GOP-led legislatures move to restrict voting rights. TRANSCRIPT: 5/3/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Jackie Speier, Adrienne Elrod, Juanita Tolliver



YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST:  That does it for me.  “HARDBALL” with

Chris Matthews starts right now.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Rusky business.  Let`s play HARDBALL.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews up in Washington.  Tonight, a big

question facing America, what do we do when an American President and a

Russian President agree to not only forgive Russia`s intervention in our

2016 election but to forget it?  And that`s precisely what happened today

when the two leaders chose to ignore the Mueller report`s of sweeping and

systematic Russia interference in the 2016 election.




REPORTER:  Mr. President did you address the election meddling issues that

came up in the Mueller report with Mr. Putin today?



actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it

started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse.  But he knew that

because he knew there was no collusion, whatsoever.  So, pretty much as to

what it was.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, did you tell him not to meddle in the next



TRUMP:  Excuse me, I`m talking.  I`m answering this question.  You are very

rude.  So we had a good conversation about many different things, okay?


REPORTER:  Did you ask him not to meddle in the next election?


TRUMP:  We didn`t discuss that.  Really, we didn`t discuss it.




MATTHEWS:  What Trump`s effort to end all questions about Russia`s 2016

interference has forced stay constitutional crisis between Trump and

Congress unlike anything we have seen before.




REPORTER:  So is it done?


TRUMP:  I would say it`s done.  We`ve moved through this.  Nobody has ever

done what I`ve done.  I`ve given total transparency.  It`s never happened

before like this.  They shouldn`t be looking anymore.  This is all.  It`s





MATTHEWS:  It`s done.  But the American system of governance, of course, as

we learned it in 6th grade is grounded in the fundamental idea that we have

three separate but coequal branches of government, in each branch I think

is a check and balance, on the other ensuring none holds too much power. 

But President Trump and his administration have obliterated public

confidence in those checks and balances.


In 2018, Americans sent the President a warning by handing subpoena power

to democrats after they won control of the House, a warning they`ve chosen

by to ignore by circumventing and undercutting Congress, he has.


Earlier today, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was wary of impeachment,

however warned the President.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I do think that the path of investigation and

getting more information and you never know that one thing can lead to

another.  Impeachment is never off the table.


MATTHEWS:  So in a move towards impeachment, there she was.  The House

Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerrold Nadler, put Attorney General William

Barr on notice today, provide the unredacted Mueller report or, quote, the

committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal



For more, I`m joined by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a democrat from

California, who is a member of the House Intelligence and Oversight

Committees, Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New

School, Michael Beschloss, NBC News President of Historian, and Peter

Baker, Chief White House Correspondent at The New York Times and author of

Obama.  The Call Of History.


Peter, thank you for joining us tonight.  And I want to know what we`re

facing here.  Because it seems to me that this President is willing to push

it all the way.  He`s going to ignore subpoenas, he`s going to ignore

threats of contempt of Congress citations with the belief that the courts

will not get in the way, will not force him to behave any differently and

that Nancy Pelosi is not going to impeach him so he has got nothing to




There`s a risk here for him, obviously.  One of the articles of impeachment

that was drawn up against Richard Nixon back 1974 was defying congressional





BAKER:  Exactly, defying the legitimate power of the legislative branch. 

So this could, in fact, provoke congress into something of Democratic

Congress into doing something that was not likely to do otherwise.  Nancy

Pelosi`s line is change.  Her line was, impeachment is not worth it. 

Today, it`s impeachment is not off the table.  And she`s sending a message. 

The question is whether or not the President is going to listen or whether

she – you know, he`s going to continue to fight the battle.


MATTHEWS:   On that point, Michael, you Tweeted this image of the front

page of The New York Times of 1974, 45 years ago, Nixon rejects subpoenas,

tells Rodino he will get no more Watergate data.  He just – it`s like just

today, he says, enough.  He just declares, safety (ph), we are not doing

this anymore, as if the President decides that he can be his own judge.



is taking out of the Nixon playbook, not remembering perhaps –


MATTHEWS:  Do you think he`s right, anything like the Nixon playbook?  And

then (INAUDIBLE) read anything?


BESCHLOSS:  No, but he does have people around him who were around Nixon

and certainly know that history would be a very dumb thing for him to do,

because defying the congressional subpoenas and oversight, just as Peter is

saying, led to his impeachment a couple months later.


And the other thing he did at the same time was he was defying the special

prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who was saying, you have to give up tapes and

papers, Nixon was saying no, they are shrouded with executive privilege. 

Jaworski said, executive privilege does not apply if there are no military

secrets, diplomatic secrets and also this may be concealing a crime.


It went to the Supreme Court, and this is another historical parallel. 

Nixon may have felt that the Supreme Court would save them because there

were four members of the court that he had appointed.  He was hoping that

they would loyal.  You sort to wonder whether Trump thinks that because he

appointed Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, that he has now tipped the court in a

direction that will save him as well.


MATTHEWS:  Well, he must be.  Let`s go to the Congresswoman Speier.  Do you

have teeth?  I mean, in the end after all, the threats, all the – you

can`t do this.  We`ve got the subpoena power.  You ignore the subpoena

power.  We can cite you for contempt of Congress.  He`s laughing at that. 

You aren`t even willing to talk impeachment.  I think Trump says you`re a

paper tiger, you democrats in the house.  I`m guiding you here because I

think he is goating you.  I think that`s what he`s doing.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  Well, he`s a foolish man if he pursues that

because that`s going to raise the ire of every House Democrat.  And if he

thumbs his nose at the legal process, he will pay a price.  There`s no



MATTHEWS:  What`s the price?  What`s the price, what will happen?


SPEIER:  Well, the price, slowly but surely, the screws will be tightened

on him.  And I think before long, you`re going to see more and more people

willing to be very aggressive.


I think, frankly, our membership has been very respectful and has tried to

accommodate everyone in terms of having them come without subpoena.  I

think subpoenas are going to fly now.  And when they are not complied with,

we have what`s called inherent contempt proceedings, which means we send to

the sergeant-of-arms out to handcuff the individual who is declining to



MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Who are you going to handcuff?


SPEIER:  Well, I`m going to start with Mr. Barr and bring him in.


MATTHEWS:  You are going into the Justice Department and go through the

guards at the door with a couple of sergeant-at-arms troops and you`re

going to put this guy in handcuffs and take him up to some calabash (ph)

you have up on the Hill somewhere.  You are serious.  Are you really

serious about that threat, because he`s laughing at that?


SPEIER:  Well, you know, he won`t get the last laugh.  I mean, he has to

comply with the subpoena.  And so far, he has been – it`s all been

negotiated.  But once there are specific subpoenas and he does not comply

with them, he can be brought before the House, he can be tried.  He can

either be held there to testify or he can be punished.


And there is actually a jail in the Capitol which has been used as recently

as 1930.  And there was actually the brother of a former Attorney General

during Tea Pot Dome that was actually brought in from Ohio with a deputy

sergeant-at-arms to be required to testify.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I know this in the rule book.  Let me go to Maya because I

don`t think the rule book works anymore, because I think Trump is going to

– and here`s what the story is.  And, of course, that`s all true.  The

Congressman knows what the rules are.  But the rules say basically you can

cite someone for contempt of Congress if you can get the Justice Department

to bring that as the case, this Justice Department, you are lucky.  And if

the Justice Department brings the case and you win in court, six months to

two years from now, you can win the case and you know what the penalty is

for contempt to Congress?  Somewhere in the months – six months maybe, if

that`s – and then the President pardons that person –





MATTHEWS:  Okay, it could be a year.  We will see.  But it`s still a

misdemeanor, so it`s not quite a year.  So it`s a misdemeanor.  And my

question is does the Congress in the end, as long as Speaker Pelosi says, I

need republicans to begin impeachment, as long as that`s her standard,

isn`t Trump walking free?


WILEY:  I think the issue – there are two different issues here that we

should separate out.  One is winning a conviction on impeachment.  The

other is getting witnesses before you so you can establish whether or not

you are going to go and push an impeachment vote.  I think what she has

been really focused on is that latter one, not what the actual vote outcome

would be at this point.


MATTHEWS:  You mean now, like there`s a – excuse me, the process is, we

saw this with Bill Clinton, Congress has to resolve in the full house. 

They have to resolve to begin an impeachment proceeding, then they begin

the investigation, the hearings and all, and then they vote on it.  Do you

think Speaker Pelosi is ready to begin by calling for a resolution to begin

impeachment proceedings?  Do you think she`s there?  I don`t think she`s



WILEY:  I don`t think she`s there.  I don`t think she is there either.  I

think what she is saying is, or at least the way I hear it, if you keep

interfering with constitutional powers of our coequal branch of government,

you will give us no choice but to go the nuclear option.  And I think part

of that is, at least in the initial phase is, go to court, go to court and

see if you can get the court to expedite a process for making a

determination on the witness subpoenas.


I think the issue of the Mueller report unredacted is a longer fight.  I

think the witness issues are clearer because there is less of a defense. 

There`s not really any grounds, legal grounds, that I can find for

witnesses not to appear.  Certainly William Barr does not have a reason if

he`s saying, I just don`t want to be interviewed by the council staff. 

That`s just he doesn`t have the power to say no because of that.


But I think the bigger question here really is getting Mueller, getting

McGahn, getting McGahn`s Chief of Staff who was taking the notes when –

about the meetings with Trump.  I mean – I think the issue here is getting

the witnesses who can provide the American public a direct story that is

embedded in the Mueller report in 448 pages, but where William Barr has

been able to cast a misleading narrative about what that report says.


MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Let me go to Peter on this hold question because, looking

at it, big picture stepping back from the – what is a constitutional

fight.  I think Trump is going to play it all the way out.  He says McGahn

will not testify.


BAKER:  He might.  But remember, he often, you know, talks a good tough

game and then off, you know, pulls back and accommodates, right?  I mean,

he`s done done a number of occasions while he actually wants to take it all

to Supreme Court.  I think Michael`s point about the Supreme Court is a

very interesting one.  I think Chief Justice Roberts has sent signals in

the last few months that`s he`s an institutionalist, as well as a

conservative, and that may or may not play in the President`s favor.


And Bill Clinton, as you point out, Bill Clinton, tried this.  He went and

he challenge a lot, Ken Starr`s subpoenas, that there were privileges that

didn`t exist, according to the courts, and it made bad law for future

presidents.  That`s not going to help Donald Trump right now.


MATTHEWS:  I think it`s stunning because I think there`s – I`ll get to the

Congresswoman after you, Michael, but there is a lot of unwritten protocol. 

A subpoena is taking seriously.  You don`t just say I`m going to push it to

the end (ph).


BESCHLOSS:  That`s a tradition as old as any in American history.  And the

other thing is that Sam Ervin, the Chairman of the Senate Watergate

Committee, Richard Nixon originally said, I`m not going to let you, you

know, ask my aides to testify.  And Ervin said, I`ll have them arrested if

you take that position, and Nixon folded.


The other thing is that the reason why Nixon, 45 years ago this month, said

to Congress, I`m defying your subpoenas is that he knew that if the

subpoenas were met, Congress would find out that he had obstructed justice

by asking the CIA to tell the FBI not to investigate Watergate.  He knew he

would be impeached and convicted, which calls the question, why is Donald

Trump so eager to cut off this investigation?  Is he afraid that one of

these witnesses my unearth facts that may be very damaging to him in the

future and, if so, what is he afraid of?


MATTHEWS:  I love this.  This is intriguing.  It`s everything.  It`s got

espionage, this story, and it`s not going away, Mr. President.  You can`t

just call safety (ph), it`s over.  It`s not your job.


Well, Peter, in your updated biography of President Obama, there is a fresh

one, I always like to see that guy again.  You write that he was

flabbergasted that he would be replaced by a buffoonish showman whose

calling cards had been repeated bankruptcies, serial marriages and racist

dog whistles.  You`re going to recount that he took the loss as a personal

insult.  This is President Obama after meeting with the President-elect,

Obama complained to staff that Trump peddles in bull, the rest of that word

applies to.  And that – but it`s rich.


BAKER:  Yes.  This is the President`s point of view, by the way, the ex-

President`s point of view, just to be clear.  But he had spent eight years

in the Oval Office.  He had spent eight years, he thought transforming the

country, his very election seemed to suggest a different United States and

the one that he had grown up in, where we`d grown up in.  And then he was

replaced by someone who couldn`t have been more opposite and it seemed like

a rejection, not just of Hillary Clinton, but in some ways of him.


And he was frustrated.  He was very frustrated.  He told his aides maybe I

came along 20 years too soon.  Maybe we pushed too hard.  And he was

struggling, I think, through all these faces of grief, just like his staff

was, as to try to explain what happened.


MATTHEWS:  You know, Congresswoman, last thought, you could be big on this. 

It`s just seems amazing.  Here is a country we benefited from having a

clean as a whistle President, great husband and father.  I mean, he was a

little aloof.  Let`s be honest.  But, you know, the guy did everything

right.  By all Christian-Judeo standards, he did everything right in his

life.  He was a perfect gentleman in the way he carried himself.  And we

bring in this guy.  I mean, I don`t think we did it because of him.  I

think we – I don`t know what we were thinking.  But apparently according

to the new book here by Peter, he couldn`t believe what happened to him by



SPEIER:  Well it has.  It`s less of a reflection on former President Obama

and more of a reflection unfortunately on our candidate, Hillary Clinton. 

And I just want to say, Chris, that one of the things that happened today

that we`re not talking about is that he talked with Vladimir Putin who just

spent 2018 messing with our elections again and is intending to do it in

2020.  And I think what they were talking about is what is Vladimir Putin

going to do for Donald Trump this time?


MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.  By the way, thank you, guys.  And by the way, you

are standing in front of, sitting in front of the one case in American

history, perhaps human history, where mankind improved on the natural

landscape, the Golden Gate Bridge.  And everybody should go see it sometime

in your life, the most beautiful structure ever put up.  Every time I drive

across that, I`m in heaven.  I love that bridge.


Anyway, thank you totally unrelated, but what a great country we live in. 

Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, of California.  Maya

Wiley, thank you, Michael Beschloss and Peter Baker.  We`ve got a lot of

long headed thinking here tonight and it has been helpful.


Coming up, a new poll shows several of the democratic candidates leading

President Trump head-to-head, you will be surprised how many are beating

him.  And while our separate poll shows a huge gender gap, most American

men right now like Trump.  Put that in your head.  Let me get this all

through the weekend.  On paper things look bad for the President, of

course, but could it really be this easy to defeat Trump?


Plus, the vast wasteland of broken reputations, the high price people pay

in public respect, their own respect for hitching their wagons to this guy. 

Much more ahead, stick with us.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


We`re exactly 18 months now for the presidential election itself.  That`s,

of course, November next year.  An early snapshot, by the way, of voter

preference doesn`t look good for President Trump. 


Look at these numbers.  A new CNN poll shows, if the election were held

today – and it won`t be – look at this – Beto O`Rourke, who hasn`t had

the best month, look at him beating the president 52-42 – 10-point spread

is unbelievable.  Biden is up, of course, by six, Bernie the same, up by



Kamala, pretty darn strong, four points up, Buttigieg up by three.  And

look at this, Elizabeth Warren.  Of the six they polled – they only threw

six names out to the pollster – to the people – she lost by a point. 

Figure that one out.


That`s an early snapshot with a small sample.  But it is going to be – is

it going to be this easy to beat Trump?


By the way, a new poll comes as President Trump continues to spar with his

potential rivals, this time over comments front-runner Joe Biden made

earlier this week on the threat posed by China.  Here`s what Biden said,

followed by Trump`s response last night. 





to eat our lunch?  Come on, man. 


They`re not bad folks, folks.  But guess what?  They`re not a competition

for us. 



view everybody as competition. 


QUESTION:  Is he being naive about China?


TRUMP:  Oh, he`s very naive about China.  China just – during the Obama

years in particular, just took advantage of our country so badly. 


A very, very big competition, China.  And I have stopped it.  And I am

stopping it.  But for somebody to be so naive and say that China`s not a

problem?  If Biden actually said that, that`s a very dumb statement. 




MATTHEWS:  Very clever. 


Anyway, for more, I`m joined by Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to

Hillary Clinton`s campaign for president last time, and Michael Steele. 


Michael, I will start with you, former RNC chair.


I know Biden.  We all know Biden.




MATTHEWS:  He`s talking up America.  And, by the way, he has made a point

before that – talked about this with the former president of Singapore,

that respected fellow. 


He said, why does America make – why are we so resilient?  Every

generation, we`re doing it again.  We can – it`s immigrants.  These people

come from all over the world to work here.


STEELE:  Sure.


MATTHEWS:  The Nobel Prizes, two-thirds of them come from people who came

here, like Wernher von Braun, people like that, and Einstein. 


A lot of it`s the fact that we enrich ourselves with new people who are

ambitious who come here.  And he said, that`s why the Chinese can`t beat

us.  And I thought that`s a nice pro-American exceptionalism argument. 

Now, right or wrong, the president jumps on him, jumps all over him.


STEELE:   Yes, he`s right on the economics.  And he`s a little off on the

politics.  And that`s just the way it is. 


But you`re absolutely right. 


MATTHEWS:  Who is off?


STEELE:  Biden was right on the economics and what he said, but the

politics was a little bit off, because of how it sounds to people. 


MATTHEWS:  He sounded what?  What did he sound like?


STEELE:  Well, you know, how does a union worker who hears that take it? 




STEELE:  How do they get an impression of what Biden is saying, actually,

in that piece?


MATTHEWS:  Is this going to hurt because he supported NAFTA? 


STEELE:  No.  No, it`s not going to hurt Biden at all.  This is just one

moment in a campaign that`s just starting. 





STEELE:  But I think it`s an early lesson for Biden that, yes, you have got

to be precise, because the politics is what`s going to drive the narrative,

not necessarily the truth of the economics or the facts around the



The politics is what is going to drive it.


ELROD:  Well, and those sound bites can hurt you too.


STEELE:  And those sound bites…




MATTHEWS:  By the way, I don`t care what anybody says.  He`s afraid of





ELROD:  Of course he is.


MATTHEWS:  Biden takes – he takes away the very people that Trump stole

from the Democrats.


ELROD:  Yes, yes, absolutely. 


I mean, he`s going right – Trump knows this. 


I mean, he`s not exactly the most intellectual person, but he has a good

gut instinct.  And he knows that somebody like Joe Biden can go after those

white working-class voters that we lost, unfortunately, in 2016, in the

Rust Belt, and he knows that Joe Biden can claim them back.


So he`s scared of him.


MATTHEWS:  And he`s not an elitist. 




MATTHEWS:  One thing you cannot hit him with, he`s not an elitist.  He`s

not some pie-in-the-guy, well, super Ivy League type that looks down on

people.  Don`t – Biden is one of them. 


By the way, he doesn`t go to Scranton.  He`s from Scranton.


STEELE:  Right.  Exactly.


MATTHEWS:  And there`s a big difference.


ELROD:  Exactly. 


STEELE:  But Biden is the guy you see on the train going to work. 


ELROD:  Yes. 


STEELE:  Biden is the guy you see at the lunch counter in the local



MATTHEWS:  Have you asked around about him on the train, about the people?


STEELE:  Oh, yes.  Oh, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  And what do they say about him? 


STEELE:  Oh, yes, they – Biden is very popular on Amtrak, trust me. 




MATTHEWS:  He knows everybody`s name. 




STEELE:  He knows everybody`s name, the conductors, the porters, everybody.


ELROD:  The hall is named after him in Delaware.




STEELE:  That blue-collar spirit.


MATTHEWS:  We`re going to a topic for you here, Adrienne.


A separate poll found the president facing a wide gender gap.  The latest

Quinnipiac poll – that`s a poll we always use – 62 percent of women

disapprove.  Now, look at that.  More than three out of five don`t like

this guy`s performance.


Among men – this is startling as well.  Most men, including minorities,

including liberals, woke guys, all kinds of Connecticut, New York,

whatever, California guys, included, he still beats.


ELROD:  Yes.


MATTHEWS:  Trump still is approved in a plurality by men, men, per se. 


ELROD:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s astounding to me. 


ELROD:  Yes. 


And guess what?  Women won 2018.  They won the midterms, right?  So you`re

sort of seeing these numbers reflected here.  And if Democrats take back…


MATTHEWS:  Explain.


ELROD:  If Democrats take back the presidency in 2020, it will be because

of women.


MATTHEWS:  Explain the difference in the gender.  You`re the political

expert.  You`re the major communicator.  Why do women detest this guy`s

performance, and men say, I sort of like him?


ELROD:  Because he`s been a misogynist.


He`s – all of his policies have been so anti-women, from his embracing of

the NRA.  We know that the gun safety issue has been a wedge issue that has

really – that drove women in 2016 to support – college-educated working-

class – college-educated women to support Hillary Clinton, especially

Republican college-educated women. 


We`re going to see that again this time.  But there`s a whole array of

reasons why women don`t support him.  I don`t see that changing.


MATTHEWS:  OK, flip the question.  Why do men like him?  Go ahead.


STEELE:  Because he`s the guy at the bar.  He`s the guy who talks trash. 

He`s the guy who…


ELROD:  And all guys like that.


STEELE:  And all guys like that. 


He`s the guy who`s…


MATTHEWS:  So, we`re dumb, right?  You`re saying we`re dumb.


ELROD:  I don`t know.  I don`t know what to think about that.


STEELE:  Let`s put it this way.  We`re just a little bit base.  And he`s a

little bit more base than most out there. 


But here`s the thing about the women`s – I appreciate that 62 percent. 

And those numbers say a lot.  But when it comes to the vote, how will they

vote?  Because, at the end of the day, you still have to deal with just

looking at white educated women went for Trump three years ago. 


ELROD:  Well, and we were saying before the break that just because

somebody disapproves of the president or an elected official…


STEELE:  Exactly. 


ELROD:  … does not necessarily mean that they are going to vote against



STEELE:  That`s right. 


And that`s where Trump – that`s his ace.  That is his…




MATTHEWS:  Let me about – I got a weird thing.  I started looking at all

the pictures of all the 21 candidates. 


And I`m thinking now, of the front-runners – this is not totally fair, but

two old guys in their late 70s. 


ELROD:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Biden and Bernie.  All these B`s drive me crazy, all these B`s. 


OK.  One young guy, Buttigieg, and two women really doing well.  That would

be certainly Kamala and Elizabeth Warren.


ELROD:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s interesting, just that race.  There`s no young – there`s

only one young guy running.  Isn`t it interesting?


ELROD:  Yes.  It`s early. 


And I think that a lot of this is still focused on name I.D.


MATTHEWS:  There`s no African-American guy, by the way, in the top.  yes. 


ELROD:  Yes, but Cory Booker – is – he`s…




ELROD:  … a very strong campaign.




MATTHEWS:  I met him.  I really like him.  But he`s not running at the top

of this poll here. 


ELROD:  He`s not, but this is also – I mean, we were talking about this is

May of 2019. 


We have got 39-and-a-half weeks until the first caucus, which is in Iowa,

so we have got some time. 


But a lot of this is literally focused on name I.D. right now, right?


MATTHEWS:  Kamala Harris is not that well-known.


ELROD:  Joe Biden, 99 percent name I.D.


MATTHEWS:  She`s doing well. 


ELROD:  But she`s doing well.


MATTHEWS:  I think she`s got three tickets.  She`s young.  She`s the right

age, early 50s, which is perfect for president. 


ELROD:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  She`s a woman of color, which I think in the Democratic fight

helps this year. 


ELROD:  Correct. 


MATTHEWS:  People tell me African-American women are going to be dominant

in picking the election winner. 


And what else?  She`s a woman. 


ELROD:  Yes.  And she`s going to do well in the early states.  I mean, I

think she will do well in Iowa.  And I think that she will certainly do

well in South Carolina.


And then, of course, California is now…




MATTHEWS:  Wait until we get to the Black Belt, we get to the Deep South. 

I think she`s going to walk away with it. 




MATTHEWS:  Starting in South Carolina. 


STEELE:  Yes, I think you`re right about a lot of that. 


But I…


MATTHEWS:  See, if you come on this show, I build you up.  And she was on

this week. 


ELROD:  Yes.


STEELE:  Right.  Right. 




MATTHEWS:  Pass the word.


ELROD:  She had a good week.  She had a very good week. 


MATTHEWS:  Pass the word.


STEELE:  She`s had a very good week.


But this is a long stretch, you just noted, Adrienne.  And so we`re 39

weeks out.  We have got – we have got the first round of debates coming

up.  And who`s on that…




STEELE:  Who`s on that stage will matter out of the gates.  Not everyone`s

going to be there.  So there`s still a lot of dynamics at play.


MATTHEWS:  Eighteen, I believe, have made it. 


STEELE:  Yes. 




MATTHEWS:  It`s going to be one – exciting.  It`s coming, by the way. 

It`s not next year-and-a-half.  It`s this June, which is next month this

thing starts. 


STEELE:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  Adrienne Elrod, thank you for coming.


ELROD:  Thank you, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  You`re very careful tonight.  You`re supporting everybody,

including Cory Booker.  You`re pushing…




ELROD:  I am, absolutely.  I support Cory Booker.




STEELE:  I want them all in.


MATTHEWS:  You want them all in.




MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Michael Steele.  You want a real crazy jamboree.


Up next, we`re 550 days from the actual election, not the first debate. 

But Republican lawmakers across the country are wasting no time making it

as difficult as possible for people to vote. 


You know they`re trying to stop from voting.  Democrats.  A chilling

roundup of the boldest, most egregious voter suppression efforts in America

happening right now. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


President Trump is not alone when it comes to engaging in obstructionist

behavior.  Republicans across the country now are following his lead in

state legislatures they control, particularly when it comes to, you guessed

it, voting rights. 


In Florida, voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative last year –

actually – yes, last year, to restore voting rights to former felons.  In

other words, you serve your time, 10, 20 years, whatever it was, once

you`re out, you can become a member of – a citizen again.  You get the

15th Amendment back.  You can vote. 


But now Republicans are making it more difficult for those people who have

served their time.  Today, Florida lawmakers, the lawmakers, passed

legislation requiring those former felons to pay all their court fees at

the time they were arrested and tried and all restitutions, if there is any

involved, before they can vote. 


Florida is not alone.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, there

are at least 18 bills out there restricting voter rights actively right now

moving through nine states with Republican-controlled legislatures.


For more, I`m joined by our friend Jason Johnson, politics editor at The



To me, some of this stuff is partisan and some of it is just predatory. 

You are just going to kind of make lives miserable.  A guy – mostly guys -

- get out of prison, hard time. 




MATTHEWS:  The one thing that might give them a sense of citizenship again

is, you know what, you`re allowed to vote now. 


JOHNSON:  Right.  Right. 


And we`re talking local city council things.  And here`s the thing, Chris,

about Florida.


MATTHEWS:  What do you mean local city council?


JOHNSON:  Because that`s where people are going to start.




JOHNSON:  You want the guy who served five years for armed robbery to be

like, you know what?  I do care about school board.  I`m back here with my

daughter.  I`m engaged in the community again.


This is a way for people to reconnect – 64 percent of the population in

Florida wanted this bill.  More people wanted felons to vote again than

wanted DeSantis. 


MATTHEWS:  That includes a lot of Republicans too.


JOHNSON:  Exactly, Republicans, white people, black people, Latinos.


So the Republicans in the state legislature are suborning the will of the

people in that state and taking away people`s rights.  It`s anti-

democratic, and it`s horrendous politics.


MATTHEWS:  You know, it`s not that many votes too.


But, anyway, do you think some of the gamesmanship by the Republican Party

is they are shrinking ethnically?




MATTHEWS:  I mean, and they say, well, maybe we can hang on, like the

Federalists hung on because they controlled the courts all those years back

in our beginning.




MATTHEWS:  They think, well, we can maybe squeeze out another victory. 


JOHNSON:  That`s – that`s the goal. 


Look, the Republican Party has become not state by state, but, nationally,

it`s a white people party.  They have lost Latinos.  All that stuff was

under Reince Priebus.  They have lost Latinos.  They have lost African-

Americans.  They have lost the growing Asian population. 


Their only way of winning…


MATTHEWS:  I think they still have Vietnamese.


JOHNSON:  Well, yes, maybe.


MATTHEWS:  No, really, and Cubans.


JOHNSON:  Yes, smaller ethnic groups, but that`s mostly state by state. 


If you`re talking sort of nationally, they`re still having difficulty. 

That`s why you see them ending voting rights in different states.  That`s

why you see the voter I.D.  That`s why you see things in Tennessee and

Arizona and Ohio.


MATTHEWS:  Well, why did George W. – I`m not a big fan of George W.

because of the Iraq War.


JOHNSON:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  But he was one Republican that said, darn it, I`m going to make

my case with the Mexican-American voter down in Texas.  And he did.




MATTHEWS:  He got high 30s.


JOHNSON:  Thirty-something percent.  He got 25 percent of the African-

American vote.


But that`s not the current Republican Party.  And this is the biggest

sticking point.  If you`re going out into the community and saying, yes,

I`m Donald Trump, what have you got to lose with the black community, and

then your party in Georgia, in Florida, in different states is saying, but

we don`t want you to vote, what kind of message are you sending? 


And that`s clearly what the Republican Party doesn`t care about. 




MATTHEWS:  What more can I say? 




MATTHEWS:  What are you – are you – I got nothing more to say.  you`re so



Anyway, another tool for obstruction has been political gerrymandering,

drawing in states – we know this one – their congressional map to give

one party an unfair advantage.  Today, a three-judge panel in Ohio ruled

that the state`s congressional map is unconstitutional, that map we`re

looking at, and needs to be redrawn ahead of the 2020 elections, before

next year. 


The current map was created in 2011 under full Republican control, with

Republicans consistently winning 12 of Ohio`s congressional seats, compared

to the Democrats, who have just four.  And that`s despite Democrats getting

almost half the statewide congressional vote. 


Ohio is not alone.  A number of other states are facing questions about

partisan gerrymandering, including cases in Maryland – that`s where the

Democrats did the bad stuff – North Carolina, where the Republicans did,

that are pending before the Supreme Court. 


I really do think this cuts – I think most people hate gerrymandering. 


JOHNSON:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  Especially when they get a look at a map and it`s got a

salamander-shaped district with weird curly Q`s. 


In Maryland, just not to let the Democrats off the hook, you got like –

you got Frederick…


JOHNSON:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  … that is stuck in one district that`s really surrounding

another district.  And what is that about?


JOHNSON:  It`s cutting and slicing the pizza.  Nobody wants a district that

looks like a Slinky, right? 




JOHNSON:  Here`s the problem, though. 


Number one, we`re all waiting for what the Supreme Court says, because

ultimately this court is going to determine if partisan gerrymandering is

OK.  They have said you can`t racially gerrymander.  But they have so far

wanted to avoid whether or not partisanship gerrymandering is a problem.


That`s what we`re really concerned about.  But here`s the other issue.  It

is anti-democratic.  If you look at Ohio…


MATTHEWS:  They know.  That`s why they do it.


JOHNSON:  Exactly. 


MATTHEWS:  What did the Democrats do for years in California? 




MATTHEWS:  Phil Burton.


JOHNSON:  They cut – they cut everything…




MATTHEWS:  To make all the incumbents safe.


JOHNSON:  Exactly. 


MATTHEWS:  So that a voter who`s a good voter, man or woman, couldn`t go

into the voting booth and make a change.


JOHNSON:  Exactly. 


MATTHEWS:  Because the incumbents were unbeatable. 


JOHNSON:  Exactly. 


Here`s the problem.  When you have a state like Ohio – I used to be an

Ohio voter – the voters in 2018 voted to have an independent commission

draw their districts.  So, actually, what`s happening right now is, again,

the Republican state legislature is fighting against the will of the



The people want their districts cut fairly.  They will vote for you if

you`re good.  You don`t need this incumbent protection.  And you don`t need

this party protection.  It`s the most dangerous thing we`re facing in 2020. 


MATTHEWS:  And I think the problem is, with gerrymandering, like a lot of

this stuff, it creates parties which are only hard left or hard right.


JOHNSON:  Exactly. 


MATTHEWS:  You don`t get to choose, because the only thing you fear is a



JOHNSON:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  And if only thing you fear is a primary, you`re always going to

edge a little bit further than you normally would think you would be.


Anyway, thank you, Jason.


JOHNSON:  Thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  This is very vigorous here between me and you.




MATTHEWS:  Coming up next, what is it about Donald Trump that makes so many

people willing to sacrifice their personal and professional reputation? 

Why do they get smeared by joining this guy? 


Remember, if you roll with dogs, you get fleas?  That`s what`s going on



Stick with us. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


After Attorney General Bill Barr`s unflinching defense of the president

this week, many were left asking, what happened to that guy?


Well, Susan Glasser writes in “The New Yorker” that: “The Trump presidency

has been a great wrecker of reputations.  In his short time in politics,

Trump has managed to shred the careers, professional integrity and dignity

of many of those who work for him.”


Let`s watch it.




SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  You just can`t subpoena a person because

you`re a member of Congress.  You can`t ask for a person`s tax returns

because you want them.  You got to have a reason.


Let it be said that any president who cheats our institutions shall be




allegations, the president does not have to sit there, constitutionally,

and allow it to run its course. 


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA):  So if the president orders the attorney

general to halt a criminal investigation…


BARR:  I think it would be a breach of the president`s duties to faithfully

execute the law.  It would be an abuse of power.



administration, President Trump has taken steps to ensure that the federal

government will never, ever penalize anyone for their religious beliefs

ever again.


TRUMP:  Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of

Muslims entering the United States. 




MATTHEWS:  And those aren`t even the most sycophantic comments for this



And that`s up next on HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


After Attorney General Barr`s testimony this week, former FBI Director

James Comey wrote in an opinion piece: “Accomplished people lacking inner

strength can`t resist the compromises necessary to survive Trump.  And that

adds up to something they will never recover from.  It takes character to

avoid the damage, because Trump eats your soul in small bites.”


Well, earlier this week, Trump`s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, gave

us the ultimate evidence of a sacrifice for Trump, tweeting about his boss

that: “Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation.”


Boy, that`s pious.


Joining us right now is syndicated columnist George F. Will, and Juanita

Tolliver, campaign director for the Center for American Progress Action



Thank you.


George, I have never seen – sycophant is probably too nice a word.  What

is it about people?  Is it the position, the prestige, the nearness to

power, the glory?  Why do people – Lindsey Graham, a likable fellow, why

does he do this? 


GEORGE WILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  It`s been said, if these people didn`t

have situational ethics, they`d have no ethics at all. 




WILL:  First of all, there is the cult of the presidency itself.  That`s

the title of a wonderful book by Gene Healy of the Cato Institution.


The grotesque inflation of the institution and all its trappings.  Well, as

power wanes – you talk about the dictator Trump.  He can`t get to people

on the Federal Reserve Board. 




WILL:  So, he`s hardly a dictator. 


Second, there`s the cult of him.  The Republican Party, having thrown away

almost all its beliefs, small government, free trade, all of that…


MATTHEWS:  Fiscal responsibility.


WILL:  … is now a cult. 




WILL:  And there`s fear enters into this, because these people are

terrified of him.


They remember Congressman Sanford, Senator Flake, Senator Corker.  All of

them paid the price. 


MATTHEWS:  Those are people in South Carolina, two members of Congress down

there, just gone, because he decided they weren`t worthy of his patronage. 




I mean, he has made it very clear, if you cross me, there will be

repercussions.  And what Comey – the picture that Comey painted was one

of, as soon as he makes the call that you`re on his roster to be recruited

to his administration, he starts lying about you, lying to you, creating

this environment where, as Comey said, if you have weak character, there is

no way out and you feel trapped. 


But the other side of this, too, is like working in administration is a bit

of a revolving door.  Right?  There`s some cash in, cash out here.  We just

saw today that John Kelly signed on to the board of the largest company

running the largest facility for unaccompanied minors. 


And so there`s some benefits here once they leave the administration. 


MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know.


What struck me, the way that Lindsey Graham – Janet Reno, when she was

attorney general for Clinton, whatever you think of either of them, every

time he called her up, she said, let me get my notebook. 


I mean, she was going to be an attorney general. 


WILL:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  She wasn`t going to be his lackey. 


WILL:  Did you ever read Arthur Koestler`s novel published in 1941



MATTHEWS: “Darkness at Noon”?


WILL: … “Darkness at Noon”?


It was – it`s about the Soviet Union during the purge trials on how people

loyal to the party – the party was all things to them – would trust

themselves into terrific intellectual pretzels to follow the party line.




WILL:  And there`s a character in there named Gletkin, who`s the inquisitor

for the party. 


And the Republican Party now has a large number of Gletkins.  It`s worse

than fear, because this is twisted conviction. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, in a piece for “The New Yorker” this week, Susan Glasser,

actually the spouse of Peter Baker, also points out Trump`s crude efforts

to humiliate those who work for him. 


Just yesterday, Trump dropped his Federal Reserve pick in a tweet, hours

after Stephen Moore said in an interview that the nomination was full steam



His former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also found out that he was fired

via a tweet, and was then left standing alongside Air Force One as the

president`s motorcade sped back to the White House without him in it. 


And former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in the bathroom, doing what

you do in the bathroom, when he was told he would be getting fired.  The

humiliation of people. 


And the other day, I was watching at – a rally out in Green Bay, and he

makes fun of this Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “You`re fired,” as a joke.  And

in a split-second, I said, that`s not funny. 


TOLLIVER:  It`s sport for him. 


MATTHEWS:  Why did he do that to her?


TOLLIVER:  It`s sports for him.


Remember, this is a reality TV star who did use to point out people and

say, “You`re fired.”  This is all fun and games for Trump.  And, honestly,

we`re going to see more and more people get played.


MATTHEWS:  You think he`s a sadist?


TOLLIVER:  I mean, if anything, I`m looking at people who join the

administration knowing how he treats his staff, knowing how he humiliates



And if they make the decision to sign on with this administration, then

whatever negative externalities come from that is fully on their shoulders. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, I remember when I first came to Washington, George, I

asked a friend of mine who actually got me in the door, a former

congressman, Wayne Owens of Utah.  I said, do you have any advice about



And usually you wonder what people are going to say when you ask an open-

ended question. 


TOLLIVER:  I`m waiting.  Come on.  Let`s hear it. 


MATTHEWS:  You know what he said?  It`s who you associate with.


WILL:  You forgot about Chris Christie. 


Christie campaigns against him as a menace to conservatism, a menace to the

party.  Then he endorses him.  He flies with him down to Texas.  I think it

was down to Texas to the border.  And Trump gets done with his speech,

turns to him and says, get on the plane and go home. 


TOLLIVER:  In and out, easy peasy, right?  This is fun and games for Trump. 

And the people who sign onto this administration know exactly what they`re

signing on for.


You started the segment with this, what happened to Barr, right?  Barr

signed on knowing full well the treatment that he would receive.  And he

made a decision to play to a party of one this week in the hearings.  And

he played well to Trump.


MATTHEWS:  Well, not to get sectarian, but I always get back to “A Man for

All Seasons” and the people that went with King Henry on the divorce issue,

the marriage issue.  And those who didn`t had their heads chopped off. 


And those who did didn`t look too good in history. 


TOLLIVER:  Didn`t look too good in history and…


MATTHEWS:  But they cared about their horses.  They didn`t care about their



And Richard Rich, “But for Wales,” one of the best lines in movies. 




MATTHEWS:  You`re giving your soul away to be head of – to be given the

title of duke of Wales or whatever?


WILL:  It avails a man nothing if he gains the whole world, but loses his

soul, and you`re doing it for Wales. 




TOLLIVER:  Well said. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, we`re getting biblical here. 






MATTHEWS:  And I don`t mind that at all.


My one question to you is, was it like that working for other politicians? 

You have worked for politicians.


TOLLIVER:  I have definitely worked for politicians. 


MATTHEWS:  Do they all insist on slavery?


TOLLIVER:  Come on.  You`re talking to a woman of color here, right?


MATTHEWS:  No, I`m serious.


TOLLIVER:  Like, nothing compares to what happened to my ancestors.


MATTHEWS:  Some bosses are notoriously bad to people, and they do humiliate

their people. 


TOLLIVER:  I mean, bad to people, humiliate people, still very short of



But, yes, there have been some bad bosses out there, but nothing to the

degree of what we see happening in the Trump administration, where he is

actually creating this web where people get entrenched in it and can`t find

a way out. 




TOLLIVER:  But, honestly, there is a reality that there are some people who

are in his administration who completely feel fine doing his bidding,

because they believe in what he`s doing. 




Lyndon Johnson was an awful man to his staff people.  He did treat them

like slaves.  And the fact is, it didn`t get – we didn`t hear about it

until later. 


WILL:  That`s true. 


But they stuck with him because they knew big things were happening.  And

they were important to them, because he also treated the well, in the sense

that he involved them in big events. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I remember how he treated McNamara.  He made him cry.  He,

I like that to show that I can make this guy cry.  That was the secretary

of defense. 




MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, George Will and Juanita Tolliver. 


TOLLIVER:  Thanks for having me.


MATTHEWS:  Great to have both of you on.


Up next, on this Free Press – World Free – Press Freedom Day, President

Trump makes clear his own regard, which is pretty low, for a free press. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Today is World Press Freedom Day.


And if you did not have the person we have now sitting in the Oval Office,

this topic would naturally have us thinking about conditions overseas. 

But, today, we cannot have that luxury, because the freedom of the press

guaranteed to this country by our founders does not stand here today as an

uncontested value. 


Today, this country is governed by a president who believes the free press

is to be derided, not just on certain occasions, but relentlessly.  A day

doesn`t begin, it seems, until Donald Trump has launched his sunrise

ceremony of assault on the country`s leading newspapers and news networks. 


Here he is making his personal statement for world press freedom today. 





to meddle in the next election? 


TRUMP:  Excuse me.  I`m talking.  I`m answering this question. 




TRUMP:  You are very rude. 




MATTHEWS:  What you just heard there was White House correspondent for NBC

News Kristen Welker asking the president of the United States, following

the report from the special counsel of sweeping and systematic Russian

intervention in our last election, if he had just told the Russian

president not to meddle in our next election. 


Wow.  A reporter doing her job, a president smacking her with an insult. 


It`s no wonder why Thomas Jefferson, author of our founding document, would

say these memorable words: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should

have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I

should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”


Fortunately, thanks to Jefferson and the others, we don`t have to choose. 

What we need is a president who respects the spirit, however, of our

Constitution.  Journalists have died doing their job of trying to get the

truth to us. 


And “The Washington Post” highlights today in its new ad all about that. 

Let`s watch.




NARRATOR:  When we go off to war, when we exercise our rights, when we soar

to our greatest heights, when we mourn and pray, when our neighbors are at

risk, when our nation is threatened, there`s someone to gather the facts,

to bring you the story, no matter the cost. 




MATTHEWS:  And that`s HARDBALL for now.


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.






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