Show: HARDBALL Date: January 15, 2019 Guest: Omarosa Manigault Newman, Ryan Costello, Derrick Johnson, Eric Swalwell, Betsy Woodruff, Stephen Sestanovich, Bill Maher
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump`s stuck. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
There`s a lot of news tonight get to. And in just a minute Bill Maher will join us with his take on the mess here in Washington.
President Trump having had to deny being a Russian agent, spent the day hunkered down at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue with what is now the longest government shutdown in American history with no end in sight.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, his nominee for attorney general Bill Barr told senators on judiciary committee he wouldn`t fire special counsel Robert Mueller without cause. But he also declined to promise to share Mueller`s report in full with Congress and the American public. The hearing comes just days after a bombshell "New York Times" report that the FBI had been scrutinizing where the President could be an agent of a hostile foreign power, Russia.
At the White House today, President Trump met with House Republicans to discuss the shutdown after a group of congressional Democrats rejected his invitation to even meet with him. To hear the President tell it, he spent a lot of time at the White House waiting for Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t actually left the White House in months. And I have been here virtually every night, I guess every night other than one day I flew to Iraq and then to Germany to see our troops. So I flew and then came back. I`m not even sure I missed a night per se. But basically I have been here for many months in the White House.
I didn`t even find it to be a lonely place. There is something very special about the White House. But I was here Christmas. I was here on New Year`s Eve.
I was here on Christmas evening. I was all by myself in the White House. It`s a big, big house, except for all the guys on the lawn with machine guns and I was in the White House all by myself for six/seven days. It`s very lonely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Anyway the "Associated Press" reports the President is baffled that he is not getting more credit for staying put. And while the "Washington Post" notes the President has been isolated in his residence in recent days and prone to flashes of frustration about his inability to get Democrats to buck.
I`m joined right by Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post."
How is it getting to him or isn`t that he has been accused by "New York Times," the paper of record and "Washington Post" in another way of being a Russian agent? How is he dealing with that?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Inside the White House, he is frustrated. Spoke to Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, Republican today at the capitol. He says the President is digging in more and more on his border wall on the shutdown. Under siege from not only the shutdown but the story about Russia, his interactions with President Putin and the FBI investigation.
MATTHEWS: What is that? Is there a cabin fever? And he reminds me of a kid who has been home on snow holiday for about two weeks. What`s he do?
COSTA: It`s more than a cabin fever. It`s about a dysfunction inside of its government, an inability to govern.
I was at the capitol talking to senators. They say they don`t see any way this President breaks. They think TSA agents have to maybe somehow walk out of their jobs to force the public to get furious and some bipartisan senators are trying to come up with a deal. There is not a lot of optimism because they know this President is isolated inside this White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, the sad joke here is that he started this whole shutdown because Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter said he had to. He is like, to make a little pun here, he is doing the Limbaugh. I mean, what -- it`s not like he had a strategy, was he? Did he know what he was doing when he shut down the government?
COSTA: He is watching the Barr hearings. He is watching the "New York Times`" story and "Washington Post" reporting all over cable TV about Russia. And he is saying to his advisors, I need my base with me in 2019. Whatever happens with the Mueller investigation, subpoenas flying with House Democrats, that is why he is really going to his base. It`s not just about the border wall but government and being all the problems that lie ahead.
MATTHEWS: I see of a face somebody like Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi came out there and she come out there as tough as any politically I have ever seen and said it`s an immorality to build that wall. She said unconditional surrender is basically what she said.
COSTA: The different dynamic of his generation. You don`t notice a nickname for speaker Pelosi from the President. He gives almost everybody else on the Democratic side a nickname. Not her. She is a powerful person in this new Washington. He still grapple without a handle.
MATTHEWS: Has he met his match?
COSTA: At this moment, she is not badging as much as he is not badging. She is not going to cave on his demand for a wall. She has her whole caucus with her.
MATTHEWS: I think he has met his match.
Thank you, Robert Costa.
As President Trump emerged yesterday from his weekend sequestered in the White House, he faced a Barrage of questions about that explosive "New York Times" report revealing the FBI had open an investigation to whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, yes or no, have you or are you now, have you ever worked for Russia?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never worked for Russia and you know that answer better than anybody. I never work for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russian, I think it`s a disgrace that you even asked that question because it`s a whole big fat hoax. It is just a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A big fat hoax.
I`m joined now by Bill Maher, host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO.
Bill, thank you. And we miss you and you are coming back and that`s great.
BILL MAHER, HBO HOST, REAL TIME: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: In the time you have been away and watching this massacre of democracy, this president has been asked whether he is a Russian agent now. You have to go back to the 1940, (INAUDIBLE), you know, Rosenberg. I mean, the idea that the president of the United States is accused by the paper of record of working for the bad guys.
MAHER: It`s about time. I have been using the word treason and traitor for the whole time he has been in office and every guest I have in the show has been saying I was an (INAUDIBLE) and I was overstating the case. I don`t hear that anymore. I hear those words used a lot more.
I mean, that`s what it is. What is it when you plainly are with the people who are not us? Didn`t we see that in Helsinki? Plainly, he was saying, given the choice I would go with President Putin. President Putin says he didn`t do it. I don`t know why he would?
Can you imagine if Bush, after 9/11 had stood on the rubble with the bull horn and said, well, bin Laden said he didn`t do it. I don`t know why he would have.
MATTHEWS: That`s what defense attorneys do. They defend their defendant.
MAHER: Yes. So.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that if you look at this as, just a citizen out there, they said the "New York Times" said the FBI, a bunch of bureaucrats, really, and they are not Democrats, investigated him because they thought his behavior matched that of an agent. He was doing things one after another, including firing Comey that seemed to be in the interest of one party, the Russians and Putin. Is there anything in between, between guilty as charged and innocent. Because some people have to say, well, maybe, there were some unwitting helping other Russians. I don`t understand theory. Yours?
MAHER: No, I think what you have to understand about him is that he is this political narcissist. I think every article about Donald Trump should begin President Trump who suffers from being a clinical narcissist and then go on with the story. Because there is no difference in his mind, his sick mind, between doing what is right for him and doing what is fright the country. I don`t think he thinks in terms of whether he is betraying anybody. There is no betraying. There is only what is right and good for Donald Trump.
So I don`t know how we get out of this except by getting him out of office. I mean, I wasn`t necessarily for impeachment until recently. But I think you have to go ahead and do it. I know it is pretty hard to convict. But if you don`t do it with him, where is the bar? And what sort of damage is he going to do for the next two years that he is there in this office?
I think the question for everybody is whose side are you on? Are you on the FBI`s side? I mean, he has got Republicans now attacking the FBI and all our institutions. Are you with Trump, this one man, this one sick man? Or are you with the FBI? Are you with the rule of law? Are you with Donald Trump? Are you with judges? Are you with everything that we have basically have built our country on? Or are you going to throw it away for this one guy?
I want to know what the Republicans, those enablers, the Lindsey Grahams are thinking? Why are you lying to cover up for this guy and you don`t even know what you are lying to cover up?
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a question. If you just step back 101 contacts between the Trump people going into the presidency, 101 with Russians, I had spend my life with pretty much getting around. And I haven`t met many Russian, maybe one or two by accident. These all these hundred Russians and I got nothing against people of Russia. But how many contacts can you have without somebody saying what`s up? Even the Republicans.
MAHER: Yes. And this is just what we know he does plainly, what he does in public, what he does in front of the cameras. I mean his defense seems to be I was only giving orders. What we are going to find out in the Mueller report, I have no idea but it is going to be more of the same. It is going to be more of look, it`s not that complicated. At some point he couldn`t borrow money from anybody else so he got it from the Russians. Cut to the hookers and the hotel room.
I mean, that what this whole thing is about. He is into them. I don`t know whether if it was witting or unwitting. And I say, when you are a narcissist like him, it doesn`t really matter. He doesn`t think that far ahead. He just thinks - he doesn`t think. He just says -- this is what I wish people would start understanding. He just says at any given moment what he wishes the reality was. I make Kim give up his -- yes?
MATTHEWS: Well, here is the new reality. Ted Koppel today in the "Washington Post" wrote a beautifully written article saying watch out when this guy is out of office, whether the voters kick him out in 2020 or the Mueller report leads him to be impeached and convicted. Either way he is going to be out there.
I just look in his latest number. Trump is up at 41. Thirty-three percent are those behind him. That`s a-third of the country is strongly behind him. You think he is going to go - you suggested he may not leave?
MAHER: Yes. I have always said that. He is going to go when he wants to go. I don`t think -- he was saying in the last election that it`s rigged, except that he won and then it wasn`t rigged. But if he loses, he has already planted the seed with his people that the whole thing is rigged. That they are all against him.
You know, if you can`t trust the FBI and the justice department and the rule of law and the judges, well then, obviously an election can be faked. So if everything is fake news and everything is rigged, when he loses the election, they are not going to accept that. That`s what he knows. He has that army in the street. That`s what dictators want more than anything else.
They don`t care about the rule of law. They care about the street. The gutter-head come to power and (INAUDIBLE) about Hitler. That`s what this is.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about permanent damage. You know, you and I have read the papers. We keep up with countries that -- like the Congo, what`s going on in Zimbabwe. Poor countries that have just began experimenting democracy, to get tribal differences. And every time a guy loses, they claim it was stolen. And every time they win, they try to arrest the guy they beat.
It is like Trump is like that. Lock her up, was his -- what his -- what do you call it? His jingle for the last couple years. I mean, arrest Hillary Clinton as a joke. And when doesn`t like somebody, as you say, if he had lost the election in the Electoral College, he would have said it was stolen. He is teaching a good portion of the American people not to trust any objective fact including numbers in election.
MAHER: Well with, that`s how all dictators do it. They have to destroy truth first because if people reads the paper, if people knew it was going on, then obviously they would be upset but they don`t and they especially don`t hear it inside the FOX News bubble.
MAHER: So what you have is someone who can tell you what the truth is. They believe him more than what they believe in the "New York Times`" because they don`t read the "New York Times."
MATTHEWS: I know.
MAHER: So you are left with a situation where there is no truth where you are just going to pick sides and that`s where we have. That`s what where have this terrible lack of bipartisanship. Forget about getting anything done in the country. We are just sort of fighting for our life now as a country.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this Steven King thing today? I`m not talking about the novelist? The guy who writes the scariest stories. This guy from Iowa, finally, he has been pushing the envelope for years like (INAUDIBLE) used to do it. Now he is doing it. They finally today passed a resolution in the U.S. Congress saying this is awful. We don`t believe in white supremacy. They are making it official.
MAHER: I mean look where the bar is, Chris. That we are cheering the Republicans because they say they don`t believe in white supremacy. This is how far down we have gone. This is where they draw the line. I`m glad they drew the line somewhere because I`m beginning to wonder if they would ever draw a line.
But again the question we always have to ask is what will the Republicans put up with? That`s what it comes down to. Obviously, most of the country thinks that Donald Trump is a dangerous menace. So you are either on that page or you are pro-dangerous menace. And if the Republicans are going to go down this road where they are going to defend him, even when he is taking down the FBI, the justice department, those institutions, those pillars of our society, then I don`t know where we are going to go. We are going to go someplace that isn`t America anymore.
MATTHEWS: Who can rebuild the country of all the candidates you are looking at? Are you ready to look at it and then you see something there that might lead to a truly great presidency coming up with all these 30 people talking about running in 2020?
MAHER: Well, any presidency would be better. I`m glad we are having a big field because I want the Democrats to find the best candidate available. I want them to go through a rigorous primary process. I think most people are saying that on the left. And that`s a good thing.
MAHER: So I don`t know about all these people, you know. People are asking me all the time. What do you think of Beto? I don`t know, you know. It`s like a band. I just heard the one song so far. I want to hear more, but I really don`t know a lot of their stuff. And that`s true with a lot of these people. And we are going to find out and that`s what`s good. Because I want the most talented politician to emerge. We all want that. We want someone who can beat Donald Trump. That`s the most important thing. So we will find out who that is and I like a lot of the people I see so far.
MATTHEWS: You`re a smart guy, Bill Maher. Thank you so much. I can`t stop laughing on your show. But when you are here, you are so dam smart.
Thank you, Bill Maher. Good luck with the show, season 17.
MAHER: Well, thank you. OK.
MATTHEWS: Seventeen, talk about maturity. "Real Time" premieres this Friday at 10:00 eastern on HBO. And Bill way back at the mirage (ph) in L.A. - in Las Vegas, actually, starting February 15th. I have seen you in person too.
Coming up, the fate of the Mueller investigation will rest in the hands of one man, William Barr. And today he faced tough questions at his confirmation hearing. Would he resign if Trump ask him to fire Mueller or he recuse himself for the probe itself?
And the one question everyone`s asking right now. Will the Mueller report ever see the light of day? That`s up to Bill. That`s up to Bill Barr, not Maher. That`s coming up next.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The man who will decide the fate of the special counsel`s probe faced lawmakers on Capitol Hill today. And amid questions of whether Robert Mueller`s findings will ever be shared fully with the Congress or the American public.
And throughout his confirmation hearing today, Trump`s nominee for attorney general William Barr said he would allow Mueller to finish his investigation. But he also went further and answered questions or assured lawmakers that if confirmed, he would not obey an order from the President to fire Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: When directed by President Nixon to fire the special counsel, the prosecutor investigating Watergate, Richardson refused and resigned instead as we all well know. If the President directed you to change those regulations and then fire Mueller or simply directly fired Mueller, would you follow Richardson`s example and resign instead?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Assuming there was no good cause?
COONS: Assuming no good cause.
BARR: I would not carry out that instruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, however, Barr would not commit to releasing Mueller`s report itself, even though he repeatedly vowed to be as transparent as possible.
Instead, he said he`d release his own summary -- his own, William Barr`s summary -- of Mueller`s report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Under the current regulations, the special counsel report is confidential.
BARR: The report that goes public would be a report by the attorney general.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: I`m hearing you saying that, in spite of the fact that you want to be transparent, neither Congress, nor public will get the Mueller report, because that`s confidential.
So, what we will be getting is your report of the Mueller report. Is that what you`re telling us?
BARR: I don`t know what -- what -- at the end of the day, what will be releasable. I don`t know what Bob Mueller is writing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In a memo to the Justice Department last spring, William Barr, him, criticized the obstruction side of the Mueller probe, calling it fatally misconceived.
Well, Barr has acknowledged that he shared that moment with Trump`s defense lawyers at the time.
Yet, today, Barr said that he will not accept the recommendation of ethics officials at the department on whether to recuse himself from overseeing the Russian probe, giving every indication that he will supervise Mueller if he gets confirmed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Let`s imagine it`s a judgment call, and the judgment by the career ethics officials in the agency are that you recuse yourself. Under what scenario would you not follow their recommendation?
BARR: If I disagreed with it.
HARRIS: And what would the basis of that disagreement be?
BARR: I came to a different judgment.
HARRIS: On what basis?
BARR: The facts.
HARRIS: Such as?
BARR: Such as whatever facts are relevant to the recusal.
HARRIS: What do you imagine the facts would be that are relevant to the recusal?
BARR: They could be innumerable. It`s a judgment call. And the attorney general is the person who makes the judgment. And that`s what the job entails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. And Betsy Woodruff is politics reporter with The Daily Beast.
Let me go with the congressman first.
A lot of wiggle room there, first of all, whether he recuses himself or not. It sounds like he`s not going to do it, no matter what this ethics board at the Justice Department has to say on the matter.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Too much wiggle room.
And, Chris, he`s not going to recuse himself. He saw what happened to the last person who recused himself. That`s why Congress should do all it can to take power away from the attorney general when it comes to Bob Mueller and just pass legislation protecting Mueller.
But if you take a step back, there is no shortage of lawyers in America. There`s no shortage of conservative lawyers in America. Can`t we find one who didn`t meet with Donald Trump to potentially join the defense team against Mueller? And can`t we find one who didn`t send an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department about the legitimacy of the Mueller probe?
Chris, he had some answers today that made me feel better, but his past actions and the president`s intent here has me very concerned.
MATTHEWS: Well, don`t you think you have to get somebody elected president before you can get that done?
I mean, what this guy Barr made clear today is, the president of the United States is the president of the United States, he`s the attorney general. He decides whether to recuse himself or not. He decides whether to release the Robert Mueller report or not in its full -- fullness.
I mean, wasn`t it pretty clear today he was saying, we have got the power, we have got the presidency, the attorney general`s office, that`s the way it is?
MATTHEWS: That`s what I got from him today. Didn`t you?
And I don`t trust Mr. Barr or the president`s team with that power. They have proven that they`re unworthy of it because of their poor judgment throughout this investigation.
And, again, going back to whether this report should be released or not, Chris, if the president had nothing to hide, he would just say: Read every single word of the Mueller report, American people. I don`t have anything to hide.
Only somebody who had something to hide would even consider concealing the report`s findings from the American people.
MATTHEWS: Do you think -- we just had Bill Maher on. I know he`s a comic by profession, but he`s one smart analyst.
SWALWELL: Smart guy, yes.
MATTHEWS: And you have been on the show.
And he said today he doesn`t have any reason to believe that Donald Trump will leave the presidency, will leave physically the White House, if he`s not reelected. Or if he`s impeached and convicted, he`s not convinced that this president would abide by the Constitution.
What`s your view?
SWALWELL: There`s no way.
He is a fighter through and through. That is one trait that I will give him credit for. I think he thinks he`s above the law, and he would never leave, which is the problem here.
But we have to either impeach him in the Congress or impeach him at the ballot box. But he`s not going out on his -- he`s not going out on his own.
MATTHEWS: Betsy, the same question is to you.
I mean, it seems to me that William Barr created the headlines in tomorrow`s papers already. He basically said, you know what? I will decide how much of the report to report, and I will put it my report, or I won`t. I will decide whether to recuse myself. Oh, by the way, I`m not going to recuse myself.
I mean, he pretty much told the tough liberals and progressives on that committee, like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, I`m the boss.
BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: And I can tell you, the president`s legal team has had conversations about how they anticipate Bill Barr handling any potential future report from Mueller`s team.
One of the key questions for the president`s lawyers -- and they haven`t seen the report -- Mueller hasn`t finished it yet -- but one of the key questions for them is whether Mueller will include material in that report based on what White House staff told Mueller about their conversations with the president.
That could be vital material to assessing whether Trump could have obstructed justice. However, if that material is in there, we can expect the president`s lawyers to claim that it`s covered by executive privilege.
MATTHEWS: Who makes the call on that?
WOODRUFF: Ultimately, Bill Barr is the one who is going to decide.
And then, like, let`s say Bill Barr says, I believe this material is covered by executive privilege, and he gives a redacted version or an edited version of the report to the Hill. Then it`s all but guaranteed that one of the members of Congress, likely Congressman Nadler, who heads the House Judiciary Committee, will sue.
He will issue a subpoena and sue to enforce the subpoena. And then it would be determined by the federal courts, which could take quite a long time.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, do you have the confidence that, under the Constitution, the U.S. Congress, now controlled by Democrats in the House of Representatives, has the power to subpoena the full Mueller report when it comes out?
And I believe the U.S. v. Nixon ruling shows that, that the president cannot rely on executive privilege to shield himself from criminal liability or any conversations directing people to commit criminal acts.
We`re going to get it. It`s just a matter of how soon.
MATTHEWS: Do you see it as the same situation? In other words, the president is basically a defendant in a criminal investigation?
SWALWELL: Yes, I do, Chris.
And, again, I believe that, if he had nothing to hide, he would not block the report from being released. He would not refuse to sit down with Mueller, as Mueller seeks to again get more answers from him, and he would not pick an attorney general who has tried to already audition for the job by sending this unsolicited memo.
He is acting at every step like somebody who wanted to work with the Russians and who has betrayed our country and put them first every single time.
MATTHEWS: Betsy, one thing we know -- and you`re a student of this president, as well as we all try to be, and not exactly happy students, but students -- he was watching every -- every moment today, every nanosecond of that hearing, sitting up there somewhere in the White House, studying all the channels, watching all the networks, FOX and everybody, how they`re covering it.
But, basically, it`s the same reality. He`s got a guy up there who`s saying things like, I won`t fire the guy except for cause.
He must be miserable, because he thought he got another toady up there.
WOODRUFF: One of the challenges, I think, with making sense of and parsing Mr. Barr`s testimony is that he`s very smart. He`s a talented lawyer.
MATTHEWS: He is. He`s a real Washington pro.
WOODRUFF: He`s really sophisticated. He understands Washington. And this isn`t his first rodeo. He`s been through the congressional confirmation process before.
And what we`re seeing is very much testimony that is Barr doing what any nominee would do, which is trying to make it easy for senators to vote him.
But, at the same time, we know he had conversations with the president about his legal challenges. We know the president all but certainly asked him about recusal, asked him about the Mueller probe. We can confidently surmise that those conversations happened, and that they didn`t necessarily sound a whole lot like what Barr sounds like yesterday and like what he will sound like tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Boy, did he look today like a Washington -- Congressman, he looks like a Washington mandarin, a guy used to sharing -- serving power, being in the midst of power, being surrounded by it, and loving it.
Anyway, Betsy, you`re reporting...
SWALWELL: And we need someone who`s going to stand up to power. That that`s what we need at this moment in our country`s history.
MATTHEWS: Like you.
Anyway, back to Betsy.
You`re reporting in The Daily Beast right now that the special counsel`s office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan are scrutinizing a meeting involving former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, the one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and dozens of foreign officials.
Why would the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee be sitting in a group of politicians right before, two days before the inauguration?
WOODRUFF: He hosted a breakfast, along with Michael Flynn, who was poised to become national security adviser. And they invited a host of foreign dignitaries, as well as a number of wealthy people, wealthy donors.
WOODRUFF: It was -- these kinds of breakfasts are not, in and of themselves, unusual.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but this is a guy who did the midnight ride to come back with something he was going to give to the White House in the first place that he got from the White House.
WOODRUFF: This happened before. This happened before that.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
WOODRUFF: This happened before Trump was in power.
And the reason that Mueller is looking at it, that he`s asked Flynn himself about this meeting, is because one of the big questions of the Mueller probe is, did foreign money move through intermediaries to the president`s inaugural committee?
And that`s part of the question that Mueller is trying to answer by looking at this breakfast.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, Nunes could end up being a witness.
WOODRUFF: I don`t want to speculate too far. But he certainly is someone who`s on the special counsel`s radar.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, let me ask you about this development over the weekend. It`s a stunning thing to hear the president of the United States have to defend himself in saying, I`m not an agent of the Russians.
We used to call them the Soviet Union. They`re not the Soviet Union, but they are still the enemy in many ways.
What does it make to you, as an American, to hear the president of the United States saying, I am not an agent of Russia?
SWALWELL: Yes, I am not a crook, right? We have heard that before as well. And it took him two days to say he wasn`t, after so much bad coverage.
But where I come from, when you act on behalf of the Russians, when you encourage them to hack after it`s revealed that they`re hacking, when you take all the meetings that they offer, when you meet with their leader in secret, and then you take the notes from the one witness who has a record, and then you act again to take away sanctions, pull us out of Syria, you are working for the Russians.
And I don`t even think it`s unwittingly. I think he knows exactly what he`s doing.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much guys, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell and Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast.
Up next: fresh reporting today that Donald Trump has repeatedly discussed giving Vladimir Putin what he desires most of all, an American withdrawal from NATO and the virtual destruction of the military alliance built to keep Russia from grabbing Western Europe.
This is frightening.
And this is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This past weekend, we learned that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Trump was in fact working on Russia`s behalf. We also learned that the president was actively concealing details of his interactions with Vladimir Putin from his own government.
And, today, in a new astounding report, "The New York Times" has reported that the president has repeatedly said he was in favor of U.S. withdrawal from NATO, the North Atlanta Treaty Organization, a move Russia would love.
Well, senior administration officials told "The New York Times" that President Trump told national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance.
President Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the European Union, for example, is not paying its fair share. NATO was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
For more, I`m joined by Malcolm Nance, author of "The Plot to Destroy Democracy," and Stephen Sestanovich, former ambassador at large for the former Soviet Union -- to the former Soviet yet, not for.
Anyway, we will get back in a minute to the professor.
Malcolm, I don`t know what you want more than this one. The one thing the Russians, going back to Stalin`s days, when they created the Warsaw Pact to try to counter it, was the majestic success of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, probably the most successful alliance certainly since World War II.
It kept them from moving westward at the time they were really on the march, the Red Army. It protected the West. It prevented a third world war. And they had a form the Warsaw Pact to counter it. And the Russians are still worried about whether Poland and Hungary and the Baltic states are going to come at them because of the NATO agreement.
What do you make of Trump saying, I want to get rid of NATO? Is he working for the Ruskies?
MALCOLM NANCE, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well...
NANCE: I have been projecting that for about two years now, that Donald Trump is a wholly owned subsidiary of Moscow.
I mean, he has been working within Moscow`s framing of the world at least since 2012. And we know that through his tweets. He does not fundamentally understand any history, certainly not the history of the Soviet Union, although he`s had this fascination with going to Russia since 1987.
But he`s been on the KGB`s optics since 1983, when Czech intelligence was carrying out reports about his first wife and reporting in on Donald Trump`s movements for a decade or more.
So, that being said, he doesn`t fundamentally understand what NATO is. But he does understand that his base -- that being Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchy -- have talked to him about it. And he has adopted their position.
That it would destroy 74 years of U.S. building, of stability within Central Europe, that doesn`t matter to him. When he was at the NATO summit last year, he didn`t even seem to understand that it was a military alliance, but he thought it was a trade alliance.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the professor.
Mr. -- Professor Sestanovich, what do you make of this? Is this just an accidental coincidence that everything he does seems to be for Putin?
STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE: There is a funny affinity between these guys that we don`t really understand.
MATTHEWS: What`s Putin ever do for him?
SESTANOVICH: The one -- the one thing you would need to add to what Malcolm has said...
SESTANOVICH: ... is that this is Donald Trump`s whole world view. It`s not just his view of dealing with Putin.
He has made no secret of not liking NATO. But he`s not a clubbable guy in general. He doesn`t believe in belonging to things, to cooperate, for increased security. He`s a guy who likes to pull out of things.
SESTANOVICH: The Iran deal, NAFTA, TPP, climate change agreements, you name it, Donald Trump is a guy who wants to pull out.
And he has obviously seen that there`s a lot of vexing that he can do of his all advisers by saying this.
MATTHEWS: But the only club he likes is Mar-a-Lago.
SESTANOVICH: Where he owns it, yes.
He doesn`t like to go to clubs where there are other co-equal members. And so that is something that is deep in his political DNA.
MATTHEWS: How can you have grown up in the U.S. -- he`s about my age.
How can you grow up here, in the post-World War II period, the `40s -- not the `40s -- the `50s, `60s, `70s, like he did, and not be aware of the role that NATO`s played in our collective defense? And it`s a good thing.
MATTHEWS: And the Russians hate it.
SESTANOVICH: Look, he`s -- he isn`t just saying he disagrees with Harry Truman about NATO.
Thinking that NATO hurts us puts him on Joseph Stalin`s side, as well as Vladimir Putin`s side.
What do you make of this FBI report that -- I want to get back to Malcolm - - this FBI report that said, basically, he`s working as an agent? They thought he was enough to begin an investigation by the bureaucrats in the FBI, not the Democrats, to find out if this guy`s behavior, which seems to match up with someone who was working for Moscow, is in fact an agent?
What do you make of that?
SESTANOVICH: Well, I think they started with the activity that the Russians were...
MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s right. They were studying the Russians.
SESTANOVICH: ... were undertaking here.
They were looking at what the Russians were doing. And then they started discovering that all of the people that the Russians were reaching out to, so many of them were affiliated with the Trump campaign.
So, you know, they began moving up the ladder to discover where the direction for this was coming from, not a really big surprise
MATTHEWS: Well, it is not a big, but it is a horror story.
Thank you, Malcolm Nance, sir. And thank you, Steve Sestanovich.
And up next, it looks like Iowa congressman Steve King, finally went too far with his divisive rhetoric and this time his colleagues in the House, including the Republicans, came down on him hard, as they should.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
U.S. Congressman Steve King of Iowa has faced increasing criticism, of course, from both sides of the aisle following his interview with the "New York Times" where he questioned why the term "white supremacist" was seen as offensive.
And today, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution publicly disproving of his remarks. This comes a day after the Republicans stripped the long- time Iowa congressman of all of his committee assignments. He`s got nothing to do on the Hill now.
King has tried to walk back his comments, saying they were mischaracterized and even voted in favor of today`s resolution to reject white supremacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I`ve carefully studied every word in this resolution and even though I`d add some more that are stronger language, I agree with the language in it. So, I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let`s vote for this resolution. I`m putting up a yes on the board here because what you say is right and it`s true and it`s just.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. But Congressman King has a history of racist comments. Here they go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: For everyone who`s a valedictorian, there`s another hundred out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn`t kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.
It does a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I`d ask you it to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people you`re talking about. Where did other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A subgroup of people.
For more, I`m joined by the HARDBALL roundtable, Omarosa Manigault Newman, author of "Unhinged: An Insider`s Account of the Trump White House", Ryan Costello, a recent U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania, and Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.
Derrick, you first, you got the job. What`s this mean? This action by the House today?
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT & CEO OF THE NAACP: Well, finally, they`ve taken action against someone they`ve known for a long time to have these views. It will be interesting to see what type of action they`ll take on the White House and a president who also shares some of these views in this administration.
The Republican Party may be getting a message from October -- I mean, November`s election, that this country`s a diverse country. The outcomes of that election show a much more diverse, Democratic electorate. And as a result of that, hopefully, they understand they must stand up and speak out against this type of --
MATTHEWS: You`re saying this is basically self protection by the Republicans.
JOHNSON: You know, I can`t get in their minds, right? Here`s a group of individuals who still support a president that`s using racial overtures to justify shutting down the government.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, you worked with this guy, you knew hum, you had dinner with him, lunch with him, breakfast with him.
FORMER REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don`t know that I -- Mitch McConnell came out strong. Lynn Cheney came out strong.
MATTHEWS: Wasn`t Tim Scott the key guy?
COSTELLO: I -- well, I think Kevin McCarthy was.
COSTELLO: Sure, but, look -- yes, but at the same point in time being stripped of all your committee slots is a big, big deal. And having the conference chairwoman, Lynn Cheney, say that he should find another line of work is -- that`s a strong, clear rebuke.
MATTHEWS: They took away agriculture from western Iowa. That probably means something.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, AUTHOR, "UNHINGED: AN INSIDER`S ACCOUNT OF THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE": Yes, but this is a case of too little too late. I mean, he has a long documented history.
MATTHEWS: Trump likes this guy.
NEWMAN: Yes, he raised -- I think he bragged about raising more money for King than anyone else, because he embraced this whole theology that King is pushing out. The Republican Party cannot separate themselves --
MATTHEWS: That ain`t Trump. To the extent, they have ideology, I don`t think there`s much ideology.
MATTHEWS: -- white nationalist or not. I`m curious. It`s nationalist, some people say white nationalist, like some African --
NEWMAN: Well, absolutely. If you remember the comments where Trump said, I`m a nationalist and he bragged about it, and everybody reacted because we all know the long history that is attached to being a white nationalist and being the supremacist that they`ve embraced.
MATTHEWS: So, you think David Duke?
NEWMAN: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Derrick, what do you think of that term nationalist?
JOHNSON: It`s a racist term. It`s just like someone from the South talking about states rights. These are call words, buzz words for white supremacy, and being a resident of Mississippi, I can hear very clearly like most African Americans in this country.
But I do want to say, we should commend Senator Tim Scott. He stepped up last week and wrote the article. He stepped up and voted against Farr, he stepped up and voted against another fellow nominee because he understands his legacy will be tied to this political party and he`s made good decision he didn`t want to be connected to racism.
MATTHEWS: Good for him.
Anyway, meanwhile, President Trump has been cooped up in the White House for the past four weeks. He`s only ventured a handful of times as the government shutdown drags on. According to "The New York Times", quote, when not at work in the Oval Office, he has frittered away the hours by watching the multi flat screen TVs installed in the White House residence, that`s upstairs, gazing at secured windows, this is the weird part, gazing -- it sounds like a novel -- gazing out secured windows, tweeting at his enemies and phoning his pals.
Trump has repeatedly told reporters he missed out on travel to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. Well, boohoo.
Ryan, what do you make of this thing? I mean, it`s almost like "Home Alone."
COSTELLO: I send my son to his room last night for punishment for five months, and the way that reads, it`s almost like he was being punished.
MATTHEWS: Yes, go to your room. You know this guy personally. I know, what do you make of Trump alone in the White House? What`s he do?
NEWMAN: You know, he sits there and gets more and more irritable, and the more irritable, the more erratic he gets, and the more isolated he gets, that`s when you start seeing this --
MATTHEWS: What`s he do? Does he get on the phone and say, send me up a club sandwich? What does he do when he`s angry? What does he do? Does he pound the table?
NEWMAN: He likes to call people to enforce that he`s right in the situation, even he sees the data that says that he`s wrong, particularly on the shutdown in this case. He`s watching coverage that`s showing Americans disprove of this.
So, he`ll call people who say, no, you`re fine. What you`re doing is good. Hold your ground. I mean, he`s losing his mind. He can`t go to Mar-a- Lago, he can`t go to Westminster. He can`t go to be able to eat.
MATHEWS: On Sunday night, he was doing the Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh says, you got to have the wall, you`re dead meat, and he says, OK. This is pathetic. Rush Limbaugh calling the shots.
NEWMAN: Ann Coulter.
JOHNSON: But it`s not about him. It`s about 800,000 federal workers who now have missed a paycheck. I came through the airport this morning and I thanked the TSA agents.
MATTHEWS: How was their mood?
JOHNSON: You know, first, I said, hi, how are you doing? I hope everything is OK. He said, you know, it`s a struggle. You know, can you imagine? So many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
MATTHEWS: They`re not making a lot of money, those people.
JOHNSON: And they have missed a first paycheck after a holiday. That`s unfortunate, it`s unfair and selfish of an individual who calls himself president.
MATTHEWS: Don`t you worry about the air traffic controllers, Ryan? Do you get stressed out?
COSTELLO: I worry about a lot, the FAA, air traffic controllers. I have to say this, though, I think the invitation for House Democrats to go to the White House today and then not taking him up on that was a mistake for the Democrats.
NEWMAN: That was photo op.
COSTELLO: It may have been, but you got to play that out.
JOHNSON: I mean, how many times do you go to the White House for a photo- op, nothing happened, and he slams his hand on the desk and walks out. It`s a waste of time.
COSTELLO: Voters are savvy. Voters are savvy. They would have saw (ph) through this.
MATTHEWS: They want to see them talking.
Anyway, thank you, Omarosa Manigault Newman. I`m sorry, it doesn`t have the right rhythm. Thank you.
NEWMAN: My husband is going to get you.
MATTHEWS: But it`s right, you honor your husband`s name and your name and everything.
Anyway, Ryan Costello, and, Derrick (INAUDIBLE) --
JOHNSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, great organization, NAACP. It`s one of the great ones.
Up next, another Democratic candidate has announced they`re running in 2020. We`re going to have announcement coming up next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Big 2020 news. Late today, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced she`s throwing her hat in the presidential ring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Do you have anything you`d like to announce?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Yes.
COLBERT: And what would that be, madam?
GILLIBRAND: I`m filing an exploratory committee for the president of the United States tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a question about the future.
In countries less committed to democracy than ours, you can count on the winner of an election screaming that the loser be arrested, and while the loser screams the election was rigged. Well, this is the language and mentality that Donald Trump has brought to American politics in the 21st century, a language and mentality that denies objective fact, including the fact of who won or lost an election.
Ted Koppel, the great broadcast journalist, wrote a frightening article in today`s "Washington Post" on what a former President Donald Trump might do if told to leave the White House, either by the Congress or the voter. Koppel writes that Trump even in it defeat could remain powerful and he has a point.
A new Quinnipiac poll out today has Trump`s approval rating at 41 percent, up a bit since the government shutdown began. Thirty-three percent are strongly approving of him. Well, Trump`s numbers haven`t really changed since 2016. What if he decides to form a third party after his presidency, liked Teddy Roosevelt did in 1912? What if he decides to lead a new lost cause like we saw in the South? What if he declares the election results are fake news and refuses to budge? Who knows? Do you?
That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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