2020 campaign TRANSCRIPT: 12/30/19, Hardball with Chris Matthews
GEOFF BENNETT, MSNBC HOST: Fighting the freeze. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Geoff Bennett in for Chris Matthews.
New evidence continues to bolster the case against the president as he
awaits his trial in the U.S. Senate. The New York Times is revealing
stunning details about the tug-of-war inside the administration after the
president ordered a freeze on U.S. aid to Ukraine. According to dozens of
current and former officials, Mr. Trump`s demands sent shockwaves through
the White House and the Pentagon, where opposition to the order was more
intense than previously known.
The Times reports that in a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting,
National Security Adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried and failed to convince the president
to release the aid.
We`re also learning that by late summer, the White House was still trying
to develop a legal justification to keep the aid frozen. The proposed
argument was that Mr. Trump`s role as commander-in-chief would simply allow
him to override Congress on the issue.
At the same time though, it appears that White House Budget Official
Michael Duffey was ready to blame the Department of Defense for the the
hold up. In early September, Duffy emailed the Pentagon suggesting that
responsibility for any failure to release the aid should not rest with the
White House. But in a stinging rejection, a Pentagon official shot back
with this, you can`t be serious. I am speechless.
Late today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the reporting further
highlights the need for witnesses to testify at the president`s trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Simply put, in our fight to have key documents
and witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a
game changer. The story makes the choice even clearer, will the Senate
hold a fair trial, or will it enable a cover-up? President Trump, if
you`re so confident you did nothing wrong, why won`t you let your men
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: All right. I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen
of Tennessee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, we`ve got Charlie
savage, he`s a National Security and Legal Reporter at The New York Times,
and Barbara McQaude is a former federal prosecutor.
And, Congressman Cohen, I want to start with you, because this reporting
from The New York Times, at the very least, it`s evidence, more evidence
that President Trump personally asked for this aid to Ukraine to be
withheld despite objections from top aides and that it had nothing to do
with national security, because if it did, you wouldn`t have had the
national security adviser at the time, the secretary of defense and the
secretary of state all encouraging him to release the aid.
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, it wasn`t about national security and it
certainly wasn`t about investigating corruption of anything in Ukraine. It
was about these conspiracy theories that apparently Putin or somebody had
convinced Trump had some basis for reality or maybe Putin just wanted Trump
to deliver to help Putin get off the hook as if Putin cares about being on
the hook for interfering in our elections. I`m sure he probably likes the
idea that he`s credited with that. But they want to get something on the
Bidens for sure.
And this just – this has been – this has been on for a couple or three
months and they don`t want their folks to testify because they would have
to perjure themselves, don`t have to show the American public that the
president of the United States did indeed subvert his oath, try to
influence a foreign nation to get involved the in our political elections
and committed impeachable acts.
And it`s clear this has happened and people in the administration knew what
he was doing was wrong. And people tried to push the blame around. Duffey
tried to get McCusker at the Department of Defense to take responsibility
for the delay and have them issue – order the money to be spent before the
September 30 fiscal deadline. It`s just unbelievable what`s going on.
And it puts McConnell and the Republicans kind of in a trick bag. If they
go ahead and have witnesses, they`ll still vote not to impeach the
president and they`ll go back to their second line of defense, but the
money was given anyway. And when they get to that defense, which they use
a lot, they`re basically admitting that their first line of defense didn`t
work and it`s not successful that the president engaged in trying to force
a foreign power to get involved in our elections. They`re falling back on
their last line of defense, but they got the aid anyway.
They still can use that and go ahead and vote that way to not impeach
because they want to preserve the president. But if they don`t have the
witnesses and information continues to come out, then they`re going to be
seen in the publics` eyes as not only voted wrong and having a sham trial
but being conspirators with McConnell and having that trial and trying to
keep the information from the American people.
BENNETT: Let me ask you about that, because is that what the House
speaker, is that what Nancy Pelosi was banking on, that if she were to
delay the transmission of these articles of impeachment, there would be
some sort of evidentiary bombshell that drops in everybody`s lap and it
would ramp up pressure on Republicans to have what Democrats would call a
fair trial? Is this now all coming into fruition, her plan, her grand
COHEN: I`m not sure what the speaker`s grand strategy is. I guess you`re
suggesting that she`s playing chess and she`s thinking three moves ahead
while President Trump and his people are playing checkers or marbles or
something. And that indeed could be the case. Speaker Pelosi has really -
- she`s just done things that Trump can`t even understand and she`s run
circles around him.
She`s one of the greatest speakers in the history of the United States.
She knows policy. She knows strategy. And she has a good grip for what`s
going on while Trump is just – he`s just totally lost. I mean, he`s still
dealing with Home Alone and wanting to be in the movie again. And he is
home alone. I mean, it`s kind of a strange situation.
BENNETT: Barbara McQuade, let me ask you a question because one thing I
read that struck me was that there`s something about the recording that
speaks to what the Democrats see and their theory of the case as the White
House cover-up, and that was White House officials trying to come up with
some legal justification after the fact for withholding the aid. Does that
speak to a consciousness of guilt, in your view?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it does. There`s one
really critical email that has been released pursuant to this Freedom of
Information Act, and that`s the email by Duffey at OMB when he says in
communicating with the Pentagon, please don`t share the details of this
with anyone due to the sensitive nature of it. You know, when you keep
things quiet and you`re trying to hide the reasons that you`re doing
things, it does suggest it`s because you know that if the truth got out, it
would be either illegal, unethical or politically damaging in some way.
And so prosecutors, as you just mentioned, often refer to that as
consciousness of guilt.
And so you can`t help but wonder that if as time goes on, more and more of
this information comes out to fill in the gaps, we will learn more about
what was actually going on. It`s very interesting to see as this
information comes out, it demonstrates a motive, perhaps, for President
Trump stonewalling that is if the truth were to come out in terms of
witnesses or documents that they would be damaging to the president`s case.
BENNETT: And, Charlie Savage, what about that? Because based on this
reporting, the White House lawyers thought that Mr. Trump`s role as
commander-in-chief would simply allow him to override Congress on this
issue, on this issue of providing aid that Congress had authorized. I
mean, it`s one thing for people, Republicans in particular, in the White
House to have a sweeping view of the authority of the executive, but this
seems like it`s something else.
CHARLIE SAVAGE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this
is consistent with the very expansive theory of executive power that
William Barr, the attorney general, and Pat Cipollone, the White House
Counsel, who`s sort of a sidekick to Barr, have embraced. It is well
outside the mainstream. But the essence of it is that when it comes to
national security, the president is the commander-in-chief of the Armed
Forces and that means that Congress cannot bind him.
And so we see here that there was a large group of officials in the
executive branch, OMB, the Defense Department who were confused by this aid
freeze, who saw it as contrary to American national security interests and
stated policy and wanted to get the aid unfrozen and delivered to our ally
in its time of need against Russia.
And then there were a very small number of people extremely close to Trump
who were acting to help him achieve this thing he was trying to do. Mick
Mulvaney is one of them, Pat Cipollone is one of them. And the lawyerly
part of that is if this thing goes all the way and they never release the
aid, it gets to September 30th, I`m sorry, Ukraine, you`re out of luck
because you didn`t do what we asked you to do, perhaps, right, announce
investigations into Biden.
And they were going to say, well, this wasn`t illegal, notwithstanding the
fact that there`s a law called the Anti-Impoundment Act, which says when
Congress appropriates money, the Congress has the power of the purse. You
have to spend it. The president doesn`t just get to put that in his
pocket, as he used to back up until the Nixon administration.
And they were going to say, forget it, notwithstanding the reform of the
Anti-Impoundment Act during the Nixon years. When it comes to national
security, the president still has the final say. Congress does not have
the power of the purse. it`s sort of the inverse of what we saw with the
wall spending, where the president takes money that was not appropriated by
Congress and says he`s going to spend it on to something he wants, a wall,
that they didn`t spend it for here. They want something and he`s not going
to spend it. It`s sort of two sides of the same coin.
BENNETT: And were it not for the whistleblower complaint, who knows what
would have happened with that Ukraine aid, right?
In some ways, this New York Times reporting bolsters what we already know,
because you have multiple witnesses who testified in the impeachment
inquiry, said that they were surprised to learn of the freeze on this aid
Ukraine. Take a look at all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I was shocked when on July 18th,
an Office of Management and Budget staff member surprisingly announced the
hold on Ukraine security assistance.
AMB. KURT VOLKER, FMR. U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE: I opposed the hold
on U.S. security assistance as soon as I learned about it on July 18th.
AMB. WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I and others sat
in astonishment. In an instant I realized that one of the key pillars of
our strong support for Ukraine was threatened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: So put this in the context of what we spent the last, what, two
or three months learning, watching public trials and reading through all of
the testimony that had been released.
SAVAGE: Right. So we have known that this is the basic narrative and this
is not about one phone call and whether or not it was perfect. This is
about a multi-month bureaucratic campaign on different fronts both to get
Ukraine to announce investigations and also a struggle here in Washington
over this frozen aid that unfolded through many meetings with many
different officials fighting and trying to understand what happened.
This new reporting by my colleagues, both the emails that came out from the
(INAUDIBLE) lawsuit and then the stuff that they got on their own, has
added a rich degree of texture to that, that this is a season-long, a
multi-month campaign struggle bureaucratically, not just about one phone
call. It does not contradict anything. It bolsters the basic
understanding of what happened here.
BENNETT: Yes. And, Barbara McQuade, there`s another detail in this
reporting that when I read it, I had this correction in mind to put to you.
It says this. It says, Mick Mulvaney is said by associates to have stepped
out of the room whenever Mr. Trump would talk with Mr. Giuliani to preserve
Mr. Trump`s attorney-client privilege. Does that seem like that`s on the
level to you, because multiple witnesses have described Mick Mulvaney as
being one of the three amigos. It was him, Sondland and Kurt Volker who
were in on this entire Ukrainian gambit.
MCQUADE: Yes. And that`s a real red flag if you were to step out of the
room. Attorney-client privilege does protect communications between a
lawyer and client for the purpose of receiving legal advice. What it does
not protect is discussions to cover-up a crime. There`s something known as
the crime-fraud exception.
And so if Mick Mulvaney is stepping out of the room because he is concerned
that they`re discussing things that are illegal that he doesn`t want reveal
to the public. That, to me, is another red flag of consciousness of guilt
that they know there`s something here that is amiss, that the reason he
needs to be out of the room is to protect privilege so that this
information will never be disclosed down the road.
BENNETT: Congressman Cohen, last question to you. How is it that
reporters at The New York Times can get information like this that your
committee apparently can`t?
COHEN: Well, The Times has done a great job and a great service, and I
guess that`s why the president went after the media immediately and said
the press was the enemy of the people, and don`t believe what you`re
reading because that`s not what`s happening, because he foresaw this.
They`ve stalled us. They haven`t complied. We`ve gone to court and the
court process has been slow and very difficult.
We will probably get these documents and we will get witnesses, but it`s
going to take a long time. Even the documents The New York Times have got
though have been redacted, so there`s a lot more information there.
It`s kind of amazing when I think about what we`ve gone through with these
impeachment hearings. So many people brought up, including myself, the
founding fathers in our arguments about this crime and how they saw it
coming and they were most concerned about a foreign power influencing our
elections. Everybody in America, all the people were marveling at the
founding fathers and their genius and what they expressed.
And it seems like Trump is on the side of King George because he`s trying
to get, he and Barr, all the power for the Article II folk, and there was a
reason why founding fathers made Congress Article I and gave us the power
of the purse and the sole power of impeachment. He doesn`t understand
either, just like he doesn`t understand the so-called emoluments clause.
This is real a shock to the American system of government and the founding
fathers` work and hopefully it will come out proper and this man will be
BENNETT: All right. My thanks to you, Congressman Steve Cohen, Charlie
Savage and Barbara McQuade.
Coming up, Rudy Giuliani`s shadow diplomacy now extending beyond Ukraine.
New reporting indicates Giuliani, who is a private citizen, not a
representative of the U.S. government, was trying to negotiate an exit for
Venezuela`s president. Giuliani`s efforts are raising serious concerns
among the country`s actual diplomats.
Plus, a Republican senator says he does not believe President Trump is
someone that young people can look up to. We`ll explain in a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I don`t think that President Trump, as a
person, is a role model for a lot of different youth. That`s just me
personally. I don`t like the way that he tweets, some of the things that
he says. His word choices at times are not my word choices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: All right. We`ve got much more to get to so stay with us.
BENNETT: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Rudy Giuliani`s dirt digging in Ukraine wasn`t his only attempt to insert
himself in U.S. diplomacy. According to explosive new reporting, his
backchannel work extended to Venezuela contradicting official U.S. policy
in the process.
According to The Washington Post, Giuliani, along with former Texas
Congressman Pete Sessions, participated in a September 2018 phone call with
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Now, according to The Post, both were part of a shadow diplomatic effort
backed in part by private interests aimed at engineering a negotiated exit
to ease Maduro from power. Giuliani`s efforts reportedly drew the ire of
former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who also opposed his work in
Ukraine that ultimately set the stage for President Trump`s impeachment.
During the impeachment hearings, Giuliani travelled to Kiev to meet with
former Ukrainian prosecutors and later said President Trump wanted him to
brief lawmakers on his findings.
Now, as senators get ready for an impeachment trial, some are reportedly
wary of Giuliani`s escapades. The Daily Beast reports senators on Capitol
Hill are actively avoiding meeting with Giuliani. South Carolina Senator
Lindsey Graham said, quote, my advice to Giuliani would be to share what he
got from Ukraine with the Intelligence Community to make sure it`s not
Russian propaganda. I`m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all
over the world.
For more, I`m joined by Erin Banco, National Security Reporter for The
Daily Beast, and Larry Pfeiffer, former Chief of Staff at the CIA.
And, Larry, first to you, from this reporting, we now know, we didn`t know
it before, that Ukraine was no outlier. You`ve got Rudy Giuliani running
shadow policy in at least Venezuela as well. And this was in September
2018. This was well before he was trying to sideline Marie Yovanovitch in
the spring of 2019, the spring of this past year.
So what stands out to you, as you read all of this and put it all together?
LARRY PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM: Yes.
Yes. Who knew Ukraine was actually act two of this play, and not act one?
PFEIFFER: What stands out?
What stands out is, it`s many of the same players. It`s many the same
kinds of activity. It`s the same thing same possible commingling of
national security work with his own personal economic interests. You have
got Lev Parnas involved.
PFEIFFER: So, if – with all of those variables the same, one can only
imagine that the other variable that we`re not certain of yet is probably
true as well, and that is that this was activity that Donald Trump himself
was personally involved in.
The other thing that really stands out to me, we have had shadow diplomacy
for two-plus centuries of American history, but, when it happens, it`s done
in coordination with the national security infrastructure of our country.
The national security adviser is involved and supportive. The intelligence
community is usually briefing the individuals, so that they can go into
these discussions in an informed manner.
But, clearly, if this article is to be believed, and, as we saw with
Ukraine, the national security infrastructure is actually opposed to what
he`s doing. That, I think, is what really makes this one different.
You touched on something I want to draw you out on. And that`s the fact
that Giuliani so often blends his personal business interests with the work
he`s doing for President Trump.
And during the impeachment hearings, one of the things that we heard Fiona
Hill say was that, to her mind, it was a national security nightmare to
have people like Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland running around Eastern
Europe basically selling access to President Trump to the highest bidder.
What are the unintended consequences of something like that?
PFEIFFER: Well, there`s a significant counterintelligence risk, if these
are individuals that are operating outside of the normal national security
They are not as well-informed. If our – if our American journalists are
learning about the activities, well, I guarantee you the foreign
intelligence services of Europe, including the Russians and some of the
Eastern European countries, they are even more aware of it.
And as they become aware of it, they can identify vulnerabilities, and
these individuals can then be played.
PFEIFFER: Or they can perhaps be compromised.
PFEIFFER: So, a great – great counterintelligence risk.
BENNETT: Hey, Erin Banco, I`m old enough to remember, because it was just,
what, two months ago, where Lindsey Graham said he wanted Rudy Giuliani to
come testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is the committee
that Graham leads in the Senate, in part because Lindsey Graham wanted to
have some counterprogramming to put up against the Democrats, the House
Democrats` impeachment push.
Now you have got Lindsey Graham saying that he`s concerned about this
information that Rudy Giuliani dug up and brought back.
ERIN BANCO, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, that`s right.
I was – had a phone call with Senator Graham, and that was not what I was
expecting to hear on the other end of the line. It`s a new development.
And as we dug around after speaking to Senator Graham, that this is a
sentiment felt by other Republican lawmakers, especially in the Senate, as
well, and Democrats who we spoke to as well, that the characters that
Giuliani is meeting with in Ukraine, people like Andriy Derkach, Oleksandr
Dubinsky, two Ukrainian parliamentarians who are sort of more closely
aligned with the Russian bloc of the Ukrainian Parliament, who are known
for peddling Russian conspiracy theories on their social media threads,
holding press conferences.
And we know from Giuliani`s trip to Kiev that he met with those individuals
and then worked with them on this new documentary that he`s put out. And
that`s what`s really concerning senators before the impeachment trial.
Like, hey, listen, we need to figure out whether or not the information
that we might potentially get briefed on is Russian propaganda.
Well, for his part, President Trump has been supportive of Giuliani`s most
recent trip to Ukraine, telling reporters earlier this month his lawyer had
found what he called good information.
Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I just know he came
back from someplace and he`s going to make a report, I think, to the
attorney general and to Congress. He says he has a lot of good
He has not told me what he`s found. But I think he wants to go before
Congress and say, and also to the attorney general and the Department of
Justice. I hear he`s found plenty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: And just two weeks ago, just days before the House voted to pass
articles of impeachment, President Trump was asked how much Giuliani had
shared with him about his visit to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Not too much, but he`s a very great crime fighter. He was the best
mayor in the history of the city of New York. He`s a great person who
loves our country.
And he does this out of love, believe me. He does it out of love. He sees
what goes on. He sees what`s happening. He sees all of the hoax that
happens when they talk about impeachment hoax or the Russian collusion
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: So, Erin, do we know what Giuliani has told Trump? Is that a
knowable thing? Do we know what he has briefed him on as it relates to
whatever he was trying to unearth in Ukraine?
BANCO: We have certainly asked both Mr. Giuliani, officials at the White
House and Giuliani`s lawyer.
We have not gotten a straight answer about exactly what President Trump and
Giuliani have spoken about. But we do know that they spoke about the
Ukraine trip, if not briefly, and at length, for at least an hour, is what
we have heard.
We have also heard that Giuliani has brought back a lot of materials from
Ukraine to brief President Trump, documents and other kinds of materials
that he`s brought back after meeting with these two individuals in
Parliament who I mentioned earlier.
Now, The Daily Beast previously obtained a 50-page document from one of
those Ukrainian parliamentarians. And that specific dossier has been
circulated among top Trump administration officials in the past several
And what it lays out are allegations saying that Ukraine actually
interfered in the 2016 election and that it wasn`t Russia. And that is a
well-debunked conspiracy theory that has been propagated for at least a
And we know that this kind of material has made its way into Giuliani`s
hands and has been briefed – has been sort of read out to people inside
the White House, including President Trump.
BENNETT: And, Larry, we`re talking a lot about Rudy Giuliani.
But, in fairness to Rudy Giuliani, he`s only giving President Trump what
President Trump apparently wants, right?
I mean, help us understand this sort of rumor-to-Trump pipeline, this
conspiracy-theory-straight-to-Trump pipeline. It`s the thing that
President Trump himself seems to be demanding.
PFEIFFER: True. And it`s a very dangerous thing.
During my time in intelligence, senior leadership time in intelligence, it
was not at all unusual for individuals who were seeking influence with the
president or seeking influence in a foreign country to come to the national
security staff peddling information that they had obtained that was going
to break open some crisis.
And that material would routinely be given to the intelligence community to
assess. And they would assess it for – for its sources. In this case, if
it was documents, they`d be able to look at the documents and in many cases
determine if they were counterfeit.
And they would then be able to provide an assessment. And more often than
not, the assessment was that this stuff was garbage.
PFEIFFER: This case, we have this information going directly to the
president. We have a president who seems inclined to want to consider
information from the intelligence community as being establishment or deep
And, at a minimum, he`s – he`s taking this conspiracy information and
putting it on the same level as exclusive intelligence analysis that`s
well-sourced coming from the intel community.
BENNETT: Yes, great insights. Appreciate that.
My thanks to you, Erin Banco and Larry Pfeiffer.
Up next: President Trump`s looking to beef up his legal defense team ahead
of a Senate impeachment trial. His top hiring criteria so far? Unwavering
personal loyalty, and you got to look good on TV.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
BENNETT: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The explosive new revelations about President Trump`s freezing of aid to
Ukraine could help explain why the Trump administration has blocked
witnesses from testifying during the House investigation.
As Greg Sargent of “The Washington Post” points out: “What makes all of
this money new information really damning is that many of these officials
who were directly involved with Trump`s freezing of aid are the same ones
Trump blocked from appearing before the House impeachment inquiry.”
Now, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” Pat Cipollone, the president`s
lawyer, will play the leading role in an aggressive defense of the
president, which Cipollone started laying the groundwork for with key
senators back in September.
“The Wall Street Journal” is also reporting that the president wants to
expand his defense team to include – quote – “others with television
experience he values and some of the president`s staunchest defenders on
the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.”
What that Senate trial looks like is still up in the air, with the
possibility of some Republicans and Democrats breaking ranks with their
You`re watching HARDBALL.
BENNETT: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the press
that he would not be an impartial juror because the impeachment trial was a
political process, he says.
On Christmas Eve, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski told a local Anchorage
station that she was disturbed by McConnell`s promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): In fairness, when I heard that, I was
We have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.
I happen to think that that has further confused the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: Murkowski`s public grievance is notable. Given her party`s slim
majority in the Senate, it takes only four Republicans joining with
Democrats to force Leader McConnell`s hand on any number of thorny issues
in a Senate trial.
Ahead of the impeachment trial, all eyes are on a handful of Republican
senators who are viewed as potential defectors. But they`re not the only
ones to keep an eye on. Three Democrats could also buck their party.
For more, I`m joined by former Senator Barbara Boxer. She, of course, is
the former U.S. senator from California and the host of “The Boxer
Podcast,” and Michael Steel, former spokesman for House Speaker John
Michael Steel, I want to start with you, because we talk so often – we
talked so much today, anyway, about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is
going to do and when she`s going to transmit the articles of impeachment,
but let`s talk about Mitch McConnell, because he has a couple of
constituencies here he has to keep happy.
He has the Republican in the White House, and he has the Republican
majority he has to keep content and intact to get the kind of fast and
forgettable trial he envisions.
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER JOHN BOEHNER SPOKESMAN: Yes, I mean, I think Senator
McConnell is fortunate in one sense. He doesn`t have the sort of ride-or-
die pro-Trump caucus that House Republican leaders have to contend with.
There`s no Matt Gaetz, there`s no Mark Meadows, there`s no Jim Jordan in
the Senate Republican Caucus. So that`s a big advantage.
But at the same time, what he wants, a swift, dignified, senatorial – un-
senatorial in its swiftness, but senatorial in any other sense – trial, is
not exactly what the president wants.
And I think it`s notable that he talks about coordinating with White House
counsel. He talks about coordinating with the White House or the
administration, not necessarily giving the president what he wants, but
moving through this in the most politically – least politically damaging
Hey, Senator Boxer, you lived through the Clinton impeachment. Help us
understand, given your experience then and your experience just in the
Senate, what`s the cost-benefit analysis for someone like a Doug Jones or
someone like a Lisa Murkowski in trying to decide whether or not they`re
going to split with the party, maybe not on voting on whether or not to
remove President Trump from office, but on something like having a trial
BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, Geoff, I`m going to be
really from the heart here.
You can`t do a cost-benefit analysis in a situation like this. When a
president is – has been impeached by the House – and this is a very
different case than the Clinton case. We have discussed that before. One
was lying about sex. The other is abuse of power, shaking down a foreign
leader to get dirt on your opponent, very, very different.
But in all cases, whatever the reasoning is by the House, you need to just
sit back and do your duty. You raise your hand to do your duty. So, I
like the fact that we`re seeing some independent voices on all sides.
It`s got to be that way, or the system fails.
BENNETT: You have got now something like 70 percent of Americans,
according to the latest poll, wanting to see a Senate trial with witnesses.
You can`t get 70 percent of Americans to decide or agree on what day it is,
and yet you have 70 percent of Americans saying they want a fair trial, as
Democrats see it.
Senator Boxer, do you think that, in and of itself, will be enough to put
pressure on Republicans to give Democrats the thing that they want, to have
folks like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton crossing that threshold on the Senate
floor and telling the American public what they know?
BOXER: I would hope so, because, as we know, and if we look back to the
Clinton days, which you raised, there were witnesses. Now, there was a
vote to call witnesses. And there were witnesses. And they decided to
take their depositions.
But here`s the thing. We know that we had many, many witnesses already
confirm what the president did, shaking down this foreign leader,
endangering national security, giving Putin another victory and all the
rest of it, using taxpayer funds. It`s pretty ugly.
And we`ve had a number of brave people come forward, non-political people,
many of them Republicans, to testify. But still in all, there are many
others that were in the room where it happened, and they need to be called.
And yes, I do think that with the public saying that`s the way to go, it
could weigh heavily on certain colleagues there.
I would think the Democrats would vote to call the witnesses And I do think
there`s several Republicans who are fair minded who might do that and some
others who were frankly scared because they`re in purple states and they
need to win.
Hey, Michael Steel, you said earlier that McConnell doesn`t have to deal
with the ride or die Trump caucus – which, by the way, should be printed
on t-shirts or something. But to your point, Republican Senator James
Lankford of Oklahoma, he told a CBS station that he doesn`t think that the
president is a role model but that doesn`t mean he will stop supporting the
Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I said very early on in the campaign time
period when people asked me in 2016 what are you looking for? I always
look for a president who can be a role model? I don`t think that President
Trump as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth. That`s me
personally. I don`t like the way he tweets, the things he says. His word
choices at times are not my word choices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: So, that was Lankford and Chris Coons talking to CBS`s “Face the
We`ve heard versions of this before, that Republicans say Donald Trump
isn`t a good guy, but he`s still my guy.
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Yes, and
you can see that and the ad that the president played during the World
Series – you may not like Trump, he may not – he may ruffle some
feathers, but it takes Donald Trump to get this stuff done. I think
they`re going to be smart to lean into that because there are a lot of
people who believe as Senator Lankford does that the president`s record can
be defended, record low unemployment, winding down wars abroad, et cetera,
but his personal character is indefensible.
BENNETT: What about Mike Pence? He`s waiting in the wings, right? I
mean, so goes the –
BENNETT: If you play it out –
STEEL: Well, I mean, one of the – one of the things that`s very strange
in both the Clinton impeachment and this is, is that the parties fight so
hard to defend a president who`s probably harder to reelect or probably
less likely –
STEEL: – a successful next election if they stick with that president.
STEEL: Vice President Al Gore as incumbent president of the United States
would have rolled to victory in 2000. That`s just not the way Democrats
chose to play it.
BENNETT: You`re right about that.
All right. Thank you, former Senator Barbara Boxer and my friend, Michael
Up next, time to get down to business. We`re just five weeks out from the
Iowa caucuses and if you`ve been waiting to get your head in the game,
now`s the time. We`re going to run through some of the biggest moments in
the campaign so far to help you get you up to speed.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
BENNETT: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Five weeks from tonight, we`ll be talking about the results of the first in
the nation Iowa caucuses as the presidential election gets into full swing.
And as we count down the final hours until 2020, let`s take a look back at
the highlights of the presidential campaign in 2019.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: The calendar says 2019 but don`t be fooled,
2020 is in full force.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A crowded and diverse field of declared or likely
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): I`m filing an exploratory committee.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): I will lead with integrity.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don`t get what
you don`t fight for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bernie Sanders making it official.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m running for
CROWD: Bernie, Bernie!
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Sanders is facing a completely different primary
terrain from last time.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a candidate.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On this snowy day on
this island –
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I announce my
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m running for president.
JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), FORMER COLORADO GOVERNOR: Because we need dreamers
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good leadership brings out the
best in us.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s what we believe.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Cory Booker and I`m
running for president –
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Of the United States of America.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): I`m announcing today –
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I`m going to run for president.
BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I`m running to serve you.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Because we have to beat Donald Trump.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s why I`m running
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: Donald Trump must be stopped.
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT): We will take our democracy back.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Join me if you want to
get to work.
JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m on my 40th trip to Iowa.
TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Tom Steyer. I`m
running for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden nearly slipped up and declared himself a
candidate a bit early.
BIDEN: I`m the most progressive of anybody running for the United – of
anyone who would run.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This weekend, Lucy Flores upended discussion of his
LUCY FLORES: I felt these hands on my shoulders.
BIDEN: The boundaries of protecting personal space has been reset and I
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden finally makes it official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can beat Donald Trump. That`s the signal they`re
trying to send with this roll out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a small town mayor, Pete Buttigieg has big
BUTTIGIEG: They call me Mayor Pete.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If elected he would be the youngest president, the
first who is openly gay.
BUTTIGIEG: There were times in my life when if you had shown me exactly
what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re draining the swamp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump in front of a capacity crowd kicking
off his 2020 campaign with familiar themes.
TRUMP: Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and
BIDEN: Donald Trump has violated his oath of office. He should be
TRUMP: Sleepy Joe Biden who`s dumb as a rock.
WARREN: We need to get rid of Donald Trump.
TRUMP: The great Pocahontas.
WARREN: Trump is a pathological liar and a racist.
TRUMP: Crazy Bernie.
HARRIS: There was a little girl in California and she was bussed to school
every day and that little girl was me.
BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Kamala Harris mischaracterize her position on the
busing question in particular, sir?
BIDEN: Yes, she did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get the people that are racist off the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buttigieg, we said second place in white voters, 18
percent, black voters, wow, zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two American cities in shock and mourning this hour
after two mass shootings in less than 24 hours.
O`ROURKE: Hell yes we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.
WANG: I have a 6 and 3 year old. I was imagining, it was one of them that
got shot and the other saw it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s kind of been the subtext of this campaign, the
issue of the concerns about Biden`s age.
CASTRO: You just said two minutes ago they would have to buy in. Are you
forgetting what you said two minutes ago?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day it`s Joe Biden, the next, Elizabeth Warren.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make this surging in the polls?
WARREN: I don`t do polls.
We don`t want each other families bankrupted by medical bills. I`ve got a
plan to fix it.
BUTTIGIEG: Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything,
KLOBUCHAR: The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something
that you can actually get done.
O`ROURKE: Guaranteed universal –
HARRIS: Medicare for all.
BIDEN: It may be a nice idea.
SANDERS: I wrote the damn bill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raise your hand if your government plan would provide
coverage for undocumented immigrants.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Senator Bernie Sanders was hospitalized last
night after experiencing chest discomfort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s off the road for a little bit, his appearances
have been cancelled.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): But he`s my feel Bernie Sanders.
SANDERS: I am back!
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think they have got
their eye on somebody who`s currently in the Democratic primary. She`s a
favorite of the Russians.
GABBARD: She knows she can`t control me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Bloomberg started as a middle class kid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He launched his campaign with the single largest
political advertising buy in U.S. history.
HARRIS: I`m not a billionaire. I can`t fund my own campaign. I am
suspending our campaign today.
BOOKER: It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020
presidency that has more billionaires in it than black people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s the least diverse Democratic field on a debate
stage so far.
KLOBUCHAR: I have not denigrated your experience as a local official.
BUTTIGIEG: You actually did denigrate my experience, senator, and it was
before the break and I was going to let it go because we`ve got bigger fish
to fry here but –
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, I don`t think we have bigger fish to fry than picking a
president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This year, it is feeling real intense as these
Democratic contenders try to get a toehold.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice president, why don`t you come on up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re live on MSNBC right now. We`re live.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bernie Sanders.
SANDERS: Walked right in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that, that`s Vaughn Hillyard in our shot
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question, Congressman, is where is the rental car
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Behind me, Elizabeth Warren is in that scrum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to show what this event looks like.
BOOKER: Are you asking me to tell MSNBC exactly what my campaign strategy
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president of the United States.
HARRIS: America does not want to witness a food fight.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Governor Steve Bullock at the Iowa state fair,
don`t eat your way out of it. Just trust me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to be president?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we better be.
TRUMP: Let`s just pick somebody, please, and let`s start this thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re selling access to the president just like he
BIDEN: You`re a damn liar, man. That`s not true.
WARREN: That`s right. I`m tougher than I look.
BIDEN: What the hell concerns, man? Do you want to wrestle?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!
WARREN: The bad news is I`ve caught a cold. Nevertheless, I persist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He tweeted watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech,
BIDEN: He should get a life.
TRUMP: We don`t want to be politically correct.
HARRIS: He and his account should be taken down.
SANDERS: That`s me. Let me turn it off.
WARREN: It`s Elizabeth Warren.
CASTRO: Sorry for this fruit fly.
WILLIAMS: Thank God this wasn`t Beto`s day to see the proctologist.
WARREN: I`m going to get me a beer.
HARRIS: It`s going to be a really long election.
BENNETT: Well, that was quite a look back. My hats off to the team that
All right. Coming up next, Congressman John Lewis announced he`s beginning
treatment for pancreatic cancer. The latest on his condition and fight
ahead, coming up next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): When you see something that is not right, not
just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do
something. Our children and their children will ask us what did you do?
What did you say?
For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be
on the right side of history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: That was Congressman John Lewis during his most recent appearance
on the house floor giving an impassioned plea during the fight over
Now the Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon is facing a different kind
of fight. He announced over the weekend that he`s undergoing treatment for
stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
In a statement, Lewis writes: I have been in some kind of fight for
freedom, equality, basic human rights for nearly my entire life. I have
never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.
Lewis, who was elected to Congress in 1986, is the last survivor of the so-
called big six civil rights activists, led by the late Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. In 1965, Lewis was brutally beaten by police while leading
a civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in
what became known as Bloody Sunday.
And earlier this year, the congressman sat down with Chris Matthews and
spoke about the fight for forces of good in our country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: You have to have faith. You have to believe. You have to have
hope. You cannot give up. I will not give up. I will not become bitter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNETT: It`s that same resolve that his friends and colleagues say will
see him through this latest battle.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi writes in a tweet, quote: Know that generations
of Americans have you in their thoughts and prayers and you face this
Former President Bill Clinton wrote: If there`s anyone with the strength
and courage to fight this, it`s you, John.
And former President Barack Obama added this: If there`s one thing I love
about John Lewis, it`s his incomparable will to fight. I know he`s got a
lot more of that left in him. Praying for you, my friend.
Congressman Lewis says he plans to return to work in Congress as he
undergoes treatment and hopes to be back on the front lines soon.
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
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the