Show: HARDBALL Date: February 5, 2019 Guest: Tony Schwartz, Heather McGhee, Maya Wiley, Caleb Melby, Sherrod Brown, Chris Murphy
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Our line-up includes John Harwood, Jason Johnson, Mara Gay Rev. William Barber and many more. I hope you will join us.
HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.
Two hours from now, President Trump will enter the House chamber to deliver his state of the union address, hoping that the spectacle of him before both House of Congress, his cabinet, the Supreme Court, diplomats from around the world will reclaim the glory of his office. The man who took the presidential oath talking about American carnage, well, the White House is putting outward send a message of unity, sounding presidential and optimistic, much like his predecessors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONAL REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we gather here tonight, the state of our union is strong.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, the state of our union is strong.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight the state of our union is strong and together we will make it stronger.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward and the state of our union is strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But tonight President Trump will give his state of the union address against the backdrop of partisan ranker. It comes on the heels of his 35-day government shutdown over funding for a border wall and as he continues to dangled the threat of declaring a national emergency.
And for the first time in his presidency he will address Congress under the spectrum of divided government with House speaker Nancy Pelosi seated directly over his shoulder and with at least five potential Democratic challengers facing him out there in the chamber.
The White House insist the President will send a message of unity and comity. But tonight, the "New York Times" reports that behind the scenes, Trump is pushing back quote "as he and his team have drafted his address in recent days, he is groused about the test complaining that it`s too gentle on Democrats, but according to people briefed on the matter."
And President Trump already violated the proposed truce of his, mocking senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in a tweet this morning.
He tweeted, I see Schumer is already criticizing my state of the union speech, even though he hasn`t seen it yet. He is just upset that he didn`t win the Senate after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad, we won`t even give him credit for the win by the media."
An excerpt to the speech tonight, the President will tell the American people quote "together we can break decades of political stalemate, we can bridge old divisions, heal all wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America`s future.
But he kicked off this morning tweeting quote "tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our southern border, adding we will build a human wall if necessary."
I`m joined right now by Democratic senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Joy Reid, host of "A.M. JOY" on MSNBC, Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post." and Jon Meacham, presidential biography and Roger Stone`s distinguished professor at Vanderbilt University. This is quite a quartet with different perspectives.
I`m going to start with I think Joy Reid is with me. And Joy, I think I`m getting this scored (ph) and it is all over the place. I`m hearing unity, comity, we are all going to get together and come by yes. And actually, I do want to hear that. I do want to hear that. But I`m also hearing trashing of the Senate minority leader, trashing of Pelosi, trashing of the Congress of the Democratic Party. I see a President who says he won`t even agree to a deal that`s struck by the House and Senate conferees of the border wall, a President threatening to override everybody in front of him and declare national emergency and ignore the Congress. At the same time he is saying let`s all get along.
JOY ANN REID, MSNBC HOST, AM JOY: Yes. I mean, I think what happens frequently with Donald Trump is that there`s this fundamental clash between the person he actually is, which is the guy who wants to attack Chuck Schumer and make up nicknames for people and, you know, demand that they give him a border wall and talk about the brown scare at the border. That`s the Trump he wants to be and the President --
MATTHEWS: Has he has to use that awful phrase of the yellow scare?
REID: That`s the essence of what he wants for a border wall. That`s what he wants.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the essence I never heard. I never heard him say it.
REID: Yes, I mean, that`s not his exact text but what he is essentially saying to his base which is who is president of this third of the country that, you know, the brown people at the border are coming to take your jobs or kill you and that`s who he wants to be. And then there`s a clash fundamentally between that and the president he keeps being told, including by us, including by the media that this is what you are supposed to be based on the other 44 guys who have done the job.
Donald Trump does not want to be that. And so, you can write whatever you want, whoever is writing the speech will put words in his mouth that he will have to say dyspeptically possibly about unity but it is not who he wants be. So he will read the prompter --.
MATTHEWS: He is going to be burping all through the speech?
REID: He will read the prompter, he will grumble and then he will be himself again when it`s over.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Robert who knows the President, close in reporting. Why would he want to send the message of collegiality and comity and we are going to work things out including the border wall if he doesn`t intent to. What would be the point of that conflict of reality? Why would he want that just for one night?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: There is a lot skepticism about that, Chris, that just got to the newsroom from the Capitol. Republicans and Democrats think the President has a decision to make on whether he is going to declare a national emergency or not. And they judge him his action.
Two years into this presidency, they are not paying as much attention to any kind of soaring rhetoric that is coming out of this White House. What they want to know is, is there know going to be another shutdown in mid- February or not? Is this president going to use his emergency powers or not?
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t her - let me ask a political analysis -- let me go to the center on this. Chris Murphy, you are a Democrat, he is a Republican, but it seems to me if we are ever going to end this (INAUDIBLE) over the wall, we will need to compromise, which is some kind of stronger effort to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming across that border and doing it in a way that doesn`t offend everybody in the country, especially Hispanic-Americans, the people whose parents come from down thee or grandparents. How do you do it in a way that doesn`t make this country more divided? Is there a way?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Of course there is a way, but you probably can`t get it in the next seven days. That`s when the government shuts down again, about a week, a-week-and-half from now. So of course you can sit down and figure it out like we did in 2013. You remember, we passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.
But the President really has the short-term decision to make. Does he want precipitate another crisis by announcing this national emergency declaration that may not be able to pass Congress because it revolve again resistance? Does he want to risk another shutdown? So, you know, I`m going to go tonight because I respect the office of the presidency. But I`m not sure it really matters what he says tonight. It matters what he decides to do over the next couple days.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, Ben Bradley Jr. has written a new book about what happened in Pennsylvania in the last election, Hazleton, actually up there in Wilkes Barre in fact, about people just not liking all the Hispanic people moving into their neighborhoods. It was I think is hell (ph). It is what Joy mentioned. It is about ground people. It is not about a bunch of Heidi Klum`s coming in from northern Europe. It isn`t like that. It is ethnic. It`s ethic tribalism, whatever you want to call it. Trump keeps talking to that. Is it because he is talking to the people up there in a Wilkes Barre? Is he talking to Rush Limbaugh? Who is the boss?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think he is talking to both of those folks. I think Joy is right. He is president of about 34 or 35 percent of the country. And he got 12 or 13 percent on Election Day 2016 through a whole series of circumstances.
I think, to me, I think we have to see the world to some extent the way Trump sees it. And I firmly believe that all of us here think off a night like this and a sequential chapter in the Woodrow Wilson story. He reinstituted the state of the union, going to the house. This is the podium from which Franklin Roosevelt declared war and John Kennedy said we are going to the moon and Lyndon Johnson said we shall overcome.
For President Trump, this is a season premiere of a new show. And he sees this as reality television. He doesn`t see it as reality. And I think if we don`t get inside his head a little bit we are going to be playing by one set of rules while he plays by another.
MATTHEWS: Well, how about Donald Trump acknowledge speaker Pelosi tonight? Because this to me as a great opportunity. And in 2007 when Nancy Pelosi became the first female, woman speaker of the House, then President George W. Bush honored the significance of the moment during his state of the union. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Tonight I have the high privilege distinct honor of my own as the first president begin the state of the union message with these words, madam speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, I love that stuff.
Anyway, according to the "New York Times," while aides said urged President Trump to congratulate speaker Nancy Pelosi on her ascents to her second term, they are not clear whether he would or not.
So senator Murphy, I don`t know. It seems to me the (INAUDIBLE), this is like a gopher pitch in baseball. This is the easiest thing in the world to head a homerun with. Say something, congratulations on being reelected. I like that term, reelected. It`s an easy one.
MURPHY: Yes. But can you ever imagine President Trump uttering the words that President Bush did? It`s just not in his nature. And you know, he has been living in denial since the election that the Democrats won the House of Representatives. That`s why we were in a shutdown for 35 days because instead of moving towards Nancy Pelosi after the election, he moved away from her.
MURPHY: So there are plenty of ways in which high can actually show a willingness to work with Democrats. He can obviously show some bend on the issue of immigration. But he could also spend some time during the speech talking about drug pricing, talking about a new infrastructure bill, talking about things that he actually might be able to get done with the Democratic House. So there is plenty of ways other than a simple congratulations of her election speaker that he could signal that he understands what the new reality is.
MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, I know you have a sense of humor like me. I can imagine putting a little snap in that thing. He can say like thanks for having me over to your House finally.
REID: You know it`s finny. I have to say that I think that Jon Meacham has taken up residence inside my head and he is now living rent free. I feel like I should charge him because what he said in the previous segment is exactly what I think.
For Donald Trump, this is a TV show. He -- and it is the next episode that Nancy Pelosi, remember, cancelled midseason. He didn`t get to do his midseason finale before. Now that he is doing it, you can script a line, somebody could script him a line. Steven Miller is writing it. That is intended to sound gracious towards Nancy Pelosi. But she is the foil in the show. She is the character that for him is the artily (ph). He doesn`t mean it if he says anything gracious towards her.
MATTHEWS: But they are not going anywhere because they are both - and I`m on her side, but they are both become, Jon, iconic. He wants a Chinese wall made with bricks 15, 20 feet in the air. She says it`s immoral to build a wall. Come one. We have a fence of some kind. It`s not a question of morality. It is question of what`s appropriate, what works and what doesn`t offend people. And it seems to me that both taken iconic positions against each other. He should try charm her a bit, it seems to me, because she is going to have to fight her party left on any gift, just like he has to fight Russ belt (ph). She has to fight some people, maybe 10 people who are basically open borders people. They don`t say it but they are. And she has got to fight them to get any compromise out of that House and Senate conference coming up.
MEACHAM: Yes. There`s a reason, as you know, that she is the first and only madam speaker. This is a woman who successfully did something that no one else managed to do in this ascendancy of Trump over the last three years or three-and-a-half years or so. She made him break with the base. And I believe that when we write the history of this era, he is caving on the shutdown because Pelosi took that position will be a critical moment. Because it was the first time, you know this as well or better than I do, presidents get in trouble when they try to put a fast one past the people, right, Johnson in Vietnam, Nixon in Watergate, Clinton and his problems, or when they break with the base. And his base now believes that Nancy Pelosi actually pulled his pig tails somehow and I think that`s going to be a significant moment. She`s a formidable figure.
REID: And by the way, Chris, the one thing I will disagree with you and I rarely disagree with you, my friend. She doesn`t have to negotiate with anyone in the party. She has already won the issue. She is the speaker. She knows the constitution. She knows the rules, Donald Trump does not. She has it over him because she has done her homework for all of the years that she was building up to being speaker of the House. She knows the power of that office and it is restoring it to the Tip O`Neal style, not the style that we have seen with Boehner and with the young man from Wisconsin. She actually knows how to be speaker and she doesn`t have to negotiate. Her caucus is with her. She leads her caucus. And Donald Trump is not getting a wall, period.
MATTHEWS: OK. Meanwhile, President Trump has said bipartisan negotiations congressional negotiations over his wall are a waste of time and suggest he might declare national emergency. But even a number of Republican senators have voiced concerns about that approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: This would just be another erosion of congressional authority in this particular area.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think it would be a mistake for the President to invoke his national emergency powers for this purpose. And that it would be a dubious constitutionality.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I think it`s a dangerous step, one because of the precedent it sets, two because the President is going to get sued and it won`t succeed in accomplishing his goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Robert, it seems to me the President, has, whether he knew it or not, found a way out of it. And that`s the House -Senate compromise. The conference committees have meeting for years since the beginning of the Congress and that`s how they rank, put together compromise that nobody likes but they get them through with both houses agree with him. Why does he just let go that route and tell the people of both sides let work it out. I don`t care what you call it. But let`s get an agreement. I don`t want to be doing this for the rest of my life. I don`t want to go down there and shutdown -- another government shutdown. And I don`t want to risk a national emergency. So help me out finesse this baby and let`s move on? Why does he do that? Well, that Rush Limbaugh won`t approve but I think most Americans would.
COSTA: The President is being urged by Senator Lindsey Graham who spoke with him this morning to try to accept something that`s less than $5.7 billion, that original request for the wall. Senator Graham told me at the capitol that aid he wants the President to think about $2 billion. Could you accept $2 billion and some other border security provisions? Try to walk away without having another shutdown.
The atmosphere here within the Republican Party is pretty challenging for the President. Was just rebuked about his policies on Syria and Afghanistan, removing U.S. troops. He faces a possible rebuke again if he declares a national emergency. There`s already talk about a resolution that could come out of the House and Senate Republicans could support it to push back on the President`s decision should he move in that direction. That`s why you have Senator Graham and others started to say him over the phone privately accept this bipartisan deal. Walk away with something instead of nothing.
MATTHEWS: How about - just I want to shift to the Democratic response tonight now.
You know, Joy, that we all know that they have been uneven in their successes because you will never know the guy that use too much lipstick or he drinks too much water or something stupidly commend. But this time it`s an African-American woman who came very close to becoming governor of a major state.
MATTHEWS: My question is, was that by the Democrats to tilt this thing back to balance? Beto was getting all the intentions as a potential presidential nominee after losing a senate race.
MATTHEWS: She lost a governor`s race and pretty good run.
MATTHEWS: Was that a feeling in a part that Democrats not only a black woman, African-American woman going to decide this next fight for the nomination, everybody is telling me, but fairness.
REID: Yes. I think it was three things. I think number one, it was a statement of fact, which is that African-American women are the backbone of the Democratic Party and an acknowledgment of the dependency on the party on black ones vote. I think number two, it was a sense of trying to make the ultimate contrast between the Democratic Party and Donald Trump and his party, saying that this woman who cares about voting rights and who cares about immigrant rights and who cares about fundamental fairness is going to give you the sharpest contrast you could possibly get between what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to be a Republican. And third, Chris, I think blatantly, it is a huge sales pitch by the DSCC. It is Democrats saying please, Stacey Abrams run for the United States senate. She wants to be governor. So I think what she, you know, fundamentally seems to want is to run again into a rematch in 2022. But I think this is part of their wooing her and trying to get her to jump --.
MATTHEWS: I wave for governor if I were her. I think governor`s for her.
REID: It is what she is always wanted.
MATTHEWS: You go for what you really want because it`s risk either way. Go for the one you care most about.
Chris Murphy, let me ask you, senator? You are speaking for the Democrats. Do you want her to go for the Senate, Stacey Abrams?
MURPHY: You know, there`s a lot of people rooting for her to run for the Senate. I think she would be a fantastic candidate and she become a senator, especially in a Presidential election when you have a lot more Democratic voters turning out.
I also think that this is about signaling that our party is going to play everywhere in 2020. That this is a party that believes it can win in blue states, purple states and red states. And that our party is being led by leaders and activists outside of Washington.
Stacey Abrams is not a senator, is not a governor, is not a Congress person, and I think that`s a sign of where the strength of this party lies today. So I let Chuck Schumer and Senator Masto who is the head of the SEC do the recruitment. But boy, she would be a pretty awesome candidate for us to have on the ballot in 2020.
MATTHEWS: Not to be part of her team, but I do that to start a fundraising around midnight because this is her opportunity to reach 100 million people in primetime.
Thank you so much, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Joy Reid of MSNBC, Robert Costa of the "Washington Post" and Jon Meacham of history.
Coming up the new legal threat. Federal prosecutors subpoena records from President Trump`s $107 million inauguration where, where did all that money come from? And what did it do for donors? What were they up to? What were they trying to get for their money?
Plus, haven`t we seen this movie before?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That means building a great wall on the southern border and it means hiring more heroes like C.J. to keep our communities safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was last year. What if the President declare as national emergency tonight? Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio will be here.
And there are few of his favorite things, by the way, the spotlight, look at it tonight. The angulation, look at that. What nights like tonight tell us about Donald Trump the man formerly known as "the Donald" and the president?
Much more after the break.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As the president gets ready to deliver the State of the Union tonight, the state of his legal problems may be growing worse. President Trump`s inaugural committee now has received a sweeping subpoena from the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District of New York.
NBC News has learned prosecutors want access to a variety of documents related to the committee`s donors, spending and payments. The committee, chaired by Tom Barrack, a close friend of Donald Trump, raised $107 million for the president`s inauguration, more than twice as much as Barack Obama.
Federal prosecutors want to know how that money was raised and how it was spent specifically.
According to NBC, prosecutors are investigating allegations that the committee misspent some of the tens of millions of dollars that it raised and that some donors gave money in exchange for access to influence Trump administration policy positions. That`s called pay to play.
For President Trump, the investigations continue to grow, touching on seemingly all aspects of his personal and professional life. We now know that six operations connected to this president are under scrutiny, the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, the Trump inauguration, the Trump administration, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Foundation.
For more, I`m joined by Maya Wiley, who is senior vice president for social justice at The New School up here in New York, and Caleb Melby, reporter for Bloomberg News.
Thank you both.
This is a new topic for me. But my first salient question, I think, Maya, is, it`s illegal for foreign people, people even, to give to an inauguration. Why is that? How did that law get developed?
MAYA WILEY, THE NEW SCHOOL: It`s the same reason why we, any of us walking down the street, would worry about it when we hear about it, because you`re worried about paying to play.
And you don`t want foreign influence, so not the kinds of factors you want a U.S. president taking into account, deciding who gets what and has access.
MATTHEWS: But they can give -- they can give -- excuse me -- lots of money to libraries. Is that because they`re on their way out and you can`t influence opinion? But you know they start giving to the libraries pretty early on too.
WILEY: Well, libraries don`t have as much power as the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: I`m talking about presidential libraries, ego towers.
WILEY: Ego towers are different because they`re already out of office.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. But they start giving early.
Anyway, Caleb, what about -- what other crimes do you think are on the table here they`re looking at, the Southern District of New York?
CALEB MELBY, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes.
We know the Southern District is taking a look. The subpoena seems very broad in scope at this point in time. And, yes, you have those money flows you were just talking about from big donors to the inauguration.
But then you also have people buying tickets. And we know that one Manafort associate, a guy the name of Sam Patten, by using a straw donor, was able to give $50,000 of Ukrainian money from an oligarch into the inaugural fund.
MATTHEWS: Can you -- is that clean money or crooked money? Is it a crime, what he did?
MELBY: Sam Patten is in legal jeopardy, yes.
But we don`t know quite yet what those broader questions that the prosecutors in New York are going to get at in terms of, say, the big million, $5 million donors going into the inauguration.
MATTHEWS: Can you charge the people who received the money on behalf of the president`s inaugural committee with a crime, if they take money that is indirectly from abroad?
MELBY: So, what...
WILEY: It depends.
WILEY: Well, if they don`t know, right?
MATTHEWS: Well, they don`t ask, they don`t tell me. I mean...
WILEY: Well, remember that Michael Cohen -- this whole investigation began because of the raid on Michael Cohen`s office and his plea, because he had all kinds of documents.
Cohen himself, in the case of Viktor Vekselberg, right -- there was the whole question of whether he was helping a Russian, Viktor Vekselberg, essentially give money to the inauguration, the inaugural committee, through his cousin who was a citizen.
So, certainly, they could say, but we didn`t know that. What we had, it was someone who is a U.S. citizen saying they were paying.
So it does depend on the facts. And we don`t have all those facts.
MATTHEWS: Doe that inaugural committee smell? I mean, this thing is the two years ago, and we`re finally getting to it.
Did they know there was a problem there before, the prosecutors?
MELBY: Not to my knowledge.
We have seen a rolling series of reports about people like Rick Gates, like Michael Cohen, that all touched the inaugural committee in some way.
MATTHEWS: Did he admit he might have taken some money?
MELBY: Gates did, yes.
Anyway, White House Press Secretary Sarah appeared on CNN to address these reports. She denied the investigation had anything to do with the White House.
Now, listen to how she says this. And here`s how she answered the question whether it had anything to do with the president itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Actually, I think the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president.
The common thread is that there is so much hatred out there, that they will look for anything to try to create and tie problems to this president.
The things with people like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort literally have nothing to do with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Except they`re all around the president.
Maya, I guess the question that keeps coming out, I have never understood, although I have watched "Ozark" a number of episodes, trying to figure out, money laundering, what would -- how would money laundering work through the inaugural committee?
WILEY: Well, remember, they raised $107 million, twice as much as Barack Obama`s record take. And they had fewer events. They had fewer staff.
So the question is, what did all that money go to pay for? So, for example, the reason the subpoena may be asking for vendors and contractors is to say, did that money pay them, or was it a pass-through to clean some money and hide it?
And so that`s why it`s following the money.
MATTHEWS: And the people who sent it would end up getting it back.
Remember -- remember Rick Gates, Rick Gates, who is already cooperating and has pled guilty and helped Paul Manafort...
MATTHEWS: He`s the Manafort associate.
WILEY: ... money-launder. And the way he did it was falsifying invoices.
MATTHEWS: Tom Barrack, is he the one who has to explain for this haul? He`s the chair of the inaugural? Does he have to cover for all this?
MELBY: Look, Tom has, his whole life, been a raiser of big funds, both as a businessman and now in this role as in the inaugural committee.
But people around him have said, look, we don`t have the tools to vet all the money that comes in, either through the ticket side or the donor side, right? Like, we`re planning a party.
MATTHEWS: He`s very open as a personality. I don`t know the guy, but I have met him a few times. He`s very open. There`s nothing sneaky about the guy.
So, whatever he did, he doesn`t seem to be ready to be afraid of it. Anyway, we will see. We will see.
Maya Wiley, thank you, and Caleb Melby.
Up next: Will President Trump declare a national emergency to force American taxpayers to pay for his border wall? How Trump is leveraging fear to create policy, that`s straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mr. President, have you privately decided whether or not you will declare a national emergency? And just to clarify...
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have I privately -- what`s in my mind?
QUESTION: What`s in your mind?
TRUMP: Well, I`m certainly thinking about it.
QUESTION: You`re thinking...
TRUMP: I think there`s a good chance that we will have to do that.
QUESTION: Are you saying you will -- that we should be prepared for you to announce at the State of the Union what you are going to do?
TRUMP: Well, I`m saying listen closely to the State of the Union. I think you will find it very exciting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump last week leaving up to the possibility he could use tonight`s speech, the State of the Union, to declare a national emergency to get the funding for his border wall.
That idea is facing resistance from within the Republican Party. According to "The New York Times," Senate Republican aides have estimated between three and 10 Republicans would side with the chamber`s Democrats against Mr. Trump if he declared a national emergency.
The White House signaled today that the president will proceed cautiously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What it sounds like you`re saying to me, though, then, is we should not expect the president tonight to declare a national emergency, if he does want to let Congress have time to finish...
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: That`s right. We need Congress to finish its job. And -- but the president is looking at other options and has the legal authority to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But the president`s been clear. If Congress doesn`t provide him with a deal that includes money for his wall, declaring a national emergency is still on the table.
I`m joined right now by a senator who will be in the chamber tonight, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Senator, thank you for coming on the program.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Hey, Chris. How are you? Thank you. Of course.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about this president and threatening to over - - to override Congress, ignore both chambers, do what he wants to do, and call it an emergency?
BROWN: Well, what I think is that I don`t -- I really don`t know Republican senators, when I talk to them privately, who think this is a good idea.
It doesn`t mean they don`t publicly back the president, because they kind of always do, but that, overwhelmingly, people don`t think this is a good idea here, especially because he probably will take money from the military or use -- use our armed forces to do this.
And you don`t undermine our national security to do -- to do this vanity project of this wall. I mean, the public doesn`t want this wall. The Congress doesn`t want this wall. The president made a promise. But his promised, as you know, Chris, as you pointed out on your show, is that the Mexicans would pay for it.
So he`s just flailing. And, unfortunately, people pay a price when he distracts the public. I mean, I want to hear what he`s going to do about infrastructure, what he`s going to do about keeping the price of prescription drugs down, because we will work with him. Democrats will work with Republicans and the president to do that, for sure.
MATTHEWS: Sounds good.
Anyway, during tonight`s State of the Union, Trump is expected to again make the case for his border wall, however.
This morning, Trump declared on Twitter that without his wall, migrants will be -- quote -- "flooding our southern border." And he`s prepared to - - quote -- "build a human wall, if necessary." I guess that`s with the military.
The Pentagon announced over the weekend that it would deploy nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops to the border.
Senator, I think that`s more than we have in Syria. I`m not even sure soldiers are -- under the rules of engagement, that they`re allowed to stop people the border with their rifles. Are they? I didn`t know soldiers could do that kind of duty.
BROWN: Yes, I just think he doesn`t know what he`s doing here.
He`s trying to salvage his promise he made in front of tens of thousands of people, forgetting that he promised Mexico would pay for it. I -- clearly, it makes -- nobody thinks that`s a good idea. Nobody I know in either party, nobody I talk to in Ohio, at a town hall in Toledo, or a small gathering at a community center in Steubenville, I mean, nobody thinks that`s a good idea to station that many soldiers at the border.
It`s not an emergency. We can do border security. We can do it bipartisanly. We do it with technology and border agents and helicopters and all the things we know how to do to keep this border safe. It`s not an emergency. It`s only an emergency in the president`s mind.
And he`s just -- he`s just wrong about that.
MATTHEWS: Sounds good.
In 2016, in an interview with "The Washington Post," then candidate Trump laid out what he thought was the true source of -- quote -- "real power," saying: "Real power is -- I don`t even want to use the word -- fear."
It is a tactic that the president hasn`t shied away from using, especially when it comes to the border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You look at what is marching up, that`s an invasion. That`s not -- that`s an invasion.
They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they`re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.
Savage gangs like MS-13 that are occupying our country, like another nation would.
We`re taking people out of the country. You wouldn`t believe how bad these people are. These aren`t people. These are animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But, according to "The New York Times": "As his presidency enters its third year, a less convenient truth is emerging. Few outside the Republican Party are afraid of this president, and they may be less intimidated after the disastrous government shutdown."
How do you address the president? If you were both in a community that was concerned about illegal immigration, a working-class community, what would you say if you`re debating him right there? And he`s saying, we need this big Chinese-type wall. What would you say to those people that are agreeing with him to change their minds?
BROWN: I would start with this, Chris, that you know President Trump`s a bully. He`s been a bully all his life.
And, fundamentally, as you know, bullies are always cowards. But I would - - I would look at it this way, on stage or not. I would think about what you know so well from your time have with Speaker O`Neill, and even your understanding before that of history, is that Republicans have always played to fear, fear of -- Joe McCarthy, fear of communism, fear of immigration, fear of -- all kinds of fear of fear, all that -- they play to fear, as President Trump does, to distract people.
He knows that wages aren`t going up. He knows he`s betrayed workers. He knows what`s happened in Youngstown, Ohio, where the plant shut down. He knows how workers in Manchester and Des Moines and Reno are seeing their wages flat.
And he wants to change the subject. And the subject is always, point to somebody else to blame, whether it`s immigrants, whether it`s people of color, whether it`s women, whoever it is. That`s his game.
And bullies -- again, bullies are always cowards in the end. You stand up and you point that out.
MATTHEWS: Have you got a date for deciding on whether to run against him?
BROWN: I`m sorry. What? Say again?
MATTHEWS: Senator, do you have a date to decide, make an announcement?
BROWN: I don`t have a date.
But Connie and I are doing our dignity of work tour in each of the four states. We go to New Hampshire this weekend, then Nevada, South Carolina. We will likely decide in March.
And I mean, fundamentally, I think Democrats have to do two things. We have to talk to the progressive base, and we have to talk to workers, all workers. If you love your country, you fight for the people who make it work, regardless of race, regardless of gender.
We have got to learn to do that better as a party. That`s what I pledge to do if I`m in this race.
MATTHEWS: It`s very Bobby Kennedy.
Thank you so much, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the sergeant at arms introduction, the glad-handing, the applause. How could any American president, much less this one, let this night go by?
Coming up: a look at how the man previously known as the Donald loves this stuff.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For Donald Trump, the reality TV star, tonight`s address offers the ultimate opportunity to stage-manage his presidency.
According to "The New York Times", for Trump, the State of the Union is a spectacle and he`s ready for it. "The Times" notes that the State of the Union is one of the aspects of the traditional presidency that appeal to him, none more so than standing in the hallowed halls of Congress, with all eyes on him, speaking to the nation.
Trump has always been focused on how he looks as president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here`s a picture of the crowd. Now the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes.
They`re elite. I went to better schools than they did, I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment and I live in the White House too, which is really great.
I was your guest at Bastille Day, and it`s one of the greatest parades I`ve ever seen. Because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. I don`t know. We`re going to have to try and top it.
I was the perfect person. I was like central casting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, last month during the government shutdown, Tony Schwartz, who wrote "The Art of the Deal" with Trump predicted the president`s desire to give the State of the Union was so strong, it was probably one reason he would end the government shutdown.
We`re going to have Tony Schwartz on in a minute and his explanation of why this president wants to be there tonight. That`s up next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
"The New York Times" is reporting that the dark wood venue in the history of the address appeals so much to Mr. Trump that his reluctance to deliver the speech at an alternative venue, something that was briefly discussed in the White House after Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially cancelled the speech because of the partial government shutdown was part of Mr. Trump`s calculus for reopening, at least temporarily, the government.
When Pelosi first postponed the State of the Union speech, Trump co-author Tony Schwartz tweeted: There is one reason I can imagine Trump finding a way to open the government by January 29th, he desperately wants to give a State of the Union to Congress. It`s always, always about his vanity.
I`m joined now by Tony Schwartz, co-author of "The Art of the Deal", and Heather McGhee, who`s a distinguished senior fellow of Demos, a progressive think tank.
Tony, you`re first. I think all presidents like State of the Union. They love the pomp. They like, "Mr. Speaker," they like the whole thing. They love the applause and they introduce him again. They have the applause again, right? It`s all redundant and I don`t know, all that attention.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": Are you asking me a question?
MATTHEWS: Why Trump particularly thrilled by the idea of theater in the round?
SCHWARTZ: You know, the smaller the human being, the greater the need for big pomp and circumstance. I mean, literally I think that`s what it is about. The more diminished he feels, the more humiliated he feels, the smaller he feels, the more desperate he becomes for any kind of external evidence that he matters.
MATTHEWS: And when you were co-authoring a book with him, you could feel that smallness next to you, right? I`m serious.
SCHWARTZ: You know, could I feel the smallness? I could feel the emptiness at that time. I think he`s actually shrunk. So, what I could feel was there was an absence of any center. There was an absence of a conscience, of a heart, of a point of view.
MATTHEWS: Heather, what do you think he`ll do tonight? Get applause across the room, you know, there`s rare times when everybody applause, or just enjoy the left side, the Republican gallery out there?
HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS PUBLIC POLICY DISTINGUISED SENIOR FELLOW: I think he`s talked about wanting unity. I think he feels like the only threat he has left is the demonization of immigrants. And we know he was going to do that. He was talking to Steven Miller for two hours about his speech. So we know what that`s going to look like.
I mean, he brought one of the millions of family whose have had a loss of a life because of an undocumented immigrant. So, we know that`s going to be the sort of American carnage version of the speech. And then behind him, we`ll have Nancy Pelosi who played him like a fiddle and understood that she could actually get justice and fairness and jobs for, you know, over a million workers by just playing to his ego.
MATTHEWS: Both of you. I`ve been speaking about this all day. It seems to me if you`re running on national dissatisfaction, like unemployment, inflation, a war you don`t like, you will answer that with satisfying it, you end the war, you boost up the economy, you can deal with dissatisfaction with satisfaction.
But when you get elected on resentment, you just get more resentment. I mean, is there any to satisfy resentment? Except what? What do you -- it doesn`t seem like you could do enough to make it miserable for Mexican- Americans or Mexicans who are going to want to come here, anybody from Latin America. It`s going to make those people that angry happier.
SCHWARTZ: Listen, he`s not capable of letting go of resentment. He`s the most -- the wealthy, has been the most powerful, aggrieved human being who has ever lived. And so --
MATTHEWS: What is he aggrieved about? He`s hiring -- just this week decided to stop hiring illegal people.
SCHWARTZ: No, it`s the right question. And, you know, listen, would you be aggrieved if you were Donald Trump? He has every reason to be aggrieved, he`s him.
But I think, Chris, it`s really important to say, because I`m not sure other people are saying it. This State of the Union is arguably the most irrelevant State of the Union ever given. Why? Because there is nothing he can say that will generate any credibility --
SCHWARTZ: -- beyond his core audience.
MCGHEE: I think you`re so right about the resentment. I think we have thousands of families separated, children that the government just said, the Trump administration just said in a lawsuit a couple of days ago. We actually don`t think we can or should reunite them with their families.
This is the type of thing that was obviously the red meat that he was trying to give to his base, but it`s a type of thing that has unleashed a Democratic wave of women who think about that kind of absolute tragedy that come to this country --
MCGHEE: -- with anything, doing anything you can for your children to have them ripped out by a careless state. It`s a nightmare.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to defend.
Anyway, "The New York Times" article also points out that President Trump is doing a fairly unusual thing for him, working on a draft of the speech and then practicing delivering it. Trump has said many -- multiple times in the past he doesn`t need to do a lot of studying, or preparation for debates and meanings with world leaders. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What are you going to prepare for the summit with North Korea?
TRUMP: I think I`m very well prepared. I don`t think I have to prepare very much.
REPORTER: How prepared are you for this meeting with President Xi? How are you preparing for it and how confidence are you that --
TRUMP: I`m very prepared. I`ve been preparing for it all my life. You know, it`s not like, oh, gee, I`m going to sit down and study. I know every ingredient. I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it.
I don`t mind debate prep. But you`re supposed to know this stuff. You`re not supposed to be prepping too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It sounds like a joke.
MATTHEWS: Why is he hiding over the map room today sort of rehearsing with the teleprompter, dead serious?
SCHWARTZ: Listen, it is a measure of how frightened he actually is. So he went and did during the shutdown that office address from the White House.
MATTHEWS: That was a big win.
SCHWARTZ: And he clearly got feedback that that was a catastrophe and I think against that, he felt maybe I should read it a couple of times.
I will say this, the idea that he has been quote working on this speech as someone who has worked with him is a joke. He is not working on the speech. They are reading him portions or he is reading briefly portions and saying I don`t like that. Could you change that? Or I like that.
You know, in the entire manuscript of "The Art of the Deal" he made about 11 red marks and that was the only book he read in his adult life.
MATTHEWS: Heather, I don`t know if you can top that. What do you expect tonight? Is it going to be kumbaya or let`s fight?
MCGHEE: No, I think it`s going to be let`s fight. I think it`s going to be yet again him setting out a vision for the country that no -- a vision of the country that nobody wants to live in. He is not going to do some of the things he could do like talk about jobs and infrastructure. He`s left that completely behind.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Tony Schwartz. Thank you, Heather McGhee, for that prep.
Up next, how Trump`s legacy will not be about what he built but what he tore down.
We`re back after this.
MATTHEWS: New York`s Fifth Avenue is a wonder. But when I walked by the Trump Tower at 57th Street, I`m reminded of what stood there before, the old Bonwit Teller building with its beautiful historic facade which "American Architect Magazine" called a sparkling Jewel.
Donald tore all of that down in a perfect display of what he thinks of history. We`re now told he`s going to use tonight`s State of the Union to call the country together in unity. But the one thing that unites us, we Americans, is our history. It`s for good, for bad, for everything who we are.
Donald Trump has no respect for our history. With the same lack of caring about that landmark building he tore down in Fifth Avenue to build his golden tower, he`s torn down the best of our American legacy. No man who has inhabited the White House has done more than Trump to desecrate history, and history is going to pay him back for it.
How dare a man who trashed his predecessor as an illegal immigrant just to drum up the haters ask for unity between black and white Americans? How dare a man who calls immigrants from our hemispheric neighbors rapists and drug dealers, criminals of the worse kind lay claim to unity among all Americans, including those whose family roots run south of the border.
But there`s something universal on Trump`s assault. He came to office ripping down all the historic progress that came before him. From the alliances were built with other democratic countries, from the basic civility of political discourse at home, to the election of our first African-American president, all have been smashed by the Trump wrecking ball.
And what legacy will he leave behind once the jamboree of resentment has ended? A united country? You think so?
That`s not what got him here and that`s not how he`s going to leave here, and that`s not how history is going to judge him, not for what he built but for what he succeeded at least for his time in tearing down.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
I`ll be back for a special edition of HARDBALL at midnight tonight Eastern. Be sure to tune in.
And MSNBC special coverage of the State of the Union starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END