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Paul Manafort hearing provides clue. TRANSCRIPT: 2/11/2019, Hardball w. Chris Matthews.

Guests: Susan Page, Donna Shalala, Dana Milbank

Show: HARDBALL Date: February 11, 2019 Guest: Susan Page, Donna Shalala, Dana Milbank


Senator Klobuchar will join none other than Rachel Maddow for a live interview at 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight. I wouldn`t want to miss that.

That is it for THE BEAT. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.

And "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Putin`s motive. Donald Trump`s deal. Let`s play HARDBALL.

For the very first time Robert Mueller`s prosecutors have revealed a motive for a possible quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russia. This sharpens the case dramatically. It shows us what could be the deal between the trump campaign and Moscow.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. We have an explosive show for you tonight.

We are also following the face off in El Paso, Texas where Donald Trump and Beto O`Rourke are holding dueling real-time rallies over the border wall as Washington braces for the prospect of yet another shutdown.

We begin with the new reporting indicating that the special counsel`s office has a working theory now on its collusion theory - collusion inquiry. This theory suggest that the Kremlin would support Trump`s political ambitions for the presidency if he would support Russia`s ambitions in Ukraine.

As "the New York Times" report today, the clue came last week at hearing in case of Paul Manafort who stands accused of lying about his contact with an associate tied to Russian intelligence. When the judge asked why Manafort`s alleged ties or lies were important, Mueller`s prosecutor responded with this remarkable explanation.

Quote "this goes to the larger view of what we think is going on and what we think the motive is. This goes to the heart of what the special counsel`s office is investigating."

In other words, Manafort`s conversations with that Russian operative appear central to a possible quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

To that point, the Times reports a closer look at the transcript from that hearing shows that the prosecutors have been keenly focused on discussions the two men had about a plan to end the conflict that followed Russia`s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

That so-called peace plan for Ukraine was apparently so sensitive that Manafort lied to prosecutors about even discussing it. And it may explain what Russia expected in return, for the unprecedented help they led Donald Trump and his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

I`m joined by the author of that story Ken Vogel of the "New York Times," Betsy woodruff is politics reporter for the "Daily Beast," Mimi Rocah is a former federal prosecutor and Malcolm Nance is the author of "the Plot to destroy Democracy."

Ken, the central question here is, did Russia try to help Trump? And in return, did Trump try to help Russia? How does this story get into the heart of it?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what Mueller is working on here is trying to figure out what Russia is trying to figure out. In other words, Russia, if this theory holds is using this Konstantin Kilimnik guy to try to figure out whether Trump would amenable to resolution in Ukraine, between Ukraine and Russia, that would potentially were down to Russia`s benefit including possibly lifting those sanction, which as we know, was Russia`s number one and remains Russia`s number one foreign policy priority.

MATTHEWS: The sequence of events as I understand is the Russia began a campaign to help Trump win. At that point, somewhere along the line, they figured out what was going on and people like Manafort who are close to Russia, the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and Russia, decide, OK, we will jump aboard this train. We are going to help them do that by saying we will stop American opposition to their grabbing of Crimea and their offensive strategy towards Ukraine and we will stop all the sanctions and all to reward them so they will keep doing this. They will continue to help us in the campaign.

VOGEL: I mean, Manafort had a more nuance take here. And I think that`s part of what Mueller seems to be trying to figure out is whether Russia is trying to use Manafort to sort of push Trump further on this.

Trump had already said a number of things. There was already reason for Russia to believe that Trump would be a better President for them than Hillary Clinton. What we see here, potentially, if this is, in fact, sort of blessed outreach by Russia through this Konstantin Kilimnik guy to the Trump campaign through Paul Manafort is an effort to figure out whether they could get buy in on a plan or plans that would give them what they wanted from a President Trump.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Malcolm. It seems to me in political terms, you find out a guy wants to give you 10,000 bucks, you go back to him for 100,000. Trump sees they want to help, OK. Can they help me even more if I do certain things? Your thoughts?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, then, you are talking about a quid pro quo, you know. And I think Ken`s article is really good because it gets to the point of where was there an effort by Russia.

Let`s talk with the Kremlin going to the Trump campaign by someone who is already damaged good, Paul Manafort. A person who owned person to a Russian oligarch. But this operation has a longer timeline.

We saw that in 2012 Donald Trump had already made contact with Konstantin Rekoff (ph), the head of Russia`s TV1.

2013, they established the internet research agency two months before the Miss Universe pageant.

2014, they invade Crimea and Trump is effusive (ph) in his praise of Vladimir Putin.

2015, Russia starts hacking the DNC.

This particular component with Konstantin Kilimnik is just a guarantor that they are going to get in and have those sanctions raised if this can be proven. So this is just one component of a very broad base intelligence operation.

MATTHEWS: Mimi, what does Robert Mueller have to prove in a courtroom sense about a quid pro quo? I mean, I brought up to believe that you can`t prove bribery without somebody either taping it or a couple of witnesses to say I will do this if you will do that. It can`t be implied. I`m talking mob-talk here. But you have to basely prove that somebody said if you do this, I will do that. That`s a quid pro quo. That is a bribery case. What do you have to prove here?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, that`s right, Chris. If you were trying to prove a straight out bribery case which is one possible charge here, you would have to show that Trump or someone on his behalf basically made a pretty expressed promise that they would lift sanctions in exchange for what they were getting which was help on the campaign, help throwing the election, maybe something with Trump tower.

But there are other possible charges here. I do think that bribery is a possible charge but really depend on Mueller`s evidence and whether there is really proof of that kind of guarantee other than the circumstantial evidence we see.

But the other possible charge here, remember Mueller has already charged the Russians with interfering in our election, conspiracy due to the fraud by interfering the election. If let`s say Manafort is expressly part of that conspiracy by giving poll data to help them with that by relaying assurances about lifting sanctions, and if Trump knew about this, was aware of it and did something to help make sure that we forward, he could be in that conspiracy that -- well, what could something be? It wouldn`t have to be very express.

Remember, he is like the mob boss. And no one here is going do anything without Trump`s approval either implicit or explicit. So if Trump - Trump would have to give some kind of assurance, you know, they would have to know that he was OK with what they were doing. And as Malcolm said, it`s not just Manafort. It`s the people meeting at Trump tower. It`s the people changing the Republican platform. So it is all these people doing things and Trump would really have to give his approval and that could be enough.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Betsy on this because this is a journalist question but it is also a political question. My experience is bosses don`t give you orders. They know what you are there for. It is like going to your dentist and tell them what to do. The dentist knows what to do. You don`t tell them what to do. He tells you what -- he does it because he is a pro, a professional operative like I was. You know what the boss wants and you do it.

So can you catch a guy because Manafort knows what Trump wants? He wants to win the damn election and he wants any help he can get. It doesn`t take much intelligence.

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: And that`s what are the things that makes it really challenging for prosecutors to bring so many of these bribery cases. And it`s part of reason that the justice department public integrity section actually gets a lot of criticism from government watchdog who say they failed to aggressively prosecute these cases in part because the evidentiary standards can be really tough to meet.

Because exactly, as you said, Trump wouldn`t have had to tell Paul Manafort, I want you to help me become President. That would have been pretty clear. That said, some of the granular details I think as we talk about this that are important to remember is that you can`t understand Russians efforts to meddle in the 2016 election unless you understand the Ukraine question. Historically for Russia for sort of more expensive Russian governments, they have always wanted to take back as much as Ukraine as possible. It`s a key part of greater Russia.

And in this case, what we also know before the 2016 election is that two men, (INAUDIBLE) who is Ukrainian parliamentarian and Felix Sader (ph) who is the go between Michael Cohen and Russian investors on the Trump Moscow talks approached Michael Cohen with a Ukrainian peace plan where they had specific details.

MATTHEWS: But that`s to use the word piece the way communists do it. Peace means we win you lose.

WOODRUFF: And the important key here is where I can tell you, I spoke earlier today with a person who had direct knowledge of that plan who said that one of the things that was important piece of it was limiting NATO`s access to Ukraine. It was basically making it so that the west had less of a military footprint in this part of the world where Russia was trying to expand.

VOGEL: And to your point, Betsy, about the difficulty in charges these cases, it`s possible that this theory may never actually manifest itself in an indictment but rather that we might see it laid out as sort of the connective tissue in a Mueller report that may or may not be publicly released but never actually have someone charged in direction connection with this theory even if they are.

MATTHEWS: It always looked to me like the theory that made sense. Trump has long appeared willing to lift the sanctions that were imposed on Russia to punish them for annexing Crimea and from Ukraine, of course. At the outset of his campaign in 2015, Trump was asked this question by a woman who was later identified as a Russian agent.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were elected as President, what will be your foreign politics especially in the relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that damage both economy, or you have any other ideas?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think you would need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well.


MATTHEWS: Well, then, just before the Republican convention in 2016, the language in the platform was mysteriously changed to weaken the Republican Party that position on U.S. assistance to Ukraine. However, Manafort denied the campaign was responsible for doing so.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: Everybody on the platform committee had said it came from the Trump campaign. If not you, who.

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER HEAD OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. I don`t know who everybody is, but I guarantee you --.

TODD: Nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

MANAFORT: No one. Zero.


MATTHEWS: Well, Republican delegates to that convention later told National Public Radio that the Trump campaign was involved in that platform change. We also know that Russia expected sanctions really from this President as the Kremlin`s deputy prime minister said just days before Trump took office.

Quote "sanctions will soon cease being in effect."

Mimi Rocah, this case, it just keeps going back to what the Russians were doing for Trump and what Trump and all his people seem to want to do for Russia.

ROCAH: Exactly. And you know, look. You would have to believe that there was just this incredible set of coincidences that Trump just -- Russia just happened to be helping Trump get elected and Trump just happen to be giving and all of his people Russia what they wanted and that there was no actual agreement. And that really just -- you don`t have to be a lawyer to figure out that totally belies common sense.

So the question is, was (INAUDIBLE) explicit? Was it implicit? And can Robert Mueller prove it? That is everyone has been saying. Just because we may sort of know it and it may be obvious, which I think it is at this point, doesn`t necessarily mean they can prove it.

But I will say that the fact the prosecutors still, you know, in this hearing, that we have a redacted transcript and there were still things that they really would not go out to say tells me that there are more dominos, more chips to fall because if this was just about Manafort and his contacts with Kilimnik, they would have just been able to talk about that at the hearing and you wouldn`t have so many redactions.

MATTHEWS: Malcolm, let`s talk about how history will look at this moment. If Trump walks on this, there`s no real strong Robert Mueller report that says that nearly nails them. But yet everybody has been following this case that watch this program and others like it, they have been following this case for like two years. They know all the pieces of it and they know it`s not all, you know, coincidental. They know there us so much action here on both sides that it`s hard to imagine it any other way that they were working together with the same goal. Get Trump in there. Get the Trump team to help Russia. Because all Putin wants is to rebuild the Russian empire again starting with Ukraine. And perhaps, that went on to the Baltics. We don`t know what he is up to. Look at the guy. He is KGB to its -- toes to his head. That`s what he is.

NANCE: Right.

MATTHEWS: And so, what will happen if he gets away with this? That`s always - always my Watergate question way back when. What if Nixon and his people all got away with it? What kind of a government would we have at this point?

NANCE: Well, I`m pretty sure when you are talking about Robert Mueller, you know, a man who was an FBI officer his entire life. He has got, you know, all the bearings of Eliot Nest. There is no one to this administration I think to this man who is untouchable.

But let me just say one thing. When Benedict Arnold gave the plans to West Point, to Major Andre and they captured Major Andre, they didn`t have any real information linking those plans to Benedict Arnold other than the fact that he was in his presence at one point during that day. But everyone knew it was treason when they caught the man and they hung him. So at some point, there is going to be a bridge of data here that is going to be unassailable.

If Donald Trump through a series of coincidences knew nothing about the myriad of activities that was going around him that started back in 2012 and now end up with multiple activities and indictments around him then, you know, then I have got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

MATTHEWS: I guess our political question is now, Ken, are we as tough as George Washington? Because when he was head of the army, he hanged that guy. He wanted to be shot. He said, I`m going to hang you.

VOGEL: Well, I mean, no. Short answer. But it will be a big question about whether the Mueller report ever sees the light of day. Because I do think we are potentially, you know, there may be a few more bread crumbs in some of the ongoing cases. The Roger Stone case, we will see what comes out of that. But there is the potential that sort of the most sweeping narrative of this that really lays out what other guests here suspect is already true will never actually become charges against either Trump or Trump associate. That`s a possibility and then it will be left to Congress.

MATTHEWS: Betsy, it is going to be hard for people to unravel this in their mind and said they never learned all this. But we have learned it all and we broadcast it. People know it. These incredible so-called coincidences and what you see as a narrative of deceit and a narrative of collusion.

WOODRUFF: And frankly, much of what Mueller has brought forward in his charges, certainly not all, but a lot of it has previously been reported by journalists who have been able to uncover a lot of what the Russians were trying to do.


WOODRUFF: It certainly brings it in and it gives us more detailed information and having it from a prosecutor with evidence I think can give the public more confidence than when it`s journalists basing it on their sources. At the same time though we have seen a ton of reporting, be crystal clear collaborated by Mueller`s team.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You are a competitive bunch, aren`t you?


MATTHEWS: Give this guy some credit. Good luck with the "New York times." Good work there.

Thank you, Ken Vogel. Thank you, Betsy Woodruff. Mimi Rocah, and Malcolm Nance.

Coming up, there is no emergency and no one want another shutdown, obviously. So can lawmakers cut through the politics and get a border deal done by this Friday? That`s the 15th at midnight.

Also, Trump says he is the hardest working President ever. This goes back to Washington. All the way, he is the hardest one. But a new batch of leaked private schedules is casting more light on his so-called executive time.

Plus, of all the 2020 candidates, why does Elizabeth Warren seem to get under President Trump`s skin the most. Maybe it`s because of come as like the one she made this weekend taunting Trump about his future.

We have got a lot to talk about tonight. Stay with us.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

There`s a dramatic split-screen of the battle over border security taking shape tonight in El Paso, Texas. Look at it.

At this hour, former Democratic Congressman and possible 2020 contender Beto O`Rourke is holding an anti-border wall march. And just a half-mile away, President Trump will hold a campaign-style rally to make his case for a wall.

And last week, he falsely characterized El Paso`s crime rate while pitching his wall during the State of the Union. And tonight`s dueling events come as congressional negotiators in Washington have just four more days to come up with a plan on border security to keep the government open.

On Sunday, yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said there`s no guarantee the president would even accept a deal.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": So is it fair to say whatever Congress hands him, he will sign; he just may not be enthusiastic about it?


TODD: You`re not ready to go there?


TODD: You can`t definitively -- we cannot definitively rule out a government shutdown at the end of this week?

MULVANEY: You absolutely cannot.


MATTHEWS: Well, the top four congressional negotiators met today after talks stalled this weekend over a disagreement on the number of detention beds available to ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lawmakers have until Friday to avert a second shutdown, of course. That`s the 15th of the month.

Congressional negotiators are set to meet again next hour -- that`s this evening -- with hopes of reaching an agreement perhaps tonight on a path to avoid a shutdown.

I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida, who served as health and human services secretary under President Clinton, and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

I want to start with Congresswoman Shalala.

Are we talking another C.R., a continuing resolution tonight, a stopgap, rather than a solution to this situation?

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D), FLORIDA: I don`t think so.

I think they`re really going to try to get an agreement. After all, these are the appropriators. These aren`t just some random members of Congress. These are pros. These are the best pros that we have there.

They`re used to cutting deals. The Democrats believe in border security. We ought to be able to find a compromise here that`s acceptable to the Republican leadership of both the House and the Senate.

And while there are a lot of grim faces around, that always happens at the end of negotiations. You always hit obstacles. And let`s give them some air to breathe and give them a chance to get this deal done.

No one, no one in the Capitol wants to see another shutdown. And no one in the country wants to see another shutdown.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Peter on this, because this thing started because Trump wanted the wall. And now a lot of Democrats came out in response to that, saying, you shouldn`t take a debatable policy question and use it to shut down the government.

However, having taken that position, staked out that position, Democrats are now insisting on a cap on the number of beds available for people put into detention who are picked up in the United States, who are already here.

Isn`t that a policy argument they`re trying to win with a shutdown threat? Are they playing the Trump game on a shutdown?

PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, that`s that`s -- that`s the risk. Sorry.


MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You, Peter. You`re up first.



MATTHEWS: Can he go first? I`m sorry. Let me go to Peter Baker.

Go ahead.

SHALALA: OK, Peter, go ahead.

BAKER: Sorry. Sorry, Congresswoman.

Look, I think that`s the risk for Democrats, obviously, is that they -- they came out of the first round of this shutdown, the 35 days, feeling that they were emboldened, they had faced down President Trump, he had to back down without getting a single dime for his border wall.

And now they`re -- they`re trying to capitalize on that momentum. But you`re right. The risk is, they don`t want to look like they`re responsible for shutting own the government. And in the end of the day, at the end of the day, whether this will be the kind of thing that prevents a deal or not is really an open question.

I think that, as the congresswoman said, nobody`s angling for any kind of shutdown here. The problem is -- remains, of course, what will the president do? If they come up with a deal the does settle the issue on the beds, that does include some money for some barrier, but not what he wants, is it something he will sign?

Or will he go to a national emergency and try to take -- take over this effectively through unilateral declaration of power?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

Go ahead, Congresswoman. Your thought.

SHALALA: Well, if the Democrats and Republicans agree on an appropriations bill, the president doesn`t sign it at his own risk, because this means that elected representatives have agreed on border security.

And, frankly, I think the bed thing is overrated, because it really is in the context of border security. What we`re all saying is, we need more judges. We don`t need to put people in detention for long periods of time. We need to go back to the rule of law about asylum and to move people quickly through the process, so that we don`t need a lot of people being detained for long periods of time, and certainly not their children.

And so there are bigger issues here than just the number of beds. And I think it`s important that we put our faith in the real pros here, the appropriators, and give them the support that they need to get this deal cut. And then the president will have to make a very tough decision in which he can explain why, when elected officials came together and agreed on a deal, that it wasn`t good enough for him.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to Peter on this, because I have got a question here about -- it seems to be the wall people -- that would be the people on television, Ann Coulter and who that other guy is on MS -- on FOX, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of them, they were all pushing for the wall, or else you`re a weakling.

And now we have in the Democratic Party, the more activist wing, we have got newly elected members who really want to get rid of ICE. They`re all the way on this. Are we getting pressure from both sides now to avoid a deal?

SHALALA: Absolutely not.

BAKER: Well...

SHALALA: There always are going to be people that have strong views about what ought to be included in the appropriations process.

We can -- we can debate the role of ICE. I don`t like their policies either, but we`re talking about 20,000 federal employees, hardworking federal employees.


SHALALA: We don`t like the policies.

Every time we don`t like a policy, we ought to change that policy if we have the power to do that. But it`s the same as closing down the government. You have a debate about an issue, and then you decide, if you don`t get your way, you`re going to affect 800,000 hardworking people and their families?

This is adolescent behavior. It`s time to let the pros in appropriations cut the deal for all of us.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, Congresswoman Shalala of Florida. Thank you.

Let me get back to Peter on this.

Even as President Trump has repeatedly made his case for a border wall, "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump`s golf course over in Bedminster, New Jersey, employed dozens of undocumented immigrants, noting that come -- this recent purge of unauthorized workers from at least five Trump properties contributes demanding evidence that the president benefited from years, for years from the work of illegal laborers he now vilifies.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked about that in an interview with FOX. Here he goes.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": How do you explain this apparent hypocrisy by President Trump and by his business?

MULVANEY: One of the things you and I have talked about with my job is what I call compartmentalization, which is that I deal with running the White House.

We deal with running the government. What you have just put up, it`s a fair question, but it`s a question that goes to the Trump Organization and not to the Trump White House.


MATTHEWS: Mick Mulvaney, not my job, Peter, not my job.


MATTHEWS: But I think he put Trump under the bus there, because he basically said, good question, it makes sense. Why the hypocrisy? He is saying that about his boss.

BAKER: Yes, I mean, I think that`s the best answer the chief of staff can have, which is to say, it`s not my role to answer.

But you`re right. I mean, it is a good question. And it`s one that the Trump Organization really hasn`t given a good answer to, because in fact it has been going on for years.

Our reporters have found -- at "The New York Times" have found a number of undocumented workers who have come forward because they wanted to make their stories known, because they thought that there was some hypocrisy there at these golf clubs, for them to be employed, they say knowingly, by an organization headed by a person who is now president of the United States and trying to take such a hard line on illegal immigration.

And it just -- it begs the question why he wouldn`t have had his clubs and his organizations do a better screen of this in the first place, knowing that he would come under scrutiny like this. Everybody would have understood that reporters and opposition figures would have been trolling for examples of this kind of thing.

So it`s surprising that he didn`t make a point of avoiding this exact scenario.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

Peter, you`re the Bigfoot of "The New York Times." You write the big story on the front page. Answer this big question. It`s a big one, all right? Trump, we know his lifestyle. He`s got fixers, like Michael Cohen, to cover up all for these relationships, pay people off, blah, blah, blah, cover them up.

We know his personal lifestyle requires that kind of service for people who work around him to cover up his lifestyle. He comes out as Mr. Pro-Life in the campaign, as Mr. Moral Leader, blah, blah, blah. He got a lot of votes in Pennsylvania and places like that on that.

He says, I`m against illegal immigrants. It comes out, hey, by the way, I make a lot of money off of illegal immigrants because they work harder than anybody I know, and they work even harder the first day they`re here illegally.

Complete and utter hypocrisy. What do you make of that? There`s a parallelism, his positional on moral behavior, sexual behavior, and all that, his position on hiring people. It`s a big fraud. Your thoughts?

BAKER: Well, look...


BAKER: Look, we ask -- we go to the rallies like the one he`s having in Texas tonight. And we ask his voters about this sometimes.

And they say, look, we get that he`s not always going to be consistent with the things that he expresses, but we think that he is doing a good job by mixing things up in Washington, by raising these questions in the first place, by breaking china.

And it`s this sort of combative mode of politics that has sort of overshadowed to his own voters the details of his own past, right?

Why do Christian conservatives back a president who is now on his third wife and has had his own series of allegations of sexual impropriety? Well, in part because of what you talked about in the previous segment, because he`s got a lot of these judges who are going to be approved.


BAKER: And they`re more concerned about that than they are about his own personal morals, because he`s -- he advocates the policies that they want to see, even if he`s not a perfect exemplar of them.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is what brought down Soviet Union, this utter hypocrisy, the fraudulence of their claim to equality, while the big shots were running the world and living like kings over there in Russia, the future oligarchs.

And that`s what brought down that system. And we have got a system where a president is willing to say one thing and live a completely different life.

Anyway, Peter, thank you for being on.

Up next: Donald Trump says he works harder than any other president in history, don`t you think? But a new batch of private schedules, his real schedule, are raising more questions about how he actually spends -- is that the right word, spends his day? I wonder. Does his days?

I don`t know.

We`re back after this.


Trump is claiming he`s the hardest working president -- get this -- ever. He tweeted over the weekend that he -- quote -- "probably works more hours than almost any past president," because, when he took office, the country was a mess.

He added this morning: "No president ever worked harder than me."

It`s not the first time Trump has boasted about his performance.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That was some crowd. We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.

There has never been a presidency that`s done so much in such a short period of time.

The bottom line is, this is the biggest tax cuts and reform in the history of our country.

There are those that are saying it`s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a candidate -- as a Cabinet.

"The Art of the Deal," which was -- is one of the number one, probably the number one bestselling business book of all time.

I went to an Ivy League school. I`m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words.


MATTHEWS: "I know words."


MATTHEWS: That`s my favorite.

The president`s tweets come after Axios got its hands on months of private schedules. They showed he spent about 60 percent, three or five hours, of his day in executive time, whatever that is.

After the White House launched an internal hunt to find the terrible leaker, Axios received even more of the president`s private schedules, showing his agenda from last week. Again, the schedule showed that the president spent half his time in executive time.

I`m joined right now out by Dana Milbank, worthy for this topic, columnist for "The Washington Post."

First of all, where do we start? I have a theory. That long tie of his -- the ties is about four feet long. What is it? Is that the longest tie in history? Is that part of his, I`m better than anybody?

DANA MILBANK, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Chris, no cable news host in history has ever asked as good a question as that one right there.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Donald.

MILBANK: But, yes, you would think that that would be part of the executive time and the hair and the proper oranging of the face.

But he seems to be getting a little defensive here. And I have noticed some of the other things that -- in addition to what you just played, that he`s done better than anybody else. He respects women more than anybody else, believes in the First Amendment more than anybody else. He reads the Bible more than anybody else. He spends more time with the military, and he is less racist.

So it would seem then, when something sort of gets at him and strikes a nerve, if you will, that`s when he does one of these over-the-top things and said, yes, Lincoln fought the Civil War, and FDR died after exhaustion in World War II, but no.


MATTHEWS: A lot of New Testament Bibles books always show Jesus with his hand in the air here like this. And Trump does that, like, I say unto you.

He actually makes these proclamations about his greatness, like Jesus saying something about -- something to do that`s important.

Anyway, the president seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of former Washington Redskins star fullback John Riggins. Remember him? When Riggins encountered Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O`Connor at a black tie event back in `85, as the story goes, Riggins had a few drinks that night, a few pops.

And he is quoted as saying to the Supreme Court justice: "Come on, Sandy, baby, loosen up. You`re too tight."

Well, this morning, President Trump tweeted: "The Democrats are so self- righteous and angry. Loosen up and have some fun. The country is doing well."

He`s channeling the great, drunken at that case, John Riggins.

MILBANK: But it would seem he has a problem here, because now tonight he`s in El Paso saying, there`s a horrible crisis and murderers and rapists and drug dealers are coming across our border.

And, of course, he`s saying that he`s had to work so hard because the country is in this disastrous shape from Barack Obama.

So which is it? Is the country in a crisis, or should we all just lighten up because...


Not to knock down the chance of you to sort these stories, but when they put out his APB bulletin last -- all-points bulletin, looking for who was leaking his schedule in great detail, going all the way back to November, like four months of scheduling, intimate private scheduling of the president, the person who leaked that apparently did it again this week.


MATTHEWS: I mean, you guys all laugh when I bring this up. I will ask you the question on camera. The camera will catch your face at this.

Isn`t it harder to work on this -- report this guy now? Isn`t it harder to get dirt on him? And you all laugh the same way. It`s just as easy as ever.

MILBANK: No, I think...

MATTHEWS: Who are these people?

MILBANK: I think it`s easier because there are more disaffected people.

But, in fairness...

MATTHEWS: In the White House.

MILBANK: ... his executive time was 60 percent. It went down to 50 percent. So, like, he`s really had to cut back these last few days on executive time.


MILBANK: But, yes, I mean, come on.

MATTHEWS: How do you satirize a president like this?

MILBANK: Well, you can`t.

MATTHEWS: It`s already done.

MILBANK: You can`t really. And that`s -- that`s a major problem, but it`s one we all live with every day.

MATTHEWS: I`m the greatest. It`s like Muhammad Ali, and you say, I`m going to knock him out in the sixth round, and you actually do it.

This guy doesn`t quite do it.

MILBANK: Well, and that`s the problem, is that these things are actually measurable.

And, of course, he came out...

MATTHEWS: Yes, truth.

MILBANK: ... and said -- we have come back with our fact-checkers. And now he says the fact-checkers are fake.

MATTHEWS: Truth sucks.

Thank you very much, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post."

Up next: Two more Democrats made it official this weekend. So what`s their priority, tackling big issues or trying to tackle Donald Trump?

This is -- this is getting to be quite a cage match between a lot of people and this guy, Trump.

Stay with us.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is now the ninth Democratic candidate and fifth female lawmaker to enter the 2020 presidential race. The three-term senator from Minnesota braved freezing temperature and steady snowfall on Sunday to make her announcement in Minneapolis.

Let`s take a look.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding. I am running for this job for every person who wants their work recognized and rewarded. I am running for every American. I am running for you.


MATTHEWS: Well, she joins Senator Elizabeth Warren who made her bid official on Saturday up in Lawrence, Massachusetts.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The man in the White House is not the cause of what is broken, he`s just the latest and most extreme symptom of what`s gone wrong in America, a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on every one else.


MATTHEWS: And President Trump indulged in his favorite political past time Twitter taunts. He tweeted: Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for president, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing.

By the end of her speech she looked like a snowman or woman.

On Saturday, the president hit Senator Warren with this: Today, Elizabeth Warren sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for president. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, in capital letters, Liz.

Was that a reference to the trail of tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s and 1840s where thousands of Native Americans died from hunger, frostbite and disease? Donald Trump Jr. got in on the action by posting this message on Instagram: Savage!!! Love my president.

Well, Senator Warren retaliated with a stinging barb of her own. And we`ll be back with that and what she had to say to President Trump after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On Sunday, Senator Elizabeth Warren took her 2020 message to Iowa. While there, she dismissed the president`s tweets by saying he might be in jail by the time the election rolls around, talking about hard ball.

Let`s watch.


WARREN: Here`s what bothers me -- by the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president.


In fact, he may not even been a free person.


MATTHEWS: Well, for more, I`m joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today", and Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton.

You know what? Some people like that stuff. Do you?


MATTHEWS: Really tough, in your face.

ELROD: Yes. Look, Senator Warren loves campaigning. You can tell that. And she`s very effective on the stump. Her announcement was fantastic.

What I think of what makes an effective announcement if you`re running for president especially in crowded primary, I think, what is the message you`re delivering and what am I going to remember as a potential voter, as a Democratic primary voter. When I think of Elizabeth Warren, I think of fighter who wants to take a system that`s rigged for the wealthy and help the middle class.

When I think of somebody like Amy Klobuchar I think of somebody who has grit and determination and wants to work across the aisle with Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, they`re two different messages.

ELROD: Two different messages.

MATTHEWS: Tonally, they`re different.

ELROD: Right, but that`s the point. Like the two of them have achieved that. So, you don`t have to wonder, why is Elizabeth Warren running for president? What is her platform? Same with Amy Klobuchar. You know from their announcements.

MATTHEWS: One`s the fighter, the pug, I`m going to punch them in the face, if I have to. And one says they`re the girl next door.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yes, but they`ve both portrayed themselves as fighters, but their attitude toward President Trump is different. You`ve seen Elizabeth Warren focusing on Trump, talking about Trump, suggesting Trump might be in prison by 2020. And you had Amy Klobuchar, who did not say Trump`s name during her announcement event.

She -- but she also portrays herself as a fighter, but as a fighter for people on the issues people care about, but not so much as a fighter against President Trump in particular.

MATTHEWS: Who`s fighting the Indian wars, as you used to say growing up? I mean, this is crazy. She called herself an American Indian in an application for the Texas bar back in the `80s. She`s been called on that.

She didn`t bring it up. The press caught that. "The Washington Post" caught that.

ELROD: Right.

MATTHEWS: She admitted she did it when she got caught. That`s called rolling disclosure.

Trump jumped on it. He seemed to be winning the argument in terms of terrorizing the issue. And then he made that comment about the trail in his tweet this morning. Was he referring to the trail of tears, where all of those Native Americans died of hunger and frostbite? Was he doing that?

ELROD: Does he know what the trail of tears is? I don`t even know if he has that historical understanding of our nation`s history.

MATTHEWS: Well, we checked all the reporting today. All-around, every reporter, objective or not or whatever, but everybody said he was talking trail of tears, Susan.

PAGE: I think that was definitely the implication. And the White House did not push back.

MATTHEWS: So he`s turned it into an ethnic slur when you could have argued it was just a shot at her personally for appropriating Native American identity, he`s going out and making fun of the -- well, the terror that was inflicted on native Americans by the white people.

PAGE: Well, that`s right. Although I don`t think -- this is not a big contrast with his attitude, generally. He`s combative guy that does think that people find, people who are not supporting him find offensive all the time. This is the latest in a list.

And you know, I think that he thinks that he`s got an issue with Elizabeth Warren when it comes to claiming Indian heritage, that is -- that goes to one of her big strengths, which is her authenticity. It makes her look --

MATTHEWS: So, is this the bully who found the weakness in the kid on the schoolyard or the person who`s afraid of the person on the schoolyard?

PAGE: Maybe both, right? Maybe that`s why you target someone if you`re a bully.

MATTHEWS: I think he looks for weaknesses like low-energy Jeb. Sometimes he punches anyone down he thinks he can do it to.

ELROD: I think he thinks this is her Achilles heel, but I think going forward, we`re not going to be hearing as much about this. We`re going to have 15, 20 people running, the Democratic primary debates will start in a couple of months.

MATTHEWS: Is she going to hide in the crowd? I think Trump doesn`t quit. He gets these nicknames like Lil` Marco, he doesn`t let go of them.

ELROD: I don`t think he quits, but I`m not sure how much it actually matters when she really starts talking and focusing on the issues, which is what she`s done so far.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Senator Klobuchar, one of the Democrats she`s debating, was asked about the president`s Twitter habit. Let`s watch.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: How do you handle things like the tweets, things like being called names?

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, you don`t go down the rabbit hole with everything he says. You`ve got to have your own optimistic, economic agenda. And Hillary had that. She would have been a tremendous president. But it got lost in that campaign.

So, you have to pick your battles with him. And I think you have to use some humor, like I got to do yesterday, right away.


MATTHEWS: So we`re going into the battle again, the second fight with Trump. Hillary Clinton fought the first battle. And everybody since then said, there must have been something you could do, when that comes up like a monster behind her in the debate, just loomed over her like a monster. Even to this day, is there a way to deal with that kind of bullying behavior? What do you do to a guy like that?

PAGE: One person who`s found out how to deal with that and that would be Nancy Pelosi. Maybe the presidential candidates can take a look at her attitude, which is, which is respectful in a way, but in another way, just brutally critical.

ELROD: Yes, no, I think Susan`s exactly right --

MATTHEWS: And Nikki Haley in her own way. "I don`t get confused."

ELROD: In her own way, exactly. I think Susan`s exactly right. And I think Amy Klobuchar is right, too, which is you`ve got to pick your battles.

If you -- if Trump comes after you like something he`s gone after Elizabeth Warren on the American Indian heritage front, then yes, you`ve got to address that, because that goes right to her authenticity, which is what she`s all about. But, you know, if he`s throwing out some silly tweet about, you know, that something that is essentially irrelevant to you, then you can just sort of ignore it and blow it off.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he`ll have somebody like you to help him, because this requires discernment.

ELROD: No, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Just teasing.

Thank you, Susan Page. Thank you, Adrienne Elrod.

Up next, Beto makes his move tonight. Back in a minute. We`re going to watch him against Trump, real time.


MATTHEWS: Beto O`Rourke is making his move tonight. The Democrat who dared challenge Senator Ted Cruz in Texas is back in the battle. He`s out to challenge President Trump and he`s doing it after months of laying low.

The laying low could help build the interest, even excitement of his appearance tonight. Because what he`s daring to do is match President P.T. Barnum in Hoopla, staging a rally at the same time and in the same city as Donald J. Trump himself. Let`s see how all of this works, how putting the question of size or bigness right before the cameras, right before the American people is a good strategy and has long seemed to be.

In the coming weeks, Beto O`Rourke will need to make an even bigger move, declaring his candidacy for president. Will Trump take a whack at him like he did before the election in November?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ted`s opponent in this race is a stone-cold phony named Robert Francis O`Rourke, sometimes referred to as Beto. And he pretends to be a moderate, but he`s actually a radical open borders left winger.


MATTHEWS: It will be intriguing to see whom among the front-line Democrats Trump fears a year from this November in the fall of 2020 and who he fears today, in February of 2019. What happens when a candidate, Beto or Warren or Kamala or someone else dares to show she or he`s -- well, let`s check out the word, bigger than him, bigger?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.