ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: All right, that`s it for our show tonight. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Crisis. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Tonight, the top democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Donald Trump has plunged the country into a constitutional crisis. Here is New York Congressman, Jerry Nadler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: We`ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. We are now in it. We are now in a constitutional crisis. Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic or whether this republic is destined to change into a different more tyrannical form of government as other republics have over the centuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: On Nadler`s committee voted by a party line to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for his refusal to the comply with the subpoena to hand over the full Mueller report. If past by the full House, it will mark only the second time in American history that a U.S. Attorney General has been declared in contempt of Congress.
For six weeks now, Judiciary Committee democrats have sought the full unredacted version of the Special Counsel`s report. However, just before today`s hearing, the Justice Department informed the committee that, at least for now, the President has asserted his executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials. This latest White House resistance is just one of many efforts to block Congress from fulfilling its responsibilities. Yet, today`s contempt citation marks the first, I say, the most dramatic escalation in that ongoing standoff.
I`m joined right now by Democratic U.S. Congresswoman, Mary Gay Scanlon, who is the Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was in today`s hearing, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, And Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney.
Congresswoman, it`s great to have you on but it`s a terrible time. I don`t know what -- it`s a constitutional crisis. Explain that to the person who remembers civics and where we are right now, because it is a strange time, even though it`s Trump time, it`s still strange.
REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): That`s how I got here. I have been a civics educator for a long time and it`s this thwarting of our government and the coequal branches that is really the reason why many of us ran. It`s seeing that we have a President who not only doesn`t know how government works but doesn`t care how it works and isn`t in government for the good of the country.
MATTHEWS: Are you stunned by Trump`s behavior or are you used to it now? Because it seems like every day, he says enough. I don`t care what you guys think. I don`t see what the protocols are or the constitution is. He just says no. I`m not going to give you the documents. I`m not going to let anybody to testify, even if they once worked here. Nobody is going to do what you guys want.
SCANLON: Well, he`s bringing the bare-knuckled New York real estate world to Washington but Washington doesn`t work that way and our government doesn`t work that way.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Joyce on this. I`m still back to my problem, which is I believe in the constitution -- actually, I believe in regular order. I`m boring. I think things should work the way they always have work, which is of you`re subpoenaed, you respond to it. If not, the court makes it do it, because in the end there has to be referee and it has to be. But even Nixon would go along with the courts. He turned over the tapes. He gave up his whole career because they said to do it. I don`t trust Trump to do it based upon what`s going on right now.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I think that`s right. There is no reason to trust. And, you know, to compare this contempt situation with Attorney General Barr to the time when Eric Holder as Attorney General was held in contempt, that ruling came after the Justice Department had turned over something like 7,600 documents and had made multiple witnesses available. So there is this good faith effort to comply with subpoenas.
Here, we have a President who has issued a flat out edict to his people. Do not show up. Do not testify. Exert executive privilege over all documents. This is an executive president who wants to remain immune from any scrutiny. That`s not how the constitution works.
MATTHEWS: You know, Yamiche, you and I talk about this off-camera. And I just think the closer we -- everyday is, look, we`re going to attend (INAUDIBLE) a crazy country where there is no history of democracy. I don`t want to knock any other country because we`re better. We`ve been doing this since the late 18th century and yet it sounds like we haven`t been doing it or acting now like we haven`t had 257 years of getting regular election every two years. The branches of government respect each other, they have little arguments and they`re resolved by the courts and we move on.
This President is now saying, I`m going to assert executive privilege over the universe. Anybody I know, anybody who has ever worked for me, any paper that comes out of this federal government and any agency, including Justice Department, I own.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWS HOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I put the question to Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, today. I said, what do you make of the people who say President Trump is edging us closer to a constitutional crisis? Her response was democrats are overreaching and the White House is the one that`s really being bullied by another branch of Congress, another branch of the government rather. Democrats, of course, say that this is really oversight. This is our constitutional duty to do this.
But I should tell you, Chris, I`ve talked to people that are from Venezuela, from Haiti, they say, look at this very carefully. This is how authoritarian governments start. They start by the fact that, first, he was talking about jailing his opponents. Now, he`s talking about the idea that he doesn`t have to answer to Congress. So there are people, mostly democrats, who are from authoritarian governments who are sounding the alarm saying, America really needs to watch out.
MATTHEWS: Yes, people that come from, well, Cuba, places like that, you know, Venezuela. A misleading attack, republicans in today`s hearing, repeatedly accused democrats of asking the Attorney General to break the law that protects grand jury materials from being disclosed. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): Democrats and Chairman Nadler and his committee are asking the Attorney General to break the law, break the law by releasing grand jury information to Congress.
REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): What we`re doing here is forcing the Attorney General to break the law.
REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R-CA): To comply with the subpoena, he must break the law. If he obeys the law, he must disobey the subpoena.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, anyway, democrats have argued since early April that they`re not asking Barr to break the law. They are simply asking him to obtain permission from the district court, the federal district court, to allow the disclosure of those materials. Here`s Chairman Nadler reiterating that point today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: All we have ever asked is that the department join us in petitioning the court to determine if it is proper for us to have access to this material.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, explain to the viewers right now why it`s important for Congress, your committee, judiciary, to get his hands on the full report, the full Mueller report. What are you looking for in there?
SCANLON: Well, look, when Robert Mueller filed his report, he explicitly said, I`m not going recommend charges against the President because I don`t think I can under the rules of the Department of Justice. But we need to preserve this evidence. I found obstruction of justice. I`m going to lay it out so we preserve that evidence and Congress can act on this. So that`s what we are going do.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about one bit of beef here through all the gristle, the reality of McGahn`s testimony, to the Special Counsel. The President of the United States told him to fire the Special Counsel. That, to me, is enough. That`s right up there with Saturday Night -- not Saturday Night Live, Saturday Night Massacre, okay? What do you think of that? Would you like -- if you want that information, where do you want on that? It`s seems like you`ve got enough, for me, to prosecute.
SCANLON: Well, it sounds like it from the Mueller report. It sounds like there is more there. But we haven`t seen what McGahn actually said. We haven`t seen the underlying notes. Apparently, there is extensive notes. And it`s not just what you mentioned that he was told to fire Mueller, but then, he was told to lie about it. Then he was told to manufacture evidence to support a lie. There is a lot there, but we need the actual evidence.
ALCINDOR: And it`s important to note that the White House has specifically told Don McGahn not to turn over documents to Congress. I was pushing White House sources on that today. And they said it`s another issue of executive privilege, separate from Barr, but still executive privilege. So you have, as the White House is saying, we are worried about what could be happening here if Don McGahn goes and testifies before Congress.
MATTHEWS: Joyce, I want to go back to something I read in history, which was that Joe McCarthy with (INAUDIBLE). They didn`t want to get rid of him, censure him because of what he had done in hearings, because he was awful to witnesses, because a lot of them were bad, the witnesses.
But they did wanted to get rid of him and they did censure and ruin his career and he drank himself to death afterwards by censuring him on his behavior in confronting the investigating committee and when after the Flanders (ph) committee. It was that behavior that they cited him for.
The behavior of this President right now, denying any evidence to the committee investigating him, denying any witnesses, any live witnesses and documentary evidence, anything that they ask for to try to do their job of oversight, he says I`m not going to let -- isn`t that obstruction of justice in our face?
VANCE: This President has engaged in a constant pattern almost from day one of obstruction in plain sight. And this is why it`s so important for Congress to have the ability to access documents and witnesses that it needs. Impeachment is a lot like indictment. Prosecutors just don`t show up at work one day and say, let`s indict this defendant.
First, you have to investigate. You have to compile the evidence. You have to look at it carefully to make sure that you understand what the misconduct is and what conduct you may dislike, but it doesn`t actually cross the line.
And so Congress needs to engage and have the ability using evidence and witnesses from the White House where necessary to engage in that careful process so that they can determine whether any action against this President is warranted. To try to short circuit their consideration and not let them engage in that process is a violation of the constitution, as clear as anything we could contemplate.
MATTHEWS: Reading your report, Congresswoman, and you are in a difficult situation because you want to get something done in your first term. I think that`s right. And then you go to the fact that from the beginning of this investigation, it`s clear that the President and his people obstructed justice so that you couldn`t get enough evidence on him on collusion. So you can`t get that case made.
Then he`s continued to avoid you getting any evidence to use against him and investigating him with regard to obstruction. He won`t let McGahn testify. He won`t let you see the unredacted report. He`s making clear he want anything that come -- he won`t let you see his tax returns, nothing that might incriminate him. What happens if he wins? What happens if you don`t get anything, you can`t indict, you can`t even begin the procedures aiming towards impeachment? What happens?
SCANLON: You and I are both fans of the constitution. I don`t think we`re there yet. I think the courts are going to stand up. We saw tonight that the Republican Senate has issued a subpoena against the member of the Trump family. So I don`t think we`re there yet. But you know what --
MATTHEWS: You trust these courts, these five, four republican the Supreme Court Justices?
SCANLON: I still trust the court, I still believe in our government. But what we are seeing, we are seeing, Donald Trump talks about a wall. He`s got a wall. But it has nothing to do with immigration. It has to do with Mnuchin and Barr. And, you know, he`s built a wall to protect him from the rule of law. And we`ve got to tear that wall down.
MATTHEWS: I watched Mnuchin, the arrogance of him. I know they have a lot of money, but the arrogance of these guys. They just say, well, I`ll consider that on May 6th. I`ll make up my mind then. They set their own deadlines. They will say it`s a premature request or it was partisan. They act like their own referees. And they`re saying they like it.
Anyways, some breaking news right now tonight. Adam Schiff, Democratic Chair the House Intelligence Committee, just Tweeted that the House Intel just subpoenaed DOJ for all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials in the probe, the full report and underlying evidence. DOJ has responded to our request with silence and defiance. Congress needs the material. We will not be obstructed.
Joyce, there is the question again. This a lot of the stuff in here may not be criminal. Of course, there`re questions about whether there`s anything criminal at all and then the collusion piece of it, the conspiracy. Certainly a lot of questions, 50-50 at best for the President in terms of obstruction at best for him. But now, we do need the counterintelligence information. What were the Russians up to? Who on this side, the American side, were playing ball with them, criminally or not, and they won`t even turn that over for that purpose to the Intelligence Committee of Schiff.
VANCE: The counterintelligence part of this investigation has always been critical, Chris, and this is certainly within Congress`s core area of responsibility. Bob Mueller may not have found evidence that was sufficient to prove a conspiracy between campaign and the Russian government, but that`s a far cry from saying that there was no collusion, a far cry from saying that the President hasn`t perhaps unwittingly been compromised. Congress needs to see what the counterintelligence investigation concluded so it can protect this country from whatever Russia is planning on bringing next.
MATTHEWS: Well, finally something is happening tonight. I don`t know but if it is important, but it certainly is interesting. The republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, all the committees on the Senate republican- led, today subpoenaed the President`s Son, Donald Trump Jr. They want to question Donald Jr. about his role, his true involvement in his father`s attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election, during the campaign itself.
Asked in 2017 if he had any involvement in that deal, Trump Jr. replied that he was only peripherally aware of it. However, the man spearheading that project, former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified under oath that he briefed Trump Jr. on it ten times. Yamiche?
ALCINDOR: I think this is a remarkable showing by the republicans in the Senate to say we want answers. You can`t come to Congress and lie to us. We want to know what`s going on.
MATTHEWS: Is Burr okay? Is he all right?
ALCINDOR: Is who? Is Burr?
MATTHEWS: Richard Burr, is he okay?
ALCINDOR: I mean, I think he`s going to be okay with the idea that if he goes forward and there`s something that Donald Trump Jr. can say and he can show that Donald Trump Jr. was misleading the Congress, then I think he will be okay. I also think that --
MATTHEWS: And I wonder whether they`re serious in prosecuting the bad guys. Will Richard Burr of North Carolina, a republican, be the only republican that`s serious in this - because he would be the only one?
ALCINDOR: I think that the subpoena is already something that is very, very serious and we have not seen this sort of action from republicans. I will say, if we go a broader picture, 2020 is going to be resolving a lot of this. If the President can get re-elected while doing all of this, that`s when you really have to ask yourself about the Americans and their understanding of the constitution. Because then, it says that there is a precedent set that any republican and any democratic president can do this and keep their job.
MATTHEWS: Well people have been -- because of all kinds of tribal alliances, I`ve noticed that every community will re-elect the guy who is one of theirs even if they are a crooks. And we`ve never apply that to the President of the United States before, and God help us, we hope never will.
Anyway, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware, Pennsylvania, I know that one, I hope you do well out there. It`s a great honor. What a great area to represent. Yamiche Alcindor, one of the greats, Joyce Vance, thank you so much.
Coming up, the Art of the Myth. Back in the mid 90`s, Donald Trump passed himself off as this is super successful dealmaker and businessman. Now comes the reality. A report from The New York Times showing years of enormous business losses, he lost a billion dollars, that`s real money, from `85 to `94. Will he still pretend to be someone he wasn`t back then at least?
Plus, his delay and obstruct the new norm in Washington?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Every single day, the President is making a case. He`s becoming self-impeachable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Self-impeachable. I can`t wait to see what that means tonight. She says, and yet Speaker Pelosi still won`t go ahead with impeachment. She`s still cautious. Will Trump ever get held accountable? That`s my question. Is he ever going to get caught?
Much more ahead, stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re also following another blockbuster story out tonight about President Trump, but this one threatens to cross with his family. Yesterday, The New York Times report that Donald Trump lost over a billion dollars in a roughly ten-year period. Look at him there bragging it. He lost a billion dollars. The New York Times obtained IRS tax transcripts showing that from 1985 to 1994. Trump reported that negative gross income year-after-year. In 1990 and `91, Trump lost more than $250 million each year, more than double those of the nearest taxpayers for those years.
And after comparing his information with similar high income earners, The New York Times figured out that Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual in American history. In one of those years, 1987, Trump was selling a very different reality, however, in his bestselling book, "The Art Of The Deal." In the first letter of that book, he says, "I don`t do it for the money. I`ve got enough, much more than that, much more than I`ll ever need." Well, Trump went on to lose more than $42 million that year.
And, earlier today, President Trump called the reporting "very old information that is highly inaccurate. Fake news hit job!"
Well, old news is one of the oldest tricks in the business. You say it`s old because you don`t like hearing it again.
For more, I`m joined by Charlie Sykes, editor in chief of "The Bulwark," and David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose nonprofit DCReport.org got access to Trump`s 2005 tax returns.
David, let`s talk about this meaning. We`re talking about a period mid- `80s to mid-`90s, a period when he was just getting famous. Those losses, the way it hit me -- and it`s different than all the producers here -- it hit me like working guys, working women who make average incomes don`t like people who don`t pay taxes.
They don`t believe it. They don`t believe they run these losses. They think they`re all -- depreciation. They think there`s all kinds of gimmicks involved. And they just can`t stand a guy living like the kingfish, like the richest guy on the planet, with planes and everything, and skyscrapers and everything, boats and yachts, and he`s somehow losing money?
They don`t believe it. Your -- what does it tell you when you heard that report last night?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP": Well, the myth of Donald Trump as the modern Midas, who turns everything to gold, died yesterday afternoon, killed by an article in "The New York Times."
The losses that are reported here are much larger than any of us who`ve been closely following Trump for years imagined. And many of these are real business losses. The paper losses that he gets for the suppose a decline in the value of his buildings, depreciation, those don`t account for this at all.
These were actual losses from his business failures, because, frankly, Chris, Donald`s not a very good businessman, as his own executives started telling me when I first began covering him.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he rich? Why is he rich?
JOHNSTON: Because he -- he draws money out of these businesses and puts them to himself, and then he doesn`t pay his vendors, he doesn`t pay his workers. He cheats the government.
He doesn`t do all sorts of other things that normal businesspeople do because they`re honest.
MATTHEWS: Does he skim? Does he skim? Are you saying he`s a skimmer, like a casino owner who skims the profits illegally?
JOHNSTON: No, no, no, no, but -- no, no, he does this through contracts and things.
His casino company, when it was a public company, the investors lost everything. The bondholders lost almost everything. But Donald got $82 million in pay.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Charlie on this.
Charlie, your view about how this sells. I will go with -- you know my theory. I think people who don`t pay taxes look like crooks to people, but your thoughts?
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE BULWARK: Well I mean, how does this play with his base? I mean, we have seen that nothing moves the needle.
But, you know, it should chip away at this myth that he is a populist. But, look, it`s a tribute to the flagrant act of journalism by "The New York Times" that David Cay Johnston would say that he was surprised by it, that Donald Trump is just a lousy businessman, but he`s an incredibly successful con man.
I think you could make at this -- you could say at this point, Donald Trump may be the most successful con man in world history, that he parlays this failed business career into this image as a master of the universe, and then parlays that into the presidency of the United States.
So, to a certain extent, we knew that the man was a con, that he was a fraud, that he was a huckster. What we didn`t imagine was how deep it was.
But going to your point about all of this, the details of this, the way in which he scammed the system, manipulated the system, much of it within the system, legally within the system, really ought to raise questions in the minds of working people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Is this really -- is this guy really the champion of the average working guy?
Democrats would commit an act of political malpractice if they weren`t able to use this to chip away at that image.
MATTHEWS: One thing -- I will go back to what David on this.
One thing that -- I don`t know if he`s a billionaire, a half-a-billionaire, three times -- I don`t know. But I know a lot of people have been hurt by this guy. I think of the people who went into Trump University and thought, here was a chance to make a career, not rich, but a career.
They were -- they were just wasted, just discarded people. The people that invested in New Jersey`s coming back in South Jersey, Atlantic City, all the hopes that were that, all those working people, a lot of African- Americans living in that city, a lot of poor people, the hopes they had for those casinos, how many of them went bust, including Trump`s?
He had that big -- remember, the Atlantic City Expressway aimed directly into his casino. You -- if you left Philly, you went right into the casino. That`s how much power he had.
MATTHEWS: And it was kaput, the whole thing gone. Everybody lost their money, all the croupiers out of work, all the working waiters out of business.
So that bothers me a lot. But I still have one big question. How much has he got now? Do you think he`s not rich? That`s what I don`t understand.
JOHNSTON: Well, he`s -- yes, there`s never been any evidence that he`s actually a billionaire at any point in his career. He`s a wealthy man, without any question, but he also has a desperate need for cash.
Donald`s business model is, get ahold of an enterprise, squeeze the money out of it, don`t pay your vendors, let them go broke, do everything you can to not pay your bills. It`s just like a mafia bust-out. It`s just long - running, instead of over one weekend.
JOHNSTON: And he`s got -- he`s a wealthy man, but nowhere near what people think.
And I have had several, about a half-a-dozen people contact me today who are Trump supporters. They`re livid at me and "The New York Times" and MSNBC. They`re not livid at Trump. They are convinced he`s committed hardly any crimes at all compared to Hillary.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, that`s a mind-set anyway.
MATTHEWS: President Trump has often boasted that he`s a self-made billionaire and vowed to bring his business skills into the White House to help the country. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I built an unbelievable business, a great, great business, some of the greatest assets in the world.
You know, don`t forget, I have been in business. I have made a lot of money, which I`m going to do for the country now. I have been focused on jobs and money and deals. And that`s what I do. And that`s what the country needs.
I have always loved business. I have always been good at building things. And I have always been very successful at making money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A billion dollars in losses, the largest tax loss in history.
Anyway, along with today`s reporting, "The New York Times" also published a huge expose back in October that showed that Trump got a huge helping hand on his path to greatness.
According to "The New York Times," Trump received at least $413 million, adjusted for inflation, from his father over his lifetime.
Charlie, how much of the myth is real?
SYKES: Well, very little of the myth is real.
But I remember, during the 2016 campaign, when I used to have a radio talk show in Wisconsin, how often people fed back the line, well, Donald Trump has been so successful, we need somebody who is that successful as a businessperson in the White House.
And even when you reminded them of all the failed businesses, the airlines, the steaks, the vodka, the Trump University, it didn`t penetrate, because of the one thing he did successfully was, he created the brand. He had the show.
SYKES: He was able to produce himself. He was able to craft this myth and made it bulletproof.
It`s interesting that -- what David was saying before. Even when confronted with this information, you`re seeing the Trump sycophants basically say, well, this is a sign what a brilliant businessman he was. Everybody did this sort of thing.
So it`s something that he has been able to create. And I think that history is going to look back on this as just one of the greatest successful flimflam operations that will cross the line from business over to politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, the guys who know and the women who know what he doesn`t have are the ones who have more.
The real billionaires of New York -- and there a couple of them -- I`m sure know more about this than any of us, what flimflam is out there from him.
Thank you, Charlie Sykes Thank you, David Cay Johnston...
SYKES: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... for your unique look into this guy`s reality.
Up next: a congressional showdown ever executive privilege coming to a head right now, with Speaker Pelosi saying Trump is -- here`s a phrase we will remember tonight -- self-impeaching. She says that`s what he`s doing by continuing to stonewall congressional oversight.
Is Trump trying to force Democrats -- he`s trying to Uecker them into impeaching him? Is he saying, come on, make my day? I sometimes think he wants it. Is it a win-win for Trump if he gets impeached? We don`t know. Let`s watch.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump lobbed another grenade in his all-out war to deny information to Congress today by invoking executive privilege to block the release of the unredacted Mueller report to Congress.
But even before he ramped up his clash with Congress this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the president is -- quote -- "effectively daring" Congress to impeach him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Every single day, whether it`s obstruction, obstruction, obstruction, obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, of ignoring subpoenas and the rest, every single day, the president is making a case.
He`s -- he`s becoming self-impeachable in terms of some of the things that he is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Anyway, NBC News reports that Pelosi later elaborated on those comments in a meeting with House Democrats, telling her colleagues: "He`s putting out the case against himself. So he`s doing our work for us, in a certain respect."
Speaker Pelosi has consistently tamped down, however, calls from members of her Democratic Caucus to actually go ahead and begin impeachment of the president.
But her remarks today echoed an argument she made yesterday that President Trump is baiting Congress to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Trump is goading us to impeach him. That`s what he`s doing. Every single day, he`s just like taunting, taunting, taunting, because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country. But he doesn`t really care. Just wants to solidify his base.
So, we can`t impeach him for political reasons, and we can`t not impeach him for political reasons. We have to see where the facts take us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Looks like someone`s cell phone there.
And for more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, and Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The L.A. Times."
Thank you, Congressman, as always.
Do you think, in Trump`s head, which is crazy like a fox sometimes, he thinks impeachment is a winner for him? If the economy stay strong with this 3.6 jobless rate, if he can go into next year with a good economy, and the Democrats chasing after him, he can say, I`m the winner, I`m helping your country, I`m helping you economically, and it`s these darn Democrats that are just getting in my way with this impeachment nonsense?
Is that his game? Does he really want to be impeached?
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Chris, for your question.
I`m not sure the president thinks 20 steps ahead. I don`t actually think he wants to be impeached. And if you look at his various statements, especially on Twitter, it seems like he does not want to be impeached.
But with his actions of simply denying every single subpoena request from Congress, that may push us to a place where that`s going to be our only option. Right now, we have held the attorney general in contempt. That is a tool we have. Going to start escalating the various options we have.
But, at some point, if we`re going to get no information from the administration, we may have to consider impeachment.
MATTHEWS: It`s never clear. We were just talking off-air about predicting anything, Eli. You never know.
ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well...
MATTHEWS: And I`m not sure anybody knew when Clinton was impeached for his misbehavior how the -- and history is not even clear now what the final result of that is. Nobody wants to be impeached.
Nobody wants that mark against you in history. But it didn`t hurt him in real time.
STOKOLS: Well, nobody -- I mean, you`re right. Like, if they were to go down this road, we don`t know how it would play politically, until you get there. That is true.
But I can tell you that there is no way that President Trump wants his name associated with the word impeached. I mean, look how insecure this guy is just about his 2016 electoral victory. That`s a big part of the reason why we`re in this whole situation, why he can`t crack down on Russia, why he`s obstructed...
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he baiting?
STOKOLS: Well, I don`t know that he`s baiting, so -- or that he thinks about it that way.
I think what the speaker was talking about is the sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of Trump, where his actions almost force the reactions that make him go so -- that upset him so much. And so what she`s saying is, he`s behaving in such a way that they have no choice.
He`s really moved her off of saying, we`re not pursuing this, to now, with the Mueller report coming out and then the president`s response to it, she`s basically saying, yes, we don`t -- we, as an Oversight Committee, we don`t have much choice.
MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, the president`s would-be 2020 rival Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of his potential rivals, renewed her call for impeachment in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor.
Here she goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a fight I wanted to take on. But this is the fight in front of us now.
This is not about politics. This is about the Constitution of the United States of America. We took an oath not to try to protect Donald Trump. We took an oath to protect the -- and serve the Constitution of the United States of America.
And the way we do that is, we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports impeachment talk has emboldened this president`s reelection campaign, writing, "Trump`s team has taken to cheering every call to impeach the president, believing such talk only further motivates Trump supporters and turns off moderates from the Democratic Party," adding, "The president himself still intends to run as the victim of perceived slights by the media and Democrats, in large part because he believes the aggrieved stance rallies supporters to his defense."
How can that not be true?
Congressman, this is the catch-22 for the Democrats, because if Trump believes that playing the victim works, if he looks like he`s the underdog against the deep state, the unfair media, the unfair partisan Democrats, he rallies the people that voted for him the first time who feel that their votes are being denied them.
So -- and yet the Constitution says that Congress should be an equal branch of government.
LIEU: I agree with Eli.
I don`t think Trump wants to be impeached. I think what`s happening is, Trump is trying to not get impeached, which is why he`s trying to hide information from the American people.
He didn`t just stonewall the Judiciary Committee. He stonewalled every single committee trying to get information for the American people to conduct oversight. And that`s because he knows that the Mueller report is bad for him. That`s why Republicans changed their tune.
Republicans voted earlier this year by voted 422-0, bipartisan vote, to get the full Mueller report. Now they`re saying, no, no, no, we don`t want it.
And why is that? Because they read the redacted version, and they realize how bad this is for the president and his enablers.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the poll that we got that only 17 percent of the American people believe that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, not vote for impeachment, begin proceedings, just 17 percent? Do you buy that?
STOKOLS: Oh, I don`t know how much stock I would put into...
MATTHEWS: That`s so low.
STOKOLS: .. any single poll
But I think, generally, the polling shows that a majority of the country believes that the president was not honest in terms of the investigation.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I agree with that.
STOKOLS: And, at the same time, a majority is not interested in pursuing impeachment.
As the speaker has said, the facts are kind of all out there in the open. The obstruction, at least, has taken place out in the open. So I think, on both sides of this, a lot of folks seem to have their minds made up.
MATTHEWS: That`s what blows people`s minds, including mine, the fact that the president can execute what are clearly impeachable obstruction of justice moves, trying to fire Mueller, firing Comey, all this stuff in broad daylight.
And yet the public goes, well, since he did it in broad daylight, it must be sort of legal, or something.
Congressman, thank you so much, Ted Lieu of California, for coming on, Eli Stokols, of course, from "The L.A. Times."
Up next: With new sanctions and military deployments, is President Trump putting America on a path to war with Iran? Look what we`re doing over there. This is new reporting today on what John Bolton might be up to, as national security adviser.
More of that coming up in just a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As tensions continue to rise between the U.S. and Iran, President Trump announced new sanctions designed to further hurt Iran`s economy.
For his part, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said earlier today that Iran will stop complying with parts of the 2015 nuclear deal and might resume high level enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel. This comes as the Trump administration announced it was moving a carrier strike force and a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf. The shipping is there.
According to the administration, the move is in response to intelligence reports that attacks are being planned by Iran and its proxies against U.S. forces.
However, it appears that are questions about the intelligence reports. Numerous government officials told "The Daily Beast" that President Trump`s national security adviser John Bolton and other war hawks in the administration have overstated the intelligence. According to one official: We are sending a message with this reaction to intelligence even though the threat may not be as imminent as portrayed.
And the reason why all this is particularly scary is because the person who is in Trump`s ear about a potential conflict with Iran was also a vocal cheerleader all the way up to the invasion of Iraq, using the notion that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. We know that one.
And that`s next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump ran in 2016 called for no more stupid wars. So, it was a blow last week when he picked -- last year when he picked the hawk John Bolton of all people to be his national security adviser. I couldn`t believe it.
Betsy Woodruff reports from "The Daily Beast" reports that some government officials say Bolton is overreacting now to the intelligence coming out of Iran. Remember that when Bolton was serving in George W. Bush`s administration, Bolton was the guy that pushed the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Iraq despite U.N. sanctions maintains an aggressive program to rebuild the infrastructure for its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.
No doubt that the program was clandestine, heavily camouflaged and has been going on at a considerable magnitude for at least five years.
We have very convincing evidence that Iraq maintains an extensive program for the production and weaponization of weapons of destruction.
It is our strongest hope that by (AUDIO GAP) regime and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction which are functionally the same thing, that we give the people of Iraq an opportunity to live in freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It had nothing do with weapons from, Mr. Bolton. From the beginning, you wanted to liberate Iraq, according to your purposes. It had nothing to do with weapons at all. It was a big lie.
And now, Bolton appears to be leading the drumbeat for a war in Iran as he did with Iraq. And earlier this year, "Te Wall Street Journal" reported that Bolton rattled Pentagon officials last year when he requested military options to strike Iran following an attack by Iranian-backed militants at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Baghdad.
According to a former senior official, people were shocked. It was mind- boggling. How cavalier were they about hitting Iran.
For more, I`m joined by Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter at "The Daily Beast", and Ron Suskind, author and investigative reporter.
Ron, thank you for coming. Betsy, as always.
Do this -- no, I`m asking a question I already know the answer. These hawks, these neocons, whoever they are, they always want to knock off the next Arab or Iranian country or Persian country. They know that Persia is a real country, Iran. It`s a real country, with a modern weaponry we helped them build. Israel used to be in the league with them. It`s a serious country.
You`re talking about going to war with Iran?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: One component of this administration`s Iran policy is they are operating with the strategy that damaging Iran`s economy is in and of itself is a strategic end. Even if these sanctions don`t result in a change in leadership or change in the posture of the government of Iran toward the rest of the world, just damaging its economy, just making it poorer and reducing its ties to other countries in the world is something that the Trump administration sees as valuable because they believe I will make it harder for Iran to support terror groups around the world, and that in and of itself is a policy project.
MATTHEWS: Ron, the problem with that is, I mean, it is not a country that`s going to get crippled overnight by sanctions. It`s a real country. It`s a real economy.
Everybody knows the Iranians in this country know they`re sophisticated culture. It is real. It is pretty much first world in terms of its military power and its economic power, maybe not with some of its cultural aspects.
But talk about it. Does the United States stand to have a quick and bite sized war with Iran like we do with Grenada? I don`t think so. Your thoughts?
RON SUSKIND, DIRECTOR, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM PROJECT, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: No, no. Like then, like now, in 2003, to make this clear, it wasn`t just weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bolton was one of the folks who said real men go to Tehran. The view was always that Iran is the power in the region and they`re really are a target.
Look, it`s back to the future. Here we go again. Bolton having a bond now, this war hawk with this desperate and opportunistic president is really concerning. Bolton in a way could play just as some of Trump`s worst instincts in terms of getting into a conflagration with Iran, especially during the election year, that`s what we`re fearful of.
We have been fearing that wag the dog opportunity for the president. Mind you, Chris, it`s got either a second term or possible jail time. This is a bad set of circumstances. And right now I think it seems like they`re setting the table for many options, including potential military. I`m not seeing a full scale war. But any conflagration, even with some of the Shiite proxies of the Iranians is going to be just what Trump will know he needs in the fall of 2020.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Betsy in the reporting here.
Why -- he will kiss up to Putin, pretty much. I mean, metaphorically, but pretty much. He`s friendly with him. He`s cozy with him. Same with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
Why won`t he talk to Rouhani?
WOODRUFF: It`s actually a really good question. And I don`t have a clear answer for that from my reporting. But what we do know is that there`s functionally zero daylight between Bolton`s view on the Iran situation and Trump`s himself on issue after issue.
MATTHEWS: Is he doing this for political -- I mean, Sheldon Adelson is a tough, tough anti-Iranian guy. I completely understand that. Did he have something to do with putting Bolton in that job? That`s what I heard.
WOODRUFF: I don`t have any knowledge of that. What I can tell you, particularly when it comes to this intelligence question is that the view the administration has pushed about the intelligence question that my colleague Adam Rawnsley and I looked at --
WOODRUFF: -- is that the view the administration has pushed about the intelligence, which our sources have expressed skepticism about is it constrains to the political appointees in the Trump administration. We were told by a senior administration official that General Joseph Dunford, who`s the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brought some of this intelligence to the White House and asked that Bolton be the one to talk about it and raise it as an issue.
But for the sources also very familiar with this intelligence and with the situation at hand, that doesn`t change in their mind, according to the folks I talked to, the notion this administration has presented the threat as more immediate than it may actually be.
MATTHEWS: Ron, along those lines, it seems like Trump is a good salesman. He`d sell you an old car and say it was the best car in history. He might do the same with your house, fine.
He`s a salesman. He`s a P.T. Barnum. You can hate him or whatever, but that`s what it is. That`s he`s business.
MATTHEWS: What is he about warrior? What is he about having our guys killed or our women killed? What is he about actually engaging in a military confrontation with a real country like Iran? How does he tease his way through that without getting into a war?
SUSKIND: Well, you know, look, Trump is a reckless guy. He acts recklessly. He shattered everything around him.
I mean, this is a situation where I think Trump is probably sitting and looking at option and probably asking Bolton some of these same questions. How do we do something that`s limited? How do we get involved in something that brings heat, shows our power, shows we`re willing to fight, and maybe even uses some of that armament we`re so famous for but doesn`t get into a full scale conflagration with a real power in the region.
The Iranians are not like the Iraqis.
SUSKIND: But that`s a country that is fully realized in the region.
But even a little dance with the Iranians that might lead to something bigger where we get to shoot someone or do something is going to be very, very good for Trump just when he needs it. That`s what I`d be watching.
MATTHEWS: We`ll see.
SUSKIND: That`s what I`d be watching right now.
MATTHEWS: And I`m wondering whether the Iranians who don`t forget are willing to let him get away with punching them in the nose. I don`t think they will. I think we`re going to trouble if we go in there.
Anyway, thank you, Betsy Woodruff for your great reporting, of course.
And, Ron, it`s great to have you back, sir. I missed you.
SUSKIND: Good to see you, buddy.
MATTHEWS: Up next, two brave young people who gave up their lives to stop a gunman. There they are, on young, young guys who will never grow old because of their courage and incredible human generosity.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, in a Colorado high school classroom, an 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at someone holding a gun. Young Kendrick was killed. He had acted in a split second in which so much depended, giving his class mates just enough time to duck or run for cover.
Out of courage, generosity and spirit and love for others, he placed himself between death and those he cared about.
In a North Carolina college classroom last week, 21-year-old Riley Howell charged a gunman and kept charging him until a total of three bullets stopped him. This is what it takes in this country now to save lives. Brave souls willing to give up their own.
In a country known for its love of firearms, there are those who would give their lives to protect others from the horror.
We have long been haunted by those bitter lost souls who open fire on their neighbor. What moved them? Hatred, revenge, a mental affliction, a darkness of the spirit?
But what of the true wonder of that person in the instant of dread wills themselves to walk in the face of horror, to stand and deliver before God and man. The great students of courage who understand it call it grace under pressure. The scriptures put it better. John`s gospel (AUDIO GAP) there is no greater love than to lay down one`s life for one friends.
We are a country of many guns, and some who would use them to kill. But we`re also a country of true souls who would give up their lives to save those of others.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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