New Parnas evidence TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

Guests:
Paul Butler, Mieke Eoyang, George F. Will, Charlie Sykes, Michelle Goldberg, Ted Lieu, Jeremy Bash, Lily Adams, Jamal Simmons
Transcript:

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for watching. As always, I`ll be back here

Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern for that impeachment special, brand new, I

hope you`ll join us or DVR it.

 

But don`t go anywhere now. HARDBALL is up next.

 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: He`s lawyering up. Let`s play HARDBALL.

 

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

 

With his impeachment trial just four days away, the president is lawyering

up. Today, NBC news is reporting that the lawyers expected to defend the

president will be led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. But it`s no

surprise that two of Trump`s lawyers will be well-known T.V. personalities.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is a celebrity criminal defense

attorney who says he will make constitutional defense of the president. And

Ken Starr is the former independent counsel whose investigation of

President Clinton led to his impeachment.

 

Dershowitz, of course, has a history of defending controversial figures,

including Claus von Bulow, Mike Tyson and accused child sex trafficker

Jeffrey Epstein. His most famous client, of course, was O.J. Simpson, whom

he held to be a double murder charge in what was called the trial of the

century.

 

As we`ve seen more recently, Dershowitz has argued for expansive powers of

Trump`s executive presidency. He said in November that under the

Constitution, the president has more power than a king.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT TRUMP`S DEFENSE TEAM: Of course,

the president is not a king. The president is far more powerful than the

king. The president has the power that kings have never had, very, very

powerful office. And the framers wanted it that way.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, so never mind what you were taught in civics or history

classes.

 

For Ken Starr, the shoe is now on the other foot, of course, after

prosecuting the case against one president, he`s now defending another. As

Trump`s lawyer, he`s likely to oppose witness testimony even though he

knows its value.

 

As he said in 1998, there is no substitute for looking a witness in the eye

asking detailed questions matching the answers against verifiable facts.

 

Well, the record from back then also shows that Donald Trump did not hold

Starr in very high esteem.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think Ken Starr is a lunatic. I really

think that Ken Starr is a disaster. It was a long and terrible process. I

really think that Ken Starr was terrible.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, likewise, Starr has recently criticized Trump, saying his

tweet against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was poor judgment and that

Ambassador Gordon Sondland`s testimony bolstered the case for impeachment.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: The president was not advised by

counsel in deciding to do this tweet, extraordinarily poor judgment. The

president frequently says I follow my instincts. Sometimes we have to

control our instincts.

 

We have Gordon Sondland`s understanding that doesn`t look good for the

president substantively.

 

This obviously has been one of those bombshell days.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC News, Trump`s legal defense team will

spend the weekend preparing their case before they square off against the

seven House impeachment managers named by Speaker Pelosi this week.

 

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani will not be joining Trump`s legal team but he

tells NBC News that he will still advice the president in unofficial

capacity.

 

I`m joined right now by Mieke Eoyang, Vice President for the National

Security Program in Third Way, George F. Will, syndicated columnist, of

course, Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor.

 

Paul, this team, you know Dershowitz. He`s somewhat argumentative. I

sometimes thinks he takes just – points of view just to be beat at. What

do you think he is up to here with his expansive notion of what a president

can do? I just watched him on Ari Melber`s program. He basically says the

president can really put himself in trouble by abusing power because all

presidents abuse power. That was his argument.

 

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So that`s wrong as a matter

with the Constitution. But I think there`re two objectives to this

strategy. The first is about not calling witnesses. He wants to make the

case that even if everything that the articles suggest Trump did are true,

the facts don`t matter. Under the Constitution, his argument is it doesn`t

rise to the kind of high crime or misdemeanor that is necessary for removal

from office.

 

Now, again, if you look at the history, that`s just flat out wrong. What

Trump is accused of doing falls into categories like maladministration,

abuse of office, it`s just what Alexander Hamilton and the other framers

had in mind, the concern that someone like Trump would reach office.

 

And the second thing, really quickly, is to give Republican senators some

cover for not voting to remove Trump. They can say it`s not just Trump`s

own White House Counsel and his own personal lawyers. These two respected

legal scholars also believe that the president should not be removed from

office.

 

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at what Dershowitz said just moments ago

on this network.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DERSHOWITZ: Abuse of power, even if proved, is not an impeachable offense.

That`s exactly what the framers rejected. They didn`t want to give Congress

to authority to remove a president because he abused his power. They have

to prove treason, they have to prove bribery, but they have to prove other

crimes and misdemeanors.

 

MELBER: You`re making news here about what you will argue on the

president`s behalf in the Senate trial. The news you are making, as I

understand it, is that, quote, abuse of power, in your argument, does not

constitute as a high crime under the Constitution?

 

DERSHOWITZ: If you wanted to charge him with a crime – that`s what they

did Clinton impeachment. They charged him with specific crimes, and that`s

what they did with Nixon. But they didn`t – here, they haven`t charged him

with specific crimes as part of the articles of impeachment.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see.

 

Mieke Eoyang, this is an argument that goes back, I think – I don`t know

why Dershowitz is arguing this because I`ve never heard anybody else argue

with it, because high crimes and misdemeanors are meant to be basically a

political act, abuse of power, taking the presidency and using it in ways

it should not be used under the Constitution.

 

MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM VICE PRESIDENT, THIRD WAY: Yes. And

we`ve had a number of people, not necessarily the president but other lower

level officials impeached and removed from office on things that are very

similar, about misusing their power. We have the governor of Illinois going

to jail for a similar thing of trying to withhold a thing of value and

trying to get something for it. Whether that`s a political favor or money,

I think that that`s something – we have an entire public corruption

section at the Department of Justice to go after public officials who

abused their power this way.

 

I think it`s very clear that what the president has done here in using, in

withholding aid to try and force another country to investigate his

political rival is really the kind of abuse of power that the framers were

warning against.

 

MATTHEWS: George, you wrote – authored really well recently about the

abuse of power by presidents with regard to war-making. What Dershowitz is

saying basically says a president can take us into war against Switzerland

if he wants because there`s no crime against it.

 

GEORGE F. WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, we did go to war against Libya

seven months, probably the longest assassination attempt in world history,

what was finally succeeded and regime change in Libya, and Republicans said

at the time, Dick Lugar and others who were hardly fanatic, although hat

was an abuse of power. The danger was the abuse of power standard for

impeachment is, that whenever you have the presidency in one party`s hands

and the Congress in another, you could have – you could come up with a

standard for saying that the president has abused power. Because, in some

sense, it`s in the eye of the beholder and the beholders will always find

an abuse of power.

 

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Paul. What about the theatrics here bringing in

Dershowitz? He is theatrical. You studied under him, I believe. He also,

outside the world of the law, is the world of theater. And he shares that

with Trump. There`s a reason why he`s always on television, Dershowitz. He

takes these cases like O.J. or classified view though (ph) where he really

made his name. How is he going to change the theater here?

 

I get the feeling having just on Ari Melber`s show, he`s going to be all

over the place outside that Senate chamber making the case.

 

BUTLER: Yes. So he is an intellectual heavyweight and then he`s got the

gravitas of being an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School. But don`t

get it twisted, he`s a street fighter. He`s a Zellist (ph) advocate for his

clients. And so he`ll be willing to not just make the case in the Senate

but then to get down and dirty on Fox T.V. and MSNBC, so to make the

political case as well as the legal case.

 

Again, he`s wrong on the merits on the legal case but it will be

interesting to see how he goes over politically.

 

MATTHEWS: I just don`t know how they`re going to have a case or a trial

where they prevent the inflow, basically, the avalanche of evidence that

just keeps coming in.

 

Anyway, the House of Representatives just released more material from Lev

Parnas, including new text messages that show extensive contact between

Parnas and staffer to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who is, of

course, a ranking member on intelligence.

 

I want to bring in NBC News National Political Reporter Josh Lederman right

now with the news. Josh?

 

JOSH LEDERMAN, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Chris, I want to say from

the get-go we are just going through these documents, a whole tranche that

has just come out and there`s a lot in there. But there is new information

in there about this story line we`ve been following over the last couple of

days about Robert Hyde, this Republican congressional candidate who told

Lev Parnas that he had some type of a surveillance operation on Ambassador

Yovanovitch.

 

Earlier today, Robert Hyde had pointed the finger on Twitter at someone

else, another Trump supporter that he identified as Anthony de Caluwe, who

he said had provided him the information and he had merely copy and pasted

it to Lev Parnas. We`ve spent part of the day trying to figure out whether

that was accurate or not.

 

And now in these new documents that come out from the House, we can see

that they`re essentially what happened was somebody using a Belgian phone

number and a photograph that matches Anthony de Caluwe had sent this

information about the purported whereabouts of Ambassador Yovanovitch to

Robert Hyrde and then he had forwarded screen shots of those messages to

Lev Parnas.

 

So what he was saying earlier today about getting this information

secondhand, from what we can tell from these new documents appears to be

corroborated.

 

There`s a voice mail, basically a WhatsApp audio message that is included

from what was turned over by Parnas from – that he had gotten from Hyde,

in which you hear an accented voice say, it`s confirmed, she`s in Ukraine.

We can`t tell at this moment exactly who is the voice in that, but it`s

further evidence that there were a lot of back and forth messages about

Ambassador Yovanovitch`s whereabouts.

 

Whether the details were correct or this was somebody just making stuff up,

we still have yet to be able to tell that. But as we know, the State

Department and Ukraine`s Interior Ministry are now investigating this.

 

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Josh Lederman, with that latest report.

 

This thing just keeps growing. Somebody once said during Watergate, I think

I read it on a door in a bar in the Greenwich Village, Watergate is India.

This just gets more and more entangled, more and more tangents out into the

question, even to the point where now that the Ukrainian government is

investigating this use of surveillance over there against one of our

ambassadors in their country as breaking their law.

 

EOYANG: Yes. And, look, Ukraine is a place where there is a tremendous

amount of surveillance and lots of people, All these oligarchs have private

security services. So the idea there are security services for hire out

there is entirely possible. And very clearly the State Department was

concerned for her safety and rushed her out of the country.

 

But this is something that we really need to get to the bottom of. It`s one

of the things that we really hope that the government takes seriously.

Threats against the United States ambassadors are threats to the United

States. These are people who serve as the representatives of our entire

nation abroad.

 

MATTHEWS: George, this is a strange case, because it`s like the beginning

of Watergate rather than the end. I mean, you`ve got all this stuff we`re

learning right now. This character, Robert Hyde who was a bar fly over at

the International Trump Hotel. He apparently went to the expensive bar

there, made friends with people, got to know Parnas, got to know Rudy, and

they`re all working somehow in the interests of President Trump.

 

WILL: If these grafters make the Watergate burglars look like PhDs. This is

a different class –

 

MATTHEWS: Carter Page?

 

WILL: Yes, exactly. The problem is that what we`re talking about tonight is

another boulder in the avalanche of information. You`re talking about it

but none of it matters because the Republicans are willing, as the lawyers

say, to stipulate that everything said against Mr. Trump is true. They`re

saying it`s irrelevant, because of the reason that Mr. Dershowitz just

said. It`s irrelevant because unless you can point to a clear federal

crime, it does not matter.

 

MATTHEWS: Right. And that, of course, Paul Butler, we have the fact that he

broke the law with regard to impounding funds approved by Congress, but

that doesn`t carry a criminal sanction remind me the Boland Amendment years

ago with regard to aid to Latin America. It`s not necessarily a crime. It`s

just against the law.

 

BUTLER: And, in fact, high crime and misdemeanor, as stated in the

Constitution, does not refer to specific statutory crimes. In fact, Chris,

those kinds of crimes didn`t even exist at the time that the Constitution

was written. High crime and misdemeanor is a term of – understood by all

the founders to mean corruption, maladministration, someone obtaining the

high power of being a president of the United States and using that

extraordinary power for their own personal ends.

 

MATTHEWS: So why is Dershowitz, your former mentor to some extent, why is

he out there basically showing off, to be blunt about it, and saying that

the Constitution doesn`t allow for the prosecution of a president and

impeachment of a president unless you have got some criminal code that he

violated? Why is he saying that?

 

BUTLER: Chris, he was a great law professor. He really was one of the

reasons I wanted to be a criminal lawyer. He`s a much better criminal

lawyer than he is a constitutional lawyer. He`s wrong on the Constitution

here. And, again, I think he is using his status in a way that`s not

appropriate, that`s not becoming. He`s an emeritus professor and I don`t

know if he`s just trying to be relevant. But, again, it`s dangerous for the

nation that he might be effective with the Republicans.

 

Again, he will use his status to give them cover to not remove the

president from office.

 

MATTHEWS: Well, at this table we have one of the country`s great

conservative commentators. My question, what happened to the idea of

limited government? Isn`t that the heart of conservativism, limited power

in the hands of government officials, including the president?

 

WILL: And not including the president, especially the president. Because

the growth of executive power throughout the 20th century is the biggest

threat to the institutional equilibrium that James Madison designed.

 

And progressives, yes, I`m talking to you, MSNBC listeners, the

progressives in this country have given us the inflated presidency, and I

wonder if they`re enjoying it.

 

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see. I think we enjoyed Franklin Roosevelt now.

 

Thank you very much, Mieke Eoyang, Paul Butler and George F. Will.

 

Coming up, with opening arguments in the impeachment trial just days away

now, it`s coming Tuesday, can we expect any Senate defectors from the GOP

that has increasingly become the party of Trump? Will senators like Mitt

Romney, who flirts with greatness, Lisa Murkowski has got guts, toe the

party line or push for a fair trial?

 

Plus, inside the tank with President Trump, shocking new excerpts from an

upcoming book that tell a meeting at Pentagon where the commander-in-chief

called a room of top military brass dopes and babies.

 

And with just weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, three of the five top

Democratic presidential candidates will find themselves locked in the

Senate chamber for the impeachment trial of President Trump. What will the

final days in Iowa would look without Senator Sanders, Senator Warren,

Senator Klobuchar?

 

We have much more to get to tonight. History is coming upon us. Stick with

us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS: Welcome back HARDBALL.

 

As the Senate impeachment trial begins next Tuesday, all eyes will be on a

handful of Republican senators who hold the cards to determine whether they

hear from witnesses or not, witnesses. The Washington Post`s Dan Balz

writes, the trial will affect the legacy of senators and their party.

Quote, being a Republican during the Trump presidency demands much. He is

quick to anger at any Republican who strays from absolute loyalty and at

times has sought to punish those who have.

 

Well, a lot of attention has been paid to five Republican senators seen as

potentially – there they are – as potential votes for witnesses in the

trial in recent days – in recent days, including retiring Senator Lamar

Alexander of Tennessee, and Colorado`s Cory Gardner, who is up for a tough

reelection.

 

“The Wall Street Journal” today reports that Alexander – that`s Lamar

Alexander – who has expressed openness to hearing witnesses, is under

pressure to weigh his own long political career against bucking President

Trump.

 

Well, his career is pretty much behind him.

 

Meanwhile, Senator Gardner has repeatedly dodged questions about where he

stands. A local NBC station couldn`t get a straight answer when they caught

up with him at a Denver airport last night.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

QUESTION: Are you open to hearing from more witnesses in the Senate trial?

 

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): We have a trial, and that`s where we`re at right

now.

 

QUESTION: Yes.

 

GARDNER: I take my impartiality duty seriously.

 

QUESTION: You talk talking about impartiality.

 

Is it possible for any senator to be impartial in this trial, because I

know…

 

GARDNER: Well, that`s their constitutional duty and the oath that we all

took.

 

QUESTION: I know that you hosted a fund-raiser for President Trump. He`s

promised to campaign for you.

 

How do you plan to maintain that impartiality?

 

GARDNER: Well, there are people running for president against President

Trump in the Senate.

 

So we have a duty to be impartial.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Michelle Goldberg, columnist for “The New

York Times,” and Charlie Sykes, editor at large of The Bulwark.

 

Charlie, I owe you an apology. You were right the last time you were on.

You said that the speaker of the House was going to hold onto those

articles of impeachment. I couldn`t believe it. You were right. You had the

sniff ahead of every time.

 

So I will let you start with tonight.

 

What do you hear about the big magic five Republicans who might break with

the pack and give us a real trial?

 

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: I think it`s very possible.

 

Look, I mean, I`m used to disappointment here. It is sort of like Lucy with

the football. But this is a relatively easier vote than voting to convict.

So all you need are four Republicans to, say look, we need to hear from the

witnesses.

 

And think about all things that we have learned since that House vote,

since Nancy Pelosi held the impeachment, the e-mails that we have received,

Lev Parnas coming out, John Bolton saying that he`s willing to testify, the

GAO report.

 

So I think the pressure on Republicans is going to be very, very intense

not to ignore this. Plus, think about the risk if they, in fact, obstruct

those witnesses and obstruct that evidence, if more things come out. Then

their votes become absolutely toxic.

 

MATTHEWS: Yes.

 

Michelle, I was talking to George Will about the sense I get with this

cornucopia of stuff coming at us.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: I mean, it hits us at 6:30, 7:00 at night. We have to get it into

the show, like we just did about this whole thing with Yovanovitch and the

surveillance over – this thing is growing. The fingernails are growing on

it.

 

It`s getting larger and larger. How do you shut it down now and go back to

any group and say, we got to the truth?

 

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Right. Trump is

basically…

 

MATTHEWS: They`re not getting the truth, if they shut it down now.

 

GOLDBERG: Yes.

 

Trump is because asking them to exonerate him without having any idea

really what they`re exonerating him up and what`s going to pop out later.

So, in some ways, it`s just in their interest to get it all out there and

know what`s out there before they take this vote, so that they don`t have

to answer for it later.

 

The other thing – and you see this with Martha McSally. Martha McSally had

this thuggish outburst at a CNN reporter who asked her if she was open to

evidence. She`s fund-raising off it. It`s this kind of really pathetic and

grotesque display.

 

But what`s interesting is that, after all that, she goes on Fox News, and

she still won`t answer the question of whether she wants witnesses.

 

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s show that right…

 

GOLDBERG: So, if it`s a hard call for someone like Martha McSally, think of

how much a harder call it is for Susan Collins.

 

MATTHEWS: This is really good. I`m glad you keyed us up on this.

 

As Michelle just mentioned, Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally, who

was appointed to the office, went on the attack yesterday when a CNN

reporter dared to ask her whether she thought they should hear evidence.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MANU RAJU, CNN: Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as

part of the impeachment trial?

 

SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Manu, you`re a liberal hack. I`m not talking to

you.

 

RAJU: You`re not going to comment about this?

 

MCSALLY: You`re a liberal hack.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: I guess she didn`t see the camera watching.

 

Anyway, within hours, however, McSally, who`s running to keep her seat this

year, was out there fund-raising off that little incident.

 

In an interview with FOX, she was asked, however, if she regretted the

insult to the reporter.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MCSALLY: No, Laura, I do not. And I said it again, actually, as I went in.

I said, you`re a liberal hack, buddy.

 

They are so biased. They are so in cahoots with the Democrats. They so

can`t stand the president. And they run around trying to chase Republicans

and ask trapping questions.

 

I`m a fighter pilot. I called it like it is.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: But McSally, the senator, wasn`t quite prepared to call it like

it is when host – good for her – Laura Ingraham, flipped the script on

her.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: What about Manu Raju`s question?

 

Do you want witnesses?

 

MCSALLY: Well, I want a fair trial.

 

INGRAHAM: OK, you`re not going to play the game with…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MCSALLY: Which they didn`t in the House.

 

No, no, no.

 

INGRAHAM: You can call me a conservative hack, but do you want a witnesses,

yes or no? Why aren`t you telling us?

 

MCSALLY: Because we`re going to vote on Tuesday to start the trial and let

them present the…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

INGRAHAM: Well, how are you going to vote on the motion for more – for

witnesses?

 

MCSALLY: We`re going to get to that. I mean, I`m not going to tell

everybody what all my votes are going to be.

 

But, obviously, my point…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

INGRAHAM: … easy question, don`t you think, Senator?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: What`s this?

 

Well, the manner of making all this a big chuckle-worthy? I don`t know.

That`s some sort of new thing you do when you have an unpleasant question

thrown at you. You get a giggle in there, and you keep laughing, as if you

can laugh it off.

 

I think Laura Ingraham really nailed her, because she wasn`t ready for a

simple question, Charlie, a simple question. Do you want to have a vote?

 

SYKES: Yes.

 

MATTHEWS: Do you want to vote for witnesses or not?

 

SYKES: Well, yes.

 

And what you saw there was a display of petulant hackery on Martha

McSally`s part, and trickle-down Trumpism.

 

And this is sort of the cheap play for a lot of these Republicans that

don`t want to answer the questions and may feel uncomfortable with

defending Trump`s conduct right now, is just lash out at the media. This is

the low-hanging fruit that somehow that you insult a reporter, by the way,

who, by all accounts, is respected by both sides, who`s just doing his job,

asking a straightforward question, and then spiking the football.

 

Look, the fact is that Martha McSally is trailing in Arizona. Mark Kelly is

raising more money than she is. I think she looks cheap. I think she looks

desperate. I think this is going to backfire on her.

 

But I think it also reflects the kind of pressure that`s going to be on the

senators over the next couple of weeks. This is not going to be an easy

vote for Republicans.

 

MATTHEWS: Yes.

 

Michelle, when I read your column, I know how smart you are, like George

Will from a different point of view.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

 

MATTHEWS: I mean, you can`t fake it with a column twice a week. You got

brains, and you have thoughts, and you have imagination and creativity. And

you understand.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: You ask yourselves the right questions, and you try to come up

with the right answers. That`s what the process of writing a column is.

 

That senator, that appointed senator, acts like she`s never considered the

most obvious questions, like, are you for witnesses?

 

GOLDBERG: Well, I think one thing to know about Martha McSally, right, she

is the only senator who lost her most recent Senate election, I mean, as

you said, appointed senator.

 

And so she`s in a very rough position, because she needs to rile up the

base. She needs to fund-raise, which this was all sort of a fund-raising

ploy. And, at the same time, she`s in a very purple state that might not

take kindly to her participating in the cover-up that Trump wants.

 

MATTHEWS: It`s so great to ask her questions, though, because you always

get a reaction.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle, great columnist.

 

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

 

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

 

Charlie, again, you were right last time.

 

SYKES: Thank you.

 

MATTHEWS: I will keep score.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump reportedly called America`s top military

commanders a bunch of dopes and babies.

 

This is Mr. Bone Spur talking. And, by the way, he says they don`t know how

to win anymore. He never tried to win. He never had a uniform on, except in

– I guess in high school.

 

Plus, more of that new evidence out tonight from Lev Parnas. We`re trying

to get to this fire hydrant of news. It just keeps coming, the news against

this president.

 

Don`t go anywhere.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under the leadership of

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.

 

They have been reduced to a point where it`s embarrassing for our country.

 

I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

 

Well, they don`t know much, because they`re not winning. That, I can tell

you.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

Well, that was then candidate Donald Trump speaking bluntly, of course,

about the country`s top military leaders.

 

In private, his tirade against went even further, once he won the

presidency, calling top generals losers to their faces. That was the word

to use.

 

And that`s according to an upcoming book by “Washington Post” reporters

Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker. Quote – it`s called “A Very Stable Genius.”

The book is out, I believe.

 

A new excerpt released in “The Washington Post” describes the president

lashing out at the military brass during a Pentagon meeting in the summer

of 2017.

 

Quote: “You`re all losers,” Trump said. “You don`t know how to win

anymore.” He added: “I wouldn`t go to war with you people,” and then

referred to them as a bunch of dopes and babies.

 

These are generals he`s talking to.

 

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, a

member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees. He`s a former

active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and now serves as a member of the

Air Force Reserves. Jeremy Bash is former chief of staff at the CIA and

Department of Defense.

 

Congressman Lieu, thank you for your service, of course. And I want to

thank you for coming on tonight.

 

This treatment – I have to call it that – treatment of our top military

people, how do you react to it?

 

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Chris, for your question.

 

Donald Trump would have more credibility in criticizing our military

leaders if he had actually served in the military. But he didn`t. He had –

allegedly had a bone spur of which no credible person could verify. He

escaped a draft at a time when many young people were risking their lives.

 

And Donald Trump lacks the first element, which is courage. He didn`t even

have that to go serve. And for him to criticize military leaders is really

beyond the pale.

 

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the scene, though?

 

A big room over in the – it`s called the Tank. It`s where the top the

Joint Chiefs meet to have their most critical discussions. And he uses it

for a dressing down of all of them, everyone in the room, as losers.

 

It seems like…

 

LIEU: It`s obnoxious.

 

MATTHEWS: I hate to make the Hitler connection, but it does look like those

movies where you see the guy trashing all his generals, because they`re

losing the war. It seems almost like an 8-year-old talking to the grownups.

 

LIEU: So it`s really obnoxious. It also shows that he doesn`t value

service.

 

The people in that room do not get paid a lot of money. Some of them risked

their lives to go fight. And what we have here is a person who is largely

ignorant, if you read the excerpt from the book, doesn`t know a lot about

the world, and is saying, we should be deploying military troops and making

a profit off of that.

 

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

 

LIEU: Well, military troops are not mercenaries. We should not be making a

profit.

 

The military leaders should not have been dressed down like that. And,

frankly, I think the president really should apologize to those military

leaders.

 

MATTHEWS: Someone years ago told me – advised me how to deal with

government officials. He said – and I want to be not too crude about this.

But these are the words. I will clean it up a bit.

 

He said, people don`t do their best work when they`re being peed on.

 

And here`s the president trying to get good work out of our top leaders by

humiliating them. It doesn`t work.

 

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: No.

 

And the context of this was, as you referenced, in the Tank, where the

Joint Chiefs meet. I have been in that room. There`s an oil painting of

Lincoln and his generals that hang over that table.

 

And the most consequential decisions are made in that room. And here comes

President Trump in 2017, after he`s president. And his own advisers

realize, this guy doesn`t understand the world, he doesn`t care to

understand the world, we have to brief him up.

 

And in that briefing, he shows, number one, that he`s arrogant, he knows it

all. Number two, he`s disrespectful. He`s condemning them for their

expertise, when, in fact, that`s what they`re bringing to him as his

advisers.

 

And third is he`s neo-isolationist. He`s basically saying, we shouldn`t

have a globally deployed force. We shouldn`t even have a military out there

in the world, which is totally inconsistent with national security.

 

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s the kind of a guy talking at a bar somewhere just

B.S.ing.

 

LIEU: Yes.

 

MATTHEWS: Here`s my attitude. I want to show it you.

 

Anyway, got some news again, as I mentioned earlier. The House released new

material tonight from Lev Parnas, including the text messages that show

extensive contact between him, Parnas, and a staffer to, guess who, ranking

Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes.

 

The texts show the Derek Harvey, a senior investigator for Congressman

Nunes, was working with Parnas to acquire material about Ukraine`s alleged

involvement in the 2016 election, the old theory, the old conspiracy.

 

The new evidence also includes a slew of new pictures of Parnas with the

president`s son, Rudy Giuliani, and Indiana Senator Mike Braun.

 

Congressman, Congressman Lieu, what do you make of this, one of your

colleagues, who sits as ranking Republican on the Intel Committee,

investigating himself? No. Doesn`t matter – doesn`t go after himself, even

though he`s party to this whole thing?

 

LIEU: Well, let me first disclose that the lawyer for Devin Nunes wrote me

a letter threatening that Devin Nunes will sue me if I don`t apologize for

saying that Devin Nunes conspired with Lev Parnas and conspired to

undermine our own government.

 

Well, it turns out that, based on text messages and the record and the

amazing interview on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” that I`m right. Truth is a

defense. And I basically told Devin Nunes` attorney that they can take that

letter and shove it.

 

So, with this new additional evidence that came out, it`s even more

damning, especially for the staff to Devin Nunes. And I think, right now,

Devin Nunes should not be sitting on the House Intelligence Committee. He

needs to be removed.

 

MATTHEWS: What I don`t understand is, legislators have a job. That`s their

lane that they work in. They vote. They write legislation. They try to

figure out what`s wrong and try to right it.

 

They`re not operational. They don`t operate. Like, Ollie North got in

trouble for being operational. He`s an adviser to the president. He is

running all this money into the Contras, running missiles over to Iran.

 

I mean, these guys – why would a vice – you have worked in the government

in many capacities. Why would a U.S. congressman be a guy running down to

the old Executive Office Building, getting some stuff to come back down the

next day and give it to the West Wing, working as a staffer, basically, for

the president, this president?

 

BASH: That`s right.

 

His constitutional responsibility, under Article 1, is to be an overseer,

to conduct oversight, to actually be a check on executive branch power and

policy.

 

Instead, he`s gone to the other side. He`s basically decided, I`m going to

work for Trump. I`m going to help him advance this false narrative about

Ukraine. I`m going to help him politically, so he can win reelection, and

maybe reward me – reward me with more.

 

MATTHEWS: Congressman, again, thank you for your service and your being

here tonight.

 

Here we are on, on the very eve of a Senate trial for this president. And

yet, as we sit here, the news keeps coming through, over the transom,

through the door, rushing like a flood.

 

We keep learning more now about surveillance of a U.S. ambassador over in

Kiev. It looks like she was being harassed, or they scared her enough to

ever yanked out of the country, she was so – had such reason to be afraid.

 

So what is going on here? There`s so much information. Are we going to get

this in the trial, or is it going to be kept out of the door?

 

LIEU: We absolutely need a full and fair trial in the Senate.

 

I think it`s ridiculous that a simple question such as, should we have

witnesses in a trial, can`t be answered by a number of Republican senators.

The answer should, of course, be yes. I mean, who ever heard of a trial

with no witnesses and no documents?

 

And then we should take a step back and understand that Donald Trump is not

only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. He`s also the

first Republican president to be impeached.

 

And as for abusing his power, soliciting foreign interference in our

election, and no one is above the law. No one should be treated differently

because they happen to be president. And every trial has witnesses and

documents. And that should be the kind of trial we have in the U.S. Senate.

 

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of

California.

 

And, Jeremy Bash, thank you for your expertise and your service in our

government.

 

A quick programming note. We`re going to have “The Washington Post” Phil

Rucker and Carol Leonnig, the author of that new book on Trump`s

presidency, here on HARDBALL next Tuesday, coming up quick. This is a great

book.

 

By the way, I sell books here because I like them. This book is fun to

read, if you have been following it. This is going to be on Tuesday they`re

coming here. This book is fun to read. It`s candy for people that love to

follow politics, even if it`s horrible in its nature.

 

And still ahead: With the caucuses just weeks ahead, what will Iowa look

like without three of the top Democratic candidates, because they`re going

to be in jury duty?

 

We will be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

With President Trump`s impeachment trial in session, a number of 2020

Democratic hopefuls have been sidelined, locked into the Senate chamber,

you might say.

 

Of the 12 Democrats running for president still, four of them will be out

of commission, as they assume their duties as jurors in the impeachment

trial, the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

 

And some of those senators were asked if they were worried about being off

the trail.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

QUESTION: Are you concerned about how this will affect your campaign?

 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I am.

 

I would rather be in Iowa today. There`s a caucus there in two-and-a-half

weeks. I`d rather be in New Hampshire and in Nevada and so forth.

 

But I swore a constitutional oath, as a the United States senator, to do my

job. And I`m here to do my job.

 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s my constitutional

duty. And when I can go campaign in those early states, including Nevada

and South Carolina, I will.

 

But when I have to be there, I will.

 

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way I think about

it is, it`s out of my control. And I have obviously got to be there to

fulfill my constitutional responsibility.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, NBC News spoke to a handful of New Hampshire voters about

the new reality.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

QUESTION: For those who won`t be able to come out and speak to you in

person, are you cutting them any slack?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very little.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, if I don`t

know enough about them already…

 

QUESTION: Are you cutting them any slack?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think so. I think that they`re doing their

responsibility by being – by being where they need to be in Congress.

That`s a really important thing that they`re doing down there too.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true.

 

The senators` absence from the campaign trail, however, couldn`t be coming

at a worst time. A new poll from Iowa shows just how up for grabs that

contest really is.

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

 

With just two weeks now left before the Iowa caucuses, do you believe it,

two weeks from Monday, the Democratic field will lose four of its

candidates from the campaign trail to the impeachment trial in the U.S.

Senate.

 

According – by the way, according to a new “Des Moines Register” poll, 40

percent of the Iowa voters say they have not made up their minds yet.

That`s – well, they have made up their minds. I think it`s 60 have decided

not. But nearly half, 45, said they could be persuaded to vote for another

candidate. And that leaves a large swathe.

 

By the way, if you put all those numbers together – I did it this

afternoon – three-fifths of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers are up for grabs.

It`s an astounding thing.

 

And with a neck-and-neck race with the top four candidates, it could be

anybody`s game.

 

For more. I`m joined by Lily Adams, former communications director for

Kamala Harris, and Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist and the host of

Hill TV.

 

Lily, you`re fresh off the trail.

 

LILY ADAMS, FORMER HARRIS CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes.

 

MATTHEWS: What do you think? Four people in their seats in the U.S.

chamber. Of course, everybody wants to sit in that chamber, but they`re

stuck there.

 

ADAMS: Yes, look, if it`s two weeks to the caucus, the place you want to be

is Iowa every day talking to caucus-goers, boosting up your precinct

leadership, recruiting more precinct captains.

 

I was saying I think the hardest thing, though, is that they`re going to be

in Washington, D.C., and they`re going to have to be silent, which is the

worst – the worst thing that you could ask for if you`re a candidate.

 

So, I do think, though, that Iowa caucus-goers are going to be watching

these proceedings. They are going to be wanting the response from these

senators each night on your show and others.

 

MATTHEWS: Yes. We will be grabbing them.

 

ADAMS: So they will get to see them on their TV.

 

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

 

ADAMS: But there`s no substitute for being there in person.

 

MATTHEWS: So we`re going to get some good guests the next couple weeks.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You will.

 

ADAMS: They will be available.

 

MATTHEWS: Especially if they – they will be available on MS, probably, and

we will get our share at 7:00.

 

But it seems to me they`re not allowed to have any…

 

SIMMONS: At what time, Chris?

 

MATTHEWS: They can`t – yes, it`s this show.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: They`re not allowed to have gadgets in there, no phones, nothing.

 

So they can`t sit there and sneak calls to their people, their troops out

there. They can`t do any of that. But the minute they`re off, they will be

Skyping, right, won`t they, be doing everything.

 

SIMMONS: You can`t even have reading materials. It`s like high school

detention. And you are going to have to just sit there and pay attention to

what`s happening in class all day.

 

I think it`s going to be tough for a lot of these candidates. The one

candidate who may come – the one senator who may not be as bad a shape as

the others is Bernie Sanders, only because his people are just so fervent

and there`s so tough.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS: And that`s 20 percent right there.

 

SIMMONS: And his numbers don`t move that much.

 

MATTHEWS: Yes.

 

SIMMONS: And so I`m not sure there`s anything he could do that would sway

people away from him.

 

The problem is, can he sway anybody and bring them toward him? And I just

don`t know.

 

MATTHEWS: Well, I said the other day I think his anti-war position on

Vietnam and now against the Iranian situation is an ideological rallying

cry that the other candidates just don`t have right now.

 

Let me ask you about how they`re going to use this – can they – the

senators` role in the trial, as I understand it, is, you go to jail

basically if you talk. It`s the real quiet car.

 

ADAMS: Yes. Yes.

 

MATTHEWS: So they can`t like raise interesting questions. Even in the

Supreme Court, you can do that. They can`t put up their hand like Bernie

does and Elizabeth does and be waving at him.

 

ADAMS: Right. Nobody is going to be calling on them, yes.

 

MATTHEWS: Nobody calls on them.

 

ADAMS: Roberts isn`t going to be finding – calling on each of them one by

one, no.

 

MATTHEWS: So, they have to look like Kennedy did in his debate with Nixon,

very studious. They have to look like pensive, right? I mean, that`s all

they can do is show some physical connection.

 

ADAMS: Yes, but then they will come out of the chamber, and they will go

talk to a camera, and they will give their analysis of what happened.

 

And I do think, in a normal year, this would be a horrible, horrible thing

for candidates. But I do think, look, every Democrat in the country, every

person in this country is going to be paying attention to what`s going on

in this trial, is going to want to know what these candidates have to say.

 

So they are going to be a part of the story going on. I think, also for the

candidates in Iowa who are going to be able to be there, they have to

figure out how to be a part of this story as well that everyone is going to

be paying attention to for the next couple of weeks.

 

MATTHEWS: And Iowa has got one hour of two. It`s in Central time.

 

ADAMS: Yes.

 

SIMMONS: Right.

 

MATTHEWS: So they can get out there at 6:00 or 7:00. If they can get out of

there…

 

SIMMONS: At 6:00, it`s over.

 

ADAMS: Yes.

 

MATTHEWS: And they get two hours. They can talk to people in the early

evening. They can still talk.

 

SIMMONS: Right.

 

MATTHEWS: And then they can get some prime-time time at home. If they set

up an operation here with a camera, they should be – especially Bernie or

Elizabeth come out and says, yes, I got to tell you what happened in the

meeting – in the hearing today.

 

ADAMS: People are going to listen.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

SIMMONS: Yes.

 

And surrogates are going to matter, too. I mean, you are really going to

have to have a really top-notch operation in the state. You just came out

of doing one of these.

 

I mean, somebody sitting around with a big calendar trying to figure out

who can we slot here and there that is going to matter in these smaller

communities, because you got to have somebody present, just so you can get

the organizing benefit of having people show up and show you can drive…

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS: How yucky is it going to be one of those people who`s not been

drafted into service, like Biden, and like Buttigieg?

 

They`re out there. They get out there walking around and say, how come

you`re not fighting the war against Trump? Why are you out here? Does it

embarrass them a little to be able to skip this trial and be out there

campaigning when the others are at work?

 

ADAMS: Oh, I don`t think so.

 

I mean, I think, look,a candidate`s time is so valuable to be right there

face to face with Iowa voters. The population of the Democratic caucus is

no bigger than 300,000 people. So every last person is going to matter,

especially when you`re looking at that “Des Moines Register” poll.

Everybody is neck and neck up there at the top.

 

So if – again, if you had to put a gun to my head, I`d pick to be in Iowa.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

MATTHEWS: OK. I will put a gun to your head on a bigger issue out here,

talking about guns to your head.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: What do you think of the vice president – former Vice President

Joe Biden talking about Kamala Harris as a possible running mate?

 

ADAMS: Look, it`s no secret that I`m a big fan of Senator Harris. I think

she`d make a fantastic running mate for anybody.

 

MATTHEWS: Do you think she would accept?

 

ADAMS: Oh, I don`t know. You have to have her on the show to ask.

 

MATTHEWS: Jamal, would she accept?

 

SIMMONS: Oh, I don`t know either, but I think…

 

MATTHEWS: Does anybody not accept?

 

SIMMONS: But I think that she should, right?

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

ADAMS: I don`t think you ask if you don`t know the person going to accept.

 

SIMMONS: Right. Exactly. I think that she should.

 

Listen, I think one thing that happened after the Kamala Harris race is

there was a little bit of – I don`t know what the reverse is of buyer`s

remorse, maybe rejecter`s remorse, right?

 

Particularly in the African-American community, there`s a big wave that

went through on Twitter and other places where people said, maybe we were

too tough on her. Maybe we held her to a standard that is kind of

unacceptable.

 

MATTHEWS: Is that what you think?

 

SIMMONS: I think, in some ways, yes. I think we held her to…

 

MATTHEWS: I kept asking around with people of color. and I said, what is

her problem? Well, she`s a prosecutor, that kind of thing.

 

SIMMONS: Right. You heard that stuff very early.

 

But the question is, is anybody else going to be held to that standard?

People don`t say that about Amy Klobuchar. Nobody`s wondering about her

prosecutor record.

 

So the question becomes, what happens if she gets on the national ticket?

At which point, I think there`s a rallying effect around Kamala Harris, and

people say, forget about all that. We have a chance to put this great woman

into the White House. Let`s do it.

 

MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy was prosecutor. Ted Kennedy was a young prosecutor.

Joe Kennedy III is a prosecutor – was a prosecutor.

 

That`s – it`s not a bad way to bring yourself up. It used to be the way

you got to be governor of New York.

 

ADAMS: Well, now, with a lawless president, you kind of need a prosecutor.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

ADAMS: So, she could really be good.

 

MATTHEWS: You should be doing this for a living. You`re good at this.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Lily Adams, who was there for Kamala Harris

all those difficult months on the campaign trial.

 

And, Jamal, it`s great to have you on, as always, sir.

 

SIMMONS: Thanks.

 

MATTHEWS: Up next: my optimism for Chief Justice Roberts. I may be alone. I

don`t think he`s going to be a potted plant for three weeks.

 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MATTHEWS: Call me an optimist. Call me a romantic, but I have high hopes

for Chief Justice John Roberts.

 

I have got a reservoir of optimism he will serve more of a role in this

Senate impeachment trial than that of a potted plant. I believe he will be

a true judge, deciding at one point that the trial cannot be considered

fair without the calling of witnesses.

 

And I can only assume there will be opportunities for him to make that

call. It may be in the case of a tie vote. It may be at a point in the

presentation of the evidence where it becomes clear that the only way to

weigh that evidence is with the fact witnesses to certify to the

authenticity of certain documents and certain conversations.

 

When there`s an argument, and the record shows who can resolve the matter,

wouldn`t prudence suggest that the fact witness be heard?

 

The chief justice will be forced to decide whether to allow himself to be

part to a procedure that produces a cover-up or to push the procedures in

order to hold a trial and pursue the truth.

 

So, here`s to the justice and to the chief justice who can help delivery.

 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

 

Stick with us. “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.

 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

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