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The pros and cons of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 3/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Eli Stokols, Tom Steyer, Cornell Belcher, Shannon Pettypiece,Ronald Weich, Dana Milbank, David Cay Johnston

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  -- along with a lawyer who has faced the Mueller probe, Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutors.  Well, it should be interesting.  That`s all the time we have though.  I will see you then. 

HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Should Democrats impeach?  Let`s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi drew a clear line in the sand for her party and the country when asked about impeaching President Trump.  In a wide ranging interview, Speaker Pelosi told the "Washington Post" magazine, I`m not for impeachment.  This is news.  I`m going to give you some news right now because I haven`t said this to any press person before.  Impeachment is so divisive to the country unless there`s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don`t think we should go down that path because it divides the country and he is just not worth it.  Trump`s not worth it. 

Well, this drew an immediate response from Democratic activist Tom Steyer, the country`s leading voice for taking constitutional action against the President. 

Quote "Speaker Pelosi thinks he is just not worth it.  Well, is defending our legal system worth it?  Is holding the President accountable for his crimes and cover-ups worth it?  Is doing what is right worth it or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what is politically convenient? 

And just moments ago, Speaker Pelosi was asked about her news-making declaration.  Let`s listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Speaker Pelosi, can I ask you why you are posed to impeachment?  Why you are imposed to impeachment right now? 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I have always been opposed. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Pelosi has now stated position and sure to draw anger and not just from the far left of the party.  Some have been demanding his impeachment, of course, since the beginning of the Mueller probe. 


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA:  As far as I`m concerned, he has enough violations.  He has been involved in a lot of activity that we believe needs to be made apparent.  And so, I believe that we have everything that it needs to basically impeachment him. 

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN:  It is really important to understand, you know, I`m here.  There`s a sense of urgency on my part and many of us.  This is not to say we disagree.  I think every single colleague of mine agrees there`s impeachable offenses.  That`s one thing we all agree on. 

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS:  If you are creating harm to society, if you`re causing things to happen in society that are unacceptable to the people in the United States of America, an up fit President can be impeached for those misdeeds that harm and corrupt society. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, as press secretary Sarah Sanders told NBC News quote "impeachment should never be on the table because the President is doing a great job."  That`s his spokesperson, of course. 

Speaker Pelosi did tell the "Washington Post" that Trump is not fit to be President.  What`s powerful here is Pelosi`s statement today about impeachment.  It has the sounds of break.  She is not just pumping the break, she is bringing him down hard even slamming them telling her caucus and her Democratic party that this is bad politics.  Well, with that, the Republicans avoid it`s the long road that you dance, he says. 

I`m joined right now by Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the "Los Angeles Times."  Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster and Tom Steyer, activist and founder of the "Need to Impeach." 

Mr. Steyer, thank you for coming on tonight, Mr. Steyer.  And I was shocked by Pelosi`s statement because it seemed to me it wasn`t -- well we are not going to do it right away.  We don`t have enough stuff right now.  It was a statement of direction.  We shouldn`t be going toward looking to impeach this guy even though he have a lot of evidence already.  Your thoughts.

  TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH:  Well, I think that what she is saying is regardless of the information, regardless of how unfit he is, we are waiting for Republican permission to go forward and hold him accountable for his crimes.  And I think if we, in fact, let the American people see through hearings exactly how lawless he is, they will insist he be removed from office immediately. 

MATTHEWS:  What article of impeachment, sir?  Are you confident of right now he deserves to have brought against him?  What article? 

STEYER:  I think the two most obvious articles, Chris, are obstruction of justice and straight up corruption that he has been taking money from foreign countries. 

MATTHEWS:  And explain obstruction of justice in a moment, if you can.  Right now, what has he done?  I can see things.  What do you see that he has done?  Misusing his power of office to protect himself. 

STEYER:  I think he`s done a number of things starting with firing Mr. Comey because he was investigating his Russian connections.  Using as many means as he can to frustrate any investigations into his past conducts and behavior.  I think it has been a pattern of behaviour before he was inaugurated.  And while he has been president, I don`t think there is any question about it.  But I think that we need public hearings to lay out the evidence for the American people so they can see exactly how lawless this President is, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to congresswoman Schakowsky.  You know the speaker quite well, I understand.  Tell me what you think motivated her decision to make such a bold statement today? 

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, she added on by saying unless there were such compelling evidence that the majority of Americans would agree, it would be very divisive.  It`s hard to disagree with that. 

When Nixon was impeached, he had won that election overwhelmingly.  But when those tapes came out, the majority of Republicans and Democrats and people across the country said it`s time for him to go.  We are not at that point. 

Number two, Chris.  If we go into impeachment hearings, that will stuck up the news, all the energy in our country.  We need to do things like lower prescription drug prices to continue on with the agenda of the people, making health care more affordable, increasing wages in our country.  Those are things people come home and talk about.  And I fear that that agenda would be completely off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody that comes up to me and every one of my colleagues, and you know this congresswoman, you are the expert, you are the politician, they come up to us and you know they ask this, when they are going to impeachment this guy.  That`s the question. 

You hit over and over again from progressives and regular people that aren`t progressive who just want to know.  They think he is on the verge of facing.  Let me ask you this.  Do you think the Republicans will back him or won`t back him if he fires Mueller?  Because if he goes after the kids, everybody figures he will fire them.  And even then, do you honestly think the Republicans are going to turn on him? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  I think there may be a tipping point. 

MATTHEWS:  What will it be?  Shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.  Does he actually have to pull the trigger? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  I absolutely think if he do something as drastic as firing Mueller, that there could be, that could be the triggering thing that people said, OK.  That is a step too far. 

But in the meantime, Chris, we aren`t just sitting around watching him do what he does.  There are serious investigations and we are preparing, perhaps, for a time when impeachment is on the table. 

Right now it would suck up all the air, all the energy and we couldn`t do.  You know, I don`t hear that so much from my constituents.  I hear from people who say, I can`t afford to pay for my health care bills. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is some more just moments ago now.  Speaker Pelosi expanded on what she meant by her comments.  He told reporters if the Mueller report is so conclusive that there is a bipartisanship and there was a message to the President, then so be it.  A message to the president. 

President Nixon was not impeached until Republicans finally saw the light.

That`s what she said.  She added, I just don`t believe in impeachment.  They wanted to impeach President Bush for the Iraq war.  I didn`t believe it then and I don`t believe it now.  It divides a country unless there is some conclusive evidence that takes us to that place. 

Cornell, I want to go to you, next person here.  It seems to me that you have to look at the main strokes of this so far.  And I wonder whether there`s more information to change it much.  But to foreclose the road to look into impeachment I think is a dramatic statement by the speaker.  Shocking statement to the Democrats. 

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  I think what she was trying to do, is to the Congresswoman`s point, they have done some really big things.  I mean, they have voted on gun reform which is something that many Americans have been clamoring to do but it`s lost in the chaos of this conversation.  So I understand from a strategic point what the speaker was trying to do.  But I also understand that look, no one is above the law. 

And also to the congresswoman`s point, if there`s evidence that`s laid out there that he has broken a law, particularly on the security issues.  If he is a national security threat to our country, I`m very confident that Democrats will start impeachment proceedings.  But the problem is I don`t share their enthusiasm that you are going to get Republicans and move.  Nixon was a different era.  There`s no way they are going to get enough Republicans to move on in impeachment. 

MATTHEWS:  A recent Mammoth poll, by the way, found that 42 percent of Americans believe that President Trump should be impeached, 54 percent in that poll disagree.  In November, 36 favored impeachment while 59 percent we are opposed. 

Eli, I`m not sure about the statistics about Republican.  A good chunk of Republicans went against Nixon but there`s still some hold out.  Your thoughts. 

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES:  Look.  Cornell is exactly right.  We are not in the `70s anymore.  We are in different times culturally and in terms on media.  FOX News didn`t exist back in the `70s. 

I mean, there`s just a different climate now.  You have seen Presidents approve rating be incredibly static over the better part of two years despite these bombshell revelations that we have seen periodically from members of the press revealing what the Mueller probe is looking at. 

Revelations out of the southern district of New York, the President is an unnamed co-conspirator in a crime out of New York and yet it hasn`t moved.  And so, it just tells you, and I think that`s what the speaker is understanding.  She is not saying stop investigations to the House oversight committee.  She is saying everybody is looking at this bright shiny object of impeachment and we need to look at other things whether are those are pocketbooks issue that they, you know, align of a message for 202. 

MATTHEWS:  But you got me sometime. 

STOKOLS:  And it`s also I think a way to take the heat out of the members who go back to their communities, get after that impeachment all the time, they can now point to the speaker to say well, look, the speaker doesn`t want to do this right now.  Don`t blame.  If you want impeachment, I`m not the one who made the decision.  I think it does create a little more space for --. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let me go back to the congresswoman.  It always strikes me watching your political career that you are an unhyphenated Democrat.  You are classic regular Democrat.  You come out of a big city.  You have got a lot of that thing diversity.  You have some wealth, some non-wealth.  I know the light short.  You have a good community to respond to.  Can you tell your community at home, your constituents that yes, I think he should be impeached but it`s not good politics.  I think we have a case but it is not good politics.  How do you sell that to the true blue Democrat? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  As a true blue Democrat, I go home and I say look, we are continuing these investigations.  We cannot have Donald Trump have another two years.  Impeachment at this moment and you notice the speaker did say unless.  There was an unless in what she said.  At this moment, this would be the most divisive thing at probably would actually raise Donald Trump`s popularity. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s not about right now.  Pelosi is not talking about right now.  She is talking about the direction we are going in.  She makes it very clear in that statement that she is putting on brakes to where we are headed, where the congress is headed.  It`s not, you know, March 11th.  She is not talking about March 11th.  Read the statement, congressman.  This is a broad statement.  We shouldn`t be going in that direction. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Yes.  But there`s also about if there is compelling information that we should - that it could be considered.  She did put some equivocation in that.  But beyond that, we know we would not be able to do our agenda, our for the people agenda.  The basic things that they want economically and with health care and with jobs and infrastructure. 

We would be completely stopped on that agenda if we moved to impeachment right now.  And I think it would make Donald Trump even more popular right now.  This would be, you know, said to be, you can`t win an election fairly and so you decided to go around it with impeachment.  It`s not worth it.  She used those words, too.  Not worth it. 

MATTHEWS:  I accept your political acuity.  I really do that.  I think you know what you are talking about.  I think it`s an assessment. 

Tom Steyer, you are not in office.  You may be running for office at some point.  I don`t know where the American people which way they will turn.  Certainly, that Trump where is the maga hat people are going to blame anybody on the side no matter what the truth is if he did shots somebody.  We saw it through the Access Hollywood tape, we saw it through firing Comey, firing his attorney general.  Trying to make them all march to his music and ignore the law.  And it`s all in broad daylight and it hasn`t stopped his wigwam of support.  Just this group of people that are for no matter a cultural thing, the Republican Party, has united behind this president beyond truth.  They are with him as a village.  You are never going to change. 

Anyway, your thoughts.  Is it more important that Democrats to proceed with their agenda or to get Trump? 

STEYER:  Look.  They have had one public hearing which was in the House oversight committee with Mr. Cohen.  And it moved the desire from impeachment across the country by six percent.  If we actually have the kind of hearings that we had in Watergate, we didn`t have one hearing on one day but we saw that entire cast of criminals come across America`s TV screens then Americans across the country will get direct evidence of who these people are and what they have been doing.  And I believe that Democrats, Independents and Republicans will say we need to protect this country.  We need to stand up for our values and we need to get rid of the most corrupt President in American history.  I think you would not be divisive.  I think we come together over that decision. 

MATTHEWS:  You guys are all staying with us.  Thank you so much. 

By the way, putting Michael Cohen on is like putting Chuck Colson (ph) on.  That was hell of a witness by the way. 

But anyway, tricks are at your point.  Thank you all.  Please coming back.  Everybody is coming back. 

Trump reportedly, by the way, tells a Republican campaign donors down in Florida that Democrats, did you know this?  They hate Jewish people.  I never knew that.  I have been following politics for about half a century.  But the history of politics in this country tells, of course, a completely different story. 

Plus, a rouge`s gallery of Trump associates are said to make court appearances this week, well Tome Steyer is waiting for this, including Paul Manafort for his second hearing, his second sentencing.  He could get ten more years.  A decade more in prison. 

While Trump will be over rule in justice Northam and pardon Manafort, and by the way, would that bring about impeachment, pardoning Mr. Manafort?  And they say you got a play to win unless you are Donald Trump and you own a golf course.  And He wins every award.  He`s like a kid in little league.  Trophies for everybody.  Anyway, how he won the glove championship without actually competing. 

Much more ahead.  Stay with us. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  President Trump has ignited trouble with his comments regarding Jewish people and the Democratic Party over the weekend.  "Axios" reports that at a closed door event on Friday, President Trump told Republican donors quote "the Democrats hate Jewish people."  That`s according to three people who were there.  The report goes onto add that Trump said he didn`t understand how any Jew would vote for Democrat these days. 

The President reported comments went a step further in comments he made earlier that day on the White House south lawn. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I thought yesterday`s vote by the house was disgraceful because it`s become the Democrats have become an anti-Israel party.  They have become an anti-Jewish party.  And I thought that was a disgrace. 


MATTHEWS:  And while the President was responding to last Thursday`s House vote on an anti-hate resolutions sparked by comments from freshman congresswoman Ilhan Oman of Minnesota.  At an event two weeks ago said she I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it`s OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country. 

Back with me now, Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Eli Stokols, Cornell Belcher and Tom Steyer. 

Congresswoman, your thoughts on both sides of this debate, this controversy. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  I want to tell you something.  The worst thing that could happen to the state of Israel would be to basic it partisan issue, which it wasn`t for decades.  Ever since the founding of Israel.  And that is what the President is trying to do.  And he is revving up this kind of myth that somehow Democrats, I resent it personally as a Jew and all but one of the Jewish members are Democrats in the House of Representatives.

MATTHEWS:  That`s right. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  It`s so offensive to me. 

And the idea that -- the woman that was on FOX that was complaining about her wearing a hijab, you know, Jews fought for a long time to be able in the military, for example, to be able to wear a skullcap or a beard if you are a religious Jew.

And these kinds of things -- I took an oath of office on the Torah, on the Five Books of Moses.  And Ilhan Omar took it on the Koran.  And then we all took an oath of office together, loyalty to the United States of America. 

This debate is so destructive.  And I really think the politics is on the Republican side and being led by the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in his first White House briefing and six weeks this afternoon -- hers, actually -- Sarah Sanders was asked about the president`s latest comments.

Here`s the flackery.  Let`s listen.


QUESTION:  Yes or no, does the President truly believe that Democrats hate Jews?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I am not going to comment on a potentially leaked document.  I can tell you what...


QUESTION:  Does he think Democrats hate Jewish people, as he said on the South Lawn?

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  I think that they`ve had a lot of opportunities over last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments.

QUESTION:  But I`m asking about the President specifically.

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  I`m trying to answer you.  If you`d stop talking, I will finish my statement.

QUESTION:  Just a yes-or-no question.

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  The president has had -- and laid out clearly his position on this matter.  Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that. 

That`s a question, frankly, I think you should ask Democrats, what their position is.


MATTHEWS:  Well, as Congresswoman Schakowsky just said, 32 of the 40 -- 34, I guess -- 34 members of Congress are Democrats -- there may be more, in fact, according to her.

And in presidential elections, Jewish voters have historically supported Democratic candidates by large margins.  Jewish support jumped to -- I knew this.  I checked it.  And it is true.  This is what I have always remembered -- 90 percent supporting FDR`s reelection campaigns, over 80 percent for JFK.  It dipped under McGovern and Carter. 

But since the 1990s, Jewish support for Democratic candidates for president has remained incredibly high, high 70s to 80 in that range. 

Eli, talk about that.  If you got the history here, it seems like Trump needs to be reminded of the facts.

ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES":  I don`t think he`s concerned about the history or the facts. 

I think the president sees a story with Representative Omar that he wanted to keep in the news.  And so, after that vote on Thursday, what does he do?  He goes out and gives a characteristically over-the-top, hyperbolic statement about, Democrats hate Israel, Democrats hate Jews.

And he did it multiple times, as you have already pointed out, which tells you that this wasn`t a screw-up.  This was something he`s thought about and he`s doing intentionally.

And the awkwardness that I saw in the Briefing Room today from Sarah Sanders trying to defend this and trying to say, well, Republicans condemned Steve King, they kicked him off committees, that -- I mean, she was asked, did the president himself condemn Steve King?  And she waffled and said, well, I -- I speak for him, and I have condemned Steve King.

So he hasn`t.  The president is not pure on this.  I was there in 2015 when the president told a room full of Republican Jewish donors that, hey, you guys aren`t going to vote for me because I don`t want your money.

These are the exact same stereotypes...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I know.


STOKOLS:  ... that Representative Omar...


MATTHEWS:  Look at it.  We got it.  We pulled that for you.

STOKOLS:  But he`s not worried about the hypocrisy.

MATTHEWS:  We anticipated that bad language right there.

Despite his attempts to paint Democrats as anti-Jewish, President Trump has himself, as Eli said, been accused of peddling in anti-Semitism in the past. 

In 2015, he made these remarks to members of the Republican Jewish coalition. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know why you`re not going to support me.  And you`re not going to support me because I don`t want your money. 

You want to control your own politician?  That`s fine.  Good. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, in 2016, then candidate Trump tweeted and later deleted me an image of Hillary Clinton over a bed of money -- well, this is really subtle -- next to a six-pointed star.  Indeed, it was the Star of David.

As president, he refused to condemn the white supremacist march in Charlottesville in 2017 that included anti-Semitic chants, of course -- they always do -- saying they were fine people on both sides.

Well, charges of anti-Semitism also extended to high-ranking congressional Republicans.  Last October, in a tweet, then House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy singled out Democratic voters with Jewish heritage, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, for attempting to -- quote -- "buy this election."

McCarthy later deleted the tweet, but not our memory of it. 

Tom Steyer, your thoughts about this, this latest problem for Trump? 

TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEXTGEN AMERICA:  Look, I don`t think there`s any question that Mr. Trump has been associated intentionally with the vilification of different people, including Jews, in our society. 

And I think that it`s a tactic that he uses to divide and conquer people, that he plays on racism intentionally, and has done it for his entire political career.  And I think this is one more attempt by him to divide and conquer people based on race, ethnicity, and religion. 

I think it`s 100 percent wrong.  And I think that it is something as un- American is I can imagine.

MATTHEWS:  Well, his people certainly know what he`s feeling, because they express it openly.

FOX News host Jeanine Pirro stirred trouble on Saturday night with comments she made criticizing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.  Here she goes, Jeanine.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS:  She`s not getting this anti-Israel sentiment doctrine from the Democrat Party.  So, if it`s not rooted in the party, where is she getting it from? 

Think about it.  Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Koran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won`t get molested.  Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?


MATTHEWS:  Are you following that?

Anyway, in a statement late Sunday night, FOX News strongly condemned Pirro`s remarks about Congresswoman Omar, adding: "They do not reflect those of the network, and we have addressed the matter with her directly."

Cornell, that`s a hell of a -- you have to past that mark.  FOX is too much for FOX. 


MATTHEWS:  But what do you think about that, to stretch, appealing to an audience, pandering to an audience that has a problem with Muslim people, to go all the way of saying, if she wears this hijab, that somehow that says she wants to get rid of Constitution?

BELCHER:  Well, look, we know that that`s part of their game plan.

Being a tribal warrior is Trump`s ace in the hole.  They`re not -- that base of voters who stick to him, they are the most anxious about the changes that are happening in our -- happening in our country.

So you feed that and you continue to feed that.  And that`s the shame of it.  But it`s also -- I know I think I`m the odd man out on the whole Jewish question, but what Sarah Huckabee did, because I was watching -- what Sarah Huckabee did today was disgraceful, because you know what?

I`m a partisan Democrat.  All Republicans aren`t anti-Jewish.  All Republicans aren`t anti-black.  They don`t hate blacks.  And despite the wall, all Republicans aren`t anti-Mexican.  It`s an easy thing to say.  It`s an easy thing to say, and we have to sort of call for our better angels in those positions than that.

It shouldn`t be a partisan issue at all.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Congresswoman Saransky on that.

Your -- Schakowsky.  I`m sorry to mispronounce your name.  That`s an awful thing to do, but Schakowsky.  Thank you, Congresswoman.  I have known you forever.

Let me ask you about -- about this whole question of ethnicity and Trump.  I thought -- I never can tell whether it`s in his heart -- and this is a tough one for any politician or journalist -- is it in his heart to be nastily bigoted, or is it always a card he plays, perhaps surrounded by a pretty conservative group of people?

And maybe when he -- who don`t like black people, in fact some -- I always thought his original sin was going after -- Trump -- and claiming he was a foreigner from Africa, that he was not an American, that he was stuck into the country, that he didn`t really go to these schools, because I thought that appealed that the worst kind of right-winger.

But I don`t whether he feels it.  Did he really think this guy was a phantom?


MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Donald Trump, I believe, of all things that he is, is canny.  And he understands that certain words trigger a certain response. 

Now, why would he not condemn Ilhan Omar?  Because he had the Muslim ban.  That was this first act, to ban Muslims from coming into the country.

And now the anti-immigrant rhetoric in general from south of the border.  This is the hate-monger in chief.  And it gets him points.  He wants to incite and excite his base.  And though -- he knows the words that do that, and that`s exactly the kind of politics that he wants to play. 

It`s very intentional. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he feels it himself, or he`s just working the crowd? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  You know, I am not sure what Donald Trump believes in.

He believes in what at the moment makes him feel good, what fills up the deep hole that he has inside him that needs to be filled every single day.  And if he can get the adoration of his base, he will say anything.

BELCHER:  What difference does it make if he feels it or not?  If you are going around stoking racism, you`re a racist.  I don`t -- I don`t care if you feel it or not.

If you`re stoking racism, you`re a racist.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

BELCHER:  I hate this question about if it`s in his heart.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I made a mistake, then.  I made a mistake.


STOKOLS:  It`s the politics of fear.  It`s the fear of the other.

And it`s something that you just pointed out. 


STOKOLS:  It`s unique in our history to have a president who is -- who is really trying to pit different groups of Americans against...


MATTHEWS:  It`s extraordinary to me that a person would be so evil as to make up a prejudice and pretend to have one.  That`s -- I don`t know if that`s worse or not might, but it`s...


BELCHER:  It might be.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Chicago and Eli Stokols.


MATTHEWS:  And -- Chicago.

Cornell Belcher.

I got to pronounce it right by a local version.

Anyway, and, Tom Steyer, Tom, thank you for coming on.  And keep up your work.

STEYER:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Tonight is a good night to have you on.  And I`m glad we did. 

Up next, we`re going to talk about the big week ahead in Robert Mueller`s world, with new developments expected in the court case, lots happening this week.  Paul Manafort could face another decade of prison.  Mike Flynn could face more trouble.  Rick Gates.  Roger Stone -- Stone is facing the judge this week.

And that`s straight ahead. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone is today pleading for his freedom, after he failed to disclose to the court that his new book could violate his gag order. 

Last month, Stone was barred from speaking publicly about the Mueller investigation, after he publicly attacked the judge overseeing his case.  Now we`re awaiting a filing from Stone`s lawyers which will explain why Stone didn`t violate that order -- didn`t violate the order. 

It kicks off an eventful week coming up for the special counsel`s prosecutors.  This Wednesday, Paul Manafort will be sentenced in Washington, D.C., where he faces up to a decade more in prison for conspiracy.  That`s on top of the four years he got last week in Virginia.

We`re also expecting a status update in the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on that day, same day, Wednesday, which could reveal the extent of his cooperation with Mueller.  Is he talking?

Then Roger Stone is back in court this Thursday for a status hearing about his upcoming trial.  And, on Friday, we will get a sentencing update on the case of Rick Gates, who`s also cooperating with prosecutors. 

I`m joined right now by Shannon Pettypiece, White House reporter for Bloomberg News.  Ronald Weich is the dean of the University of Baltimore Law School and formerly worked at the Justice Department under Eric Holder. 

Let me go to you, Shannon, as always.

I`m going to ask you about this.  Why would Stone not tell the judge, I have got a book coming out, or an update on a book, that`s going to basically talk, which I`m not supposed to be doing? 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, why would he post a photo of the judge in an image of some crosshairs? 

I mean, it helps improve the Roger Stone show.  I mean, Roger`s defense could be that this book is part of his livelihood, that what he is, is a commentator and a provocateur, and he still has First Amendment rights to some extent.  And we don`t know what the full extent of -- is the book.

Does it go into deep detail about his case in particular?  But, I mean, he`s probably going to make a case that he needs to make money and that this book is part of his living and who he is.

MATTHEWS:  What`s his -- name of the book?  What`s the name? 

PETTYPIECE:  Oh, I -- you know...

MATTHEWS: "Who Framed Roger Stone" or something?  It`s like Roger Rabbit.

PETTYPIECE:  Yes.  Well, he`s already got that one down. 

I don`t actually know the name of the book.

But I think Roger is kind of a sideshow at this point.  Unless Mueller can sort of turn the screws on him and get him to cooperate in this investigation or another investigation, it seems like Mueller`s investigation is winding down.  We`re seeing a lot of loose ends being tied up.

Unless Stone can start cooperating in another investigation, I don`t think he`s going to become that relevant.  I think it`s just going to be the Roger show, and that`s -- and it`s going to be...


MATTHEWS:  Well, I think they were all business partners.  So I`m curious - - Roger Stone, Manafort.

Anyway, let me ask you, Ronald.  What are we doing here with the conversation we had for the first segments of tonight`s show, the president on the issue of impeachment?


MATTHEWS:  What will be the straw that breaks the camel`s back?  Will a pardon of Manafort do it for the Republicans?  What`s your sense of the pardoning when it`s clearly in your interests?

This isn`t Jack Johnson, the boxer from the early part of the 20th century.  This is your...


WEICH:  This is clearly an abuse, abuse of the pardon power. 

I mean, the president has that power in the Constitution.  But to use it to reward friends, to -- payback for people who didn`t tell dirty deeds about the president, that would be an abuse.  And, hopefully, some Republicans would be concerned about that. 

I think what Speaker Pelosi...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s clearly -- it seems to me it falls right into the wheelhouse of obstruction of justice.  You can`t get the guy to -- well, one way to get a guy to not testify against you is to pardon him.

WEICH:  Right.

Speaker Pelosi, I think, was hearkening back to the Constitution.  It`s true enough that, with a majority vote, the House can impeach the president.  It requires two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators to convict.

And I think what she was saying was, we`re not going to move forward unless it`s clear that you`re going to have that.

MATTHEWS:  Would this do it?  In your judgment, would this be enough, to see the president clearly obstructing justice again?  How many times does he have to do it?  Does he have to fire Mueller or just pardon Manafort?

It`s all intended for the same thing. 

WEICH:  Right.

It`s really hard to know where the Republicans are.  I`m sure they`re guided by public opinion.  You know very well, Chris, looking back at the Nixon precedent, it was when President Nixon had done so much that public opinion turned against him, that...


WEICH:  ... Goldwater and others...

MATTHEWS:  Well, when it was evidenced.

WEICH:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  It was evidenced when they saw that the June 23 tape had him right there talking, in Nixon`s voice.

By the way, whenever it`s on the phone, it`s always better.  And I think that was on the phone.  And there he was saying -- he said, get the CIA to cover up to the FBI.  Get the FBI off the case. 

WEICH:  Right. 

So, ultimately, impeachment wasn`t necessary because his own party told him he had to go.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the weekend -- this weekend just past, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, said that Robert Mueller should have compelled the president to testify in person, not given him that take-home exam he did.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA:  I think it is a mistake.  And I have said all along that I don`t think Bob Mueller should rely on written answers.

When you get written answers from a witness, it`s really the lawyers` answers, as much as the client`s answer.  And here you need to be able to ask follow-up questions in real time.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to get to both of you on this quickly.

It just -- he`s very good at process, Adam Schiff, but I don`t know if it means anything to American people. 

Does it matter?  Do you think that Robert Mueller is going to await a written -- spoken testimony by the president in the room?


It seems to me at this point he`s going to present what he has and not wait.  If he had wanted to subpoena the president to testify in a grand jury...


MATTHEWS:  So, he doesn`t -- he`s not setting a perjury trap? 

WEICH:  I don`t think so.  And we don`t know what he has.

MATTHEWS:  How can you have a perjury trap as a take-home exam?  Your lawyers make sure you don`t commit perjury.

WEICH:  Well, except they don`t know what evidence...

PETTYPIECE:  Unless your lawyers weren`t honest to you.

WEICH:  That`s right.


PETTYPIECE:  Yes, unless your client wasn`t honest to..


MATTHEWS:  You follow up here. 

PETTYPIECE:  Well, if the client wasn`t honest to the lawyers, the lawyers don`t know how to draft the correct answer. 

So I think that the point you were about to make it is, if there is other evidence from, let`s say, three or four other people contradicting something the president stated, even if the lawyers crafted those statements for them, the lawyers only know what their clients and the documents and the information that they have. 

They don`t know what everyone else is saying. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Shannon Pettypiece and Ronald Weich.

Coming up: Donald Trump named co-champion of his golf club`s annual tournament, co-champion, which is a little strange, considering he didn`t actually play in the tournament. 

More on Trump`s impressive history of giving himself awards and accolades for stuff he actually didn`t do -- after this. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re going to win in a way that nobody seen before.  We`re going to win so strong.  We`re going to be so strong.  We`re going to be so smart. 

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

I would give myself an A plus.  Is that enough?  Can I go higher than that? 


MATTHEWS:  Maybe. 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump campaigned on being the best at everything.  He`s taken that attitude with him into the presidency.  But he has pattern of falsifying or exaggerating or downright falsifying those accomplishments.  For example, Trump wisely talked about what a great student he was, even claiming that he was first in his class at the Wharton, at University of Pennsylvania. 

Let`s watch. 


TRUMP:  I was a good student.  I always hear about the elite.  You know, the elite.  They`re elite?  I went to better schools than they did.  I was a better student than they were. 

I was first in my class at the Wharton School of Finance. 


MATTHEWS:  But in 1968, the year Trump graduated from Wharton, his school paper, "The daily Pennsylvanian" published a list of the 56 student who were on the Wharton dean`s list that year.  And Trump`s name was strangely not among them.  Perhaps a misprint. 

In 2017, "The Washington Post" reported that Trump hung up a fake time magazine cover featuring himself, at least at five of his golf clubs. 

And the former "Forbes" reporter says that the president called him in 1968 -- 1984 rather pretending to be an aide in an effort to inflate his wealth so that reporter would put him on the Forbes 400.  Let`s listen to that self-identified aide to Donald Trump. 


REPORTER:  Are you saying that perhaps for tax purposes it`s been -- the ownership has been transferred to Donald Trump?

BARRON (TRUMP):  Correct, correct.  That`s correct. 

REPORTER:  OK.  And when you say, you know, in excess of 90 percent of the ownership?

BARRON (TRUMP):  I`d say in excess of 90.  In fact, well, it`s really closer to even the ultimate, but it`s in excess of 90 percent, yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, that was Trump actually there. 

But a new report details one of Trump`s strangest fabrications yet.  And that`s coming up next on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

"Golf Magazine" is reporting that the president has a plaque in his golf club in West Palm Beach stating that he won the club`s annual golf championship last year, although he never played in that tournament.  Hmm.

Multiple sources told the magazine the president joked to the actual champion, Ted Virtue, the only reason he won is because I couldn`t play, close quote.  The president golfed at that course 47 times in 2018, according to NBC News.  Trump then proposed a nine-hole challenge match to Virtue, winner-takes-the-title.  The president won and according to the magazine said, this isn`t fair, we`ll be co-champions. 

Well, the White House does not respond to NBC`s request for a comment on this story. 

I`m joined right now by "The Washington Post" columnist Dana Milbank, and David Cay Johnston, Trump biographer, and author of "It`s Even Worse Than You Think". 

Is it worse than this, David?  Putting out these plaques to yourself -- I mean, we always kid about kids in like Little League and stuff all needing a trophy.  This needs trophy that says, I want it all.  He still needs it. 

Your thoughts? 

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER:  This is pathetic and it tells you a lot about what an empty vessel Donald is.  You know, 19 of his properties he has plaques up of awards he gave himself from a phony hospitality system run by his pal who the mobbed up Joey No Sox who emcees at Mar-a-Largo every year. 

I mean, who gives an award to themselves?  It is bad enough when we give children awards for showing up, but giving an award to yourself, the only word to describe it is pathetic. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of it, Dana?  Nobody does it better than you.  I think somebody said, Jan Schakowsky, the congresswoman from the north shore of Chicago, she pointed out he has some big vacuum in his soul, I guess, that has to be filled up regularly and relentlessly with this B.S. stuff about how great he is. 

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes, he has this insatiable need for support for people to affirm him to believe in him.  Do you remember a year ago when the Democrats didn`t stand up and applaud at the State of the Union.  He said that was treason.  You could get an idea of what he means.  But I`m happy he`s doing this -- giving himself the trophy here. 

He`s not getting the trophies from North Korea.  He`s not getting it from the economy, he`s not getting it from the border wall.  We don`t want him to be desperate because he does have a very large --

MATTHEWS:  It`s better for America -- 

MILBANK:  He has a large button.  So, if this is what it`s going to take, let`s all applaud him, let us give him trophies and let`s move on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump boasted about his golf skills throughout the 2016 campaign.  Let`s watch him in action. 


TRUMP:  I like to play golf.  You know, I`m a good golfer, believe it or not.  People are shocked.  People are shocked.  But let me -- so, I should play Obama for the presidency.  I`ll do it. 

Hey, I`ve won a lot over my life.  I even win a lot of club championships.  That`s good, right?

My hands, look at these hands.  These hands hit a golf ball 285 yards.  Look at these hands. 

Who is the best golfer in the room?  Did anybody know? 


TRUMP:  Who is club champion here?  Who is the club champ?  I want to fight them and beat them. 

REPORTER:  What is your response to "The Washington Post" article claiming that you cheat during golf?

TRUMP:  That is absolutely false.  I win at golf.  I win at golf.  That I can tell you. 


MATTHEWS:  Ha!  Well, that reporter is referring to this "Washington Post" article itself which quotes sportswriter Rick Reilly on Trump.  When it comes to cheating, he`s an 11 on a scale of one to 10. 

Let me go back to David on this whole question, you know, it reminds me of, I like golf, it`s like Brett Kavanaugh, I like beer, I like beer.  I mean, give me a break.  Why does he have to keep saying that? 

I mean, does that help him with Republican voters?  I mean, Kennedy used to hide the fact that he played golf.  I don`t think Obama played that much but he seems -- is it a statement of success, golf?  It said something about the guy -- I own a golf course and I play golf?  It`s a status symbol for Trump. 

JOHNSTON:  He`s trying to establish that he`s been accepted and he knows he`s not by a large segment of the population.  It`s the same reason he`s desperate for the approval of the "New York Times." 

And Donald, by the way, is a notorious tax cheat.  Rick Reilly got that thing exactly right.  I`ve interviewed people who played golf with him.  They described him taking three, four file mulligans at a time and putting down -- having put down the score card, you know, that he got this and that.  And so, all of the things Donald says are just untrue. 

But, you know, if he needs a way to test this, why doesn`t Donald just invite a television news crew to follow him through 18 holes?

MATTHEWS:  I don`t think that`s likely to happen. 

JOHNSTON:  I don`t either. 

MILBANK:  It is sort of a metaphor like, for how he governs.  He is a good golfer.  He doesn`t need to cheat but he does any way.  He takes -- as David suggesting, these things called floating milligans, whenever he wants --

MATTHEWS:  A mulligan is a bad -- that didn`t count. 

MILBANK:  The idea is you count the shot but then he just throws them all away at the end and then he says, you know, I hit for par.  You know, my handicap is at scratch.  You can`t do both things.  You can`t throw away all of your bad shots and then claim you`ve had a perfect round.

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine him writing a biography of his presidency?  Ha!  Although a lot of people are buying it.  Forty-six percent at last count think he is doing great. 

Anyway, Dana Milbank, thank you, David Cay Johnston. 

Up next, when asked about whether President Trump should be impeached, Speaker Pelosi says he`s just not worth it.  But does Congress have a duty here, my thought, to the Constitution of America. 

We`ll be right back. 


MATTHEWS:  On Friday, I said that President Trump has already justified the case for impeachment.  I said he has done so primarily but not exclusively on obstruction of justice. 

Over the weekend, reporter Adam Gopnik made the same case in "The New Yorker" magazine.  Quote: Any one of the dozen things that Trump has had done overtly would have resulted, if done clandestinely by another president in near universal cries for impeachment, if not for immediate resignation.  Trump`s firing of the director of the FBI and then confessing to both a journalist and the Russian foreign minister that he did it to end an investigation into his own campaign`s contacts with Russians follows the exact form of one of the impeachable offenses, obstruction of justice, that was applied against Richard Nixon. 

The smoking gun tape smoked because it showed that Nixon tried to stop the FBI from investigating the Watergate break-in on phony national security grounds.  And here, Donald Trump has taken us again along the same route, attempting to use presidential power to cover his criminal tracks, telling Comey to drop his case against the country`s national security adviser Michael Flynn and then firing Comey when he refused to do so, firing the attorney general Jeff Sessions for following Justice Department rules and recusing himself from the case, more than matching up with President Nixon`s firing of special counsel Archibald Cox. 

Well, today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House should not move toward impeachment, arguing that to use his words, he`s just not worth it.  The greater question is whether impeachment has become a duty.  If the majority of the House of Representatives believes Trump obstructed justice as I believe it does, isn`t there a duty to act? 

As the writer for the "New Yorker" put it this weekend: Impeachment may be too good for Trump.  It may yet prove just the thing for the country. 

Is it better to wait for such a constitutional explosion or to act now upon the lethal accumulation of public evidence Mr. Trump has already piled high?

That`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.