Show: HARDBALL Date: March 15, 2019 Guest: Chuck Diamond, Khizr Khan, Jason Johnson, David Jolly, Adrienne Elrod, Abby Livingston, Tim O`Brien; Ro Khanna; Paul Butler; Natasha Bertrand
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump sets the ambush. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. As this city and the country, of course, await the delivery of the Special Counsel`s final report, the President is proving that old habits die hard.
Today, he said something brazenly new and also undeniably Trumpian, that there should be no Mueller report whatsoever. In Twitter tirade early today, Trump sought to protect himself by disparaging law enforcement itself. Misquoting from a right wing news outlet this morning, the President, quote, he wrote, new evidence that Obama are a team of the FBI, DOJ and CIA were working together to spy on and take out President Trump, all the way back in 2015.
Well, the catalyst for his latest outburst, according to The Washington Post, was a long debunked conspiracy theory that the FBI infiltrated Trump`s campaign, something The Post bluntly described as unmitigated nonsense.
Nevertheless, Trump went on to say, the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller report. This was an illegal and conflicted investigation in search of a crime. This should never happen to a President again. Once, a reminder, that Trump has well- documented history of promoting and even inventing conspiracy theories for the clear purpose, in this case, of undermining the whole Russia investigation.
In 2017, Trump made the false accusation that former President Obama had him wire tapped. He`s promoted the groundless allegation that it was Hillary Clinton, not his campaign, that colluded with Russia. He said, without evidence, that the Special Counsel was meddling with the midterm elections. And most recently, he propagated the conspiracy theory that CNN was tipped off, presumably, by authorities to the arrest of Roger Stone. All of this has been a deliberate smokescreen intended to distort and discredit the findings of the Special Counsel the moment the report is released.
This comes as of his more prosecutors filed a new memo in the case of the President`s former deputy campaign chair, Rick Gates, having already delayed his sentencing on four occasions. Both Mueller and Gates are now requesting another 60-day postponement, saying Gates continues to cooperate on with respect to several ongoing investigations. That`s fascinating.
Joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He`s a member of the House Oversight Committee. Natasha Bertrand is a Staff Writer at The Atlantic. Paul Butler is a Former Federal Prosecutor. And Tim O`Brien is the Executive Editor at Bloomberg Opinion.
Tim, tell us the story why is this President, and maybe a rational reason for this, crazy like a fox reason, does he hear the footsteps of a final report coming coming in the next couple of weeks or sooner and he`s trying to put out the word in his crazy way that everything that`s catching him in the act of collusion, obstruction, whatever, is all part of a conspiracy to get him from the time he was born? That`s basically what he`s pushing. Your thoughts.
TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, as you noted in the top of the program, Chris, everything old is new again. This is not new behavior by the President. He has been trying to undermine the integrity of the investigation and the people prosecuting it since it began. And I think it`s because he`s concerned about the possible outcomes that all of this entails to his family, to his business, to his administration, the transition team, the inauguration. There`s not any part of his life as a politician or a businessman that this investigation doesn`t touch.
Typically, when he`s gone on a spree on Twitter, flagging everyone in the investigation, it is because he hears footsteps and as default then as to criticize it as a witch hunt or develop inane conspiracy theories to explain it in away.
I think what`s interesting about some of the events today is yesterday and the day before you had a lot of, I think, anticipation in the media that the Mueller investigation was coming to a conclusion. Largely, I think, recently, because Andrew Weissmann, one of the senior senior prosecutors involved in it was leaving Mueller`s office and it appeared that ribbons were being tied around some of this.
I think what you got today with Rick Gates, you know, there`s a request now to extend the investigation, an 60-day. As part of that, they said there are still several ongoing investigations that would with suggest Mueller wants to tie up. I think it`s interesting that we still haven`t heard much about where this will go relative to Jared Kushner, to Donald Trump Jr., and even the President. There were some indications that Mueller was not going to put the President under oath. Perhaps there`s still time to do that.
The bottom line is we don`t know what`s going on internally in this investigation. But, generally, the President himself is a good barometer of when things are heating up because he takes it to Twitter.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, this reminds of those things that we`re dealing with a lot a terrorist. There`s a lot of chatter out there, a lot of noise level we`re picking up with this metadata. Trump is acting publicly like a guy who`s got a creative ambush. I`m going to hit these people, they`re no damn good, they shouldn`t be believed. So my 40 plus percent of the country is going to believe me and not Mueller`s report.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Here`s what he should be aware of. We just voted 420 to 0 for the Mueller report to be public. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who I sit on on the Oversight Committee, who defend Trump if you have one word of criticism, I mean, they`re voting for this report to be public.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they`re motivated to say the public deserves to know the truth about the guy they adore?
KHANNA: Because they take Trump at his word. If there`s no collusion, what`s there to hide, you know?
But here`s the fact, Chris, and you know this, Trump is surviving for one reason. It has nothing to do with the law, it has nothing to do with evidence, it has to the do with the republican majority. And he needs to be very careful if he`s going to break with the republican majority and put them in a tough vote, and they can`t vote for concealing the Mueller report. So I think he`s miscalculating his politics.
MATTHEWS: Paul, join us here because economically -- no, I`m sorry, legally, all this is just throwing dust in people`s faces. Does it help? Is there a public jury out there he`s working? I mean, in the end, isn`t it like Nixon, the tapes with Nixon, the evidence is going to bring him down or not? Is that what the public on the right things?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So the actual jury would be the Senate. The President, if impeached, would be impeached by the Congress. And the Senate would determine whether he`s removed from office. So to the extent, he is saying it`s a rigged investigation and that the Mueller report will be compromised, that`s playing into his base, both with the politics and the republicans in the Senate.
So there could be a battle if the Justice Department doesn`t release the Mueller report. So if the Senate and Congress hold to their word with, they`ll subpoena the report. And I don`t know how that would come out. So the report is supposed to be a confidential report to the Attorney General. And then the Attorney General submits another report to Congress. So if Barr`s report is incomplete, if it seems like he is trying to hide something, that`s when Congress acts to subpoena, that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
MATTHEWS: Well, somebody is hiding stuff because Mueller is certainly good at hiding. Because after that take-home exam the President got months ago, we still haven`t seen a word from it, at least we haven`t. Anyway, with multiple outlets reporting the Special Counsel`s report could be delivered imminently, we have surprisingly a few answers to several key questions raised over the course of this long investigation.
For example, Jerome Corsi resisted a plea deal and the risk of being indicted. Will he be still charged? There`s George Nadir, who arranged secret meetings for the campaign and got immunity. What information did he provide? Then there`s that mystery foreign corporation that resisted Mueller`s subpoena. What evidence is Mueller seeking there? And then there`s Michael Flynn, who, of course, who`s cooperation was called significant. So what did he provide? And what about material seized from the raid on Roger Stone`s house and all that stuff in his basement and what was found there? Those are just some of the outstanding questions hanging over the probe.
Natasha, I have so much to ask you. You`ve been following this thing so well. Number one, is it close, the report? Can you tell?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It seems like it is wrapping up. And it definitely seems like it is closer to the end than to the beginning. I think that is very safe to say. But we just found out today that Rick Gates is continuing his cooperation, not just with New York prosecutors or prosecutors in D.D. or whoever, but with Mueller`s team. He is answering questions about the donations to the Trump`s inaugural committee, for example. He`s answering questions about the Middle East influence into Trump`s campaign. This isn`t just about Russia, right?
So Rick Gates is really kind of the silent person in the background throughout the entire campaign who had direct visibility into the things his boss, Paul Manafort, was doing throughout the entire campaign. And Paul Manafort, I`m increasingly convinced, is really a linchpin of this entire conspiracy.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about it. Let`s have one piece of it because Rick Gates and Paul Manafort were both at that Havana cigar bar meeting with the Russian, with Kilimnik, right? If there was a conspiracy involving the Russians and the Trump campaign, it`s hard to imagine that Manafort wasn`t part of it, right?
BERTRAND: Right. And this is --
MATTHEWS: Is that fair to say? He had to be part of it.
BERTRAND: He was the one member of the campaign with the most high level on extensive ties to various Russians, whether it was Oleg Deripaska, Konstantin Kilimnik, just all the dealings that he had with Russian oligarchs during his time working in Ukraine. So it definitely would defy all imagination that he had nothing to do with this.
MATTHEWS: And Rick Gates would sit there?
BERTRAND: And Rick Gates was at the Havana Club with Paul Manafort when he shared the internal Trump campaign polling data just after the DNC Convention, when WikiLeaks emails were dumped just after the platform, the Ukrainian platform, was changed to be more favorable towards Russia.
MATTHEWS: The RNC Convention.
BERTRAND: Right, the RNC Convention. There were just so many -- this was a very pivotal moment in the campaign. And the fact that he was handing over 75 pages of internal polling data and discussing a peace plan for Ukraine that was favorable to Russia, it just raises a lot of questions about whether Paul Manafort`s story is really over when it comes to Mueller.
MATTHEWS: How do you see this --
BUTLER: If I could just add --
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Paul. You talk ahead, Paul.
BUTLER: Just to add to what Natasha was saying. To a prosecutor, that meeting at the cigar bar stinks to high heaven. And so, first of all, Paul Manafort, in the middle of a busy campaign, takes out time to go to a cigar bar with a former Russian intelligence officer. He gives this Russian intelligence officer proprietary data from the Trump campaign, and then all three at the meeting leave through separate doors, come on now. Something fishy was down.
O`BRIEN: And the question is why -- and why did he give him proprietary campaign data? I would think it was probably to suggest that Donald Trump had a good shot at becoming President of the United States. And what he was signaling and sharing that was that this was someone they would have to deal with diplomatically and they should line up at the door.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, who do you -- just be the Polaroid camera here. Develop this. You have just heard Gates is still being interviewed. Gates is cooperating. Gates was in the room with the Russians. Gates was with Manafort the whole time. If there was collusion, as they argue [ph], it must have been Manafort-related. This could be developing into the final collusion report.
KHANNA: And here is why it matters. There is evidence possibly that Trump had a policy towards Ukraine that was softer and didn`t stand up to Russia because of this collusion. I mean, here is the irony. For the party that brags about winning the cold war, the republicans, and lionizes Reagan, they seem oblivious to the idea that our policy towards Russia and Ukraine maybe influenced by a president meeting with a foreign influence.
And then on Saudi Arabia with Tom Barrack, where Rick Gates was there, where Tom Barrack wants to put nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia and they have a whole plan, the first administration, to do this because of deals that Tom Barrack`s, who ran his inaugural committee, where Rick Gates was the deputy. It`s just mindboggling that you wouldn`t have some republicans saying, American national security matters.
MATTHEWS: It seems like it`s all transactional. Everything had something to do with Trump, the deals he had and associates he`s set up. And I always wondered why is Paul Manafort known particularly as a guy who deals with Russians became his top guy?
KHANNA: I mean, Chris, you were on the Hill. I mean, there used to be a time where people used cared about the country, where it didn`t matter, I mean, where you would never compromise America`s national interest. And here, you have an administration that we have evidence maybe influencing American foreign policy, comprising our national interest because of a person`s personal gain.
MATTHEWS: I was there in another era when people like Reagan and Tip O`Neill who wanted to negotiated with the good Russian, Gorbachev.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna of California. Natasha Bertrand, as always, your expertise is welcome here. Paul Butler, sir, great vigor here. This may be coming something. Maybe we cracked it here. But it does seem all fall together. It has to do with Rick Gates talking. Rick Gates was in the room. He knows what he`s talking about and he wants to give it to the Special Counsel, it looks like. And he`s got a lot of story to tell. That could be the final chapter we`re looking at. Thank you so much, Tim O`Brien, for your experience with this president that we have.
Coming up, terror in New Zealand, of course, online hate is turning into real-life violence 8,000 miles away. How much are politicians to blame when they spout the toxic rhetoric of fear because there is a global market for hate.
Plus, Trump`s big defeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S PRESIDENT: Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it, and I`m very proud to veto it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the President gets out his veto pen after a dozen Senate republicans join in a bipartisan rebuke of him. Is Trump`s own party finally turning on him?
Much more ahead, stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Every Friday, of course, millions of Muslims around the world gather for their holy day of worship. But on this day, hundreds were gathered at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand when a heavily armed man walked in and fired indiscriminately at terrified worshipers, killing 41 of them.
It`s believed that that same man who was apparently live streaming the massacre, can you believe that, drove four miles to the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch and murdered seven more. A 49th victim later died at the hospital.
Well, dozens more, including small children, are being treated right now for gunshot wounds. And authorities warn the death toll could rise.
The suspect, the 20-year-old man from Australia, has been charged with murder and made his first court appearance a short time ago. While Australia`s Prime Minister described him as an extremist right wing terrorist, authorities are investigating an apparent manifesto the shooter left behind filled white supremacist views. Two others have also been taken into custody as police try to determine what role they played.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand condemned the terrorist attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: Many of those who will have been directly affected by the shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.
The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which is clear this act was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: While in the United States, law enforcement and civil rights groups say they have been seeing an uptick of hate motivated crimes of late. According the FBI, the number increased of these hate crimes for the third consecutive year starting in 2016. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said, has seen a 17 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide.
For more, I`m joined by Khizr Khan, of course, the Gold Star father, and Rabbi Chuck Diamond, former Rabbi at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, remember that, which suffered a similar gun attack when a gunman entered their temple, killing 11 people.
I want to start with Khizr. This is such a beautiful country. I was just there with part of my family, my wife and sister and brother-in-law. It`s a quiet country, it`s rural, it`s beautiful farms, it`s people that are really nice to you. There`s a little bit of ethnic diversity in Auckland and maybe in Christchurch. But it`s not city crowded with border wars and neighborhood fights and ethnicity.
And it just seems horrible that they went after this little Islamic community of immigrants, mainly from India.
KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: Well, first, Chris, my heartfelt condolence to the victims of this heinous murder, to all Muslims at large and people of other faiths as well.
I was saddened to hear the tragedy. And it is that kind of peaceful communities that these terrorists seek, where there is less challenge, so that they can maximize their victims.
One quick caution to all faith communities today is that, please, please, protect your places of worship. Protect -- to the max, protect your gatherings.
KHAN: They do not distinguish between one faith or the other. Today, it is Muslim. Yesterday, it was my brothers and sisters in Tree of Life in Pittsburgh.
Prior to then, it was the African-American Christians in the church. Prior to then, it was Sikh brothers and sisters. It is that, the -- this hate is in disguised under the name of supremacy.
KHAN: One quick caution that I wish to leave you with this thought.
And that is, in this division and hate, there is a foreign hand. Our adversaries wish to sow this hate and this division, so that we will continue to fight this for many years to come.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the rabbi on that, because -- Rabbi Diamond, thank you for coming on, because this must bring back terrible, terrible memories.
RABBI CHUCK DIAMOND, FORMER TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE RABBI: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And the hatred of the other is really what that`s about. And the other is anyone different than you, comes from a different background, has a different religious belief.
But it -- you combine hatred, and you combine that with firepower, the ability to reel off after bullet after bullet after bullet by just pulling a trigger a few times, it`s not like walking in and punching a couple of guys because you`re mad at them. It`s not an old street fight between ethnic groups.
We`re talking about the ability to walk in and just blow away 41 people, drive to -- drive to another place of worship a few miles away, shoot seven more, the deliberation of this. But it doesn`t take any guts to do it. You just go in and do it, if you have the guns.
DIAMOND: Yes. Well, I agree.
And I agree with everything Mr. Khan said.
Mr. Khan, you`re -- you`re one of my superheroes. You`re an American superhero. And I appreciate all the sacrifices your family have made for this country. And I hope that, at some point in the future, you and I can, arm in arm, go together to do good things in the world.
Chris, it takes a -- I have said that. It takes hatred and guns. And you can see the damage it does.
I was devastated to hear the news coming from New Zealand. Now, Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, such a lovely community, this will never happen to us. And it did.
New Zealand, everybody talks about New Zealand being such a wonderful country, which it is, but yet it can happen there. It can happen anywhere. And we have to be diligent. We have to watch each other`s backs. And we have to appreciate people for who they are, for being people.
You`re right, Chris. This is about hatred for -- hatred of others, people who are different.
But, you know, Mr. Khan, you and I aren`t so different. And we share a lot. The attack on New Zealand was an attack on all of us.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the mosque attacks over there and called on political leaders to address the growing menace of Islamophobia.
Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIHAD AWAD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR: We ask our political leaders to address the growing menace of Islamophobia and hate that has been perpetrated by political leaders, by ideologues, by people who want to run for public office, by people who won public office on the backs of immigrants, blacks, Jews, Muslims, and all minorities.
We hold them accountable, because their words matter, their policies matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump, who condemned the attack, seemed to minimize the threat of white nationalism generally.
Let`s him here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t really. I think it`s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that`s the case. I don`t know enough about it yet.
They`re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it`s certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Khizr, why do you think he plays it down?
MATTHEWS: I want to go to Khizr first. I`m sorry, Rabbi.
DIAMOND: OK, no problem.
KHAN: This is nothing new.
This is political expediency. He is known for that. He will exploit anything to benefit himself. This is -- he`s talking on behalf of his base. This is what this terrorist in New Zealand wrote in his manifesto.
He says: "Trump is the symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."
KHAN: That is what...
MATTHEWS: By the way, let me go to how Trump does this discrimination number in this horrible world.
If somebody comes into the country without papers and kills somebody in San Francisco or anywhere, they become -- the victims are all angels. And I understand that, the way he does that, that rhetorical -- but in a case where a white nationalist kills all kinds of people, it`s very short shrift.
It`s like, let`s move on. Let`s get over this quickly. It`s just an isolated case of a guy who had -- quote -- "has problems." I wasn`t sure what that meant, sociologically or psychologically. It`s a dangerous way of phrasing it, I thought, because he might be -- who knows what he was doing with that phrase.
Your thoughts, Rabbi? He is very discriminatory in what he condemns.
DIAMOND: Well, I agree.
And the rhetoric is important coming from one of the most powerful people in the world. His words matter. I don`t know enough about the situation.
You know enough to tell that it`s wrong. This is wrong. The killing of people in New Zealand is wrong. White supremacy is wrong. It`s not a matter of good people on both sides.
And I think the rhetoric, the statements have to be stronger from our leaders, and also the people who enable our leaders, who let them get away with these -- you know, Chris, this show is called HARDBALL. I see this as Wiffle ball, these statements that comes from our leaders.
And it`s got to be, there`s no question. This is wrong. How hard is it to realize that?
MATTHEWS: Well, we have a global market now for hatred.
MATTHEWS: During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump reportedly -- or repeatedly, rather, spoke about the threat coming from the Muslim community -- he was very direct about this -- and from people of the Islamic faith, because the faith itself, he said, was awful.
He threatened to implement a ban on Muslims coming into country because they`re Muslim. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, there`s something going on, the Muslims.
The Muslim community has to help us, Mika. They`re not helping us. The Muslim community is not reporting what`s going on.
The Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what`s going on.
We have to look at the Muslims, and we have to do something. We cannot stand by and be the stupid people while our country is destroyed.
I think Islam hates us. There`s something -- there`s something there that -- there`s a tremendous hatred there. There is a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KHAN: How wrong he is.
There are over 10,000 Muslim soldiers serving in the United States Army that have taken the oath to defend the Constitution and this country. There are hundreds of first-responders in New York that responds to the call of duty without regards to religion and all.
Muslims are physicians. Muslims are in various professions serving most patriotically, serving in this nation. How wrong he is, like on every issue. This is a politically expedient person. He is a ship without a rudder. That is why we see all these investigations, all this corruption that is coming together now in -- on surface, so that this nation knows now where we are headed.
My only concern is that, how will we recover from this hate and division?
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re talking about it. That is the start.
Thank you, Khizr Khan, sir. Thank you for your contribution to this country.
Rabbi, it`s great to have you on. You seem like a great guy.
DIAMOND: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And I`m glad -- Howard Fineman is from -- our buddy here is from Squirrel Hill. And...
DIAMOND: Yes. We went to the same high school, not at the same time.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m sure you were both A students.
Thank you very much, Rabbi Chuck Diamond.
DIAMOND: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump`s first veto overturns a measure approved by a Republican-controlled Senate. So he got beat in his own house.
Is this a sign Republican leaders are finally ready to start standing up. Or is it a one-off? We will see. Or a two-off?
We`re back after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency. It came just one day after the Republican-controlled Senate delivered an embarrassing rebuke of this president on his signature issue, passing a resolution, they did, to terminate his national emergency declaration at the southern border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will be signing and issuing a formal veto of this reckless resolution. And that`s what it was.
And I have to in particular thank the Republicans, strong, wonderful people, the Republican senators that were on our side and on the side of border security. They were very courageous yesterday. And I appreciate that very much.
Congress` vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality.
Today, I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, a dozen Republican senators crossed party lines to vote with the Democrats on the measure blocking the national emergency declaration.
"The New York Times" reports the president may have found Congress` breaking point here, noting: "The mere act of defying Mr. Trump foreshadows potential new difficulty for the president, as he seeks to push his agenda through a Democratic-controlled the House and a less pliant Republican- controlled Senate."
The House, by the way, will vote to override President Trump`s veto later this month, although it`s expected to fall short of the necessary two- thirds majority to override.
For more, I`m joined David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who is no longer affiliated with the Republican -- formerly known as a Republican, and Jason Johnson, politics editor for The Root.
MATTHEWS: I got to start with you, formerly Mr. Republican.
Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Sure.
MATTHEWS: Are Republicans falling out of line, finally? Is this a one-off or the beginning of something big?
JOLLY: I think it`s more of a one-off, Chris.
At the end of the day, I don`t think the political issue will be over this question of executive authority, much like during the immigration debates over President Obama`s executive orders, at the end of the day, your voters in 2020 want to know where you are on policy.
And I think a lot of these Republicans that may have stepped out of line, if you will, will still be running on Donald Trump`s border security agenda, still on building the wall.
I think that the bigger issue here, the bigger vulnerability for the president himself is today he writes into law, under his signature, with his veto that in fact he lied to his supporters in the American people about Mexico paying for it.
I think that`s the message that hits the president where it hurts. This debate over executive authority, while historically exceedingly important, is not likely to be a political issue in 2020.
MATTHEWS: Can I challenge you on that?
MATTHEWS: Do you think any voter, knowing that there`s nationalism -- we call it patriotism on our side of the border. We call it nationalism on their side.
That any voter honestly thinks that the Mexican government would survive a day if they built a giant wall keeping their people in, the way that the East Germans and the Russians did back in the Cold War? Build a wall to keep your people from leaving the country.
What -- you really think Republican voters are that dumb, that they would believe such a thing? Come on.
JOLLY: I think Trump has cultivated -- listen, I think Trump has cultivated such loyalists, he has defined the issue for the voters, and the voters have accepted it.
And, at the end of the day, look, if the president`s running on border security, and Democrats are soft, Republicans are saying, we`re not there with the president on border security, I don`t know who wins that debate and 2020, to be honest, Chris.
MATTHEWS: But I want to go back to my point and rub it in a little bit.
You got elected by Republicans for a while there. And you think they`re as soft-headed, as naive to buy that another country will accept our majesty, the Goliath of the north, and bow to us and say, oh, yes, master, we will build a wall and pay for it, so that you will be happy that none of our people get into your country?
That`s insane for you believe it.
JOLLY: Look, you`re breaking down -- you`re breaking down the Trump coalition here.
JOLLY: I would say, you have got...
MATTHEWS: I`m intending to...
JOLLY: ... 60 or 70 percent are Trump loyalists.
MATTHEWS: I can see him buying -- I don`t see people being that dumb, but your thoughts.
JOLLY: What put Trump over the line are not the people that believe that. You`re exactly right. It`s what I call the for-profit Republicans that held their nose and stuck with him because they knew he would put green dollars in their back pocket.
But, at the end of the day, the base is the base. And, yes, I think they believe Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Yes, let me think.
What do you think, Jason?
JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: Well, I...
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about today.
The Republicans have been adamantly with this guy, 88 percent late polling. Nine out of 10 Republican voters like this guy, and they stick with him as doing a good job.
Look, the Republican base is going to stick with him because their explanation for everything, whenever Trump fails policy-wise, it`s always Congress` fault. They believe in him. They believe in his principles. They just think that he`s surrounded by a bunch of weaklings who aren`t as committed to his agenda.
What I see with this, it`s not just that this is a one-off. If you think of the main principles of the Trump campaign in 2016, it was getting rid of Obamacare, of building that wall. He`s failed twice.
These are the two biggest things that he promised.
JOHNSON: He failed to get rid of Obamacare when he had a complete control of the House and the Senate.
JOHNSON: Now he can`t get the wall done.
MATTHEWS: I`m a little more romantic than either of you.
MATTHEWS: Let me just try this by you, Jason, first.
I grew up with watching boxing every Friday night. We loved boxing. It was always about Marciano. And it was -- God, it was everybody, Sugar Ray Robinson. It was everybody. And then it was, of course, our hero came along, Muhammad Ali.
But to get to Muhammad Ali, he had a beat a guy who was unbeatable.
MATTHEWS: Sonny Liston.
MATTHEWS: Prisoner, frightening guy. People -- it was like Mr. T. imagery, absolutely frightening guy.
Nobody can beat him, until he couldn`t beat anybody.
MATTHEWS: Is there going to be a point where Trump can`t win anymore?
He`s lost two in a row now on Yemen and on the declaration. That`s a bad week for him. He`s got three defeats this year, right, big defeats.
JOHNSON: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: So you think you don`t see coming here a crack in this wall?
JOHNSON: Well, the crack in the wall isn`t with his base.
The crack in the wall is with the Republicans in the House and the Senate. They learned in 2018 that Trump is not as much of a magical elixir when you`re running for reelection as they thought he was going to be.
That`s what allowed them to make some of the principled decisions that you saw this year. I can win in Ohio again, and I don`t have to have Trump. I can win in this particular state, and I don`t have to have Trump`s support. That`s what really happened.
But, legislatively, look, this is a process thing, not a principle thing. They`re all in favor of border security. They just don`t want a wall.
MATTHEWS: I don`t see any victories.
David, doesn`t -- you root for a president,don`t you have to have some victories? I mean, he`s losing on North Korea. It looks like a joke. He meets in Hanoi? And, by the way, he didn`t go to Vietnam the first time. He went this time. And he got made a fool of himself this time.
And you got to wonder. You got to wonder what -- don`t they say, I want to see some white smoke go up, some hope?
MATTHEWS: Some -- there`s no sign of victory from this guy anymore.
Doesn`t it hurt?
JOLLY: Well, I think, Chris, what today teaches us, it`s not that the Republicans are breaking rank. I really don`t think that`s going to be the case.
But it forecasts a weakened hand of the president of the United States. Just take the Democratic-controlled House, for instance. Any of the president`s legislative success now has to happen with the blessing of Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats.
How likely is it that the president will be able to point to any success between now and next November working with Capitol Hill? I think the answer to that is going to be no. The president could reach next November in a very weakened state. I think that`s the lesson from this week.
MATTHEWS: Well, the goose eggs, as we say in sports, add up, my friends. They add up.
JOLLY: That`s right. That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And, at some point, you become a loser.
Thank you, David Jolly. Thank you, Jason Johnson.
JOLLY: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker says a woman will be on the ticket next year either way, no matter what.
I like that kind of declaration. Another candidate reportedly has Texas Senate Republicans quaking in their boots. They`re scared of Beto down there. So let`s talk about politics coming up.
Back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The 2020 presidential campaign is now in full swing, with the Democratic candidates campaigning across Iowa, New Hampshire today and at least five early primary states over this coming weekend, starting tonight.
Newly announced candidate Beto O`Rourke has been in the race for a full 24 hours now, but said today he`s not going to release any -- how much money has been raised so far. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: You alluded to the financial hurdles of this. Can you release any of your fund-raising figures over the past 48 hours?
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can`t. I can`t right now. But, yes.
QUESTION: Well, you could. Why not?
O`ROURKE: Oh, you`re right. I could.
Let me -- let me answer the question even better. I choose not to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, so far, Democratic candidates have mostly waited until they have raised at least a million dollars to release their numbers.
Bernie Sanders announced that he`d raised a whopping $6.5 million in the first 24 hours as a candidate. Kamala Harris said she had raised $1.5 million.
Both John Hickenlooper and Amy Klobuchar announced that they had raised at least a million over 48 hours in their race. And Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, announced after 72 hours that he had raised a million.
But which candidate is Trump most worried about facing? We`re going to have new reporting on that next on HARDBALL.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Who is a bigger threat, Beto O`Rourke or Joe Biden?
TRUMP: I will just say, whoever it is, I`ll take them on, OK, him or her.
Whoever it is, I`ll take him or her on. I think it`s going to be tough for somebody, but you know what? Whoever it is, it makes no difference to me whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m laughing. It makes no difference.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Trump yesterday asserting that he could be any of the 2020 Democratic candidates.
But Politico reported today: "Behind closed doors, the president`s fixated on Biden, while top Democrats -- or top aides have tried to assure their boss that the former vice president is doomed."
Well, according to Politico: "Aides told Trump he shouldn`t be overly nervous as long as Biden is pulled to the left of the primary, according to that official."
I`m joined right now by Abby Livingston, Washington bureau chief of "The Texas Tribune," and Adrienne Elrod, who was a senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign.
Why do you think the president is afraid of Biden, Adrienne?
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: For two reasons.
Number one, polls show right now that Vice President Biden, in a head-to- head against Donald Trump, many of those polls show that he would win. So I`m sure Donald Trump has seen those polls.
Secondly, he knows, Donald Trump knows that Joe Biden is one of the only candidates who could really make a major play with white working-class voters. Joe Biden`s always done well in his past elections with white working-class voters. He can reclaim some of those Rust Belt areas that we lost in 2016.
Trump knows this.
MATTHEWS: Why would he do -- why would Joe Biden, just for those who don`t follow politics -- there may be a few watching -- why would those people like Biden, the people that the president is afraid will vote for him?
MATTHEWS: Why would they vote for him?
ELROD: Because I think that, first of all, these folks have known him for a long time. He`s been in public office for a long time. They know that.
Number two, he`s from a region that is a very white working-class region. He`s from Delaware. He does very well in Pennsylvania. And these folks know it.
And, look, a lot of these white working-class voters voted for President Obama in 2012. We unfortunately lost them in 2016, but they could potentially be up for grabs if somebody like Vice President Biden is leading the ticket.
I agree with that. I think there`s another point.
Abby, why do you think the president is afraid of Biden? He said he`s more afraid of Biden than he is of Beto. What do you think? Is he lying?
ABBY LIVINGSTON, "THE TEXAS TRIBUNE": I agree completely with this analysis that Adrienne just said.
I mean, you look at this, this cuts into -- it`s not just a political calculation. I mean, Biden is from Scranton, I believe. And that is a key state in Trump`s coalition. But it also -- it strikes at the heart of his fan base.
These -- Biden speaks their language in a way that Hillary Clinton wasn`t quite able to. And so I think this is as much ego as political.
MATTHEWS: I think, no matter all the ears in Washington, all the aura of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and all that, Biden is undeniably, clearly still one of the people he came from. He is not a celebrity. He`s not a member of the elite.
He doesn`t go to all the parties. He doesn`t hang out with celebrities from Hollywood. He doesn`t look like any of the Clintons. And I think people say, no matter how fancy his talk is about foreign policy, he`s clearly still Joe from Scranton. And I think that`s what wins. I think you`re right.
Let`s talk about Beto, because, Abby, you know all about him.
Beto, the president took at shot at his sort of kinetic matter of campaigning, waving the arm and all that. He seemed to be looking for the nickname. He`s going in for the kill already, Trump.
Why do you think Trump is already worried about Beto? There he is, very dramatic public performing.
LIVINGSTON: I was sort of struck with that. It felt like he was scrambling for something. He was reaching. And it was just the obvious thing in front of them.
I just wonder if he hasn`t read enough clips on Beto to find something about him to mock. But I was sort of -- it felt a little thin, compared to how vicious some of his insults are towards other candidates.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it wasn`t like calling him an Indian name or something like that. It was like he sees that. You`re right. Was that cursory or he has figured, I can get this guy on his kinetic animation, he is too animated for president?
LIVINGSTON: I think that`s -- I think you just hit the nail on the head, Chris.
I mean, Donald Trump, anybody who he sees as a threat, he gives a nickname to. So, look, we know now with Joe Biden, probably with Beto as well, he`s going to have multiple nicknames by the time this is all over with.
MATTHEWS: Well, in an interview with CNN, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush -- he`s back -- said that he thought someone should run against Trump just because Republicans ought to be given a choice.
He added that beating Trump in 2020 will be difficult for anyone because he has a strong loyal base and it`s hard to beat a sitting president, "But to have a conversation of what it is to be a conservative, I think, is important."
Adrienne, you first on this.
Statistics say that, if you get challenged in your primaries, you`re probably going to lose. Is that what Jeb is up to? Weaken Trump for the general?
ELROD: You know, I`m not sure what Jeb is up to.
But I will say this. I think Republicans -- even as a Democrat, I`m saying this -- I think Republicans deserve to have a choice in this primary. I think it`s going to be very hard.
MATTHEWS: Is there any Republican you might vote for?
ELROD: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: I just love to ask these things.
ELROD: I have before, by the way, but not in this race, obviously.
MATTHEWS: I have too, a long time ago.
ELROD: A long time -- exactly.
But, look, I think Republicans want to have a choice. I think a debate would probably weaken Trump, since he tends to be so...
MATTHEWS: Who do you think could stand up to him in a debate, in a room, in a room 10 feet apart? Kasich, could he look up, stand up?
Who could stand in a room and say, nice try, buddy?
ELROD: I think Kasich would do OK. But I think somebody like Mitt Romney would be very formidable. I don`t think he`s going to do it, but I think he would be formidable.
I think Larry Hogan would do well too.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Abby a top -- a hot question.
If Beto manages to win the nomination for president of the Democratic Party next summer in Milwaukee, can he carry Texas?
LIVINGSTON: I don`t know. It would be a very expensive bet.
But I can tell you, when I talk to Republicans in the state, it`s not just the presidential question. It`s the vice presidential question. The House Democratic campaign arm is targeting six congressional seats in the state of Texas.
The difference between Republicans feeling good about those seats and worrying about Armageddon is whether or not O`Rourke is on the national ticket.
MATTHEWS: And if he`s a running mate, it helps.
Anyway, thank you, Abby. Please keep coming back.
Adrienne, as always.
Up next: HARDBALL is hitting the road. I will be in Iowa on Monday to sit down with the -- one of the 2020 presidential candidates.
More on that after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am very confident that, this election, we will make history, because, no matter what -- I`m looking you in the eye and saying this -- there will be a woman on the ticket.
I don`t know if it`s in the vice president`s position or in the president`s position.
BOOKER: But, if I have my way, there will be a woman on the ticket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey today stating his desire to see history made in 2020.
I will have a chance, by the way, to ask him about that very question and others on Monday when I sit down with Cory Booker for an extended interview on the road out there in Iowa, in Davenport.
There`s a lot to cover, of course, in this interview, from impeachment to the president, and everything else, all kinds of stuff about Trump, and to questions of gender and race. Does the Democratic ticket in 2020 have to be diverse, have to be?
And then there`s President Trump and his attack on Democrats as the party of socialism. How does Senator Booker respond to that canard?
You`re not going to want to miss it. Cory Booker plays HARDBALL Monday night.
And, at 8:00 p.m., Chris Hayes hosts a special town hall event in Michigan with 2020 Democratic contender Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Monday is going to be a big night here at MSNBC. Be sure to tune in early.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END