George Kent to testify publicly next week. TRANSCRIPT: 11/7/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Elise Jordan, Ned Price, Carol Leonnig, Howell Raines, Nadeam Elshami
Transcript:

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  But don`t go anywhere.  HARDBALL with Chris

Matthews is up next.

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Witness after witness.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

 

Tonight, more damning evidence that the president tried extorting political

dirt from a foreign leader by denying him desperately needed military aid. 

In testimony released today by the House Intelligence Committee, George

Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian

Affairs, said it was made clear to him that the president wanted nothing

less than President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say three things,

investigations, Biden and Clinton.

 

Earlier this week, Gordon Sondland testified that military aid approved by

Congress would not be released until that message was delivered by

Zelensky.

 

And now, in an explosive report, The New York Times reveals that President

Zelensky was so desperate that he was prepared to deliver that message in

an interview scheduled with CNN.

 

Unwilling to lose the military aid he badly needed, Zelensky decided to bow

to Trump`s demands yet he was spared when the funds were mysteriously

released this September.

 

Kent was so alarmed by the prospect of the United States requesting a

politically motivated investigation that he memorialized the conversations

in a State Department memorandum expressing his concerns that it was

injurious to the rule of law.

 

Kent will join Ambassador Bill Taylor next week as the first witnesses when

the Intelligence Committee of the House brings its impeachment inquiry out

into the open with public hearings.

 

For more, I`m joined by Elise Jordan, former aide to George W. Bush in the

White House there and in the State Department, Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News

Digital Senior White House Reporter, and Ari Melber sticking with us, MSNBC

Chief Legal Correspondent and host of The Beat on MSNBC.

 

Elise, I want you to start here.  This guy now has laid it out.  The words

were direct, go to the nearest microphone and say what the president wants

you to say, that you`re conducting a national investigation by the

Ukrainian government of the president`s enemies.

 

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AND STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE:  In a way, that

one detail almost nails Trump more than anything simply because Donald

Trump is so obsessed with television.  And it doesn`t seem like a national

security official or anyone else would have come up with that exact idea as

this has to be on T.V., it`s made for T.V., those three words.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Ari, thanks for sticking around.  Ari, I think that is a

great image.  It`s like the district attorney in some big town, a big city,

a metropolis, I am going to bring charges up and it gives sort of a reality

that would endure all the way through next year`s election.  He`d have

always that picture to use of a top leader of a country saying, we are now

investigating just like, you know, in a classic big town story.

 

MELBER:  Bingo, and good to stick around and play HARDBALL, Chris.  You

give me the pictures, I`ll get you the war.  You give me the pictures, I`ll

get you the conspiracy theory.  The conspiracy theory –

 

MATTHEWS:  I worked for that company.  That was Hurst.  Thank you.  Go

ahead.  I`m sorry.

 

MELBER:  No, yes.  And the conspiracy theory in politics, as you know,

Chris, it doesn`t have to be true, it doesn`t have to be half true, it

doesn`t even have to be all that believable.  If there is smoke, if

there`re pictures, if there`s enough to get it going, as Elise said, this

has the fingerprints and feel of the Donald Trump campaign because it`s got

to be public, locked and got to be televised.  And that`s why it`s a

misreading of all this to say, oh, was it true or not.

 

Donald Trump famously attacked all of his rivals in the primaries with

nicknames, with attacks, went after Ted Cruz over a JFK conspiracy theory. 

At no point was there a Wikipedia fact-check, right?  It`s all about

getting the smoke, the fire, the heat on the other people.  And this has

those fingerprints and that`s why this testimony that`s adding up is

damaging, Chris, because what we`re seeing is more and more people who were

on the inside, who were in the room, on the call, dealing with the money

and they`re confirming not just one bad phone call, not just one bad idea,

not just one bad request, do me a favor, they`re confirming step by step by

step by step the bribery conspiracy plot.

 

MATTHEWS:  And in this case, we`re getting the news just today that the

president of Ukraine was ready to take that next step in this conspiracy

because he was so desperate to get those Javelin missiles to offset the

Russian tanks coming, that he was ready to walk up to that microphone.  He

was going to do it until he got the word this September, two months ago,

that they`re going to get the aide anyway, so he didn`t have to make an ass

of himself.  He didn`t have to do it but he was ready to do it.

 

MELBER:  Right.  And that goes to, look, bribery, quid pro quo is this for

that.  It`s bad to ever request any investigation into your rival.  It`s an

abuse of power.  Legal scholars can disagree about whether that request

alone becomes an impeachable high crime.

 

But I can tell, you the Constitution doesn`t answer that question on the

nose, Chris.  Whereas once you get the quid pro quo, as you just put it,

the investigation for the money, hold up the money, The New York Times

reported tonight saying, because of the money, they were going to do it,

well, now, you have the quid pro quo bribery and lead it to Donald Trump to

find only one of the only two offenses that`s explicitly listed as

impeachable in the Constitution.  One is treason, the other is bribery.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ari, you`re a great journalist.  And every night, I watch

you and you prove that you were right to go to law school.  Thank you, sir. 

This whole country has become illegal.  It`s become a criminal court.

 

Anyway, let`s bring in former National Security Council Senior Director Ned

Price.  Ned, you`re getting to this question now that not only was this

president – the newly inaugurated president of Ukraine feeling the nerves,

feeling the pressure, he was ready to walk up to that microphone and do

exactly what Trump wanted to do until he got the word serendipitously, oh,

great I don`t have to make a fool of myself, we`re getting military aid.

 

NED PRICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SENIOR DIRECTOR:  Yes, Chris,

he was saved by the bell.  There are very few comical elements of the

transcript that was released today.  One element that you can`t just help

but laugh at is George Kent is recounting how the Ukrainians were somewhat

perplexed about what exactly they were supposed to do.  They cited the fact

that Trump routinely called CNN fake news.

 

And so they thought that perhaps they shouldn`t go on CNN, but then they

also saw a Trump tweet where President Trump was disparaging Fox News.  And

so for a while, they were sort of in this position of well, what do we do. 

You guys told us to go out and to make this public, we`re willing to do it,

but how exactly do we do that?

 

I think the broader point here though, Chris, is that every single one of

the defenses the Trump administration has put forward from the fact this

was only about corruption, from the idea that this was a means to get

Europe to do its full share, and finally bringing us to this other defense

that, you know what, the aid actually flowed, no harm, no foul.

 

I think what was reported today really obliterates that argument because it

shows that the Ukrainians knew that they were in a vice, they knew they

were in a bind, and they knew they had to go out and publicly declare that

they would undertake these politically motivated investigations or else

this aid wouldn`t flow.  It was only the clock that ran out.  If that had

not have happened, I think we would have a very different ending to the

story.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think they should put the picture of this president next

to the word, extortion, in the next Webster`s Dictionary.

 

In his testimony released today, George Kent describes his conversation

with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman about Trump`s call with the Ukrainian

president.  According to Kent, Vindman`s read account was different than

any read-out call that I had received.  I could hear it in his voice and

his hesitancy that he felt uncomfortable.

 

Kent adds that Vindman would not share the majority of the call but did say

that the conversation went into the direction of some of the most extreme

narratives that had been discussed publicly.

 

Shannon, it was worse than we could imagine.  It is the drug deal.  It is

the smelly demand that a country under duress, facing an existential

challenge, literally, not the way it`s used by the neo cons in this country

but really was under one, and Trump was holding them up.

 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, MSNBC DIGITAL SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  You know,

it`s interesting.  That is a recurring theme you hear from people in the

White House.  As crazy as it looks on the outside, it is even more crazy on

the inside is a motto I have heard through this administration.

 

So there is some very damaging stuff that came out in this transcript and

the other transcripts.  And that will have the ability to be public

testimony next week, so the nightly news can get a sound bite on some of

these things and print can now be brought to life on television.

 

But I do think there is a risk for Democrats here, and at least this is

what Republicans are hoping, is that they will now also get their public

crack at these witnesses, and that, like we saw with the Mueller testimony

and with the Kavanaugh testimony, having these public hearings might not go

as well for the Democrats as they hope.

 

MATTHEWS:  How so?

 

PETTYPIECE:  Well, if Republicans feel like they`re able to chip away at

these witnesses, chip away at the credibility –

 

MATTHEWS:  How do you chip away at Vindman?  How do you chip away at

Taylor?  How do you chip away at this new guy, Kent?

 

PETTYPIECE:  I mean, we`ll see.  I mean, look at how they went after

Christine Blasey Ford trying to bring up things about how she had a fear of

flying or whether not she did.  Look at the way Lindsey Graham was able to

grand stand and have the sort of moment –

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But everybody believed the heart of her testimony. 

Everybody on the other side said, well, she can`t name the place and the

time but she damn well remembered it happen.

 

PETTYPIECE:  And Kavanaugh ended up getting confirmed.

 

So they`re hoping to follow a similar model to that, that once these

witnesses get in front –

 

MATTHEWS:  He`s going to be impeached?

 

PETTYPIECE:  Well, but will he be removed from office?  And as long as the

Republicans support him, behind him, yes.

 

MATTHEWS:  That is the goal.  The goal is to impeach the guy.

 

Anyway, let me go back to Elise on this question.  You know, when you were

kids, at least when we were kids, you picked up a rock and under the rock

you`d see a lot of bugs.  And as you are portraying the White House, you

pick them up and you see all these bug life going under there.  All these

people scrambling around, they`re trying to piece this president in doing

anything he wants.  And in this case –

 

JORDAN:  No (INAUDIBLE) at all.  It`s really unbelievable to me that so

many people witness this initial request and it actually took as long as it

did to come to light, that it wasn`t a bigger deal that hundreds of

millions of dollars that had been congressionally mandated in the name of

our national security interests could be held up for the political whims of

the president.  If that isn`t a gross abuse of power, nothing is.

 

PETTYPIECE:  And it makes wonder what – wait, if not for this

whistleblower, we would not know about it.  So what else is there that has

not come to light?

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get back to Ned on that.  And the question is,

people got the drift.  Well, Sondland got it, he didn`t want to say about

it, but he did get the drift of what was going on.  He was deputized

basically to join the three amigos and become one of them to be working

under Giuliani in this sort of hijacked foreign policy.

 

And I`m impressed at the consistency of the testimony of these 13 people

that have spoken to the Intel Committee in the SCIF, in this private room

in the Capitol.

 

And I`m wondering, do you agree with Shannon if there will be problem,

headwinds of the Republicans just stirring up this thing and confusing it

and distracting it and detracting from the witnesses and smearing people

that they can actually put a dent into this testimony?

 

PRICE:  We have no doubt they`re going to try.  And, in fact, we`ve already

seen that.  We`ve already seen that even against decorated patriots, men

and women who have served this country and the State Department and the

Department of Defense, including in uniform.

 

But I think, Chris, what they`re going to do, and we`ve seen a resurgence

of this in recent days, I think, because the testimony has been so damning,

they`re going to go back to what they think is the original sin.  They are

going to go back to the whistleblower, an individual who, by now, is

entirely irrelevant.  And that is precisely because every single claim that

was put forward in that original whistleblower complaint has since last

month been actually put on the record by these various individuals who have

under the threat of perjury provided testimony that actually attaches a

name to each and every one of those things.

 

And beyond that, beyond what was in the whistleblower complaint, we have

learned so much more about the scope and scale and really the audacity of

this plan to shakedown one of America`s partner, a partner that, by the

way, is on the frontlines of Russian aggression.  So even if this question

isn`t about Ukraine and protecting Ukraine`s territorial integrity, it`s

about pushing back on Russia, a country that has revisionist aims and

ambitions that if it could, would take it far beyond Kiev.

 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder whether Devin Nunes is a match for Adam Schiff. 

We`ll see.  Shannon may be right.  This could be a real cacophony from hell

coming up.  Thank you, Shannon, for that unpleasant news, Shannon

Pettypiece seeing all sides of what`s going to happen here.  Elise Jordan,

thank you, and thank you, Ned Price.

 

Coming up, President Trump reportedly wanted a repeated performance from

his attorney general, Bill Barr, hold a news conference and tell the world

I`m an innocent man, just like he did with the Russian probe and

obstruction of justice when he said he didn`t do anything wrong.  So why

did Barr finally say, no mas, too much, a bridge too far?

 

Plus, the return of Trump`s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions wants

his old Senate seat back.  And Trump has reportedly vowed to make life

difficult for him as he tries.  I`m betting on Jeff.

 

Much more to get to, stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

Explosive new reporting from behind the scenes at the White House portrays

an embattled president seeking a way out.  According to The Washington

Post, the president made an unusual personal request of the Justice

Department shortly after the early details of the Trump-Ukraine scandal

broke in late September.  Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to

hold a news conference declaring that the commander-in-chief had broken no

laws, though Barr ultimately declined to do so.

 

And that`s according to people familiar with the matter who say, Trump`s

request traveled from the president to other White House officials and

eventually to the Justice Department.  And now advisers to Trump say the

president has mentioned Barr`s demurral to associates in recent weeks

saying he wished Barr would have held a news conference.

 

The president may have been hoping for a repeat performance, in fact that I

think he was, of Barr`s decision last spring to publicly clear him, Donald

Trump, of obstructing justice even before the Mueller report was released

publicly.  And while Barr did not issue the statement Trump requested, we

do know the DOJ blocked the whistleblower`s complaint from Congress and

decided not to investigate the call themselves.

 

For more, I`m joined by co-author of that report in The Washington Post,

Carol Leonnig, National Investigative Reporter for The Post, and Paul

Butler, former federal prosecutor.  Thank you both.

 

I don`t have a lot of time, but this story, not only did he try to get him

to cover for him again, to give an exoneration, have you got an idea why

Barr finally had some stones and said, I`m not going to do it, finally

said, I`m not doing what you want?

 

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well,

what we can tell from the outside, Chris, is that, basically, Barr did not

get this directly from the president but it was passed along.  Very similar

to the way the president has asked Don McGahn and other –

 

MATTHEWS:  Or Corey Lewandowski to fire Jeff Sessions.

 

LEONNIG:  Yes.  Please get Comey to announce – get him to announce that

Iƒ_Tm not under investigation, right?  Dan Coats, please tell everybody

that I`m not under investigation, all of the ways at which –

 

MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you about his M.O., his character?  He can`t

tell people to their face what`s going on?

 

LEONNIG:  I don`t know, because sometimes he does tell them to their face. 

But what we can tell in the Barr situation is Barr was uneasy about all of

this and you can imagine why.  Remember that Mick Mulvaney stepped to the

podium at the White House briefing room and essentially acknowledged a quid

pro quo. 

 

And, after that moment, you got a statement from the Department of Justice

and from Bill Barr saying:  We weren`t aware about a quid pro quo. 

 

How uncomfortable must it be, if you are the attorney general, you have

said there`s no crime here, and the chief of staff announces that there was

indeed a quid pro quo?

 

MATTHEWS:  Could this be a good lawyer – not a great person, but a good

lawyer.  Who knows?

 

In the case of the Mueller report, he was able to skate.  He said, there`s

just enough wiggle room in this thing for me to say he`s clean, just

enough.  I can claim it, which he did in packaging it to put it out, the

way he did that. 

 

In this case, there`s 1,000 witnesses saying they had the conversation with

the – with the president of Ukraine holding him up. 

 

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I think that`s right, Chris. 

 

So I think that Barr is reading the writing on the wall.  It`s obvious that

the president will be impeached for conduct that is…

 

MATTHEWS:  In this matter.

 

BUTLER:  In this matter for conduct that is clearly corrupt.

 

And so he`s making this last-ditch effort to salvage his reputation.

 

MATTHEWS:  Can he fence this off?  Can he fence off this matter of behavior

from the other behavior the president was engaged in?

 

BUTLER:  I don`t see how.

 

It`s true that the evidence in this case is even more compelling.  But, of

course, Mueller found 10 instances in which Trump probably committed

obstruction.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, probably.  Well, he said, if it`s probably, then he didn`t,

according to this lawyer.

 

BUTLER:  Yes, that`s right, because that`s how Barr acts, has been acting,

as the president`s lawyer/fixer. 

 

And so, again, if he`s finally trying to show some integrity and represent

the interests of the United States, as opposed to President Trump, high

time, but too late.  His legacy is ruined. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump`s own account of the conversation with the Ukrainian

president, Zelensky, shows that he urge Zelensky five times to speak to

Attorney General Barr about the dirt he was seeking from Ukraine.

 

Barr denied any involvement, according to a statement, but he didn`t – it

didn`t end there.  The DOJ then distanced itself from the White House again

last month, when Trump`s acting chief of staff implicated the department in

a quid pro quo. 

 

As Carol mentioned, Carol Leonnig, Mick Mulvaney claimed that, in

withholding military to Ukraine, the president was trying to gain their

cooperation in an investigation that DOJ was already carrying out. 

 

Yet a senior officials said: “If the White House withholding aid from

Ukraine with regard to any investigation by the Justice Department, that`s

news to us.”

 

The president is flying loose out here all by himself, saying, just call

this guy Barr.  He will handle that matter.  He`s got an investigation

under way.  You can work right into that. 

 

He never told Barr how he was setting him up to be a collaborator in this

scheme. 

 

LEONNIG:  Well, it`s pretty uncomfortable, if you`re the attorney general. 

Shades of Nixon, right?

 

I told my attorney general he`s going to handle this.  Meet with him and we

will get it all wrapped up. 

 

It`s so different this time around than the Mueller probe, Chris, because,

obviously, what`s happening here is, all of this information is actually

coming out.  Witnesses are going to give their information.

 

And what does it say, one after – one after the next, what are they

alleging?  This claim that we were interested in corruption Ukraine is

baloney.  This claim that there was no quid pro quo is a hockey. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Extortion.  Extortion. 

 

LEONNIG:  The – George Kent`s testimony is so striking, because he

basically said, all that the president wanted was an announcement at the

microphone that they`re going to investigate, because announcement is all

he needed.

 

An announcement he wanted.

 

MATTHEWS:  Before we take him out of this mess, it was his Justice

Department that put the kibosh on the whistle-blower in the beginning. 

Remember, the guy went over there, the general counsel, the auditor – not

auditor general – what do those call those guys?

 

BUTLER:  Inspector general.

 

MATTHEWS:  Inspector general goes over there to the White House and gets

the word from the Justice Department, actually, don`t go any further with

this.  Hold this.

 

BUTLER:  Yes. 

 

So the Barr Justice Department summarily dismissed the whistle-blower

complaint.  Now, Barr can say that the only complaint was that he

investigated, a crime, was about campaign financing.  So the extortion and

bribery stuff hadn`t happened yet. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

BUTLER:  Really, I think the only difference is that the whistle-blower

complaint is public, because Barr has still been defending the president

with regard to Ukraine, not just summarily dismissing the whistle-blower

complaint before it was public, but Barr`s been gallivanting around the

world trying to investigate this bizarre conspiracy theory about somehow

Ukraine, Italy and France were involved in the start of the Russian

investigation. 

 

So he`s still doing the president`s bidding.  He`s still, again,

representing Trump more than he`s representing the United States. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I just want to say, Carol, it`s reporting like yours, edited by

real professional editors at great newspapers, that is making this story

for this country, because they understand it.  They read the paper.  They

watch this program and others.

 

And they get it because of sharp reporting like yours.  And thank you for

coming on tonight. 

 

LEONNIG:  Thank you. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Carol Leonnig.

 

BUTLER:  Congratulations to Carol. 

 

Happy anniversary to Chris.

 

MATTHEWS:  Twenty years.

 

Paul Butler, thank you for that, sir. 

 

Up next:  Former U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions is looking to make a political

comeback down in Alabama.  And President Trump isn`t happy about it.

 

By the way, President Trump makes fun of people with Southern accents.  You

hear that down there?  He makes fun of you.  Nice guy. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  When I first met you, you were

sharp, you were smart, you were incorrigible. 

 

And after all these years, you`re still smart, you`re still sharp, and more

incorrigible.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris, congratulations on 20 years.  I have learned a

lot about politics and about caring about the right things from watching

you.

 

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Chris, from one Irishman to another,

congratulations on a very successful 20-year run.  May you enjoy the next

20 years as much as you have the past.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If I had one do-over, it

would be, I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

 

Jeff Sessions didn`t have a clue. 

 

The attorney general says:  I`m going to recuse myself. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

TRUMP:  And I said, why the hell didn`t he tell me that before I put him

in?

 

The only reason I gave him the job, because I felt loyalty. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  The only thing I gave him the job, so he would be loyal to me. 

 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

Those were just some examples of President Trump`s public attacks on his

former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced out last year by the

president.

 

Sessions now wants his old job back as senator from Alabama.  He is

expected to join what is an already crowded field, however, down here of

Republicans trying to unseat Democrat Doug Jones in 2020, next year.

 

“The New York Times” reports that President Trump sent word to Sessions –

quote – “He would publicly attack him if he ran.”

 

What is the point of this? 

 

And “The Washington Post” reports that the president has even joked to

senators and White House aides that he would move to Alabama and compete

against Sessions himself in the primary.  What does that mean?

 

For more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, “Washington Post” national political

reporter, and Howell Raines – there you are – former executive editor of

“The New York Times.” 

 

Let me ask you, Robert, because you`re the Trump expert.  Robert, why would

a president talk about going down and competing in a primary in for a

Senate nomination, when he`s already president of the United States, just

out of spite?

 

ROBERT COSTA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Just a few days ago, on the way to

that Kentucky rally, President Trump was musing with his allies on the

flight on Air Force One about Senator Sessions and his reentry into

politics later this week, was saying maybe he shouldn`t get involved.

 

He didn`t want to mess with his own voters in a state like Alabama, but he

certainly wasn`t going to endorse Senator Sessions, and he made sure that

Senator Sessions, through different emissaries, got that message. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of it, Howell, down there?  You`re a local down

there in that state.  You`re over in Pensacola now.  But you`re from there. 

 

And what is it about – I thought this guy was unbeatable, that the guy won

with 96 percent of the vote or something last time he faced the voters of

Alabama.  Wouldn`t he win in a primary and a general? 

 

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  I think Jeff

Sessions immediately becomes the front-runner in the Republican senatorial

race. 

 

The vote is early March.  And I think he`s as close to a sure thing as you

see in an Alabama contest at this point.  He also represents a very serious

threat for Doug Jones, who ran a brilliant campaign in 2017 to defeat both

Trump and Roy Moore. 

 

But this is hardball politics Alabama-style.  And the fact is, defiance is

the single trait that Alabama – white Alabamans treasure most in a

candidate. 

 

Fighting Trump will remind them that Sessions is a little banty rooster

reminiscent of George Wallace.  And so – but it`s important for people who

understand politics back in conventional rules to understand that Alabama

voters have what Kyle Whitmire, a local columnist, called sustained

cognitive dissonance when it comes to political races. 

 

So they will vote for Trump at 62 percent or better, as they did

previously, and they will send Jeff Sessions back to the – at least give

him the nomination for the Senate, without feeling any conflict at all. 

 

And the – I think the real danger for Trump – he`s going to carry this

state anyway.  But if he keeps calling Jeff Sessions a jerk and an idiot

and a dumb Southerner and mocking his accent, that will hurt Trump, and it

won`t hurt the Sessions at all. 

 

COSTA:  Well, Chris…

 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Robert, I – Robert, I think all the time, will Trump

straighten out and fly right the last month, three months in the general

election next year, and act like a normal president?

 

Because he could do the – he could get reelected perhaps by doing that. 

And my question is, here, he`s clearly suggesting he`s not going to change. 

He`d rather follow his hatreds than his interests, because this could cost

his party a Senate seat in what could be a 50/50 race for the Senate

control. 

 

He could lose the Senate over his anger against Jeff Sessions. 

 

COSTA:  Well, based on my reporting, Senator Sessions is going to face real

competition in this primary.  You got Congressman Bradley Byrne.  You have

Tommy Tuberville, the former coach of Auburn football.  He`s in the race. 

 

The White House and Mitch McConnell are averse to Senator Sessions running. 

They think there are other candidates in this race who could be the

outsider candidate, could be the favorite of Trump voters. 

 

So there`s not going to be an embrace of Sessions.  The only person you see

wrapping their arms politically around Senator Sessions at this moment is a

longtime senator and his former colleague Senator Richard Shelby, who has

pledged his support. 

 

But, beyond that, this is a competitive race.  And if the White House

doesn`t endorse another candidate, they may attack Senator Sessions and

make sure Trump voters maybe turn their eye to another.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`m betting on – Howell Raines here. 

 

And I`m betting on Shelby.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Shelby is one of the great survivors in American history. 

Shelby has been through both political parties.

 

RAINES:  I don`t disagree…

 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead. 

 

Howell, go ahead.

 

RAINES:  Chris, I don`t want to – I don`t want to disagree with Robert`s

knowledge of Costa – I mean, of Washington, but the facts on the ground

and an Alabama are very different. 

 

Bradley Byrne`s supporters are hoping he will withdraw tomorrow and refile

for his old House seat.  I talked to lots of affluent Republicans here on

the Gulf Coast, and this is Sessions` home ground, and they all agree that

Sessions is going to kill Byrne`s chances, and most of them believe he will

be the Republican nominee. 

 

The – and let`s touch on Senator Shelby.  Shelby`s endorsement, preemptive

endorsement, of Sessions last week was a very important event, for this

reason.  Alabama has a split Republican Party along populist lines.

 

Sessions` base is in the churchgoing, rural Republicans.  Shelby is the

guru of the affluent suburban Republicans in Birmingham and Montgomery and

Mobile. 

 

And his signal to them is, to all you Birmingham law firms and the other

people who count in the Republican establishment, Sessions is our guy.  We

need him for NASA in Huntsville, the medical center in Birmingham, and the

shipbuilding industry in Mobile, and that`s who I want in. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you talk, Howell.  I love knowing this inside

stuff.  Thank you. 

 

And, Robert, as always, thank you for your analysis of the national

politics here.

 

Robert Costa and Howell Raines, what a duo. 

 

Up next:  It looks like Republican lawmakers are taking a page from the

Trump playbook:  Attack the investigators. 

 

With evidence continuing to pile up, real evidence, that may be their only

option to save at least something of themselves. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

AL SHARPTON, HOST, “POLITICS NATION”:  This is Reverend Al Sharpton wishing

Chris Matthews a happy 20th anniversary, 20 years of excellence. 

 

RON REAGAN, AUTHOR:  Wow, 20 years, that`s practically an epoch in

television time.  You realize an entire generation has grown up hearing,

“Hah!”

 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Warmest congratulations on your

20th. 

 

I don`t know how America did without HARDBALL for the previous 220 years. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  In their campaign to transform America, Democrats are becomingly

(sic) increasingly totalitarian, suppressing dissent, defaming the

innocent, eliminating due process, staging show trials, and trying to

overthrow American democracy to impose their socialist agenda. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was President Trump last night at a rally in Louisiana attacking

Democrats over the impeachment inquiry. 

 

Public hearings begin in the House next week, as we`ve told you.  But the

Democrats – or the president`s Republican allies are still tying

themselves in knots to come up with a defense of him. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  If one witness says there`s no quid pro quo but multiple others

says there is, what do you do with that? 

 

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  We`ve got the transcript where there`s no quid pro

quo. 

 

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-SC):  It`s actually getting easier to defend the

president from a standpoint there is no linkage between aid.  In fact what

we`re hearing today is this a part of a broader analysis of foreign aid in

general in terms of what we should do.  It wasn`t just Ukraine where the

aid was held up. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, unable to defend the president on substance, Republicans

have moved on from attacking the process or perhaps nobody has embodied the

Republican slippery spin quite like Senator Lindsey Graham whose defense of

Trump has evolved over the past two weeks. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Show me something that is a crime.  If you

could show me, you know, that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo

outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing. 

 

I`ve looked at the phone call, I found nothing wrong here.  I`m not going

to entertain impeaching the president over this matter.  Period, done.  I`m

not going to read these transcripts.  The whole process is a joke. 

 

What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward Ukraine, it was

incoherent.  It depends on who you talk to.  They seemed incapable of

forming a quid pro quo. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of a defense is that?  With evidence piling up against

President Trump, Republicans are resorting to some kind of – well, some of

Trump`s tried and true tactics like smearing the other guy.  And that`s

coming up.  You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

In the six weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment

inquiry into President Trump, Republicans have turned themselves into

pretzels trying to defend the president.  But with every day bringing more

and more evidence of indefensible behavior, some of Trump`s fiercest

defenders are turning to Trump`s favorite tactic, attacking the

investigators. 

 

In an interview last night, Senator Lindsey Graham tried to claim that

Ambassador Gordon Sondland changed his testimony to affirm a quid pro quo

with Ukraine because he`s in cahoots with Democrats. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

GRAHAM:  Now, here`s a question.  Why did Sonderland (ph) change his

testimony?  Was there a connection between Sonderland and Democratic

operatives on the company?  Did he talk to Schiff?  Did he talk to Schiff`s

staffers?

 

I`ve been a lawyer for a very long time, and when somebody changes their

testimony, they suddenly recall something they didn`t know before, it makes

me incredibly suspicious. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, appearing with President Trump at a rally last night,

Louisiana Senator John Kennedy took his cue directly from the president

himself going after Speaker Pelosi. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA):  And you know what our Democratic friends have

done for him?  Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him. 

 

(BOOS)

 

I don`t mean any disrespect but it must suck to be that dumb. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  For more of that, we turn – we`re joined by Rick Tyler,

Republican strategist, and Nadeam Elshami, former chief of staff to the

aforementioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

 

You know, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of your heroes said there`s such a

thing as defining deviancy downward.  So, even guys like this respected

senator is talking like he`s on a street corner yelling crap at somebody

out the window. 

 

NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:  It`s

unbelievable.  It is a complete change of the Republican Party, and it`s

unfortunate. 

 

But Democrats should not take the bait, right?  They should not be talking

back to these senators or to the members of the House.  They should keep

the focus on what`s really important, and that`s this impeachment process,

this impeachment inquiry. 

 

I know it`s hard, right?  It`s hard not to fight back, hard not to push

back, but don`t take the bait. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Explain the politics of thrash talking.  Can you ignore the

evidence?  Do you just bolster your base?  What do you do?

 

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  When you don`t have an argument you

attack people.  And that has worked for Trump to some degree.  But, you

know –

 

MATTHEWS:  Like his father of Ted Cruz killed Kennedy.  There`s nothing

that`s too atrocious –

 

TYLER:  It just seems – at the time, it seems so ridiculous but then you

realize a lot of people actually believe that.  I mean, they look in the

tabloids and they think oh, my god, this really happened. 

 

But these guys, they don`t – they don`t have a case.  A normal

communication where you have a comms team that would coordinate with the

senators and all the members and they say we think this is the best way,

they go out and poll test it, they do all the right.  And then the

president is sort of like, you know, comms is like landscaping.  If the

grass is cut and hedges are trimmed they don`t pay much attention to it. 

 

But Trump is going to do his own comms, but people won`t go out and take

the risk because he`ll simply change the message.  Or they`ll understand,

look, I know you did something wrong, what are you going to say about it? 

Here`s what we`re going to say about it and we`re going to stick with that. 

 

That`s not how Trump operates.  He`s going to change the story and

everybody`s going to look foolish.  So everybody`s afraid. 

 

So, now, you have a dysfunctional comms delivery system, so there`s no

message.  So, you were just saying in the last segment, you know, the

consistency of the testimony that`s been given is remarkable.  The

inconsistency of the argument against impeachment by the Republicans has

been abysmal. 

 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Lindsey Graham, for example, the guy – he`s been

around for a long time.  I used to think he wanted to be one of those

classic southern senators, serve their whole life and end up having a

building named after you.  You know the history of those guys.  Richard

Russell and all those guys, and now he just looks like he`s working for

Trump, not for history. 

 

ELSHAMI:  Well, that`s exactly right.  That`s the point I want to make. 

The communication strategy is pretty simple for Republicans right now. 

It`s an audience of one, right?  You are not talking to the people on the

outside.  You are talking to one and one person only and that`s President

Trump. 

 

So if he says what he wants you to say and/or he hears what you`re saying,

then check that mark for communication strategy.  You don`t need to poll

test that.  You only have one person to poll test and that`s President

Trump, and that`s unfortunate, right?  Because these members and these

senators are not looking into the future.  They`re looking at today. 

 

MATTHEWS:  What about legacy?  The reason to be a senator is to have a

legacy, to your family.

 

ELSHAMI:  Yes.

 

MATTHEWS:  I think in the long run, you get some things done and in the

long run, you`re respected as somebody who said in the world`s greatest

deliberative body.

 

Anyway, President Trump, Jr. – well, Donald Trump, Jr., not quite

president went on “The View” with his girlfriend, former Fox News host

Kimberly Guilfoyle, to promote his new book.  He echoed Senator Graham in

questioning Ambassador Sondland`s refreshed memory. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did Gordon Sondland lie then when he changed his

testimony yesterday? 

 

DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I don`t know why he

changed his testimony.  It`s sort of interesting.  It almost – you know,

he says something on the record – or he`s afraid of being attacked like so

many of us have for so long by a vicious left that`s running a one-sided –

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I had to put my money.  She`s not intimidated by this guy. 

 

TYLER:  I watched that same segment, I`m cheering for Behar and thinking

what`s going on. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Your ally of opportunity.

 

So let me ask you about your old boss, Nancy Pelosi.  She`s still full-

fledged campaigning.  I just said to you during the break, she`s up

campaigning for the Democratic Party of Maryland.  She`s campaigning for

the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania on a weekend.  How can she keep doing

it? 

 

ELSHAMI:  She doesn`t stop.  The work doesn`t stop.  Just because you`re

dealing with impeachment, dealing with USMCA, just because you`re dealing

with – you know, closing a – a potential shutdown of the government, it

doesn`t stop.  She has to hit the road and raise money for Democrats

because it`s important.  It`s the system we`re in.  And there`s no one

better, right? 

 

MATTHEWS:  I think she`s a legislative wonder. 

 

WILSON:  I was at her book signing twenty-two weeks ago and I kept saying

there`s no way she`s coming, she was there. 

 

NADEAM:  If she`s going to be there, she`s going to be there.

 

MATTHEWS:  When I first started with the “San Francisco Examiner”, she

showed up.  I mean out of nowhere.  I thought she was – Elshami, Nadeam

Elshami, Rick Tyler.

 

Up next, 20 years of HARDBALL.”

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  Chris, congratulations on this

anniversary.  Playing HARDBALL for 20 years. 

 

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  You know every nook and cranny about

Washington politics and I love hearing all the stories, sitting next to you

on a flight to the next debate or primary, while paying respect to a former

president lying in state.  History unfolds in front of us here.  Happy

20th. 

 

Here`s to many more playing HARDBALL.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  I can see the first black president there.  The reason I say

that is I think the immigrant experience combined with the African

background, combined with the incredible education, combined with his

beautiful speech, not every politician gets help with a speech, but that

speech was a piece of work. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  It sure was. 

 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was in 2004 up in Boston after I listened

to then Senator Barack Obama give his rousing keynote address at the 2004

Democratic National Convention. 

 

That was a historic night.  And over the past two decades, I`ve had the

honor of not only a front row seat to history but to have a voice in the

national political conversation. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  I never thought I`d still be saying this the night after the

election but this race is still too close to call.

 

It`s only five weeks, a few recounts and a few trips to the U.S. Supreme

Court but tonight this country will have a new president-elect. 

 

One week has passed since terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade

Center and damaged the Pentagon, and hope for finding survivors in the

rubble is fading fast.

 

The big story tonight, countdown to war.

 

Welcome to this special edition of HARDBALL.

 

It`s 2:30 in the morning Baghdad time right now and we`re in the fifth day

of this war. 

 

President Trump declares that the era of Saddam Hussein has come to an end. 

 

NBC News now projects that California Governor Gray Davis from office –

he`s out of office, and they chosen Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him. 

 

Americans reelect President Bush and give him a majority vote mandate for

the next four years.

 

A historic day in Congress as Democrats take the gavels of power in both

the House and the Senate for the time in 12 years.  California

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi elected the first woman speaker of the House

ever, making her second in line to the American presidency. 

 

In two hours, the president sells America on escalation on our partner Iraq

in civil war. 

 

Watching history, standing in the frigid cold of southern Illinois and

Lincoln Country, I saw Barack Obama declared for president. 

 

Tonight, huge political news, John McCain has pulled the most stirring come

back since the big screen come from behinds of Rocky Balboa.  With today`s

dropping out of Mitt Romney, the senator of Arizona looms as the

presidentially nominee of 2008. 

 

Hillary Clinton, over and out, the news broke out last night.  Hillary

Clinton is suspending her campaign and endorsing Senator Barack Obama this

Saturday. 

 

Our 44th president is going to be Barack Obama.  It has actually happened. 

We watch this develop like an old Polaroid film for two years now and there

it has. 

 

Tonight, we have an hour to get on top of this horrific tragedy in

Connecticut, to get our heads around, to understand why it happened, how

things like this happened.

 

With this tragic shooting up in Sandy Hook Elementary School, which will

always be known for this, unfortunately. 

 

A history of Americans is being written tonight.  The Supreme Court of this

country heard arguments, and when the two people of the same sex should be

allowed, the public recognition of their marriage.

 

It`s happened, after four campaigns of promising to enter a presidential

campaign, Donald Trump has made the leap at least into the first debate. 

 

The election is over, of course, and Donald Trump will be the next

president of the United States.  Proving nearly all the polls wrong, Trump

racked up victories in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and

Florida. 

 

Well, today was a day of history.  The country`s top investigator of an

American president shifted the verdict on the president`s guilt or

innocence to the U.S. Congress.  As I said earlier in the show the question

now is to impeach or not to impeach? 

 

Today, the United States speaker of the House made the decision to initiate

impeachment proceedings against the president. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us all these

years. 

 

“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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