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Bipartisan call to re-open government. TRANSCRIPT: 1/16/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Joaquin Castro, James Clyburn, John Brabender, Neera Tanden, Philip Rucker

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Not in my house.  Let`s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

House speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking the pain of the government shutdown directly to President Trump.  Just one week after Trump accused the speaker of wasting his time in negotiations to end the shutdown, today the speaker suggest that he the President find another time for his state of the union address. 

Pelosi took it the extraordinary step of urging him to postpone the address schedule for Tuesday, January 29th, citing security concerns.  It`s the latest body blow from his most formidable foe as the President finds himself already under a cloud of questions about his relations with Russia including suspicions he is a Russian agent. 

In a letter to the president, Pelosi wrote unless government reopens this week I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after the government has reopened for this address or will you consider delivering your state of the union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th.  Pelosi noted that that department of homeland security and secret service are hamstrung by the ongoing shutdown and suggested he could find another primetime venue. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  This requires hundreds of people working on the logistics and the security of.  Most of those people are either furloughed or victims of the President`s shutdown.  But that isn`t the point.  The point is security.  You do it from the oval office. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the White House has not yet responded to Pelosi`s power play.  But homeland security secretary Kirsten Nielsen tweeted that DHS and the secret service are fully prepared to support and secure the state of the union. 

Well, ultimately, it is up to the Congress where the President is invited to the joint session.  And with no end to the standup insight, the President still signaling he is not backing down. 

The "Associated Press" reports that in a conference call yesterday President Trump told supporters we are going to stay out for a long time if we have to.  We will be out for a long time. 

He went on to dad, people are very impressed with of how well government is working with the circumstances that they are under.  Despite the president`s proclamation, his administration is now calling 50,000 furloughed workers back to work to fulfill key government tasks without pay. 

The AP also notes that his own chief economic advisor Kevin Hassett quote "told reporters the White House is doubling its estimate of the strain on the economy of the shutdown." 

The "Wall Street Journal" reports even his own advisers, the President`s advisers are concerned he is not internalizing the effects of the shutdown writing, some senior officials have been aiming to make clear to the president that this isn`t just a messaging war anymore.  And he is quote "playing with live ammunition,` meaning the American economy. 

I`m joined now by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," Donna Brazile, former DNC chair, Charlie Sykes, editor in-chief of "the Bullwork" and an MSNBC contributor.  Thank you. 

Susan, we all know Nancy Pelosi.  One of the sharpest political minds we have seen in a long time.  Toughest speaker forever I think.  This move, she is now going to the President of the United States and saying OK.  Game of chicken.  You are not invited right now.  He, at least not formally invited yet to come and give come your state of the union. 



PAGE:  Because this is so confrontational.  And Donald Trump thinks that this is -- that Nancy Pelosi is going to buckle or that her troops are going to dessert her, he is wrong.  She has been in this position because she has been speaker against a Republican president, before George W. Bush.  As George W. Bush learned, Nancy Pelosi is strategic and disciplined and speaks precisely, means what she says and this is different from his experience of the last two years. 

MATTHEWS:  I wonder what - Donna, go ahead.  Because I think the funny thing now is that Trump who always has this quick impulsive reactor.  He is a great reactor.  He is tongue-tied.  Here it is 7:00 on the night that she made this basically declaration of war.  You are not coming there give a state of the union and he has not been able to respond. 

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN:  Because there is a lot of truth in what she put in writing.  First of all, these -- the men and women of the secret service, like many of the other men and women of the federal government, they are under a lot of stress and they are not getting paid.  They are protecting the President of the United States plus all the other things we know the secret service is responsible for.  What she is saying - -. 

MATTHEWS:  You see the smile on my face? 

BRAZILE:  Well, you know. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m listening to this.  It is flackery (ph). 


MATTHEWS:  Can you tell me this is a political power play here that it is something to do with security?  I mean, I understand why she would mask it as security.  Isn`t she just punched the guy in the nose and say look, you are not going to have to dance there and give a fancy speech to trash us in our own territory, right?  I`m going to make you not do it. 

BRAZILE:  But Chris, you know, because you are --. 

MATTHEWS:  But you are smiling now. 


BRAZILE:  Yes, it is.  It`s a security.  I have been up there on Capitol Hill as a Hill staff.  I have watched the preparation (INAUDIBLE) major address to the country.  They are responsible. 

MATTHEWS:  The secret service, let`s say can do this. 

BRAZILE:  They are responsible - no.  Bennie Thompson who is a chair of the homeland security, he understands the security threat for a state of the union.  He also understands the magnitude of a bringing people in.  They just called in -- I just noticed that they are bringing in people to the agriculture department.  She made this was the right move to make.  If the President would like to put it in writing, I`m sure that many of your fact checkers will get an opportunity to look at it before it`s delivered.  But this was a shrewd move.  It was the right thing to do. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree. 

BRAZILE:  And hopefully, Mfr. Trump --. 

MATTHEWS:  It wasn`t politics. 

BRAZILE:  Of course everything --

MATTHEWS:  The second highest ranking Republican in the House blasted speaker Pelosi for essentially uninviting the President to give his state of the union.  Minority Steve Scalise of Louisiana told reporters, she is in fear of the truth coming out about what the President wants to do to secure the border.  Adding, I would encourage the President to still come.  We will find a place for him to speak. 

Charlie, I don`t know.  There`s only one joint session of Congress.  It`s a situation, an occasion when the Congress by resolution of both houses, the House and Senate, invite the Presidents to come up and give his state of the union.  That`s what it is.  He could go to hop and dub (ph) the street.  He can go anywhere to (INAUDIBLE). 


MATTHEWS:  -- for the guy who is coming in at 9:00 in the morning for their first drinks. 


CHARLIE SYKES, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD:  We need a partisan flackery from both sides here in all of this because, no, this is not about security.  Yes, it`s a very, very aggressive and it is very shrewd move by Nancy Pelosi to escalate in this particular way. 

And at least point the finger at the fact that, look, you have members of the coast guard, the border patrol, you know, the border patrol, the secret service who are not being paid, TSA not being paid.  This is border security.  Donald Trump has found himself trapped in the corner of his own making.  He is basically given himself no exit.  And I`m guessing that the greatest fear that he has is what happens if the TSA agents --

MATTHEWS:  I worry about an airplane crash. 

SYKES:  Well, exactly.  What if government employees who just got that zero, zero, zero check, said, you know, I`m just not doing this.  I am not working for no pay.  That is the kind of thing that is going to force action in some way in a way that the political dynamic is not right now. 

MATTHEWS:  On this dare term question, this game of chicken, if you will, will the President get formally invited to give the state of the union.  That`s up to speaker Pelosi.  That`s up to her. 

PAGE:  Not from the government shutdown. 

MATTHEWS:  You have a sense that he sends somebody to talk with her and they try to sweet talk her into, OK, you better address this --

BRAZILE:  That`s not going to work.  She loves dark chocolate but that`s not going to work.  His best --. 

MATTHEWS:  So she is not going toing invite him? 


PAGE:  Not with the government check.  And I think that`s the deal.  It`s just not safe until the government --. 

SYKES:  But you know what?  No one is going to miss the state of the union.  I mean --. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no. 

SYKES:  After this would be, no one is actually -- but it certainly is a really dramatic escalation, but also way of saying that what`s happening now is not normal and we are not going to pretend it is normal. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let`s play Nancy Pelosi as - she is not really a media type.  She is sort of a legislative genius and fund raising genius.  But maybe she just doesn`t want to sit there behind the President with Mike Pence and that weird sort of, you know, opus day look of his, you know.  And she sits next to him and has to sit there and clap for his stuff.  And he talks about all we have to do is build this wall and she has to go. 

PAGE:  I think this is more case of her tightening the screws on him with the shutdown.  And he doesn`t see an exit but he better find one because she is not going to provide. 

SYKES:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But what he do if he doesn`t get invited? 

BRAZILE:  He can go and sit in the Senate with Mitch McConnell.  People are looking for Mitch McConnell. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he will do that.  Maybe go to Louisiana and give a speech to 10,000. 


BRAZILE:  And we are waiting for the Saints to win a super bowl.  We don`t need him to throw a party. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Erie, Pennsylvania, he can always get 10,000 or 20,000 people with (INAUDIBLE). 

SYKES:  Would you probably prefer, you know.  But this is a reminder that President is a terrible negotiator, you know.  When he walked out of that negotiation, he was acting like there was sort of a real estate deal as oppose to what has to happen in these negotiations.  And he is being out maneuvered and he is losing it in public opinion.  And so the question is at what point do Republicans in Congress sort of look at the numbers, see what`s going on and feel the kind of pressure to the frame (ph). 

Now, on the other hand, of course, we are seeing the trivialization, we are seeing the Republican support for the border wall actually going up.  And so the dysfunction is really - is becoming in-trench in all of this. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he is getting his numbers up.  He is up to 41.  Let me ask you this.  Could it be that there`s real brilliance behind Nancy Pelosi not inviting him?  Because she could be saying here, in effect, if you are not willing to be chief executive and keep this government rolling the way it should be, I`m not going to let you play head of state.  I`m not going to give you the honorific and all the excitement of you walk in to the Congress and being cheered as our leader of our country if you are not willing to run the government.  That comes with the job. 

PAGE:  You know, it is a reminder it`s a coequal branch of government which it hasn`t been for the past two years.  Now it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the President`s memo, the group of - members of the so- called bipartisan problem solvers caucus today to talk about the shutdown.  A bipartisan group of senators led by South Carolina`s Lindsey Graham planned to send a letter to the Presidents urged him to reopen the government as they work on a national security package. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  The bottom line is all I think this thing is, is to get people in the room from the Democratic side, tout with the President and say that we can do more than a dollar for the wall.  I think the House position by the speaker is very unreasonable.  And the best way for the President in my view to get something done is to talk with Senate Democrats and Republicans who are willing to work with him. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the President is unlikely to support that letter`s call to reopen the government. 

According to the "Washington Post" report, a White House aide said the President sees this as a capitulation and he is not going to walk away.  As long as Anne Coulter is out there, Charlie, and Rush Limbaugh is saying if you don`t build the wall, you are finished. 

SYKES:  Right.  I mean, you can imagine the scenario where you sit in a room and you do, OK, you know, what if we give you thin, you can claim a win?  You know, some symbolic win.  Well, Rush Limbaugh is going to look over your shoulder and say well, is Anne Coulter going to say that I wimped out?  Is Rush Limbaugh going to say that I surrendered?  So, he, again, this is where he is trapped himself and in some ways they have trapped themselves because it is all about winning on something that they are not going to get. 

MATTHEWS:  Insane, Charlie, when she said it was an immortality to build a wall.  I wonder what that means.  But it means this is where I stand, basically.  That she basically side this up with her left, basically the Ocasio-Cortez people.  Like the people who basically want to fight like mad against this president.  They don`t want to give any to him.  Isn`t she basically locked in like he is?  He wants the wall. She doesn`t want the wall. 

SYKES:  Yes.  Yes, in the sense that this has become Donald Trump made this wall symbolic of his approach to governing, his approach to blaming immigration, his approach to all of these things.  So this has become -- it really is a proxy.  It is a proxy for everything he has done about, you know, from the moment he came down that golden escalator.  So for both sides it carries so much more weight than just the dollar amount. 

BRAZILE:  It was a campaign promise that he made. 

SYKES:  Right. 

BRAZILE:  And he also said that Mexico would pay for it and Mexico is not going to pay for it.  I don`t think leader Pelosi - speaker Pelosi has to come to Donald Trump`s figure.  I think she needs to continue to put those figures back on the table that the Democrats agree to, the compromise and say it Mr. President, we all agreed to --

MATTHEWS:  Border --. 

BRAZILE:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Generally on --. 

BRAZILE:  Meanwhile, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  But don`t spend it on the wall. 

BRAZILE:  That`s right.  Spend it on some technology, the drones and all the other stuff that they use. 

Look, in every local media market there are shows now that features these federal employees who are having bake sales, who are waiting at the food pantry in order to feed their kids.  People are looking at that and they are saying this President can get up tomorrow morning, change his mind and go and work with leader Pelosi to get this done. 

MATTHEWS:  How does he strangle -- escape from the Rush Limbaugh death grip and Anne Coulter death grip?  Because they say if he goes to an electronic approach, a sophisticated state-of-the-art approach to border control, that he broke. 

PAGE:  Well, one possibility is that you end up with a deal that is fuzzy enough for him to claim victory. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Rush Limbaugh? 

PAGE:  Well, that`s the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  They are not going to say OK. 

PAGE:  It`s a problem.  Because, of course, he agreed previously to the deal that the House has once again passed.  I mean, this --. 

MATTHEWS:  Before they laid down. 

BRAZILE:  We are four months in the fiscal year.  How much money you need?  I mean, four months into the fiscal year. 

SYKES:  Right.  But if you are Donald Trump, you have to come up with something like that and you immediately need to distract from it.  You need immediately and he is good at that.  This is one thing he is successful at.  He immediately needs wag the dog or do something else that changes the narrative.  Pick another fight to get Limbaugh --. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Who is the boss on the right?  Is it Limbaugh and Coulter?  Is it their viewers, their listeners, their readers or is it Trump?  Who is the leader of the right Republican Party, the right? 

PAGE:  Well --. 

MATTHEWS:  Which is 70 percent of the Republican Party. 

PAGE:  Well, you would say it was Trump.  This experience you saw him respond to Limbaugh and Coulter. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is the boss? 

BRAZILE:  No question Anne Coulter. 

SYKES:  It is the base.  In a lot of ways, they thought they were leading the base but they no longer control the fire that they set.  So in a lot of ways, they all back themselves into this corner. 

MATTHEWS:  It is right out of the fountain head. 

SYKES:  It is. 

MATTHEWS:  Big time, newspaper guy.  The rabble rouser and that he was led by the rabble. 

SYKES:  Yes.  Those are my people.  I need to get ahead of them to lead. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m glad we have a memory of that.  One of the great books. 

Anyway.  Even liberals love it. 

Anyway.  Thank you, Susan Page, Donna Brazile and Charlie Sykes.  

Coming up new reporting to special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in President Trump`s meetings with Vladimir Putin.  The tales of which - well, Trump conceal from even his own advisers.  Kept them in the dark.  American intelligence agencies have reportedly had to rely on Russian accounts of what happened to those meetings with our President.  Do you believe it?  We don`t get it from the press, we got to go to third parties.  Did you hear what they talk about?  Let`s talk to Putin`s people.  They might tell us.  That`s how bad it has got here.  That`s coming up next. 

This is HARDBALL where the action is. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The news is the President concealed his private conversations with Vladimir Putin from his own government landed like a bombshell this week.  And especially after it was revealed that Trump was investigated as a suspected Russian agent and could still be under that scrutiny. 

And now, the "New York Times" is reporting that quote "the mystery surrounding the meeting seems to have drawn attention from the special counsel, Robert Mueller." 

Since taking office, the President has met with Putin, a total of five times, there they are, in four different countries. 

As the "Washington Post" first reported, the President went on as far as to confiscate the notes from his own interpreter after his exchange with Putin in that G-20 meeting up in Hamburg, Germany. 

And while at dinner that night, Trump had another conversation with Putin, there he is, without an American interpreter even present.  Cameras were briefly able to capture the President gesturing at Putin was across the table, pumping his fist as an apparent attempt to get his attention. 

However, it was Trump`s infamous two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland that raise the most alarm. 

According to the "New York Times, the Kremlin later reported that the leaders reached important agreements.  But American government officials were left in the dark.  American intelligence agencies were left to clean or glean details of surveillance of Russians who talk about it afterwards. 

I`m joined now by U.S. congressman, Joaquin Castro of Texas who sits on the House intelligence committee and Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at "the Atlanta. 

I want to go to Natasha on this.  Put it together.  The "New York Times" story in last weekend and the "Washington Post" story and now the latest by the "New York Times" all about the way in which our President has secreted his meetings with Putin. 


So, I think that it just lends more credence to the FBI`s decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president is acting as an agent or is an agent of Russia.  I think that every policy decision that he`s made, really, needs to be examined within the context of his love for Vladimir Putin, his inability to criticize him in any way, his secretiveness when it comes to his meetings with the Russian president.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BERTRAND:  His desire to keep even his own staff in the dark about those conversations.

This is not something that`s normal for presidents, right, especially when you`re dealing with a foreign adversary.  You want your staff in the administration to know what was said in those meetings, in case there`s any misunderstandings that arise later. 

And so I think that what we`re learning now about Trump`s repeated efforts, really beginning and -- well, not beginning, but intensifying during that Oval Office meeting that he had with Sergey Kislyak and the Russians, in which he said that firing Comey, the former FBI director, took great pressure off him, is something that...

MATTHEWS:  Why would a president say to a foreign leader, even an adversary, yes, I`m glad I got rid of the guy that was looking at our relationship?

BERTRAND:  Well, that`s the big question.  There really seems to be only one answer to that, which is that he now feels freer to communicate with the Russians without investigative scrutiny. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, if we had a Manchurian Candidate, someone who was a mole in our government at the highest level, the presidency, they would do things like, well, leave the troops out -- pull the troops out of Syria, because Russia doesn`t want them there. 

They would kill NATO, which has been a burr in the saddle of the Russians since Stalin`s day, because it`s kept Western Europe from them and eventually took part of Eastern Europe away from them, including the Baltic states, Poland and Hungary.  They hate NATO.  He`s talking about getting rid of it. 

It sounds like he matches up with someone working for the Russians. 


I mean, Vladimir Putin and the Russian government could not have asked for a friendlier American president, who has done the things that you mentioned, undermined our relationship with longstanding allies, entertained the idea of actually withdrawing from NATO, aligned himself with autocrats around the world, including Vladimir Putin, obviously pulled out of Syria in a haphazard way, leaving it to one of the countries there, Russia, to control. 

And so he`s done things that have substantially departed from the behavior of both Republican and Democratic presidents and undermined are standing in the world, to Russia`s benefit. 

It should also be noted, Chris, that Donald Trump started going to Moscow, to Russia, before the breakup of the Soviet Union.  And so, of course, we`re far from having a conclusion this or anything definitive. 

But you also got to admit that that`s exactly the kind of person that they would be targeting to make an asset of in the United States.  So we`re a long way from figuring this out, I think, but it speaks to the urgency of getting that interpreter, probably subpoenaing the interpreter and figuring out what was said in that meeting in Helsinki.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of -- big picture, what do you make of his strange attraction to Moscow?  He wants to have a tower over there, a hotel.  He wants to -- he had the Miss Universe contest over there. 

He`s got 100 contacts during his campaign and early parts of administration with Russians.  He`s got people he`s hired like Manafort, and he hangs around people like Roger Stone, all engaging -- all of them with Russian -- Papadopoulos -- all of these people with Russian contacts. 

I said it last night.  Not to be lighthearted about it, I don`t know any Russians.

CASTRO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why does he know so many Russians?  I don`t know how many you happen to know.

CASTRO:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But it`s an odd -- I mean, a lot of us meet Mexicans.  We meet people from Canada.  We meet people from Europe, Western Europe.  We don`t meet a whole lot of Russians, and this guy seems to spend his life with them. 

He seems to have an affinity for the East.  Like, what is this about, this guy?  I don`t know.  I would love to know. 

CASTRO:  Yes, I wish I could give you a more definitive answer. 

One of the things that we tried to figure out in our investigation the Intelligence Committee is whether there was any money-laundering issues between the Trump Organization and Russian oligarchs, for example, who are pumping money into Trump`s -- President Trump`s businesses. 

But, as you know, Devin Nunes, who was chair of the committee, didn`t issue a single subpoena for bank records, travel records, phone records, anything that would allow us to get to the bottom of the question about the history between President Trump and Russia and the organization and Russia, and whether they have any leverage over Donald Trump.


CASTRO:  That`s something that I hope that Bob Mueller has figured out.

But now that we have got a different control, Democrats are in control of this Intelligence Committee, we will go about trying to figure it out as well. 

MATTHEWS:  How much more are you worried about the dossier, including all its gory pieces, being true, given what happened in the newspapers this weekend, that the FBI began to think he was a mole?

And then you read the dossier.  Do you read it in a new light, a new credible light?

CASTRO:  Yes, I think that it -- the reporting tends to strengthen some of the claims that were made in the dossier, absolutely,


OK.  Well, just before Trump`s first meeting with Putin back in the G20 summit, "The New York Times" contacted the White House about a story they had set to publish.

That story would reveal for the first time that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin lawyer at Trump Tower in June of 2016.  We know about that meeting.  Well, just hours after that call, Trump and Putin held these two meetings in Hamburg -- this is in July of `17 -- the details of which are still shrouded in secrecy. 

And then, on his flight home the next day, the president personally drafted a misleading response to "The New York Times" for his son, saying the Trump Tower meeting of June 16 was about the adoption of Russian children, not the promise of Russia dirt on Hillary Clinton. 

Coincidentally, when asked what he discussed privately with Putin, Trump also said he discussed Russian adoption.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I said hello to Putin, really pleasantries more than anything else.  It was not a long conversation, but it was -- it could be 15 minutes.  Just talked about things.

We actually -- it was very interesting.  We talked about adoption.  I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting, because that was a part of the conversation that Don had with this meeting.


MATTHEWS:  Was he using Putin to cover for his son`s meeting and say, we were just talking adoptions, just like my son was?

BERTRAND:  Yes, it is really interesting, isn`t it?  I guess that`s one word for it. 

But I think it`s worth remembering that the White House did not even actually confirm that this conversation happened until 10 days later.  This was not something that they wanted to come out in the press. 

And "The Times" didn`t really follow up on Trump`s comment that he had discussed adoptions with Putin at the dinner the night before dictating that misleading statement, because the dots really weren`t there yet to be connected. 

But now we know, looking back, that the timeline is extremely damning.  And even back in August of 2017, when I was writing about this, I said, hey, wait a minute.  The night before he was discussing all this with his son, he was talking about it with Vladimir Putin?

And, of course, I think it`s important to emphasize that this is not about adoptions.  Adoptions is basically code for sanctions.  So they were discussing sanctions policy the night before they drafted the statement.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.

I think this report, Congressman, from Robert Trump -- Robert Mueller is going to be like a Russian novel.  All these names, all these intriguing meetings, all this subterfuge, it`s got it all.  And it`s all bad. 

Anyway, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, and thank you, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Natasha Bertrand of "The Atlantic."

Up next: more drama on Capitol Hill today, as Congress rebuked Senator King for some blatantly racist comments, don`t you think?  Everybody thinks they were racist.

This is HARDBALL, where the action is. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Once a year, the president gets a shot at speaking to the largest television audience possible, when he or she delivers the State of the Union address to Congress. 

And according to "The Wall Street Journal," some of President Trump`s aides wanted to use the captive audience this January to castigate lawmakers over the shutdown and press his case for $5.7 billion for funding and building hundreds of miles of a border wall. 

Well, today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi interfered with that Trump plan, suggesting the president delay his address due to security concerns caused by his shutdown.

In her letter, Speaker Pelosi suggests the president, alternatively, submit a written address to Congress instead. 

President William Howard Taft from -- was the last president to send it in writing.  That was back in 1912.  All the presidents since have come up to the Hill to give the speech.

For more, I`m joined by Congressman Jim Clyburn, James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader and third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Clyburn, I give you this great chance to talk about the power of your leadership. 


MATTHEWS:  Was the speaker speaking as the institutional speaker in nonpartisan nature, or was this a power play to tell the president, if you`re going to not be a true chief executive and run this country, we`re not going to let you act like a head of state and get all the honors that come with it?

What do you think it was about, politics or institution?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA:  I think it`s about preserving the institution.  It`s about trying to maintain the dignity that goes with both of our institutions here in the House and on the part of the administration. 

We`re already in a very unusual situation.  Security is a big, big issue for everybody.  All our members are feeling it traveling through the airport going back home on the weekends.

Our constituents, especially the military folks, are very, very concerned about this.  And morale is getting very, very low.  And so I think the speaker has a lot of concern for this. 

And I know this is a bit unusual, but, you know, it is not unusual for us to get a State of the Union in writing.  In fact, if my memory serves, I think Roosevelt did it in 1945.  He sent a message just before he passed away. 

So, getting it in writing is not all that unusual. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the ultimate call here.

At some point between now and whenever, late January, the speaker, through the joint resolution by both houses, has to decide whether to invite this president to come up and give -- address a joint session. 

CLYBURN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you want her and do you want to Congress to do that by joint resolution or not, invite the president or not?

CLYBURN:  Yes, I want to invite the president.  But I want us to do it at a time when the safety would not be a concern.

That resolution has to pass both houses.  It has not been introduced yet.  We`re still operating on the letter of invitation that went to him.  But the resolution that has to go to both the House and the Senate, that`s not been done yet.

And so I would hope that we can negotiate when would be a good time for the resolution to stipulate a time and a date for the State of the Union to take place.

MATTHEWS:  And now for another sticky issue.

Earlier tonight, the House moved a motion to censure Republican Steve King of Iowa for his recent racist remarks back to committee, where they will recommend action.

The measure, if approved on the House floor, would make King the 24th lawmaker in history to have the House formally disapprove of his conduct. 

Representative King has had a long history, of course, of making racist remarks.  And, however, few Republicans distanced themselves from him in the past.

Let`s take a look. 


MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH SENATOR-ELECT:  I`m looking here at Steve King.  This man needs to be your congressman again.  I want him as my partner in Washington, D.C.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA:  Iowa needs Steve King in Congress.  I also need Steve King in Congress.  I feel like I do a good job of representing Iowans.  And so often I have found Steve King to be such an ally. 

TRUMP:  We`re thrilled to be joined tonight by a number of terrific Republican leaders.

Iowa Congressman Steve King, he may be -- we`re all -- he may be the world`s most conservative human being.


TRUMP:  Thank you, Steve.

And I supported him long before I became a politician. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Mr. Clyburn, the worm has turned, hasn`t it? 


CLYBURN:  Well, I think that we have reached a tipping point with him. 

I think that those accolades you just heard came in the midst of campaigns, either his own or those speakers, their campaigns.  But I think that if you look at over the litany of things that have taken place, "The New York Times" just published the stuff that goes all the way back to when he was a state legislator.

And these things are pretty egregious.  And for him to speak, as he spoke, of white supremacy, white nationalism as being something that should be acceptable, I think that went a little bit too far.

And that`s why, when I put up the resolution of disapproval, it got all but one vote in the House of Representatives, because people have reached their, I think, tipping point with this gentleman.  And I think it`s time for us to let -- or for him to just find another career. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, leader in the Democratic House of Representatives.  Thank you, from South Carolina.

CLYBURN:  Well, thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  The latest tell-all book from a Trump ally dishes on everyone, from Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to his former attorney general, to Trump himself. 

Chris Christie`s got a book coming.  This is something else, eagerly awaited, I would say.  What a book, with lots of trash talk in it. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.  That`s coming up.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are going to deliver.  We are going to get the best people in the world.  You know we have the greatest business people in the world.  We don`t use them. 

We`re going to use our smartest and our best.  We are not using political hacks anymore.  That`s the people that do these deals.  They are political hacks. 

We want experts, our finest people.  We don`t want people that are B-level, C-level, D-level.  We have to get our absolute best. 


CHRIS MATTHEWS, ANCHOR, MSNBC:  That was then candidate Donald Trump in 2016 declaring he would hire only hire the best people to work in his administration.  Well, in a new book coming out soon, former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, that`s the bridge guy, says nothing could be further from the truth. 

According to excerpts from Christie`s book obtained by Axios, Christie who was fired as Chairman of Trump`s transition team, the guy who hires people, writes that Trump was a "Revolving door of deeply flawed individuals -- amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons -- who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for, sometimes, seemingly without so much as a background check via Google or Wikipedia." 

Christie adds, "A handful of they selfish individuals sidetracked our very best efforts."  Well, in particular, Christie focuses on the President`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner who he blames for his firing during the transition.  It was Christie by the way who back in 2005 as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey sent Kushner`s father to prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. 

For more, I am joined by the "Hardball" Roundtable, John Brabender, a Republican strategist, Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress; and Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for the "Washington Post."  This is one juicy cantaloupe or whatever to go in, what do you make?  Christie, who is I thought friends with Trump, is dishing about the worst, worst attitudes most people have about this administration.  A lot of second-rate, not even B team, not even single A baseball players and of course nepotism. 

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, if you`re asking me, first of all, it`s my understanding is that he is actually complimentary about Trump in the book, it`s the people around Trump.  That`s number one. 

Let`s remember, as you said he was are replaced as head of the transition - - 

MATTHEWS:  By Jared Kushner. 

BRABENDER:  So well, actually by Mike Pence.  And so don`t know if maybe he wasn`t using Google.  Or if he says he wasn`t, then the he wasn`t.  He also didn`t get a position in the administration ... 

MATTHEWS:  Who is right?  Christie or Trump? 

BRABENDER:  Well, I don`t know what the question - right about what? 

MATTHEWS:  There are a lot of third-rate hacks in his administration. 

BRABENDER:  Look, but you`ve got to understand, it`s not this administration that there are problems getting people.  A lot of qualified people frankly don`t want to uproot their family and come to Washington D.C. these days where it`s an incredibly hostile situation, on every type of situation. 

MATTHEWS:   Let me tell you something, everyone knows that the line of Democratic people waiting to get back into power is long. 

BRABENDER:  Well, they are all running for President. 

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I mean, I thought what was interesting was the line "unconvicted felons."  So I think it`s fascinating that Chris Christie who claims to be friends with the President of the United States says that he has unconvicted felons who work for him. 

BRABENDER:  Okay, let me ask you this.  Do you think this was helpful to the President? 

TANDEN:  No, and I think he`s telling the truth. 

BRABENDER:  If he`s a friend of his who has great feelings about the President, why would he do something that`s not helpful to him? 

TANDEN:  Maybe who`s telling the truth -- 

BRABENDER:  Or maybe he`s trying to - do you think maybe he`s trying to sell books. 

TANDEN:  Maybe he`s trying to tell something to the American people. 

BRABENDER:  Do you think maybe this has anything to do about hawking books for money? 

TANDEN:  Okay, so is this - what`s happening here?  Donald Trump does have great people and there aren`t unconvicted felons, the massive incompetence you see at the White House is just all in our heads. 

BRABENDER:  Look, I think it`s like any administration that`s happened in recent history, you have some really good people and you have some poor people.  I think somebody like a Mike Pompeo is fabulous, quite frankly and doing a great job.  I`m sure you can find other people there -- 

MATTHEWS:  So you`re saying that he wants to sell books now and get a job with the administration later.  He`ll get to that bridge - he`ll cross that bridge when he gets to it. 

BRABENDER:  I think who`s decided he`s never getting a job in this administration and therefore, he`s going to try -- 

TANDEN:  I think maybe he`s just telling the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  So how big a story is just going to be?  Is this just another rat out story in the Trump administration? 

PHILIP RUCKER, BUREAU CHIEF, "WASHINGTON POST":  It could be a big story.  I mean, we`ll see what the rest of the books shows.  It would have been a bigger story had Christie taken the White House Chief of Staff job about three or four weeks ago when he was talking to President Trump about it. 

TANDEN:  Awkward.  

RUCKER:  Remember that, that would have been a very awkward position. 

MATTHEWS:  I`ve got a bigger story coming up.  This is a coming attraction - meanwhile, President Trump`s lawyer-fixer, Michael Cohen, will publicly testify in front of Congress early next month, in about three weeks.  Well, Cohen - he is likely to be restricted about what he has to say regarding ongoing Russian investigation but he will face a barrage of questions about his long-term service to the President. 

A source tells NBC News that Cohen plans to describe his former boss, Donald J. Trump, as a madman and predicts that his testimony will give you chills.  Neera, chills. 

TANDEN:  I mean, I think we sort of see a madman every day.  So I look forward to the testimony because obviously, Michael Cohen has information and details that the public does not have about Donald Trump, and I think it`s important for all of us to see that.  But I think -- 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s be gross, how many women has he covered for? 

TANDEN:  Are you asking me how many of them like, obviously -- 

MATTHEWS:  Apparently he`s going to asked about any more - he is going to be asked for names.  It is going to be really gross. 

TANDEN:  The fact that the President`s lawyer, his lawyer is in so much legal hot water and is testifying against him is a terrible sign. 

MATTHEWS:  Philip, wide open question from a Committee Member.  What was the scariest thing?  Give me give me all the really gross things he called you at midnight over involving women?  I mean, a wide open opportunity to ask anything they want. 

RUCKER:  And they are not constrained the way the investigators are to the scope of those investigations, so they can ask about the women, they can ask about Russia, but they can ask about any number other things -- his business dealings, his judgment, the way he made decisions over those 10 years that Cohen was his lawyer. 

MATTHEWS:  How about not paying bills? 

TANDEN:  There are other people - other people he paid off. 

BRABENDER:  Don`t say he is not -- 

MATTHEWS:  What we`ll -- 

TANDEN:  I mean, we know of certain things from the investigation.  This can be open ended.  Do you know of any illegal activity by the President at all? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s not illegal to pay off -- 

BRABENDER:  Wait a minute, wait a minute. 

TANDEN:  Yes, but you could -- 

BRABENDER:  Where are you getting that it`s unlimited?  It`s not unlimited.  They`re having negotiations with Mueller about what he can talk about and not. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but only with regard to Russia. 

BRABENDER:  Right, so most of these sensational stuff -- 

TANDEN:  But - exactly, anything outside of the Russia investigation, there`s no one -- 

BRABENDER:  But here`s what I love.  I was listening to Democrats saying how excited they are to come in and have him tell the truth because he didn`t tell the truth the first time they said. 

MATTHEWS:  So let me tell you ... 

BRABENDER:  So now, we think he is going to tell the truth the second time? 

MATTHEWS:  I`ve been watching Michael Cohen like the rest of us.  He`s an arresting personality.  You look at the guy.  He`s got that haunted look.  He does look like Tony Curtis, I`m sorry.  He looks like a movie star.  And he`s like this look and he`s not - most guy do the perp walk like this.  He`s all around.  Looking around, haunted, hunted.  It`s something else. 

He is going to be great, a great talker.  A real squealer.  Anyway, finally tonight, a devastating attack in Northern Syria killed four Americans including many other people there.  Warning by the way, this video we`re about to show is graphic and includes - I`ve never seen a bomb explode like this on real people. 

The ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.  Two of the Americans killed were service members; one was a Department of Defense civilian, and the fourth was a contractor -- we`re looking at it there -- supporting the DoD.  And then an hour after the Pentagon confirmed the deaths of U.S. service members, Vice President Mike Pence however, gave a speech where he discussed ISIS, but never mentioned the attack on the Americans or the fact that four were killed. 


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thanks to the leadership of this Commander-in-Chief and the courage and sacrifice of our Armed Forces, we`re now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners and we are bringing our troops home.  The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated. 


MATTHEWS:  Sometimes, Phil Rucker, you have to throw away the speech that was prepared and acknowledge what just happened.  We just lost four of our people, a lot of people were killed.  ISIS did it.  They claimed credit for it and they clearly did it. 

RUCKER:  Clearly ISIS has not been defeated as we just saw in that horrible video that you played, but to the Vice President`s credit, the administration separately has issued a statement about those killings.  The White House put out some words. 

So they`re not entirely ignoring it as an administration, even though the Vice President did in his speech. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about bad staff work?  Or was it, Neera?  You`ve been close to power.  Why would have a guy gave speech saying we`ve won the battle within an hour of this horror? 

TANDEN:  I mean they do pay attention to the news so I do think that they probably should have changed their remarks, but more importantly than their remarks today, I think the problem we have - and this is a terrible, terrible tragedy, but the problem we have is there`s a chaotic policy. 

Donald Trump said one thing a few weeks ago, his administration walks it back.  Our allies in the region think our policy is chaotic, and more importantly, enemies in the region think our policies is in chaos. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you think is calling the shots?  The President or John Bolton?  The Neo Con? 

TANDEN:  At this moment, I think we can honestly say we have no idea. 

BRABENDER:  Look, first of all, it would be great if all of you had watched the entire video for example, when Mike Pence said also that our job is not done.  There`s still work to do and there`s things we`re going to do, that`s number one. 

MATTHEWS:  He says ISIS has been defeated? 

BRABENDER:  Well, look.  Number one, we`ve taken back - all their land has almost been taken.  They have been terribly destroyed.  Look, there`s still Nazi sympathizers in some place, just like there`s ISIS -- 


MATTHEWS:   ... was not a smart flag to put up.  Anyway, the Roundtable is sticking with us, and up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.  You`re watching "Hardball." 


MATTHEWS:  We`re back with the Roundtable.  John, tell me something I don`t know. 

BRABENDER:  In 2020, millennials are going to be the biggest voting block overtaking from baby boomers, just that a huge -- 

MATTHEWS:  Which way are they leaning?  Left or right? 

BRABENDER:  Well, just in a huge study, well, what was most amazing is that the left and right agreed on so many issues -- climate change and also on student loans and that they don`t watch regular TV. 

MATTHEWS:  Broadcast TV.  Go ahead, Neera. 

TANDEN:  Richard Burr, Chair of the Senate Intel Committee voted today with Donald Trump against essentially the Russia investigation by voting against sanctions for Deripaska.  A lot of people have claimed he is not a non- partisan actor and I think that confirms it. 


RUCKER:  We could be headed towards a tumultuous period for the White House because that Chris Christie book is not the only tell-all published this month.  There`s a White House aide, Cliff Sims, no longer there, but he worked in the Communications Department, he also has a tell-all book. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it dirty? 

RUCKER:  I`ve heard it will be interesting and create some turmoil in the administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  You watched John Brabender, Neera Tanden, and Phil Rucker.  When we return, let me finish tonight with the exciting 2020 match up of ideas, character, and courage to take on Trump and lead the country.  You`re watching, "Hardball." 


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a 2020 race.  I`ve just looked at the lineup of candidates who have dived into the pool or are standing at the side wondering what the water temperature is. 

Let`s remember how the 2008 battle left the Clintons bitter and how 2016 left the Bernie people the same way.  Bill Clinton felt he was unjustly attacked for what he`d said about Barack Obama.  Bernie people were furious about, among other things the way those debates with Hillary this time be scheduled during major NFL football games. 

Well this time, with dozens of candidates in the field, the nastiness and the bitterness could set in early.  Politics is a zero sum game.  Competing for a limited number of caucus goers in Iowa, they candidates know that a vote won by Elizabeth Warren for example might well have been lost by Sanders or Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand.  A vote won by Sherrod Brown could have gone to Joe Biden, one for Beto O`Rourke could have gone to anyone else. 

This means we`re going to see a lot of social media, lots of digital noise aimed at tearing down a rival candidate within the community of democratic activists.  It probably does no good asking the Democrats running that they fight clean and take their shots out in the open and that they keep their shots above the belt. 

But wouldn`t it be good to watch an exciting match of ideas, character and courage to see who has the stuff to take on Trump and truly lead this country? 

And that`s "Hardball" for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "All In With Chris Hayes" starts right now.