Show: HARDBALL Date: January 29, 2018 Guest: Charlie Dent
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: That is our show. A very busy night. And I will be watching "Hardball" along with you, which starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Impeachable. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
Like an old polaroid snapshot, the case for obstruction of justice against President Trump continues to come into focus. Here is what we have learned. That President Trump did ask former FBI director James Comey for a loyalty pledge that he asked the FBI director to drop his investigation of Michael Flynn. That he told the FBI director he wanted the cloud of the Russian investigation to be lifted. And he ultimately fired Comey, telling the Kremlin`s foreign minister that doing so had taken off the pressure of the Russia investigation.
Not only that, the President also concealed the truth about his son`s meeting with Russians in a misleading statement. And he ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, but was rebuffed.
Based on this series of events, "New York times" columnist David Leonhardt writes the President has in fact obstructed justice. The question that faces us now, he writes, can a President use the power of his office to hold himself above the law?
Well, as the evidence mounts, we have seen Trump and his defenders step up their efforts to discredit the FBI, to hamstring the justice department and ultimately end the Mueller probe itself. It`s against that backdrop that the Republican-led House intelligence committee voted late today to release a secret memo drafted by the President`s chief defender chairman Devin Nunes.
According to "the Washington Post," the memo calls into question actions taken by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, the only person who has ultimate authority over the special counsel`s probe. Moreover quote "the President has told close advisers that the memo could provide him, the President, with grounds for either firing or forcing Rosenstein to leave, according to one person familiar with his remarks.
Well, flanked by his Democratic colleagues, intelligence committee ranking member Adam Schiff weighed in on the development late today. And he also revealed that Republicans on the committee have opened up an investigation into the FBI and the department of justice itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today this question voted to put the President`s personal interest, perhaps their own personal interests above the national interests. It does show how in my view when you have a deeply flawed person in the oval office, that flaw can infect the whole of government. And it today tragically it infected our committee.
I should also mention that it was disclosed to the minority today for the first time that the majority has evidently opened an investigation of the FBI and an investigation of the department of justice. Under our committee rules, of course, that has to be the product of consultation with minority. But we learned about that for the first time here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this also comes after deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe today resigned, two months ahead of his retirement date in March. According to "The New York Times," McCabe told friends that he felt pressure from the head of the bureau, Christopher Wray, to leave, according to two people close to Mr. McCabe. This comes after Axios reported last week that attorney general Sessions at the public urging of President Donald Trump has been pressuring FBI director Christopher Wray to fire deputy director Andrew McCabe.
I`m joined right now by Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the House intelligence committee. Charlie Sykes is an MSNBC contributor. Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. attorney and MSNBC contributor and NBC News political reporter Carol Lee.
I want to start with Congressman Castro. It looks to me like a purge. I mean, today McCabe get pushed out as deputy director of FBI. And now the President son the warpath after thanks to chairman Nunes of your committee to dig up evidence enough to support getting rid of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy head of the justice department. Why is he purging everybody that is involved with investigating him and the Russian probe?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, I have to imagine, Chris, that he is scared of what they are going to find out. And, you know, there were of course stories about him, his firing of Comey and the reason he fired Comey. In fact, the President did an interview that suggest head fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. And now the pressure that was applied to Andrew McCabe and the result today of him stepping down.
I said earlier today that Andrew McCabe should not be replaced with somebody who is just a Presidential stooge and who is going to help kill this investigation. Because there are already plenty of people around here, quite, honestly, who are just doing the bidding of the President over conducting a thorough and fair investigation. Unfortunately that`s where we are now.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I mean, you are young, too young, to have seen it. But it looks like a slow motion Saturday night massacre. One by one, Comey, McCabe and now Rosenstein in the target zone.
CASTRO: No, you are right. Look, I was born shortly before the President resigned in 1974. And there are a lot of comparisons and parallels to the Nixon years, except at that time, you actually had a Congress of a different party that was a kind of check on the President, doing a thorough investigation. Here there is a real question whether that`s going on. Because of that, I think the Congress and the American people have to be protective of the investigation that Bob Mueller is conducting because he really is the best hope in getting to the bottom of all this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to -- hold on there, congressman. Let me go to Carol Lee about this. This pattern is pretty clear. If you step back and look at it like a polaroid picture developing, what is developing is he is purging anybody that threat him in term of the Russian investigation. Knocked them off one at the time. First Comey, then McCabe today, and now the targeting of Rosenstein.
CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, yes.
MATTHEWS: That`s a purge.
LEE: Well, the question is whether that is happening because the President is trying to get around or conceal some sort of actual real criminal wrongdoing that he is aware that will come down, or if it`s because of some other reason that he just doesn`t like being under sort of scrutiny, that he doesn`t like this investigation, that he feels like it`s an attack on him and an affront on his presidency.
We don`t know the answer to that. But Robert Mueller is going to know the answer to that. And I think one of the questions here is what happens to Rod Rosenstein. We know from our White House colleagues over there that he and FBI director Wray met with chief of staff John Kelly today. And the second question is what does this mean for Robert Mueller.
MATTHEWS: Well, they are surrounding him.
Let me go to Barbara McQuade on this, a former prosecutor, U.S. attorney in Michigan, MSNBC contributor. Thank you, Barbara.
This -- look at the pattern. It is a slow motion Saturday night massacre. They are going after everybody involved in the probe, the Russia probe.
BARBARA MCQUADE IS A FORMER ATTORNEY: Yes. It makes me think of that comment that President Trump made a while back where he talked about how frustrated him that he couldn`t control the department of justice. And he admired prior attorneys general who he believed were there to protect the President. It seems like that`s what he is after in leadership as opposed to the independence that we have traditionally seen at the department of justice.
You know, there is a concept in criminal law called consciousness of guilt. And when people act in a way that makes them appear guilty, covering things up, hiding evidence, getting rid of people who are inconvenient. It is some evidence that they are guilty.
President Trump by trying to eliminate all these people trying to investigate him is showing evidence of consciousness of guilt. The best thing he can do if he hasn`t done anything is let Robert Mueller proceed to the end, find evidence and exonerate him. But instead, he seems to believe that`s not the result that is going to be reach and seems to be acting with this consciousness of guilt.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this investigation that is now being launched by the House - the chairman of the House intelligence committee by Republican Devin Nunes? What do you make of the fact that he seems to be helping the President do what you describe?
LEE: I think it`s deeply disturbing that he is damaging the institution of the department of justice and the FBI with its credibility. Once you damage those reputations, it`s very hard to fix them. And I think at some point his action could also be scrutinized as potential conspiracy to obstruct justice.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Charlie, you know, Charlie Sykes, thanks for joining us as always.
What do you make of this? How does it look from outside when you see Trump knocking off McCabe today? Apparently it was pressure for him to leave early, retire a few months early after being targeted by the President. And now Rosenstein is, the number two guy at justice who really picked - who really did pick Mueller to do the job, he is now on the chopping block, according to what we are seeing here, because the Republicans -- the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee are going after him. They are launching an investigation of him. A purge it looks like to me. Your thoughts.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, you know, it is appalling, you know if you ask that question. Because I was thinking that you would think that one of the grownups in the White House are in the justice department would have said sometime today or yesterday, Mr. President we know you want to get rid of Mr. McCabe, but you know how bad this would look? And you know, do you know what it would look like? Well, it look exactly like you would think and they didn`t care about it.
So yes, what is interesting about this, and really, again, you know, shocking but not surprising, I suppose, is the degree to which Republicans in Congress are willing to be complicit in this long slow rolling very public attempt to obstruct justice.
Look, you don`t have to engage in conspiracy. There is a President basically said look, I`m fighting back. He has been very, very public about it. He wants to do everything possible to delegitimize this investigation. But apparently congressional Republicans have decide that number one, their political fate is tied up with Donald Trump. Number two, that this investigation poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency and to their electoral prospects. So they are going to go along with this de-legitimization of the rule of law be damned which is amazing because, you know, when they pointed the special prosecutor, it was a great opportunity for Republicans in Congress to say OK, you know, hands off. We can step back. Well can do things like cut taxes and repeal Obamacare. We don`t have to get involved in this particular thing. But they`ve obviously made a very, very different choice.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Congressman Castro. We talked about history then. I mean, Nixon in the Saturday night massacre got rid of Archie Cox, get rid of Eliot Richardson, the attorney general, he got rid of Ruckelshaus, the deputy and finding Bork, Robert Bork, who would do his business.
It really look likes Trump is trying to grind down, to find somebody in the establishment in the government service, this public service to do what he wants them to do. He is looking for a Bork.
CASTRO: No, I think you are right. I think that it seems that he doesn`t want people who are going to do a neutral or a fair, objective investigation. He most of all wants to put people in place who are going to shield him from the investigation and protect him from any kind of legal liability. And that is deeply disturbing. And it is going to be -- and it already is a test for this Congress about whether, you know, we are going to push back on that. And so far, that`s not happening by the majority. The majority is being protective of the President above anything else.
CASTRO: I want Carol to answer this. President Trump and his allies have long attacked former deputy FBI -- former as of today, Andrew McCabe as being bias because McCabe`s wife accepted donations from Clinton allies in an unsuccessful race for Senate in Virginia. McCabe is also a witness in the Mueller probe and is expected to corroborate the testimony of James Comey. If he hasn`t already On the Record.
However, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today denied any White House involvement in McCabe`s departure. Let`s watch that and you react to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen the numerous reports, as all of you have. And any specifics I can tell you none of this decision was made by that of the White House. And any specifics I would refer you to the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about this notion that the President has been applying pressure for months, steady pressure?
SANDERS: The only thing the President has applied pressure to is to make sure we get this resolved so that you guys and everyone else can focus on the things that Americans actually care about. And that is making sure everybody gets the Russia fever out of their system once and for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a flag. I`m sorry because it`s not a popular vote as to where the truth lies. We don`t vote on where the truth is. And that shouldn`t even be suggested as a jurisdiction.
Anyway, let me go to carol. What about all this thing about the pressure on McCabe and going after him and the President mocking him on the phone and all that reporting?
LEE: Well, Chris, look, the President, you don`t need to look anywhere beyond the President`s twitter feed to know that he was applying pressure to try to get rid of Andrew McCabe. He wrote last summer asking why Jeff Sessions had still kept him around. The idea that he wasn`t hands-off on this whole decision and had nothing to do with it is a little bit hard to believe.
But what we also know is there were private ways in which the President was applying pressure. And one of them is in a phone call that the President made to Andrew McCabe the day after he had fired James Comey. He was very upset that Comey was allowed to fly back on this FBI plane from California after he was fired. And when he vented, he made a comment to McCabe about his wife saying, ask your wife how it feels to be a loser. And that kind of sums up -- it`s another data point in what it was like for McCabe to work under this President, and just how frustrated President Trump was going back a year, more than a year or so ago.
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t that sound like he is mocking him? What`s it like for your wife? I`m going to go to Charlie on this. It calls for a little analysis here. How do you interpret -- I don`t mean to get you Carol, can`t do it. I want you to do it because you do it all the time. What do you make when a guy says how does your wife like being a loser? That`s mockery.
SYKES: Yes. I mean, this is the mockery of a bully who manages by cruelty and humiliation. And I think you saw that, you know. You know, Carol is absolutely right about this. There is no speculation about whether he was pressuring the FBI to get rid of McCabe. He made it very, very clear.
Look, Richard Nixon had his enemies list. Donald Trump has his twitter feed. It just happens to have more names on it. But it`s open. It`s obvious. And I think one of the most disappointing and troubling aspects of this is that apparently FBI director Christopher Wray is susceptible to this kind of pressure. Remember, we heard last week that he was threatening to resign if they went ahead and made him get rid of McCabe. Well, now McCabe is gone. So you know, to the extent that this is a slow motion Saturday night massacre you are already finding people who are willing to go along with this.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Barbara on this, Barbara McQuade. It seems like there are a lot of voices out there, not just Roger Stone who is a bit of an outlier, but people like Newt Gingrich openly warning this President don`t go under oath with Mueller. You are not to be trusted yourself. You personally are not to be trusted as President not to get yourself into a felony situation, a perjury situation.
MCQUADE: Well, I think all of us have seen President Trump be very reckless with the truth. He speaks in a lot of hyperbole. And you can imagine that when he is confronted with Robert Mueller who is asking him very pointed questions, the peril that he is in to tell the truth there. He would find himself in a very dangerous situation.
But I`m also aware that President Trump has been in lots of litigation before. He has been in depositions before. And so my guess is he is able to turn on some mechanism in his brain when he is sitting in that situation and be a little more careful and a little more circumspect. I also think some people are suggesting that Robert Mueller is laying a perjury trap for him. And I don`t think that`s a case.
A perjury trap is defined as when you asked someone in to be questioned without any legitimate investigative purpose. I think Robert Mueller has lots of areas he really wants to ask President Trump about. And I think at the end of the day he is going to find himself across the table from Robert Mueller.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the congressman on this to finish up here.
Congressman Castro, you`re on that committee. And at somewhere down the road you will be in the Congress. The Congress has to decide on impeaching this President or not. Now I`m looking at Leonhardt`s (ph) piece in the "New York Times" today on the op-ed page. It`s very detailed and very sharp and objective. He goes through all these points. We opened the show with it. How do you not see? How that -- how do you not see obstruction of justice in the pattern of the President right up through today in pushing McCabe out of office and going after Rosenstein, getting rid of Comey, all these actions have been by the President to protect himself against prosecution. Isn`t that the definition of obstruction?
CASTRO: Well, I guess, let me just say that it looks like the President is moving himself closer and closer to impeachment proceedings. And the evidence of obstruction of justice is getting stronger. On the impeachment vote so far, I have voted present because I`m part of the intelligence committee. And I want the investigations to run their course first. But it certainly looks like the evidence is gaining steam.
MATTHEWS: Well, it take a Democratic majority in the House to do it?
CASTRO: Almost certainly.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. U.S. congressman Joaquin Castro on the intelligence committee. Thank you, of course, Carol Lee as always, Charlie Sykes and Barbara McQuade, all of you.
Coming up, Democrats are pushing new protections for special counsel Robert Mueller. But Republicans are dragging their feet. Guess why? After Trump ordered Mueller fired last June. Why don`t Republicans think he won`t try it again? Don`t you think he might try to get rid of Mueller? He is getting rid of everybody else. This is a purge that is going on.
Plus, Richard Nixon addressed Watergate during his state of the union in 1974. As Trump gets ready for his first state of the union tomorrow night, the Russian investigation cloud hangs over everything he does.
And tomorrow, you can expect to see scripted Trump, of course, reading off the teleprompter and playing the role of a regular President. But what about the guy we have seen the past several days, the past year, the one that picks a fight with Jay-Z and says the polar icecaps aren`t melting. They`re actually setting records up there in the North Pole.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch.
This is "Hardball," where the action is.
MATTHEWS: President Trump has disregarded another opportunity to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Trump administration has notified Congress that it will not enact new specific sanctions against Russia in response to that country`s meddling in our 2016 election. Today was the deadline for those sanctions to be imposed by the Trump administration. The measure had already passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress.
A state department spokesperson tells NBC News that the congressional sanctions will serve as enough of a deterrent against Russia. Therefore new punitive measures are not needed at this time, according to Trump people. And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One man stands between President Trump and his ability to govern the country free from the shadow cast by the Russian probe. The man is special counsel Robert Mueller, of course.
"The Washington Post" is now reporting that President Trump has complained that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- quote -- "is not properly supervising Mueller`s probe and suggested he should fire Rosenstein" -- Rosenstein, the only person with the legal authority to discipline or fire Robert Mueller.
According to special counsel regulations, Robert Mueller can be removed for misconduct, the dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of department or policies.
Just last week, "The New York Times" reported that President Trump ordered Mueller fired, but backed off when the White House counsel threatened to quit.
Well, "The Washington Post" adds that President Trump, who is angry and frustrated, "does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to my guys at what he sometimes cosmonaut calls the Trump Justice Department."
Congressional Republicans were asked about the Trumps -- or about reports that President Trump wanted to fire Robert Mueller.
Here is what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We know that he didn`t fire Mr. Mueller. We know that, if he tried to, it would be the end of his presidency.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It certainly wouldn`t hurt to put that extra safeguard in place, given the latest stories.
QUESTION: Do you still trust -- after all you have heard, do you still trust special counsel Robert Mueller to conduct a fair and unbiased investigation?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: One hundred percent, particularly if he is given the time, the resources and the independence to do his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That`s a -- that is a strong statement from a conservative from the South.
For more, I`m joined by Ashley Parker, White House correspondent for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. She wrote the "Washington Post" piece about this. I`m also joined by Republican Congressman Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania.
Ashley, thank you for joining us.
Give us the reporting on this. First of all, the fact that Rosenstein is now in the target zone, and the fact that Trey Gowdy is out there saying, I still trust Mueller to do his job if he gets the resources and the time to do it and he isn`t interfered with, how do you put that together into partisan politics terms?
ASHLEY PARKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s not surprising that Rosenstein is still in the target zone. This is someone who President Trump refers to as that Democrat from Baltimore.
This is someone he has complained about since last summer when he gave the order that he then backed down on to fire Mueller. What was striking to us was that President Trump, who by all accounts has sort of been tamed a bit by his lawyers, was still this past week talking about wanting to fire Rod Rosenstein.
And, more specifically, he was talking about how this memo that now increasingly looks like it will be released would sort of give him the pretext or the foundation to fire him and make other sweeping changes at the Justice Department.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get a couple of the party registration facts down here. Isn`t Rosenstein a Republican? And isn`t McCabe a nonregistered person? He doesn`t register by party? Isn`t that the case?
PARKER: Well, Rosenstein was appointed by President George W. Bush, and then he stayed on under President Obama. And, as we remember, as "The Post" reported when President Trump asked Andrew McCabe who he voted for, he didn`t vote.
So, these sort of characterizations are not quite accurate.
MATTHEWS: Charlie Dent, thank you, Congressman.
It seems like Trump is channeling Richard Nixon. He is going around the federal judiciary and he`s going around the federal government generally looking for Democrats. He thinks everybody is a liberal, a knee-jerk, some part of a fifth column against him. And when he finds out they aren`t, when he finds out the guy didn`t vote or the guy tends to -- was picked by George W. Bush, a Republican appointee, it doesn`t seem to stop his predilection that these guys are his enemies.
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I tell you what, Chris. If I were the president, I would give him advice to stop interfering with this investigation.
I think he runs a risk. He runs a real legal risk by doing so. I trust Robert -- I trust Director Mueller to run a thorough and fair and professional investigation. He ought to leave well enough alone. The president has said he has done nothing wrong. Well, then he should not fear this investigation.
I cannot understand why he continues to interfere in this way. It`s a mistake. I think Don McGahn did the nation a service by basically stopping the president from firing Director Mueller. I mean, we could have had an Archibald Cox moment, a Saturday Night Massacre.
Well, I have been call it a slow-mo Saturday Night Massacre, because he`s gotten rid of McCabe. He`s gotten rid of Comey, and he is on his way to getting rid of Rosenstein. It`s almost the same pattern as Nixon`s in `73, yes, Congressman? You`re the one that made the reference. It`s so clear he is channeling Nixon.
DENT: Again, I think it`s a terrible mistake for him to go down this road.
It makes absolutely no sense. I believe it provides a greater legal exposure to him by doing so. I think, as Republicans, we are the party of law enforcement at the state and local levels. And we should not be getting into this type of warfare with the FBI and even the Department of Justice.
I don`t want to undermine the American public`s confidence in our system of justice, DOJ and certainly the FBI. It`s not helpful to us as Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Trump does have a more receptive audience. It`s a majority Republican body.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican leader, a Trump ally, does not think legislation is necessary to protect Robert Mueller`s investigation. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Would you support legislation to protect Mueller?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: If there is an issue that arise, we will take it up at that time. But right now, there is not an issue, so why create one, when there is not a place for it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ashley Parker, let`s talk about this. You`re a straight reporter, so let`s just figure out what we can report here.
The fact that the Republicans don`t want the give any authority -- or actually protection to the special counsel to keep him in place there, to protect him from being -- firing, what do we make of that? Can we make something from that in terms of motive? They don`t want to protect the special counsel; therefore, they don`t care to protect him?
PARKER: Well, I think you`re seeing a trend we have long seen in this administration, which is that Trump defenders sort of almost always defend him or find a way to justify what he is doing or justify their defense of him.
And there is a breakdown between the House and the Senate. The House members are a lot more likely to be Trump allies, to sort of say, we don`t need to protect the special prosecutor, special counsel, where you do see some senators increasingly this weekend, even Republican ones, were coming out and saying, you know, this might be necessary.
And I have to say some of them are almost couching it almost as protecting Mueller. But it is also protecting Trump from himself. Senator Lindsey Graham said that, if the president does this, his presidency will be over.
So, the bipartisan legislation Graham introduced with these protections would certainly protect Mueller, but it would also make -- protect the president from making a decision that many of his aides are desperate for him not to make.
MATTHEWS: That`s a profound thought as a reporter, because I have noticed now that Trey Gowdy is also warning the president, it seems, and certainly Lindsey Graham made a very stern warning, don`t fire Mueller, or you`re going to be in trouble, Mr. President.
Anyway, thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, and Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post."
Up next: The cloud of the Russian probe hangs over tomorrow night`s State of the Union address. Will President Trump avoid the issue altogether and focus on his economic issue, or will he channel Nixon and use the prime- time address to call for an end to the probe, the way Nixon did this time back in `74?
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1974)
RICHARD NIXON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I have provided to the special prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material.
I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent.
I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Nixon telling the country in his 1974 State of the Union that it was time for the Watergate investigation to end. Of course, it was investigating him. At the time, which was after the Saturday Night Massacre, 37 percent of those polled by Gallup said that Nixon should be impeached, just 37 percent.
That August, he resigned before Congress could impeach him. So 37 percent quickly grew up.
In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 45 percent of American voters say they would like the Democrats to begin the impeachment process if they take part -- take back the House in 2018. Of course, that`s this November.
And the Russian investigation isn`t where near where the Watergate investigation was a year into Nixon`s second term.
Well, tomorrow night, President Trump will give his first State of the Union State with the cloud of Mueller`s investigation hanging over him.
I`m joined right now by Eugene Robinson, who is a columnist at "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
Big question to you, Gene. I know I love giving you the big ones. Nixon asked for the -- just rather peremptorily said, stop investigating me. We have done enough.
Of course, they hadn`t gotten him yet.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: The public hadn`t quite reached a majority of supporting impeachment at that point.
This time around, Trump is doing it differently, after -- I have been calling it tonight a slow-motion "Saturday Night Live" -- Saturday Night Massacre, because he has gotten rid of his FBI director. He has now today gotten rid of his deputy FBI director, and his forces on Capitol Hill, helping him out, are going after the deputy attorney general.
I mean, he is clearly trying to clear house. It`s a purge. It`s a slow- motion thing. He is channeling Nixon.
He is going to have to go down a ways before he finds his Robert Bork, though, the person who will actually deep-six this investigation.
I think, just from everything I know of the Justice Department and the FBI, it will not easily give up this investigation. The purge that, again, you called a slow-motion purge or Saturday Night Massacre, that`s certainly what it looks like.
But that`s not likely to cow or intimidate, I think, the -- really the FBI, I mean, the professionals in the FBI. I think they`re going to keep moving forward. But it is an interesting juncture.
Those figures on public opinion were fascinating. And you remember what it was that actually really flipped public opinion, of course. It was the tapes. There was testimony. There was ongoing testimony that implicated the president.
It was when finally we learned of and then knew we were going to get the tapes that proved it, that kind of changed everything.
ROBINSON: That was the tipping point, the real tipping point.
And I think, clearly, in the Russia investigation, I think we`re not at that tipping point yet.
MATTHEWS: Back as recently as 1974, we believed in a joint national, in fact, universal acceptance of objective truth, that evidence meant evidence. If you have a tape from June 23 that had Nixon asking Haldeman and to get Vernon Walters, the number two guy over at CIA, to get the CIA - - to get the CIA to get the FBI off the case, which was what the smoking gun tape was.
MATTHEWS: We all heard it. Nixon heard it. He knew he had been caught. The Republican leadership came to him and said, you got to go. That was a day of objective reality.
Are we in that day today?
ROBINSON: Well, who knows.
ROBINSON: It certainly doesn`t seem that we`re in that objective reality.
Back during the Watergate scandal, people -- people and legislators reacted. When something happened, there was a reaction.
ROBINSON: Events changed things and changed people`s opinion and changed people`s minds gradually.
But there was cause and effect. We seem to be at a time when those laws of political cause and effect don`t seem to apply, or certainly don`t apply the way they used to. So, will we reach a point where Republicans, for example, in the House even, will decide, this was serious and this was wrong and we need to make a stand? Will we get to that point?
I can`t assure us, or assure myself that we will get to that point. I certainly hope that it`s still in them to reach that point.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s a different world now. And is Tokyo the capital of Japan? Well, it depends on your opinion.
(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s a strange world.
Thank you, Eugene Robinson.
Up next: As the president prepares for tomorrow night`s State of the Union, we`re getting together a glimpse of Trump unscripted in a new interview. Trump asks the bizarre claim -- or makes the bizarre claim that the polar icecaps are actually setting records, more -- getting icier up there, colder up there. And once again, he defends himself as a stable genius.
But facts, as Gene and I were just talking, and Gene was saying, you know, facts, do they mean anything? If it`s getting colder, is it getting colder if Trump says it`s not?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s a tale of two Trumps, don`t you think? Tomorrow night, President Trump will perform one of the most presidential of duties, delivering the first -- his first State of the Union.
If he sticks to the script, Trump is expected to focus on five themes. This has been put out for the White House obviously. The economy, of course, bragging rights; infrastructure, not done yet; immigration, troubling; trade and national security.
It will be a sharp contrast to what we saw this past weekend when the president went off-script during an interview with ITV`s Piers Morgan. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I shake things up. It had to be shaken up. The country had to be shaken up.
PIERS MORGAN, ITV HOST: As you said, stable genius. Your words.
TRUMP: I am a stable genius.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump made this bizarre claim when asked whether he believed in climate change. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a cooling and there is a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming.
TRUMP: Right? That wasn`t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The icecaps were going to melt. They were going to be gone by now. But now they`re setting records, OK? They`re at a record level.
I tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air. I believe in crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness and all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the world hasn`t had a cooler than average year since 1976. So, we`ve been getting hotter. Arctic Sea ice also hit a record low last year. But Trump also defended his position on gun control.
When asked what the U.S. is doing to stop mass shootings like last October`s massacre in Las Vegas where the gunman had purchased an arsenal of 55 guns in the year right to the attack. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I am a second amendment person. I think you need it for security. I think it would be far worse. I think you need it for security.
But again, you`ve had so many attacks where there was only a gun, a bad person`s gun going in this direction, and if you had one on the other side, so many. In fact, that`s a very big example. And if they had the bullets going in the opposite direction, you would have saved a lot of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let`s bring in a HARDBALL round table.
Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist, Zerlina Maxwell is director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, and Nan Hayworth, who sits on the board of directors at the Independent Women`s Forum is a former Republican congresswoman from New York.
So, I always go to elected power first, congresswoman.
NAN HAYWORTH (R-NY), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Oh, no. Our power is from the people, Mr. Matthews.
MATTHEWS: What do you think when you watch Donald Trump, is he talking the language of his voters or of his mind?
HAYWORTH: I look at the president. And, you know, Susan has a former colleague, Bill O`Reilly, not the TV host, who wrote a great piece about the president last year in which he quoted an Italian saying. You know, watch the lands, not the mouth.
So what I watch with the president is how he has acted as chief executive to do things that are salutary for the country and the world. And he`s putting Americans back to work. We have a growing economy. People`s retirement funds are growing. People have more money in their pockets.
And he has also expressed, rightly so, the view, just in that interview. And he has put in place the administrative mechanisms to make sure that the EPA is actually fulfilling its mission of compliance across the country.
MATTHEWS: Zerlina, I don`t see him as an environmentalist. I see him laughed at the Paris accords. He has basically gone against the world.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING AT SIRIUSXM: Right.
MATTHEWS: He said nice things about clean water and all that, but he doesn`t do it. His hands are not working for environmental protection.
MAXWELL: No, absolutely not. But that`s because he doesn`t really understand the underlying policy. This is true of environmental policy. It`s also true of foreign policy and domestic policy. When Donald Trump --
MATTHEWS: You don`t think he doesn`t understand or doesn`t agree with liberal positions?
MAXWELL: I don`t think he understands.
MAXWELL: I think we give him too much credit when we presume that he understands the underlying policy.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, his tweet on weather I think is what you were referring to.
MAXWELL: Correct, because e is basically in line with a lot of Republicans that say well, if it`s cold out, then there is no climate change. If it`s hot out, there is no climate change.
But scientists like Nan know that that`s not -- the scientific data does not support that conclusion. And that the lying, the idea that climate change is a problem and that we should deal with it because of the mudslides and the wildfires and the increasingly strong storms that we`re seeing, it`s actually really dangerous. It`s a national security threat for the president not to understand that underlying policy.
MATTHEWS: Here is my question. I do think Trump knows what he is doing. I think he is a smart politician. But I don`t believe a big city liver like him, and he is Manhattanite, for a number years, he doesn`t believe everybody walking around the streets of Manhattan with a gun. He doesn`t believe in Second Amendment for every kid when walking down from the neighborhoods.
MATTHEWS: He doesn`t believe in that.
So why does he say it? Why does he say we`re safer with everybody having a gun when he knows New York would be like Dodge City if everybody had a gun?
DEL PERCIO: Because he`s got to play -- he constantly plays to his base. He finds it easier. His safe retreat is to 35 to 37 percent of the country. That`s where he goes. And --
MATTHEWS: But he is not one of them.
DEL PERCIO: He may not be.
MATTHEWS: He is not one of the 37 percent.
DEL PERCIO: He was a Democrat for how many years. He would not qualify to be in his own base, actually, based on his whole history.
So he does these things. These interviews, when they`re unscripted are very dangerous for this president. He is not prepared to talk about a lot of issues.
HAYWORTH: But he`s prepared to act.
MATTHEWS: So, let`s talk about why he gets in fights with people, I mean, not getting fights.
But look at this, President Trump also went off script this weekend after rapper and businessman Jay-Z told CNN that the president`s recent touting of the black unemployment rate was missing the whole point, and that it doesn`t make up for his treatment of the black community.
Trump responded on Twitter writing, somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, black unemployment has just reported to be at the lowest rate ever recorded. Why -- he is like Sinatra in that way. You go into a bathroom, somebody gives you a little rap -- he wants to fight with the guy. He will fight with anybody.
Why? Is does it raise his stature?
HAYWORTH: The president snaking a very important point that he cares about putting Americans back to work, no matter where they live, what their zip code, what the color of their skin. And it is absolutely true.
It is fact. Thank God. African American unemployment is at record lows. And that would not have happened had the president not passed the tax -- signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And had he not --
MATTHEWS: You think the tax cut --
MATTHEWS: Are you saying in a couple of weeks has cut the unemployment rate among African Americans in a few weeks?
HAYWORTH: The GDP --
MAXWELL: No, that wouldn`t work, obviously. The numbers don`t work.
HAYWORTH: The GDP tripled basically after the president got into office. And that is helping every American.
MAXWELL: Look, the downward unemployment on black employment has begun in 2010 in earnests. And so, it`s not a result of Donald Trump`s policies. Beyond that, the black unemployment rate is still double the white unemployment rate.
MAXWELL: And black people should be grate to feel this president even though we`re at double the rate is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry.
DEL PERCIO: The president likes to play in pop culture. It`s much easier for him to take on Jay-Z than to answer a question on climate change.
MAXWELL: And he didn`t attack Eminem, who is a rapper.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to keep up. You`re watching HARDBALL. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL round table is going to stick with us. And up next, there is going to be a headlines. I love that they raised the bar around here. Get me a headline for tomorrow. We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table.
Susan, tell me something I don`t know.
DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s not something you may not -- you may know this, but it hasn`t been out there very much. Kellyanne Conway has not been brought into Mueller`s investigation to be questioned. Now, you have to say is she now part of -- are they going to take away the Russian investigation portion of this investigation and stick strictly to obstruction of justice? Because you would have the campaign manager of the Trump campaign if you were really look --
DEL PERCIO: But it`s very unusual that she hasn`t met --
MATTHEWS: Ii think that`s fascinating, actually.
MAXWELL: That is fascinating.
MAXWELL: Former Vice President Joe Biden just announced two advisory councils for his Biden Foundation. One is tackling ending violence against women. The other is focusing on LGBTQ issues. And full disclosure, I am one of the members of the advisory council on ending violence against --
DEL PERCIO: Good for you.
MATTHEWS: He is definitely getting state-of-the-art, isn`t he, for old politics.
MAXWELL: Yes, but he has cared about in issue since 1994.
MATTHEWS: He`s absolutely strong on that.
HAYWORTH: Chris, today is actually a very sad anniversary. Thirty-two years ago to the day, the Challenger exploded. And I recently had the opportunity actually to speak with astronauts Charlie Duke and Jim Lovell and Harrison Schmitt with Bill Tucker. The interview is online.
You know what, they`re still inspiring today. And one of the things we need to keep going is NASA. And the president has expressed a great interest --
MATTHEWS: I`m with you. And by the way, Tip O`Neill and I watched Reagan`s Challenger speech that day that Peggy Noonan wrote and we were both in tears. It was the most amazingly powerful speech he gave. Among all his speeches, that was the one that got to me the most.
Anyway, thank you all, Susan Del Percio, Zerlina Maxwell of SiriusXM, and former U.S. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth.
But we`re going to return. Let me finish tonight with Trump Watch tonight. A lot of facts coming it of me tonight. I hope they`re useful to you.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch Monday, January 29th, 2018.
Tomorrow night, the president tells us the state of things in this country, but here is a head start from me. If you want to understand why young voter, millennials are looking for something different politically, consider this. Today, a millennial making minimum wage salary has to work 15 times longer than a boomer did to pay off his or her college loan. The hole facing young adults right now is very deep.
Here is another fact. Both major U.S. political parties are in perilous shape. Millennials overwhelmingly want a third political party and this dissatisfaction with traditional parties, let`s face it, in the victory of Donald Trump, over all the main line GOP candidates two years ago and by the very near success of Bernie Sanders, the self-described independent in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
This shows the continual decline of party loyalty across the board in this country, especially among millennials. It shows that Senator Sanders or someone sharing his views could do well in the 2020 Democratic primaries even if he continues to run as an independent.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party face an uphill test in 2018. Today, the Democratic Party has to win up to 6 percent more than the Republicans to win control of the House of Representatives. But the forces pushing it because of reapportionment, forces in the other direction are enough to get them over the obstacle, however.
Today, the people want most to vote in this election are people who voted for Hillary Clinton. They are much more excited about the prospect of doubling down on their 2016 vote than Trump voters are. And that`s the hole that Trump is in.
And today, women college graduates are ready to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidates for Congress. That`s another hole Trump has dug himself into.
So, right now, it looks like a modest Democratic victory in the House this November, which puts the power of subpoena in the Democratic hands this time next year, which means we`re looking at an impeachment if trends continue.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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