House now debating articles of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 12/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Definite articles. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.
For Donald Trump, tonight is the night that history bites. Any moment now,
the House Judiciary Committee is going to take up the solemn task of
impeaching the president from his high elected office for his abuse of
office and obstruction of the Congress.
You`re looking live now at the first of the committee`s two sessions over
the next 24 hours to consider those two articles. For his part, Trump has
remained relatively quiet in public today although he did have lunch with
House Republican leadership this afternoon as they prepare to mount their
defense of him.
Tonight, we will hear from members on each side of the two articles
starting with Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler of New York.
I`m joined right now by Robert Costa, Washington Post National Political
Reporter, Nadeam Elshami is former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, the
speaker, Joyce Vance is former U.S. attorney and Geoff Bennett is NBC News
Geoff, you`ve been carrying us and taking us all this way. Take us now to
the finish line. We assume tomorrow night in terms of the committee`s work
in actually writing these articles.
GEOFF BENNET, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the committee right now, Chris,
is opening a markup of these two tightly focused articles of impeachment,
as you have mentioned, the one on abuse of power, the other on obstruction
of Congress. And so a markup for people who aren`t familiar with it is the
process by which a congressional committee debates and amends measures or
So tonight, there`ll be a lot of debate, right? So each member gets his or
her five minutes to make an opening statement. Democrats though, I`m told,
are not planning to offer any amendments. They`re not planning to make any
changes to the two articles that have already gotten the blessing of the
House speaker and House leadership.
Republicans though certainly will try to do that. You can bet on that.
But Democrats will likely shut that down. Here is Chairman Nadler picking
MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead. There he is.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Today, we need to begin consideration of
articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. Although it is
our custom to limit opening statement to the chair and ranking member of
the committee, as I informed the ranking member, I believe that for such an
important and solemn occasion as this, it would be appropriate for all
members to have an opportunity to make an opening statement.
Before we begin, I want to note the absence of our colleague Ted Lieu who
required a medical procedure Monday evening and will be unable to attend
this markup. I understand he is in good spirits and plans to be back at
work next week. His statement will be made part of the record and I know
that all of my colleagues join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.
I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.
Today, we begin consideration of two articles of impeachment against
President Donald J. Trump. The first article charges that the president
used the powers of his public office to demand that a foreign government
attack his political rivals. The second article charges that the president
obstructed the congressional investigation into his conduct.
Other presidents have resisted congressional oversight, but President
Trump’s stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American
history. Taken together, the two articles charged President Trump with
placing his private political interests above our national security, above
our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials
This committee now owes it to the American people to give these
articles close attention and to describe their factual basis, meaning, and
importance. I believe that three questions should frame our debate.
First, does the evidence show clearly that the president committed these
acts? Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and
misdemeanors? Third, what are the consequences for our national security,
for the integrity of our elections, and for our country if we fail to act.
To the first question, there can be no serious debate about what
President Trump did. On July 25th of this year, when he spoke to President
Zelensky of Ukraine by telephone, President Trump had the upper hand.
Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. Zelensky had only recently been
elected; he badly needed our help. He needed it in the form of military
aid already appropriated by Congress because of our national security
interests in Ukraine. And he needed help in the form of an oval office
meeting so he could show the world that the United States stands with him
against Russian aggression.
President Trump should have focused on America’s national security and
on the interests of the American people on that call. Instead, he
completely ignored them in order to push his own personal political
President Trump asked for a favor. He wanted Ukraine to announce two
bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Biden, his leading
opponent in the 2020 election; and another to advance a conspiracy theory
that Ukraine, not Russia attacked our elections in 2016.
These were not legitimate requests, neither was supported by the
evidence. One investigation was designed to help President Trump conceal
the truth about the 2016 election. The other was designed to help him gain
an advantage in the 2020 campaign. Both were divorced from reality and
from official U.S. policy.
The evidence proves that these requests were not related to any real
interest in rooting out corruption. President Trump eagerly does business
with corrupt governments every day. The evidence shows that President
Trump did not care if real investigations took place. A public
announcement that the government of Ukraine was investigating his rivals
would have been enough for him to release the aid whether or not an actual
investigation ever took place.
After the call, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. He dangled
the offer of an oval office meeting. He withheld $391 million in military
aid. His personal lawyer traveled to pressure the Ukrainians directly.
The President deployed other agents, including outside the official
channels of diplomacy, to make his desires clear.
By September, President Zelensky was ready to comply to announce the
two fake investigations. Then, the scandal broke into the open. Caught in
the act, the President was forced to release the aid.
When the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the
President’s actions, President Trump did everything in his power to
obstruct the investigation. He declared across the board resistance. He
ordered every official in the federal government to defy all subpoenas
related to the inquiry, at his command, the administration also refused to
produce a single document related to the inquiry, not one.
To put this obstruction into context, during the Watergate hearings
President Nixon turned over recordings of his conversations in the Oval
Office. Later, President Clinton handed over his DNA. President Trump’s
instruction was, by contrast, absolute, those are the facts. They are
overwhelming. There is no denying them.
Having reviewed the evidence, we come to our second question: is the
President’s proven conduct impeachable? The answer is simple: absolutely.
Under Article I of the Constitution, the President can be impeached for
high crimes and misdemeanors. The highest of high crimes is abuse of
power. It occurs when the President uses his official powers to serve his
own personal selfish interests at the expense of the public good. To the
founding generation that had fought a king and won our freedom, it was a
specific well-defined offense.
The first article of impeachment charges President Trump with abuse of
power. The article describes President Trump’s conduct and lays out two
aggravating factors that we must consider. In pressuring Ukraine for a
personal favor, President Trump both betrayed our national security and
attempted to corrupt our elections. When the President weakens an ally who
advances American security interests by fighting an American adversary, the
President weakens America. And when the President demands that a foreign
government investigate his domestic political rivals, he corrupts our
elections. To the founders, this kind of corruption was especially
pernicious. Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. If
our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt.
The President faces a second article of impeachment for his ongoing
efforts to obstruct a lawful investigation into his conduct. We have
never, in the history of our nation, seen a President categorically defy
Congress in this manner. If the President can first abuse his power and
then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot
fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive. And
the President becomes a dictator.
Later tonight, you will hear more about both articles and how they
describe a pattern of behavior that President Trump seems determined to
repeat again and again. My colleagues will also address various procedural
objections that have been raised in the President’s defense.
But there is one of those objections that I wish to address right
away. Some ask why not take more time? Why is this necessary now? Why do
we need to impeach the President? Why not let the next election handle it?
This brings us to the third and final question: what is the risk if we do
Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began, indeed,
over the last three years, one indisputable truth has emerged. If we do
not respond to President Trump’s abuses of power, the abuses will continue.
We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the President
threatens the very integrity of that election. Nor can we sit on our hands
while the President undermines our national security and while he allows
his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to
The President’s personal lawyer was in Ukraine again just last week.
That was not three years ago, that was not three months ago, that was
Saturday. President Trump’s continuing abuses of power jeopardize our
security and our elections. The threat is urgent. If we do not act now,
what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his.
I will close with the word to my Republican colleagues. I know you.
I have worked with many of you for years. I consider you to be good and
decent public servants. I know this moment may be difficult, but you still
have a choice. I hope every member of this committee will withstand the
political pressures of the moment. I hope that none of us attempt to
justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong. I hope that we are
able to work together to hold this President or any President accountable
for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.
And while you think about that choice, please keep in mind that one
way or the other, President Trump will not be President forever. When his
time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country
returns as surely it will to calmer times and stronger leadership, history
will look back on our actions here today. How would you be remembered? We
have each taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all
enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope to be remembered for honoring that
oath. I hope you feel the same.
And so with a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I
support these articles of impeachment. I urge my colleagues to support
them as well.
I yield back to the balance of my time. I now recognize the
distinguished Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from
Georgia, Mr. Collins, for his opening statement.
COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I find it amazing at best,
hilarious, I guess, at worst, that we come to quote a solemn and amazing
moment. We’ve been on this path since November 2016. This is not new.
We’ve been trying this for almost three years, if you’re a majority member
of this party. The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from
last November when you became the majority. The only thing that changed in
your desire to impeach this President was that you became the majority.
And we have spent all year in this committee trying to impeach the
We have occasionally had markups on bills; most of which so partisan
they cannot even go forward in the Senate, most of which that do not
address any issue that we’ve talked about. But it is amazing to me that
we’re taking it now as such a solemn oath that we’ve made up something to
now come to this point to say this is very solemn like it jumped up and
snuck up on you. It’s about like the holiday season. It doesn’t jump up
and sneak up on you when you’ve been expecting it the whole time. And
that’s what we’ve been doing.
What has been amazing to me was is some things that we have seen. So
let’s just take some perspective here for a little while. What has our
committee, this great committee, come to? That’s the question for us.
Let’s just take it for just a moment inside these impeachment hearings.
This is our third, I will count it into tomorrow for three, three hearings
in this committee of impeachment and that’s all we’re having. What did we
get out of those three hearings? We had a bunch of law professors; three
of which who cannot stand the President, who cannot stand his voters, and
could not stand the fact that he’s still in office telling us why he should
be impeached. And that inferences were OK to find impeachment.
We had a hearing just two days ago from staff lecturing us on what’s
relevant and not relevant. And what they found in a report while the
member wrote the report hid in his closet, somewhere, I guess, or in his
office, not wanting to come face the questions of this committee. That
should be abhorrent to everyone here. So let’s think about what we’ve seen
and what we’ve not seen. And, again, Chairman Schiff is nowhere to be
Well, we understand this. We look forward. Tonight, it has started
again. We talk about tearing down of national institutions and we start
talking about putting our security at risk when tonight even in the
Chairman’s opening statement we start with one of the most amazing
takedowns I have ever seen. When they can’t make their argument that the
President pressured Mr. Zelensky, they then attacked Mr. Zelensky and then
say that he was pressured when Mr. Zelensky on numerous occasions he said I
have not been pressured, I’m not being used, I have no – the call was
fine. I’m not paying (ph) pressured to do anything. Then here’s what the
majority is saying. The majority is saying Mr. Zelensky is a liar, and we
in this body, the Democrats, are tearing down a world leader in the eyes of
those that don’t like him in his own country and Russia who is attacking
Think about that one for just a second. Let that sink in. When we
can’t make our case, we tear down not only try to tear down the leader of
the free world, President Trump, we’re tearing down the newly elected
leader of the Ukraine. This is amazing to me. You can’t make your case
against the President because nothing happened. And when President
Zelensky confirms nothing happened, we start tearing him down.
I never thought we would cross outside of the ocean to try and
basically impugn the integrity of a world leader like we have been for the
last two hearings. We have also found other things that we have found in
our very minimal hearings here in this body is we have seen that other
committees have used political vendettas against ranking members and
others, including members of the press who are sitting here tonight by
putting phone records in, naming names.
I mean you talk about getting even. We put names, Mr. Nunes, Mr.
Solomon, others, on those four numbers that we looked at; and nobody would
own up to it. Mr. Goldman, Mr. Schiff, of course, wasn’t here, but even
Mr. Goldman wouldn’t own up to who said to do that when they could have
simply put in the record, congressman one, congressman two, reporter one.
No, they got what they wanted. They got their drive-by. They got their
political smear. That’s the record being built in Judiciary Committee, not
a record of facts against this President, a record of a Democratic party
who’s lost all moorings of fairness and good taste. That’s what we’re
seeing here. And we can have all the flowery opening statements tonight we
want, but they can’t get away from that fact.
What is the big lie that is being perpetrated here on us? The big lie
is this. And one of the Democrats have told the American people they have
said this for three years the big lie that we’re hearing perpetrator
tonight is, one, the end justifies the means, the lies that the Sham
impeachment is OK because the threat is so real and so urgent and so
imminent. The big lies that political expediency is honorable and
justifiable. And history has shown that to be untrue and dangerous. The
big lies that Adam Schiff had gained evidence in plain sight. He said
President Trump colluding with Russia. And Special Counsel Mueller’s
report debunked that lie, but it continues to spread like a cancer every
time we meet.
The big lies that the evidence of the impeachment are overwhelming and
uncontested, the facts are undisputed. The very fact that people in this
committee dispute the facts make them disputed facts not undisputed facts.
The problem that we’re seeing here is when you even get to the articles
themselves. Abuse of power, when you look at these articles and compare
them to history, I’m glad the Chairman brought up history, because I would
not write history. It will be written for us at a later time. Because
they will not always be the majority as he talked about, this President not
always being President. I do believe he will be President for five more
But, at this time, there will be a turnover at some point, and what have we
had? This is the articles that we wrote? After all these hearings and all
these grand pronouncements, and all these thoughts of crimes in plain
sight, we get abuse of power, with no dates on, this is the abuse? It`s
just generic, vague statements?
You know why I believe that is, is because the Democrats can`t come up with
the argument for it. They don`t have the who knew it and when they knew
it. All they have is it, well, here, members. We`re going to give you
abuse of power. You go home, pick something you don`t like about the
president, there`s your abuse of power.
This is as much about political expediency as it is anything else. And
that should never be in articles of impeachment. And anybody to defend
that is treading on very thin ice.
And then obstruction of Congress. The only obstruction we have seen here
is obstruction from Chairman Schiff of this investigation. He did not turn
off the documents, as he was supposed to. We get those last Saturday in a
massive document dump, after we have already had a hearing, after we had
another getting – ready for another hearing in which we were supposed to
lay out the report.
And tonight, tonight, he sends a letter of classified information that has
been classified over to us tonight. Don`t think for a second, American
public, that this majority wants you to find the truth. The obstruction
has only occurred from Adam Schiff and the HPSCI and the majority keeping
people from actually trying to find the truth.
That`s the only obstruction here. So, why don`t we just have that as an
obstruction charge? But it would be against Adam Schiff and the majority,
not the president.
Two articles, like that, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? In
70-something days, the only abuse of power here is the majority racing the
fastest they have ever had the clock and the calendar determining what
impeachment looks like.
That`s the abuse of power, as Professor Turley said.
But, before I finish, I cannot stop without this. The real legacy of this
impeachment hearing will not be the removal of Donald Trump as president.
In fact, if anything, they see the majority for what they are, on a three-
year vendetta to get someone that they couldn`t beat, and they`re desperate
to do it before he beats them again next year.
Here`s the real damage. It is the institutional damage to this body. It`s
the institutional damage to getting information, even after hearings
started, from not having the rules followed, for having this committee, as
the chairman warned us about 20 years ago, when he said this great
committee, the Judiciary Committee, should never accept a report from
someone else without verifying and having hearings to make sure it was
there, unless, as the chairman said, we become a rubber stamp.
I don`t know about you, but I`m not a rubber stamp. And I don`t like what
I have been forced to do, sit here, be lectured to by law professors and a
staff that does not wear a pin telling us what`s relevant or not.
We`re a rubber stamp of the worst kind, because we didn`t even try to make
The minority hearing day, which, by the way, get ready. We will talk about
this more. We`re going to talk about it some tonight, and we will get it
shot down tomorrow. And Rules Committee will take care of it.
But for reporters and for media and people who`ve watched this body and the
institution that I have loved all of my life and watched it since I was an
intern up here being destroyed day after day, if the minority has no rights
– and, one day, this majority will be back in the minority. And they will
be crying and screaming for minority rights to be upheld.
And I will just point back to 2019 and say, this is the year you put a
dagger in minority rights. Justify – the most basic obligations of this
committee have been overrun.
So, tonight, we have experienced – we`re in December. After a year of
trashing this institution, a year of trying to trash this administration
and this president, we come up with abuse of power and can`t define it?
We come up with obstruction of Congress after 72 two days? I know they`re
desperate. You know how I know it? Adam Schiff`s own words yesterday. We
can`t go to court. That would take too long. An election is coming.
Let me finish the last part of the sentence, as he liked to put words into
President Trump`s mouth when he faked the call transcript. No, Adam, what
you need to continue to say is, we can`t beat him next year. The only
thing we need is a 30-second commercial saying, we impeached him.
That`s the wrong reason to impeach somebody. And the American people are
seeing through this. But, at the end of the day, my heart breaks for a
committee that has trashed this institution, and this is where we are now.
With that, I yield back.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to continue monitoring tonight`s House Judiciary
And more, I`m joined by – for more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, of course,
who is the “Washington Post” national political reporter, and Nadeam
Elshami, who was former chief of staff to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Joyce
Vance, of course, former U.S. attorney D.C., and NBC correspondent Geoff
Bennett, who we heard from, and also historian – presidential historian
Jon Meacham, my friend. He`s also available to us tonight.
So, let`s go around the room.
And I will look at – I will take my – as the chairman says, I`m going to
take five minutes for myself, actually about a minute.
It seems to me that we have reached the point of political know-how at this
I want to start with Nadeam.
Political know-how, meaning, this is – the die has been cast. There`s
going to be articles of impeachment. They`re going to come out of this
committee probably tomorrow. There will be a vote probably next week,
before Christmas. We know that.
And they will be what they say, beautifully written articles, I think, very
economically written, crisply, almost constitutional language, right.
That game of the – name of the game, I think, is, Nancy Pelosi wants to
come out of this with 230 votes. She went in with 232, maybe one or two.
But if she can bring an impeachment charge against the president, two of
them, with the strong Democratic support, 232, say, is what the number she
got when she started here with the resolution, she`s a winner.
NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO NANCY PELOSI: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And that`s why she wants just two, and she wants it overwhelming
unity, so it`s clear, crystal, obvious that these guys believe that the
other guy, the president, is wrong.
ELSHAMI: And this process was designed just for that, to come up with the
best articles that would resonate with the American people, that members
could take home and say, look, I voted for articles of impeachment.
And these are the two articles, because the president of the United States
decided to talk to another foreign entity to interfere in the election.
And, definitely, this is something that`s going to take place over the next
two weeks, two months, six months, until the election.
MATTHEWS: I think the speaker separated, in biblical language, from the –
wheat from the chaff.
She said, the wheat here, the good stuff, is abuse of power, because we
know what he did with Zelensky. And we knew that it was a – it was
compromising national security. And national security works in the
suburbs, because the people that get up in the morning – like big people -
- they get up in the morning, the women and the men, read the paper.
They know what`s going on, whether it`s “The Inquirer,” it`s “The New York
Times,” or whatever it is. They know what`s going on. And they know
national security is what counts when you`re a congressperson. She picked
the right spot to beat Trump with.
ROBERT COSTA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I was with the president yesterday in
Pennsylvania. He`s stoking that base in Western Pennsylvania.
But if the Democrats want to hold on to the Philly suburbs and suburbs like
it across the country, they`re trying to make this argument on national
And you see Speaker Pelosi is trying to arm her own members.
COSTA: Giving them narrow, focused articles on impeachment, at the same
time giving them an economic point to talk about with the USMCA.
This is not just Speaker Pelosi, as the head of the Democratic Party. This
is Speaker Pelosi with her Baltimore roots, a political tactician, saying
to her chairmen: I`m in control. We`re going to keep this House majority.
MATTHEWS: That`s well said.
Let me go to Joyce on this.
We have been talking politics, but join in here. It isn`t just the law
now. It`s how the speaker calls it. And does she call it right and
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, this is the real intersection
of the law and politics.
And I think one of the truisms of the last couple of years of politics is
that anyone who questions Nancy Pelosi ultimately comes to see that she is
strategically brilliant. I think she`s very focused here.
I listened to Representative Collins` complaints about these articles of
impeachment, and I don`t think that they serve him very well, because there
are specifics in article one. This is solicitation of a foreign country
for helping an election. This is bribery and extortion and, ultimately, a
conspiracy by the president to do both of those things.
But the real telling point where Nancy Pelosi`s strategy will come through
is that, when Collins and his colleagues begin to complain about the damage
done to their body, done to Congress by these proceedings, Democrats need
only refer to article two, which lays out that the president, in an
unprecedented fashion, has categorically declined to engage in a
constitutionally mandated process for oversight of the presidency.
It`s going to be very difficult for Republicans to simultaneously complain
about the process and avoid the impact that the American people will see
from that second article.
MATTHEWS: The history is being made tonight.
And, Jon, I want to try – talk to you about one idea about focus. The old
line was, don`t fire until you see the whites of their eyes. That`s pretty
It seems to me that Pelosi has figured out, after all the months of
haggling with the left, and the center against the left, the center did not
want to impeach. The right – the left did. Finally, she found an
opportunity for close engagement with Trump on an issue where he was
questioning – well, you could argue he`s betraying the national trust.
JON MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN: Yes, this is Lexington and Concord for
her. She made a very carefully calibrated decision.
But I don`t want to just talk about it, about the speaker`s decision, in
raw political terms. I think, at some point, we have to take people at
And I think the Democrats – the ranking member made fun of – or attacked
the chairman for this, but this is a solemn moment. It is difficult. We
have only – we do once every 60 years in this country, Andrew Johnson,
Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and varying degrees of seriousness, varying
degrees of political divisiveness.
But it`s a very important moment. And it was the ultimate check put on the
executive. One of the things that is striking – and so I think the
speaker has done a wonderful job, not simply tactically, but strategically,
in defense of the Constitution, because one of the things that I think
Republicans some day, if they ever choose to have a reckoning about this,
will have to figure out is, how did they become the monarchical party?
How did they become monarchists? Because that`s basically what they`re
arguing, is that the president is acting in a kingly fashion, and that`s
And you know what?
MEACHAM: We have been fighting over this for 242 years, right? I mean,
this is as if the High Federalists are back somehow.
And you and I have talked about it before, but one of Thomas Paine`s most
important insights in common sense, arguably the most important thing
originally rendered in English in terms of our revolution, he said, people
ask, where is the king of America? The king of America is above where the
And it is about the law, not simply about the man. Whether the – whether
the members and the senators are going to be able to hear that music, I
But here`s hoping they do.
MATTHEWS: Well, – well, everybody – Robert, I want to start with you.
I think that the language in the articles are beautifully done, as I said,
economically written. And they get to the point. And I do think
separating the wheat from the chaff is very important. She did not go
after emoluments. Nobody`s going to pile – except for the far left,
nobody`s going to kick this guy out of office because he made some money
down at the hotel down on Pennsylvania Avenue.
It`s not going to happen. So I do think it`s solemn, but it`s also
political. She picked the right spot – the right spot for Max Rose of
Staten Island and Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and
all these people.
And she may have even gotten Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County to vote for
this day, because this is, to me, a very good thing to vote for. You`re
voting to defend the interests of this country against a president who
didn`t defend those interests.
COSTA: You made the case that abuse of power helps people running in the
suburbs to talk about the issue of national security.
Give some attention as well to this article the impeachment on obstruction
of Congress. As a reporter, this is the culmination of two-and-a-half
years of frustrations among House Democrats that this White House, subpoena
after subpoena, says no.
COSTA: Whether it`s an agency, a department, or the impeachment inquiry,
they are so frustrated that their branch doesn`t legislate anymore.
And when it comes to their other duty of oversight, they can`t even do
The problem there, Joyce, it seems to me, is the failure of the three
branches of government to work together. Back in Nixon`s day – it wasn`t
his day, but it was the end of his day – the courts delivered the tapes,
the incriminating June 23 tapes, to the Congress in time for them to
impeach the president.
This time around, it looks like the courts are working to slow the whole
thing down, to the point where they have almost become irrelevant.
VANCE: You know, that`s been one of the real frustrations here.
We heard that from Congressman Schiff yesterday, a little bit of an echo of
that this evening, this notion that the courts have not done what, clearly,
for anyone who reads the law, sees the need to do, which is to force these
witnesses to testify.
Maybe they have some limited executive privilege. But these folks that
were around the president who are material fact witnesses all need to be in
front of Congress now. They should have been in front of Bob Mueller, and
the courts are dragging their feet.
MATTHEWS: And why? How can they get – why – what is the motivation of
these judges not to render expeditious decisions, so they can be useful to
Why do they think they can wait, what, eight months for the McGahn
decision? It`s like they think they`re on a death row situation, where
they have got to exhaust every potential appeal. Is that what`s going on
VANCE: You know, I think it`s easy to cast blame here, but most of the
blame just belongs with the process.
We have rules involved in litigating that, for instance, give parties 30
days to respond, and then another 30 days. And the courts, for whatever
reason, have typically complied with those rules. We have seen some
But, as you point out, Chris, there are processes, for instance, in capital
cases, in death penalty cases, where courts render decisions very quickly.
Everybody saw this coming. These matters could have been briefed more
quickly. The Supreme Court could have, in essence,sent the message that it
wanted them sped on the way.
VANCE: And, in essence, what we`re seeing is this death by 1,000 cuts with
MATTHEWS: And that`s why I think the president`s defenders are saying,
let`s wait for the courts, because that means death of this whole
Thank you so much, Robert Costa, Nadeam Elshami, Joyce Vance. Thank you so
much, Geoff Bennett, of course, and historian Jon Meacham.
Coming up, much more on tonight`s impeachment debate in the House Judiciary
Plus, the DOJ`s inspector general presents his report on the origins of the
Mueller probe to Congress.
Senator Richard Blumenthal is going to join us next. He`s coming here in a
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Last night, during his rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, President Trump used
the Justice Department inspector general`s report to slam the investigation
into his 2016 campaign and to denounce some of the men and women who serve
in the FBI. And he calls FBI employees or officers scum. That`s his word.
(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
Look how they have hurt people. They have 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: Well, that crowd wasn`t reacting to that. And good for them.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who appeared before the Senate
Judiciary Committee today, was asked if any of that was true.
Here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Well, is there any evidence that you found
that the FBI tried to overthrow the presidency?
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: No.
BLUMENTHAL: Did you find any evidence that the FBI tapped the phones at
BLUMENTHAL: Did you find evidence that the FBI put spies in the Trump
HOROWITZ: No, we did not find evidence that the FBI sought to place
confidential human sources inside the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat
You just saw him, by the way, of course, in that hearing.
And I`m joined also by Cynthia Schnedar, former deputy inspector general at
the Justice Department himself.
Thank you. You`re a good witness to have tonight.
Senator, the president – I know you have to be particular in talking to
people like Mr. Horowitz who`s a good public servant, but this president`s
trashing of every American institution is just his pattern now. They`re
all scum, including Republicans who don`t like him.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): That`s absolutely right, Chris. And I
specifically asked Mr. Horowitz, do you agree with the characterization of
our courageous and dedicated FBI as scum, and he said no.
But the point here is that the president has disparaged and demeaned law
enforcement generally. And he is absolutely wrong when he says that it`s
destroyed lives. In fact, three of the four people who were involved in
the investigation have been convicted.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Let me go to Cynthia on this because the question – I
watched the politics today and I watched Republican members of the Congress
and Senate mostly the Senate today, just acting like a report said the
absolute opposite of what it said. It said there was no conspiracy here by
the FBI to bring down the Trump campaign, to execute a coup. There was
none of that, and yet they kept saying it over and over again as if they
were speaking for the report of Michael Horowitz, the inspector general?
CYNTHIA SCHNEDAR, FORMER DOJ DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL: That`s right. And
I think that`s why it`s so important we have this function of the inspector
general, which is an independent entity. And we have in Michael Horowitz,
a person who`s known to be independent and appointed before by both
Republican and Democratic administrations to issue a report to call the
shots like they are so that no matter what people call it, you have the
written words of the report that speak for itself and you have Mr.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Senator, because we hadn`t you on in a while. I
So, tell me, what do you think is going on in the Senate when we get over
there? There`s going to be a trial. It looks like it`s going to be in the
beginning in January. It`s going to be the length of the month basically.
What`s it going to look like?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, first, Chris, this inspector general report is
profoundly important because it absolutely demolishes all of the conspiracy
theories, the claims about a right wing state cabal, a deep state coup and
overthrowing the president. And I think what`s going to happen here is
that we`re going to continue to chip away and decimate these kinds of
distractions and conspiracy theories that are the ultimate resort of the
Republicans, and they are dangerous, profoundly dangerous to our national
One point that the article of impeachment makes so cogently and powerfully
is that this president is a continuing threat to our Democratic
institution, particularly our elections, and to our national security
around the globe and his willingness to give away our national interests to
his personal benefit.
MATTHEWS: So what do you think the Senate will do when they try him?
BLUMENTHAL: I think that a number of my colleagues, and I would put the
number between 1 and 10 will side with us on the procedural issues, which
will enable us to present additional witnesses and documents. And I think
a number of them will look in the mirror and have some regards for the
judgment of history, which will haunt them if they vote against impeachment
and come our way. But, first, we need to win on the procedural issue, and
that`s where the fight will begin as soon as early January.
MATTHEWS: Would you give a high end of who would vote for a conviction of
BLUMENTHAL: I would give the high end probably 5 to 10.
BLUMENTHAL: I think that`s a realistic number. But – and I want to
emphasize the but – we need to keep in mind what`s unpredictable here.
Remember the Watergate case where the Nixon tapes emerged seemingly by
chance through Alex Butterfield`s testimony that was completely
unanticipated at the beginning. And the Nixon wall cracked. And the tapes
were produced, and that was the end of his presidency.
So, never underestimate the possibility of unpredicted evidence. And so I
think that 1 to 10 number may increase as we see more of the evidence. It
is a very, very fluid situation.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there`s any reasonable hope that Chief Justice John
Roberts who will be the presiding judge in the Senate trial might require
the presence of a decisive witness?
BLUMENTHAL: I think there is a very good chance that Chief Justice John
Roberts who presides will delegate a lot of these decisions about the
witnesses to a majority vote. So we will need some Republicans to come our
way on those procedural votes. But I think there are a number of
colleagues, some facing tough re-election challenges in states where they
won as Republicans and others perhaps retiring and maybe some who actually
demonstrate conscience and conviction and real patriotism, dedicated to
country who will say this vote is for the history books. This one is where
history will haunt us and the electorate will haunt us if we seem to be
So, I would say nothing is impossible, and we should let none of them off
MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you on, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut, and Cynthia Schnedar, thank you. We`ll have more for you next
MATTHEWS: Coming up, as the historic impeachment investigation moves
forward, right now, members of the Judiciary Committee as we`re watching
now are making the their final case for or against the impeachment of
And that`s next here on HARDBALL. You`re watching it.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, this hour, the House Judiciary Committee as I said is officially
beginning its debate of the articles of impeachment against President
Trump. Pretty historic stuff, which they could vote on we expect within
the day, within the next 24 hours now.
Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California cited Richard Nixon`s
impeachment in her call for Republicans to consider the evidence over party
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): One of my most vivid memories of the 1974
impeachment was Representative Chuck Wiggins, one of the most vigorous
defenders of President Nixon when he realized that Nixon had lied to him.
I`ve been waiting for Republican members here to have their Chuck Wiggins
moment, but it seems like we live in an alternate reality where as one
columnist recently said, if it swims and quacks like a duck, it`s a piano.
It`s understandable that Republicans feel loyalty to the leader of their
party. But loyalty to our country and our Constitution must be greater.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`ll joined by MSNBC contributor Howard Fineman.
Howard, let`s take a look back at some footage from the 1974 House
Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment. Here`s what they were writing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-REP. LAWRENCE HOGAN (R-MD), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And I cannot in good
conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and
THEN-REP. ROBERT MCCLORY (R-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Watergate is a
serious matter. Many in and out of the White House have been involved in
this tragic episode.
THEN-REP. M. CALDWLL BUTLER (R-VA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We Republicans
have campaigned against corruption and misconduct in the administration of
the government of the United States by the other party. But Watergate is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Howard, those are Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee
not a million years ago, 1974, voting articles of impeachment against their
co-partisan Republican president. And look at what`s happening tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s a different political world.
MATTHEWS: What about tonight? You watched Doug Collins tonight making fun
– I know the House rules. You`re not supposed to make fun of the
motivations of another member, whatever the party. Making fun and just
saying you`re a liar basically.
FINEMAN: Yes, and also not dealing with any issue of substance at all.
Smearing, calling names, creating scary figures like Adam Schiff, you know,
who won`t come out of –
MATTHEWS: Shifty Schiff.
FINEMAN: Shifty Schiff.
MATTHEWS: He`s hiding behind it.
FINEMAN: He won`t come out of hiding. You know, this is all childish –
childish stuff, and frankly I had just gotten out of journalism school at
the time of Watergate, and I remember that and I know the solemnity of the
Clinton trial which I covered and so on for “Newsweek”.
This was childish behavior on the part of the Republicans. They`ve been
made into children by Donald Trump, because of the tribalism of Trump`s
theory of government.
FINEMAN: And the fact that as you pointed out early in the show, the Trump
administration has stonewalled and sneered at every attempt at subpoenas or
investigation of his administration.
MATTHEWS: Here`s a guy. They ought to put a big sign on. I always say to
our producers always identify the witness, those people ought to know who`s
talked with, a journalist, a straight journalist like you, or somebody with
Here`s Louie Gohmert. You know what his background is? He is a birther.
He`s a guy that only knew one thing about it, claimed Obama was born
somewhere in Kenya and his white mother went over there to have him and
just so she could claim and run for president. A nut. He`s a nut.
FINEMAN: Chris, when I said that we`re in a different political world,
this is an era of emotion and accusation. When the Nixon trial – when the
Nixon impeachment process was under way the members of Congress who were
proud at least to have a veneer if not a deep dedication to the processes
of the Constitution and to rule of law.
FINEMAN: Donald Trump has sneered his entire life at the rule of law. He
views it as a fungible, manipulatable thing that he learned how to do back
in New York in the real estate business, and that has given cover to every
MATTHEWS: How did he know these guys were a Puppetoons? How did he know
that every one of these guys would act like wound up puppets?
FINEMAN: Here`s Donald Trump`s main gift. He smells weakness and fear in
anybody in the room with him. He took one look at the Republican
establishment when he was busy kicking in the door and saw they were all
weak and without moral compass.
FINEMAN: And he just kicked the door down, and he`s ruled them ever since,
and he`s going to rule them with fear until the very end.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he called them Little Marco, low energy Jeb, he went to
FINEMAN: He looked at the Republican Party establishment and realized,
look – I covered Reagan, Reagan had ideas. The Republican conservative
movement was a real and important thing. But by the time Trump was
knocking on the door, it had completely lost its way and he boarded an
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Do you think when they have future Republican
conventions 10, 20 years from now they`ll have big pictures up on the wall?
FINEMAN: I have no idea if there is a Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: I thank you, Howard, a profound answer.
Up next, what Donald Trump told me about impeachment 20 years ago on
HARDBALL when he was just a businessman.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: In 1998, in the midst of the Clinton impeachment, I asked
businessman Donald Trump what his advice would be to President Bill Clinton
on impeachment. His first answer was: take the fifth. And the second
answer he gave was: go on offense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think he could have gotten away with a complete mea culpa
in January when he decided to cover it up? Do you think at that moment, he
could have said, I`m going to throw all my money on the table, the American
people like me, they`re going to buy this?
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: Well, I think he probably couldn`t do any
worse, I don`t think he could do worse. I think his lawyers, and in
particular the lawyer I won`t mention names but representing with respect
to Paula Jones I think did a terrible job.
I`m not even sure that he shouldn`t have just gone and taken the Fifth
Amendment and said, look, I don`t get along with this man, Starr, he`s
after me, he`s a Republican, he`s this and that, and, you know, just taken
the Fifth Amendment. That`s a terrible thing for a president to take the
Fifth Amendment, but he probably should have done it.
MATTHEWS: You basically have sort of Old Testament view of this thing.
TRUMP: I do.
MATTHEWS: Tell us about it.
TRUMP: Go after your enemies. I mean, they`re after you, go after your
enemies. I think Clinton is probably too nice a guy in a certain respect.
I think that`s one of the things that happened.
I really believe he is a nice guy.
MATTHEWS: That he wants to be liked too much?
TRUMP: Maybe but I don`t think he`s going after people the way he should.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe Trump was telling us less about Clinton back then
than he was revealing about himself, Donald Trump.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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