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Trump-Pelosi battle over State of the Union. TRANSCRIPT: 1/23/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Donny Deutsch, Natasha Bertrand, Elliot Williams, Mitch Landrieu, Barbara Lee, David Cicilline; Gwenda Blair

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks to each of you.  That is THE BEAT.  I will be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m.  Don`t go anywhere.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next. 

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

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews live in Washington. 

This has been one of the most bizarre days ever in American politics.  The President of the United States began the crazy by insisting on coming to the Houses of Representatives to give his state of the union despite a previous warning from the speaker that he will be welcome as long as the government remain shut down. 

But today the speaker hit back with a loud and clear no, you can`t.  The President beaten and rejected now says Pelosi doesn`t want to hear the truth.  This from President whose usual distance from the truth can be measured in light years. 

There`s no drama - actually, new drama to surrounding Michael Cohen, the President`s former lawyer and fixer.  Cohen is now delaying his testimony before the house oversight committee which was going to be in public because of threats he says are real, given hostile statements by Trump and his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 

Let`s start with the toxic ping pong between President Trump and Speaker Pelosi on this 33rd day of the government shutdown.  The President tries to barrel forward today with his plan to deliver the state of the union speech despite the speaker`s request to delay or deliver it in writing.  In a new letter sent to Pelosi today, the President said he check with the secret service running there is no security concerns regarding the state of the union address, therefore I will be honoring your invitation and fulfilling my constitutional duty to deliver important information to the people and Congress. 

Trump added, it would be so very sad for our country if the state of the union were not delivered on time, on schedule and very importantly on location. 

On her letter back, Pelosi wrote back in her initial invitation January 3rd, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.  She added, the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President`s state of the union address in the House chamber until government has opened.  Here is Trump`s reaction to that. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m not surprised.  It`s really a shame what is happening with the Democrat.  The state of the union speech has been cancelled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn`t want to hear the truth.  She doesn`t want the American public to hear what`s going on and she is afraid of the truth. 


MATTHEWS:  That`s an unbelievable statement by him. 

Anyway, Pelosi maintains, the speaker, maintain that the offer still stands for the President to deliver the speech as long as the government is open. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  We have said very clearly from the start when I wrote to him the second time to say since government is shut down, we do not -- let`s work together on a mutually agreeable date when we can welcome you to the capital to give a state of the union address.  Government is still shut down, I still make the offer. 


MATTHEWS:  Tough. 

I`m joined right now by U.S. congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and Gwenda Blair, author of "the Trumps, three generations of builders and the President." 

Robert, why does this President want so much to climb up Capitol Hill and give that speech Tuesday night at that location? 

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST:  It`s a symbol of defiance for him to go to the capitol to rally Republicans as the shutdown drags on.  He is aware that thousands of federal employees are going without a paycheck.  There are cracks inside the GOP and agitation about getting shutdown over with.  But he believes in political theater and of confronting the Democrats and he believes eventually they could buckle. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to Mr. Cicilline of Rhode Island.  You are a Democrat.  Why is your speaker, your party leader so tough in saying I don`t want him on that platform next Tuesday night?  Why?  The real reason. 

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I think the speaker is reflecting the will of the caucus that we think it`s completely inappropriate for the President of the United States to come and deliver a state of the union while the union is shut down.  It is just not appropriate.  And the idea of just acting like everything is normal and this is a normal time does not make sense.  And so, I think what the speaker is saying is while there are FBI agents and food inspectors and air traffic controllers not being paid and government is shutdown, it does not make sense to have a state of the union.  Once the government is open, of course the President will be welcome to make his speech. 

But it`s just not appropriate.  We have many, many employees who are suffering incredibly because of the shutdown where the President is engaged in and the Speaker.  And the House Democrats are committed to reopening the government doing.  We have now voted 10 times to reopen the government.  That`s our priority because it`s causing real harm to real people in this country and to millions of Americans affected by the shutdown.  And it`s just inappropriate that in the midst all of this, with the government shutdown, the President thinks he is going to waltz in and give a state of the union. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Gwenda on this.  Because it seems that we are watching something really fascinating here in human relations, two people fighting it out.  One, not going to give the other.  Somewhat, it seems to me, surprised and intimidated by the opposition he is facing.  Has Donald Trump ever come up against somebody with the political stuff of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker? 

GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, THE TRUMPS, 3 GENERATIONS OF BUILDERS & A PRESIDENT:  I don`t think so.  Maybe his dad but he is coming up against somebody who says no is spelled n-o.  And somebody who is not a subcontractor, somebody who is not an employee.  Someone he cannot, you know, intimidate into backing down.  She has got the leverage.  He is used to having the leverage.  He sets everything up to have the leverage with his chaotic situations.  That`s exactly his comfort zone.  Where other people are thrown off the bounds and back down, usually.  She is not backing down. 

MATTHEWS:  Robert, you know the guy as well as any reporter.  My question is do you think he was ready for Nancy Pelosi to throw it right back at him today when he came back crawling with his late effort to get up on the Hill and she said no you are not getting up here?  And I`m wondering this way.

I`m thinking Nancy Pelosi, the speaker knows how to look ahead three or four days and she, I think, imagined that he would get up there on the platform with President always stand on and turn back to her and say thanks for the nice invitation, Madam Speaker.  Stick it to her and then blame the whole government shutdown on her refusal to back his wall and she didn`t want to sit there and watching him throw this crap at her.  Your thoughts. 

COSTA:  There`s a real debate inside of the west wing, Chris, about the strategy for the shutdown.  The President has tapped Jared Kushner, his son-in-law to lead negotiations working with vice President Pence and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Kushner, according to our reporting, continues to say there is a deal to be had with Democrats.  Yet Democrats maintain they will not caught deal with President Trump until the government is reopen and that`s the fundamental divide.  The White House believes that somehow the Democrats are going to bend the longer the shutdown pain continues but Democrats say there`s no reason for them to do so. 

MATTHEWS:  What about this thing that is floating around there?  That they might be something along the lines of $5.6 billion for some kind of state- of-the art border control or patrol that doesn`t involved some brick and mortar wall, Robert?  What is the possibility? 

Let me go to Mr. Cicilline on that.  He would know.  Are the Democrats playing with a trial balloon that might be meeting the needs of border control without the offense, the ethnic offense of putting up a wall? 

CICILLINE:  Well, I think Democrats have been speaking about ways we can effectively secure the border.  Use of cargo inspections and drones and our infrastructure at the point of entree.  Today, we passed a bill that has an additional $1.6 billion for immigration judges, for investments at the port of entry. 

So I think what we are going to hear tomorrow is a broad outline of the kinds of investments that we think makes sense that will actually effectively secure the border. 

But I think what`s going on here is something much more fundamental.  The speaker is reasserting the House`s co-equal standing as a co-equal branch of government.  The Republicans were acting like lap dogs for two years.  And I think the President is accustomed to the Congress asserting itself as a co-equal branch of government.  But he better get used to it. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he is used to people like Nunes on intelligence. 

Anyway, meanwhile, new poll is out today show how the American people view the standoff between Pelosi and Trump.  According to a CBS News poll, Americans are evenly split over whether Trump should give the speech as long as we have the shutdown.  Look at that, 48-48.  Give the speech up there on the Hill, at the Congress, while we still have the shutdown, even Steven. 

But that same poll found that more than twice as many Americans want Trump to give up the wall demands.  Just give up the wall, 66 percent say Trump should accept the budget without the 5.6 for the wall. 

A new "Associated Press" poll shows the shutdown has taken the poll in Trump`s overall approval.  Now this is lethal in the sky.  He has dropped from 42 percent just last month to 34 percent. 

Let me go to Gwenda on that.  Gwenda, it seems to me that Trump loves polls.  He loves cable TV.  How is he living with the fact he is down below a-third now, other people? 

BLAIR:  I think he must be -- this would make him very unhappy.  This is a guy who only wants to win.  There`s no such thing as compromise.  There`s only winning and losing.  And if you are not winning, you are losing in his rule book.  He grew up on Norm Vincent Peal on the idea that positive thinking about yourself as successful is the way to go.  Don`t let the idea of failure ever enter your mind.  But he recognized that.  And so you have to win and you have to demolish the opposition. 

Norman Vincent Peal never said that but that`s Donald`s interpretation.  And by that way of looking at the world, he has got to win.  So his mind he has got to be really be having a headache because he has got to win and yet the polls are showing people don`t want him to do this. 

MATTHEWS:  Robert, again, the horse whisperer, the guy I know that really knows Trump and has a very open mind about the guy, I think, still after all this reporting.  You are still looking to the guy objectively and my question is he has never given Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, a nickname.  He has attacked, you know, Pocahontas and low energy and little Marco.  He loves to humiliate people.  What has stopped him from going after the speaker of the House in that particularly personal way of a nickname? 

COSTA:  He is only gone so far today to refer to the House Speaker, not as speaker Pelosi but by her first name and that`s as much as he will say.  He hasn`t given her a nickname as you detailed there, Chris. 

Part of that is he is grappling with the dawn of divided government, understanding that she does have, as the Congressman said, the power of the branch of government, the U.S. House.  The Congress split now between Democrats and Republicans.  She is a power force of his generation.  Someone who comes out of Baltimore, knows how politics is played, is not an easy opponent for the President in a way some of his Republican rivals and Democrats have been in the past. 

MATTHEWS:  So where is he going to give the speech?  The dubliner (ph)?  I mean, he is talking about giving it somewhere on Capitol Hill.  There`s an Irish barer a couple blocks away.  I mean, seriously, is he going to find a regular people`s hangout or is he going to go to Iowa or up to Erie, Pennsylvania or someplace like Bucks County?  Where is he going? 

COSTA:  I wouldn`t mind the Dubliner (ph) to be candid, Chris.  It would be fine with me.  I think you talk to Senate -- I was at the Senate today and the Senate Republicans were telling me, they would be open to him speaking in the Senate chambers but still are trying to see if there`s a way for him.  He has House floor privileges as President.  Could he somehow enter the House floor and give a speech from elector in there.  And if not there, perhaps in the capitol auditorium, that new area they built in the basement. 


Let me go to Mr. Cicilline.  Congressman, you know, as pointed out, the constitution divides government in checks and balances.  We have that great tension between the branches of government.  Nancy Pelosi is insistent as speaker, a constitutional officer in line to be president that it is her call whether a resolution gets on the floor of the House to allow the President to come.  She`s chosen not to do that resolution.  She is not going to introduce, she said it like today.  What do you think she thinks she is forcing Trump to do?  I mean she must understand the calculus politically here. 

CICILLINE:  Yes.  Of course, she does.  I do think fundamentally, the speaker believes that it`s just not appropriate in this moment with federal employees suffering, worrying about being able to pay their bills, pay their mortgage, pay their rent, being distracted from their work because of this horrific shutdown. 

I just think she does not believe it`s appropriate for the President to give a state of the union.  And I think what she is asserting is that we are not going to behave as if everything is normal and these are normal times and she is insisting that the President turn his attention to reopening the government and then he will be welcome to make the speech. 

But of course, the President sees every decision as a personal slight to him.  This isn`t about him.  This is about the American people, about a functioning government, about taking care of workers who are doing their jobs and not getting paid.  And I think the speaker fundamentally and supported by the caucus.  We don`t believe it makes sense or it`s appropriate to have a state of the union while state of the union is shut down. 

MATTHEWS:  She has got the caucus totally.  I mean, have you heard of any whispers of mutiny or any kind of opposition to her within the caucus, the majority caucus? 

CICILLINE:  The majority caucus, the Democrats are really unified and are committed to doing everything we can to get the government open.  We are going to continue to vote on bills to do that continue to make the case because we understand the impact of the shutdown government and we are very committed to that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the President paid tribute, by the way, to Speaker Pelosi awhile back when he said to Paul Ryan.  You don`t get it.  Watch Pelosi.  She knows how to do it. 

The ongoing stalemate, by the way, reflects Trump`s preferred negotiating tactics.  "The Washington Post" reports his preference as always crisis as a leverage.  He creates or threatens to create a calamity.  And then he insist he will address the problem only if his adversary capitulates to a separate demand. 

Well, that`s -- I have heard of dictators like that.  Your thoughts, Gwenda, about the tactics of Trump.  Because he will walk away from a deal but in this case he can walk away but isn`t going to end up on Capitol Hill? 

BLAIR:  He makes everything - he pulls on to his turf.  We saw that during the primaries when he would start right out of the box.  He would say he insult somebody, kick somebody in the shins and then everybody would have to respond to that.  That`s what he wants to do.  Make everything be on his turf. 

And Nancy Pelosi`s not going for it.  She is saying no.  This is not your turf.  This is the people`s turf.  This is the house and I`m in charge here.  She`s not going to let him frame it.  And I think he doesn`t know what do in that case.  He is use to having people give way, get out of the way and that`s not happening. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think a lot of people would wish this President is as tough on Putin as Nancy, the speaker of the House is on Trump. 

Anyway, the congressman, thank you very much, Congressman David Cicilline.  Pleases come back again and again. 

Robert Costa, as always, sir. 

Gwenda Blair, thanks for your expertise about the President. 

Up next President Trump`s former fixer, Michael Cohen, said he is putting, apparently indefinitely, testifying to Congress now because of ongoing threats against his family from the President.  Donny Deutsch, Cohen - well, he will be joining us next. 

And why is the far right losing its collective mind over a first term congresswoman from New York?  What is it about Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez that is scaring the what out of these people? 

We are back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  What a bizarre news day. 

And by the way, with the Russian scandal threatening be consumed Donald Trump`s presidency itself, Michael Cohen today informed the House Oversight Committee that he was postponing, perhaps indefinitely, his scheduled testimony because he fears for his life and that of his family.  His adviser and lawyer, Lanny Davis said the decision was quote "due to ongoing threats against him, his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani." 

Well, President Trump who has called Cohen a rat has urged the authorities to toss the book at him while also suggesting the federal authorities investigate Cohen`s father in-law.  Let`s watch Trump. 


TRUMP:  He is in trouble on some loans and fraud and taxi cabs and stuff that I know-nothing about.  And in order to get his sentence reduced, he says I have an idea, I will tell - I will give you some information on the President.  Well, there is no information, but he should give information maybe on his father in law because that`s the one that people want to look at because where does that money -- that`s the money in the family.  And I guess he didn`t want to talk about his father in law.  He is trying to get his sentence reduced.  So it`s pretty sad.  You know, it`s weak. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, as Trump`s personal lawyer and fixer for all those years, Cohen has been in a position to share everything he knows about his old boss, think about that for a moment, everything Trump`s been up to.  And during his sentencing hearing, Cohen told the court: "Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."

And just last month, Cohen admitted to breaking campaign finance laws to suppress the stories of two women alleging affairs with Donald Trump and said he did that at the direction of the president.

Well, sources close to Cohen told NBC News that his wife and father-in-law are particularly scared and feel directly targeted by this president. 

The sources also told NBC -- quote -- "The threats are real, and Trump knows what he`s doing." 

For more, I`m joined by Elliot Williams, former federal prosecutor, Natasha Bertrand, staff writer for "The Atlantic," and Donny Deutsch, Chairman emeritus of Deutsch, Inc. 

Donny, what is -- to put it bluntly for people out there who are trying to figure out why a guy would call of his testimony, which has been so anticipated, as the sort of John Dean or Chuck Colson testimony of this whole scandal, is afraid.  What does he feel physically, criminally?  What?  Why is his wife crying every night, according to evidence here?

DONNY DEUTSCH, CHAIRMAN, DEUTSCH INC.:  Chris, we talked about this last week -- excuse me -- last week, where I saw it up close and personal.

I was on the phone with him right after Trump did that.  And he says: "My wife is sitting here crying.  This is my father-in-law.  This is my 80- something-year-old father-in-law."  He goes: "What am I doing?  Why am I doing this?  This is" -- and he was afraid.

It`s not only that.  It is the thousands of rancid threats to his children that started as result of him testifying in Congress.  Obviously, if you like Trump, you don`t like Michael Cohen.

But it`s gone to a new heinous level.  Trump clearly was threatening him.  I saw the reaction, as we talked last week.  I saw him back up.

And the other thing -- and you didn`t do this in the tease-up -- is that Michael is still a cooperating -- part of cooperating in ongoing investigations.  And I think he felt it was in his best interests, the best interests of the investigations, but mostly for his family.

He volunteered to do this.  I don`t know the history that too many people who are already going to jail and then they volunteered to speak in front of Congress. 

And obviously that`s not necessarily a particularly friendly place, particularly on the Republican side.  And I don`t know if the Democrats would be so friendly to him.  But I really believe he so wanted to tell certain stories, and he will get them out there eventually. 

And he will probably go in front of Congress eventually.  But I think, for the safety of his family...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he`s telling the truth about physical fear for his family? 

DEUTSCH:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he`s afraid of some nut or real fanatic out there who likes Trump going after his family physically?

DEUTSCH:  Chris -- Chris, I can absolutely, absolutely attest to that. 

He`s read me some of the e-mails.  And on top of that, when the president - - there are a lot of nuts out there.  There are always going to be nuts out there. 

But when the president, just like the "Godfather" and Freddy Pentangeli, really comes out and threatens your 80-something-year-old grandfather -- and, by the way, this is the man the Department of Justice -- I mean, father-in-law -- the Department of Justice reports to the president.  The president is the chief law enforcement official in this country. 

So, even when I said to him, I said: "Well, Michael, you`re kind of insulated.  He`s called out your father-in-law.  He can`t do this."

And he said to me: "Really?  Really?  It would be OK if it was your father- in-law?"

And I have seen Michael through a lot, and I have seen Michael be strong, and I have seen Michael crack a little bit.  But when it comes to his family -- you might like his politics, you might not like his politics, you may think he is a crook, you may think he`s a good guy, but he is a devoted father and a very devoted husband.

And that hits a very different nerve, particularly when you were volunteering to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Natasha, your thoughts about the threats and, of course, the witness tampering behind it all?

Because if the president -- it`s one thing if somebody on television says this guy`s no good or this person is no good.  When the president states says there`s -- no good, there`s all possibility of wild behavior out there in the streets.  He could be going to a restaurant and somebody could attack him.  We don`t know.

He`s obviously -- -- his wife`s thinking about that. 

But let`s get to the legal question, threatening administration action from the top chief executive himself against the father-in-law.  That looks like a combination of witness tampering and absolute abuse of authority by a president.  Your thoughts. 


And so when I spoke to Lanny Davis earlier, the first question I asked him was, were there more threats than just the ones that were presented by the president via Twitter, presented by his president`s -- by the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on the Sunday shows?

And he said that he wasn`t willing to get into that, but that the president signaling to the rest of the world that this was someone who was a rat, who was not telling the truth, who was just in this to protect his family and his father-in-law from perhaps criminal prosecution was enough for it to really get him to change his mind. 

Now, of course, the question of whether Democrats are going to see this as obstruction of justice, that`s already been answered, because Democrats actually sent out a fairly unprecedented letter directly to the president, warning him against tampering with witnesses when the president first tweeted about Michael Cohen`s appearance before Congress next month. 

So they clearly believe that obstruction of justice by the president is an impeachable offense, because we saw them coming out en masse last week saying, look, if the president directed Michael Cohen to lie at any point, and if the president was trying to suborn perjury, then that is impeachable. 

And they said that they would not hesitate to launch impeachment proceedings.  If it is proven that the president has been trying purposefully to get Michael Cohen to intimidate him out of testifying before the committee, then that too could be seen as a blatant obstruction of justice, and Democrats could very well take action.

MATTHEWS:  You know, even at the worst of Watergate, if Richard Nixon -- he never would do this because he had some basic respect for institutions, despite all his wrongdoing -- if he came out and said to John Dean, if John Dean says a word against me, I will get his family, I mean, it is mob talk. 


Look, we are in day 734 of one long act of obstruction of justice.  Sometimes, it`s tweets.  Sometimes, it`s firing an FBI director, and sometimes it`s potentially directing the Justice Department to go after someone`s father-in-law. 

They`re all -- now, you can`t charge them all as crimes.  Like, I don`t know what you could get the president for under the statute, the obstruction of justice or the witness tampering statute.  But this is -- all of the -- it`s a big bucket of conduct. 

  MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question about television.

If you go on television as president, an authority figure, at least for a third of the country still, and you say, this is a rat, this is a rat, this is a bad being, and somebody goes out and throws a rock at him or whatever happens -- you never know -- or just gives him a hard time in terms of like assault of some kind...

WILLIAMS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... would that be part of the president`s responsibility?

WILLIAMS:  If the president knew he was directing someone to commit the crime.

Here`s the problem.  The president, when you have the ability to start investigations, when you say the words you should -- you ought to go after that guy, when you`re the head of the executive branch, it`s necessarily a threat.  It`s necessarily -- someone will perceive that, that this man is trying to sic the Justice Department on me.

So even -- again...

MATTHEWS:  I got you.

Even if he doesn`t call up William Barr and says, Bill, nail this father- in-law for me, it`s still tampering.

WILLIAMS:  And it`s shady.

Look, Joyce Vance calls it awful, but lawful conduct sometimes.  It might be something that maybe you couldn`t convict him of, but it`s just bad for the president to be doing.  We know that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the president was asked today about Cohen`s allegations against him. 


QUESTION:  Michael Cohen, he says he`s been threatened by you and Mr. Giuliani.  He and his family have been threatened.

TRUMP:  No, I would say he`s been threatened by the truth.  He`s only been threatened by the truth.  And he doesn`t want to do that probably for me or other of his clients. 

He has other clients also, I assume, and he doesn`t want to tell the truth from me or other of his clients. 


MATTHEWS:  Donny, there he goes again.  Is he referring to Russian clients?  Is he referring to mob clients that we have talked about it before?  That`s why he isn`t a completely cooperating witness, because he doesn`t want to testify against really scary people, in addition to the president.

What do you think is the president`s reference there to his other clients?

DEUTSCH:  What he always does.  Point -- look at the shiny object over there. 

Look, Michael was in-house counsel for Donald Trump for over 10 years.  He didn`t have other clients.  Yes, I think afterwards he started to work for some other people that, but that`s not what this is about. 

And I want to come back to also the threats, because it is clear there are always nuts out there and there are going to always be nuts.  But where Michael really turned is when he saw his wife hysterical crying, saying, "Now they`re going to drag my father into it?"

And I think that that really kind of, I don`t want to say broke Michael, but I think he kind of had a real different way of looking -- you have to just sometimes picture yourself.  And once again, like Michael Cohen, not like Michael Cohen, you dragged your family through this.  That`s the thing that`s killing you most.

You know you see -- you go to bed with your wife crying every night, and now out of nowhere, the president, not some nut, the president is saying, you`re next, father-in-law.  He said no mas.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, her father, in other words, her father.

Let me ask you about this.  Where`s this going?  Is he going to testify eventually?  When people say postpone, justice delayed is justice denied.  If he`s not going to testify to next week or the week after, when is he going to testify?

Are they covering up a decision not to testify at all? 

WILLIAMS:  I don`t think so, because I think the House has a huge interest in having him come testify. 

I don`t think the House Oversight Committee sort of consented to or agreed to have him not come indefinitely.  So I think they`re working out whether it`s the safety or security issues, and eventually hope to have him come.

Now, this hearing can turn into a circus.  You know that.  You know that the Republicans on the committee, because Meadows and Jordan have already issued a letter saying all the craziness that they want to talk about.  So buckle up.  This could be a big hearing.

But I would be shocked if it didn`t happen at some point.

MATTHEWS:  Natasha, politically -- you cover the politics of this -- sometimes, I think there`s so much on the table, so much on the -- it`s like in cards, you already see four cards.  You may not see the fifth, which is what Mueller has got.

But we have seen so much evidence of obstruction of justice and witness tampering and all this lot of stuff that`s been advertised in the news media for now almost two years.

And my question is, starting with the firing of Comey, is the Congress going to move on impeachment even if Mueller`s report doesn`t come through with the kind of authority we might expect or the excitement we might expect? 

BERTRAND:  It`s a great question, and it`s one that I have been asking Democrats about for months now, is whether or not they`re going to wait and see what Mueller`s report actually produces before making an independent judgment as to whether or not this president is fit for office. 

Now, the answer I`m getting is that they`re going to pursue their own investigations separate and apart from the Mueller probe.  They`re not going to step on each Mueller`s toes.  They`re going to try to kind of recreate a parallel investigation that won`t necessarily intersect with Mueller`s, whatever that may look like. 

But they have said -- and they have been very strong on this point -- that they`re not just sitting on their hands and waiting to see what Mueller produces. 

For example, if evidence is released showing that the president did tell Michael Cohen to lie, showing that the president maybe did actually participate directly in paying off these women during the election, and that that was an actual crime, then they are going to investigate that and they are going to make judgments about whether or not that is a high crime and misdemeanor.

But they are not just sitting on their hands about this.  And that is something they want to make very clear.

MATTHEWS:  Big politics coming that way.  And the evidence could do it. 

Thank you so much, Elliot Williams, Natasha Bertrand, and Donny Deutsch.

Thank you, Donny. 

Up next: all the ways in which a 33-day government shutdown over Trump`s border wall is making America less secure.  How`s that for a challenge to the president?

We`re back after this.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, as we continue -- or, actually, the government shutdown continues.

And it continues inflicting real financial pain on government employees and contractors.  There`s new reporting out there that shows the economic ripple effect is putting U.S. national security, law enforcement and the economy itself at risk. 

"The New York Times" reports that, according to the FBI Agents Association -- quote -- "The FBI has been unable to issue grand jury subpoenas and indictments in several cases.  The bureau has also not been able to pay its informants and could lose those informants for good."  How`s that for an unintended consequence?

This is -- this is how, by the way, the president of the FBI Agents Association put it yesterday:


rMDNM_THOMAS O`CONNOR, PRESIDENT, FBI AGENTS ASSOCIATION:  The failure to fund the FBI is making it more difficult for us to do our jobs, to protect the people of our country from criminals and terrorists. 

Lack of funding is showing up in all investigations.  You need funds to run the FBI, period.


MATTHEWS:  Well, meanwhile, the commandant of the Coast Guard delivered a message of solidarity to over 40,000 service members working pay.


ADM. KARL SCHULTZ, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT:  For five-plus weeks, into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay, you, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden. 

Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members. 


MATTHEWS:  Also today, "The Washington Post" reports that hundreds of IRS employees are skipping work due to financial hardship on their own.  And, according to union leaders -- quote -- "That could hamper the government`s ability to process taxpayer refunds on time."

So people who are already short out of cash or out of cash aren`t going to get their refunds. 

Now even Trump`s topic economist says that a continued shutdown could completely stall the U.S. economy. 


QUESTION:  Could we get zero growth?  I just want to nail this down.


QUESTION:  We could.  OK, wow.  All right.  Wow.

HASSETT:  If it extended for the whole quarter, if it extended for the whole quarter, and given the fact that the first quarter tends to be low because of residual seasonality, then you could end up with a number of very close to zero in the first quarter. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by the former Democratic Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu.

Mr. Mayor, thank you.


MATTHEWS:  You have been an actual executive.  You had to run a city that`s had a few threats, stresses over the years, like Katrina.

And I saw you last year.  It was at the Gridiron.  And you`re the first guy I have ever seen face Trump face to face and beat him.  You beat him in the room.  And I think Trump knew it.  I think he said, wow, this guy could be tough. 


MATTHEWS:  Will you run for president?  I`m building you up because...

LANDRIEU:  Well, he laughed.  It was a very -- no.


MATTHEWS:  But I wanted to hear what you think about that.

LANDRIEU:  He laughed.  He had a good time that night.  He was...


LANDRIEU:  Well, listen, it was a really compelling night.  It was a night where people came together and laughed and joked.

We had -- we had some hard hits, but it was respectful and it was forceful.

MATTHEWS:  You were showing the macho, just like he does. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, you were showing it better than he does. 

Let me ask you about this.  It seems to be the one of the hats the president wears is chief executive, not just commander in chief, not just chief diplomat or head of state.  He`s supposed to run -- or she -- the United States government and make it work.

  And we`re looking at now the calamity of what`s going on, all the way to drug interdiction, of course, on the coasts, IRS checks not coming back to people when they need them.


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?

LANDRIEU:  Well, a couple things.

Well, General Honore, one of the great generals that helped us rescue from Katrina, he said, let`s not get stuck on stupid.  And the president is way stuck on stupid right now.

There is no American in his right mind or her right mind that would ever think about shutting down the government.  This is why the people of America are really frustrated with Washington.  It`s not an option.

If you were a mayor and you shut down the government, they would put you in the ground, figuratively, within 24 hours.  Right now, the president has said to us that the reason he is so insistent on the border wall is because he wants to secure the nation. 

And, of course, previously, you just showed that the FBI, the ATF, the Coast Guard, the National Finance Center in New Orleans, Belle Chasse Air Force, all of these folks whose job it is to secure us are really now having a very difficult time doing their job.

And so it`s having pretty adverse consequences.  The first order of business is to make the government work for the people.  And if you can`t even make the government work, then you`re not doing your job.

He is the chief executive officer.  He`s responsible for this.  And I think they should just open up the government, and then we can have a discussion about whatever else they think ails the country at this point in time, which, of course, are many things.

MATTHEWS:  Well "The Atlantic" magazine late last week reported -- quote -- "A grim, but growing consensus has begun to emerge on Capitol Hill there may be no way out of this mess until something disastrous happens."

And I know you can get away with graft until the bridge falls down with the school bus crossing it.  Things get out of hand over time.  It doesn`t happen immediately.  We have had the shutdown for over a month now. 

When is it really going to crack?  Is it going to take something with air traffic control?

LANDRIEU:  This is...

MATTHEWS:  Is it going to take something with TSA where somebody gets through with something they shouldn`t on an airplane?

LANDRIEU:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  What`s it going to take the scare the people and the politicians to do something to end this?

LANDRIEU:  Well, let me speak to this issue. 

Bad things always happen, and something bad is going to happen.  We know that.  I lived through Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, the BP oil spill, the national recession. And when that happens, you need to be ready to respond. 

Right now, the nation is in a weaker spot to respond.  We should not wait.  We don`t have to wait for that to occur. 

Right now, I have a really I just have a radical proposal -- the president should open up the government.  Every House member and every Senate member ought to sit their butts in their seats and Mitch McConnell ought to have an open debate for all of us in the country so that we could listen to, so we can listen to our senators and our representatives debate.  They should then vote.  Then they should send whatever they do to the president.  If he wishes to veto it, they can go back and do it again. 

What they shouldn`t do is shut down the government and stop talking and I just don`t think the American people are going to --


MATTHEWS:  -- Mayor, because Mitch is playing a little game tomorrow.  He`s running two bills pass the Senate that are not going to matter.  Mitch McConnell is playing a game. 

LANDRIEU:  But what he`s not doing, though, and the American people don`t understand this, but you understand this because you worked for Tip O`Neill is not having open floor debate on the Senate, where a hundred of our senators that represent 325 million Americans actually debate in full view, so that we can hold them all accountable for the words that they say.  When they do that, they will do their job, they`ll build consensus, they will pass something that the House can then consider. 

That`s not what they`re doing right now.  And so, my suggestion to Mitch, the other Mitch, is to let them vote.  Open it up, let`s hear all of our senators debate in behalf of all of us and let the House members do it.  They`ll come to a conclusion.

But there`s nowhere else in the same universe and government where they would let people shut the government down.  That`s just not right thing to do and, of course, it`s not right to ask people to work and not pay them, especially when we`re asking them to give us our security.  That`s not the right thing to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Mitch Landrieu, a man of the south of New Orleans, a great family -- thank you for coming on.  I hope you make a big show of running for president at some point.  That`d be good for everybody. 

LANDRIEU:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next -- we need a Southerner.

Up next, conservatives have latched on to a new nemesis, and she`s a first- term Democratic member of Congress from New York.  There she is. 

Why is right wing so obsessed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?  They`re going nuts over her.  We`re going to be right back to talk about this new phenomenon. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

What is it about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that makes conservatives lose its mind?  The first-term congresswoman rose to prominence, of course, with a surprising primary victory last year against long-time Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley.  She ran on a progressive platform that included Medicare for all, a green new deal to tackle climate change and a federal jobs guarantee.  She has quickly become the hard right`s favorite target. 

Take a listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Alexander Ocasio-Cortez is the face of Democratic socialism and since her brain is as empty as the promises of unfettered statism, I am absolutely fine with that. 

LYNDA MCLAUGHLIN:  I`m going to call her Ocasio or maybe O-scare-io or O- crazy-o.

SEAN HANNITY:  I like O-scare-io. 

MCLAUGHLIN:  I like O-scare-io.

HANNITY:  O-socially, O-socialist-o. 

MCLAUGHLIN:  You know, O-sociailst, O-socialist Cortez.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I wonder is she smarter than a fifth grader.  I wish she would debate a fifth grader and let`s see how far she is. 


MATTHEWS:  And one guest on a Fox took his criticism of Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez to a whole other level with an astounding historic comparison and that`s coming up next and you won`t believe it.



BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST:  We have a society in which there are an awful lot of people who have no idea that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong all came to power promising the same kind of things that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is promising, and led to mass murder, led to dictatorship and led to genocide.  These promises are old promises and they invariably lead to bad things. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was political commentator Ben Stein making a historic comparison to remember.  But Stein is just one member of the chorus attacking first-term Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York after conservative activist James Woods described the congresswoman as, quote, the most dangerous person in America right now and he warned that, forget the FBI list, most wanted list, ignore her at your peril.

I`m joined now by U.S. Democratic congresswoman from California, Barbara Lee, and Jason Johnson, politics editor for

Congresswoman, you`re right in the middle of this.  What do you think on the Democratic caucus side when one member becomes the target for all this hate? 

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, first all, of the hate is disgusting but that`s who they are.  The honorable AOC, she is really engaging with young people.  She`s really bringing forth optimism -- 


LEE:  -- and a lot of energy and creativity, and she`s connecting with people and that`s what we need, that`s what our democracy needs, Chris.  And so, we`re seeing more new voters, more young people really beginning to understand what their government is about and that`s for the people. 

MATTHEWS:  We`ve got candidates running for president, Martin O`Malley, for example, I think is running again, and John Delaney, would kill for publicity like this.


MATTHEWS:  They don`t get any attention.  And she`s out there brilliantly, obviously, getting support in a progressive community, but also drawing fire.  I mean, Ben Stein is a guy with brains.  Is what you call them, Stalin?  Hitler?  Mao Zedong?

JOHNSON:  He should stick to old game shows and `80s teen flicks, right?  You know what I mean?  I really that the criticism of Ocasio, it comes from two sections.  One, you`ve got the sort of angry, trollish insult Republicans who just hate seeing a charming Latina woman who`s in a position of power. 

The other side I think is jealous Republicans.  She`s like Dennis Rodman or Gronkowski.  You hate her because she`s not on your side. 

Republicans wish they could find a young charismatic member of Congress who could make policy instead of just trolling online. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they did have an interesting person in Utah -- Mormon Utah.  They had Mia Love, and they didn`t really treasure her enough, according to her.  They didn`t back her. 

What do you thing of the positive influence?  You`re a progressive, what`s the positive influence of her?

LEE:  The positive influence primarily, take what she is able to do with young people and organize and really bring people in so they get to understand their government, how their government functions and that they are part of this democracy.  So many people feel disconnected from Washington and from their government.  Also, she has many ideas.  And she`s putting these ideas into practice, into policies that are going to change this country. 

She`s dealing with systemic issues, institutional issues.  You know, Trump didn`t start all the bad stuff that`s happening in this country.  And so, we have some -- 


LEE:  She`s addressing some of the basic, basic reforms and changes that this country needs at its core. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk politics, because politics has gotten on to Trump, especially that is one thing that`s` changed.  Nicknames, personal attacks.  No more just an ideological battle which we would love to have.  Why are they going to first to making fun -- it`s almost like she`s getting the Pocahontas treatment pretty early. 

JOHNSON:  Oh, yes.  Well, like I said, they`re afraid.  She`s a Latina woman.  She`s Puerto Rican. 

And you have to remember that the sort of whipping boy of this administration has been Latinos, even more so than black people and I can say that objectively.  Mexicans do this, and these people and that, and how they`re treating Puerto Rico with these white national policies. 

MATTHEWS:  Puerto Ricans are Americans.

JOHNSON:  Exactly, exactly. 

This administration doesn`t treat them as they are.  So, Ocasio-Cortez is not only a member of Congress but she`s someone who can powerfully speak aback against these issues.  And here`s the thing, Chris, in 2020, millennials are going to be the largest voting population.  You need someone like that at the forefront.

MATTHEWS:  My hunch, and you`re the politician, you`re the expert on this, too, is that the Democratic fight for the nomination is going to be focused on African-American women, it`s going to be focused on young people, people on the left, if you will, the progressives.  It`s going to be there.  It`s not going to be all white guys. 

LEE:  Yes, they`re going to be there, but it`s going to be -- those candidates who can bring the country together and certainly, African- American women have been the backbone and the most consistent and smartest voters, quite frankly, of the Democratic Party. 

MATTHEWS:  All these years, I don`t mean to say passively, all of the years backing white males for public office. 

LEE:  It`s not so much pay day as women, women of color, women can lead, we can lead, we can lead this country, we can lead the world.  And our experience brings to the table and coming up with --

MATTHEWS:  How is the glass sealing doing right now?  It`s still there?

LEE:  Well, listen, we elected 113 women into Congress this last November.  We have more women of color, more people of color ever.  We have a more diverse Congress.  So, I see this as a positive and we`re moving forward. 

MATTHEWS:  You`re one of the leaders.  You`re one of the pioneers.  I mean, you`re not that old but you`re a pioneer. 

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland and all those great places, and Jason Johnson. 

When we return, a look at the civil rights activist, JFK advisor who changed history for the better.  Back in 60.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In October of 1960, civil rights leader Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed at a sit-in at an Atlanta lunch counter.  His wife Coretta feared that her husband is going to be lynched, reached out to a friend for the civil right struggle, Harris Wofford. 

Wofford was working on John F. Kennedy`s presidential campaign and knew the politics of the situation, knew how hard it would be to get his candidate, Kennedy, to risk interfering in the case, but didn`t want to risk doing nothing.  Quote, the idea came to me, Wofford said years later, she was very anxious.  Why can`t Kennedy at least just call her and say we`re working at it?  We`re going to get him out?  You have my sympathy? 

When Dr. King was released the next day thanks to the political conniving of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Harris Wofford printed a pamphlet that saluted what had happened, that became known as the "blue bomb" and went to black churches before the election.  It was seen the deciding event of the entire campaign. 

There are moments when the politically expedient can be morally wise, the great civil rights leader Martin King said of the episode and its effect on deciding the election. 

Harris Wofford, the man who helped freed King and elect Kennedy, died this past Monday on Martin Luther King Day. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.