He`s not getting it from
the economy, he`s not getting it from the border wall. We don`t want him
to be desperate because he does have a very large –
MATTHEWS: It`s better for America –
MILBANK: He has a large button. So, if this is what it`s going to take,
let`s all applaud him, let us give him trophies and let`s move on.
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump boasted about his golf skills throughout the 2016
campaign. Let`s watch him in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I like to play golf. You know, I`m a good golfer, believe it or
not. People are shocked. People are shocked. But let me – so, I should
play Obama for the presidency. I`ll do it.
Hey, I`ve won a lot over my life. I even win a lot of club championships.
That`s good, right?
My hands, look at these hands. These hands hit a golf ball 285 yards.
Look at these hands.
Who is the best golfer in the room? Did anybody know?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You.
TRUMP: Who is club champion here? Who is the club champ? I want to fight
them and beat them.
REPORTER: What is your response to “The Washington Post” article claiming
that you cheat during golf?
TRUMP: That is absolutely false. I win at golf. I win at golf. That I
can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ha! Well, that reporter is referring to this “Washington Post”
article itself which quotes sportswriter Rick Reilly on Trump. When it
comes to cheating, he`s an 11 on a scale of one to 10.
Let me go back to David on this whole question, you know, it reminds me of,
I like golf, it`s like Brett Kavanaugh, I like beer, I like beer. I mean,
give me a break. Why does he have to keep saying that?
I mean, does that help him with Republican voters? I mean, Kennedy used to
hide the fact that he played golf. I don`t think Obama played that much
but he seems – is it a statement of success, golf? It said something
about the guy – I own a golf course and I play golf? It`s a status symbol
JOHNSTON: He`s trying to establish that he`s been accepted and he knows
he`s not by a large segment of the population. It`s the same reason he`s
desperate for the approval of the “New York Times.”
And Donald, by the way, is a notorious tax cheat. Rick Reilly got that
thing exactly right. I`ve interviewed people who played golf with him.
They described him taking three, four file mulligans at a time and putting
down – having put down the score card, you know, that he got this and
that. And so, all of the things Donald says are just untrue.
But, you know, if he needs a way to test this, why doesn`t Donald just
invite a television news crew to follow him through 18 holes?
MATTHEWS: I don`t think that`s likely to happen.
JOHNSTON: I don`t either.
MILBANK: It is sort of a metaphor like, for how he governs. He is a good
golfer. He doesn`t need to cheat but he does any way. He takes – as
David suggesting, these things called floating milligans, whenever he wants
MATTHEWS: A mulligan is a bad – that didn`t count.
MILBANK: The idea is you count the shot but then he just throws them all
away at the end and then he says, you know, I hit for par. You know, my
handicap is at scratch. You can`t do both things. You can`t throw away
all of your bad shots and then claim you`ve had a perfect round.
MATTHEWS: Can you imagine him writing a biography of his presidency? Ha!
Although a lot of people are buying it. Forty-six percent at last count
think he is doing great.
Anyway, Dana Milbank, thank you, David Cay Johnston.
Up next, when asked about whether President Trump should be impeached,
Speaker Pelosi says he`s just not worth it. But does Congress have a duty
here, my thought, to the Constitution of America.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: On Friday, I said that President Trump has already justified the
case for impeachment. I said he has done so primarily but not exclusively
on obstruction of justice.
Over the weekend, reporter Adam Gopnik made the same case in “The New
Yorker” magazine. Quote: Any one of the dozen things that Trump has had
done overtly would have resulted, if done clandestinely by another
president in near universal cries for impeachment, if not for immediate
resignation. Trump`s firing of the director of the FBI and then confessing
to both a journalist and the Russian foreign minister that he did it to end
an investigation into his own campaign`s contacts with Russians follows the
exact form of one of the impeachable offenses, obstruction of justice, that
was applied against Richard Nixon.
The smoking gun tape smoked because it showed that Nixon tried to stop the
FBI from investigating the Watergate break-in on phony national security
grounds. And here, Donald Trump has taken us again along the same route,
attempting to use presidential power to cover his criminal tracks, telling
Comey to drop his case against the country`s national security adviser
Michael Flynn and then firing Comey when he refused to do so, firing the
attorney general Jeff Sessions for following Justice Department rules and
recusing himself from the case, more than matching up with President
Nixon`s firing of special counsel Archibald Cox.
Well, today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House should not move toward
impeachment, arguing that to use his words, he`s just not worth it. The
greater question is whether impeachment has become a duty. If the majority
of the House of Representatives believes Trump obstructed justice as I
believe it does, isn`t there a duty to act?
As the writer for the “New Yorker” put it this weekend: Impeachment may be
too good for Trump. It may yet prove just the thing for the country.
Is it better to wait for such a constitutional explosion or to act now upon
the lethal accumulation of public evidence Mr. Trump has already piled
That`s HARDBALL for now.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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