Steven Levingston plays Hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 11/22/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Josh Marshall, Chuck Nice, Michelle Goldberg, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Javed Ali, Victoria Nourse, Charlie Sykes, Jonathan Lemire, Steven Levingston

JOSH MARSHALL, AMERICAN JOURNALIST:  I almost kind of wonder what are the

sort of the – it`s going to be the one think that kind of unifies

everybody on both sides.  So like, dude, what is your problem.




ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Well, I`ll say I`m closing.  Thanks to Josh

Marshall and Chuck Nice.  And I will say, at the end of this week of the

impeachment hearings, we can at least tell the Kardashians we tried.






NICE:  We tried.


MELBER:  We tried.


Thank you for watching THE BEAT.  Thanks to our guests.  HARDBALL starts



CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Coming up next, articles of impeachment. 

Let`s play HARDBALL.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.


Like the police tracing a sidewalk crime scene, the House Intel Committee

has drawn a human portrait of an impeachable offense.  They`ve given a bold

print countdown of the next steps against the president.


NBC News reports the House Judiciary Committee could take up articles of

impeachment right after Thanksgiving.  And the full House of

Representatives will vote on those articles before the Christmas break.


And today, President Trump appear to expect what is now looming as a

certainty, his trial in the U.S. Senate.  Trump spent this morning in his

usual media bubble bath cuddling with Fox and Friends.  For nearly an hour,

Trump was a human spigot for conspiracy theories and attacked an enemies

list that includes the usual suspects, the Democrats and the media, but has

now expanded to what he calls never-Trumpers in the Republican ranks and

any public servant who dares tell the truth about his shenanigans.


But now, heard directly from 12 witnesses who testified before the House

Intelligence Committee in seven hearings, all together, they drew a

disturbing portrait, as I said, of a president`s abuse of power.  They

established that by demanding investigations from Ukraine.  The president

was seeking to advance his personal political agenda.





COUNCIL:  Is it improper for the president of the United States to demand a

foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent?



ADVISER:  I thought that the references to specific individuals and

investigations, such as former Vice President Biden and his son, struck me

as political in nature given that the former vice president is a political

opponent of the president.



course, the president is pressing for a Biden investigation before he`ll do

these things, the Ukrainians want.



we were trying to do was block us from straying into domestic or personal





MATTHEWS:  In pursuing that agenda, the witnesses established that the

president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine with withholding

a promised White House meeting as well as military aid, vital military aid.





House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement.


VINDMAN:  In order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would

have to deliver these investigations.



that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House

meeting reflected President Trump`s desires and requirements.


HOLMES:  My clear impression was that the security assistance hold was

likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction

with the Ukrainians, who had not yet agreed to the Burisma-Biden

investigation, or an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.



assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign

made no sense.




MATTHEWS:  Finally, in describing this scheme at the heart of this inquiry,

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that everybody was in on it.




SONDLAND:  Everyone was in the loop.  It was no secret.  We kept the

leadership of the State Department and the NSC informed of our activities.


They knew what we were doing and why.


And Secretary Pompeo essentially gave me the green light.


I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians

that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of



Again, everyone was in the loop.




MATTHEWS:  Most striking is that after all this public testimony, the

president has mounted no actual defense, just the opposite.  In blocking

sworn testimony from all of his witnesses, he`s prevented them from denying

his involvement in the scheme.  And that speaks volumes about his own guilt

and awareness of it.


For more, I`m joined by Betsy Woodruff Swan, The Daily Beast Politics

Reporter, Javed Ali, former Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the

National Security Council, and Michelle Goldberg, New York Times Columnist.


Michelle, thank you for joining us tonight.  This is a sort of the

summation of two weeks of testimony.  Now, for your summation, did the

majority of members of the House Intel Committee get across the truth in

the last two weeks?



depends on who are the audience for the truth, right?  And there is no

doubt that Donald Trump did the thing he`s accused of.  There is no doubt

that Donald Trump did the thing he is accused of.  There is no doubt that

he basically extorted Ukraine for help smearing his political enemy and

undermining the CIA and FBI and Intelligence Community`s findings that

Russia intervened to help him win in 2016.


So it was obvious that he did that as soon as he released the transcript. 

These witnesses confirmed it.  They elaborated on it.  They explained the

implications of it.  None of them contradicted it, so it`s obvious that he

did it.  But it`s equally obvious, I think, that Republicans don`t care. 

And so it should be clear to any good faith viewer that the case was made,

but we unfortunately don`t have a good faith party who`s going to be

judging this evidence.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about a couple.  I want to unpack that a little

bit what you say.  It became clear to me early last week that when you pick

up the major metropolitan papers of this country that the committee

testimony was getting through to your headline writers, to your front page

analysis people, to your front main bar people.  The truth, as testified to

in these committee hearings the last two weeks has gotten through to the

major newspapers who have put it in on a (INAUDIBLE) basically on the front

pages.  That`s true.


My second question is what about that third of the country that doesn`t

watch Fox and Friends, that doesn`t – isn`t liberal, doesn`t read the big

newspapers, that middle of the country that watches other programming, some

of the more entertainment programs of the year they choose over the

political programs?  Did they get it?  The people who don`t read regular

news, did they get the message it or not?  My question to you, Michelle, as



GOLBERG:  I don`t think we know yet.  Because although there was – what

was it – almost 24 hours or maybe more than that of testimony, but I think

a lot of people was on all the major networks, and so probably a lot of

people who don`t watch cable news or exposed to at least some of it, we

don`t yet know how they were able to process all this testimony.  I don`t

think there has been polling that`s been able to capture, you know, just

the events of the last couple of days yet.


And part of the problem is that there used to be institutions, mediating

institutions whose job it was to try to explain the truth to people who

don`t have time to watch 24 hours of congressional testimony.  And, you

know, trust in those institutions has collapsed.  And meanwhile we have

places like Fox News that are devoted to spreading disinformation and



MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to go to Betsy on this without getting into media

criticism, which I do try to avoid here.  I`m just going to say, this

president chooses to get into that bubble bath every morning with Fox and

Friends, where he will not be challenged.  He chooses only media that will

not challenge him.



most important things that happened in this past week relates directly to

that issue.  And that is Fiona Hill said during her testimony that the

notion that the Ukrainian government rather than the Russian government was

responsible for meddling in the 2016 elections, first, is incorrect, and

second, is being pushed by Russian intelligence services as a new sort of

species of disinformation operating in the U.S.


This is so important because it gets right to the heart of the reason for

the president`s acute hostility toward Ukraine.  The reason he is so

hostile toward Kiev is the result, according to Fiona Hill, of literally a

Russian disinformation –


MATTHEWS:  Why does this president and some people I have known in my life,

I don`t hate them, I look down on them to some extent, are always driven to

conspiracy theories?  They never think anything is on a level.  They always

think they go to a party, and when they get there, everybody has been

talking about them before they get in the door.  They`re basically

paranoid.  That`s who believes in conspiracy theories.  Why is this

president paranoid?


SWAN:  Part of one reason that there is such an appetite, I think, for

conspiracy theories in this country is because there has been such repeated

failure of institutions.  Trump loves emphasizing the failures of the

Intelligence Community to the Iraq War.  That`s a valid complaint.  But, of

course, it doesn`t justify buying into these notions.


MATTHEWS:  There are certain brains that are queued to this stuff.  OK, I

have noticed.


By the way, the people that believe in a conspiracy theory, they believe in

all of them.  They believe in all of them.


SWAN:  That`s probably true.


MATTHEWS:  At the outset to drive to advance – and Trump is one of them,

Jesse Ventura, people like that.


Anyway, Trump`s political agenda in Ukraine was described as a separate

irregular channel of foreign diplomacy.  Here`s Ambassador Taylor.




TAYLOR:  There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and

implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.


The official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the

irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.




MATTHEWS:  And as we learned that irregular channel pushed out Ambassador

Yovanovitch who stood in its way.





there had been a concerted campaign against me, that the president no

longer wished me to serve as ambassador to Ukraine.


I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests

were able to undermine U.S. interests in this way.




MATTHEWS:  However, we came to see that the so-called irregular channel was

actually the Trump channel sanctioned by the president and his entire

administration.  Here`s Ambassador Sondland on that point.




SONDLAND:  I`m not sure how someone could characterize something as an

irregular channel when you`re talking to the president of the United

States, the secretary of state, the national security adviser, the chief of

staff for the White House, the secretary of energy.  I don`t know how

that`s irregular.




MATTHEWS:  Well said.


Anyway, Dr. Fiona Hill was on yesterday.  She said she now realizes that

Ambassador Sondland had been empowered to pursue Trump`s agenda by Trump.




HILL:  Ambassador Sondland is not wrong that he had been given a different



He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being

involved in national security foreign policy.




MATTHEWS:  Javed, one of the, I think, delightful, even delicious ironies

of this is people who came to this country from other countries, her for

the case of Great Britain and Vindman from Ukraine, and another one of the

witnesses from the Soviet Union, and they`re all the most patriotic, of

course, gut patriots, and yet this cabal is being carried out by people

like Trump.  But our last wall of defense of the people who just got here

in one generation, and to me, it`s inspiring.



actually was part of that community myself as professional intelligence

officer but from an immigrant community as well working at the White House. 

But when it comes to Fiona Hill`s testimony, I thought she did great.  I

know Fiona.  I worked with her in the Intel Community and at the White

House.  She was poised, prepared, patriotic, a professional.  Everything

that we would see every day showing up to work is what the American public

saw yesterday.


MATTHEWS:  And she`s one of those people that – not one of them – whose

economy of language, she doesn`t waste a word.


ALI:  She doesn`t.  She`s very crisp in both her writing and oral

presentation, but she`s also very tough and can be sort of on point when

she seeds to.  So I think her performance yesterday was really incredible.


MATTHEWS:  The president probably hasn`t zeroed in on you yet, but I

imagine you would be among his counter-Trumpers, Anti-Trumpers, foreign

policy deep state.  He has now included in his enemies list everybody who`s

ever sworn allegiance to the United States, it seems.


ALI:  Well, I worked in the Trump administration for a year and have a

letter from the president thanking me for my service.  So, hopefully, I

don`t show up on that list.  And I was glad for the year that I was there.


MATTHEWS:  He signed it?


ALI:  He did.


MATTHEWS:  So what do you think of this character assassination of people

like Fiona Hill and the rest of them, and Vindman?  I mean, even the Marsha

Blackburn, the senator from Tennessee, I have never anything but respect

for her.  I know she`s conservative pretty far over, but attacking Vindman

and just making fun of him today.


ALI:  Yes, it`s unfortunate.  Because everyone of us who are in government

or are still serving the government, you show up to work for the good of

the country.  You`re there for the mission, for service, for the greater

good.  The last thing you expect to do is to be attacked personally just

for showing up and doing your job.


MATTHEWS:  And justifying the president`s actions, we`ve seen Republicans

defend the discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia,

interfered in our 2016 elections.


And as Dr. Fiona Hill warned yesterday, it`s a false narrative, a fiction

that`s been pushed by Russia to cover their tracks.




HILL:  This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and

propagated by the Russian security services themselves.  So this falls into

a long pattern of deflection and the Russian government trying to pin the

blame on someone else.




MATTHEWS:  And this is probably the most important thing you`ll hear

tonight on HARDBALL.  New reporting from The New York Times tonight is

backing up Dr. Hill`s assertion.  According to three officials now, quote,

American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent

weeks that Russia had engaged in a years` long campaign to essentially

frame Ukraine, frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the

2016 election.


And starting in 2017, quote, Russian intelligence officials conveyed the

information to prominent Russians and Ukrainians who then used a range of

intermediaries to pass that material to American political figures and even

some journalists who were likely unaware of its origin.


What do you make of this, Betsy?  Have you heard about this effort to sort

of push out, push this poison of lies that it was the Ukrainians, not the

Russians, who did it?


SWAN:  It`s been very public.  Putin himself has talked about the notion

the Ukrainians meddled in the United States election.


MATTHEWS:  But getting into the bloodstream of American journalism?


SWAN:  It`s been pushed in a significant way by far-right media outlets.


One thing that`s really important about this New York Times story is that

it shows that every Republican senator who was in that briefing and was

paying attention knew as of a couple of weeks ago for sure that the notion

the president was pushing was not just incorrect but was the product of a

Russian info op (ph).


MATTHEWS:  Back to you, Michelle.  I mean, the days when we had people like

Chonkite, who was basically, if knew him, a liberal.  But he spoke

absolutely objectively in his news coverage.  He was an objective news

(ph).  He was the guy that put us to bed at night.  We were watching the

conventions all night and in `60 – back in `68.  I remember him, get some

sleep.  He was Uncle Walter.  Who is Uncle Walter today?  So we don`t have

somebody there as the gatekeeper.


GOLDBERG:  And we also have really a profound failure of loyalty by the

Republican Party, right?  Republican senators got that briefing, they knew

and yet none of them have publicly pushed back on this conspiracy theory.


What a couple of Republicans have done is tried to massage it.  They`ve

tried to suggest that when Donald Trump says that Ukraine intervened in the

2016 election, he was really talking about, you know, an ambassador writing

an op-ed in the Hill, criticizing Trump`s position on Crimea if that was –

as if that was election meddling.


And Trump has now made it clear that , no, he means CrowdStrike, he means

the conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the DNC and then framed Russia.


And so the other thing that I think is very important about The New York

Times story, if you read between the lines about the way that Russia used

various cutouts in Ukraine, businessmen and oligarchs, I think if you ready

between the lines, you can see that Rudy Giuliani is basically a dupe

witting or unwitting of Russian intelligence.  And just consider how

alarming it is that our foreign policy has essentially been run on that



MATTHEWS:  Well, America`s mayor is not looking too good right now.


Betsy Woodruff Swan, thank you so much.  And, Javed Ali, I thought that was

a great report you gave us about what it looks and feels like to be one of

these foreign policy experts, and immigrant family as well.


ALI:  Thank you.


MATTHEWS:  It`s so American.


Michelle Goldberg, I love your writing, thank you so much, from The New

York Times.


Coming up, a new phase begins in the impeachment investigation.  Adam

Schiff`s Intelligence Committee will hand it off to Jerry Nadler`s

Judiciary Committee.  This thing is getting to the history books.  This is

going into the Constitution.  What happens next and what would a Senate

trial look like, coming up apparently in January with Republicans control

of that chamber.


Plus, reports that Trump is now totally consumed by the impeachment –

well, finally, he`s getting rational.  You`re in trouble, Mr. President. 

And despite all the evidence against him, Trump continues to claim he did

nothing wrong, and his enemies list is growing and now includes an army of

distinguished civil servants and diplomats.




DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Look, the ambassador, the woman, she

wouldn`t even put up she`s an Obama person.  You know, I said, why are you

being so kind?  Well, sir, she`s a woman, we have to be nice.


But this ambassador that, you know, everybody says is so wonderful, she

wouldn`t hang my picture in the embassy.




MATTHEWS:  You know why the president calls in and never shows up on camera

because he`s in a bubble bath with these people.


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







those witnesses, they`re all shifty Schiffs. 


Don`t forget, there was no due process.  You can`t have lawyers.  We

couldn`t have witnesses.  We do want to call the whistle-blower.  But you

know who I want as the first witness, because, frankly, I want a trial?




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was President Trump earlier today signaling that he would become –

well, he would welcome a trial in the Senate if the House approves articles

of impeachment, which they will. 


And that seems to be where the process is definitely heading right now.  It

appears that the House Democrats have wrapped up the public phase of the

impeachment investigation this week, following 35 hours of testimony by 12

different witnesses. 


Well, House Intelligence Committee staffers, led by Chairman Adam Schiff,

will begin work on a report next week laying out the committee`s findings,

the case for impeachment, which will then be sent to the House Judiciary

Committee for writing the actual articles.


Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are also working on their own

report.  God knows what that`s going to be.  That`s going to go to the

House Judiciary Committee as well.  And then it will be up to the committee

on Judiciary to draft articles of impeachment.  There they are. 


I really think it`s important to focus on those men and women there,

because they`re going to be the ones who make history, most likely in early

December.  The full House will debate those articles and only vote on

whether to impeach the president probably before the Christmas break. 


For more, I`m joined by Victoria Nourse, director of the Center on

Congressional Studies at Georgetown Law School.  She was chief counsel to

Vice President Biden from 2015 to 2016.  And Michael Beschloss, the great

NBC News – well, he`s bigger than us – presidential historian Michael



Let`s just talk about the picture that the members of the Judiciary

Committee will – I said to look at the pictures of these people, because,

in the end, we`re going to watch on television as each of those men and

women votes aye to articles impeachment.



And they will make history.  The biggest vote of their lives will be to

impeach this guy. 



vote of their lives. 


But what people don`t understand is, this is not ordinary politics.  This

is, their name is going down in the history books, and they will be

remembered.  It is the most important vote.  And we`re going to see a very

somber, deliberate hearing, nothing like the kind of theater that you have

seen in part at some kinds of hearings on this.


MATTHEWS:  What do you think the Republicans will do when it comes to vote

nay, when they`re all going to vote nay, on articles?  Are they going to





NOURSE:  No way, no how. 




MATTHEWS:  Or – of course not, 1000 percent no.  What are they going to do

to dramatize their resistance? 


NOURSE:  I don`t know.  Maybe say no, 1,000 times no. 


MATTHEWS:  Back in `74, when Nixon was – he did get this far, as you know.




MATTHEWS:  He didn`t get voted to be impeached by the full House, but the

committee did it. 




MATTHEWS:  How many articles do you think they`re looking at this time? 


BESCHLOSS:  I would assume, if history gives us any guide, probably two or



MATTHEWS:  Two or three. 


First one being?  Would it be bribery or will it be abuse of power? 


BESCHLOSS:  Could be – well, one of those two, and then probably something

having to do with non-cooperation. 




Do you see it that way? 


NOURSE:  Yes. 


I think it`s going to be maybe three, four, perhaps.


MATTHEWS:  What`s the fourth?


NOURSE:  Well, they should not be focusing – they`re all going to be abuse

of power.


If you look at the Nixon ones, and you look at the Clinton, the way the

lawyers draft these, it`s…




BESCHLOSS:  And the Clinton people tried to model theirs on the Nixon.


NOURSE:  On Nixon. 


BESCHLOSS:  That`s right. 


NOURSE:  And they tried to avoid Andrew Johnson, which I know….










MATTHEWS:  Talk to me too.  The audience.  You`re talking to each other. 

Go ahead.




NOURSE:  All right, so…


MATTHEWS:  No, first of all, abuse of power.


BESCHLOSS:  Probably knows more about Andrew Johnson.




MATTHEWS:  And maybe bribery – and maybe bribery in addition.


NOURSE:  Bribery. 


MATTHEWS:  And then what`s it called?  Obstruction of Congress.


NOURSE:  Obstruction of Congress.  That was also in both Clinton and in



And, also, there`s something I want to emphasize, because it came out of

Fiona Hill`s testimony.  Everyone who has ever been a top lawyer in the

White House knows there`s a key statute, and it says, you cannot use

American taxpayer money for political purposes, and it`s a felony. 


And I think they`re going to include that as well, because that`s why all

those people…


MATTHEWS:  Give me an example.  How would they be doing it here?  Where

would they see it? 


NOURSE:  Well, because it`s a congressional appropriation, right, for



MATTHEWS:  Oh, using it negatively.




MATTHEWS:  Withholding it.


NOURSE:  Withholding it.  You cannot withhold it for the purpose of gaining

personal political gain.




MATTHEWS:  Even though Harry Truman ran in 1948 entirely using federal



NOURSE:  Yes, but you can no longer do this.  I mean, Clinton got into

trouble with Travelgate in part because of this.  It`s a very broad



And the lawyers go around telling everyone in the National Security

Council, you cannot use money for – taxpayer money to promote Republican

or Democrat policies.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  When you have to explain this to grandkids – hopefully, we

all get to do that.  They all become teenagers while we`re still around. 

We have to explain this to people. 


Nixon was easy.  There was a break-in.  He covered it up.  Right?




MATTHEWS:  What about this one? 


BESCHLOSS:  The president was responsible for our national security and

made decisions that were more in the interest of his own political



MATTHEWS:  He sacrificed our security and our alliances, right? 


NOURSE:  Yes.  And he`s threatening our elections.  That was 2016.  It`s

coming up again.  This is what Ukraine…




MATTHEWS:  Bringing foreign players into our election process. 


NOURSE:  Exactly. 


That is the biggest problem with this and why I think we`re seeing

impeachment today.




Explain why no Republican – whereas, back in Watergate days, a lot of

Republicans voted for impeachment in that committee.  It`s always amazing. 

I watched it again recently. 




MATTHEWS:  When those Republican hands go up and say aye, you`re taking

going on your party. 




MATTHEWS:  Larry Hogan.


BESCHLOSS:  Absolutely.


These were two parties that overlapped a lot.  There were Republican

liberals and moderates and conservatives, and the same thing on the



MATTHEWS:  What happens this time when there`s no hands go up on the other

side?  None.  Zero in that committee.  You know that committee.  Watch the

people like – Jordan won`t even be on it, thank God, but he`s been acting

like he`s a member. 


NOURSE:  No, we`re going to see a party-line vote.  There`s no question

about that. 


What I want to see is what happens in the Senate, because I think there may

be a few.


MATTHEWS:  Who you hoping for?


BESCHLOSS:  Well, Murkowski, Collins, Romney.


MATTHEWS:  You put it in the right order.  I think Murkowski has got more

guts.  I was going to say something more organic, but she has got more guts

than anybody I have seen in politics. 


She loses a primary.  She comes back and wins the general.  To hell with

the party.


NOURSE:  And they have to write in her name.  You know that?


MATTHEWS:  And Alaska is very much a pioneering tough camp – state. 


I think she might do it too.  I don`t know about Collins.  Collins is going

to fight for her reelection carefully, very carefully up there in Maine. 


Anyway, thank you, Victoria Nourse.  Michael Beschloss, my pal, thank you. 


Up next:  How is President Trump handling the threat of impeachment?

Apparently, not well.  His enemies list keeps growing, and his fevers keep

growing.  For more, the main chore is expanding that enemies list.  That

seems to be what he`s working on, the new people he hates.


You`re watching HARDBALL. 






TRUMP:  I think they want to impeach because it`s the only way they`re

going to win.  They have got nothing.  All they have is a phone call that

was perfect. 


They`re interviewing ambassadors who I`d never heard of.  I don`t know who

these people are.  I never heard of them. 


Don`t forget, many of these people were put there during Obama, during

Clinton, during the never-Trumper Bush era.  You had a never-Trumper Bush. 

You have heard of those people.  Those people might be worse than the

Democrats, the never-Trumpers. 




MATTHEWS:  The list grows, the enemies list.


Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was President Trump a month ago, sounding unconcerned really about the

House impeachment investigation. 


But with the president accusing some witnesses of being never-Trumpers or

human scum, his enemies list is expanding.  The president lashed out this

morning an interview with “FOX & Friends.”  Here he goes. 




TRUMP:  This was an overthrow attempt at the presidency.  They tried to

overthrow the presidency.  This is a disgrace.


Now, with this guy, who, by the way, I hardly know him, OK?


QUESTION:  Sondland?


TRUMP:  Yes, I have spoken to him a few times. 


How about the guy with the telephone?  How about that one?  That was a

total phony deal.  That was a phony – again, call it deep state.


QUESTION:  But, Mr. President – Mr. President…


TRUMP:  Call it bad people.  Call it anti-Trump people. 




TRUMP:  The bottom line, is all of those witnesses, they`re all shifty



Don`t forget, there was no due process.  You can`t have lawyers.  We

couldn`t have witnesses.  We do want to call the whistle-blower. 




MATTHEWS:  You think about Trump in his bubble bath with his little ducky. 

Those are his little duckies, those three people there.


Anyway, the president saved the brunt of his attacks this morning for

former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, accusing her of being not

an angel. 




TRUMP:  Look, the ambassador, the woman, she wouldn`t even put up – she`s

an Obama person.  I said, why are you being so kind?  Well, sir, she`s a

woman.  We have to be nice. 


This ambassador that everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn`t hang my

picture in the embassy, OK?  She`s in charge of the embassy.  She wouldn`t

hang it.  It took like a year-and-a-half or two years for her to get the

picture up. 


She said bad things about me.  She wouldn`t defend me.  And I have the

right to change an ambassador.  This was an Obama person, wouldn`t –

didn`t want to hang my picture in the embassy.  It`s standard, is you put

the president of the United States picture in an embassy. 


This was not an angel, this woman, OK?




MATTHEWS:  Boy, he`s a sensitive guy, isn`t he?  He knows his picture is

not hanging in Kiev. 


The former ambassador`s legal team told NBC News that embassy – the

embassy hung the photos as soon as they arrived from Washington. 


In fact, “The Washington Post” reported in September of 2017, eight months

after his inauguration, that federal buildings were still waiting for

photos because – quote – “The president and vice president have not yet

decided when they will sit for high-quality official photographs.”


But the president`s nasty comments about the witnesses these weeks, these

two weeks, apparently reflects his difficulty handling the threat of



We have got brand-new reporting coming up on that question, his condition. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


For weeks, President Trump has publicly insisted he`s not concerned about

the House drive toward impeachment, calling it a hoax.  But, according to

Politico, behind the scenes, it`s his singular focus.


Quote: “Trump has become monomaniacal – monomaniacally focused on

impeachment.  Policy meetings and listening sessions have taken the

backseat as his indignant tweeting and his live analysis of witness



The report adds: “The president is increasingly interested in how the

investigation is affecting his political standing and more paranoid than

ever about Republican deflections – defections,” rather.  That`s worse.


Today, one Republican made it clear she`s standing, however, by the

president and willing to do his dirty work, smearing witnesses.


Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn – I mentioned this earlier – tweeted

an attack on Colonel – Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, writing:

“Vindictive Vindman is the whistle-blower`s handler.”


For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the

Associated Press, and Charlie Sykes, editor at large of The Bulwark. 


Charlie, I want to start with you.


What is it in the water that`s causing pretty good conservative

Republicans, who I have no problem with over the years – and I have

covered Marsha Blackburn forever.  I have got no problem with her.  She`s a

public servant, right of center, a bit more than I – certainly further

right than I`d like. 


But I have never seen her dip – why is she making fun of a guy who served

the country all these years.  Vindictive Vindman?  What is she in this game



CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK:  Well, Trumpism corrupts, and

apparently corrupts absolutely. 


The fact that you have a United States senator who is adopting the sort of

puerile playground rhetoric of Donald Trump, and then attacking a decorated

veteran, which, again, is – there`s no point to it. 


It`s the spread of the hackery in this era that`s really so amazing. 




SYKES:  And the way in which Republicans – and I wonder whether, when they

listen to that phone call, they realize what they`re defending, that,

really, what`s happened is that they are now becoming co-conspirators to

what Donald Trump has been doing. 


And this is an ongoing scandal, the attempt to demean and to degrade the

whistle-blowers and the people, the public servants who are coming out and

speaking, the attempt to run cover for the Russians, who are continuing to

attack the electoral process. 


This is not a scandal that took place in the past.  This is happening in

real time.  And so when you have jurors in the Senate trial who decided

that they`re going to lower themselves to Donald Trump`s level, they have

to realize what role they`re actually playing in history and, frankly, in

this ongoing attack on America.


MATTHEWS:  Well, if you roll around with dogs, you get fleas.


Anyway, Republicans have relied on various, sometimes contradictory

arguments against the impeachment inquiry throughout this week`s hearings.


Here they go. 




REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY):  The fact is, the aid was given to Ukraine

without any announcement of new investigations. 




STEFANIK:  And President Trump did in fact meet with President Zelensky in

September at the United Nations, correct?


SONDLAND:  He did.


STEFANIK:  And there was no announcement of investigations before this



SONDLAND:  Correct. 


STEFANIK:  And there was no announcement of investigations after this



REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  They get the call.  They get the meeting.  They

get the money.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  The president of the United States, commander in

chief, was concerned about the 2016 elections and Burisma.


At the end of the day, isn`t it the commander in chief that makes those



REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  Reasonable people could look at all of this

and come to different conclusions. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, as Charlie Savage writes in “The New York Times”: “The

Democrats are trying to paint a coherent picture, while Republicans need

only muddy it.”


Jonathan, let me ask you about that. 


I thought that from the beginning.  And I used the comparison of a guy in

an NBA game trying to make a foul shot, and the people in the stands behind

him just waving those stupid things to try to distract him. 


I always thought, come on, let the game go on here. 


But Republicans are happy to wave those dumb things that the air, like the

Utah Jazz fans, the Toronto fans.  They all do it. 


Why is the Republican Party reduced to just trying to distract and confuse? 

Don`t they have a case to make?  I`m being rhetorical.  I don`t think they

got one.  Your thoughts. 


JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS:rMD-BO_  I`m always impressed when the

player can make the free throws, considering the distractions behind the

basket there, Chris. 


Yes, I mean, this is – this is – right.  This is similar to what they

Republicans did during the Mueller probe too, where they weren`t really

fighting on the facts.  They just wanted to confuse things. 


Rudy Giuliani certainly did that, the president, the president`s allies on

the Hill.  And we`re seeing that again this week. 


And – but the answer here is clear.  They`re pointing to – they`re

saying, well, look, he may not have gotten a White House meeting, but

Zelensky met with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations. 


We`re saying, well, he never did have a news conference to announce –

announce the investigation.  They`re saying, the aid was eventually

released, eventually released.  It was delayed. 


And why was it eventually released?  Because the White House got word of

the whistle-blower`s report.  That`s what set this in motion.  There was

some pressure from the Armed Services Committee on the Hill.  And, more

than anything, the whistle-blower came forward. 


So, to be simple, to be blunt, they got caught.  And, therefore, they

stopped.  They released – they released the aid and they moved forward. 

That is why the Republicans` argument this past week, frankly, is in bad



MATTHEWS:  Are they saying it didn`t happen or it`s no big deal, Jonathan? 


LEMIRE:  They`re now arguing that – well, it depends who you`re talking

to.  Some Republicans are still insisting that nothing happened at all. 


Others are saying like, well, it`s the president`s right to hold up aid,

but it moved forward.  So we have heard from some – certainly from those

in the Senate, who have suggested, well, this – maybe there was sort of a

quid pro quo, maybe it`s not the ideal way of doing things, but it`s not



And that is where the Republicans, more than any, have landed.  As much as

Trump wants them to defend tooth and nail his actions, and not just fight

on process, other Republicans are taking a slightly bigger view, taking a

step back, suggesting that maybe this wasn`t the most proper course of

action, but it shouldn`t be one that costs the president his job. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, yesterday, President – well, Republican senator Lindsey

Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents

on former Vice President Joe Biden`s communications with Ukrainian



As “The Washington Post” puts it: “Graham`s document request suggests he`s

seeking to legitimize Trump`s accusations that Biden, then vice president,

put pressure on Ukraine to fire its lead prosecutor to protect Biden`s son,

a claim without evidence.”


What do we make of that, Charlie?  I think old Lindsey is doing the dirty

work here. 




SYKES:  Well, that`s really extraordinary, when you think about it.


And, again, this is part of the ongoing – the ongoing scheme that – to

smear the Bidens, that Lindsey Graham is going to do what Donald Trump

wanted the Ukrainians to do, but failed to accomplish. 


And the fact that, in the past, Lindsey Graham has spoken so highly of Joe

Biden and of his family and of his honor and of his honesty – the cynicism

of Lindsey Graham is really, really striking here. 


And, again, I do think that there`s a distinction to be made between

Republicans who are saying – or at least prove your case beyond a

reasonable doubt or, yes, this happened, it was improper, but it`s not

impeachable, and guys like Devin Nunes and Lindsey Graham, who are fully

prepared to push for these conspiracy theories, no matter how bizarre, no

matter how discredited and debunked they are, to really do Donald Trump`s

dirty work. 


That means that they have gone beyond defense to really to be co-



MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Jonathan, do they have to accomplish here?


Because he tried to get the Ukraine president that he was at least

announcing he was investigating Biden, and that would be enough, because

then he could say Biden`s being investigated over in Ukraine. 


This time, he`s got to further, doesn`t he?  The United States Senate is

investigating Biden`s dealings and his son`s dealings and their overlap

over there in Ukraine.  But is that enough?  Or is he going for dirt here,

all the way, not just an announcement? 


LEMIRE:  Well, they`re trying – he`s trying to reverse-engineer that he

was right.  


They`re trying to go back can suggest like, look, my call for – this makes

my call to the Ukrainian president that much more perfect, to use his word,

because, look, there was dirt. 




LEMIRE:  There was the corrupt dealings by the Bidens.


And, again, let`s be clear.  No one was ever charged with any wrongdoing

over there. 


But by Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, carrying the president`s water, it

validates the sort of thesis behind this whole scandal, behind this whole

impeachment inquiry, is that this is – they`re trying to argue that there

was some – there was a there there, and that, therefore, it`s worth

investigating, even though, of course, the Ukrainians never did follow

through, because, eventually, again, the president and the White House,

they got caught in their move. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think we have to say that again. 


Joe Biden – whatever you think about Hunter taking that contract – and

that is a question – Joe Biden`s done nothing wrong here.  No evidence of



Thank you so much, Jonathan Lemire and Charlie Sykes. 


Up next:  As we continue to wonder why Obama hasn`t endorsed Joe Biden yet,

a new book explores the close, but occasionally rocky relationship between

those two political figures.


The author of “Barack and Joe” joins me next on HARDBALL. 







some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who`s not only been by my

side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted

his entire professional life to service to this country, the best vice

president America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.




OBAMA:  This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our







MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was then, of course, President Obama joking about his bromance – that

was his word – with his vice president, Joe Biden, as he awarded him the

Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Can`t do much more for a guy than that. 


And that was just one of many moments like that during the Obama

presidency, such as this unforgettable off-the-cuff remark before Obama

signed the Affordable Care Act into law. 




JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the

president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. 




BIDEN:  This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.




OBAMA:  Thank you. 






MATTHEWS:  With the mic on, he made his comment.


In his book “Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership,

Steven Levingston writes that: “As a president and vice president who

worked harmoniously together, had mutual respect and even loved each other,

Barack and Joe were unlike anything America had ever seen.  There was a

unique and renegade quality to their friendship that delivered it into the

realm of beauty and for eight years filled the American mind with wonder,

hope and optimism.”


Steven Levingston, author of “Barack and Me,” joins me now. 


Not much romance in this business, even less bromance, Steve. 


Tell us about what brought you to write this book and what you thought

stood out in this partnership. 



interested in the relationships between people who – of power.  And these

two had power.


And I was just amazed by how they both overcame their great differences and

found much to admire in each other.  They found they were able to respect

and show much compassion for each other.  They brought in a way – they did

what we`re not doing now.  And that was, they showed moral leadership from

the White House.


And they showed it through their relationship, where they were able to get

over their differences and they were able to project respect, compassion

and dignity for each other.


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the debates, which we have been covering here

and hosting at MSNBC, of course, a couple times.


You write about Biden`s struggle with stuttering – I didn`t really know

about this – growing up, noting: “Biden relied on sheer force of will to

blast through his obstacles.  He didn`t shrink in the face of his

stuttering.  Eventually, he overcame the stutter.”


One thing we keep asking about in the debates is, why doesn`t he jump in? 

You know what I mean? 


Anyway, well, in that New York piece – it was a piece of “The Atlantic,”

John Hendrickson posits that Biden may actually still stutter, which could

explain some of his more recent gaffes. 


He writes that: “Biden`s verbal stumbles have voters worried about his

mental fitness.  Maybe they`d be more understanding that they know he`s

still fighting a stutter.”


Hendrickson, who also stutters himself, points out that Biden appears to

intentionally not stutter by switching to an alternative word, which can

yield mangled syntax.  Sometimes, what is quickly characterized as a memory

lapse is indeed a stutter.”


I`m guilty of – I critique.  I don`t say it out loud, but I think about

it.  He is trying to find the right word.




MATTHEWS:  And he can`t get to that word or take a chance on that word. 




Well, most people across the nation don`t know that he started as a child. 

And it was a terrible debility that he had to overcome.  He overcame it. 

He did it by sheer will. 


And he used that, in a sense, to put the fight into himself.  When he was

in high school, he became a star football player because he wanted people

to look at him for his ability, rather than his disability. 


And he continued to fight that stuttering all the way to today, where he

does – I think a lot of the gaffes that are attributed to him are related

to his stuttering.  His momma used to say to him – and he likes to say

this – that his head, his mind worked a lot faster than his tongue. 


And that caused disconnect between his head and his mouth.  And a lot of

the times, when he misspeaks, or when people jump on him for his

stuttering, it`s really not very fair, because they`re jumping on him for

something that God created in him. 


It`s an innate characteristic.


MATTHEWS:  I`m with you on that.


And I think people that overcome those problems, those challenges are the

best people. 


Why hasn`t Obama endorsed him? 


LEVINGSTON:  Well, that`s a very tough question.  It`s a tough question for

Joe, but I think, as you know, Obama is the most popular Democrat, and he

has basically one big shot for an endorsement. 


And he can`t endorse anybody really until after he has a nominee.  I mean,

he`s starting to suggest that maybe Deval Patrick is his nominee.  We begin

to see he starts…


MATTHEWS:  He clearly wants to push a moderate.


LEVINGSTON:  Right.  He wants to push a moderate.  And it`s not clear if he

really wants to push his old friend Joe. 


But we will just have to wait and see. 


MATTHEWS:  We will see.


Steve Levingston, really a brilliant idea to write – you`re a book editor

at “The Washington Post.”




MATTHEWS:  So, you will give it a good review. 




LEVINGSTON:  I have nothing to do with that.




MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.


Up next:  This is John Bolton`s moment to make some history. 


OK, John, it`s your chance.  You`re at bat.  Let`s see if you have got it. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  John Bolton has a rendezvous with destiny. 


Should Donald Trump`s recent national security adviser step forward in the

next few weeks and tell the country what he`s called the drug deal between

Trump and the president of Ukraine, if he talks about that, history will

rain down justice. 


If Bolton remains quiet, however, between now and Christmas, he may as

well, for all historic purposes, hold his peace, because now – and, by

that, I mean the days between today and the days before Christmas – the

U.S. Congress will be writing and in all likelihood approving articles of



If John Bolton testifies to what he witnessed, his words will matter, his

time in the country`s service will matter, his role in history, his very

witness itself to that history will matter. 


But if he stays silent in these critical days of Advent, he will have

missed his chance to matter. 


I say all this not as one of Mr. Bolton`s allies.  I stand on the other

side of the positions he has taken in recent years regarding his

championing of the U.S. war with Iraq, his call for a bombing of Iran, and

other assorted calls for U.S. military action. 


But I think we both care about our country.  I do.  And though wildly

different in the beliefs we hold on how to advance the cause, I believe

there`s no doubt that John Bolton cares about this country as well. 


So now, sir, Mr. Bolton, is the time to show it.  You have made it clear

you have a story to tell.  You have been out there tweeting.  Now`s the

time to share the truth.  Call the hour, invite the cameras, and speak

clearly on what you witnessed from a president willing to trade America`s

interests and that of an endangered ally for cheap political advantage. 


It would be very good for the country and our Constitution and for all,

including you, who have honestly sworn to protect and uphold it. 


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


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.








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