Trump urges unity. TRANSCRIPT: 02/06/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Donna Brazile, Betsy Woodruff, Jackie Speier, Leon Panetta, Dee Margo, Christina Greer, Michael Eric Dyson

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 6, 2019 Guest: Donna Brazile, Betsy Woodruff, Jackie Speier, Leon Panetta, Dee Margo, Christina Greer, Michael Eric Dyson

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: 21 Savage, if you haven`t heard of him, was been nominated for two Grammys. No one knows what the Grammys this weekend if he would be able to attend this Sunday`s awards show. We want to bring that news.

That does it for THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Preaching unity, starring division. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

President Trump promised unity before his state of the union last night and then delivered civil war. Here was the warning shot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn`t work that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the President shut down the federal government over his border wall and now he is threatening to shut down the Congress. He is telling it, you are not going anywhere as long as you are causing me trouble with these investigations. Sounds familiar? We heard a similar call from Richard Nixon in his state of the union in 1974.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s call for Democrats to back off their investigations comes as the new Democratic majority this week ramps up its oversight of the administration. And today, the House intelligence committee vote to send mote 50 un-redacted Russia-related transcripts to special counsel Robert Mueller. And last September, by the way, when that committee was still chaired by Devin Nunes, Republicans block Democrats efforts to do just that.

Well, today, the new Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff, also announced the committee will pursue an expanded probe. Not only into Russia but also President Trump`s all foreign financial interests. President Trump responded to that development a personal attack on Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: This morning, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said he was going to launch a deep investigation into not only Russia but your personal; --.

Did you say Adam Schiff?

TRUMP: Did you say Adam Schiff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Adam Schiff.

TRUMP: Never heard of him.

He has no basis to do that. He is just a political hack who is trying to build a name for himself. It`s called presidential harassment and it`s unfortunate and it really does hurt our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He never heard of him but he is a hack.

Anyway, Schiff responded to the President`s (INAUDIBLE) on twitter writing, I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the President. Several of his close associates are going to jail, others await trial and criminal investigations continue. We are going to do our job and won`t be distracted or intimidated by threats or attacks.

Well, I`m joined right now Democratic congresswoman Jackie Speier of California who sits on the House intelligence committee. Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian. Donna Brazile, former DNC chair and Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "the Daily Beast." What a quartet. We are going to give a lot of perspectives here.

Jackie Speier, congresswoman, I think this is interesting. That was a threat last night from the President. It was a threat, right?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There`s no question that it was a veiled threat. But what was most interesting is how he framed it as presidential harassment this morning. If anything it was congressional harassment because it was seeking a quid pro quo. Meaning if you want legislation and peace, you have got to stop with the investigations.

So I think he is once again got it all wrong when it comes to harassment. He has only been the perpetrator most of his life.

MATTHEWS: Michael Beschloss, in a big picture way, is this unusual for the president of the United States to say to all members of Congress, if you use your oversight role involving me, you are in trouble. I`m going to shut your place down, this Congress down?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It`s a complete shock. We haven`t seen anything like this in history, Chris, where a president basically says, you know, you do not stop the investigations that may show my legal or even criminal liabilities, maybe I will just start vetoing all sorts of bills and, you know, shutdown the well-being of the American people.

He is essentially saying, I am thinking of leveraging the future of America, our national security, our economic health in order to stop this legal and criminal potential investigation into me. We have never seen anything like this before.

MATTHEWS: It is like a protest in the old days say no justice, no peace.

(CROSSTALK)

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: That was absolutely --

BESCHLOSS: But this is the most powerful person on earth saying this.

BRAZILE: Well, essentially, Chris, he is telling members of Congress who takes an oath of office to violate the constitution. The constitution explicitly say that members of Congress, they have the legislative body have the oversight responsibility of the government and he is telling members of Congress that they should not do their job.

The other thing, Chris, as you well know, last night he extended an olive branch. And then on the other hand, he had will. He said basically you do what I say. He didn`t call for unity. He called for obedience. He wants members of Congress to basically follow his lead and not the lead of --.

MATTHEWS: What was that little preamble about? Why do you think he went through that a little foreplay? If you will, politically said, I`m going to be nice. Let`s be nice and then put the knife out there?

BRAZILE: Well, let`s talk about visions not vengeance, results not resistance. Basically, he -- and then, of course, he did a little - and use socialists there. We know that, well, we have been called everything in the book.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BRAZILE: Look, the members of the Democratic caucus will do their job. They will uphold their constitutional responsibility, but they will hold this administration accountable.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t just call you a socialist. He condemned you to being like the guy in Venezuela, that dictator, that Maduro. He said you are part like that. It was rough for the night.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, this president is known for his insults.

MATTHEWS: Anyway. What Democratic leaders in both chambers seized on the President`s threat. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said it suggests Trump is scared by the investigations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: What is the President afraid of? If he had nothing to hide, he shrugged his shoulders at these investigations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And House speaker Nancy Pelosi said her members won`t be intimidated either, quote "it was a threat. It was an all-out threat. It is our congressional responsibility. And if we didn`t do it, we will be delinquent in that."

Let me ask you about this, Betsy because I can`t quite figure out the game here. Now, last week Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general said this whole Rob Mueller thing is going to be over soon. We don`t know what that -- was that intimidating? Some people think it was.

Then the President himself comes out last night and says shorten this thing up and get it over with. Does he think shorting the Mueller probe by a month or two, which is all he can possibly do, by all intimidation, is going to keep Mueller from getting the goods on him? Is that what he thinks?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: He - that certainly seems to be the subtext of his public comments in the Mueller investigation. The reality is most of the reporting indicates this is investigation is coming towards its apex. We know Mueller`s investigators are working on a report, sort of bringing together what they found out.

However, this move at the House intelligence committee has taken is really important. They are turning over all these transcripts. And if any of Trump`s officials told things to Congress that are in contradiction to what they told Mueller`s team, that means those people could potentially be in criminal territory.

Members of the House intelligence committee, me and colleagues have spoken with, have said they believe it is possible that several people very close to the President, including they say possibly the President`s son, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Prince, the Blackwater chief could have lied to their committee and that`s part of the reason they have long been eager to get these transcripts in Mueller`s hands.

MATTHEWS: So, let me go to the Congresswoman Speier on this. It seems to me that you have - that the special counsel, Mr. Mueller, will now have in his hands if he doesn`t already, un-redacted transcripts, not just something of hidden from. Nothing is hidden. He gets it all. Is there anything in there you think he might be surprised by this? It is furgerious (ph).

SPEIER: Well, I think what is most important is that once he have these transcripts, he is then in a position to act upon those transcripts if there has been any actions that suggest that there has been perjury to Congress. You know, I think what`s really important is that we realize that lying to Congress is a felony and it will be charged and those who do that are going to suffer the consequences.

The only thing the intelligence committee is seeking is the truth and the President should not be worried if there`s nothing to hide about. We are always concerned about the fact that the Russian engagement with the President, before he was president, may have something to do with his bromance with Vladimir Putin since he has been President.

It`s very disturbing to me that he would tear up the interpreter`s notes when he had a meeting with Vladimir Putin. And then in subsequent meetings didn`t have an interpreter at all. So it wouldn`t surprise me if there was some discussion about the Moscow tower for Trump because that letter of intent has never expired. So you could argue that that is still pending.

MATTHEWS: Well, the House oversight committee chair, Elijah Cummings, says committee has brought jurisdiction to investigate this president and his administration. Said Congress is simply doing its job. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It`s not about partisan investigations. We are doing what is demanded by our constitution. That is to be a check and balance on the executive branch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, vice president Mike Pence tried backing up the President`s argument today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t oversight part of the legislature`s job? You served in the House for more than decade.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did. I did. Look, congressional oversight is part of the checks and balances of our system, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But isn`t -- he was saying that can`t happen though?

PENCE: Well, what the President has referred to last night was partisan investigations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s hard to be flack, isn`t it?

Michael Beschloss, this role of Congress oversight is what we count on, historically. We count on it.

BESCHLOSS: Totally. The founders were terrified that presidents would become tyrants and they said the only way we can keep them from becoming tyrants in the future is if you have a House and Senate with the power to investigate, the power to stand up to presidential power and the same thing with the Supreme Court. Our liberties are depending on that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Donna, the partisan there.

Well, you have a thought here. But I want to congratulate your party tonight because Nancy Pelosi last night showed the power. This is almost Machiavellian (ph) genius, the slight movement of the hand like and orchestra just no, no embarrassments here. What did you think of that?

BRAZILE: First of all, as you well know, I`m on team Pelosi. She is not only smart but she understands her caucus and the eye contact. You know, I`m an old athlete. You know, when the coach says --.

MATTHEWS: Well, she is like Robert De Niro (INAUDIBLE). She was eye balling everybody.

BRAZILE: And then when she would look at her notes and you are like oh. I just - I loved it. And by the way I enjoyed seeing that historic number of women all dressed in white. It was a great night for America. And Stacey Abrams, I`m still over joyed by her response.

MATTHEWS: Why was she so good?

BRAZILE: Because sheets she is inspiring. Because she has able to articulate Democratic values. Because she said last night we don`t want this president to fail. We just want him to tell the truth. She came across last night as an American that cares deeply about the future of our country.

MATTHEWS: Betsy, that was strong pot (ph). I know that`s not your area to judge politics but I got to tell you. That`s the kind of politics that persuades people. It doesn`t just confirm believes.

BESCHLOSS: Right.

WOODRUFF: It`s certainly -- it certainly was a speech that I think is going to be of historic significance.

Going back a little bit to this political question. One really vital piece of context that the vice president over looked in his comments there on CBS is this idea that partisan investigations are something new. That`s just totally divorce from historical president. In fact, chairman Devin Nunes, when he had Adam Schiff`s job, and was running the House intelligence committee basically ran an extraordinarily historically partisan investigation where it essentially was running interference for the White House to try to shield them from the Russia story.

The idea that unless both political parties are onboard with oversight, the oversight is not - is not credible. It just separated from the way that elections work and the way the democracies work. American people decide which party is in-charge of Congress. They decide which party members get those gavels and that means that some of these investigation are going to be partisans.

Of course, that brings challenges. It can cause acrimony. It can make these committees function much worse than they would. Bipartisan investigations tend to be a lot more effective. If you look at the Senate Intelligence committee`s Russia probe is more effective. And they are getting a lot more material than the House did. But to suggest that a partisan investigation lacks the constitutional weight of a bipartisan investigation is just divorce from reality.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Speier, are you going to have -- give us an outlook for this year, the next few months, this summer, are we going to have an impeachment process starting after we hear from special counsel Mueller? What do you see as the sequence of events for 2019?

SPEIER: I think that whole issue will be determined based on what special counsel Mueller comes up with. And certainly, the extent to which we are not made privy to it if the administration, if the attorney general attempts to hold that under executive privilege. It makes the work of the intelligence committee that much more important because we are going to do this in the public eye.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Michael about this. Because I think what Betsy was just talking about and Donna was just talking about is a healthy partisan environment.

BESCHLOSS: Totally.

MATTHEWS: Where one side keeps the other side honest. They don`t stop from doing something good, which is really bad partisanship. They stop them from doing stuff that`s bad and that`s why we have a two-party system and sometime as multi-party system. Your thoughts historically about that.

BESCHLOSS: Yes. My thoughts historically, Chris, are to agree with you which is that you go through history. So many times in American history, the times that we go off the rails have been when you have a president, not only who controls both Houses of Congress but when their lap dog party leaders in Congress who do not challenge the President.

We saw a lot of that during the first two years of the Trump presidency. Imagine the discussion we would be having about all of this tonight if the Dems had not won the House last fall.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Yes. We would be packing the Supreme Court with 15 conservatives.

Thank you -- because FDR tried to do that when he had too many Democrats who have inside.

BESCHLOSS: He sure did. Right.

BRAZILE: Can I make one last point? During the time the Democratic Party was being hacked, I reached out to my Republican counterpart to say we are being attacked. I want to let you know because if they are attacking us, they may come after you.

The Republicans need drop this partisanship and get on with the business of protecting our democracy from future hacks.

MATTHEWS: Did they go with you?

BRAZILE: No.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.

You know Nixon told his people to break into the Republican headquarters after they broke in to Democratic headquarters to make it look like a Democratic job. That`s how bad Nixon was.

Thank you, Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, member of the intelligence committee.

Michael Beschloss, our historian. Everybody should have an historian. We have got one. Thank you so much, Michael.

BESCHLOSS: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Donna Brazile, thank you. One of the real leaders of the Democratic Party.

Betsey Woodruff, one of the star reporter of our time.

Up next President Trump claims to know more about fighting ISIS than his generals did and more about Intel generally than his intelligence chiefs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, I disagree with certain things that they said. I think I`m right. But time will prove that - time will prove me right probably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`s a healthy ego. What are the consequence to that kind of thinking? Former CIA director Leon Panetta is going to join us in a minute.

Plus, the political crisis down in Virginia takes a stunning term. The woman in the center of the sexual assault allegation against the lieutenant governor says there was nothing consensual about what he did to her.

And the man second in line for governor now admits he wore black face. How this ugly situation could play out in the coming days.

Much more after this break. Stick with us.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump`s state of the union address was sold before hand as one of unity and optimism. Instead President painted a dark division of America plagued by national security crisis at the border and in international crisis with Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety security and financial well-being of all America. My administration has acted decisively to confront the world`s leading state sponsor of terror, the radical regime in Iran. It is a radical regime. They do bad, bad things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president largely avoided mentioning the imminent dangers of North Korea`s nuclear regime, the looming threat of an arms race with Russia, and the constant threat of a resurgent Islamic State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months.

Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America`s interests.

That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria, just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense and former director of the CIA under President Obama.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

You have got a background that can really test all these things. What do you think the president is talking about in that State of the Union? Is he talking about the real world we face?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Chris, he`s talking about the world according to Donald Trump.

And all you have to do is look at the intelligence report from last week, in which all of our intelligence leaders painted a very different picture of the world than what we heard last night in that speech.

They said that North Korea is going to continue to want to hold on to their nuclear weapons. The president thinks that somehow they will denuclearize. ISIS, he thinks that we have defeated ISIS, when our intel leaders basically said there`s 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS that are ready and resilient enough to attack again.

He talks about Iran violating the nuclear agreement. The intel leaders said that it`s not the case. Iran has actually stood by that agreement.

So, area after area, he basically talked about a world that is according to Trump, not according to the truth.

MATTHEWS: It seemed so often that he was calculating in pointing to what he thought were the danger spots to world, to political opportunities for him, focusing on Iran, rather than, for example, North Korea.

What do you -- what are his politics, if you had to explain what he`s really trying to do in that speech, to keep his right-wing faction together somehow?

PANETTA: Well, he`s trying to show that somehow his personal involvement, when he personally gets involved in an issue, that it has to head in the right direction. Otherwise, he will be a failure.

And so his meeting with Jong last year, and the fact that nothing has been obtained in terms of denuclearization, still requires him to show that there are some positive things going on. Otherwise, it`s a total failure.

On Iran, he needs to have an enemy. And so he`s going to make Iran an enemy. He tore up the agreement. He`s made Iran the principal enemy. Now, Iran, without question, is a threat in that part of the world. But there are other threats. The intel leaders basically said that the principal threat, frankly, is Russia and China working together for the first time in a long time, working together to conduct cyber-attacks on our -- on our election process and trying to undermine the stability of our country.

That`s the major threat we really confront.

MATTHEWS: Well, in his address last night, the president announced his next meeting with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at the end of February.

He also said, if it wasn`t for him, we would likely be at war with North Korea.

Here he is bragging, I guess.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: However, it was President Trump who famously threatened the country with fire and fury like the world has never seen before.

Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement. And, as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before.

If North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very, very nervous. I will tell you why. And they should be very nervous.

The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think he`s accomplished with all this personal diplomacy with Kim Jong-un?

PANETTA: I think he has -- he`s accomplished nothing in terms of the substantive issue of denuclearization. That`s the bottom line.

This whole effort was launched on the basis that we would get North Korea to totally denuclearize. What`s happened since that meeting is nothing. As a matter of fact, intelligence shows that North Korea is continuing to develop nuclear material, continuing to hide its missiles and its nuclear capability.

MATTHEWS: Right.

PANETTA: So nothing has happened on denuclearization.

Yes, it -- obviously, they`re not -- they`re not testing. They`re not doing some of the things that have been helpful, no question about that. But on the basic point of denuclearization, nothing has happened.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s been taken hold of, to an extent, by the neocons again?

I know this is a continual rap of mine, but I`m sticking to it. John Bolton, I sense his presence, Elliott Abrams now in Venezuela policy. It seems like the people that had so much influence over George W. Bush, and with Dick Cheney, have come back into powerful influence. What do you make of it?

PANETTA: Well, the most hopeful thing that was going on at the beginning of this administration is that there was a sense that, with Jim Mattis as secretary of defense, Tillerson at State, McMaster as national security adviser, John Kelly in that mix as well, that there were those that were able to control his worst tendencies.

Now, with these other individuals that have come into play, I think the danger is that there isn`t someone there to control the worst tendencies of the president.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he might go into Venezuela and take -- take on the Venezuelan army, which is backing Maduro?

PANETTA: You know, the problem with a president who isn`t willing to take the time to read his intelligence briefings is that he can basically operate on instinct and gut feeling.

And if that`s the -- if that`s the way this president operates, then who knows what the hell he may do.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you so much, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Thank you so much for taking the time tonight, sir.

Coming up: The president made a series of outrageous claims in his speech last night, including one that singled out El Paso, Texas, as the city that needed to build a wall to keep it citizens safe.

Well, the mayor of El Paso will be here in a moment to react to that claim. He won`t agree with it.

Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime.

Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump last night in the State of the Union address citing El Paso to bolster his argument for building his border wall. The problem is, the numbers don`t support the president`s claim that El Paso was one of the country`s most dangerous cities.

Construction of a border fence in El Paso started in 2008, was finished the following year. And according to FBI data, the violent crime in the border city actually increased a bit, by 17 percent, from 2006 to 2011, two years before the fence was built to two years after it, but remains low compared to cities of a similar size.

The mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, pushed back against the president`s claim, tweeting: "El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. We have had the fence, that fence for 10 years, and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity. It is not the sole deterrent."

Mayor Dee Margo joins me right now.

First of all, it seems to me that the purpose of a fence is to stop people from going past it. Does it that purpose, do you think, Mr. Mayor, that purpose?

DEE MARGO (R), MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: Well, I think the fence is part and parcel, as you said, to the border security. I don`t know anybody that would argue that, as a sovereign nation, we don`t need to control our borders.

But can I give some context to the people out -- your viewers?

MATTHEWS: Sure.

MARGO: El Paso is the six largest city in the state of Texas. It`s the 19th largest city in the United States.

We say we`re at the nexus of three states, New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Texas, and two countries, the U.S. and Mexico. And we`re one region of 2.5 million people. And we have been -- we have been -- you can`t tell the difference between where Juarez begins and El Paso ends.

MATTHEWS: So, Trump`s claim that your crime dropped because he put the fence up -- or the fence was put up, where`s that stand in reality, that claim?

MARGO: Well, it`s -- I think it`s a -- it`s a participant. It`s not the way the -- the president`s comments, his preface was what I disagreed with.

The postscript of us being one of the safest cities in the nation is correct. We are. We are considered the safest city with a population greater than 500,000.

And I talked to our police chief or -- through his staff today, and found out, in 2008, we were like second. In 2009, after the -- after the fence was built, we were we were still second. But we have progressed into be the number one safest city in the nation.

What I have said all along is, the fence is -- it is a part of a process for border control. But did -- is it a panacea? No. And can you build a fence from El Paso to Brownsville, Texas? In reality, the answer is no. The geography of Texas doesn`t allow it.

And the fact is that most of Texas is private land.

MATTHEWS: If you were president, and you had watched this fight between Nancy Pelosi, who says a wall is an immorality, and Trump, who says it`s immoral not to have a wall, is there a grownup way, is there a better way of looking at this?

Is there -- is there a way that would actually reduce the amount of people who cross the border illegally, but do it in a humane way? Is there a good way to protect that border?

MARGO: Well, I think technology -- what I would like to hear is, rather than elected officials telling me, I would like to hear the Homeland Security tell us what their -- what they recommend for control of our borders.

I -- to my knowledge, I have not heard any -- anything ever come out of Homeland Security that dictated the complete program. It was mostly the politicos. And I -- personally, I was a former CEO. I would rather see the data and understand where it ought to go.

But the bottom line is, until we fix our immigration process in Washington, D.C., which is -- of which both sides of the aisle are culpable, we`re going to continue to have problems on migration.

It`s a given.

MATTHEWS: What about the president using your city as a backdrop this coming Monday day for his big rally, his first big rally of 2019?

MARGO: Well, I have been saying for months, if the people in Washington, our elected officials, want to know about the border, they need to come to El Paso. We are where you need to discuss immigration and immigration reform.

So the fact that he`s coming out, I am very pleased. And I hope to have some time to visit with him and show him how our border functions. I mean, we have 23,000 legal pedestrians that cross north every day.

I have 21 million private passenger vehicles that come north on an annual basis. We`re the 10th largest trading port in the nation.

MATTHEWS: Has anybody from the White House said they`d like to set up a meeting between you and the visiting president on Monday?

MARGO: I have had some calls, yes. We`re trying to coordinate that.

MATTHEWS: They want to get together?

MARGO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, thank you, sir.

Up next: political chaos in the Commonwealth of Virginia. What a mess it is down there, the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general all embroiled in their own controversies. And Democrats there are desperately looking for a way forward or out or whatever.

That`s coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: When I was confronted with the images yesterday I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believe then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo. If were to listen on the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead. I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier fl me in an effort to duck my responsibility to reconcile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s another bombshell in the controversy that`s enveloped the Virginia Democratic Party. It started when a photo was found on Ralph Northam`s 1984 medical school yearbook page showing a person in blackface, posing with someone in the Ku Klux Klan robe.

Now, another Democrat, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted to wearing blackface. In his statement today, Herring said that in 1980, when I was 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend the party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow and perform the song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it.

But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes, and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others, we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup. While Northam, by the way, has said he won`t step down, Herring, the A.G., has left that possibility open. In his statement today, he wrote in the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general. But no matter where we go from here, I will say from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.

Well, Herring is second in line for the governorship, behind Northam and lieutenant governor, of course, Justin Fairfax, who is now facing a sexual assault allegation. A professor named Vanessa Tyson has alleged that Fairfax assaulted her in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention up in Boston, which Fairfax denies. He says the interaction was entirely consensual.

In a statement released today, however, Tyson said, I cannot believe given my obvious distress that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual.

Late tonight, Fairfax said in a statement: Reading Dr. Tyson`s account is painful. I have never done anything like what he suggests. Any review of the circumstances would support my account because it is the truth. I continue to believe Tyson should be treated with respect but I cannot agree to a description of events which simply is not true.

And late tonight, a major national newspaper is calling on Governor Ralph Northam to resign. That`s up next. Say with us.

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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Late tonight, "The Washington Post" called on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign in a striking editorial. It reads: Governor Ralph Northam can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia who elected him, his shifting and credulity shredding explanations for the racist photograph and his medical school yearbook page and the silence which he then succumbed for days after promising to do the hard work of atonement and apology to restore his standing with Virginians is simply too much.

His decade-long record in public office is admirable, and is equally true. His governorship has been irredeemably wrecked by the self-inflicted, racially callous and clueless mess he has made in recent days.

Wow. I`m joined now by Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, and Michael Eric Dyson, of course, professor of sociology at the Georgetown University, Jonathan Allen, NBC News Digital national political reporter.

I want to start with Jonathan, who`s reporting this.

I mean this is like a domino of calamity here. You`ve got the governor being pushed by "The Post" to quit. The lieutenant governor charged by a woman from 2004 with sexual assault. You`ve got the number three guy admitting to using blackface years ago, in the high school, sort of, whenever it was, escapade, whatever it was, and now you`ve got the fourth person, a Republican, head of the assembly who would at the end of that domino line, become the governor, a Republican.

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS DIGITAL NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And this is the problem. I`ve been on the phone with Democrats in Virginia all day long today, and basically, they`re not sure if one of these dominos is going to fall, two are going to fall or are three are going to fall. And when they`re trying to figure that out, each of these players has their own calculation. If one goes, do two get to stay? If two goes, does the third get to stay? If one or two goes, do all three go?

And I think the Democrats in Virginia are trying to figure out how to keep a Democratic governor, and that same time, keep some sort of, not moral high ground anymore, but keeps some sort of ability to suggest that they have kept some sort of moral standing at all.

MATTHEWS: I used the word credulity. I quoted it from "The Post". Credulity is an interesting word now. Do we believe a guy who`s put together his yearbook page, because they all put their own page together, put in the guy in KKK costume, a guy in blackface next to him -- he chose out of, like, three pictures --

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- for his memory, his memorial in medical school, and he had nothing to do with that and he wasn`t in that picture.

DYSON: Yes, it does strain credulity to be certain. And beyond that, you know, people think, well, you`re just, in one sense, imitation is a sincere form of flattery. Not really because you`re not imitating black people. Blackface is not about imitating black people. It`s about in one sense holding them to mockery.

MATTHEWS: Why do the minstrel -- why the minstrel tradition? What was it about?

DYSON: Well, it`s about appropriating black identity from a white person and controlling it, right? And all the worse elements that you saw, the big lips, the big eyes, the scared look on the face, frozen in the headlights look, and the cork on the face was meant to mock black people, not to emulate them, but to tarnish them in a way.

So, blackface is about not facing black culture as squarely as you can, but about getting around the corner of it and allowing whiteness to appropriate it. .

MATTHEWS: Christine, your thoughts about this academically in this history? I think -- it`s a teaching moment like awful events too tend to be, a teaching moment. Why did it start? Why is it still going on and how did it survive all the way through the `80s, the 1980s? What`s going on in year books at place like Chapel Hill? What`s it doing in yearbooks?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROF. OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: Well, I mean, Chris, the sad thing is, it`s still going on around college campuses today. This was going on when I was in college in the `90s, and I teach at a college campus and every semester, I talk to my colleagues, there is someone who puts on black face, no matter what. And it`s not just the schools in the South. It`s schools in 50 states across the country.

So, clearly, we have not had the reckoning that many Americans think we have had. That`s part of the problem. I fundamentally agree with Jonathan in the sense that the Democrats are trying to figure out, how do they keep a Democratic governor when you have two instances of blackface? One that - - I mean, let`s also back up a little bit. Governor Northam never said whether he was in blackface or the Klan hood when he initially that that was him in the picture in his yearbook, the first Friday that he admitted it.

Now he`s back tracking.

MATTHEWS: Then he denied both. Then he denied both.

GREER: Now he denies both. And then, you know, gives us a tutorial in blackface.

But, you know, the fundamental problem is that Governor Northam keeps changing his story and he seems to only care about himself, and if he leaves the governor`s mansion, seems to want to burn it on the way out. I think he is not the same as attorney general right now, Attorney General Herring.

MATTHEWS: How much of this -- Christine, I want -- a lot of this is we`re watching sort of the back wash of Kavanaugh, you know, and the senator from Minnesota, Franken, the guy who admitted it basically is gone. Never hear of him again. The guy who denied it is now in the Supreme Court.

The less on seems to be cover and duck, admit nothing, put up with the heat. Is that the message we want in our society? That`s the winning message so far.

GREER: No, we don`t want that message, but I think the Republicans have shown us, you know, we`ve seen McConnell behind, you know, or in front of a massive confederate flag. We`ve seen Representative King with a Confederate flag on his desk and he`s from the state of Iowa.

We`ve seen the president time and time again since he came down the escalator calling Mexicans rapists. So, we know that we have a fundamental problem on the Republican side. The difference is they don`t leave. The Democrats are trying to keep a moral high ground while also trying to keep power, and that`s harder needle to thread.

MATTHEWS: Michael?

DYSON: Well, it is, as Professor Greer said, and the problem is, of course, having complication and nuance. When Professor Greer said there`s a difference between Herring and Northam, there is. He said the future will tell, in the next few days, whether or not I`ll remain. But we have to reckon with this issue.

We`ve got to create space for people to have the opportunity to apologize, to reckon with the history of their reckless behavior and then move forward on a path of redemptive and restorative justice, so that everybody is not the same. All issues are not the same. There`s a continuum. There is on the one end, heinous acts that are egregious, on the other end, you know, flagrant offenses that need to be --

MATTHEWS: Is there a difference between a guy who poses with a KKK member, playing a victim of the KKK basically, right, and someone who says he was imitating an African-American hip-hop star? I mean, somebody he liked?

DYSON: Well, yes and no. There`s a difference between being Kurtis Blow and blowing it by standing next to a KKK guy. On the other hand, the fact you appropriated that blackness out of context, that you have not allowed it to speak for itself or represented it, and you do it through the prism of a narrow white supremacist ideology, then at the same time, you`ve got to confront it.

There`s a difference, however, between the two.

ALLEN: Chris, one quick thing here. Interestingly, you talk to people in the Virginia legislature, talk to Democrats there. With regard to Herring, the one thing that they seemed super frustrated about is that while his commentary today they thought was a lot better than Northam on Saturday, he went out and called for Northam to resign, knowing this about himself, and they look at him and say, hypocrite.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s in his self-interest.

Anyway, thank you, Christina Greer for the great Fordham University, Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown and Jonathan Allen of NBC.

Up next, if you`re considering running for president in 2020, do it for love of country because it`s going to be rough.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

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MATTHEWS: The 2020 news keeps popping. Here`s Beto O`Rourke with Oprah yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK: Have you given your self a deadline? I`m serious about that. Have you given yourself --

BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: And the serious answer is really soon -- is really soon. Before the end of this month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Amy Klobuchar said last night on MSNBC, she will make an announcement this weekend.

Senator Kamala Harris, of course, is already in the race, as his Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro.

Who`ve I forgotten? Senator Elizabeth Warren is close to being in. Joe Biden could enter the race and reshape the field. The same is likely on a smaller scale if and when Bernie Sanders announces he will make another try.

What`s luring people in for 2020 is the prospect of actually becoming president. Donald Trump looks beatable. But there is nothing risk-free in all this. When you run for president, you face a lot of scrutiny, missteps that get you bad publicity at the Senate level can set off explosions when you`re on the way higher up.

The country knew that Senator Elizabeth Warren was identified as Native American on the Penn and Harvard law faculties. What we didn`t know until today is that she registered as American Indian on her Texas Bar registration earlier.

This is going to be a vicious election cycle. Anyone candidate who puts him or herself in the pedestal of presidential candidate will invite Warren-like scrutiny. Most dangerous is the personal shot the man in the Oval Office is fashioning for those who most fears -- the bully never tires. What most fear, what most stirs the Americans, those daring to run against him, is a passion stronger than political survival.

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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