Parnas: Trump “Lied.” TRANSCRIPT: 1/15/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: House managers will come to the chamber, reading
the articles of impeachment. At 2:00 p.m., Chief Justice John Roberts will
be formally sworn in. He`ll then swear in the jurors. We`ll have it all
covered for you tomorrow.
That does it for THE BEAT tonight. “HARDBALL” starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The president on trial. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
It`s a historic night here in Washington as President Donald Trump becomes
just the third American president to stand trial for impeachment in the
United States Senate. The House of Representatives completed its final step
in the impeachment process with the ceremonial procession by the
impeachment managers with the two articles against President Trump, abuse
of power and obstruction of Congress. They walked the articles, as you see,
across the Capitol to the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the House resolution transmitting the two
articles and naming the impeachment managers, shifting the next phase to
the Senate. As the articles reached the senate majority leader, Mitch
McConnell, officially set the trial in motion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I further ask consent that the secretary of
the Senate be directed to notify the House of Representatives at the time
and place fixed for the Senate to proceed upon the impeachment of Donald
Trump in the Senate chamber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today`s vote on the House resolution sending the articles
to the Senate fell along party lines, 228 to 193, with only one Democrat
joining with the Republicans in voting no. It came nearly one month after
the House voted to pass the articles initially.
Well, this morning, Speaker Pelosi defended her decision to wait these
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On December 18th, the House of Representatives
impeached the president of the United States, an impeachment that will last
Time has revealed many things since then. Time has been our friend in all
of this because this has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into
the public domain.
This further evidence insists that – and we wouldn`t be in this situation
had we not waited – insists that there be witnesses and that we see
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that incriminating evidence the speaker referred to are
documents that indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas provide to
Congress, including notes, letters and text messages tying the president
even closer to the pressure campaign against Ukraine that led to his
impeachment. It will ultimately follow the team of seven impeachment
managers chosen by Speaker Pelosi to prosecute the case to the Senate for
President Trump`s removal from office. I`ll have legal or law enforcement
backgrounds chosen for what speaker Pelosi called an emphasis on
I`m joined right now by Congressman Denny Hack of Washington State, who
serves in the House Intelligence Committee, former Maryland Congresswoman
Donna Edwards, who is also a Contributing Columnist for The Washington
Post, former director of the CIA, John Brennan, and Geoff Bennett, NBC News
Correspondent. Thank you all.
Congressman, I want to talk to you and have you speak about the moment
today of this impeachment articles, these two impeachment articles going
over to the Senate. You`ve admitted or confessed to a real emotion to this
REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Well, Chris, if there was any wave of emotion
today, it was one of frankly being quite somber about it. If I had to put
words to it, I would tell you what I was thinking or feeling. It was, we
have done our duty and now we pray to God that the United States Senate
does its duty.
But there wasn`t much drama. It was more ritual than drama. There was the
drama with the revelation of the Parnas notes and memorandum and there is
drama now of heightened expectation as to whether or not there will be four
United States Republican senators who are going to be willing to subpoena
witnesses and reveal more documents because, obviously, the Parnas
revelation is the tip of the iceberg. We need to know what the iceberg
MATTHEWS: Do you think that new evidence that came out in the last 48
hours or so, which really shows the – we`ll get to it later in the program
tonight. It really shows the president`s hand and the hand of his lawyer,
Rudy Giuliani, and his associate, Lev Parnas. They`re all involved in
what`s clearly an attempt to smear Biden, Joe Biden, who was then leading
in the polls. It shows, I think – well, you tell me. It makes it very
clear. This had nothing to do with reform or getting rid of corruption in
Ukraine. This had to do with leveling a political shot at the man they
thought was his number one opponent.
HECK: Well, game, set, match in that regard, Chris. But I want to fast
rewind to both the deposition which you didn`t see but also the public
hearing which you did see with Ambassador Yovanovitch in which it was
revealed that she was recalled from Ukraine and told that she needed to
come home right away for her safety.
And it was never very clear what was meant by that. Well, it`s pretty clear
now and it`s pretty frightening when you hear not just the president having
said as he did, she`s going to go through some things, but Parnas
indicating and others indicated that with money, you can get things done in
Ukraine as they stalked her, which is a crime. As a matter of fact, Chris,
I think what ought to come out of this is that a criminal investigation
ought to be opened up.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it looks more like – less like a regular street
corner drug deal than a real mob hit perhaps involved here, which is pretty
frightening, as you`re right, Congressman.
Donna, because it`s interesting that as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, held
back the articles, and it was serendipitous, all of a sudden, on the day
when she realized her string ran out, which she basically had to send it
over, all this incredibly information came out confirming all the worst
aspects, this president was involved with a deal around the U.S.
government, like Nixon, like the Plumbers, he was working around to get to
his proposed political enemy.
FMR. REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD): Well, I mean, we saw that in the notes
from Rudy Giuliani, where it`s really clear that he`s saying, I`m operating
on behalf of and at the direction of the president of the United States.
Look, I think what`s really clear here is that there is a mountain of
documentary evidence, some of which the House was able to get, and we know
that there is more out there and it`s incumbent on the United States Senate
to hold a trial to get that evidence in a trial to bring witnesses forward
and to validate the documents and to make sure that this president is
really held accountable.
And I think if the senators do less than that, then the American people are
going to see that they`ve created a sham trial, and as Nancy Pelosi says, a
cover-up of this president`s lawless behavior.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Director, it seems to me there`s only one way of ruling on
this, with the facts in, the facts about the president`s conspiracy here to
basically work with Giuliani and his partner, Lev Parnas, to basically
scare or I should say it this way, perhaps mug them. They`re saying, we`re
going to get rid of this ambassador so that we can get the dirt on Joe
Biden. Either you think that`s not important or not, but you can`t say it
didn`t happen now. It happened.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: One of the most significant documents
that was released last night is that Ritz-Carlton stationery upon which
Donald Trump said, get Zelensky to announce the Biden investigation. He
didn`t say the Burisma investigation or the investigation on Ukrainian
corruption. It was the Biden investigation.
So I think it`s very clear this mounting evidence that indicates that Trump
was going after this investigation purely for his own personal political
reasons. That`s why I`m aghast that the Republican legislators both in the
House and the Senate refuse to acknowledge that this was a very serious
dereliction of the president`s authority.
MATTHEWS: And I would argue that politicians of all people can see a
political act when they see it. They don`t have any problem when they said,
we just want an announcement coming out of Kiev that they`re going after
Biden. They don`t care if anything happens. They want to have some dirt
they can spread all over the American press.
Anyway, only four Republican senators need to vote, as has been set here,
with the Democrats to force the Senate to subpoena witnesses in a Senate
trial. And three have signaled to open this idea, Alaska`s very gutsy, Lisa
Murkowski, who`s always got guts, Maine`s Susan Collins, who is up for a
very tough re-election campaign, and Mitt Romney of Utah, who I like to say
flirts with greatness, but that`s three.
Two others have been seen as possible defections from the Republican crowd,
Colorado`s Cory Gardner, another guy facing a close re-election, and
Tennessee`s Lamar Alexander, who is an institutionalist, who loves the
According to The New York Times, Gardner, by the way can ill afford to
break with Trump because he needs the Republican money. Alexander is a
genuine concern to the White House.
Geoff, we`re doing the study like everybody else and trying to figure this
out. It looks like if you get three of these people, if you get Collins,
you get Murkowski and you get Kamar – I`m sorry, if you get Mitt Romney,
who`s obviously a much better bet, you get three, that might be enough if
the chief justice weighs in and breaks the tie.
GEOFF BENNETT, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You`re right. There could
be four votes out there. I think that`s one of the reasons why you see
folks like Ted Cruz, the Republican of Texas, inject this notion of the
reciprocal witness to, in effect, scare Democrats to say, look, if you get
your John Bolton, we`ll get our Hunter Biden.
I think though for these Republicans, especially the vulnerable Republicans
who are up for re-election, when there is a witness, like a John Bolton,
who says I`m willing to testify under certain conditions, but he says he`s
willing to testify, to be a senator who will, tomorrow, swear an oath, to
then say, I`m unwilling to hear it, well, then that senator has to provide
a reasonable justification for that position so as not to be seen
abdicating his or her responsibility.
And that`s one of the reasons why these seven House impeachment managers
that the House speaker has settled upon, why the selection of the seven is
so key, because the case that they present, I think, will certainly direct
the outcome of the trial but I think will be key in determining whether
Republicans get to that point where they say, you know what, they presented
the case in such a way where we need to hear more, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me throw this out at you. Suppose the Republicans led by the
very, well, political man, Mitch McConnell, and they decide, you know what,
the game is up, we`re going to have to bring witnesses in. So we`re going
to put together a slate of witnesses which include problematic people like
Hunter Biden or maybe Joe Biden or the whistleblower, and they put together
a slate of witnesses which include John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and maybe
Mike Duffey, the others.
And they put together – they confect the list the Democrats won`t like but
they can throw it at them. They don`t need the Democrats to agree with
that. 51 Republicans or 53 of them can just say, this is our slate of
witnesses, we`re going to bring them in and you have to eat them, you have
to deal with them. What happens then? It looks like Democrats lose the
fight, or maybe not. Maybe they win it because they get John Bolton, who
will really to turn the president in, if you will, like a star witness.
BENNETT: There you go. That is sort of the blue sky scenario. If you
dissect and distill all of the facts in evidence in all of the testimony,
all of the relevant witnesses who have either direct knowledge about this
Ukrainian gambit, all of the evidence that they provided to House
investigators, it all points in one direction. It`s not a partisan
statement, it`s a statement of fact. It points to culpability. And so even
if you bring in a Hunter Biden and a Joe Biden, they have no direct
knowledge of, those are not relevant witnesses to use the phrase that Chuck
Schumer would use.
So Democrats, using the scenario that you laid out, would potentially be
okay with that. They would think that at the end of the day, even if they
had to make that tradeoff, you would still get that valuable testimony and
documents that would point to their case, the reason why they say
impeachment is the proper remedy for President Trump`s alleged wrongdoings,
MATTHEWS: Geoff, thanks for your great reporting, Geoff Bennett.
Let me go back to Congressman Denny Heck. What do you make of that
scenario? I`ve just been hearing about it through conversations around here
that that might be what Mitch McConnell will do as his fallback, put
together a slate of witnesses that the Democrats won`t like but they have
HECK: Well, Chris, I think the watch word here for Senator McConnell ought
to be, careful what you wish for. The fact is that Vice President Biden is
not on trial, nor is Hunter Biden. President Donald J. Trump is on trial.
And if we know anything with a virtual certainty, it is that John Bolton
has information that he could reveal and will reveal that is not
exculpatory, that, in fact, is damning. He is the one, after all, who said,
I`m not going to have anything to do with Giuliani`s drug deal. So careful
what you wish for, Senator McConnell.
MATTHEWS: John, this scenario could change overnight. We don`t know
because the pressure on those four Republicans – we may not even need
four. We may just need three with Chief Justice Roberts weighing in and
saying, no, I want to hear from witnesses.
BRENNAN: Yes. And I think the senators, even though they`re going to go to
their partisan corner, they have to be aware that there is the court of
public opinion that is looking at these proceedings. I think it`s over 70
percent of the American public believe that there needs to be this fair
trial in the Senate to address the articles of impeachment.
So I think you`re going to have a number of the senators who, on the
Republican side, are going to try to meet the Democrats` wishes for
witnesses. The question is whether or not there`s going to be this combined
list of witnesses both that the Democrats want and the Republicans want.
EDWARDS: Look, I don`t think Democrats should balk at having either of the
MATTHEWS: That`s a good price to pay.
EDWARDS: It really is. And they are not fact witnesses. They are not
relevant witnesses. And I think the Democrats will deal with John Bolton
and with Duffey and with Mulvaney, who are direct fact witnesses in the
MATTHEWS: Because they know about the money that was being withheld for
EDWARDS: They know about the money. They know about the timing. They`re
deeply implicated in the president`s wrongdoing, and they are – and John
Bolton, I mean, they are directly relevant to the issue at hand and I think
Democrats will swallow it. It might be embarrassing for the Bidens but it
is not the worst thing to happen to be able to bring forward the true fact
MATTHEWS: Well, it all moves forward tomorrow with the managers moving to
the Senate tomorrow at noon, and it`s all moving forward. Anyway, thank
you. And then the chief justice is being sworn in tomorrow too. It`s all
moving forward with the impeachment of this president.
Congressman Denny Heck, thank you, sir, for your service to the country and
for coming on tonight, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, of course, Geoff
Bennett, great reporting, Director Brennan, he`ll be back with us later in
Coming up, Rachel Maddow`s exclusive, what an interview, we called it a big
get today, with one of the men at the very center of the Ukraine scandal,
Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What do you think is the main inaccuracy or the
main lie that`s being told that you feel like you can correct?
LEV PARNAS, RUDY GIULIANI`S ASSOCIATE: That the president didn`t know what
was going on. President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware
of all of my movements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s a Perry Mason moment right there.
We`ve got more of that exclusive interview that Rachel had that`s going to
be on tonight at 9:00, of course, her program. We`re going to have a bit of
it in our program in a couple of minutes.
Plus, breaking down the historic significance of today`s events with NBC
News Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss.
And Donald Trump didn`t know where China was, get this. He didn`t know
details like there`s a border between China and India. He had no idea what
Pearl Harbor was. He didn`t know what the USS Arizona was involved with
when it sunk. He just wanted to meet with Putin. He wanted to fall in love
with this guy. He considered Putin, by the way, an expert on anything.
Anyway, those are just a few details from a book out next week by two
Washington Post reporters. Talk about candy.
Well, John Brennan will be back with us to discuss the consequences of a
president whose own aides say at times was dangerously uninformed.
We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stick around.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Parnas papers released by the House Intelligence Committee provide
explosive and disturbing new details about the president`s scheme to extort
Ukraine for political gain. The trove of materials were seized in October
from Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani`s point man, there he is with Rudy, for
Ukraine. And 500 more pages were released just tonight.
Among the documents is a letter Giuliani wrote to request a meeting with
Ukrainian president-elect Zelensky, a request he said he made with Trump`s
knowledge and consent. Those were his words in the letter.
It`s evidence that the president personally approved Giuliani`s adventures
in Ukraine, something Trump later tried to deny, in fact, he denied.
Now Parnas is breaking his silence in an exclusive interview with our MSNBC
colleague Rachel Maddow that airs tonight at 9:00. You got to watch this
He says that President Trump knew exactly what he was doing in this whole
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”: What do you think is the
main inaccuracy or the main lie that`s being told that you feel like you
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: That the president didn`t know
what was going on. President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was
aware of all of my movements.
He – I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the
I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials. I
mean, they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelensky`s
inner circle or Minister Ivakov (ph) or all these people or President
Poroshenko meet with me?
Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that`s the secret that
they`re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work.
MADDOW: In terms of the president and what he has said about you, he said
about you and Mr. Fruman, Igor Fruman: “I don`t know those gentlemen. I
don`t know about them. I don`t know what they do.”
You`re saying that was not a true statement from the president?
PARNAS: He lied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Boy. Well, she got to the heart of this question.
The materials from Parnas also shed new light on the smear campaign that
led to ouster of the U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Texts suggest that Giuliani and Parnas had a deal with the corrupt former
prosecutor Lutsenko of Ukraine. They proved the Yovanovitch – they were
going to get rid of her in exchange for the political dirt on the Bidens.
That was the dirty deal, the drug deal that John Bolton mentioned.
Deal, we will get rid of the ambassador if you get his dirt on Biden. As
that prosecutor made explicit to Parnas: “If you don`t make a decision
about madam” – that would be Yovanovitch – “you are bringing into
question all my allegations, including about B.”
That`s Biden, of course, a possible reference to him or Burisma, where
Hunter Biden worked.
In the week following that ultimatum, Republican congressional candidate
Robert Hyde, who could be an odd fellow, apparently, appeared to be
physically surveilling Yovanovitch through contacts in Ukraine.
In a series of cryptic messages to Parnas, Hyde seemed to detail her
whereabouts, saying: “They will let me know when she`s on the move,” like
he`s spying on her.
I`m joined right now by Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for
Axios, and Joshua Geltzer. He is a former senior director at the National
Thank you, gentlemen.
Let`s start with the reporting here.
Let`s start with Yovanovitch. They didn`t like Yovanovitch because she
didn`t like corruption. She was really the one going after corruption, not
this – our president. And they wanted to get rid of her. And they get rid
– if you get rid of her – they`re saying to Rudy Giuliani and Parnas –
then we will get you dirt on Biden.
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Yovanovitch, the text messages discussing her are
the most disturbing communications I have seen throughout this impeachment
inquiry, just in terms of pure unnerving information.
The implication very clearly from there is that they were surveilling her,
watching her, and also possibly even had access to her computer and phone,
said whether her phone was turned off.
I mean – and it just reads as this thuggish, mobbish dialogue. I mean,
it`s really disturbing. This was a senior State Department official, who we
heard during the testimony that she had – there were concerns about her
There is a lot more that needs to be unpacked here and investigated as to
what went on there.
MATTHEWS: Every time we go after mob corruption, we try to start at the
bottom. You know this. You work your way up.
Here, we got Parnas nailing the president, fingering him. The president
knew everything I did.
What more can you want in a Senate trial than have Parnas walk in that room
and say the president set up this whole cabal?
JOSHUA GELTZER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is just what
Gordon Sondland told the House.
Gordon Sondland said, everyone was in the loop, highest levels throughout,
the folks working for Donald Trump on this so-called drug deal. Everyone
was in the loop. And these Parnas documents show that in exquisite detail.
Everyone was in the loop. And to your point, Chris, there is new
information coming out by the hour at this point, even though we are on the
eve of the impeachment trial actually starting.
And that means there`s a need to figure out the full scope of the
information. That calls for a real trial, not a sham trial, not a cover-up,
getting these people on the stand.
SWAN: In my view, the most important document we have seen so far is that
letter from Giuliani to President Zelensky of Ukraine.
And you pulled out the part…
MATTHEWS: Where he said, I`m the president`s man.
But it`s what he says. He says in his personal capacity as a private
Well, I mean, what possible personal business could private citizen Donald
Trump have with the president of Ukraine? I mean, Rudy Giuliani`s
explanation is that it was to help exonerate his client.
But the Mueller report was already finished by then. So the idea that this
was a public corruption campaign is directly called into question by those
lines in the letter.
So that`s why I think that letter is the most important document that we
have seen here.
MATTHEWS: Well, this – not everything parallels with Watergate, but this
sure does, the idea of setting up an extragovernmental operation, like the
plumbers Nixon set up, that have no responsibility under the Constitution
So you get around your role as president under the Constitution, which
limits your power, and you set up another government operation, which is
totally not even government, extragovernment, under Rudy Giuliani and this
guy Parnas, to do the dirty work.
It`s like, OK, I don`t have enough power as president. So let me get this
other thing going, just like Nixon.
GELTZER: And that`s – if you had to sum up this impeachment inquiry in a
single sentence, it would be that Donald Trump abused public office for
And, as Jonathan says, that`s…
MATTHEWS: That is what corruption is.
GELTZER: That is what corruption is. And that`s what that letter is
Giuliani is saying, I am here to do the personal bidding of Donald Trump.
I`m not here to represent American interests. I`m here to represent Donald
Trump`s partisan interests, and that`s why I want to open this channel.
MATTHEWS: What about the person out there? There`s probably, I don`t know,
20 percent of the country that`s open-minded these days about Trump, maybe.
I don`t know.
SWAN: I think that`s pretty ambitious, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, 15. OK.
SWAN: Really? That seems ambitious too.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking to them as if they exist. So let`s talk to them.
You now know, in all probability, the president lied, really lied here,
when he said he didn`t know these people, when he dismissed any
responsibility for this whole cabal.
What do you do? Do you say, it doesn`t matter? OK, he`s a crook. OK, he
breaks law. OK, he ignores the Constitution. OK, he goes to other
governments for help in his campaign for reelection.
You have to OK a lot of stuff at this point.
SWAN: I mean, but, Chris, we had photos, photographs of – we don`t need
new documents to know that Lev Parnas and Donald Trump had more than – I
mean, there are photographs of the two of them next to each other.
This is all out there. This is why this sort of, OK, we have got this new
trove of 700 things – I mean, we basically know what happened. We have the
documentary history of this. It`s all out there. And people are going to
decide whether it`s impeachable or not.
And from what I can tell, the Republican Senate – and we have seen more
signs of it – you had the graphic up that I saw some of comments from
Susan Collins today. They`re not going to vote to convict this guy. They`re
just not going to.
MATTHEWS: Well, in a text – well…
SWAN: I don`t care how many more pages Lev Parnas releases.
GELTZER: Whatever the polling is about whether people support removal, I
think there`s been one consistently encouraging number, which is a high
percentage of Americans have been paying attention to this.
SWAN: Why is that encouraging for you?
If your goal is to get rid of him, if they`re paying attention, and none of
these Republicans are feeling the pressure to move, and they`re feeling
actually very emboldened to be quite publicly defiant…
MATTHEWS: What do they say when they go home to their loved ones, their
husbands or wives?
MATTHEWS: I just wonder, what do they say to themselves? What do they say
when they`re in the shower, when they`re thinking, what am I doing? I`m
covering for a guy that did all this stuff.
GELTZER: And what do they say tomorrow when they take this oath to be an
impartial juror and do their duty, not as Republicans, as Democrats, as
people running for reelection campaigns, but as U.S. senators, to stand up
for that body and its constitutional…
MATTHEWS: So, what do they say to themselves? I don`t care what the truth
is. I don`t want those left-wing – left-wing bastards to win this one.
Is that what they say to themselves?
SWAN: I mean…
MATTHEWS: They can`t say they`re wrong.
SWAN: If you`re a Republican senator, you`re hearing from constituents or
a Republican member who overwhelmingly love Donald Trump. It`s just a fact.
They hear from them. They don`t want him to – them to convict him. And
they would probably vote them out in a primary if they did.
MATTHEWS: Well, down in Naples, Florida. There`s a lot of places in this
country that that is true. I just heard from a friend of mine. They love
him down there.
GELTZER: But I do think Americans know what it means to exploit a role for
your personal benefit.
We all have jobs. We know what it`s like to abuse that position of trust.
And if they can see this, now that they`re paying attention, on display, I
MATTHEWS: First question to everybody.
You like presidents that behave like this? I like presidents who cut my
taxes. I like presidents who get the economy rolling. That may be the way
they answer these questions.
Jonathan Swan, it`s always great, Joshua, thank you for your expertise,
Jonathan (sic) Geltzer.
Up next, for only the third time in history articles of impeachment have
been sent – there`s the ritual today a few hours ago, an hour-and-a-half
ago – over to the Senate. How is Donald Trump taking it? It`s real now.
It`s a ritual, but it`s real.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1998)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Secretary, by direction of the House of
Representatives, and pursuant to House Resolution 614, I hereby deliver
these articles of impeachment. Would you hold this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As secretary on behalf of the Senate, I accept these
into the official record of the Senate, for deliberation later on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we thank you for your courtesy in coming over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was the scene back in 1998, when the House delivered the
articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton.
Well, today, that action was repeated for only the third time in our
This morning, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a
statement – quote – “The only thing Speaker Pelosi has achieved with this
sham illegitimate impeachment process is to prove that she`s focused on
politics, instead of the American people”
For more, I`m joined by Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the
Associated Press, and Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, I don`t know where to start with this administration and its press
secretary, who I talked about the other night. They`re not even – they
don`t even act like government officials. They act like they`re political
operatives, trashing the people that criticize them.
This impeachment process has proved itself to be very well-handled by the
speaker. They have done it all right. And then they just trash the whole
And this person, this – I don`t know her, Stephanie Grisham, press
secretary. She doesn`t hold press briefings. She doesn`t do her job of
telling what`s going on, doesn`t do any of that administrative or
All she does is issue these attacks. And there she is attacking a
legitimate constitutional process, which is in the Constitution before the
Bill of Rights. It`s essential to the way we do things.
The Congress has a right to remove a president.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes.
And contrast it with a Bill Clinton time, where he appointed people, as you
remember, who were spokespeople for him on impeachment who were going to do
that differently from his normal press secretary.
And he was able, somehow, to get through this and run the presidency and at
the same time wage this battle against him.
MATTHEWS: How about Joe Lockhart, his press secretary, who said the other
day his job is to try to help the press find out what`s going on?
MATTHEWS: How`s that for an amazing idea?
BESCHLOSS: It`s a little antique.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Jill.
Let`s talk about this process today, because there is a grudging nature to
this. Mitch McConnell, who is, I say, is he Elmer Fudd or is he Bugs Bunny?
Sometimes, he`s Bugs Bunny. And he gets away – he just –, sometimes he
Today, he acted like a legitimate Senate leader. He acted like, we will
receive it. We`re going to do it. We`re going to do the job.
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: We`re going to take the oath of impartiality even, he said.
What do you make of it?
COLVIN: Yes, you really felt the gravity of the situation there, when he
stood up there.
MATTHEWS: He had a striped suit on. He got all dressed up for the
And it really felt like this historic moment. And the flip side, you had
the president and his team really not set on a definitive strategy at this
point. They held a briefing call for reporters today in which they were
really all over the map.
They seem to think that the articles are going to wind up being dismissed,
even though it`s – McConnell and senators have made very clear that there
aren`t the votes for that to happen. They`re hoping for a trial to conclude
within two weeks, whereas it seems very unlikely that that is possible.
MATTHEWS: What is your bet? You`re a straight reporter, but here`s your –
what is your bet?
Do you think it`s more likely the Senate will just stonewall and say no
witnesses, or they will come up with a slate of witnesses that is not too
appetizing for the Democrats either? It may have Bolton on it.
It may have Mick Mulvaney on it. It may have Mike Duffey from the OMB, but
it also has the Bidens on it.
I mean, look, this is – we have heard from senators like Mitt Romney, like
Susan Collins, making very clear that they have some interest in leaving
the possibility to hear from witnesses.
Romney, for instance, would like to see Mike – John Bolton come in. And
the problem is that, as soon as you open the door to witnesses, that means
both sides get to call witnesses, 51 votes.
MATTHEWS: I think that`s fair and square. Anyway – even if they`re not
Anyway, the White House has not yet announced who will defend President
Trump in the Senate trial. Multiple sources tell NBC it`s expected that the
White House counsel Pat Cipollone will lead the defense, and he will be
joined by Jay Sekulow, one of the president`s personal attorneys. That
It`s also expected two of Cipollone`s deputies will be part of the defense
There`s also talk about Dershowitz, really making this a show, Giuliani
getting in there.
Do you think they will muck it up with all kinds of outside sort of stars?
BESCHLOSS: Well, this is a president with a background in reality
And he knows that, if you don`t have stars, it has a little bit of a
different texture than it does if you have people – than if you have
people who are unpredictable.
MATTHEWS: What, the dream team?
BESCHLOSS: Dream team, Dershowitz, Giuliani. They may feel that`s the –
that`s the dream team.
MATTHEWS: But I guess the question is, as we report this, because I`m
going to be covering it – we`re all going to – MSNBC is going to be all
over this, and the other networks as well.
We`re going to be covering this gavel to gavel. And I think there`s also so
much social press right now, social media all over the place. Everybody`s
going to be talking about this. The country is paying attention.
With all this attention, can the president deny a legitimate trial?
COLVIN: Well, look, the president is also somebody who is going to be…
MATTHEWS: Because he can approve it.
COLVIN: He`s going to be watching this incredibly closely. He`s expressed
to associates that he`s concerned about how this is going to play out.
He doesn`t like the idea that the nation is going to be riveted by this for
the next two, three weeks, concerned about the impact that it might have.
But the president also wants a show, as you`re saying. He`s a reality TV
president. He would love the clash up there. He wants this vindication.
MATTHEWS: Well, I remember when Rehnquist was the chief justice, and he
had these chevrons.
Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times”…
BESCHLOSS: Gilbert and Sullivan.
MATTHEWS: He had these amazing costuming, where we got chief Judge John
Roberts, a more a low-key guy, will preside over the Senate trial starting
His first act will be tomorrow, when he swears in the senators who will act
However, beyond that, his role is somewhat murky. This is where it gets
interesting. The Constitution only mentions the chief justice once in this
context. And that is the context of impeachment.
In Article 1, Section 3, of the Constitution, it states: “When the
president of the United States is tried, the chief justice shall provide –
This is a question. Will he go further and say, you know what, we got 50
people, for example? Three Republicans pop up and say, we want witnesses.
That`s 47 and 3. Fifty, that`s close enough. I`m going to give it to them.
I`m going to throw in my vote. And, apparently, that is an argument. The
chief judge can say, you got 50 votes. That`s good enough for me. We`re
going to have witnesses.
BESCHLOSS: That would be more activist than Chase was under Andrew Johnson
or Rehnquist was at the time of the Clinton impeachment.
And because the Constitution does say preside, they really pretty much
follow that idea that it really was presiding.
MATTHEWS: But how will he look if he does that?
BESCHLOSS: Oh, I…
MATTHEWS: If it`s 50 votes, and he doesn`t give it to the people who want
witnesses and a real trial, and he`s the last one who says no, do you think
John Roberts wants to be that person?
BESCHLOSS: Probably not and this is someone who, given the makeup of the
Supreme Court right now, is probably very used to having to make decisions
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think – I don`t know him that well. I know him a very
well bit like most people do. I don`t think he wants to be the bad guy.
JILL COLVIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS: No, and if you look at his writings,
especially most recently, he`s focused on trying to maintain this idea that
the judiciary is independent, that they`re not trying to rock the boat for
one side or another. So, he`s got that contending with also having to deal
with the president who`s going to be watching and going to be judging him.
BESCHLOSS: And the last thing he wants to be is a controversial chief
justice in the way he presides.
MATTHEWS: OK. In my belief, the truest nature of a conservative is to hold
MATTHEWS: If it takes National Health to do it, whatever it takes, if it
takes Social Security to do it, you do it. Does it hold society together?
And that`s the chief goal. It`s not to remember the old scriptures. It`s to
hold the people together. And I think we need a real trial to do that.
Thank you, Jill Colvin. Thank you, Michael Beschloss.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Did you say interesting? I`m going to do that.
Up next, a highly anticipated new book from two of the “Washington Post`s”
most respected journalists reveals alarming details about the depths of
Donald Trump`s disconnect from things taken from past presidents like a
basic understanding of geography, American history and the rule of law.
Trump, I don`t know nothing about that stuff.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has approached the presidency with a different level of
detail and reverence than his predecessors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Acting presidential is so
easy for me. It`s much easier than what I do. Much easier. And sometimes I
have to do it.
Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job and
is being recognized more and more I noticed.
I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as
president, but I don`t even talk about that.
I have President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia. I will say this, I
don`t see any reason why it would be.
Believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully. There are those that
think I`m a very stable genius, OK? I watch my words very, very closely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s shocking new reporting today about the Trump
presidency from an upcoming book by “Washington Post” reporters Carol
Leonnig and Phil Rucker. The book entitled “A Very Stable Genius” portrays
the president as erratic and at times dangerously uninformed.
And what point – at one point, according to excerpts released in the book
in “The Washington Post”, the president did not seem to grasp the
fundamental history surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.
And after his then staff secretary Rob Porter was accused of domestically
abusing two women, the president suggested one of the women might have
faked her injuries to, quote, get money out of Porter. That`s his quote.
The president also complained that it was unfair – this is something –
that Americans companies aren`t allowed to pay bribes to help set up
businesses overseas. He thinks they should. And one government official
complained that the disdain that Trump shows for our country`s foundation
and its principles, the disregard he has for right and wrong, your fist
clenches, your teeth grate.
The book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 200
sources corroborated with calendars, diaries, memos and private video
And what you just heard is just a tip of the iceberg. Much more after the
break. Stick with us.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The new book, “A Very Stable Genius” by “Washington Post” reporters Carol
Leonnig and Phil Rucker, also details the president with a fundamental
understanding for basic geography. According to their reporting in this new
book, President Trump told India`s prime minister, the prime minister of
India, quote, it`s not like you`ve got China on your border.
Well, India and China share more than 2,000 miles of border. There it is if
you look at a book of geography, which has been a source contention across
that border for years, decades.
According to one aide, the president`s mistake was so upsetting to the
Indian prime minister that his eyed bulged out in surprise. When after the
meeting with the prez and the prez of India, the prime minister, the aid
explains that after that, the Indians took a step back in their diplomatic
relations with us.
For more, I`m joined by former CIA Director John Brennan.
I don`t know what to say. But Trump is not stupid, but he is ignorant in
many ways. He just – I think he went to business school. He went to
military school before that. He didn`t take anything like history or
literature or geography. There is things he doesn`t know, like that there
is a border several thousand mile border between India and China which they
have been fighting over for decades.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, the book provides rich detail of
what we have seen every day for the last three years that Donald Trump is
the most ignorant, as you said, as well as incompetent individual who ever
has held the office of the presidency.
I worked for six presidents. I got to know four of them very well. The two
Bushes, Clinton and Obama. Every one of them had an understanding of
history and geography. They had a great intellectual thirst.
MATTHEWS: That`s why they ran for president, because they grew up reading
BRENNAN: Yes. But once they became president, also they realized there is
a lot more to know and to learn.
BRENNAN: But Donald Trump knows no intellectual curiosity whatsoever about
these issues, nor the issue of, you know, the U.S. role in the world. So,
it`s not surprising. I mean, he is a person at many respects because he
looks at things, you know, his entire life, through the prism of the dollar
sign and business.
And, so, it`s, again, unsurprising. But I think we`re all looking forward
to reading the book.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, the book, I – maybe it should scare us about our
kids getting too much specialized education. They go to business school,
that`s all they want to know, money.
BRENNAN: I couldn`t agree with you more.
MATTHEWS: That`s helpful, actually.
BRENNAN: I support STEM education. But I think liberal arts really exposes
one to a lot of issues that you need to deal with on your life.
MATTHEWS: Well, the book also, the new book coming out, also reports that
from early on, the president was eager to put – well, to meet Putin, head
of Russia, the strong man over there. According to authors, during the
transition, he interrupts an interview with one of his secretary of state
candidates to ask, when can I meet Putin? Can I meet with him before the
When is this? You know this better than anybody. This wannabe, this love
affair with the idea of being a strongman, a love of other strongman.
BRENNAN: Yes, there`s a lot we don`t know about that Putin-Trump
relationship and what Trump is either interested in getting from Putin or
afraid that Putin might reveal. So, I think it just demonstrates this, you
know, eagerness that he had early on from day one to meet with him and then
his subsequent meetings where he dismissed.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Trump – do you think he`s smart about that or he`s
paranoid or does Putin have his number?
BRENNAN: I think all of the above. I do think that – again, there is a
lot that we don`t know about that relationship, but there`s something that
drives Donald Trump in terms of the way he interacts with Putin and gives
Putin a pass on so many issues, whether it`s for future consideration that
Putin may give him even after he leaves the Oval Office or if it`s because
he`s afraid about what Putin, in fact, could reveal.
MATTHEWS: You know, I used to think there was a grand deal coming, that
that justify some of the kissing, if you will, of Putin, because he was
going to cut a deal over Syria and get the Assad government out of there or
something like that.
BRENNAN: I don`t think Trump is either interested in those grand deals or
understands what is required in order to forge them. So, I think there is
something that is very personal, maybe very political that he has.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to something that`s really important to me. When
he became president, one of the first bills he wanted to pass was to get
rid of the rule that you can`t bribe other governments.
The rule was, you had to report all financial aspects to any deal, with –
any company goes in, Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, anybody, GE, shows up in some
country, makes a deal with their president over whatever, crown lands or
whatever you want to call them, sovereign lands, every dollar agreed to in
that deal has to be made public, so there is no bribes, there`s no sort of
Trump got rid of that. He wanted to get rid of it. He wanted to be able to
do kickbacks and bribes.
BRENNAN: Well, as businessmen who have worked with Trump in New York for
many, many decades, he is somebody who looks for the ways to forge deals
that are outside of ethics, principles, even the law. In terms of bullying,
intimidation, corruption, whatever else. So, it`s not surprising that in
fact he would try to take that same approach and philosophy in dealings
with overseas –
MATTHEWS: And he said it`s unfair not to be able to bribe. Ha! Ha! Talk
Thank you, John Brennan. It`s great to have your expertise on.
MATTHEWS: Up correct, why Bernie Sanders is the candidate to beat, I
think, in Iowa and New Hampshire. I watched out. I was out there last
I think I know what`s going on out there. It may not be what you want, but
I think it`s what`s going to happen. Bernie out there.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Six candidates took the stage last night for the seventh
Democratic debate. Let me leave you with my assessment of why Bernie
Sanders is the candidate to beat in Iowa.
One, his strong anti-war position. He was against the war in Vietnam. He
was against the Iraq war. He`s anti-war in his bones. And again last night,
he let the world know it.
Two, I checked the numbers. Two-thirds of the Democratic Iowa caucus voters
in 2016 called themselves liberal or very liberal. Bernie swept those very
liberal caucusgoers in 2016 and should do it again in 2020.
And this explains why Elizabeth Warren is battling with Bernie. She`s
trying to get the very votes that he has gotten before. Between the two of
them, it is a zero sum battle.
Joe Biden, who is contending for that one-third of the caucusgoers who
called themselves moderate or conservatives can`t match Bernie`s potential.
The arithmetic is simply not there. He`s battling with Buttigieg or
Klobuchar for that third of the vote. So, bet on Bernie in Iowa.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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