Nadler accuses Trump of witness intimidation. TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Madeleine Dean, Donna Edwards, Sherrod Brown, John Yarmuth, Carlos Curbelo, Leon Panetta



ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  But don`t go anywhere because “HARDBALL” with

Chris Matthews is up next.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump guides the star witness.  Let`s play



Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  This was the empty chair

you`re looking at in which former White House Counsel Don McGahn was

supposed to sit in for today`s hearing with the House Judiciary Committee. 

Instead, McGahn was a no-show, defying a congressional subpoena to testify

today in public about the President`s order for him to fire Special Counsel

Robert Mueller, a brazen act to obstruct justice.


As the star witness against Trump, McGahn has already detailed numerous

examples of likely obstruction, all of which are contained in the Special

Counsel`s report.  Yet he`s now become a pawn in the presence game of

chicken with Congress.  In an effort to guide the former Counsel, the White

House issued a letter late yesterday, saying that McGahn is absolutely

immune from any congressional subpoena for his testimony.  That move

follows a public attack on McGahn led by the President.


And now, House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, is accusing the President

of witness intimidation and he`s vowing to enforce the subpoenas that the

Trump White House is acting now to nullify.




REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  The President took it upon himself to intimidate

a witness who has a legal obligation to be here today.  This conduct is not

remotely acceptable.  Our subpoenas are not optional.  Let me be clear. 

This committee will hear Mr. McGahn`s testimony even if we have to go to

court to secure it.  We will not allow the President to prevent the

American people from hearing from this witness.  We will not allow the

President to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies

above the law.




MATTHEWS:  Well, as the Associated Press reports, President Trump has

leverage on McGahn even though McGahn is now a private citizen.  According

to that reporting, if McGahn were to defy Trump and testify before the

Congress, it could endanger his own career in republican politics and put

his law firm, Jones Day, in the President`s crosshairs.


In fact, Trump has mused about obstructing republicans to cease dealing

with that law firm.  Well, today, the House Judiciary Committee issued two

new subpoenas, one for Annie Donaldson, who was Deputy White House Counsel

under McGahn, and another for Hope Hicks, of course, we know her, Trump`s

former Communications Director.


NBC News is also reporting tonight that the committee has been unable to

reach an agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to secure his

testimony.  Wow.


I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of

Pennsylvania, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  Donna Edwards is

the former Democratic Congresswoman from Maryland and Chuck Rosenberg is a

former U.S. Attorney and Senior FBI Official and the host of MSNBC podcast

The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg.


Congresswoman Dean, I am baffled.  Because it seems to me every time that

Congress asked for something, whether it`s a piece of paper or it`s

testimony from a current official or a past official, this White House has

the moxie to say no and get away with it because they know that the Speaker

of the House will not impeach this President, because she is afraid of

endangering sits like yours.  That seems to be the conundrum right now. 

Tell me where I`m wrong.


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA):  What I disagree with you on is the fact that

we can do nothing about it.  We have lots of legal avenues left to us.  But

you`re absolutely right.  You notice that today is a very grave day.  Yet

again this administration and specifically this President had his counsel

put out a 15-page letter that spewed a legal argument that made no sense,

frankly, and was not upheld by juries prudence, that somehow there is a

blanket immunity and that Mr. McGahn would not be able to testify in front

of us.  That is simply not true.  So whether you call it nullifying or

simply trying to silence the voice of Mr. Mcgahn who testified very cleanly

to the Special Counsel that the President attempted to obstruct justice.


It is a grave day, and that`s why today I actually decided to make an

important statement, to both my committee, to my Chairman and leadership

that we must open an impeachment inquiry.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you for that.  I think that`s the right thing to do.  I

just want to ask you, who do you think is more embarrassed by the empty

chair, the White House, Mr. McGahn himself or the house?  That empty chair,

I know it`s an old stage move.  It`s been done in politics for years, the

guy who doesn`t show up for a debate.  I know how do it.  But you really

think that hurts the President, that empty chair, as it just shows how

nervy he is?


DEAN:  It is shameful on the part of the President.  That`s what it is

symbolic of.  And for Mr. McGahn, I believe that Mr. McGahn is a man of

credibility who testified in earnest, a very credible evidence of

obstruction by a President whom he served.  He`s a public servant.  I hope

he wants to come forward.  I hope he will ignore that immunity and serve

his credibility, not his career, his credibility.


MATTHEWS:  Well, from what I know of your district, I grew up right near

there and I went to school there.  Your district is going to love that

statement you just made.


Anyway, McGahn`s decision to obey the administration`s wishes over a

congressional subpoena stands in historic contrast, that`s the right word,

historic contrast with the actions of another former White House Counsel. 

Remember John Dean?  He`s still around.  John Dean will tell you what

happened.  He had been fired by Nixon.  He broke up with the whole

Watergate scandal with his compelling testimony in 1973.  McGahn, however,

issued a letter through his lawyers last night saying he finds himself

facing contradictory instructions from two co-equal branches of government

and must decline to appear at the hearing.


Chuck, John Dean, if he got a letter from Nixon to say don`t testify

because you`re my former counsel at the White House and you`re endangering

privileged information, he would have shown up anyway before the Ervin



CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC HOST:  I imagine that`s probably right, Chris.


MATTHEWS:  And what would have happen?  What would Nixon have been able to

do to him?


ROSENBERG:  Well, it`s not clear he wouldn`t have been able to do anything,

at least not quickly.  But there is a difference here, right?  McGahn got

that memo.  He literally got the memo.  And he is torn between two co-equal



MATTHEWS:  From the Office of Legal Counsel and Justice Department, which

is under the control of William Barr.


ROSENBERG:  Right.  But –


MATTHEWS:  But doesn`t that tell you something he`s under Barr.


ROSENBERG:  Well, hold on because I think there is an important point here,

And I don`t want to be an apologist for this administration.  But in that

15-page letter, which I read, you know, there is a history presidents from

all both parties and many administrations asserting a similar type of

immunity to preclude Congress from talking to senior officials in the



What McGahn has to do is abide by the law.  And what Congress has to do is

challenge that blanket assertion of immunity.  It has to be adjudicated. 

It has to be decided by the courts.  And then McGahn won`t be torn between

two warring parties.


MATTHEWS:  How long that will take that?


ROSENBERG:  So that`s the good question.


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, did you want to say something?  How long will

that last to get McGahn to be cleared of White House influence?


DEAN:  The opinions in case law are on our side.  All you have to do is

take a look at the Meyers case, which is analogous, where the court said

not once but twice there is no such thing as a a claim of a blanket

immunity.  That is a claim that an administration can make, but it is not

case law.  So that won`t hold up.


MATTHEWS:  A district court in D.C. which would probably hold it – handle

it.  Who are you confident over the courts these days that will deliver a

decision which you consider just?


DEAN:  I hope the courts see that every institution of our government which

has been framed over the course of hundreds of years through sweat, blood

and giving of their lives will say that this is too important of a time to

allow this amoral President to tear down, whether it`s judiciary or rule of

law, the equal, co-equal branches of government.  So I hold out hope that

the judiciary is sworn to uphold the law and to uphold the law against an

out of control administration.


MATTHEWS:  He seems to be this President operating like a – and I would do

the same.  We all do.  if we were on death row now, we would used

everything legal trick in the world to delay it.  And he`s going to

challenge every single subpoena, every citation for contempt, every request

for document, any – whatever because he`s putting it off until the end of

this summer, into the end of the fall and all of a sudden it`s 2020 and

then the Congress gets cold feet because they can`t do this in an election



FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-ML):  Well, this is exactly the reason, Chris,

that I have said all along that Congress needs to do this in the context of

impeachment proceeding because it changes the nature of the proceeding. 

And I think that the President we know that he is going to buck up against

every single opportunity.


And so when you are dealing with a bully like this and you`re dealing with

somebody like this, you have to play hardball.  And right now, democrats

look like they`re not willing to play hardball.


MATTHEWS:  Well, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Attorney

General Bill Barr, that`s (INAUDIBLE) guy, said his belief in the

President`s expansive power is not about Trump but the Presidency itself. 

Quote, this is from Barr, I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump

and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul.  Barr

went on to say, if you destroy the presidency and make him an errand boy

for Congress, we`re going to be a much weaker, a more divided nation.


You know, there might be some credibility coming from that, Congresswoman,

if he were sort of an independent guy, but he made it clear, he`s very

stronger in executive, to the point of really sort of, you know, pushing

the envelope in terms of executive power and also to have the President

chuckling afterwards, saying, my people say that`s for it to preserve the

power of the Presidency for future office holders.  Chuck was laughing when

he said that.


DEAN:  Well, to your point about A.G. Barr, my son Harry has an expression

that I like.  And it is that you gain credibility in droplets and you pour

it away in buckets.  In the case of Attorney General Barr, he has poured

away his credibility in buckets.  Trump has surrounded himself with

somebody who will just be a yes man and carry that water as he pours away

his own credibility.


But I want to say that I and the other members of the Judiciary Committee,

other member of my caucus, and you saw even that one member of the

republican caucus have stepped forward to say an impeachment inquiry is

necessary.  This is not an easy thing to say.  I don`t say it with any kind

of joy.  It`s a very grave thing to say.  But I do want you to know that it

is also met in my heart by a spirit of American optimism that this

government of and by and for the people will not be thwarted by the most

amoral, singularly, amoral President of our lifetime.  We have the

mechanisms in place and we have people of good will who will do the right

thing and this presidency will end.


MATTHEWS:  I have to ask you about – I will go to Chuck in a second.  But

I want to go back to the profound words you just said.  I was so taken with

that.  And I am, of course, for the fact that you are holding office in a

very, very sophisticated district.  Those people know what`s going on. 

They read the paper out.  I know Montgomery County.  I won`t to tell you.


What struck me watching the Nixon impeachment hearing and how Peter Rodino,

you know, an old ethnic guy from an old ethnic neighborhood in Northern

Jersey, and a lot of those guys like (INAUDIBLE) and those people who were

just regular politicians, they weren`t superstars.  When they got that and

stood on national television, all of them, and they talked about the

gravity of the impeachment and they`re taking they were going to, all of

them scored well politically.  Every – Congress had never gotten a higher

rating with the public in terms of job approval that it has, then because

they –


DEAN:  I was a little girl, but I remember watching.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s we – I think that`s what happened again, so I`m so

with you.


Chuck, you`re thoughts about impeachment.  I know you`re not from the body

of Congress but that`s the first branch of government.  Does it have a

role?  Robert Mueller`s job was to dig up.  He was the investigator.  Under

the constitution, the House of Representative is the prosecutor.  The

Senate is the judge, the convicting judge, if necessary.  I think the House

has to do its role.


They keep thinking.  Well, Pelosi says today, well, we have to get some

republicans in the Senate before we do anything.  Well, is that the cart

before the horse?


ROSENBERG:  It may be.  Look, the Congress has the authority.  It`s

perfectly clear and it`s perfectly constitutional.  And, by the way, there

is not a thing in the world the president can do to stop the Congress`s

impeachment inquiry.


MATTHEWS:  Will the courts go along with it?  Will they support them with



ROSENBERG:  So it`s interesting.  If an impeachment inquiry is open, and

this gets a little technical, but I think I`ll make it clear, the grand

jury rules that protect the disclosure of information would be waived.  You

could then go to court and get the grand jury information and use it in the

impeachment inquiry.  So not only is it a constitutional path, it`s a path

that opens the door to additional information.


MATTHEWS:  Do the underlying evidence?


ROSENBERG:  To the grand jury information, right?


So, you know, that`s their game.  Donna knows more about this than me, but

it does open – it does unlock that door to evidence.


EDWARDS:  Yes.  That`s why I said it`s imperative because you have to put

this in a framework that allows Congress to get the materials that they

need to do the investigation.  And at the end of it, you could say, maybe

there`re going to be ten articles of impeachment, maybe there are going to

be three.  But you don`t know it until you begin the process.


And, you know, so the democratic base wants this and wants it now, not

because they want the President, but because they want the constitution to

be upheld and the rule of law.  And so democrats just have to do it.


MATTHEWS:  Okay, U.S. Congresswoman Madeline Dean, let me ask you a last

question.  Hardly any time left, but what I want to ask you, do you think

the majority of your committee, the House Judiciary Committee, is now for

moving ahead with impeachment?


DEAN:  I haven`t taken a headcount, but there is a very strong movement in

the committee.  After all, we are watching this day by day, subpoena by

subpoena, empty chair by empty chair, obstruction by obstruction.  We`ve

read the Mueller report.  We see the criminality that is evidence.  So I

would say a tremendous number want to do this because we want to get at the

truth.  And we have a President who is standing in the way of the truth

because the truth will hurt him.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Madeline Dean of

Pennsylvania, former U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland and Chuck



Coming up, have we reached the tipping point on impeachment?




REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN):  I see a lot more people, believe that impeachable

offense has occurred and we`d like to see an impeachment inquiry.




MATTHEWS:  Speaker Pelosi has said no to impeaching Trump, but now, she`s

under increasing pressure from her democratic caucus to change her mind. 

So what happens next?  Apparently there`s a meeting tomorrow morning at

9:00.  We`ll see.


Plus, the confrontation of President, his new belligerence abroad, is

raising the risk of war with Iran.  I`ll get to that.  I`ll talk about that

with former CIA Director and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  What a

great guest to have tonight.


Also with me tonight, Ohio Senator Sharon Brown on the fight for blue

collar voters in 2020, they`re going to be critical.  Well, they were

critical in Trump`s victory.  They could be critical to his defeat.  Are

democrats floating their chance to win them back in `20 or not?


Much more ahead, stick with us.






REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY):  I believe that the – we have come

to the time of impeachment.  I think that, at a certain point, this is no

longer about politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The President is creating the circumstances that we may

have to consider it.  I`m personally much more open to it now than I was

four months ago.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA):  Each day is going to bring about new

information.  We have members who are strongly talking about an impeachment



COHEN:  I see a lot more people believe that an impeachable offense has

occurred.  We`d like to see an impeachment inquiry.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


Those were just a few House Democrats on the drum beat calls you`re hearing

for the President`s impeachment.  Now, something is going on.  House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has maintained control over her members and quieted

impeachment talks so far, but the Speaker could be facing an inflection

point as the course grows louder.


NBC News reports that during a leadership meeting last night, Judiciary

Committee Members Jamie Raskin of Maryland, David Cicilline of Rhode Island

and Joe Neguse, I should know that name by now, of Colorado, all argued for

launching an impeachment inquiry if former White House Counsel Don McGahn

failed to testify.  Well, guess what, he has failed to testify.


In a second larger meeting, Pelosi reportedly told members, quote, we`ve

always said one thing will lead to another as we get information.  We still

have unexhausted avenues here.  Well, the Speaker has stressed that any

consideration of impeachment must be bipartisan.


In an interview with Morning Joe yesterday, it was taped yesterday, Pelosi

was asked if Congressman Justin Amash, the first republican to signal

support for impeachment meets that requirement.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Well, a bipartisan support for impeachment has

to be in the Senate.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST:  So doesn`t it put more pressure on you that a

conservative republican says the threshold for impeachment has been met?






PELOSI:  Well, we have – we are not – this isn`t about politics. It`s not

about passion. It`s not about prejudice. It`s not about politics.  It`s

about patriotism.  And it`s about the presentation of the facts, so that

the American people can see why we`re going down a certain path. 


And it is – I don`t know.  I feel very confident that the American people

know that they deserve to know the truth, and that`s what we want to

present to them.




MATTHEWS:  Well, Speaker Pelosi will hold a closed-door Democratic Caucus

meeting tomorrow morning at 9:00, I believe I said, to give her members an

update on oversight and investigations.


For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky,

who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.  Heidi Przybyla is NBC News

correspondent.  And Carlos Curbelo is a former Republican congressman from



Here`s the question.  I think it is about politics, in all deference to the

speaker.  She`s one of the best speakers ever.  I recognize her ability to

keep the caucus together.  But I think it`s about politics and her fear

that Democrats will look too partisan if they act now. 


My question to you, Congressman, is the potential impeachment process of

this president closer to Nixon`s or Clinton`s?  Does it look more

legitimate if it occurs or less legitimate?


REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY):  Oh, I think it`s..


MATTHEWS:  It`s more like Nixon?


YARMUTH:  I think it`s definitely more like Nixon, right. 


The Clinton impeachment was clearly totally partisan.  I don`t think this

is.  I think – I think the people who have looked at it seriously

understand that the democracy – the status of our democracy is at stake. 


And this is – this is very serious business.  This isn`t about an illicit





MATTHEWS:  What is

the biggest thing?  Is it the potential testimony in public of Don McGahn

that the president of the United States, under investigation by a special

counsel named particularly to investigate him, tried to fire him



YARMUTH:  I think that`s a – that`s a huge factor and a huge element of

the case. 


But I think – and this is where I do agree with Speaker Pelosi.  I think

there is potentially a lot more in some of these investigations involving

his financial situation, his finances.  He has connections to overseas



And I think we do need to give that a chance to play out.

  I don`t think there`s…


MATTHEWS:  Can you do that if the White House doesn`t cooperate?


YARMUTH:  Well, all you`re doing then is, you`re just adding ammunition to

cause for impeachment, if they don`t cooperate.


MATTHEWS:  OK, then I`m asking you the question, the alternative. 




MATTHEWS:  B – the B plan.  If the president stonewalls you from now until

next August, when you`re going to act?


YARMUTH:  No, we have to act much sooner than that. 


I`m already on record saying I have been for impeachment.  I think he`s

committed multiple impeachable offenses, and he does it on a daily basis. 

And I would be fine with initiating an inquiry right now. 


But I do think there`s some value in going on with these investigations for

a while.  How long?  Probably not past fall.  I think we have to do

something by then.


MATTHEWS:  You know, Heidi, I was around.  I got to tell you, the members

of Congress in the House – everybody`s partisan to some extent, but the

Congress never looked better than when it held the impeachment hearings in

the House Judiciary Committee in 1974.


They were on in prime time.  People were very sort of old-school guys like

Tip O`Neill, I mean, old ethnic guys, you might say, from big cities like

Newark, guys like Rodino, and they all came up.  They rose to the occasion. 

It was chilling.  These guys that are just regular street corner guys

became statesmen. 


And the Congress looked good doing its job. 



is, in that scenario, you had a lot of investigations prior to that point

where the Republicans essentially had to get on board. 


They were the ones who went to Nixon and said it`s time.  You`re not seeing

that now, because, to the congressman`s point, the stonewalling is so

utterly complete…


MATTHEWS:  But this…


PRZYBYLA:  … you can`t even have the hearings.  You can`t have the

hearings.  You can`t get Mueller up there.  You can`t get the star witness,

Don McGahn, to come up there. 


And I do think all of these things combined, along with a principled

Republican in Justin Amash from Michigan coming forward and saying, these

are impeachable offenses, which, by the way, is also in coordin – or not

in coordination, but in agreement with 900 former federal prosecutors from

both parties saying, yes, this is a pretty clear-cut case.  These – this

is obstruction of justice. 


But what you had here was William Barr putting out his note and giving a

lot of Republicans cover, such that the – this has not gotten through to

the American people.  And that`s why Pelosi wants to have these hearings. 


That`s why we`re at a plan B, because the American public is not there yet

in terms of the polling on impeachment, that 56 percent of them think the

president is guilty of wrongdoing.  But then, when you ask the impeachment

question, it`s notching up, it`s notching up.  And that`s why I think

Pelosi before was saying, he`s not worth it. 


Now I think she`s just saying, hold on.  We`re getting there. 




A story breaking just moments ago, “The Washington Post” reported, a

confidential Internal Revenue Service legal opinion – that`s from the IRS

– says tax returns must be given to the Congress, unless the president

takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege. 


According to this report – you`re laughing – “The memo contradicts the

Trump administration`s justification for denying lawmakers` request for

President Trump`s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch.”


Well, that`s an easy one. 




MATTHEWS:  That`s an easy one.  He`s just going to determine executive

privilege here.


YARMUTH:  Of course he is. 




MATTHEWS:  By the way, what has that got to do with – I always thought of

executive privilege as Nixon meeting with Kissinger in the backroom talking

China policy.


What has this got to do with the matters of state, his tax returns?


YARMUTH:  Well, it has nothing to do with it. 


And, of course, this president doesn`t have any idea how government works. 

He never stopped to learn it.  He obviously never took a civics course,

doesn`t know what it says in the Constitution.  I`m not sure he even knows

there are three branches of government. 


Obviously, he is ignoring…


MATTHEWS:  He didn`t need to, did he?


YARMUTH:  He is ignoring one of them. 




YARMUTH:  But, no, the tax returns have nothing to do with executive



MATTHEWS:  Let me go – Congressman Curbelo, thank you about this. 


We`re talking about this sort of catch-22.  The Congress says, under the

sober leadership of the speaker, we`re not going to act until we have all

our cards. 


But the president – this president basically is burning the tapes, like

Nixon would have burned the tapes.  He`s making sure that evidence that

Nancy Pelosi needs doesn`t get to her. 


So how do you get out of this catch-22?


CARLOS CURBELO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Well, that`s the issue here,

Chris, right?


We have the facts and the evidence and then the politics.


MATTHEWS:  Who has got them?




CURBELO:  And Nancy Pelosi – Nancy Pelosi is in a difficult position.


This is going to be the greatest test of her speakership this term.  She

has to balance the competing interests between members that represent deep

blue districts, those members that are most motivated by the Democratic

base, and then those members in her caucus who are the majority-makers, who

represent the swing districts. 


Oftentimes, we saw John Boehner in this predicament.  Paul Ryan was

certainly in it.  Now it`s Nancy Pelosi turn.  For now, it seems that she`s

siding with those swing district members, being cautious, not wanting to be

aggressive on impeachment.  A lot of people say that Pelosi has a no-

impeachment strategy. 


We will see how long that holds.  That strategy right now is under deep

stress.  But I do know for a fact there are a lot of swing district

Democrats who want to put the brakes on all this impeachment talk, at least

for a few months. 


MATTHEWS:  Where are they?  Who are these people saying, no, leave him

alone, don`t impeach? 


CURBELO:  These are members who won tough races in the 2018 elections. 




CURBELO:  They represent suburban districts in Florida, in Pennsylvania, in



MATTHEWS:  Well, we just had one from Pennsylvania, a suburban district,

and she came out for impeachment.  So, Pelosi is not protecting her.




CURBELO:  I do think that the momentum in recent days is toward



But I do know also that there are a lot of swing district Democrats who

aren`t ready to go there yet.


MATTHEWS:  Maybe it`s to – the speaker`s still hoping to pick up Bucks

County and a few more suburban districts.  And if you impeach, you don`t

get them. 


But I think the – never mind. 


But, Congressman, I think it is like Nixon burning the tapes. 


Anyway, thank you, John Yarmuth.  Congressman, thank you for coming in.


Heidi, as always. 




MATTHEWS:  And, former Congressman Carlos Curbelo, thank you for that. 


CURBELO:  Thanks, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next: the power of one.  Trump is flexing his presidential

powers here at home and abroad, stonewalling the Congress here in

Washington and ramping up tensions with Iran. 


Former CIA Director, Secretary of Defense and White House Chief of Staff

Leon Panetta joins us to talk about the limits, well, what should be the

limits of presidential power, after this.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


As President Trump continues to test the limits of the power of his

presidency, he has been stonewalling Congress at every turn.  According to

“The Washington Post,” the president and his allies are working to block

more than 20 separate investigations, amounting to what many experts call

the most expansive White House obstruction effort in decades. 


The latest act, blocking former White House counsel Don McGahn from

answering questions in front of Congress.  The president`s defiant moves

puts Congress and the Democrats into a tough position on what to do next. 


For more, I`m joined by Leon Panetta, former CIA director, secretary of

defense and White House chief of staff. 


Mr. Secretary, your first role – what I would like you to do is talk about

the role of the White House here.  How do you assess these declarations of

presidential power vis-a-vis Congress?



think that the president and the White House are just pushing themselves

towards an impeachment by the way they`re behaving.


To take a blanket approach to absolutely no cooperation with the Congress,

when the Constitution makes clear that the Congress has oversight

responsibility here and does have the right to look at the presidency to

make sure that the presidency is abiding by the law of the land, to take a

position that you`re not going to cooperate on any front is a slap in the

face to our whole Constitution and its system of checks and balances.


MATTHEWS:  Did you ever consider, as chief of staff or as secretary of

defense or in any role that you held that the president of the United

States enjoys executive privilege over his tax returns?


PANETTA:  That`s a – that`s a new one. 




PANETTA:  I`m sure they`re going to try to figure out whatever excuse they

can find not to reveal those tax returns. 


He`s obviously been trying to hide those for the last number of years. 

He`s going to continue to do it.  And he will find whatever excuse he can

in order to fight it. 


But I think, in the end, this is one where the courts have a pretty clear

path here in terms of the right of the Congress to get a copy of those tax



MATTHEWS:  Let`s hope so.


By the way, it`s not just Congress the president`s facing off with. 

Tensions continue to rise in his standoff with the – between the United

States and Iran.  After the president appeared to soften his tone at the

end of last week, he wrote this ominous tweet over this week – excuse me.


“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.  Never

threaten the United States again.”


And, yesterday, had this to say:





happens.  But they`ve been very hostile.  They`ve truly been the number one

provocateur of terror in this country and, you know, representing their



We have no indication that anything has happened or will happen.  But, if

it does, it will be met, obviously, with great force.  We`ll have no





MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, it`s like some character in “Gunsmoke” that walks

in the saloon and looks around for a fight, somebody – just to challenge

somebody, humiliate somebody into fighting him for a – have a gun – a

shoot-out with him. 


Why is he – here`s my first question.  Why would he accuse – say to the

Iranians, we`re going to turn you into whatever, a nothing country, with

our firepower, unless he wants to incite them into a fight?  What do you



PANETTA:  Chris, I have been – I have been struggling to figure out what

the hell the foreign policy of this administration is all about.  And I

can`t.  There is no strategy here. 


This is just a president who decides to bully and to tweet and to say

whatever he wants, without any kind of comprehensive strategy about how you

deal with all of these hot spots in the world.  I mean, this is a dangerous

world we`re in.  We have got Russia that`s being more aggressive.  We`re in

a trade war with China. 


We have got North Korea.  And there`s been no progress as a result of what

this president has done in North Korea.  They still remain a threat.  We

have failed states in the Middle East.  We have got ISIS continuing to be a

terrorist threat.  And now we have got Iran. 


And I don`t see a basic strategy here that this president has put in place

in order to deal with any of those threats that are out there.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I don`t know. 


Let me just ask you, because you`re an expert on this.  He – he basically,

through his son-in-law, who he has deputized as his foreign policy

whatever, envoy, to basically screw the Palestinians out of a hope ever of

getting a state of their own or any kind of government their own. 


He`s basically saying, well, we`re going to work with the Arab states, the

Sunni states, like the Palestinians, against the Iranians.  Well, wait a

minute.  You just screwed our allies.  You have given them nothing.  The

Palestinians won`t even talk to you.  Even the business guys over there

won`t talk to you.  They`re not going to be paid off. 


At the same time, they`re going to be his pawns in taking on Iran. 

Explain.  I know that`s a ridiculous question, because you can`t – nobody

can explain that, but your thoughts.




PANETTA:  Look, this president loves to roll a grenade in the room, blow

things up, scatter everybody, and then tries to figure out where the hell

it`s going to take us. 


He did that with Iran.  He tore up the nuclear agreement without having any

strategy in place for where we were going to go.  The only place we can go,

very frankly, if you don`t want an all-out war, is to engage in



He ought to be working with our allies, because they have credibility with

Iran, and the United States doesn`t.  He ought to be working with them to

try to get us back to the table.  In North Korea, has done the same thing. 

It was – he was bullying North Korea.  Then he sat down with North Korea. 


But we have gotten nowhere with regards to denuclearization.  And so, area

after area, we have got a lot of chaos, we have got a lot of uncertainty. 

Most – most countries abroad aren`t sure what our policies are. 


And, in the end, what that does is, it creates a more dangerous world. 

This is a dangerous time for the United States, because our adversaries

will take advantage of this uncertainty.


MATTHEWS:  How much I wish, Mr. Secretary, that people like you – in fact,

you – and John Kerry were running the country right now.  We need sober

leadership.  And we don`t have it.


Thank you so much, Leon Panetta, who served our country in so many top



PANETTA:  Nice to be with you.


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  President Trump is looking vulnerable in parts of the

Midwest, including Pennsylvania, further east.  Can Democrats win back

enough working-class voters to put those key states back into reach? 


Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has some thoughts on that.  He`s coming here,

right here, next.




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.


According to a new Quinnipiac poll out today, former Vice President Joe

Biden has a commanding lead over his Democratic rivals right now.  At his

rally in Pennsylvania last night, President Trump who`s campaigned has

expressed concern about facing the former vice president, went after his

working class reputation. 





deserted you.  He`s not from Pennsylvania.  I guess he was born here, but

he left you, folks.  He left you for another state.  Remember that, please. 

I meant to say that. 


This guy talks about I know Scranton.  I know the places better.  He left

you for another state and he didn`t take care of you because he didn`t take

care of your jobs. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, Biden in a string of tweets hit back at the president for

that.  Quote: I never forgotten where I came from.  My family did have to

leave Pennsylvania when I was 10.  We moved to Delaware where my dad found

a job to provide for our family. 


Trump doesn`t understand the struggling working folks and what they go

through.  He doesn`t understand what it`s like to worry he will lose the

roof over your head. 


Well, Pennsylvania is one of the states that President Trump and his

Democratic challengers will be fighting over.  You can bet that.  In fact,

the path to victory runs through the Great Lakes states of Wisconsin,

Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 


Ohio which voted for Barack Obama twice before, flipping to Trump, now

appears to be a Republican stronghold however.  According to “The New York

Times”, despite continued economic challenges and recent General Motors

layoffs in Lordstown, President Trump, quote, appears to have lost little

of his blue collar support up there. 


One former Democrat who now votes Republican told the “New York Times” what

I want from a president is for the rest of the world to look at him and go,

don`t mess with that guy.  He will get even.  I don`t want some kinder,

gentler, I don`t want some female that wants her agenda.  Whoa. 


Well, stay tuned.  After the break, we`re going to hear from one Democrat

knows how to win those blue collar voters, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They came in and sold us something in the Republican

Party thinking they were for us.  The Democrats, Mr. Perez, the candidate

has got to come here.  They have to talk about worker` rights.  You can`t

have candidates only concerned about social issues.  A social issue is the

ability to provide for my family. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was a union worker at our town hall near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,

last Thursday night, urging Democrats to come to communities like Luzerne

County there which swung for Trump in 2016 after Obama won it twice. 


I`m now joined by the Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown who represents the state

that Trump won by eight points after Obama won the state twice before. 


We are trying to figure out on this show, especially the show, but our

whole network, to try to figure out what`s the thinking of the people that

will probably going to decide this election.  What are your thoughts?


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH):  When you talk about the dignity at work.  I

know the chairman did and you have.  You go to people where they live and,

obviously, you can`t get to every town, you can`t get to Zanesville, and

Mansfield and Lima and Toledo, but you go to many of those places and you

talk to them about their kids and their kids going to community college or

going to Ohio state or getting an apprenticeship with the carpenters or

working in whatever jobs. 


You talk to them about health care.  You talk to them about Republicans

trying to take away consumer protection for preexisting conditions.  You

talk about how the president of the United States has betrayed workers.  We

have a president where the White House looks like a retreat for Wall Street



MATTHEWS:  Now, you are a politician, so you won`t probably answer this

question.  But did you hear what the guy said?  He said stop talking about

social issues and start talking about economic issues. 


BROWN:  Well, yes, but you don`t – you don`t compromise on choice.  You

see what Alabama did and even some Republican say that it`s such extreme,

but they are scared of the politics.  And, you know, they use the word

freedom, the Republicans, but to me, freedom is women getting to choose

what they do with their lives and their bodies. 


But, you know, I mean, you don`t compromise on guns.  Don`t compromise on

marriage equality or civil rights.  But you also talk about their lives in

health care and education.  I mean, I don`t win every small city in Ohio,

but you lose it by less because you are talking to them about their lives. 

Some will never vote for me because I get an F from the NRA, but a lot of

them will because I`m there for their families. 


MATTHEWS:  I think that`s important to travel to where you may not win the

majority, but you will win some of the vote. 


BROWN:  Yes.  And that`s – you can see this division now in Pennsylvania

and Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes states.  I appreciate you calling

it Great Lakes now.  I saw the – what you call the chyron underneath your

show last night said Rust Belt. 


I know that`s – 


MATTHEWS:  I thought that in real time.


BROWN:  I know.  I appreciate you. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about this, because our voters, I asked them about

Roe v. Wade, leave them alone.  There was a big yell for that.  The women

who really spoke strongly was for leaving it alone.  But they also asked,

do you trust the Democrats on stopping illegal immigration or slowing it? 

The people didn`t believe it.  They don`t believe in your party on that



BROWN:  I understand they don`t because Donald Trump played to fear. 

Republicans are – 


MATTHEWS:  Well, is your party strong on stopping illegal immigration? 


BROWN:  Yes.   Our party – yes, our party is strong. 


MATTHEWS:  How so?  What did you do?


BROWN:  Well, we voted lots of dollars for border security.  We don`t

believe in a wall.  That doesn`t work.  But you pay attention to what you

need to do with technology and border agents and – 




MATTHEWS:  You think Democrats are trusted on this issue? 


BROWN:  I didn`t – 


MATTHEWS:  Well, then why is Trump – 


BROWN:  I didn`t say they were trusted.  We are doing thing and I think we

have done it better than they have.  But Trump plays to fear and hatred and

calls immigrants names and plays to jingoism and plays to – the

Republicans have depended on fear since the McCarthy days, since around the

time you were born, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  I was following stuff way back then, too. 


But let me ask you about the attitude of voters.  It`s not just this

cultural thing.  Democrats are pretty good at talking about jobs, minimum

wage, things like that, they`re good union people.  All the basics are

there and yet, people say, you know, I think they are too elite.


BROWN:  Well – 


MATTHEWS:  This guy said to me the other day – I know I prompted some of

the questions, I know that, but one of the things they said was stop

looking down your nose at us, the working people, out in places like

Wilkes-Barre.  You are too sophisticated. 



BROWN:  I don`t – I don`t – I think most of our candidates don`t do that

that are running for president.  I look at Bob Casey in your home state – 


MATTHEWS:  Of course, Casey is great.  He`s like you.  You would never do

that.  But there are Democrats –


BROWN:  Yes.  Of course there are, but the president of the United States,

do you see him shake hands after his rallies?  I mean, the president of the

United States looks down – he looks at crowds and he sees voters, he

doesn`t see people.  He doesn`t know their names.  He doesn`t know their

life stories.




BROWN:  I mean, talk – to elect a billionaire with his history and his

background as if he`s not elitist, I just think that you`ve got to show

whose side you are on.  This president betrays workers, whether they`re in

Lordstown or whether it`s his court nominees. 


MATTHEWS:  Look at these pictures.  This is his pictures.  He wants –

these people like they are dying to get pictures of the guy. 


BROWN:  Well, he`s – 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of a shot at Biden for deserting Pennsylvania

when it turns out he left – 


BROWN:  When he was 10. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s such a joke. 


BROWN:  It`s one thing – before – before we all pile on on working class

voters voting for Trump – 


MATTHEWS:  Not me.


BROWN:  I know you don`t.  But in 2012, of self identified Republicans, 92

percent voted for Romney.  2016 of self identified Republicans, 91 percent

of them voted for Trump.  So –


MATTHEWS:  What`s going on with the water?  What are they drinking?  What

are they drinking?


BROWN:  Well, I understand that, but – 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m serious, why are they doing that? 


BROWN:  Well, they`re doing that because they believe in tax cuts and



MATTHEWS:  Is that it?  I`m talking about the regular middle class

Republicans.  They don`t get big tax cuts from Trump.


BROWN:  They bought in to their lines about all things.  I mean, they vote

Republican.  They vote Republican.  That`s not – we don`t win the election

by getting some of those 92 percent. 


MATTHEWS:  Somebody told, I`ve got to test this view.  Somebody told me

that you know and I`m going to quote them.  He said, when you get a union

endorsement, you have about a 30 of a rank and file.  The other third, the

second third, you`ve got to got fight for it, campaign for it, win them

over.  And third third will vote against just because union leaders went

for you.


BROWN:  I – 


MATTHEWS:  Is that tough? 


BROWN:  I understand that.  I don`t believe that.


MATTHEWS:  You don`t believe that?


BROWN:  I think you get the endorsement – you get the endorsement because

you`ve earned them, because you`re talking to workers, because you`re in

union halls.  That brings half the votes and you have a chance to get

another half and the other half.  You are going to lose 20 or 25 percent. 

It might be abortion.  It might be guns, it might be you don`t like their





BROWN:  By and large, if you`re going to – you can win 75 percent of the



MATTHEWS:  Is Ohio in play next time?


BROWN:  Ohio is absolutely in play.  I just was just at a – just spoken to

state Democratic dinner.  Nancy Pelosi was in town and you can see the

energy especially of women.  Joyce Beatty, the congresswoman, Marcy Kaptur

was there.  A lot of – a bunch of new Democratic female state

representatives – 




BROWN:  – under the leadership of Emilia Sykes, the new African-American

Democratic leader.  And you could see that – you could feel the energy in

that room, more than I use – they are ready. 


MATTHEWS:  Are you glad you`re not running? 


BROWN:  I am glad I`m not running, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m not. 


BROWN:  I appreciate you saying that.  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Senator Sherrod Brown.


Up next – 


BROWN:  Thanks, Chris.


MATTHEWS:  – what appears to be the ups and downs of the Democratic race

to come against Trump.  What are they going to face?  There`s going to be

obstacles and advantages coming into 2020.  We`re going to talk about in a



You are watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  There are two ways for Democrats to look at this upcoming

presidential election of 2020 based upon the new polling out just today. 

One is for Democrats to take heart from Donald Trump`s abysmal 38 percent

favorability rating.  It means that roughly three in five American voters

don`t like the guy.  Worse yet, a solid majority of Americans, 54 percent

of the voters polled say they will definitely not vote for Trump in 2020. 

Fifty-some percent.  Well, Joe Biden on the other hand benefits from a 49

percent factorability, meaning less than two in five Americans based upon

the same Quinnipiac Poll don`t like Joe.  Well, that`s not bad either. 


And two, the negatives for the Democrats looking towards November of next

year is that the polling finds many of the Democratic hopefuls with the

exception of Biden have unfavorable ratings that exceed their favorable

ratings.  That`s not good news.  The Democrats also have to prepare

themselves for what they`ll be facing between now and November of 2020, the

sheer relentlessness of the assault from the White House. 




TRUMP:  I`m here to see you, but I`ll be seeing a lot of you over the next

year.  I will be here a lot.  You got to win this state.  Got to win this

state.  We did great last time. 




Sleepy Joe said that he is running to, quote, save the world.  Well, he

was.  He`s going to save every country but ours. 


We would lose everything if we go with the people that you see that you

running for office.  You saw that.  Last night, I watched Alfred E. Neuman. 

What`s going on with Fox, by the way?  What`s going there? 




MATTHEWS:  It`s hard to find commitment among voters for a single

candidate.  The Republicans are deeply committed to that guy.  And all this

suggests a close fight in the Electoral College between the Republican

Party that`s united and a Democratic side that could well win if they can

get through the next year and a half without killing itself. 


And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now. 







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