CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Biden`s big hurrah is the HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Joe Biden is in the race for president, saying he can bounce Donald Trump from the White House. And today, the former vice president launched his campaign for the 2020 nomination with a clear message to wavering Democrats, I am the one who can beat President Trump. In his announcement video, Biden drew a clear battle line with the President, invoking the images of the deadly white nationalist rally down in Charlottesville and excoriating the President`s response about they`re being very fine people on both sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.
We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on four years of this President and all he embraces is an abhorrent moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation. Who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: President Trump responded on Tweeter, "Welcome to the race, Sleepy Joe. I can only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty. You will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate." That was sporting.
Biden will take his fight directly to the President, of course, making Pennsylvania a state President Trump narrowly won in 2016, the fulcrum of his campaign launch. The Scranton native will hold his first campaign event on Monday -- this Monday in Pittsburgh in a schedule with a major rally in Philly next month. I think it`s the 18th of next month. His focus on Pennsylvania comes as Politico reports that senior adviser to the President Trump`s reelection bid met in Harrisburg yesterday and concerns over the President`s ability to win the state in 2020.
Biden enters the Democratic race at the top of most national primary polls, today, he was asked what makes him the best choice. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you the best choice for Democrats?
BIDEN: That would be for the Democrats to decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, with the latest Monmouth University poll, he`s leading the pack by seven points over Bernie Sanders with all the other candidates down there in single digits. At a new Morning Consult poll shows the former vice president beating President Trump by eight points if the election were held today.
And for more, I`m joined by former Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in California, Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the "L.A. Times" and Jamie Harrison, DNC associate chair and former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
Thank you all. We have polls, we former polls. We have a real journalist here. So let`s start with the Senator. Joe Biden, the good, the bad and the ugly. What do you put it the other? Give us all that. Give me the full Joe, if you can, Senator.
FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: I know I can because I known him since the `80s. First can I say, I was very touched by his video today. It wasn`t me me or I I or this is what I can do and the only one who can win. And he has an unbelievable personal story that he could tell, but he chose to look at our country and the threats to our country which are typified by that horrible comment that Donald Trump made. You know, stoking division, stoking hate and fear. That`s first of all.
Second of all, I think, with all of his warts and all of his mistakes which we all make because we`re human, you know, he is a good person. And he is willing to step up and say I didn`t do right then. And he has bounced back from terrible personal tragedy in his family, his own health. And he got over it. And he landed on his feet. I`m excited about his candidacy and I think it`s going to really be exciting. I do.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of his implication? A lot of it was vivid imagery of that video which I thought was fabulous, of course, it`s a message sender. I mean he basically compared Charlottesville to Nuremberg to the Hitler rallies. You know, the torch carrying and the neoclassical imagery, the SPQR, you know, the whole. It looked Nazi, especially with the Nazi swastikas there. But the implication he`s seen to be sending, Senator, was I`m the one that could stop this guy. I`m the unique candidate who can beat this guy. What did you think of that, me of him?
BOXER: Well, I honestly think that by using this video and a lot of experts have said, oh, that wasn`t a big deal. I thought it was courageous. I thought it was strong. He talked about the right wing, the far right, the Nazis, the KKK. And it`s important that we have a leader who isn`t afraid to look at that and I think it established him at a different place in this race, frankly. Because everyone else and I love so many, they are my friends and colleagues and they may beat Joe, I don`t know at this point. But everyone else has kind of said here learn about me.
Joe didn`t do that. And he talked about the country. And he talked about the problems we`re facing. And the most important problem we`re facing is this division and the hate and the fear that is stoked by this president. I was touched. I was surprised at the video. I thought it was going to be something about, you know, I can win the working class vote. But there will be time for that.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you so much. Let me go to Jamie, your thoughts about the sort of the gothic nature of this introduction into a campaign. Good and evil. Pretty direct.
JAIME HARRISON, ASSOCIATE CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Yes. Well, listen, Chris, I thought it was a very powerful video and a powerful way to start. And it focuses us in this primary on what`s most important. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation. And it`s important that we remember that. And it`s important that Democrats as we squabble about policies and who`s to the left and who`s to the right that we focus that there a lot of people who are suffering in this nation because of the current leadership in the White House and his sick offense in the Senate. And so we need to change that. And I applaud the vice president for reminding us what is really, really important in this race.
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about something ethnic. Some people would say racial.
Matthews: I like ethnic better. I think race -- we are all the same race. Let me ask you about the ethnic thing here. Here`s a guy, a white guy, Joe Biden, who served as the number two guy to an African-American president, the only one ever. How powerful is that iconography to people of color that he was his number two guy for all those years in a close working relationship. Does that ring true or is he just another candidate, another older white guy?
HARRISON: Well, you know, Chris, what I have told all of these presidential candidates that come to South Carolina when they`re talking to the African-American community, the most important thing is that they show and not tell. You really have to illustrate through your practice and through your actions what it means to really be able to represent these various communities.
And so the one thing that I give Joe Biden, you know, I`m not -- as a DNC officer, I am not for anybody. But the thing that I give Joe Biden is in the times of pain for the African-American community, particularly here in South Carolina, he was here for Mother Emanuel and he sat through services and he didn`t have a lot of pomp and circumstance. And that really means a lot to a lot of people.
And so it`s those type of actions that I say to all the candidates. And if you are candidate thinking about running in 2028, because we`re going to win the White House in 2020, make sure you`re out there, you`re practicing and showing your action. How you`re going to fight and what your values really are.
MATTHEWS: So well said. Another one is don`t just show up for the ask when you want something.
HARRISON: Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Don`t make that your first meeting.
HARRISON: Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Well said, sir. Shortly, after his announcement, Biden was praised if not endorse by former President Barack Obama`s team. A spokesperson to the former president told NBC News, "President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden has his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. He relied on the vice president`s knowledge, insight and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remained close today." Well, that`s the statement from the President. Biden was asked about President Obama this morning in Wilmington. Here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t President Obama endorse?
BIDEN: I asked President Obama not to endorse and he doesn`t want to. Whoever wins the nomination should win on their own merits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: a source familiar with President Obama`s thinking told NBC News the former president is excited by the extraordinary and diverse talent in the field of Democratic presidential candidates, adding it`s unlikely that he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the primary process.
Eli, this guy is a big candidate, Biden. Everybody knows him, most people sort of like him. He`s very comfortable to most people. They`re comfortable with him. I should say that he`s familiar and yet many say first day as a candidate will be his best.
ELI STOKOLS, LOST ANGELES TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we`re going to find out.
MATTHEWS: This is going to be tough because he`s such a target.
STOKOLS: Right. I mean the Senator pointed out, he didn`t make his announcement video about me, me, me. He doesn`t have to. He`s at 25, 30% in these polls before he`s even in the race. He is a known commodity. There`s a lot of baggage there that he`s overstepping by not focusing on biography. That will get prosecuted. We`ll see.
I mean he is offering a general election argument, a message about electability and putting a frame on this as being about Trump. Do you want eight years of a Trump presidency or do you want to end this? If that`s what it`s about, I`m your guy. But that`s a guess. In 2016, Democrats went with Hillary Clinton thinking that she was the safer choice.
STOKOLS: Didn`t work out for them. And so there are 20 plus candidates, there going to be maybe a couple more before it`s all said and done. And this is going to be a fight. And I think Joe Biden will see if he can stay where he is right now. He can certainly make that argument that he`s been through the wars, he`s been vetted, he can make a claim on -- you know, he`s a solid candidate in a lot of the states that Trump won, that Trump flipped, Pennsylvania, Michigan, the Rust Belt states, but not everybody in the party sees him, not everybody in the Democratic primary electorate sees him as their top choice. And that`s because there`s a hunger among some voters for somebody newer, for some diversity on the ticket, a woman.
MATTHEWS: But one of the President Trump`s top religious advisers would be Trump`s, Evangelist Franklin Graham is attacking Mayor Pete Buttigieg for being gay. Just for being gay. That`s his shot. And during a town hall this week, the mayor was drawing a distinct between his Christian faith and what he sees in the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Couldn`t be more radically different than what I see certainly in this White House where there`s a lot of chest thumping and self-aggrandizing, not to mention abusive behavior but also a political agenda that seems to be always be revolving around the idea that somehow it`s too easy for poor people in this country. It`s just so different than what I get when I read scripture. And I get that one of the things about scripture is different people see different things in it. But at the very least, we should be able to establish that God does not have a political party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Reverend Graham took aim at that comment tweeting "Pete Buttigieg is right. God doesn`t have a political party but God does have commandments, laws and standards he gives us to live by." Adding, "As a Christian, I believe the bible which defines homosexuality is sin, something to be repented of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized."
Well, that`s the same Franklin Graham, by the way for our information, who when the President was accused of an unfair adult film actor, Stormy Daniels, he told the Associated Press that that messing around with the women and all that mess was nobody`s business.
Senator Boxer, what did you think of that double standard? Nobody`s business when it`s Trump, but this guy was born and is a gay American has to somehow take the penitential root according to Reverend Graham.
BOXER: Well, I could tell you when religious leaders speak out and they spew hatred and that`s what that is, it goes against my upbringing which is that you have a loving God. And, you know, I thought Pete Buttigieg has been incredible on this point. He said take it up with your maker. The fact is we`re all God`s children. And how a leader in a religion could spew that kind of divisiveness is unbelievable and I am also so excited to see Mayor Pete in this race. It`s going to be a really good race.
But the one thing getting back to Joe, for just a minute, that he`s got that no one else has, he was a heartbeat away from a great president for eight years. And I know the portfolio he gave Joe, it was right after the great recession when we were fighting back. He gave Joe the portfolio to bring jobs back, he gave Joe portfolios that to took him to all parts of the world.
So I think it`s going to be really good for the whole party to have Joe and Mayor Pete in there and the women in there. I`m proud to be a Democrat right now. And maybe we don`t agree on every single thing and maybe some people think we need to go young and some people say we need to go old or we need to go left, we need to go middle. We`ve got great people there. And everyone`s going to feel comfortable I think with this field.
MATTHEWS: What are do you think about the age thing? Do you think in your later 70s people lose a step or two that`s dangerous for the president? No really.
BOXER: You`re talking to me? You`re talking to me.
MATTHEWS: I know I`m talking to somebody. He doesn`t show a year the best when I first met you, yes, it`s all true. You look at -- not that I`m allowed to talk about appearances, but the fact is you look like you`re handling age very well. I`ve heard it from older people that older people shouldn`t be president. And I just want to know if you have a view on that.
BOXER: I absolutely do. I think it`s crazy to just paint everybody of a certain age with a certain brush. And that goes to young people. Look at Mayor Pete. He`s kind of an old soul, you know, and he`s very young. And the fact is that, you know, if you`re fortunate enough to really be strong when you get older, you`re much wiser than you were as a kid and as someone in middle age.
And I think Bernie is older than Vice President Biden. So he kind of took the age thing out of the loop here. But, look, people are going to put that all into their minds when they decide who they want. You got a president who is in his 70s, he doesn`t know what he`s doing, he doesn`t understand the constitution, he`s attacking the fundamentals of our nation. And I think Joe and many others could beat this guy. But age, I don`t think that should be in the equation in my opinion. But everyone will decide. They certainly have a big field of people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. I`m waiting for someone over 80 to get in there.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know why you retired. Thank you so much. Senator Barbara, who never lost an election in her life and I can see why every day. Thank you so much Barbara Boxer --
BOXER: One. I did. My first one -- I lost my first one.
MATTHEWS: How many Senate races in a row did you win?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think so. Never lost the biggies. Anyway, thank you, Barbara Boxer, long-time senator from California, Eli Stokols. Hey, Jamie, one last word. Can Biden get a portion of the African-American vote in South Carolina, your state because I think he`s counting on it? You`re thoughts.
HARRISON: I think he can, but he is going to have to work for it, Chris, just like every one of these candidates. They have to build a ground operation. And I -- my basic thing to all of these candidates is, the best student of politics if you look at the history of our presidential primary, particularly in South Carolina, the person who is the best at studying what happened. What happened in `08, what happened in `16, that`s the person that`s going to win the South Carolina primary and eventually be the nominee for this party.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m going to start studying just to cover. Thank you so much Jamie Harrison for coming on tonight. Great guests, please come back again.
In this programming note right now, Sunday night I`m hosting a special documentary on MSNBC`s "Headliners," taking a look at -- there he is, the man of the week, Joe Biden and his while life. We`re going to go everything. Be sure to tune in Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC, a full hour ob Biden.
And coming up, will President Trump`s obstruction of congressional subpoenas finally get him impeached? That`s my question. It`s a dynamic question. He keeps doing impeachable stuff. When are people going to blow the whistle and saying enough? And what can Congress do about all this stone wall. I think we got a button for it, it`s called impeachment.
Plus, presidential candidate Eric Swalwell is going to join us to play "Hardball." There he is, we`re going to talk about the counterintelligence mine field Trump and his associates created with their secret meetings with Russian operatives and why Trump can`t get past his Hillary thing, his fixation of her. Much more ahead. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball," Democrats seeking to hold President Trump accountable say they`re going to gather evidence and hold hearings in order to establish a record of Trump`s wrongdoing -- and then, and only then, it seems, they will decide whether to impeach him.
The problem is that the White House is already stonewalling three different Congressional Committees that have requested or subpoenaed evidence related to the president. And much like the endless negotiations over the president`s testimony in the Mueller probe, its an apparent effort to slow the investigations to a halt, so Trump can escape scrutiny. He never did testify, remember?
Well Bloomberg reports that in stonewalling Congress, "the White House is taking a position that challenges almost a century of legal precedent protecting Congress`s broad authority to investigate." Here`s Harvard Law Professor, Laurence Tribe on that point last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It`s an astonishing exercise, an arrogant obstruction of justice and we`re witnessing contempt of Congress, contempt of law, contempt for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: At the same time he obstructions Congress, the president`s trying to have it both ways when it comes to the special council`s report. As "The New York Times," points out, "In Mr. Trump`s world, there is a fine line between victor and victim. The president often veers back and forth."
At first the president was triumphant, falsely claiming that Mueller`s finding exonerated him, here he goes --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a complete and total exoneration.
Total exoneration -- complete vindication.
We`re glad it`s over, it`s a 100 percent the way it should have been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Sometimes he really does seem like Alec Baldwin -- anyway. But when the Mueller report proved more damaging than Trump expected, he once again played the victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We just went through the Mueller witch hunt where you had, really 18 angry Democrats that hate President Trump -- they hate him with a passion.
I know all about the rigging the system because I had the system rigged on me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of the House Judiciary Committee, and Caroline Frederickson is President of the American Constitution Society and also author of the great new book, "The Democracy Fix."
Congressman thank you for coming on, I love having you as a guest -- I won`t ask you about fighting and my problem is that the Democrats say we`re going to be very judicious, we`re going to have hearings, "blah," -- we`re going to have documents played (ph). And then we`re going to have a decision whether to proceed with an impeachment or not.
OK, but we`re understanding that the ability of this administration to foot drag, to kick the can down the road is enormous -- that they could use months using up court time and all kinds of procedural obstacles to throw them in your path so that maybe by Christmas you`ll get the president`s tax returns -- if ever.
And then you have hearings, and then you have a meeting to decide whether to impeach or not. I`m just wondering what the time frame is that helps you, it looks like you`re never going to be able to get around to it until next election time, do you have confidence the clock`s on your side? The clock -- the calendar?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D-RI): Well actually -- yes, absolutely. First of all Chris, Congress cannot allow the president to prevent us from conducting (inaudible). There are three things Congress can do if witnesses refuse to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena -- one is refer it to the Department of Justice for prosecution because that`s a crime.
We don`t have a lot of confidence that Mr. Barr will do that. The second is start a civil proceeding and get a citation from the court that we`re to judge that person in contempt and do it that way. But there`s a third reason -- a third method which we can do right away, since 1821 the Supreme Court has recognized the inherent right of Congress to hold individuals in contempt and to imprison them.
That was reaffirmed in a case in 1935 -- Congress has the responsibility, and I would say the obligation to hold individuals in contempt who do not comply with a lawful subpoena, who do not produce documents and we ought to be prepared to imprison them, because we have that inherent right --
MATTHEWS: OK. I love you, but let me ask you this Congressman --
CICILLINE: Chris -- we got to do it.
MATTHEWS: The Sergeant at Arms, in the House to go pick up the secretary of the treasury, break past his Secret Service agents, grab him and take him to Capitol Hill and put in to some (inaudible) or something. I don`t - - I can`t see that --
CICILLINE: Chris, that`s exactly --
MATTHEWS: -- I can`t see that.
CICILLINE: -- Chris, that`s exactly what happened in 1935. They put the person in custody for 10 days. Look, Congress has to be serious about this. We have a right under the Constitution to get these documents, to hear this testimony under oath. Our oversight responsibilities cannot be done without information, and witnesses and testimony. If the president prevents that from happening we can`t do oversight. We have three ways --
MATTHEWS: I hear the argument.
CICILLINE: -- to make sure that witnesses comply and we`ve got to use them.
MATTHEWS: Caroline, here`s the question, OK? Does Congress have real military power to do something like that? To go have enough force to go take someone and to deny them their freedom, somebody in the administration?
FREDRICKSON: Well, you know, I -- I -- the congressman is right that -- that -- that the law on this is clear but, you know, whether the politics are clear is -- is not so clear to me.
MATTHEWS: What would the American people think if they saw Congress arresting a member of the administration?
FREDRICKSON: I -- you know, I -- I leave it to politicians to --
CICILLINE: Who would (ph) -- but not (ph) just arrested --
FREDRICKSON: -- to make that determination. If I just say, I think there are lots of tools that you have that are powerful. And you may use that one, it may become what`s necessary but you also have the power of the purse, which, to me, seems to be pretty -- a pretty significant one. It`s not going to work in every circumstance. But certainly when you`re talking about the officials who are not complying, you can -- you can direct whether or not they`re going to be funded.
MATTHEWS: Can you cut off their gas? Can you say no more gasoline for your airplanes? Can they do that? You`re laughing, but I`m asking.
FREDRICKSON: Well, no. I mean, they have the power of the purse. They`re going to write the budget and they`re going to determine what`s appropriate.
MATTHEWS: Didn`t the president, congressman, didn`t the president stop the speaker, the Democratic leader at the time, Nancy Pelosi from flying one time on a CODEL?
CICILLINE: Yes, indeed.
MATTHEWS: He just called her back to the office.
CICILLINE: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
MATTHEWS: So he has the cojones to do this kind of hardball. He`s willing to say, I don`t care how embarrassing how it looks. I`m going to make her my subservient public official, somebody below me, by showing her I`m the boss. You guys would do that on the Hill? You`d show that the president was below you? He`s Article II of the Constitution, you`re Article I. Would you?
CICILLINE: No, actually, it`s -- it`s less about showing the president`s below us and it`s more about showing the person at the top is the American people. We are doing this on behalf of the American people who have a right to know the truth, who have a right to see that no one is above the law. And we are going to get the witnesses and the testimony under oath and the documents that we need to do this work.
And we have three ways to do it, as well as that great suggestion of the power of the purse. We`re going to use all the tools at our disposal and the American people are going to finally hear the full story. They`re going to see the Muller report come to life before their eyes in these hearings so they can really get a sense exactly what the president did.
MATTHEWS: Well, I wonder which subcommittee of Appropriations handles the executive office of the president because if you cut off his gas, if you put that airplane of his on the ground forever he might listen to you. Anyway, meanwhile, Trump`s falsely claiming he never tried to fire the special counsel. In a tweet today, he said, "As has been incorrectly reported by the fake news media, I never told then White House counsel Don Mcgahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so."
Yet, the special counsel found substantial evidence to show otherwise. Muller`s report specifically details that in June of 2017 the president called McMann (ph) -- McGahn and directed him on the phone to have the special counsel removed, to fire Mueller. On a second occasion, McGahn says that Trump told him, "Mueller has to go. Call me back when you do it." But McGahn threatened to resign at that point.
Congressman, again back to you on this question, the president`s willing to lie. What do you do with that?
CICILLINE: Yes, I mean, well, the problem is that`s one of the reasons, I think, the president did not testify under oath in response to the special counsel`s request. That is why we need to have witnesses come before the committee who are under oath, who can explain the full context of this evidence, explain the circumstances in which it happened so we can gather up the full report, all the supporting documents and, frankly, so the American people can see the story, see that -- and by the way, you know, the president talks about 12 angry Democrats.
The vast majority of the evidence in the Mueller report came from members of his own administration, not 12 angry Democrats, his own people. I think that`s why he`s furious. He not only told Don McGahn to fire the special counsel. He then asked Don McGahn to lie and say --
CICILLINE: -- to say that I never told you to do that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman, just do me a favor because I do believe you. I think you`re a great public servant and I love Roadie (ph). I just want to say one thing to you. When they send a sergeant at arms to come arrest Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury, give me the tip-off. Will you? I want to be there with a camera. I want to watch that.
CICILLINE: It`s the threat of that that`s going to force those witnesses to show up and comply with the subpoena.
MATTHEWS: I -- I just want to see -- I just want to see the police power of Congress over the White House. Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline and Caroline Fredrickson.
Up next, the Mueller report describes a presidential campaign getting used by Russian intelligence. Will the extent of Russian efforts ever be fully known? Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball." While the Mueller report did not find a tacit and expressed criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials who hacked our elections, it did establish multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government.
In fact Mueller, in the report, noted that in some instances the campaign was receptive to the offer from Russia and found that certain individuals associated with the campaign lied to investigators about campaign contacts with Russia and took action to interfere with the investigation.
We know all that. According to NBC News, those ties show that the Trump campaign left itself wide open to Russians. In fact, U.S. officials are telling NBC News now that the FBI is continuing to investigate Russian attempts to influence the Trump administration, and assess the national security damage from Russia`s 2016 effort.
For more, I`m joined by Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California and 2020 presidential candidate. He`s a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Congressman Swalwell, thank you for joining us. I want to stay on this point for just one question. Trump doesn`t go for bluffs. You say to him here`s the deadline like they did on his taxes. He goes, No.
You set another deadline this week. No. You say you`re going to subpoena him and the guys like - his cabinet people say no. At what point do you run out of weapons?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re getting pretty close and the final weapon is not one that he`s going to like. It`s impeachment and in Watergate that was one of the articles, was not cooperating with lawful orders requesting documents.
Look Chris, the way our constitution is setup the first check, the voters. They elect someone, they vet someone. If that person is abusive then you have the checks and balances of the Congress.
And if the oversight and the power of the purse doesn`t work, there`s only one other remedy and he`s really taking us down that road. It`s a road none of us want to go down but it may be the only road to save our democracy.
MATTHEWS: Well, cut off his gas and see what happens because that would be great. Just don`t appropriate any money for Air Force One anymore. Let me ask you about Joe Biden today, the Vice Pres. We all call him Joe, he`s aware of that .
SWALWELL: Uncle Joe. Yes.
MATTHEWS: He`s a man without -- without -- yes. He is a man without pretense. He was in that diner -- that pizza -- pizzeria today for like hours. I thought that was setup. But that`s all right. What did you make of his message? What do you think of chances against you? What do you both offer that might be different here?
SWALWELL: Hey, now it`s a party and I -- I welcome him to the race. I`m excited that he`s in the race. I think we`re all committed to beating Donald Trump and making sure that the sun again rises in America.
And you know his voice is one that`ll be needed. And as far as how I match up against him, there`s going to be a lot of days to make that contrast. But on his announcement day, I`m just glad he`s in.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a story that I never thought I`d read. Today the Washington Post reported that an American envoy sent to North Korea to retrieve Otto Warmbier. The American college student, of course held captive in that country, was instructed to sign a $2 million hospital bill for the North Koreans.
Two people familiar with the situation tell the Washington Post that the envoy signed an agreement to pay the medical bills on instructions passed down from President Trump. The White House issued the following statement.
"We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration." Well Warmbier was in a coma when he was set free. Of course he died days later.
Was it proper for the United States to write a $2 million check if that`s what happened here? It looks like it did to get the guy back.
SWALWELL: Yes. You know we should do all we can to get people like that back and then hold, you know, the countries accountable. It`s really a case by case basis as I see it. But of course this president, you know, trashed President Obama for different negotiations he made to save American lives.
But the larger issue here is who are calling our friends these days. And you know forgive me Chris, I`m a parent of two kids under two so everything is a parental metaphor but if you were to look at our foreign policy the way that a parent looks at their kid on the playground, in the last three years we`ve gone from hanging out with the honor roll kid like the Brits and the French and the Germans to now we roll with the detention crew.
The Russians, the North Koreans, the Saudis. And it`s not just bad company, its bad policy. It`s going to cost us more in our national defense and it`s also going to -- it`s going to take away money we need here at home for kids with tablets in their classrooms and seniors for prescription drugs at the counter.
So the next president is going to have to take the oath and go on a global affirmation tour to tell our allies we`re still with them.
MATTHEWS: It`s hard to imagine we can do business with a guy -- a little SOB like this guy who has charged us with 2 million bucks for beating the hell out of a kid so he can`t even think anymore.
It`s unbelievable and we write the check. Anyway, today the New York Times highlighted a portion of the Mueller report in which it details President Trump`s fixation on Hillary Clinton. President Trump wanted attorney general Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal and order -- order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times goes on to add that his request stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival. A step that no president since Richard Nixon is known to have done.
So much of Trump is third world about, you know, arrest the people if you get elected. Charge it as a rigged election if you lose. All the kind of gambits you read in headlines from third world -- less developed democracies.
He`s taken us backward in time to before the founding fathers it seems. Your thoughts? Going after Hillary. He beat her. It`s over and he wants her arrested and put in prison.
SWALWELL: And -- and this was from a guy who you know may still be exposed to criminal liability when he leaves office, by the way. And -- and Chris, if he wanted Hillary Clinton to go to jail he should have just, you know, put her on his team or made her is national security advisor.
Because it`s his team that is now criminally exposed. But Chris, what he has done here is not only accepted help from the Russians, not only invited help, he`s actually leading like a Russian authoritative figure.
And that`s what -- and when I talk to people in Iowa, when I talk to people in the industrial Midwest, you know I tell them the reason we`re most concerned about the Russia interference campaign is they did this so that Russians don`t ask for what we have.
If they turn us against each other and they take away free ideas, free markets and a freedom to dream; then we start to look like them. Their people don`t want that. But what it hurts us here at home is that hard work doesn`t add up to anything anymore.
It`s like an oligarch system where you don`t have law and order. All the benefits of the economy stay in the top floor. Everyone else gets crumbs. That`s why it`s important to not let this guy embrace Russia the way that he wants to.
MATTHEWS: Yes, look at those two buddies there. Anyway, thank you so much. U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, candidate for president.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a great contradiction among American voters. An overwhelming majority say they want political leaders who are willing to compromise with each other, but not about the issues they care about. We have results of a stunning new poll.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It`s those times it was always appropriate to challenge another senator`s judgment. Never appropriate to challenge their motive. When you challenge their motive, it`s impossible to get to go.
All we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives. Not the substance of their argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was former Vice President Joe Biden last year, speaking at Senator John McCain`s funeral, pushing for a time when there was more civility in our politics.
The newest 2020 presidential politics seems to be echoing what voters are thinking. In a new poll from the Georgetown Institute Politics and Public Service, nine out of 10 voters are frustrated by the uncivil and rude behavior of our politicians. And four out of five voters believe that the behavior they used to be seeing as unacceptable is now accepted as normal behavior. But all of this stuff starts at the top.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a punch of babies running our country, folks. We have a bunch of losers. They are losers. They are babies.
He`s not a war hero. He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.
I think Islam hates us. There is something there that there is a tremendous hatred there.
I called the fake news is the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people.
I`m going to bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them. It`s true. I don`t care. I don`t care. They`ve got to be stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s not just the president. The poll shows voters also say wealthy special interest and social media like Facebook, Twitter are very much to blame for the increase in bad behavior in politics.
And that`s not all. The poll showcased a bizarre contradiction that could have a profound effect on how the 2020 candidates make their case to the American people.
And that contradiction is coming up next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Vice President Joe Biden now the 20th candidate to enter the 2020 race. He will make his case as to why he is the best purpose to beat President Trump. But how do voters want Biden and the other candidates to actually be handling themselves in this campaign?
A new poll from the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service finds voters contradict themselves on this issue. It`s so interesting. While four out of five voters said they believe compromise and common ground should be the goal for political leaders. Nearly the same number exactly says that they are tired of leaders compromising their values and want them to stand up and fight. OK, give a signal here.
For more I`m joined by Mo Elleithee, who`s executive director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Michael Steel, a former spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Mo, I have to ask you this question. What are we to take from this poll? Compromise or fight for values?
MO ELLEITHEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS & PUBLIC SERVICE: I mean, that`s the question. I mean, this is like the toughest tight rope for even the most skilled politician to walk. What`s the incentive structure? The incentive structure for them to go out there and act good, right, and should be civil to one another, or is it to stand up and fight? And can you blend the two?
The interesting thing I thought about this poll --
MATTHEWS: Has anybody --
MATTHEWS: Has anybody done that? I see Buttigieg, I would say there is lanes. They`re not left or right. Moderate, reasonable behavior, and we don`t hate the other side, and the other one is we hate the other side. Let`s be honest about it.
A lot of people say Trump is evil and he must be fought any way we can beat him. You have Buttigieg who is sort of more moderate in his voice. I would say Kamala Harris is a bit more aggressive.
Bernie Sanders is fundamentally more aggressive because he`s an absolutely different ideology than the president. Well, how do you -- who`s putting it together?
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO JEB BUSH: Cory Booker is doing hugs and love and --
MATTHEWS: He`s a lot more about that.
STEEL: The differences are less about ideology than differences in tactics in terms of the best way to take on Trump. Do you fight fire with fire?
MATTHEWS: Amy Klobuchar -- Amy Klobuchar seems to be -- trying to be nice.
STEEL: In a more sober lane, yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: What`s she called it, the woman next door, you know?
ELLEITHEE: Right, right. What this poll clearly shows is there is four main actors who here who have the power to clean up their act. One, Republican political leaders. Two, Democratic political leaders, three, the media, and number four, the voters.
And people oftentimes neglect the role of the voters in this. Media, political leaders, all culpable and voters blame them, but voters also need to take responsibility and this contradiction shows why. They need to take responsibility. Political leaders need to police their own. But voters kind of need to police them, too, and as long as they`re sending this mixed message, we`re going to continue I think to have this confused state.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think, you know, the media -- fine, go after me. But I will say this, I know every time I walk down the street, people don`t say - - they don`t say, you are so nice to politicians. I don`t push them, I don`t enough, which to say, nice try, give me the answer. Give me -- answer the question. We are supposed to be tough.
STEEL: And we`re continuing to live with the fallout of 2008 and both party`s bases feeling that they had been betrayed by their leaders in Washington. It hasn`t gotten better and so, you have the tearing apart of the fabric of our lives and our communities and our nation.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the latest on the poll. Voters were pessimistic about where the country could be heading. When asked to rank the division, they believed we were nearly three quarters of the way of being at the edge of a civil war. Your poll asked, zero to 100, how close are we to an actual fighting battle of Gettysburg when bull run kind of fight --
ELLEITHEE: That`s right. Zero is no political division. A hundred is edge of civil war. And the majority of the country says we are nearly three quarters of the way there. That`s incredibly pessimistic.
Now, our poll --
MATTHEWS: Who decides? The Trumpites and the anti-Trumpites, right?
ELLEITHEE: I don`t know. It`s a rural-urban or is it racial? The divisions are more than just ideological right now. This sums it all.
You see this level of pessimism amongst Democrats, Republicans and independents. It`s interesting. The poll showed that most pessimistic were older voters. Younger voters were less pessimistic. But that might be because they haven`t known it any other way than this before.
MATTHEWS: What I notice that is different than growing up, my dad had buddies of his and they played golf once a week. They`re regular, what we call them, cloth coat Republicans. They weren`t rich, he was, but his friends were all Democrats. They never talked politics. He never talked politics, and yet they lived in the same world.
Today, you know how it works in Washington. You know how it works. You go to a party, you assume one party is there, Democratic parties, Republican parties.
People were saying I don`t know anybody who would vote for Trump, they actually say that kind of statement. I don`t know anyone who doesn`t like Trump. These are different worlds.
STEEL: And that`s where we are, because from the objective point of view, like in the `70s, late `60s, early `70s, the country was far more divided on a number of important issues, but people weren`t drenched in politics the same way.
STEEL: It`s so pervasive because of the 24-hour cable news television, because of Facebook. I can`t go on Facebook to check my friend`s birthdays without seeing a screen about politics. It`s everywhere and it dominates everything.
MATTHEWS: Mitch Landrieu said, I don`t pick my friends on the basis of politics. What? In this town they do.
STEEL: That`s a controversial comment. Vice President Biden has gotten in trouble --
MATTHEWS: We will continue this conversation, because about this year, how rough should you be, how tough you should be and how nice occasionally should you be. Occasionally.
Mo Elleithee, thank you so much. I`m on your board, by the way. Thank you.
ELLEITHEE: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: The Georgetown Board.
ELLEITHEE: Former fellow of ours.
MATTHEWS: I like that Georgetown elite community.
Thank you, Michael Steel.
Up next, and good values community. Anyway, Nelson Mandela`s words from a quarter century ago resonate in today`s America.
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MATTHEWS: A quarter century ago, I was in South Africa covering the first election open to all races. It was an exciting moment in history, of course, much like the fall of the Berlin wall. It was racial segregation known as apartheid, the emergence of majority rule, and the election of Nelson Mandela who`d been in prison 28 years for battling for that moment, as president.
And what would grab you listening to this great man, one of the world`s greatest champions of human rights and political inclusion is how his words resonate what`s happening in our country right now. He speaks to those who see ethnic and racial diversity as a basis for national unity and those who use it to divide.
Here`s Mandela is in the midst of his historic win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICA: We have used diversity in order to build a strong nation, unlike the national party which used diversity to keep us divided, and to foment racial hostility among South Africans. Our vision of South Africa therefore has been one where you have the bill of rights which entrenches the right of every South African irrespective of color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today, Joe Biden made a similar appeal and a similar critic. He spoke of a president who refuses to condemn outright racism, who sees people who back racial separation in this country, American apartheid, if you will, as very fair-minded. Well, 25 years later, the message today is powerfully similar to the message from 1994. It seems that to fight off evil, we must constantly call it out for what it is.
That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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