Show: HARDBALL Date: January 30, 2018 Guest: Joyce Vance, Tim Ryan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The state of the dys-union. Let`s play "Hardball."
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
We are two hours now from President Trump`s first official state of the union speech. The message will be about national unity he said tonight. Quote "unity is the what I`m striving for to bring the country together." Of course, it is the President who has done more to divide the country than just about anyone this past year. And now, he and his allies are stoking resentment against the FBI and justice department.
The White House reportedly pressured the FBI director to fire his deputy Andrew McCabe with the President`s taunted for months on twitter. According to NBC, Trump verbally berated McCabe last summer and mocked his wife for losing a state election down in Virginia.
Bloomberg reports that Trump`s chief of staff, John Kelly, has told senior justice department official the President is unhappy with that department.
According to "the Washington Post" Trump has complained about not being able to give orders to people at the justice department who he calls my guys. He then - and then there was the decision yesterday by Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a politically charged memo that is meant to raise doubts about the people investigating the Trump`s campaign possible collusion with Russia. The memo was put together by the committee`s chair, Devin Nunes, who has spent the past year acting like a paid employee of the President.
The justice department sent a letter to Nunes calling the release extraordinarily reckless and said the department is the unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process, one of the central claims of that memo.
While, Republicans and Democrats today were sharply divided on Nunes and his committee`s decision to release that memo. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This has been his mission, protect the White House, throw up distractions. The fundamental problem remains, and that is he is a proxy for the White House. You can`t run a credible investigation that way.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY LEADER: I read the memo. I believe it should be released, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think Republicans released the memo from the committee? What was the purpose of it?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don`t know. I don`t know if this is some kind of sick game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think nothing would be better, Harris, than if the President of the United States tonight walked down the hallway that is right behind me, stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and handed to our speaker Paul Ryan his consent to the release the memo. I just think it would be classic Trump to do it during the state of the union tonight to kick things off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Anyway, I`m joined by MSNBC`s Joy Reid host of, of course, "A.M. Joy" on weekends, NBC News political correspondent Heidi Przybilla, NBC news correspondent. I think is so great. And former chairman of the Republican National Committee and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele. Thank you, sir.
I`m going to start with Joy and work its way to Michael.
Joy, it seems to me they are impeaching the impeachers. That the whole goal, they no longer defend Trump, they don`t defend him on his possible collusion which looks real and possible obstruction which looks very real. They have said we can`t play defense anymore. So let`s attack the impeachers.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: It`s extraordinary to watch the Republican Party, the sort of self-described party of law and order, the party of blue lives matter literally decide that they are than investigate Russian interference in the election, rather than pay attention to the potential that the President of the United States obstructed justice even if he is their own party, they have decided to essentially wage war on federal law enforcement.
It`s pretty extraordinary. If you are in black lives matter today, you have to be thinking, well, this is interesting. When people in black lives matter stood up and said police, police officers, don`t kill us. They said you hate law enforcement. But now you have got the Republican party sitting inside the House of Representatives and waging war on federal law enforcement just to protect Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: There are white collar criminals in prison, by the way. They have a little group. That doesn`t mean they won`t be joined by some of this crowd.
Heidi, you are thinking about this because it seems like they are saying, we can`t defend this President on facts. Awe are not going to do that anymore. It`s all about crushing McCabe, crushing Rosenstein, crushing Sessions. Of course, already having crushed Comey.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think there are two options here. One, is as you absolutely named it last night, the slow rolling Saturdays --
MATTHEWS: Slow motion.
PRZYBYLA: Slow motion, pardon me, Saturday night massacre where the President is trying to actually go after and fire, push out anybody who can provide a check on his power and take over this investigation. That`s one option.
The other option, equally serious and more likely is that he is just trying to discredit whatever Mueller comes out with, there is now an insurance policy that at least 30 percent of the American people who obviously are the dyed in the wool supporters will disbelieve the facts that are put before them. And that is what is happening with trying to discredit Mueller, McCabe, possibly now Rosenstein.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Michael. Because Michael and I share, I know, a reverence for this country and its institutions. And we are proud of them. We are proud of our free press. They can be pains in the butt but we are proud of them because sometimes we are the pains, at least I am. We are proud of an independent judiciary. We are proud of the fact that the United States accepts this membership among nations since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. We accept where one country to be protect, little countries like Kuwait (INAUDIBLE).
We actually believe countries have rights to sovereignty. And all this stuff is being attacked by this new President who I don`t think he is actually a Republican. He is playing the part. He comes in there and goes after the institutions which have been carved out since 200, 300 years out. Hard cultural development. It isn`t just writing it down in the declaration of independence or constitution. You have to began - you have to realize what is independence. This (INAUDIBLE). You got to believe there is an independent judiciary and you got to believe in these things. And he is dumping all over them like they are jump. He doesn`t have any respect, this President for any institution that I can tell or anybody who has a position in one.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I mean, there`s no allegiance for loyalty to them because he does not fundamentally believe in them as per see entities. The justice department, FBI, the state department, CIA, we have seen how he has responded to the each of these institutions over time. And I think fundamentally it goes to this idea that was lifted up by Steve Bannon backdooring the transition about the deconstruction of the administrate state. Everyone always thought this was the card that Bannon was carrying and in fact, it`s not. It is fundamentally the philosophy of the President of the United States. He shows it by his arrogance and his lack of concern about the impact his arrogance and his actions has with respect to the men and women who obviously serve in these institutions.
They are not - you know, for him the loyalty brand is a one-way street. He expects the fealty and loyalty to him. And when people carry out their jobs that may be in contravention of that, you see how it plays out, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, with all his ugliness about third world countries, he does sort of learn the doesn`t have shows some of the attitude of say a third world dictator who just laughs at institutions, you know. If I got an opponent, an opposing tribe, if you will, and I will just get rid of that guy. Just have him arrested or bully have beat him up in the street. His attitude is I have the power.
REID: That`s right. And in autocratic regimes that we normally send election monitors to, their attitudes towards someone who runs against them is lock her up or lock him up.
MATTHEWS: Or gin up a phony crime, I guess.
REID: That`s correct. Their attitude towards their own institutions of law enforcement are, you can`t touch me. I do what I want. You work for me. Their attitude toward the legislators is you work for me. Donald Trump has all of those attitudes.
MATTHEWS: He is right in the case of Devin Nunes.
REID: I was just going to say.
MATTHEWS: He behaves like he has paid by him.
REID: And now what you have is not just Devin Nunes, go beyond that. Started to Paul Ryan.
MATTHEWS: Why is Ryan doing? Somebody, a lawyer friend of mine bugged me on this the other day. We all have people that call us.
MATTHEWS: And he said how come you let Charlie Dent off the hook, you know, because Charlie is a moderate Republican, sadly (ph). And I said why don`t you say to Charlie how come can you let Paul Ryan, let this guy Nunes run around with his memos?
REID: Yes. Because Paul Ryan it appears either is a lackey and a flunky just like Devin Nunes is or Paul Ryan is so invested in what he can get from the Donald Trump. Remember, Donald Trump is the person who sells the base on Paul Ryan`s agenda. Paul Ryan wants those tax cuts for the rich. Paul Ryan wants Donald Trump`s right hand with a pen in it and doesn`t care.
MATTHEWS: I mean, we know -- I worked for one of these speakers in the House. It`s a constitutional office. It`s a greater office than Senate majority leader or it is in there. It is in the line of succession. It is there because the founding fathers wanted it there. And to think that you work for the President?
PRZYBYLA: Because he is afraid and it is because it is not just the agenda, really. They have gotten the big prize. They have gotten the tax cuts through. Now it`s about short-term political survival. He is afraid this President will turn on the Republicans who are standing there in the Rose Garden with him on a dime if they start to go against him and this next election.
MATTHEWS: `The lion`s club, the rotary club, the chamber of commerce, all the burgers back home are thrilled because they got a big tax break. Therefore --.
REID: And the members of Congress.
MATTHEWS: They have been paid. And therefore, somehow the speaker of the House has somehow done his duty as a steward of their interests, right. And therefore, they will put up with Trump and they will put up with Nunes and the rest of this.
PRZYBYLA: It`s not even that. They are afraid that he will cannibalize him. That they will go down with him in the next election, be top of the ticket.
REID: You have to remember that the Republican Party at the base level, I mean, there`s a shrinking pool of people who call themselves Republicans. But what`s left, seven in ten of them believe Trump is a good role model for their children.
MATTHEWS: Whose terrible poll was that?
REID: Quinnipiac University. It is pretty good polling outfit.
MATTHEWS: It`s not the Minnesota (INAUDIBLE) personality test.
REID: It is the party of Trump. And the Republicans understand it`s his party. And I do feel we are moving in the direction where you have a coequal branch after government that is essentially subordinated itself.
MATTHEWS: OK. Michael, who would Trump beyond the schoolyard for your kids moderate and by event admiration. I mean, if you think of your 7- year-old or 10-year-old and your parents say be like Donald Trump. OK, don`t button your coat. Stick your stomach out. Have your tie eight feet long and walk around like you own the world. Is that what you are supposed to act like when you are 8-years-old or 10-years-old? What do they mean by him, by that role modelling?
STEELE: What they mean by is the thing that got him elected ultimately that had such a cross section of Americans that we thought certainly communities of Americans we thought would never support the President from African-Americans to Hispanics to women. And what that was, was his fight, his moxy, his willingness to go and shake the system by its throat. And that still resonates for a lot of voters out there across the country.
And to Paul Ryan and to Mitch McConnell and others, they hear it every weekend when they go home. They are tethered to him because they are tethered to him by their base. Those base Republicans who remind them you got to help the President carry out the things he says he is going to do.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go through the smell test tonight. The President will say tonight he is extending an open hand to work with Democrats. According to the President`s advisers and he today at lunch his message today will be about unity. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What should we expect tonight from your standpoint?
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: A lot of reports I think have been accurate. You`ll see a very upbeat, very positive speech. He is going to start to reach across the aisle a little bit. We will talk about the successes that we have had in the past year.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He wants the American people to understand that he is for them. He wants to uplift all Americans and show these he supports them. It really is truly going to be one of those speeches that when it`s done, people just going to be proud to be part of this American country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. The President really play the role of a conciliator now after a year of (INAUDIBLE) actions. He has mocked Democrats who obstruct this are weak on crime. He has bullied critics and the media. He has engaged in twitter fights with football players and rappers. And here are just some of what the President said in the past month alone. Mr. Uniter, here he is.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The libel laws are weak in this country. If they were strong, it would be very helpful. You wouldn`t have things like that happen where you can say whatever happens to your head.
Sloppy Steve is looking for a job.
Everything that I have done is 100 percent proper. That`s what I do is I do thing proper.
Welcome back to the studio. Nice to have you.
When they have no collusion and nobody`s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you would even vin an interview.
I`m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.
I really believe the Democrats want to shutdown to get off subject of the tax cuts because they have worked so well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
TRUMP: I`m looking forward to it actually.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you fire Robert Mueller? Why did you want to fire Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: Fake news. Fake news.
I think I shake things up. It had to be shaken up. The country had to be shaken up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you said stable, genius, your words.
TRUMP: I am a stable genius.
MATTHEWS: You know, I watched him come to the presidency telling the crowds to basically beat up the protesters. I`m talking how could it be wasn`t it great when the cops used to bang your head at the back of -- why don`t they bang your head on the roof of the car when they put them in the car where there some nice -- his whole thing is about bullying, brutality and getting the little guy, the weak person in the room when they know the protests are outnumbered. It`s always about playing your strength against the little guy. Now he says he is Mr. Conciliatory.
PRZYBYLA: I will tell -- I`ll give you a little vignette about how Democrats feel about that little token of friendship that he is going to extend tonight.
Pelosi was in a meeting today, have caucus and she said look, if you don`t have anything nice to say or you are going to yell out, you think you can`t contain yourself, then just don`t comment. That`s how so many Democrats feel tonight. And Chuck Schumer is already On the Record within the past few weeks saying that he just doesn`t feel like he can deal with him anymore. He cant - he is not an honest broker.
The dance that was done on that DACA deal and the humiliation of Democrats coming down the road to the White House thinking they had a deal and then having Tom Cotton show up there and --.
PRZYBYLA: And slam - and Perdue slammed the door in their face, the faith is gone. And that`s a really bad thing, Chris. Because a lot of Republicans feel like they need the President in order to give them cover to cut some kind of a deal. And so I don`t think that`s going to --
MATTHEWS: How many years do you think --.
MATTHEWS: Nancy would hold the football up? It isn`t going to be.
REID: And Donald Trump does want unity. He wants everyone in the United States including Democrats, the Congress, the media, you, me, everyone else to line up behind him as if he is the absolute ruler of the United States and give him absolutely no opposition. That`s the kinds of unity he believes in.
MATTHEWS: He has the right and privilege and humanity to the change everything about himself tomorrow but he is not going to do it. He will be tweeting tomorrow morning and do it no matter how they see shines tonight.
Michael, last thought to you. This (INAUDIBLE) they are going to watch tonight, this once a year thing where everybody comes out and dances together, I don`t think it`s a good sign of things to come.
STEELE: No. I think this is going to be a tough speech for a lot of people in the country because of how this all has been set up. We have seen and heard one thing. The President is going to say something else.
And for a lot of people it`s just not going to be believable. I it is not going to be credible. And for one real central reason, Joy touched on it and you did, too, Chris. Tomorrow morning will be another day. There will be another tweet. And there will be another moment for Trump to further his particular interests as opposed to the interests of the country.
MATTHEWS: And I think it was Scarlet O`Hara who said that first. Tomorrow is another day.
Anyway. Thank you Joy Reid. Thank you, Heidi. We don`t usually quote Scarlet O`Hara. Anyway, thank you Heidi Przybyla, a member of our team now and Michael Steele. Thank you, sir.
Coming up, Trump`s slow motion Saturday night massacre. First Trump, then Comey. Then he ordered Mueller fired. Yesterday, he ran Comey`s deputy out. Now the knives are out for Rosenstein. There`s a clear pattern in its slope but it just like Nixon. Trump and his allies are knocking off the key players for the Russian probe. Is this the way to act if you are innocent in? Not that is the question. If you`re innocent, why are you doing this?
Plus the Democratic response tonight`s state of the union. How should the party respond to the most, if this has been lowest rated President in recent history, especially when Republicans don`t seem to care about objective. One answer is a Kennedy.
And tonight`s all-star roundtable takes on the three-ring circus Trump will brag about, the economy and delight in attacking critics. What if anything will he say will be say the word Russia tonight or how about this, will he say the word elephant like elephant in the room? We`ll talk about that because this is an existential threat to his presidency.
Finally, let me finish tonight with Trump watch. He wont like tonight of all nights.
This is "Hardball" where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: This threat is not going to go away. The Russians have been at this a long time. And I fully expect they will continue to be at it.
QUESTION: Do you have concerns that they might try and interfere in the U.S. midterms which are coming up?
POMPEO: Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that. But I`m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election, that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact they have our election won`t be great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was CIA Director Mike Pompeo in an interview with the BBC saying he expects Russia to continue its influence campaign in an attempt to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections here in the United States.
His warning comes as members of his party continue, however, to discredit the special counsel`s probe and the law enforcement institutions looking into the Russian involvement in the 2016 elections.
The Republican majority of the House Intelligence Committee, for example, led by Trump ally Devin Nunes, is pushing the release of a memo which alleges anti-Trump bias at the FBI and Justice Department in an effort to the provide cover obviously to the president, who is under investigation for obstruction of justice.
The memo reportedly spells danger for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel.
According to a "Washington Post" source, the president could use the memo as grounds for either firing or forcing Rosenstein to leave, and now the president has a five-day period to ultimately decide whether the Nunes memo will become public.
Well, today, House Speaker Paul Ryan backed those seeking to release the memo, but insisted it has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller`s investigation. And his investigation should be allowed to take its course. There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals. So it is our job in conducting transparent oversight of the executive branch to get to the bottom of that.
QUESTION: There`s been some reporting that the president wants to fire Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein. Do you think that would be a wise decision?
RYAN: I think Rod Rosenstein is doing a fine job. I have no reason to see why he should do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, joining right now is MSNBC political analyst Eli Stokols and Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney.
Thank you both for joining us.
This -- I see this whole thing as an attempt to sort of impeach the impeachers, Eli. It just seems anything they can do. First, it was the guy sending his little love notes to somebody else at the FBI and now it`s this thing about a FISA approval. It just seems like they`re looking around for anything they can to chip away at the credibility and the integrity of this investigation, so that when they come out with something, whenever they do, it will be impeached already.
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s pretty obvious to everybody watching this who wants to see it that that is what they are doing.
Paul Ryan doesn`t want to fully see that. He`s basically saying today, yes, let the Mueller investigation proceed. Don`t mess with it. Let Rosenstein stay. He hasn`t done anything.
But he`s also defending the release of -- Nunes releasing this memo under the explanation is transparency. But he`s not allowing the Democratic memo to come out, the minority report to come out. And he`s basically doing that, allowing the memo to come out, knowing that the whole point of it -- it`s not happening in a vacuum -- it`s being done to undermine the investigation.
Difficult to have it both ways.
MATTHEWS: But your thoughts about that, Joyce, in terms of prosecution. I do not understand why they find these little problems, whether it`s somebody having a romance with somebody on e-mail at the FBI involved with maybe dumping on all kinds of politicians, by the way, and they isolate the pro-Hillary point of view.
And then they get this guy getting his FISA approved to investigate what Carter Page was doing. At the same time, they say Carter Page had such a small part to do with anything in the Trump campaign, and then they say any surveillance of him means the whole investigation of the Russian operation is somehow tainted.
It doesn`t make sense.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It doesn`t make any sense at all, but there`s an old piece of advice given to lawyers. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table.
What Trump is doing, he`s evolving that strategy and he`s pounding the prosecution. And that`s really I think the best view of what this memo is. It`s not just an effort, I think, to, as you say, impeach the impeachers. It`s also an effort to give Trump a defensive strategy, so that he can now say, I wasn`t obstructing justice when I attacked the FBI, when I fired Jim Comey, when I took action against Andy McCabe. What I was doing was pushing back against a corrupt, ineffective FBI.
And he will try to use the memo, in essence, to protect himself from those obstruction charges people believe that special counsel Mueller is investigating.
MATTHEWS: What`s the legal foundation for that kind of a claim? Is that exculpatory for him saying, oh, I was doing it to defend myself against what I thought was a corrupt prosecution? Does that have standing in the law?
VANCE: Trump`s efforts to make himself look less guilty seem to be aimed more towards the court of public opinion than towards a jury.
So, all of this seems to be posturing for public opinion, so that he can convince people if Mueller does move against him or even if he`s an unindicted co-conspirator in some form of legal indictment that he really isn`t guilty, that it`s the FBI, that they`re out to get him.
In terms of legal standing, really, the evidence here is just the evidence. And Mueller, if he were to choose to indict the president, would put that in and a jury would listen to it. And we have all heard a lot of it. And it`s pretty compelling.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Daily Beast is reporting tonight that the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, refused to answer when a colleague asked him if he had coordinated his incendiary surveillance memo with the White House.
That`s according to sources familiar with the exchange.
What do you make of that? Remember the midnight ride, when he went down to the old Executive Office Building next to the White House and picked up some useful information, and comes back the next day and takes it to the White House next door, and acts like he`s not working as a courier for the White House. And he was.
STOKOLS: And then he had to recuse himself from part of this investigation as chair of the House Intelligence Committee as a result of that.
MATTHEWS: Because of that.
This is a guy who was part of the Trump transition and has acted basically brazenly showing his colors, his alliance.
MATTHEWS: He`s supposed to be investigating the president, and he acts like he`s the president`s lawyer.
STOKOLS: That`s right.
The chairman -- the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, has not done this. He`s acted in an impartial way and really drawn a contrast with the way Nunes has approached this.
MATTHEWS: Richard Burr, too, in the Senate.
STOKOLS: Richard Burr. That`s right. Richard Burr, not Warner. I misspoke.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, go ahead.
No, but I think that`s one of the reasons of what you have here. You just have partisan politics overtaking the entire investigation. And I think that`s why everybody is just looking at the Mueller probe, because the stuff that is coming out of the Hill, those investigations are politicized. And what you have is the people on the Hill trying to politicize even the Mueller probe, because they know that`s the most important thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, despite CIA Director Pompeo`s warning that Russia intends to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump administration has decided there`s no need to implement the sanctions that Congress passed overwhelmingly to punish Russia for their election interference in 2016.
The State Department claims that the sanction legislation is enough of a deterrent, even though the sanctions outlined in the legislation haven`t actually been enacted.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to explain that decision in his speech tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We call on President Trump in the State of the Union to tell Americans that he will support the sanctions 90 percent of America supports or tell us why he won`t.
Any other president would have already made it their priority to take decisive action in their first year. But this president is paralyzed when it comes to Putin and his cronies in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Joyce, looking at this in a broader sense, this president seems to be totally undisturbed by what the Russians did in 2016.
In fact, he benefited from it. To a larger or small extent, we will never know for sure. But he did benefit from it, because their intent was to help him win the election and for Hillary to lose and look badly in losing.
That was their goal. And now he seems like he`s not at all supportive of trying to punish them or deter them from doing it again in 2018. I mean, for all the talk about traitors and treason and whatever fifth columns, it is questionable why he seems to be on the Russians` side when it comes to the issue of interfering in our elections. He`s looking like he`s on their side.
VANCE: It`s absolutely incredible.
The sanctions legislation passed with a veto-proof majority. It`s up to Congress, frankly, to hold him accountable for his failure to uphold the law.
But as to the cyber-interference with the election, this is the kind of activity by Russian that really mandates an unprecedented all-of-government focus on preserving the integrity of elections. It`s stunning that we haven`t seen that. Maybe not stunning from this administration.
But it`s still something that the American people and their leaders should be demanding. We know that, in 2016, Russia knocked on the door. We don`t think that they actually entered and interfered with vote counts. It could be a lot worse in `18 or `20. And we`re simply not prepared to deal with that kind of a cyber-emergency.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you so much, Eli Stokols, as always.
And, Joyce Vance, thank you for your expertise.
Up next: the Democratic response tonight. The party has a chance to take on an historically unpopular president. Look at the numbers. So, what should the party of the Democrats` message be?
And don`t miss our late-night edition of HARDBALL tonight following tonight`s State of the Union. We have got an impressive lineup at midnight East Coast time. Look at the breakdown. We are going to look at the speech.
My guests include tonight at midnight Rob Reiner, Bradley Whitford of movie fame, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Ron Reagan, Joy Reid back.
That`s a special edition of HARDBALL tonight at midnight Eastern. It`s going to be a little wild, very critical, I expect, of President Trump.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The president will address a divided country tonight and will face a hypercharged political atmosphere down in D.C. Democrats have called on Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, grandson of Bobby Kennedy and political heir to the Kennedy family, to deliver their party`s response.
The challenge for Democrats more than a year after their stunning defeat in 2016 is which direction to take their party.
For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, Democrat from Ohio.
Tim, Congressman, you are looked to by many people as the future if the Democrats are ever going to win back Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, the states that will decide the 2020 election for president, as well as the 2016. What is the way for the Democrats to win back those states?
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Well, a straight economic message.
We need to talk to people, Chris, who obviously take a shower after they get home from work, not only the people who take a shower before they go to work. And to me, that`s speaking to those working-class people, people who are waiters and waitresses and bartenders working the building and construction trades.
Those people need to know that we`re on their side. And when you look at what President Trump is doing, we are on their side. He`s trying to take away overtime pay for waiters and waitresses. Wages aren`t growing as fast as they were before. We still don`t have that trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that he talked so much about during the campaign.
He`s throwing people off of health care, on and on and on. Democrats are speaking to those constituencies now.
MATTHEWS: Well, Bobby Kennedy, the grandson of Joe, who is giving the speech, your friend Joe Kennedy is speaking tonight from Fall River, he used to say things like waiters and cops and construction workers are my people. He wasn`t speaking ethically.
He just meant in terms of who they are.
T. RYAN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And how do Democrats reclaim that working-class confidence and not be the elite party? How do they lose this elite image they have picked up over the years from their donor class?
That`s who I blame. The donors who give the money to the Democratic Party dictate these issues that they focus on all the time. And they have taken away from the work and wages issues that affect the average -- what used to be the Democrat.
T. RYAN: Yes.
First and foremost, you have got to go there. You have got to be with those groups of people. You got to live there. And then when we build our coalitions over the past couple weeks and then the next couple weeks, we can fight for dreamers. Of course we should, and we will.
But we should have been up on that stage with our arm around a coal miner who is losing his pension or a truck driver who would drive 60, 70 hours a week, miss family events, miss birthday parties and baseball games because they were on the road. Now their pension as a Teamster is going to get cut in half.
Those people are part of our coalition, just like the young African- American kid who may live in a home that has too much lead in it, so they have lead poisoning and they need access to health care, or the military, the Army infantry person who is not sure if they`re going to be able to get paid because the government`s getting shut down.
Those are all of our people. If you are working hard, playing by the rules, the Democratic Party is going to advocate for you to have economic stability now and a pension when you retire.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Republicans are giving people a tax cut. What are the Democrats giving people?
T. RYAN: Well, we should it be fighting for increased wages. This tax cut`s going to be a little bit of a sugar high. Of course we are going to have a buzz in the stock market for the next six months to a year.
But then the burden of paying for that, the $2.2 trillion we`re borrowing from China, that is going to go on the back of working-class people to pay over the long haul. So we need to advocate for those people and say, look, yes, we`re for a $15 minimum wage. But we`re not happy with a $15 minimum wage, because a lot of my people back at home, Chris, they were making 40 bucks an hour and now they`re making 15.
We have to say we want wages that are 35, 40 bucks an hour. How do we get this wealth created in New York, in Boston, in Silicon Valley, how do we drive that investment into Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan and these Great Lake states to put people back to work there?
It`s doable, but it takes these public-private partnerships. I read your book, Chris, and the one word that stood out with Bobby Kennedy that inspired me and still does right now is the word imagination.
T. RYAN: He said, we need to have the imagination to solve these problems.
And right now, the Republicans don`t, and the Democrats, we need to do a better job, but we`re clearly doing better than the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.
Up next: The Republican -- actually, the Roundtable is going to take on the three-ring circus tonight. The president will be gloating about the economy. He will gloat about the economy, of course, and give supporters another episode of the Trump show.
But will Trump even mention the elephant in the room? Will he even mention that room Russia? Is he more likely to say the word elephant than Russia?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: President Trump brings his three-ring circus to the United States Capitol tonight for over an hour and he will tout the economy, of course, give supporters a taste of the Trump show, if you will, and all the while the cloud the Russian probe looms over his first State of the Union address.
Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL roundtable. Tom Brokaw, NBC News senior correspondent, Peggy Noonan is a former political speechwriter, of course, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Wall Street Journal" and an MSNBC contributor. And Jonathan Capehart, the young fella here, the opinion writer for "The Washington Post", also an MSNBC contributor.
So, perhaps in the order of Peggy who sits with me to start with, in all the teasing elements that have been put out by the president, in fact, in his own words, it`s a unity speech tonight. Isn`t it going to have a qualify of Brigadoon, out of nowhere, we`re all dancing together for one night knowing that tomorrow, we go back to the tweets and the division? Your thoughts?
PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I know what you mean. I think have been good if he had spent more of his first year understanding that he had a core of support, the president and they loved him. But a core doesn`t get you across the finish line. You have to build coalitions, you have to have power. You have to work things out with Congress.
So, you have to continually keep bringing people and persuading, kind of loving them, you know, kind of going and making your case in a very kindly or distinguished and serious way.
MATTHEWS: Could you have gotten a tax cut doing that?
NOONAN: Oh, God, more easily with more votes. The whole thing would have worked better if he had had that attitude. But his attitude instead was to use nice words, scrappy, pugilistic, angry.
NOONAN: You know, Trump, one thing funny about Trump is he has too enjoyed his role as divider. Everybody who runs for office is dividing in a way. They`re dividing between the people I got and the people who obviously don`t like me. Then, you win and bring everybody together. He never learned that part.
He stays as the divider. His people love him. That`s very nice. I don`t think they`re abandoning him. That said, he hasn`t reached out.
Now, tonight, I think he will try to be persuasive in that way. It`s a little bit late. We`ll see how it goes.
MATTHEWS: Tom, how would you judge the effectiveness of a charm offensive tonight?
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s very hard to know, because I`m never entirely clear about which Donald Trump is going to the show up tonight reading the advances of the speech. He is very conciliatory, made quite a good speech in Davos the other day. Simultaneously, his colleagues on the Hill are talking a lot about this memo that in effect, if you listen to the commentators on President Trump`s favorite outlet on television, it`s going to be the greatest scandal in the history of mankind.
So you try to weigh that against what he is saying here tonight. Whatever else we know about Donald Trump, he has no shortage of self-esteem. He really is a man who believes that he has kind of an infallibility about his decisions. And I don`t think he fully understood the constraints on him as president, most powerful office in the world, but he can`t just raise his hands and have whatever he wants whenever he wants it. And he`s played that hand out at this point.
So, tonight, we`ll see I think a different Donald Trump but let`s wake up tomorrow morning and see how he tweets.
MATTHEWS: I want to go to Jon on this because I think Tom laid it out, because he has that loaded grenade in his hand right now handed to him by Devin Nunes of the Intelligence Committee which apparently according if you listen to Hannity and the rest of them on the air and Jeanine Pirro, it`s the biggest thing, as Tom said, in the world. It`s going to blow up this town and one of those things out of the movies, going to blow the town wide open. I doubt it, but he has it in his hand now.
Will he pull the pin tonight?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I don`t know. And it would be reprehensible if he pulled the pin tonight in this, you know, august of speeches that a president gives every year to the American people.
But, look, President Trump walks into the House of Representatives a hollow man. I`ve had my differences with President Reagan as a child but still, President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush. But at no point did I ever question their moral authority or whether I trusted the words coming out of their mouths leaving politics aside. I never doubted for a moment that even though I didn`t agree with them politically, that they were looking out for me as an American citizen.
And so reading the excerpts of the speech he is -- President Trump is about to deliver, I cannot trust not -- I can`t trust one word that`s on those pages because of what he has done in the year since he put his hand on the bible and gave the oath of office. What -- for me, the ultimate breaking point was his reaction to Charlottesville. I think he stripped his presidency of its moral authority. How can a president of the United States say that both sides are at fault when we`re talking about something as fundamental to this country as race and racism, Nazis and white supremacy.
So, the president can mouth the words from the podium about unity and being, you know, a government of loyalty to the American people and love, but I guarantee you that more than half the country will not believe a word that he says.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to ask one question of Peggy, because the old notion of show business and Tom knows this, is you have only so much time people put up with you. They just -- they get bored with politicians and they do on TV shows. Four years is about the limit.
Trump seems to breaking that rule. More and more and more every day, he this thinks if I get out there every day and get in front of their face it will work for me. It does seem to break the old rule of too much.
NOONAN: I don`t know. Donald Trump has been topicing in American conversation since June of 2015. That`s about 2 1/2 years, right? So, it`s been awhile.
He has been the subject of obsession, et cetera. I sense that he`s too much, way, way too much in everybody`s face and he`s starting to bore them because they get the shtick.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see.
The roundtable is sticking with us. And up next, these three will tell me something we should look for in tonight`s State of the Union. A little prediction time, always dangerous.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.
Tom, what should we be looking for tonight? You first.
BROKAW: Well, the first thing I`m going to be looking for is when he begins to talk as we`ve seen in the advance texts about the importance of doing something about illegal immigration and working together to get it down. I`ll be watching those people in the Republican Party who are in the hard right who are resisting that idea and see how responsive they are.
This become kind of a kabuki dance as you know. Anything that the Republicans think they can agree with, they`ll be up and cheering and so on, and the Democrats will be giving kind of a sour expression. So, it`s hard to get a field for the room based on this kind of theatrical appearance.
BROKAW: But I think we have to look at the people who are resisting any idea of a compromise on immigration.
MATTHEWS: I think I`ll do something on opioids, just get one time and they`re all standing up.
NOONAN: Two things I will be curious about. One is the faces of the Democratic leaders at various moments, as Trump makes his point. When he says something they agree with, do they go yes, or they`re very contained for their own audience and look at them like --
MATTHEWS: And the reason they will be contained is because they`re afraid of their left.
NOONAN: Oh, totally, because the rising left is the big part of the party. Second part though is numbers. What kind of ratings this is going to get. Normally, State of the Union is, you know, kind of goes down. We`ll see if it stays up for Trump, but was --
CAPEHART: Chris, like every reality television show episode, I`m always looking forward to the next episode. So, it`s not what happens in the room tonight. It`s how he reacts tomorrow, or within the next few years, to stump all over it, whatever goodwill, whatever interesting feeling comes out tonight.
MATTHEWS: Is that hopeful, Jonathan?
Anyway, thank you, Tom Brokaw. As always, Peggy Noonan, Jonathan Capehart.
When we return, let me finish tonight with Trump Watch. And don`t forget, our special midnight edition of HARDBALL tonight after the State of the Union coming on at midnight with some movie stars. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Tuesday, January 30th, 2018.
I want to see our country united. If I can unite this country, I would consider it a tremendous success. Unity is really what I`m striving for to bring the country together.
Well, that was President Trump today promoting his State of the Union tonight. It`s obviously intended to be a costume party. The theme tonight being to pretend to be someone you`re not.
For all the months of his presidency, the daily reality has been, of course, the very opposite of unity, a country known for a free press is being derided for its fake news and America, proud of its independent judiciary, is being roiled by a president daily attacking the work of the FBI, the Justice Department, and the special counsel. A Congress that`s won the respect of the world jammed by the chief executive into historic dysfunction.
The president who obviously drove his predecessor into having to produce his birth certificate now spends weeks tossing the children of immigrants around like a partisan football. Always in the politics of us versus them, the majority against the minority, the people with money against those with little.
Where is the unity in all this? Well, the whole political conversation is about division, about how much you don`t like immigrants, how much you don`t like the opposition party, the press, civil servants, communities different than your own, certain pro football players and rap stars.
This is the Trump conversation, starting with the first tweet of the morning. This is the public life of this country from the day he arrived in the White House, discovering with each dawn whom Donald Trump is out to attack, who is being forced to shoot back, who is going to be in the thick of it, until the president decides to move on to his next target of attack -- the group, the public institution, the enemy.
I want to see this country united, the president said he will declare tonight. Yet with all the cameras on him, the entire country`s microphone tuned to what he has to say, it will not be an honest statement about the union because the state of our country is disunion. He could change that if anybody on the planet could. But however he falls over himself to say so tonight, he has not taken a step to do it.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Our special coverage of the State of the Union begins right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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