Trump excoriates a whistle-blower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/9/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Jonathan Swan; Dina Titus; Natasha Bertrand; Kim Wehle, David French, Christine Todd Whitman, Kelly Magsamen, Sahil Kapur, Christina Greer
Transcript:

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Trump tries to run out the clock.  Let`s play

HARDBALL.

 

Good evening.  I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

 

After weeks on the defensive, the president is diving head first into a

constitutional showdown.  In a sweeping assertion issued in White House

letter yesterday, the administration outright refused to comply with

Congress in its ongoing impeachment inquiry.  The letter claims among other

things that the House inquiry is, quote, unconstitutional, though the

Constitution does give Congress the power to impeach a president.

 

Late today, Trump again challenged Congress` authority.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The whole thing is a scam.  It`s a fix.  And

we wrote a letter yesterday and probably ends up being a big Supreme Court

case.  Maybe it goes a long time.  I don`t know.

 

REPORTER:  If Pelosi holds a vote on the floor on impeachment and commits

to the rules of previous impeachment proceedings, you`ll in that

investigation?

 

TRUMP:  If the rules are fair because I don`t know exactly your definition.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  According to Axios, Trump`s approach suggests, quote, the

strategy is to fight the Democrats in court and stonewall the investigation

as long as possible.  The news prompted former Vice President and current

presidential candidate Joe Biden to issue a blistering rebuke of the

president today.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  With

his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself by

obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry. 

He`s already convicted himself.

 

In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has

violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable

acts.

 

To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should

be impeached.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Meanwhile, new evidence continues to trickle out.  Today, emails

obtained by The New York Times show the administration told U.S. diplomats

to downplay the release of military aid to Ukraine after the president

inexplicably froze it for almost two months.

 

But the White House refuses to comply with Congress.  It has already

released material that is driving the impeachment push.  That is the White

House memo of Trump`s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, which shows

that when Zelensky asked about U.S. military support, the president

replied, quote, I would like you to do us a favor though.  That favor,

according to the memo, may have been a commitment from Ukraine to launch

investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.

 

I am joined now by Congresswoman Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada and a

member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Jonathan Swan, National

Political Reporter for Axios, Natasha Bertrand, National Security

Correspondent for Politico, and Kim Wehle, University of Baltimore School

of Law Professor and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and also author of

the book, How to Read and Why.  Thanks to all of you for joining us.

 

Jonathan Swan, let me start with you because it`s your reporting from Axios

there that we`re quoting in terms of the White House strategy here.  Take

us through this idea, if I`m understanding correctly, you don`t provide any

cooperation with Congress, you force Congress to go to the courts to get

subpoenas, to try to enforce subpoenas, and it basically runs the clock to

a point where impeachment just can`t happen.

 

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS:  Yes.  And I should be

clear, there are disagreements within the White House staff about how to

proceed with impeachment.

 

There are some who see peril in this and who want to get this over and done

with quickly, to have a quick impeachment process, but there are others,

including the White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who see great

political upside in dragging out impeachment.

 

Mick Mulvaney, in a senior staff meeting last week, said – told the staff

that if it dragged on, impeachment dragged on, Trump would win 45 states

after impeachment.

 

You`ve also got a political campaign ran by Brad Parscale that is loving

impeachment because it is the biggest money-generator they`ve found so far

in terms of raising cash.

 

But all of this washes away because in moments like this, Trump only really

listens to his own instincts.  And his instincts are to fight every single

inch of the way, to use extreme rhetoric, described it as a coup, using

words like treason and to just flat out refuse to comply with congressional

requests.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, Congresswoman, speaking of congressional requests, let me

ask you then.  If that is the White House`s strategy here, if that decision

yesterday to say to Sondland, you know, you`re not going to show up for

that deposition, you`re not going to provide any documents, if that is the

strategy to force you in Congress to try to go through the courts, to

enforce these subpoenas, to get the cooperation, to get the documents

you`re looking for and just stretch that out over the course of months, do

you have a strategy to counter that?

 

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV):  Well, we`d like to get it done sooner rather than

later.  And the people I`ve been talking to here in my district say, why

don`t you just go arrest him?  That`s what would happen to me if I avoided

subpoena.  We`ll have to go to the courts.  We can`t have a shootout on the

lawn of the White House.  But every time he refuses to appear or won`t let

some of his folks appear or won`t turn over any evidence, that`s just one

more obstruction of justice.

 

And remember, one of the charges against Nixon was obstruction of justice. 

So if what he did with the president of Ukraine is not enough, every time

he does this, it just piles on.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, in terms of, though, if this is ultimately potentially

going to go to articles of impeachment being drafted, one of them, as you

say, could be obstruction of justice, do you need for the court process to

play out before actually introducing and voting on articles of impeachment,

or are you prepared – will you be prepared to go forward, put on the

floor, vote on articles of impeachment even if there`s court cases pending

on these subpoenas?

 

TITUS:  Oh, I think we`ll be prepared to do that.  And I think you`ll see

this moving pretty quickly.

 

Speaker Pelosi hasn`t made any bones about it.  She thinks he`s immoral,

unethical and what he`s been doing is against the constitution as well as

illegal.  So you`ll see this investigation continue in a deliberative way,

but we`re not going to stand for him to continue stone wall, stone wall,

stone wall.

 

KORNACKI:  The president today denied that any White House officials

expressed alarm over his conversation with President Zelensky, and he

denied having any knowledge of the reported effort by White House aides to

hide the record of the call on a secret server.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Did any White House official express any concern to you or speak

to you about that phone call?

 

TRUMP:  It`s all a big con.  Don`t you understand?  Look, the phone call,

you have it.  It`s the transcript.

 

REPORTER:  Your administration tried to bury that transcript in an extra

level –

 

TRUMP:  Well, that, I don`t know.  Again, I`m not a lawyer.  I can say

this.  I assume it was for leaks.  I have no idea.

 

I assume it was for leaks.  I mean, I`ve read that and it doesn`t seem like

a big deal.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Natasha Bertrand, take us through what the president is talking

about there.  This is the conversation, the record of the conversation and

potentially other conversations like it being stored in a place that was

difficult to be accessed.

 

NATASHA BERTRAND, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  Yes.  So our

reporting at Politico shows that this started happening after the leaks in

2017 of the president`s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and

Australia.  Those leaks were extremely embarrassing for him and for the

White House.

 

And so in order to prevent this from happening again, they started

restricting access to these phone call records more and more to the point

where some of them, if not all of them, we don`t know for sure yet, were

placed in this top secret NSC, National Security Council code word system,

where only the highest compartmented intelligence matters are placed.

 

You don`t usually put routine conversations between the president and

foreign leaders in this system.  And you certainly don`t put them in the

system unless there is some kind of major code word covert operation that

these leaders are discussing, which, of course, with regards to the

president and president of Ukraine, Zelensky, they absolutely were not.

 

So this was a way for them to conceal the calls from people within the

White House whose job it actually was to read these readouts, that they

could actually do their jobs in terms of diplomacy and crafting foreign

policy, and it was all in an effort to, I think, shield the president from

further damaging leaks.

 

But it`s not just a matter of embarrassment, I don`t think.  As we saw, the

president has a tendency to kind of rift in these calls and ask foreign

leaders for personal favors.

 

KORNACKI:  Kim, I want to get back to you on that question of potentially

Democrats in the House going to court to enforce these subpoenas as part of

this impeachment investigation.  The White House here, according to

Jonathan Swan, seeing that as a way to run the clock.  What would that mean

just in terms of – take us through what the legal process would look like

in terms of timing.  If that`s what the White House is trying to do, how

much time could they buy themselves doing that?

 

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, there are three ways to

enforce a congressional subpoena.  One is that Congress is inherent power

to literally jail someone.  That`s not going to happen in our political

environment.  Two would be to go to the attorney general and ask for

criminal enforcement process, which, of course, Bill Barr is not going to

do.  Number three would be to go to court and file a civil claim, asking a

court to issue an order forcing the White House to actually comply with

these subpoenas.

 

It is possible to ask a federal judge to expedite this, to do it on a quick

motions practice so the district court would have it quickly.  Then you

could also ask for an expedited appeal to the appellate intermediate court

and then ultimately to the Supreme Court.

 

But that process doesn`t mean that the Democrats or the House, in general,

couldn`t impeach or issue articles of impeachment in the interim.  They

could always amend those or issue a superseding set of articles of

impeachment, just like a prosecutor could issue supersedings and

indictments.  We saw this with the Mueller probe.

 

So this doesn`t necessarily slow down the House process.  And, of course,

Mr. Trump doesn`t control – even White House witnesses, they can decide

for themselves to actually comply with these congressional subpoenas and

people in the private sector can decide to comply.

 

So we don`t have a situation like with Whitewater, where I worked, where we

have Ken Starr handing Congress a whole basically tome of data and evidence

and information.  Congress is doing this in real-time, as we speak, and the

information is going to continue to come out.  So just sort of obstructing

these subpoenas, I don`t think, is going to get the White House to put

basically a lid on this process.

 

KORNACKI:  Jonathan, let me ask you about that, and Congresswoman Titus was

speaking to this a minute ago, the idea of Democrats moving forward with

the impeachment inquiry, potentially even having on articles of impeachment

before the legal process plays out.  If Democrats think they are going to

have enough, even without all of these subpoenas necessarily being enforced

to go forward with impeachment, what about the other side of it?  What are

you picking up from Republicans?  What would the bar be for Republicans to

change their thinking on this?

 

SWAN:  Yes, that`s the big question that we don`t know the answer to.  As

we`ve seen people like Mitt Romney express abhorrence, horror, other words

to describe President Trump`s conduct on the phone call with Zelensky and

also asking china to investigate the Bidens.  But what we don`t have from

Mitt Romney or from any of these other senators is a road map or even a

criteria for rom how they would get from disgust to I want to impeach this

guy.

 

The White House, in terms of their own private views, there`s probably only

four or five silent persuadable Republican senators.  I have no idea

whether that`s true or not, but what I do know from talking to lot of these

senators over a long period of time, is that the idea there are 20 of them

even close to being ready to move on impeaching this president is just

fantasy.

 

So at this point, the most likely scenario appears to be the House

impeaching on a pretty partisan vote and then in the Senate, Republicans

think the worst outcome for them would be, at this point, a majority vote

on the side of impeachment with a few Republican defectors.  That would be

seen as a bad outcome at this point.

 

But all of this is speculative.  No one knows.  They`re very closely

watching public opinion.  And there was a fair bit of concern about The

Washington Post poll yesterday, just a magnitude of shift in numbers of

public opinion towards supporting impeachment.  That is concerning some

Republicans close to the White House and leadership.

 

KORNACKI:  And, Congresswoman, by the way, speaking of public opinion, The

Washington Post poll yesterday said, I think, 58 percent of Americans, they

said, were in favor of the impeachment inquiry.  Our own poll, NBC News

poll yesterday had that number at 53 percent.  There`s been more support

than opposition for in every poll that I`ve seen having this impeachment

inquiry.

 

The president is out there, his defenders are out there saying, hey, the

House never actually took a vote, never actually put it on the floor and

said, hey, every member, you decide, will there be an impeachment inquiry

or not.

 

I know that doesn`t seem to be an official legal requirement here, but it

was done with Clinton, it was done with Nixon.  Is there a case for doing

it here, just putting it out there and putting every member on the record

that this is what you`re going to do?

 

TITUS:  I think we`ll do it when the time is right, when we have some more

evidence.  But you`re right.  It`s not in the rules of the House, it`s not

in law, it`s not in the Constitution, so we don`t have to wait until the

investigation is finished.

 

And the poll numbers are trending in the direction of – in favor of

impeachment.  I wouldn`t want Mulvaney to be my political adviser and,

plus, the president doesn`t listen to anybody.  Today, he`s worried it

might affect his legacy.  Tomorrow he wants to drag it out.  I think if it

goes on longer, more and more information will come out and that will work

to his disadvantage, not advantage.

 

KORNACKI:  All right.  Congresswoman Dina Titus joining us from Las Vegas,

thank you.  Jonathan Swan, Natasha Bertrand, Kim Wehle, thanks to all of

you as well.

 

And coming up, are Republicans on board with the harsh rhetoric President

Trump and his allies are using about impeachment?  One Trump defender says

Democrats are committing regicide against the president, regicide, meaning

killing the king.

 

Plus, more of former Joe Biden`s attack on Trump today.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BIDEN:  He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.  We all

laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot

someone and get away with it.  It`s no joke.  He`s shooting holes in the

Constitution.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Biden, for the first time, calling for Trump`s impeachment.  But

is Biden even the frontrunner anymore?  I`ll have a look at some new

polling, some big changes in the Democratic race.

 

We`ve got much more to get to.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

President Trump continues to attack the whistleblower whose complaint

sparked the impeachment probe.  In multiple tweets this morning, he accused

the whistleblower of lying and having political motivations, saying, quote,

he or she should be exposed and questioned properly.

 

But The Daily Beast reports some Republicans would like the president to

keep quiet.  Quote, the fear emanating from Capitol Hill and other corners

of the GOP is that Trump`s proclivity for going on the attack is harming

his long-term political prospects.

 

But the report adds this, there is no mass panic at this stage from members

of the House GOP on impeachment.  That was evident as the president`s

staunchest allies came out in force today.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH):  Adam Schiff should be a witness at this point. 

He should be out of this investigation all together.  The proper procedures

should be followed.  And I`m not sure that Nancy Pelosi shouldn`t be a

witness too.

 

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  Whether they`ll do the formal inquiry and start

this process the way they`re supposed to, I don`t know.  It doesn`t seem

like they`re going to do it.  They continue to make the rules up as they go

along.

 

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  American people are beginning to see that Nancy

Pelosi and Adam Schiff like going behind closed doors where nobody can

examine what they`re doing, where they can only leak out information that

they want to have and nobody in this country believes that that`s America.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said he will ask his

colleagues to sign a letter to Speaker Pelosi that argues that the

president`s call with the Ukrainian leader is not impeachable.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  They`re about to destroy the nation for no

good reason. 

 

I have read the transcript.  I do not see anything wrong there.  And I want

Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this

president based on this transcript, so she can stop now, before she

destroys the country. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI: “The Washington Post” collected reactions from all 53 Republican

senators about the impeachment inquiry.  So far, not a single one of them

supports the inquiry, but 14 have expressed concerns or have questions. 

The other 39 have supported the president unequivocally. 

 

For more, I`m joined by David French, senior writer for “National Review,”

and Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey.

 

David, Lindsey Graham said he is collecting signatures.  “The Washington

Post” looks like there`s – they – at least according to their survey, 39

Republican senators ready to echo some of those comments we were just

hearing.

 

Those comments from the Jim Jordans of the world, how widespread do you

think that sentiment is among members of Congress? 

 

DAVID FRENCH, “NATIONAL REVIEW”:  I think it`s relatively widespread now,

based on the state of play now. 

 

But there`s a lot still to learn about this controversy.  For example, why

was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled precisely?  Why did that

happen?  What was Rudy busy doing throughout the – in his freelance

Ukraine diplomacy?

 

There is much still to learn here.  And Republican senators who would put

their name on a piece of paper based on the state of play now – and we

haven`t even talked about what Trump might do between now and then.  How

might he defy lawful subpoenas from the House?  How might he behave in a

way that could add to articles of impeachment? 

 

I think it`s extremely premature to judge anything as of the state of facts

at this moment. 

 

KORNACKI:  Governor, it`s interesting.

 

We show some of the Republicans who are coming out publicly rallying around

the president.  But I think, on this one, more than some of the other

controversies during his presidency, I think there`s been more silence from

Republicans, folks just not saying anything. 

 

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  Right.

 

KORNACKI:  Who are you keeping an eye on right now who you think there is a

chance, as more comes out on this potentially, or as the situation

develops, might go in a direction that we haven`t seen so far? 

 

WHITMAN:  Well, I think you have to look at those who are up for election. 

 

Those that are up for reelection are the ones who are going to be testing

the pulse of their constituents.  And they`re going to be watching very

closely to see what more comes out and what he tweets. 

 

I mean, every day, he tweets something else that flies in the face of our

basic Constitution.  And he doesn`t seem to understand it.  He hasn`t

gotten it.  But, so far, those people who are always going to be Trump

supporters don`t see that they`re there yet. 

 

But I think there`s a real possibility that they will.  And this Ukrainian

thing, to say that there`s nothing sort of bad about it, I was in Ukraine

for the elections, this – these last elections in June on the

parliamentary elections.  And I`d been there in 2014 for another election

observation mission.

 

The difference in the attitude of the Ukrainians, the feeling of hope, the

feeling of positiveness, of wanting to move closer to the West, and really

believing that President Zelensky is going to move them that way, and is

going to battle the corruption – and he has already taken some major steps

in that direction. 

 

But he`s a neophyte.  He`s brand new to this.  He needs our support.  This

is not the time to embroil him in domestic U.S. politics.  And it`s making

his life very difficult.  He`s got Russia sitting in part of his country

already, in the Crimea, supplying arms to those dissidents that are

fighting in two of his other provinces. 

 

I mean, this is the real world for him.  And it`s just been unfair.  And

they`re – Ukraine is an important buffer for us with Russia, as are the

rest of the Baltic states.  Our allies don`t know that they can trust us at

all anymore.  And that`s dangerous. 

 

KORNACKI:  Well, last night, former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova – he`s a

Trump defender who was considered for the president`s legal team back

during the Mueller investigation. 

 

He compared the impeachment inquiry to the murder of a king. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  What you`re seeing is regicide. 

 

This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment.  The Democrats in the

House want to destroy the president.  The Democrats, who used to just love

process and procedure and the rule of law, they are literally subverting

the rule of law in what really amounts to a seditious attack on the

government. 

 

It really is sedition. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Sedition, by the way, defined under U.S. law, is a conspiracy to

overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States. 

 

David French, here`s the thing.  I have noticed a few tentative comments

from some Republicans.  I`m thinking of Rob Portman here, for instance, who

expressed his displeasure, his – he did not think the president should

have made the phone call he did to the Ukrainian president, and has said,

but not impeachable, shouldn`t have done it, but not impeachable, trying to

find that middle ground. 

 

And I suspect there`s a lot of Republicans who would like to get there, but

I wonder, if the president is going to characterize his call as perfect and

beyond reproach, and if his public and his defenders` public posture on

this is regicide, as you`re hearing that, how tough does that make it for

the Portmans of the world to carve out that middle ground? 

 

FRENCH:  Yes.

 

What you`re seeing there is really crazy talk, when you`re talking regicide

or sedition.  Impeachment is a constitutional process.  It`s a lawful

process, outlined in the United States Constitution. 

 

So this is not sedition.  This is not regicide.  But what that does is, it

stokes the base to a rage.  And a lot of people see, for example, what

President Trump did in this series of tweets trying to hammer Mitt Romney,

who has been out in front saying, what I have seen is unacceptable. 

 

And they look at that, and they say, I don`t want that to be me, especially

when that kind of language has such a hold over the Trump base, which has

disproportionate in power Republican primaries.

 

I look at that kind of thing as a very shortsighted deterrence operation

against Republican dissent.  And the reason why it`s shortsighted is

because it doesn`t play with anybody outside of Trump`s base.  That looks

like crazy talk to everybody outside of Trump`s base. 

 

And so, in that way, you`re engaging in a short-term strategy that I think

is calculated to keep Republican senators or Republican congressmen in

line, but, as a long-term strategy, it just continues to alienate anyone

who might be persuadable to Trump`s side, because the language is so

unhinged. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right, David French and Christine Todd Whitman, thank you

both for joining us. 

 

And up next:  President Trump is facing widespread criticism as Turkey

begins its assault on America`s Kurdish allies in Syria. 

 

What message is Trump sending to the world?  And will there be any

political repercussions here at home?

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

Turkey has launched its ground offensive against the Kurdish militia, U.S.

allies who played a major role in the fight against ISIS.  Today, tanks and

armored personnel vehicles crossed into the border into Syria – to Syria,

just hours after an aerial and artillery assault on several targets in

Northeastern Syria. 

 

The rapid escalation comes only four days after President Trump privately

green-lighted a – quote – “small” Turkish incursion in the area.  Trump

defended his decision earlier today and made a reference to Normandy. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have been talking to

Turkey for three years.  They have been wanting to do this for many years,

as you know.  They have been fighting each other for centuries. 

 

They have been fighting each other for hundreds of years.  This has been

going on.  We were put into this battle.  Kurds are fighting for their

land, just so you understand.  They didn`t help us in the Second World War. 

They didn`t help us with Normandy, as an example. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  According to various reports, the Kurdish militia is said to be

holding more than 12,000 suspected Islamic State members in seven prisons. 

 

U.S. defense officials told reporters that those Kurdish forces have

suspended all operations against the Islamic State. 

 

President Trump was asked if he was at all worried about the release of

ISIS fighters.  Here`s what he said. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Steve?

 

QUESTION:  What if some ISIS fighters escape and pose a threat elsewhere?

 

TRUMP:  Well, they`re going to be escaping to Europe.  That`s where they

want to go. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who strongly opposes the

president`s decision, made an appearance on Trump`s favorite morning show,

“FOX & Friends.” 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

GRAHAM:  We can`t abandon the Kurds now.  We can`t turn it over to Turkey. 

To think that will work is really delusional and dangerous. 

 

Well, it`s a lie that the – that ISIS has been defeated.  The caliphate

has been destroyed, but it will reemerge.  You know, the Kurds can`t fight

Turkey and control ISIS at the same time. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Florida Republican Marco Rubio also had a damning assessment of

the decision.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL):  To just abandon them like that, so the Turks can

come in and slaughter them, is not just immoral.  I mean, it taints our

reputation all over the world. 

 

They`re going to leave to go fight the Turks, and then we`re going to have

thousands – we`re going to have a jailbreak and thousands of ISIS fighters

out there.  So I think it`s a terrible mistake.  I hope they rethink it. 

 

QUESTION:  What – what would you do? 

 

RUBIO:  Well, look, he`s – people have to understand, the president is the

commander in chief.  He can order these things.

 

But it`s a terrible mistake.  And we will have to see what options there

are.  I`m sure the Senate will potentially take some vote that would

disagree with that decision. 

 

But my hope is that the president will reconsider, because I think this

would have implications that go far beyond just Syria. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by Kelly Magsamen, vice president for

national security and international policy at the Center for American

Progress. 

 

Kelly, thank you for joining us. 

 

Senator Rubio says he hopes that the president will change his mind on

this.  No indication that that`s going to happen, at least in the immediate

– if that doesn`t happen, these dire predictions, the dire possibilities

here of a slaughter of the Kurds, the mass escape of thousands, over 10,000

ISIS prisoners, how likely is that to come to pass? 

 

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR IRAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  Well,

I think we have already started seeing it. 

 

President Trump`s impetuous decision has set into motion a series of

events.  And we`re watching it play out as we speak.  I think you`re likely

to see a potential resurgence of ISIS. 

 

I think President Trump has essentially sowed the seeds of ISIS 2.0 in this

decision.  And it`s very clear to me that he had no sense of what the

potential long-term consequences could be, and no sense of a plan B or

contingency plans to deal with the dramatic humanitarian consequences, the

dramatic consequences for U.S. interests in the region in the long term. 

 

KORNACKI:  Again, hearing Rubio, hearing Graham, hearing voices that don`t

typically criticize the president criticize this policy in such explicit

terms, the possibility is out there – has been floated, certainly – that

you could have supermajorities emerge in Congress, Democratic and

Republican supermajorities, that would be big enough to override any

presidential veto, for instance, in terms of imposing sanctions on Turkey

if they were to move on the Kurds. 

 

Do you see any prospect of that happening? 

 

MAGSAMEN:  Well, I certainly think that Congress, first of all, needs to

hold members of the administration responsible and accountable to the

president`s decision.

 

That includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mike

(sic) Esper, Chairman Milley, et cetera.  And, certainly, the Congress

should be taking steps to find ways to mitigate the very negative

consequences of this decision. 

 

Now, the problem is, as Senator Rubio pointed out, the president is the

commander in chief.  He has a large amount of executive power on foreign

policy.  And, unfortunately, this is what happens. 

 

I mean, he has made a decision, and now he`s going to face the consequences

of that decision. 

 

KORNACKI:  Yes, so I guess that`s the question.  If Congress did act, how

much do you think could be mitigated or altered in this – in the policy? 

 

MAGSAMEN:  Listen, I think – I think the Turks have made a calculation. 

They clearly blew past the president`s warnings – or false warnings, I

guess. 

 

I think that the Congress can certainly impose some serious sanctions on

the Turks.  Whether that will change how the Turks behave or roll back any

of the actions we`re seeing right now, I think, is probably unlikely, at

most.

 

But, certainly, the Congress needs to take some attempts to try to hold and

lead where the president has not been able to.

 

KORNACKI:  The polling has certainly suggested there isn`t much of an

appetite in this country for U.S. troops to be involved in the Middle East,

in Syria. 

 

What is the way to get American troops out of Syria without running the

risk of what`s being described tonight? 

 

MAGSAMEN:  Well, what`s ironic is that the president`s own strategy was

actually to work between the U.S. military and the Turks to create some

sort of buffer zone, and to do it over time and to build confidence. 

 

And the president, in this one decision, has essentially upended his whole

administration`s strategy, which had been working.  The U.S. military was

being very successful at doing joint patrols, for example, with the Turks. 

There had not been any Kurdish attacks against the Turks on Turkish

territory. 

 

So things were in place to potentially get to a stage where maybe the

United States could hand off the mission to other European forces.  But

none of those decisions were made.

 

The president, in an impetuous decision on the phone call with Prime

Minister Erdogan, made this decision.  And now we are where we are. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right, Kelly Magsamen, thank you for joining us.  Appreciate

that. 

 

And up next, I`m going to head over to the Big Board.  We are going to look

at some brand-new polling on the 2020 race. 

 

Joe Biden was the front-runner in the national polling average every day

since he got in the race – until yesterday.

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  All right.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

So let`s show you what the Democratic presidential race looked like about

six months ago.  This was back when Joe Biden first got in the race. 

Remember that announcement speech, all the attention he got?  And he was

immediately the clear front-runner in this race. 

 

Remember this is the national polling average just a couple of days after

Biden got in the race.  He was over 40 percent, more than tripling up his

near – or about tripling up his nearest rival there.  Bernie Sanders, no

one else even in double digits.  Elizabeth Warren back there at 8, Harris,

Buttigieg – this is how the race looked when Joe Biden got in the race. 

 

Remember, he was one of the last ones in.  Just about everyone else had

been out there and running for a while.  So, that was when Biden got in. 

 

Fast forward, we had all the debates this summer into the fall.  We had all

different developments, controversies on the campaign trail. 

 

Here is what the national polling average looks like now.  Notice that. 

Joe Biden is no longer in first place.  Elizabeth Warren has taken – now,

this is very minor in terms of the difference here, but two tenths of a

point.  She still is higher right now in the national polling average than

Biden. 

 

A huge jump over the last few months for Elizabeth Warren.  Joe Biden

meanwhile falling from 41 to about 26.  Sanders, look at that, 14.6 then,

14.6 right now. 

 

So, that`s been the big story over the last few months or so in this

Democratic race.  Elizabeth Warren has steadily risen.  She`s now taken the

lead.  The question is, is she going to be able to keep rising?  Is she

going to be able to keep building to the coalition she`s put together or is

she going to hit a ceiling? 

 

Biden, by the way, has fallen from about 41 to about 26.  Lately, he seems

to have stabilized out there.  Is there a chance he`s gong to fall further

or does he really? 

 

So, a big sort of potential turning point here in the Democratic race, but

with Warren taking the lead ever so slightly in national polling average,

you can see the other advantage she has besides that, not a national

primary here, you start in Iowa.  The latest Iowa poll, we`ve taken through

this before, but Elizabeth Warren leads in the latest Iowa poll.  You go to

the next state eight days later, her next door neighbor stayed in New

Hampshire.  Elizabeth Warren leads in the latest poll in New Hampshire. 

 

Democratic candidate who put together that one, two punch of Iowa and New

Hampshire have a pretty good record of turning around and winning the

Democratic nomination.  It tends that Democrats in other states start to

fall in line when a winner emerges from the first two states. 

 

And, by the way, if you got through that to Nevada, the third state to go

warren is not leading there but she`s close to the lead.  And if she were

to win Iowa and New Hampshire, you`ve got to wonder if those numbers would

change.  You`ve got to go to South Carolina to find a clear Biden advantage

in early states.  It is a clear advantage, extremely strong support from

African-American voters in South Carolina and elsewhere. 

 

But the question for Biden is, if he takes a hit in those first two or

three states, is that firewall in South Carolina going to hold?  So, it`s a

big question there in terms of where this race is going.  And, by the way,

though, what Biden has been running on, he still can sell this in a head to

head match up against President Trump.  He still does better than any other

Democrats. 

 

This is Quinnipiac earlier this week, over 50 percent for Biden, double

digit advantage over Trump.  And, by the way, in this same poll, Warren not

far behind him.  We haven`t seen that in every poll that`s come out, but

the closer that Warren can get to Biden`s performance in head to head

matchups with Trump, the more like she might have telling folks, hey, Biden

is not the only one who can beat President Trump.  So, keep an eye on that

as well. 

 

But, anyway, the headline in the Democratic race, Biden at least for now,

not in first place in the national polling average.  We will see where it

goes from here. 

 

Coming up, Biden made one of his most forceful speeches of his campaign

today.  He called for the president`s impeachment. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Impeachment isn`t only – isn`t

only about what the president`s done.  It`s about the threat the president

poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office. 

 

He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.  We all laughed

when he said he can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone

and get away with it.  It`s no joke.  He`s shooting holes in the

Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it. 

 

The United States cannot afford to have a president who will abuse whatever

power is available to him to get re-elected.  That`s what it`s all about.  

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

That was former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden

today calling for President Trump`s impeachment.  Biden also warned the

president that his efforts to go after his son Hunter aren`t working. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BIDEN:  He`s targeted me and my family with lies and distortions and

smears.  That`s all they are, because he thinks he will undermine my

candidacy for the nomination as well as the presidency if I`m the nominee. 

We`re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for

president, period. 

 

I`m not going to let him get away with it.  He`s picked – he`s picked a

fight with the wrong guy. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  A “Politico” report notes that, quote, Joe Biden has been under

sustained assault from president Trump for more than two weeks but there`s

little evidence he`s been significantly bloodied.  As the “Politico” piece

points out Biden`s standing in the primary hasn`t significantly changed in

the past few weeks.  The Quinnipiac poll this week has him at 26 percent of

the vote.  That`s one point higher than the last Quinnipiac poll.

 

And the Morning Consult poll out this week has Biden ahead with 33 percent. 

That`s also a point higher from their previous poll. 

 

For more, I am joined now by Sahil Kapur, national political reporter from

“Bloomberg News”.  And Christina Greer, associate professor at Fordham

University and the co-host of the FAQNYC podcast.

 

Sahil, let me start with you just on the news that Biden made today because

in some ways, there are a lot of Democrats out there who have already been

calling for the president`s impeachment, been calling for it for a long

time.  Biden sort of the last ones to come to it, but this is sort of a

major decision on his part. 

 

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes, Steve, it`s

part of the newer feisty Joe Biden that his campaign kind of rolled out.  A

week ago today in Reno, Nevada, I was there for that speech, and he really

went after President Trump hard.  This came after some struggling I think

on the part of Joe Biden to craft a message.  I think he was stunned the

way the president came after him and his son, but Biden`s pitch is so

centered around this idea of electability that he and his team, according

to the my sources, saw this is an opportunity to paint a one an one match

between him and President Trump. 

 

And this is something that he has to excel at, and show Democratic primary

voters that he can not only handle, that he won`t wilt, but that he can

defeat President Trump at this game.  So, that`s part of what we`re seeing

here.

 

Now, he has also followed Speaker Pelosi every step of the way on

impeachment.  He did not want to get ahead of her.  He`s kind of an

institutionalist in that sense, which is why, you know, that`s why he was

one of the last Democratic presidential candidates to come out for

impeachment. 

 

KORNACKI:  You know, Christina, it`s interesting.  We quote from that

“Politico” piece there, if you look at the polling no obvious sign this has

hurt Biden, cost him any support. 

 

But one of the other questions here, when you sort of end up as a

Democratic candidate in the crosshairs of Donald Trump in the way he has,

is there an opportunity for Biden to use to rally Democrats around him? 

Watching that speech today, that line there where he says Trump picked the

wrong guy to go after, does that make Democrats not just say, I`m not going

to walk away from Biden but I want to go to Biden because of this? 

 

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL

SCIENCE:  Right, I don`t think the bullying language necessarily works.  I

think the fact when he laid out the argument that Trump is putting holes in

the Constitution, I actually think that works.  I think a lot of Democrats

are fearful this president will not leave office if he`s not re-elected.  I

think they`re fearful to what he`s doing not just to his party, with the

sort of sycophantic behavior of Republicans and how he`s destroying our

reputation, our image abroad. 

 

And just – you know, when you have him tweeting profanities and parents

have to explain to their children this is the executive of the United

States, I think Democrats realize he`s doing so much damage to the fabric

of our nation.  But that is actually what`s helping them sort of see

Biden`s message in a more clear fashion.

 

KORNACKI:  And, Sahil, we were talking about this in the last segment, too. 

Elizabeth Warren now, if you look at the national polling average at least,

she is very slightly ahead of Joe Biden.  How does Biden`s campaign look at

where they stand right now, the national numbers extremely tight, down

slightly in Iowa, down slightly in New Hampshire, not exactly sitting

pretty in Nevada?  What`s the mood inside his campaign looking at this? 

 

KAPUR:  It`s a remarkable thing.  I mean, it`s pretty much dead even right

now between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.  I think 0.2 percentage points

separates them.  And what`s interesting here, Steve, is that Biden has held

steady between around 26 percent and 32 percent of the vote, pretty much

since he jumped in. 

 

There was a bit of a spike earlier on that went up to 40 percent, but

that`s the range he`s been in.  Warren`s gain has not necessarily come at

his expense, and that`s the good news for her.  It`s not a flash in the

pan.  It`s not a viral moment. 

 

She has done the work and branded herself and put out a lot of policies and

impressed a lot of Democrats and she`s taken a bite out of many of the

other candidates not just Joe Biden.  So the Biden campaign sees her as a

formidable rival.  They see this as turning into a likely a one-on-one

race, which the polls show as well, with Bernie Sanders hanging in third

place and a few wildcards, most notably Pete Buttigieg who has a lot of

money and campaigning trying to win over the lot of the moderate Democrats

who currently viewed Joe Biden as the best bet to win.

 

If something happens with Biden, if he slips, then there`s some other

candidates waiting in the wings to try to pick up the support. 

 

KORNACKI:  Yes, I keep wondering.  I was talking about this last night. 

You look at Iowa, one of those states where the retail politics still work,

it doesn`t – the things that are happening every day don`t necessarily

register in the national news, but if we`re going to look up a few weeks

from now, or a few months from now, and see an unexpected candidate

suddenly up popping up there. 

 

But let me stay on Warren for a minute because one question with her is,

OK, she`s gotten to about 26 percent right now nationally.  Is there a

ceiling there or can she keep building that coalition?  Right now, if you

look at it, it skews more liberal, more college educated, more white, it`s

not the most diverse space.

 

Can she expand that realistically? 

 

GREER:  I think she can.  And with Iowa, we always have to remember, it`s a

caucus, not a primary.  And so, depending on what types of caucus voters

you have, that actually can sort of sway what goes on there. 

 

With Warren, for many people, she was their second choice and she`s slowly

moving into the first choice for a very diverse group of candidates.  I

think also, she`s done much better than Biden in the debates. 

 

And so, for those people who actually are paying attention at this point in

time, they`re moving her from the second place to the first place because

we know that Biden in debates, you know, doesn`t really finish his

thoughts, is essentially using this as if he`s the heir apparent, and

Buttigieg hadn`t gotten much time, Kamala had a great first debate but

struggled since then.  Cory and Julian Castro haven`t really had their

moments. 

 

But Elizabeth Warren has been quite steady over the past few debates, and

so, next Tuesday, we`ll really see if she can solidify and make that

argument because this is the Obama 2007, 2008 argument.  Can you see me as

a viable candidate?  And I think slowly but surely, beyond just her plans,

she`s actually showing Democrats that she can be the executive. 

 

KORNACKI:  Yes, all eyes will certainly be on that debate next weekend. 

And, by the way, the debate coming up a month later, that will be on,

shameless plug here, MSNBC.  Got to get that one.

 

And thank you to Sahil Kapur and Christina Greer for being with us. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

In an exclusive interview with NBC News today, Senator Bernie Sanders said

he misspoke when he said earlier this week his campaign would slow down in

the wake of his heart attack. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I misspoke the other

day.  I said a word I should not have said and, you know, make people think

– media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it. 

 

What I do – but the word was, I was going to slow down.  Surprise,

surprise, we`re not going to tomorrow start doing four events a day, but I

– we`re going to get back into the groove of a vigorous – very vigorous

campaign. 

 

I love doing rallies, and I love doing town meetings, extraordinary town

meetings, and we`ll get back into that quite soon.  But I want to start off

slower and build up and build up and build up.  But we`re looking forward

to a very vigorous campaign.  We`re starting to do some planning for the

debate. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  That is HARDBALL for now. 

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now. 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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