More Diplomats to testify TRANSCRIPT: 10/18/2019, Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests:
Frank Figliuizzi, Ayesha Rascoe, Michael Steele, Philip Bump,Walter Shaub, Anita Kumar, Michael Bennet, Jennifer Rubin, Christina Greer
Transcript:

Show: HARDBALL

Date: October 18, 2019

 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  It`s Trump and the Ukrainian Crisis.  It`s 9:00

P.M. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  And we think it`s more delicious than

eating polenta right off the table.

 

I hope you have a great Friday night and weekend.  And don`t go anywhere. 

HARDBALL is next.

 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  What`s the defense?  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

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

 

Tonight marks the end of yet another consequential week for Donald Trump`s

presidency.  The case for impeachment is coming into focus with the recent

depositions of four current and former foreign policy officials.

 

Their testimony this week alleged that the president himself put his

personal lawyer in control of his agenda on Ukraine, that ambassadors were

used to advance domestic political objectives while other career

professionals were sidelined, and that Rudy Giuliani`s, quote, shadow

policy alarmed top national security officials inside the White House, and

perhaps more troubling still for the president his White House and his

Republican allies are all over the place when it comes to a defense against

the impeachment drive.  Trump has tried attacking the whistleblower.  He`s

also tried to block officials from testifying, although many have now

defied that order.

 

He also – he continues now to insist that there was no quid pro quo, but

his own White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said otherwise yesterday.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF:  Did he also mention to me in the

past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely, no question

about that.  But that`s it.  That`s why we held up the money.

 

REPORTER:  So let`s be clear.  What you just described is a quid pro quo. 

It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic

server happened as well?

 

MULVANEY:  We do that all the time with foreign policy.

 

I have news for everybody, get over it.  There is going to be political

influence in foreign policy.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Now, while Mulvaney later tried to take back those comments, the

political damage was already done.  Politico reports that, quote,

Republican lawmakers felt exasperated by the White House`s lack of

discipline and that White House lawyers were similarly aghast Mulvaney

undercut so many of the legal arguments they could use to defend the

president.

 

Here`s how Intel Chairman Adam Schiff summed it up.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Things have just gone from very, very bad to

much, much worse.  The idea that vital military assistance would be

withheld for such a patently political reason for the reason of serving the

presidential election campaign is a phenomenal breach of the president`s

duty to defend our national security.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  All of this could spell trouble for the president as he tries to

resist the unfolding impeachment inquiry.  As The Washington Post put it,

quote, contrary to weeks of denials from the president and his defenders, a

growing body of evidence makes clear it was Trump himself who repeatedly

pushed his own government and a foreign power to intervene in domestic

political concerns, enlisting and ensnaring a growing number of

administration officials.

 

I`m joined now by Ayesha Rascoe, White House Reporter for NPR, Philip Bump

is a Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Frank Figliuzzi is former

Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the FBI, and Michael Steele

is a former chairman of the RNC.  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

 

Frank, let me just start with you.  Big picture, the testimony this week

behind closed doors, there are some opening statements that have made their

way into public, certainly a lot of reporting, a lot of leaks coming out of

what was said there.  What is the picture that has emerged to you this week

in terms of what the Ukraine policy was and who was setting it?

 

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL:  Well, let`s review just the last

three weeks where, Steve, we`ve gone from an anonymous whistleblower

complaint to dedicated professional after career professional after career

professional now providing depositions that I think are beginning to crack

the Republican armor.  And we`ve heard that those depositions will

eventually be released to the public.

 

These people who are giving depositions and telling the truth are really

our modern day version of heroes.  This is a form of heroism and bravery

that we see occurring all broken first by that anonymous whistleblower who

said, I`m not going to take it anymore.  And the public sentiment and

certainly the GOP sentiment seems to be we`ve got a problem here.

 

When we hear a Congressman from Florida like Francis Rooney, saying, I may

have to think about impeachment, Nancy Pelosi might be right about all

roads leading to Putin, we know there`s a problem developing.

 

KORNACKI:  Ayesha, we cite that reporting at the top that there are folks

around the president, folks in the White House who I think the word was

aghast at what Mick Mulvaney came out there and said yesterday.  You were

there questioning him.  Does that extend – does that sentiment extend to

the president himself?  How is Trump reacting to what Mulvaney said

yesterday?

 

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR:  Well, President Trump publicly,

when he was asked about this, he said that he felt like Mulvaney clarified

this topic or clarified his statement.  But it seems the fact that Mulvaney

had to issue that clarification amid that something went wrong at that

press conference because, basically, he was walking back what he explicitly

said and that he had multiple opportunities to clarify.  And hours later,

he comes back and says, basically, he didn`t say what he actually said.

 

And so that can`t be a good sign for him.  And he`s standing in a White

House where he`s still the acting Chief of Staff and has never even, I

guess, been promoted to full Chief of Staff.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, Frank, you were mentioning this a minute ago.  Mulvaney`s

defense of that quid pro quo with Ukraine appears to have potentially had

an impact on some Republican lawmakers who are taking him at his word. 

Here`s Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida today.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL):  Whatever might have been gray and unclear

before is certainly quite clear right now, that the actions were related to

getting some of Ukraine to do some of these things.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And not a Republican lawmaker here but a prominent Republican

nonetheless.  John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio today

came out in favor of impeachment, saying Mulvaney`s remarks were the

tipping point.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH):  When I heard what Mulvaney said, the chief

of staff to the president, it pushed me really all across the Rubicon.

 

Look, I fought with people on the air about is there a quid pro quo and did

this rise to the level of impeachment.  I now believe that it does.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And this also comes as Senator Mitt Romney speaks out against

Trump`s solicitation of foreign of dirt on Biden from China in an interview

with Axios.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  – going on T.V. and saying, China, will you

investigate my political opponent, is wrong, it`s a mistake.  It was

shocking in my opinion for the president to do so and a mistake for him to

do so.  I can`t imagine coming to a different point of view.

 

We certainly can`t have presidents asking foreign countries to provide

something of political value.  That is after all against the law.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Romney is among the Republican senators who are thought to be at

least potentially in position to break with the president if he is

impeached and he goes on trial in the Senate.

 

Well, Michael, let me ask you about that.  I think Rooney today,

Congressman Rooney, his comments, he`s not saying he`s for impeachment but

he`s not saying he`s dead set against it either.  How significant is that

to you?

 

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR:  I think it`s a loosening of the tether

between the president and Republicans in the House and the Senate.  The

Senate has always been sort of that backstop for whatever the House does

because, you know, the consensus is, Steve, the House members are all going

to line up and be against any form of impeachment.  That may be a little

soft right now.

 

What I think is going to be more telling than what a Republican senator or

congressman does is the fact that you have now a number of people inside

the administration who said I don`t care about your executive privilege

moniker you want to lay on top of what I have to say.  I`m going to go

testify.  That could be the biggest and most significant break in the wall

that Republicans have tried to put up around the president, you know, to

explain all of this, you know, from Marco Rubio going, oh, he was just

kidding, to others saying, well, I`ll just have to wait and see.

 

Well, what they`re waiting and finding out is the Republicans have a

problem now that members of Trump`s administration are going before the

House committees and really giving more context to the bigger problem the

president has.

 

KORNACKI:  You know, Philip, we`re having the conversation here, will

Republicans in the Senate end up breaking with Trump, will there even be

Republicans in the House who do.  To get to the Senate, it has to get

through the House.  Democrats control the House.

 

There is an assumption built into a lot of this speculation that

impeachment is inevitable, it`s going to happen.  Does it seem inevitable

that the House will vote to impeach him?

 

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  The only way in

which I would say it that doesn`t seem inevitable is whether or not Speaker

Pelosi wants to make sure that there is some semblance of bipartisanship if

she is going to wait until she has, say, 20 or 30 Republicans who are

willing to join the cause.

 

It seems pretty clear right now.  We passed the 218 mark on an impeachment

inquiry three or four weeks ago.  It seems pretty clear right now that she

could probably corral enough Democratic votes to be able pass an

impeachment in the House.

 

Whether or not she wants to send it to the Senate with at least the

imprimatur of some Republicans, I think that`s probably the question mark. 

But if they put up to a vote tomorrow, I wouldn`t be surprised with that.

 

KORNACKI:  And, Ayesha, in terms of – Michael was talking about this. 

There`re different signals that have been sent from Republicans, it seems,

who are hesitant, I would say, to break politically with the president and

they seem to be trying to find a line here that they can all latch onto. 

What does the White House want them saying?

 

RASCOE:  Well, they clearly don`t want them to say that aid was held up so

that there could be an – Ukraine could investigate the DNC server.  What

they seem to want to be focusing on is this idea of there was corruption

and the president was concerned about that.  And then he was also concerned

about other countries chipping in, and that`s why aid was held up.

 

But even that idea of corruption, it`s never really clear what exactly they

mean by corruption because the only corruption that was discussed on that

call that we have the transcript of with the president – with Trump and

the president of Ukraine is the DNC server and the Bidens.

 

And so when they talk about corruption, even that seems to include the

president`s political opponents and they haven`t really outlined what other

corruption concerns they have.

 

KORNACKI:  Michael, I mean, you were alluding to this a minute ago.  But it

seems like, just politically speaking here, Republicans are in a very

tricky position because what Trump is forcing them to say if they want to

be on team Trump on this is that they`re okay with the call, that it was a

perfect call, that there was no quid pro quo even though Mick Mulvaney came

out and said that yesterday.  That has to be the line.  If they don`t take

that line, that puts them in opposition to Trump.

 

And then they`ve got to answer the question, well, if you have a problem

with what Trump did and he doesn`t, don`t you have to do something about

it?

 

STEELE:  Well, yes.  I mean, that`s the ultimate question.  If you have a

problem with what Trump did, if you have a problem with what Mick Mulvaney

said, if you are concerned by the testimony that is, as far as we know so

far, is indictable in terms of what the president`s behavior and actions

were with President Zelensky of Ukraine, then Republicans have to act

accordingly.

 

The problem is, Steve, to your point, is that they can`t.  Because in order

to stay on the good side of Trump, you have to fall in line and begin to

spew out the same problem of lies and distortions and misdirections that he

himself are putting out every day.

 

Classic example this week is, one, Senator Lindsey Graham, who was so

outraged by the president`s behavior and efforts with respect to Syria,

pushed back hard.  And what did the president say, Lindsey stay in your

lane, do judiciary, don`t think you are bigger than this.  And what did

Lindsey do, chirped it down.

 

So this is what the members are seeing, that even with with someone who

gets to play golf with the president on Sundays and supposedly has his ear,

when they step a half of foot out of line, gets the Twitter smack down and

they go silent.

 

So back to my earlier point, it doesn`t matter what the senators and

congressmen do.  I think the country is going to be looking more and more

at what people inside the administration decide to do who were in the room,

heard the call and realized this is a constitutional problem.

 

KORNACKI:  Phil, we were talking a minute ago about the House, the

assumption built in the Democrats have the votes in theory, that they`re

going to go ahead and impeach.  The other assumption is the Republicans

have the votes in theory and the Senate.  There is going to be an acquittal

there if it gets there.  How safe do you think that assumption is?

 

BUMP:  So I was describing to someone earlier today that last week, I

wouldn`t have to put a dime in Vegas on the bet of removing him from

office.  Now when I put a dime down, it would give me a really good option

(ph).  I think things have changed at least a little bit.

 

KORNACKI:  What kind of odds are you on, 100-1, 50-1, 20-1?

 

BUMP:  I think we`re talking about (INAUDIBLE).

 

But that said, the graphic that you guys showed earlier, which was sort of

an expansive view, well, here are some Republicans that might move.  You

only had 13 senators on it, right?  I mean, you need to have 20 senators

from the Republican side who join this vote to actually remove President

Trump from office.  That`s a lot of senators.  And it seems really, really

unlikely at this point in time.  But, again, you asked me two weeks – you

asked me, of course, four weeks ago, I`m like, no, it`s not going to

happen.  You ask me a week ago, it still seems that way.  This week does

seem as though something has shifted (ph).

 

KORNACKI:  This is the week some hesitation entered into the –

 

BUMP:  But also with Syria, right?  I mean, Mitch McConnell spoke out and

he has an op-ed in The Washington Post tonight blasting Trump on Syria.  If

he is losing his base on other issues as well, it gives them more of an

incentive to say, you know what, maybe someone else is better.

 

KORNACKI:  Frank, what are you looking for – we had some testimonies this

week and there will be more coming.  What are you looking for next in terms

of what folks in the administration might be able to provide in these

hearings?

 

FIGLIUZZI:  Well, first of all, I`m eager to see the depositions released

publicly.  Because as you guys just discussed, this is potentially what`s

going to change public sentiment.  And if you change public sentiment, you

change the hearts and minds of those senators who realize it`s too painful

to stay joined at the hip with the president.

 

But I think if we see more national security threat concerns come through,

if we see the president placed squarely even more than he is in the center

directing all of this behavior, he can`t be Teflon anymore.  He can`t say,

well, with regard to – like he did with the Special Counsel investigation,

I couldn`t control the Russians and hacking and social media propaganda, I

couldn`t control Papadopoulos, he was a coffee boy, Manafort was just with

us for a short time.  He had plausible deniability.  He won`t have that

anymore if these career professionals keep putting him in the center of the

problem.

 

KORNACKI:  All right.  Frank Figliuzzi, Ayesha Rascoe, Philip Bump, Michael

Steele, thank you all for being with us.

 

And coming up, President Trump decides that millions of taxpayer dollars

will be spent at his own golf resort next year when he hosts the G7 Summit. 

The White House not at all concerned by those who say this means Trump is

profiting from the presidency.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We had members of our

military office, Secret Service, advance teams, we had several people, the

State Department.

 

All of them came back and made the recommendations to the president that

Doral is the perfect place to hold such a summit.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Plus, sharp criticism of the president, Syria policy from

retired U.S. military commanders, his former defense secretary, Jim Mattis,

getting in a jab last night.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JIM MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY:  I earned my spurs on the

battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out.  And Donald Trump earned his spurs

in a letter from a doctor.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  We have much more to get to.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  It`s very importantly only five minutes from

the airport.  The airport`s right next to it.

 

With Doral we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them

bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms, with

magnificent views.

 

And we have many hundreds of acres, so that, in terms of parking, in terms

of all of the things that you need, each country can have their own villa

or their own bungalow. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was President Trump back in August making a sales pitch for his Trump

National Doral, Miami, golf course in Florida. 

 

The president made it clear he hoped to host next year`s Group of 7, G7

meeting, of world leaders at his personal property.

 

And, yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made it official. 

Mulvaney said a dozen locations were vetted, including one in Hawaii and

two in Utah.  But he declined to provide details on how and why Doral was

ultimately picked.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Became apparent at the

end of that process that Doral was, by far and away, far and away, the best

physical facility for this meeting, almost like they built this facility to

host this type of event. 

 

I don`t talk about how this place runs on the inside.  So, if you ask us –

if you want to see our paper on how we did this, the answer is, absolutely

not.  

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Mulvaney argued that the summit would be put on, on – at cost -

- excuse me – and said the president would not profit from the event. 

 

“The Washington Post” reports – quote – “That decision is without

precedent in modern American history.  The president used his public office

to direct a huge contract to himself.”

 

It adds, the resort – quote – “has been in sharp decline in recent years,

according to the Trump Organization`s own records.  Its net operating

income fell 69 percent from 2015 to 2017.”

 

Two House committees, Oversight and Judiciary, have already demanded

information about efforts to steer government business to the president`s

resorts. 

 

The choice of Doral brought widespread condemnation from Democrats and some

Republicans. 

 

Here`s Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL):  I`m not happy with it. 

 

Now, when you – I actually read the Emoluments Clause again yesterday, and

it talks about titles of nobility and all this kind of stuff.  I don`t know

if it`s a direct violation, but it`s – I don`t understand why, at this

moment, they had to do that. 

 

I mean, do it in D.C.  Do it in Miami at a different resort. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by Walter Shaub, former director of the

U.S. Office of Government Ethics and currently senior adviser at Citizens

for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, Anita Kumar, White House

correspondent and associate editor at Politico. 

 

Thanks to both of you for being with us. 

 

Walter, let me start with you. 

 

Mulvaney says, the president won`t profit from this, therefore, not a

conflict.

 

Assess that claim. 

 

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS:  Well, that`s a

ridiculous thing for Mulvaney to say.

 

Essentially, it boils down to this.  The president of the United States

participated in a contract award to his own business.  This is the

figurative equivalent of, he reaches in to the treasury, grabs a chunk of

money, and says, don`t worry, I`m not taking more than I`m spending. 

 

That`s no defense at all.  And, certainly, if he had been – if it had been

Mick Mulvaney who owned this property, he`d be prosecuted and convicted of

a felony.  And he wouldn`t be able to say, oh, don`t worry, I broke even. 

 

KORNACKI:  So, Anita, that comment there we just played from Adam

Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois, he said, he`s not happy about this. 

 

But then he said – he said, why?  Why not, just given all the questions

this raises, given all the grief it causes the White House, why not just

have it somewhere else?  What is the answer to that? 

 

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO:  That is a great question and the one I was

wondering yesterday, because, as you know, as you mentioned, the House is

investigating this.

 

This is part of the impeachment inquiry right now.  Why would he do this? 

No politician would do this, because of the optics alone. 

 

And so I was talking to people – people that are close to the president,

who say, at this point in his presidency, he`s done so many outrageous

things, things that aren`t the norm, that – and he knows he can get away

with it. 

 

His supporters still support him.  It`s about the same as it`s been for the

last two-and-a-half years.  And he feels – fearless was the word that was

used with me.  And he also feels bulletproof.  Why not go ahead and do it? 

He can get away with it. 

 

KORNACKI:  Also, Anita, we mentioned there, they say – Mulvaney says

yesterday, 12 different sites were considered, I think Hawaii, Utah.

 

What else do we know?  Do we know anything else about this?  He`s saying

there was a selection process here.  Do we know anything about that?  Is

there – are there any record – records to support it? 

 

KUMAR:  They haven`t been – I`m sure there are some records, but we don`t

have access to them.  They`re not being transparent about it at all. 

 

And you heard that comment from Mick Mulvaney, saying, if you want the

paperwork, we`re not going to give it to you. 

 

It`s been shrouded in secrecy.  Basically, they claim that there were 12,

that they did certain site selections, and that everyone came back and said

this was the place to go.

 

But we just have no idea if that`s the case and what they really looked at. 

I mean, if you look at this property there, I`m sure there are some

benefits, but there`s also some negatives.

 

And one of the things that I have heard is that they will probably have to

do some changes, some upgrades to accommodate all these world leaders, that

there are not enough of these spaces that are exactly the same. 

 

So are they going to put in money to upgrade the facility?  We just don`t

know that.

 

KORNACKI:  Well, just a few days before his inauguration back in January

2017, then president-elect Trump said he would sever management ties from

the Trump Organization and play no role in its operations, saying he would

give complete and total control of the business to his sons. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And what I`m going to be

doing is, my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be

running the company. 

 

They are going to be running it in a very professional manner.  They`re not

going to discuss it with me.  Again, I don`t have to do this.  They`re not

going to discuss it with me. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Walter, he says, they`re not going to discuss it with him.

 

At the same time, this whole set segment is about the president using his

platform to promote his – to promote his club, and now to bring the G7

summit there. 

 

SHAUB:  You know, on the day he gave that press conference and said those

words, I spoke out and said that this is meaningless, because the conflict

of interest doesn`t stem from running the day-to-day operations.  It stems

from his financial interests. 

 

And now we`re seeing he`s determined to prove me right, because he is the

one who`s going to profit from this.  He owns the business.  He

participated in the procurement. 

 

I mean, the bottom line here is, there is no definition of corruption that

would not cover the president participating in a contract award to himself. 

 

So, if this is not corrupt, nothing is corrupt.  And that`s exactly what he

wants.  And it seems to be exactly what the United States Senate is

determined to have be the case. 

 

KORNACKI:  Anita, what do we know about – actually, we can show you this,

too.

 

They asked if it was appropriate for the president to hold the G7 at his

own resort.  A couple different reactions from Republican senators.  Take a

look. 

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND):  I don`t have any concerns about it, other than

just, politically, how it appears. 

 

But, on the other hand, he is the president.  And if he feels like he isn`t

doing anything wrong, he just doubles down on it and talks louder.  And I -

- to some degree, I don`t mind that.  I admire it. 

 

It`s – it may seem careless politically, but, on the other hand, it`s –

as I always say, there`s – there`s tremendous integrity in his boldness

and his transparency.

 

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD):  Show me where there`s a violation of law.  I`m

not sure that there is, not that I`m aware of.

 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  So a little mix of comments there, Anita. 

 

I`m curious, though.  In this moment, the president is asking Republicans

in Congress to defend him on Ukraine, to defend him on the call, to defend

him on quid pro quo, to defend him on Syria – a lot of them haven`t been

willing to do that – and now to defend him on this.

 

Is that causing any kind of a – is that causing resentment among

Republicans in Congress?  Is that going to have any consequences? 

 

KUMAR:  I have actually been surprised at how few people have – few

Republicans have called him out.  You mentioned a couple. 

 

But, for all of those, there were several who said what was said at the

end, which is they admire him and it`s fine and they don`t think there`s

anything wrong with that. 

 

Remember, he`s been doing this, not on this scale, but he`s been doing this

exact same thing for the last two-and-a-half years. 

 

Foreign leaders have been to Mar-a-Lago.  He`s met with seven of them

there.  The prime minister of Japan stayed at Mar-a-Lago.  So there have

been other things that are exactly the same, where he is getting money from

foreign governments, and he`s also getting money from the taxpayers through

federal agencies, Secret Service staying there when he`s there. 

 

It`s been the same issue for the last two-and-a-half years.  This is on a

grander scale, but we didn`t hear much about it in the last two-and-a-half

years from Republicans.  So there`s no reason to think that they would be

any different. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right, Anita Kumar, Walter Shaub, thank you both for joining

us. 

 

And still ahead:  Public support for impeachment may be on the rise. One

new poll shows it is.  But is it the kind of issue that will bring voters

to the polls next November?

 

Presidential candidate and Senate Intelligence Committee member Michael

Bennet joins us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

As House Democrats continue to pursue more depositions and documents in

their impeachment inquiry, a new survey finds a majority of Americans

support their efforts. 

 

According to Pew, 54 percent of Americans approve of the House`s decision

to start an impeachment inquiry.  It was 50 percent when they polled it

last month.  That was before details about the president`s call with the

Ukrainian president were made public. 

 

Several state polls are also showing support for the inquiry.  A new poll

in Colorado shows 54 percent back it there. 

 

And joining me now is the senior senator from that state and a candidate

for president, Senator Michael Bennet. 

 

Senator, thank you for joining us.  Appreciate it. 

 

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thanks, Steve. 

 

KORNACKI:  Let me start on the question of impeachment. 

 

A couple weeks ago, you gave an interview to Politico.  You drew a

distinction between – you said Trump had committed impeachable offenses,

but you had not reached a conclusion if he should be impeached.

 

Given the reporting this week about those depositions, and given what

Mulvaney said yesterday, is that still your view, or has it changed? 

 

BENNET:  No, I mean, I think the guy has clearly flaunted the rule of law. 

He`s committed impeachable offenses.

 

And I think, if the facts continue to support what we think that he`s done,

he should be impeached as a result of it. 

 

KORNACKI:  What is the difference between saying you have no doubt he

committed impeachable offenses, but you`re not sure on impeachment?  What

is the distinction you are drawing there?

 

BENNET:  Well, about – we`re in – I didn`t say – I think that, if the

facts hold up the way they are, he should be impeached. 

 

But we`re just at the beginning of the impeachment inquiry.  They`re going

to go through it.  They`re going to look at the facts.  The facts are

pretty terrible. 

 

I mean, the guy clearly tried to enlist a foreign power to advance his own

political interests.  He`s now got the G7 coming to his failing resort in

Florida. 

 

I mean, I can tell you this.  The founding fathers are rolling over in

their graves with this guy as president of the United States.  He has

flaunted every single norm that`s important in our democracy and what we

should expect of a president.

 

And I think he`s put himself in a terrible position. 

 

KORNACKI:  You don`t need a reminder of this, but if the House does vote to

impeach President Trump, it would be up to you and your fellow senators to

either acquit him or remove him from office.

 

Here`s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday laying out what

would happen in the Senate if there were an impeachment trial. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Under the impeachment rules of the Senate, we

would – we will take the matter up.  The chief justice will be in the

chair. 

 

We will have to convene every day, six days after – out of seven, at 12:30

or 1:00 in the afternoon. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  And just before making that statement, McConnell met with

Republican senators.

 

According to NPR, he told his caucus the trial could last as long as six to

eight weeks. 

 

Senator, there`s been a lot of speculation about how Mitch McConnell would

handle a trial.  You hear six to eight weeks, you would expect that to be a

pretty meaty thing. 

 

What is your confidence level, if this gets to the Senate, that this is

going to be a thorough trial? 

 

BENNET:  My confidence level is very low. 

 

But the American people need to insist on this.  I mean, Mitch McConnell

will do whatever he can get away with.  We learned that during the Merrick

Garland episode.  And I think it`s really important for us not – I

wouldn`t want anybody I know to be as cynical or as malevolent as Mitch

McConnell is, but we need to be as strategic as he is. 

 

And he has been incredibly strategic all the way along, when it comes to

judges, when it comes to climate, when it comes to guns.  And he`s going to

do exactly the same thing here.  And we`re going to have to be as strategic

as he is. 

 

KORNACKI:  I want to ask you about your campaign for president.

 

The fourth Democratic debate, it was held earlier this week.  There was a

lot of discussion about Medicare for all, the plan that Senator Sanders –

Warren and Sanders are supporting.

 

You have said it would be a mistake for Democrats to sign on to this plan. 

You talked to somebody from Politico during the debate, Tim Alberta.

 

You told him this.  You said: “Just listen to this debate.  Medicare for

all shouldn`t even have made it to the debate stage.”

 

Why is that? 

 

BENNET:  Well, only 30 percent of Democrats support it to begin with.

 

And I think that, if we pursue Medicare for all, we`re going to fight a

losing battle for the next 10 years over Medicare for all, when what we

should be doing is creating universal health care for everybody in this

country. 

 

What we should be doing is make sure we have a tax code that actually

supports, as Sherrod Brown says, the dignity of work, to make sure that

we`re dealing with climate change, so that we`re pursuing a progressive

agenda again in this country, reforming the way our government works,

making sure that everybody in this country that has the right to vote is

eligible to vote. 

 

We have got an important agenda that we have got to pursue in this country. 

And I appreciate Bernie`s ideological commitment to Medicare for all.  He`s

been for this for 30 years. 

 

He is, unlike other people, at least honest enough to say how he would pay

for half of it.  And that`s by raising taxes on people making $29,000 a

year. 

 

The American people are not going to go for something that raises taxes by

$31 trillion over the next 10 years for the privilege of giving up the

choice for themselves and their family about whether they want to buy

private insurance or have a public option. 

 

And I don`t want to give up that progressive agenda.  We have spent the

last 10 years not accomplishing a lot of things that the kids in my old

school district in the Denver Public Schools and their families need us to

accomplish, like my plan to reduce childhood poverty by 40 percent, which

we could do in one year in this country, without adding one federal

bureaucrat and for what 3 percent of Bernie`s plan for Medicare for all

would cost. 

 

So that`s why I`m in this race, because I think there`s a – there`s a

completely different agenda that is a progressive agenda, that`s about

making sure everybody in this country`s got the economic opportunity they

need for themselves and for their family, and for us to be able to sustain

this democracy, Steve, which I`m deeply worried about, not just because of

Trump, but because of the massive income inequality we have in this

country. 

 

KORNACKI:  I have just got to ask you too.

 

This week – we mentioned the debate.  You weren`t in the debate.  You

didn`t meet those polling thresholds that were set there.  Next debate in a

month, the thresholds get higher.  Some of the candidates who were on that

stage this week, it looks like, aren`t even going to make that. 

 

Certainly, right now, it doesn`t look like you`re in line to make that. 

 

Can your campaign keep going if you can`t get on these debate stages? 

 

BENNET:  I think it can. 

 

And I think that I have got an agenda that cannot just unify Democrats, but

also bring back some of the nine million people who voted twice for Barack

Obama and once for Donald Trump.

 

I`m the only candidate in this race that`s ever won a national election in

a swing state.  And I think that – I think that`s important as well. 

 

So I`m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We`re running

a vigorous campaign in Iowa.  We`re seeing a good response to the ads that

we`re running there. 

 

And I had to make the decision about whether I was going to continue to

spend money to try to launder my way onto the debate stage, or whether I

was going to communicate with Iowa.  And I made the choice to communicate

with Iowa.

 

And, Steve, you know what these polls look like.  I mean, you know better

than anybody else, the support for the leading candidates in this race is

actually pretty soft. 

 

Then you get to Mayor Pete, and then you have got a whole bunch of us who

were trading at somewhere between zero and 3.  And, frankly, it was hard to

watch people on that stage who are either polling the same as I am or

polling worse than I am now.

 

It turns out – it turns out it`s a lot easier to go from 9 to 2 or 9 to 1

or zero than it is to go from zero to 2.  But I`m not as well-known as the

rest of the candidates in the race. 

 

I do think I have got an agenda that, when people hear about it, they`re

going to say, this is the direction we should go, because it`s not – it`s

the way we win the presidency.  And it`s how we win purple states that`s

going to give us the chance to get the Senate majority back. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

KORNACKI:  All right, Senator Michael Bennet, candidate for president,

thank you for joining us. 

 

BENNET:  Thanks, Steve.  Thanks for having me. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right. 

 

Up next: Trump claiming victory with his deal in Turkey.  Turkey gets

everything it wants.  What does the U.S. get, other than a reputation, some

say, for abandoning its allies?

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I just spoke to President Erdogan of Turkey.  We`re doing very,

very well with Turkey.  There`s a cease-fire or a pause or whatever you

want to call it. 

 

There was some sniper fire this morning.  There was mortar fire this

morning.  That was eliminated quickly.  And they`re back to the full pause. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was President Trump insisting that a cease-fire in Northeastern Syria

was still in effect, despite reported gunfire and explosions.

 

Just yesterday, Turkey and the Kurds signed off on a pause in fighting,

after talks between Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike

Pompeo, and Turkish President Erdogan.  The cease-fire was supposed to last

five days in order to allow Turkish – Kurdish-led troops to withdraw from

a safe zone along the border. 

 

The United Nations is reporting that roughly 1,700 people from the region,

mostly women and children, have now fled.  The Syrian Observatory for Human

Rights reported that nearly 500 people have been killed since the offensive

started. 

 

But during his rally in Dallas last night, President Trump compared the

deadly fighting in Syria to a fight between schoolchildren. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  And it was unconventional, what I did.

 

I said, they`re going to have to fight a little while.  Sometimes, you have

to let them fight a little while.  Sometimes, you have to let them fight. 

Like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight.  And then you pull them

apart. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  The president, who was once a fierce defender of the Kurds,

seems to have shifted positions. 

 

Take a look. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I think the Kurds are great people.  They`re incredible fighters. 

They`re wonderful, warm, intelligent allies.

 

The Kurds, who, by the way, are no angels.

 

The Kurds great fighters and they`re great, great people.

 

The Kurds are some very good people, some very bad people. 

 

I do respect the Kurds.  They seem to be – they seem to be the ones that

have most helped.

 

They didn`t help us in the Second World War.  They didn`t help us with

Normandy, as an example. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Yesterday, Trump told reporters that the Turks wanted to clean

out – his words there – a 22-mile region currently inhabited by Syrian

Kurds.

 

And, today, he tweeted that President Erdogan wanted a cease-fire to work

and that – quote – “The Kurds want it and the ultimate solution to

happen.”

 

The president has spent the past 24 hours showering President Erdogan with

praise. 

 

Stay tuned after the break to find out what the Turkish president has said

in return. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I just want to thank and congratulate, though, President Erdogan. 

He`s a friend of mine. 

 

And I`m glad we didn`t have a problem, because, frankly, he`s a hell of a

leader.  And he`s a tough man.  He`s a strong man.  And he did the right

thing.  And I really appreciate it, and I will appreciate it in the future. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was President Trump yesterday praising Turkish President Erdogan,

after having warned the Turkish president days earlier not to be – quote -

- “a tough guy.”

 

Speaking to foreign journalists today, President Erdogan suggested he was

offended by that letter, saying that Turkey would – quote – “Do what`s

necessary when the time comes.  We haven`t forgotten it.  It would not be

right for us to forget.”

 

Amid scattered fighting, Erdogan has threatened to resume military

operations, despite the negotiated cease-fire.

 

“The Washington Post” is reporting that, after Thursday`s cease-fire

negotiations: “The Turkish side was surprised and relieved at how easy the

negotiations were.  `We got everything we wanted,` said the official.”

 

For more, I`m doing by Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer with “The Washington

Post,” and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at

Fordham University. 

 

Let me start with you, Jennifer.

 

And just something we don`t see often, and I think I have never seen during

a Trump presidency, the newspaper you write for, “The Washington Post,” now

is also running an opinion piece that was written by the Senate majority

leader, Mitch McConnell, criticizing in strong terms Trump`s policy here.

 

He says: “Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. 

It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our

enemies, and weaken important alliances.”

 

What do you make of the significance of this?  And will it ultimately have

– criticism like this ultimately have any effect on the policy?

 

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, it would be nice

if Mitch McConnell mentioned in that very, very tough op-ed President

Trump`s name.

 

Somehow, this policy seems to have operated on its own, if you read that

letter. 

 

So I think there is bipartisan criticism, both of the initial decision and

this ludicrous – quote – “deal,” which makes, I think, Neville

Chamberlain look like a great negotiator. 

 

Essentially, we have given the Kurds everything – the Turks everything we

want – they want.  We have lifted any sanctions.  They now have absolute

control over this area, a much larger area than we were willing to

initially give them. 

 

They have air cover over this area.  And they are in the process of ethnic

cleansing, that is, moving or killing all of the Turks in this area. 

 

It is a humiliating defeat by the United States.  And that`s why this week,

in overwhelming terms, the House, including 129 Republicans, joined in

condemning this move. 

 

So I think, if Mitch McConnell feels this strongly, perhaps he should be a

little bit tougher on the president on things like buying influence from

foreign governments and his entire relationship with Putin. 

 

I find it remarkable that he can be so harsh and so exacting on this

absolutely inane policy move that really serves no one, other than perhaps

Trump`s ego, Erdogan, Syria, Iran, and yet write an op-ed that doesn`t

mention the president`s name. 

 

KORNACKI:  Christina, we – a few polls have come out on this, and it seems

there`s pretty strong opposition to Trump`s policy here on Syria.

 

How – watching the events of the last 24 hours, the news developments

we`re getting right now, how deeply do you think the American people –

because, oftentimes, you have that reality in politics, if it`s happening

overseas, it doesn`t necessarily register.

 

How much is this one registering, do you think?

 

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:  I`m not exactly sure how deep it`s

penetrating into the American psyche, because, quite frankly, many

Americans don`t really know where Syria is.  They don`t know the history of

Syria and Turkey. 

 

But what is sort of permeating in various communities is that they`re

seeing Democrats and Republicans saying that this is a very bad idea, and

it will destabilize not just that region, but possibly our country as well. 

 

I mean, we still have not – knock on wood – had sort of an external

threat sort of at the magnitude of, say, a 9/11.  And so I think that

conversation about making ISIS sort of a greater threat with some of these

deals that the president is making, I think that is actually resonating

when some people are perking up and saying, well, if Lindsey Graham, who

has literally been the puppy of the president since he came – since he was

sworn in, if he`s slightly saying that this is a bad idea, then… 

 

KORNACKI:  Well, right.

 

You`re making a good point there, that this is one of the only times in the

Trump presidency you have got Democrats and Republicans saying the same

thing.

 

GREER:  In lockstep. 

 

And so I think there`s certain Republicans and definitely Democrats who are

saying, well, if you get people like Lindsey Graham or even Mitch McConnell

who will have a somewhat tepid op-ed – but he even had the courage to

write the op-ed, without having the courage to mention the president`s name

– but that is an alarm for a lot of American citizens. 

 

And so, even if they don`t really know about the region, they still know

that something is off. 

 

We also have to remember, we have so many, thousands, hundreds of thousands

of Americans who have family members who are in the military, whether they

are deployed or not.  And so they`re also paying attention to what we do

and don`t do in some of these dangerous areas, because that could mean that

their family members will be deployed or sort of put in harm`s way for a

president who has absolutely no fundamental understanding of international

policy whatsoever. 

 

And his generals have now said as much. 

 

KORNACKI:  All right, Christina Greer, Jennifer Rubin, my apologies.  We`re

a little tight here.  We ran long somewhere in the show. 

 

Anyway, appreciate you both being here. 

 

And we`re back after a quick break.  A couple exciting announcements we

want to tell you about. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

KORNACKI:  And before we go, I want to tell you about a new project I`m

working on. 

 

Today, we are launching a new podcast.  In fact, within the last few hours,

it went live.  It`s called “Article II: Inside Impeachment.

 

We`re going to have new episodes every Monday, every Wednesday, every

Friday, maybe more, if news warrants.

 

I`m going to be joined by my NBC News colleagues.  We`re going to break

down what is new, what matters, what it means for the 2020 election and for

our country.  The first episode available now, as they say, wherever you

get your podcasts.

 

And even more exciting news than that, even more important news than that,

Monday night, Chris Matthews will be back in this seat.  Well, not this

seat, but the equivalent seat in Washington. 

 

The important news there, though, Chris Matthews back on Monday.

 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thank you for being with us.

 

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

 

 

 

 

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