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BuzzFeed stands behind report. TRANSCRIPT: 1/21/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: James Pindell, Jamal Simmons, Ruth Marcus, Jonathan Swan, Benjamin Wittes; Denny Heck

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 21, 2019 Guest: James Pindell, Jamal Simmons, Ruth Marcus, Jonathan Swan, Benjamin Wittes; Denny Heck

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: -- on the image, the manufacturing, the talk of deals and how it all really went down. I`m excited about that. I hope you will join us. 6:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.

But don`t go anywhere because HARDBALL is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Towering ambition. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

And while he was pitching the American people to make him President, was he also pitching Putin for a Trump tower in Moscow. That is the astounding suggestion from the President`s own personal lawyer. An interview on the "Meet The Press" yesterday Rudy Giuliani admitted the President had continuing conversations about building a Trump tower in Moscow as far as October or November of 2016. Right up to his election. Here he is.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: Well, it is our understanding that they went on throughout 2016, weren`t a lot of them but there were conversations. Can`t be sure of the exact dates but the President can remember having conversations with him about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout 2016?

GIULIANI: Yes, probably up to -- could be up to as far as October, November. Our answer is cover until election. So any time during that period they could have talked about it.


MATTHEWS: Well the timing of those negotiations is essential question, of course, in the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And yesterday Giuliani acknowledged that Trump told Mueller about the talks with Russia. Take a look.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: Said the President is not sure when talks ended. I`m guessing you had to answer this question in written form by Mr. Mueller.

GIULIANI: That is where we ended it.


MATTHEWS: That is where we ended it. That is such a key line. In other words, the President`s response to Robert Mueller in written form, that is the first indication we got of any of the written responses, including that he was negotiating for getting that hotel built in Moscow right up until the election.

Until recently, President Trump told voters had zero business ties to Russia. His lawyer Michael Cohen originally testified to Congress that Trump tower negotiations started back in January of 2016, the beginning of the election year. And last month Cohen`s lawyers indicated that he lied to Congress and the actual date was in June of 2016.

But Trump had long been known to be pursuing business interest in Russia but the revelations by Giuliani yesterday that the President was working on a deal coincides with the President`s open solicitation of Russian president Putin while on the campaign trail. Let`s take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think in terms of leadership, he is getting an A and our President is not doing so well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The person that kills journalists and political opponents and -- and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not.

TRUMP: He`s running his country. At least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

I`ll do things with Putin that nobody else is going to be able to do. Believe me.

I don`t like the way Obama treats Putin.

Putin said Trump is brilliant.

Wouldn`t it be nice if we could get along with Russia?

I think Putin is a long stronger leader for Russia, stronger than our leader. That I can tell you.

Putin said Donald Trump is a genius. He is going to be the next leader of the United States.

Putin did call me a genius.

I`m going to be disavow someone when somebody calls me a genius. I`m not disavowing anything.

When people like me, I like them. Even Putin.


MATTHEWS: Earlier today, Giuliani issued a statement trying to walk back some of his comments writing his recent statements were quote "hypothetical or not based on conversations I had with the President. My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions."

For more I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Denny Heck, Democrat from the state of Washington and member of the house intelligence committee. Ben Wittes who is editor of "Lawfare." Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" politics and Malcolm Nance, of course, author of "The Plot To Destroy Democracy."

Malcolm, at the very time he is shining up this guy, Putin. At the same time, he is arguing with Joe on this inexplicably to Joe Scarborough, yes, even though he kills people I like this guy. And even though he is fighting with Katy Tur trying to make the case to all of our constituents and commentators, all of the time he is winding his way into a nice fat deal to give him $300 million. That was supposedly going to be his gain for the tower.

I think should have told us who he was working for and working with. What do you think?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Absolutely. You know, we talk about consciousness of guilt with regards the way Donald Trump talks about Putin and how he talks about his policies. We really should talk about the smugness of guilt when it comes to Donald Trump. He seems to have had this sort of attitude towards the entire conversation knowing that he had already offered a bribe to Vladimir Putin in the form of a $50 million penthouse at the top of Trump tower.

He knew all of these negotiations were going on. He was actually briefed by the FBI given a counterintelligence brief that stated that he may be involved in a situation where Russia is trying to gain leverage on him and he already knew this. Donald Trump has been playing this nation from the beginning. And if this is where Robert Mueller is going, I think this one point is going to be relatively easy to clarify with the testimony of Michael Cohen. But I think this is going to be the least of the charges Donald Trump is going to end up with.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the major ethical problem here.

Congressman, what I know about the May 15th report, that you and other members of Congress have to fill out and if you owe anybody any money, if you have any liabilities, if you have stock holdings. Here is a guy in bed with Putin for a $300 million deal that was going to give him $50 million in a permanent -- permanent place at the top. A penthouse apartment in the wealthiest hotel in Moscow and this is all going on at the time he has promised the American people he is going to be their servant.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-W), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely. And so obviously what we all want to know is not only why was he willing to do all of this, but more importantly why was he willing to lie about it? That is the question I think that gets begged by an awful lot of the developments here. Not just why did this happen, but why does he want people around to keep lying.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think?

HECK: Well, the implication is pretty clear. But I have to ask --

MATTHEWS: What is the implication? Spell it out. Because a lot of people watching at home say, OK, he was a billionaire trying to make more billions. He thought he could get a third of a billion on this one deal. He wasn`t going to risk losing the election because he has probably going to lose to Hillary Clinton. That is what the polls show. So he is trying to bank some money along the way and get some P.R. out of this Presidential thing but he`s really still a business guy. Is that illegal?

HECK: It is a blatant conflict of interest for anybody that seeks the highest office in this land and wants to become the leader of the free world, period, full stop.

MATTHEWS: Let me go this. Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump the Republican front-runner assured voters, Republican frontrunners, that he had nothing to do with Russia business-wise. Take a look.


TRUMP: I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don`t have any jobs in Russia. I`m all over the world but we are not involved in Russia.

I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever.

I don`t deal there. I have no businesses. I have no loans from Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia.

I don`t have any deals in Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia.

I have no investigations in Russia. None whatsoever.

I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could have been in Russia because we`ve stayed away.


MATTHEWS: Betsy, Thomas Jefferson once said the whole art of politics is the art of telling the truth. Was he artfully telling the truth then or lying?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: No, he was lying because he said he had no deals that could happen in Russia and we know for a fact, for an inconvertible fact that his former lawyer has told lawyers under oath that there were. There was a potential deal that could happen Russia --

MATTHEWS: Rudy said it is in his answers to Robert Mueller`s question. His written answer.

WOODRUFF: I think we have to take everything that Mr. Giuliani says on TV with a big hefty grain of salt. I have a conversation a month ago with Felix Sadir (ph) who is a businessman who is kind of the connective tissue.

MATTHEWS: Do you trust him?

WOODRUFF: More than I trust Rudy Giuliani when it comes to concrete statements about these negotiations. Felix He was involved in them and Rudy was not. Mr. Sadir told me that as he was trying to facilitate those talks between Michael Cohen and Russian business interests who potentially would have been involved in the Trump.


WOODRUFF: Sadir have the talks amid shortly after the RNC, after Trump took the nomination. Giuliani now, we have saying the talks could have gone as late as November. It sounds like either, a, Giuliani now we have saying the talks could have gone as late as November.

It sounds like either, a, Giuliani is just saying thing he didn`t know if they are right or not. And b., they don`t have a clear understanding within the President`s legal team about what was actually being said.

MATTHEWS: Ben, this is the problem. He was asked by Chuck Todd, in this room yesterday, is this what you wrote in the answers to the questions from Mueller? Is this what the President wrote as his answers and he said, yes that is where we answered it. And in other words, he said this is tracking what the President said under oath. They were working on this business deal right until the election.

BENJAMIN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LAWFARE: So a few things. If anybody but Rudy Giuliani had said this, it would have been -- it would be an extremely big deal because it seems like a major admission that advances the ball factually in a way that is highly negative to the President. Because it is Rudy Giuliani and as Betsy said, being generous, I think that you have to take everything he said with a big grain of salt. We have no idea what he means.

MATTHEWS: Is he just a clown in a bull fight? Is his job just to distract the press from Trump? Is that Rudy Giuliani`s problem? As every Sunday he goes somewhere like "Meet The Press" in this room and says stuff that you say you don`t believe and you don`t believe so it doesn`t mean anything, just distracts us for 24 hours. That is what you are saying.

WITTES: So I don`t know where it is a deliberate function. I also don`t know on what he said isn`t true, right. I just the fact that he said it doesn`t mean that we should invest anything in its being true. And I -- I do think we have to -- we have to consider the possibility that the talks may have gone much longer than we understood. I think we can also consider the possibility that Rudy Giuliani may have just been blowing smoke.

MATTHEWS: Congressman, let me go back to this. Because Chuck is dam good, darn good at this, and when he asked the question, he was so pointed and well done as a journalist in this room with "meet the press" and he said I`m guessing you had to answer that question in written form by Mr. Mueller at which point Rudy Giuliani answers, right. That is where we answered it.

I mean, could anything more clear? Cue, an answer, was this in the written response to Mueller. Yes, I was working on Trump tower right through to the election. Was Rudy making this up or does he tell truth for once? What do you make of it?

HECK: Chris, why is this guy still on the payroll? He goes on payroll and said truth isn`t the truth. Last week he claimed that he had never said that no one on the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and then said this yesterday. He was brought on board to deal with spin in politics, not the law, clearly not the law. He admitted at the outset that he didn`t know the facts of the case and he is not doing a good job of dealing with the politics and the spin. Why is this guy still on the payroll?

MATTHEWS: Well Malcolm, one outside chance in in instance he let the truth out. And this was the answer they gave because under oath in a written response to Robert Mueller, the President, even the President of the United States can`t outward lie. He can`t just say I had no business dealings when it was going to come out that he did have business dealings. So is it possible here Malcolm with our skepticism that Rudy was accidentally stumbling over the truth and letting it out. Your thoughts?

NANCE: Well I have noticed that Rudy Giuliani tends to actually tell the truth in his first statement. And within 24 hours he tends to spin that backwards and say that, you know, offer a clarification as to whatever he said the previous day.

If he actually noted that this was one of the written statements that the President has made, then we are going to see a big contradiction between all of the visual - all of the spoken statements that Donald Trump has said and then when he told the special counsel.

The only question I have is he hedging his bets by saying it could be any time up to November. Because if they were still in discussions in November in the pre-election season, what wouldn`t -- what would cause them to stop having those conversations as the official elective body of the United States government after the election?

One thing to note, right after Donald Trump won the election, one of the first things that he said he wanted to do was eliminate the foreign corrupt practices act which would eliminate bribery around the world. Maybe this is part of it.

MATTHEWS: On Friday, the special counsel office issued a rare public rebuke of the explosive "Buzz Feed" reporting that alleged that Michael Cohen was instructed to lie to Congress on behalf of Donald Trump. Reports cited two federal law enforcement officials.

Peter Carr, the special counsel spokesperson wrote quote "Buzz Feed`s" description of specific statements to the special counsel office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office recording Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony are not accurate.

A source familiar with the matter tells NBC News the President`s legal team raised concerns in a letter sent to the special counsel office about the "Buzz Feed" reporting before they issued a statement. However, "Buzz Feed" stands by its reporting. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be born out, Brian. This story is accurate.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: What if -- what if the sources are just wrong?


STELTER: Not intentionally, not trying to hurt you, but what if they are wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not. They are not. I`m confident.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Ben, you are thinking of this because this is a big story. The fact that the President has been accused and the special counsel is aware of this and was accused of giving orders to Michael Cohen to lie.

WITTES: Right. So this is a situation where the pendulum swung really fast and, you know, a lot of people went from oh, we`re in impeachment land to kind of these -- sometimes very crude denunciation of these two recorders report -- these two reporters.


WITTES: And I want to say that like I think this issue is complicated and I don`t know what the truth is at this stage. On the one hand, you have two reporters with a real track record of breaking serious news in this area and who are standing by their work. And who have gotten big things right and been ahead of the game.

And on the other hand, you have a very rare statement by the special counsel office saying their aspects of this story that are not accurate and you have some reporting by the "Washington Post" about how the story came about that raises some interesting questions.


WITTES: So my caution to everyone is stay cool and wait until the facts come out and don`t be surprised if they`re complicated. And don`t be surprised if there are some problems with the story and some things that are -- big things that may be accurate in the story. I don`t know what the truth is.


Betsy, you know, back in the old days of Watergate, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward made a mistake. They had a piece of a story wrong but the heart of it was right. And this could well be another case like that.

WOODRUFF: And I hate to speculate about a conversation that "Buzz Feed" has characterized between the President and Michael Cohen that I don`t have the ability to confirm or to prove as correct.

One thing that is I think is important context as we talk about the story, is the actual nature of the statement that Mueller`s office put out. It has been interpreted in circles meaning Mueller was trying to shoot down the entirety of the "Buzz Feed" story, they were trying to say everything in the "Buzz Feed" story is the opposite of what happened but my understanding that is not true. The statement is narrowly tailored and goes after one pivotal claim in the "Buzz Feed" report and that is the oath thing it goes after --

MATTHEWS: What is the point?

WOODRUFF: And the claim is Mueller has documents and witness testimony showing that Trump told Cohen to lie. The only thing Mueller said in that statement is that specific claim is incorrect. They didn`t say anything about whether or not the President or Michael Cohen had such a conversation or whether or not --

MATTHEWS: Just like Woodward and Bernstein. Did he didn`t tell the grand jury.

I`m telling you, it is fascinating. When somebody says they have experience in politics and journalism, when you say not accurate, that is not the same as saying not wrong. You say not accurate means something is wrong.

Anyway. Congressman, thank you, Denny Heck of Washington State, Benjamin Wittes, Betsy Woodruff and Malcolm Nance. Everybody has got a short name here.

Thanks for staying with us. They are going to stick with us.

Up next, another Russian paradox. When it comes to dealing with Putin right now, why is President Trump so often at odds with members of the administration? They are like cold warriors and he`s trying to warm up and kiss up to Putin all of the time. What is going on because we can`t understand why this story is still ending between him and Putin?

By the way, a big new 2020 contender entered the race today. Let`s watch.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a moment in time that I feel a sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are.


MATTHEWS: That of course is California Senator Kamala Harris. I spoke with her today briefly on the train coming down from New York. Fascinating. She is so excited about this race. You could tell. She looks today like a winner. More on that after this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As we continue to tackle the question of whether President Trump was acting either as a Russian agent or a businessman simply out to exploit a presidential campaign, how about this one? Why is the president consistently at odds with his own administration about how to deal with Putin?

"The New York Times" reports that, according to current and former administration officials, Trump -- quote -- "has left it to others to publicly criticize Russian actions, while personally expressing admiration for Mr. Putin, an eagerness to be friends."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we will have a very good relationship with Russia. I believe that I will have a very good relationship with Putin.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We don`t trust Russia. We don`t trust Putin. We never will. They`re never going to be our friend. That is just a fact.

QUESTION: That was President Putin who annexed Crimea.

TRUMP: That was President Obama`s regime. That was during President Obama, right? That was not during me.

QUESTION: But it was President Putin, sir, who did the annexation.


TRUMP: No, no, it was President Obama that allowed it to happen.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to assure this committee that the United States does not and will not recognize the Kremlin`s purported annexation of Crimea.



Well, the question is, right now, is this administration for risking another Cold War or against it?

Betsy Woodruff and Malcolm Nance have stuck with us.

Malcolm, you start, because I wonder. Donald Trump ran on an anti-neocon ticket, one of the only -- one of the few good things I liked about him. He said, we`re going to have no more stupid wars like Iraq. We were not going to go on and fight Iran. We`re not going to fight for Libya or Syria, none of that neocon ambition or mission.

And then he picks Nikki Haley. And now he picks John Bolton. And these people are out there as if they`re working for W. again.

NANCE: Well, Donald Trump lied. I mean, it is as simple as that.

There is virtually nothing that he does within the body politic where you could express some semblance of organization or forethought. There is absolutely nothing. John Bolton was somebody who was foisted on him because of his hard line against Iran. He took him.

He said Nikki Haley looked like someone from central casting, very well- regarded in the Republican Party. He does not care what they say. And it express -- it clearly reflects the bipolar nature of how Donald Trump likes to govern. He likes people who looks like they are supposed to be in the job, and then he makes all the decisions.


MATTHEWS: You`re unbelievable, Malcolm. That is hideous. That is absolutely hideous.

But all I know is, Betsy, I grew up under the Cold War. From 1947 to 1991, we hid under a desk, basically, because we had this Russian -- they still have this nuclear firepower. They got it. They may be a gas station with an army, but they got a lot of nuclear weapons.

But they`re 12th now in the economy in the world, but they`re scary. Are we risking war with them? Or are we trying to get past that? What`s going on?

WOODRUFF: I don`t think it is realistic to say that we`re at risk of war with Russia right now.

But the hot spot obviously has been Syria. And one of the big challenges for this administration...

MATTHEWS: Are we going to fight for Crimea? Are we going to fight about Crimea and Ukraine? Is this country going to war over those issues?

WOODRUFF: We didn`t fight for Crimea or Ukraine under Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well, you listen to Pompeo, it sounds like he wants to back at it.

WOODRUFF: Well, Crimea is currently being occupied. We haven`t gone in. Nothing -- like, the status quo in Crimea has remained the same from Obama to Trump.

MATTHEWS: Who is in charge?

WOODRUFF: Currently, Trump is in charge.

The other thing that is important with this, though, is that all this dissonance within the Trump administration is directly affecting how foreign policy works.

John Bolton, the national security adviser, was in Ankara earlier this month, and wanted to have a meeting reportedly with the Turkish president, Erdogan. And Erdogan, according to all reports, snubbed him, in part because the -- what Erdogan argued was that Bolton wasn`t actually Trump`s emissary, wasn`t actually speaking for the White House.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Malcolm, because you know so much more about this underground world of spying and everything.

Having watched "The Americans," I know about the rezidentura, OK? The guy in Washington -- and it`s male usually -- he`s sitting in Washington trying to explain to the people back in Moscow what the Americans are up to.

What is the rezidentura in this city of Washington telling Moscow and Putin right now? Is Trump pro-Putin, secretly pro-Putin, because of old contacts, to put it lightly, the dossier, et cetera, et cetera, at the hotel, or is he another cold warrior? What are they telling him?

NANCE: Well I think that, since the chief resident here in Washington, D.C., would just be a conduit back to Moscow, to the actual handler of Donald Trump.

And that is the ex-KGB officer who -- former communist, right, spent his life under the Soviet Union, who is now a billionaire oligarch Bond villain, Vladimir Putin, who is the handler of Donald Trump.

Just remember, this is a president who we found out -- we mentioned this earlier -- who offered a $50 million bribe in the form of a penthouse to an ex-KGB officer.

Anyone in the intelligence community and any case officer worth his salt would say, this person can be bought, handled, manipulated and made to dance at the end of a string.

And that is what Vladimir Putin is doing. Believe me, there is no one inside the Russian chain of command handling Donald Trump, except the spymaster in chief himself.

MATTHEWS: And Trump was probably going to throw in the monthly costs too, in addition to the purchase price.

Anyway, President -- pretty high in this case.

President Trump`s announcement last month of a swift removal of U.S. troops from Syria, for example, was widely seen as a win for Russia, which has been aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But, again, in a stance completely contrary to the president`s, his national security, John Bolton, announced new conditions for the troops` removal.

And he could -- and that could lead to significant delays in the president`s timeline for getting our troops out.

Who`s winning here? Trump says, we`re pulling our trips out of Syria. Next couple days, John Bolton is over there talking to Erdogan, having -- going to the movies with him or whatever the other night, and saying, well, it will take time.

Who`s the boss?

WOODRUFF: This raises a key sort of existential question about the way Trump builds foreign policy.

Part of the reason Bolton wanted to add those new conditions to withdrawing American troops from Syria...

MATTHEWS: He`s a neocon.

WOODRUFF: But part of the reason is because the United States has been supporting Kurdish fighters who have been fighting ISIS in Northern Syria.



WOODRUFF: They have been our allies. They have been working for what the United States wants.

And if the U.S. pulls out troops really rapidly, without plans in place to protect the Kurds living in Northern Syria, a lot of people who took risks to work alongside the United States will be in danger.

And so that`s part of -- that`s...


MATTHEWS: That`s the Marshall argument. I agree with you.


WOODRUFF: Russia is not an ally.

The Kurds are an ally. And Trump now is trying to decide between the two, and erring on the side of Russia.


MATTHEWS: You make a strong point.

I will make another point. The neocons want us to be a permanent military garrison in the Middle East. They want us to never leave. They want as many people as they can get in every country in the Middle East, so that we will be there, that we will be the gendarmes of the Middle East. That`s what they want, the neocons, and they have always wanted it.

Thank you, Betsy Woodruff. Thank you, Malcolm Nance.

Up next: Another container dives into what`s expected to be -- let`s put it this way -- a congested field for 2020. More on our announcement -- her announcement today. And she is one of the top-tier candidates. You`re looking at her right now.

HARDBALL back after this.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m running for president of the United States.



HARRIS: And I`m very excited about it. I`m very excited about it.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris officially announced today, earlier today, that she`s entering the 2020 presidential race, making her the first African-American candidate to join this race.

She`s in the top tier, of course, of presidential contenders, currently made up entirely of women. It`s Kamala Harris, of course, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York.

In Harris` first press conference as a presidential candidate, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell today asked her why she was the best person to beat Donald Trump.

Let`s watch.


HARRIS: I love my country. I love my country.

And I feel a sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are. And I`m prepared to fight and I know how to fight. And particularly when we`re talking about fighting for the values that we hold sacred and dear, when it comes to talking about how we fight for the American people, and have leadership in this country that is focused on the needs of the people, instead of self-interest, I`m prepared to fight that way. And I believe it will be a winning fight.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: But 17 or more other Democrats say that they love their country. Why are you better than they?

HARRIS: I think the voters will decide, ultimately.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Post." Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, worked on Bill Clinton`s race, Al Gore`s race, and some winners in there.


MATTHEWS: And James Pindell, political reporter for "The Boston Globe."

I got to go to James, because I love -- the second contest of the 2020 race will be in New Hampshire. And, historically, the person from the nearest state tends to win up there.

Has Warren got that locked up?

JAMES PINDELL, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": No, because there`s another senator from a neighboring state who won last time by 22 points, and his name is Bernie Sanders.

Right now, in the state, there is a Bernie wing right now. And you could include along that with Tulsi Gabbard or Jeff Merkley, the others on that Bernie wing.

And then Elizabeth Warren has had a very strong few weeks in her campaign. She`s been to the state twice. There is a lot interest around her, particularly as a women.

Then, after that, Jay Inslee is coming in tomorrow. There is a lot of kicking the tires and trying to figure out where things stand. But people are very far from committing, unless it is Bernie, and a lot of people are with Bernie. But, other than that, it`s kind of you`re waiting to see what is going to happen, who is going to come through.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s see what happens with the B`s, Bernie, Biden, Bloomberg...


MATTHEWS: Beto. They`re all of the B`s, who are all men, have to make up their mind.

The women are not -- Ruth, are not waiting to make up their minds. They`re in this baby, which is usually opposite.

But they are done -- they`re the ones making the fight. And the word fight is big.

MARCUS: How great is this?

MATTHEWS: Tell me.

MARCUS: How great is it that I -- OK, I`m going to tell you.

I think it`s fantastic. I think it`s fantastic that there`s just not one woman in the race, who is identified as the woman in the race. This is not the year of the woman. This is the year of women.


MATTHEWS: Or, as they say in Philly, the woman.


WOODRUFF: And where being a woman is not an anomaly, and it`s not an oddity.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry to push you. Is this coming forward from MeToo, from all the stuff that has happened? Is this part of that?

WOODRUFF: It`s part of that, but it`s also part of, hello, it`s 2019, last I checked, and women are half the planet and half the sky and more than half of the electorate, so about darn time, I would say.


MATTHEWS: Well, Jamal, explain the half the sky part to me, because I think the Democrats have been a party which is predominated by women. It`s a fact, just numbers in terms like California and places like that. You can look at the numbers, 60 percent some places.

The Republican Party has this sort of symmetric advantage among men. But what do you make it this year, because it looks to me like the -- it looks like a woman will actually, not have a glass ceiling, will have something of an edge going into this race?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I`m going to give a little bit of credit here to Hillary Clinton also, right?

Hillary Clinton ran this campaign that a lot of women were really invested in. They thought she could win. They thought, up until the day, the night of the election...

MATTHEWS: So did everybody.

SIMMONS: ... that she was going to win. And she didn`t win.

And what we saw, not only for president -- we saw these women run for every office across the state. People don`t -- we don`t think about this that much. Democrats won -- four Democratic women became governors this last election. We don`t talk about them enough.


MATTHEWS: So, there`s a crack in the ceiling.


SIMMONS: ... that we`re seeing...


MATTHEWS: You`re saying there`s a crack in the ceiling.


SIMMONS: This leadership of women is starting to take -- really take hold in the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about today.

According to Politico, Harris` announcement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was steeped in symbolism. Her aide said the red and yellow color scheme, by the way, for Harris` campaign logo was inspired by former Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York, whose 1972 run for president was the first by a black woman from a major political party.

Harris` video, by the way, outlines the theme of the career prosecutor`s candidacy for the people.

Ruth, let`s talk about this.

Let me go to Jamal. I have got to go Jamal on this, for obvious reasons.


MATTHEWS: But I get the feeling that she`s going set up her headquarters in Baltimore, largely African-American town.

SIMMONS: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: She`s...

SIMMONS: I don`t understand that.

MATTHEWS: Oh, explain.

SIMMONS: I don`t. I don`t understand why she`s in Baltimore. She`s from Oakland. So, she should be in Oakland. I think...

MATTHEWS: Well, she wants to win the South Carolina primary. That`s one idea.

SIMMONS: Yes. So put her headquarters in South Carolina.

I think that -- listen, I think that she`s got a lot of strengths here. She is -- she`s got a bio. She`s got a record. She`s a prosecutor with a heart. She`s had a lot to deal with keeping people out of recidivism.

MATTHEWS: Is she seen as African-American? Is she seen as African- American?


SIMMONS: What we have got to see next is the organization that she pulls up.

Yes, I think she`s seen as African-American. The fact she was at Howard University today, one of the oldest -- they call themselves the oldest -- I went to Morehouse. I think we`re a little bit older. But she`s -- she`s at Howard University today when she when -- when she did her announcement, press conference.

She`s going to South Carolina in the first week.


SIMMONS: She`s really planting her feet in the African-American community. I think she`s going to be a very strong candidate.

Now, Cory Booker is also going to do the same thing.

MATTHEWS: Is he running? He`s another B. Where is he?

SIMMONS: Cory Booker.

MATTHEWS: One of the B`s, and he`s not in yet.

SIMMONS: He`s got a great organization. And he`s doing it.


MATTHEWS: When is he coming in?

SIMMONS: There`s going to be a little bit of a fight.

But you can`t count out Joe Biden in South Carolina. He`s been spending time down there for 10 years. And people on the ground in that state say that he`s got a lot of really good relationships that are very strong.

He rode with Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: In the black community?

SIMMONS: And in the black community.

He rode with Barack Barack Obama for eight years. And a lot of African- Americans give him a lot of credit for that. I think, if he gets in the race, he`s going to be formidable.

But today it`s Kamala Harris` day, and she deserves the credit for this day, because she`s helping to set the pace for this entire race.


MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile,, in a celebration today for Martin Luther King Day, Kirsten Gillibrand attacked Donald Trump for creating racial divisions.

Let`s watch.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our president has chosen to tear this country apart on every line, every division, every racial line, every religious line.

He chooses to divide us community by community. He has inspired a hate and a darkness in this country that I have never witnessed myself. He is tearing apart the very fabric of who we are as a nation, our very common decency.

And that is what we are being called to fight against.


MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan once said, sell the difference. He was good on television. And he did a lot of television.

I just heard how Kamala Harris is going to sell the difference. She`s African-American. She`s going to spend a lot of time in Baltimore, South Carolina.

Isn`t that what`s going on? There`s so many candidates, potentially. We`re talking maybe two or three dozen candidates. They have to -- even on the left rail, which a lot them are on, they have to sell the difference.

MARCUS: And we don`t know yet who is going to emerge, who is going to catch fire, who is going to just have that spark with voters.

MATTHEWS: Who you betting on?

MARCUS: I`m not betting on anybody right...

MATTHEWS: You`re not betting?

MARCUS: I`m not -- I`m not betting.

MATTHEWS: I thought you were a pundit.


MARCUS: I am not -- I`m too smart a pundit to bet right now.

PINDELL: By the way, Chris, one thing.

MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead, James. I`m sorry.


I was going to say, the one thing that today really speaks at is how African-American voters are going to really decide who the Democratic nominee is in 2020. They did in 2008. They certainly did in 2016. That was one of the biggest differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, was her support among African-American voters.

And I think, if you look back 20, 30 years ago, you would say the structural advantages would benefit someone like Joe Biden, the former vice president, or Bernie Sanders, the guy who came in number two last time. They have name recognition. They have a fund-raising network.

But the structural advantages in 2020 are so set up for someone exactly like Kamala Harris, not only because she`s a woman and she`s a minority and she`s younger, party is looking to be younger. California primary is sitting there on March 3rd which is going to really change the dynamics, and she is -- so far any way, perfectly understanding her advantages and she`s playing right into it.

SIMMONS: I`m going to dance a little bit more, too, Chris. It is not just black voters, it is black women voters. If black women love you and white women like you, a Democrat could be president.

MATTHEWS: I saw today, I saw that --

MARCUS: It is California money.

MATTHEWS: I saw her on the train today and I saw a woman who thought -- a person who looks like they`re going to win. She looked like the winner today.

Thank you, Ruth Marcus, who`s holding off on her betting. By the way, online betting is coming.

Anyway, Jamal Simmons and James Pindell -- James, thank you so much.

Up next, entering the second month of the government shutdown, and federal workers are facing the prospect of another missed paycheck. Tomorrow is the deadline to get those checks ready. With Democrats calling Trump`s latest offer a non-starter, is there any hope this thing is going to end?

HARDBALL is back in a minute.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As of this weekend, the longest ever government shutdown has passed the one-month mark. Now in its 31st day with no resolution by tomorrow, more than 800,000 affected federal workers face the prospect of yet another missed paycheck. Some of those workers spoke about the personal toll of the ongoing shutdown.


DEBORAH SCOTT, GOVERNMENT WORKER: We`re going into the second pay period that we won`t be getting paid for. I have college tuition I have to deal with. I have a medical expense I have to deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m donating plasma. I`m cutting back on anything that we don`t need. Those are things I haven`t ever had to do before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m with the Department of Commerce and for four weeks, no check.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of that stuff that I would sell this summer, I`m going to be selling now. Just to try to, you know, get some cash to keep us afloat.

MICHELLE LEE, GOVERNMENT WORKER: Condo hasn`t been paid and mortgage will be late February if they do come back, hopefully.


MATTHEWS: Well, for his part, President Trump tweeted support for federal workers last night writing: To all of the great people who are working so hard for our country and not getting paid, I say thank you. You are great patriots. And then he added: We will win big.

Well, the president`s words of encouragement for federal workers come just one day after presenting his proposal to end the five-week standoff. It promises $5.7 billion for border wall in exchange for temporary protection for so-called Dreamers. Those young people whose parents brought them to the country illegally. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already says that proposal is a nonstarter in the House.

President Trump attacks Speaker Pelosi in a series of tweets saying: Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They should do the right thing for the country and allow people to go back to work. Well, he later added, Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally and gone so far to the left that she`s now officially become a radical Democrat.

Well, a series of recent polls found that a majority of Americans blame President Trump and the Republicans for the week`s long stalemate, not Democrats, by margins of upward of 20 points. By the way, the polls you can see are very consistent.

But it may not be those polls that the president is most concerned about in the ongoing standoff. And as one voice in particular that may be egging him on.

We`ll hear who that right-winger is after this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Over the weekend, President Trump floated his proposal to end the shutdown, funding for the border wall in exchange for temporary protections for certain undocumented immigrants. He was met with cold rejection on the right as well as the left. In fact, minutes after the president spoke, hard right commentator Ann Coulter blasted his move on Twitter, writing, Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb.

Joining me right now is Jonathan Swan, national political reporter for "Axios", and Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post".

I`m stunned. This presidency, talk about wag the dog. This president is working for Ann Coulter. It seems like that.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, those mega voices on the right speak to his base, and he`s always worried about the base. And so, when Ann Coulter yells and screams, he pays attention. That`s how we got into this mess, remember.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have a theory that that one third -- this is hard-core. That this is about race, just a hunch. This isn`t about economics or culture or anything else, because the hard-core cares more about this wall than anything else and that`s why he can`t give up on it. The hard core.

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: How is Trump -- how is he being puppeted around by Coulter? She`s angry when what he proposed on Saturday. She thinks being Jeb is terrible --

MATTHEWS: You think he`s going to go in this direction?

SWAN: What he offered is what he offered. She`s reacting to what he offered. She`s saying terrible Jeb Bush, the worst insult you could possibly give.

ROBINSON: If he follows -- Trump follows a pattern, though. Remember, there was a deal a month or so ago. I know it seems like it was like three years ago, but they had a deal for $1.7 billion, keep the government funded from February 8th, da, da, da. And then went Coulter and Limbaugh started yelling and screaming, that`s what he --

MATTHEWS: The guy in Luzerne County in Pennsylvania doesn`t know anything about DACA. But he knows about that wall. That`s what they want. They want the wall.

That`s the symbol. And Nancy Pelosi -- let me ask you about him, do you think Trump`s figured out Nancy Pelosi yet?

SWAN: No. And I think they completely misread her. So I can tell you from my own reporting conversations, the White House genuinely believed that Nancy Pelosi was politically hamstrung late last year because she was desperate to get the speaker vote.

They thought that the rivers would part. She gets the speaker vote, the rivers will part and suddenly she would negotiate for extra money on the wall. It`s just delusional.

MATTHEWS: They didn`t count on Ocasio-Cortez and the others getting elected.

ROBINSON: Absolutely right. They totally misread Pelosi and her situation. They thought she was being, you know, she was the puppet being dangled by her rank and file. She`s leading her caucus. She`s Nancy Pelosi.

MATTHEWS: Who does she have to answer to if she does cut a deal? I don`t think she will. When she said immorality, the wall is an immorality, that`s not a starter for negotiation.

ROBINSON: Yes, that precludes --

MATTHEWS: How do you say I`m going to commit an immorality?

ROBINSON: Look, look, she has been pretty definitive on her views about the wall, right? And so, she can perhaps get more money for border security, perhaps it could be done in a way that he could claim a win or say --

MATTHEWS: What`s she want? Gene, what does she want because the people on his side said she must want something? What can they give her to get what they want?

ROBINSON: Well, she wants the government open first. And so she doesn`t even have to go beyond that right now.


ROBINSON: I want the government open. The government should be open. And then we can talk about border security.

MATTHEWS: What`s not a deal for him.

What would she do to allow the wall? She wouldn`t take anything for the wall?

SWAN: It seems like she won`t give any extra money for the wall whatsoever, which is basically saying she wants total victory and for Trump to give up what he considers his only leverage, which is to continue the shutdown.

MATHEWS: This is really --

SWAN: It`s intractable.

ROBINSON: Keep in mind, this is the initial clash that sets up the next two years, right? And so it`s hard for anybody to back down from this.

MATTHEWS: I think this government shutdown is staying shut down, these two are like this.

Anyway, thank you, Eugene Swan, and Gene --

SWAN: Eugene Swan?

ROBINSON: Eugene Swan. You just comboed us.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan Swan.

SWAN: I like this marriage.

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to negotiate.

Coming up, what anger is driving Trump voters to want a wall? Why do they want a wall? And what would Martin Luther King Jr. think of that wall?

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Martin Luther King day calls for a moment of reflection on not just the civil rights struggle which obviously continues, but about what our country stands for. You know, there`s nothing in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution about this being a European country. Indeed, the first of these founding documents was meant to set us free from that imperial continent. And yet, much of our early history was premise on a supremacy of those who come here from New York, above those who are native here before us, and those brought here from Africa as slaves.

Last night, Kathleen and I saw "To Kill a Mockingbird" up in New York.

And what struck me about a black man in Alabama being railroaded on a trumped up case is the power of race in our history. It`s the power that allows otherwise good people to justify the worst imaginable behavior to someone they both fear and condemn on the basis of his color. It`s the electric chair or the rope for the black man who stands accused even of having broken the old rigid rules of Jim Crow.

So, here we are in the 21st century, almost 100 years after Harper Lee`s story took place and the issue of color rears its head again, this time focused on the people coming here from below our southern border. Now, it is the color of those people whose forbearers were native to this continent. Yes, there were other issues, but the anger and passion behind this call for a wall is so blatantly about color that both sides can feel it in their bones. So we push on.

But on this Martin Luther King Day, we should take this moment to admit, all of us, that the issue is about who is European in their background, not who is American. But what does that got to do with patriotism to this country and what it stands for?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.