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Stone talks problems. TRANSCRIPT: 1/28/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Jackie Speier, Joon Kim, Peggy Noonan, Zerlina Maxwell, Yamiche Alcindor, Steve Israel

Show: HARDBALL Date: January 28, 2019 Guest: Jackie Speier, Joon Kim, Peggy Noonan, Zerlina Maxwell, Yamiche Alcindor, Steve Israel


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Quite a Monday. That`s our show. Don`t go anywhere.

"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: A Russian winter. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

Breaking news tonight on the Russia front. Acting attorney general Matt Whitaker told reporters he thinks that the Mueller investigation is close to being completed. It`s the first public acknowledgment from the department of justice. Take a listen.


MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed. And I hope that we can get the report from director Mueller soon as possible.


MATTHEWS: Well, the news comes just days after federal officials arrested Roger Stone in Florida and charged him with seven criminal counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering, and five counts of making false statements.

And today, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who held her first press briefing in 41 days, was asked if the President was considering a pardon for Stone. Here`s what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the President ruled out a pardon for roger stone?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m not aware of that. I haven`t had any conversations regarding that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you discuss it with him and let us know?

SANDERS: I`m not going to get into that at this point, but if need be, we`ll let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, just to follow up, can you guarantee the President won`t pardon roger stone?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not going to talk about hypotheticals that are ridiculous and things I haven`t talk about.


MATTHEWS: Well, it is not hypothetical. Trump likes to pardon people.

Anyway, to date, Mueller has accused six of Trump`s advisers or his associates of lying multiple times to federal officials, raising the question of why they keep lying. The Whitaker comment today, by the way, comes moments before the House intelligence committee announced today that Michael Cohen, President Trump`s personal lawyer and fixer, would appear before the committee next week.

Like just last week, Cohen canceled a public appearance before another House panel, citing threats against his family. In what seemed like a telling move, Cohen today announced a shakeup of his defense team, adding a former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer.

For more I`m joined tonight by Natasha Bertrand, staff writer for "the Atlantic," and of course Danny Cevallos, MSNBC legal analyst.

Let me get to this question now. With your reporting, Natasha, is this thing coming to an end or is it I think it`s coming to an end? How did you read Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general?

NATASHA BERTRAND, REPORTER, THE ATLANTIC: The context in which Matt Whitaker said this didn`t seem like - it didn`t seem like he was making an announcement, right. It sounded like he was kind of speaking off the cuff, he is responding to a question that was asked by a reporter. And for all we know, he may have been alluded to press reports that have said that the investigation may wrap up as soon as February.

That being said, I have spoken to people who used to work at the FBI who say that in this context, in a press conference like this, they would have prepared for this question and they would have prepped Whitaker for how to answer it. So I don`t think that we can write off his statement completely.

But I do think it`s very difficult to believe that the Mueller investigation is going to wrap up by February or even by March given everything that happened last week with Roger Stone. The FBI agents carted out documents, computers, things that will have to go or require all of these agents to go through forensic analysis of his electronic devices and it just doesn`t seem like that`s going to be able to be done by March.

There`s also the question of whether or not Roger Stone is going to reach some kind of deal with the special counsel`s team. And if that`s the case, then those negotiations are going to be going on throughout February. So I really don`t think that we`re going to see any kind of final report, certainly, issued by next month.

On top of that, we still have Rick Gates, who needs to be sentenced, who is still cooperating. We still have the mystery grand jury subpoena that is currently - that was brought before the Supreme Court and they are currently fighting that out.

So there are just a lot of loose ends that still need to be tied up. And Matt Whitaker apparently has been telling people behind the scenes for quite some time now, as my understanding, that it`s going to wrap up soon, but with no actual end date in mind.

MATTHEWS: Danny, all this has to do with Russia and whether there was collusion, whether it was a conspiracy. We know there`s a Russian conspiracy. What role did Trump and his people play. How we put this puzzle together. How do you see it coming together? Because this thing seems to be very strange. This arrest, how did you, rather dramatic arrest this past week of Roger Stone. A guy who clearly had some connection with WikiLeaks and therefore with Russia. How do you tie that into the end of this investigation? Is this kind of an arrest you would have near the end or in the course of it?

DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: No. This is an arrest that signals other than Whitaker`s statements today, that there`s likely more to come in the Mueller investigation.

Going back to Whitaker, the chief concern when Whitaker was installed as the interim attorney general was that he might compromise the Mueller investigation. And now, critics have proof of that, at least even in a tiny way, because Whitaker today revealed information that is a first. No one has revealed any information about the Mueller investigation from the Mueller team. So Whitaker`s critics now have something to seize upon that he even answered a question about the progress of the investigation.

What makes it even stranger is that it doesn`t appear to be an accurate guess by Whitaker. Because the Mueller team now has just arrested Roger Stone. With Roger Stone, they have a new treasure trove of evidence they may have seized or if Roger Stone cooperates, he might give them new tendrils of investigation in this gigantic white-collar investigation.

So from everything we have seen, the redactions in the indictments, the sealed documents, those are all indicators that there is more investigation to be done. So Whitaker`s statements today were both incongruous and potentially compromising to the Mueller investigation.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Roger Stone, President Trump`s favorite dirty trickster spent this weekend blasting Robert Mueller`s indictment of him. By the way, seemingly speaking to anyone that was willing to listen, Stone made the television rounds to savage the special counsel investigation. And today, Stone indicated he would not cooperate with prosecutor Mueller.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to cut a deal with Mueller to avoid going to trial?

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don`t answer hypothetical questions. I have no intention of doing so, however.


MATTHEWS: Natasha, this is the kind of tease we have been watching from this guy for decades. This is what Roger Stone does. He taps right up to the tip-toes right up to the edge of the cliff and dances on it for a while, while you watch him do it. He has been doing it all weekend. What`s he up to, besides narcissism? What do you make of it?

BERTRAND: I think that he is trying to get more donations to his legal defense fund. His supporters don`t want to see him cooperate with Mueller and he needs money in order to keep this fight going. And he also knows that the more he keeps this fight going, the more famous he will be.

I do think, though, that it`s interesting that the President now has to kind of dance this very, very fragile dance with Roger Stone, because if Roger is intimating that he might be willing to cooperate with Robert Mueller and he might be willing to talk about, you know, the associates on the campaign that maybe he has information about, then the President really has to be careful about what he says about Roger Stone. So whereas he has trashed Michael Cohen in the past, for example, for, you know, cooperating with Mueller or for, you know, other witnesses who are indicating they might become "rats," quote-unquote, he can`t really do that with Roger because Roger seems to be a very fickle person. And if he gets any, you know, sense that the President might be turning on him, then I would not be surprised at all if Roger would turn on the President.

MATTHEWS: So that mention by our press people, two of our correspondents, asking Sarah Sanders whether it`s going to be a pardon or not, seems to be probably what Roger wants to hear, right? Natasha, he wants to hear the pardon is still in the air and still possible.

BERTRAND: Yes, of course. And Roger is also saying he would not address a hypothetical, but he is also, of course, not ruled it out. And I cannot imagine that Roger would turn down a pardon, especially because he thinks that he has been the target of a witch hunt throughout the last two years. It just doesn`t seem like it would be in his character to say no to the President, who of course, he has been loyal to up until this point. And that he sees kind of as his ally in this fight.


Well, thank you so much, Natasha Bertrand and Danny Cevallos.

I`m joined now by California Democratic congresswoman, Jackie Speier. She is a member of the House Intelligence committee.

Congresswoman, how do you read this little, well, this huge tease from Matt Whitaker today that this thing is coming to an end?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I don`t know if it`s coming to an end at all. I don`t know Matt Whitaker is the source of all knowledge on the Mueller investigation. He certainly being briefed, but I think that Robert Mueller has more indictments up his sleeve, not that I have any information, certainly, but that would be my suspicion.

MATTHEWS: Well, go further with your suspicions because I`m curious about what you are on this committee have to think. Why does everybody lie? Why did Roger Stone get accused of lying, why is Michael Flynn lie? All they did was lie about anything to do with Russia.

Now, I don`t know whether there was a conspiracy involving in the Trump people as a lot of people think so. But the fact that they are lying about it is obvious. They are always lying, always denying. Why? What possible motive is there except there`s something really dirty there they don`t want anyone to know about?

SPEIER: That`s precisely it. I mean, there is no question that Trump was trying to do a deal with the Moscow hotel. He wanted that to be kept under wraps. He didn`t want to be in a position saying he was negotiating with Russia and Putin during the campaign, because it would have affected his chances of winning.

I am absolutely astonished at how readily all of these individuals are willing to lie to Congress. And to think that they are going to get away with it. The emails that are in that indictment, I encourage all of your viewers to read, because there is no question that Roger Stone was there attempting to silence another witness, trying to prevent him from coming forward. And who was up to his eyeballs in lies and, I think, corrupting behavior as it related to the Russia involvement in the Trump campaign.

MATTHEWS: What would you like to hear from Michael Cohen? He has got a couple of new lawyers. He is lawyering up. He is going to show up before your committee, wouldn`t do it oversight, now he is going to talk to your committee. What are you hearing about his news openness to speak?

SPEIER: Well, his new openness to speak is, you know, his effort to try and turn over a new leaf. And I`m sure it has something to do with his desire to want to reduce his sentence because he really values his family. I think what I would like to hear from him is more about the ten years in which he served Donald Trump. And what conduct would he assess was illegal that he was asked to do under the Trump organization.

There are three properties that were part of this whole effort that have a lot of Russian money in them, both the Toronto hotel, the Soho hotel, and the Panama hotel. There`s corruption there in my view. There is Russian money. There is an effort to, I think, launder money. And I would like to hear more about that from him.

MATTHEWS: Well, in his new memoir, former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey shares an interesting anecdote in which both Trump and Kushner genuinely believe the Russian thing, as they called it, would be over once they fired Michael Flynn. Here`s Christie recounting that exchange on NBC.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Having lunch with the President, and Jared Kushner after he has fired Michael Flynn, they thought that would end the Russia investigation?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Yes, he said, you know, listen. Flynn is the only guy who spoke to the Russians, apparently. So you know, I think this is going to end it. And I just laughed. And I said Mr. President, it is unfortunate that I have tell you this, but having done this myself for a living, we are going to be talking about this on valentine`s day, February `18. And they laughed out loud. And Jared told me I was crazy.


MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, how could the President be stuck on fly paper, because he is. He can`t get off of it, and he`s the fly, without really knowing from anyone that day one he was involved. I mean, how can a guy believe he is so innocent or what was he believing to think that all he had to do was fire Flynn and he would be free?

SPEIER: Because that`s how he`s dealt with business problems in his career. You either sue someone, you get rid of someone, and that sort of takes care of it. I mean, he runs the presidency like he is part of an organized syndicate. And I think that he thought that would do it.

You know, it`s really palpable when the FBI director Comey before our Intel committee, one of the few open hearings we had, when he said the investigation was being opened on the Trump campaign and its involvement with Russia. It wasn`t just the Russian intervention in our election. And I think everyone up to that point had thought that it was over, but certainly, it was not.

MATTHEWS: We thought Watergate was going to be over some time in the summer of 1972. It certainly was not. And Nixon thought it was over.

Thank you so much, U.S. congresswoman Jackie Speier. It is always great having you on.

For more, I`m joined by Joon Kim, former acting U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York and a partner in the law firm of Cleary Gottlieb. Thank you so much for joining us.

Let`s talk about the law here. Matt Whitaker lets out accidentally or Freudian slip, this thing is about to end. Apparently, the experts we had on in the last 20 minutes think no. Where are you?

JOON KIM, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I was surprised to see that he would say that. Normally, as he said in the press conference, you don`t comment on ongoing investigations or the timing of when they would be completed. It`s hard to imagine that it was a mistake, as you do prepare for those press conferences, and you would have expected a question about the Mueller investigation.

I don`t know what to make of it. It`s hard to think that it is going to be completed very soon because there was just this arrest and search warrants related to Roger Stone. So at a minimum, you would want to at least go through those materials and figure out if there are any additional charges that might, you know, that could be made now with the additional evidence. So it`s hard to know what to make of it.

MATTHEWS: I think most people in this country, and that includes, they don`t want to hear it, but curious, did Trump play ball with the Russians to get himself elected, to screw Hillary Clinton`s chances, to win the election, and in so, basically hurt our whole electoral system. Will we get that answer for sure from Mueller? Will the justice department under Barr or Whitaker get us that information so we can all see the facts?

KIM: You know, just the way criminal investigations work, you know, you are going to investigate what you can. You are going to bring charges if there`s the evidence meets the standard beyond a reasonable doubt. And normally, that`s it.

Your prosecutors speak through their charges and don`t speak otherwise. Here, with the special counsel, there is this regulation provides for a report that the special counsel provides confidentially to the attorney general and then the attorney general decides whether to make it public. So there is that additional possibility which doesn`t normally exist in federal prosecutions of a report. You don`t need to -- you may never get to the answer.

MATTHEWS: Cutting to the chase, if you can`t indict a President, can the special counsel tell us what the President did? The bad he did, even if they can`t indict him? Will they tell us how awful this gets?

KIM: My guess is he is going to include some of this information in the report. The information, he needs to explain why he brought certain charges and why he didn`t bring other charges. And so to the extent the answer to those questions will get into the other evidence and other information that may not be an indictment or the subject of trials or charges, I would think that the report would include that. Again, how much of that will be public and how much will be redacted or withheld, that`s a question.

MATTHEWS: Well, we are not going to stop searching.

Thank you so much, Joon Kim, for coming with your expertise.

Up next, President Trump had one of his worst weeks as President? Don`t you agree? Allies knocked him for caving on the wall, and Republicans said he had nothing to show for his shutdown fight and that includes all the Republicans.

Plus, there`s a new challenger to Trump, and she is drawing huge crowds. Senator Kamala Harris of California kicked off her campaign this weekend surrounded by, look at that crowd, Trump must be envious as hell, 20,000 real people. Not some count his characters came up with, 20,000 actual -- look at them. You can see them in Oakland for Kamala Harris. And she is running against Trump.

Meanwhile, a popular Republican may be inching toward challenging Trump in the party`s primary. We are going to tell you who that is. A very popular governor who looks like he`s inching quickly actually to run against Trump.

We are back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As he begins this week, President Trump is reeling. After last week ended with a remarkable cave on his demand for a border wall, today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended an invitation to the president for his State of the Union speech, announcing the new date as February 5.

His capitulation on the wall may have ended the five-week government shutdown, but it leaves the president weakened and bracing for even more challenges ahead.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will begin meeting on Wednesday to try to hash out an agreement on border security, including the wall, but the president has already thrown cold water on those negotiations.

In an interview with "The Wall Street Journal," the president was asked about the chance of a deal in the next three weeks. He said -- quote -- "I personally think it`s less than 50/50."


Well, the president also wouldn`t rule out another shutdown, calling it -- quote -- "certainly an option."

Well, in a pair of interviews yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney backed up the president`s threat.


MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Is the president really prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?


Keep in mind, he`s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border. He does take this very seriously.

But, at the end of the day, the president`s commitment is to defend the nation, and he will do it either with or without Congress.


MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for "PBS NewsHour," former Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of New York, and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele.

Yamiche, right down the middle, is this president weaker this week than he was, starting last week?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Well, I think if you ask the president`s opponents and if you ask independents, I think they see the president as weaker, because he really ended the shutdown on Nancy Pelosi`s terms.

However, the White House is sticking to this idea that the president hasn`t given up ground here, that he`s only said that after, 35 days of holding up the government, that he will have this committee work on wall funding, and that he will in some way get the money for his wall.

But it`s no doubt -- it`s really very clear that the president is obviously frustrated with the situation that he`s in. He`s even lashing out FOX News, his favorite network, for the coverage that they had on him ending the shutdown on Nancy Pelosi`s terms.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s blaming everybody.

He`s like Groucho Marx, Steve. He`s out there blaming every -- I will fight anybody in the house for $1.

He`s after Ann Coulter now. He says she`s being hostile.

I mean, come on. This is pathetic. He`s the president of the United States, and he`s worried about somebody who writes a book every four years.


When you`re going to war with Ann Coulter, you`re not having a good time in politics.

MATTHEWS: It`s a skirmish off to the right. ISRAEL: He thinks that this is a winning argument, that the wall is a winning argument. Fundamentally, he believes it`s a win.

It`s a loss. And here`s the empirical evidence. We just had a midterm election. He tried to litigate the wall in those midterm districts. He lost Republican members of Congress.

He litigated the wall, made a referendum. They flipped to Democrats. This is not a winning argument for Donald Trump. He just hasn`t figured it out yet.

MATTHEWS: Michael, read this guy, because I think he looks weaker. I compared him to Sonny Liston once, the guy that couldn`t be beaten, until he couldn`t win.


MATTHEWS: There was no gradual decline. It went from can`t lose to can`t win.

STEELE: Yes. No, I think that that`s exactly right.

And I think he`s in this space, and he`s buffeted by guys like Mulvaney in- house telling him, all right, let`s do this, let`s stick to it. They go out and they continue to beat that drum.

What I take away from this is, again, the idea that we`re going to have another shutdown in three weeks, this president is prepared to take ownership of that. He`s prepared to say, yes, I own this shutdown too, because, to Steve`s point, this fight over the wall is the one corner he cannot figure out how to get out of, short of an emergency.

And so I think that either he`s going to shut down the government or he`s going to do the emergency piece, will be the next reaction in this debate.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I mentioned, the president has taken some heat from his base, of course, over the wall capitulation. Hard-right commentator Ann Coulter and FOX business host Lou Dobbs both blasted the move.


ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "IN TRUMP WE TRUST": Crazy that I expect a president to keep the promise he made every day for 18 months.


COULTER: No, it`s not just -- it`s the base. That`s what happened. The base is what has rebelled here. And they can take me as a stand-in for the base, but that`s all I am, a member of the base.

LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS: But you have got to call it as it is. This president said it was going to be conditional, border security, building that wall, and he just reversed himself. That`s a victory for Nancy Pelosi. It will be perceived as such on every television monitor and screen in the country.


MATTHEWS: And that`s reality, of course, every television screen in the country, Lou.

Anyway, Coulter was following up on her tweet that Trump was -- quote -- "the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States."

In his interview with "The Wall Street Journal," Trump said of Coulter -- quote -- "I hear she`s become very hostile. Maybe I didn`t return her phone call or something."

This is so snippy. You know what it reminds me of? Faust. Faust made his deal with the devil, and this is the devil.


ISRAEL: That`s exactly right. That`s exactly right.

And this is the fundamental problem. This is guy, he sits in his recliner, he watches these people, he listens to these people. He believes that they reflect the sentiment of the electorate.

In fact, if you take a look at an NBC poll that just came out last weekend, the wall unpopular with the American people, Donald Trump underwater now, way more underwater than he ever was.


ISRAEL: So he takes a look at this little slice of extremism and believes it represents a broader psychology in the electorate. He`s misreading the electorate.

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he just take the $25 billion the Democrats offer him now and then -- every once in a while, they give him an incredible offer -- and say, we got our first down payment, we will get the rest of it in the second term?

I mean, sometimes, you have to finesse these things.

STEELE: Well, it was there on the table. But now he`s at a point where the opposition is not going to put that offer back on the table.

Look, they`re not going to give him 5.7. There`s no way in heck they`re going to give him $25 billion.

MATTHEWS: They were talking -- how about Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, saying, oh, we will have it next Tuesday? She will dictating terms.

It`s so clear she`s calling the shots.

STEELE: Which is -- goes to my central point about this relationship between these two individuals. Donald Trump has yet to figure out what to do with Nancy.

He has a Nancy problem, and he doesn`t know how to deal with it. And she knows it, and every day, she turns the screw just a little bit tighter on him. And today`s letter was a good example of that.


ISRAEL: And we would have had a different outcome to this shutdown had Nancy Pelosi not won the speakership. Can you imagine what would have happened had she not prevailed in this election?

MATTHEWS: All I know is, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, knows how to deal with friends and enemies. Ask Kathleen Rice of your state.


MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, even before negotiations begin on border security, some Republicans are looking to the past shutdown to caution against another government shutdown.

So, just like the -- because the base is with Trump doesn`t mean the leadership on the Hill is with him. Let`s watch.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": What did this shutdown accomplish?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, hopefully, it teaches everyone that shutdowns are not good leverage in any negotiation. I think it`s important to separate tactics from the policy aims here.

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": What was actually accomplished?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, I would say absolutely nothing. Shutdowns are never good policy ever. They are never to be used as a means to achieve any kind of goal, no matter how important that goal may seem to be.


MATTHEWS: Yamiche, why does the president think he wins on the wall, and senators who represent states, some of them red states, some of them not, think they lose on it? What`s the difference in the job description that gives you a different perspective?

ALCINDOR: I think -- I`m not even sure that he really believes that he wins on the wall and wins on the shutdown.

And I think what`s even more confusing is that, when you talk to Trump voters -- and I have talked to so many of them -- they forgive this president if almost anything. Think about all the things they forgave before they even -- before he was elected, the "Access Hollywood" tape.

While he`s in office, all his colleagues are being convicted and going to prison. And all of these people stick with the president through porn stars, through all sorts of scandals. And now I think they would forgive him if he said, you know what, I tried really hard, but I couldn`t get the wall.

But you know the one thing they won`t forgive President Trump for doing? Taking away their paychecks. If there`s another shutdown in three weeks, and more people are going another month without work, another month without getting paid, Trump voters will completely turn on this president.

And the polls that "PBS NewsHour" did, show that his base, his actual base -- these are working-class white men, men without college degrees, evangelical women -- that they started shifting, and that he was losing support with that critical base of his because of the shutdown and the fact that there are people who couldn`t get paid.

That`s a different thing than saying, I tried really hard for this, but I can`t actually get it.

MATTHEWS: Let`s ask the -- answer the question -- or ask -- answer that Yamiche just posed.

Will this president do it again? Will he say, I don`t like the deal they cut between the House and Senate conferees, I`m shutting it all down again? Will he do it?

ISRAEL: I believe he will do it again. He`s like the guy on the Titanic saying, we hit the iceberg, let`s try that again, that worked out well.


ISRAEL: He believes it`s a win. It`s not a win. But he needs to deliver that to his base.

STEELE: As much as he believes it`s a win -- it is a win, I don`t think he will do that again, because of the things that Yamiche just said, and he will instead invoke an emergency action on his...



ISRAEL: Agreed.

MATTHEWS: Well, is he going to go with the emergency?


ISRAEL: No, I think there`s a lot of posturing here.

STEELE: Right.

ISRAEL: I think he`s trying to set the stage to invoke an emergency decree on the border. But he`s going to take this to the 12th hour.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. Jared is warning against it. Jared is warning against it.

ISRAEL: Against the emergency decree?

MATTHEWS: I know, the emergency decree. I think he`s going to go for it. I think he shoots the moon, because I have watched the guy all this stuff, starting in the `90s.

This guy, every hand he gets, he shoots the moon. And that would be a national emergency.

Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor, up there with your expertise, Steve Israel, and Michael Steele.

Up next, we`re coming to the end of one of the strangest months in Trump`s presidency, tracking Trump`s first taste of a divided government -- after this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s capping off the start of this third year in the White House with battles on all fronts. And for the man who claimed he would be doing so much winning, that has yet to be seen.

The president caved on his border wall last week, ending the longest government shutdown in our country`s history, a shutdown that he started. And during the shutdown, more Senate Republicans voted with the Democrats on their plan to reopen the government than their own -- or his own, rather.

Instead of delivering his State of the Union address tomorrow night, Trump capitulated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s demand to postpone it to the following week. And Trump watched as his longtime adviser Roger Stone got hauled away in handcuffs this week. Stone is the sixth member of Trump`s inner circle who has been arrested by Robert Mueller.

Any one of those headlines would normally be enough to stymie any president. For Trump, he has to face them all at the same time.

For more, I`m joined by historian Jon Meacham, presidential biographer and author of "The Soul of America."

I think, now that you`re down in Nashville again, Jon, I want you to think about the Woody -- Willie Nelson song "It`s Not Supposed to Be This Way."


MATTHEWS: And it seems to be everything is wrong. His buddies are getting arrested, put in handcuffs. The government has shut down.

His number one fixer, with all the dirty work on his fingernails, is going to talk and squawk before two committees next week. This is awful. And whatever you think of Trump, how does he deal with this life that he has chosen to screw up?

Go ahead, your thoughts.

JON MEACHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So Willie Nelson meets "The Godfather." That was a classic cultural tour.

He did choose this life. And we always ultimately pay for the -- you mentioned Faust a minute ago. We do ultimately pay for what we do on the way up. Willie Stark taught us that in "All the King`s Men," that there`s always something.

And, ultimately, there`s always a canceled check, there`s always a footprint outside the window. And there`s a lot of canceled checks and a lot of footprints in this case.

The only analogy -- and you know this as well as I do, if not better -- is Nixon in `74, when the economy was in pretty serious shape, and Watergate`s really closing in. Nixon could only find a couple of audiences that would really be acceptable or welcoming by the time the spring of `74 came along.

He came down to the Grand Ole Opry, not far from here, in March of `74, tried to do the "Yo-Yo" with Roy Acuff, and was here basically because he would get a warm reception, which was not the case anywhere else.

My sense of where the president is, is, he`s paying the price for having invented this as he`s gone along. And to say that he goes day to day, I think, is an insult to people who go day to day. I think it`s a minute-to- minute thing, and it seems to me there`s no clear path to getting a presidency that is at about 35 percent or so approval rating, which is a danger zone, as you know.

When you get in the 20s, you`re really done. When you`re in the mid-30s, it`s lethargic, and I think -- I have a feeling it`s going to begin to go down even farther.

MATTHEWS: Here`s a tough one.

Back when Nixon went down, he went down not -- just because of the break-in or the cover-up of the break-in, which was kind of hard to explain to people today. That`s all he did? But -- there`s a lot more, of course.


MATTHEWS: But was the economy was so terrible in the `70s at that time, in the 1970s, stagflation. It was awful. It wasn`t getting any better. We were stuck in bad times.

With Bill Clinton, I know with a lesser offense involved with Monica Lewinsky and that thing and that -- it seemed to me that better economic times are working for the guy in trouble, that people don`t feel miserable, therefore, they don`t want to throw a guy out of office.

What do you think the economy does, if it stays strong, does to protect Trump against removal from office, potentially?

MEACHAM: Oh, we have had -- oh, yes. No, I think that`s hugely important. I think that`s his safety net.

I have used this phrase there are a lot of people in the country -- I know a lot of them, you do, too -- who are basically 401(k) Trump supporters. Those numbers have gone up. If you have done well in the system, you have done well under Trump. The people who have not done as well are still stuck.

And that`s going to be an interesting dynamic to watch. But I think if the economy gets softer, I don`t think this is -- predictions are not worth much -- but it`s very hard to see him being able to move forward with a bad economy, plus all this other stuff.

The real question isn`t -- is, you know, there`s about 30 percent of the country that is more or less permanently disaffected and open to being persuaded by someone like this.

What happened in 2016 and 2017 and a good part of `18 is, that number was up near 48 percent or so. Is that 12 percent, 13 percent, 14 percent of folks who believe in institutions, but don`t particularly believe in elites, who didn`t want to see Secretary Clinton be president, and who were willing to say basically to Washington, I think, if you`re going to act like pro wrestlers, we`re going to send you one, are those people going to come back to a more centrist view, not ideologically, but in terms of institutional frame?

And, as you know, presidential politics are not referenda. They`re choices. So, everything -- not everything, but almost everything depends on who the Democrats put up as a choice.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m so with you.

There`s a difference between free will and free choice, I once heard at a Georgetown lecture. We don`t get to think of the president we would like to have. We look at the people that run, and we choose among them. It`s just choice, not free will.


MATTHEWS: That`s how we get stuck with some of those characters.

Anyway, thank you, Jon Meacham. I thought that was brilliant analysis.

Up next: The field of potential 2020 candidates keeps growing, of course. Kamala Harris had 20,000 people out yesterday for her official launch of her campaign in Oakland, California.

And there`s been a loud and immediate response to the potential entry into this race of a dark horse independent.

You know what independents do. Think about Jill Stein. Think about Gary Johnson. Think about Ralph Nader. They cause trouble.

We`re back after this.



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: These are not ordinary times and this will not be an ordinary election. But this is our America.


It`s up to us, each and every one of us. So let`s remember, in this fight, we have the power of the people. So let`s do this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, California Senator Kamala Harris officially launching her presidential campaign yesterday in front of a crowd that her advisers estimate, look, make your own judgment, 20,000 people. That`s according to "The New York Times" reporting.

It was a contrast in energy to former Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz who announced last night he`s seriously considering running for president as an independent in 2020. Here he is.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN: I am seriously thinking of running for president. I will run as a centrist independent outside of the two-party system. Both parties are consistently not doing what`s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, as "The Washington Post" points out, quote, almost immediately, reactions began pouring in at a furious clip, noting some on the left fumed that a Schultz run would split the anti-President Trump vote, essentially handing the incumbent the election.

As "The Washington Post" notes, it reignited a perennial debate among political talking heads, how much do third party candidates actually influence elections. Well, it`s a complicated question because there`s no way to definitively know how a third party voter would have voted if they could only choose between a Democrat and Republican.

However, in a key 2016 swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won a larger number of votes than Clinton lost to Trump by. So, if all those Stein votes or even some of them had gone to Clinton, she would have won the presidential election.

And catch this. In the year 2000, Al Gore lost Florida to George W. Bush by 537 votes, by some counts, but Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got more than 90,000 votes in Florida, which would have swung the election to Gore if at least just 538 of those third-party voters had voted for Gore.

What`s shaping up to be a crowded field for 2020, of course, but Democrats may not be the only ones facing a contested primary season. There`s buzz about a Republican who may challenge Trump, a Republican in the primaries.

We`ll be right back with that one after this break.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s shaping up to be a busy primary season, don`t you think? And now, it looks like Donald Trump could face a potential primary challenger from within the Republican Party. "The Washington Post" is reporting that Maryland`s popular governor, Republican Governor Larry Hogan has been consulting with aides and national GOP critics of Trump about whether to pursue a White House bid. I think Bill Kristol is pushing him.

I`m joined now by Zerlina Maxwell, the director of progressive programming for Sirius. I think I up again this month.


MATTHEWS: And Peggy Noonan is a columnist with the "Wall Street Journal."

I love your column. You know that. I used to tweet you after I read it or e-mail you.

What do you think about Kamala? What`s your sort of political -- you`ve got a good sense of horse flesh, how does it look?



NOONAN: I thought she made a very good impression in her announcement speech. The headline to me, did you see a picture of that crowd? Twenty thousand people was the number I read in the papers, as we used to say. What a huge crowd.

It was a good, strong, liberal left speech. She also, I`ll tell you what I see when I look at her. She enjoys this. She likes it. She likes --

MATTHEWS: If you don`t like it, why are you there?

NOONAN: You know, also, they wear on us if they don`t like it. It`s good when they like it.


MATTHEWS: You know, I`m not going to mention the name, but "SNL" the other night referred to one to one of the other candidates, Kate McKinnon was playing her saying voting for her would be like having a prostate exam. It`s good for you, but who wants to do it? Enough said.

But what do you think about this, does happy matter?

MAXWELL: Yes, I think it matters, and I think especially when the contrast is Donald Trump and, you know, American carnage which is what he talked about on the inauguration, when you contrast that with the progressive vision, but also a clear message about how you`re going to take the country into the progressive future, you know, talking about health care being a fundamental human right. I mean, for all the talk about how the party is moving to the left, and I think that`s true, I think the country is also moving to the left on many of these important issues.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MAXWELL: Including health care.

MATTHEWS: I agree --

NOONAN: It`s economically moving to the left. I suspect in terms of the social issues, it`s moving less left. I think it will probably be moving more moderate, but economically, left.

MATTHEWS: Watch Pennsylvania on that score.

NOONAN: Watch Pennsylvania?

MATTHEWS: On cultural issues.

Let me ask you, Peggy, about the Republican Party and Larry Hogan. He got re-elected overwhelmingly in a state that`s pretty blue.


MATTHEWS: In Maryland. Very popular.

NOONAN: Popular guy.

MATTHEWS: He had a scare a while ago which may have helped people sympathize with him. But also, he`s been able to put it together politically and he doesn`t like Trump. Where`s his future? New Hampshire?

NOONAN: You hear very lately a lot of chatter about him. I have no idea what his plans are, what his heart is. I know there are people around him urging him to go forward.

I am -- as long as Trump stays viable, I think the Republican Party stays with him. So, I`m a little skeptical of those who would make a challenge from his right or from his left, we`ll see. But at this point, I mean when you just look at the numbers, Republicans are still pretty solid behind him.

In terms of the country, he`s got this solid third. It seems to me immovable. He never -- you know, he could -- he could get out there and do something, the strangest, weird thing in the world and keep his third.

MATTHEWS: Shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, he was right about that.

Let me ask you about the Republican Party. You`re progressive but they seem to be culturally different, not just to the conservative side of the Democrats, but they behave in a regimental manner. Democrats don`t stick together like that, they just don`t, unless Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots. Generally, they do what they feel like doing.

MAXWELL: I mean, I would hope that Democrats would stick together the way that they just did during the shutdown. But I would also say that Republicans tend to fall in line. They don`t necessarily think about the specific policies of the Republican running, but if there`s an "R" next to that person`s name, they vote for that person. That`s true for presidential campaigns --

MATTHEWS: That`s the description of my beloved dad.

MAXWELL: They don`t care who it is.

MATTHEWS: He voted for everybody. He was so consistent. In fact, we had Kennedy running as a Catholic. And I said, dad, aren`t you voting for Kennedy? He`s a Catholic. He said, I`m a Republican.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, this morning, President Trump tweeted that Howard Schultz doesn`t have the guts to run for president, he`s not the smartest person. Besides, America already has that. That`s what he says, I`m the smartest president. I only hope Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower.

Tonight, Schultz got heckled at a book event by a protester who said he would help elect Trump if he runs. Let`s watch this. It`s already starting. It`s already going.


UNIDNETIFIED MALE: Don`t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire.


MATTHEWS: Well, you heard the heart of it, Peggy. Don`t help elect Trump, you egotistical -- I don`t know what`s worse, egotistical or billionaire.

NOONAN: Maybe the insulter didn`t know either. This is so interesting to me. Howard Schultz has a fabulous story in terms of business and what he made and it`s a great product, et cetera. I don`t know how to read this presidential possibility that he`s got --

MATTHEWS: What`s his connection with the presidency?

NOONAN: Look, I don`t see his constituency. I don`t see his -- what`s the word for wow, everybody looks at him.

MAXWELL: Charisma, the "it" factor?

NOONAN: I guess I don`t see the "it" factor. So, I don`t know -- everybody who`s smarter than I am says it`s money, he can spend anything. But I think really?

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the cost factor. We`ve seen this happen with Nader, 90,000 votes, Al Gore wasn`t president. We`ve seen it in New York with Jill Stein, I mean, Pennsylvania. These margins are obvious.

MAXWELL: Right. And I would like to not repeat that with this much at stake.

So in terms of Howard Schultz, run for mayor. Do what Michael Bloomberg did, use your business acumen and run for mayor, run a city and do a good job at that and then maybe we can talk in a few years. But right now, there is way too much at stake for a vanity projects like running for president.

MATTHEWS: Vanity. You egotistical billionaire.

Zerlina Maxwell, Peggy Noonan.

When we return, one of the best movies of the year tells a story that needs to be told and retold.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

One of the best movies of the year is also one of the most educational. I`m talking about "Green Book", about the manual sold to African-Americans back in the days before the 1964 civil rights bill which band discrimination on the basis of race in places of public accommodation, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, rest rooms, you name it. It`s impossible for me or any other white person to understand what it`s like to have someone behind the care of a hotel tell you after seeing you that your reservation has been unfortunately lost.

It was to avoid the punishment of such moments that the green book was published and became well known to so many Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Without it, you were truly on your own in an unfriendly land. Recently, in seeing the film based on the "Green Book" experience, I recalled something told to me by Bobby Kennedy`s hard-nosed operative, Paul Corbin. One night he told me how he had been listening to Bobby speak about civil rights and called him out on how detached he sounded.

What would you feel like, he challenged Bobby, if you were riding around in the south and your wife needed to use the restroom. What would you feel like if you were told that the gas station restroom was for whites only? How do you feel?

That`s why there was a green book. I like the movie based on this history because it tells a story that needs to be told and retold, especially the people not brought up under the burden of racial repression.

White supremacy is what we Americans must never forget for the simple reason it`s where we came from. And because of at a certain level as William Faulkner wrote, the past isn`t dead. It isn`t even the past. How can we be good Americans if we don`t remember what we did wrong.

That`s HARDBALL for now.

And tonight be sure to tune in at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Senator Elizabeth Warren joins Lawrence O`Donnell.

And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES", of course, starts right now.