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Speaker Pelosi pumps breaks on impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 4/22/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Jamal Simmons, Jennifer Palmieri



CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Impeach, now or never. Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. There is breaking news right at this moment. Just minutes ago, House Democrats concluded a conference call about their strategy moving forward in the wake of Robert Mueller's explosive report. To impeach or not to impeach, that is the question for those lawmakers who must now weigh the bulk of the evidence against the risks of impeachment.

If they do impeach, the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to convict the president and remove him from office. But if they don't impeach, Democrats will abdicate a clear constitutional chance to hold this president fully accountable.

And now NBC News is reporting tonight that during tonight's conference call, Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida implored her colleagues to act saying, "I believe we have enough evidence now." Well, Democratic leadership, however, seemed to favor a more cautious approach.

According to "Politico," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues on that call, "We aren't going to go faster, we are going to go as fast as the facts take us." Well this comes after Pelosi acknowledged the division amongst her caucus on impeachment in a letter today arguing that, "the facts can be gained outside the impeachment hearings."

That's an argument. We'll see if it's true. This comes after the Democratic chairmen of three powerful committees, judiciary, oversight, and intelligence expressed similar caution when confronted with the question of impeachment on the Sunday talk shows.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY):  We may get to that. We may not. As I've said before, it is our job to go -- to go through all the evidence.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Do you think this is impeachable?

NADLER:  Yes, I do. I do think that this -- if proven, if proven, which hasn't been proven yet, some of this -- if proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD):  I'm not there yet, but I can foresee that possibly coming. But, again, the fact is that I think we have to do -- be very careful here.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Impeachment is likely to be unsuccessful. Now, it may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless. I think what we are going to have to decide as a caucus is what is the best thing for the country?


MATTHEWS:  Well, despite the damning revelations of Mueller's report centered on obstruction of justice, the president said that he's not concerned about possible impeachment. Here is Trump at the White House Easter Egg Roll today.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Are you worried about impeachment, Mr. President?



MATTHEWS:  Trump also tweeted this morning that, "Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me, so you can't impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes." See what happens when you open him up? You don't go on offense, he does. Not your Republican president.

Well, however, Reuter's poll conducted last Thursday and Friday says that in the wake of the Mueller report, Trump's approval rating has dropped to the lowest of this year. Just 37 percent of Americans now say they approve of his performance as president.

I'm joined now by U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna from California who serves on the House Oversight Committee and was on that Democratic conference call a moment ago. Joyce Vance is a former federal prosecutor. Of course, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times" and Leigh Ann Caldwell covers Congress for NBC News.

Leigh Ann, give us the sense, how did it go with the speaker who said let's not go now on impeachment or with the back benchers, who is winning?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL REPORTER:  That's a good way to put it, Chris. So, there does seem to be a mood shift among House Democrats on this issue of impeachment and also on these investigations since the Mueller report has come out.

I'm told by two sources who were on the call that everyone was very concerned about the status of the country and the way that the president has been acting. And so there is a shift in the appetite for continuing investigations, but we don't yet see any sort of talk of impeachment from the leadership.

And that's where it really matters. The chairman of six important committees went through line by line on what they were investigating and were going to continue to investigate, and they said they were going to use every single tool in their arsenal.

They're going to continue to conduct these investigations, but they did not say that they were going to start impeachment proceedings just yet, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, did the usual people who are back benchers, the young members, many of color who came into the Congress, you know, AOC and the others and Presley, did they make statements today on that conference call for impeachment?

CALDWELL:  Not that I'm aware of. I was told about five or six members did speak up, and there were a couple of members who did say that they supported impeachment. You mentioned Val Demings of Florida. She said that she has been in law enforcement for 27 years and the facts are evidence that impeachment is possible now.

She really urged not waiting, just moving forward on it as we speak. And then there was another member, Representative Huffman of California, and he urged Democratic leadership to talk about the danger of not impeaching.

So he said that the messaging around the Democrats shouldn't be do we impeach or not but make the case to the public that it's more important to impeach than to not impeach, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for the great reporting. I love on-site reporting. Great for you being there and getting the information. Let me bring in Congressman Ro Khanna. You were on that call. How is your reading? Is it going -- has Pelosi got the reins of our caucus in saying not now and she's wielding that power against impeachment. Is she there?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA):  I think she does, but I think her tone has also shifted post the Mueller report. She is now talking about our duty to investigate this. She's talking about the urgency. She's saying let the facts lead where they may and let's have a strong public presentation to the American public.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but what's that?

KHANNA:  Well, look, even during Watergate it took a long time before public opinion changed. And so the question is when you know --

MATTHEWS:  Yes. OK, congressman. You're a politician. I'm watching you.


MATTHEWS:  I will say this. Now or never? Don't tell me some time this summer after they hear from Mueller again and they hear from Barr again and they hear from, oh, Don -- what's his name, McGraw or whatever his name -- McGahn.

KHANNA: Right.

MATTHEWS:  Do you don't think that's going to change what you don't want to do now? You don't want to dive in the pool.

KHANNA:  I think Mueller's testimony and having people see that could make a difference.

MATTHEWS:  Could? Do you think it's probable or plausible?

KHANNA:  Look, we just got the Mueller report a week ago.

MATTHEWS:  You're nice to come in, but I think the whole caucus decided not to impeach because if you're not going to do it now, you're not going to do it in three months or six months. You know, the redacted little information is going to change you from nothing to impeach the guy?

KHANNA:  I do think it's important for the committees to do their work and finish (ph) some reports.

MATTHEWS:  That's good. That Reuter's poll by the way taken after the release of the Mueller report also finds these are interesting numbers to take home with you tonight. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats, regular people, say he should be impeached. Two-thirds, 75 percent of Democrats -- this is coming after the Mueller release, quit, you're not worthy to be president.

So that's the backdrop I'm looking at. Let me go to Peter Baker on this. That is, of course, the people out there, just the people, but for some reason the political people don't want to go respond to that. Your thoughts, Peter?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, of course, look, your poll says that -- the poll you just cited says that two- thirds of Democrats think he ought to be impeached, but you need two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to impeach. That means you need 20 Republican senators.

And now it's been four, five days since the Mueller report came out and you haven't heard one Republican suggest they are anywhere close to the idea of supporting impeachment. So, for Speaker Pelosi, she's looking at this from a practical point of view.

Do you go forward with something that doesn't seem to have much chance of success, simply on the idea that they ought to do it because of the matter of principle and risk whatever political backlash there might be?

Or do you let this be settled at the ballot box and try to beat him on, you know, on issues like health care and other questions? That's the argument you're hearing take place among the Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Peter, I'm not happy with the idea of partisan cheerleader because if you're right, the politics do say probably the smartest, safest move, like all those Democrats who voted for the Iraq war, that was the smart move.

I'm so sick of the smart move because inevitably, the smart move like in "The Godfather" gets you killed, because the cleverness of being against impeachment. Here's a question (inaudible), you can impeach with just a majority of the house. You can indict this guy for history.

And let me get back to that Peter, as a journalist, you write the big story. Well, if you were Trump, would you like to be impeached? Would you really rather be impeached than not or in the end is he just playing a game here? He knows it looks like hell in the history book to be impeached.

I don't think Bill Clinton likes the fact that by the second or third paragraph in his obit he's going to see impeached along with Andrew Johnson. Nobody likes being smacked by history that way. And so Trump says oh, come at me -- come at me. But I think the Democrats would be smart to impeach him.

Let the Republicans defend this kind of behavior. I don't know. That's an argument. Let me go to Joyce Vance here. Joyce, high crimes and misdemeanors is about as clear a phrase as Robert Mueller's I'm not going to exonerate on obstruction of justice.

It seems like not only the Special Counsel but the founding fathers left us with an uncertain trumpet. What the hell does high crimes and misdemeanors mean?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It means whatever Congress wants it to mean, Chris. And so you make this really good point, which is that impeachment is about the same thing as indictment. Mueller does an investigation and decides whether to indict or not, but he's looking at very limited topics.

He's only looking at whether there was a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government and whether there was obstruction. Congress has a much wider scope here.


VANCE:  They can decide that just about any element of conduct is a high crime and misdemeanor. So lots of investigation, lots of opportunity to get people on board for a shared set of facts that can be used for decision- making.

MATTHEWS:  Well, while the Special Counsel Robert Mueller outlined a strong case that the president obstructed justice in his report, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is today calling on Democrats to move on.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  I think it's time to move on. This investigation was about collusion. There was no collusion. No charges brought against the president on anything else. I think the speaker has actually been discouraging talk of impeachment, but that's really up to the House. If they want to do that, they can. I think the American people would like to move on from this.


MATTHEWS:  Well, now let's listen to McConnell, the same McConnell during the impeachment talks about former President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. "I am completely and utterly perplexed by those who argue that perjury and obstruction of justice are not high crimes and misdemeanors."

Congressman, I want to ask you what I asked somebody the other night. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, two candidates for president. If they switched position and Hillary won the election in the Electoral College and it turned out the Russians helped her. It turns out that she played footsie with Republicans -- with the Russians.

That her people were meeting with them all the time. Their kid, Chelsea, was up there meeting in New York in some tower up there talking to the Russians. That all these people like Manafort, all her people were talking to the Russians.

And it turns out that she tried to stop the investigation by firing the FBI director and then tried to fire the Special Counsel. Do you doubt in a million years that the Republicans wouldn't have her burning at the stake right now? They would have her out of office so fast and yet the Democrats do not know how to play hard ball. Republicans see their opportunity and they take them.

KHANNA:  No doubt the Republicans would impeach here and that --

MATTHEWS:  They would have gotten her out of here by now.

KHANNA:  But here's the thing --

MATTHEWS:  No, really. You really think she would be able to survive in office?

KHANNA:  No, I don't.

MATTHEWS:  Well then why don't you guys play as tough as Republicans?

KHANNA:  Because we care about the country. Because there is a --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it's good to have Trump in the White House?

KHANNA:  I think it's a tough, tough decision, and here's why. There is no doubt that he broke the law in Mueller's report. There is no doubt that he was trying to get Jeff Sessions not to be part of the investigation. He's telling his own White House counsel to try to fire Mueller. I mean --

MATTHEWS:  It's all in public -- in broad daylight he did this.

KHANNA:  It's appalling, the behavior.

MATTHEWS:  And therefore.

KHANNA:  And I get the sense of setting a bad precedent. We get it. We have to speak out. We have to make this case. The other side of this is we have to look at how polarized this country is, how deeply divided the nation is, what's going to bring us together and what's going to help to have a positive agenda. And I think this is genuinely weighing on Nancy Pelosi. I'll tell you this, Chris --

MATTHEWS:  Maybe Nancy Pelosi's job is to get re-elected as speaker, get the House Democrat again next year. Maybe that's a different question --

KHANNA:  I don't think that because --

MATTHEWS:  -- with the presidential re-election of Donald Trump. Maybe that's a different question.

KHANNA:  Someone on the call, and I'll share this -- someone on the call said what are the poll numbers? Is impeachment good or is it not good? And Nancy Pelosi cut him off and Nancy Pelosi said, look, this is not going to be a political decision. We've been called by history. This is a duty we need to make the case.

MATTHEWS:  She is going to go for impeachment?

KHANNA:  She's going to make the case to the American public and see where it is. But here's the thing, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Back to my question, congressman. Do you honestly can argue me sitting here live that if they don't do it now, which is April, they're going to do it in the summer some time? When are they going to act if all these hearings, are they then move for impeachment?

KHANNA:  I think if there is a compelling case that is made and if more and more --

MATTHEWS:  You don't think it's been made?

KHANNA:  I think what Congress --

MATTHEWS:  I heard you make it a few minutes ago.

KHANNA:  Well, Congress has to make it and Congress has to make it to the American public. But here's what I'll tell you --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Congress -- do you think, I don't want to play this tough. You're a good guy. I just want to tell you --

KHANNA:  No, no, no. I respect it.

MATTHEWS:  I know how these hearings -- look how these hearings work. So you get Barr up there and he gives you nothing. Barr's a smart customer. He's going to give you nothing. Barr will give you nothing. Then you're going to get Mueller up there who is going to repeat what he said.

It took him two years to write his report. He's not going to say something different. He's going to say I cannot exonerate him and you go, what the hell does that mean? He'll say I cannot exonerate him five times.

And then what do you got? You'll get something from McGahn because McGahn is actually on the record in the report, but you're not getting anything new. He said look -- he said, you know, fire these guys and I said I wouldn't do it, so I'm gone. But we already know that. I just -- what's new, pussycat? After all these hearings, what's going to be more impeachable than what we already got?

KHANNA:  Well, I think, one, the public is going do be more educated. People don't read a 480-page report. They watch T.V. and there is a difference -- and you know this. There was a difference when you have a public hearing and where public sentiment is.

I will say this about Nancy Pelosi. Look, she's in her late 70s. She's been speaker of the House twice. You don't think she's looking at how history is going to judge her? She's not looking at this in the midterms. It's a deeply difficult issue for the country and we need -- we should get --

MATTHEWS:  She's playing a smart political move.

KHANNA:  I don't think it is politics. I think it's a question of her obligation to make sure --

MATTHEWS:  OK. I'm not knocking politics. That is what it is. So anyway, despite Trump's insistence yesterday that I have never been happier or more content, new reporting indicates he's more bitter than his tweets suggests.

According to "The New York Times" the president stewed about the Mueller report in Florida on Friday, dismissing the findings and making clear he was keeping track of who in his orbit had participated in the investigation. How does that look, Peter, looking around for the rats, as he would say?

BAKER:  The problem is that he's trying to count who in his circle participated in the investigation. He has to count almost everybody basically, you know. Both of his White House chiefs of staff, his White House counsel, his campaign managers. His own, you know lawyers.

I mean, it's hard to find too many people who were close to President Trump who were not interviewed at some point by the investigators. Many of them gave over notes. They gave over e-mails. Some of them might not have had a choice because of subpoenas, but, you know, he had access to basically all that they had to give.

So, the president is looking around for scapegoats. He's going to find a lot of possible targets. But the one right now at the top of his list seems to be Don McGahn, his former White House counsel, who told some stories that were pretty damning of the president in terms of his desire to try to thwart that investigation.

MATTHEWS:  Well said. Joyce -- I don't know where Vince came from -- Joyce, thank you. I have to ask you the money question. Attorneys operating in Washington or in New York City or anywhere else, who is going to get paid more by the hour, McGahn who tells the truth or Mr. Barr who is an excellent attorney for the president? Who do you want defending you, the honest guy or the somewhat creepy guy who looks like he helped, well, fudge the truth?

VANCE:  You know, lawyers are only as good as their reputation, Chris. So lawyers, I think, are well-served where they pay attention to representing their clients, but doing so within ethical bounds and telling the truth.

It's really difficult, I think, to have watched an attorney general, someone who has been in the department before, take the stand at a press conference and lie to the American people and do that knowing that the report he was not telling the truth about would be released a couple of hours later and we would all be able to read it. So it's inexplicable and I don't think that his legacy will be strong as a result of what he's done in the last couple of days.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that's good to believe. I hope I can. Thank you very much, Congressman Ro Khanna of California.

KHANNA:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Peter Baker, sir. Joyce Vance -- not Vince -- thank you so much, and Leigh Ann Caldwell, for that on the spot reporting. Thank you so much. You make it work here.

Coming up, the Republicans' moral compass. Who is the voice of the party right now? Is it Senator Mitt Romney who says he is sickened, that's his word, by the president's dishonesty or is it Rudy Giuliani who says there is nothing wrong with the campaign getting help from the Russians?

Anyway, when the 2020 battle rages on, Mayor Pete is climbing in the polls right now, compares Bernie backers to Trump backers. A lot of people understand that. They want a radical alternative.

Plus, why Joe Biden is suddenly changing his plans for his long-anticipated launch. We thought it was going to be Wednesday in Philly on the rocky steps of the art museum. Apparently that's off. Much more tonight. Stay with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Since the attorney general published actually the redacted version of the Mueller report last week, Republican lawmakers have remained quiet, didn't you notice?  Crickets out there. 

Senator Mitt Romney's one of the few to speak out, saying: "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land" -- here it is -- "including the president."  That's Mitt Romney. 

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is up for reelection in 2020, told Maine Public Radio that the report detailed a president -- quote -- "upset by the special counsel's investigations who tried several times through intermediaries to end it.  And it is an unflattering portrait of the president."

Well, that's softer. 

However, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani defended the actions of the president and his associates on the Sunday talk shows.

Let's watch Rudy. 


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No, no.  There's nothing -- there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians. 

JAKE TAPPER, CNN:  There's nothing wrong with taking information...

GIULIANI:  It depends on where it came from.  It depends on where it came from. 

You're assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution. 

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS":  So it is now OK for political campaigns to work with material stolen by foreign adversaries?

GIULIANI:  Well, it depends on the stolen material. 



MATTHEWS:  Anyway, so who's the voice the Republican Party right now, Romney or Rudy?  Big question.

For more, I'm joined by Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, and Susan Del Percio, Republican strategist. 

Susan, I go back to the most primitive, high school-ish way to ask this.  If it had been Hillary doing the exact same damn stuff, the exact same thing, taking stuff from the Russians, helping the Russians help her, she would have been -- I don't know what they would have done.  They would at least thrown her out of office, maybe worse. 


They would have had hearings upon hearings.  And they would have been moving for impeachment in no time flat. 

It is nice to see that Mitt Romney is saying something.  He's not calling for anything, but he's saying something, as only a man with five years left until reelection can do.  Susan Collins in your intro is probably a little softer because she is afraid of a primary.

And Rudy Giuliani is, frankly, off the edges, rims again, and just being the president's lawyer and a Donald Trump sycophant. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 



MATTHEWS:  Because I want to know who is going to speak for the Republican Party, say, when everybody starts to do their revisionism in five or 10 years, when Trump is gone bye-byes, and they're trying to make themselves look like they were the most responsible people. 


MATTHEWS:  Will it be the sycophants, the panderers, the ones who want jobs and need them, or is it going to be the occasional person who says, you know what, this guy disgusts me?

SIMMONS:  Well, remember when John McCain ran for president.  It was the mantra country first.  Right? 

These people have decided it's Trump first.  It's not country first.  It's Trump first.  And they're willing to sacrifice whatever it takes in the country in order to help Trump. 

And I don't understand what it is that -- what the spell is that he has over them.  But history is not going to look kindly.  Everybody looks back at the Clinton impeachment, but if we remember what really happened during the Clinton impeachment, Democrats all over the place said, what Clinton did was wrong.  Bill Clinton came out in August and said, what I did was wrong. 

When is Donald Trump going to take responsibility for what he did?  And when are the Republicans going to hold him accountable?  That is the thing...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think you're right. 

SIMMONS:  ... that we have to really wonder about.

MATTHEWS:  One thing was similar, though, the move on line.  Move on is a line used by partisans to defend, nowadays. 


SIMMONS:  But that was after the president and the Democrats took responsibility. 

Joe Lieberman went to the floor of the Senate.  He didn't send a tweet out.  And obviously this is before Twitter.  But he went to the floor of the Senate.


MATTHEWS:  You really respect what Lieberman did?  Really? 

SIMMONS:  It doesn't matter.

MATTHEWS:  He was so cute. 

What Lieberman did at the time was attack Bill Clinton on moral grounds, but not on political grounds.  He pulled back.  He was exactly the message Clinton wanted to get. 


MATTHEWS:  Because Bill knew he was guilty morally, so he dealt with that.  But, politically, Lieberman didn't lift a finger. 

SIMMONS:  OK.  Well, then let's do that.  Let's at least do that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, great.  Well, you're right.  A good argument.

The Mueller report laid out in great detail the lengths that President Trump president went to impair -- well, how about obstruct -- the Mueller investigation.  The president's congressional colleagues say it's time to move on. 

But during the Clinton impeachment hearings, they expressed a very different point of view.  Let's watch. 


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC)  You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role, because impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office. 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  I rise today to call attention to a serious and deeply troubling crisis in our country.  This is a crisis of confidence, of credibility and of integrity.  Our nation is indeed at a crossroads.  Will we pursue the search for truth or will we dodge, weave and evade the truth? 


MATTHEWS:  Susan, where did that piety go?


MATTHEWS:  The pious nature of those, especially Lindsey Graham, who had the same haircut then, but he seemed to have a different basis of judgment.  Bill Clinton was no damn good.  He had to be out of the White House. 

And this guy, he doesn't say a word.  He's crickets, crickets. 

DEL PERCIO:  Listen, I can't defend it.  There is nothing to defend. 

This is -- they are -- they show no moral courage.  They show no commitment to their job.  But, at the same time, Chris, what you just heard is what the Democrats should be saying about Donald Trump now. 

They shouldn't worry about politics.  I was on your show a few weeks ago -- or months ago talking about how the Republicans need to stand up and follow the Constitution and vote against the president's national emergency.  The Democrats now have to do what they're constitutionally responsible for and hold this president accountable. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, one of the best novels about courtrooms was "Presumed Innocent."  And the writer says you have to point your finger in the courtroom at the bad guy and say, he did it or she did it.  You got to do it. 

Democrats seem to be pulling back from that.  They don't want to point that finger and say, this president's no damn good. 

SIMMONS:  You know, people are having ...

MATTHEWS:  Not when it comes to impeachment. 

SIMMONS:  People are having these very tortured arguments in the Democratic Party about what to do, what -- the right political thing to do. 

You had Elijah Cummings on in the earlier clip.  But what he said after the clip you showed is, this is our watch.  This is our watch.  And history is going to look back at us and going to have some -- make some determination. 

So I think at some point, the Democrats are going to have to decide this.  You know, I worked for...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Let me get back to my point.  I want to ask the same question. 


MATTHEWS:  If they don't do it now, if they don't begin proceedings now and have a resolution through the House to begin the proceedings on impeachment, will they ever, ever do it? 

SIMMONS:  Well, here's the question. 

Can you start having -- Ro Khanna said this when he was out here, the congressman.  Can you start having hearings where you have people standing and -- sitting in front of Congress with their hand held high and saying what they said to Mueller, but saying it on camera, so Americans are witnessing it, and they're being educated about what happened, not reading a 400-page report, but being educated?

And that moves the ball forward to be able to take it out.  Here's the question Democrats...


MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that?  No, that's an argument.  Do you believe it?

SIMMONS:  I think that it could happen, yes. 


SIMMONS:  Here's the question Democrats have to answer that, because here's the worst alternate history.  What happens if you don't impeach Donald Trump, and he gets reelected? 

That's a very tough moment.  You made a decision not to impeach him, and yet he still gets reelected.  What do you do then?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Susan, about how you treat a bully.  He's going to walk away and say, look, I bullied those people.  They're afraid.  Pelosi is the smart one.  She says not to go after me.  I won.

DEL PERCIO:  Well, Chris, when were in politics, it was good government is good politics.  That's not the case right now.  That's not what the Democrats are doing.  And they should, because if they took this to the -- to impeachment hearings right now, they could have it off their plate by November, December. 

And they would have 11 months to fight the -- on the issues they want to be talking about.  But they need to do it now and get it over with.  This will otherwise be a slow drip.  And they're not going to start impeachment processes in six months, eight months.  It's just not going to happen.  They should do it now. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know your politics.  I believe in that completely.  I think timing is everything.  And now's the time or don't say you're going to do it later.

President Trump was asked if it bothered him that, according to the Mueller report, so many of his aides refused to execute his orders.  Here's what we had to say about that. 


QUESTION:  Are you worried that your staff is ignoring your orders, as the Mueller report portrays? 



MATTHEWS:  Well, that didn't bother -- that bothered him.  He doesn't like the word out that people don't do what he tells them to do. 


SIMMONS:  Of course, he doesn't like that, because, in his mind, it's just like it the Republicans in the Senate.  It's Trump first. 

And if you aren't doing what Trump wants, then he doesn't want you there.  Donald Trump is telling federal officials that it's OK if they break the law, because he will give them pardons.  How is that OK?

MATTHEWS:  I want a little door prize here from Susan, who is great to come on. 

Susan, I got to ask you a little Republican insider thing. 


MATTHEWS:  What are the chances that Trump's going to face a woman on the other ticket?  I think are good.  I think there'll be a woman on the ticket.  I think the Democrats have got someone of color, perhaps, but maybe someone of color is a woman, and they have a lot of options here, at least one big one.  That's, of course, Kamala Harris. 

But if they do that, doesn't Trump have to match them?  Doesn't he have to put a woman on the ticket or risk losing Republican women?  It's a big if, but I think he does have to pick Nikki Haley and dump Mike Pence.  That's my theory.  And he's ruthless enough to do it.  And he will show he knows how to win. 

Put Nikki on that ticket, tough foreign policy, neocon, dynamite politician.  He's got a woman on the ticket as his successor.  And she will be the next president.  Your thoughts? 

DEL PERCIO:  Well, he certainly -- that would be -- I can see that being a wise choice. 

But don't forget Nikki Haley has at times spoken up against Donald Trump.  So that's a big X against her with him.  And, no, he's never going to find a Pence -- another lapdog like Pence. 


DEL PERCIO:  So I think he would rather have that and someone who's just constantly supporting him and telling them how wonderful he is and sitting silently by watching the country fall apart than have someone who's a real leader, because he would -- she would be the comparison everyone would be looking to and be like, what does Nikki Haley think?

And he would hate being upstaged by her.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We will see.  You may be right on the psychology, but I think it would be the dynamite political move, frightening in the suburbs, frightening for the Democrats.

Anyway, thank you. 

I don't why I'm giving advice to Trump.

Anyway, Jamal Simmons, sir.  Thank you, Susan, so much, Susan Del Percio.

SIMMONS:  Thank you. 

DEL PERCIO:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  President Trump tells supporters he would love to face off against Bernie. 

You know, I think he respects Bernie's brains and his political acumen.  But what he reportedly says about Sanders behind the scenes may surprise you.  More of that coming up after this. 

You're watching HARDBALL.  We're back after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The already crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates is getting more crowded this week.  Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce his presidential bid as soon as Wednesday, two days from now 

On Friday, "The Philadelphia Inquirer" reported that Biden was expected to announce Wednesday in Charlottesville, Virginia, before flying to Pennsylvania for rallies in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  I can confirm those plans have changed. 

Well, today, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton announced he's running.  A former Marine, he plans to make national security his top issue. 

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders supporters didn't like something Pete Buttigieg said last Friday, when talking about how he'd address income inequality.  Let's watch. 


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think the sense of anger and disaffection that comes from seeing that the numbers are fine, like unemployment is low, like all that, like you said, GDP is growing, and yet a lot of neighborhoods and families are living like -- like this recovery never even happened.  They're stuck. 

It just kind of turns you against the system in general.  And then you're more likely to want to vote to blow up the system, which could lead you to somebody like Bernie, and it could lead you to somebody like Trump.  I think that's how we got where we are. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Sanders' campaign co-chair, Congressman Ro Khanna, who was here from California, called it intellectually dishonest to compare Bernie to Trump. 

Well, of course, he's a partisan for Bernie. 

But a new report suggests an unexpected source may agree with Buttigieg and has some surprising thoughts about Bernie Sanders. 

That's coming up next. 



MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My point is that people have been motivated to want to blow up the establishment, and, you know, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump represent radically different ways of doing that.  So even though they led different voters in very different directions, I do think it's meaningful that anti-establishment candidates, the more dramatically anti-establishment the better, be it from the left or the right, have been able to get so much support in recent years. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Mayor Pete Buttigieg today doubling down on remarks he made, I believe, drawing parallels between Bernie Sanders' backers and President Trump's backers. 

Publicly, Trump expressed confidence in his chances against Sanders.  A new report actually suggests behind closed doors he's not believing Sanders' political -- he's believing them, according to "The Daily Beast," the president is of two minds.  While he sees the senator as a vulnerable opponent, he also has offered begrudging respect for his political acumen. 

President Trump will sometimes unpromptedly bring up Sanders' own working class support and acknowledge that there is, in fact, potential for the senator to win over Trump supporters with his populist appeal. 

For more, I'm joined by experts Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary for America, and Jason Johnson, politics editor for 

Jennifer, my thoughts -- what are your thoughts?  I find it -- I never know what game Trump's playing.  I never know what any politician is playing.  Sometimes they build people up because they want them as their opponent. 

What do you think? 

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Right.  I think that's right.  Particularly with Trump, you can't be sure because I think unlike other politicians, he plays the game about what might get reflected in the press and how he can use that to his benefit. 

So -- but I can tell you I have my own experience with Senator Sanders as a primary opponent.  He is a very effective candidate in many respects.  You know, he has -- he's very consistent in the message that he delivers.  He believes very, you know, very much to his core what he's saying and he's been saying the same thing for 40 years.


PALMIERI:  He's definitely struck a chord --

MATTHEWS:  I love that.  That's the little shot. 

PALMIERI:  No, it's true. 


MATTHEWS:  It is a true --

PALMIERI:  It's true.  He has -- he has -- I mean, this -- and I think this is why -- maybe this is what Trump respects about him.  This is why you can't throw Bernie Sanders off in a Q&A or in an interview, right?  Because he believes what he believes and he's believed it for a long time and he's not going to change his mind because someone's, you know, trying to get him in a gotcha question.  So he's very focused in that way.

You know, I don't know that everybody likes what he's saying and I don't know that he'll win the Democratic primary, but he is -- I understand the - - that why he is effective and why he has such committed supporters. 

But, you know, for Mayor Buttigieg, it's a lesson not to talk about the motivations of other people's supporters, right?  That is where you get into trouble.  So, it's always a mistake to try to care for -- for another candidate to characterize how another -- one of their opponents' supporters feel about them. 

MATTHEWS:  Jason, your thoughts about this doppelganger between the guy on the left -- I wouldn't even call Trump on the right.  I don't know what he's on.  I wouldn't call it the right.  He's on something. 

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT POLITICS EDITOR:  Well, first off, I'll go to the straight numbers.  Now, depending on whim pollster and political scientist you speak to, there's anywhere from 13 to like 17 percent of Bernie voters who did vote for Trump.  It's not crazy.  And it's not crazy to make comparisons. 

MATTHEWS:  But that's the antipathy speaking from the primary fight in many cases. 

JOHNSON:  It was, but also people who wanted an outsider.  So, look, as much as I think Buttigieg stumbled and he's still doubling down, that's not an entirely crazy thing to look at.  But here's the other issue --

MATTHES:  Look, there were Kennedy people back when I was in politics who are voting for Trump because they're mad at Carter for beating him in the primaries. 

JOHNSON:  Right, but there were Hillary people who ended up voting for John McCain. 


JOHNSON:  But I think those people still exist because they wanted an outsider.

Now, here's the key.  I also think, and this is smart on the part of Mayor Pete's behalf, look, you've got to go for the king.  If he's actually going to sustain himself as a real contending candidate, he can't hide behind Joe Biden, he can't hide and not attack Joe Biden, not attack Bernie Sanders. 

I actually think it is a smart strategy for him.  And, again, he if wants to portray himself as the Midwestern outsider, who's the guy you're going to go after, you got to go after Sanders. 

MATTHEWS:  I think, anyway, new one poll out today, guys, shows why Sanders supporters could be taking on the South Bend mayor.  The University of New Hampshire, Granite State Poll, it's a good poll, I think, showed Sanders leading the pack with 30 because he's in the neighborhood.  With Joe Biden at 18 because everybody knows him.  And Buttigieg with 15 percent. 

Jennifer, it looks like he can -- I'm not saying he's going to beat Bernie up there in New Hampshire, but he might be the out-of-towner that gives him the best fight. 

PALMIERI:  Well, it's also -- you know, it's April.  I mean, it's April.  It's eight to ten months, right, away before anybody starts to vote and I think that, you know, but I disagree about -- what Jason just said about this being a smart thing for Buttigieg. 

Buttigieg didn't go after Bernie, right?  He went after Bernie's supporters.  And that is -- that's not a good move. 

And I think part of what Buttigieg appeal thus far has been -- for people who really pay a lot of attention to politics, like those of us speaking and those of us watching, were interested in the political analysis.  Buttigieg is really good at political analysis.  That's not great for candidates, right? 

Candidates want to be talking to voters, not making good political analysis.  So I think, you know, he's a very talented candidate, but it's yet to be seen how -- if that's going to last and if we're still going to be talking about him in the same way when people start voting next year. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I say one thing that will upset people, because it's true numbers?  The only people who connect with people up in New Hampshire, which is a really political state, Jennifer, as you guys know.  Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Buttigieg, that's it. 


MATTHEWS:  Once you get the cut lines, running in the high teens and up to 20.  Then everybody is down in the slop.  There is nothing there. 

Warren, who's known up there.  She's from Massachusetts, 5 percent.  Kamala, 4.  Cory, 3.  Kirsten Gillibrand, 1. 

Nothing.  Why? 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  Well, look, some of this is just name recognition.  It's just screaming a name recognition.  And here's the thing --

MATTHEWS:  They're on television every night, these people. 

JOHNSON:  Well, they're not on television the way that Buttigieg is on television.  They're not known the way Bernie Sanders is known. 

MATTHEWS:  Kirsten has been on and off a lot.  So, is Cory's been on and off.  I disagree.

JOHNSON:  They're not going to connect the same way.  They're not going to connect the same way with those voters. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We got to go.  Some people are working, some people aren't.  Jennifer knows this business. 

Jennifer, thank you for coming on.  Jennifer Palmieri.  And Jason Johnson. 

Up next, the latest from SRI -- well, Sri Lanka.  Who's SRI?  Sri Lanka, with the death toll has risen to almost 300 people with hundreds more wounded in those horrific Easter Sunday terror attacks on the Catholic Church especially.

Stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A curfew is in effect in Sri Lanka right now following the Easter Sunday attacks that killed at least 290 people and injured at least 500 others.  The coordinated bombings targeted churches, Catholic churches and luxury hotels in three different cities.  And this morning, another bomb exploded in the country's capital.  As a bomb disposal team was trying to defuse it. 

For more, let's go to NBC News chief global affairs correspondent Bill Neely who is in Sri Lanka. 


BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CHIEF GLOBAL CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Chris, from a capital under curfew. 

The Sri Lankan government says it knows who carried out these attacks.  It was seven local men, the suicide bombers, from a Sri Lankan Islamist group who had foreign help.  Now, they say that this couldn't have been carried out, this attack, without foreign funding, planning and expertise, and that does seem to be logical because while this group that they've identified is an Islamist group who has promoted the ISIS ideology for a long time.  It has absolutely no history of terrorist attacks like this.  And remember, this was a sophisticated attack that would have taken months of planning. 

U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News that ISIS may have inspired these attacks but that there is no evidence that ISIS or al Qaeda, no evidence yet anyway, had any direct involvement in these attacks.  So, the question is, who are these foreign terrorist groups who helped the locals?  Why did these attacks take place at this time?  And crucially, Chris, why weren't they stopped? 

Because the government has now admitted that it was warned about the attacks.  A government minister, who is also chief of staff of the president, told me today that they had warnings three weeks ago from two foreign intelligence agencies that a terrorist group was going to use suicide bombers to attack Christian churches and tourist hotels.  Now, he said to me that they passed these warnings on to security agencies. 

I asked why hotels and churches weren't protected.  He said, look, we never protect hotels because they have their own security, and we didn't protect churches because there are just too many churches, he said.  I pointed out that there are only four or five prominent churches here in Colombo.  He said we just weren't expecting attacks on this scale, so big and so soon. 

So the government is apologizing for its intelligence failures, but that really is cold comfort to the relatives of nearly 300 people who died.  We now know that four Americans were among those dead, along with dozens of other foreign nationals. 

Now, the aim of these attacks was clearly not just to kill and maim as many people as possible, but also to destabilize the country, to sow divisions in this country and to wreck one of this country's main industries, the tourist industry.  They get 2 1/2 million visitors a year here, 1 million jobs depend on it.  It's absolutely crucial to Sri Lanka. 

So if you -- if you want to disrupt this country, that's how you do it.  Now, all of that speaks to something beyond simply local guys.  These are the hallmarks of ISIS, and of al Qaeda. 

But so far no group has claimed responsibility.  There is now a state of emergency in this country and it is a city and a country in shock.  And, Chris, I have to tell you, in fear. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Thank you, Bill Neely, from NBC News. 

Up next, it's Earth Day today, 2019, and the president of the United States doesn't act like there is a climate change factor in the world today.  You're watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Well, today is Earth Day, which this year comes a day after Easter and the Monday following the start of Passover. 

And one of the common natures of religion is that all speak to mankind and therefore life on Earth because it's the only place where mankind exists.  Well, given this, you would think we should all take a primary interest in threats to Earth, as it is.  Let's all agree the place for mankind can survive, the only place.

But not Donald Trump.  Trump has a history of denying climate change.  In his Earth Day message today, he does not even mention it or the role scientists say mankind is contributing to it.  He makes no mention of the world suffering what scientists in his own administration point to -- the flooding, the wildfires, the diseases caused by higher temperatures. 

You see, Trump believes that taking action on climate change works against his belief in free markets.  To Trump, caring about climate change is to take the side of college professors against real estate developers like him, to take the side of the elite against the captains of commerce and industry. 

Here he is on "60 Minutes" last fall challenging the near universal scientific judgment that map kind is accelerating climate change. 


LESLEY STAHL, 60 MINUTES:  Yes, but what about the scientists who say it's worse than ever? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump's refusing to say what he believes, of course, knowing that to openly challenge science would make him seem like one of the luddites in "Planet of the Apes."  Instead, he poses absurdly as a leader taken care of our shared human habitat.  Listen to Trump back in 2016 brag about being a very big person on conservation, about all the environmental awards he's won. 


TRUMP:  I know much about climate change.  I've received many environmental awards. 

Do you know that I've won numerous environmental awards?  I'm a believer in the environment. 


MATTHEWS:  You know how many environmental awards Trump has won?  None.  Did you ever think otherwise? 

How many trees in New York Central Park would be left standing if it were up to him?  How much sunlight would there be in that park if Trump's tractors were allowed in? 

Today, Earth Day, Trump said what he had to say about climate change -- he said nothing. 

That's all for HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.