ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us. "HARDBALL" starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Don Junior to testify. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. News tonight on big three fronts. Breaking in just the last hour, Donald Trump Jr. has buckled and agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. William Barr, Trump`s handpicked defender as Attorney General, is now operating as the President`s personal hit man.
He`s directed a new federal examination as to the roots of the Mueller investigation, something President Trump has been dying for, a way to cast blame for his historic Russia scandal to make the two-year inquiry seem like the work of an out of control deep state of federal officials. And more dire perhaps tonight, a hot report out that the Pentagon is working on a plan to deploy as many as 120,000 U.S. troops for military action in Iran, a plan being pushed by neo-con John Bolton with no resistance from Trump`s acting Defense Secretary, who`s seen as a yes man.
First up, NBC News is reporting that the President`s oldest son, Donald Junior, has struck a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide testimony behind closed doors this June, next month. According to the report, questions will be limited between five and six topics and will last between two and four hours. It comes after Donald Trump Jr.`s repeated cancellations on the committee earned him a subpoena from the Republican Chairman, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, last month.
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr appears to be heeding the President`s call for an investigation of the investigation itself, the Mueller investigation. The New York Times reports that Barr has asked the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, John Durham, to review how the FBI`s probe of the Trump campaign got started in the summer of 2016. As the story notes, it`s a move that President Trump has long called for but could anger law enforcement officials who insist the scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful.
The purpose of the review, according to The Washington Post, is to ensure the United States` government`s intelligence collection activities related to the Trump campaign were lawful and appropriate.
I`m joined now by Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, and Michael Schmidt, Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.
Michael, let`s start with Donald Junior. What kind of deal has he struck? Is he really going to be able to hide behind conditions that won`t protect him from being asked certain questions?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, as you were saying that it just broke a few minutes ago and, obviously, it was a completely huge dynamic, political dynamic, to this entire thing. The President`s son was really going after Burr, the Republican Chairman of the committee, he`s putting a lot of pressure on him. There was a lot of chatter from republicans.
And the question that I have is how much did that impact the negotiations about the interview? How much was that about pushing Burr sort of off the plate, because there was more backlash than I think anyone could have imagined about the fact they had served a subpoena? And it was a fairly aggressive move or a traditional move for a bipartisan investigation.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the Trump people choreographed a lot of that republican -- I mean, you`re getting to pull a foot out of the bucket. Basically, he was in the (INAUDIBLE), and you say pushed him back from the plate like (INAUDIBLE), the Barbara Magley (ph) in the old days. I know what you`re talking about here. Was that a coordinated effort by the Trump people to push Burr back from being serious about getting an interview with the guy?
SCHMIDT: Well, as you could see, right after the news broke about this subpoena several days ago, there were statements coming out from folks close to Don Junior that were very, very sharply criticizing Burr. Now, I don`t know how much this actually bothered Burr. Burr is in his last term as a senator. He says he`s not going to run. He`s a senior senator, obviously, the chairman of one of the more prestigious committees. So I`m not sure how much that really bothered him. But you even saw in recent days Chuck Grassley, another senior republican, raising questions about why they were doing this.
So you have this -- look, everything is a negotiation, but it did seem like a coordinated effort to really push on Burr here. And what it showed me was just how unified the republicans are on Capitol Hill around the President. I continue to be --
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
SCHMIDT: I continue to see that as this emerging thing since the report especially that the republicans are really in lock step together behind Trump. There are no real cracks in that wall.
MATTHEWS: I want to know a lot of things about -- Mike, about Donald Junior. But I guess I want to know most what you want to know. He went to a meeting in June, met with the Russian, Veselnitskaya, whatever name is, he went out looking for dirt. He`s clear he was doing that. He was sort of out there the most obvious trying to get dirt for the Russians to play ball with him to get the dirt. What was it that Mueller didn`t get from this guy that is still to be gotten by good questions under pressure?
SCHMIDT: Well, there`s no indication from the report that Mueller spoke with him. So why is it that that didn`t happen and how could Mueller have completed the investigation without interviewing him? There are no statements or footnotes that are attributed to things he said in an actual interview. The entire thing is littered with these footnotes about all sorts of people that I worked inside the White House or in Trump`s orbit, but nothing about Don Junior. so why is it that they don`t have anything in there? What was it that prevented him from going in to see Mueller and how did Mueller feel so confident in the end to end the investigation without actually talking to him?
MATTHEWS: And that`s my question to Joyce. As a prosecutor, wouldn`t you want to find out who was the point man in dealing with the Russians, as he so often seemed to be?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Absolutely. And I think this is one of the big loose ends from the Mueller report. It`s not clear was Don Junior questioned, and he took the Fifth Amendment. There are at least some footnotes in the Mueller where there is redaction following the appearance of his name that Don Junior, by all appearances, was not truthful, lied, when he testified on Capitol Hill. At a minimum, you would expect accountability for that. If for whatever reason Bob Mueller thought he couldn`t deliver that accountability that will make this appearance on the Senate side even more important.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about how he could testify against his father, if he told his father about the Russian meeting at Trump Tower beforehand, talked about it afterwards, talked about why he`s worked about the cover story that was about adoptions of Russian kids, right? Well, he was working hand in glove with his dad in what looked to be a cover-up.
VANCE: All of that. And so there`s this point in the Mueller report where Mueller talks about problems he had in acquiring evidence. He says some people took the Fifth Amendment, some people lied, some people were unavailable. One has to wonder where in that sort of layout with problems acquiring evidence Don Junior fits because, as you point out, he would have been one of the best sources for knowledge about the President`s activities, his state of mind and his intent.
MATTHEWS: I always wonder what these guys, Michael, would say if they were basically wanting to squeal, like Michael Cohen eventually did. Anyway, Trump today, the President, said he didn`t ask Barr to open the inquiry of the FBI`s Russia probe, but there he goes doing just what the President wants, investigating the investigators. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you ask the Attorney General to launch a probe into the Russia investigation?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I didn`t ask him to do it.
REPORTER: Did you know he was going to do it?
TRUMP: I didn`t know it but I think it`s a great thing that he did it. I saw it last night and they want to look at how the whole hoax got started. It was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of this country. And you know what? I am so proud of our Attorney General that he is looking into it. I think it`s great. I did not know about it, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, even if Trump didn`t discuss it with the Attorney General, he wouldn`t have needed to since he`s been calling for it. He has been calling for that inquiry for many occasions.
Anyway, I want to bring in U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, it`s an embarrassment to have an Attorney General who looks like a Roy Cohn, a guy who will do anything to defend the President and has become his hit man. Not only will he play defense, he`s out to destroy the government, the FBI, everything in order to cover the tracks of the President. What do you make of this guy and how can you stop Barr from doing what he`s out to do now, destroy the FBI?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes. What`s interesting is that Barr is a very quiet and somewhat unassuming guy in his demeanor but, really, he`s been a fixer for the President and a protector. And now, as you said, he`s actually going after people. And I think the reason they`re opening this investigation is because they want to chill anybody else from looking into anything else that the President does. And, in fact, I saw earlier today, I don`t know when the motions were filed or the briefs were filed, but the President`s lawyers are making the argument that Congress can`t even investigate the President. So I think this is part of that.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that the Attorney General of the United States refers to the FBI, which is under his supervision a and chain of command, as a spying operation, it was spying on the Trump campaign? He likes that word. It`s Trump`s word. It`s now his word.
CASTRO: That is absolutely remarkable. And if you think about it, it would be the most derelict of things if the FBI had good information that a presidential candidate or his campaign or her campaign was working with a foreign government and did absolutely nothing to investigate it. In some ways, that would be an even bigger scandal if we found out that they had solid information about that and didn`t lift a finger to protect the country. So this wasn`t a case of spying. This was an investigation.
MATTHEWS: I`m thinking about all the prosecutions that Mueller was able to take, all the indictments against all those Russian figures, all involved in undermining our election or trying to in 2016. And then for the President, the chutzpah to keep saying it was a hoax, how does he get away with that rhetoric? I mean, how come the democrats can`t fight that in the public square? Look at what was discovered here, not just the Americans but all the Russians involved in this intrigue and he still gets away with saying it was all a hoax.
CASTRO: Yes. I mean, Chris, you know, for years now since 2015, this president has built a campaign in part around his persona. And his persona is that he never admits that he`s wrong, that he tries to construct an alternative reality. that his supporters and the people that want to support him can buy into. And I think that`s consistent, what you described as consistent with that. He is giving something that people can hang their hat on and still believe in him as a candidate and as a president.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump has launched a public offensive now against his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, just like he did with Comey. Trump is angry Wray defended the FBI in this congressional testimony last week by refusing to describe lawful surveillance by the FBI as spying. He won`t use the word. He said that`s not a word I would use. And now, Trump is refusing to say, well, he still has confidence in the FBI Director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you still have confidence in Christopher Wray after he said he wouldn`t exactly call it spying?
TRUMP: Well, I didn`t understand his answer because I thought the Attorney General answered it perfectly. So I certainly didn`t understand that answer. I thought it was a ridiculous answer. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this follows the President`s public attack on Wray this weekend when he quoted baseless accusation that the FBI Director was protecting people to tried to overthrow him. Trump`s allies are following Trump`s lead. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So far I don`t see Director Wray frankly doing a darn thing to clean up the upper echelon of this FBI. That`s his job. The former highest ranking employees in his bureau committed real crimes and yet no signs that Wray seems to care one bit to bring them to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, the interesting thing about this, Reagan was always clever as being a guy who lived in California but worked in Washington. He was always a Californian. He never called the California White House. He was out there. He`s just a citizen president, right? Very clever. This president has gone beyond that he acts like the federal government isn`t his, the FBI, the whole -- all the bureaucracy or the deep state are something else. He`s sort Mr. Citizen who happens to be living in the White House. He doesn`t take any responsibility for executive branch and he`s getting away with it.
VANCE: He`s absolutely the victim in every story he tells here, right? He`s always the object of a conspiracy, the FBI is out to get him, people are spying.
MATTHEWS: The coup.
VANCE: And I think the Congressman`s point is so important. Had the FBI not investigated when there was good evidence that Russia was involved in our elections, that there were people involved in the Trump campaign who had ties to Russia. Had those investigations not taken place, we would be looking now at criticism of the FBI for dereliction of its fundamental duty.
MATTHEWS: Michael, my favorite reporter on earth, let me ask you this. Where is this story going? Because I think that we`re going to get Michael -- we`re going to get Donald Junior to testify. But I think on the House side, they`re going to continue to stonewall. I don`t think they`re going to send anybody up there. They`re going test their ability to find them or imprison them in this little cell up on Capitol Hill. They`re going to make them into a laughing -- I think even Nancy Pelosi is scared of looking completely stupid and impotent now. Who`s -- where is he going to win? I think Trump is winning against his own government, against both branches, executive and legislative branch, and the courts. He`s winning right across the board.
SCHIMDT: Well, he always wants a foil, and Mueller is gone. So the democrats are probably the next best bet for him. And he thinks that in an election where it`s about growing his base and trying to rally the republicans to his support, a standoff may not be the worst thing. Part of their strategy is to try and call the democrats` bluff. They think the democrats are conducting an impeachment proceeding but not in name. And they want the democrats to go out and actually say we`re trying to impeach the President, because the republicans think that`s bad politics for the democrats. And they think that they need to force them in that direction in order to sort of sass (ph) them out here. Rudy Giuliani is saying to me last week that democrats are just going to slither around and slither around until they find something here.
Trump has taken a lot of fairly aggressive moves here to block and protect himself and it is sort of in a standoff. But, politically, it`s a good thing for him. He can -- you know, on Fox News, they can talk about this sort of continued democratic witch hunt of the President and how this has continued to go on even though Mueller investigated for two years and the President seems comfortable with that narrative.
MATTHEWS: And he`ll end up having Durham up there in Connecticut, his new inspector (INAUDIBLE) or an investigation. It will be like that thing down in Hawaii during the birther thing. He`s out there investigating. He`s getting interesting stuff. They`re learning new things about the game they play about that.
SCHMIDT: The only thing I would say about the appointing of a U.S. attorney to sort of overlook this and review this is that there is a big cloud over the FBI. That`s been created by the republicans. And a lot of questions whether anything went wrong in the election. The FBI Director, Wray, has said that there`s no indication that they did anything illegal.
But there`s an argument to be made that the FBI may benefit from a prosecutor, someone who is non-partisan coming out and saying, hey, we looked at this as well and we didn`t see a problem here. That would be one of the arguments from Barr`s side about why they did this.
MATTHEWS: I think we`ll get that information a day after the next election. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, Joyce Vance having us here on the news, thank you so much, and Michael Schmidt, it`s so great to have you.
Coming up war games, National Security Adviser John Bolton, the ultimate neo-con, reportedly ordered the Pentagon to draw up a plan to strike Iran with 120,000 troops to start with to pre-position them like Desert Shield, remember that one, and then go in. Has the President outsourced his foreign policy to the neo-con hawk who seems intent on starting a war in Iran?
Plus, more on the breaking news tonight, Donald Trump Jr. strikes a deal, as we said, with the Senate Intelligence Committee for another round of testimony, well, with some conditions. I can`t wait to hear what those are. That follows a standoff over a subpoena which the Republican Chairman of that committee, Richard Burr said he had no choice but to issue. I like Burr. He`s trying at least.
Much more ahead, stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight, the drumbeat of war is growing louder from the White House.
"The New York Times" reports the Trump administration, led by neocon John Bolton, is reviewing plans that could include a dramatic troop surge in the Middle East. According to administration officials, the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, presented a plan to top national security officials last week that would call for sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.
Accelerate work on nuclear weapons, that`s your cause of war?
Well, but it`s not Shanahan who is driving the force behind those plans. He`s seen only as a yes-man, like William Barr, for President Trump.
According to "The Times," the revisions were ordered by President Trump`s national security adviser and war hawk John Bolton, one of the cheerleaders, of course, for the Iraq War.
Today, President Trump dismissed the report that his administration is moving closer to an actual war front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s fake news, OK?
Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully, we`re not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we`d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.
But I think it`s just -- where was that story, in "The New York Times"? Well, "The New York Times" is fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there could be some good reason for that response from the president.
"The New York Times" notes it`s unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plan.
For more, I`m joined by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent at "The New York Times," and Nayyera Haq, Nayyera Haq, former State Department senior adviser.
Both of you, Nayyera, thank you, and Peter.
Is it possible the president of the United States has so outsourced his foreign policy to a neocon hawk, that he doesn`t know what the hell is going on?
PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it`s certainly possible that they have discussed war plans without him at this point.
They`re not bringing them to him for actual approval.
MATTHEWS: But this sounds like Desert Shield. This sounds like stage one to go to war, like we did with the Gulf War.
BAKER: Yes. And it`s so interesting because he, of course, was so grudging about even keeping 3,000 troops in Syria to kind of keep things stable or even a few thousand more in Afghanistan.
BAKER: So, it goes against his grain, at least the nature of what he said as a candidate, which is he wanted to get out of Middle East quagmires.
So the fact that they`re having this discussion doesn`t mean they`re necessarily going to do it, but there is a real dichotomy between the president and his national security adviser.
MATTHEWS: It`s one thing to put the guy on the job because Sheldon Adelson wants him there. That was his one big ask that he got away with. Everybody knows this. He puts in a total hawk in there.
He couldn`t get something going down there in Venezuela, because his little coup attempt didn`t work. And now he`s over there ginning up something. I mean, it seems to me, if I were an Iranian moderate, if there`s such a thing, I would be reading the newspapers and say, they`re putting 120,000 troops over here? I better start reacting to that.
That`s how you start a war.
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Everybody in the Middle East is well aware that John Bolton was the architect of the Iraq War.
And let`s be honest. The Iraq War was 120,000 troops as well, around, so that number is a triggering number for people in the Middle East. John Bolton has been very careful about using rhetoric of al Qaeda and the extension and willingness to pursue al Qaeda, because that`s ostensibly the foundation for the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan, the 2002 intervention in Iraq.
And so he`s using that same language here to pursue potentially Iran on the same fronts.
MATTHEWS: But that was anti-Sunni. This is anti-Shiite.
HAQ: And that`s probably -- the evidence is not there that al Qaeda is in Iran right now, right?
But he`s using the previous history and Iran`s asymmetric attacks on U.S. forces in perhaps Syria and elsewhere. Add on top of that the layer that not just Netanyahu and the Israel connection with Donald Trump, but you have the Saudi connection as well.
Donald Trump has effectively outsourced foreign policy not just to John Bolton, but to Israel and Saudi interests in the Middle East. He does not have his own philosophy and theory of the case.
MATTHEWS: These neocons are like little PEZ dispensers. They always got a little war coming up. They push the little button, a little war comes up.
It was going to go to war Iraq -- go to war in Iraq, go to war in Syria, go to war in everywhere, Lebanon. Maybe Lebanon, not. They may not have wanted that. But clearly Iran is number one goal.
What does Trump want with Iran? Does he want the politics of the hawks in this country without really going to war? Does he want all the benefits politically of a war without one?
BAKER: I think he wants to be tough with Iran. I think he wants to look like he`s tough with Iran, clearly.
BAKER: That`s just part of his -- how he got there, right? This is what he promised in 2016.
MATTHEWS: But he also said, I`m against long, stupid wars.
BAKER: He said he`s against long, stupid wars.
HAQ: I think he wants that type of win that he`s looking for with North Korea. I want to get the deal that nobody else got, right?
HAQ: The idea that he`s going to be able to come in and solve this crisis.
MATTHEWS: Is he playing with dynamite?
HAQ: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Could he get a war he didn`t want, he just wanted to play with?
BAKER: No, I think that`s right.
I don`t think he wants a war specifically. I do think he wanted to get out. I think he thinks the wars of the last 10 years were not actually smart and useful to the United States. He said it.
And Iran would be a much tougher target, frankly, than...
MATTHEWS: And, by the way the working-class people we`re going to talk to Thursday night, regular people in Pennsylvania, they didn`t vote for a war hawk.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, tonight, in an echo of the Iraq War, an eerie echo, the Republican senator from Arkansas saying a war with Iran would be easy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Could we win a war with Iran?
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Yes.
QUESTION: That didn`t take you a second.
COTTON: Two strikes, the first strike and the last strike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One strike, the last strike.
Anyway, I want to bring in Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, here we go again with the same crowd. The ones that brought us to war with Iraq are now pushing for a war with Iran, and John Bolton.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Well, I don`t think a war with Iran is in the United States` interest.
And we have certainly had inconsistent messaging when it comes to Iran. The president pulled out of the JCPOA in a way that now, a year later, we`re seeing Iran start to talk about enriching uranium and acquiring a nuclear weapon.
He`s pulling out our troops in Syria and Iraq. And a small number of troops were there keeping Northeast Syria stable, keeping U.S. influence there when Iran and Russia were coming into Syria. And he`s alienated the European allies in a way that means that they are less likely to help us get Iran back to the table to address a nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: Senator, you know the history. And everybody at this table knows the history. Iran is a real country. You may not its leadership right now, the ayatollahs, but it`s a real -- Persia is real.
It wasn`t created by Winston Churchill or anybody. It`s a real country with a real military force that was developed over the years by the shah, with Western help, Israeli help. It`s got a real military reality.
Why would we want to go to a fighting, shooting war with a country like Iran? It is not like fighting with Iraq or something like that. It`s not a paper tiger. It`s real.
SHAHEEN: It is.
MATTHEWS: Why do we want to do this?
SHAHEEN: And -- well, Iran`s a bad actor. They are supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East.
But they have a real military, as you point out, and it`s really not in our interest. And we are -- we have sent a carrier strike group to the Middle East. We have sent B-52 bombers. We`re talking about additional troops going in, in a way that could lead to inadvertent contact which could escalate into conflict.
And that`s really not in America`s interest.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean of your colleagues? What do you think of your colleagues that seemed to have learned no lesson from the Iraq War, 100,000 people dead, 4,000 of our people dead, a lot of maimed, a war that got us nowhere, except it took away the buffer between us and Iran, between Iran and the Israelis?
MATTHEWS: It served no purpose in helping Israel, no matter what the motive for the war was. It certainly didn`t work out that way. It wasn`t the road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad or anything like. That didn`t work out, the neocon line. Didn`t work out.
So why do they want to do it again? Why is this guy Cotton -- is he nuts? Why does Cotton want to go to another war?
SHAHEEN: Well, I think that`s not clear.
As you point out, we should have learned something from this history, that we need to be increasing our diplomatic stance in the Middle East, rather than increasing our military stance. It`s one thing to be clear that we`re going to be strong, but we also need to work with our allies in Europe and to try and get Iran back to the table.
MATTHEWS: Well, we miss John Kerry, I can tell you that.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, thank you so much.
SHAHEEN: We do. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I wish you were secretary of state.
Thank you, Peter Baker, Nayyera Haq.
Up next: Senator Elizabeth Warren staking out her position in a crowded field. She`s getting very aggressive. And it seems to be working right now. She`s making a -- well, she has got an avalanche of detailed policy proposals like nobody else. And as a signal of her intended aggressiveness, she`s going after a favorite progressive target, FOX News.
Wait until you hear this from her coming up.
HARDBALL back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was one of the first to announce her intention to run for president last year. And since then, she keeps setting the pace when it comes to policy proposals, of course, releasing more than a dozen plans ranging from free public college to military housing.
In the roughly five months since she launched her campaign, she`s also crisscrossed the country, hosting more than 70 town halls, pitching her various plans. Here she goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you don`t come to Iowa without having some ideas about exactly how to make that change.
So I got a plan. Part one, attack corruption head on. I have got a proposal for a 2 percent wealth tax. Yes. Doctors and nurses don`t hear African-American women`s medical issues the same way that they hear the same things from white women. I got a plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have a plan, pretty good line.
Over the weekend, she took her message to Kermit, West Virginia, deep inside Trump country, to talk to the people there about her plan to combat opiate addiction.
And one place she will be avoiding, however, is FOX News. Did I say it right? FOX News. In a series of tweets this morning, Elizabeth Warren declined its invitation for town hall -- nobody turns down television -- calling the network "a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists and turns against each -- turns us against each other, risking life-and-death consequences to provide cover for the corruption that is rotting our government and hollowing out our middle class."
Well, that covers all the bases.
All the talk about her policies has created a small uptick in her standing, leaving her about in the top five, right there with Kamala Harris, in fourth and fifth place -- third and fourth place, actually.
For more , I`m joined by Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic strategist and a fellow at Harvard`s Institute of Politics, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today" and author of "Barbara Bush: The Matriarch."
First question, you`re a political tout. You don`t take sides. But I know you study the moves. What is the smart thing that Elizabeth Warren is doing right now? I think she`s doing something very smart. What do you think it is?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, she has -- she`s got a plan, as you may have heard. And you need a plan, although it`s not sufficient. It`s necessary, not sufficient.
And she`s also going on a particular theory of the case, which is generate the maximum enthusiasm among the Democratic base, which is what she`s doing with the attack on FOX News, as opposed to the other strategy, which would be, let`s try to -- Democrats could try to win back some of their voters who voted for Trump, who voted for Obama before that.
MATTHEWS: Aisha, your sense of what she`s doing? Because I think it`s very -- I think it`s smart. What do you think?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it`s brilliant.
Absolutely, Susan`s right. If you think about what happened in 2016, there might have been 7 or 8 percent of Obama voters who ended up going and flipping and moving over to Trump, but, at the same time, there were about 9 percent of the traditional Democratic voters who turned out for Obama that actually just didn`t turn up at all. They just didn`t vote.
And I think that Elizabeth Warren is making the calculus that it matters that the base is enthusiastic. To get more Democrats out to vote is the way to win. And you don`t do that by hanging out with FOX News.
The other thing she`s doing that I think is brilliant is that she continues to lead the pack and to push everyone else on values and on ideas. She is very much staying true to who she is. She`s saying that, I am not going to help anyone, I`m not going to aid and abet in anyone profiting off of bigotry and hate and racism. I`m not going to be someone who helps corporations just get richer, while they do the rest of us dirty.
She`s staying true to her values. And she`s forcing everybody else in the field to actually have to make a judgment call and to check their gut on those values too. So I think that it is great. I think that she is moving in the direction that is right for her and for her campaign.
And, certainly, Democrats are excited about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s your point of view, and I agree with it.
I certainly agree with everything you said, from your point of view, but I also add sort of a different perspective on it, which is that she seems to want to win both the primaries, the primary, as we call it now, the primary -- that`s a new way of saying it for everything, including all the season - - and win the general.
For example, she isn`t going on some mad dog, I`m going to suicidally win the nomination, and then lose the general. She will not say she`s a socialist. She makes a point she`s not one. She`s carving out that center -- not center -- that left position that will allow her to move over to the center-left, and without -- without killing her on the right -- without killing her on the center-right.
I think she`s calculating. She wants to win. And, by the way, she doesn`t think she will be somebody`s second choice. She`s not going to on anybody`s ticket. She`s going to be her a winner or she`s not going to be a winner. It`s on the nose for her.
PAGE: Yes, I think that`s right. I think she`s more likely to be the presidential nominee or nothing than the running mate.
But I do think there is some risk to the strategy that she`s taken with the FOX News Channel town halls, because those town halls -- what the town hall, the -- FOX News did with Bernie Sanders, got him the biggest audience of the season, 2.5 million viewers.
FOX viewers include a lot of people who might be open to an appeal from a Democratic candidate.
MATTHEWS: She doesn`t want those voters right now.
PAGE: She doesn`t want them right now.
And, in fact, she was fund-raising against -- on her stance against FOX this afternoon.
It just seems to me that you run some risk of turning off those voters and making it harder and harder to get them back when you want them.
MATTHEWS: You know what is interesting is, Kamala Harris, who I think is a great candidate too, what she`s doing is a little more nuanced.
She made a point of separating herself from Bernie on Medicaid for all Medicare, Medicare for all, at the exclusion of private health insurance plans. She says, I`m not going to get rid of health insurance plans. I`m going to get rid of some of the bureaucracy. But she`s making a point of not going all the way.
She`s basically supporting -- I don`t want to put words in her mouth -- a public option. That`s basically what she says. I want to have a national government-run one, and I`m not going to exclude health care plans by the private sector.
What do you think of her strategy right now, Kamala?
MOODIE-MILLS: Well, I would say that I don`t think that anyone is winning when they are responding to other people`s ideas and other people`s plans and trying to critique them.
I think Elizabeth`s calculus and I think what other candidates should be doing more of is to say, I have a plan, here are my ideas, and then to challenge everybody else to coalesce around those or not. I think that just responding and reacting isn`t really -- isn`t really helpful and useful.
I also just want to add one point too, while we were on the Elizabeth Warren conversation, is that this idea that somehow being a progressive is anti-capitalist is wrong. I think that the folks in the race who are moving forward progressive ideas are saying, these are basic American values.
The dignity of work matters. You should be able to take care of your family and work a reasonable amount of hours and not be taken advantage of by corporations. This is not like far-left crazy talk.
MATTHEWS: It`s called democratic capitalism.
MOODIE-MILLS: It`s America. It`s just American values.
MATTHEWS: It`s mixed capitalism. We have had this system for years of some mix of socialism and capitalism for all our history.
Anyway, thank you, Aisha Moodie-Mills and Susan King (sic). Great having you both on.
MOODIE-MILLS: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: A quick reminder: Don`t miss HARDBALL`s special live event, "The Deciders." I love that name, because it`s true. We don`t decide here.
We`re heading to Pennsylvania to hear the attitudes of people there and why they vote the way they do up there. And that`s Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.
And up next, by the way, breaking news: Donald Trump Jr. striking a deal -- I would love to know the fine print -- to deliver limited -- isn`t that delicate? Isn`t that something, delicate testimony, limited testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee?
So what won`t he talk about? That`s what I would want to talk about, what he doesn`t want to talk about.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Breaking news in the battle over the subpoena issued to Donald Trump Jr. by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. Donald Trump Jr. reached an agreement to testify actually today, apparently ending one of the many stalemates in the administration`s unprecedented stonewalling of Congress.
According to "The New York Times", the deal came after an aggressive push by the younger Trump`s allies who accused the intelligence committee`s chairman, Senator Richard Burr, of caving to Democrats by issuing a subpoena for the president`s son`s testimony in the first place.
Well, Trump Jr. will testify for no longer than, this is a strange number, two to four hours -- well, four is long enough -- with questions limited to a half dozen topics. But what topics?
"The Times" previously reported last week that Burr told colleagues twice in recent months, Donald Trump Jr. agreed to sit for voluntary interviews with the Intelligence Committee, only to later back out, adding Burr told colleagues evasions had left the committee no choice but to issue a subpoena.
But at the White House this morning, the president called the subpoena unfair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why is it unfair, sir, for Don Jr. to be subpoenaed if he`s pulled out of testifying twice?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, it`s really a tough situation because my son spent, I guess, over 20 hours testifying about something that Mueller said was 100 percent okay. And now, they want him to testify again. I don`t know why. I have no idea why. It seems very unfair to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Lindsey Graham initially said Don Jr. should ignore the subpoena, and last night told reporters if he were Don Jr.`s lawyer, he`d tell him, quote, you just show up and plead the Fifth and it`s over with, adding you`d have to be an idiot as a lawyer to put your client back in that circus, a complete idiot.
Well, the agreement for Don Jr. to testify diffuses a potential intraparty -- intraparty clash in the Republican-led Senate over Senator Burr`s decision to subpoena the president`s son.
Anyway, with the administration continuing to stonewall the House of Representatives at every turn, a new report out today suggests some Democrats are getting impatient and looking for stronger tools to combat the White House. And that`s coming up. How to fight and the House to win these battles, put them in jail up on the hill? Fine them? How do they enforce it? These are hot questions.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As the Trump administration`s obstruction of congressional request for information and testimony continues unabated, some House Democrats are reported to looking at other ways to force the administration to comply with their request.
NBC News reports that includes a second look at impeachment. Members are discussing other options for moving the process along as Democrats believe Trump`s strategy is to run out the clock on Congress` ability to investigate him and his administration until he gets reelected. It adds some members believe beginning impeachment proceedings could be a smarter political option than waiting until just before the November election.
For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill of California who serves on the House Oversight Committee, and Jonathan Swan, national political reporter.
Congresswoman, it`s great to have you back on. We haven`t had you on for a while.
I have to ask you -- well, a secret question. I want to know the secret. When you sit and talk in the caucus or some of the members get together, aren`t you a little bit appalled at the success of the administration in just saying F-U every time you ask for information or testimony or documents, every time it`s a stonewall?
REP. KATIE HILL (D-CA): I mean, personally, I`m appalled by this administration every single day and I think most of us are. But, yes, I mean, it`s pretty horrific that you can just say no and that, you know, the amount of recourse that we have is fairly limited.
So, it`s been very frustrating for many of us. I know that for me personally, it`s something I`ve struggled with. I`ve been talking with the people that I care most about, about what does this mean for me personally in the long run? How am I going to be able to stand up for what I believe in and talk to future generations about what we did in this very moment?
So, I think everything is on the table still and we`re weighing our options. And I don`t think it`s good enough for us to say that we have to play the safe political route and so I`m personally not going to let that happen, and I don`t know how far it`s going to go. I just know I can`t live with myself if that`s the case.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe, political call, do you believe that a serious investigation through an impeachment process where you have the Senate -- or the House Judiciary Committee, perhaps even hold nighttime hearings like with Nixon, and go through all the evidence on playing ball with the Russians, all the evidence about obstruction, as serious inquiry would somehow hurt the Democrats? Do you believe that?
HILL: You know there`s been a lot of debate about that, right? And I think that --
MATTHEWS: Where are you?
HILL: Personally, I don`t think it would hurt the Democrats. I think the people who think we`re out to get Trump already believe that and the people who don`t, don`t. And you`re not going to change a whole lot of minds in that regard.
I think the people who we`re talking about are ones that are either open to it or maybe a little bit skeptical but maybe they don`t care. So, personally, I think this is a matter of integrity, and this is a matter of whether or not what we`re going to stand for and what we believe is our role within the framework of the Constitution. So, I don`t think we`re there yet but we`re getting closer and closer every day as far as I`m concerned.
MATTHEWS: That`s where I agree. I think -- Jonathan, you`re a straight reporter, you`re not a Democrat or a Republican, here we go. The question, can the Congress of the United States, the House of Representatives, play its role?
Now, the way it was, Mueller`s job was to investigate. The House of Representatives under the Constitution`s job is to prosecute and the job of the Senate is to judge. The House has been holding back on its job which is to prosecute.
Politically, they think that`s smart. Pelosi think it`s smart not to prosecute. I don`t know. We heard somebody who doesn`t think that`s the case.
JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I have no earthly idea how the politics will shake out, but there`s a lot of anxiety now in the Democratic Caucus about the idea of going forward with the impeachment and certainly among leadership. But I think we`re seeing a little bit of a change as Trump stonewalls every single thing. I think we are seeing Pelosi acknowledged this last week when she used the word the president is self-impeaching.
MATTHEWS: Is it better to look aggressive or weak?
SWAN: I mean, you`re the expert at this, Chris. I don`t know. I mean, like Pelosi clearly thought it was getting ahead of public opinion to impeach.
SWAN: And I think you see a little bit of a change in her tone.
MATTHEWS: This is the danger I think. Congresswoman, you`re in the heart of this. You`re in the belly of the beast here.
Here is the question: If Trump has nothing to hide, the president, on dealing with the Russians, playing ball with the Russians, why did he spend two years obstructing the investigation? Why does he spend all this time obstructing it?
He doesn`t want the truth out. What truth is he hiding? And that, to me, is the question still out there. What`s he been hiding?
HILL: I mean, honestly, I don`t even think the question is still out there. I think most of us know exactly what the answer is to that and it`s pretty well laid out in the report. The issue is that most Americans are not going to read a 450-page report. We need to get that information out there. And that`s incredibly hard to do and it`s going to be incredibly hard to do if we aren`t able to get those witnesses in front of us.
So, you know, I really respect my colleagues who have been here much longer than I have. I really respect the speaker`s leadership on this and the chairman of the various committees. So, I think we are going to exhaust all options available to us before we move down the road of impeachment. But I just don`t think it`s off the table. And, you know, frankly, I`m coming from one of these swing districts, the ones where theoretically it`s more risky to possibly impeach, but I just don`t believe that we can use that forever as cover.
MATTHEWS: Last question to you, John. Why did Donald Jr. buckle and agree to testify?
SWAN: He sent a letter -- they were going to send a letter yesterday saying no to open-ended hearing -- open-ended testimony. There were conversations today and the ultimate agreement was a more restricted appearance, two to four hours. So, I don`t know if you could say one side or the other.
MATTHEWS: Do you know how weird that sounds? Two to four hours, four hours is enough. Two isn`t. Two to four.
I hope they haven`t constrained the questioning to not getting to the heart of things.
SWAN: I`m getting conflicting reports. Some say yes, some say --
MATTHEWS: I want to hear all about Trump Tower and what he was doing there with Veselnitskaya. I want to know what he`s up to.
Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hill. I love the nuances of everybody`s thinking out there. There`s a lot of different opinions and stripes to it. Thank you so much for always coming on.
HILL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Swan, thank you, sir.
Up next, two nights from now, I`m going to northeastern Pennsylvania to find out what Trump -- well, what he did to convince people to vote for him in 2016. Why did Democrats go over to vote for a Republican who is not even actually a Republican? He`s something different -- Trump.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: For most people, the only day they get to speak politically is on Election Day. That`s the day their voice is heard loud and clear because their vote says what they want, what they value and who they trust.
Well, two nights from now, I won`t be in Washington or New York, even in Philadelphia, places where you`re used to seeing us on HARDBALL. We`ll be up there near Wilkes-Barre, in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
We`re going to be there because that area spoke with a clear voice in the 2016 election. After voting for Obama, a Democrat in 2008 and 2012, it switched widely in 2016, giving a big majority vote to Republican, I guess what`s you call him, Donald Trump.
And like other people, I was stunned when Pennsylvania swung for Trump that night. Pollsters and experts around here at least say the huge vote in Philadelphia and the suburban vote would carry the state for Hillary Clinton, and then the vote came in from places like Wilkes-Barre with a far different message. I have own my theories, of course, about what happened, the people didn`t like being taken for granted, that they thought the Democratic Party had gotten a bit elite, that they were having a big celebration somewhere of themselves, but didn`t invite everybody, that the Democratic Party elites thought they were better than the people in places like Wilkes-Barre.
Well, Thursday night, we`ll find out what did get Trump elected president. What mix of issues and attitudes, where it worked in 2016, and could still be, could decide who wins in 2020? We`re calling the show appropriately "The Deciders" because the people you`ll be hearing from will be just that.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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