Moving the line in 2020. TRANSCRIPT: 12/20/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests:
Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Noah Feldman, Mark Galli, Katrina Mulligan, Greg Brower
Transcript:

 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  You know where to find THE BEAT.

 

But don`t go anywhere right now because HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up

next.

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Barricade.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

 

Tonight, the articles of impeachment are in possession of the speaker of

the House.  The U.S. Senate, which is to try the impeached president, is

unable to act, so there will be more history left to write once the

president faces trial in the Senate, but it remains unclear when that will

be, because, as I speak, there is a standoff between House Speaker Nancy

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Pelosi has yet to

transmit the articles of impeachment over to the Senate.

 

And the standoff comes as Congress departs for a holiday recess, look at

the calendar, almost three weeks, effectively freezing the state of play on

this constitutional moment.  Pelosi says she`s weighing a delay in order to

get a fair trial in the Senate and won`t select impeachment managers until

she knows how the Senate intends to conduct itself.

 

But Mitch McConnell contends that it`s decided House Democrats are afraid

to bring their case.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats

may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to

the Senate.

 

We`ll see whether House Democrats ever want to work up the courage to

actually take their accusations to trial.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  well, according to Politico, the Politico Magazine, an

emboldened Pelosi was dismissive of McConnell`s charge saying fear is never

a word used with me.  You should know right away I`m never afraid and I`m

rarely surprised.

 

In an interview with The Associated Press, the speaker said of Trump, he`ll

be impeached forever no matter what the Senate does.  He`s impeached

forever because he violated our Constitution.

 

I`m joined now by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, of course, a

member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Senator Barbara Boxer of

California, host of the Boxer podcast, and Noah Feldman, of course,

Professor at Harvard Law School.  He was one of the four witnesses to

testify to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month about the legal

arguments on impeachment.

 

I want to start with Senator Blumenthal about this.  Where do you stand on

the constitutional question, does Pelosi have the prerogative to hold back

the articles?

 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  This decision is indeed Nancy Pelosi`s to

make.  And her position is fully understandable that she wants some

assurance there will be a full, fair, honest trial with witnesses and

documents.  After all of the extraordinarily able work done by the House

committees and the courage of those dedicated public servants who have come

forward, she wants to make sure that we will have more than the sham

charade that Mitch McConnell is promising.

 

Keep in mind, he has said there is no chance that Donald Trump will be

removed.  He has promised he will take his cues from the White House, and

he has enablers in my Republican colleagues.  He cannot do this sham

without their 51 votes.

 

But I will tell you something, Chris, there`s a court of appeals here. 

It`s the electorate, the court of public opinion, and they`re saying 51

percent of all American people want those documents, more than 60 percent

of Republicans, and the fact of the matter is my Republican friends and

colleagues are doing a little soul-searching.  Courage is contagious, and

they`re going to be going back to their home districts, their states this

holiday for two weeks, and they`re going to be hearing about those 71

percent of Americans who say we need documents and witnesses.

 

MATTHEWS:  Barbara Boxer, former senator of California, let me ask you a

question.  This is about guts, it`s about nerve.  How long can Nancy

Pelosi, the speaker, as a person, because she`s making this decision

personally, how long can she hold those documents?  When they get back to

the House coming back into session next year, January 7th, first Tuesday

back, how long can she hold onto those documents politically and get away

with it?

 

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATOR:  Well, it`s a great question. 

But right now, I think Senator Blumenthal is right.  For her to just send

those articles over to the Senate after the foreman of the jury essentially

stepped out to the microphone and said, there`s no difference between the

way I feel and the way Trump`s lawyers feel, what she`s done is remarkable. 

And I don`t think she`s out there on her own, Chris.  I think she is – I

know how she works.  She`s got people around her who understands the

Constitution, who understand the gravity of the situation.

 

The last point I make right now is when I sat through that Clinton

impeachment, it was – it was horrible.  I – as a Democrat, obviously, I

was so disappointed and so upset.  And Trent Lott and Tom Daschle worked

hand in glove and they, guess what, had witnesses.  And those were three

witnesses and they took depositions, and their testimony was used in the

trial.

 

So Nancy, what she`s doing here, Speaker Pelosi, what she`s doing here is

she`s shining the spotlight where it needs to go now, and that`s on Mitch

McConnell who calls himself the grim reaper.  But he better step up to the

plate and stop playing party politics.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to the same question to Professor Feldman.  How long

can Pelosi make this?  Right or wrong, she is taking a dramatic stand here. 

She`s saying, I`m not sending over the documents.  How long can she get

away with it?  If it`s two, three months, does she even hold the sort of

Damocles she can at any moment declare the president impeached at her will? 

Does she have that authority?

 

NOAH FELDMAN, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW:  Well, under the

Constitution, the House has the authority to impeach.  And the House

basically put that power in the speaker`s hands because the impeachment

proffer takes place when someone from the House goes over to the Senate and

impeaches the president at the bar of the Senate.  That`s the way it`s

always been expressed for a couple of hundred years.

 

So until she does that, he`s not technically impeached.  When we stated the

president has been impeached, that`s a kind of shorthand.  We mean the

House has voted to impeach him, but the actual impeachment takes place when

the articles go over there.

 

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  But I`m just asking there because this is HARDBALL, and

it`s not just about the Constitution but it`s within the constitutional

framework.  If Mitch McConnell plays the usual way and says nothing, he

doesn`t speak again on this subject, he says, I`m waiting for the documents

to get her, Pelosi, what leverage does she have at that point?  If she

says, I`m not negotiating, I`m not sitting here with Chuck Schumer, saying,

two witnesses, we`ll give you two, you give us two people we want and we`ll

give you – you give me a couple of Bidens and maybe a whistleblower.  He

says I`m not going to negotiate that way, guys.  What`s the Pelosi

operation there going to look like?

 

FELDMAN:  Well, she doesn`t have any formal leverage – sorry, forgive me. 

I think she has no formal leverage.  The only leverage she has is to hope

that there is a response from the Senate and eventually to impeach when the

time comes.

 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Senator Boxer.  You have a thought there,

because I wonder if this becomes a standoff.  It`s a barricade situation. 

She`s saying, we`re barricading up, we`re not giving you the document.  The

danger of a barricade, I know this from Irish history, the danger of it is,

eventually, you have to break out of your own barricade.  You have to get

out of there yourself.  Because once you say, I`m not giving you the

documents, at some point, she has to turn over the documents.  And my

question is Pelosi gets nothing for that.  That`s right.  I`m talking

politics, Barbara, pure politics right now.

 

BOXER:  No, I hear you.  Her leverage, that is pretty straightforward to

me.  It`s the people.  The people want to have witnesses.  There are polls

that show that.  Her other leverage is there are several members of the

United States Senate who know they`re in a tough spot.  They`re up for

election in purple states.  They will fight for a fair trial.  So I think

the genius of this – she won`t wait forever, but the genius of this is to

put the spotlight on the process.

 

And if Mitch McConnell says, this is it, I think that there will be a lot

of pressure on those purple state senators.  So if she didn`t do this,

let`s just take it that way.  If she had just sent it over, okay, just sent

it over, then I don`t think anyone would even be tuning into this because

everybody knows we don`t have the two-thirds vote so no one would be paying

attention to Mitch McConnell.

 

And the way he runs the Senate, which is, as my good former colleague whom

I miss, will tell you is with an iron fist and he`s the self-described grim

reaper.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me Senator Blumenthal.  You just referred to the

Senator.  You`re on the Judiciary Committee.  Suppose Mitch McConnell,

who`s what he is, we know what he is, sometimes he`s Elmer Fudd, sometimes

Bugs Bunny, I don`t what he`s up to on this one.  Suppose he comes back

like Bugs Bunny and says, okay, you want witnesses?  I want two witnesses. 

I want Joe and Hunter Biden.  And by the way, I also want the

whistleblower.  And for that, I`ll give you John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. 

What happens if he comes outright there?  What do the Democrats – what do

you say if he says, here`s the deal, I want all the witnesses, not just

yours?  How do you respond?

 

BLUMENTHAL:  Chris, that`s a great question.  And what we have ultimately

is the power to call for vote and put our Republican colleague on record,

and that`s exactly what we will do because they will be judged by –

 

MATTHEWS:  But you`re on the record too.  They`ll say, you protect the

Bidens, you protect Joe Biden, you protected – top in the class right now

in terms of the polling.  You`re protecting your possible nominee, you`re

protecting his son and you`re protecting the whistleblower.  And how do

Democratic senators respond to that?  I`m just trimming (ph) this out.

 

BLUMENTHAL:  What the American people want – what the American people want

and what we want is witnesses who have relevant evidence.  Trump has

blocked every one of the – up to 12 witnesses that were sought by the

House.  He has blocked every single document that was sought by the House. 

Every single one of them from the Office of Management and Budget, the

Department of State, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense,

those documents, those witnesses, we will vote to have.

 

Hunter Biden has no direct evidence as those witnesses that we want Mick

Mulvaney, John Bolton, Robert Blair, Michael Duffey, everyone them,

responsible officials who have knowledge of this corrupt activity, bribery,

soliciting something of value, namely an investigation of his political

opponent in return for an official act, his releasing that money, our

taxpayer money to support an ally fighting for its life, Ukraine.  And

that`s why we want those documents and witnesses.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is just out.  Tonight, The Washington Post is posting

an article by former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona.  He

addressed his old Republican colleagues saying, quote, President Trump is

on trial, but in a very real sense, so are you, and so as the political

party to which we belong.

 

He warns that, quote, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded

when the coequal branch follows that president off the cliff into the abyss

of unreality and untruth.  If there ever was a time to put country over

party, it is now.  And by putting country over party, you might just save

the grand old party before it`s too late.  Anyway, Senator Flake concludes

by saying, if there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. 

Professor How do you resolve this?

 

Professor, thank you.  Professor Feldman, how do you resolve this?  How

does this come out of the wash in two weeks?  Now the recess is not until

the first or second week really in January.  This could go on.  How can you

see it resolved?

 

FELDMAN:  I think it`s only resolved by some negotiated solution in the

Senate where the senators figure out exactly what the procedure is going to

be is come to terms with who`s going to be called.  And then the articles

will be transmitted and the trial is going to happen, and that has to

happen.  It`s necessary under the Constitution at this point for there to

be an actual trial in the Senate.

 

And so I see the resolution coming when a negotiated solution is reached,

which will have to be reached.

 

MATTHEWS:  Senator Blumenthal, how do you get Republicans to look at this

as a conscientious decision that they really are jurors, they`re not just

politicians?

 

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, of course Mitch McConnell has said that he is not going

to be impartial.  In fact, he is going to put the president in charge of

his own defense and in charge of the trial by, in effect, his being the

president`s defense team.

 

How do we force our Republican colleagues to search their conscience? 

Well, ultimately, it`s public opinion, and the court of public opinion. 

That is the ultimate appeals court here.

 

And I firmly believe that my Republican colleagues are going to be under

enormous pressure, as Barbara Boxer has just put it so well.  When they go

home over these next two weeks, when they hear over the next two, six,

eight weeks from American people who want a full, fair trial.

 

And, ultimately, there will be some negotiation, but it can`t be the kind

of trap that Mitch McConnell is trying to set, and it can`t be the charade

or sham because we should absolutely refuse to be part of this complicit

scheme.

 

And it is ongoing.  That`s what comes across so dramatically in the House

impeachment articles that the president is continuing to solicit help from

the Russians.  He is continuing to sustain and support these crack pot

conspiracies about the Ukrainians not the Russians attacking our country,

and it is a danger to our national security that we must resist and reject.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe one of your recurring colleagues, Senator Mitch

McConnell of Utah is going to stand forth and be a profile in courage –

Mitt Romney rather.  Mitt Romney, he could make a difference.

 

Thank you so much, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.  Thank you. 

It`s always great having you on.  And my friend, Barbara Boxer, please keep

coming back.  It`s great having you on.  Professor, I was so impressed by

your testimony.  Thank you for coming here on HARDBALL.  Again, it`s a

perennial request for your presence here.

 

Coming up, an influential evangelical magazine receives the wrath of Trump

for an op-ed calling for his removal from office.  Christianity Today cites

Trump`s abuse of power, his lies and his, quote, grossly immoral character.

 

Plus, how Trump is continuing to weaponize the Justice Department, Bill

Barr`s partisan investigation into the origins of the Russian probe now

reportedly has former CIA Director John Brennan in his crosshairs.

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, is calling for

President Trump`s removal from office.  In a surprising editorial, the

magazine describes the president as, quote, a near perfect example of a

human being who is morally lost and confused.

 

The magazine calls for his removal because, quote, we believe the

impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear in a way that the

Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his

authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath.  The

impeachment hearings have illuminated the president`s moral deficiencies

for all to see.

 

Well, the editor ended the piece by asking their evangelical readers this. 

If we don`t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about

justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?

 

The piece struck a nerve with the president, of course.  In a string of

twitter attacks, Trump accused the magazine of being a far-left magazine or

very progressive that, quote, knows nothing about reading a perfect

transcript of rather a routine phone call.  That`s the president`s tweet

words.

 

He added, the fact is no president has ever done what I have done for

evangelicals or religion itself.  That`s Trump talking.

 

Despite what the president might say there, however, Christianity Today was

founded in 1956 by the reverend, Billy Graham, who wanted to, quote, plant

the evangelical flag in the middle of the road taking the conservative

theological position but a definite liberal approach to social problems.

 

According to exit polls, by the way, 80 percent of white evangelicals voted

for President Trump.

 

And, for more, I`m joined by the person who wrote that editorial, Mark

Galli, the editor in chief of “Christianity Today.”  He`s retiring in a few

days. 

 

Mr. Galli, thank you for joining us. 

 

And I really want to know about your thinking, your feeling, your moral

sense about this whole question of the president. 

 

I want to preface this by saying, I watched the whole day of hearings two

days ago, and I didn`t hear a single Republican member of the House say one

good word about the president`s basic goodness, his honesty, his character,

no defense of him as a person, as a human being under God, nothing. 

 

And I felt that to be a very serious deficiency on the part of those who

defended him.  Your thoughts about your own thinking? 

 

MARK GALLI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “CHRISTIANITY TODAY”:  Yes, my thinking runs

along the same lines. 

 

It`s not just Republicans.  Of course, my constituency is because –

evangelical Christians.  We`re – Mr. Trump is obviously woefully ignorant

about “Christianity Today,” because we`re hardly a progressive or leftist

magazine, nor are we a – particularly a political magazine.  We`re a

religious magazine with theological and spiritual purposes. 

 

In fact, I`d like to emphasize that the point of this editorial was not to

enter the political fray, as much as to raise the conversation, the level

of the conversation above the political fray, and rest it on a kind of an

ethical and moral basis that would – I would hope that any evangelical

audience could resonate with and appreciate.

 

Naturally, because it`s in the middle of a partisan political debate, a lot

of people are missing that.  But a careful reading will indicate, we don`t

have any political animus against Trump.  I don`t have any personal animus

against them. 

 

I just think the president of the United States, more than most leaders –

but this would be true of almost any leader – has a responsibility to

lead, not only politically, militarily, economically, but also morally. 

 

And from our perspective, as Christians, we happen to think the moral part

of it is the most important part.  And if that`s deficient, the rest can`t,

in the end, be helpful for our nation. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the ends justifying the means.  I was taught

that was wrong.  It seems a lot of support – the president gets a lot of

support from people who believe it`s important to change the direction of

the Supreme Court to being pro-life.

 

And he has done a lot of that changing.  And he may be on the road to a 7-2

conservative court, pro-life court.  Is there a Faustian deal at work here,

where people who have the Christian faith are willing to accept this

president`s moral deficiencies personally in order to get the court they

want? 

 

GALLI:  Well, actually, I would be a little more sympathetic to that

argument, because that`s the argument that my friends on the – among

conservative evangelicals have been making. 

 

And that`s true of pretty much any political situation.  There is some give

and take.  There is some – you have to accept some of the bad and some of

the good with any candidate or platform or particular bill. 

 

So I`m not so much concerned about that, as such, because that`s just part

of the nature of political life. 

 

But I think, with the revelations that happened at the impeachment

hearings, we crossed some sort of line that I felt kind of deep within

myself that, up to now, the argument that, on the one hand, he`s helping

pro-life, he`s helping religious freedom, on the other hand, he`s a person

of questionable moral character, we will just kind of weigh that in the

balance, and then we will we will just accept him as it and hold our nose. 

 

I felt that, after the impeachment hearings, when it was clear and, to me,

unambiguous that he had used the office of the presidency to manipulate a

foreign – a leader of a foreign nation for his own political gain, that

was not simply a violation of the Constitution. 

 

As such, it`s a – it`s a moral – it`s a huge moral problem, because one

of the things he vows is to uphold the Constitution.  So, there is the –

there is a place for the give and take and political life.  But there also

comes a time when the ends do not justify the means. 

 

And as I argued in my piece, I think we have gotten to that point, where

that argument about the ends justify the means no longer holds water, at

least in my view.

 

MATTHEWS:  When you heard the transcript or the phone records that showed

the president going to a president of a foreign country, a vulnerable

country, vulnerable to the Russian aggression there, military aggression,

and he said, there`s something – I want you to do us a favor, is that when

he saw that he was interjecting his personal interest into public affairs,

at the expense of public affairs?

 

GALLI:  That was one moment, but the whole notion of withholding funds and

the – obviously, the pressure applied was done subtly, but it was – it

seemed to me, between the phone call and the various witnesses, it`s

unmistakable that that`s what was going on. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

GALLI:  It would be a – it would be foolish to think that nothing else but

that was going on.  And that`s what was so disheartening and disappointing. 

 

MATTHEWS:  We know this president said things that we were not – we were

told not to do as kids.  Don`t make fun of someone`s appearance.  Don`t

make fun of someone`s certainly handicaps.  Don`t basically try to be cruel

as a way of making a joke, if you will. 

 

And the other day, the president talked about John Dingell, the longtime

member of the Congress from Michigan.  I knew the guy, a good guy.  I liked

him.  He – he`s a tough guy.  The president referred to him being in hell,

basically, as a way to taunt his widow, who is now a member of Congress. 

 

Where does that fit in your way of looking at Trump? 

 

GALLI:  Well, that`s a classic instance. 

 

I mean, it`s one of many instances in the Trump presidency in which he`s

had an opportunity to use the office of the presidency to do something

bigger than himself and even bigger than the occasion. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

GALLI:  And that is, in a moment when people are – this would be a moment

when people are grieving, but even when people are at odds with one

another, the one thing the president can do is remind us that we are a

country that holds certain values, and we have things in common.

 

And to try to – in the midst of the democratic debate – and it should be

a good debate.  It should be a forceful debate.  It should be an energetic

debate. 

 

But the president is one of those figures who says, but we`re doing this

debate as a we.  We are debating.  It`s not an us vs. them.  And if we win,

the godless left or right is gone, and vice versa.  This is our country,

our debate, our conversation.

 

And he has repeatedly had an opportunity to do that.  And it`s just – it`s

so sad to me that he has failed to take advantage of those opportunities. 

He seems to be incapable of actually – incapable of doing it, which is one

of the reasons I argued I don`t think he`s fit to be president. 

 

I mean, this is not a surprising view for “Christianity Today,” to anyone

who`s read our pages.  We made the same basic argument during the Nixon

impeachment trial.  We made the same argument during the Clinton trial. 

 

Anyone who reads this would yawn and say, well, that`s kind of what they do

when it`s discovered that a national leader has lied to us. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

 

GALLI:  Yes.  Well, that`s a problem. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Mark, I think this is very good, what you`re saying here.  It

sounds very consistent with your religion and your philosophy. 

 

Thank you – and your editorial positions over the years. 

 

Mark Galli, thank you so much for joining us here on HARDBALL tonight. 

 

Up next:  Trump is reportedly using the Justice Department now to go after

his perceived enemies.  He`s using it as his weapon.  Attorney General

Barr`s handpicked investigator is now digging around in former CIA Director

John Brennan`s role in sounding the alarm about Russian interference in the

2016 election. 

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The highest levels of

government, they were spying on my campaign, which has, as you know, Dan,

gone on long before I won the election.

 

QUESTION:  Yes.  Yes. 

 

TRUMP:  It was actually long before.

 

The John Durham investigation is a very important – I feel one of the most

important investigations in the history of our country. 

 

Investigate the investigators.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

That was President Trump.  He has been trying to undermine the intelligence

community`s assessment that Russia interfered on behalf of his campaign in

2016 in that election since the very beginning of his administration.  It`s

been his white whale.  I got to get those people.

 

Calling for an investigation of the investigators is what he says.  Well,

he got what he wanted in October, when the Justice Department, led by loyal

Trumper Bill Barr, the A.G., announced a criminal investigation into the

origins of the Russia probe.

 

And, for Trump, this killed multiple birds with one stone, allowing him to

discredit the Russia investigation and any shadow it placed on that

campaign, or his campaign, while going after the people he sees as his

political enemies, including former CIA Director John Brennan. 

 

A new report from “The New York Times” reveals the John Durham, the federal

prosecutor scrutinizing the Russia investigation, has begun examining

Brennan`s role in how the intelligence community assessed Russia`s 2016

election interference. 

 

I`m joined now by Greg Brower.  He is a former senior FBI official, as well

as a former U.S. attorney, and Katrina Mulligan, who`s held positions at

the DOJ, the NSC and the DNI.

 

Katrina, your thoughts about this?  It seems like the Justice Department

has become the president`s weapon.  He just use – Barr will do anything he

wants.  Go after Brennan.  Brennan doesn`t like me.  I don`t like him. 

Let`s go hurt him.

 

KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I mean, this is not what

the Justice Department is supposed to be doing. 

 

I mean, if there is a real concern about anything that may have happened,

that concern is most appropriate to be explored by the inspector general. 

And if there`s a criminal referral, which we don`t have in this case, then

it makes sense for it to move to a U.S. attorney, not the other way around. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Greg, what would be the prime – the crime they`re looking for? 

I mean, Brennan was the head of the FBI. 

 

He led – he oversaw an investigation of possible collusion between a

political campaign and the Russians.  There were so many Russian figures

involved in this.  It seems like it was probable cause or whatever prima

facie evidence.  There was something fishy going on with all these

meetings. 

 

GREG BROWER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right.

 

MATTHEWS:  How do you call that criminal, to investigate that? 

 

BROWER:  It`s hard to make sense of this.

 

And Katrina`s right.  I`m a former I.G. and I`m a former federal

prosecutor.  So I have been on both sides of that.  And what it appears

that Durham is doing, it`s hard to know exactly, but it appears that

whatever he`s doing should really be done by a combination of the DOJ I.G.

– we have seen his report – and then the ICIG, if concerns go beyond the

FBI and to other intelligence agencies.

 

And then if, and only if, the I.G.s find evidence of a crime, then a

referral is made to the relevant U.S. attorney with jurisdiction.  That`s

the normal way it should work.

 

MATTHEWS:  Jurisdiction is a great word, Greg. 

 

BROWER:  There you go.

 

MATTHEWS:  What is the guy – the U.S. attorney up in Connecticut got to do

with this, except he`s willing to take orders and do what he`s told by the

president, in effect, through Barr?

 

MULLIGAN:  Well, by all accounts, Durham has a pretty sterling reputation,

but there are…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  He`s about to lose it, I think. 

 

MULLIGAN:  Well, that`s the question. 

 

I mean, his statement after the release of the DOJ I.G. report, it`s

difficult to square with the reputation that he has.  And so, I will be

looking with interest at how he handles this. 

 

I mean, one thing that`s troubling to me is the timeline here.  You have –

it seems like, every time there`s a political event that the president

doesn`t like, an anonymous source is suddenly telling – revealing details

about this criminal investigation. 

 

You had that when the Republicans stormed the impeachment private

deposition when…

 

MATTHEWS:  Sure, the SCIF.

 

MULLIGAN:  That was back – yes, that was back in October.  That came out

the day after.

 

There was also Quinnipiac poll that day showing a big surge in public

approval for impeachment.  And then, the very next day, you hear, oh, now

it`s going to be a criminal probe.  The same thing happens.  The president

gets impeached by the House.

 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that all these players are just pawns in the

president`s hand?  They`re just – they go out – even members of Congress,

like Devin Nunes, become operational all of a sudden?  They`re not

legislators.  They`re willing to go bopping around wherever he tells them

to go?

 

MULLIGAN:  Look, I really don`t want to be thinking that.  But I think the

timeline here is troubling. 

 

BROWER:  Yes. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump has also used another scapegoat – that

would be Ukraine – in his denials that Russia interfered in his behalf in

2016. 

 

“The Washington Post” reports that, almost from the moment that he took

office, this president, Trump, has seized on a theory that troubled his

senior aides, that Ukraine had tried to stop him from winning the White

House.

 

According to “The Washington Post”: “The president`s intense resistance to

the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, all 17 of them, that Russia

systematically interfered the 2016 election and the blame he casts instead

on a rival country, led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself

help spur the idea of Ukraine`s culpability.”

 

Is it possible – and we have been through the whole question of collusion

– that the president has somebody whispering in his ear, it`s Ukraine,

it`s not us, and that person is Putin? 

 

BROWER:  Well, it appears that that has been happening. 

 

What is surprising is that – not that the Russian president would try to

influence the U.S. president that way, but that the U.S. president would in

fact be influenced that way, apparently, despite…

 

MATTHEWS:  Because he wanted to hear it.

 

MULLIGAN:  … despite the fact that every classified briefing he`s had

since before he was even sworn in tells him the opposite. 

 

MATTHEWS:  But he wants to believe he won the election in the Electoral

College, which is fair and square, Electoral College, but he wants to

believe he can pound the table long enough to be able to say, OK, the

Russians had nothing to do with you winning. 

 

MULLIGAN:  Look, I mean, the fact of the matter is, the president seems to

be the only person with access to classified information who believes that

Russia was not involved in the 2016 election. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Because he`s perfect.

 

MULLIGAN:  His – all of his Cabinet officials have said that it happened,

multiple independent agencies. 

 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

 

MULLIGAN:  So…

 

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever had a perfect phone call? 

 

(LAUGHTER)  

 

MATTHEWS:  Trump has these words like perfect and excellent and beautiful. 

Everything he does is beautiful, perfect.  You can`t even talk to the guy. 

Anyway, that`s a little bit narcissistic, I think. 

 

Anyway, Greg Brower, thank you.  Thank you, Katrina.  Have a nice holiday,

both of you, Katrina Mulligan.

 

Still ahead:  Seven Democratic candidates faced off in the final debate of

this year last night – I watched all of it – and gave Buttigieg the

front-runner treatment.  You know how you`re – know you`re the front-

runner?  Everybody`s pounding you.

 

We`re going to have the headlines and lowlights next on HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

 

As President Trump faces the reality of being only the third president in

U.S. history to be impeached, which he is, the Democrats faced off in their

final debate of this year last night, with three of his potential jurors

right on the stage, all U.S. senators. 

 

And it was no surprise that the president`s impeachment led the debate. 

Here they go. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need to restore the integrity

of the presidency, the office of the presidency, and it`s about time we get

that under way.

 

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is beyond public

opinions.  This is beyond polls.  This is beyond politics.

 

The president left the House with no choice.

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We cannot have a

president with that temperament who is dishonoring the presidency of the

United States.

 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If the president claims

that he is so innocent, then why doesn`t he have all the president`s men

testify?  Richard Nixon had his top people testify.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  But, with only 45 days until the Iowa caucuses, many on that

stage last night were giving that front-runner treatment, which means the

bad time, to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who leads in the polls in Iowa. 

 

Here goes.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SANDERS:  Good friend, Joe, and he is a good friend, he`s received

contributions from 44 billionaires.  Pete, on the other hand, he`s

trailing, Pete.  You only got 39 billionaires contributing. 

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

SANDERS:  So, Pete, we look forward to you.  I know you`re an energetic guy

and a competitive guy, to see if you can take on Joe on that issue.

 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The mayor just

recently had a fund-raiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals

and served $900-a-bottle wine. 

 

We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms

would not pick the next president of the United States. 

 

BUTTIGIEG:  This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot

yourself pass. 

 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

 

BUTTIGIEG:  If I pledge – if I pledge never to be in the company of a

progressive Democratic donor, I couldn`t be up here. 

 

Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  It`s personal, wasn`t it?

 

But it was Senator Amy Klobuchar who may have hit Mayor Pete at his biggest

vulnerability.

 

And that`s coming up next.  You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

KLOBUCHAR:  I want to be president of the United States.  And the point is,

we should have someone heading up this ticket that has actually won.

 

BUTTIGIEG:  If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting

together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the

vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence`s Indiana. 

 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

 

KLOBUCHAR:  Again, I would – Mayor, if you – if you had won in Indiana,

that would be one thing.  You tried, and you lost by 20 points. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP);

 

MATTHEWS:  She`s talking – that`s Amy Klobuchar, the senator, talking

about how Buttigieg ran for state treasurer and lost rather badly. 

 

That was a scene from last night`s Democratic debate.  And I thought it was

pretty good. 

 

According to NBC News, Buttigieg got the front-runner treatment, of course. 

Everybody was attacking him.  They were all leveled at him, all the attacks

from his fellow candidates.  We see there`s only seven up there.  It`s

getting better. 

 

That honor, by the way, previously belonged to former Vice President Joe

Biden.  He used to get hit by everybody who had that many calling out about

him. 

 

But a lot of people thought last night was Joe Biden`s best performance so

far. 

 

Here`s Biden defending his calls for bipartisanship after Trump`s eventual

departure. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

BIDEN:  We need to be able to reach consensus.  And if anyone has reason to

be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate, it`s me, the way

they`ve attacked me, my son, and my family.  I have no – no – no love.

 

(APPLAUSE)

 

BIDEN:  But the fact is, we have to – we have to be able to get things

done.  And when we can`t convince them, we go out and beat them, like we

did in the 2018 election, in red states and in purple states.

 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Adrienne Elrod, of course, former senior

adviser to Hillary Clinton`s campaign, Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist,

and Yamiche Alcindor, a correspondent, of course, White House

correspondent, of “PBS NewsHour” and a moderator of last night. 

 

I have got to start with you, Yamiche, my friend. 

 

And it did seem to follow the pattern that, if you`re leading the polls,

especially with the Iowa caucuses coming up February 3, you`re the target

of all the other people on stage. 

 

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, “PBS NEWSHOUR”:   I think that`s right, Chris.

 

What you saw last night was candidates really, really focusing in on Mayor

Pete Buttigieg.  And that`s because he`s leading in the polls in Iowa.  He

might even win Iowa.  There were people close to Joe Biden who were telling

me, you know what, the vice president`s really looking at other states that

are more racially diverse, like California and Nevada. 

 

But what you see there is other candidates essentially saying, yes, he

might actually win Iowa, which is a big deal.  So you saw Amy Klobuchar,

who is someone who made herself very clear that she wanted to be the

moderate alternative. 

 

We have had a lot of conversations about progressives battling for that

corner of the party. 

 

But, last night, what we saw was a debate of moderates, and Amy Klobuchar

essentially saying, look, if you had won and you had been a statewide – a

statewide candidate, and you had shown that you could someone who has the

experience, then maybe we could consider you, but that you don`t have that

resume.  Instead, what you have it`s a small town that you have been able

to help, but I am someone who has won statewide in a big state.  And I`m

the type of person who can carry this mantle. 

 

So what you saw in Amy Klobuchar was someone who was really taking it to

Mayor Buttigieg.  I kept remembering her saying the mayor, the mayor, the

mayor.  She kept on saying that to really bring that home. 

 

And then you saw, of course, Elizabeth Warren.  Everyone was waiting for –

and I think I was waiting for – the fireworks to go off between Pete

Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.  They have been trading barbs all – for

several weeks about kind of demonizing the private sector work. 

 

And you saw Elizabeth Warren making that winter – that wine cave reference

there, and it started trending on Facebook.  But I think the big takeaway

there was that Pete Buttigieg was going to be attacked and that people are

worried about the fact that he`s a front-runner. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you who you think are the front-runners now. 

Is it Biden, Buttigieg and Warren?  Are they the three that really can win

this thing?

 

ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLARY FOR

AMERICA:  And Sanders.  I think Sanders is still a front-runner.

 

MATTHEWS:  Sanders can still win the nomination?

 

ELROD:  I don`t know that he can win the nomination, but he is going to be

a front-runner.

 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s what I`m talking about.  Who can still win the

nomination?

 

ELROD:  I don`t know if Biden – I mean – I`m sorry – Sanders can win the

nomination. 

 

But, yes, I do think it`s down between Biden, Warren and Buttigieg.  And I

think that`s what you saw kind of play out last night.  Amy Klobuchar knows

that she needs to get in that top four.  Right now, she`s in the top five

to six, right? 

 

The only way that I think she sees her path to doing that is to go after

Mayor Pete`s voters.  And that`s why you saw her draw a contrast.  You guys

will remember…

 

MATTHEWS:  Because they`re the same voters.

 

ELROD:  In large part, they`re the same voters, those pragmatic Midwestern

moderate Democrats. 

 

You guys will recall, during the Detroit debate just a couple months ago,

Mayor Pete, with a strong assist from Amy Klobuchar, held the mantle for

defending Obama era policies.  It wasn`t Joe Biden.  It was the two of them

sort of in a tag-teaming effort going against Elizabeth Warren and Bernie

Sanders. 

 

We saw a complete opposite situation last night, between the two of them

really going after each other, and Amy Klobuchar, of course, also making it

clear, hey, listen, you`re the mayor of a town of 100,000 people.  I have

won several times statewide in a state that is largely, or at least to an

extent, a Trump state. 

 

So she`s trying to draw that contrast.  It`s going to be fascinating to see

how this plays out. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice the shift?  We were talking about Medicare for

all, a tough defense for – certainly for Senator Warren. 

 

So, she shifted the target away from herself over to Buttigieg, no, and

it`s not about whether Medicare for all will work or not.  And I`m sort of

compromised on that, delayed it for three years.  But it`s about who`s

getting – who is paying for you. 

 

Why didn`t he fight back and say, no, let`s keep talking about Medicare for

all?  I`m winning on that one.  Why did he let the topic shift over to who

is paying it? 

 

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  He shouldn`t have.  Well, it was

interesting…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  I think he weakened out on that one, Buttigieg.

 

TYLER:  Because Elizabeth Warren backed off of Medicare for all.

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

 

TYLER:  She was like, I want to get as much as I can as fast as I can.  It

was a real – it was a capitulation.

 

And Bernie Sanders went all in again on Medicare.  I will do it my first

bill.

 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think that – is he trying to leapfrog her to the

left?

 

TYLER:  He`s trying to get all those – he`s trying to get all those

progressive back. 

 

Remember, there was really – positioning-wise, there`s only two

progressives left on the stage.

 

MATTHEWS:  Has she fallen between the cracks right now? 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

TYLER:  I think she was hurt the most last night.  And I will tell you why.

 

The reason – and some people will hate this – but the reason Joe Biden

had such a great debate last night, because he wasn`t the front-runner and

he wasn`t attacked.  And guess who showed him how to be a front-runner and

get attacked?

 

Pete Buttigieg, because he took it all ways, and he had answers for

everything.  By the way, I don`t think the mayor thing hurt him at all. 

Pete Buttigieg is on the stage not because he doesn`t – because of his

resume, as she wants to say.  He`s on the stage because he got support –

he`s got support. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I`ll tell you – Yamiche, I want to talk to you about this. 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS:  We`re talking about basic political talent. 

 

And one thing I have watched politics for a hundred years of my life.  I`m

not that old, but I can remember almost everything.  Voice matters. 

Roosevelt had a fabulous voice.  Ike had a fabulous voice.  Reagan, of

course, had a fabulous voice.  Those who had weak voices like Carter did

not do well in politics. 

 

I`m impressed by Buttigieg.  He has a broadcaster`s voice.  I don`t know

where the hell he got it.  But when they`re – when they got into the thick

of things last night, he seemed strong.  And I think Klobuchar sounds

really good too.

 

What did you think about Buttigieg when he was under attack last night?

 

ALCINDOR:  I think he was someone who showed that he could be nimble,

someone who also showed that he could be turning the tables on someone. 

 

I think the – one of the most memorable things he said was, Elizabeth

Warren is trying to issue purity tests that she can`t herself pass.  And he

basically made the case, look, you`re trying to attack me, but, remember,

I`m the poorest person on this stage.  You`re a millionaire, and you had

millionaire donors just like me. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

ALCINDOR:  So I think there is – we did see Pete Buttigieg get attacked

from all sides. 

 

Some people did say that he was – at times when he was mocking Amy

Klobuchar, that it came off as a little bit – a little bit of just

annoying and a little bit of mean-spirited there. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

ALCINDOR:  But I think, overall, he was someone who showed, if you put him

on the stage with President Trump, he might be able to hold his own.

 

And that`s, of course, what Democrats are looking for. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

 

I think there`s three guys making pickups last night.  Amy Klobuchar picked

up points, definitely.  I think Buttigieg definitely went up a bit.  And

who else?  Biden.  Biden had a good night.  He did not have a bad night,

which is, for him, a good night.

 

Thank you, Adrienne.

 

ALCINDOR:  But he wouldn`t say that he would run for a second term, which

is, I think, something that voters are going to think about for a while. 

 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

 

Well, I think the best answer when you`re his age is to say, we will think

about it when the time comes. 

 

Thank you, Adrienne Elrod, veteran of the Hillary Clinton campaign, Rick

Tyler, a Republican talking about Democrats, Yamiche Alcindor, fabulous

work as a moderator this week.

 

Up next:  While this country seems divided, I see a path forward.  I do.

 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS:  This week made history.  It also points to the true

possibilities for 2020.

 

The partisan vote in the House of Representatives on the two articles of

impeachment shows the clear line of division in this country.  But it also

masks the possibilities for moving that line. 

 

There are millions in the middle who are capable, in other words, are

voting differently than they did in 2016.  One notch of the electorate are

those who simply want to do the decent thing, like those Republicans who

voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

 

Another notch are those whose politics leans toward the center and could

well find a Democrat who`s closer to them than they are to Donald Trump.  I

can easily imagine these voters going to someone like Joe Biden.

 

Still another group is Republicans or conservative independents simply

disgusted by Trump`s behavior, the insults, the attacks on people`s looks

or handicaps, the attacks even on the dead, the sheer indecency of the man

now in the White House. 

 

There is good reason to believe that the Democratic candidate for president

in 2020 could appeal to all kinds of voters as simply a designated driver

to take this country home next November, home to a country whose leaders

stand guard on the country`s moral dignity, rather than assault it. 

 

And that`s HARDBALL for 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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