Trump shifts focus to retaliation. TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Val Demings, Ben Rhodes, David Cicilline, Arnold Schwarzenegger

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  -- later on in the show, including starting tomorrow, we wanted to tell you about that.

And that`s it for me tonight.  I`ll see you back here 6:00 P.M. Eastern.  HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump with a vengeance.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.  We`ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator on tonight.  The former two-term Governor of California is in Washington to terminate partisan gerrymandering, which he called a scandal in American politics.  By the way it`s a cause I fully agree with.

But remember the story of The Count of Monte Cristo, about a man who destroys himself trying to get revenge on his enemies.  Meet The Count of Mar-a-Lago.  Because while the democrats are calling for the release of the full Mueller report, Donald Trump is out there seeking vengeance on those he blames for the investigation itself.  The democratic chairs of six house committee are now demanding the release of the full report from the Department of Justice.  It`s clear the public is with them by the way.

A new Politico morning consult poll conducted over the last three days shows that 82 percent of Americans say the Mueller report should be released, and that includes 75 percent of republicans who want the Mueller out.  While the report cleared the President of collusion, Special Counsel clearly did not exonerate Trump of obstructing justice and Trump wants revenge.

Speaking from the Oval Office yesterday, the President accused his political opponents of treason.  And now he`s pointing the finger without any evidence at the predecessor`s administration.  Here`s how he two questions served up by Fox News today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  You`re accusing people who launched the investigation into your campaign of treasonous acts.  How high up do you think it went?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I think it went very high up.  I think what happened is a disgrace.  I don`t believe our country should allow this ever to happen again.  This will never happen again.  We cannot let it ever happen again.  It went very high up and started fairly low but with instructions from the high up.  This should never happen to a president again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Do you think it reached the West Wing of the Obama White House?

TRUMP:  I don`t want to say that but I think you know the answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump`s also blaming the press, Tweeting the mainstream media is under fire and being scorned all over the world as being corrupt and fake.  For two years, they pushed the Russian collusion delusion when they always knew there was no collusion.  They truly are the enemy of the people and real opposition party.  Well, now, the republican acolytes are following his lead using Barr`s exonerating letter to justify new calls for political retribution.

The House Minority Leader demanded that Congressman Adam Schiff relinquish his chairmanship with the Intelligence Committee.  Senator Lindsey Graham renewed his call for investigation of the investigators at the FBI and Justice Department.  The Trump campaign issued a memo asking networks to reconsider allowing certain guests to appear on television at all.

And Press Secretary Sarah Sanders posted a parody March madness bracket intended to mock reporters and pundits who had covered the Russia probe.  They promise that all these recrimination are based merely on a summary of Mueller`s report by the Attorney General, not the report itself.

NBC News is, today, reporting it will take weeks, not months, for the Attorney General to make a version of the Special Counsel`s report public.

I am joined right now by U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings who sits in the House Judiciary Committee, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS News Hour and he`s the Former Deputy of National Security Adviser -- well, actually, Ben Rhodes is the Former Deputy National Security Adviser under President Obama.  Everybody can`t do everything.

I want to go to Congresswoman.  First of all, I just want to a little plea here.  If the President was so damned innocent, why does it take two years to get cleared on collusion?  Two years by a man he honors now, Robert Mueller, digging in and digging in and looking at all this [INAUDIBLE], and finally, after two years, he`s able to clear him on collusion and still says I can`t exonerate him on obstruction.

And he says it was a waste of time.  It was the opposite of a ways of time.  It was a thorough going investigation we had to have in this country.  We had it because we are vigilant of our democracy.  We did it, turned out on one case to be exonerating, perhaps, and in another case definitely not exonerating.  My thoughts -- that`s my thought.  Yours, Congresswoman, what do you take of the vengeance campaign of this President?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), F.L.:  Well, Chris, it`s good to be on your show.  And, look, you know, we live in a nation of laws.  There`s a rule of law, there`s a thing called the constitution, there is the Department of Justice.  And, look, the Department of Justice did their job.  The Special Counsel was appointed.  The President has said, all along, it was a witch hunt.  Well, you know, if it was, this witch hunt yielded 37 indictments, six people around the President pleading guilty.  They either pleaded guilty, been indicted or going to jail and a dozen other cases that have been farmed out to other jurisdictions.

Look, the Special Counsel has spoken.  Certainly, he says that the coordinating or conspiracy part did not rise to the level that he needed to consider moving forward on that.  But as you have already established, he left the door open on the obstruction of justice.  And I believe that without having seen the full report, we certainly need to see that, but I believe that the Special Counsel was sending a message really that he would appreciate Congress actually making the decision on the obstruction of justice.  So there`s a lot to be seen.  But the President needs to respect the rule of law, the constitution and the investigatory process.

MATTHEWS:  Let me get Ben on this.  Ben, you`ve been in politics, you`ve been in high level positions.  It just seems strange that instead of saying doing a little bit of victory lap or at least the exoneration so far on the collusion part is sweating out the rest of it is, he`s decided to go on offense.  And he really wants to have certain members of Congress removed from Congress, others removed from their committees.  What do you make of his vengeance strategy?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR:  Well, Chris, I mean, this is consistently his play to try to rally his base, fire people up.  The fact of the matter is if you felt so good about what`s in this report, then why won`t he let the report be released?  He is President, he can declassify anything he wants.

So the first thing is, I`m not, for one, willing to just accept the four- page memo of an Attorney General who auditioned for the job by writing a memo to Trump, saying that the Mueller investigation was discredited.  Let`s see this full report, first of all.  Then for the President`s proclivity to attack his enemies with no basis.

I mean, Chris, in the clip you played, accusing the Obama administration of all kinds of things with no specifics.  So this a man who criticized a very thorough investigation as a witch hunt, then standing there with absolutely nothing to back it up, accusing his predecessor of high crimes and misdemeanors with absolutely no supporting evidence.

The fact of the matter is Barack Obama in eight years, there were zero indictments in our administration.  This Special Counsel administration yielded many indictments of people around Trump.  Frankly, his lawyer was caught up committing a crime that Trump directed him to commit.  So Trump doesn`t want to talk about that.  He wants to talk about the people that he wants his supporters to attack, and that`s not a way to lead this country.

MATTHEWS:  Well, and suggests, as you said, the Obama administration was to catalyst for the Russian probe itself.  Obama, did it.  The President contradicts his earlier claim that the FBI`s investigation started with Christopher Steele`s dossier.  He spent months saying it`s all about the dossier.  What turns out that neither claim is accurate, they`re both basis, it wasn`t the dossier and it wasn`t Obama.  It`s the New York Times revealed two, four years ago.  The FBI first opened the Russia probe because Trump Adviser, George Papadopoulos, bragged to an Australian diplomat that he had got political dirt on Hillary Clinton, Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWS HOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  What`s remarkable here--

MATTHEWS:  Why is he coming up with more and more people to hate and more and more reasons why he was investigate if he`s clean?

ALCINDOR:  At the core of President Trump is someone who wants to fight back, punch the guy, punch the opponent and really overdo it in some ways, the reaction.  Here is someone who went to the Senate today, talked to republicans and said that Mueller report was BS.  And I talked to Lindsey Graham today.  He told me that the President was bouncing around like someone who had been reelected.  He said it was like a mini election for him.  Those were his words.

I think when you think about the dossier and the fact that the President isn`t even acknowledging that Lindsey Graham said yesterday that he saw the dossier and that John McCain came to him and said, what do I do with this thing, and he said, turn it over to the authorities, and that`s what happened.  That`s not at all part of this discussion.  And it`s because President Trump just sees this as an opportunity to make this a campaign issue.  And as a result, he`s doing his victory lap and also going on the defensive.

MATTHEWS:  I want to go back to, Ben, on the one thought, because it seems to me there is some sort of cleverness behind what Trump`s up to here and perhaps with the help of Bill Barr, the man he put in as Attorney General.  Remember how W claimed the presidency in 2000 real quick said, I won, Gore lost, and he created that sort of reality for a while, someone we went to the recount and always seemed like somehow Gore was the poor loser, even though I think he was being the honest guy there, accepting the results of the numbers.

And so what Trump be up to here of saying, I won, I`m exonerated, these other guys are the bad guys, they`re the felons basically, not me.  And know, eventually, we finally do see the Mueller report a month from now, two months from now, they`ve all already won the PR battle.  Is that what - - because, otherwise, it doesn`t make sense, because if they`re going to be completely shattered by the results to the Mueller report when it does come out, why are they lying now, if they`re lying?

RHODES:  No. Chris, I think you`re 100 percent right.  And if you watch the last few months felt very orchestrated.  You know, right after the midterm elections, he fires Jeff Sessions.  He puts in place Barr, again, a man who`d written memo saying that the Mueller investigation was not credible.  Then they knew that they had in Bob Mueller somebody who unlike James Comey -- remember when James Comey decided not to charge Hillary Clinton, he went out and give a press conference and talked about all the concerns.  They knew that Bob Mueller played straight and he`s silent, and that Bob Mueller was just going to file this report and not say anything.  And they knew that Congress wasn`t going to see that report right away because they knew it was going to go first to the Attorney General`s Office.

So what they understood is that they would have this window to shape public perceptions on what happen.  So Barr gets this report, nobody else has to seen it.  Barr gets to interpret this report to Congress in this four-page memo.  Trump is out with a vengeance declaring victory, even though Trump himself, if the reports are right, the White House hasn`t even seen this report.  So Trump is out saying it fully exonerates him.  And what happens?  He has one part of the media that is immediately going to rally to his side.  You know, his right-wing media has his back.

Then, all anybody else has is this letter from Barr essentially saying that the report validates Trump`s version of events even though we have this much bigger caveat from Bob Mueller saying that on the question of obstruction of justice, he is expressly not exonerating Trump, right?  And if the obstruction of justice reveal --

MATTHEWS:  I`m with you.  Well, you`re with me.  We`re together on this.  Let me go to the Congresswoman, because this about the line of politics as timing is everything, the timing of this, so that he gets to shape the opinion.  The President himself gets to shape the opinion about the verdict on him.  He gets to do it thanks to Bill Barr, the man he put in there to help him do it perhaps.  And now, months from now we`re told today, we might get the full report.  By then, everything is jelled and Trump has won the argument.  What do you think of that, Congresswoman?

DEMINGS:  Well, we know that William Barr was auditioning for the job when he wrote his 19-page report basically saying the President could not obstruct justice.  But, you know, if the President has full faith and credit now in the Mueller investigation and the Mueller report, the Mueller investigation also clearly shows that Russia deliberately and intentionally interfered with our election.

So maybe the President, while we`re waiting for the report to be release, he can spend his time holding Vladimir Putin accountable and making sure that Vladimir -- that Russia is not able to interfere in our 2020 election.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be smart presidency.

ALCINDOR:  I would just add this.  I wrote a story about two years ago about people that grew up in authoritarian regimes seeing echoes of that in President Trump.  He likes these figures, like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong- un.  In some ways, they are the people that say if they lost an election, or even if they won an election, I am going to jail my opponent, I am going to make sure that these people pay.  That`s the difference usually between America and third-world countries and other places.  And as a result, we see that part of President Trump`s personality coming out after the Mueller report.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  And so if I -- if I lose, it was rigged.  If I win, you go to jail.

ALCINDOR:  That is the deal.

MATTHEWS:  That`s in deal in crazy countries.  Anyway, we thought we weren`t a crazy country until recently.  Anyway, while Trump`s allies embrace the results of the Mueller probe, they`re still attacking the investigation itself, saying it should have never happened.  Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP`S SON:  This was the greatest farce ever perpetrated on our democracy.  It`s a disgrace and it`s a stain on our constitution.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW:  This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the deep state, for people who abuse power and they did it so blatantly in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did should scare everybody.  Did the investigators, did the prosecutors use the law for political purposes?  If that turns out to be true, that is bigger than Watergate.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Ben on this, because you`ve handle public relations as part of national security concerns.  And, again, back to you, what is their plan here if it comes out in a couple of weeks, if it takes longer?  I`d like they`d come out next week.  But I think there will be pressure on Mueller to do so.  But what is this gnashing of teeth about?  What is this attempt?

They`re not going to get rid of Adam Schiff.  He`s going to still be Chairman of intelligence.  They`re not getting them out of Congress out of the committee job.  They`re not going to get people persona non grata on television.  I think people like John Brennan have admitted, they overreached in what they said before about the President`s potential collusion with the Russians.  I think it`s very honest thing by him.  Others will do the same.  But this was an honest investigation.

And I think people should be proud we have these kinds of investigations by somebody as good as Mueller who even the President praises.  But what`s this trashing going to accomplish, Ben?

RHODES:  I`ll tell you exactly what, Chris.  And, first of all, let`s not forget that this investigation has discovered a lot of criminal activity.  What`s going to happen now, the republicans, they know the democrats have control of the House.  There are going to be investigations that do reveal corruption, that do reveal all kinds of misdeeds probably by this administration.

The Mueller report will ultimately get out and there will be very damaging information for the President.  They are preemptively trying now to discredit anything that democrats do or any future discovery of things that Trump has done.  They want to take this moment and use it for maximum purchases, right, so that Trump is the aggrieved party, there is a deep state, there is a witch hunt they are trying to color in their supporter`s minds whatever happens in the future.

This is clearly the PR strategy.  They know there is going to be more damaging information, they`re trying to get ahead of that and make this just a he said, she said thing and that Trump`s opponents, they`re saying, because of this last couple of days and because of Barr`s memo, they are using that to say that whatever happens from now on is just an extension of this deep state exercise and it`s a classic muddy the waters kind of strategy.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think so.  Well I think the politics of resentment, which the President is a champion of resentment needs more and more reasons for aggrievement.  Thank you so much.  U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings and Yamiche Alcindor, as always, Yamiche, and thank you, Congresswoman, so much for tonight.  Ben is going to stick with us for the segment.

Coming up, the President`s hostility to intelligence and those who gathered, including the top guy, did not begin with the Mueller report or the dossier.  He`s got a problem with people to know what`s going on.  And even now, the President speaks of his top intelligence official in the U.S. government with contempt that -- well, his nickname for the guy Mr. Rogers, Mr. soft guy from the neighborhood.

Anyway, what`s driving this tension between Trump and the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats?  And who wants to manage to keep these people from killing each other, at least one firing the other or one quitting?

And later, as I promise, Arnold Schwarzenegger comes on with HARDBALL to talk about what he calls the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), C.A.:  Congress now has a below 20 percent approval rating but 98 percent of them get reelected.  So this is crazy.  So the system is wrong.  And I think what Ronald Reagan said in the 80`s that it`s anti-democratic and it`s un-American.  That`s exactly what it is.  And it`s a national scandal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  A scandal.  I spoke to the former California Governor about his fight against gerrymandering as the Supreme Court takes up that controversial issue.

And I also asked him about President Trump`s relentless attacks on Schwarzenegger`s friend, the late Senator, John McCain.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others.  They said they think it`s Russia.  I have President Putin.  He just said it`s not Russia.

I will say this:  I don`t see any reason why it would be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump in Helsinki siding with Vladimir Putin over his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, on the question of whether Russian meddled in the 2016 election or not. 

While Robert Mueller`s investigation concluded the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russian government during the campaign, but, according to Attorney General Bill Barr, it did outline the ways Russia did interfere. 

Got it, Mr. President?

Still, President Trump`s refusal to condemn Russian efforts is just one area where he`s at odds with his DNI, his director of national intelligence.

And now NBC News has learned that Vice President Mike Pence talked Coats out of resigning at the end of last year over examples like this, these baby -- these beauties.  Trump pushed Coats to find evidence that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him.  He demanded Coats publicly criticize the U.S. intelligence community as biased.  And he accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information. 

It adds that Mike Pence has also stepped in whenever Trump is souring on Coats, who he privately calls Mr. Rogers.

I`m back with Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama. 

And joining me now is Courtney Kube, NBC`s national security reporter, who got this story. 

This is so sad. 

COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The president is so determined to kiss up to Putin that, in front of his DNI, the director of national -- his G2, the number one person that tells him what`s going on in the world, he trashes him make Putin like him an inch more that day. 

KUBE:  Yes. 

And, remember, there have been -- look, President Trump, when he was candidate Trump, had a bad relationship with the intelligence community.  This is nothing new.  But he -- it`s continued.

And even until weeks after this, what rMD-BO_Carol Lee and I write about in the story about when Dan Coats almost resigned in December, and Vice President Mike Pence pulled him back from the ledge, only a few weeks later, at the worldwide threat assessment testimony, when Dan Coats talked about how Iran is basically within the realm of the JCPOA still, about how North Korea has no real interest in denuclearizing, things that were really contrary to what President Trump believes, within hours, he was on Twitter trashing the I.C., the intelligence community, once again. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you a have theory about this, Ben?

Because it seems to me that he`s got a real problem with intelligence, uppercase I or lowercase I.  He doesn`t seem to like people who have the facts. 

RHODES:  Yes, Chris. 

I mean, the common thread here is, whether it`s the media or the intelligence community or the Justice Department, he has an aversion to facts, if those facts are not consistent with the current narrative that he`s pressing. 

And the problem with that is that, in a democracy, you need facts as the basis for compromise and legislation, certainly for foreign policy.  I was in the presidential daily briefing every single day with the director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper.

He would come in.  He would tell us the facts.  And I can tell you something, Chris.  Every single day, there was something that we didn`t want to hear.  There was something going wrong in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RHODES:  There was something we were trying to do that wasn`t working out. 

But Jim Clapper`s job was to come in, tell it to us straight, and walk out the door.  And that`s what President Obama expected from him.  And if you don`t make your decisions based on facts, you`re going to have failures, like what happened with North Korea.

Coats said they didn`t want to denuclearize.  Trump goes to Hanoi.  The summit collapses.  Well, maybe he should have listened to his intelligence community. 

MATTHEWS:  Another "Godfather" reference pops into my head.  Tom Hagen, the consigliere, said, my boss insists on getting bad news immediately. 

All smart people want bad news immediately. 

The tension between the president and Director Coats has occasionally played out in public.  Last July, for example, Coats reacted to news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to Washington during a live interview with my colleague Andrea Mitchell. 

Let`s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  We have some breaking news.  The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall. 

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  Say that again?

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  You -- Vladimir Putin coming to the...

COATS:  Did I hear you?  Did I hear you? 

MITCHELL:  Yes.  Yes. 

COATS:  OK. 

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

COATS:  That`s going to be special. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s one thing for Andrew Mitchell to chuckle at that because of the surprise nature, the way it was announced, on Twitter. 

KUBE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But there you have the president`s G2, his number -- intelligence guy, showing more than chuckle-worthy over it.  He looks like, oh, my God, here he goes again. 

KUBE:  I was in the room for that. 

And I remember it was -- everyone was amazed.  And I will be honest with you.  Afterwards, the conversation was, how much longer is Dan Coats going to last in this administration?

Because the perception was, he was making fun of the president.  Of course, afterwards, he apologized directly to the president.  He put out a statement saying he wasn`t trying to be in any way dismissive. 

But I want to go back to something that Ben was saying.

MATTHEWS:  But all these guys and women, I suppose, too, around the president all seem to laugh at him, not with him, at him. 

(LAUGHTER)

KUBE:  Yes.  Well, I don`t know. 

But, I mean, I want to go back to something that Ben said, because he laid out two of the things, the fundamental differences with how President Trump is such a different consumer of intelligence, based on his experiences with President Obama.

President Trump, he wants certainty with what he`s told in intelligence.  And, as Ben knows well, intelligence rarely deals in certainty.  They often deal in degrees of confidence, which are not always high in the intelligence world. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KUBE:  The second thing is, President Trump -- the way it`s been explained to us from intelligence officials who have briefed him is, he just doesn`t have a large attention span.  He doesn`t want to listen for a long period of time.  And he doesn`t want to hear all the details. 

So that -- Ben is the person -- perfect person who can explain how different he is as a consumer of intelligence from what we have seen in previous presidents.

MATTHEWS:  Are you listening, voters?  We have a president who isn`t interested in hearing the facts.

Anyway, the relationship between Dan Coats and Trump has been strained from the start.  NBC News reports that, according to current and former senior administration officials, Coats found it particularly hard to hide his exasperation with Trump`s insistence in the weeks after taking office that Obama had wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign. 

Over and over again, Trump raised the issue, and over and over, Coats told him he wasn`t wiretapped, officials said.  But the president didn`t want to hear it.  It was a recurring thing, and began early on.  A senior administration official said -- who observed the exchanges said: "You could tell the Coats thought the president was crazy."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry.  I`m not used to this.

Ben, we both worked in really sober-minded political worlds.  When you have the director of national intelligence thinking the president is crazy, sounds like, I don`t know, "Seven Days in May" or something. 

Your thoughts? 

RHODES:  Yes.

Well -- well, what`s so disturbing about this is that Barack Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower.  Barack Obama does not issue orders.  The U.S. president doesn`t issue orders to have wiretaps. 

So, clearly, if Trump is asking him to go find out that this was true, Coats says no.  And Trump doesn`t like the answer.

The underlying problem -- you can laugh at it, but the underlying problem is, in a democracy, like, that should be the end of the discussion.  And what was just so disturbing in that very good report is that he kept coming back to it and kept saying, no, you have to come back and tell me that this was true. 

And when they said, no, it`s not true, he wouldn`t take that for an answer.  Well, in a democracy, if something is not true, the president can`t just order his intelligence community to make it true.  And that`s what should be so concerning here. 

This is such an undemocratic way of approaching the multibillion-dollar enterprise that is the U.S. intelligence community.  In addition to just cutting him out, in the clip of Russia, the common thread between Russia and Syria is that we would never announce a major decision, like inviting the Russian president for a summit or pulling troops out of Syria, without a process that included the intelligence community. 

So the fact that he was cut out of something of that consequence to national security, that too should be alarming to people. 

MATTHEWS:  And it fits so neatly with a president who would demand personal loyalty from an FBI director and fire him when he wouldn`t give it, a man who would get rid of his attorney general, a guy doing everything with -- the president`s involved with in possible obstruction of justice -- I think it was obstruction on justice.

Fits neatly with this kind of crazy attitude towards national intelligence and Dan Coats.

Thank you so much.  Great reporting tonight, Ben Rhodes.  Great analysis. 

Courtney Kube, great reporting.  We`re living off of you. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This is your work.

Up next:  President Trump is pushing to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, according to -- protections for preexisting conditions, including those, despite Obamacare`s steadily increasing popularity in the country. 

It is popular, like Medicare is popular.  And the president`s going against reality here.

More on that in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Five months ago, President Trump promised that Republicans would protect preexisting conditions, while accusing Democrats of wanting to eviscerate health care.  Let`s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Republicans will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.  Please remember that.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP:  Republicans will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.  We`re doing it. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP:  The Democrats like to spread false rumors.  They`re the ones that won`t be able to, because there will be nothing left when your system is obliterated. 

Republicans will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.  I wish people would get that into their heads. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, late last night, the Department of Justice made a move to do just the opposite. 

According to a one-page court brief, the DOJ is backing a recent court decision that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act.  If President Trump and his Department of Justice get their way, 52 million Americans with preexisting conditions could be denied coverage. 

In fact, more than eight years after the ACA was enacted, the law is so deeply embedded in our system in this country, that a reversal would have far-reaching consequences that would affect millions more. 

Democrats, who took control the House on the promise to protect the Obamacare, pounced.  Here they go. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The GOP will never stop trying to destroy the affordable health care of America`s families. 

This House, with a Democratic majority, we`re here to strengthen those protections and to lower health care costs further, because this House, this Democratic House is for the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the administration`s court filing came just hours before Democrats rolled out a new plan, as the speaker just said, to strengthen the ACA.

Their plan would expand federal insurance subsidies and reverse some of the damage done by Trump administration policies. 

For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island.

David, thank you so much, Congressman.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  My pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  And I -- one thing I could never understand is why the Democrats didn`t expose Trump.

When he says, I`m going to keep protections for people with preexisting conditions, like diabetes, how can he say he`s going to protect anybody, when he doesn`t have a health care plan, and he wants to get rid of the only one we have, which is Obamacare?

CICILLINE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It doesn`t make any...

CICILLINE:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I`m going to save the tail on the cow, but I`m getting rid of cow.

What are you talking about?  It doesn`t make any sense. 

CICILLINE:  Yes.

No, I mean, the president tweeted, the Republican Party is going to be the -- is the party of health care.  And it`s ironic. 

On -- at the very same time the president has directed his Department of Justice to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, to get rid of coverage for preexisting conditions, 20 million people will lose their health insurance, more than 50 million Americans will lose coverage for preexisting conditions, and at the very same time he does that, Democrats, we introduced today legislation to fortify the Affordable Care Act, to protect coverage for preexisting conditions, to expand the tax credits, to lower the costs. 

So there`s a real contrast between Democrats that are fighting to drive down health care costs, protect coverage for preexisting conditions.

And the president, though he says he`s doing the opposite, is in fact take -- trying to take away coverage, trying to end the ACA, and rip away coverage from 20 million Americans.

MATTHEWS:  I was struck by the emotion of President Obama just recently, in the last several hours really, when he talked to freshman Democrats, and he talked about how, you got to fight for what you`re willing to lose your seat over. 

In other words, you got to put all your bets, you put everything you have got, your entire career in politics, on one thing.  Pick the one you care most about.  He said, in my case, it`s health care. 

That`s how important it was to Obama. 

CICILLINE:  Yes.

And we all hear stories from our constituents, people -- parents who used to lie awake at night praying that their child would not get sick, because they didn`t have health insurance because they were born with a preexisting condition, or people terrified that they would lose their job and be out of work because they got an illness and couldn`t get the kind of care they needed. 

People`s lives were transformed when they have access to quality, affordable health care.  This is a right, not a privilege for the few.  Democrats have made that a centerpiece of our work.  We`re here to fight to protect it. 

And President Obama is right.  It`s made such a difference in the lives of millions and millions of Americans.  And now the Republicans -- Republicans are back at it, trying to take away health care, trying to take away coverage for preexisting conditions, while the president`s tweeting that he`s for health care. 

It`s just -- it`s horrible.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  But he hates Obama so much, he wants to destroy his legacy.  That`s what I think.  I think it`s...

(CROSSTALK)

CICILLINE:  I mean, that`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Don`t you agree it`s personal with this guy?

CICILLINE:  It`s personal, absolutely.

He -- rather than start off with a big infrastructure plan, he gets into office, the first thing he wants to do is repeal Obamacare, because he can`t bear the fact that President Obama led the effort to ensure that millions of Americans have access to high-quality health insurance.

MATTHEWS:  Weren`t you amazed when you got elected to Congress how bad the roads are even in D.C.?  Aren`t you amazed at what Penn Station looks like in New York even now? 

CICILLINE:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Aren`t you amazed that nothing`s been done, nothing?

CICILLINE:  And Democrats, we ran on an agenda, as the speaker just said, for the people of this country, driving down health care costs, driving down the cost of prescription drugs, a very serious effort to rebuild our country, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that will create 16 million good-paying jobs.

Work is on that already.  The American people want us to deliver on the promises that we made.  And infrastructure is a reality for everyone.  People experience it every day, the quality of our roads, our bridges, our ports, our schools. 

And Democrats will introduce a plan to actually respond to that in a serious way. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don`t know who picked you guys, but you, Cicilline, and Hakeem Jeffries and Cheri Bustos are fantastic.

CICILLINE:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Whoever picked you three guys to talk out for the party...

CICILLINE:  Our colleagues did. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it`s a smart move.  You`re all three great, and the other guys too. 

Anyway, thank you so much, David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

CICILLINE:  Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS:  Coming out:  Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins me to talk about the Supreme Court fight over partisan gerrymandering. 

It`s so undemocratic. 

And he`s got some other strong comments about what this country needs for the future, including what we need as a Democratic candidate for president against Trump. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It`s a political battle with massive ramifications for future elections.  The U.S. Supreme Court had arguments today over political gerrymandering in two states, North Carolina and Maryland, namely who gets to draw the boundaries of congressional districts.  Republicans in North Carolina boasted about creating as many districts as possible that would favor Republicans. 

The consequence, according to "The Associated Press", Republican candidates received 51 percent of the two-party vote compared to Democrats 49 percent statewide.  Yet Republicans want a 9-3 seat advantage over Democrats in the U.S. House.

  In fact, one congressional seat, a Republican seat remains undecided.  So, it`s really 10-3.  Even though the votes are even-steven and voted for both parties. 

And then there`s Maryland, the other case before the court today.  According to NBC News again, Republican voters challenge the redrawing of Maryland`s sixth congressional district in 2011, which allow Democrats to take over seats in the U.S. House that Republican Roscoe Bartlett held for over two decades.  He had been reelected in 2010, by the way, by a 28 percent margin, after the redistricting of 2011, he lost by 21 percent. 

Well, the Democratic governor of Maryland at the time acknowledge the intent, the motive, was to, quote, create a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat, than a Republican. 

Well, a very strong advocate for doing away with political parties and gerrymandering is former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  My interview with him on that and other topics coming up right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor of California, has emerged as a strong advocate for ending partisan gerrymandering.  He spoke today at the National Press Club alongside former Attorney General Eric Holder on the day the Supreme Court heard arguments about two cases of gerrymandering, in North Carolina and Maryland.

And this afternoon, I sat down with the governor to discuss that and other topics. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Governor, I was just at the National Press Club, I caught you talking about how gerrymandering is a scandal and you`re going to terminate it. 

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR:  That`s right.  I`m going to say hasta la vista, baby, to gerrymandering. 

But, I mean, you know, when I was governor, I saw first hand of how gerrymandering is really ruining the whole system.  And it`s not really good for the people.  It`s good for the politicians because they protect their seats.  They elect and pick the voters, rather than the voters picking them, and it`s job security, and all those kinds of things. 

But the problem is they don`t have to get anything done because you can`t get rid of them.  You can`t get them out there.  I mean, look, Congress now has a below 20 percent approval rating, but 98 percent of them reelected.  So, this is crazy.  The system is wrong and I think what Ronald Reagan said in the `80s, is it`s anti-democratic and it`s un-American. 

That`s exactly what it is.  It`s a national scandal. 

MATTHEWS:  What does it do to our ideology in the country, left/right?  Does it shift it, the fact of gerrymandering?

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Well, I think it creates more extremes.  This is I think why today or in the last, you know, two decades, you really didn`t see any kind of motivation amongst the politicians here in Washington to work together because what happens is the way you draw the district lines, the left has to be way to the left, the Democrats, have to be way to the left, the Republicans in order to win in that district because they`re locked in just Republicans have to be way to the right.

So, now, when they come to Washington, way to the right and way to the left, they can`t get together to go and cross the aisle or to meet or to come up with some kind of a compromise, because if they worked, they go back and they get kicked out of their district to get voted out in the next election.  So, that`s the way the system works.  That`s the way the district lines are drawn and that`s why we in California have fixed that. 

And we have created an independent commission.  And that doesn`t look at politics.  It just looks drawing the lines, the district lines in the same way and since then, we have seen great changes.  The approval rating of the legislature has come from 20 percent to 50 percent.  The Democrats have now to address Republican issues.  Republicans have to address Democratic issues, and then much more work together. 

It`s not perfect.  The Democrats will always be Democrats and the Republicans will always be Republicans.  That`s perfectly fine. 

MATTEHWS:  Yes.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  But work together and solve the problems as they come along. 

MATTHEWS:  The Supreme Court got involved in the 2000 presidential election.  They intervened in Florida because they said equal protection.  They were counting different in each district, each county. 

Why don`t they get involved in this?  Are you hopeful that they are going to stop this inequality? 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Well, the day -- the reason why I`m here in Washington was because I want to hear the Supreme Court`s arguments and the different debates about the Maryland case and the North Carolina case. 

Those are two extreme cases because one is, the Democrats get, you know, kind of -- the favor and one, the Republicans.  And in Maryland, it`s one of those crazy things in a way you have, that the Republicans getting 35 percent of the votes but they only 12.5 percent of representation.  So, it`s a fixed system.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWARZENEGGER:  And in North Carolina, think about that, the Democrats have 47 percent of the votes but only get 23 percent of the representation. 

So, this is absolutely crazy.  It`s not -- so, this is the cases the Supreme Court is hearing.  And they, of course, have a dilemma on their hands as always, which is should the court really get involved in something that was meant for politicians to work out? 

And so, this is what -- I saw the day, in kind of reading between the lines is that`s what they`re struggling with.  You know, if we get involved, then don`t all the cases end up at the court, at some local court and then all of the decisions are being made by judges, rather than politicians. 

So, it`s a fair argument.  But I think it`s a way smart enough to help the situation and to really get involved and solve this problem once and for all, because the power auditions like this suggested in the Supreme Court, the opposition that the politician will self heal. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Two hundred years we`ve had gerrymandering and nothing has self healed.

MATTHEWS:  It worked in Pennsylvania, though, where I grew up.  It was -- it used to be 13-5 Republicans, even though the state was pretty even and now it`s 9-9. 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It`s pretty fair. 

Let me ask you about something you`ve expressed your feelings about and you`re gnawing about, and that`s McCain.  John McCain has been villainized by this president.  What`s your feeling about that?

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Well, look, to me, it makes no difference what anybody says about McCain.  I get angry about it no matter who it is because McCain was a very dear friend of mine.  He was a big supporter of mine when I ran for governor and my initiatives, and especially when I was fighting for environmental issues, which he was one of those great Republicans that also thought that there is global warming and we should do something about it and should fight it. 

He was a great war hero.  He was a great senator.  He was just fantastic in every way.  So, anyone that attacks him, I will fire back, you know?  I will not let that go. 

And so, you know, McCain was a -- you know, just a national treasure. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you were too much alone in that?  Not too many people stood up for John McCain within the Republican Party? 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  I was always alone with everything.  It`s nothing different -- 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about -- 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Being an Austrian with this kind of (INAUDIBLE), and I say, I want to be a bodybuilding champion.  I was alone pretty much there, right? 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  Your career was unbelievable.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, about the long-term impact on your party and the country of Donald Trump? 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Well, I don`t look at it that way because I`m so focused on redistricting -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  And I think all evils are created because of gerrymandering.  The reason why, you know, I was voted in as an outsider because of the look of an outsider. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  They did not think about gerrymandering then. 

The reason why Donald Trump gets voted is because they look for an outsider, someone that`s different.  That`s not the status quo.  And Cortez and all those people, the people searching for some answer, who could be different?

But the fact of the matter is that people have to be educated, what you really have to solve, have to tackle is the gerrymandering.  That`s where the evil starts and that`s where it ends. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you`re sticking to the topic and I appreciate that. 

But last question: is there any Democrat you see running for president that you can imagine voting for in 2020?  Anybody good look to you?

SCHWARZENEGGER:  You know, it too early to tell, really, because, I mean, it`s always good to come out of the gate and to be enthusiastic.  But, you know, with our elections, it`s more sustaining power, because unlike Europe which we have six-week election period.  It`s two years. 

MATTHEWS:  So true.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  So, it is like the sustaining power.  How can you sustain this?  How can you be fresh to the audience all the time? 

And if that someone steals your show, how do you raise the money?  How do you communicate well?  How do you stay on top all of the issues going on right now? 

And I think the Democrats have as good a shot as ever because, you know, people look at different ideas.  If they can articulate -- if they can articulate what the future is if they are in control, it`s not going to be when you talk about, you know, changing the voting age.  It`s not going to blow out anyone`s (INAUDIBLE).

They talk about the Electoral College, they should get rid, that`s not going to do it.  I mean, people say, wait a minute, these are a bunch of babies whining here because they lost the election, or something like this. 

No, show leadership.  Here`s the way the country will look, this is what I would do with climate change, this is what I do with job creation.  This is what I would do to get rid of the national debt.  This is what I would do about immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform and paint a picture for the people to get enthusiastic and get excited over. 

So, that`s the way you win elections.  So, you know, there`s so many things still that can change, as you could see the last day in the week, it has changed all now.  With them coming out and saying, you know, Trump did not collude with the Russians. 

So, that changed a lot of the dynamic now with what`s going to happen in 2020.  So, here`s the good shot, if you can place it right, then you guys have a good shot.  Always, who is the one that is the most enthusiastic and paints the best picture of the future.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Governor.

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Thank you very much, absolutely.  Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, my thoughts on what former Governor Schwarzenegger had to say there.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me say quite simply that I admire very much what we just heard from Governor Schwarzenegger, what he had to say about gerrymandering.  It is a scandal.  And as he said so well, voters should pick the politicians, not the other way around. 

  Politicians shouldn`t be out there designing the shape and popular content of their districts just so they can`t get defeated.  So, it`s now up to the Supreme Court to take action.  People shouldn`t be robbed of their representation in Congress by political slight of hand. 

As "The Washington Post" warns every day, democracy dies in darkness. 

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