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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 1/16/2017

Guests: Rep. Maxine Waters, John Brabender, Heidi Przybyla, Tom Barrack

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 16, 2017 Guest: Rep. Maxine Waters, John Brabender, Heidi Przybyla, Tom Barrack

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is the Trump presidency legit?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, the war of words between U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia and President-elect Donald Trump escalated into a very public dispute over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. It began when Mr. Lewis questioned the very legitimacy of Donald Trump as our country`s 45th president just days before he`s set to assume the office.

Here`s what the Georgia congressman told Chuck Todd on "MEET THE PRESS."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don`t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR: You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?

LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: President-elect Trump responded with pointed criticism of Representative Lewis, as well as his congressional district in Georgia. Quote, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk, no action or results. Sad."

Well, Trump`s tweets infuriated Democrats over the holiday weekend, especially in light of Lewis`s background as a Civil Rights leader alongside Martin Luther King in the 1960s. Most notably, John Lewis led the 1965 march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where police met demonstrators with billy clubs and tear gas.

This comes as Lewis and a group of progressive Democrats in the U.S. Congress say they do not plan to attend Donald Trump`s inauguration this Friday. According to NBC News right now, 30 lawmakers plan to skip the ceremonies, and that`s as of tonight.

Meanwhile, former U.S. ambassador Andrew Young tried to diffuse the tension after Trump called him late today. According to "The Tennessean" newspaper, quote, "Young told Trump that Lewis is a saint and disillusioned with the results of the election. John is a good -- a very good man. He is really a saint," Young told Trump. He is kind of disillusioned right now, but he will come back."

I`m joined right now by Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, who also plans to skip the inauguration. Also joining us is Republican strategist John Brabender.

Congresswoman, let me ask you about -- I guess there`s two issues here. Is Trump going to be a legitimate president of the United States, actually president of the United States, or not? And are there questions about what role the Russians played in this election? I personally believe they`re separate questions, but do you?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: No, absolutely not. And I think when John talked about him being illegitimate, he really was talking about the fact that the questions are still out there about whether or not the Russians did play a role in determining what happened in our elections.

And also, I think John was talking about, there are going to be more investigations to determine whether or not Trump or his advocates, people associated with him on his staff, in the campaign -- whether or not there was some collusion, whether or not there was exchange of information, whether or not they were strategizing together. And I think that`s what he was trying to describe.

Other people are trying to talk about this -- you know, democracy and whether or not once you question whether someone is legitimate that you are questioning whether or not the democracy works. And people, you know, don`t want it to be that you`re deciding that, somehow, the electoral system doesn`t work, that democracy doesn`t work, et cetera.

He`s really talking about this unusual occurrence where, in fact, we know that the Russians played an important role and they tried to support Mr. Trump and they tried to make sure that Hillary Clinton didn`t get elected. And so I think that`s a legitimate discussion.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about where that leads to, Congresswoman. You`ve raised a good point here. I guess for you, it is important. If we find out that somebody on behalf of Donald Trump was on the phone or in e- mail relations with somebody in Russia or the ambassador to America from Russia and there was some sort of, as you call it, collusion, then what? Does that make Trump subject to impeachment? What do you mean by not legitimate -- just generally what you mean by the term?

WATERS: Well, here`s what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... found out there was a connection, there was collusion, your term.

WATERS: Well, here`s what I`m trying to get to. If we discover that Donald Trump or has advocates played a role in helping to devise strategy, if they`re the ones who came up with "crooked Hillary," if they`re the ones who came up with "She`s ill," something`s wrong with her energy, and the way that he basically, you know, described her in the campaign, I think that is something that would put the question squarely on the table whether or not he should be impeached.

MATTHEWS: So you think it`s -- you could have impeachable offense before you take office, in other words.

WATERS: Well, I think that at the point that investigations discover and can confirm and document any of that, that they had a role in helping to strategize, they had a role in attempting to determine the outcome, that in many ways, they used the information that they got from the DNC when they hacked into our e-mails, et cetera, if that was used against Hillary Clinton in some ways, yes, I think that`s impeachable.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) respond to that, John.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well...

MATTHEWS: Two points, what the Russians did and what Trump did. Answer them both ways. If Trump did nothing, but the Russians tried to help him win, then what?

WATERS: Well, I mean, I feel like I have to respond to...

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Us Republican consultants are much superior to the Russians in coming up with "crooked Hillary." So I don`t -- I don`t care about that. Here...

MATTHEWS: But Russian television was running a lot of propaganda that Hillary was mentally and physically impaired.

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: ... because so many Americans are watching Russian television. Let`s be honest about this. The only thing that there`s an accusation at all is that Russia was able potentially to have hacked into the Democrats and released information that they didn`t want voters to actually know.

And that is not something that`s going to change dramatically the election. We can`t say that, you know, there`s an illegitimacy to this election because of what they may have done and we have no idea.

Here`s the thing. John Lewis is a great American. I would never criticize his character. But he is showing terrible, terrible judgment by saying that he disagrees with this president, and therefore, he is literally going to boycott this -- this inaugural because he doesn`t believe that he is legally the president of the United States. That is not a principled position. That is a political position.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask the congresswoman because I think you`ve said already -- you accept Donald Trump as the next president, don`t you, as a legitimate president?

WATERS: Oh, absolutely. He has won the election according to our electoral system. He`s going to be sworn in. But what I do not accept is that we stop investigating what has been a most unusual circumstance...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

WATERS: ... in the way that this election was conducted, in the way that he dealt with the other candidates, both in the primary and in the general election. I want to know what Manafort`s role was. He worked for and served as the campaign manager. He also had worked at the head of the Ukraine government there. And I want to know what role he played. I want to know what role any of his people played in...

MATTHEWS: OK...

WATERS: ... working together...

BRABENDER: Well, here we go again. We`re going to investigate Donald Trump based on this. Then we`re going to say we got to go back and investigate Hillary Clinton on the e-mails again...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it relevant if he did do it, if the Russians did work hand and glove with him?

WATERS: Oh, yes!

BRABENDER: But here`s the...

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: Oh, yes.

BRABENDER: If we`re on a fishing expedition...

WATERS: Oh, yes. Let me...

BRABENDER: ... to try to say what went on here. But the American people hear this and say, This is Washington speak (ph) again for politics...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: No! No! No, not at all. Not at all. Let me just tell you this, and I`ll repeat, I do believe that if he wrapped his arms around Putin so tight and if he is defending Russia and Putin at a time when Putin is killing innocent children and families in Crimea, when they took it over, if he is defending him no matter what he does or what he says, and calling on him to further deal with Hillary Clinton`s e-mails -- remember he told him to hack it. He told him to -- and furthermore, let me just say this.

You know what Trump also did? He said, If I don`t win this election, I`m going to challenge it. That`s what he said.

BRABENDER: He said that...

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: Now that I`ve won, it`s OK. So don`t try and pretend that hasn`t not had a role in some of the things that I`m describing to you. This has been most unusual and strange...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And you know, it is extraordinary, but it`s not unique. Let me just tell you, Congresswoman, because I know you remember this because I`ll never forget it. And this another time where a foreign power got in the way of our politics and screwed with us.

Listen to this. When -- when 52 Americans were taken hostage back in late `79, Iran`s leadership, the ayatollahs, held them through election day to inflict maximum political damage on then president Jimmy Carter. Even after Ronald Reagan beat Carter, Iran further delayed their release until Reagan was actually being sworn in as -- at that noontime, to make their point, they released them immediately after Reagan took the oath. Those delays were calculated to make sure Jimmy Carter was punished as much as possible.

So we`ve had foreign governments and foreign people get involved with our elections before, and it`s awful.

BRABENDER: And I would make the argument that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... was on the plane with Carter when we lost, and I`ll tell you we know why we lost, largely because the humiliation of the hostage taking, which was deliberately extended through the election and then right up until the inauguration so that they could say they screwed Carter to the last minute, and they did it!

BRABENDER: Yes, and I think you could make a much better argument that votes were cast because of what was going on with that particular...

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: I don`t think over 60 million Americans voted for Donald Trump...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, allow me for a second. I want to hit Brabender here with the same kind of tough questioning. If Donald Trump had found out that Hillary Clinton was in bed with the Russians and that they had worked together in the campaign to humiliate him and make a fool out of him, would you think that was corruption?

BRABENDER: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: Would you think that was corruption?

BRABENDER: I would be saying the same thing I`m hearing (ph) now. If you have proof that is infallible proof, then fine. Bring it forward.

MATTHEWS: We know that Russian television was out to screw Hillary! We know their propaganda campaign was out...

BRABENDER: Well, wait a minute! That`s -- but that`s not in collusion. That`s a completely different argument! I`m sure there are a lot of -- you think Mexico didn`t have...

MATTHEWS: OK, you were the one saying...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You were the one saying they were using the same language.

BRABENDER: Well, I`m just saying that there is absolutely...

MATTHEWS: OK.

BRABENDER: ... no proof that there was any relationship.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BRABENDER: And frankly, all Trump is saying at this point is, Why not have a good relationship with Russia and China and start out that way.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me talk to the congresswoman...

WATERS: Oh, that`s...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Your words.

WATERS: That is not a good argument. This is an argument that Donald Trump has come up with about why not have good relations. I`ll tell you, we don`t have good relations with Russia. He is saying that he is going to deal with the sanctions that we put on, he`s going to wipe them out because this is his friend. That is unacceptable!

Putin, again, is a man that has participated in the killing of innocent families and civilians in Syria. This is a man that is not a friend to the United States of America. And for Trump to come in and disregard all of the intelligence agencies and wrap his arms around Putin now and claim him to be a friend -- I don`t buy it. I don`t think the American people buy it. And he`s not going to get away with it. We`re going to investigate him and find out what is this...

MATTHEWS: OK, Congresswoman...

WATERS: ... real connection that he`s got?

MATTHEWS: You grabbed my attention the other day when you came out of that briefing from James Comey, the FBI director. And I know you can`t say exactly what you heard in there, but give us a little sense of what it is. Do you believe that -- that Trump is somehow being held hostage by Vladimir Putin because of information he has on his behavior? Do you -- is there anywhere in that world you want to know more about?

WATERS: I absolutely want to know more about it. And let me tell you why I want to know more about it. You know, what we have heard not in the classified briefing, but in this information about the dossier that has been collected by the man in London on him, it talks about some things that appears to ring true based on what we have learned about Trump.

Remember when he talked about how you could get a way with grabbing a woman in her private parts, et cetera, et cetera? He defined himself. We did not define him. And I think we need to know more. We got to dig deeper. We`ve got to investigate. And yes, I think there may be something that Putin and Russia is holding over his head.

MATTHEWS: OK, just -- just to make the point clear. What in that dossier do you think resonates with what we heard Trump say in that bust that day with Billy Bush? What resonates?

WATERS: OK, what I have learned or I`ve heard about the dossier, it`s about his involvement with women. It`s about possibly prostitutes that are involved and those kinds of things. And he has sounded that way. He`s acted that way. And it gives you reason to think maybe something is to this, and we need to find out more.

BRABENDER: Yes, but now we`re doing where we have a report that was ridiculed by most credible news sources, and we`re saying, Let`s take something that some person wrote and let`s start a major investigation. You or I could write a report tomorrow on anybody and we`re going to start a major investigation because of what we write? That has no...

WATERS: This is not just any old body -- this is not just any old body who did the report.

BRABENDER: It was very much criticized...

WATERS: This is a respected...

BRABENDER: ... by most main news (INAUDIBLE)

WATERS: This is respected intelligence agent that did that report. And so you can`t just push it aside and you can`t just say there`s nothing to do. Let`s find out. Let`s do the investigating that`s needed to be done to find out whether or not we`re putting a man in office, and the most important office in the free world, who may be held hostage by Putin and Russia.

BRABENDER: But Congresswoman, it does sound like sour grapes to most Americans.

MATTHEWS: OK, you can say that, and Congresswoman, thank you for coming on. And John Brabender, thank you for coming on tonight.

Coming up -- Donald Trump tells our own Robert Costa that his "Obama care" replacement plan is all but finished! Trump`s promising health insurance - - catch this -- for everybody! But not much beyond that. Anyway, we`ll find out more about that. Robert Costa joins us with the latest from Trump himself, from the horse`s mouth.

And Trump ratchets up his war with the press. When he gets into office, will he evict the press corps from the building? The HARDBALL roundtable`s going to be here with that hot baby.

And my colleague, Brian Williams, is also going to join us here. He`s going to take us through President Obama`s successes and challenges over eight years in the White House. Brian`s coming here tonight live to preview his documentary coming up late tonight, at 11:00, "The Obama Years." That`s at 11:00 o`clock tonight here on MSNBC.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the intangible impacts -- all good, actually -- of the Obama presidency.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: With just four days to go until his inauguration, the Gallup poll has new polling on Donald Trump. According to Gallup, Donald Trump`s favorable ratings stand at 40 percent, lower than his three immediate predecessors at this point.

By the way, that said, polls on Donald Trump have been demonstrably unreliable. Can we agree on that?

Anyway, Barack Obama, I should say, came into office with a 78 percent favorability. George W. Bush was viewed favorably by 62 percent and Bill Clinton up at 66 percent.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we are saying to the Republicans, if you want to improve the Affordable Care Act, let`s work together. But if you think you`re simply going to throw millions off of health insurance, you`ve got another guess coming!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Bernie Sanders -- very cold out there where he is in Michigan. Anyway, that was Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, as I said, at a rally yesterday up in Macomb County, Michigan -- that was, of course, Trump country -- organized to save the Affordable Care Act. A lot of places where they voted for Trump, they want to keep affordable care.

And in an interview with "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa, President- elect Donald Trump said that he`s close to unveiling his "Obama care" replacement plan.

Trump told Costa: "We`re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that, if you can`t pay for it, you don`t get it. Well, that`s not going to happen with us. People covered under the law can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form, much less expensive and much better."

Well, Trump declined to offer specifics on how he plan to cover everyone, but he said -- quote -- "They will be beautifully covered. I don`t want single-payer. What I want do want is to be able to take care of people" -- close quote.

When people asked how he will get his plan through Congress, Trump said: "I think it will get approval. I don`t -- I won`t tell you will how. But we will get approval. You see what has happened in the House in recent weeks."

Hmm.

Joining me right now is the reporter who broke that story, the great "Washington Post" reporter Robert Costa. Also with me is Heidi Przybyla, also great, senior politics reporter for "USA Today."

Robert, do you have a sense that he has an idea of how you`re going to get something paid for which is now paid for with subsidies? Eighty-seven percent of the people who are in the exchange who get this insurance they didn`t have before Obamacare get subsidies from the government.

Without the subsidies, without making people participate through some kind of -- at least somewhat an attempt at individual mandating it, how do you pay for all this stuff, especially if you extend coverage to everyone?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He doesn`t speak in the same language, at least politically speaking, as many Republican here on Capitol Hill.

But he threw a populist curveball at me during the conversation. He said: I`m going to go after pharma. I`m going to make them directly negotiate drug prices on Medicare.

He thinks he can do some things beyond just creating a new replacement plan that will in some ways lower costs. But it`s important to note he didn`t share any details.

MATTHEWS: But the minute this plan goes into effect, we will know there need to be a financing mechanism. It`s the whole issue.

Why wouldn`t every country in the world have national health insurance for everybody if there was not a cost factor? It would be great. Everybody would want it.

COSTA: Chris, you`re right.

And during the campaign, he continued to say, as he said in our interview, he is not going to let -- quote -- "anybody die in the street."

And he is watching this debate in Washington, and he knows the Democrats are making the case against the Republicans that those 20 million may lose their insurance. So, he has his political antenna up in the air. And he says, Republicans have to have an answer.

But he`s really talking as well about this idea of universal access. He didn`t articulate it specifically that way, but that`s how the House speaker, Paul Ryan, talks about it, which in essence is, they get rid of Obamacare, but they have this ability for people to buy insurance.

But that`s not government coverage.

MATTHEWS: It sure isn`t.

But access is another word for, you have got a price to pay. And, obviously, people who have moderate income, poor people especially, that are above the Medicaid level, but you know what? They have to decide whether to eat this week or buy some pills, pay for food for the kids, shoes for the kids.

They may put off buying pills. That`s the trouble with having a market health care to health care.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, "USA TODAY": Right.

So, what we have seen is...

MATTHEWS: Heidi, you`re on.

PRZYBYLA: Sorry.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: So, this not -- there will still be reporters every day going to work in the White House?

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, that hasn`t been determined, Chuck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: That hasn`t been determined.

I`m joined right now by the roundtable, Howard Fineman, global editorial director of the Huffington, Margaret Talev, who`s senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and David Nakamura is White House reporter for "The Washington Post".

I`ve got to start with Margaret, because you`re one of the kingpins, you`re number two now at the White House press corps. It sounds like they are talking about moving the press area from above the swimming pool, which Jack Kennedy used to have his social times sometimes, over into Eisenhower office building, a block -- basically across the street there. And you have to -- if you`re a reporter, have to get special permission one time at a time to go up and be allowed in the West Wing.

This would really be getting the press away from the president.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It sounds like they are trying to figure out what they want to do.

MATTHEWS: But they`re thinking about that.

TALEV: That`s one thing that they --

MATTHEWS: What else are they thinking about?

TALEV: Well, we don`t know. We do know that it`s incredibly important for the working press corps to be able to continue to have access to the northwest gate, access to our workspace and access to be able to walk into lower press or upper press, and ask questions --

MATTHEWS: So, you want to be in the West Wing?

TALEV: We want to be in proximity to them.

MATTHEWS: Howard, they don`t seem to want them in the West Wing, from what I can tell you. They said they are the opposition.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think they starting a little war here with the press, that they think is entirely to Donald Trump`s advantage. When I look at recent "A.P." poll, it showed that 6 percent of the American people have great confidence in the media.

MATTHEWS: They don`t care where they work.

FINEMAN: Yes. So, I think the Trump people think this is going to be fun to play with, whatever actually happens. And, by the way, Reince Priebus` numbers are all wrong. There`s more than -- there`s space for many more than 50 people in that press room. And by the way, it`s more than 50 feet to the other place.

MATTHEWS: I know, it`s another building. And you have to go up a lot of stairs. By the way, it`s four floors up at the other building.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, though, David, why this bear-baiting? I mean, Howard says it`s just good sport and it makes them look like --

FINEMAN: Well, I`m not saying that`s all it is. I`m saying that.

MATTHEWS: Because I saw George Stephanopoulos tried to do this with Bill Clinton`s presidency and they said, you can`t go up near the press office, you can`t go see me anymore, George said. And they dropped that about a week. They gave up.

DAVID NAKAMURA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not the first pending administration that tried to use the press as a foil. I mean, this current administration has done it as well. But I think it is a radical re-invention if they do put us across there, not just for they`re able to walk in their offices.

But one other thing that being on the site there is really important is to see who is coming in and out. Often, they just come down right down the driveway, which we have access to and often, people who meet president come out and speak right to the reporters there. That`s an important thing. But I mean, I think that Howard is right, the Trump administration, they have been trying all along to sort of make the press the foil.

FINEMAN: But they are not using it.

MATTHEWS: To put you guys on the record, but you`ll have run of the building. And by the way, that`s where the speechwriters are, a lot of policy people.

FINEMAN: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: They won`t undo that.

FINEMAN: That may as well be Siberia, Chris.

MATTHEWS: There`s a lot of --

TALEV: I would be happy to walk unfettered around the EOB --

FINEMAN: That also --

MATTHEWS: The EOB would be unbelievable to move around over there, because you can`t move around the West Wing.

FINEMAN: That`s not going to happen. The way it works in Washington, territory conceded is never regained.

TALEV: Well, that`s exactly --

FINEMAN: That`s exactly what`s happening on Capitol Hill due to security concern.

MATTHEWS: What would you rather have? The EOB, where you can wander all around, talking to all policymakers and all those other people, or stuck in the West Wing, we have to just sit there and wait for the feeding time in SeaWorld where they bring in and throw the fish to you?

TALEV: Well, Chris, they`ve said that the idea of this is they want to be able to expand access to the working press corps, so I want both, you know? And what`s true is that at the beginning of President Obama`s term as president, there was also tremendous interest in coverage, a flood of people for those early weeks. And they did, they were able to fit in that briefing room, and the press secretary can call on anyone who`s in that room.

MATTHEWS: David, who`s going to win?

NAKAMURA: Well, I think that there`s going to be some changes. I don`t think, though, that we`ll be sent to Siberia full time. I think we`re going to stand there and --

MATTHEWS: It sounds like at least a couple of weeks of timeout.

Anyway, the roundtable sticking with us. And when we come back, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with HARDBALL roundtable.

Howard, tell me something I don`t know.

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, the "Huffington Post" is hosting first real debate among the Democratic candidates for DNC chair.

MATTHEWS: Oh, great. How many candidates?

FINEMAN: That`s on Wednesday night. There`s like eight now. I think something like that. It`s going to be on Facebook live. It would be a real contest. What some people thought was open and shut case for Keith Ellison has turned into real race.

MATTHEWS: Who could beat him? Perez?

FINEMAN: Perez is probably the likely.

MATTHEWS: Who is Obama behind?

FINEMAN: Obama is behind Perez.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I hear.

FINEMAN: Yes, but that may redound to Keith Ellison`s favor in the end.

MATTHEWS: Ooh.

Margaret?

TALEV: I want to talk about Democrats boycott in the inaugural. But I learned two fun facts. Number one, at least three presidents boycotted attending inaugural for their successors early in U.S. history. Also, did you know that Franklin Pierce`s wife herself did not attend his inaugural?

MATTHEWS: Two of them were the Adamses. Who was the other one?

TALEV: Andrew Johnson.

MATTHEWS: Yes, there`s a winner.

NAKAMURA: A lot of talk about potential Putin/Trump summit. President Obama never met formally Putin in Russia, only traveled one time to Moscow to meet with Medvedev in 2009. President George W. Bush, seven times to Moscow, the most of any country that he visited.

MATTHEWS: Wow. And Trump going to meet him first, right?

NAKAMURA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: No more Canada first.

NAKAMURA: It could be.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Howard Fineman, thank you, Margaret Talev and David Nakamura.

When we return, looking back at President Obama`s successes and challenges over the last eight years in office. My colleague Brian Williams is going to join us here live.

And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

With less than four days from the official transition of power, tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, our own Brian Williams has a special look inside the political processes, the successes and challenges of Barack Obama, our country`s 44th president. Let`s take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is my great personal honor to present the 44th president --

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR (voice-over): On January 28th of 2009, in front of over 1.8 million people, the largest crowd ever, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

ERIC CANTOR (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I was sitting overlooking the Mall, and you can see clear down to the Washington Monument would be just throngs of people out in the frigid cold to watch this moment in history.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear to serve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help you God?

OBAMA: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

(CHEERS)

DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR ADVISER: The inauguration day was special for all of us on the campaign trail and who had worked so hard. But there was a pall over everything, because you knew that he was entering office in such tough historically difficult circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m now joined by Brian Williams, host of "THE 11TH HOUR" here on MSNBC.

Brian, I guess we keep forgetting about what a big actual day it was in terms of the event itself. The number of people that came out of all over the country, but especially from the Washington, D.C., area, the parts of the town that don`t often show up on the public events at the Mall, everybody came to that.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, "THE 11TH HOUR" HOST: We`ll be comparing and contrasting the crowd size from what we see later in this week, Chris. And, yes, you`re right, all presidents make history. This president made more than most. And so many millions of Americans sensed that moment and almost 2 million of them on the coldest day possible stood there to witness that history.

MATTHEWS: I`m looking, as always we do, at the youth of this man who took the office eight years ago, the office -- how young he looks. I`m -- Michelle Obama looks about the same. She`s always looked great. He looks older.

What do you think those eight years, when you put this together for tonight, told you about the wear and tear on this human being, Barack Obama?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, Chris, we looked back, our long-suffering producer of this hour, Jenna Cline (ph), looked back through 12 years of television and discovered, to our surprise, I had interviewed this young president 16 times over a dozen years.

And in the crazy privilege of these jobs we get to have, imagine two kids growing up where you and I did, obsessed with the presidency all of our lives and then fast forward through life, you get to know actual presidents. You get to be around them and experience them.

So, you`ll see clips of before he was president. You`ll see first term, second term. You can see the progression. Can you imagine the stress and strain? Can you imagine the burden of office?

It takes a very rare individual getting dressed in the morning, to look in the mirror and say, you know what, you ought to be president of the United States. That`s why we`re fascinated by these 45 people.

MATTHEWS: I`m fascinated by any president who gets up in the morning at the White House and realizes, yes, I`m president of the United States, I`ve got to brush my teeth, shower, shave, and then put on a suit, what am I going to wear today? Of course, you get a valet, that helps.

But what do you think he thinks about how he fits the job, how comfortable he is, or not, with being president in this early part of the 21st century?

WILLIAMS: It`s interesting. We draw no conclusions, of course, but I do make the point more than once in the hour, he`s a thoroughly modern man. Not all of our presidents have reflected the era they`ve served in. Some of them are usually kind of on a taped delay.

He was a thoroughly modern man. This was a thoroughly modern family, first real social media president. I think he ad libbed it like a jazz musician. I think he made it up as he went along. There`s no way you can anticipate what that mantle looks like and feels like.

There`s no way, especially with a model-breaker president that you can have any rule book to proceed you in the job.

MATTHEWS: You know, we`re not minorities, but I have to tell you one thing I try to figure out is how he knew how great it was to do Al Green, how he just knew he could slide right into that part, sing this soul kind of music which is so smooth and so cool and he did it without any sweat.

WILLIAMS: And he did it with a lot of courage. It takes a lot of guts to do that. And then later in his presidency, after Charleston, after the shooting when he sang "Amazing Grace" to a stunned congregation, that is a moment that lives on in our hour as well.

MATTHEWS: It`s true resonance. Thank you so much, Brian Williams. Good luck tonight. I hope everyone stays up until 11:00 to look at these great, really extraordinary last eight years.

Be sure to catch Brian`s hour, "The Obama Years", tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern here on our network, MSNBC.

When we return, let me finish with the intangible impacts of the Obama presidency.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

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MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight, this Martin Luther King Day on something important that`s happened these past eight years. I want to speak briefly about the intangibles of a presidency, of this presidency of Barack Obama.

Peggy Noonan, whose column in "The Wall Street Journal, along with its review section is the reason I love getting "The Journal" on Saturday, wrote this weekend about the impact of the Obama presidency on children, including minority children. She wrote, "If you were 12 when President Obama was elected, you saw him acting with careful, conscious dignity, with his intact family and his personal poise. Maybe that meant a lot, maybe it gave you hint, and maybe you saw him celebrating those in whatever way we`re different, that meant something, too.

Barack Obama had dignity in his personal sphere. He carried himself with confidence like someone with self-respect. You gathered as you watched over eight years that he did what a man does, taking care of his family, his wife and his children. He didn`t talk about it, but he modeled it, represented it in his actions. This, in an increasingly less parented country was invaluable.

I put it here to remind everyone, mostly myself, that you can strongly oppose someone politically, really think you`re seeing bad things there, but have a responsibility to see and note what good there is. He said that he`s touched a rising generation. To some significant degree, I have a feeling that will probably prove true."

Well, that`s Peggy Noonan, a conservative columnist, writing this last weekend of the Obama presidency.

And here`s Charles Blow, a progressive columnist for "The New York Times" speaking yesterday on CBS "Morning News," "I believe in representation. I believe it is powerful, powerful thing. I have three kids who have grown up and they have never known anything but a black president. I mean, their consciousness about a president begins with him."

When I read the words of these two figures I respect, a conservative, a progressive, I refuse as an American not to be an optimist about our country.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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