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Federal workers miss first paychecks. TRANSCRIPT: 1/11/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Susan Page, Shermichael Singleton, Barbara Boxer; Richard Blumenthal

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 11, 2019 Guest: Susan Page, Shermichael Singleton, Barbara Boxer; Richard Blumenthal

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: So what`s stopping them? Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

At midnight tonight, this country hits the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. In fact, here is what I heard when I called the White House before the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We apologize but due the lapse in federal funding we are unable to take your call. Once funding has been restored our operations will resume.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So don`t call the president of the United States.

Well, with hundreds of thousands of federal employees captured in the stalemate, President Trump argued once again that it`s up to the Congress to find a solution holding over in his threat to declare a national emergency to pay for his wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The easy solution is for me to call a national emergency. I could do that very quickly. I have the absolute right to do it but I`m not going to do it so fast. What we are not looking to do right now is national emergency. What we want to do, we have the absolute right to do it. In many ways the easy way out but this is up to Congress and it should be up to Congress and they should do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Absolute right. Well, meanwhile, more than 800,000 federal employees missed a paycheck for the first time today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM GREGORY, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORKER: It really hurts. We haven`t - we can`t pay our bills, can`t pay the doctors, our mortgages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like we are being held hostage.

DARRYL FLOYD, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WORKER: If you can`t pay the bills then you are going toing have financial charges. And, you know, the creditors, they may not accept it. So there is going call repression especially when it`s me and my wife sometimes trying to work and with her situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s her situation?

FLOYD: She has cancer. It`s in the hands of one person, which is our President. And hope that he can understand or sympathize with the poor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this means that workers who were making it paycheck to paycheck are not now making it.

The President said he would sign a bill passed by the House today ensuring federal employees receive pay back when the government reopens and offered this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The message is that I appreciate their service to the country. They are incredible people, the federal employees that we are talking about. I just really appreciate the fact that they have handled it so incredibly well and many of them agree with what we are doing. We have no choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: While President Trump continues to dangle the prospect of declaring a national emergency as a means of bypassing Congress. But the "Wall Street Journal" reports that in a recent oval office meeting, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, his son in law, quote "argued an emergency should only be invoked only if it create as clear path to the White House to build a wall."

Adding that according to sources close to the meeting, Kushner said let`s stop doing things just to do them. Well, that sounds wise. But one of the President`s top allies in Congress, Senator Lindsey Graham, is out there pushing the President onward.

After meeting with the President at the White House today, he argued in a series of tweets that Democrats don`t want to make a deal and later wrote, Mr. President, declare a national emergency now, build a wall now. That`s Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The White House is going ahead and directed the army core of engineers to look at a budge - its budget in search for the money for the wall. So they are pushing ahead.

NBC News reports one proposal could include tapping into billions of dollars of disaster relief. Trump can could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated for projects in California, including flood prevention as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rica which is still covering, as everybody knows, from hurricane Maria.

I`m joined right now by Connecticut Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and EPA administrator under President Bush, Barbara Boxer, former California Democratic senator and Sam Stein, politics editor for "the Daily Beast."

Thank you all.

I want to start with Senator Blumenthal. What is he holding? Something is holding this guy up, the President. He has been playing this for days now. I`m going to do it. I`m going to pull the trigger. I`m going to this. We are going to go. We are going to fight with the courts. I`m going to do this by emergency action. What`s stopping him?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: First and foremost, he is encountering resistance within his own party. Most recently today senator Grassley a very powerful and well respected member of the Senate leadership has said that he would oppose use of this kind of military disaster-related funding.

We have been hearing for years, Chris, about the real emergency in military readiness that this country faces. And we have increased funding for military on a bipartisan basis to meet that real emergency.

Now the President is talking about taking military funding, as well as disaster related funding and exacerbating a real emergency to deal with this manufactured emergency a product of his own actions at the border. And there is a crisis there. It is a humanitarian crisis, not a security crisis. The levels of apprehension are one-fifth of what they were in the year 2000. Crime is its lowest rate in McAllen, Texas where the President visited yesterday. But we face a need to continue military construction, to make our bases safer. We face a need to deal with the forest fires and emergency relief for Puerto Rico and Texas and Florida for their natural disasters.

The President is talking about defying the law, breaking constitutional norms and principles. And the American people are seeing through it. And I think he is feeling the pressure within his own party, from advisors in his own White House who see the facts and the law as against him.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of the Mexico border, has your colleague, Lindsey Graham, been chewing on the local weed or what? What is going on with this guy? He plays golf with them. And now he - all of a sudden, he is starting to go out. He was with them on Kavanaugh in a crazy way. Why is this guy so totally whatever he is doing with Trump? I don`t want to get weirdness of it, but why is he so well to Trump now? He used to be an independent operator - Lindsey Graham. What happened?

BLUMENTHAL: He has been for many years that I have known him a thoughtful and insightful and rational legislator and a friend. And I`m mystified by much of what he has to say today.

But I think Lindsey Graham, the lawyer, will see that the constitutional norms and the statute here would plainly be violated and court should see through the political pandering and posturing and even the delay, which defeats the idea that we have an emergency. If there`s an emergency, it would be immediate, sudden, dangerous, serious.

There`s no factual justification for it. And I think Lindsey Graham will eventually come to see that there`s no factual and legal basis here for this kind of action and a court would and should see through it.

MATTHEWS: Well, speaking of the earth-while reasonableness of the Republican Party, let me -- get former governor Christy Todd Whitman of New Jersey.

You were head of the EPA. You know what it means to run a federal agency. What is the cause of this in the country, the fact that these people are some showing up for work, some not, some not getting paid for showing for work. And by the way there`s seven Republicans in the House today who voted to not pay them even if they had been showing up to work. In other words, don`t even pay the pay you owe them. Your thoughts, governor?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATION: It`s unconscionable to me. And there`s still a question of those who were furloughed, whether they will get everything back. And the ones who have been working part time are being paid part-time working full time, they are guaranteed to get their money back. But the ones whose are furloughed, it`s going to take con Congressional action and the President to sign a bill and he certainly doesn`t seem to care much about them right now.

So it is a really dangerous situation. If we had an emergency, as senator Blumenthal was saying, if this is a crisis, I agree, it`s a humanitarian crisis. But if it is a crisis of all these rapists, murderers, terrible people coming across the border, building a wall is going to take decades. It is not going to happen overnight. So what are we doing in between?

It`s time to gets to the 21st century with border security. We all want it. Nobody has said they don`t want it. And let`s not forget there was a bill passed by both Houses, bipartisan bill that would have addressed this issue. And based on what the President had told them he would accept and then all the sudden he changed his mind and said no, (INAUDIBLE). So I understand why it`s so hard to do a deal.

MATTHEWS: -- for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

WHITMAN: It`s amazing to me. It`s amazing to me because it`s very hard to do a deal with this man.

MATTHEWS: Well, as President Trump has weighed declaring a national emergency, some of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill have warned of the consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I don`t think he should do that. I think it`s a bad precedent and it contravenes the power of the purse that comes from the elect representatives of the people.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: And today, the national emergency is border security and entitles him to go out and do something. We all support that. Tomorrow, the national security emergency might be, you know, climate change. So let`s seize fossil fuel plants or something. I mean, it is an exaggeration. But my point is we have to be careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here is a really hideous comment. One of the President`s chief defenders in the House of Representatives, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz told the "Wall Street Journal," now you will not believe what his guys said.

Quote "I don`t want the next national emergency to be some Democrat President says we have to build transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in America."

Talk about a reach. The stick at the transgender people. What a reach.

Senator Boxer, thank you. It`s great to have you back. I mean, government hasn`t been so smooth since you left, by the way.

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATOR: I noticed that.

MATTHEWS: So what do you make of this? I said the other night it`s like the McLachlan group only it is the government. I mean, what do you make of this? I mean, this crazy guy talking about transgender has nothing to do with the border. He is sticking it to those folks. And now this President keeps threatening I`m going to drop the bomb. I`m going to, you know, go to emergency declaration and national emergency and then he seems to even he getting nervous. Something is going on.

BOXER: Well, if I could say there`s so much hate in people`s hearts. And when you hear someone say that, like that congressman, just hurting people gratuitously. And it all comes from the top. It comes from Donald Trump who has anger and hate all over himself.

And here`s the thing. Chris, you and I go way back to when you worked for Tip O`Neal. I hate to say that was the `80s. And this is one budget item, OK, a wall. Out of tens of thousands of budget items. And the way to fix it, first of all, spend the money you already have to build the barrier. I`m sure speaker Pelosi will tell you in the House when you put forward your new budget, which is coming due soon, let us know why you think the wall is the best thing to do.

The fact of the matter is I voted for the secure fence act way back in 2006. That was a time when it made sense to build the barriers. But now we have new technologies. Better ways to secure the border. There`s no argument over the need do it. Do it in regular order. I`m sure she would say she would hearings. You can bring your experts. They will bring their experts. And we will get this thing done.

Right now there`s one emergency. And that is you had 800,000 hardworking Americans suffering, thousands of contractors. This thing is a nightmare because he couldn`t, the President, fulfill his pledge to have Mexico build a wall, period. That`s it.

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to senator Blumenthal.

You served with these other - these Republicans. They are in your room with that chamber once in a while. They are in the cloak room. Maybe not your cloak but you knew where they are. And you all pass them in the hallway. Are they happy with a government shut down for three weeks now?

BLUMENTHAL: They are disastrously unhappy. They are hearing from the same people all of us see and hear who are experiencing real pain in real lives, not just the federal workers who are going without pay and they were living paycheck to paycheck. Now they have no paycheck. But rippling through our economy.

I spent this morning with some of the craft brewers in Connecticut whose business has been stymied by the shutdown because they can`t get permits and approvals they need for labels. This ripple effect through our economy is creating havoc. And the President, I think, has to heed members of this own party who are expressing that disquiet about a vanity project and a pause line that really is not the way to border security.

Absolutely are right. We are all in favor of using border security by using better technology and more personnel. It is the way the Israelis do it on their border. And I think he needs to heed those members of his own party who have been telling me whether it`s at lunch or breakfast or in the jam or wherever we gather how they are feeling growing anxiety about where the country is going.

MATTHEWS: Sam, what is the straw this is going to break the behind his back? When is this going to break? Are we just going to go for weeks now without a government?

SAM STEIN, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: There`s three outs, right. One is he does the emergency order. One is a real-life event causes some sort of calamity that propels --

MATTHEWS: Not a plane crash?

STEIN: Well, you were getting to the point where TSA is obviously working without pay. There is notable long lines in airports. Terminals being shut down.

MATTHEWS: Traffics gets always under stress.

STEIN: But the third one and I guess I`m surprised that senator Blumenthal didn`t focus on this. And honestly, that this conversation hasn`t touch with it is that Mitch McConnell, he is an important operator in this saga. At any point in time, he could bring a bill to the floor, allow it to go to the President, ask the President to veto it and then override the veto. It is theoretically possible that they will vote to that because we know it.

They voted on the CR to keep the government open prior to leaving for the New Year in the (INAUDIBLE). So the votes are potentially there in the Senate to just circumvent the President. But very little pressure has been applied to Mitch McConnell. The preponderance of pressure has been applied to Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: Governor Whitman, Britain had Albert Cromwell (ph) and France had Napoleon and Germany had Hender (ph) and Italy had Mussolini and Spain had Franco (ph). Is this is a period in which the Republican Party will somehow survived or is the future of your party, what we are watching right now?

WHITMAN: Well, I think if they don`t make major changes and finally get backbone and stand up to him and say look, if there`s a crisis, if you want to make us safer -- the federal courts run out of money on the 18th of January. They are going to start furloughing people on the 21st of January. That is our court system. They not hearing cases. As was mentioned, you have got TSA operators who are "getting sick," quote- unquote.

I mean, I can`t blame them. If they are not getting paid and they have to work full time, they are not showing up. You got long lines. You don`t have the FBI doing all the work that they want to do. That is the crisis that is being created here.

And I don`t know what it will take to get Republicans to finally say enough with it. We have got so focused. Everything is about partisan politics and not about policy that we just have to get over it. That is why, you know, what I would love to see in the 2020 is a bipartisan ticket. Republican-Democrat, Democrat-Republican. Something that means that everybody has to get together and start to work together.

We can`t go on like this. And the people said that with Donald Trump`s election but they didn`t get what they thought they were going to get.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I`m looking for comparison of our president, I forget Hanapol (ph).

Anyway, the President -.

Richard Blumenthal, senator, thank you so much.

Christine Todd Whitman, thank you.

Former senator Barbara Boxer, I remember you sitting on your couch as a young woman saying I`m running for Senate. I never forgot that moment. Thank you.

And Sam Stein, thank you.

Coming up prosecutors are looking into whether foreign money was funneling in the President Trump`s inauguration. There may be a Manafort connection. Don`t you think? In fact, there was.

Plus, life imitates art. A 1958 TV series on CBS was making a splash as it featured a character named Trump who wanted to build a wall. The guy was an outlaw and a chameleon, of course. Anyway, a Charlotte.

Anyway, late tonight, a new contender jumped in race for the Democratic presidential nomination that feels about to get much more crowded.

Finally, let me finish that with my predictions for the upcoming battle for 2020. You will find it fascinating and it may well be true.

This is HARDBALL where the action is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

While prosecutors work to untangle the web of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, there remains the question of how much foreign money was funneled into Trump`s inauguration in January of 2017. That`s two years ago.

"The New York Times" reports that among the guests at the ceremony and the inaugural ball itself, there at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures, some of whom were promoting grand bargains or peace plans that aligned with Russia`s interests, including by lifting those sanctions.

Prosecutors want to know how those pro-Russian Ukrainians got into the inaugural ball, who they spoke to there and whether they made any contributions to Trump or to the ball itself.

However, there`s another dimension to this story. We learned this week that, during the 2016 election, Paul Manafort not only shared polling data with a Russian intelligence operative, but he directed that operative to pass the data to two Ukrainian oligarchs.

And now "The New York Times" is connecting the dots, revealing that one of those oligarchs who sent the polling data, who was sent it, attended the Liberty Ball at Trump`s inauguration. He was at the inaugural ball. That`s according to one person familiar with the guest list and another who saw him there.

I`m joined right now by Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, and David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones."

Does this fit in to your thinking and all your investigative reporting on this about the Russian connection?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we need a whiteboard.

And I was talking with Paul earlier about how you would present this to a jury. Remember, the guy at the center of all this, Paul Manafort. Manafort had a business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is a Ukrainian who worked in Russia who had ties, according to Mueller, to Russian intelligence.

During the campaign, Manafort used Kilimnik to be in touch with a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, very close to Putin, and now we have discovered with two Ukrainian oligarchs who politically are associated with pro-Russia policies in the Ukraine.

MATTHEWS: They`re all quislings, right?

CORN: They`re all trying to get...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They`re quislings. They`re guys who were betraying their country in the interest of Russia.

CORN: Well, I`m not sure if they were becoming Russia or Ukraine.

But they are trying to get their mitts into the Trump administration. Manafort is trying to use his leverage inside the Trump organization to make good deals with these guys. And what is this doing prior to the inauguration?

Manafort is sending a signal to Russian oligarchs and Putin-friendly oligarchs that he and the Trump camp, they want a deal. They want -- Trump wants to deal with Putin, wants to deal with Russia. If Russia is was going to attack the election to help Trump, that`s all good for them.

And then you come to the inauguration, and they`re funneling money in through pass-throughs. And one thing that we reported at "Mother Jones" months ago, a cousin of a Russian oligarch who never made a big donation before gives a quarter of a million dollars, an American cousin, to the Trump inauguration.

This is a slush fund. It`s just one of 27 different Trump scandals that we could spend the whole show on, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I am not anti-Russian, Paul, but I have spent my life in politics in this city and around the world, and I have never bumped into more than a handful of Russians.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s not a big part of my life.

These guys, 101 contacts with Russians during the campaign with Trump people.

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:

I think what Robert Mueller is interested in is, first of all, the inauguration costs $107 million. That`s twice as much as Obama, the most in history. Where did the money go?

I watched part of the inauguration on TV. It was lovely, but it didn`t look like $107 million worth of lovely. And so he`s following the money.

The law is that they have to report who gives them the money.

MATTHEWS: You think the money passed through the inaugural ball to the Trump people?

BUTLER: Well, the question is -- we don`t know, because, under the law, they just have to report where they get it from, but they don`t have to report where it goes.

And the other question, to David`s point, is, why is Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, reaching out to Ukrainian oligarchs with polling data? Well, why would a campaign manager give billionaires information about the campaign? Obviously, because he knows that they want to help Donald Trump get elected, and he thinks that they can do it.

So I don`t know, he doesn`t know if they funneled this money to Russian intel -- funneled this data to Russian intelligence operatives. But what we do know, reportedly, is that the Russians intelligence were very involved in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where Trump wasn`t expected to win, but he did.

So maybe they came to the inauguration, these Ukrainian oligarchs, to collect, to collect the debt that Trump owed them, because they helped him get elected president.

MATTHEWS: Well, the president, President Trump, yesterday denied having any knowledge of Manafort`s activity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you know -- did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russians?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t know anything about it. Nothing about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the -- Paul was getting to it.

When you share poll data, it could be for one of two -- macro reason, we`re winning. We can win this baby, so keep helping us. The other one is inside information how to move a state.

Is that what we understand it to be?

CORN: Well, we don`t know. We don`t know exactly what the data was.

MATTHEWS: Because we know they were playing around with the African- American vote. They were trying to get them turned off to Hillary.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: We know they were doing a lot of data things.

And we know that the Russians and the Internet Research Agency are targeting different aspects of the American electorate. So far, I don`t see any tremendously sophisticated operation coming out of the Russian side that could only happen with insider information.

Manafort could have been doing this...

MATTHEWS: So, they had spotters?

CORN: Manafort could have been doing this to make his own connections, or to say, as you said earlier, that, we`re winning.

But I think, basically, he`s making connections with these guys to go both ways. We can work with you afterwards. And he`s giving the Russians -- this is a key point that people don`t get. He`s giving the Russians incentive to attack the campaign. He`s -- the election. He`s telling them, we want to work with you.

And so that`s all the more reason for them to intervene and meddle and try to affect things to help Trump.

BUTLER: So these are pro-Russian Ukrainians. They come to the inauguration. Mueller`s interested in whether they were illegally lobbying.

And what do we know? We know that they were getting what they wanted from Trump. So, right after that automation, Trump says, let`s lift the sanctions.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUTLER: He goes to the State Department. He goes to Republican congresspeople on the Hill. They say, hell no, that`s crazy. That`s a 360 degree turn.

And so he abandons it, but he did what the Ukrainians, what the pro-Russian Ukrainians wanted him to do.

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, Flynn denies they were talking sanctions.

Anyway, meanwhile, as "The Washington Post" reported this week, there`s a chance that, even after Mueller completes his big investigation, the White House could effectively suppress portions of that report.

Now, according to the "Hill" newspaper, Rudy Giuliani`s going a step further, saying, Trump`s legal team -- this is a quote from him -- "should be allowed to correct special counsel Robert Mueller`s final report before Congress or the American people even get a chance to look at it."

Giuliani told "The Hill" that: "As a matter of fairness, they should show it to them, so we can correct it if they`re wrong. They`re not God, after all. They could be wrong."

I mean, this is ludicrous.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I have never heard of a guy going into court and saying, let me hear all your evidence. Let me hear...

BUTLER: So, legally, Giuliani doesn`t have a leg to stand on, as usual.

MATTHEWS: He`s not an official government official anyway.

BUTLER: Yes, so I wouldn`t be surprised if...

MATTHEWS: Why is he talking about executive privilege anyway? He`s not even working for the government.

BUTLER: And he knows nothing about it.

I wouldn`t be surprised if Mueller lets him see the investigation report a couple of days before, so he can make any kind of executive privilege claims that he wants. But he`s not going to be able to change the report.

And if he tries, and if Attorney General Whitaker or Barr lets him, because we know they`re hostile to the Russia investigation, we are protected by two ways, one, Speaker Pelosi. She can haul Mueller into court and ask him, did they make any changes? What were the change?

MATTHEWS: Oh, good.

BUTLER: Yes.

And under the law...

MATTHEWS: That`s transparent.

CORN: But there`s one -- there`s one big point. And that is, we have no idea what this report will be.

Mueller is not like an independent counsel in days past. He has no obligation under Justice Department guidelines to produce a report telling everyone everything he found. There`s one line in the regs. It says, you have to -- he has to give report to the attorney general explaining his prosecutorial decisions.

Now, one can envision him doing that in three pages. Here are the eight cases I prosecuted and why, or doing it in 5,000 pages. Here`s everything I looked at and why I prosecuted here at didn`t prosecute there.

We have no clue which way he`s going.

MATTHEWS: Why is that important? Why is that distinction important? Why do -- we want to know what the president can be proven to have done wrong.

CORN: Because people are looking at Mueller as the guy who`s going to give us the bottom-line truth about what happened.

Not his job. His job is what Paul used to do. He`s a prosecutor. He tries to find crime and make cases. It`s really up to Congress or an independent commission to give us the full truth. He may try to do this somehow. And there may be a fight about what happens if he goes expansive on the report.

But there`s no guarantee that that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I`m a big believer that that is what prosecutors should do. They should indict or shut up.

CORN: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: And I had some good cases, but this is the most consequential investigation of a politician in our history.

And so there`s no way that Mueller can just say, OK, I`m not going to charge the president, see you later. He`s got to have a full report that explains to the American people what we already know, that the Russians tried to subvert our democracy and steal the election, and exactly how the Trump campaign was involved in that effort.

MATTHEWS: Well, he can indict and let the courts decide if it works, can`t he?

CORN: That`s another way to go.

MATTHEWS: That`s one clear way to go. They will be found out that way.

Anyway, thank you, Paul Butler. Thank you, David Corn.

Up next: A con man named Trump -- yes -- convinces a bunch of people to build a wall to keep out an imaginary threat. It`s an uncanny case of history imitating art. And we`re going to explain it to you. You will not believe what you watch coming up. It`s all crazy. But you`re going to love it.

Don`t go anywhere. Hang on to watch this old cowboy show, which is exactly a predictor of the hell we`re in right now.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TRACKDOWN")

ROBERT CULP, ACTOR: He says the world is going to come to an end?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Midnight tonight.

CULP: Where is he from?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Drove in this morning, wagon out front.

CULP: Mm-hmm. Got a name?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Trump.

CULP: I bet it fits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as they used to say in the old days, don`t adjust your television.

That was a clip from a 1958 TV show called "Trackdown" -- yes, 1958. It bears eerie parallels with the current state of affairs here in D.C.

CBS News archives has the episode airing on May 9 of that year, 1958.

In this episode, Walter Trump -- that is his name, Trump -- rides into a Texas town, selling himself as the only person who can save the town from total destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TRACKDOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I bring you a message, a message few of you will be able to believe, a message of great importance, a message I alone was able to read in the fires of the universe.

But be not afraid, my friends. I also bring you the means with which to save yourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has use similar language, of course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Trump, the charlatan from that `58 show, sells the idea of a wall, a wall, to a captive audience of townsfolk afraid of death and destruction brought on by a meteor shower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TRACKDOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I am the only one, just me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do we do? How do we save ourselves?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You ask, how do you build that wall? You asked, and I`m here to tell you.

This is your savior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sound familiar?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, faced by a skeptical Texas Ranger, Trump pushes back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is common sense. They need a barrier. They need a wall. If you don`t have it, it`s going to be nothing but hard work and grueling problems -- and, by the way, and death, and death, a lot of death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here`s our President Donald Trump.

I think we already showed that. Let`s go. Here`s our president. OK, we have already shown you. We showed the comparison between -- faced by a skeptical Texas Ranger, Trump pushes back

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TRACKDOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All right, Sheriff, how long you going to put up with this?

CULP: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How long you going to let this con man walk around town?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Be careful, son. I can sue you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, near the end of the episode, Walter Trump also makes it out of Dodge, except for that one upstanding and stoic lawman played by Robert Culp, who stands in his way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TRACKDOWN")

CULP: I think you ought to wait.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s where you and I disagree.

CULP: You`re under arrest, Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What charge?

CULP: Well, you write it any way you like, grand theft, fraud. I think a jury will fight it`s stealing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, no comment on that from Robert Mueller.

Up next: the latest on a crowded field of potential 2020 presidential candidates. Who is inching closer to a run now, and who`s already pedal to the metal? And what issues will they be focusing on as they try to win over voters?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, "MORNING JOE": First question is, there`s been an awful lot of talk about you running for president. How close are you to making that decision?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I will make it soon.

SCARBOROUGH: OK.

HARRIS: I`m going to announce it today, obviously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Democratic Senator Kamala Harris in California this morning continuing to keep us all somewhat in the dark about her plans to run in 2020.

But the California senator who has been on a media tour lately to promote her new books did answer why she would want to -- want to be president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: I believe our country wants and needs leadership that provides a vision of the future of our country in which everyone can see themselves, in which everyone can see themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Harris is one of a crowded field of Democrats mulling over the decision to run for the party`s nomination.

And today, another potential candidate, U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, announced she is getting into the race. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: I have decided to run, and will be making a formula announcement within the next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, two other senators, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, are planning trips to Iowa in the coming weeks.

And former U.S. Congressman Beto O`Rourke of Texas is receiving some late- night laughs for his recent social media post while getting his teeth cleaned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH")

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": It looks like he didn`t understand what his adviser meant when he said, all the kids are flossing.

(LAUGHTER)

NOAH: Because like, what`s next, Ted Cruz checking his beard for lice on TikTok? Come on, man.

But this is a genius way to avoid tough questions, right, because it would be like, Congressman, how -- how can you call yourself a progressive candidate when you voted for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

He will be like, great question.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL Roundtable tonight, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," Adrienne Elrod, former director of strategic communications Hillary for America, and, as of today, this very day, an MSNBC contributor.

Congratulations.

And Shermichael Singleton, a Republican political consultant.

So, give us a sense, Susan. You have to do the front page for "USA Today." So how`s the race look in terms of participation right now? How many people are running?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": So, for the -- I think, for the first time in history, we`re going to have more candidates than we have fingers and toes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

That would be more than 20.

PAGE: More than 20.

And I think the previous record is 17 of kind of credible candidates. But you can count two dozen credible Democratic candidates. And it`s hard to see any of them not running. There`s no -- there`s no sense of question about whether Kamala Harris is running. She is running.

MATTHEWS: No question.

Let me ask you, Adrienne.

It seems to be, no matter what we say now about equality of opportunity, there`s going to be polls.

ADRIENNE ELROD, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And there will be a poll some time in April or May that`s going to tell us what this race, this field looks like, right?

ELROD: Yes, of course.

MATTHEWS: And there`s only going to be four or five people that really have getting anywhere near double digits.

ELROD: That`s right. But I think you`re going to see Democratic voters flirt with a bunch of different candidates.

And I think you`re going to see the tier one candidates stay for the most part tier one. But I think you`re going to see a couple tier two candidates move into the tier one space.

MATTHEWS: Like who?

ELROD: Well, I think Terry McAuliffe, who I would consider to be a tier two candidate. I think he could viably move into a tier one space.

And we will see who else.

MATTHEWS: Is there a moderate aisle, a rail, is there a lane for a moderate and a lane for the progressive left?

ELROD: Absolutely, there is.

MATTHEWS: Two different lanes?

ELROD: There is.

And I think that`s an important thing that you just pointed out, Chris, because Terry McAuliffe wrote an op-ed a couple days ago in "The Washington Post" where he really was catering to the middle of the party.

Some people are going to have to get votes from the moderate wing of the party. Not everybody can vie for the left wing of the party, the progressive wing of the party.

MATTHEWS: Because there`s too many people doing it.

ELROD: Because there`s a lot of people doing it.

MATTHEWS: Right.

ELROD: And this is going to be one of those primaries, Chris, where 6 or 7 percent of the electorate supporting you could be a very big chunk of the - - of what primary voters are -- who they`re supporting.

MATTHEWS: Shermichael, you`re in this business. Apparently, there`s only a few people that can run national campaigns. And these people are announcing fairly soon because they`re grabbing those top talent.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, they`re grabbing the top talent. They`re also going to be grabbing donors. It`s extremely expensive. It`s a very complicated process.

And I think Democrats have to be very, very careful, though, because each of those candidates are going to have to figure out some kind of way to distinguish themselves from the next person. Remember when Republicans had 17 candidates. We had two different debates.

I mean, how do you have a debate stage with 22 different candidates? So while I think this is good to give people an opportunity to see who they want to ultimately choose, I think it can be a complicated process that may ultimately hurt some viable or some good candidates in the long run.

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, President Trump remains adamant that he may still declare a national emergency over his demand for border wall, and that he has every right to do so, absolute right, he keeps saying. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The law is very clear. I mean, we have the absolute right to declare a national emergency.

And this is security stuff. This is a national emergency, if you look at what`s happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, some Republicans out there are saying it would be a mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I don`t think he should do that. I think it`s a bad precedent. And it contravenes the power of the purse that comes from the elected representatives of the people.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: We are going down a road that I think erodes those clear lines of authorities between the three separate, but equal branches of government.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think that it is less powerful than winning this fight.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: I don`t want to see a declaration of national emergency. I think that`s an action that would be taken in the most extreme circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Don`t you sense there`s a usual suspects list now, if you`re a reporter, if you want somebody to take a shot at Trump?

PAGE: Yes, although field has gotten a little larger than it used to be of people who are willing to distance themselves from Trump, or say to President Trump...

MATTHEWS: Republicans, yes.

PAGE: Of Republicans saying, don`t do that.

I mean, I think the Republican fear is, if you let Trump do this now and support him, what are you going to do when you have got a Democratic president who wants to say climate change is a national...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about that clown down in Florida that says, the next thing they do, the Democrats will be doing something on transgender bathrooms or something?

I mean, what a reach.

ELROD: I mean, I don`t know. What do you want me to say on that, Chris?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if there`s anything to say about the guy. He`s a clown.

ELROD: Look, but I think what -- going back to what Susan just said, you are seeing a more expansive group of Republicans who are willing to criticize Donald Trump.

The fact that Newt Gingrich went on FOX News and said, I don`t think he should declare a national emergency on this -- Chuck Grassley, who has been one of his strongest allies.

These guys don`t want this to -- they don`t want to own this. They don`t want to own this -- this problem. And it will become a problem. But someone is telling Trump not to do this too who he listens to.

MATTHEWS: Jared Kushner.

ELROD: Maybe it`s Jared Kushner.

MATTHEWS: Shermichael.

SINGLETON: Well, Chris, I mean, look, I think it shows just how disconnected the president is from everyday people.

He doesn`t care about struggling people who live paycheck to paycheck. I was reading reports earlier today of one example of a federal worker who`s selling her car to pay her mortgage. What about federal workers who can`t afford to put gas in their car or pay their rent?

I mean, what do you tell your -- you`re a homeowner -- or the bank? What do you tell the person who owns -- your landlord who owns the apartment complex? I will pay you next month? I mean, that doesn`t work for people who are living in the real world. And it just goes to show you just how horrific this presidency has become.

And I think Donald Trump has honestly cemented himself as probably the worst president in American history.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a quote.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered what was billed a major foreign policy speech that was supposed to lay out the Trump administration`s vision for the Mideast.

Instead, what Secretary Pompeo did was repudiate Barack Obama`s foreign policy. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What do we learn from all of this? We learn that when America retreats, chaos often follows, and when we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with our enemies, they advance.

The good news -- the good news is this. The age of self-inflicted American shame is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: However, in that same speech, Pompeo announced the Trump administration`s own retreat of American forces from Syria, against allies` wishes, of course, while praising Saudi Arabia, whose government has been implicated in the murder and dismemberment, of course, of a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria. We always do. And now is the time.

Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries have generously contributed towards stabilization efforts. Saudi Arabia too has worked with us to counter Iranian expansion and regional influence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So what`s the Trump doctrine for the Mideast?

PAGE: Well, it`s, don`t worry about human rights. It that`s you can murder a journalist who works for an American news organization, and apparently pay no price with this administration.

MATTHEWS: Well, the Roundtable is going to stick with us.

And up next day, these three will Tell Me Something I Don`t Know.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL Roundtable.

Susan, Tell Me Something I Don`t Know.

PAGE: OK.

You know, the Senate race Republicans are worried about for 2020 is in Kansas, which has not elected a Republican -- a Democratic senator since 1932. And the one they`re trying to recruit to run, the GOP, Mike Pompeo.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I hear, the secretary of state.

PAGE: Yes, and the former Kansas congressman.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

ELROD: Fascinating.

MATTHEWS: Adrienne.

ELROD: We have been talking a little bit about the DNC debate process tonight. How are we going to handle this with 20-something -- potentially up to 20 candidates running?

The DNC has administered guidelines. They will be continuing to administer further guidelines on how the debate process will take place. And that`s also going to include grassroots fund-raising and polling to determine who gets into the debate.

MATTHEWS: Who gets in. They`re no longer looking at polls?

ELROD: Well, it will be grassroots fund-raising, and polling will be a factor as well.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SINGLETON: We have talked a lot about the economy. The economy is slowing down, particularly the housing market.

Michael Bright, who is the president of Ginnie Mae, which issues mortgage- backed bonds, abruptly resigned out of nowhere. So, it`s going to be very, very intriguing to see how that could impact the housing market going forward, potentially, as we think about the slowing of the economy overall.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Thank you very much, Susan Page. Thank you, Adrienne Elrod and Shermichael Singleton.

When we return, Let Me Finish Tonight with my prediction for the upcoming Democratic battle for 2020. Stick around.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let Me Finish tonight with a little fun. I think we can use it tonight, this 20th night of the government shutdown, this 20th night of a president slamming the door to his room, saying he won`t come out until he gets his way.

So I`m going to stick my neck out and do what I love doing, making predictions about politics.

I predict that this battle to take on Donald Trump in 2020 is going to start strong, with Elizabeth Warren winning the Iowa caucuses and winning again a week later in the New Hampshire primary. She will then be challenged by Kamala Harris in the South Carolina primary, and on again into Nevada and California on March 3.

Now, the big question is whether there`s a third candidate who can come in third or even fourth in these early contests and still have the money and political heft to challenge the two front-runners. Who is that person? Is it Barack Obama`s vice president, Joe Biden? Is it former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Is it Beto O`Rourke?

In other words, will this fight to take on Trump he decided fast or over time? Will it be an early win for a strong progressive, or will the Democratic voters take their time?

And what makes this contest so vital, so valuable to American history is that the 2020 election is so winnable for a Democrat, also so losable.

I can imagine every candidate now showing interest in the race beating Trump. I can imagine every one of them losing to Trump. But the odds are for the Democrats to win.

And that`s why this baby is going to be one of the great political contests of our lives.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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