Moving the line in 2020. TRANSCRIPT: 12/20/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(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
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
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…
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
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
MULLIGAN: Look, I really don`t want to be thinking that. But I think the
timeline here is troubling.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has also used another scapegoat – that
would be Ukraine – in his denials that Russia interfered in his behalf in
“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
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: Have you ever had a perfect phone call?
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.
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
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.
(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.
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
(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
And that`s coming up next. You`re watching HARDBALL.
(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
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
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
But a lot of people thought last night was Joe Biden`s best performance so
Here`s Biden defending his calls for bipartisanship after Trump`s eventual
(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.
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
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
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
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I`m talking about. Who can still win the
ELROD: I don`t know if Biden – I mean – I`m sorry – Sanders can win the
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
MATTHEWS: Because they`re the same voters.
ELROD: In large part, they`re the same voters, those pragmatic Midwestern
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
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
MATTHEWS: I think he weakened out on that one, Buttigieg.
TYLER: Because Elizabeth Warren backed off of Medicare for all.
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
MATTHEWS: What do you think that – is he trying to leapfrog her to the
TYLER: He`s trying to get all those – he`s trying to get all those
Remember, there was really – positioning-wise, there`s only two
progressives left on the stage.
MATTHEWS: Has she fallen between the cracks right now?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
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prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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