Eric Swalwell plays hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 4/25/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Barbara Boxer, Jaime Harrison, Eli Stokols, David Cicilline, Caroline Frederickson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Biden`s big hurrah is the HARDBALL.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Joe Biden is in the race

for president, saying he can bounce Donald Trump from the White House.  And

today, the former vice president launched his campaign for the 2020

nomination with a clear message to wavering Democrats, I am the one who can

beat President Trump.  In his announcement video, Biden drew a clear battle

line with the President, invoking the images of the deadly white

nationalist rally down in Charlottesville and excoriating the President`s

response about they`re being very fine people on both sides.




JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  With those words, the President of

the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate

and those with the courage to stand against it.  And in that moment, I knew

the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.


We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.  I believe history will

look back on four years of this President and all he embraces is an

abhorrent moment in time.  But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the

White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this

nation.  Who we are.  And I cannot stand by and watch that to happen.




MATTHEWS:  President Trump responded on Tweeter, “Welcome to the race,

Sleepy Joe.  I can only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to

wage a successful primary campaign.  It will be nasty.  You will be dealing

with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas.  But if you

make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate.”  That was sporting.


Biden will take his fight directly to the President, of course, making

Pennsylvania a state President Trump narrowly won in 2016, the fulcrum of

his campaign launch.  The Scranton native will hold his first campaign

event on Monday – this Monday in Pittsburgh in a schedule with a major

rally in Philly next month.  I think it`s the 18th of next month.  His

focus on Pennsylvania comes as Politico reports that senior adviser to the

President Trump`s reelection bid met in Harrisburg yesterday and concerns

over the President`s ability to win the state in 2020.


Biden enters the Democratic race at the top of most national primary polls,

today, he was asked what makes him the best choice.  Let`s watch him.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why are you the best choice for Democrats?


BIDEN:  That would be for the Democrats to decide.




MATTHEWS:  Well, with the latest Monmouth University poll, he`s leading the

pack by seven points over Bernie Sanders with all the other candidates down

there in single digits.  At a new Morning Consult poll shows the former

vice president beating President Trump by eight points if the election were

held today.


And for more, I`m joined by former Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in

California, Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the “L.A. Times” and

Jamie Harrison, DNC associate chair and former chair of the South Carolina

Democratic Party.


Thank you all.  We have polls, we former polls.  We have a real journalist

here.  So let`s start with the Senator.  Joe Biden, the good, the bad and

the ugly.  What do you put it the other?  Give us all that.  Give me the

full Joe, if you can, Senator.


FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA:  I know I can because I known him

since the `80s.  First can I say, I was very touched by his video today. 

It wasn`t me me or I I or this is what I can do and the only one who can

win.  And he has an unbelievable personal story that he could tell, but he

chose to look at our country and the threats to our country which are

typified by that horrible comment that Donald Trump made.  You know,

stoking division, stoking hate and fear.  That`s first of all.


Second of all, I think, with all of his warts and all of his mistakes which

we all make because we`re human, you know, he is a good person.  And he is

willing to step up and say I didn`t do right then.  And he has bounced back

from terrible personal tragedy in his family, his own health.  And he got

over it.  And he landed on his feet.  I`m excited about his candidacy and I

think it`s going to really be exciting.  I do.


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of his implication?  A lot of it was vivid

imagery of that video which I thought was fabulous, of course, it`s a

message sender.  I mean he basically compared Charlottesville to Nuremberg

to the Hitler rallies.  You know, the torch carrying and the neoclassical

imagery, the SPQR, you know, the whole.  It looked Nazi, especially with

the Nazi swastikas there.  But the implication he`s seen to be sending,

Senator, was I`m the one that could stop this guy.  I`m the unique

candidate who can beat this guy.  What did you think of that, me of him?


BOXER:  Well, I honestly think that by using this video and a lot of

experts have said, oh, that wasn`t a big deal.  I thought it was

courageous.  I thought it was strong.  He talked about the right wing, the

far right, the Nazis, the KKK.  And it`s important that we have a leader

who isn`t afraid to look at that and I think it established him at a

different place in this race, frankly.  Because everyone else and I love so

many, they are my friends and colleagues and they may beat Joe, I don`t

know at this point.  But everyone else has kind of said here learn about



Joe didn`t do that.  And he talked about the country.  And he talked about

the problems we`re facing.  And the most important problem we`re facing is

this division and the hate and the fear that is stoked by this president. 

I was touched.  I was surprised at the video.  I thought it was going to be

something about, you know, I can win the working class vote.  But there

will be time for that.


MATTHEWS:  I agree with you so much.  Let me go to Jamie, your thoughts

about the sort of the gothic nature of this introduction into a campaign. 

Good and evil.  Pretty direct.



Well, listen, Chris, I thought it was a very powerful video and a powerful

way to start.  And it focuses us in this primary on what`s most important. 

We are in a battle for the soul of this nation.  And it`s important that we

remember that.  And it`s important that Democrats as we squabble about

policies and who`s to the left and who`s to the right that we focus that

there a lot of people who are suffering in this nation because of the

current leadership in the White House and his sick offense in the Senate. 

And so we need to change that.  And I applaud the vice president for

reminding us what is really, really important in this race.


MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you about something ethnic.  Some people would say





Matthews:  I like ethnic better.  I think race – we are all the same race. 

Let me ask you about the ethnic thing here.  Here`s a guy, a white guy, Joe

Biden, who served as the number two guy to an African-American president,

the only one ever.  How powerful is that iconography to people of color

that he was his number two guy for all those years in a close working

relationship.  Does that ring true or is he just another candidate, another

older white guy?


HARRISON:  Well, you know, Chris, what I have told all of these

presidential candidates that come to South Carolina when they`re talking to

the African-American community, the most important thing is that they show

and not tell.  You really have to illustrate through your practice and

through your actions what it means to really be able to represent these

various communities.


And so the one thing that I give Joe Biden, you know, I`m not – as a DNC

officer, I am not for anybody.  But the thing that I give Joe Biden is in

the times of pain for the African-American community, particularly here in

South Carolina, he was here for Mother Emanuel and he sat through services

and he didn`t have a lot of pomp and circumstance.  And that really means a

lot to a lot of people.


And so it`s those type of actions that I say to all the candidates.  And if

you are candidate thinking about running in 2028, because we`re going to

win the White House in 2020, make sure you`re out there, you`re practicing

and showing your action.  How you`re going to fight and what your values

really are.


MATTHEWS:  So well said.  Another one is don`t just show up for the ask

when you want something.


HARRISON:  Exactly right.


MATTHEWS:  Don`t make that your first meeting.


HARRISON:  Exactly right.


MATTHEWS:  Well said, sir.  Shortly, after his announcement, Biden was

praised if not endorse by former President Barack Obama`s team.  A

spokesperson to the former president told NBC News, “President Obama has

long said that selecting Joe Biden has his running mate in 2008 was one of

the best decisions he ever made.  He relied on the vice president`s

knowledge, insight and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire

presidency.  The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and

remained close today.”  Well, that`s the statement from the President. 

Biden was asked about President Obama this morning in Wilmington.  Here`s

what he said.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why didn`t President Obama endorse?


BIDEN:  I asked President Obama not to endorse and he doesn`t want to. 

Whoever wins the nomination should win on their own merits.




MATTHEWS:  a source familiar with President Obama`s thinking told NBC News

the former president is excited by the extraordinary and diverse talent in

the field of Democratic presidential candidates, adding it`s unlikely that

he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the

primary process.


Eli, this guy is a big candidate, Biden.  Everybody knows him, most people

sort of like him.  He`s very comfortable to most people.  They`re

comfortable with him.  I should say that he`s familiar and yet many say

first day as a candidate will be his best.



find out.


MATTHEWS:  This is going to be tough because he`s such a target.


STOKOLS:  Right.  I mean the Senator pointed out, he didn`t make his

announcement video about me, me, me.  He doesn`t have to.  He`s at 25, 30%

in these polls before he`s even in the race.   He is a known commodity. 

There`s a lot of baggage there that he`s overstepping by not focusing on

biography.  That will get prosecuted.  We`ll see.


I mean he is offering a general election argument, a message about

electability and putting a frame on this as being about Trump.  Do you want

eight years of a Trump presidency or do you want to end this?  If that`s

what it`s about, I`m your guy.  But that`s a guess.  In 2016, Democrats

went with Hillary Clinton thinking that she was the safer choice.




STOKOLS:  Didn`t work out for them.  And so there are 20 plus candidates,

there going to be maybe a couple more before it`s all said and done.  And

this is going to be a fight.  And I think Joe Biden will see if he can stay

where he is right now.  He can certainly make that argument that he`s been

through the wars, he`s been vetted, he can make a claim on – you know,

he`s a solid candidate in a lot of the states that Trump won, that Trump

flipped, Pennsylvania, Michigan, the Rust Belt states, but not everybody in

the party sees him, not everybody in the Democratic primary electorate sees

him as their top choice.  And that`s because there`s a hunger among some

voters for somebody newer, for some diversity on the ticket, a woman.


MATTHEWS:  But one of the President Trump`s top religious advisers would be

Trump`s, Evangelist Franklin Graham is attacking Mayor Pete Buttigieg for

being gay.  Just for being gay.  That`s his shot.  And during a town hall

this week, the mayor was drawing a distinct between his Christian faith and

what he sees in the Trump administration.





Couldn`t be more radically different than what I see certainly in this

White House where there`s a lot of chest thumping and self-aggrandizing,

not to mention abusive behavior but also a political agenda that seems to

be always be revolving around the idea that somehow it`s too easy for poor

people in this country.  It`s just so different than what I get when I read

scripture.  And I get that one of the things about scripture is different

people see different things in it.  But at the very least, we should be

able to establish that God does not have a political party.




MATTHEWS:  Well, Reverend Graham took aim at that comment tweeting “Pete

Buttigieg is right.  God doesn`t have a political party but God does have

commandments, laws and standards he gives us to live by.”  Adding, “As a

Christian, I believe the bible which defines homosexuality is sin,

something to be repented of, not something to be flaunted, praised or



Well, that`s the same Franklin Graham, by the way for our information, who

when the President was accused of an unfair adult film actor, Stormy

Daniels, he told the Associated Press that that messing around with the

women and all that mess was nobody`s business.


Senator Boxer, what did you think of that double standard?  Nobody`s

business when it`s Trump, but this guy was born and is a gay American has

to somehow take the penitential root according to Reverend Graham.


BOXER:  Well, I could tell you when religious leaders speak out and they

spew hatred and that`s what that is, it goes against my upbringing which is

that you have a loving God.  And, you know, I thought Pete Buttigieg has

been incredible on this point.  He said take it up with your maker.  The

fact is we`re all God`s children.  And how a leader in a religion could

spew that kind of divisiveness is unbelievable and I am also so excited to

see Mayor Pete in this race.  It`s going to be a really good race.


But the one thing getting back to Joe, for just a minute, that he`s got

that no one else has, he was a heartbeat away from a great president for

eight years.  And I know the portfolio he gave Joe, it was right after the

great recession when we were fighting back.  He gave Joe the portfolio to

bring jobs back, he gave Joe portfolios that to took him to all parts of

the world.


So I think it`s going to be really good for the whole party to have Joe and

Mayor Pete in there and the women in there.  I`m proud to be a Democrat

right now.  And maybe we don`t agree on every single thing and maybe some

people think we need to go young and some people say we need to go old or

we need to go left, we need to go middle.  We`ve got great people there. 

And everyone`s going to feel comfortable I think with this field.


MATTHEWS:  What are do you think about the age thing?  Do you think in your

later 70s people lose a step or two that`s dangerous for the president?  No



BOXER:  You`re talking to me?  You`re talking to me.


MATTHEWS:  I know I`m talking to somebody.  He doesn`t show a year the best

when I first met you, yes, it`s all true.  You look at – not that I`m

allowed to talk about appearances, but the fact is you look like you`re

handling age very well.  I`ve heard it from older people that older people

shouldn`t be president.  And I just want to know if you have a view on



BOXER:  I absolutely do.  I think it`s crazy to just paint everybody of a

certain age with a certain brush.  And that goes to young people.  Look at

Mayor Pete.  He`s kind of an old soul, you know, and he`s very young.  And

the fact is that, you know, if you`re fortunate enough to really be strong

when you get older, you`re much wiser than you were as a kid and as someone

in middle age.


And I think Bernie is older than Vice President Biden.  So he kind of took

the age thing out of the loop here.  But, look, people are going to put

that all into their minds when they decide who they want.  You got a

president who is in his 70s, he doesn`t know what he`s doing, he doesn`t

understand the constitution, he`s attacking the fundamentals of our nation. 

And I think Joe and many others could beat this guy.  But age, I don`t

think that should be in the equation in my opinion.  But everyone will

decide.  They certainly have a big field of people in their 30s, 40s, 50s,

60s and 70s.  I`m waiting for someone over 80 to get in there.


MATTHEWS:  I don`t know why you retired.  Thank you so much.  Senator

Barbara, who never lost an election in her life and I can see why every

day.  Thank you so much Barbara Boxer –


BOXER:  One.  I did.  My first one – I lost my first one.


MATTHEWS:  How many Senate races in a row did you win?


BOXER:  Four.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think so.  Never lost the biggies.  Anyway, thank you,

Barbara Boxer, long-time senator from California, Eli Stokols.  Hey, Jamie,

one last word.  Can Biden get a portion of the African-American vote in

South Carolina, your state because I think he`s counting on it?  You`re



HARRISON:  I think he can, but he is going to have to work for it, Chris,

just like every one of these candidates.  They have to build a ground

operation.  And I – my basic thing to all of these candidates is, the best

student of politics if you look at the history of our presidential primary,

particularly in South Carolina, the person who is the best at studying what

happened.  What happened in `08, what happened in `16, that`s the person

that`s going to win the South Carolina primary and eventually be the

nominee for this party.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m going to start studying just to cover.  Thank you so

much Jamie Harrison for coming on tonight.  Great guests, please come back



In this programming note right now, Sunday night I`m hosting a special

documentary on MSNBC`s “Headliners,” taking a look at – there he is, the

man of the week, Joe Biden and his while life.  We`re going to go

everything.  Be sure to tune in Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on

MSNBC, a full hour ob Biden.


And coming up, will President Trump`s obstruction of congressional

subpoenas finally get him impeached?  That`s my question.  It`s a dynamic

question.  He keeps doing impeachable stuff.  When are people going to blow

the whistle and saying enough?  And what can Congress do about all this

stone wall.  I think we got a button for it, it`s called impeachment.


Plus, presidential candidate Eric Swalwell is going to join us to play

“Hardball.”  There he is, we`re going to talk about the counterintelligence

mine field Trump and his associates created with their secret meetings with

Russian operatives and why Trump can`t get past his Hillary thing, his

fixation of her.  Much more ahead.  Stick with us.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to “Hardball,” Democrats seeking to hold President

Trump accountable say they`re going to gather evidence and hold hearings in

order to establish a record of Trump`s wrongdoing – and then, and only

then, it seems, they will decide whether to impeach him. 


The problem is that the White House is already stonewalling three different

Congressional Committees that have requested or subpoenaed evidence related

to the president.  And much like the endless negotiations over the

president`s testimony in the Mueller probe, its an apparent effort to slow

the investigations to a halt, so Trump can escape scrutiny.  He never did

testify, remember? 


Well Bloomberg reports that in stonewalling Congress, “the White House is

taking a position that challenges almost a century of legal precedent

protecting Congress`s broad authority to investigate.”  Here`s Harvard Law

Professor, Laurence Tribe on that point last night.





exercise, an arrogant obstruction of justice and we`re witnessing contempt

of Congress, contempt of law, contempt for the American people.




MATTHEWS:  At the same time he obstructions Congress, the president`s

trying to have it both ways when it comes to the special council`s report. 

As “The New York Times,” points out, “In Mr. Trump`s world, there is a fine

line between victor and victim.  The president often veers back and forth.”


At first the president was triumphant, falsely claiming that Mueller`s

finding exonerated him, here he goes –




DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  It was a complete and total exoneration. 


Total exoneration – complete vindication. 


We`re glad it`s over, it`s a 100 percent the way it should have been.




MATTHEWS:  Sometimes he really does seem like Alec Baldwin – anyway.  But

when the Mueller report proved more damaging than Trump expected, he once

again played the victim. 




TRUMP:  We just went through the Mueller witch hunt where you had, really

18 angry Democrats that hate President Trump – they hate him with a



I know all about the rigging the system because I had the system rigged on





MATTHEWS:  I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of the

House Judiciary Committee, and Caroline Frederickson is President of the

American Constitution Society and also author of the great new book, “The

Democracy Fix.”


Congressman thank you for coming on, I love having you as a guest – I

won`t ask you about fighting and my problem is that the Democrats say we`re

going to be very judicious, we`re going to have hearings, “blah,” – we`re

going to have documents played (ph).  And then we`re going to have a

decision whether to proceed with an impeachment or not. 


OK, but we`re understanding that the ability of this administration to foot

drag, to kick the can down the road is enormous – that they could use

months using up court time and all kinds of procedural obstacles to throw

them in your path so that maybe by Christmas you`ll get the president`s tax

returns – if ever. 


And then you have hearings, and then you have a meeting to decide whether

to impeach or not.  I`m just wondering what the time frame is that helps

you, it looks like you`re never going to be able to get around to it until

next election time, do you have confidence the clock`s on your side?  The

clock – the calendar? 


REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D-RI):  Well actually – yes, absolutely.  First of

all Chris, Congress cannot allow the president to prevent us from

conducting (inaudible).  There are three things Congress can do if

witnesses refuse to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena – one is refer

it to the Department of Justice for prosecution because that`s a crime. 


We don`t have a lot of confidence that Mr. Barr will do that.  The second

is start a civil proceeding and get a citation from the court that we`re to

judge that person in contempt and do it that way.  But there`s a third

reason – a third method which we can do right away, since 1821 the Supreme

Court has recognized the inherent right of Congress to hold individuals in

contempt and to imprison them. 


That was reaffirmed in a case in 1935 – Congress has the responsibility,

and I would say the obligation to hold individuals in contempt who do not

comply with a lawful subpoena, who do not produce documents and we ought to

be prepared to imprison them, because we have that inherent right –


MATTHEWS:  OK.  I love you, but let me ask you this Congressman –


CICILLINE:  Chris – we got to do it. 


MATTHEWS:  The Sergeant at Arms, in the House to go pick up the secretary

of the treasury, break past his Secret Service agents, grab him and take

him to Capitol Hill and put in to some (inaudible) or something.  I don`t -

- I can`t see that –


CICILLINE:  Chris, that`s exactly –


MATTHEWS:  – I can`t see that.


CICILLINE:  – Chris, that`s exactly what happened in 1935.  They put the

person in custody for 10 days.  Look, Congress has to be serious about

this.  We have a right under the Constitution to get these documents, to

hear this testimony under oath.  Our oversight responsibilities cannot be

done without information, and witnesses and testimony.  If the president

prevents that from happening we can`t do oversight.  We have three ways –


MATTHEWS:  I hear the argument.


CICILLINE:  – to make sure that witnesses comply and we`ve got to use



MATTHEWS:  Caroline, here`s the question, OK?  Does Congress have real

military power to do something like that?  To go have enough force to go

take someone and to deny them their freedom, somebody in the



FREDRICKSON:  Well, you know, I – I – the congressman is right that –

that – that the law on this is clear but, you know, whether the politics

are clear is – is not so clear to me.


MATTHEWS:  What would the American people think if they saw Congress

arresting a member of the administration?


FREDRICKSON:  I – you know, I – I leave it to politicians to –


CICILLINE:  Who would (ph) – but not (ph) just arrested –


FREDRICKSON:  – to make that determination.  If I just say, I think there

are lots of tools that you have that are powerful.  And you may use that

one, it may become what`s necessary but you also have the power of the

purse, which, to me, seems to be pretty – a pretty significant one.  It`s

not going to work in every circumstance.  But certainly when you`re talking

about the officials who are not complying, you can – you can direct

whether or not they`re going to be funded.


MATTHEWS:  Can you cut off their gas?  Can you say no more gasoline for

your airplanes?  Can they do that?  You`re laughing, but I`m asking.


FREDRICKSON:  Well, no.  I mean, they have the power of the purse.  They`re

going to write the budget and they`re going to determine what`s



MATTHEWS:  Didn`t the president, congressman, didn`t the president stop the

speaker, the Democratic leader at the time, Nancy Pelosi from flying one

time on a CODEL?


CICILLINE:  Yes, indeed.


MATTHEWS:  He just called her back to the office.


CICILLINE:  Yes, he did.  Yes, he did.


MATTHEWS:  So he has the cojones to do this kind of hardball.  He`s willing

to say, I don`t care how embarrassing how it looks.  I`m going to make her

my subservient public official, somebody below me, by showing her I`m the

boss.  You guys would do that on the Hill?  You`d show that the president

was below you?  He`s Article II of the Constitution, you`re Article I. 

Would you?


CICILLINE:  No, actually, it`s – it`s less about showing the president`s

below us and it`s more about showing the person at the top is the American

people.  We are doing this on behalf of the American people who have a

right to know the truth, who have a right to see that no one is above the

law.  And we are going to get the witnesses and the testimony under oath

and the documents that we need to do this work. 


And we have three ways to do it, as well as that great suggestion of the

power of the purse.  We`re going to use all the tools at our disposal and

the American people are going to finally hear the full story.  They`re

going to see the Muller report come to life before their eyes in these

hearings so they can really get a sense exactly what the president did.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I wonder which subcommittee of Appropriations handles the

executive office of the president because if you cut off his gas, if you

put that airplane of his on the ground forever he might listen to you. 

Anyway, meanwhile, Trump`s falsely claiming he never tried to fire the

special counsel.  In a tweet today, he said, “As has been incorrectly

reported by the fake news media, I never told then White House counsel Don

Mcgahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so.”



Yet, the special counsel found substantial evidence to show otherwise. 

Muller`s report specifically details that in June of 2017 the president

called McMann (ph) – McGahn and directed him on the phone to have the

special counsel removed, to fire Mueller.  On a second occasion, McGahn

says that Trump told him, “Mueller has to go.  Call me back when you do

it.”  But McGahn threatened to resign at that point.


Congressman, again back to you on this question, the president`s willing to

lie.  What do you do with that?


CICILLINE:  Yes, I mean, well, the problem is that`s one of the reasons, I

think, the president did not testify under oath in response to the special

counsel`s request.  That is why we need to have witnesses come before the

committee who are under oath, who can explain the full context of this

evidence, explain the circumstances in which it happened so we can gather

up the full report, all the supporting documents and, frankly, so the

American people can see the story, see that – and by the way, you know,

the president talks about 12 angry Democrats. 


The vast majority of the evidence in the Mueller report came from members

of his own administration, not 12 angry Democrats, his own people.  I think

that`s why he`s furious.  He not only told Don McGahn to fire the special

counsel.  He then asked Don McGahn to lie and say –




CICILLINE:  – to say that I never told you to do that.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Congressman, just do me a favor because I do believe you. 

I think you`re a great public servant and I love Roadie (ph).  I just want

to say one thing to you.  When they send a sergeant at arms to come arrest

Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury, give me the tip-off.  Will you? 

I want to be there with a camera.  I want to watch that.


CICILLINE:  It`s the threat of that that`s going to force those witnesses

to show up and comply with the subpoena.


MATTHEWS:  I – I just want to see – I just want to see the police power

of Congress over the White House.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman

David Cicilline and Caroline Fredrickson.


Up next, the Mueller report describes a presidential campaign getting used

by Russian intelligence.  Will the extent of Russian efforts ever be fully

known?  Stick with us.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to “Hardball.”  While the Mueller report did not

find a tacit and expressed criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign

and Russian intelligence officials who hacked our elections, it did

establish multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals

tied to the Russian government.


In fact Mueller, in the report, noted that in some instances the campaign

was receptive to the offer from Russia and found that certain individuals

associated with the campaign lied to investigators about campaign contacts

with Russia and took action to interfere with the investigation.


We know all that.  According to NBC News, those ties show that the Trump

campaign left itself wide open to Russians.  In fact, U.S. officials are

telling NBC News now that the FBI is continuing to investigate Russian

attempts to influence the Trump administration, and assess the national

security damage from Russia`s 2016 effort. 


For more, I`m joined by Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California

and 2020 presidential candidate.  He`s a member of the House Intelligence

and Judiciary committees.


Congressman Swalwell, thank you for joining us.  I want to stay on this

point for just one question.  Trump doesn`t go for bluffs.  You say to him

here`s the deadline like they did on his taxes.  He goes, No.


You set another deadline this week.  No.  You say you`re going to subpoena

him and the guys like - his cabinet people say no.  At what point do you

run out of weapons?



close and the final weapon is not one that he`s going to like.  It`s

impeachment and in Watergate that was one of the articles, was not

cooperating with lawful orders requesting documents.


Look Chris, the way our constitution is setup the first check, the voters. 

They elect someone, they vet someone.  If that person is abusive then you

have the checks and balances of the Congress. 


And if the oversight and the power of the purse doesn`t work, there`s only

one other remedy and he`s really taking us down that road.  It`s a road

none of us want to go down but it may be the only road to save our



MATTHEWS:  Well, cut off his gas and see what happens because that would be

great.  Just don`t appropriate any money for Air Force One anymore.  Let me

ask you about Joe Biden today, the Vice Pres.  We all call him Joe, he`s

aware of that .


SWALWELL:  Uncle Joe.  Yes.


MATTHEWS:  He`s a man without – without – yes.  He is a man without

pretense.  He was in that diner – that pizza – pizzeria today for like

hours.  I thought that was setup.  But that`s all right.  What did you make

of his message?  What do you think of chances against you?  What do you

both offer that might be different here?


SWALWELL:  Hey, now it`s a party and I – I welcome him to the race. I`m

excited that he`s in the race.  I think we`re all committed to beating

Donald Trump and making sure that the sun again rises in America. 


And you know his voice is one that`ll be needed.  And as far as how I match

up against him, there`s going to be a lot of days to make that contrast. 

But on his announcement day, I`m just glad he`s in.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here`s a story that I never thought I`d read.  Today the

Washington Post reported that an American envoy sent to North Korea to

retrieve Otto Warmbier.  The American college student, of course held

captive in that country, was instructed to sign a $2 million hospital bill

for the North Koreans. 


Two people familiar with the situation tell the Washington Post that the

envoy signed an agreement to pay the medical bills on instructions passed

down from President Trump.  The White House issued the following statement. 


“We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so

successful during this administration.”  Well Warmbier was in a coma when

he was set free.  Of course he died days later.


Was it proper for the United States to write a $2 million check if that`s

what happened here?  It looks like it did to get the guy back.


SWALWELL:  Yes.  You know we should do all we can to get people like that

back and then hold, you know, the countries accountable.  It`s really a

case by case basis as I see it.  But of course this president, you know,

trashed President Obama for different negotiations he made to save American



But the larger issue here is who are calling our friends these days.  And

you know forgive me Chris, I`m a parent of two kids under two so everything

is a parental metaphor but if you were to look at our foreign policy the

way that a parent looks at their kid on the playground, in the last three

years we`ve gone from hanging out with the honor roll kid like the Brits

and the French and the Germans to now we roll with the detention crew.


The Russians, the North Koreans, the Saudis.  And it`s not just bad

company, its bad policy.  It`s going to cost us more in our national

defense and it`s also going to – it`s going to take away money we need

here at home for kids with tablets in their classrooms and seniors for

prescription drugs at the counter. 


So the next president is going to have to take the oath and go on a global

affirmation tour to tell our allies we`re still with them.


MATTHEWS:  It`s hard to imagine we can do business with a guy – a little

SOB like this guy who has charged us with 2 million bucks for beating the

hell out of a kid so he can`t even think anymore.


It`s unbelievable and we write the check.  Anyway, today the New York Times

highlighted a portion of the Mueller report in which it details President

Trump`s fixation on Hillary Clinton.  President Trump wanted attorney

general Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal and order – order the

prosecution of Hillary Clinton.


The New York Times goes on to add that his request stands apart because it

shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a

political rival.  A step that no president since Richard Nixon is known to

have done.


So much of Trump is third world about, you know, arrest the people if you

get elected.  Charge it as a rigged election if you lose.  All the kind of

gambits you read in headlines from third world – less developed



He`s taken us backward in time to before the founding fathers it seems. 

Your thoughts?  Going after Hillary.  He beat her.  It`s over and he wants

her arrested and put in prison.


SWALWELL:  And – and this was from a guy who you know may still be exposed

to criminal liability when he leaves office, by the way.  And – and Chris,

if he wanted Hillary Clinton to go to jail he should have just, you know,

put her on his team or made her is national security advisor.


Because it`s his team that is now criminally exposed.  But Chris, what he

has done here is not only accepted help from the Russians, not only invited

help, he`s actually leading like a Russian authoritative figure. 


And that`s what – and when I talk to people in Iowa, when I talk to people

in the industrial Midwest, you know I tell them the reason we`re most

concerned about the Russia interference campaign is they did this so that

Russians don`t ask for what we have.


If they turn us against each other and they take away free ideas, free

markets and a freedom to dream; then we start to look like them.  Their

people don`t want that.  But what it hurts us here at home is that hard

work doesn`t add up to anything anymore. 


It`s like an oligarch system where you don`t have law and order.  All the

benefits of the economy stay in the top floor.  Everyone else gets crumbs. 

That`s why it`s important to not let this guy embrace Russia the way that

he wants to.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, look at those two buddies there.  Anyway, thank you so

much.  U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, candidate for president.


SWALWELL:  My pleasure.


MATTHEWS:  Up next, a great contradiction among American voters.  An

overwhelming majority say they want political leaders who are willing to

compromise with each other, but not about the issues they care about.  We

have results of a stunning new poll. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.






JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  It`s those times it was always

appropriate to challenge another senator`s judgment.  Never appropriate to

challenge their motive.  When you challenge their motive, it`s impossible

to get to go. 


All we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives. 

Not the substance of their argument. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


That was former Vice President Joe Biden last year, speaking at Senator

John McCain`s funeral, pushing for a time when there was more civility in

our politics. 


The newest 2020 presidential politics seems to be echoing what voters are

thinking.  In a new poll from the Georgetown Institute Politics and Public

Service, nine out of 10 voters are frustrated by the uncivil and rude

behavior of our politicians.  And four out of five voters believe that the

behavior they used to be seeing as unacceptable is now accepted as normal

behavior.  But all of this stuff starts at the top. 





running our country, folks.  We have a bunch of losers.  They are losers. 

They are babies. 


He`s not a war hero.  He`s a war hero because he was captured.  I like

people that weren`t captured, OK?  I hate to tell you. 


I think Islam hates us.  There is something there that there is a

tremendous hatred there. 


I called the fake news is the enemy of the people.  And they are.  They are

the enemy of the people. 


I`m going to bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.  It`s true.  I don`t

care.  I don`t care.  They`ve got to be stopped. 




MATTHEWS:  It`s not just the president.  The poll shows voters also say

wealthy special interest and social media like Facebook, Twitter are very

much to blame for the increase in bad behavior in politics.


And that`s not all.  The poll showcased a bizarre contradiction that could

have a profound effect on how the 2020 candidates make their case to the

American people. 


And that contradiction is coming up next. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


Former Vice President Joe Biden now the 20th candidate to enter the 2020

race.  He will make his case as to why he is the best purpose to beat

President Trump.  But how do voters want Biden and the other candidates to

actually be handling themselves in this campaign?


A new poll from the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public

Service finds voters contradict themselves on this issue.  It`s so

interesting.  While four out of five voters said they believe compromise

and common ground should be the goal for political leaders.  Nearly the

same number exactly says that they are tired of leaders compromising their

values and want them to stand up and fight.  OK, give a signal here.


For more I`m joined by Mo Elleithee, who`s executive director of the

Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Michael Steel, a

former spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. 


Mo, I have to ask you this question.  What are we to take from this poll? 

Compromise or fight for values? 



SERVICE:   I mean, that`s the question.  I mean, this is like the toughest

tight rope for even the most skilled politician to walk.  What`s the

incentive structure?  The incentive structure for them to go out there and

act good, right, and should be civil to one another, or is it to stand up

and fight?  And can you blend the two? 


The interesting thing I thought about this poll –


MATTHEWS:  Has anybody – 




MATTHEWS:  Has anybody done that?  I see Buttigieg, I would say there is

lanes.  They`re not left or right.  Moderate, reasonable behavior, and we

don`t hate the other side, and the other one is we hate the other side. 

Let`s be honest about it.


A lot of people say Trump is evil and he must be fought any way we can beat

him.  You have Buttigieg who is sort of more moderate in his voice.  I

would say Kamala Harris is a bit more aggressive. 


Bernie Sanders is fundamentally more aggressive because he`s an absolutely

different ideology than the president.  Well, how do you – who`s putting

it together?



hugs and love and –


MATTHEWS:  He`s a lot more about that.


STEEL:  The differences are less about ideology than differences in tactics

in terms of the best way to take on Trump.  Do you fight fire with fire?


MATTHEWS:  Amy Klobuchar – Amy Klobuchar seems to be – trying to be nice. 


STEEL:  In a more sober lane, yes, absolutely.


MATTHEWS:  What`s she called it, the woman next door, you know? 


ELLEITHEE:  Right, right.  What this poll clearly shows is there is four

main actors who here who have the power to clean up their act.  One,

Republican political leaders.  Two, Democratic political leaders, three,

the media, and number four, the voters. 


And people oftentimes neglect the role of the voters in this.  Media,

political leaders, all culpable and voters blame them, but voters also need

to take responsibility and this contradiction shows why.  They need to take

responsibility.  Political leaders need to police their own.  But voters

kind of need to police them, too, and as long as they`re sending this mixed

message, we`re going to continue I think to have this confused state. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I think, you know, the media – fine, go after me.  But I

will say this, I know every time I walk down the street, people don`t say -

- they don`t say, you are so nice to politicians.  I don`t push them, I

don`t enough, which to say, nice try, give me the answer.  Give me –

answer the question.  We are supposed to be tough. 


STEEL:  And we`re continuing to live with the fallout of 2008 and both

party`s bases feeling that they had been betrayed by their leaders in

Washington.  It hasn`t gotten better and so, you have the tearing apart of

the fabric of our lives and our communities and our nation. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, here`s the latest on the poll.  Voters were pessimistic

about where the country could be heading.  When asked to rank the division,

they believed we were nearly three quarters of the way of being at the edge

of a civil war.  Your poll asked, zero to 100, how close are we to an

actual fighting battle of Gettysburg when bull run kind of fight –


ELLEITHEE:  That`s right.  Zero is no political division.  A hundred is

edge of civil war.  And the majority of the country says we are nearly

three quarters of the way there.  That`s incredibly pessimistic.


Now, our poll –


MATTHEWS:  Who decides?  The Trumpites and the anti-Trumpites, right? 


ELLEITHEE:  I don`t know.  It`s a rural-urban or is it racial?  The

divisions are more than just ideological right now.  This sums it all. 


You see this level of pessimism amongst Democrats, Republicans and

independents.  It`s interesting.  The poll showed that most pessimistic

were older voters.  Younger voters were less pessimistic.  But that might

be because they haven`t known it any other way than this before. 


MATTHEWS:  What I notice that is different than growing up, my dad had

buddies of his and they played golf once a week.  They`re regular, what we

call them, cloth coat Republicans.  They weren`t rich, he was, but his

friends were all Democrats.  They never talked politics.  He never talked

politics, and yet they lived in the same world. 


Today, you know how it works in Washington.  You know how it works.  You go

to a party, you assume one party is there, Democratic parties, Republican



People were saying I don`t know anybody who would vote for Trump, they

actually say that kind of statement.  I don`t know anyone who doesn`t like

Trump.  These are different worlds. 


STEEL:  And that`s where we are, because from the objective point of view,

like in the `70s, late `60s, early `70s, the country was far more divided

on a number of important issues, but people weren`t drenched in politics

the same way. 




STEEL:  It`s so pervasive because of the 24-hour cable news television,

because of Facebook.  I can`t go on Facebook to check my friend`s birthdays

without seeing a screen about politics.  It`s everywhere and it dominates



MATTHEWS:  Mitch Landrieu said, I don`t pick my friends on the basis of

politics.  What?  In this town they do. 


STEEL:  That`s a controversial comment.  Vice President Biden has gotten in

trouble – 




MATTHEWS:  We will continue this conversation, because about this year, how

rough should you be, how tough you should be and how nice occasionally

should you be.  Occasionally. 


Mo Elleithee, thank you so much.  I`m on your board, by the way.  Thank



ELLEITHEE:  That`s right.


MATTHEWS:  The Georgetown Board. 


ELLEITHEE:  Former fellow of ours. 


MATTHEWS:  I like that Georgetown elite community. 


Thank you, Michael Steel. 


Up next, and good values community.  Anyway, Nelson Mandela`s words from a

quarter century ago resonate in today`s America. 


You are watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  A quarter century ago, I was in South Africa covering the first

election open to all races.  It was an exciting moment in history, of

course, much like the fall of the Berlin wall.  It was racial segregation

known as apartheid, the emergence of majority rule, and the election of

Nelson Mandela who`d been in prison 28 years for battling for that moment,

as president. 


And what would grab you listening to this great man, one of the world`s

greatest champions of human rights and political inclusion is how his words

resonate what`s happening in our country right now.  He speaks to those who

see ethnic and racial diversity as a basis for national unity and those who

use it to divide. 


Here`s Mandela is in the midst of his historic win. 




PRES. NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICA:  We have used diversity in order to

build a strong nation, unlike the national party which used diversity to

keep us divided, and to foment racial hostility among South Africans.  Our

vision of South Africa therefore has been one where you have the bill of

rights which entrenches the right of every South African irrespective of





MATTHEWS:  Well, today, Joe Biden made a similar appeal and a similar

critic.  He spoke of a president who refuses to condemn outright racism,

who sees people who back racial separation in this country, American

apartheid, if you will, as very fair-minded.  Well, 25 years later, the

message today is powerfully similar to the message from 1994.  It seems

that to fight off evil, we must constantly call it out for what it is. 


That`s HARDBALL for now. 


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now. 







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