Michael Bloomberg launches Presidential bid. TRANSCRIPT: 11/25/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Jill Colvin, Michael Steele, John Sipher, Ray Mabus, Eleanor Randolph

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  The way they wanted to reach out people, it turned

out to blow up in their face.  It was a failure.


And the investigation, well, that now is reaching millions of people.  What

they think about it, what they do about it, well, that`s up, as always, to

the American public.


Thanks for joining us on quite a busy news night.  I`ll be back 6:00 p.m.

Eastern tomorrow.  HARDBALL starts now.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  The damn is breaking.  Let`s play HARDBALL.


Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.


There`s breaking news tonight that could have huge implications for the

Trump White House and the Ukrainian investigation.  A federal judge has

ruled in the last hour that executive branch officials are not absolutely

immune from compulsory congressional process even if the president

expressly directs such official`s non-compliance.


Well, this ruling which dealt with former White House Counsel Don McGahn

could mean other administration officials could be forced to honor subpoena

and testify in front of Congress.  This is a big deal.  The Justice

Department has said it would appeal, of course.


And even bigger news today, the impeachment train is moving on schedule. 

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff reported that his committee

has completed its work and has found evidence pointing towards presidential

abuse of power and obstruction of justice.


In a letter to colleagues, Schiff wrote, the committees are now preparing a

report summarizing the evidence we have found this far, which will be

transmitted to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the

Thanksgiving recess.  That`s next week.


Meanwhile, the president`s personal lawyer who spearheaded Trump`s agenda

in Ukraine is speaking out about his role in the unfolding scandal.  In an

interview Saturday, Rudy Giuliani denied the possibility that he would be

made the fall guy for this president.  And in doing so, he made what

appeared to be a threat.


Giuliani said, he`s got insurance, that`s his word, that will protect him

if Trump decides to throw him under the bus.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you talked to President Trump in the last week or

two?  Have you met with him?  Are you still his counsel?



conversations with my client.  You can assume that I talked to him early

and often.




GIULIANI:  And I have a very, very good relationship with him and all of

these comments which are totally insulting.




GIULIANI:  I mean, I`ve seen things written like he`s going to throw me

under the bus.




GIULIANI:  When they say that, I say, he isn`t, but I have insurance.




MATTHEWS:  But I have insurance.


Hours later, however, Giuliani tried to deny the implication, the clear

implication of what he just said.  In a tweet, he said, he was being

sarcastic, adding that his insurance policy really refers to, catch this

one, files in my safe about the Biden family.  I don`t think so.  Giuliani

has a good reason to fear that he could be made a scapegoat in the

unfolding scandal.


Over the past two weeks, witnesses in the impeachment hearings have

described Giuliani`s meddling in Ukraine as explosive, alarming and



ABC News is also now reporting that Giuliani`s indicted business associate,

Lev Parnas, has provided the House Intelligence Committee with, quote,

audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump.


Yet it appears the president still has Giuliani`s back at least for now. 

Here`s Trump today.




REPORTER:  What do you make of Rudy Giuliani saying he has insurance?


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Oh, I don`t know.  Rudy is a great guy. 

Rudy is the best mayor in the history of New York, in my opinion, the

strongest mayor, the best mayor.  Rudy is a great crime fighter, corruption

fighter, probably the best in 50 years.


I think that maybe the press isn`t treating Rudy very well, and I think

that`s unfair.




MATTHEWS:  I`m joined by Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the

Associated Press, Robert Costa, of course, National Political Reporter for

The Washington Post, and Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney.


I`ve got to go to you, Joyce.  This question, this judge ruling that McGahn

has to testify, could this reverberate through this very high Ukraine

question, this impeachment question for the president?


JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It could.  It`s a really stunning

opinion on this level.  It rejects the theory that this administration has

put out there that its witnesses are absolutely immune from testimony.


The judge still leaves open the possibility that witnesses might show up,

which she has said that they have to do, and still have some privilege to

exert.  But, Chris, you can imagine how powerful it would be to have

witnesses testifying in Congress, sitting down at the table and over and

over again as they`re asked questions, refusing to testify on the basis of

executive privilege or because of their Fifth Amendment rights.  This is

what Republicans have been trying to avoid all along.  And the judge has

put it back on the table.


There is still an appellate process in the works.  It could be expedited. 

But this notion that we`ll soon have these witnesses faced with the choice

of responding or over and overtaking a privilege to avoid answering, I

think, could be some compelling – very compelling testimony.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s get to it.  We`re getting towards Thanksgiving this

week.  We`re looking towards the holidays, the Christmas holidays coming up

in just a few weeks.  And we have an impeachment process moving which is

moving to the House Judiciary Committee next week.  They`re about to mark

up, I think, in the next couple of weeks articles of impeachment.


So put all of this simultaneous equation together.  Could we have further

rulings by judges at the high level that would require or whatever the word

is, permit, for example, John Bolton to show up and testify what he was

doing with Ukraine in time to make a difference in these proceedings for

impeachment and possible – well, certainly going to be a trial in the

Senate at this point?


VANCE:  I think that that`s entirely possible.  If the court uses the

expedited appeal process, it could rule relatively quickly.  This ruling is

rock solid as a legal basis.  It seems very unlikely that the Supreme Court

would have any rational reason for hearing this sort of case on appeal. 

So, yes, if the sun and the moon line up, it`s possible that we could have

witnesses being compelled, more likely this is a little bit lengthier of a

process that lingers into the New Year though.


MATTHEWS:  Let me talk about the White House, the big story tonight with

Robert here.  Robert, Giuliani and the president, are they lock solid?



They remain very close friends, though the president is relying more in Pat

Cipollone, his White House Counsel, for legal guidance, than Rudy Giuliani.


MATTHEWS:  What about all the other entanglements that Giuliani is involved

with?  I think he`s living off the land over there in the east.  If he goes

to Ukraine, he hooks up with these people, they pay him a lot of money. 

Does that pay for his transport around these hotels and everywhere he`s

going?  Who is paying for all of Giuliani`s dig for dirt?


COSTA:  It`s a huge target for every reporter in town to figure out what

exactly Giuliani has been doing in terms of his foreign entanglements.  But

when we ask people at the White House is he prepared to let Mr. Giuliani

sail away, to cut ties, people say close to the president that he`s going

to stick with Giuliani because he`s his confidant and he is also willing to

go on television constantly to defend this president amid impeachment.


MATTHEWS:  Whose idea was it to hang all of the money and hold up the money

to get the dirt on Biden?


COSTA:  Well, The Washington Post has dug into this and found out that Mick

Mulvaney and acting OMB Chief Russ Vought have been involved in these email

exchanges about whether they can hold up the aid, whether they –


MATTHEWS:  But whose idea was it to do it to get the dirt?


COSTA:  Well, it`s been clear on testimony that it`s President Trump`s



MATTHEWS:  But who?  Was it Giuliani who came up with the idea?  Who came

up with the idea to squeeze, let`s shake them down?


COSTA:  Well, there has been an ongoing effort for months from Giuliani in

particular to pressure Ukraine.  The president was listening, and then he

had Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, following through.


MATTHEWS:  I keep falling back to Watergate and Haldeman, how he got Nixon

in all that trouble.  Nixon – Haldeman got Nixon.  His whole idea of

saying the CIA has got the case.  Stay off and FBI.  That was all on

Haldeman.  He took it.  Then Nixon did it.


Is Giuliani the perpetrator here or the agent?



are a lot of people in the White House who said repeatedly, we need to get

Giuliani out of the president`s ear on this.  He`s feeding him all of these

conspiracy theories that are –


MATTHEWS:  Well, the Ukraine theory.


COLVIN:  – based on anything, the Ukraine theory being one of many

conspiracy theories that Giuliani talks to the president about and then the

president gets these ideas and chooses to act on them.  But I don`t think

we know at this point the full story of exactly how it came to be.


MATTHEWS:  Well, in a bombshell report, Reuters now reveals how federal

investigators are also scrutinizing Mr. Giuliani himself.  According to a

grand jury subpoena, quote, federal prosecutors in New York are seeking

records of payments that Rudy Giuliani is part of an active criminal

investigation.  And while the subpoena does not indicate Giuliani is

suspected of wrongdoing, the subpoena shows that, quote, the crimes being

investigated include money laundering, wire fraud, campaign finance

violations, making false statements, obstruction of justice and violations

of the Foreign Agency Registration Act, that`s FARA.


Joyce, here we are again.  And I just – how much grime is this guy picking

up along the way in his partial service of the president?  Because I think

Giuliani has got his own fish to fry over there in terms of making money?


VANCE:  Giuliani really looks like the new Michael Cohen.  And I think the

question that you asked Jill is actually one of the central issues here. 

Was Giuliani acting throughout all of this time at the president`s

direction or was he sort of Michael Cohen-style close to the president and

selling access and selling influence and is that where a lot of these

potential charges, which we don`t know for certain that they reached



But when you`re looking at wire fraud and money laundering and sending out

subpoenas to all of these associated companies and individuals, it begins

to look like Giuliani is more of a target than a suspect.


So this really doesn`t bode well for Giuliani.  Ultimate question, if he is

caught, if he is indicted, will he flip on the president?


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of his claim that he has insurance against



VANCE:  It was such an odd claim.  Of course, it`s illegal for an attorney

to engage in that sort of a practice, vis-a-vis a client.  And this really

strange shift where initially he`s very clearly talking about the president

and somehow on Twitter, it becomes that he`s got four decades worth of

information on Biden really doesn`t make any sense.  It looks more like

he`s grasping at straws than anything else.


MATTHEWS:  Robert, you said that they`re still close.  You don`t threaten

somebody you`re close to in public, and he just did.  Giuliani did.


COSTA:  They`re not close in a sense that they`re watching a ball game

together, though they both like sports.  These are two people who live

entirely public lives and are politically aligned.  And they think their

interests still are aligned.  And so this is not a friendship that`s deep. 

It`s a political, transactional relationship for two people who believe

they`re in constant fight with their enemies.


MATTHEWS:  I want to get back to you, Joyce, because there is so much

popping tonight.  We`ve got Adam Schiff who is doing superlative job of

driving this train.  It`s just moving.  It`s already going to be out of his

committee by the end of the week.  He`s pointing now he`s got – he thinks

he`s got abuse of power.


In his letter, in fact, today, Schiff cites significant evidence, keep

moving, significant evidence showing the extent of the president`s abuse of

power.  He addresses Trump`s stonewalling of Congress, saying, such

obstruction was the base of the third article of impeachment against

President Nixon.


And then he adds, we will be forced to infer from this obstruction that the

testimony of these witnesses would tend to incriminate the president

further since he would have encouraged rather than block the testimony of

senior officials if he believed it would somehow be helpful to him.


Well, clearly, is that legal for a prosecutor to say, because I always

think you couldn`t say Fifth Amendment communist back in the `50s when Joe

McCarthy was saying that kind of stuff, if you take the Fifth in those

days, he just called you a Fifth Amendment Communist.


Today, can you call someone who basically takes the Fifth, he stonewalls,

basically a part of an impeachment crime?


VANCE:  So the setting is a little bit different because this is not a

criminal case.  It`s impeachment proceedings.  And the Fifth Amendment

applies only to the defendant in a criminal case.


So here, the inference that Schiff is drawing is that these witnesses,

these are the firsthand witnesses that we heard the president complaining

for so long that the Democrats weren`t bringing to testify.  And lo and

behold, it turns out that the reason we didn`t hear from the firsthand

witnesses is because the president wouldn`t let them testify.


So now, Schiff has the president in a little bit of a box.  Either those

witnesses come in and testify, and presumably their testimony is not

helpful to the president or we would have already heard from them, or

Schiff can draw the inference saying that the reason that they`re not

testifying is because they have nothing good to say about the president.


You know, this is one area where Congress has actually managed to outrun

Trump.  The Intelligence Committee is actually running more quickly than

Trump can spin new conspiracy theories.


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the politics.  Jill first then Robert, we have

to finish up with this.


The Democrats have been more effective and more efficient than anybody

thought.  In two weeks, they`ve put together a very well constructed

argument that the president was part – actually was leading an effort to

basically abuse his power, to get some political dirt by using the threat

or shakedown of foreign aid.  And the fact that he since also, as part of

this, has been obstructing justice by refusing anybody to participate in

these hearings.  It`s going to be in the Judiciary Committee`s hand next

week, probably Tuesday.


And in a matter of a couple of weeks, we expect they will write up

articles, I think maybe one to two, maybe three, they`ll go to the House,

pass.  This will go to a trial of the United States Senate with John

Roberts, the chief justice, perhaps requiring more witnesses like John

Bolton to come in there, and they`re not going to be helpful to the

president.  Is the president handling this well the fact that this thing is

moving and moving and moving?


COLVIN:  Well, clearly, they have been very slow to respond to this.  It

was only last week where the president sat down, or the president`s top

aide sat down with a group of Republicans to try to hash out what their

strategy might want to be for the Senate hearings, deciding whether they

want this to potentially drag out into the beginning of the primaries,

keeping those Senate candidates away from the campaign trail, maybe instead

we want a two-week hearing, make it go quickly.


Clearly, the Democrats learned from the Mueller hearings, where it was just

month after month of drip, drip, drip.  It wound up confusing the public. 

Here, they spent two weeks delivering their argument.  It`s going to go

quickly and it`s going to be in the Senate hands to respond.


MATTHEWS:  What does the White House want?  They want a short trial or a

long trial?


COLVIN:  So at this point in my reporting, I don`t know what you have been

hearing, is that they haven`t decided yet.  It will be the president`s

decision, and he hasn`t made that call yet.


MATTHEWS:  I just wonder whether the president prepared for an effective

Democratic opposition like he`s now facing, first time, really effective.


COSTA:  And he knows that some of these witnesses may be called.  But the

answers and the action, Jill and I are going down to Florida tomorrow to

cover – President Trump is going to Sunrise, Florida near Miami for

political rally, an arena real, grievance politics, going to Florida, a

state that has growing elderly population, older voters, white voters.  It

was a struggle for Democrats to win the gubernatorial and Senate race. 

Republicans picked both of them up at 2018.


So what`s he doing?  He`s going to his base and he`s saying to the

Republicans, look at these crowds, look at how they`re responding to me,

stay with me in the Senate trial.


MATTHEWS:  And he`s also going to a no-tax state, where people go if we

don`t want to pay taxes.  And you can bet their attitude about people like

Elizabeth Warren is not good.  They`re going to go to get away from taxes,



COLVIN:  Just like Trump.


MATTHEWS:  Just like Trump.  He`s just moved his address down there.


He looks like – well, he doesn`t look like these people.  But he does ape

(ph) them in certain ways.


Thank you, Jill Colvin.  Thank you, Robert Costa.  Thank you. Joyce Vance. 

Thank you very much, Joyce, for the whole effort of letting us understand

the implication of the new court ruling that could bring all these

witnesses to the stand.


Coming up, with friends like Lindsey Graham, who needs enemies?  What

happened to friendship?  Graham and Joe Biden used to be closest of 





SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  He`s a decent really man.


But we`re not going to live in a world where just Donald Trump and his

family gets looked at, we`re going to look in a world where everybody gets

looked at if there is a question reasonably to be asked.




MATTHEWS:  Well, they used to be buds, used to be.  But now, in the era of

Trump, Graham is calling for his friend, Joe Biden, to be investigated by

the U.S. Senate.


Plus, Trump`s strong man tactics, defending military criminals, and firing

the Navy secretary who knows more about honor, order and discipline than

Trump ever will.  This guy is going to act more like a strong man than a



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






GRAHAM:  If you can`t admire Joe Biden as a person, then probably you got a

problem. You need to do some self-evaluation, because what`s not to like? 

He`s the nicest person I think I have ever met in politics. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that right? 


GRAHAM:  He is as good a man as God ever created. 




MATTHEWS: “As good a man as God ever created” – well, that`s a nice

encomium from Lindsey Graham. 


And that was Lindsey Graham with his friendship with then Vice President

Joe Biden, and not a million years ago, in 2015.  And that was then. 


And now he is standing by President Trump, instead of his old friend,

calling for the Senate, the U.S. Senate, to investigate the former V.P. and

his son Hunter`s work with a Ukrainian energy company. 


Well, last week, Graham requested documents from the State Department

regarding Joe Biden`s communications with Ukrainian officials.  “The

Washington Post” reported the request “suggests he is seeking to legitimize

Trump`s accusations that Biden, then vice president, put pressure on

Ukraine to fire its lead prosecutor to protect his son Hunter, a claim

without evidence” – close quote. 


Well, three weeks ago, Graham, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said

he wouldn`t turn the Senate into a circus by investigating the Bidens. 


In an interview on Friday, Biden said he was embarrassed for Graham over

his new change of heart. 




JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am disappointed and, quite

frankly, I`m angered by the fact.  He knows me.  He knows my son.  He knows

there`s nothing to this. 


Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians

wouldn`t yield to.  Ukrainians would not yield to – quote – “investigate

Biden.”  There`s nothing to investigate about Biden or his son. 


And Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he`s going to regret

his whole life. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, today, Senator Graham waved off 18 contradiction between

his prior comments about Biden and his now push to investigate him. 




GRAHAM:  My conscience is clear.  I love Joe Biden as a person.  He is a

really decent man.  He`s had a lot of tragedy in his life.


But I have a conscience very clear right now, and I have a duty.  If the

House is going to shut it down, the Senate is going to pick it up.  I

didn`t start this. 




MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, and

John Sipher, former CIA senior officer. 


Michael, here`s the story.  Friendship doesn`t mean nothing now.



friendship has been supplanted by a relationship with Donald Trump, because

I hope the senator knows he doesn`t have a friendship with Donald Trump. 

He has a relationship. 


It`s a transactional engagement, in which Trump gets the master benefit. 

And, you know, he gets to say, I can play golf.  At the end of the day,

that`s what it is.


What was the relationship with Joe Biden that had you sitting in the back

of the car saying he`s the finest man you have ever known? 




I have been following politics a long time.  And my – one of the things I

have discovered is, arguments rarely change people`s mind.  So, what you do

is, you change the topic.  And if you get a good topic, you can`t lose. 



If you are a Republican, you talk about taxes all the time.  You talk about

the taxes all the time.  If you are a Democrat, you talk about health care. 

You`re going to win, eventually, because Democrats trust people on health

care and they trust Republicans on taxes generally. 


So they are going to talk about Hunter Biden.  And the very fact of talking

about Hunter Biden helps Trump. 


JOHN SIPHER, FORMER SENIOR CIA OFFICER:  It helps Trump and it also helps

the Russians. 


What`s unfortunate about this Ukraine narrative is, it`s the Kremlin`s

narrative.  And we saw in “The New York Times” recently that the senators

were briefed specifically by the intelligence agencies that this narrative

is a Kremlin disinformation narrative that Putin and his intelligence

services have been pushing. 


So the fact that they`re continuing to go down this road… 


MATTHEWS:  What is their argument?  What is their push, the story?


SIPHER:  Whose story?


MATTHEWS:  What do they want us to believe, the Russians? 


SIPHER:  They want us to believe that the Ukrainians were involved in our

election, that they were meddling in the United States` election in 2016. 


MATTHEWS:  But what about the Joe Biden – Joe Biden, Hunter Biden



SIPHER:  Well, I don`t know that the Hunter Biden piece was a Russian

narrative, or Russian disinformation narrative. 


But, nonetheless, they know that it`s creating friction in the United

States.  And as these wounds open up, it`s a place that the Russians can go

again and again and again. 


And what is sad about this is, these senators and congressmen know better. 


MATTHEWS:  Anything that makes us divided makes the Russians happy. 


Senator Graham is far from the only Republican, however, carrying water for

the president.  On Sunday – these guys are unbelievable.  I respect a lot

of these guys.


Louisiana John Neely Kennedy pushed the debunked conspiracy theory you were

talking about that Ukraine meddled in the 20 – a Russian push, a Russian

kompromat, despite President Trump`s former top adviser on Russia Fiona

Hill`s warning that it`s a fictional narrative pushed by the Russians. 


There she is. 




CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Senator Kennedy, who do you

believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers,

their e-mails?  Was it Russia or Ukraine? 


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA):  I don`t know, nor do you, nor do any of us.


Ms. Hill is entitled to her opinion.


WALLACE:  Well, met just interrupt to say, the entire intelligence

community says it was Russia. 


KENNEDY:  Right.  But it could also be Ukraine. 


I`m not saying that I know one way or the other.  I`m saying that Ms. Hill

is entitled to her opinion, but no rebuttal evidence was allowed to be





MATTHEWS:  There is new technique by the – your former party – your

current party, in a sort of estranged way…


STEELE:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  … that if you muddle it up, if you confuse it enough, you

conflate it enough, people are somewhat confused about it. 


And so let`s talk about Hunter Biden.  So they will talk about, let`s –

Hunter Biden.  And at the end of Benghazi-style hearings – we had weeks of

Benghazi-style hearings with Trey Gowdy.  We never heard of Trey Gowdy

again.  He was out the door.


STEELE:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  Because they didn`t find anything. 


But did they accomplish anything on Benghazi?  I still don`t know what

Hillary Rodham Clinton was actually accused of on Benghazi.


STEELE:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  What did she do wrong?


STEELE:  After, what is it, 11 hours of testimony, at the end of the day…


MATTHEWS:  What did she do?  Did she finger these guys?  Did she go to

dinner?  Did she forget about them?  You know?


STEELE:  But that`s really the crux of it. 


When the senator says that he doesn`t know what this is about, that he

doesn`t know whether or not this is true that the Ukrainians had something

to do – he knows that`s not the case.  They have been briefed.


To your point, they have been briefed on this.  So he`s sitting there

telling a bold-faced lie.  Let`s just call it what it is.  You do know. 

You do know the Ukrainians did not do this.


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Two or three days of hearings with Lindsey Graham holding

hearings on the Bidens, it probably will get nothing more than we know,

that the son probably shouldn`t have taken the job. 


STEELE:  It`s not going to be anything.


MATTHEWS:  The father never did anything to help him.  The kid never asked

the father for any help.  And then we go to nothing world. 


And what – do they win?  I guess they win because we talked about it for a



SIPHER:  And I hate to continue to bring it back to the Russians here, but

this is a part of the game.


They`re throwing so much information, so much junk into the system, that

nobody seems to be understand what`s true, what is not true.


What they want us to do is throw our hands up and say, well, both sides are

lying, therefore, there is no truth. 




SIPHER:  When, in fact there is truth here, and this narrative is created

and promulgated by people who should know better. 


MATTHEWS:  How did they figure this out about the West?  Because we have…


SIPHER:  They – defector after defector during the Cold War, actually, and

before and after has come and told us that their goal is to undermine us

from within. 


They have created stories during the Cold War that the U.S. created the

AIDS crisis, that we were selling baby parts in Latin America, that we were

assassinating people, that we were anti-Semitic and racist. 


They were pushing these things, hundreds and hundreds of stories. 

Nowadays, they can weaponize this on social media.


But what`s really unfortunate is, it`s taking hold now because our elected

officials are spreading this stuff that the Russians used to spread





STEELE:  That`s the key thing.


The political leadership has taken up that mantle for the – for the

Russians.  I don`t call it – the Soviets, because this is the Soviet-style

approach to politics.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.


STEELE:  And our own people sitting in elected office are the ones, like

Senator Kennedy, getting up there saying, well, there are good people on

both sides.




Well, the Russian system is awful.  And their politics is awful.  And they

want us to make us look sort of like them. 


SIPHER:  Yes, everybody`s corrupt.  That`s the goal.


MATTHEWS:  Bring us down to their level, yes. 




MATTHEWS:  It`s great to have you on, John Sipher, for your history.


SIPHER:  Thank you very much.


MATTHEWS:   Thank you, Michael Steele.


Still ahead:  Trump stirs up even more chaos and controversy, this time

inserting himself into a military court case and forcing out of his job the

secretary of the Navy, because the secretary of the Navy disagreed with

him, because the secretary of the Navy understands the honor of the



And that`s next on HARDBALL. 









I have been – gotten a lot of people have – a lot of war fighters and

people in the military have thanked us very much. 


These are not weak people.  These are tough people.  And we`re going to

protect our war fighters. 




MATTHEWS:  Our war fighters. 


Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


That was President Trump this afternoon commenting on his intervention into

the military justice system, which has now resulted in the firing of Navy

Secretary Richard Spencer. 


Defense Secretary Mark Esper today confirmed that Trump ordered an end to

all disciplinary actions against Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher.  Gallagher was

acquitted of alleged war crimes, including the murder of a teenage ISIS

captive and firing a sniper rifle at civilians.


But he was found guilty of a lesser charge after posing for a photo of

himself with the body of that teenage ISIS captive he had stabbed.  The

Navy decided to demote Gallagher, until Trump intervened. 


In a tweet last week, the president stated he would not let the Navy take

away Gallagher`s trident pin, which represents his status as a Navy SEAL. 


“The New York Times” reported that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had

threatened to resign if Trump intervened.  Secretary Esper says that

Spencer was fired for going behind his back by trying to negotiate a deal

with the White House to allow Gallagher to retire as a SEAL.


In his resignation letter, Spencer writes: “Unfortunately, I no longer

share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me

in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.  I cannot, in

good conscience, obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I

took to support and defend the Constitution.”


And, tonight, Spencer told CBS the president`s decision is sending the

wrong message to the troops.




RICHARD SPENCER, FORMER U.S. NAVY SECRETARY:  That you can get away with

things.  We have to have good order and discipline.  It`s the backbone of

what we do. 




MATTHEWS:  But that message didn`t appear to be bothering the president at

all.  He has long pushed for a more confrontational military. 


And the president`s continued interference in the Gallagher case has

prompted criticism that he is endangering our standing abroad and putting

our people in harm`s way. 


And one of those critics, the former secretary of the Navy under President

Obama, joins us next. 


You`re watching HARDBALL. 




MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 


President Trump`s repeated involvement in the case of Navy SEAL Edward

Gallagher has prompted concerns about how it`s affecting our standing

around the world. 


The president`s strongman tactics in defense of Gallagher is something you

might expect from Turkish President Erdogan or Philippines President

Duterte, rather than from leaders like French President Macron or German

Chancellor Merkel. 


The president`s been clear where he stands on military conduct, like the

kind seen in Gallagher`s case. 




TRUMP:  See, the problem is, we have the Geneva Convention.  We have all

sorts of rules and regulations.  Our soldiers are afraid to fight.


But our military, don`t forget, can`t act like a military would act,

because, if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy. 


And the other thing is, with the terrorists, you have to take out their

families.  When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their



We`re the laughingstock all over the world.  Our military doesn`t perform,

because it`s not allowed to perform. 




MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined right now by Ray Mabus.  He served as

secretary of the Navy under President Obama.  And Eugene Robinson, of

course, columnist for “The Washington Post.” 


I want to start with you, Mr. Secretary. 


Go at it.  What`s – what does military justice mean?  What does honor

mean?  What`s the president doing here? 


RAY MABUS, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF THE NAVY:  Well, everything you see is

bad.  You can`t spin this in a good way. 


Throw accountability out the window.  Throw military justice out the

window, dishonor the tens of thousands of Americans who have served in both

these theaters and served well, and didn`t think it was necessary to break

the law or commit war crimes. 


And then, if you can reach down and tell a unit like the SEALs, I`m going

to decide who`s in your unit, I`m going to decide who`s got the right to be

there, I`m not going to let your peers decide, I`m not going to let your

commanders decide. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, in this case, the president basically exonerated him.  He

keeps all his medals. 




MATTHEWS:  He keeps his rank.  He keeps everything.


ROBINSON:  Yes.  Yes, we got to protect our war fighters, you know?


MATTHEWS:  What is it a war fighter, by the way? 


ROBINSON:  No, it`s – look, the president has – from that montage you

showed, he has this sort of juvenile, comic book, 13-year-old vision…




ROBINSON:  … of what the military is.


MATTHEWS:  It`s Rambo.


ROBINSON:  The military, by the way, that lieutenant bone spurs never

bothered to serve in. 


But, yes, it`s from, you know, from B movies.  It`s not from reality.  He

doesn`t understand the chain of command.  He doesn`t understand order and

discipline and he is the commander-in-chief. 


And so, yes, he has the power to do this.  But is so ill-advised, it`s such

a bad thing for our military, for, you know, our allies are looking at

this.  It`s just – it`s awful.  It`s like a 13-year-old. 




MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry, I`m not in the military, but growing up as a kid, I

always took pride in the fact that our POW camps were probably the best

they were.  If you were a German, you come to Kentucky or somewhere, you`d

have a better life than in a Soviet place you`d probably not survive.  We

did treat prisoners pretty well comparatively.  And we were the good guys,

and that was the one of the ways we knew, we did observe the Geneva



RAY MABUS, CEO OF THE MABUS GROUP:  And that set us apart, the fact that we

did obey the law.  We did try to do these things in the right way, fought

just to win but win in the right way.  And again, let`s just throw all this

out the window.  We don`t have the moral high ground anymore. 


And I think to your point, we`re putting people at risk, we`re putting our

troops at risk by doing this. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that used to be the Geneva Convention worked both ways. 


Anyway, Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher appeared on Fox yesterday with some

strong words for the military leaders.  Here he goes. 




EDDIE GALLAGHER, U.S. NAVY SEAL:  This is all about ego and retaliation. 

This has nothing to do with good order and discipline.  They could have

taken my Trident at any time they wanted.  Now, they`re trying to take it

after the president restored my rank and after we just filed an I.G.

exposing all the corruption that`s been going on during my case. 




MATTHEWS:  Let`s bring this home, Gene, because this guy is consistent. 

Remember how he makes fun – even in the movies and television shows.  They

put the guy in the back of the squad car, they hold his head down so he

doesn`t bang his head going into the car.  Little extra judicial punishment





MATTHEWS:  Trump doesn`t like that.  He said let them bang their heads on

the way to the car.  That`s him. 


That his weird obsession with being Mr. Tough. 


ROBINSON:  Yes, because, you know, where does it come from?  Some deep-

seated insecurity or something like that?  I don`t know where it comes

from.  But it`s – you know, it`s really awful.  And you have Gallagher

there talking about his superiors, his chain of command, you know the

leadership of the Navy SEALs and on TV because through TV he has a direct

line to the president of the United States, that`s who gives the president

of the United States his orders. 


MABUS:  What is this guy doing on TV when he`s on active duty?  And he`s

trashing his chain of command. 


MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about service, Secretary, like you.  The role of the

secretary of the Navy is what?  Is it to protect – what do you do?  You

protect – the –


MABUS:  You train and equip the Navy and the Marine Corps and, yes, you

protect the traditions, but you also stand up for the rule of law.  You

also protect your people by demanding accountability, that if somebody does

something that is terrible, if somebody goes just against everything that

we stand for, that there is accountability, that you can`t do this because

we`re going to catch you.  And we`re going to make you responsible for

these things.  That`s just gone. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much for everything you`ve done.  Thank you, Ray

Mabus of Mississippi, the former governor, and Eugene Robinson. 


Up next, Michael Bloomberg launches his presidential bid this weekend with

a massive ad campaign targeting key primary states.  Why does he think he

can win and what weaknesses does he see in a field of Democratic candidates

that gets him in the race? 


You`re watching HARDBALL.







that I am running for president to defeat Donald Trump and to unite and

rebuild America.  We cannot afford four more years of President Trump`s

reckless and unethical actions.  If president Trump wins another term in

office, we may never recover from the damage that he can do.  The stakes

could not be higher.  We must win this election. 




MATTHEWS:  Actually, he`s better than that. 


Welcome back to HARDBALL.


That was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his first campaign

stop after announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for

president this weekend. 


Bloomberg is worth approximately $54 – approximately would be $50.  It`s

$54 billion.  Has launched a there are $31 million ad buy, which is the

most money of any candidate ever to spend in a single week of political

advertising.  It`s like an average person of spending 57 bucks.  According

to Advertising Analytics, which tracks political ad buys. 


He is currently polling nationally at about 2 percent, according to

RealClearPolitics polling averages.  But he plans on taking a different

path than the other candidates by forging, foregoing the early states and

focusing on Super Tuesday of March 3rd, which has 16 races in one day and

has 34 percent of the primary`s total delegates, all in one day, compared

to 4 percent of delegates awarded during the four early states which begin

in Iowa. 


It remains to be seen, it does, if that strategy will work without the

momentum candidates traditionally get from winning states like Iowa.


I`m joined right now by Cornell Belcher, who`s a Democratic strategist, and

Eleanor Randolph, the author of “The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg”. 


I have to go to Eleanor, my friend, and ask you, because you wrote the book

– why? 





MATTHEWS:  Is this guy at the age of 77 going into a race, he`s never been

a public Democrat.  He may have grown up one.  He`s always run as a

Republican or an independent.  Why is he running for president at that age? 


RANDOLPH:  Why not?  I mean, you know, I think he`s at this point in his

life, he says, you know, if I don`t do it now, how am I going to do four

years later? 


But the main reason he`s running is that his people have been doing polls

in the key states, you know, that Trump won and that Hillary was supposed

to win in 2016, and they found Trump winning in virtually every one of

these states.  And, so, Bloomberg said, I`m getting out there.  I`m going

to be on the campaign trail.  I`m going to fight the good fight and I`m

going to aim all my gun power and a ton of money at Donald Trump. 


MATTHEWS:  My talks with him which are generally casual has led me to

believe that he doesn`t want to lose and that would, you know, Eleanor said

there is a sort of a courageous Horatio at the gate.  I`m going to stop the

enemy from taking over the country again. 


But that, I think he does it – I once said, why don`t you become secretary

of treasury under Obama?  He said, I don`t like working for somebody.  He

has very strong prides about things.  I have to win.  I have to be the



Why is he running?  I want to try it on you.  Why is he running?


CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, he`s worth $54 billion.  I

don`t think he wants to work for anyone.  But I think he`s running because

– look, he has smart people around him.  I think it`s the pathway. 


I think we are at a very unusual time –


MATTHEWS:  Is he Ross Perot? 


BELCHER:  No, no, he`s not Ross Perot because he`s actually entered our

Democratic primary and I think he sees a pathway.  Look, I think this could

happen, Chris.  We could have the winner of Iowa not be the winner of New

Hampshire and the winner of Iowa, and New Hampshire, either one of those

people, not be the winner of Nevada or South Carolina. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, it`s March 3rd. 


BELCHER:  I think it`s wide open. 


MATTHEWS:  All these states on Super Tuesday.  Does he have the money to

just blow the money through the system? 


BELCHER: He, with $30 million – he`s already popped in $30 million.  And,

look, we are at a time when retail politics, I hate to say it, guys, it

doesn`t mean what it used to be. 


MATHEWS:  Shaking hands.


BELCHER:  Yes, retail politics, kissing babies, Donald Trump didn`t kiss

any babies or shake any hands and he won the Republican primary.  I think

Bloomberg puts in that sort of money and that sort of effort, and

infrastructure, don`t underestimate how powerful and how profound an impact

he can have on this race. 


MATTHEWS:  Do you believe as a pollster, just as analytics, that you can

buy the presidential nomination with big TV advertising. 


BELCHER:  I don`t like the term buy it, but communications and

communication dollars do impact.  Advertisements do have an impact. 


MATTHEWS:  Would you imagine a person voting for president, somebody who

just heard about in an ad?


BELCHER:  Yes, I – yes, actually I can.  But he`s got to do more than

that.  He`s got to introduce himself.  He`s got to tell his story.  He`s

got to give his rationale. 


And part of his rationale is, you know what, I`m the number one guy that

can go up against Trump and beat him, and that`s going to resonate with

Democratic voters. 


MATTHEWS:  What is – what hill would he die for, Eleanor?  I know he`s big

on the big gulp.  He doesn`t like people drinking big sodas at the movies. 

I`m serious.  I think it`s ridiculous.


But he was very good at smoking in New York.  I never thought you could

clean out the smoking in New York bars but he stopped smoking in bars and

restaurants.  That`s pretty good, because that`s healthy as hell.  He`s

also good on guns. 


But when you put all that together, it sounds like nanny state, a lot of it

together.  Your thought?


RANDOLPH:  Well, look, you know, as he says, he gave New Yorkers three

extra years.  Most New Yorkers last three years longer than the rest of you

guys out there.  And part of that is that he cut back on smoking and trans

fats and, he – you know, he advised people to walk up the escalator. 


You know, he did a lot of stuff to – he was the public health mayor of New

York City.  And he`s carried that on to guns and gun control and to climate

control.  And, you know, if you look at what he`s done, he has a pretty

expansive record.  You know, what we`re going to hear, I think, shortly is

the things that he did wrong.  But he did an awful lot of stuff right. 


MATTHEWS:  How does he take credit for lower crime in New York, New York

City, at the same time he`s apologized for stop and frisk? 


RANDOLPH:  Well, you know, I mean, he – for a very long time, he thought

stop and frisk was the only way to lower crime in those high crime areas. 

And, you know, it was part of his gun control policy, and it just – it

went way too far.  I was glad to say even though the timing was late, you

know, and it was close to the campaign, I was so glad to see him actually

apologize, because it paves the way – it`s not that Mike Bloomberg doesn`t

have any black support.  He has lots of black supporters. 


And, of course, many of them are mayors of cities around the country.  He`s

supported cities as he`s sort of this mayor emeritus, who`s gone around and

helped mayors across the city, and many of them are already supportive –

to the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, both black

mayors, have come to his support. 




BELCHER:  Chris, he`s going to need – he`s going to need more people. 

I`ve talked to more friends but also someone who`s worked the Democratic

primary before.  If you cannot compete strongly for the votes of

minorities, you`re not going to be the Democratic nominee. 


RANDOLPH:  That`s right.


BELCHER:  He`s got – he`s got to have a conversation about stop and frisk

that is – that is real and explains to Americans not only sort of

apologize but explain how it`s going to be different.  I think it is the

number one hurdle. 


MATTHEWS:  I know from police experts, stop and frisk only makes sense in a

particular case when you have two gangs fighting with each other.  Killing

on one side and the other kids are out to go revenge and in those moments

like Friday night, you got to do something, the guns off of people.


RANDOLPH:  They can be done, but it has to be done. 


MATTHEWS:  It can`t be a general method. 


Thank you, Cornell Belcher.  Thank you, Eleanor Randolph.


Up next, how Adam Schiff cemented his role in history this week.  In fact

today, he did it. 


You`re watching HARDBALL.




MATTHEWS:  Schiff is German for ship, which makes perfect sense for the

historic role Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence

Committee, is now playing.  He`s shipping this impeachment to its necessary

destination.  With his letter to congressional colleagues today, he`s

sending President Trump on his way to a trial in the U.S. Senate.  He`s

putting Trump where he least wants to be, facing the solid evidence against

him, evidence that Schiff`s committee has now put on public record.  And

not only that, there`s a decent chance that the Senate trial of Donald J.

Trump will include testimony, sworn testimony from those he has placed

around him.  Those who have been his palace guard could be by January star

witnesses for the prosecution and his removal from office. 


So, ask yourself if you`re Mike Mulvaney – Mick Mulvaney or Rudy Giuliani

or Mike Pompeo or any of the rest of this bunch, would you prefer to tell

the truth or face a stiff term in federal prison for perjury?  Because if

the chief justice who will be presiding in the Senate decides to demand

their appearance, that`s exactly the choice they will face. 


All this is going to happen for one prime reason, because Adam Schiff has

kept the ship of state on course.  And for that he deserves an historic



That`s HARDBALL for now. 


“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.







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