power & obstruction TRANSCRIPT: Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/10/2019

Guests:
Eric Swalwell, Maya Wiley, Michael McFaul, Zoe Lofgren; Peter Baker; Marie Echaveste; Elise Jordan, Zerlina Williams, Evan McMullin
Transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Defending the Constitution. Let`s play 

HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

House Democrats pushed President Donald Trump closer to the brink of infamy
today introducing articles of impeachment against a president for just the
fourth time in American history. On this historic day, House Democrats
unveiled two articles against the president, abuse of power and obstruction
of Congress. And tonight, the Judiciary Committee announced they`re going
to start marking up or debating the articles tomorrow night, 24 hours from
right now, 7:00 tomorrow night.

And this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judiciary Committee Chair
Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff argued the
president is a threat to our democracy and national security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this solemn day, I recall at the first order
of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to
protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Our president holds the ultimate public trust.
When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers
the Constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national
security.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president`s oath of office appears to mean
very little to him. But the articles put forward today will give us a
chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means
something to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The drafted articles are narrowly focused, of course, just two
articles and just one subject, Trump`s actions to pressure Ukraine for his
own political advantage.

On the abuse of power charge, the draft articles note that in soliciting
Ukraine, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring
and injuring national security and other vital national interests in order
to obtain an improper personal political benefit. And on obstruction of
Congress, Democrats argue that the president, quote, has directed the
unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued
by the House of Representatives.

Leaving the White House tonight, by the way, for a rally in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, President Trump again said he hadn`t done anything wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Even the Democrats, they couldn`t find very
much because they put up two articles that frankly are very weak, and
they`re very weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s kind of spooky.

Anyway, but today, Chairman Schiff said the president`s ongoing pattern of
misconduct leaves Congress with no choice but to act quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: Now, some would argue why don`t you just wait? Why don`t you just
wait until you get these witnesses the White House refuses to produce? Why
don`t you just wait until you get the documents the White House refuses to
turn over?

The argument, why don`t you just wait, amounts to this. Why don`t you just
let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more
time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of
California who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Actually,
Congresswoman Lofgren worked on all three modern day impeachments of
presidents, as top staffer to a member of the House Judiciary Committee
during the Nixon impeachment, as a Congresswoman at the time of the Clinton
impeachment in 1998, which she voted against, and the current inquiry into
President Trump, all three. Maria Echaveste is a former White House deputy
chief of staff under President Clinton, Elise Jordan, former aid to George
W. Bush in the White House at the State Department, and Peter Baker, Chief
White House Correspondent for The New Yorkers and one of the authors of
Impeachment, An American History.

Congresswoman, I want to ask you about tonight and what I think is the
magnificent leadership of your speaker, the speaker of the House. And one
of these I think she was smart on and I want you to elaborate on if you`ll
agree is focus. You have to know what hill to fight on. You`ve got to
know which is hill is important and vital to fight for. She has picked
national security. Tell me about your thoughts on that focus.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I think she`s absolutely right. We had a
report from Mr. Mueller was not very focused in the first volume. We never
were able to get the actual backup data, and I was really not prepared to
move forward based on that nor was Speaker Pelosi. But when we found out
about this scheme to utilize the power of the presidency to force a foreign
country to intervene in our election, we felt we had to act. We couldn`t
sit idly by in the face of that abuse of power.

And so I think the Intelligence Committee, because of the nature of the
allegations, they took the lead, they did an excellent job of developing
substantial amounts of direct evidence. Really, the picture is very clear
to anyone who`s honestly looking at the facts and the evidence.

The president has committed abuse of his powers and he also, in an
incredible way, has refused to respond to anything. He said that no one
should be permitted to testify. They have responded to no request for
documents. That`s never happened before. He`s obstructed Congress
wrongfully as well. I think these two articles are sadly warranted,
supported by the evidence and should be approved.

MATTHEWS: Peter, I was just reading before the broadcast closely the
articles that have been drafted by judiciary. And what struck me is the
economy of words, the sharpness and focus of the whole language. It reads
almost like – I don`t want to overstate it – but it`s almost in
constitutional language. There`s no wasted language, there`s no
distractions, what do you call it, aggressions at all.

It`s very tightly focused in wording what we all pretty much know now the
president basically shook down Zelensky of Ukraine for some dirt or an
announcement of looking for dirt on a potential political rival, Biden, and
then, of course, the obvious.

I mean, you cannot deny the obstruction of justice and of Congress by the
absolute refusal of this administration to release one piece of paper or
one live witness to the Congress for its investigations.

What did you make of the quality of the language in these two articles?
Peter?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sorry.
I think, look, the language is very narrowly focused on the Ukraine matter.
It resisted bringing in other issues the Democrats have wanted to talk
about with President Trump for, now, three years, whether it`d be the
Mueller case, whether it`d be the emoluments, whether it`d be the Stormy
Daniels and the hush money, the campaign violations. It tries to focus it
on this one case because they think the narrative is clear and the facts
are on their side.

Now, what the president and his supporters are going to say on the
obstruction case you mentioned, the president has every right to at least
assert his privileges or assert his confidentiality and let it be tested by
court. The Democrats said today they don`t want to go to court because it
would take too long and they`re simply going to go forward with this
obstruction allegation against the president as well.

So that will be an interesting test because that will have precedent for
value future presidents beyond this one regardless of how – whether
President Trump stays in office for the rest of this term or not. Future
presidents are going to take the lesson from –

LOFGREN: It wasn`t just assertion of privilege. Then you`d have an
argument about going to court. He said as a blanket matter that there
would be no response by anyone. That is very different matter than
assertion of privilege.

MATTHEWS: Maria, let`s talk about leadership and politics. I guess we
might talk about gender too. This is woman speaker who`s making history
tonight with these articles of impeachment. I watched that press
conference. We`re looking at it right now. There`s no doubt who the boss
is. I mean, she basically escorted them in, said who`s going to talk. It
was rehearsed, organized. She was herding cats, as we might say of any
Democratic group. It`s not easy.

Some people in that room didn`t look too happy at the limitations she
placed on them. I don`t think Maxine Waters was happy with just two
articles. I don`t think that Jerry Nadler is happy about the role he
played, which is basically delivering the investigation by the Intel
Committee, the fine work done by Adam Schiff, but they all did what they
were told and it looked good. Your thoughts about leadership.

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No,
absolutely. And I think I want to underscore what Speaker Pelosi said.
This is about our democracy.

And I am reminded the impeachment in 1998 did not threaten the republic,
did not threaten our country. And it`s quite in contrast to what this
president has done. And particularly the second article which obstruction
of Congress is basically, if left unchallenged, allows a president to act
like a king, to say he is above the law and cannot be – there can be no
oversight by Congress, and that is direct blow to our institution.

So as hard as it was and is for the country, I think these narrow articles
of impeachment ought to be something that Americans across party lines, and
that`s what I really hope our Republican colleagues will focus. This
president has delivered on your agenda in so many ways. Please put the
interests of the country ahead of your ideological agenda.

MATTHEWS: What do you think Congress should have done with Clinton when
the word got out the country knew that he had lied in the deposition, he
perjured himself? What should have been the proper action of the U.S.
government in both parties?

ECHAVESTE: Well, you know, hindsight is 2020. I think, at one point,
there was talk of censure that I think really would have been appropriate.
I`m not condoning what the president did in terms of lying under oath.
But, again, it did not threaten national security. It did not threaten our
country. What President Trump has done, censure, frankly, is it will not
stop a future president from saying I am above the law, and this president
obviously believes he is above the law.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Maria, I don`t know you and I think you did a great
job of answering that question because that was a smart answer. I rarely
hear political people who have been both sides of the aisle, either side,
that gives us an honest, non-partisan, intelligent pro-American answer. I
thought exactly that censure did make sense, impeachment did not make
sense, and here we are.

Congresswoman, your thoughts on today.

LOFGREN: Well, I just wanted to say that in terms of the Clinton
impeachment, the Constitution is about the abuse of the powers we give, the
special powers we give to the president that injures the state. Now,
President Clinton lied about a sexual affair. That was not a good thing.
But it wasn`t about his presidential powers. It was his husband powers.
But it wasn`t presidential powers that he misused to the detriment of the
United States. And that`s why it was never a high crime or misdemeanor.
That`s why it was really a very sad thing.

MATTHEWS: He should never have hauled the cabinet into the Roosevelt Room
to back him up, which he did, and that, unfortunately, he made it an
official event. I`m sorry, Congresswoman, he went further with this
personal offense, and se shouldn`t have done it. He should have defended
himself personally not as president.

Anyway, for their part – I`m sorry. I don`t want to interrupt you there.
Your thought.

LOFGREN: No. I just wanted to say that the issue is whether you are
posing a threat to the United States and the constitutional order. And
that`s what we have here, a continuing threat, I might add, as we were
talking yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, the agent of the president, was over
meeting with legislators who were trained by the KGB, continuing in this
scheme.

MATTHEWS: Well said again.

For their part, Republicans defended the president today, of course,
arguing that it`s Democrats who are abusing their power in the impeachment
process itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Now and today, we watched them introduce two
articles of impeachment. It changed the course of Congress to take away
due process for any point of where we are. It is a fear that Alexander
Hamilton had that came to fruition in this Congress. I just hope no
Congress ever repeats what we`re going through today.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): The writing abuse of power, which is so
ambiguous and so vague that, really, there`s nothing that can define what
that actually is they can make it up on the block (ph). And obstruction of
Congress, are you kidding me? After 70 days, they`re going to charge the
president with obstruction of Congress? That is not the way this place
works.

So, really, we have two articles of impeachment.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): They`re not impeaching the president because
they can enlist an impeachable offense. They`re impeaching him because
they`re afraid he will get re-elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I was just making that point about the Clinton experience
because I think it`s important as the Democrats go into this, and it is the
Democrats, that they don`t blur the past. Be honest about it. It was
overcharging the president those days. And it wasn`t dishonest. It was
just way overcharging Clinton.

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AND STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE: And just
accepting how difficult it was even in that era to have anyone cross party
lines to vote to actually remove a president from office. And what the
odds are that probably President Donald Trump is going to remain in office
because not enough Republicans are going to sway because they see no
electoral –

MATTHEWS: Not as many as we`d like perhaps.

Congresswoman, I`ve got to get back to you. I`ve known you forever working
for Don Edwards in the old days, and what a great guy he was and a totally
honest politician, former FBI guy, great golfer, all the good stuff, I
should say. Just kidding.

I want to ask you, do you get any sense – I know the cloakrooms are
different ends of the chamber, but is there any sense that the Republicans
know the dire danger of our country if this president continues in the
direction he`s so clearly headed to overreach his powers?

LOFGREN: Well, I think some do. You know, I haven`t tried to press any
member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, on how they should decide,
because this is a matter of honoring your oath of office. It can`t be
lobbied by anyone. But I do know quite a few Republican members are very
troubled by the president`s behavior. I don`t know how they`ll vote.

I think the president has made it very difficult for members to exercise
their conscience. Look what he did to people who crossed him. I do
understand that. But in the end, you have to honor your own oath.

I`ve been rereading the statements from the Nixon impeachment, and one of
the things that struck me were the words of Caldwell Butler about how loyal
he was to Richard Nixon and how much he liked Richard Nixon and how he
thought Richard Nixon had done wonderful things. But when he saw the
facts, he had to vote against a president of his own party because of the
danger to our Constitution. I hope there`s some Caldwell Butlers in the
current Congress.

MATTHEWS: There were a lot back then and there`re none today, it seems. I
hope you`re right, Congresswoman. You know the House and love it. I hope
you find some of those guys and women.

The full House vote on impeachment could come sometime next week, the full
House paving a way for a Senate trial. And today, Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell said it`s not possible for the trial to start before the
holiday recess, but he again predicted the outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I said I would be totally surprised if there
were 60 or 70 senators to remove the president. That remains my view.
However, we are obligated under the Constitution to turn to it when it
comes over, and we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Maria, let me ask you a question. Is there a possible way – I
know I`m asking you to do stargazing here – is there a way that the
Republican Senate can possibly look good in this trial and not just flacks
for the president?

ECHAVESTE: I have to say I can`t think of how they look good when from the
president`s own mouth, from the testimony that`s been reviewed, even
without testimony from White House officials and others who have personal
knowledge of exactly what the president was trying to do, based on the
evidence to date, it`s very clear President Trump utilized his office to
pressure a foreign government to take an action to benefit his political
interests. That`s – any other president, if it were a Democrat, I cannot
believe Republicans would let that go.

And that`s why I keep going back to really what protects our country is our
institutions. We have seen so much, over 240 plus years –

MATTHEWS: I know.

ECHAVESTE: It`s our institutions. And to have members who swore an oath
to the Constitution put their personal ideological agenda – we`ve been
fighting about the role of government from the very beginning. But to put
that ahead of our country`s interests, especially when it involves national
security is, to me, just chilling and frightening.

MATTHEWS: If this guy gets re-elected, they might as well wear uniforms in
Congress.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, Maria
Echaveste, Elise Jordan and Peter Baker of The New York Times.

Coming up, the case against President Trump and the gravity of this
historic moment. Right now, the drafted articles of impeachment make a
succinct argument, Trump abused his office and betrayed the nation for his
own personal political gain.

Plus, Trump`s impeachment strategy, he laid it outright here on HARDBALL,
believe it or not, in 1998. He talked about what he would do and he`s
doing it right now. Anyway, that for the – he was talking about the
Clinton era and saying what he would have told Clinton to do. It`s pretty
scary stuff because I think he`s doing it now.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Today, in service to our duty to the
Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is
introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the president of the
United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and
misdemeanors.

We must be clear. No one, not even the president, is above the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler on the historic changes – or
charges he introduced against the president today.

The nine-page resolution includes two articles of impeachment. The first
article charges that – quote – “Using the powers of his high office,
President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government,
Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.”

It explicitly warns that – quote – “He will remain a threat to national
security” – that`s Trump – “and the Constitution if he`s allowed to
remain in office.”

The second article of impeachment today that came out, the drafted article,
is for obstruction of Congress. And the article says: “No president has
ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to
obstruct and impede so comprehensibly the ability of the House of
Representatives to investigate.”

It describes Trump`s actions as “offensive to and subversive of the
Constitution.”

Well, it`s hard to underestimate the gravity of this moment, even despite
the powerful evidence that`s been uncovered over the last two months.

If this resolution is passed, it will mark only the third time in 230 years
of American history that a president has been impeached by Congress.

I`m joined right now by a member of that committee, U.S. Congressman Eric
Swalwell of California, who is on the House Intelligence and on the
Judiciary Committee. And Maya Wiley is a former assistant U.S. attorney
for the Southern District of New York.

Congressman, let me ask you about this wonderful clarity today. I think
anyone who gets a good newspaper tomorrow or looks it up on a search engine
or Google, whatever, will be read a very – I think very clear, almost
constitutionally written set of articles.

How well do you think they addressed what you have learned personally in
all these months of investigation?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Chris, they`re written in the active voice,
rather than the passive voice, where prior impeachment cases have been
about what a president did in the past.

And this reflects that this is crime spree in progress. And that moves us
to act with urgency. And it lays out particularly the national security
risks that we have here if we do nothing, but also the risk to future
elections.

And then, of course, just an institution, if Congress can be obstructed,
never would we be able to hold a president accountable.

MATTHEWS: How does a Republican colleague of yours – and I`m – it`s not
the party of evil. They are just wrong on this one, I think, and some
other things.

But how does somebody defend the charge that Trump has obstructed, when he
hasn`t turned over a single piece of paper or a single live witness? He`s
absolutely – and said, I`m not going to do it. How do you deny that`s
defiance and obstruction of the Congress?

SWALWELL: They have actually never defended that, Chris.

Actually, in all of the hearings you have seen, it`s just attacks on us, as
members. It`s attacks on the process. No one has defended the president`s
cheating scheme with Ukraine. No one has defended him refusing to give us
documents.

And, actually, I think that goes to a larger point here, which is, this is
no longer ability what the president did. We know what he did. It`s about
what we should do. Should we do nothing? Should we allow this to
continue? Should we allow future presidents to do this? Or should we say
we have a duty under the Constitution to act, and now is the time to act?

MATTHEWS: You know, Maya, I was around during Watergate.

And I was watching it in Washington. And I thought the same thing. I
said, it`s not bad being unsympathetic. I don`t like seeing people go to
jail, staffers especially. But if we had let them all get away with it,
Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Nixon, the rest, Colson, they would have going on and
on and kept escalating their evil.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I think this is the big
concern here, is, what are we fighting for?

It`s not what we`re fighting against. What we`re fighting for
fundamentally is the Constitution and separation of powers.

I think one of the things this does so well, these articles, as
Representative Swalwell says, is, it makes clear this is happening now, it
will continue to happen. I think it makes a very strong case by
referencing, frankly, the fact that Donald Trump has in the past called for
foreign interference in our elections.

And it makes very clear that the obstruction itself, it goes straight to
the heart of whether or not we`re going to support what the founders
themselves wrote and built into our democracy was that there is a
separation of powers, there is a balance.

And if we don`t have that balance, how is Congress ever to hold any, any,
any executive branch to account?

MATTHEWS: It would also be nice, Congressman, to have an alive court
system.

One reason Nixon was brought to justice was because the courts actually
forced him to turn over the tapes. It was an 8-0 decision by the Supreme
Court.

And my – isn`t that one of the problems here? To get a court decision on
these documents and in these testimonies is almost like waiting out a
capital punishment case to – or a death row case that could go on – maybe
it should – for months and years and years.

Would we ever get these documents and witnesses before the Congress from
these courts?

SWALWELL: Yes.

The president has weaponized the court system. And he has a right to go to
the courts, but he does not have a right to say once we start the inquiry
that he can categorically refuse to send any witnesses to us, especially on
issues that have already been resolved in the courts, particularly around
presidential executive authority.

And to Maya`s point, the pattern of conduct here will be extremely
relevant. As a former prosecutor – and I know Maya would probably agree
with this – one of the first things you do when a case is put on your desk
is, you look at the defendant`s rap sheet to see if they have any priors,
whether this was aberrant behavior, or if you can show that this is just
what this person does.

And in the president`s case, and it`s laid out in the articles, this is
what he does. He asks foreign governments to help him cheat. And then
when the investigations start, he does everything he can to obstruct them
and cover them up.

WILEY: And, Chris, can – I really want to double down on this point about
obstruction that you`re asking about, because, if this stands – one of the
things that the White House counsel`s letter to Congress said, essentially,
is, you don`t get to ask us for anything ever, period.

It wasn`t like, we`re just going to fight you on a couple of these things
that we think are legitimate, but here`s some other documents or witnesses
that we will provide you.

That`s what Richard Nixon did. You were there.

MATTHEWS: I know.

WILEY: He didn`t say, you can`t have anything.

This president has said, you don`t have the right to ask me for a thing,
even though this is a constitutional impeachment inquiry.

And as the witnesses said in the House Judiciary Committee, the
constitutional experts, is, the Constitution says that the Congress has the
sole power, the sole power.

And as Representative Swalwell said is, we have court rulings that make
quite clear. And the court in the McGahn case, when McGahn – about
McGahn`s testimony, said, this is really an extraordinary argument, and you
have gone way too far, because, essentially, then there`s nothing left.

MATTHEWS: I think he is just ignorant of the law and our history and our
Constitution and what we stand for and the limits of government.

Limited government is the key to our government.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman.

Congratulations, by the way, for your colloquy yesterday with Danny
Goldman. That was one of those clearest things I have seen in all these
hearings, where you simply said, who made the call? In every case, it was
the president. Well done, sir.

SWALWELL: Thank you. My pleasure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Maya Wiley, thank you as well, as always.

Up next: In the words of Speaker Pelosi on impeachment, all roads lead to
Putin. And, today, the Russian foreign minister had his second Oval Office
meeting with the president.

There he is. I mean, there`s always a Russian hanging around this
president. What is going on here? The Russians are everywhere. They`re
not just coming. They`re here.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Zelensky is still waiting for that White
House invitation. He`s not getting in that door with Trumpy. He only lets
Russians in the door with him.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On the same day House Democrats announced articles of impeachment against
President Trump for his actions withholding anti-Russian military aid to
our ally Ukraine, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in
the Oval Office. Do you believe it? There`s a picture.

This isn`t their first meeting, of course. And during their previous
meeting in 2017, the president reportedly revealed highly classified
information to Lavrov and the former Russian ambassador.

Lavrov flew in from Paris, where, yesterday, Russian President Putin and
Ukrainian President Zelensky held talks to end the war on their joint
border. I`m not sure what kind of meeting that was.

And as Lavrov gets his second White House meeting with President Trump
today, Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has yet to be given the same
honor.

For more, I`m joined by Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

I don`t know what to make, because, Ambassador, part of this is just sheer
politics and P.R. Why would the president want to be seen with Lavrov the
very day he is seeing drafted articles of impeachment going to the American
people?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I have no idea, Chris.

I mean, I hope it`s a coincidence. But it`s highly unusual, because the
whole visit, of course, is just symbolic. If you look at the readouts,
they didn`t discuss anything of substance. There`s no trigger for the
necessity of this meeting.

So, what it is, is symbolism. And the symbolism is, I think, historic, the
second time Foreign Minister Lavrov has been in the Oval Office in four
years` time. I can`t think of another president that ever had him there
twice.

And it`s especially tragic, in my view, because of what you just said.
President Zelensky has yet to visit the Oval Office. And yet Lavrov, who
is not President Trump`s equal, has been there a second time. It makes no
sense to me.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump`s Russophilia? He seems to be
obsessed with the East, like a certain world leader in the 1930s and `40s
was obsessed with the East.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Why is this guy obsessed with these meetings with Russians all
over the place?

MCFAUL: It`s truly bizarre.

I confess I do not have a rational explanation for it. I do not think it
serves the president`s own political interests, either at home or abroad.

You know, look at – look at what we`re talking about, right? Why are you
doing this? There`s no reason to have Lavrov there today. And yet he very
consistently, very persistently embraces President Putin and his
government.

And, again, I would support it if it led to some tangible outcome that was
good for the American people. But, after three years of happy talk, after
three years of fealty towards President Putin, we have not achieved one
concrete deliverable, as we used to say in the government, in U.S.-Russian
relations.

MATTHEWS: I know.

I grew up in politics, and they used to say every politician in America,
before every election, would visit the three I`s. They would go to
Ireland, Italy and Israel.

OK, that is where the people are. And I just don`t get this.

Anyway, following Lavrov`s visit, the foreign minister, to the White House
today, the White House released a readout of the meeting, saying, in part,
that President Trump warned Lavrov against any Russian attempts to
interfere in our elections, which is odd because he denies they ever did,
Trump.

But Lavrov told reporters that never happened. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Well, you
know, we haven`t even actually discussed elections.

Now, the state secretary, Pompeo, at the press conference, at the State
Department did mention that the U.S. are warning Russia not to interfere in
the elections. I have responded to that.

And President Trump – by the way, I told him that the state secretary
mentioned that publicly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So here`s an inconsistency on the part of the president, no
surprise to anybody.

He has for months and years now said there was no Russian interference in
the 2016 election. But then his people put out the word today, but he
warned Russia not to do it again.

I`m sorry. One of this is B.S. I`m sorry. I use the word too much now.
But if he didn`t think they ever did it before, why would he spank them
today with a warning not to do it again?

MCFAUL: Of course it makes no sense.

Obviously, the readout was written by somebody else, not the president
himself. And note that he didn`t say those words sitting next to Lavrov in
a press spray, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCFAUL: I used to work at the White House in the Obama administration.

If we wanted to send a strong signal, that`s the way you do it. And you
make Lavrov sit there next to you why you say it. They very conveniently
did not do that, because, as you just said, Chris, every time he`s been
asked publicly, especially very dramatically when he was asked publicly
standing next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he sides with Putin, not with
our intelligence community.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s who we have as president, a Russophile, without
purpose, apparently. Well, maybe it has to do with Deutsche Bank or
something else. We will find out in a few years.

Anyway, Ambassador Michael McFaul, it`s great to have you on, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Still ahead: NBC`s exclusive interview with Trump`s attorney
general, William Barr – what a flack he is – on what he had to say about
his own department`s inspector general, the FBI, and foreign interference
in our elections.

That`s next on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The FISA abuse report is officially out and
tonight, the deep state, they need to understand they are all in deep legal
jeopardy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: You had an inspector general
just give you a report yesterday to show that a law enforcement agency
spied on a presidential campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The headline was initially that James Comey, Andy
McCabe, Peter Strzok, they had reasons to launch the investigation into the
Trump campaign. Then you read it and there`s a lot of problems with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The day after the release of the Justice Department`s inspector general`s
report on the investigation into FBI`s investigation to 2016 Trump
campaign. The Trump fog machine you just saw it there led by Attorney
General William Barr has kicked into overdrive. In a breathtaking
interview today with NBC`s Pete Williams, Barr undercut his department`s
inspector general and propped up a partisan investigation being conducted
by a U.S. attorney under Barr`s direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: So that`s hard to explain. The core
statement in my opinion by the I.G. is that these irregularities, these
misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained. And I
think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith. I think it`s
premature now to reach a judgment on that. But I think that further work
has to be done, and that`s what Durham is doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Attorney General Barr accused the Obama administration
without evidence of using the intelligence community to spy on the Trump
campaign in order to undermine that campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: The greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent
government use the apparatus of the state principally, the law enforcement
agencies and the intelligence agencies in order to spy on political
opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of
the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the I.G. did not find evidence to support the claim of
spying, nor did he find the investigation into the Trump campaign was
unwarranted.

In a recent interview with “The New York Magazine”, Barr reiterated a point
he`s made in the past, that the Department of Justice was never intended to
be independent from politics. Do you like that argument?

Quote: I think at the end of the day if you`re making a decision, it should
be made by people who are accountable. Our system puts political
appointees in that position. That`s why we have elections.

Well, President Trump used to complain about not having a Roy Cohn at the
Justice Department, but he has one now. His name is Bill Barr.

There is one top official who has not been willing to do Trump`s bidding
and the president isn`t happy at all about it. And that`s next. We`ll see
who he`s mad at now.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last night, unlike Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher
Wray welcomed the findings of the inspector general`s report on the FBI
investigation into Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign.

Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I think it`s important that the inspector
general found that in this particular instance, the investigation was
opened with appropriate predication and authorization. I think there`s a
number of takeaways that are important. One, that we fully cooperated with
this independent review. Two, that we fully accept its findings and
recommendations. Three, that the inspector general did not find political
bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation or
the decision to use certain investigative tools during the investigations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump as you might think didn`t like those
director`s comments by the head of the FBI, tweeting: I don`t know what
report current Director of FBI Christopher Wray was reading but it sure
wasn`t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude he`ll never be able
to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest
men and women working there.

For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of the progressive
for Sirius XM, and Evan McMullin, executive director of the Stand Up
Republic, and a 2016 independent presidential candidate.

Evan, you`ve been in one of those big agencies and I just want to know who
the hell is Trump talking about? He`s attacking and trashing the new FBI
director that he appointed because the new FBI director can read. And the
report by the inspector general is clear as a bell. It says there were
some mistakes but there wasn`t any politics involved in the decision to
approve those FISA decisions to investigate the Trump campaign. No
politics, no bigotry, no favoritism.

EVAN MCMULLIN, 2016 INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, absolutely.
But President Trump like any corrupt president or any corrupt leader we`ve
seen around the world, he`s trying to pacify law enforcement officials and
to subdue them to prevent them from pursuing him any further, pursuing his
wrongdoing any further. It`s something that always happens with corrupt
leaders.

So you see that`s what his effort is here to suggest that Christopher Wray
is currently the FBI director, which he is, but sort of suggesting that he
may not be there for much longer.

MATTHEWS: Right, (INAUDIBLE).

MCMULLIN: And look, I think what we have to worry about here is I hope
Director Wray will be resilient and the rest of FBI leadership will be as
well. I think they will be. But this kind of pressure ultimately, even
with good people leading these organizations like the FBI, starts to have
an impact where it affects decision-making, where it chills their
consideration of whether they should pursue investigations of future
wrongdoing of the president or of the president`s allies. And it should be
deeply concerning to us.

MATTHEWS: You know, the wires are crossed over at Fox because I was
watching Fox Business last night. I was in a hotel room, and so I would
turn the TV late at night, and there was Lou Dobbs saying this was
dismaying this report, he`s admitting they found nothing wrong. He didn`t
like it. The word is to say they did say something wrong.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS XM SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: I
think this is the opposite of what happened with the Mueller report. With
the Mueller report, Bill Barr was able to come out before any of us saw it,
while they were redacting things, while they were deeming things classified
and not for public consumption. He was able to pre-spin the report.

So by the time we got the report and most Americans didn`t read it, he had
already solidified what the president said. This time they got a leak
before they were able to spin their report. We got a leak saying that
there was proper predicate and no political influence that was improper.

And now, they`re actually trying to post-spin and it`s not working because
we have the facts. They didn`t brainwash us before we saw the actual black
and white text. And now, they`re in a tough pickle.

I feel like it`s Orwellian what they`re doing today. We have the words, we
can read, and they are saying the opposite thing is true. And that is
crazy making in a lot of ways and it`s a dangerous moment in this country.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they pulled this off this way by saying it said
what we wanted it to say but not what it said because they got way with
that with Mueller?

MAXWELL: Well, they`re going to try to do that, and certainly because
their media infrastructure is completely insulated from facts at this
point, that may work with his base, which is 26 percent of voters. It`s
not going to work with the rest of us, and the rest of us have to continue
calling them out every single time they flat out lie.

MATTHEWS: Zerlina, great.

MAXWELL: Anyway, President Trump is holding a rally right now in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, right now. Moments ago, he brought what he called the
discredited allegation of spying on his campaign. Discredited allegation.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI also sent multiple
undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our
campaign. Look how they`ve hurt people. They`ve destroyed the lives of
people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives
have been destroyed by scum, OK? By scum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Evan, here he is attacking federal agents and the FBI for doing
their job and they`re told to do an investigation and defending some of the
odd balls on his campaign team, by the way. They`re not great Americans,
especially the people that the FBI was surveilling.

Your thoughts?

MCMULLIN: Look, Chris, I really have a bad feeling about where secretary
or where Attorney General Barr is headed with this. Some of his comments
today about the Obama administration officials and using this investigation
of the Trump campaign to affect the outcome of the election in 2016 and
then Trump`s language there about, you know, scum going after his campaign,
I sort of get the sense that as Barr and as Trump and the rest of them
double down on these conspiracy theories that are so important to the
president even as they`re debunked one by one, I really get the feeling
that we are going to see Barr use his powers at the Department of Justice
to take some kind of further direct action against senior Obama
administration officials.

And I don`t know if it`s going to be him issuing his own findings about
them and their decisions, their actions alleging wrongdoing. I don`t know
if it will go further than that, but I think that`s where he`s headed. I
think that`s where he`s – that`s what he and the president are signaling
today.

MATTHEWS: So, Zerlina, you`re only 23 years old, you`re out of college and
get recruited by the FBI because you want to be a law enforcement person.

MAXWELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: You find yourself working in the Trump brigade.

MAXWELL: That would be really disturbing. Perhaps you maybe go and take a
couple of years off, study abroad and then come back when we have some
semblance of independence of the FBI. The most concerning thing for me is
not just what he said but also what he said last week which is that
communities of color should comply first –

MATTHEWS: Or risk –

MAXWELL: – or complain later or risk essentially police being –

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No more patrols in neighborhoods.

MAXWELL: Right. So, he`s doing a double edged thing. He`s threatening
communities of color with not protecting them and putting law enforcement
in their communities at the same time he`s attacking law enforcement.

So it`s very interesting that the Trump administration is on the one hand
attacking law enforcement and criticizing those of us who credibly
criticize the law enforcement.

MATTHEWS: I`m glad you brought up that. I`m glad you brought up that. It
began like a reasonable argument for law enforcement and ended the sentence
what he`s saying is if you don`t suck up to us and be nice to us, we`re
going to let you die.

Zerlina Maxwell, thank you. And, Evan McMullin, sir, thank you.

Up next, what Trump said to me about impeachment about 20 years ago. It`ll
scare you as it should have.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re too tight on time tonight but tomorrow I`ll show you
what Donald Trump told me more than 20 years ago about his attitude towards
impeachment. He got it like that.

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

“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

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